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SHOPFLOOR MANDATE TRADE UNION

JULY 2012

we’re being

HAMMereD rePOrT reveAlS reTAil wOrKerS TAKing HiT AFTer HiT UnDer AUSTeriTy €109 a week in their take home pay over the past year. The findings also show that the drop in retail workers’ wages is  primarily driven by cuts in working hours as well as increased taxes and levies. General Secretary John  Douglas told Shopfloor: “This 

research shows that Ireland’s labour market crisis will not be solved with a more jobs at any cost strategy.  “We need to look at the quality of jobs that are being created, otherwise we will just increase the number of working poor.” 

Continued on page 4

A REPORT MANDATE FOR RESEARCH TRADE UNION SURVEY: BE: CAMILLE LOFTUS HAVIOUR & ATTITUDE S

Picture: CC blakeemyrs

A MAJOR new report by Mandate has revealed the extent to which workers in Ireland’s retail sector have been hit by the economic downturn. The study, Decent Work? The Impact of the Recession on Low Paid Workers, found that 39% of Mandate members had seen an average fall of

DECENT W THE IMPA ORK? THE RECE CT OF LOW PAIDSSION ON WORKERS


INDUSTRIAL NEWS

Picture:DAA plc

Optimism over Penney’s claim

DAA outsourcing ‘will be resisted’ THE Dublin Airport Authority’s  decision to outsource its distribution operation to a third party provider continues to be resisted by members affected by the transfer.  Despite at first indicating the move would take place after talks and agreement, the company has since stated that staff will transfer under The Transfer of Undertakings  Directive 2003 to the third party  logistics provider – Masterlink – in and around September.  Mandate made it clear to the company that any attempt to transfer its members from the semi-state body to a private operator – where it was unclear whether terms and conditions would be maintained in the  future – would be challenged.  The union recently wrote to DAA advising of its intention to ballot members for industrial action if the company goes ahead with its plans.  

Brendan O’Hanlon: DAA’s ‘Insult to workers’

In the meantime, the DAA have unilaterally floated a voluntary  severance package, which the union claims, is designed to panic staff into leaving rather than transfer over to a private operator. The union outlined to DAA chiefs at a recent meeting a series of  options that must be available to members in the distribution centre if any agreement is to be reached. 

Divisional Organiser Brendan O’Hanlon told Shopfloor: “The  company’s treatment of its staff in the distribution centre is nothing short of disgraceful. “It is an absolute insult to workers who, as part of an agreement reached in 2009, incurred pay cuts, a massive reduction in staffing levels and greater productivity as a result of Terminal 2 opening – not to mention the handling of both Cork and Shannon’s logistics.” He warned: “The company’s convenient use of the TUPE legislation will not be tolerated by members who could stand to lose future  pensions entitlements and other terms and conditions that are unique to staff employed by the DAA, and should be a worrying development to all [other] DAA employees who  potentially run the risk of being treated in a similar – if not identical – manner.”

Pensions vote over iASS lack of progress TALKS aimed at resolving difficulties over the Irish Airlines Superannuation Scheme have been adjourned at the Labour Relations Commission after six months of negotiations. It is understood actuaries working for the group of unions have examined a proposal tabled jointly by the Dublin Airport Authority and Aer Lingus. They have since presented their observations to the unions. But despite this there has been very little movement to address obvious difficulties identified in the proposal. As a result, the unions have started a ballot for industrial 2

action at both DAA and Aer Lingus over what Divisional Organiser Brendan O’Hanlon described as the “serious lack of progress on the issues identified”. Information meetings were held at the three airports involved – Dublin, Cork and Shannon – after which each union, including Mandate, have commenced a ballot for industrial action. The recent announcement by the Pensions Regulator about minimum funding standards for defined benefit pension schemes has added to the pressure to resolve the issue regarding benefits accrued to date and future pension arrangements.

However, Mr O’Hanlon emphasised that the unions would not allow either company to use the deadlines set down by the Regulator to “rush the process” and to conclude an agreement that could see members “lose significant parts of their entitlements or alternatively trigger the pension trustees into making adjustments”. Mandate has called on both companies to engage meaningfully with a view to securing the benefits accrued to date and agreeing a pension scheme that actually delivers a meaningful pension for members during their retirement.

THE union has served a claim on Penneys for an appropriate pay increase on behalf of 3,500  members employed at the  company’s 38 stores nationwide.  Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light pointed out that Penneys staff – like most of their fellow workers across the retail sector in Ireland – have had to endure pay freezes over the last number of years. He said: “On the face of it the Penneys business has seemed to

weather the economic recession rather well and – if reports from our members in the stores are to be believed – turnover and actual profit levels have increased during the worst of the downturn.  “If this is the case, the union would be justifiably optimistic in believing that our claim will be favourably considered by management during the forthcoming  meetings with the union hopefully taking place in the near future.”

TALKS are about to start on reviewing the 2011 Horizon Agreement at Debenhams – a deal which saw a considerable number of concessions made by Mandate members. Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light described management’s call for an early review on the back of a declining trading performance in Ireland as “worrying”. He told Shopfloor: “Obviously any claims in this regard will have to be closely scrutinised by the members of our National Negotiating Team during the course of the upcoming review.

“However, management must be alerted to the fact that it will be extremely difficult – if not impossible – to ask our members to give further concessions following those contained in the 2010 Spring Agreement and the 2011 Horizon Agreement. “Any request for further austerity measures by management will also have to be viewed against the most recent positive developments which have seen other major retailers offer pay increases to their workers notwithstanding the impact of the economic downturn.”

Debenhams review talks set to start

‘well positioned to concede an increase’ MANDATE has served a claim for an appropriate pay increase for its members employed in Dunnes Stores. It follows a number of recent claims served by the union on  several other major retail  employers. Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light told Shopfloor a claim had been served on Dunnes  management “with a view to 

having the increase applied with immediate effect”.   He added: “It is our belief that this employer is well positioned to realistically concede an increase at this time particularly when one bears in mind that some of their major competitors have decided to reward their respective workforces in such a fashion.  We look forward to the response from management with eager anticipation.”

boots claim lodged A CLAIM for an appropriate pay rise has been served on Boots management on behalf of 700 members working at the company’s chain of 72 stores across Ireland. Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light emphasised the time had now come for Boots – like other retailers – to recognise the “true contribution made by our members to the business by awarding them a satisfactory

pay increase”. He added: “The Irish management team must take account of recent awards made by other retailers to their respective workers and the fact that the UK parent company has given a 2% pay increase to its workers.” Against this backdrop Mr Light told Shopfloor he was optimistic for a “positive outcome” to the current negotiations. SHOPFLOOR

y July 2012


INDUSTRIAL NEWS

COLLECTIVE

BARGAINING

WORKS!

John Douglas

STRAIGHT TALKING General Secretary Mandate Trade Union

yes, ministers, time for change

Tesco workers to get 2% rise in pay MANDATE has described as “heartening” news that 13,000 Mandate members working in Tesco Ireland are to receive a 2% pay rise – the first in more than four years – following a claim served by the union. In a national ballot, 79% of  members voted to accept the deal which takes effect from January 1st, 2013, and will include the period up to and including the end of February 2014. A total of 21% voted against acceptance. Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light described the development as “significant for a number of reasons”.  He said: “First, it is heartening to be dealing with actual pay increases as opposed to the experience of wage stagnation which our members in Tesco and elsewhere have had to  endure for the last number of years.  “Second, our members in Tesco have not been required to give any major concessions in return for the pay increase and, third, this offer coming as it does from one of  Ireland’s biggest private sector  employers and, most certainly the largest in retail, sets a very signifi-

Counting the votes in favour of acceptance of 2% offer at Mandate HQ Picture: Mandate

cant and appropriate benchmark for others operating in the sector.  “Following on the heels of the Marks and Spencer deal which saw Mandate members receive a similar increase, this can only be seen as a positive trend and one which we  intend to maximise for our members across the retail sector in the future.”  Tullamore Tesco worker Dolores McKenna told Shopfloor: "In this 

climate the pay increase will mean a lot to all of us, many of us have been hit hard by the increased cost in  living and this increase will help Tesco workers pay those bills.  “Being in Mandate was key to  the success of this 2% increase,  I honestly believe that without them at the table with us, we would never have gotten this outcome.”   

Tribunal outcome ‘vindicates Tesco employee’s good name’ A TESCO worker sacked over claims she failed to scan items at a checkout has been awarded €13,000 by an Employment Appeals Tribunal after her dismissal was ruled to be unsustainable. Laura Gannon was dismissed from Tesco Omni, with the firm arguing that this was dishonesty amounting to serious misconduct. The matter was heard at the Rights Commissioner Service which found in Ms Gannon’s favour. Tesco later appealed the decision to the Employment Appeals Tribunal. However, the Tribunal did not accept there was any evidence of dishonesty on Ms Gannon’s part, July 2012

y SHOPFLOOR

and ruled that a dismissal for gross misconduct was unsustainable. Ms Gannon – whose exemplary work record of eight years was also taken into account – was awarded €13,000. Since her dismissal, Ms Gannon has successfully pursued a course of academic study and an alternative career path. Industrial Officer David Miskell said: “Assertions that impugn people’s integrity are particularly serious and this outcome vindicates Ms Gannon’s good name.”

Picture: John Chaney

Worker in the driving seat... Tesco Ireland’s 13,000 employees are getting a 2% rise – the first in four years Picture:Tesco Ireland

WELL, the silly season is in full swing with summer holidays, flash floods, football, financial crisis, Sean Quinn avoiding jail for contempt of court for attempting to transfer €500 million worth of assets and householders threatened with prison over the €100 household charges – crazy! Your union Mandate campaigned hard for a ‘No’ vote during the Fiscal Treaty referendum debate. The subsequent result of 60% ‘Yes’ and 40% ‘No’ was hardly a resounding endorsement of the Treaty, and it is generally accepted that many of those who voted in favour did so with a heavy heart. Mandate argued that the weight of the bank debt heaped on the Irish taxpayer is unsustainable and would plunge the Irish economy into a  permanent recession which, in turn, will undermine the welfare and social services that many Mandate members depend on.   While Spain and Italy may have taught Ireland a lesson in football, they also taught us a lesson in dealing with our European partners, particularly Germany. When Spain and Italy faced the prospect of Europe (Germany) heaping hundreds of billions of euros in bank bailouts on to their taxpayers, they said enough is enough.   They realised that it had not worked in Ireland and they were not  prepared to see their economies and welfare structures destroyed.   To be fair to the Irish government, we have now got in under the wire with Spain – our bank debt will now be reviewed respectively but the devil will be in the detail.   At the very least, this opens the opportunity to undo the disastrous  decision of the previous government’s blanket guarantee scheme,  including Anglo Irish Bank’s €47 billion debt. However, much damage has already been done, there are still more than 400,000 workers without jobs, 50,000 leaving Ireland each year and tens of thousands of householders in serious mortgage debt. Austerity Budget Number 6 is due in December 2012 which will take at least another €3.5 billion out of the Irish economy causing more misery, hardship and unemployment. Mandate and the trade union movement has consistently pointed to the failure of endless austerity policies, every day we see and deal with the impacts of falling consumer  spending, shops and pubs closing, workers’ hours and wages being reduced and their struggle to survive. We are calling on the Government to change policy, to invest in infrastructure, services and jobs and to give Irish people back hope.   The December 2012 Budget should be the beginning of a new era of investment growth, jobs not dole, decent work and decent incomes.

Shopfloor is published bi-monthly by Mandate Trade Union. Mandate Head Office, O'Lehane House, 9 Cavendish Row, Dublin 1 T: 01-8746321/2/3 F: 01-8729581 W: www.mandate.ie Design & Editing: Brazier Media E: braziermedia@btinternet.com Shopfloor is edited, produced and printed by trade union labour

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PROGRESSIVE ECONOMICS

Call for a new approach

WE are all too familiar with the daily news – job losses, fear for jobs, more precarious jobs, more charges and taxes, young people forced to emigrate or draw the dole and  rising debt – whether at the credit union, the bank, the company,  Ireland, Europe. Where is it all going? Why is this happening now? Is there really an alternative way of getting out of this mess? Listening to the airwaves and reading the papers (apart from Mandate’s Shopfloor, of course) one could be forgiven for thinking that there is literally ‘no other way’.  But there is another way. 

Investment is the key …

The Nevin Economic Research  Institute, NERI,  was recently set up to undertake economic research and provide some answers.  We are still new. However, we have produced a number of reports and papers which not only takes  on the view that more and more  austerity is the only way, but  provides some answers and  solutions too.   Our first major report was in March and it dealt with the need for investment – investment in people, jobs and much needed facilities in this country.  Can anyone seriously make the case that we do not need better childcare, affordable and well-insulated homes, better schools and hospitals, proper 21st century IT systems and better water services?  But how can we afford to pay for such investment?  The first NERI report has shown how it is possible to use funds from a variety of sources. Part of the  answer is to make better use of  existing public and private funds in public investment projects.  There is strong evidence that such additional investment will pay off in the future and the benefits will greatly outweigh the costs. If

by Tom Healy

neri Director

we don’t invest and the economy stays in recession then there is a high cost – continuing unemployment, a continuing fall in retail sales, people not able to afford mortgages and a creaking infrastructure in terms of hospitals, schools, crèches, water supplies, broadband etc. We must address the immediate economic crisis as well as make the changes so that we never again go back to what happened in 2008 and the events that built up to this.  The crisis is really about an imbalance – not in public finances – but in the way finance capital directed investment into paper rather than eally useful investments such as First World public facilities.  Much of the property investment before 2008 went into housing for speculative investment over homes for people and much of the really useful investment that took place in energy, roads and public transport was undertaken by public enterprises along with private funding.

The choice is ours …

The choice is ours. The way this Government and previous governments have chosen to make the ‘fiscal adjustment’ is by cutting spending much more than it is raising taxes. The Troika who have been lending

money to this country to cover  day-to-day spending respect the choices made by successive Irish governments in regards to taxes and spending. In its most recent report, NERI has made the case for adjusting government spending and taxes in a different way by: • Investing in people and facilities with a positive pay-back in the future; • Not making further cuts to  public spending and re-directing wasteful public spending into  better public services and income support for those worst affected by the crisis; • Increasing taxes on the wealthy and high-income households; and • Making the adjustment to spending and taxes over a somewhat longer period (over five years instead of three years) assuming that the economy will not recover immediately. In the long run, it should be  possible to support a more normal level of public services – more  similar to what is the case in most other European countries.  On the present policy, we are destined to become one of the lowest spending countries in Europe in five years time. As you can imagine

such conclusions meet with strong opposition in some quarters  because the well-off do not like to hear statistics and analyses that show we have a low rate of tax in Ireland compared to most other countries.  Our low overall tax rate is  because of a whole series reliefs on profits and income which benefit the well-off. We also have a lower rate of employer contributions to social security. Many of the cuts to spending  affect poorer households, children and families. Ultimately, cuts are making matters worse because every cut in public spending is adding to unemployment and bringing about a fall in revenue.  The impact on people – real  people – is devastating. Mental health is a casualty. Sadly, the latest  available statistics show an  increase in the number of people taking their own lives.

We need hope and we need vision…

For too long economics has been considered a ‘science’ to which only ‘experts’ had complete access.  It was viewed as something over and above the real world of vested and often conflicting interests.  We need to chart a new way of thinking about problems and  offering analysis and solutions that challenge the cosy consensus but on the basis of good research which can match that offered by some of the official organs of state-funded economic research.

The Nevin Economic Research Institute is a research organisation which, at its core, has a vision of the achievement of a better, fairer society. It aims, through the provision of world-class research and analysis, to contribute towards the construction of alternative perspectives and possibilities that will lead to the creation of an economy that works for society. It is supported by a number of unions affiliated to the ICTU, including Mandate.

www.NERinstitute.net

Adult Education Courses for the Workplace

Mandate Trade Union with the VEC network is offering a programme of Training Courses called Skills for Work. Skills for Work offers members the opportunity to get back into education at their own pace with a wide range of courses to choose from. Each course has 6 – 8 participants and may be held locally and outside of working hours. Some of the courses include:

Communication Skills/ Personal Development and Effectiveness

For those who want to brush up on their writing and spelling skills while you develop personal and interpersonal skills which are important for dealing with workplace situations and improve communications in everyday life situations

Name

Address

Communication through Computers

This course is ideal for adults just learning about computers and confidence for communicating on-line.

Maths

Perhaps you’d like to brush up on your everyday maths, including home budgets, tax and weights/measures. Courses are free and open to members who have not achieved Leaving Certificate or who have an out of date Leaving Certificate. You can also achieve a FETAC Level 3 Award.

Workplace Location Phone

Please tick the box or boxes of the courses which interest you and return this form with your details to: Mandate’s Organising and Training Centre Distillery House, Distillery Road, Dublin 3 Phone 01-8369699, email mandateotc@mandate.ie Closing date Friday 17th August 2012 Skills for Work is funded by the Department of Education & Skills

4

NEWS

report shows retail workers taking hit after hit in recession

From page 1

Other points flagged up in the  report, based on a survey of   Mandate members carried out by market research firm Behaviour & Attitudes, include: • Retail workers’ hours have  declined by an average of 4.3% over the last year. For part-time workers the decrease was 5.6% and for  student workers it was 12.9%; • Six in 10 Mandate members were willing and able to work extra hours but less than half of the parttime employees who asked for more hours got them; • Many retail workers’ hours are subject to frequent change – almost half of part-time workers have their working hours changed at least once a month, while only a third have stable working hours. The report also highlighted how the decline in income was having a very real impact on workers’ lives. Almost a third told researchers they were having problems adequately feeding and clothing their families. Four in every 10 were  experiencing difficulty paying their mortgage or rent and half reported problems in paying utility bills.  Three-quarters said that they are finding it more difficult to cope in general and were suffering much more stress than a few years ago. An analysis of the data was  carried out by research and policy analyst Camille Loftus.  Speaking at the May 24 launch in Dublin, she pointed out that there is little or no acknowledgement at  policy level of the precarious  position facing many retail workers and this needed to be addressed by government. She said: “Reforms to the JLC and REA wage-setting mechanisms announced by Minister Bruton last year have the stated aim of making them ‘fairer, more competitive and more flexible’ with the hope of  increasing job creation.  “However, these reforms fail to  address the vulnerability of those in precarious work; rather they are likely to increase its incidence and compound the vulnerability of these employees, leaving a growing  proportion of the workforce  without access to decent work.” Ms Loftus also called for a   “re-examination” of how the EU  Directive on part-time work will be incorporated.  She said: “A more formal process, requiring employers to justify a  decision to deny part-time workers access to longer hours would help to provide a better balance between the needs of employees and  employers.   “Without it, we are likely to see a growing incidence of precarious work in the Irish economy.” REVEALED: Iron Grip of Austerity - Pages 12&13 SHOPFLOOR

y July 2012


VIEWPOINT

we need to protect deposits of tenants

My proposal to set up deposit retention scheme

by Patrick nulty TD

Picture: Labour Party

BEFORE I was elected a TD, I was employed as a policy analyst with Focus Ireland, who work on housing issues affecting those on the front line of our housing crisis – that is those who have lost their homes, or are at risk of becoming homeless. Many families are trapped in  insecure privately rented accommodation with little or no security. In addition, due to employers  reducing workers hours many  families are relying in rent or  mortgage supplement. The facts and figures of our  housing crisis are shocking and need to be understood: • 300,000 homes in Ireland are currently unoccupied,  • 100,000 households are  currently on the housing list, and • One in 10 mortgages are now in arrears.  Our housing system is dysfunctional and in crisis. Individuals and families want security, whether they are renting their homes or paying mortgages.  In particular, issues frequently arise in the private rented sector with regard to deposits. Tenants are required to come up with at least one month's rent as a deposit. For many, the deposit is a form of  saving. They rely on the deposit to use for their next home – if and when they move out of their  current accommodation.  There are approximately a quarter of a million tenancies registered in the country with the Private 

July 2012

y SHOPFLOOR

Residential Tenancies Board (PRTB). Illegal deposit retention is one of the most common problems experienced by tenants in the private rented sector.  The Residential Tenancies Act 2004 sets how a deposit can be  retained by the landlord in very  specific instances such as rent  arrears, damage beyond normal

wear and tear or outstanding utility bills.  The Threshold annual report for 2011 shows that some landlords are withholding deposits in a way which is totally inconsistent with the law. Tenants are at risk of becoming homeless when a landlord unfairly withholds their deposit. In 2010, Threshold dealt with

3,224 deposit queries. In 79% of these cases, they were successful in ensuring a full or partial refund of the deposit for the tenant.  Many of these cases have to be  referred back to the PRTB and some reach the courts. This has been a time consuming process, and a  burden for those who need the  deposit for a new home. Last week, I sought leave to  introduce a bill which, if passed by the Dáil  and Seanad, will bring in a deposit retention scheme for those renting in the private rented sector.  The bill, if passed, will allow for rental deposits to be held by an  independent third party. This bill  will now be debated in Dáil private members time within the next few months.  I hope the Government will accept the bill as a review of potential  deposit retention schemes is already under way within the Department of Environment. This bill – if passed – would ensure that deposits are returned promptly,

unless a landlord has valid claims for damage, withheld rent or  unpaid bills. There are examples of such models in Britain and  Australia. According to Threshold, these schemes have greatly reduced the number of times tenants  unfairly lose their deposits. The deposits can be managed by the National Treasury Management Agency. Any surplus or interest  generated could be used to regulate and improve standards in the  private rented sector.  According to a May 10th PrimeTime report, it was estimated that local authorities only inspected 7% of private rented dwellings in 2010. This is unacceptable. There is widespread recognition that a deposit retention scheme makes sense.  In November of last year, the then Minister for Housing Willie Penrose said: “I have asked the PRTB to  research potential schemes and to provide me with a sound evidential base on which I can make a  decision in this regard and I intend to make recommendations to  Government on this topic in 2012. “  A deposit retention scheme was also included in the Labour Party manifesto for the 2011 general election.  I am very hopeful that the Dáil and Seanad will accept the proposal and a deposit retention scheme will be established.  It would be a first step in tilting the balance of  fairness back in favour of tenants.

Patrick Nulty is TD for Dublin West

5


INTERNATIONAL AUSTRALIA

FEW small countries can claim to have had as great an impact on the world as Ireland has had. When thinking of the Irish diaspora individual historic figures such as John F. Kennedy, Che Guevara (Lynch) or Ned Kelly spring to mind, but Irish people as a community have also impacted on the development of  societies, and none more so than Australia. Today in Australia, thousands of people proudly honour a flag which, to them, represents the birth of democracy in that country. It  represents the fight for a just and fair society that the first free  settlers endured and it represents the power of the collective over the oppressive powers that ruled the early colony. That flag is the Eureka flag and it is an emblem that is synonymous with the Irish. It was first raised in 1854 by an Irishman in a small town called  Ballarat in regional Victoria.  At the time, Ballarat had become one of the largest gold-mining towns in the world. The Irish,  including some who had left home during the Great Famine, sought a better life in Australia flooding into the gold fields of Victoria along with many Britons, Canadians, Americans and Chinese.  By 1854 there were about 25,000 gold miners in the Ballarat gold fields and law and order was  enforced by the Gold Commission’s police force. There was growing unrest over the deeply unpopular mining licence imposed on all miners irrespective of whether they were successful in their pursuit of gold.  This was particularly difficult for small miners who struggled to pay and led to them establishing a code name as a warning call for when  the inspectors came to check on  licences.  This warning call was “Vinegar Hill”, a reference to 1798 Rebellion and the 1804 Irish convict rising in Castle Hill (nicknamed Vinegar Hill) near Sydney.  What compounded the unrest was the denial of a vote to the  miners, despite the imposition of a tax through the mining licence. The miners were also very  concerned with corruption in the area and this came to a head after a Scottish miner was beaten to death by a mob.  The mob included the local publican, James Bentley, who just  happened to be a friend of the local magistrate and escaped prosecution, as did the three other men in the group.  This led to a mass meeting of 10,000 miners, during which, the crowd burnt down Bentley’s Hotel. Soon after, three of the diggers were arrested and charged for their role in the arson attack. On 11th November, 10,000  miners met to demand the release of the three diggers along with the abolition of the licence and the vote for all males.  The outcome was the formation of the Ballarat Reform League which passed the following resolution, "That it is the inalienable right of every citizen to have a voice in making the laws he is called on to 6

eureka moment that gave birth to Aussie labour David Gibney tells the stirring story behind the Eureka flag and the part played by Irish exiles

obey, that taxation without representation is tyranny".  This was followed by another mass meeting on 29th November when the miners decided to publicly burn their mining licences.  In response, the Gold Commissioner ordered a licence hunt for the following day during which eight defaulters were arrested. According to records, military reinforcements were summoned to rescue the arresting officers from the angry crowd.  Later, on 30th November, there was another mass burning of  licences, this time led by Peter Lawlor, a 26-year-old from Co Laois.  Lawlor was the brother of James Fintan Lawlor, the Young Ireland  revolutionary. James Fintan Lawlor was one of the most powerful writers of his day and who later influenced the likes of Michael Davitt, James Connolly and Padraig Pearse. It was at this meeting on Baker Hill that the famous Eureka flag was flown for the first time. 

The flag has five stars representing the Southern Cross and, according to Professor Geoffrey Blaney, the white cross behind the stars “really [is] an Irish cross rather than being a configuration of the Southern Cross.” Lawlor, along with his fellow demonstrators constructed a stockade enclosing an area of approximately a half acre where the following oath was taken beneath the flag: "We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and  liberties." Historians have said that as well as most of the miners inside the stockade, in the area around where the defensive position was established, the miners were overwhelmingly Irish.  The password to enter the stockade was, again, “Vinegar Hill.” Early on the morning of Sunday, 3rd December, the authorities launched an attack on the stockade.  The miners were outnumbered, with the colony sending military backup from Melbourne. The battle

was over in 20 minutes.  A total of 22 miners – mostly Irish – and five troops were killed.  The flag was torn down, trampled, hacked with swords and peppered with bullets by colonial troops. Peter Lawlor escaped with serious injuries and his arm was later amputated.  Of the 120 miners detained after the rebellion, 13 were brought to trial, of whom seven were Irish.  They were Timothy Hayes (Irish), James McFie Campbell (a black man from Jamaica), Raffaello Carboni (Italian), Jacob Sorenson (Scottish), John Manning (Irish), John Phelan (Irish), John Dignum (Australian), John Joseph (a black American), James Beatie (Irish), William Malloy (Irish), Jan Vennick (Dutch), Michael Tuohy (Irish) and Henry Reid (Irish). The first trial was of John Joseph, one of three Americans arrested, but the US Consul intervened on behalf of the other two (John Joseph was a black man). When Joseph was found “not guilty”, there was a sudden burst of applause in the court and he was

Hard hats: Proud members of the Builders Labourers Federation fly the flag Picture: BLF

carried around the streets of  Melbourne in a chair of triumph. All of the other men were also  acquitted to great public acclaim. The Gold Fields Commission handed down its report a month later, and the government adopted all of its recommendations.  This resulted in all the demands of the diggers being met.  A bill was passed to extend the vote to gold-diggers possessing a miner’s right costing one pound (it had previously been eight pounds along with six months residency). The hated Gold Commission was replaced by a system of mining wardens. In 1855, Peter Lawlor was elected as the first MLC (Member of the Legislative Council) and the  Ballarat miners were given eight representatives on the council. The Eureka rebellion is  considered by many to be the  birthplace of Australian democracy. It is the only example of armed  rebellion leading to reform of unfair laws.  Today the Eureka Stockade symbolises a “revolt of free men against imperial tyranny, of labour against a privileged ruling class and as an expression of republicanism.”  Many trade unions and trade unionists, particularly in the construction sector, proudly wear the flag today and it is always on display from the roof of the Victorian Trades Hall building in Melbourne, where the very first legislated eight hour day in the world was won one year later, in 1856. The connections between Ireland and Australia are, and always have been very strong.  According to James Connolly’s Labour in Irish History, the penalty for joining a trade union in Ireland after 1802 was transportation to Australia.  The spirit of those early Irish  settlers is still strong in the labour movement and the impact they had on Australian society is still very visible today.  SHOPFLOOR

y July 2012


NEWS

Joblessness in ireland ‘now at crisis levels’ CONGRESS has warned joblessness in Ireland is now at crisis levels and must be tackled with the same zeal with which successive governments have pursued deficit reduction and the imposition of austerity. ICTU Economic Advisor Paul Sweeney made the comments as figures released earlier this month showed the jobless rate had risen for the third month in a row. He said: “We have not seen unemployment at

this high level since 1993.  It is as if all the gains of the last two decades have been wiped out by reckless banks and a European political elite that refuses to learn the lessons of history, or even the lessons of daily experience. “With close to 15% out of work It is now  imperative that this Government starts to  aggressively tackle the jobless crisis.  “It is clear we need to stimulate demand and get some life back into the domestic economy.”

‘vicious circle’ of austerity snapping shut - eTUC EUROPE can only “move forward” from the “spiral of crises” impacting it by strengthening “cohesion and solidarity”, the European Trade Union Confederation has claimed. ETUC General Secretary Bernadette Ségol made the comments after European trade union leaders met last month to back a new Social Compact for Europe. The compact is based on three elements – social democracy – in particular, respect for collective bargaining; economic governance serving sustainable growth and quality employment; economic and social justice, through redistribution policies, taxation and social protection. Ms Ségol, above right, said: “Europe today is caught in the austerity trap.

This course is aimed at Health and Safety representatives Topic covered on the course: • Health and Safety Legislation • Role of Health and Safety Representative • Safety statements • Role of Health and Safety Authority • Occupational health • Identification of hazards and risk assessment • Accident investigation • Fire safety • Effective communications • Health and safety promotion

Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this course receive a Fetac Level 5 component award certificate and may progress to other courses offered by Mandate. If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: mandateotc@mandate.ie

y SHOPFLOOR

Industrial Officer Robert McNamara with local shop steward Emma and Glanmire CU Chairperson Frank Linehan

glanmire CU signs up to recognition agreement

Picture: ETUC

“Budget cuts are deepening the recession and, in turn, creating bigger deficits. This deterioration in public finances is prompting governments – under pressure from Europe – to strengthen austerity measures. “The vicious circle is complete and the trap is snapping shut.” She pointed out that three years of pursuing an austerity agenda across Europe had only led to rocketing unemployment, economic stagnation, rising inequality, the emergence of a new class of ‘precarious’ workers and, ultimately, social despair. Europe had to radically change course, Ms Ségol warned, to implement policies that promote growth to meet the “challenges of sustainable prosperity”.

Health & Safety FETAC Level 5

July 2012

INDUSTRIAL NEWS

CenTre PAgeS

get the facts from our Decent work? report

MANDATE has hailed a new procedural and recognition agreement signed earlier this month between the union and Glanmire Credit Union as “paving the way for a positive working relationship”. Talks between the Co Cork credit union and Mandate – which represents all 10 members of staff at the Crestfield Centre branch – have been ongoing for six months. Welcoming the development, Industrial  Officer Robert McNamara told Shopfloor: “It’s a positive step. The agreement paves the way

forward  for a positive working relationship with Glanmire & District Credit Union.” He claimed the credit union sector generally faced significant challenges over the next few years following the recent report published by the Commission on Credit Unions. Mr McNamara added: “It is important that we are prepared for the challenge facing the workers in the sector and partnership  agreements such as the one Mandate has  concluded with this credit union will prove very beneficial.”

Union Representatives Introductory Course The Union Representative Introductory Training Course is for new shop stewards/union representatives. The course aims to provide information, skills and knowledge to our shop stewards/union representatives to assist them in their role in the workplace. Course content: • Background to Mandate. • The role and responsibilities of a Shop Steward/Union Representative. • Examining disciplinary/grievance procedures. • Developing negotiating skills. • Representing members at local level. • Communication skills/solving members’ problems. • Organising, Recruitment and Campaigns. • Induction presentations. Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this course will obtain a Mandate certificate. They may progress to a Union Representative Advanced Course and to other relevant training courses offered by Mandate. If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: mandateotc@mandate.ie 7


INDUSTRIAL NEWS

Doubts grow over future of the UCD Student Club INTENSIVE negotiations are under way to save the UCD Student Club and the jobs of five union members who work there.  According to recent newspaper  reports, the bar – at one time one of the busiest pubs in Ireland – has  accumulated losses of more than €100,000.  One of the bar workers, Noel Dunphy, who is also a member of the union’s National Executive Council, expressed deep concern on behalf of his colleagues over the threat to

close the club within weeks.  Mandate has said its negotiating team will do its utmost to protect the livelihoods of its members employed in the club.  Mr Dunphy told Shopfloor: “At times like this it shows the  importance of being in a union and reinforces the power of the collective.  “I shudder to think what would have happened if we were left to  face this on our own as a group of  vulnerable individuals.”

Mcgrath’s Pub deal struck STRIKE action has been averted at McGrath’s Pub, in Cabra, after a last minute deal was brokered by Mandate officals and management representatives. Mandate members had previously voted in favour of taking industrial following a disagreement over wages, redundancies and rosters – and a strike notice was served. However, talks later resulted in a

redundancy settlement and an agreement on pay. Commitments were also given by both sides to work constructively going forward. Industrial Officer David Miskell told Shopfloor: “Despite the ongoing issues in this place of employment, we are satisfied that the current matters in dispute have been resolved through constructive dialogue.”

Members at JJb Sports narrowly accept lrC plan UNION members at JJB Sports  recently agreed by a narrow majority to accept Labour Relations Commission proposals which in effect see a major cost-saving restructuring process introduced into the business.  Divisional Organiser Joe Donnelly admitted that while it was hard to be positive about many of the proposals, it did indicate a recognition by 

NEWS

members of the serious trading  position faced by the company. On a more positive note, he pointed out that nearly all workers  at JJB were now members of the union. Mr Donnelly added: “This places us in a considerable position of strength which we intend to exercise at the earliest appropriate opportunity.”

Heroes and zeros! THE RECENT media fixation with United Left Alliance TDs’ travel  expenses has been contrasted with the lack of coverage devoted to the billions of euro doled out to bondholders by the Government in recent months. According to the Houses of the Oireachtas Services, allowances of €1,000 a month paid to Socialist Party’s Joe Higgins and Clare Daly and Joan Collins of People Before Profit should have only been used  to cover costs within their Dublin  constituencies and going to and from Leinster House. It is understood the politicians used part of their allowances to campaign across the country against the water and household charges. Mandate National Co-ordinator Brian Forbes told Shopfloor: “Isn't it 8

a strange country when there's not a peep in the media about €1.5bn given to AIB bondholders on April 11th, or the €2.25bn handed over on May 28th, yet, there is a media feeding frenzy over three left-wing politicians who managed to amass a grand total of €2,000 on travel  expenses outside their constituencies campaigning against an unfair, and unjust tax.” He added: “It’s just about priorities, I guess...”

Amount Bondholders payout

€1,500,000,000 €2,250,000,000 TDs’ allowances

€2,000

Media reaction?

Have a guess... ...nada, nothing, zilch, zero roof falls in!

PLATFORM DUBLIN COUNCIL OF TRADE UNIONS by Mick O’reilly

THE Dublin Council of Trade Unions is concerned primarily with the overall social and economic issues that are impacting so negatively on workers in Dublin.   We know there are many  different organisations that are  currently working to combat these austerity measures. We believe it is important that these campaigns are not seen either as independent of one another or in competition with one another but rather in  solidarity with one another in a bid to change government policy.   The DCTU sees its role as uniting all these groups against the  Government’s austerity agenda.   We also believe that it is vitally important that the trade union movement understands the Croke Park agreement – whatever view is taken of it – is only an industrial agreement and does not commit unions to supporting austerity policies.   However, the reality is that the perception has been created that Croke Park agreement equals acquiesce by the trade unions to this Government’s austerity measures.   This is not so! Nothing in the Croke Park agreement prevents unions from campaigning against unfair taxes such as the household charge, cuts

EDUCATION

regaining audacity of larkinism in social welfare or the closure of hospitals and schools.  The DCTU, therefore, intends to forge a coalition against austerity by bringing together unions, political parties, community groups and others to fight for a set of policies that strike out in a different direction – in favour of growth. Only growth has the potential to replace despair with hope.   With this in mind we are issuing an open invitation to Mandate 

activists to fully participate in our Council to help us achieve our goals. Next year is the centenary of the 1913 Lockout and DCTU will be  organising a number of commemorative events.   For us the core issue is the relevance of 1913 to our  situation today – for if the Irish trade union movement needs anything at the moment, it is to regain the audacity and boldness of Larkinism.   To this end, we invite all trade unionists to take part in our pre-budget demonstration this year and all the other events that will be organised to commemorate the centenary.    

YOUTH CONNECT

Prepared for world of work

by Fiona Dunne

YouthConnect Programme Manager SCHOOL is out and so are the  students, but the YouthConnect programme will still be working hard throughout the summer to make sure we are ready for the new term when we hope to add some new material and topics to our  offering for schools along with some new champions. We are also acutely aware that summer is the time when students will be hoping to gain some invaluable experience and skills in the “real world” and, for some, it may be their first introduction to work.   It is important that the first  contact a young person has with the workplace is a positive one, and as trade union members I know that we can make a big difference and ensure that the experience is a memorable one – for the right  reasons. One of the most important things we have learned from the YouthConnect programme, is that for many students, they have little or no real knowledge of how the  workplace operates.   Their early years are spent

within the protected confines of the school environment and starting a job can be quite daunting time for some students who are not adequately prepared. Teachers and the school community work hard to ensure students are prepared for the world after school and the YouthConnect programme attempts to

‘We hope to make students aware of the reasons for trade unions and workplace role of shop stewards’

bring the world of work into the classroom, but nothing quite matches living the experience. During a YouthConnect lesson, students are reminded of the rights that they are entitled to and we advise them to join a union whenever they start work, even if it is “only

part-time” or “only for the summer”.   At the very least we tell them they should introduce themselves to their local shop steward.    However, we recognise the reality of the situation out there, the unwillingness to part with their “few bob”, the fear their employer would stop them joining, or that membership would be harmful to them in some way.   These are ideas and opinions that, through the YouthConnect programme, we hope to better  address, and if not modify, at least bring an awareness to students of the reasons for trade unions and the role of shop stewards in our workplaces. So if you notice a young person has recently started work in your organisation for the summer, take a minute to introduce yourself and point them towards the shop steward.  Not only does it protect them but it also teaches them the value of solidarity. Remember they are someone’s daughter or son, and they may just need a steer in the right direction. Enjoy your summer and I hope to update you all again when school returns.  SHOPFLOOR

y July 2012


NEWS

PLATFORM

Truth behind the european crisis

ADDITIONAL amendments have recently been announced to the new legislation governing Joint Labour Committees (JLC) and Employment Regulation Agreements (REA). It is now being proposed that  employers who are not party to an REA may seek changes to the agreement. Another change – apparently being championed by the infamous Troika – is to allow individual  employer exemptions from sectoral wage deals for up to two years.  On a positive front, a couple of changes sought by Mandate have also been included.  Even though the majority of workers may support an employer’s  application for an exemption to an REA or ERO, it cannot be granted until the Labour Court is satisfied that the business is “experiencing  severe economic difficulties”.  One major concern when the draft legislation was first published was that the Labour Court when considering proposals for both REAs and EROs could take into account the general levels of wages in comparable sectors, meaning other relevant jurisdictions. 

This has now been changed to also take account of the cost of living in the relevant comparator being used.  Commenting on the latest developments, Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light told Shopfloor:  “Although some of the amendments are to be welcomed, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the new structures will be a pale shadow of what previously existed leaving the many  thousands of workers involved more vulnerable and disenfranchised.  “It is clear that a combination of the Troika, our present government and vested business interests have successfully combined to bring this situation about.” He warned that this could only lead to increased numbers of  workers finding themselves in what has been called “precarious work”.  Mr Light added: “Clearly the state and certain parts of Irish society have failed these workers and Mandate’s main priority now is to ensure we convince as many of them as possible about the value of belonging to a union so that we can collectively move towards protecting and  enhancing their terms and conditions of employment.” 

‘Take a dyno rod to global banking’ UNI General Secretary Philip  Jennings has called for a “dyno rod” to be taken to the world banking  system in the wake of revelations of over fixing of inter-banking interest rates in the UK. Mr Jennings, above, insisted an  inquiry involving the UK alone was “not enough”. His comments, made in a July 4th letter to the Financial Times, came after Barclays boss Bob Diamond’s resignation. Mr Jennings wrote: “What’s needed is a global truth and reconciliation commission for errant  July 2012

y SHOPFLOOR

financiers. It is time for a global commission to clean up the financialisation of our economies and take a dyno rod to corruption. A real root and branch review.”  He continued: “The crisis is a  direct result of a system rigged for the benefit of the elite. Tax dodging, Libor fixing, mis-selling, bonuses, market manipulation and weak  regulation are the hallmarks of this system.  “Democracy has to tilt the power balance back toward fairness, transparency and inclusion.” 

by Thomas Pringle TD ministers to resign? Is it an EU that respects equality that allows the German parliament to see Irish budgets before the Irish people? There is too much at stake to allow larger countries like Germany and France to ignore the rule of law, democracy and equality during this so-called ‘crisis’ in order to impose their ideology on 500 million  people.  This is a crisis of markets and

If we allow the law to be set aside at this time, what hope can we have for the ‘inviolable and inalienable rights of freedom, democracy and equality’?  Where next will the EU decide that a so-called ‘crisis’ exists and what will be the price that will be extracted from smaller countries in order to bail out the rich?  We are watching the Greek people being subjected to untold misery

Picture: CC McManu

Gerry Light: Precarious work warning

THREE times in the last year the  Finance Committee of the  Bundestag in Germany has seen documents that relate to our  budgetary position before they were presented to the Dail.  Recently the European Commission apologised for the ‘leaks’ but did not say it would not happen again!  As a member of the Dail I have still not received these documents. So what this means in practice is that if an Irish citizen wants to know what is happening in Ireland, they should look to the German  Finance Committee and not Dail Eireann. The recent Fiscal Treaty referendum result, if ratified, will strengthen this process. The treaty will give powerful oversight of our budget to the European Commission and enshrines in Irish law the budget rules contained in the treaty. I would like to commend Mandate for their stance in opposing the treaty, in calling for a ‘No’ vote and attempting to protect Irish sovereignty and ensure that we retain control over our own destinies.  You may ask why this is important and did we not make our own mess? More and more it is becoming clear that this mess was created in Europe and we have been forced to bail out the euro through saving German, French and English banks.  Over the last 18 months  there have been very serious  developments in Europe and the  emergence of the domination of the bigger countries that is against the very sentiments contained in the European treaties.  Two democratically-elected governments have been overthrown – first, the Greek and then the Italian (no matter what we think of Berlusconi, he was elected by the Italian people) and their prime ministers replaced by so called ‘technocrats’. Article 1 of the Lisbon Treaty states that the union is based on the “inviolable and inalienable rights of the human person, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law”. These are fine words and we as citizens of Ireland have to make sure that the EU lives up to them.  Is it an EU that has respect for democracy that forces two prime

The Bundestag, above, the seat of German – and European? – power. Greek workers, bottom, take to the streets of Athens in 2010 in the first of several general strikes

bankers that is being imposed on citizens in countries all across  Europe.  It is debatable whether it should even be called a ‘crisis’, it  is not a natural disaster, it is a  programme of austerity that is being imposed by the strong to subject the weak. It is at times like this that the rule of law should prevail because if this is a crisis, we need the law to protect the vulnerable and the values that the EU is supposed to be founded upon. 

and we see hundreds leaving this country every single day – a  haemorrhaging of Irish communities and families. This is the issue that is being  debated in the constitutional courts across Europe and it is a battle that needs to be fought to defend the rights of not only Irish citizens but citizens across the continent. Thomas Pringle is an Independent TD for Donegal South West

Picture: ETUC

More tweaks to law on JlCs and reAs

9


VIEWPOINT

reinventing democracy for ireland Picture: COF

THE limitations in our political  culture were a big focus for discussion at the recent Claiming Our  Future event on ‘Reinventing our Democracy’. These limitations were seen as revolving around three key issues – values, participation and education for citizenship. There has been a failure to hold our democratic institutions to  account. This was seen as being due to the lack of strongly held communal values. A popular valuing of accountability, equality and  participation would result in a very  different politics to those currently on offer.  The political process has not had ‘people at its heart’. There is a lack of importance attached to values in our political process. A political valuing of accountability, equality and participation would in turn  result in a very different society to our current situation. The importance of participation in democracy was highlighted. The absence of participation, the barriers to it and lack of any commitment to it in our political culture were noted. Participation was only valued to the extent of a vote every so many years. Participation should involve the empowerment of  people at local and grassroots level.  The distance of the citizen from the places where decisions were made was highlighted. This was seen as a problem in the number  of decisions made at EU level and in the powerlessness of local  government.  The value of ‘education for citizenship’ was emphasised, both for children and as an adult value.  Education for citizenship would bring a values base to bear on the political culture and develop a capacity to seek participation and to engage in new and more empowering ways with our democracy. The local level was seen as a key focus for initiating change. There was a strong call for Claiming Our Future to campaign for direct civil society involvement in the decision making processes of local government and to maximise the input of people affected by this decision making. Such participation must be seen as a real source of influence if it is to engage people. This was accompanied by a call to campaign for local government reform. Greater powers need to be devolved to local government. While local government has over 500 functions, these are usually schemes delivered on behalf of  10

by niall Crowley central government. New powers need to be accompanied by the  creation of locally-controlled  funding streams to increase  capacity and control over decision making at local level. The participation of civil society organisations in democracy was espoused with a call for Claiming Our Future to campaign for a  constitutional amendment to recognise the contribution of civil society organisations to democracy and to protect their right to engage in advocacy work. The political and administrative undermining of this advocacy was noted as a barrier to democracy. The national level was identified as a focus for action. Change in the electoral system and change in  the way in which the Dail is  allowed to operate were prioritised. An electoral system is needed that would generate a more diverse range of political representatives and more effective democratic institutions. The potential in a mixed member proportional  system where some seats are  allocated in a list system and the remainder in local constituencies using first-past-the-post system was pointed to. Changes to the party whip  system, enabling the Dail to set its own agenda and timetable, and more powerful Oireachtas committees were seen as being important in securing a stronger Dail. The Claiming Our Future’s democracy working group is now taking up these issues. The proposed Constitutional Convention was identified as holding some  potential to provide a focus to stimulate the demand for the real political reform advocated for at the event.  There is a challenge to secure a new political ambition around this proposal if the Constitutional Convention is to realise any such outcome.

THINKING OUTLOUD...

Ditch capitalism or say goodbye to the planet... by ed Teller

THE choice between saving capitalism or saving the planet is the choice facing people all over the globe. The two choices represent two different paths the world can take.  One path continues straight prioritising short-term growth and profits and continues to allow a few monopolies to dominate production and subordinate humans and the planet to its design – increasing inequality, austerity and poverty and devastating the environment.  The other path turns left and  prioritises sustainable growth that measures success not in profits but in equality, in meeting the needs of all humanity, in reduced working time and increased leisure time and in the handing over of a healthy planet to our kids. This is the choice we have to make and despite what the media tells us, we cannot have both. Capitalism and sustainable progress are not compatible. It is the capitalist mode of production and its drive to increase profits and increase production that is the primary force driving human interaction with the planet and the subordination of the planet and its resources to its use. The planet does not have unlimited resources and the misuse or over-use of these resources is  having catastrophic circumstances. Significant research has been conducted and has identified a number of critical issues that if allowed to continue will have altered the  environment to such a degree that it will threaten human existence as we know it. This is not scare tactics or a

doomsday conspiracy. In fact, there is a significant degree of scientific  acceptance and consensus on this. The problem is there is a huge gap between scientific knowledge and public opinion. And with politicians in the pocket of big business, if public opinion doesn’t change and force society down the second path, we are on a one-way train to destruction.

‘If public opinion doesn’t change and force society down the second path, we are on a one-way train to destruction’

For example, in academic journals between 1993 and 2003, a total of 928 peer-reviewed scientific articles on global climate change were  published. Of these 928 pointed to human-caused climate change. That is climate change as a result of the global method of production, capitalism.  Yet a recent poll conducted by Yale and George Mason University found that a little over a third of those polled (34%) agreed with the  statement that “most scientists think global warming is happening,” while nearly half (49%) believed either

INTERNATIONAL NEWS

that “most scientists think global warming is not happening” (4%) or that “there is a lot of disagreement among scientists about whether global warming is happening” (45%). Why the big difference? The media presents the debate on climate change as a debate about whether it is human caused or not, rather that the real scientific debate about how quickly global warming is occuring and what is its primary human cause.  The media puts up industry and big oil spokespeople as equals to  climatologists in order to confuse the issue. Just as previous debates about the link between smoking and cancer, the big oil companies and other  monopolies who benefit from the  destruction of the environment know they can’t disprove it but they can cause enough doubt to prevent it from being a major policy issue.  And clearly they are winning. The World Wildlife Fund has  reported that air temperatures in the Arctic have on average increased by about 5°C over the last 100 years melting the polar ice caps at an  incredible rate to the point that there will be almost no summer sea ice cover left in the region by 2020.  This has severe implications – not just loss of polar bear and seal habitat as well as knock-on effects on local people, but dramatic changes to the entire northern hemisphere.  The lack of a permanent ice shield will also result in even faster warming (and acidification) of the seas, loss  of other sea species and a general  acceleration of global warming. Climate change is just one major issue facing humanity. Equally impor-

CCC global activists meet IRELAND was represented at a Clean Clothes Campaign conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, earlier this year. Clare Nally, of Redress, on behalf of the Irish wing of the global drive for garment workers’ rights, joined representatives from 21 countries at the April conference. A CCC Ireland spokesperson told Shopfloor:  “The event gave a fascinating insight into the garment 

supply chain and the significant  barriers faced by campaigners on the factory floor.  “Rights defenders gave bracing  accounts of the realities faced by workers asking nothing more than respect and dignity in their working day.” Delegates were told how garment industry, workers and their families faced violence, criminalisation,

defamation and discrimination in their quest for basic workplace rights. Representatives working with workers in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and Turkey reported that little has changed despite significant corporate social responsibility and accompanying PR activities by retailers and brands. For more info, check out www.facebook.com/CCCIreland SHOPFLOOR

y July 2012


A herder with his cattle in search of pasture in drought-struck Mauritania

Picture: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

tant, and interlinked with climate change, is the manner in which production is changing the land.  Land cover change has resulted in 75% of ice-free land showing signs of human alteration resulting in many environmental problems.  It is the principal cause of species extinction with currently 25% of mammals, 13% of birds, and 41% of amphibians threatened with extinction.  The retention of biodiversity is

crucial for humankind, since natural ecosystems provide many life-sustaining resources like the pollination of food crops, soil formation, nutrient cycling, water supply, residues treatment, medical resources, and even food itself.  The destruction of rainforests,  particularly in Brazil, is of particular concern as deforestation is releasing huge amounts of CO2s again  speeding up climate change.

INDUSTRIAL NEWS PAge 14

How you can Tweet for us July 2012

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The list of environmental concerns is growing from climate change to ocean acidification to species  destruction to freshwater shortages to chemical pollution of air, water, soil, and humans to now ‘extreme weather’. As NASA scientist and top climatologist James Hansen said: “Global warming increases the intensity of droughts and heat waves, and thus the area of forest fires. However, 

because a warmer atmosphere holds more water vapour, global warming must also increase the intensity of the other extreme of the hydrologic cycle – meaning heavier rains, more extreme floods, and more intense storms driven by latent heat.” The challenge is immense but as more and more struggles are linked to developing an alternative system to capitalism, the more people are drawn into the struggle against the

system.  Whether we are fighting for better wages, more sustainable  development, trade union recognition, Third World justice, the struggle is to make capitalism history.

Much of the information and facts in this article are taken from the May 2012 edition of Monthly Review journal http://monthlyreview.org

vow on jobs over Permanent tsb plan

MANDATE has vowed to “robustly defend” jobs and existing terms and conditions for members at Permanent tsb over further  proposals to restructure the workings of the bank. The bank has already gone through a series of major changes over the past two years,  including a voluntary redundancy  programme, an injection of capital from the  Government and a move to separate the Life business from the bank. The ultimate aim is to sell the Life company

and Mandate has been dealing with the  impact this separation will have on members.  Management are in talks with the Troika in bid to secure the bank’s future and have put forward a plan to achieve this.  According to Divisional Organiser Lorraine O’Brien, pictured right, the plan should be  finalised this month and will undoubtedly have repercussions for members. Part of the plan includes transferring tracker mortgages out of the existing bank

and into a new entity. The number of staff  required in this “new bank”, job roles and the terms attaching to these positions will form an key part of Mandate’s ongoing talks with management at the Labour Relations  Commission.  Ms O’Brien told Shopfloor: “While at this stage we cannot predict the outcome of these talks, we can say for certain that the union  intends to robustly defend our members  existing terms and conditions of employment and job security for the future.”

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SPECIAL REPORT Precarious work Precarious work is defined as “uncertain, unpredictable, and risky from the point of view of the worker”. For precarious workers, security in the labour market – a full-time job, decent rates of pay, guaranteed working hours, and social protection in the form of welfare entitlements – is increasingly being eaten away by demands for greater flexibility to hire and fire, growing use of temporary and part-time contracts, very flexible working hours, downward pressure on pay, limited investment in training and upskilling, and an erosion of social security rights such as access to unemployment payments and pensions.  Precarious work is not new, but the current recession has certainly made things much harder for this group of workers.  Precarious work is an important issue in the Irish labour market. The Irish labour market is one of the most flexible in the OECD, and our social protection regime is comparatively lean.  More than a fifth of the workforce is low paid, and trade union membership in the private sector is low. The current economic crisis has exacerbated these problems.  The most basic protections for this vulnerable group of workers – the statutory minimum wage, collective pay agreements under Joint Labour Committees, a low income tax regime for low paid workers, and social protection rights and entitlements – were among the first areas to come under pressure as the recession took hold. The reality of precarious work in Irish retail Official data sources provide very limited information on the working lives of the Irish precariat. Knowing that the recession was having a devastating impact on the lives of its members, Mandate commissioned Behaviour & Attitudes (B&A) to conduct a survey of its membership to help fill this information gap.  While the wholesale and retail sector is Ireland’s largest employer, accounting for one in seven of all those in employment, it displays some of the key indicators of precarious work – retail workers are among the lowest paid, and have lower than average working hours.  Despite being a very experienced workforce – the B&A survey finds that more than seven in 10 Mandate members have worked in retail for at least five years – working conditions have worsened considerably since the onset of the recession.  The lack of security for retail workers is not because they are temporary or casual workers, two characteristics that are common for the precariat. Rather precarious retail work is a result of three factors – part-time working, high levels of working time flexibility and cuts in working hours.  The picture of Mandate members emerging from the B&A survey is of a group of workers under significant financial and psychological distress. 

Part-time working A majority of Mandate members – 56% – are employed on part-time contracts. Only a third have full-time contracts, with student workers accounting for the remaining 11%.  Over a quarter of all members are 12

Ground-breaking research commissioned by Mandate based on survey data collected by pollsters Behaviour & Attitudes has revealed for the first time the devastating impact the recession is having on some of Ireland’s most vulnerable workers. Decent Work? The Impact of the Recession on Low Paid Workers author Camille Loftus breaks down the main findings...

reveAleD: iron grip of austerity on the low paid contracted to work less than 19 hours a week. Part-time and student workers actually work one-and-a-half hours longer than they are contracted to, but this still leaves part-time workers working just 22 hours, and students working just over 17 hours per week. 

Working time flexibility However, although working hours are low, with the average working week at just 26 hours, Mandate members are required to provide a high level of working time flexibility.  Shift working means that many members work their hours over a relatively high number of days. For example, two-fifths of part-time workers, and a third of student workers, work on at least five days a week; only one in 10 part-time employees works less than three days a week. The B&A survey reveals a further dimension of working time flexibility in the retail sector: two-fifths of all members report that their employers change their working hours at least once a month.  Part-time workers fare worst, with almost half – 45% – having their working hours changed at least once a month.  More than a quarter of those surveyed said that they would like a greater degree of certainty in relation to their working schedule, and this was highest among part-time and student workers. While workers were dissatisfied with the certainty they had in relation to both the days of the week and the hours of day they were required to work, part-time and stu-

dent workers reported a higher level of dissatisfaction with the uncertainty in relation to days worked.  There is a fairly widespread perception that workers are compensated for these flexible employment terms, indeed that the compensation is so high as to threaten the viability of these jobs.  However, research by Turner & O’Sullivan (2012) found that 97% of low-paid wholesale and retail workers get neither shift allowances nor bonuses. For the minority who do, only 2% were paid shift allowances of up to €15 per week; bonuses of up to €20 a week were paid to 2% of staff, with only 1% getting a bonus higher than this.  In fact, better-paid workers are much more likely to receive such allowances and bonuses. Precarious retail workers are not compensated for the extraordinary level of flexibility they provide.

Cuts in working hours Even before the recession, average working hours for shop-floor workers were low. The Central Statistics Office reports that in the two years between 2008-10, average working hours in the retail sector fell by 6.8%.  The B&A survey reveals that over the last year, Mandate members’ working hours took a further 4.3% cut. Part-time workers were most likely to be hit, and the scale of cuts they suffered was higher.  The survey found a strong demand for more hours, with six in 10 Mandate members willing and able to

work extra hours in order to make ends meet.  Unsurprisingly, the demand for more hours was highest among parttime employees, who want to work an extra seven hours a week. Indeed while only a fifth of part-time contractors currently work more than 28 hours a week, three-fifths want to.  In other words, a majority of those employed part-time actually want to work full-time.  Yet over half of those who wanted to work more hours had actually had their hours cut over the last year.  Two-fifths of members had asked their employer for more hours, but less than half succeeded in securing additional work.  The survey found significant differences in the success rate of different groups of workers who asked for extra hours.  Student workers earn lower rates of pay, and two-thirds of those who requested extra hours received them. In contrast only four in 10 parttime workers – who have longer service, and therefore higher rates of pay – got extra working hours when they asked for them. It appears that retail employers are shifting the balance of employment towards lower-paid, lessexperienced, staff.

The impact on take home pay The scale of cuts in working hours means a significant fall in weekly wages. Two-fifths of Mandate members reported a fall in take home pay over the last year. On average, these members experienced a loss of €109 a week, with more than a fifth losing

more than €110 per week.  With the Central Statistics Office reporting that average weekly pay for clerical, sales and service workers in the wholesale and retail sector were just €363 at the beginning of 2010, this is a catastrophic loss in income. Increased taxes and new levies have also had an impact on take home pay. For example, that average retail worker is paying more than two-anda-half times more tax in 2012 than they were in 2001.

The flexibility trap These findings make clear that many flexible retail jobs simply don’t provide enough income for workers to be able make ends meet. Further, the very terms and conditions of employment in the retail sector deny many workers the opportunity to supplement their income by finding additional work, or by claiming social welfare.  While Mandate members are not guaranteed sufficient working hours, their contracts require them to be available to work throughout the week.  With shops open seven days a week, from early in the morning till late in the evening, and two-fifths of workers’ schedules changing at least once a month, they can’t say with any certainty when they would be available to work another job.  A total of 13% of all Mandate members, and 16% of part-time workers, reported that changes to their working schedule over the last year had made it more difficult for them to get additional work.  SHOPFLOOR

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General Secretary John Douglas with Decent Work? researcher Camille Loftus at the report’s launch

Many find that their working patterns mean they can’t qualify for the social welfare supports designed to supplement low paid workers’ pay.  Although they’ve had cuts in their working hours, they work on too many days in the week to be eligible for a partial unemployment payment, and too few hours a week to qualify for Family Income Supplement.  More than one in 10 workers reported that changes in their working schedule over the last year made it more difficulty to qualify for a social welfare payment.  Flexibility can create both poverty and unemployment traps. 

Making ends meet The research report commissioned by Mandate examines whether retail wages provide enough income to have a minimum essential standard of living. Looking at a range of different household types, with different levels of earnings typical of retail workers, and with children at a range of different ages, it finds that about half of the households considered do not have enough income to provide a minimum essential standard of living.  Without the option of working enough hours with their current employer, the B&A survey finds that twothirds of Mandate’s members have had to find other ways of supplementing their income over the last two years. The flexible terms of retail contracts meant that their options were limited. Around one in 10 had got a second job, and 17% had started to claim a social welfare payment. But for a signifiJuly 2012

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cant proportion, these options weren’t available – 11% of members reported that changes in their working patterns had made it more difficult for them to qualify for social welfare, and 13% said these had made it harder for them to secure another job.   Very worryingly, many had borrowed money in order to pay for the basics. Around three in 10 borrowed money from a credit union and from close family or friends; some had borrowed from more than one source.   Financial and psychological strain For those who wanted to work more hours, but couldn’t get them, the survey found a significant impact on their ability to cope, both financially and psychologically.  Around a third found it difficult to adequately feed and clothe their families, and to pay off household loans. Four in 10 experienced difficulty paying their mortgage or rent, and over half were struggling to pay utility bills.  More than seven in 10 reported that they had cut back on their spending so much that they couldn’t afford social activities, and that they are now far less likely to visit a doctor because they could afford the cost.  Three quarters said they were finding it more difficult to cope in general, and suffer much more stress now than a couple of years ago. 

Another crisis in the Irish labour market We are familiar with the unemployment crisis in Ireland: 14.7% of the workforce is currently unemployed. The B&A survey shows the extraordi-

nary level of flexibility required of retail workers, flexibility that, it is often argued, creates jobs.  But job losses in the retail sector, at 16.4%, have actually been higher than average since the onset of the recession – and it’s women, who account for 70% of Mandate members, who have suffered the biggest losses. The report commissioned by Mandate shows that the problem of precarious employment is of an even greater scale.  Two sectors in which precarious working conditions are common, wholesale and retail, along with accommodation and food service, account for over a fifth of employment in Ireland.  This report raises some very important questions for Irish labour market policy, for it is this that frames the employment terms and conditions of precarious workers.  Ireland has one of the most flexible labour market regimes in the developed world. Yet our unemployment rate is higher than many OECD countries that provide greater protection for their workers. And this report reveals that for many precarious workers, flexibility can mean jobs that not only fail to provide an adequate income, but also deny them the opportunity to find the additional work they need to make ends meet.  Ireland’s tax and welfare systems have also failed to recognise the challenges faced by precarious workers, leaving them without access to vital income supports.  With a growing number of workers unable to earn and adequate income, borrowing money to supplement earnings, and struggling to pay mortgages, rent, utility bills and loans, the problem of precarious work represents another crisis in the Irish labour market.  As these precarious jobs become increasingly unsustainable, the unemployment and debt crises in Ireland will be further exacerbated.  Creating more precarious jobs won’t solve the unemployment problem; rather it will compound it. A concerted effort is required to ensure that the Irish labour market provides decent work.  Addressing this issue requires different government departments to work with one another, and with employers and trade unions, to deliver a coherent strategy across three fronts: • Firstly, the flexibility required of employees must be reasonable and balanced; there is little point in creating more jobs that don’t provide an adequate income, and that deny workers the opportunity to secure additional work; • Secondly, tax and welfare systems must adapt to meet the needs of precarious workers.  It makes more economic sense to top-up the earnings of precarious workers, than having to provide Jobseeker payments for people who may remain unemployed for considerable periods; • Finally, it is vital that precarious workers can access training and education opportunities, to increase their access to more secure employment. Investment in skills is an investment in productivity and competitiveness. 

gerry light

SHOPFLOOR VIEW

Assistant General Secretary Mandate Trade Union

Some certainty in uncertain times

THE theme of the Biennial Delegate Conference which took place in Wexford in April was Decent Work, Better Future. After the conference we also commissioned and published a report entitled Decent Work? The Impact of the Recession on Low Paid Workers. Obviously the main thrust behind both of these events points to union’s ongoing commitment to highlight the plight of low-paid workers, many of whom work in the retail trades and are also members of Mandate.  What was evident from the many lively debates at the conference and the information gleaned from a questionnaire returned by 500 union members was the underpinning of the report’s findings – that many thousands of our members and their families are increasingly finding it hard to make ends meet.  The psychological impact of stress cannot be understated and this is why Mandate will continue to seek to influence all relevant areas to alleviate this sad reality that afflicts so many in our society.  Obviously issues such as the extent of the enduring economic recession and its impact on consumer confidence and spending can’t be directly influenced by us but we have constantly pointed to other matters which can indirectly bring about positive and lasting change. Traditionally trade unions and their members, through the power of collective bargaining, have shown an ability to directly enhance the financial status of members through negotiating increases to basic pay rates.  Even though economic circumstances are not the most favourable, we are now forced, due largely to the demise of the National Social Partnership model, to engage with each individual business that employs our members in an effort to protect and enhance their terms and conditions of employment.  During the early stages of the current economic recession much time and energy was directed towards containment – the protection of hard-won entitlements was the priority. However, notwithstanding significant success in doing this, it is clear that actual erosion of our members’ living standards has occurred through a combination of economic stagnation and the austerity measures introduced by the present government.  Against this backdrop of pain, desperation and frustration, there is a sense of determination coming from the membership who are sending out clear signals that enough is enough and that there is nothing more to give.  As a result, the union has recently initiated direct contact with many employers with a renewed sense of confidence and commitment to bring about positive change for the members.  This year has seen, for the first time in years, the successful negotiation of actual pay increases. Like many worthwhile initiatives, it takes time and perseverance to succeed. The domino effect has already started to take effect with more and more employers coming across with offers of pay increases. It is not suggested that this is a solution to all our ills, however, it is a small but important step towards hopefully better times.  If current trends continue it is predicted that more than 60% of the membership will have received some form of a wage increase by this time next year.  The opposite is the case in the nonunion sector where conditions of employment have not only been slashed but in a lot of cases totally obliterated through the demise of statutory protections such as the Joint Labour Committee system.  The case for trade union membership has never been stronger. Together we can face the many challenges that currently exist and undoubtedly lie ahead. Recent developments are important for no more than they bring some form of certainty to these uncertain times.

13


COMMUNICATIONS

let’s Tweet for Mandate! by Aideen Carberry

homepage. You can unfollow anyone later on by clicking on the same icon you clicked to follow that account. (The ‘follow’ icon should be blue if you are subscribing to the account’s tweets.)   3. Once you have begun following people Twitter will start suggesting similar accounts that may be of interest for you to follow.  For example, if you follow @MandateTU you may start getting suggestions to follow other unions on Twitter or union activists and staff that are active on Twitter.  Three suggestions will appear in the second box down, on the left hand side of your homepage. You can click on the ‘view all’ button to  expand the number of suggestions Twitter has for you and pick who of those you would like to follow. 

How to create an account...

1. Go to http://twitter.com and find the sign up box, or go directly to http://twitter.com/signup   2. Enter your name, your email address, and a password. 3. Click Sign up for Twitter. 4. On the next page, select a username – type your own or choose one that Twitter has suggested. Twitter will tell you if the one you want is available. (Usernames are unique identifiers on Twitter.) 5. Double-check that your name, email address, password, and username are all correct. 6. Click Create my account.  7. Next, you just need to begin finding and following accounts that interest you. Following others means you are subscribing to their

Picture: European Parliament

TWITTER has become an extremely useful communication tool in recent times and its influence continues to grow.  President Barack Obama was the first US Presidential candidate to  integrate all social media outlets to become the undisputed champion in social media during his race for the White House.  In his own bid for the Áras, Séan Gallagher learned the true power of social media when a bogus tweet was read aloud during a Presidential debate on RTÉ’s The Frontline. Some blame the rogue tweet for the collapse in his support in the final days of the campaign.  In the current climate trade unions are clamouring for attention in the national media, along with many other interest groups who have something to say about the state of the economy.  We have a national media  obsessed with the state of the stock market, but that pays little attention to industrial news, unless a dispute has resulted in an occupation or strike.  It’s important that members and supporters of Mandate ‘follow’ Mandate on Twitter (@MandateTU) to show support and spread the word about Mandate has been doing online.

Tweets and they will appear on your Twitter homepage. Your Twitter homepage is the default page that you land on when you sign in to Twitter. It is a collection of all the tweets from all the profiles you follow. 8. You can access Twitter at any time through http://twitter.com or on your Smartphone through the Twitter app for Android or iPhone. 

What to do once you’ve signed up...

1. After signing up you should  customise your account. Be sure to add a profile picture to your profile. This does not necessarily have to be a picture of yourself; you can pick any image you like. 

INDUSTRIAL NEWS

You should also be sure to write a small bio for yourself in the appropriate space. You can also customise your profile background.  Customising your profile ensures that people are aware you are a real Tweeter and they will take your tweets more seriously. Plenty of  political campaigns have received bad publicity for having many  followers on Twitter, who were  obviously campaign staff who had set up their accounts that morning.  2. After signing up, follow a  handful of accounts to create a  customized stream of information on your homepage by clicking the ‘Follow’ button on that person’s  profile. Following means you'll get that user's Tweets on your Twitter

Useful ways to help Mandate on Twitter...

1. Follow @MandateTU on Twitter by clicking on the follow icon on Mandate’s profile. 2. ‘Mention’ Mandate in tweets that are relevant (e.g. news about the  retail sector, industrial news, relevant stories in politics etc.)  This is done by putting the @ symbol in front of MandateTU in the middle of your tweet. It would look something like ‘Great to see representatives from @MandateTU at the rally yesterday.’  If you are mentioning more than one user in your tweet you will have to put the @ symbol in front of each individual username.  3. ‘Retweet’ or RT important news from Mandate. This means you are sending out the tweet from your  account also, and to your followers specifically.  This can be done by clicking on the Retweet icon, which is the second icon from the right below the original tweet. You can also essentially rewrite the original tweet yourself while also giving credit to the original tweeter by using a RT.  It would look something like this: “RT @MandateTU Reminder: for anyone who would like to attend the Launch of our new Report it starts at 12 noon in Buswells’. 4. Use ‘Links’. You can copy and

rationalisation talks at Shaws MANDATE officials are involved in talks over a range of cost-saving measures being sought by management at Shaws. The move comes in response to a sustained poor trading performance at the retailer. Divisional Organiser Betty Dillon said there was little doubt the business was 14

facing serious difficulties as it dealt with the impact of the economic downturn. She told Shopfloor: “However, these difficulties cannot be seen in isolation to those being experienced by our many members employed at the 15 Shaws stores nationwide. For over three years they have seen no growth in their wages and – like many of the

thousands of fellow union members employed in the retail sector – they are finding it hard to make ends meet. Ms Dillon added: “As always our members in Shaws will be pragmatic in considering what will evolve from the current discussions. However, it is difficult to see what they have left to give.”

paste the web address (in the address bar at the top of the page) from relevant web pages in to your tweet. This means that the person reading your tweet can be taken  directly to that webpage when they click on it. Also, links and web addresses appear shortened in your tweet so you don’t lose as many of your  precious 140 characters. You can use links to send your followers to Mandate’s website, Facebook page and YouTube account.  5. Use ‘hashtags’ when appropriate. This means putting a # symbol before a word or phrase so your tweets will appear in news feeds about that subject. For example, The Frontline on RTÉ uses the hashtag #rtefl. If you were to tweet your support for an opinion of a speaker during the show you would follow it with #rtefl.  Different television shows and events use their own hashtags. During the launch of Mandate’s Decent Work? The Impact of the Recession on Low Paid Workers report, the hashtag #decentwork was used. This means if you are at an event you can tweet about what is happening using the hashtag or if you are not at it, you can follow what’s going on using it.  A tweet from such an event may look like ‘Just arrived in Buswells for the launch of @MandateTU report on #decentwork.’ Hashtags do not use spaces and are generally all in lower case letters (although, not always), so feel free to make up your own. Once it is preceded by the # symbol you’re on the right track. 

And finally...

Don’t panic if you don’t grasp everything immediately. You can  always just observe what people are saying on Twitter first to get to grips with how it works and see how other Twitter users interact with each other.  It’s useful to follow media  personalities, journalists, sports people and celebrities who are  frequent tweeters to see how it works. Most importantly, have fun with it. 

Supporting Quality SIPTU has launched a new consumer drive – Supporting Quality – aimed at protecting Irish jobs and supporting Irish products. The campaign will grant products made in unionised workplaces in Ireland the right to indicate this with a Supporting Quality mark. At the July 5th launch, SIPTU General Secretary Joe O’Flynn said: “To tackle the unemployment crisis in Ireland the focus has to be on creating new jobs and maintaining existing ones.” SHOPFLOOR

y July 2012


VIEWPOINT

Harassment of claimants degrades us all

y h p a r Geog POLITICAL

MADE EASY

by Dr Mary Murphy

bid to scare people or ‘change  expectations’. Lecturer NUIM It is estimated up to 10% of the claimant count can ‘go’ under such UK prime minister David Cameron threats.  launched a ‘welfare blitz’ on beneOther times it is more implicit. In fits claimants last month, burying Ireland, much talk about ‘lifestyle once and for all any claim that he was a ‘compassionate Conservative’.  choice’ appears motivated by a  The new campaign is designed to desire to trigger debate about what needs to be done to reform the  divide the welfare population from social welfare system.   other citizens and to prepare the But the language used in politiBritish public for more and more cal and public discourse matters, it welfare cuts.   sets the boundaries of debate and But the truth is harassing people what it is considered acceptable to on benefits degrades us all and say. It also shapes the climate in what happens in the UK often spills which debate occurs.  over into Ireland.   As Kerrigan (2012, 1) observed: Look at the public discourse sur“[Enda] Kenny and his like can't rounding the recent withdrawn help seeing unemployment as a ESRI report, The Cost of Working in lifestyle choice”.   Ireland. It reminds us how unemPotentially positive measures ployed people often have to suffer such as labour market activation not only the poverty and stress  associated with joblessness but also are also consistently linked to “combating fraud” (NESC 2011), the indignity of a public debate where they are characterised as the and there is a stress on “messaging” – the aim being to make  undeserving poor or victims of people feel anxious about being their own making.  long-term unemployed.  How unemployed people are The negative discourse also viewed during times of crisis  underlines how negative stereotyp- leaves a lasting impact on claimants. They question and susing can often form part of how pect the state’s ability to deliver politicians manage the issue of  change and are less likely to take joblessness.  risks in returning to work.  Governments need to be seen to NESC (2011 ix) observed the be doing something – talking tough tendency of governments to overabout the unemployed makes the associate incentive to work, fraud, headlines.   control and contract messages In the ‘Job Search’ era of the late with activation policy and warned 1980s, tackling unemployment against the “convenience” of exagcame to be synonymous with  gerating fraud or welfare lifestyle.  tackling the unemployed.   Solidarity and Rhetoric about fraud and abuse was widespread in the 1990s when common values that respect some Irish employers thought it  our common acceptable to dub the unemployed citizenship are as ‘course junkies’ and ‘social misimportant and fits’.  In this crisis, we have already heard much about ‘lifestyle choices’, political leadership is important ‘welfare fraud’ and ‘controls’.    in directing public Often the choice to use such  discourse.   negative language is explicit.  UK governments as a matter of Cameron: policy talk tough about compulsion, Welfare conditionality and sanctions in a blitz

INDUSTRIAL NEWS

group to probe contract breaches July 2012

y SHOPFLOOR

A SPECIAL negotiating group has been set up to examine a number of concerns that have arisen across the Tesco Express store network. Divisional Organiser Brendan O’Hanlon told Shopfloor: “It would appear from reports received that our members in these stores are

being asked on a systematic basis to breach the terms of their contracts and carry out duties which are not proper to their grade. “Apart from these contractual issues but, arising directly from them, concerns have also surfaced regarding health and safety

matters.” Mr O’Hanlon, pictured right, put the company on notice that Mandate would not allow its members at Tesco Express stores to be treated as second class employees. Meetings with management are planned in the near future.

15


blOw THe wHiSTle On THe bAD bOSSeS

MUSIC Q&A POL McADAIM INTERNATIONAL COLOMBIA Dr Carlos Lozano during his recent visit to Dublin. On his return to Colombia, he found that a right-wing terror group had put a bounty on his head

TO JOin Hopes for peace grow 10 MAnDATe reASOnS

1. An organising and campaigning union:

Mandate is focused on building an activist base to protect and improve employment conditions. Through better organised workplaces and the power of the collective strength, we will deliver justice for working people.

2. Modern and effective training:

Mandate provides free courses to help you learn new skills, improve existing skills and develop you and your prospective career. We negotiate agreements with employers to pay for attendance at courses and also to provide reasonable time off for employees to attend them.

3. Campaigning for success:

Mandate is a progressive campaigning union fighting on issues that really matter to our members, their families and society in general. Mandate campaigns challenge social injustice at all levels of Irish society.

4. Protection at work:

Highly trained and skilled Mandate officials provide professional advice and assistance, where appropriate, on a variety of employment issues.

5. Safety at work:

Mandate health & safety representatives are trained to minimise the risk of workplace injuries and ensure that employers meet their legal obligations at all times.

6. better pay:

Year on year, Mandate campaigns for and wins pay rises for its members. Mandate also campaigns to close the widening gender pay gap in Irish society.

7. legal protection:

Mandate has won significant legal compensation for members who are injured as a result of an accident at work.

8. Mandatory pensions:

Mandate has secured pension schemes with a variety of retail employers and will campaign to secure mandatory pension schemes for all members working in the private sector, partcularly those on low wages.

9.you’re less likely to be discriminated against:

Mandate has won agreements with employers on respect and dignity at work policies and procedures. Mandate will continue to campaign for tougher laws to make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sex, race, age, disability or sexual orientation.

10. you’re less likely to be sacked:

Membership of Mandate protects you and strengthens your voice in your workplace.

Together we’re stronger

JOin MAnDATe TrADe UniOn Online AT http://www.mandate.ie/Contact/Join.aspx

16

...but killings continue

by John O’brien

A DELEGATION of Colombian peace activists met with leading Irish trade unionists, politicians and Government ministers during a recent visit to Dublin. The high-profile campaigners – Dr Carlos Lozano, Congressman Ivan Cepeda Castoro and Marleny Orjuela – are members of Colombians for Peace. All have been directly touched by the violence in their native land and are living under the constant threat of assassination. The aim of the delegation – hosted by Justice for Colombia (Ireland) and Justice For Colombia (UK) – was simple: to highlight the importance of the fledgling peace campaign and bring international support and  pressure to bear on the Colombian government. The May 22nd visit proved to be hugely successful and the delegation met with Minister for State Joe Costello, members of the Dáil Committee on Foreign Affairs & Trade as well as representatives of the Friends of Colombia parliamentary group. Important issues highlighted  included opposition to the EU Free Trade Agreement – which would  economically reward those involved in the conflict – the destabilising  effects of the conflict on the entire  region as well as issues surrounding the mass displacement of people and human rights abuses. There has been some change in thinking under the present administration of President Santos including a recognition that a conflict exists – in itself a massive shift in attitude from that held by the last government.   There have also important  gestures and commitments given by FARC who released the last of their military prisoners in April.   The delegation believes there is a commitment towards peace and a

small window of opportunity exists for taking action to bring this about, but also fear it may not last long without external assistance.   It is imperative, therefore, that the international community acts – and acts quickly. The commitments given by the Irish Government in assisting the peace campaign are very welcome.  Justice For Colombia (UK) also confirmed similar commitments had been given by all political parties in Belfast. The delegation’s visit to the UK and Ireland North and South received positive publicity back in Colombia but unfortunately on his return home, Dr Lozano received disturbing news about an imminent assassination threat against him from a local paramilitary group.  It was claimed the group had paid gunmen $200,000 to murder Dr Lozano in the capital Bogota within a few days of his return.  The threat was widely denounced but the Colombian government  appeared not to take the threat  seriously and wouldn’t increase  security provisions for Dr Lozano.  On hearing news of the threat, the JFC in Ireland and the UK sought  support for Dr Lozano and after  contacting Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore and Minister for State Joe Costello, the Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade made direct contact with the Colombian Embassy on the matter.  This initiative was greatly appreciated.  Other TDs, who had with met Dr Lozano during his visit, also sent letters to President Santos through the Colombian embassy in London. Meanwhile, elsewhere in Colombia, the violence continued unabated with the killings of three more trade unionists. The Colombian Health Workers’ Union ANTHOC denounced the forced disappearance and murder of

one of its members in the north west of the country. The body of Benjamin Martinez Arteaga, a local union activist and auxiliary nurse at a health centre in the village of Pueblo Nuevo de Necolci, was found on June 25th  several days after his disappearance.  In Caloto municipality, Cauca  department, a local human rights  organisation reported that Gustavo Londono, a FENSUAGRO union  activist, was shot dead in a drive-by attack on June 25th.  Mr Londono had sat on the FENSUAGRO National Committee and was at the time of his death also a member of the National Committee of the new social and political movement, the Patriotic March.  Earlier in June, another FENSUAGRO activist Gerardo Martinez was murdered after leaving the scene of a land demonstration by 2,000 peasants.  His body was found the following day on a nearby farm.  Mr Martinez had been shot five times, twice in the head, and his body showed signs of torture. Colombia remains the most  dangerous place in the world to be a trade unionist.  A total of 7,000 people have been forcibly disappeared and another 7,000 wrongfully imprisoned.  Added to that four million people are internally displaced and the country has the third highest level of inequality in the world.  Whatever happens over the next few months, one thing is certain, we must continue to campaign on behalf of our comrades in Colombia and hope that a real sustainable solution to peace can be found.   For further information, visit www.ictu.ie/justiceforcolombia.ie Justice for Colombia (Ireland) is a campaigning network of the ICTU Global Solidarity Committee. SHOPFLOOR

y July 2012


ANALYSIS by Dr Stephen nolan

Trademark Co-Director WHAT began as an economic joke among the wealthy has become an economic hypothesis that dominates the economic policy of  almost every institution on the planet; it also finds favour in the economic policy of all the major political parties in Ireland, north and south including both Sinn Féin and the DUP, and has the local media extolling the fundamentals of Reaganomics without knowing why.   The hypothesis is that large cuts in tax stimulate the economy to such an extent that the tax revenue on the increases in corporate and personal income would offset the tax losses of the original cuts.  The economist JK Galbraith noted that this supply side economics as it has come to be known was not a new theory but was akin to the horse-and-sparrow theory: If you feed the horse enough oats, it will shit some on to the road for the sparrows.  Since this brilliant economic breakthrough, it has become a shibboleth of neo-liberal philosophy and policy, impervious to fact, truth or evidence.    On January 3, 2007, George W. Bush wrote an article claiming: "It is... a fact that our tax cuts have  fueled robust economic growth and record revenues." It is this robust evidence that lies behind the call for a harmonisation of the corporate tax rate across this island. The problem with it is that it’s not true.  If lower taxes for the wealthy and for corporations raise incentives for re-investment and entrepreneurial endeavour, then low tax economies like the US should have grown faster – they haven’t.  Lowering corporation tax is not economic in motivation, it is political.  Cutting tax rates benefits the wealthy, gives them greater  freedom, but locks everyone else into downward patterns of flexible  employment, poverty and inequality.  A global race to the bottom as wealth trickles up. In the Republic of Ireland, low

Corporation Tax and voodoo economics corporation tax apparently arrived with St Patrick and like faith, is unquestionable. Indeed, to question it at all is unpatriotic.  It has become a taboo supported by right and left, the economic equivalent of the Scottish play.   Sinn Fein’s support for corporation tax harmonisation across the  island would be understandable and consistent with its professed  ideological leanings if it was talking about harmonising upwards, not downwards. The provision of corporate welfare for the super rich and elite groups of shareholders has more in common with what William Martin Murphy was up to in 1916 rather than James Connolly. 

Low tax rates don’t encourage companies to move their production base where they might create new jobs, they encourage them to move their cost base, to where they record their profits.  The Republic of Ireland is not a  dynamic entrepreneurial hub of modern manufacturing – it is a tax haven with bad weather.  Introducing incentives such as tax cuts, deregulation of planning and public subsidies in order to encourage inward investment is part of a global race to the bottom and shifts the tax burden from companies to  individuals.  Subsidising tax cuts for business, in the vain hope that Foreign Direct

Investment (FDI) will increase and that those in business will use the savings to employ new workers and invest in new businesses will result only in the trickling up of wealth.  It does not lead to increased  investment, it leads to increase asset purchasing and investment in unstable financial products which provide quick, easy and risk-free returns for the wealthy.  Since the 1980s, corporation tax has been used as a tool in the global battle to attract FDI from multinationals and consequently tax rates have dipped significantly. And what has been the result?  OECD data  tells us that while GDP has stagnated and national debts

‘The Irish Republic is not a dynamic entreprenurial hub of modern manufacturing... it’s a tax haven with bad weather’

have increased dramatically, corporation tax rates have continued to decrease. Unsurprisingly profits have  increased as a proportion of GDP and at the same time wages have fallen. Maintaining any kind of domestic growth has increasingly  relied, not upon the trickle down of wealth (which tends to stay where it has been accumulated) but rather, as we know so painfully, on cycles of credit and debt.  If corporation tax is harmonised across Ireland, it is estimated, under the Azores ruling, that the compensating cost to the Northern Ireland block grant could be in the order of £400 million annually,  and this with absolutely no guarantee that increased economic activity produced by a reduced corporation tax will lead to increased tax  revenues to make up any shortfall.   We won’t be risking the £400 million from the block grant, we’ll be losing it and all for a bankrupt economic dogma.   The factors that lie behind a firm’s decision to locate are still based upon a range of factors  including workforce skills and competences and infrastructure, education and transport infrastructure that is paid for by the very  corporation taxes being cut.  PwC's report into the impact of corporation tax stated that foreign investors already established in the UK, ranked corporation tax as 17th in a list of investment drivers, prioritising instead “language, culture and values; infrastructure; skills; and proximity to markets".  Sweden has beaten the European average in attracting FDI despite a corporation tax rate of 26%.   Eastern Europe with corporation tax rates of 10% has the lowest  levels of FDI.  Building a consensus around failed Thatcherite economic policies will not save the economies of this island and harmonising corporation tax will not bring about a united island by a thousand small cuts.  Low tax rates creates inequality and weakens the social democratic state. This is no short-term fiscal stimulus, this is voodoo economics.

Civic Awareness and Responsibility Course

This one day course will provide activists with a deeper understanding of their civic awareness and responsibilities. The course will provide information, skills and knowledge for activists and union reps which will guide them and raise their awareness of the impact that social and political decisions has on them and society.

Course Content:

Trade Unions - Why are we here? Where do we come from? The Challenge of Organising in the 21st Century

Course Date: Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Time: 9:30 am to 5:00 pm

The Economics of Austerity

Global Anti-Union Approaches Venue: Mandate Organising and Training Centre

If you are interested in attending this course, please contact your Mandate union official or ring the Mandate Training Centre at 01 836 9699 to submit your name

July 2012

y SHOPFLOOR

17


VIEWPOINT THE PRECARIAT

working life lived on the edge by Michael Taft

Unite Political and economic researcher EU-15).  So much for the idea that a job is a passport to a better life in Ireland. The Mandate report found that employees wanted extra working hours.  People who are willing and able to work extra hours are called ‘under-employed’.  We all know there are about 300,000 unemployed.   However, few know that nearly 200,000 are under-employed – people who have part-time jobs but want to work more.   Put together there are nearly halfa-million people who looking for work and extra work.   That shows the real extent of the lack of work in the economy.  So what can be done

to address this problem of ‘underemployment’?  Well, the Government could do what it is legally required to do by an EU Directive that was agreed 15 years ago – to provide part-time workers the right to full-time work in their workplace when a vacancy arises.   The Government has never fully incorporated this into law. Instead, it has relied on a ‘Code of Practice’ – an arrangement which employers have largely ignored. There’s nothing radical about a legislative right to full-time work.  It exists in  Germany and the Netherlands.   Why are Irish employers ignoring the code that is supposed to provide

Union Representatives Advanced Course The Union Representative Advanced Training Course is for shop stewards/union representatives who have completed the introductory course or who have relevant experience. Course content: • Understanding Mandate’s structures. • Overview of Mandate’s rules. • Industrial Relations institutions and mechanisms. • Mandate’s Organising Model. • Negotiations and Collective Bargaining. • Understanding Equality and Diversity. • Developing induction presentation skills. • Introduction to Employment Law. • Identifying issues and using procedures. Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this training course will obtain a Mandate certificate. They may progress to the FETAC level 5 Certificate in Trade Union studies or other relevant training courses offered by Mandate. If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: mandateotc@mandate.ie

workers with the right to full-time work?  They argue that they need ‘flexibility’ but in many cases it is about controlling their workers,  discouraging union membership and ‘making an example’ of workers who insist on their rights – by  scaling down their hours. There’s also a financial incentive. PRSI payments for part-time workers are substantially less than for full-time workers on a percentage basis.  This incentive was increased by the Government when they cut employers’ PRSI for low-paid and part-time workers.  This can ‘save’ a large business thousands of euros a week. Of course, when this happens the Government (or the taxpayer) pays a price.  The employment of parttime workers means less tax  revenue and more social welfare payments (such as Family Income Supplement).  The employers save and transfer the cost on to the rest of us – including workers who are desperately seeking more working hours. There are two things we should do.  First, legislate for the right to full-time work, as provided for in the EU Directive and which exists in other countries.  Second, the Government should remove all tax and social insurance incentives to 

INDUSTRIAL NEWS

employ part-time workers over fulltime workers.  This is about equal treatment of all workers. Of course, employers will mount a vocal and determined protest.  This is what has happened in other European countries.  They will claim this will undermine their ‘flexibility’, that this will reduce job creation, that this will be a tax on jobs.  They will claim the same things they always claim when workers’ rights are being discussed. Let’s cut through all this.  When employers talk about flexibility, they are actually talking about driving down workers’ living conditions to maintain and increase their profits and directors’ dividends.  That this creates a huge cost to the economy and society is, from their perspective, irrelevant. You do not create prosperity by driving down people’s living  standards.  You do not generate  economic growth by cutting people’s spending power.  You do not  repair public finances by imposing more costs on the taxpayers through limiting full-time work. When we understand that we can get only get the economy back on its feet when we get workers  back on their feet – that’s when we will start producing rational policies that have a chance of working.   

narrow vote in favour of Duty Manager proposals PROPOSALS which potentially eradicates the Duty Manager grade from certain stores in the Superquinn chain have been accepted by a small majority after a national ballot of those members concerned. Divisional Organiser David Moran admitted the outcome of vote reflected the difficult negotiations that had taken place and underlined that it had been a hard decision for members to make. These developments also reflected the ongoing challenges being faced by Superquinn as it attempts to defend its declining position

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STICK IN THERE

NEWS YOU CAN USE

Backing: Sir Alex Ferguson

MANCHESTER United manager Alex Ferguson made a surprise phone call to the Vita Cortextell workers on February 13 to and them he supported their fightseto “stick in there” until they cured victory. The sporting legend expressed the his admiration and backing for workers' stand for justice. inHe told them he had been at volved in the apprentice strikes and the Clyde shipyards in 1961 going understood what they were through in their battle to secure agreed redundancy terms. SIPTU organiser Anne Egar described it as a “magical moment”

FEBRUARY 2012

Perseverance and team work will win out in the end

came two days after more than so I'm delighted but everyone 5,000 people marched in solidarity to hear Sir Alex endorse the them here – even the Liverpool FC with the Vita Cortex workers Last workers’ stand and reassure guys – are saying 'fair play'." acthrough the centre of Cork. that they would succeed if they is month, veteran human rights the Speaking at the rally, organised stick together and fight for what tivist Noam Chomsky emailed for by the Cork Council of Trade just. workers to voice his suppporton in Unions, Anne Egar praised the She said: “When someone like their “determination to carry workers’ “stamina and principle” Alex Ferguson tells you perseverthe face of suffering and oppresyou and vowed they would not sucance and teamwork will see sion”. cumb. win out, it is of course a huge His January 19 email concluded: The Vita Cortex workers are courageous and boost." your that hope “I entering their third month occupymodel Vita Cortex worker Jim Power, the honourable actions will be a to deing their former workplace on who spoke to Mr Ferguson, that will inspire others as well Kinsale Road, Cork. passively, scribed the phone call as a "massuccumbing of act instead The facility was closed on sive boost". and wish you the greatest success December 16 with management "He spoke about his involvein this just and crucial campaign strike claiming they could not honour ment in an apprentice boys' for basic rights.” in agreed redundancy terms. in Glasgow and told us to 'stick The call from the Man Utd boss there’. I'm a Man United supporter

‘demand deficit’ Congress: Jobs plan fails on

in the Irish retail grocery supermarket sector. Mr Moran told Shopfloor: “Obviously based on the outcome of the ballot, many of our members were unhappy with the content of the proposals but – as always in circumstances such as this – the priority of the negotiations was to retain as many quality jobs as possible. “Hopefully it will be possible in the near future to reverse some of the negative aspects of these proposals at a time when the Superquinn business shows signs of real and sustained growth.”

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UNIONS

Sir Alex phones Vita Cortex workers with this advice...

Picture: CC braveheartsports

THE term ‘Precariat’ will become more common in the years ahead, so what does it mean?  It refers to employees whose work is uncertain and unpredictable because they are working on part-time and temporary contracts, with no guaranteed working hours and little access to social protection.    Pay is low, conditions are poor, and weekly income is uncertain. Welcome to the new world of work in Ireland and Europe. Mandate’s recent publication – Decent Work? The Impact of the Recession on Low-Paid Workers – outlines the extent to which tens of thousands of workers are falling into precarious working conditions.   Crucially, the report found that a growing number of workers in the low-paid sectors are finding it difficult to clothe and feed their families, pay off household loans (including mortgage, rent and utility bills) and have had to cut back on their spending and social activities.   This growing hardship has been officially recorded by the Government’s Central Statistics Office – though this hardly gets into the public debate.  They found that nearly one-in-four households where there was only one person working were living in conditions of deprivation (this rate is the third highest in the

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TrADe UniOn newS nOrTH AnD SOUTH Produced in association with the irish Congress of Trade Unions

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New Congress report charts pathway to economic recovery NEWS YOU CAN USE

MAY 2012

WORKERS’ JOY AS EPIC SIT-IN ENDS Page 2

CONGRESS general secretary David Begg has praised the tude and resilience” of Vita “fortiworkers following the end Cortex of their epic 161-day sit-in. The 23 workers ended occupation of the Kinsale their plant in Cork at 2.30pm Road The sun was shining and on May 24. were cheers from family there members and supporters as they walked out together for the last time.

It came after company bosses paid the staff an agreed sum as a final settlement to the dispute. David Begg told The Union “The extrordinary fortitude Post: and resilience shown by the workers in securing this deal is an example to trade unionists everywhere. “SIPTU – and its organisers – should also be justly proud of the role they played in supporting members at Vita Cortex.”

Shop steward Sean Kelleher, a Vita Cortex employee for said: “Five months was a 47 years, time but I’m just glad wevery long never decided to walk away.” He said the workers wanted to thank SIPTU, the people “and those further afield”of Cork for their solidarity and support. SIPTU organiser Anne the Vita Cortex dispute Egar said should show workers “that if you stay to-

gether and never give up, justice can be achieved.” Jack O’Connor, the union’s general president and past president Congress, added: “The courage of and determination shown by the workers has provided inspiration people in Ireland, and abroad,to are struggling against unfair who ment. I wish to congratulatetreatfor maintaining their resolve them and achieving a successful outcome.” Picture: Courtesy TV3 News

www.ictu.ie/publications/fulllist/category/unionpost/ 18

SHOPFLOOR

y July 2012


PLATFORM

TU FRIENDS OF PALESTINE

Jailed Palestinians hunger for justice by Mags O’brien Chairperson, TUFP

TRADE Union Friends of Palestine (TUFP) seeks to highlight the  denial of basic human rights to Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.   The people of Gaza are living in an open air prison and as they  cannot trade freely. There is little employment, forcing many to live on humanitarian aid.  The Israeli blockade means that basic medicines and foodstuffs are in short supply.  While the situation is not quite as stark in the West Bank, there still are severe restrictions on the free movement of people, which also results in high unemployment.   Workers queue for hours to go to work in Jerusalem and the illegal settlements; checkpoints can be closed without notice. While there are agreements to pay a  minimum wage, these are often flouted and workers are powerless because of their precarious situations.

Arrests of activists

Palestinian trade unionists and youth activists have been arrested from several refugee camps throughout Bethlehem, Nablus and the West Bank by Israeli military forces that rounded up many prisoners, particularly focusing on grassroots community organisers such as trade unionists and youth organisers.  They were taken away for interrogation and arbitrary detention.  According to an ITUC report, there are currently nearly 5,000 Palestinian political prisoners in occupation jails and the number is increasing rapidly despite a large scale prisoner exchange in October 2011.  

Internment without trial

More than 300 prisoners are on ‘Administrative Detention’ – a practice that we would know better as internment without trial.   There is also a 95% conviction July 2012

y SHOPFLOOR

rate of Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli administered courts. 

Children in jails

It is estimated that since 2000, more than 7,500 Palestinian  children have been detained and prosecuted.  In addition there are credible  reports of mistreatment during  arrest and pre-trial detention. The detention and trial of children by military courts and their mistreatment is directly contrary to the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of children by an  occupying power, Some of these children have been arrested for stone throwing during protests against the ongoing annexation of Palestinian land by illegal settlers.

Hunger strikes

Because of inhumane and degrading treatment in prison and because their detention orders can be renewed indefinitely, a number of prisoners decided to go on hunger strike to highlight their plight.   This has received scant coverage in the West despite efforts of solidarity groups in many countries.   TUFP is currently working with the Irish Palestinian Support Group to highlight the fact that some of these hunger strikers are nearing death.   Physicians for Human RightsIsrael stated that Akram Rikhawi had been fasting since April 12. The last time one of their  doctors was given access to him, on June 6, he weighed 49 kilos.   Prior to this we were highlighting the plight of Mahmoud Sarsak, a young Palestinian footballer, who was arrested and held in administrative detention for three years, after he attempted to leave Palestine to play with his team.   Mahmoud fasted for 95 days before the authorities capitulated.   Hana al Shalabi, a teenage girl who went on hunger strike, was eventually released but exiled to Gaza, to live in effective detention.  

NEWS

retail sales drop flags up need for stimulus CONGRESS has claimed the continued fall in retail sales graphically  illustrates how austerity has eroded domestic demand and highlights the urgent need for a major stimulus and investment programme. Responding to figures released last month revealing annual retail sales fell 2.1%, ICTU Economic Advisor Paul Sweeney said: “The figures are a cause for grave concern and show an economy that continues to

slide, continues to contract. In real terms, that means people losing jobs and businesses going under. “The austerity ideology has failed in Europe and it has failed in  Ireland. These figures confirm that the Government must be far less passive and actively pursue a major programme of stimulus and investment, to boost demand, create jobs and instil some hope in people.” He pointed out that Congress has

already published proposals – Delivering Growth & Jobs – outlining how a stimulus could be financed without adding to general Government debt. “We envisage that over €10 billion could be invested over three to four years and this could create some 100,000 jobs. The counsel of despair from some agencies, which says we can do nothing, should not be heeded,” Mr Sweeney added.

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19


ORGANISING

Marching from the streets to the boardroom

by Michael T bride

Deputy Organising Director for Global Strategies at UFCW NO union member has to be told that the traditional theatre in which fights for workers’ rights occur is the streets.  The power workers exhibit by marching in large numbers has long been associated with workplace victories, while also serving to highlight the issues for the broader public.  More and more, however, unions are turning to more sophisticated measures aimed at protecting  workers’ rights – not to replace the traditional means, but rather to  complement them.   Many unions in other countries have discovered that shareholder  engagement can prove valuable in  asserting the rights of workers. The United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) in the US and Canada is a union that represents 1.3 million workers in the supermarket, retail and food sectors. UFCW members participate in about 50 pension funds, which hold assets valued at approximately $30 billion.   UFCW funds hold shares in the world’s largest companies and in  virtually all of the firms where the union has members. To make the sure this workers’ capital is invested sustainably and in the interests of the beneficiaries as both retirees and as members, the union has a Capital Stewardship  Department, which engages capital markets participants – such as banks, investment managers, regulators, and company executives – on a wide range of issues that impact on both members and working people in  general.   A key activity of the UFCW Capital Stewardship Department is the  engagement of companies where the union has organising and bargaining campaigns.   The UFCW also briefs other owners of shares in those same firms about the companies’ record on worker and union rights. This is often done with a view to getting shareholders to engage the company on behalf of workers.   This can be done privately or 

Shareholder activism is being embraced by numerous unions as they find new ways of representing workers

...and even Cardiff

American-based UFCW shop steward Michelle Hepner travelled with colleagues to Holland to speak at the Ahold AGM Picture: UFCW

publicly, and can include actions at Annual General Meetings. UFCW and its allies have already this year attended and spoken at the AGMs of Walmart, Tesco and Ahold on matters of concern to workers.  

Engaging in Arkansas...

For the Walmart shareholders’ meeting, the union brought 100 workers to the company’s head office

in Bentonville, Arkansas.  Those workers protested the company’s record on labour and human rights, and spent a lot of time talking with other workers who were brought there by the company.   In fact, one of the workers spoke to a resolution calling on the company to adapt its business model to ensure that there would be more staff allotted to stores in the interests of both workers and customers.  

When the worker stood up in front of the thousands of attendees, and stated that the stores were currently understaffed, all the other workers present broke into spontaneous  applause.

...and the Netherlands...

Ahold is a supermarket chain that has 215,000 employees worldwide, is headquartered in the Netherlands,

‘The point is to engage on a field of play the company cares about... and it is likely this arena will grow in importance’

HEALTH & SAFETY

THE Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 gave employees a new course of action where it could be established that they were disadvantaged through the exercise of their rights under health and safety legislation. This can include suspension, lay-off, dismissal, unfair sanctions, reductions in hours or intimidation. A landmark case under this legislation was the Toni & Guy case where the company made a decision to purchase a cheaper brand of gloves for staff. 20

but generates most of its revenue from the US.  In the US, the company recognises the union for collective bargaining purposes for approximately 70,000 workers, but not for the other 33,000 or so.   In fact, the company has engaged in an anti-union campaign which,  according to the UFCW, is aimed at intimidating people so that they won’t join the union.   As one response to this, UFCW brought three workers from the US to the Netherlands in April for the shareholders’ meeting.  These workers spoke to the meeting about their predicament and received generous support from other shareholders.   Michelle Hepner, a worker and UFCW shop steward from one of the firm’s unionised stores in Virginia, spoke at the AGM, She urged company chiefs to give her colleagues in Ahold’s non-union stores in the US the same rights she enjoyed.   Following the meeting, she said: “It is very powerful to take our issue, which exists in Virginia and Pennsylvania, and go to the Netherlands and talk to stakeholders there, as to do so means that the company has to take you seriously.”

In relation to Tesco, ChangetoWin – an umbrella organisation for much of the US labour movement –  attended its shareholders’ meeting in Cardiff, Wales, at the end of June. ChangetoWin had compiled a report detailing why it believed the company’s US business was failing and robustly presented its findings.  Shareholder activism is not new. What is somewhat new is the  potency that trade unions can have in addressing workers’ rights within that forum.   The point is to engage on a field of play that the company cares about, and as long as companies care about their financial performance and what shareholders think of them, it is more likely than not that this arena will grow in importance for unions.   Perhaps it can be said that what began as a march on the streets could culminate in a march into the boardroom.

Are you being penalised? One of the employees complained they were of insufficient quality to both his employers and the Health and Safety Authority. His employers then raised issues with him over his timekeeping leading to his eventual dismissal. He successfully sustained a complaint at the Labour Court that he had been penalised for

complaining about the gloves. To successfully sustain a complaint that one has been penalised, it must be established that the alleged detriment complained of arose from having carried out an act detailed in the legislation. In essence, a “but for” test is applied in that “but for” having committed an act listed in the

legislation. It should be noted this is solely limited to actions outlined in the legislation. In circumstances where the penalisation complained of has the potential of dismissal, complainants would be prudent to consider alternative avenues of redress such as the Unfair Dismissals Acts or Industrial Rela-

tions Acts that are more broadly drawn. While the Act is limited in scope, it may provide a viable avenue for redress for penalisation in circumstances where there is sufficient evidence to substantiate a claim. In all instances advice on these matters will be available from your union official. SHOPFLOOR

y July 2012


DOMESTIC WORKERS

Thumbs-up: ILO chief Juan Somavia celebrates the adoption of Convention No.189 with a group of domestic workers in Geneva last year Picture: ILO

govt called on to ratify C189 by Aoife Smith

DOMESTIC workers are calling on the Government to follow through on commitments made last year at the ILO when they voted in favour of adopting international rights for domestic workers.  June 16, 2011 was a milestone in the struggle for rights for domestic workers around the world.   Domestic workers organisations and trade unions roared from the galleries of the ILO building celebrating the long-awaited adoption of Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers –  international recognition of domestic work as work.   One year on, and only one  country has ratified. Marking the first anniversary of the convention on June 16, domestic workers in Ireland joined  hundreds of thousands of domestic workers worldwide to call on  governments to ratify the convention, now known as C189, to  protect the rights of 100 million domestic workers around the world, many of who live in situations akin to modern day slavery.  The global call to action is part of the international campaign 12 by 12 organised by the ITUC that aims to have 12 countries ratify in 2012.  Members of the Domestic Workers Action Group in the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) are calling on the Government to show leadership by being one of the first 12 countries to ratify.  Despite domestic workers being covered by labour legislation here, Ireland cannot afford to be  complicit.   Domestic workers in Ireland  remain a vulnerable group to  exploitation. Since 2006, MRCI has uncovered 40 cases of forced labour in the sector and referred 17 cases to the authorities for  investigation under trafficking for forced labour legislation.  There has been an increase in cases of exploitation involving  domestic workers employed by July 2012

y SHOPFLOOR

diplomats in Ireland, including seven cases identified as potential victims of trafficking for forced labour.  It is still a sector with poor compliance. Ratifying the convention would be further recognition of  domestic work as work.  It would send out a strong message to  employers that exploitation in the sector must end.  Ratification has been slow considering the support in favour of the convention last year with 396 votes for and only 16 against.  The convention itself does not come into force until ratified by two countries. Uruguay was the first in May 2012.  The Philippines is set to be the second.  The good news is that several governments – Argentina, Belgium, Benin, Ghana, Honduras, Italy, Kenya, Malawi, Philippines, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uruguay and Zambia – have indicated they are interested in doing so soon.   There is a push at EU level to get trade union movements to engage with the campaign. ETUC/EEFAT training workshops are taking place regionally across Europe  focused on capacity building for trade unions to organise domestic workers. Undoubtedly, domestic work is a challenging and untraditional  sector for trade unions to organise, but it is a sector with some of the most vulnerable workers and high reports of exploitation.   The private nature of the workplace in the private home means many workers are isolated and  invisible.  Arguably, this is a stronger argument for needing to organise the sector and the fact that it is challenging does not mean it is impossible.  The ILO convention and ITUC campaign creates an opportunity to start. If the global campaign is to be successful it will need the  support and strength of the trade union movement. To find out more information on the campaign visit www.ituc-csi.org

PLATFORM

PEOPLE’S MOVEMENT/GLUAISEACHT AN PHOBAIL

Surrendering sovereignty

THE People’s Movement is a  campaigning organisation that is  affiliated to no political party but which stands for a genuinely independent united Irish state whose policies are decided democratically by the people of Ireland. This objective has still to be achieved because the country is still partitioned and because the majority of the laws and policies of the Irish state are now decided by the EU/Eurozone and the state  has no control over fundamental instruments of economic policy. The central issue in Irish politics today is where an organisation stands in relation to the Eurozone and the pressures for deeper integration into it.  The Eurozone and general EU  integration is the central political and economic project of Europeanbased Transnational Capital. One cannot be neutral in face of it. One must be either for it or against it.

A common feature of mainstream “progressive” politics is hostility to the nation state as the locus of political democracy and support for the main policies of the EU. In the EU context, this politics is based on the illusion that somehow, in some unexplained fashion, progressive policies can be won from Brussels and from Frankfurt, if only the EU institutions can be persuaded to act in a progressive instead of a right-wing fashion.  But it offers no explanation as to how this miracle is supposed to come about. Accordingly it has no objection in principle to the transfer of ever  further powers from the national to the supranational level, and does not call for the return or "repatriation" of these powers when they have been surrendered, preferring instead to support the transfer of state powers to Eurozone or EU level as the prerequisite of "progressive" policies being adopted supranationally. The People’s Movement believes that the strategic choice for trade unionists and everyone in European politics is whether to line up with those social, economic and political

forces that sees the solution to the economic crisis in moving towards fiscal federalism in the Eurozone, a further surrender of national state powers to supranational committees that are dominated by the major EU member states in the hope that they will look after us better than we could do ourselves.  It is a political position that we fundamentally reject. Rather, the solution is to establish genuine national independence and democracy through winning back for Ireland and the other countries of Europe the  fundamental state powers that have been given away and then using them in an progressive and intelligent way for the benefit of the Irish and other peoples. Such an approach is genuinely European but more importantly it is also a genuinely internationalist one. The People’s Movement issues a fortnightly bulletin The Peoples News. You may receive it by  mailing the word ‘News’ to post@people.ie There is also a website – www.people.ie – with up–to-date information. Back copies of the bulletin may be found there also. You will also find us on Facebook.

Picture: European Parliament

CAMPAIGN

begg to barroso: eU policies stunt growth ICTU General Secretary David Begg has warned EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso that current economic policies were “stunting growth” in Ireland and damaging prospects of a recovery. The Congress chief was part of a delegation of union leaders, headed by ETUC General Secre-

tary Bernadette Ségol, that met with powerbrokers in Brussels last month. Mr Begg told Barroso that recovery in Ireland would be “impossible” while “unemployment remained at record levels and the taxpayer was forced to foot the bill for failed private banks.” He said it was “imperative that

measures are taken to stimulate domestic demand and create jobs, as has already been proposed by Congress.” Mr Begg also met with Employment Commissioner László Andor, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and Martin Schulz, the President of the European Parliament.

21


TRAINING

VIEWPOINT

education empowers workers by Mel Corry

Trademark Co-Director THE history of the trade union movement is one of struggle. The struggle of working people denied access to education, living in abject poverty and dealing with constant exploitation on wages and terms and conditions of employment.  In fact this industrial language of ‘wages’ and ‘terms and conditions’ would not have existed for workers in the early industrial age, this kind of language is what emerged out of the interaction between the bosses and the workers leaders in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.   Facing a class well resourced and educated, a class ideologically wedded to notions of superiority through slavery, colonialism and domination, working people needed to bridge that gap in order to lift workers out of a permanent state of penury and ignorance.  In the early industrial age a process of self-learning emerged among the most politically-motivated leaders in workplaces which equipped them with knowledge and confidence to take on the employers.   Larkin and Connolly were products of this new phenomenon, both emerging from poverty to become working class leaders known throughout the world.  In shipyards, factories, mines and mills a new  enlightened movement of workers forged a mighty trade union movement which delivered to us the society which we take for granted today.   The notion of a working week based on an eight-hour day with a weekend for rest and recreation was not always the norm, it was won through struggle.  Overtime payments, paid holidays, sick pay, health and safety, maternity leave, equality etc. all had to be  demanded and fought for and now today we see that the very fabric of this modern society we fought for

Self-education and training was essential in developing the trade union movement in the early years, it is no less important today Picture: Mandate

and won is being dismantled before our eyes. For the trade union movement, a member-led democratic organisation which changed the world, great importance was placed on the process of developing its members and in particular its shop stewards.  Many trade union leaders emerged from the membership with little or no  formal qualifications or an education that they came to as an adult with the help and support of the union. In more recent times the focus of trade union learning which had a balance between ‘training’ and ‘education’ has shifted towards a purely skills-based focus, providing reps with the skills to do their job, communication skills, negotiating skills,

employment law, and so on.   All of this is very important but so too is giving shop stewards access to learning which will not necessarily make them a better rep but will give them a better understanding of the world in which we live and the  reason why they have become a shop steward in the first place. This shift in focus did not happen by accident – it was a direct consequence of the neo-liberal trend that produced ‘social partnership’ in the Republic of Ireland and Thatcherism and New Labourism in Britain and the North.   The removal of grassroots  activists from the process of bargaining with employers produced elites in the movement who argued that

‘If we are to emerge out of this crisis with anything worth having it will be because of well-informed, committed activists’

GLOBAL SOLIDARITY

HAD enough of the miserable weather, football performance in the Euros and austerity? Want a change of scene, a place to meet likeminded and interesting people while learning about what you can do to improve international solidarity?  Then look no further... This year the Congress Annual Global Solidarity Summer School is heading to the sunny south east and White’s of Wexford.  The Summer School is one of the key events of the year in the Global Solidarity calendar and each year it proves to be an interesting and informative weekend with guest speakers from both home and abroad delivering key messages and providing a unique in22

sight into issues of national and international importance. While broad, the theme of Internationalism, Globalisation and Trade Unions, allows diverse but related topics to be introduced, which will provide participants with the “big picture” in terms of trends and  developments for workers globally. If you fancy a break, the opportunity to participate in debates and learn about issues such as exploitation in the garment industry, the push to revive trade unions in Burma and campaigning for fellow trade unionists in one of the most dangerous countries in the world – then please come along. The Summer School is open to all union members who wish to partici-

LETTERS

Picture: ICTU

Summer debates by Fiona Dunne

they knew better than the workers what was in their best interests.   It also provided the argument that members needed training to improve their skills as reps but skills which would also add value to the employer who, after all, was providing paid  release.   Then came the argument that if wages are negotiated at national level, then shop stewards do not need training in the process of free collective bargaining if they never  engage in that process.    The increasing legalisation of the industrial relations process also provided a challenge when shop stewards were taught by the unions how difficult it was to take industrial  action, without any understanding of

ICTU President Eugene McGlone speaking at last year’s GS Summer School in Galway

pate.   All you have to do is contact your union head office for further details or log on to www.ictu.ie/globalsolidarity for more information.

why that ever increasing legalisation was taking place. In 2009, Trademark, a social  justice co-operative based in Belfast and staffed by committed and  experienced trade union activists, began the process of addressing this problem.   We organised a series of political schools looking at the history of trade unions, introducing shop stewards, officers and reps to economics and de-mystifying that subject, and looking at the evolution of work processes over the generations and the management relations that now govern the modern workplace.   The course on every occasion was oversubscribed and we realised that reps were crying out for this kind of challenge in their development.  In one evaluation a seasoned shop steward said: “There is only so much health and safety training I can take, this is what I have been looking for.” We have offered these courses to a variety of unions and tailored them for their specific needs.   We were particularly pleased to deliver a pilot course for Mandate under the title of Civic Awareness and Responsibilities and it was clear from the endorsement of the general secretary that day how important it was – given the unprecedented  attacks on working people in the  Republic as a result of the irresponsibility of invisible elites.   The course has now become a permanent feature of Trademark’s work and we are currently developing a third level course in partnership with the open university to further add value to existing trade union provision which, after all, has produced so much for the working class the world over.   If we are to emerge out of the  current crisis with anything worth  having, it will be because of well-informed and committed trade union activists.

Course content! Dear Editor, AS A union representative in the  Licensed Trade Division, I recently attended a Union Rep Introductory training course in Mandate's Organising and Training Centre organised by the National Co-ordinator Aileen Morrissey and Administrator Margie O'Rourke.  The course was extremely informative covering a range of subjects on day-to-day issues that shop stewards would deal with in their workplace representing members.    The tutors – Margaret Nolan and Mary Mulhall – were excellent in  relaying course content.   I would strongly recommend other union representatives to avail of the

opportunity to attend Mandate's training courses.  These courses are designed to make your role as a shop steward more positive and enriching.     The courses are free to members and you wouldn't gain the knowledge and information anywhere else.   I've been a union rep with Mandate for many years and I am happy to say that by attending the introductory course, I learned so much more which would help me in my union rep role.   As the Mandate courses are nationwide, I would encourage anyone to attend in their area.   Dermot Fay, union rep and Executive Council member SHOPFLOOR

y July 2012


AND FINALLY...

TRAINING

Time to take what they won’t give...

Participants in the Union Representative Introductory course held at the Mandate Training Centre in June Pictures: Mandate

How to fill out those long winter evenings AUTUMN is the time of year for people to make plans for filling those long winter evenings.  And it offers the perfect opportunity for Mandate members to think about attending a Mandate evening training course. Mandate offers free courses to members which are held at various locations across Ireland as well as in the Training Centre in Dublin. These courses include Computers (for beginners and advanced), Communication Skills, Maths and  Personal Development.   The courses are held outside of working hours and are usually for a period of 10 weeks.   So if you start a course in September, you will have developed new skills before the busy month of  December. A short evening course is also available for shop stewards and their

LETTERS

House Committee members.  This course is designed for Mandate  representatives who cannot attend a three-day shop steward training course.

If you are interested in these training courses, please phone Mandate's Training Centre at 01 8369699 or contact your local official for further information.  

Aileen Morrissey, National Coordinator of Training, with Manuel Kindl, a shop steward with the Austrian union GPA-DJP, who came to Ireland recently on a study visit to Mandate

back a targeted boycott Dear Editor, HUMAN rights should always be the central focus in any attempts at  conflict resolution and reconciliation among deeply divided societies. Unfortunately some states continue to prove to the international community that they are not  prepared to take a genuine commitment to resolving conflict. Israel is one of these states because, as a government, its activities, policies and actions continue to break international law and  seriously violate human rights. Demonisation of those who try to stand against such policies is common, allowing a continuation of circular rhetoric that is antithetical to July 2012

y SHOPFLOOR

forming any progressive cooperation. The debate around the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement is just as polarised with various anti-Palestinian advocacy groups deliberately misleading the public with claims the boycott of  Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian territory hampers  attempts to build bridges.  This is completely inaccurate  because Israel continues to support, legitimise and build more illegal s ettlements with no sign of listening to the Palestinians or to the  international community. Recent attacks on Irish Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore, simply because he indicated Ireland may seek

an EU-wide boycott of Israeli settlement goods, is concerning. Our group has set up a petition on Avaaz.org to show support for Minister Gilmore and underline the message that a boycott of Israeli  settlements can be both beneficial and highly successful in securing real progress. A number of MLAs and TDs have already signed in support of a settlement boycott!  You can sign too at: http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Support_targetted_boycott_o f_Israeli_Settlement_Goods/ Queen’s University Belfast Palestine Solidarity

by eugene McCartan

Repudiate The Debt Campaign IF YOU turn on your TV and watch the news or read a newspaper, there appears to be a constant  series of “summits” about the  continuing economic crisis.  We have summits of EU leaders, or G7 and G20 bilateral meetings between Germany and France or Germany and some other country – all giving the impression that something is being done, that a  solution has been found or some new policy developed to overcome the crisis, that millions of jobs will suddenly appear, or that this  summit be a turning-point, more important than the previous ones. But all that’s really happening is that the same individuals (mainly men) in smart suits, with a battery of advisers, luxury limos, and firstclass flights on a plethora of  airlines – all at our expense – gather in expensive hotels that most of us wouldn’t be allowed to enter or get within a mile of. The only job creation strategy they have is to keep low-paid workers working in the same  expensive hotels and luxury restaurants. We constantly hear the refrain that this EU summit or that EU meeting may come forward with some answers to the mounting, crippling debt burden now  imposed on working people in the peripheral countries of the EU,  including our own little piece of rock in the North Atlantic. Yet we continue to carry the  burden, and that burden will only get heavier and heavier. By the end of June, the Government will have put €67.8 billion (of your money) into bank recapitalisation, just to keep their doors open. We have squandered the  national pension fund... National Pension Fund 2008: €21.2 billion 2012: €5.8 billion Squandered: €15.4 billion Unemployment 2008: 6.3% 2012: 14.5% – a jump of 8.2%. Emigration 40,500 per year 3,330 per month 111 per day 5 people an hour!

This is a rate not seen since the Great Famine of the 1840s. In one year alone the Irish state paid more than €10 billion to bondholders. In the last week of June, this Government paid €1.1 billion to four unsecured and  unguaranteed bondholders, two from Irish Nationwide and two from Anglo-Irish. Our own internal Troika of Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Fianna Fáil have been telling us that we must pay this debt, and that it can be paid by a combination of massive cuts in public spending and then through the economy growing – that the economy would grow by such and such a percentage per year (3% to 4% in 2013). They haven’t got a hope in hell of doing that. So if the economy is not growing, the only other option is to cut deeper and deeper into public spending and to hand more of our money over to foreign bankers. The people of Iceland are still refusing to pay the private bank debt. There is simply no other solution than repudiating this debt. But to do that we need a progressive government that would protect the people and their interests, putting the people first: • Looking for alternative sources of money (capital) internationally, such as “sovereign wealth funds” (what these are will be explained in the next issue of Shopfloor), • Increasing taxes on the rich, • Taking control of our rich  natural resources, • Adopting an economic and  social plan to use these resources in a sustainable way, • Introducing greater democracy for working people, from the shop floor to the Government table. The pain now being inflicted on the people is to ensure that those on top remain on top. If sacrifices are to be made, let it be for a better Ireland – a different, more just and equal Ireland. But then, that’s not what the Irish elite would ever allow. We need to take what they will not give. Keep your hands on your wages and your eye on the prize of a  better future and a better way  forward. Visit www.nodebt.ie or email repudiatethedebt@gmail.com. 23


Mandate Trade Union Shop Floor July  

Mandate Trade Union Shop Floor July We are being hammered: Report reveals that retail workers taking hit after hit under austerity.