Issue 4, Spring 2010
Mandate wishes a Happy New Year to all our members and their families www.mandate.ie | email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Straight Talking with John Douglas
with John Douglas
Organising Organiser’s Report
A kick in the Christmas Crackers for the most vulnerable!
Campaigns Mandate Get Into Campaigning Top Gear
Training President Mary McAleese opens Mandate Organising & Training Centre
Industrial Relations Mandate Puts Connolly Shoes on the Back Foot
Union News Mandate Hosts International Organising Trade Union Conference
Workers of the World Niall Mellon Township Trust
The Platform Time for Trade Unions to politicise
Letters to the Editor
MANDATE NEWS credits:
Editor: John Douglas, General Secretary, Mandate Cover Photograph: Brian Forbes Designed by: Language
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
You have to hand it to the present Government for its ability to survive and its ability to swamp us with spin to the extent that we are nearly apologetic for not allowing them to kick us even harder. For months now we have been subjected to an onslaught of figures on deficits, public spending and threats of the International Monetary Fund taking control of the country. Daily the media, the Government, employer organisations and the economic TV pundits have been driving a wedge between workers – public sector versus private sector, workers versus the unemployed, old versus young, Irish worker against foreign workers etc., etc. This softening up and conditioning process serves only to hide the real culprits responsible for the economic mess Ireland is in – the senior bankers, property developers and the same politicians in power today. It also acts as a softening up process against any political opposition to the so called “tough measures“, which government say is needed to get this country out of recession. It ensures that we are too busy fighting with each other to notice the politicians, developers and senior bankers re-inventing themselves ready to ride the crest of the next boom wave. An example of this process of divide and conquer was the recent RTÉ Prime Time Special on Social Welfare Fraud. While blatant systematic social welfare fraud must be condemned, the timing of this programme a few days before a Budget which was to target Welfare rates is to say This document has interactive elements that make it easier to use. This symbol appears where an external web page is referenced in an article. Clicking on the icon will take you directly to the relevant page. Mandate accept no responsibility for the content of any external links in this document.
the least convenient. There has been no similar type programme on business or banking fraud and unlike the USA, Ireland has not “locked up” one senior banker for the sabotage of the Irish economy, but be sure that if you are caught unemployed and doing a “nixer” to keep your family together, the full rigours of the law will be brought to bear against you. These double standards are a cancer in Irish Society; they eat at the very fabric of society where values of fairness and solidarity are replaced by greed and self-interest. Therefore, when the Minister of Finance Brian Lenihan TD stood up on 9 December 2009 to deliver his Budget speech, he and his government colleagues were confident in the knowledge that the spade work of brow beating the Irish public into submission and acceptance was complete. He felt confident that he and his government would be able to deliver a budget which reduced child benefit, reduced wage rates to lower paid public sector workers, reduced welfare rates, reduced unemployment benefit and which earlier removed the Christmas bonus and the only price that the government would have to pay was the gombeen politics of buying the support of Jackie Healy Rae. Minister Lenihan and his government colleagues are confident in the knowledge that he has pawned us off by telling us that the worst is over, but knowing all too well that he will have to come back in 2010 for further reductions and cuts of €4 billion and €3.5 billion in 2011 and €3.5 billion in 2012. Really! if we don’t stand up and fight back, we will get what we deserve. 3
The boom of the last decade passed most retail workers by. Most retail workers are on low wages and struggle to keep a home for their families, many rely on supplementary welfare payments such as Family Income Supplement (FIS) and back to school allowances etc. This government has created over the boom period one of the most unequal society’s in the European Union (15) in terms of income distribution and the distribution of wealth. For example in 2007 in terms of gross wealth, the top 1% of the population owned 20% of all wealth in Ireland (www.tascnet.ie – The HEAP Chart). Mandate Trade Union will defend retail workers against attacks on pay, welfare or contracts, particularly reductions in hours. We will not allow employers or government to milk the current recession at the expense of the lower paid and most vulnerable. The Trade Union Movement had a credible alternative to the policies of the government, a ten point plan based on job creation and retention, based on social solidarity and equality and based on the principle that those who benefited most from the boom years should now be the ones to pay most. The Trade Union Movement united before the budget in the “Get Up Stand UP Campaign” (www.getupstandup.ie) which saw 150,000 Irish citizens take to the streets in towns and cities around Ireland for a fairer better way. Nonetheless, this government has the arrogance to ignore us in this budget which is neither fair or equal. There is nothing to promote jobs, in fact, the budget will destroy even more jobs, there is nothing to protect retail
jobs and stem the flow of retail sales crossing the border other than the reversal of the 0.5% disastrous VAT increase of the previous budget and the reduction in the price of alcohol. The government or retail employers are sadly mistaken if they believe that they will reduce retail prices in the Republic of Ireland on the backs of Irish retail workers through pay cuts and hours’ reductions – Mandate will protect our members by whatever means we deem necessary. So Mr. Lenihan TD, your 2010 Budget may have helped in balancing the books but it has pushed thousands of Irish citizens over the edge.
It’s time to Get Up and Stand Up, get active in your union – together we can make change happen.
John Douglas Mandate General Secretary.
Mandate News / Spring 2010
Organising Organiserâ€™s Report The doors to IKEA finally opened to the public in July 2009 giving rise to 500 new jobs on a site located in Ballymun in North Dublin. This presented a number of opportunities for the area in terms of service and employment for the region and a chance for Mandate to organise the workplace into the union. This gave rise to a massive challenge for the organising department, not just in terms of the sheer size of the store, but the fact it was a Greenfield site. At the start of any campaign, research is critical along with one to one discussions with staff, gaining contacts and finding significant issues they need addressed. To date we a have a group of contacts sourcing vital information and establishing a wider contact base.
Working with the local communities is vitally important. These groups are the hearts and minds of the people of Ballymun and their assistance in our campaign is paramount. We have delivered nearly 300 letters to Mandate members across the Ballymun area detailing our campaign at IKEA and how they can be of assistance to the organising team. It is hoped in the future that a series of meetings will take place for retail staff in conjunction with community groups to discuss the value and the importance of trade unions in the community. As it stands the in progressâ€?
IKEA campaign is a â€œwork and through the determined efforts of our members, Mandate and the Organising team, it is hoped that sustained levels of unionised employment in the area begin to grow and that IKEA are no exception.
Mandate organisers are now established on facebook, bebo and twitter.
Lisa Farrell and Darren Delaney, Mandate Organisers.
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
Campaigns Mandate Get Into Campaigning Top Gear
Mandate successfully lobbied for the temporary suspension of the College Green Bus Gate in Dublin City Centre stating that it was having a negative effect on footfall for city centre retailers and this could have a consequential impact on employment in the retail trade. The retail sector employs 25,000 people in the Dublin City Centre area and contributes approximately 60% of the city’s commercial rates. The sector, like almost all sectors in the economy, is suffering as a result of the economic crisis and Mandate insisted that the protection of this industry and of jobs should become a priority for Dublin City Councillors. Mandate wrote to all Dublin City Councillors expressing our concerns and asking for a temporary suspension in the interest of preserving jobs. The temporary lifting of the evening traffic restrictions around Dublin’s College Green began on November 18 and will continue until 15 January 2010. 5
Mandate Assistant General Secretary, Gerry Light said he was delighted that the Dublin City Councillors saw sense and backed Mandate’s request for the temporary suspension because it is vital in the context of protecting as many jobs as possible in this difficult time. “Based on information supplied by city centre retailers, it appears that the decline in footfall was reaching crisis proportion’s with figures down as high as 26% in the north city and 36% in the south city on Thursday’s, the traditional late night for shopping. Mandate’s Industrial Officer for Dublin South West, Dave Moran said, “With the upcoming Christmas trading period being so vital to the retail trade, generating 30-40% of their annual income, couple this with the January sales and this quite literally becomes make or break in terms of their very survival. “In this respect, we called for the immediate suspension of the Bus Gate on a temporary basis in order that this sales period, so vital in the retail calendar, could be a success and hopefully help to protect the employment and livelihoods of our members and their families.” Brian Forbes, National Coordinator of Campaigns stressed the importance of networking in the successful conclusion of this campaign. “The campaign department was inundated with calls from our members congratulating Mandate on a well fought and decisive campaign strategy.”
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
They Milked the Boom and Now They Milk the Recession Mandate has commissioned important independent research to establish whether or not some retail companies are using the recession to drive down business costs primarily through the reduction in workers terms and conditions. The full results of the research will be available shortly but Mandate News can offer you an exclusive insight into what is happening in the retail sector at the moment. Whilst it is undeniable that the economic downturn has had an adverse impact on some companies within the Irish retail sector the extent of the impact has not been uniform across all retail traders. In fact some companies still enjoy good trading conditions, healthy profits and moreover an insatiable desire to maintain these profits, sometimes at the expense of their own loyal employees. Over recent months Mandate has witnessed an aggressive and determined attempt by many profitable companies to drive down pay and undermine the terms and conditions of low paid workers. This deliberate strategy is strategically positioned by these companies and in many instances framed against the current economic climate. The report found that many highly profitable companies who enjoy healthy trading conditions continue to seek significant payroll reductions under the guise of ‘economic necessity’. It is clear that many profitable companies MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
are deliberately using the recession to try to force through a longheld ambition to destroy long-fought for employment standards, reduce wages of employees and ultimately increase already healthy profits. In short, they are “Milking the Recession”.
Mandate Fighting Back As a prologue to the report, Mandate has openly stated that it will make no apologies for resisting profitable employers trying to milk the recession by cutting wages and conditions, by reducing hours and by attempting to force through phoney redundancies so as to increase their profits. John Douglas, General Secretary of Mandate said, “As a responsible trade union, Mandate has and will engage with employers who are genuinely suffering economic difficulties. We will enter into long-term agreements with employers which protect jobs, provide a decent income and value workers as genuine stakeholders in the enterprise with a shared future. “However, these genuine cases of economic difficulty are special cases and should not be used as a battering ram to beat down the conditions of other workers. Make no mistake, Mandate will hold employers to account for trying to milk the recession and drive down the standards of living of ordinary decent workers and their families. We will not risk jobs in the process and you can rest assured that wherever action is taken, it will be taken because of an employers attempt to increase their profits at the expense of our members.”
Brian Forbes (second from left) of Mandate with representatives of some of Ireland’s leading NGO’s and Trade Unions.
‘The Poor Can’t Pay’ called on the Taoiseach on Monday 11th January, 2009 to give an immediate assurance that there would be no more cuts in social welfare payments and no cut in the minimum wage. The call came as the campaign coalition launched a detailed analysis titled ‘How the Poor Were Made to Pay’, which outlines how the 2010 Budget will hit people living in poverty. The report was in part commissioned by Mandate and found that the Budget, announced in December 2009, will have the greatest impact on households already at risk of or living in poverty. The cuts will be worst for children, lone parents, unemployed people, those entering the labour market for the first time and people with disabilities.
‘The Poor Can’t Pay’ review of the December 2009 Budget.
budget, leaving them over 6% worse off than this time last year. “Government said it had to make difficult decisions. But the decisions now facing many of Ireland’s poorest households will be much more difficult. Many are asking ‘How can I feed my family tonight?’, ‘Do we pay the rent or heat the house?’
Brian Forbes, Mandate’s National Coordinator for Campaigns said: “€1 in every €5 that the Government cut came from the pockets of the poor. This contradicts the Government’s stated commitment to ‘protect the most vulnerable’.”
“We are asking for the Taoiseach to at least give the immediate reassurance that they will not face further cuts in the 2011 budget. The poor simply cannot pay anymore.”
The report found that families living on social welfare who were living in poverty before the cut are now living in deeper poverty. Mr Forbes said: “Many households will suffer multiple cuts. For those in receipt of social welfare and low paid workers, this comes on top of job losses and reduced hours. The sick and the elderly will also face new prescription charges.
‘The Poor Can’t Pay’ is a coalition of Charities, Community organisations and Trade Unions which was formed to ensure that the poorest in our society were not asked to carry the burden of the economic crisis. ‘The Poor Can’t Pay’ argued that basic welfare payments should not be cut, the Christmas Payment should be continued and that the Minimum wage should not be reduced.
“The Government claims this was balanced out by the fall in prices but this is not true. The ESRI has confirmed that, because they buy different things, inflation has affected better off families and poorer families differently. Prices for poorer families have only fallen by 3% over the year, while those for the better off fell by 5%.”
Members include: Mandate, Age Action, Barnardos, Social Justice Ireland, EAPN Ireland, Focus Ireland, Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed, the National Women’s Council of Ireland, SIPTU, Unite, Respond and St Vincent de Paul.
Mr Forbes added: “Families in receipt of social welfare lost the Christmas payment – a 2% cut in income. They then lost a further 4.1% in the 7
More information about the campaign can
be accessed at www.thepoorcantpay.ie Mandate News / Spring 2010
Even The Dogs In The Street Know There’s A Better, Fairer Way
Mandate members participated in the Get Up, Stand Up demonstration organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions on 6th November 2009. Events took place in eight locations throughout the country including: • Dublin; • Tullamore; • Waterford; • Cork; • Galway; • Sligo; • Dundalk; • Limerick. The day was a resounding success with over 150,000 people marching on the streets to show they support Congress’s campaign, one which Mandate fully and wholeheartedly endorses.
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
This campaign aims to bring about change in how Government responds to the crisis we face. So far we have seen little evidence of any fresh thinking, no evidence that fairness and justice are at the heart of that response. We believe there is a better, fairer way. Where are the plans to protect peoples’ jobs, or create new employment? Where are the plans to protect peoples’ homes from repossession? And where are the plans to protect vital services at a time when greater numbers will come to depend on them? The course of action proposed by Government is both unworkable and unfair. To cut peoples’ incomes in a recession invites economic freefall and to impose the greatest burden on low and middle income earners is unjust. They played no role in causing this crisis and should not be presented with the bill. This crisis demands fresh thinking. So far all we’ve seen are reruns and reheats of the same failed policies that have brought us to this sorry pass.
This crisis demands that people get active and get involved. Get Up, Stand Up!
As part of Mandate’s ongoing commitment to engage in direct consultation with our membership and activist base a series of regional Dunnes stores activists meetings were held in a variety of locations across the country. Gerry Light, Mandate Assistant General Secretary, commented, “The well attended meetings provided an excellent opportunity for our activists to reflect and comment on activities during the past year as well as providing a vehicle for constructive contributions and suggestions as to how any future strategy in dealing with Dunnes might be prioritised.” National Campaigns Coordinator, Brian Forbes, who attended all the regional meetings stated, “It is clear that Dunnes workers have many issues of concern that unify all locations throughout the country. We will work diligently to ensure these issues are prioritised and that Dunnes workers are given a voice on the shop floor. Union strength in all Dunnes locations is our primary target over the coming months and years ahead.” 8
Mandate Standing Up For Education Mandate is endorsing a new education campaign entitled Stand Up for Education. The campaign was launched on 3rd November 2009 and it brings together parents and teachers and has called for a target investment in education of 7% of GDP. The campaign called for the Government not to target education for further cuts in the December budget and to reverse cuts imposed over the past year as soon as possible. The campaign is also seeking supports for children with particular needs. The campaign is being sponsored by the Teachers’ Union of Ireland and supported by the National Parents Association for Vocational Schools and Community Colleges (NPAVSCC). NPAVSCC Secretary Jackie O’Callaghan said that the initiative is highlighting the need for a long term commitment to greater investment in education. Ireland currently spends approximately 4.7% of GDP on education which is well below the OECD average of 5.7%. Countries such as Denmark, Iceland, Korea and the US are spending in excess of 7%.
Ms. O’Callaghan said: “The spending of the State in Ireland is low by any acceptable measurement. While significantly increased investment in education may be unrealistic at present given the current income deficit, we nonetheless would advocate that there be an agreement to increase the education budget to 7% of GDP over a period of time to be agreed. “We have been railroaded into thinking that cuts to our public services is the only way to tackle our economic deficit. We believe that we need a wider debate on our values and direction as a society. “We believe that the fairest and smartest option is to radically review how the taxation system works, distribute wealth and opportunity more equally in our society and protect frontline services. We believe that those who earn most – in either the public or private sector – should contribute most, according to their means.” Other groups supporting the campaign include Aontas, Barnardos, OPEN – Representing lone parent groups in Ireland, The Irish Traveller Movement, The National Parents Association for Vocational Colleges and Community Schools, The National Parents Council Post Primary, The National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals, The Teachers Union of Ireland and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU).
To register your support for the campaign or for more information log on to www. standupforeducation.ie
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
Congress launches Violence against Women Workplace Guidelines the support they need. Congress urges employers to cooperate with unions in developing a common approach to domestic abuse in the workplace.”
On the occasion of the UN International Day on the Elimination of Violence against Women (25th November), the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ITUC) has launched a revised set of guidelines for trade unions in order to assist women at work who are experiencing domestic violence. Joint Chair of the Congress Women’s Committee, Clare Tracy stated: “The workplace can play a key role on raising awareness about domestic abuse. We know for many women work is a place of safety where they may confide in others about their experiences and where they can access help.” Congress and its affiliates have been campaigning over the last few years to ensure that domestic abuse is seen as an issue that unions can – and should – be doing something about for women who are affected by violence at home. Joint Chair of the Women’s Committee, Taryn Trainor added: “work too is likely to suffer unless women get
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010 10
It is intended that this Guide be used in a practical way to give information, ideas and contacts to union representatives in the workplace and to enable them to give consistent and effective assistance to those suffering domestic abuse. Please visit Women’s Aid website http:// www.womensaid.ie for more information on the 16 day campaign, Breaking the Silence around domestic violence. The guidelines are one of many trade union initiatives around the world to say “no to violence against women and girls” and to mobilise against the impunity of that violence around the world. These activities are taking place in the context of the UN Secretary-General’s campaign ‘UNiTE to End Violence against Women’ and the Global Unions Campaign ‘Decent Work, Decent Life for Women’. “Violence against women at work is a serious problem, just as it is in society generally. Trade unions are campaigning on both fronts, to get rid of it in the workplace and in the community,” said Linda Tanham, Mandate Assistant General Secretary, “Inequality and pervasive discrimination against women and girls are at the core of the problem, providing an environment where violence is tolerated or even encouraged.”
The guidelines are available on the Irish Congress of Trade Unions website: www.ictu.ie
Tesco Host Respect Retail Workers Event
Mary Larkin, Mandate Vice President (Left), Mandy Kane, Divisional Organiser for Mandate (Centre), Willie Hamilton, Mayor of Newbridge (Right), along with a number of Mandate activists.
The Mayor of Newbridge, Cllr. Willie Hamilton, called on shoppers in the Kildare area to refrain from using verbal and physical abuse against retail workers. Mr. Hamilton was launching the Respect Retail Workers campaign in Tesco, in Newbridge Town in Kildare on 8 December 2009. Mandate launched this important national campaign at Christmas last year in order to highlight and create more awareness of the issue and to put in place, jointly with progressive employers, increased protective mechanisms for shop workers throughout the country from abuse and violence in the workplace. Mayor Hamilton, who is also a Divisional Organiser with Mandate said, “During the Christmas period, retail workers are under an awful lot of pressure and it would be helpful if customers remembered this. The vast majority of customers do show respect towards retail workers and it is only a small fraction that verbally and physically abuse these 11
workers, but this is still totally unacceptable. Christmas is supposed to be a joyous and happy occasion and all it takes is one disrespectful customer to have an adverse effect on a retail workers whole week.” Mandate’s Divisional Organiser for the Kildare area, Amanda Kane organised the launch and said, “According to Mandates’ experience and from the survey results, many incidents of abuse are based around issues which are completely outside the control of the shop worker. Issues such as clothing sizes, refund policies and a lack of stock instigate an awful lot of customer complaints, yet retail workers have very little control over these issues. We as consumers need to make that connection” Ms Kane further commented “I would like to thank the manager of the Tesco store, Mr Cahill Conway, for kindly assisting in the launch of the campaign and by working with our activists in highlighting this important issuein the Newbridge store. It is through the support of progressive managers like Cahill and employers like Tesco that we can tackle the ongoing issue of abuse and violence in the workplace.”
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
Training Mandate’s Shop Stewards Training Programme February — May 2010 Course Title
Tesco Union Representative Introductory Course
Health & Safety
Union Representative Introductory Course
Union Representative Introductory Course
Union Representative Advanced Course
Union Representative Introductory Course
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
President Mary McAleese opens Mandate Organising and Training Centre
President Mary McAleese officially opening the Mandate Organising & Training Centre
On the 21st of September 2009 the President of Ireland Mary McAleese officially opened the Mandate Organising and Training Centre. There were over 120 invited guests in attendance on the evening. President McAleese digressed from her formal speech and told the audience that as her father had been a barman and a member of our Union at that time she was particularly delighted to be performing the opening ceremony. The President went on to share her experience of being the first in her family to go on to third level education and of how her parents delighted in that achievement. President McAleese took the opportunity to encourage Mandate members to pursue the training opportunities offered by Mandate. The President recounted how she has seen people she knew, blossom and develop after they had returned to adult education. How they had become more confident and had set a course to reach their goals. At the ceremony, Mandate’s President, Ms Joan Gaffney, presented FETAC awards to thirty Mandate members for successfully completing a FETAC Level 5 course in Communications and a FETAC Level 6 Train the Trainer course. These graduates are all members who had returned to education as a direct result of the provision of these courses by Mandate and FÁS. Mandate feels that the investment from FÁS in these training initiatives is even more important in the current economic environment. In a speech that evening Aileen Morrissey, National Coordinator for Training at Mandate said, “Mandate has committed itself to prioritising the education and training of our members. Many of our members are workers with very little opportunity for further education and some
would be early school leavers. The investment in the training centre by Mandate is a huge commitment to our members in terms of helping them to reach their full potential in their personal lives and in their careers.” One of the participants on the communication course stated, “I have more respect for the Union and for myself, and I am getting more respect from Management because of the way I have changed. I feel I have more authority and confidence when I’m dealing with them, and I’m always better prepared.” A large number of Mandate members are currently attending free training courses which are delivered in conjunction with the Skills for Work programme available in the VECs. These are course in Communications, Computers for Beginners, Math’s and Personal Development. The courses are held nationally and in local venues. These courses are free to members who have not achieved a leaving certificate. This programme will cease in December of this year but it is hoped that the government, through FÁS will provide further funding for this training in 2010. Mandate would then be able to offer more of this training to our members. The 2010 programme of Mandate shop steward’s training is now available on our website. If you are interested in attending a Mandate Training course contact your official, local office or the training centre for more information regarding a course.
President McAleese’s full official speech is available on Mandate’s web site, www.mandate.ie and also on the website of Aras an Uachtaráin.
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
Mandate activists Getting up and Standing up for a Better, Fairer Way.
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
Industrial Relations Mandate Puts Connolly Shoes on the Back Foot Workers in two Connolly Shoe shops in Dun Laoghaire held five days of strike action as a result of their employer attempting to unilaterally reduce their terms and conditions of employment. Following pressure from Mandate, the company agreed to enter into discussions with the staff members. The issues in dispute included the company:
• Cutting hours;
• Threatening to reduce wages by 10%; • Illegally refusing to pay workers who were sick; • Paying some workers for three days work despite them working five as stated in their contracts; • Changing workers terms and conditions of employment without agreement; • Refusing to recognise Mandate Trade Union.
Joe Donnelly, Divisional Organiser for Mandate said,
“The owner met with the staff to discuss the issues. As a result he withdrew the threat of a 10% wage reduction. Some members accepted a 3-day week with letters that allow them to sign on with Social Welfare. He has also reopened the men’s shoe store which he had closed due to the industrial action. On this basis the members decided to suspend industrial action but to continue to monitor the approach of management. The issue is ongoing.”
Last Orders for Spawell Workers
Workers waiting on outstanding pay from insolvency fund Mandate Trade Union members in the Spawell Pub and Nightclub protested for two weeks in August regarding the closure of their company without notice. The workers were made redundant with no redundancy money and with approximately one month’s wages owed to each of the staff members. CB Taverns, trading as the Spawell Licenced Premises, ceased trading on Monday, 10th August 2009 with the loss of 32 jobs. The company failed to pay staff the wages
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
outstanding to them including over two weeks wages and holiday pay. Eddie Cassidy, Divisional Organiser for Mandate said “All members’ issues including wages, holiday pay, public holiday pay and redundancy have been referred to the liquidator – Mr. Tony Fitzpatrick – who in turn will seek their monies from the insolvency fund. At present our members have received no payment except social welfare. “However, Mandate will do everything in its power to ensure that these workers receive the appropriate compensation and that preventative measures are taken to ensure employers behave responsibly in future. At the time of the dispute we called on Mary Coughlan, the Minister for the Enterprise, Trade and Employment, to investigate this incident and take steps to
protect workers from unscrupulous and irresponsible employers in future. We will be following up on this to investigate what steps can be taken to protect vulnerable staff members from this occurring again.” Mr. Cassidy also said that the workers have received tremendous support from members of the public and also from political representatives.
“We’ve received a lot of support from the public and politicians in the area. In particular I’d like to thank Deputy Pat Rabbitte and Cllr Dermot Looney of the Labour Party, Deputy Brian Hayes of Fine Gael and Cllr Sean Crowe of Sinn Fein for their continued support,” said Mr. Cassidy.
Irish Congress of Trade Unions sanctions all out picket of Blarney Woollen Mills in Bunratty Following representation from Mandate, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) has sanctioned an all out picket of the Blarney Woollen Mills in Bunratty as a result of two chefs being made compulsorily redundant at the Bunratty restaurant. According to Brian Higgins, Mandate Trade Union’s Divisional Organiser for the Mid-West, the workers involved and their colleagues have been out on strike since Monday, 11 January 2010 and will continue to picket on an indefinite basis. “The call from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions for an all out picket of the premises is welcomed wholeheartedly by Mandate Trade Union and the workers who are currently on strike. It emphasises the importance of this issue. The dispute will have to be resolved
by way of a negotiated settlement acceptable to both parties” said Mr Higgins. Mr Higgins explained what the consequences of an all out picket will mean for the Blarney Woollen Mills. “Essentially the ICTU has requested that all trade union members not pass the picket at the Blarney Woollen Mills. We expect that it will affect drivers and delivery persons as well as union members who would ordinarily use the premises. It is a great gesture of solidarity and we hope that individual trade unions will inform their members of the unfair and unjust treatment of these staff members and encourage them to abide by the picket. Mr Higgins explained that the two individuals being made redundant, Chef/ Manager, John Quinn, and Second Chef, Aidan Guiry, have given 12 years and 9.5 years service respectively to the company.
“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, the union 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 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.”
Brian Higgins said that despite the representations made by the Mandate Trade Union, on 21 December last, the company has proceeded with the two compulsory redundancies. “It would seem that the company has not adhered to its own policy in that the two employees selected are key people and they also have the longest service. This is simply not acceptable and we will continue to fight this decision with all of our resources and determination possible.”
“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. 17
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
Mandate Trade Union and Boots Reach Agreement Mandate and Boots Pharmacies last year entered into a dispute regarding the company attempting to unilaterally introduce measures which would deteriorate the terms and conditions for Mandate members. As a result of the implications this would have on staff members in terms of their income and their quality of life, Mandate embarked on a full scale campaign to ensure that workers and their families would be protected.
Some of the key changes in terms and conditions for Boots workers included: • A 15.5% wage reduction at the top scale of pay from €14.20 to €12 per hour; • A 25% reduction in public holiday pay; • A 25% reduction in Sunday Premiums; • Increased flexibility in weekend work for full time staff. Mandate held a national shop stewards
meeting which unanimously endorsed a recommendation for strike action to the members. Following this recommendation, Mandate organised local informational meetings of Boots members throughout the country which had very high attendance levels and some of the meetings provided the union with some very useful and informative feedback about what was happening on the ground and how members felt about the issues involved. On Friday, 6 November 2009, workers in Boots voted emphatically for industrial action by a margin of two to one. There was an unprecedented turnout of 89% of all members in the ballot for industrial action, clearly demonstrating the democratic nature of the process. As a result of the pressure from Mandate and the upcoming strike, which was scheduled to take place on 28 November 2009, Boots’ management agreed to attend discussions at the Labour Relations Commission (LRC). After lengthy discussions both parties were able to reach agreement and recommend
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
a set of proposals regarding changes to Boots Ireland’s employment package. The new employment package was put to members in Boots and they voted by a majority of 81% in favour of acceptance of new terms and conditions negotiated at the Labour Relations Commission (LRC). The ballot had a turnout of 339 votes with 273 in favour of the new deal while 66 were against. Gerry Light, Assistant General Secretary of Mandate said, “It was crucial from Mandate’s point of view that we take on this dispute in order to send a clear
message to employers. Boots were the first highly profitable employer to seek cost reductions at the expense of their workers on the back of the economic recession.” Mr Light concluded by saying, “We are still in ongoing discussions with Boots at the moment but it is an absolute requisite that Mandate Trade Union is recognised going forward by the company in order that we can continue to protect, and when relevant, enhance the conditions for our members employed there.” 19
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
Legal Brief Debenhams worker wins pay claim
number of months working in the newly opened Ballina outlet. The Company dismissed Ms Smyth from her employment on grounds of her poor sick absence due to an injury at work.
A Mandate member in Debenhams in Blackrock, Dublin had to go home sick during his shift on New Year’s Eve last year. He informed management that he would be going to the doctor on Jan 2nd and would then inform them of the outcome. When the member did ring the store after seeing the doctor he was informed verbally that he would not be paid for that particular day as he was too late in contacting the store. A complaint was lodged by Mandate under the Payment of Wages Act 1991. The Rights Commissioner ordered Debenhams to pay the member the day’s pay as they were in breach of the legislation.
Despite Mandate representations the company refused to entertain a means of local resolution to this matter and appeared to all intents and purposes be hiding behind the Unfair Dismissal legislation that only provide redress for those with a years service or more.
Mandate member awarded €2,500 compensation A Mandate member in Tesco in Nutgrove Shopping Centre in Rathfarnham who was out sick sent in a doctor’s certificate stating that he was unfit for work for four weeks. The company allegedly posted a number of letters to the member over the next three weeks requesting him to contact the store. The member was subsequently dismissed in his absence. At an appeal hearing the member stated that he had not received any letters before the receipt of his P45. A claim was lodged under the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977-2001 to which the Rights Commissioner found that the company’s procedures were flawed and that the member was unfairly dismissed. He was awarded €2,500 in compensation.
Mandate successfully wins unfair dismissal case for Shaws member Shaws Mandate member Sharyn Smyth was dismissed from her employment after only a
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
Undeterred, Mandate North and Western Official Ciaran Campbell moved to take a case under the Industrial Relations Acts 1969 to 1990 for unfair treatment and dismissal from employment. The Company again failed to represent their case in person at Rights Commissioner and Labour Court stages. Mandate forcefully represented their member’s case and were rightfully awarded the case for unfair dismissal with a compensation of €2,000 for their member.
Employers formally withdraw from the Pay Terms of Towards 2016 IBEC the employers’ representative group has formally withdrawn from the pay terms of the Towards 2016 Partnership Agreement stating that the terms of the pay agreement were wholly unsuited for the economic circumstances employers are facing. IBEC has further advised all its member employers to prepare for local enterprise bargaining with trade unions. Mandate Trade Union has been actively and realistically pursuing the payment of the agreed pay terms from major retail employers and has had some major success particularly with regard to phase 1 of the agreement. There is no doubt that the Irish economy has nose-dived in the past 12- 18 months and the retail sector has not been immune from the impact of the new economic climate in terms of consumer spending and cross border shopping migration.
Nonetheless, many major retailers remain extremely profitable and are maintaining market share, albeit in a shrinking market. In these circumstances Mandate Trade Union will continue to pursue retailers in a realistic and pragmatic fashion for increases in pay and conditions and we will continue to protect existing terms and conditions of employment including contracted hours that will provide a living wage. We will not allow major retailers to shift the cost burden or the north/south competitive burden onto the backs of an already under pressure retail workforce. Already we have shameful calls from certain business leaders, business groups and some politicians for a reduction in the minimum wage. If conceded, this will be a prelude to a general move to reduce retail wage rates across the whole retail sector. With withdrawal of employers from the pay terms of Towards 2016, we are now entering a period of unrestrained free collective bargaining. Mandate Trade Union intends to protect and improve the position of retail workers as the circumstances arise. We will not allow retail employers to milk the recession at the expense of workers. The volatile nature of the retail sector, the attitude of employers, employer groups and government means that being a member of a trade union is now more important than ever before. It is vital that all workers organise and mobilise and become active in their union. Be in no doubt, they have already knocked on the door of public sector workers, they have knocked on the door of those workers on welfare, don’t wait for the knock on your door – Get Up, Stand Up, there is a Better Way. Organising is key and union density is power. So get involved, organise your local store and don’t leave it to others. For information on recruitment and organising contact: Mandate Organising and Training Centre Distillery House Distillery Road Dublin 3 email@example.com www.mandate.ie 01 836 9699
John Douglas with Phillip Jennings of UNI and a representative of Indetex.
Mandate Hosts International Organising Trade Union Conference Trade Unions Organising on a Global Scale from Ireland Mandate Trade Union hosted a three day major global trade union conference in the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Santry, Dublin 9 on Wednesday, 30 September 2009. The theme of the conference was about building global alliances between unions throughout the world in order to create decent work for those in the retail sector.
the commerce sector and the culmination of which was the signing of a major global union recognition agreement with the Inditex Group. Inditex manufactures, distributes and sells clothes, accessories and home decor items under its labels Zara, Pull and Bear, Massimo Dutti, Bershka and Zara Home. The company employs 90,000 workers in 4,430 stores in 73 countries worldwide. Mandate trade union welcomed the development and said more global retailers need to follow suit. John Douglas, General Secretary of Mandate said, “This global agreement with Inditex is a true breakthrough in this difficult economic time and also a breakthrough for the trade
“The time has come for a different set of values to underpin our economy and our society. This global conference in Dublin was about providing decent work for workers in Ireland and throughout the world. Employers, and in particular retailers, need to start thinking more along the lines of corporate social responsibility and provide their staff with a decent working environment.” UNI is helping to build some of these alliances at companies where it has Global Agreements with management. The alliances are intended to ensure that the Global Agreements are enforced. Speaking at the conference, UNI General Secretary Philip Jennings said, “Global agreements are just pieces of paper. What makes them real is our workers on the ground.”
Trade union representatives at the UNI Global Commerce Conference in Dublin stressed the need for strong alliances that create a powerful voice for workers at multinational companies. There were 200 trade unionists from 36 countries representing some 51 commerce sector unions from around the world, all of which agreed that global union alliances are vital in the fight for workers’ rights. The unions made key decisions in terms of building global alliances at key global companies in
union movement in general. With more multinational retailers operating than ever before, unions need to make a joint effort to ensure workers are protected and are provided with a decent standard of living into the future.
John Douglas, Mandate General Secretary with international union delegates supporting Respect Retail Workers.
“While the signing of Global Agreements usually leads to better conditions and greater rights for workers at multinationals, we believe that an agreement is only as strong as UNI and the unions’ ability to enforce it,” Mr Jennings concluded.
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
Book Review Engage – three works on the IRA decommissioning of 2005 Barry W. Hughes is the author of Engage – three works on the IRA decommissioning of 2005 (published by 411 Galleries). Barry is the son of Linda Hughes, a Mandate activist in Mark’s & Spencer’s in Liffey Valley Shopping Centre in Dublin. The Engage project took three years to complete and culminated with a book and public exhibition at the Jing An District Cultural Centre in Shanghai, China this year. Since commencing the project it has been shown in parts through various media but most recently in full as a book. The exhibition was supported by Culture Ireland, the Consulate of Ireland in Shanghai, Jing An District Culture Bureau and 411 Galleries. The three works exploring the language of Northern Ireland’s politics included in the exhibition and book are Statement (28 July 2005), Endgame (26 September 2005) and Counterparts. Below is a description of Barry W. Hughes’ book by the author himself. When the Provisional Irish Republican Army announced to the world that it was to stand down and decommission its arsenal on the 28th July 2005, it did so in a specific way: by arranging for a former member to read a prepared statement on a home-made video, which was then circulated through the usual media sources such as RTE and the Irish Times. The video, recorded using a standard digital video camera, was capable of being immediately broadcast throughout the island of Ireland and the UK, and then on to other parts of the world that had followed the IRA’s violent campaign for the previous four to five decades. Those behind the video understood the power of putting a human face to the words of a faceless terrorist organisation was a clear sign to all that the IRA were willing to negotiate.
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
So, by making a video to accompany the written statement the IRA were in essence employing all their accumulated PR skills, a way of saying to the world that they meant what they promised. It is a deliberate and well thought out psychological ploy to gain support and trust, not only from the doubters in the Unionist ranks but also from the people of Ireland. The Unionist MP Peter Robinson voiced his reaction to the IRA statement on decommissioning live on air on the 28th July 2005. I sat and watched while also taking digital photographs of his face and shoulders as he gave a wary and reticent reaction to the words which for so long he had hoped would be spoken. It was very telling that the words he and others like him had demanded to hear were received with such caution and disbelief. Robinson’s words were not those of relief or welcome but quite the opposite – now, he said, there must be action. I took the ‘action’ or ‘power’ words from the IRA statement and superimposed them over the photos of Robinson. The images though, showed only the mouth and shoulders, only the parts of his body which communicated so wholeheartedly with the viewer. The final work in the Engage book, uses words alone to create images – minimal in style so as to reinforce the value of their meaning. Each word in visually mirrored to represent the fact these words have been repeated by individuals on traditionally opposing sides of Northern Ireland. They have been spoken by everyone who had a direct involvement with the politics and the violence including victims’ families, politicians and presidents. Counterparts shows that in the end both sides speak the same language and it is up to those doing the talking to also do the listening. Negotiating is about mutual understanding, finding a common cause and building on that; whether it is in a boardroom, on a shop floor or in a parliament the basis for all progress is being willing to talk and listen in equal measure. This is at the heart of the Engage project and has always been at the heart of successful negotiations.
The first three emails to firstname.lastname@example.org will receive a free copy of the book. 22
ICTU and TASC launch HEAP Report on Income Inequality The report shows that: • Five per cent of families live on incomes exceeding €134,000 • 58 percent of families live on less than €40,000 • 26 percent of families live on less than €20,000 The launch of the H.E.A.P report
The equality think-tank TASC and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions launched the Hierarchy of Earnings, Attributes and Privilege (H.E.A.P.) report on 18 November 2009. H.E.A.P. is designed to present the facts about income inequality in Ireland in an accessible form. The report - which was authored by NUIG academics Professor Terrence McDonough and Jason Loughrey – comprises a poster illustrating the numbers of households at different income levels, broken down by occupational category and household type, together with an explanatory booklet.
• Income distribution became more unequal between 1987 and 2005. The distance between those at the top and those at the bottom widened
John Douglas, General Secretary of Mandate said: “Here we have a graphic illustration of our clearly divided society, and strong evidential support for the view that Government cannot continue to impose the burden of this recession on low and middle income earners. “Mandate is fighting against income inequality by proactively engaging in campaigns like the Poor Can’t Pay and developing our own policies informed by our End Low Pay and Milking the Recession reports.”
• Women’s income was around two-thirds of men’s income; adjusting for differences in hours worked, women’s hourly earnings were around 86 per cent of men’s. Women were also more likely to be at risk of poverty • There is a striking ‘education premium’: the median gross income of those with no formal education, or primary education only, was €13,489, while those with a university degree had a median income of €45,707
Still room for improvement in tobacco sales to minors Mandate Trade Union has welcomed the results of a new report from the Office of Tobacco Control (OTC), which shows that compliance with sales to minors legislation is improving through shops and licensed premises across Ireland.
Mandate calls on retailers to ensure identification is requested from customers. 23
Mandate recognises the important role their members play in protecting young and vulnerable adults from the dangers of tobacco consumption and is calling on them to be more vigilant in their dealings with them. Although the report shows improvements in compliance, the Audit from the OTC shows that 32% of minors can access cigarettes in retail shops, while 35% can
access them from vending machines in bars. Mandate General Secretary, John Douglas said, “While we recognise that compliance is improving with relation to sales to under 18 year olds, there is still a lot of room for improvement. “Mandate is calling on all retail workers to ensure they are fully informed of tobacco legislation and that a stronger policy of requesting identification is adopted. This is not only in the interests of protecting themselves and their employer, but also in the interests of protecting the health of young adults and children,” said Mr Douglas.
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
Workers of the World Niall Mellon Township Trust • The Niall Mellon Township Trust is looking for volunteers to sign up to its 2010 Building Blitz. It is a one week challenge to build homes for families living in shacks in the townships of South Africa. • No experience is required, there are jobs for everyone on site and every person can make a difference! • Since 2002 over 6,500 volunteers have travelled with us to build houses for families in the townships. • As a volunteer, you will have the opportunity to meet families in the townships, visit their schools and their homes. You will get to see first-hand what life is like for people living in shacks without basic amenities. • The Building Blitz is an intensive week of work, made worthwhile by seeing a family receive the keys to their first home. You will be working with a team of people you never met before who are from all walks of life and you will come home with many new friends.
Nosipho Ngexe celebrates after receiving the keys to her first home in Wallacedene Township in Cape Town after living in a shack for 15 years. The House was built this week by 950 Irish volunteers on the Niall Mellon Township Trust Building Blitz.
How to get involved? • We are looking for volunteers to join us on our next Building Blitzes for November 2010. We need volunteers to raise €5,000 each to join us in this amazing journey in 2010. Set yourself a personal challenge to do something great for yourself and others this year. • The Building Blitz is a rewarding, life changing experience with the opportunity to meet new people, learn new skills and see how the work you will do will directly make a difference to people’s lives. You will build a home for a family to live in!
Some of the 950 Irish volunteers on the 8th Niall Mellon Township Trust Building Blitz working in Wallacedene, South Africa. November 9, 2009.
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
Do Something Great for 2010! • Hundreds of our volunteers return to us year after year to sign up for a Building Blitz, or find out how you can help us go to www.nmtownshiptrust.com. You can download an application form or you can call the Trust on (01) 494 8200.
A young girl waves from shack number 27,540 as 950 Irish volunteers from the Niall Mellon Township Trust Building Blitz arrive in Wallacedene, South Africa, November 2009 to build houses for families living in shacks.
What Does the Niall Mellon Township Trust Do? The Niall Mellon Township Trust was established in 2002 with the aim of providing quality social housing for the impoverished communities in the townships of South Africa. The Trust operates a year round house building programme, in our first year we completed 150 homes and since then we have completed 13,500 homes in total. Our success has been possible because of the generosity and support we receive from our volunteers, the general public, and the Irish and South African governments.
Building through partnership, with volunteers, community and government has been our objective from the beginning. It is the enthusiasm of our volunteers that has created awareness of
Elaine Hankey, Kim Kinahan, and Jamie Ni Cheanneachain, Dublin, volunteers with the Niall Mellon Township Trust Building Blitz in Wallacedene, South Africa. November 8, 2009.
our mission, generated the funding, and brought social housing development to the fore of overseas development work. Each year we bring Irish volunteers to South Africa to participate in a week long “Building Blitz”. In 2009, 3,500 volunteers have worked with the charity this figure is comprised of 1,500 Irish and 2,000 South African volunteers. In total 10,000 volunteers, both Irish and South African have worked with the charity since 2002. The enormous generosity of volunteers, partners and donors allows us to build homes in South Africa all year round and we have created employment for 2,000 people from the local townships. As part of the charity’s ethos we are heavily involved in training and up-skilling our South African workers. Community development is also an integral part of the work of the charity, engaging local people in the planning and design of their new communities. All of this is done in close cooperation and partnership with the South African government at national and local level.
Shacks in the Township of Wallacedene, Cape Town.
We are currently building in 23 townships, 13 in the Western Cape and 10 in Gauteng and although we have only been in existence for eight years we are currently the largest charity provider of quality social homes in South Africa.
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
Retail Unions Mourn the Loss of Global Trade Union Leader In November 2009, Mandate received the shocking news that Neil Kearney, General Secretary of the International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers Federation, unexpectedly died of a heart attack while on mission in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Neil was born in Co. Donegal and was a powerful advocate for workers’ rights, and a strong defender of trade unions. Neil was the star of the documentary film, Race to the Bottom which documented so powerfully the kind of working conditions he fought against for the past 20 years or more. He spoke at ICTU’s Biennial Conference in Belfast in 2005 and Mandate representatives were very excited about the prospect of him attending trade union events in Ireland during November. Sadly, those who had not met him will now never get the pleasure. Mandate would like to extend our sympathy to his colleagues at ITGLWF, his family and many friends. Neil Kearney was a genuine working class hero.
The thoughts of Mandate and its members are with Neil’s family.
We Don’t Care Less. Keep Ireland’s aid promise — 2012 Trade Unions campaign to get Irish overseas aid back on track. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions and Mandate Trade Union has joined Ireland’s Development NGOs in spearheading a campaign to demonstrate that even in times of recession, Ireland Still Cares about global poverty and injustice. In recent months, the Government has cut the budget for official development assistance (ODA), more commonly called overseas aid, by a massive €222 million (or 24%). These cuts are having a direct and negative – sometimes life-threatening – effect on the world’s poorest people at a time when they are already being hit hard by high food and energy prices, climate change, declining remittances and other shocks. Many aid projects are being scaled back or cancelled altogether, with clear negative impacts on vital development work in areas like health, nutrition, gender-based violence, girls schooling, HIV response, housing, rural development and emergency response. For this reason Mandate has joined the campaign, which highlights that We Don’t Care Less about overseas aid, simply because of economic difficulties at home. A new website, www.wedocare.ie, invites members of the public to communicate their concerns about the aid cuts to the Government. They can do so by sending an e-card to Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan, or by recording their own reasons of why they Do Care (see http://wedocare.ie/wordpress/news/video/)
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
For further information, contact Dóchas, the umbrella group of Irish development NGOs, through email@example.com. Or else, simply log onto the website at www.wedocare.ie. 26
The Platform Time for trade unions to politicise By Ciaran Campbell As social partnership crashes around itself the Irish trade union movement is left in a quandary. Successive partnership agreements have potentially disabled Irish trade unions as they again face the age old battles of class interest and warfare. Mandate as a member of that movement successively declared its opposition to the often unequal and meaningless pay increases for its membership that social partnership agreements brought. But did that mean we were against social 27
partnership and if so what did we do about it, and now that it is practically dead in the water what are we going to replace it with? Given the current economic climate these are very important questions for not only Mandate but the whole of the Irish trade union movement as it is an unarguable fact that ICTU
currently represents the vanguard of working class interests. It is evident that those in power and their class supporters are very willing to detach ordinary civilised societal goals from their economic policies, which are stupendously designed to perpetuate the continued cycle of boom and bust economics that got us into this mess. The governmentâ€™s slash and burn policy that will see repeated cuts in social welfare, community services, health and education, supports for the disabled and so forth demonstrate more than ever the class interests of this Irish government as well as the European Union and Western civilisation in general. Scarce finance can be pumped into save the banks but the working classes and their successors will be expected to foot the bill for this unholy mess - a reflection of the economics that shaped our society for the last twenty years or so! MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
ICTU must devise a radical programme of actions other than the laudable advertised protests, and that will not only reverse the current governmental strategies but actually destroy a system that inherently provides for and rewards the sort of behaviours that drove and led us to this bankruptcy. It is the view of this contributor that this should and must involve trade unions adopting a more politicised position regarding ICTU’s ‘fairer and better way’, and similarly prosecute an ideology that delivers for the class it represents and so averts future castrophes of this nature.
a real movement that delivers beyond pay increases and the like.
The latter would require certain trade union leaders and their union memberships to reconsider their political thinking but might provide for an ICTU – although maybe more streamlined – that is politically dynamic and visionary and one which effectively canvasses for and leads the working classes to a stage where they have real influence and power and not the farce that the social partnership construct represented. Ireland’s democratic
ICTU’s days of protests coupled with the timely unleashing of across the board industrial action – arrested and absent due to close on 25 years of social partnership – alongside social democratic representations has the potential to return the country to another general election. That in itself will provide the working class the opportunity to have its electoral say in part of its struggle to drag power from the ruling elite. It goes without saying that it probably and very likely will not deliver for the working classes but it would be a start.
practice of allowing, at best, a few meaningless minutes to consider and cast their vote based on the current but archaic civil war political party divisions protects a system that is devoid of real accountability, transparency and democratic power. ICTU and therein Mandate have a responsibility, or dare I say it an obligation, to politicise its members and subsequently the Irish working class and thus create
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
There is now a crying need for trade unions to exercise their class clout by meaningfully engaging those parties that have the potential to deliver on this agenda and where appropriate reward electorally on the same. In essence there is a need for all trade unionists – which effectively is every member – to not only stand full-square behind the ICTU campaign but further exercise their leaderships to drive the necessary change to shape a ‘fairer and better’ society so sadly lacking in our memories.
Brian Cowan is right when he says we need to ‘provide leadership’ and it is for that exact reason many in the country are floundering in a state of abject depression at the moment. There is no real or radical leadership that will face down a system that is built on a
promise of boom and bust and in so doing articulate an alternative. ICTU can and needs to provide and articulate that alternative which should replace the same tried and tested failures. Mandate overwhelming represents a membership of working class interests and thus, alongside other like-minded Unions, e.g. UNITE and TEEU, can be the catalyst to reshape ICTU thinking and strategy.
Will that happen? Who knows, but certainly in the next few weeks as the Local and Regional Councils endeavour to shape our Union’s policies by the submission of motions to the next Biennial Delegate Conference, it will be interesting to determine those that carry any sort of political message even and especially during the current economic and political climate. Other commentators have stated that it should be a time of reflection for those in power and an opportunity to ensure that the response now and into the future is balanced.
Now as the politicians ‘reflect’ it is the time for real and radical reaction that provides not an opportunity, but a change in society that is inherently good and caring.
Letters to the Editor Do you have an issue? Need to get something off your chest? Tell us about it! Rest Is The Best
To deprive employees of sleep can be detrimental to their health and well-being and in some cases fatal. In conclusion, sleep deprivation has been used to torture prisoners in war zones world wide with far reaching consequences including brain damage. So, DONâ€™T BE A PRISONER, BE A VOICE.
In 1997, the Working Time Act was brought into Trade Union Law. This act sets out statutory rights of employees in respect of the rest to protect employees from employers who would not safeguard the health of their workers. At this time, studies show abuse was found to be wide-spread. Now on the rise again, I believe this issue should be brought to the front and highlighted to our members whose voice would stay silent in certain cases. If a member is asked to break the law for reasons of profitability, this can not be accepted in any shape of form. Contact should be made with his or her shop steward as a priority and if necessary their trade union official. The employer should be contacted and reminded that this abuse will not be tolerated and furthermore that labour inspectors will call to the place of employment if contacted which could result in a warning or serious fine.
Written by: Owen Roberts, Tesco Killarney
A letter to Mandate members Dear Mandate Member, You may be aware a scheme has been announced by the Government for nonEEA migrant workers who have held an employment permit or green card and become undocumented for reasons beyond their control. This is often as a result of workplace exploitation and/ or work permit not being renewed. Successful applicants will receive 4-month Temporary Permission to Remain from the Department of Justice, Equality, and Law Reform. This will provide time to apply for a Work Permit, for which the Department of Enterprise, Trade, and Employment will waive the usual eligibility criteria.
Applications can be found at www.inis.gov.ie/ pages/undocumented_ worker_scheme
Applications must be completed in BLOCK CAPITALS, in black ink and in English, and returned by the 31st December 2009 to:
ndocumented NonU EEA Workers Scheme, Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service, 13/14 Burgh Quay, Dublin 2 For more information or assistance, contact the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, 55 Parnell Square West, Dublin 1, (01) 889 7570, www. mrci.ie, or call the Citizens Information Service on 1890 777 121 or drop into your local Citizens Information Centre or Migrant Support Organisation. CLICK HERE
Name the Newsletter Competition Due to a large amount of requests from readers of Mandate News stating that they like the new format and the name of the newsletter, we have decided to maintain Mandate News as the title for the publication. All entrants will receive a small token of appreciation for their entries.
TELL US ABOUT IT! www.mandate.ie firstname.lastname@example.org
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
Mandate in the News
MANDATE NEWS / Spring 2010
The Budget that cancelled Christmas DOUGLAS CONDEMNS TARGETING OF LOW INCOME FAMILIES IN BUDGET The union’s General Secretary, John Douglas, has condemned the recent Budget for imposing an unfair burden on low income families, particularly those families reliant on social welfare payments. “The decision to cut basic social welfare rates by 4.1% will have a severe impact on the most vulnerable in society, particularly when you consider that these people are already living at or below the poverty line. The reduction in child benefit of €16 per month will also impact heavily on low income families. When you factor in the cuts to social welfare payments for those under the age of 25, the average family household will see a dramatic reduction in their disposable income.” John Douglas said that the Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan TD, appears to be under the impression that there is an abundance of jobs out there for young people. “The fact of the matter is there are very few job opportunities for these people, and in fact, people with little or no experience generally find it harder to find employment. It is also the case that many young people are living at home with their parents and this is why, I suspect, they have been targeted for cuts. Again the Minister seems to be assuming that young people don’t contribute to the day-to-day running of a household and it’s probably down to this assumption that he has introduced such an ageist and discriminatory measure against a vulnerable group.” Looking at the overall shape of the Budget, John Douglas said that the Government was very selective in picking 31
out which groups were going to carry the burden of the €4 billion ‘adjustment’. “Despite all the claims of fairness, this Budget is probably one of the most unfair and divisive Budgets in the history of the State. In addition to those people dependent on social welfare, the Government also trained their guns on John Douglas Mandate General Secretary.
• Job-seekers Allowance – Reduced for under-25s and in cases where job offers have been refused
public servants and especially lower paid public servants. When the pay cut is taken together with the pension levy, lower paid workers – those earning €30,000 per year and less – will experience a 12.5% reduction in their incomes and this is before the impact of the social welfare cuts kick in. On the other hand, the wealthier people in our society have been left largely untouched. So much for fairness and equity!” John Douglas concluded by saying that what has happened around Budget 2010 requires a major re-evaluation of strategy by the trade union movement and that Mandate will be taking a clear lead in this process. Budget 2010 – Main Points • Child Benefit - To be cut by €16 a month (welfare-dependent families not affected)
• Excise duty on alcohol reduced - 12 cent cut on beer and cider, 14 cent cut on a measure of spirits, 60 cent cut on a bottle of wine (no change in tobacco) • Tiered pay cuts for public servants from 5% for the first €30,000 of salary, all the way up to 15% of total salary for those earning €200,000 or more • Carbon tax introduced of €15 per tonne. Petrol will cost another 4.2 cent a litre and diesel 4.9 cent more • Scrappage scheme announced – VRT relief of up to €1,500 on a new lowemission car, for trade-ins at least 10 years old • VAT rate reduced – 21.5% rate dropped to 21% • Small business – Ombudsman to be appointed to review the cases of small businesses who are refused bank loans • Tax exiles – People with a certain level of assets at home and abroad will have to pay €200,000 per year to maintain their Irish passports.
• Social welfare payments – Reduced by 4.1% for those of working age
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
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