MANDATE NEWS Issue 5, Spring 2010
Mandate Biennial Conference, Galway 2010 www.mandate.ie | email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Straight Talking with John Douglas
Conference 2010 – Waking Up, Taking Action (All roads lead to Galway)
Organising Brian Forbes
Tuesday 30th March 2010
08 09 10 11
80 billion bank bailout 430,000 workers unemployed
Campaigns Superquinn Backs Respect Retail Workers Campaign Mandate’s Decent Income Campaign Working Longer for your Pension Landlords Milking the Recession Cutting minimum wage is no answer to crisis – Siobhan O’Donoghue Shifting the Burden Training Women at Work Skillnets Fran Reid — Mandate Works to Educate Training Programme 2010 Industrial Relations A “Super” Partnership Agreement for Workers Extra Penneys for Mandate members Dublin Airport Authority Staff Vote Yes to Survival Programmes Connolly Shoes back on the Picket Line Sligo Nightclub - the Envy of Irish Business Success for Strikers in Blarney Woollen Mills
12 13 14 15 16 17 18 18 19 20 21
Union News Activist Profile – Anthony Meaney Hollywood Star Plays Irish Trade Unionist Teresa Shevlin retires after 58 years in Mandate
22 23 24
Workers of the World Turkish court sentences trade unionist Seher Tümer to seven years in prison
Letters to the Editor Don Sharkey – Editor response
Other Articles FLAC – Paul Joyce – Policy and research Depaul Ireland Green Isle Hunger Strikers Successful Mandate Gets Active on Social Networking Websites Mandate launches ezine for members
27 28 30 31 31
MANDATE NEWS credits: Editor: John Douglas, General Secretary, Mandate Cover Photograph: Brian Forbes Designed by: Language
with John Douglas
On Tuesday 30 March 2010 Brian Lenihan, Minister of Finance, committed every Irish citizen alive on that day and those yet to be born for the next 20 years to baling out to the tune of €80 billion the economic wreckage caused by the financial vandalism of a golden circle of senior bankers, property speculators, politicians and their allies. Their culture of greed and self promotion was supported by the cheer leaders of the free market and light regulation such as estate agents, large accountancy firms, economic pundits and their friends in the media – who were all too happy to ride the wave of high fees, bulging property supplements and consultancy gigs. The entrepreneurial gurus which they held up to us as shining examples of entrepreneurial endeavour, hard work, the success of the self made men were no more than a plague of locusts gorging themselves on
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MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
our economic national harvest until there was nothing left. Now they have the cheek to send us the bill. The bill for their greed is not just the €80 billion (80,000,000,000) of our money and that of future generations, it’s the 430,000 workers without a job, it’s the family who can’t afford Christmas because the Christmas welfare bonus was stopped, it’s the special needs’ child who does not have a special needs assistant in their class, it’s the school kids who haven’t got books because the free school books grant has been withdrawn, it’s the brothers, sisters and friends who will have to leave Ireland in search of work, it’s the thousands of families who will lose their homes through repossessions, and when your mother or father, son or daughter waits on a trolley in accident and emergency for days before they are given the dignity of a hospital bed, then remember Tuesday 30 March 2010 – the day the Government decided that saving the institutional banks was more important than its responsibility to its own citizens as proclaimed in our constitution. Trade Unions and Community Groups have been calling for a fairer and better way to solve the serious economic problems facing the Irish economy. We have called for investment in jobs, we have called for welfare rates and incomes to be protected, we demand that those who can afford to pay do pay and that the burden of the 3
economic recovery plan is shifted off the shoulders of the poor and the most vulnerable in our society (see Shifting the burden on www.mandate.ie). The media don’t want to tell this story; they have by and large bought into the government lie that there is no other way. They are happy to pit private sector workers against public sector workers, workers against unemployed workers. Workers are not the problem; they are part of the solution, a FAIRER AND BETTER solution which offers hope for our children. So as Mandate Trade Union approaches our Biennial Delegate Conference in Galway in April, we are faced with a retail sector suffering from falling consumer spending and consumer confidence which are as a direct result of the disastrous decisions of this government. We are faced with some large multi-national retail companies attempting to shift the burden onto already hard pressed retail workers. The problems of the retail sector have not been caused by retail workers whose salary is on average less than €25,000 per annum. Mandate will never accept as legitimate, profitable multinational retailers targeting wages and conditions of retail workers in order to maintain their profitability or shareholder dividends. Let them tackle the other major business costs such as upwardly only rents, rates, insurance costs, service charges etc. In the recent public sector proposals the government
has officially recognised that public sector workers earning less than €35,000 per annum are lower paid and will be first in line to have their pay cuts reversed, so using this salary benchmark, no profitable retailer should ever consider attacking the wages/ conditions of retail workers. We expect the institutions of the state such as the Labour Relations Commission and the Labour Court to adhere to this benchmark. Mandate Trade Union is recruiting and organising to defend a decent living wage. We need all of you to play your part at local level, get involved with your union and begin the fight back against government and employers who are loading the burden onto workers’ backs. Let us wake up and take action.
It’s time to Get Up and Stand Up, get active in your union – together www. we can make change happen.
John Douglas Mandate General Secretary.
Mandate News / Spring 2010
Waking Up, Taking Action Mandate Trade Unions’ 7th Biennial Conference takes place in the Radisson Hotel in Galway on Sunday, 25 April 2010. This year’s conference is entitled, Waking Up, Taking Action and as the name suggests, Mandate is encouraging its members to be more aware of issues that effect them and participate and contribute fully in society, beginning with this conference. The conference is one of the main opportunities for members to have an input in Mandate’s policies for the future. This includes motions for conference which cover a broad range of issues from calls for a decent living income to reforming union structures. The title, Waking Up, Taking Action, shows Mandate is committed to ensuring that its members are informed and represented as strongly as possible in all aspects of society. As such, we are actively encouraging all conference participants to begin “Taking Action” at this conference. We hope that they will be in a position to partake fully and contribute in whatever way they can. John Douglas, Mandate General Secretary said, “The reason we have these conferences is to ensure that we, in head office, know what the members want. We would like to listen to what the members are experiencing, MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
what their opinions are and how they want Mandate to pursue their interests which will make their lives better. After all, this is their union and we are only here to facilitate them as best we can. “We hope the conference participants will have the opportunity and the confidence to speak at this year’s conference. There are issues to be discussed which will have a major impact on our member’s lives, and indeed their family’s lives in the future. We hope that all voices are adequately represented and we are calling on people to be confident, make their points clear and help in the development of union policies,” said Mr Douglas. Some of the items to be discussed at the conference include: • A Decent Living Income for all; • Recruitment and organising; • The minimum wage; • Part time workers hours; • Sunday working, • Erosion of terms and conditions including pay reductions; • Education; • Health – Including the cervical vaccination programme, cancer screening, Breastcheck and dental and optical cutbacks; • Home repossessions; • The mismanagement of the economy; • Social welfare cuts.
Mandate Membership Week This year’s conference will also be discussing Mandates need for the recruitment of new members in order to have a more powerful voice in both society and the workplace. Part of this is a new initiative entitled the Mandate Membership Week which takes place from the 24 – 28 May 2010. Brian Forbes, Mandate’s National Coordinator of Campaigns said, “The idea behind the Mandate Membership Week is to encourage existing members to see the benefits of recruiting new members to the union. In order to increase our influence to the betterment of our members, we need to increase our membership and activists on the ground. We envisage that the Mandate Membership Week will become an annual occurrence which will enable Mandate to grow to its full potential and represent workers as fully and as successfully as possible.
For more information on this initiative contact the Mandate Organising and Training Centre on 01 8369699 or your local official. You can also obtain pledge cards from the Mandate website www.mandate.ie www.
Mandate will be seeking activists to make a pledge for one week in May. 5
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
Organising Organising is for Life, not just for Christmas! Picture the scene – a lonely union organiser standing outside a retail outlet drenched to the bone from the lashing rain, handing out soggy recruitment leaflets to apathetic passers by as they attempt to side step the outstretched hand and the hang dog expression from a thoroughly disillusioned organiser. This scenario is a bit like proposing marriage to people you’ve just met in a singles bar. It might work, if you happen to be Brad or Angelina, but when reality bites you might come to the logical conclusion that there has to be a better way to accomplish your ultimate goal whether that’s organising workers or organising marriage! Over many years Partnership in Ireland has altered the context within which trade unions operate. Workers through the rise of monetarism and the ideology of the liberal free market aided and abetted by years of Social Partnership were actively encouraged to become more individualistic. Put simply, people generally became much more selfish, less inclined to participate collectively and less inclined therefore to join a union. Over the course of Partnership what did unions proactively do to challenge and change the culture of individualism and selfishness? It can be clearly argued that generally speaking the movement not only accepted the societal changes but in fact MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
perpetuated the decline by believing that workers wanted unions to act as protectors of the individual rather than as organisers of the collective. As a movement, we failed to communicate effectively and collectively with our members, preferring instead to service their individual needs which included promotional offerings of cheap insurance, discounted holidays and in some instances the service of making out your last will and testimony. Graveyard Trade Unionism! The establishment of a close symmetry and relationship between unions and employers tended to inhibit the need and the type of activism and campaigning required to make unions, including Mandate, relevant to members, nonmembers, their families and wider society. Our 2008 Biennial Delegate Conference in Limerick heralded the beginning of a new era for Mandate. Conference unanimously endorsed the context for the meaningful development of Mandate Organising as the vehicle to grow strength and power in the workplace for Irish retail workers. Building effective workplace leadership in companies who have existing agreements with Mandate and building workplace leadership in companies where there is no union presence is the key to extending worker power in retail. Two years on from our Limerick conference and despite the rallying call from our General Secretary for the emergence of an “army of activists”, our team of professional and hard-working officials find themselves increasingly representing individual cases with little or no time left to organise and 6
build self sustainable workplaces with strong local activists. They have even less time again to contribute to strategies for recruiting and organising workers in non-unionised and in many instances worker hostile retail environments. The harsh and unavoidable reality of our officials becoming seen as little more than cheap solicitors is not sustainable into the future and developing an organising culture provides the only alternative route away from Partnership and Protectionism towards Activism and Success for Mandate. For those hardy perennials who either doubt the future of organising within Mandate or who remain conscientious objectors to the notion of Mandate organising, I challenge you to articulate and outline your alternative view for the future growth strategy for Mandate up on the podium at our forthcoming 2010 Biennial Delegate Conference in Galway. In the past – for good reasons – we have concentrated mostly on servicing issues. Organising within Mandate has to become both a long term commitment as well as our everyday work. We must not expect results overnight nor should we be discouraged when organising results appear slow to materialise. Organising has a proven track record of delivery and is a sound investment for the future of our union. Mandate’s developing organising strategy has generated some initial success, and in the short time the Central Organising Department has been established, organising initiatives have been taking place in IKEA, Brian Forbes, National Coordinator of H&M, River Island, BT2 Organising for Mandate. and GAP. However, in 7
order to drive a successful organising programme, Mandate needs to ensure that the necessary resources, both in an organising capacity and the ability to run effective campaigns are made available. We are in the early years of changing Mandates culture to organising and it is important to understand that the programme of change will initially not pay for itself. However, as we continue to build sustainable organisation, the rewards of membership growth will follow. Our first National Recruitment initiative, Mandate Membership Week, will take place from 24 May to 28 May 2010. This is not just for some trade union activists within our union. Everyone in Mandate from the individual members to the most senior union official is encouraged to show collective commitment around recruitment and organising. Waking Up, Taking Action is the theme of our 2010 Conference and those four words encapsulate the impassioned call for workers everywhere, not just in retail, to open their eyes to what’s happening to Irish society and to get active. Active in your communities, Active in your workplace and Active in your union. Let us, all together, make organising and recruitment our priority over the next two years.
Mandate organisers are now established on facebook, bebo and twitter.
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
Campaigns Superquinn Backs Respect Retail Workers Campaign
Superquinn staff and Mandate members in the Lucan store at the launch of Superquinn’s endorsement of the Respect Retail Workers campaign.
Superquinn has become the first major employer in Ireland to sign up to Mandate’s Respect Retail Workers Charter and Campaign. Mandate established the campaign in 2008, and since then has highlighted the fact that thousands of workers in the retail sector have been experiencing abuse, both verbal and physical during recent years.
Superquinn signed up in support of the Respect Retail Worker Charter on Tuesday, 23 March 2010. Mandate has approached other retail employers to request that they also sign up in support in order to show their commitment to protecting their workers. We will keep you informed if and when employers come on board. ail Respect Ret ter ar Ch rs Worke Our Stated
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Mandate National Coordinator of Campaigns, Brian Forbes said, “We’re delighted to have such a large and prominent employer on board the Respect Retail Workers campaign. This shows that Superquinn are committed to ensuring a level of protection for their staff members which is obviously to be welcomed. It is our intention to work closely with Superquinn in formulating strategic policies and developing a framework which will protect workers from unnecessary stress as a result of verbal or physical abuse. As the campaign’s slogan states, abuse is not part of the job.”
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
For more on the campaign www. go to www.mandate.ie 8
Mandate’s Decent Income Campaign All sorts of ordinary people who were struggling on very low The impact of the cuts so far incomes in 2009 are now seeing their incomes fall further. And In 2010 household income of an unemployed couple with two children there may well be additional cuts and charges on the way. will drop by 13.6% from its 2009 level, giving them a weekly income of €477 per week. This is €44 per week or 8% below the poverty line.
The fall in the cost of living in 2009 did not lift these households out of poverty, and cuts in wages, working hours and welfare payments pushed them deeper in. The cuts to community organisations, health services and education impact on these families and individual, but the cuts in their incomes represent a particular and real threat to their well being. It is to fight this threat that a wide range of community organisations, charities and trade unions have come together to form the ‘The Poor Can’t Pay’. The campaign currently being run by IBEC, ISME and others to lower the Minimum Wage and pay rates agreed through Employment Rights Orders and Registered Employment Agreements has the potential to see the incomes of more than 600,000 people reduced. Rising unemployment and a worrying trend towards greater casualisation of the work force in sectors such as hospitality and retail is pushing many individuals and families to breaking point. In 2010, The Poor Can’t Pay is calling on Government to protect the incomes of those whose current income is near, on or below the governments own definition of income poverty. There are 615,000 people, or 14% of the population, living in poverty, according to the Central Statistics Office. Almost 200,000 of them are children. 116,000 of them are in employment. To live in poverty in 2010 means, among other things, to live on an annual income of €11,719 for a single person, €15,585 for a lone parent with one child, and €23,321 for a two parent family with two children. This would amount to a weekly income of €224 for the single person; €298 for the lone parent with one child; and €521 for two parents with two children The numbers of people living just above the poverty line is even greater. 25% of households in the country live on an income of €20,000 or less a year. More than 50% of households in the country live on an income of €40,000 or less a year. Many of these households live close to the poverty line.
The household income of working lone parent with one child will drop by 17.7% from its 2009 level, giving them a weekly income of €441 before childcare costs are taken into account and €291 after childcare. This is €7 per week or 2% below the poverty line. The weekly income of many newly unemployed single person will be €150 per week which is €75 or 33% below the poverty line. While this would increase to €196 is she or he participates in an approved training programme, assuming the training is appropriate and available, it would still be €28 or 12.5% below the poverty line. Many people with disabilities will also see their income fall. The household income of a person claiming the blind pension will drop by 8% from its 2009 level, giving them a weekly income €329 per week. Older people, particularly the 50% on state pensions, will also face increasing charges in the coming year. The return of medical cards, the introduction of prescription charges and the carbon tax all have the potential to impose real reductions in the spending power of the state pension. The Poor Can’t Pay campaign, in advance of Budget 2010, argued that these households should not be made to pay for the bad decisions and practices of others. We argued that they could not afford reductions in wages or benefit levels. The Government chose to ignore our arguments, and as demonstrated in our analysis of the impact of the budget, How The Poor Were Made To Pay, pushed already hard pressed individuals and families further into poverty and hardship. The Poor Can’t Pay campaign is now deeply concerned that these same households will face further attacks on their low incomes in 2010.
We say The Poor Can’t Pay so Protect their Incomes — If you support this principle, join our campaign and make sure, this time, that the Government listen to our demands. MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
Working Longer for your Pension Government’s Pension Framework increases age of public pension age to 68
2% respectively which would seem to be an unequal burden on ordinary workers.
The Pension’s Framework envisages a supplementary pension system delivered through the private funds market. It would seem that workers will then be exposed to investment markets without a guaranteed return and must shoulder the high fees and charges characteristic of the industry. Congress General Secretary David Begg said, “Firstly, they propose to force people to hand over a portion of their wages to the private Pension Industry in order to facilitate gambling and stock market speculation. Given that Irish pension funds — and therefore those who manage them — have been the worst performing in the developed world, this is like a reward for incompetence.
Mandate along with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has expressed serious disappointment with new Government proposals on restructuring Ireland’s pension system. Mandate says that the new pension’s framework does nothing to help those on low incomes who haven’t got the means or the opportunity to invest in private pensions. General Secretary John Douglas said, “The Government’s plan seeks to maintain the value of the State pension at 35% of average earnings and this is totally inadequate in the eyes of Mandate and its members. Many workers, particularly those in the retail sector, have no private pension system and as such are dependent on the state pension system. This pension’s framework puts pressure on workers to invest in a private pension scheme in order to prepare for retirement, when in reality, workers are already struggling to make ends meet now and cannot afford an extra income reduction. Increasing the public pension rate to 50%, rising progressively to 66% would provide Mandate members with an acceptable basic standard of living in retirement.”
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
John Douglas said that while he accepts full participation is essential in preparing financially for retirement, the way the Government’s framework is designed works mainly to the benefit of the private pensions industry. “For Mandate members and people coming close to retirement age, this is very worrying. Particularly considering the disastrous decisions of pension managers, to date, which have led to a significant erosion in pension values.”
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“It is also worth noting that some of the blame for our current financial crisis lies squarely with the foolish investment decisions made by private pension funds.... and yet Government proposes to give them even more money. This is wrong.
The new Framework also intends increasing the retirement age across the board. It is planned to raise the qualifying age for the State pension to 66 in 2014, 67 in 2021 and 68 in 2028 to reflect increases in life expectancy. Mr Douglas says that this again is unfair.
“The second major failing relates to the absence of any initiative to protect people when a scheme gets into difficulty — a Pension Protection Fund. This is required by EU law and the workers in SR Technics and Waterford Glass are living proof that it is necessary. This is not the response that the crisis in our pension system requires,” Mr Begg concluded.
“It does not take into account the different vocations that individuals work in, particularly those who work in manual or physically demanding occupations who will soon be expected to work until 68 years of age. Mandate would much prefer if retirement options were flexible and had a provision for individual choice,” concluded Mr Douglas.
Mandate says that it is also striking that employees are being asked to pay 4% while employers and the State are only giving
Landlords Milking the Recession On the 9 March 2010, the Labour Party presented a Bill to the Oireachtas which sought to end the practice of upward only rent reviews in the commercial property sector including that of the retail sector. This Bill was supported in principle by Mandate Trade Union whose members have seen first hand the damage this practice is doing to workers in terms of job losses and a reduction in hours. At the time of the Dáil debate on the matter, Mandate said this Bill had the potential to save thousands of jobs in the retail sector and the priority for this Government should be to create and protect quality jobs in whatever way they can. An upward only rent review means that every time a retailers rent comes up to be reviewed, it can only be increased because of current legislation governing commercial rent agreements. Last year the Government banned these clauses from all new lease contracts, however, any company operating under current leases which may have been negotiated during the time of the economic boom is now stuck with a lease that can only go up in spite of market conditions for perhaps the next twenty years.
“We have seen significant job losses in Arnotts, Debenhams and Hughes and Hughes so far this year. We have also seen a trend of employers reducing the hours of their employees which is having a massive effect on their income, pushing more and more people into the poverty net,” added Mr Douglas. “Up to this point we have seen very little, if any, efforts by the Government to protect jobs in the retail sector. Not only could this Bill protect existing workers jobs, but it also has the potential to create new jobs in the economy,” he said.
ION E RECESS ult H T G IN The Assa MILK Union on ons te Trade anda d Conditi by the M Terms an A Report ’ Pay and Workers on Retail
Rent now accounts for the single biggest operating cost for retail businesses – approximately 20%, and it is a cost they have no control over because of the current law. The danger for Mandate and its members is, with inflexible rents and high utility costs, businesses will continue on their quest to cut costs in other areas i.e. workers wages and/or hours. It is Mandates position, as it should be the Governments, that rent, utilities, waste charges and other expenses should be addressed first before we can even consider a debate about retail workers pay rates. It has recently been reported in many of the national newspapers that retail businesses are currently having their rent reviews and as a result some have seen increases of between 30 – 100%, and all this at a time of economic recession. If Mandate put in a pay claim at this moment in time for similar pay increases for our members we would be dismissed as crackpots or lunatics, yet some of the major property companies in the country feel these increases are justified. In 2009 there were 30,000 job losses at a cost of €600 million to the State. In January and February of this year, there were 38 insolvencies. Additionally, 120 unlimited retailers have failed in the first two months of this year so it is clear that something needs to be done.
Mandate General Secretary, John Douglas, commented on the Labour Party Bill saying, “At a time when we are haemorrhaging jobs in the retail sector, due in large part to overpriced and inflexible commercial rents, the Government had an opportunity to put party politics to the side and show that it will put people and jobs first and make some real efforts towards reducing the live register.
“It’s quite clear that this legal clause only serves to preserve the unrealistic and exorbitant profit margins of large property companies. We have also heard very worrying rumours that property companies are increasing their rent reviews in advance of Nama valuations, which again is putting more retail businesses under pressure and costing jobs,” said Mr Douglas.
At the Dáil debate the Government insisted that legal advice from the Attorney General said this Bill could not be implemented. Contradicting this, the Labour Party also claims to have also sought legal advice which states that this Bill could very well be implemented. However, at this point, despite Minister Dermot Ahearn stating that he would publish his advice, to date this has not taken place and we are currently unaware of the reasons for not allowing downward rent reviews which is costing Irish retail workers their jobs and a reduction in their hours and therefore income. Labour Party TD Ciaran Lynch said, “The Government’s response to the Labour Party Bill was very disappointing and in particular their argument there are legal difficulties to resolving this matter without producing the legal evidence to support their case to my mind questions where this Government’s priorities are when it comes to protecting businesses and jobs.”
The Bill was voted down by a margin of 75 to 72 with Fianna Fail and the Green Party voting against it and the Labour Party, Fine Gael and Sinn Fein supporting downward rent reviews. MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
Cutting minimum wage is no answer to crisis Siobhan O’Donoghue replies to Trevor Sergeant who has defended proposals to cut the minimum wage. A flawed assumption prevails within business, media and political circles that cutting the minimum wage would somehow assist economic recovery and improve competitiveness. For starters this approach will not help create employment. Much of the work undertaken by minimum wage earners is considered to be in low productivity sectors and it is not these jobs that has traditionally driven competitiveness or fuelled growth. In addition minimum wage earners only account for about 5% of those employed. Because so few are on the minimum wage it is highly unlikely that reducing it would have any significant impact except for the workers and their families trying to survive on an income that places them in the category of the ‘working poor’. Another argument against cutting the minimum wage is that those on low incomes spend their money not like those with higher incomes who tend to save. We are being told daily that this economy needs spenders not savers. More importantly, many people on minimum wages are doing socially valuable work such as caring; jobs that keep families and communities together. The market does not value or reward this work and reinforces why they need to be protected. After all the minimum wage was introduced in the first place in recognition of how vulnerable these workers are. This vulnerability has not disappeared but has been exacerbated in recent times.
We are now a society of extremes with an unsustainable gap between the incomes of the very rich and the very poor. The disconnect between those who have or had too much and those who have too little is clearly evident in the increasingly polarised and divided society Ireland has become. Most ordinary people know that they did not spend their way through the boom or have excessive and extravagant lifestyles despite this being the mantra from certain quarters. Attempting to cut the wages of workers who are among those who benefited least during this period, has to be one of the most cynical and insulting proposals to surface in recent times. It also begs the question why so much energy is given to this question of cutting the minimum wage but practically no political appetite evident for reigning in high pay. Surely it is at this level that most savings could be made. Given the gross levels of income inequality that has prevailed and the damage this has caused to society would it not be in our collective interest to restore some balance to the income continuum. Why should a person who has recklessly gambled pension funds be worth over €150,000 per year while a woman caring for children with special needs be only worth €17,000 per year? And is there not a growing realisation globally that the low wage model pursued by Western economies greatly assisted in causing the crisis in the first place? Our government must resist all and every effort by vested interests to strip away minimum statutory protections for the low paid. I think most people would welcome instead a serious effort to rebalance incomes starting at the top end.
Let’s remember too that minimum wage workers have already seen a cut in their income. They have also been subjected to the 2% pension levy introduced in 2009. In reality a person working 40 hours a week earning €8.65 per hour can expect to earn approx €335 per week. This amounts to around €17,500 per year. I say ‘her’ because most minimum wage earners are after all women. In effect those who advocate for a cut to the minimum wage are also advocating towards pushing vulnerable people deeper into poverty. In a supposedly civilised, democratic society surely this is the opposite direction we should be going in? Logic would suggest that many of Siobhan O’Donoghue Director of the these people are more likely to end up on social Migrant Rights Centre Ireland. welfare and in turn will cost the state more.
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010 12
Siobhán O’Donoghue is a Community Worker who is currently Director of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland www.mrci. ie. She is Chairperson of the Community Workers Cooperative www.cwc.ie and is active in the Community Platform www.communityplatform She is also involved in Is Feidir Linn, a group who has developed a manifesto for an alternative model of economic and social development and who are currently working towards establishing an alternative social movement http:// isfeidirlinn. ning.com
Shifting the Burden
David Begg, General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions
Why the Government wants to load the cost of the collapse onto the less well off and why their plan will just make things worse.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions has produced a new paper, entitled Shifting The Burden, stating in detail the failed policies adopted by Government and the scale of an impact they have already had and will have on ordinary workers in this country.
worst slump in 60 years with no signs of improvement. The Government plan is failing because it is based on false assumptions, a complete misreading of the global crisis and it ignores all the warnings from history.
It is not only critical of the failed policies, but it analyses in
As the shocking
scathing detail less obvious information such as the fact that
figures for the bank bailout show, it poses a real
the last Budget took just over €73 million from Millionaires, but
threat to our future economic health and will erode whatever
conversely (or perversely) took €760 million from social welfare
elements of social cohesion have survived the downturn. It could
recipients. Identifying the Government policies for
turn Ireland into a social and economic
economic ‘recovery’, the ICTU
wasteland for a decade or more.
paper quite simply states “That’s Not A Plan!!”
And while working people and the poor suffer for the mistakes and
In the latter half of 2009, the
greed of others, the wealthy are to
Government formulated a plan to
be spared and key components of the
deal with the economic crisis. Key
economic system that brought about
elements of that plan were unveiled
the crash will be preserved.
on Budget Day in December. At some point in the future, when But there are parts of the plan they
the financial floodwaters have subsided, it will be
won’t reveal in public because, at its core, lies a determination to
back to ‘business as usual’: back to the high risk, low standard,
load the full cost of the collapse onto working people and
crony capitalism that has destroyed the economy and Ireland’s
reputation overseas. That’s their plan.
Be they wage earners, pensioners or social welfare recipients,
Like disciples of a dead faith, they cling grimly to the wreckage
their pockets will be picked to finance the ‘recovery’.
instead of starting over with a new vision.
But there will be no recovery as a result of this strategy - it will
To see the full report go to www. www.mandate.ie
simply make matters worse. This is confirmed by the latest CSO figures (March 2010), which show the economy mired in the
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
Training Education of women in the workplace is key to economic recovery – says Women at Work Skillnet
Mandate members attending Women at Work Business English Training.
The Women at Work Skillnet, of which Mandate is a founder and an active member, believes that, with women playing a much larger role in the workforce in Ireland, the key to economic recovery will be dependent on the up-skilling and education of women. This unique Skillnet was formed in 2008 and now involves several trade unions including Mandate, the Communications Workers’ Union (CWU), IBOA – The Finance Union, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation (INMO), SIPTU and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, whose combined membership of women working in the private sector in Ireland is in excess of 100,000. The network is also supported by a cross section of employers and policy advisors who are active participants on the steering group. The Skillnet identified an increasing demand for the training and development needs of women at work, primarily in the retail, financial services, communications, and healthcare and also women who are active in their trade unions.
Mandate News / Spring 2010
Aileen Morrissey, Mandate Trade Union’s National Coordinator of Training said that the purpose of the Skillnet is: “To up-skill women to enable them to optimise their full potential in their working lives and in their union. This aim is met by giving participants an ideal opportunity to enhance their skills through professional training and development courses. During the past 24 months we have seen genuine progress in the workplace for women. However, we need to build on the successful training framework of the past and continue to make relevant, quality and diverse training available for free to our members, so they can achieve their full potential in their working lives and to become more active in their Union.” “During the two year period of Women at Work Skillnet, demand for training has been at an all time high - despite the economic turmoil and recession - with many courses having waiting lists, and members progressing to higher level programmes. The primary training courses delivered were in the area of Communication Skills, Personal Development, Information Technology, Social Media, Medical English and Business English. “In the context of the current economic environment, these training programmes have increased the adaptability of women workers in the knowledge economy, especially in terms of supporting women members to adapt to technological change and to develop basic ICT literacy skills. In Ireland, competitive advantage is increasingly dominated by 14
knowledge, both in the form of intellectual property and also in terms of what individuals and groups of employees know and how they carry out their jobs,” said Ms Morrissey. Ms Joan Gaffney, Mandate’s President, completed a FETAC level 4 Communications Training Course in November 2009. Ms Gaffney says that the training course was a fantastic opportunity for her to avail of training. “It was amazing to go from one stage of education and then having reared a family to be able to re-enter adult education. It has opened the door for me as confidence is a keystone in every aspect of my life. I feel my Union and employer have benefited greatly from this training. The best thing about the Women at Work Skillnet training was that it was women based, it was free, it was held in the evenings which suited my working life and there were exceptional tutors. They took into consideration the age profile of the participants and brought us along the pathway of learning, slowly at the beginning and then accelerated when we got comfortable in an educational environment.”
Union members who have completed Women at Work training receiving their certificates.
The network also points to the fact that economists indicate that women are strongly increasing their share in professional, associate professional and management occupations. By 2012, women are forecast to form the majority of business, financial and legal professionals, and the proportion of managers who are women will almost reach the proportion of women in the workforce as a whole. The Women at Work Skillnet has recently secured additional funding from Skillnets up to December 2010. The Skillnet is match funded by the trade unions involved, which enables the Skillnet provide the training for free to their members. The Skillnets Training Networks Programme, an initiative of Skillnets Ltd. is funded from the National Training Fund through the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation. Skillnets is an enterprise-led support body whose mission is to enhance the skills of people in employment in Irish industry to support competitiveness and employability.
The Women at Work Skillnet wishes to thank Mandate for all of its support in the past and looks forward to the continued support of the Unions in the future.
Mandate Works to Educate Ten Mandate members, including myself, joined a 13 week Skills for Work course in The Holy Child School in Sallynoggin, Co. Dublin. We are all members who work for Tesco, Ireland. Most of us had finished with education over 30 years ago and were apprehensive about a return to education. Having a group of fellow workers signing up made it easier to take part in the course. The emphasis of the course is to develop skills in people, like myself, who felt that the option of education has passed. We enrolled for computers including grammar and composition. Admittedly, some dropped off as we went along but this was not through a lack of interest, just problems with organising time off due to shift patterns. The teachers/coaches are aware of the problems involved in getting back into education as they have got themselves to their present level after returning to education after years working at jobs in similar employments to ours. Then, after gaining their qualifications, they opted to teach in adult education. Everybody has a notion of a skill they would like to acquire. My choice would be that of a writer. But, no matter the skill, or level you would like to achieve, there is a course out there to help you start – usually near to where you live. I like to think of skills or further knowledge as the petals of a flower unfurling, the flower in this case being your personality. Most courses are available free or at a small fee. There may be restrictions if you already hold a leaving cert. All the courses are FETAC accredited which can lead you to a qualification on parity with the Leaving Cert. How did we get started? The thanks goes to Aileen in the Mandate Training Centre. Aileen sent us the application forms, which are simple enough to fill in. We returned the forms and I was able to tell her straight away as she was on picket duty around the corner from where we work. Aileen organised everything and gave lots of encouragement and follow up. It may not be widely known but the unions (including Mandate) and Congress have courses in place for members who would like to help fellow workers / union members back into learning and skill-enhancing. They are called Union Learning Reps (ULRs). Contact Aileen at the Mandate Training Centre if you feel you have an interest in being a ULR in your work area.
Fran Reid, Tesco Bloomfield, Dun Laoghaire. Fran Reid, Mandate member and Tesco worker.
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
Mandate’s Shop Stewards Training Programme 2010 Course Title
Union Representative Advanced
FETAC Level 5
Union Representative Introductory
Union Representative Introductory
Union Representative Advanced
FETAC Level 5
Union Representative Introductory
FETAC Level 5
Union Representative Advanced TESCO
FETAC Level 5
Union Representative Advanced
FETAC Level 5
Union Representative Advanced
FETAC Level 5
Union Representative Introductory
Union Representative Introductory Superquinn
Union Representative Introductory
*OTC = Mandate Organising and Training Centre All courses need a minimum of 10 participants. Venues and dates may vary. This programme can vary with the addition of courses as they become available. You can also log onto the Training section on Mandate’s web site to view the programme as this is regularly updated to include new courses. Further information and advice on training can be obtained from Mandate’s training centre at 01-836 9699. If you would like to participate in one of the above courses, please contact your local Mandate official. MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
Industrial Relations A “Super” Partnership Agreement for Workers
Mandate Assistant General Secretary, Gerry Light, Superquinn Executive Chairman, Simon Burke and Mandate General Secretary, John Douglas.
Mandate Trade Union and Superquinn have announced a new innovative partnership agreement which will see the organisations working more closely together to enhance the business as well as the lives of its employees. Superquinn employs overwith 3,000 staff members John Douglas Phillip Jennings of UNI and in 24 locations nationwide. a representative of Indetex. The agreement, entitled Working Through Partnership (WTP), is designed to nurture and protect a consultative approach to development and progress in the business. Mandate’s Assistant General Secretary, Gerry Light, says that although this is not the first agreement of its type, with existing deals in Boots, Marks & Spencer’s and Tesco, the union sees this particular agreement as a model for how all retail companies should operate in Ireland.
The Working Through Partnership agreement includes a series of initiatives such as: • Hosting of monthly Store Partnership Forums (SPF) and biannual Company Partnership Forum (CPF); • Enhanced disciplinary and grievance procedures; • Improved communications facilities, training and development opportunities for staff members.
“The partnership framework gives workers an opportunity to influence company policy and operational structures through the monthly Store Partnership Forums and the biannual Company Partnership Forum. For example, the Store Partnership Forums will be involved in reviewing the store’s performance as well as wider company performance, reviewing business plans and local industrial relations issues, as well as dealing with staff development and training programmes. The Store Partnership Forums will be chaired on a rotation system by a union Shop Steward and a Store Manager,” said Mr Light. He explained that the Company Partnership Forum (CPF) will meet twice a year and participants will include the Company CEO, Senior Managers, Store Managers, Regional Managers, Union Officials and Shop Stewards. The agenda for the CPF will include a review of store performances and company performance, a review of current agreements and a review and plan for the Working Through Partnership strategy.
“This progressive and innovative agreement shows how unions and businesses can work together in order to create a mutually beneficial work environment. Both parties agree that this ‘partnership of trust’ will enable Superquinn to have a more engaged workforce giving them a competitive advantage over their rivals in the retail trade.” Mr Light added, “By having these forums in place and creating efficient and effective communications and consultation procedures, Superquinn will be in a position to make informed decisions based on what’s happening on the shop floor.” He went on to say, “Each of the stakeholders has their own goals including, for the workers, security of employment, protection of earnings and an enhanced working environment. For the company this includes Superquinn’s competitiveness, sustained profitable growth and enhanced customer services. At the same time, both parties have mutual goals which can be achieved through the new framework.”
An evaluation and monitoring process will be put in place to ensure that the new framework meets the agreed objectives.
Gerry Light said that this new arrangement will help to resolve issues of mutual concern and enhance democracy in the workplace.
Gerry Light also emphasised how this responsible partnership approach works in both good and bad times for employers and workers. “Mandate and Superquinn last year took difficult steps to protect the business which resulted in the implementation of a survival plan, “The Programme for Competitiveness and Change 2009/2010.” Unfortunately this resulted in some redundancies and a wage freeze for staff members but this was a process that needed to take place in order to ensure long term survival and future prosperity of the company and also job security for the workers. “Whilst cost control of this nature is understandable during these current economic recessionary times, cost cutting is a short term measure and is not the foundation of a long term strategy for sustained growth. This is achieved through the existence of measures such as those provided by the Working Through Partnership approach.” Superquinn Executive Chairman Simon Burke at the launch said, “Some organisations have the perspective that junior people or workers on the ground don’t see the full picture because they don’t have access to the company accounts or other information. I think that’s rubbish. It is the people on the ground that can see changes in consumer behaviour first.”
He concluded by saying, “The principle aim of Working Through Partnership is to work closely with all of our colleagues and the Trade Unions to build and grow Superquinn for the future. This consultative approach is particularly important during the ongoing challenging trading conditions. Superquinn is committed to maintaining this partnership approach as we move forward.”
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
Extra Penneys for Mandate members Penneys and Mandate agree new pay deal
Dublin Airport Authority Staff Vote Yes to Survival Programme
In February of this year, Mandate members in Penneys balloted in favour of a new set of proposals which will give staff a pay increase of 3.5% in 2010 as part of the National Wage Agreement. The members voted by a margin of 94% in favour of the new deal with only 6% opposing it. Penneys employs approximately 3,000 workers in 38 stores throughout Ireland, all of which are Mandate members. Mandate approached Penneys in 2009 regarding the payment of the National Wage Agreement and under the auspices of the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) the union managed to secure a deal with the company. Rather than paying the first part of the deal in full, Penneys and Mandate have agreed that phase one of the NWA will be paid in two separate instalments. The first will involve a 2% increase in pay from 1 January 2010 with a further 1.5% increase due from 1 June 2010. Linda Tanham, Assistant General Secretary of Mandate Trade Union said, “While Mandate recognises that some companies in Ireland are experiencing some difficulties as a result of the recession, there are others who have not been as affected as others. It is vital for this country, and indeed this economy that companies in a position to pay the terms of the negotiated National Wage Agreement do so in order to help get this country back on track by creating more spending power for Irish workers.
“We will be revisiting phase two of the National Wage Agreement with Penneys at a later date,” concluded Ms Tanham. MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
Mandate Trade Union members in the Dublin Airport Authority (DAA) voted overwhelmingly in favour of a €40 million cost reduction programme earlier this year. It is hoped the deal will bring about long term job security for workers in the Airport who voted by a majority of 92% in favour of the deal. The agreement will see 275 permanent jobs and 100 temporary jobs go across the three airports run by the DAA. The severance package consists of 6.75 weeks’ pay per year of service and it is hoped all redundancies will be on a voluntary basis. Mandate says that the cost reduction programme contains some traditional methods for reducing expenditure along with some very innovative schemes including the Employee Recovery Investment Contribution Scheme. Under this investment scheme, money will be deducted from earnings based on the value of a DAA workers earnings, but when targets are met in the future, employees will get a 50% or a 100% payment to cover the monies they contributed to the scheme. The deductions will also be restored after the company has returned to a reasonable period of sustained profitability. 18
Some of the other key elements of the deal include: • A pay freeze which will be put in place until mid 2011; • Overtime rates are to be reduced;
Connolly Shoes back on the Picket Line
Linda Tanham, Assistant General Secretary of Mandate Trade Union said, “This deal has shown how responsible companies and trade unions can work together for the sustained progress of both the organisation and its employees.
“We firstly established what savings were needed and we approached our members with this information. A huge amount of credit should be given to these workers who have voted for the temporary reduction in their incomes and terms and conditions in order that the future of the DAA is safeguarded. It shows that when proper consultation with workers and their representatives is meaningfully engaged in, Irish workers and trade unions will behave in a reasonable and responsible manner,” said Ms Tanham.
• Reneged on that agreement with regard to staff working a 3 day week. They have changed rosters and further reduced hours without consultation; • Issued an ultimatum to certain staff insisting that they agree to work any roster issued by management and perform any duties that management deem necessary or else face dismissal;
• A €1m once off fund will be set aside and paid to participating staff if the agreed cost recovery target is met.
“When the Dublin Airport Authority approached us and stated that they had financial problems and needed cost reductions, we willingly engaged with them in order to ensure a swift and effective solution to the issues the DAA were experiencing. This is how a responsible employer should do business with trade unions in the current economic environment.
Since then management have:
• Actually dismissed employees, each with more than 30 year’s service, for not signing this document; • Been found guilty of breaches of the Payment of Wages Act, but have refused to pay the compensation awarded to staff;
Mandate members in two Connolly Shoe stores in Dun Laoghaire are once again on strike regarding the aggressive behaviour of their employer who is unilaterally reducing their terms and conditions of employment. Mandate says the employer is breaching previously negotiated agreements with the staff and as such, the workers feel they have been left with no alternative but to strike again. The strike is ongoing at the time of going to print and will continue until an amicable agreement between the two parties is established. Mandate added that the strike is the end result of a long protracted industrial relations saga being played out by management in Connolly’s Shoe stores. The workers held a strike last autumn but the action was suspended as a result of agreements between the workers and their employer which would see staff working reduced hours as a compromise.
• C ontinued to refuse to recognise Mandate Trade Union or to attend Labour Relations Commission or Rights Commissioners Hearings.
Mandate Divisional Organiser, Joe Donnelly said, “Mandate and the workers involved have made genuine efforts to resolve all of the issues with the employer in order to reach a mutually acceptable agreement. However, we have been met with continued aggression and hostility since we called off the initial strike. It’s clear that management played off the trusting nature of their employees by negotiating a settlement in order to end the dispute, and then continued with the unilateral deterioration of their terms and conditions,” concluded Mr Donnelly.
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
Sligo Nightclub - the Envy of Irish Business In September 2009 Rowan Heath Ltd. unilaterally put their employees on JLC rates thus slashing their wages - in some cases by up to 45%, unilaterally reduced their working hours which further impacted on the workers ‘wages, and prior to imposing the JLC rates of pay and terms and conditions failed to pay any premium pay for working unsocial hours, working on Sundays or Public Holidays. If this wasn’t enough the employer then at the turn of the year notified the workers that there would be no work for them for the foreseeable future.
Mandate members in the re-known Sligo Nightclub, Envy, are currently in a bitter dispute with their employer Rowan Heath Ltd which has now gone into liquidation. Owned by the well know Irish socialite Mezzalie McGarry, Rowan Heath Ltd. have blatantly and flagrantly flouted Irish employment law leading to this very public spat which appears to have no way of being resolved. MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
On all occasions the employer refused to engage with Mandate which had no alternative other than to ballot for industrial action receiving close on an overwhelming 90% support from the members. Following notifying the employer of the industrial action programme, owner Mezzalie Mc Garry immediately filed for liquidation. On this occasion the employer refused to notify its employees of the same and furthermore of the important creditors meeting on Monday the 22nd February 2010. Through word of mouth, media and the internet Mandate became aware of the meeting and thus ensured a very strong workers’ presence. Despite acknowledging that the workers were creditors and allowed them to sign into the meeting as such, Mandate Divisional Organiser Ciaran Campbell was refused entry to the meeting despite the fact that all creditors when signing the attendance form could sign in a representative in the column next to their name on that
attendance form. Other creditors were allowed to sign in a representative who was also allowed to ask questions at the meeting on their behalf! Similarly at the meeting none of the workers queries regarding their workplace issues and concerns were answered, and when it came to voting on the employer’s proposed liquidator those in attendance were informed that the workers votes would not be counted as they were not creditors despite the fact that they had been signed in as such and the vote had been put to the floor and was overwhelmingly rejected. The vote was then conducted again and the employer’s proposed liquidator was passed. Despite all of what has happened, the workers have collectively regrouped and concentrated their efforts on trying to highlight their plight to the wider Sligo public. The simple action of leafleting the socialising Sligo public – late on each and every Saturday night and the very early hours of Sunday mornings by this group of workers – is taking its toll on the owner as many potential patrons, when becoming aware of the workers’ struggle, refuse to enter the owner’s sister nightclub The Velvet Room as a means of support.
Mandate has also set up the following facebook campaign. Lend your support if you can by checking out www.facebook.com/ supportenvy nightclub www. workers and pass it onto your friends. 20
Success for Strikers in Blarney Woollen Mills Staff at the Blarney Woollen Mills, Bunratty, took strike action on Monday, 11 January over the way in which two chefs were made compulsorily redundant at the Bunratty restaurant.
the company handbook states that redundancies will be on a last in, first out basis, with key employees being retained to maintain an efficient operation.”
The strike continued for ten days in what was one of the coldest winters on record in Ireland and the workers stayed the course of the picket through the wind, rain and snow. Their efforts were rewarded when both parties agreed to attend the Labour Relations Commission and it was at these talks that both parties agreed to allow a Determination from a Rights Commissioner on the dispute. The workers and the company have now agreed to be bound by the outcome of the Rights Commissioner and have waived their right to appeal the decision.
“It was clear that the company has not adhered to its own policy in that the two employees selected were key people and they also have the longest service. This is simply not acceptable to Mandate and its members and this is why they voted to take strike action.”
According to Brian Higgins, Mandate Trade Union’s Divisional Organiser for the Mid-West, the two individuals being made redundant, Chef/Manager, John Quinn, and Second Chef, Aidan Guiry, had given 12 years and 9.5 years service respectively to the company. “At a meeting with the company on 14 December last, they informed us that they were making John and Aidan redundant as part of a rationalisation programme. The company has only offered statutory redundancy and have not been prepared to negotiate on an enhanced redundancy payment,” Brian Higgins said. “The company informed us that they would be combining roles and functions with the Bunratty Hotel which is part of the Blarney Woollen Mills Group. In this context, Mandate indicated to Blarney Woollen Mills that it would be prepared to consider redeployment to the hotel, given that the two chefs being made redundant had longer service than the chefs employed in the Bunratty Hotel. In this regard, it’s worth noting that 21
Brian Higgins said that despite the representations made by the Mandate Trade Union, on 21 December last, the company confirmed that it intended to proceed with the two compulsory redundancies.
Mr Higgins congratulated the workers on their successful picket and also gave credit to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions who sanctioned an all out picket of the premises during the strike. “The call from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions for an all out picket of the premises was welcomed wholeheartedly by Mandate and the workers who were on strike. It emphasised the importance of the issue.
Mr Higgins explained what the consequences of an all out picket meant for the Blarney Woollen Mills. “Essentially the ICTU requested that all trade union members not pass the picket at the Blarney Woollen Mills. This affected drivers and delivery persons as well as union members who would ordinarily use the premises. It was reported to us that the local postman even refused to deliver letters to the premises so the company had to collect post from the local Delivery Office. It was a great gesture of solidarity and we hope that individual trade unions will inform their members of the unfair and unjust treatment of other workers in the future.”
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
Working for Tesco, Organising for Mandate Briefly describe your background? My name is Anthony Meaney and I’m a Mandate member in the North and Western Division. I work for Tesco and have done for eight years. I’ve been a member of Mandate since I started working in Tesco. Why did you become involved in the union? I became active with the union almost straight away. There were a lot of the small things like 15 minute breaks not being implemented in our shop and other work practices. I went to the shop steward at the time and said this is wrong. They didn’t act on it so I contacted the union official myself and we had a general meeting. I put my name forward and was elected shop steward. That was seven months after I joined which was in 2002. What does your role as a Mandate activist entail? I represent about 140 workers as a shop steward in my store in Castlebar including part time, fulltime and managers. I work together with management and staff in order to ensure all of the agreements are implemented correctly and also to advise people. For instance, that 15 minute break I told you about, we weren’t getting it even though we were entitled to it by law. Two weeks after I was elected we were all getting the 15 minute break so that quick success was a very nice feeling. I also have to say that I had the backing of all of the officials in Mandate who have a good back up system. I knew fundamentally that it was wrong and I’m glad we were able to do something about it but it was only through the back up I received that things got done. We were also able to negotiate a substantial payment which went to the social club as compensation rather than looking for back claims. If you don’t keep an eye on everything like your rights and agreements, things just get watered down and before long you don’t have any rights. They’re all there enshrined and written down, it’s just about implementing them and having a good relationship with the management and the personnel manager. I wouldn’t be a heavy handed or what they call militant shop steward. It works both ways.
What do you feel are the key issues for Mandate? Well Mandate is a low pay union. The key issues are that unemployment is so high that people would jump over you for half your money and the employers know this. They’ll try to push every agreement to the limit and try to water down every agreement. So it’s very hard in those circumstances to gain support for any type of industrial action. Some people are on 20 hours a week so they need all the money they can get. I feel there’s no appetite for strikes at the moment and any time someone pushes for a reduction, all the other employers are watching to see what they can get away with. We have challenging times ahead. What are the successes to date of Mandate in the Castlebar area in terms of campaigns? Half of the problem is that the ordinary person doesn’t really care whether they’re in a union or not and some don’t even know which union they’re in. To get enthusiasm for it is difficult. The only time they’ll come to you is when it affects their pocket or they’re left short €100 or they’re not entitled to this or that but its hard to get them to march or anything. Although, having said that, there was great support for the Respect Retail Workers campaign in Castlebar. One of the other great successes in my area is the fact that we have Ciaran Campbell as the Divisional Organiser and John Carty, who was his predecessor, also covering Ciaran when his on holidays. They’re always accessible and you can ring them day or night and they’re back to you straight away. To have that support is fantastic and gives you a lot more confidence going into a meeting at work to defend someone. It really means an awful lot. They’ll often ask if I need them down in the shop and I’ll say yes and they’ll be down the following day. You don’t feel as though you’re just thrown in there and left on your own, you’ve great support altogether. And they’re great craic too. It’s not all serious stuff after all. What do you see as the key challenges for retail workers in the next few years? I’ve already said about the economic downturn in this country and employers knowing they can get people for a lot less than what they’re paying at the moment. Just trying to keep workers terms and conditions that we’ve established over the years will be very important for the next four or five years. What advice would you give to potential Mandate activists for the future? Just keep on pulling and plodding along and work closely with your union representatives and colleagues and try to represent them as best you can. If you’re that way inclined you’ll get involved and a lot of it is going to come to you naturally. But remember, it’s going to be very, very difficult. There are hard times ahead.
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
Hollywood Star Plays Irish Trade Unionist over enormous obstacles to bring major changes to their home countries of Northern Ireland, Russia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Afghanistan, Guatemala, and Cambodia. Introducing the play, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: “I can personally attest to the power and example of these women. Meryl Strep and Inez McCormack at the launch of the New York play ‘Seven’.
North Belfast trade union and women’s rights activist Inez McCormack returned home from New York in March where she watched Meryl Streep’s portrayal of her life in the play ‘Seven’.
“You will meet Inez. She and I have worked together since my time as First Lady. She has been an activist on behalf of women’s rights, labour and peace and her efforts to promote human rights and social justice remain an inspiration to me.”
Ms McCormack (53), from Belfast, is one of the most influential civil rights leaders in Northern Ireland and was the first female president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU). Meryl played Inez in an ensemble reading of the documentary play which captures the important work and lives of courageous women leaders around the world. Inez said: “It was extremely moving and humbling to watch such a powerful and renowned actress as Meryl Steep portraying my story on the stage. “I took the opportunity of inviting Meryl when she next comes to Belfast to meet the women from housing and health groups that the Participation and the Practice of Rights Project (The PPR Project) is working with in north Belfast. It would be a wonderful opportunity for her to come to Belfast and meet them for herself.” The actress said she was honoured to read her role and would love to come back to Belfast. The Oscar winner, famous for portrayals of strong women, said she researched Inez’s life and loved that her greatest achievement was “seeing the glint in a woman’s eye who believed she was nobody and now knows she is somebody”. Seven, developed several years ago by Vital Voices Global Partnership, was commissioned to tell the inspiring personal stories of Inez and six other women who have triumphed
Meryl Streep who plays Irish Trade Union Activist Inez McCormack.
Ms McCormack said, “If anybody had said to me years ago when the rain was dripping down my nose on a picket line, that Meryl Streep would be playing me on stage, I would have said they were nuts.” The veteran added that she would use any publicity generated by the play to highlight the lives of other women who challenge injustice worldwide. “I am truly humbled by this but there are other women who will never be honoured by a New York play. Once you decide to challenge wrong, it’s a lonely road. “I hope that by this helping me to be more visible, I make that road less lonely for those who have to travel it.”
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
Teresa Shevlin retires after 58 years in Mandate
Ms Shevlin with her colleagues at her retirement function.
At a function on Thursday the 25th of March, one of the longest serving members of Mandate, Ms Teresa Shevlin was presented with a token of appreciation to thank her for her long and loyal service to the Union. Ms Shevlin who originally hails from Donegal has lived most of her life in Dublin City. Ms Shevlin first joined the union then called the IDATU in 1952 when she was working in Mitchells an upholstery Store in Parnell St, Dublin at the age of sixteen. Ms Shevlin started working there the year before but was unable to join the union until she became 16 as was the legal requirement at the time. She can recall it almost being a condition of employment that she take herself around to the union, sign up and receive her union card. The subscription at that time, she recalls, was three shillings and six pence in old money, about 15 cents in todayâ€™s terms. She worked in Mitchells for six years before moving on to Newellâ€™s of Grafton St, a ladies fashion store, and it was taken over in 1964 by the Switzers group. Then in 1965 she moved to Switzers head office, now Brown Thomas, where she has worked to the present day. Ms Shevlin was due to retire originally at the age of sixty five but, such was the esteem the company held her in, they asked her to continue in her role in a part-time capacity. Now a very young seventy four years of age, she currently works in the finance section of Brown Thomas and has kept updated in the use of technology and can certainly teach the younger ones a thing or two. Unfortunately with the relocation of many of the functions in the section she works in
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
to a central location in London she is due to be made redundant in July of this year. She informs me that she will miss the many friends she has in the office and hopes to continue to keep in contact with them as they are like a family to her. Although Ms Shevlin is reaching the end of her working life she continues to have a strong belief in the need to be a member of a trade union. She does recall at one stage leaving the union in protest at the low rate of service pay. But this did not last long and she soon rejoined, although she says she had to repay any arrears first!
Teresa Shevlin with Mandate Industrial Officer, Dave Moran.
We would like to wish Teresa a long and happy retirement on behalf of all members of Mandate, though she does not intend to take it easy even now. She intends to get involved in both the active retirement group in her area and join the ladies club; she also enjoys going to lunch with her many friends. Thank you, Teresa on my own personal behalf for your long and loyal service to Mandate in all its guises throughout the years, you are a lesson to us all as to what a true trade unionist really is. Dave Moran Industrial Officer Dublin South West
Workers of the World Turkish court sentences trade unionist Seher Tümer to seven years in prison Seher Tumer: In jail in Turkey for speaking up for women. International solidarity needed to press for expedited appeal Lawyers have filed an appeal seeking to overturn the conviction of trade union activist Seher Tümer. Late in the day of 18 March, the Ankara High Criminal Court in Turkey declared Tümer guilty of belonging to an illegal Kurdish organization, and “making propaganda” through participation in public demonstrations, and sentenced her to more than seven years in prison. Tümer has already spent close to one year in prison. Her lawyers maintain there is no evidence to back these charges. The global union federation Public Services International (PSI) contends that Tümer has been targeted for her activities in the labour and women’s movements in Turkey. Tümer is branch secretary of Saglik ve Sosyal Hizmet Emekçileri Sendikasi (SES), the trade union representing public employees in health and social services.
Carola Fischbach-Pyttel, general secretary of the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU) adds, “Our affiliate members in Turkey have asked us to call on trade unionists world-wide to continue to raise their voices on Tümer’s behalf. “Please write letters to Turkey’s prime minister, president, and justice minister demanding open examination of Tümer’s case record in an expedited appeal process.” Because of the backlog in cases, it could take longer than a year for Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals to consider Tümer’s appeal. Tümer’s lawyers maintain that her house was searched by police when she was not at home, in contravention of the Turkish criminal code, and charges should be dismissed on this basis alone. Texts printed from her computer were used as evidence in court, despite arguments for consideration of freedom of expression. Further, it was noted in court that demonstrations that Tümer participated in were peaceful and related to trade union and women’s rights. PSI and Turkish trade unions gathered more than 8000 signatures in a petition demanding justice for Tümer that was presented to authorities earlier this month. Send a letter of protest online by going to www. world-psi.org or www.labourstart.org. For more information contact email@example.com
“We are deeply concerned by what appears to be a travesty of justice in Tümer’s case, and numerous recent cases like it,” says PSI general secretary Peter Waldorff. “We are seeing a pattern of political persecution of trade union activists in Turkey. We believe national ‘security’ laws are being used as a pretext to silence union leaders. This abuse of human rights must stop.”
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
Letters to the Editor Do you have an issue? Need to get something off your chest? Tell us about it! Dear Editor, So the Government bail out banks with our tax payer money and reward us with pay cuts, pension cuts, higher taxes, less childcare, welfare and that’s just the tip of the ice berg. Good decent people are having their houses repossessed or being hounded by banks and driven to depression, and let’s face it; our health service isn’t the best thing to turn to at this time. There is an endless list of what is being done or not done in this country and what do we do about it? Absolutely nothing. We take it; we do the Irish thing and allow them go to town – them and their friends. The French bring their country to a standstill when their Government messes up and every other country but ours throws them out of office. Well, I for one am sick and tired of it so lets see if we can get the ball rolling and organise a few demonstrations or the likes and send a message to those in charge. Don Sharkey
Editor’s response: Dear Mr Sharkey, Mandate is currently engaged with Congress in reshaping the Get Up, Stand Up campaign to be much more inclusive and to bring social solidarity to the forefront for all union campaigns. Also, we are actively engaging in strategic alliances with the NGO sector and other like minded organisations in building capacity for a concerted campaign of resistance against further attacks on the poor, the low paid and the people most vulnerable. The Governments necessity and current inability to tackle the jobs crisis is another key issue as they continue to squeeze the life from our economy. I feel that capacity building within the trade union family is
critical and whilst demonstrations are a useful and visual part of any concerted campaign, they must run hand in hand with our ability to deliver on the ground. The French model of resistance, whilst laudable, is not the Irish way and any attempt (which may turn out to be unsuccessful) to drive the agenda of bringing the country to a standstill may be counter productive in the long term. The Editor
Dear Editor, I see that Government has done two things over the past few weeks. They’ve announced that they will be increasing the minimum wage of retirement to 68 for ordinary workers like me (I’m 30 years old by the way). They’ve also announced an €80 billion bailout for the banks that’ve economically ruined this country. Am I wrong in thinking that they want me to work an extra three years because it’s going to take approximately 38 years to pay for the bank bailout? And yet at the same time, those who captained our economic Titanic including the politicians, developers and bank executives all have their retirement pensions intact and not one person has been held accountable. I’ll be paying for their pensions for many years to come. It’s not that I’m bitter, well actually, maybe just a little bit, but if nobody is held accountable this time, what’s to stop them doing it all over again? Dermot Dublin
this country. I have watched while politicians and media commentators have stated that young people nowadays don’t know what real hard times are like. It’s so insulting. Our Tánaiste and now Minister for Education even said that some emigration was “not a bad thing” and that some young people were leaving to “enjoy themselves.” Having seen both my brothers forced to emigrate during the past few years, the youngest only a few weeks ago, I am disgusted by the attitude of our politicians, particularly as these are the very ones whose policies have contributed to people having to go elsewhere to get a job. It’s not a choice. It’s a necessity. My brother applied for at least 50 jobs in the last six months and only received a handful of replies saying he was not accepted. He wanted to work in Ireland but couldn’t. These politicians have done nothing, absolutely nothing to tackle the jobs crisis and rampant emigration. The reason I am so upset is because I see the effect this has had on my parents who had lost family to emigration in their younger years. It’s not fair to have to go through all that again and the people responsible should be ashamed that they have led this country back to the bad old days. Let’s hope that when we all see figures released by the Central Statistics Office about thousands emigrating due to not having jobs, we all remember that they are leaving behind friends and family they care about and who care about them and there is a very real possibility that they may never come back here to live. Sure, why would they with the way things are run here anyway. I’d consider moving myself if it wasn’t for my family. Shauna
Dear Editor, I am writing to you to as a very frustrated member. I am one of the very lucky ones (or so I’m told) in my family to still have a job. With all this talk of recession and economic crisis I think a lot of people have forgotten that it is still real people and real families who are affected by what has happened in
TELL US ABOUT IT! www.mandate.ie firstname.lastname@example.org
Mortgage Arrears – Some Advice for Borrowers
Introduction In the current economic situation, mortgage arrears have become very common. There are close to 30,000 households with arrears of three months or more on their residential mortgage and an estimated 30,000 more have rescheduled their monthly mortgage payments, whether by extending the term of the mortgage, paying interest only or taking a payment holiday. What should you do if you are in arrears or know that you are likely to get into arrears? The simplest piece of advice is to talk to your lender about the problem. Though it is sometimes tempting to keep the head down and hope for the best, it is generally the worst option that you could take.
The Code of Conduct In turn, your lender must talk to you. In February 2009, the Financial Regulator put in place a Code of Conduct for dealing with mortgage arrears (see www.financialregulator. ie). This obliges your mortgage lender to bring an arrears situation to your attention immediately to see how the situation can be sorted out. Under the terms of the Code, lenders must distinguish between those who can and can’t pay. Cases of arrears must be handled sympathetically, alternative repayment measures must be explored and a plan developed for clearing the arrears. Although your lender may issue a formal demand for the surrender of the property if a third repayment is missed, it must wait 12 months from the time arrears first arise before bringing any legal action for repossession in the courts. This limit depends upon you engaging with the lender so it is important during this process of negotiation that you keep copies of letters sent to you, that you respond in writing and keep a file of documents.
The Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) It is also advisable that you get help to present details of your financial situation and advice on what you can afford to pay. The State funded Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS)
is a free and confidential service and money advisors are very experienced in negotiating with creditors. The MABS helpline can provide (1890 283438) you with immediate assistance and details of the nearest service to you. Some useful self help materials are also available at www. mabs.ie. In the past year, a number of commercial ‘debt management’ companies have also sprung up in Ireland. Be careful as these companies generally charge for their services and some make claims in terms of negotiations with creditors that may be exaggerated.
State Support If you have recently lost your job or work 29 hours or less per week, you may qualify for a means-tested support payment from your local Community Welfare Officer (CWO) called Mortgage Interest Supplement (MIS). This payment is to help with the interest part of your monthly instalment. MIS can be refused on a number of grounds including that the mortgage was not affordable in the first place when you took it out. It is important to remember that a decision to refuse you MIS can be appealed, firstly to the Health Service Executive Regional Appeals Officer and then to the Social Welfare Appeals Office.
Debt Collection Just because you are in arrears does not allow your lender (or someone acting on their behalf) to harass you in connection with paying your mortgage (or any other debt). Unfortunately, debt collection is not yet properly regulated in Ireland. However, Section 11 of the Non-Fatal Offences Act, 1997 says that it is an offence for any collector to ‘cause alarm’ in relation to demanding payment of a debt if the frequency of contact is calculated to subject the debtor (or his/her family) to alarm, distress or humiliation. People unhappy with the amount of contact can make a complaint to the Gardai. Under the consumer credit legislation, visits or telephone
communications by a lender to a borrower at his/her place of employment or business are prohibited unless the borrower consents to them. If you have given your consent without necessarily realising it, you could write to the lender and withdraw it.
Legal Proceedings If 12 months have passed since arrears began and a satisfactory arrangement has not been made to deal with the arrears, it may be that legal action will be taken against you. This action may be brought either in the Circuit Court or the High Court. The Circuit Court legal document is called an application for a Possession Order and a High Court case is brought by a document called a Special Summons. To protect your position after receiving these documents, you may fill out another document called an Appearance and send it in to the Court office in question and send a copy to the solicitor for the lender. This will mean that the Court will be aware that you have received the documents and intend to state your position. Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) has a network of voluntary legal advice centres where you bring your legal documents and get basic legal advice on your situation. FLAC has also published a set of guidelines on legal aspects of mortgage arrears available at www.flac.ie
Future developments The ‘Renewed Programme for Government’ published in October 2009 promised to ‘introduce new measures to protect families having difficulty with their mortgage payments’. A so called ‘Independent Expert Group’ has recently been set up by the Department of Finance to look at how this might be done and its recommendations are due to be made by the end of June.
Other useful websites: www.keepingyourhome.ie www.losingyourjob.ie
Paul Joyce, Senior Policy Researcher with FLAC
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
Get back on your feet for to help others get back on theirs At Depaul - we help people like Pauline
To mark the arrival of spring Depaul Ireland, a leading homeless charity, has launched its ‘Back On Your Feet’ campaign. The campaign is urging Mandate members to get back on their feet and participate in upcoming mini, half and full marathons in aid of Depaul Ireland. Each year there is a huge number of walk/ jog/run events happening nationally and internationally and the initiative hopes to encourage members to take up the challenge, while raising essential funds for services to homeless people. Explaining the campaign, Depaul Ireland CEO Kerry Anthony stated, “Participating in mini/half/full marathons on behalf of Depaul Ireland will help us in our commitment to work with the most marginalised in society. “At Depaul Ireland we focus our services to aid those most in need in the homeless community, working with them to create hope, opportunity and a more positive future. Sometimes this helps people turn their lives totally around, for others it is about being treated as human beings and being accepted for the small steps they make towards change.” Depaul Ireland a cross boarder charity operating six projects in Dublin, five in Belfast and one in Dungannon, providing over 300 bed spaces a night. Each year the charity works with over 1100 people, offering specialised services to people who many others struggle to work
with. The acute needs of their client group (essentially challenging behaviour and extent of addictions) would regularly exclude them from the other accommodation providers. This approach has seen Depaul Ireland open Dublin and Belfast’s first projects for long term street drinkers, based on a harm reduction model. Currently they also offer one of the only hostels for homeless people with an active drug addiction and their model extends to projects for families and women leaving prison. Kerry Anthony explained, “The backgrounds of the people we work with are very different. Some people have been homeless since birth, while others suffer from an unexpected disaster including mental health illness, addiction, domestic violence, family breakdown, and unemployment. The essential funds generated from will go towards supporting these people and the unique, tailored and essential services which we provide to them.
”At Depaul we celebrate the potential in people. We would urge Mandate members who wish to participate in marathons, to utilise their achievement and potential, to help our services users get back on their feet, fulfil their potential and make positive, informed decisions about their life. Your support will make a real difference in the lives of those who Depaul will work with in 2010.”
Pauline is still grieving for the lost six-year-old boy who died in front of her. Her youngest son was killed in a hit-and-run accident and she saw it happen. As a result she broke down and became a heavy drinker. She lost her house, her marriage and her family. Stuck in her grief, she stopped caring about herself.
When Pauline came to Depaul in January 2003, local services considered her too chaotic to sustain accommodation and she had been excluded from many other services in the city. However, seven years on Pauline has remained with Depaul Ireland and took a room in Sundial House when it opened in September 2008. She has a more balanced lifestyle now. Depaul staff work with her on a weekly budget and alcohol plan. They link in about GP appointments, hospital check-ups, attending grief and addictions counselling. Depaul Ireland will keep working with Pauline, supporting and encouraging her on difficult days, like her baby’s birthday or Mother’s Day.
It’s that mix of support and empathy that have helped her sustain her accommodation and given her the strength to recreate a place called home after she lost all she had.
Here are some 2010 events to choose from:
Fundraisers for homeless charity Depaul Ireland at a recent road race
Wexford Half/Full Marathon
Belfast City Marathon
Flora Womenâ€™s Mini Marathon
Bord Gais Energy Marathon
Kids Marathon/Irish Multi-marathon
Irish Runner 5 Mile
Dublin (Phoenix Park
Frank Duffy 10 Mile
Longford Marathon/Half Marathon
Dingle Half/Full Marathon
Cork Half Marathon
Dundalk Mini Marathon
Dublin (Phoenix Park)
Dublin Half Marathon
Mourne Mountain Marathon
Galway Bay 10K
Anyone who is interested is encouraged to pop an email to email@example.com or ring the Depaul office (01 453 7111) to register your information and request a resource pack and sponsorship cards. Depaul also have a facebook page (www.facebook.com/backonyourfeet) to connect www. participants and motivate them.
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
Green Isle Hunger Strikers Successful
Mandate General Secretary John Douglas, Sandra Browne of Head Office and Mandate President Joan Gaffney at a protest march in support of the Green Isle Workers in Naas last November 2009
Mandate Trade Union wishes to congratulate the Green Isle Workers who have been successful in their protests against management regarding the unjust dismissal of three of their colleagues. Mandate has been a supporter of the plight of these workers for several months in a dispute that has seen two workers participate in a hunger strike, one of which lasted over two weeks before the company agreed to a resolution. MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
In a joint statement, Green Isle Foods and the electrical union, the TEEU, said both parties have agreed to be bound by proposals put forward by independent mediators. The statement confirmed that both parties will be bound by â€˜confidentiality under the terms of the agreementâ€™. The agreement will be implemented, and accordingly, all forms of industrial action and other activity ceased on Wednesday (3rd March) with immediate effect.
For more information www. on the dispute please go to www.teeu.ie 30
Mandate Gets Active on Social Networking Websites Mandate has recently launched its online presence on some of the most popular social networking websites. Why donâ€™t you log on to our Facebook, Twitter or Flickr accounts for regular updates and information? You can wfind these by going to the Mandate website www.mandate.ie www. and scrolling to the bottom of the homepage.
Mandate launches ezine for members Mandate recently issued its first ever ezine with information on the union and its campaigns. Over the coming months Mandate intends sending out regular updates to members and other interested parties. You can sign up to the ezine through Mandate Trade Unions website homepage, www.mandate.ie and scroll down to the bottom. Stay informed by signing up and tell your colleagues www. and friends to sign up too.
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
Mandate is the third largest trade union in the Republic of Ireland with a growing and increasingly active membership base across the Irish retail and bar trade. Keep up to date with developments: www.mandate.ie
Mandate Head Office
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