SHOPFLOOR MANDATE TRADE UNION
OUR FIGHT FOR A LIVING WAGE MANDATE CONFERENCE 2014 MANDATE General Secretary John Douglas has called for a return to “good old trade union principles”, in advance of the union’s 2014 Biennial Delegate Conference in Killarney. He said: “Attacks on terms and conditions of service across both the public and private sectors have created a necessity for the return of good old trade union principles of social solidarity and unity of purpose. “The theme of this year’s conference is Making Work
Pay and we make that statement boldly and without reservation. Work has paid not for our class but for those who control our class – those who own the multinationals, the hedge fund operators, the bankers, the money men and the faceless ruling elite.” Mr Douglas warned that future generations of Irish people “would not thank us for leaving them with the devastating financial burden of debt on their shoulders,” and added, “We are poor parents and grandparents if we choose to do nothing.” He continued: “The future of our
country depends on our activism. Mandate calls on all its members to get active in local level trade union structures and to engage in the debate to change the future direction of our country. “We want our children in Australia and Canada to return and we want a future here that offers hope for all.” And Mr Douglas, who is also President of Congress, urged Mandate members to use their votes wisely in the forthcoming elections. “Vote for candidates that represent your interests and that of your class. Vote left and vote progressively!” Picture: Morgan (CC BY 2.0)
Mandate mourns Union backs loss of ‘tremendous’ Superquinn’s trade union leader brand change
Picture: Andrew Skudder (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Mandate sent a message of condolence to the family and colleagues of RMt General Secretary Bob Crow, following his sudden death on March 11. General Secretary John douglas said: “Bob was a passionate and uncompromising trade union leader who was admired across the UK and Ireland. “He showed tremendous leadership at a time when working people needed leadership most. He will be greatly missed by the mem-
bers of the RMt union. “On behalf of Mandate, I would like to express the union’s sympathies with Bob Crow’s family and members of the RMt.” Congress General Secretary david Begg also extended deepest sympathies to Bob Crow’s family, friends and union colleagues. He said: “Bob was a deeply committed and principled trade unionist who was tireless in defence of his members’ interests and was a passionate advocate for working
people everywhere. a regular visitor to Ireland with members on these shores, Bob was well-known and highly regarded here. “He was hugely respected across the wider trade union movement and in progressive circles. We are the lesser for his passing. “On behalf of the Irish trade union movement, I would like to extend deepest condolences and sympathies to all who were close to him and to the membership of the RMt.”
MANDATE welcomed the rebranding of Superquinn as Supervalu in February and dubbed it a “proactive and sensible decision”. The union, which represented more than 2,500 workers in 24 Superquinn outlets, said it hoped the rebranding exercise will be of benefit to both consumers and staff. Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light said: “It is clear that the Superquinn business has been struggling to maintain market share over the last number of years and any measure which attempts to arrest this slide and secure quality retail jobs has to be supported. “Joining the Musgrave group a number of years ago has given the company greater economy of scale and now we’re hoping the Supervalu brand will help to sustain and expand the business in the future.” Mr Light explained that Superquinn is a designated Fair Shop and that he hoped its customers would remain loyal to the new brand going forward. He said: “In relative terms, Superquinn workers are treated fairly by their employer and have therefore been designated Fair Shop status by Mandate. “This reality should be a major consideration for consumers in deciding where they should spend their money in the future.” Mr Light pointed out that Superquinn had always had a “very healthy and productive relationship” with Mandate. “We have negotiated many improvements in terms and conditions for our members in the company throughout the years and recently, during times of difficult trading, our
members have also had to make some sacrifices and in doing so have displayed significant loyalty and commitment to Musgraves and the plans they have for the business.” Mr Light said the move was also good for existing Supervalu workers who now had the opportunity to join with their new colleagues in Mandate. “All Superquinn workers were afforded the right to collectively bargain and had a very strong say in their workplace. This is something we would like to extend to as many Supervalu workers as possible. “We would obviously be delighted if Supervalu workers decided to join their union and in the future together we can improve working and living conditions for all in the business.” He added: “There’s been a significant deterioration in terms and conditions of employment across the retail sector during the economic recession, largely in non-unionised employments. However, by supporting Fair Shop retailers, such as Superquinn within the new Supervalu brand, we can all ensure that decent work is a priority for the sector. “There’s no doubt this is the end of an era for the Superquinn brand but there are many aspects of the business which will continue and hopefully improve. The current promotional slant coming from management is the change to Supervalu will not be the same as the Superquinn experience, it will be better. “This must apply right across the board and we are confident that the respect and recognition the company has for its employees’ right to be represented by their trade union will continue.”
BOB CROW – AN APPRECIATION by Alex Gordon, former President of the RMT – turn to page 9
Closure threat to Tesco Ballymun referred to LRC 2
MANDATE representatives have met with management at Tesco Ireland after it was announced that the company intends to close its store in Ballymun. The meeting was to discuss and agree options available to the approximately 50 members of staff that will be affected in the move. Unfortunately engagement between the sides locally ended with-
out agreement and the services of the Labour Relations Commission are being sought in a bid to bring about a resolution. Industrial Officer David Miskell told Shopfloor: “While those members involved were both shocked and disappointed at the announcement [of the closure], they are determined to ensure that a fair and reasonable set of options are made available to
them.” However, in what the union claimed was an attempt to undermine the collective process, Tesco Ireland announced it intended to unilaterally offer a redundancy package to staff. Options available for those seeking to secure employment are extremely limited. According to the union, it is understood the company is offering “far in-
ferior roles” – some of which involve “considerable travelling distances”. Slamming the company’s actions, David Miskell urged Tesco management to comply with the agreed company/union procedures and to engage in “meaningful negotiations” as well as offering “real, alternative redeployment options to staff”.
SHOPFLOOR April 2014
Vote for a policy not for a pothole Picture: European Parliament (CC BY-NC-ND 2)
European Parliament at sunset
IN THE coming months Ireland holds its local and European elections. These elections are important to you and your family so it’s essential that you get out and vote. The European elections are your chance to have a say in who represents Ireland in the European Parliament. Ireland is a very small part of Europe so it is vital that we send strong advocates to represent us. The European project has faced some very serious challenges over the past number of years but the reaction from Europe, from an Irish perspective, has been less than adequate. Throughout Europe we have more than 24 million people out of work. Countries like Ireland, Greece, Cyprus, Portugal and Spain are experiencing growing poverty levels while at the same time, the wealthy continue to grow their wealth across the continent. The EU and ECB policy of no bank left behind has arguably impacted hardest on Irish workers and the sacrifice of ‘social Europe’ to protect a dysfunctional banking system has caused huge pain and hurt for thousands of families on this island and across Europe. It is vital that we send politicians to Europe who believe that the system should work for the people and not the other way around.
The local elections also provide us with an opportunity to have a say in how our local councils work. Unfortunately our local government system has limited influence and has limited budgeting power. It does, however, offer you the chance to vote for a political party which has pro-worker policies. Many of you may plan on voting for a politician you know or someone who is a local personality without much consideration as to that persons policies. Mandate is recommending that you do not vote based on personality or on which politician claims they can fix the most potholes. Instead, we are urging you to carefully look into the policies and record of the individual or the party you intend voting for. We recommend that you vote for a politician or a party that has policies that will benefit you and your family and not big business. Vote for a politician or a political party that believes in solidarity, fairness, social justice, workers’ rights and economic justice. Vote for a policy and not for a pothole. Vote left.
€25k compo for Tesco security officer unfairly dismissed over licence claim tHe employment appeals tribunal has awarded more than €25,000 compensation to a former tesco employee who lost his job over claims he did not hold a valid security licence. a member of Mandate, he had been employed since 2004 as a security officer at the supermarket’s Clarehall store in dublin. He was subsequently dismissed for allegedly working without holding a licence from the Private Security authority. In fact, the member had written to the PSa about the licence and had sent payment to them. April 2014
It was later established that the cheque had been received by the PSa but had not then been processed. When it came to the attention of tesco Ireland management, he was given two weeks to resolve the matter, which was later corrected. despite this tesco proceeded to dismiss him anyway. the tribunal noted that it is a legal requirement for employees working in the sector to hold a valid security licence. However, the tribunal found that the security officer had been unfairly dismissed. It was pointed out that the mem-
ber did have a valid licence at the time of the dismissal and that the company had used flawed procedures. Particular note was taken of the fact that at an advanced stage of the disciplinary process, the company were unclear as to who was making the decisions. Mandate divisional Organiser Brendan O’Hanlon, who appeared on behalf of the member, told Shopfloor: “this decision highlights the importance of fair procedures and that the sanction of dismissal was disproportionate given the facts of the situation.”
STRAIGHT TALKING General Secretary Mandate Trade Union
Make work pay
FOR too many workers the reality today is that work does not pay, because an increasing number of jobs fail to provide them with a decent basic income on which to provide for family and self. The old adage no longer holds true – a job is the best way out of poverty. Employers in many sectors – including retail – are maximising profits by attacking the quality of employment contracts they offer. Over the last three decades there has been a sizeable shift away from full-time quality jobs with set hours, decent conditions and decent wages towards more part-time, casual, zero and flexible hours' contracts of employment. These jobs do not offer any security or certainty around week-to-week income levels and they are often used by employers as a control mechanism or disciplinary sanction. The local manager has total control over the livelihood and wellbeing of workers. Because of the growth in this form of employment, the Irish taxpayer/State is left to pay the price caused by the misery that follows workers not earning enough to live on by paying hundreds of millions of euro each year in Family Income Supplements, supplementary benefits, rent supplements etc. While these State transfer payments are right and proper, given the misery inflicted on workers, one must ask "why"? Why should the taxpayer/State be made subsidise low wages, poor contracts and bad conditions so that huge profitable corporations can reap higher profits to pay massive bonuses to executives, avoid corporation tax and return millions in dividends to shareholders? The cost of this to the Irish taxpayer/State runs into hundreds of millions each year – this money could be better spent on local communities or State investment in services such as health and social housing. The Government needs to wake up and smell the coffee. We are being ripped off. The State should legislate to promote decent jobs and decent contracts. We are calling on Government to ban one-sided zero hour/flexible contracts of employment, to introduce legislation which would give workers on such contracts a legal right to claim additional working hours in situations where these hours exist or become available. The Government should also make it less attractive and profitable for employers to sub-divide jobs, this could be tackled through employers' PRSI or other taxation measurers. Mandate says "offering workers the opportunity to work flexible hours is one thing, but cheating and exploiting large sections of the working population is another". Workers in retail, hospitality, cleaning, security and agriculture have one message to our legislators ... Walk in our shoes!!
Shopfloor is published bi-monthly by Mandate Trade Union. Mandate Head Office, O'Lehane House, 9 Cavendish Row, Dublin 1 T: 01-8746321/2/3 F: 01-8729581 W: www.mandate.ie Design & Editing: Brazier Media E: email@example.com Shopfloor is edited, produced and printed by trade union labour
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Mandate activist Jacqui wins victory over ‘legal highs’
Mandate activist and dunnes Stores shop steward Jacqui Snype, from Roscommon, has written a book – Not For Human Consumption – about her campaign to abolish ‘head shops’ in Ireland. a head shop is a retail outlet specialising in legal highs. during 2010, they were opening at a rate of one a week
A representative from the Cuban Embassy lays a wreath
across Ireland. In January 2010, one of these outlets opened in Roscommon and Jacqui, pictured left – along with a number of other activists – set about campaigning for the closure of the shop and to lobby for a change to the law to ensure ‘legal highs’ were banned. Commenting on the successful campaign, Jacqui told Shopfloor: “We
spent six months protesting each day outside a newly-opened head shop during the coldest winter since the 1960s. People said we were mad and that we were wasting our time. “Well, not only did we close all the head shops in the country, we were the reason the law of the country was changed on these so-called ‘legal
highs’. She added: “the following year we were proud to be given Roscommon People of the Year awards. to say we were proud, would be an understatement.” “this is proof that if you feel strongly enough about something as I did... then go for it and don’t give up.”
Vietnamese students have their picture taken in front of the worl d-famous memorial
Let us arise! “KARL Marx would have recognised austerity policies for what they are – an instrument of class warfare.” Congress President and Mandate General Secretary John Douglas made the comment as he delivered the annual oration at the grave of Karl Marx on March 16. Speaking on behalf of the Irish trade union movement, Mr Douglas slammed the EC/IMF/ECB Troika for ravaging the social fabric of Irish society and for protecting and enriching the economic elite of both Ireland and Europe. He told a crowd gathered at Highgate Cemetery and made up of many nationalities: “To those who say austerity is not working, I say you're mistaken, austerity is working – it is working for those for whom it was meant to work, the capitalist class.” Mr Douglas said that on October 18, 2008, the Irish government had been forced to guarantee a bank bailout scheme that meant the welfare of future generations of Irish people were “sacrificed on the altar of financial capitalism”. “The bad gambling debts of the world's elite were underwritten by every man, woman and child in Ireland. The results of this slavish surrender can be seen in every village and city in Ireland, the misery of mass unemployment, mass emigration, homelessness and poverty, even for those
with jobs, as the relentless attacks continue on wages, conditions and welfare.” He pointed out, however, that Ireland was not alone in bearing the brunt of austerity policies. “Across Europe, in countries such as Spain, Portugal and Greece, workers have been attacked, 26 million have been told they are surplus to the requirements of the capitalist system, millions more have been driven from their homes and impoverished. “Austerity was never designed to help working people, it is designed to establish greater inequality, to transfer wealth upwards, this is a class war and our class are losing.” Mr Douglas insisted that a “people’s alternative” needed to be built across Europe and cautioned that the rise of the right had to be challenged by a united left response.” Concluding, he said: “The Irish people and peoples across Europe have been sold into debt slavery for generations to come, we must free our class. In the words of Jim Larkin, ‘The great only appear great because we are on our knees, Let Us Arise’.”
wreath rty of Britain lays a the Communist Pa Prof Mary Davis of
s at the Karl Marx memorial A group from Cuba and Venezuela who paid their respect
RMT’s Alex Gordon introducing John Do uglas at
SHOPFLOOR April 2014
workers balloted over pay and bonus proposals BOOTS workers are currently being balloted on pay proposals that will, if accepted, see members receive backdated payments to June 2013 with another payment being made in June 2014. The proposals were recently endorsed at a national meeting of shop stewards on March 10. If accepted, it brings to an end a protracted set of negotiations which kicked off in July 2012. The process has seen numerous engagements at both local and third party level, with the issues finally being referred to the Labour Court in October 2013. This followed the collapse of local negotiations. The negotiations became especially complicated when the com-
pany launched a ‘pay alignment strategy’ in July 2012. This involved an offer to staff of the “opportunity to transfer to a reduced pay scale with an 18-month buyout of the difference”. Union sources claimed the process was delayed unnecessarily because of this offer. In the event, the vast ma-
jority of those staff affected by the proposal rejected the company’s strategy. In June 2013, in what was seen as an attempt to divide staff, Boots paid a 2% pay increase to staff earning €12 an hour or less. However, those earning higher hourly rates of pay were paid nothing and had legitimate bonus payments
withheld. Despite what the union viewed as “ extremely unhelpful” acts, Mandate members continued to pursue a pay claim for an increase across the board for all workers. However, in advance of the Labour Court hearing, Boots invited the union team to re-engage at local level in January 2014. A set of proposals
SKILLS FOR WORK
were subsequently agreed. The proposals will see workers who received no increase in June 2013 receive a 2% lump sum payment backdated to that date. In addition, these workers will also receive payment of the bonus withheld in June 2103. A further 2% increase will be applied from June 1, 2014 for 12 months to the hourly rates of workers earning €12.24 or less, with staff earning in excess of this receiving a 2% lump sum payment and all bonuses payments due to workers will be paid in June 2014 should the company achieve previously agreed targets. Agreement could not be reached on the “unfreezing” of increments, frozen for some employees since 2009. Both parties agreed to park this issue until early 2015. Divisional Organiser Brendan O’Hanlon told Shopfloor: “Mandate members in Boots have been extremely patient during these difficult negotiations and there is no doubt that some of the company’s actions during the discussions were extremely unhelpful. “We could never countenance a situation where one group of workers’ contribution to the business was being recognised by way of a pay increase with the long-serving staff in essence being ignored and previously agreed commitments being reneged upon. “The Boots workers will ultimately determine over the coming weeks whether the proposals meet their reasonable demands or whether if we need to allow the Labour Court adjudicate on the matter.”
Interested in doing a Communications course?
City of Dublin Education and Training Board
Do you have a desire to improve your communications skills, but never got around to it?
Starting from scratch this course helps you to improve your communications skills. Mandate Trade Union in conjunction with Skills for Work are offering members the opportunity to attend training. The courses are to encourage members back into learning and training while aiming towards a FETAC level 3 Award.
If you are interested in attending this training contact:
Mandate Training Centre, Distillery House, Distillery Road, Dublin 3 Phone: 01-8369699 Email: email@example.com
Courses are free and open to members who have not achieved Leaving Certificate or who have an out of date Leaving Certificate. You can also achieve a FETAC Level 3 Award. Skills for Work is funded by the Department of Education and Skills.
CONNOLLY MEMORIAL LECTURE 2014 IMPERIALIST WAR, 1914 - 1918
Not a shared sacrifice but a bloody slaughter Speaker: Daniel Bratanovic, journalist & historian, German Communist Party Date: 10th May @ 2-00pm Venue: Liberty Hall, Dublin 1 April 2014
Organised by Communist Party of Ireland 43 East Essex Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2
Mandate members in the media spotlight
A NUMBER of Mandate members have been voicing their opinions in the media recently advocating the need for pay increases in the Irish economy and particularly in the retail sector. Arnotts worker and shop steward Lorraine Malone was on RTE Prime Time saying that most of her colleagues haven’t had a pay increase for more than five years while everything has gone up in price. She said: “People have been struggling for a long time and they’ve been patient enough. If profits are now starting to rise then it’s time we started to receive pay increases. “After all, most of the workers in my shop spend all their money in the local economy. I know if I get a pay increase, I’ll spend most of it in my own shop or other local shops in the area creating a virtuous cycle.” Anthony Rock, from Supervalu,
What every dog in the street knows...
Arcadia deal shows it pays to be in a union
also appeared on RTE Prime Time where he countered IBEC’s position that tax cuts were more advantageous. He said: “A tax cut won’t benefit me and it won’t benefit the majority of workers in retail. In fact, what’s needed in our society is a better public healthcare system, a better education system and truly free education for our children. How is a tax cut for the wealthy going to help us to achieve that?” On RTE’s Morning Ireland programme, the most listened to radio show in Ireland, Mandate President Joan Gaffney, Penneys shop steward
John Callan and Argos shop steward Sandra Abbott, all spoke about the benefits they’ve accrued following a win of pay increases over the past two years. Mr Callan said: “Winning a pay increase through my union meant that I could pay the new property tax. It was one less bill to stress about and a big relief for me and my family.” Ms Gaffney said: “We received a pay increase more than a year ago and it was badly needed but we’re now thinking of another pay increase because the costs of living are continuing to go up.”
Canine supporter during the Wallis strike, and, below, all smiles on the Limerick picket line...
Union Representatives Advanced Course The Union Representative Advanced Training Course is for shop stewards/union representatives who have completed the introductory course or who have relevant experience.
• Understanding Mandate’s structures • Overview of Mandate’s rules • Industrial Relations institutions and mechanisms • Mandate’s Organising Model
• • • • •
Negotiations & Collective Bargaining Understanding Equality and Diversity Developing induction presentation skills Introduction to Employment Law Identifying issues and using procedures
Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this training course will obtain a Mandate certificate. They may progress to the FETAC level 5 Certificate in Trade Union studies or other relevant training courses offered by Mandate.
If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Compo payout over Rana Plaza 6
WORKeRS across all arcadia brands are considering a set of proposals designed to replace an agreement reached in 2006 over redundancy terms that will apply to any future restructuring process or store closures. arcadia Multiples Ireland Limited covers brands such as Burtons, topshop topman, Wallis, evans, Miss Selfridge and dorothy Perkins. the proposals came about as part of a deal brokered following a sixweek strike at a number of Wallis stores in Limerick and dublin late last year. negotiations started in January and resulted in agreement on a set of proposals which, if accepted, will see a range of options extended to workers whose store is being either restructured or closed due to the non-renewal of a lease. Under the terms of the deal, workers who are members of the union at the time the firm announce any restructuring of a store will be
afforded a range of options, including a voluntary redundancy package. the terms of this package for union members will be far in excess of what will be paid to non-union colleagues. In addition options such as redeployment and alterations to work patterns are also contained in the proposals. divisional Organiser Brendan O’Hanlon told Shopfloor: “these proposals are proof positive that you are better off being in a trade union. they are a direct result of the collective action and solidarity shown by the Wallis workers who bravely persevered until they got a fair outcome following the dispute. “the outcome of the ballot will not be known until the end of april . However, indications from ballots conducted so far are that they are being well received by the members concerned.”
SHOPFLOOR April 2014
When is a recovery bad for you?
By David Gibney Mandate communications officer IN THE 1940s, most local authorities believed spending more than 20% of your income on rent was too heavy a demand on a tenant as it would undermine a householder’s ability to feed or clothe their family. Some 74 years later and spending 20% of your income on rent would be a luxury, particularly in the Dublin area. Daft now report that the average monhly rental rate in Dublin is €1,210 while the average wage for a retail worker is €2,250 according to the CSO. This constitutes a massive 53% of a retail worker’s income. At the same time, approximately 90,000 households are on the social housing waiting list with less than 8,500 houses built in Ireland last year. To make matters worse, banks are refusing to lend to anybody earning an average retail worker’s wage making it impossible to purchase your own home. This problem for the worker, particularly young workers, is the perfect opportunity for a landlord who wishes to exploit the rental situation. In the mainstream media, the increase in property prices and rental rates, or ‘recovery’ is broadly welcomed as if housing were any other stock or share. There’s an ignorance of the fact that a house is primarily something you live in and is a necessity for a worker and their family. You’d have to question the motives of a government that refuses to seriously act in such a situation. As property prices and rental rates increase, and while wages are close to stagnant, many workers are experiencing a reduction in disposable income. This means many people have less money to spend on necessities such as food, clothing, shoes, household appliances, and other everyday items. You can see the effect of this through the deprivation rates, which are continuing to increase to frightening levels. Last year April 2014
‘The average rental rate in Dublin is €1,210 while the average wage for a retail worker is €2,250... the problem for the worker is the perfect opportunity for a landlord who wishes to exploit the rental situation’ Mandate and Unite produced a report, Hungry For Action, which showed that one in 10 householders experienced food poverty. While this situation is terrible in its own right, it in turn means a lower volume of retail sales, which is a challenge for employment in the retail sector. As rental rates increase, it’s important that we
recognise the connection between lower disposable income and the corresponding low retail sales – which in turn is resulting in a loss of jobs and a reduction in hours for many workers. The loss of disposable income through the ‘recovery’ in the property sector is a challenge that we must meet head on, through lobbying for more social housing and exploring rent control as a possible option. More social housing will keep rental rates and property prices lower meaning less chance of another property bubble, more spending in the retail and services sectors, and lower deprivation and poverty rates and, most of all, an opportunity for a worker to have an affordable place to live. A recovery in the property market may be a good thing for some people, but for the vast majority of workers and particularly your everyday retail worker, it is not so good. If you are young and you’re trying to get on to the property ladder or trying to move out of your parents’ house, it is vital that you engage in the property debate and contact your local politician to demand action on housing. If you’ve lost hours because trade is down in your business, contact your local politician. And if you’ve lost a sizable proportion of your income, because your rent or mortgage has gone up, contact your local politician. Let’s make the connection that increased property prices and rental rates will result in fewer jobs in the retail and services sector and higher poverty and deprivation levels in our society, especially in working class areas. They made that connection in the 1940s and we must make it again now.
Hungry For Action
Check out report at: http://bit.ly/LCeToA
Notes on the Front
Commentary on Irish Political Economy by UNITE research oﬃcer Michael Taft www.notesonthefront. typepad.com
SKILLS FOR WORK
Interested in a computer training course?
Do you have a desire to improve your communication through computer skills but never got around to it?
Communications through Computers Starting from scratch this course helps you to use a computer and builds confidence for communicating on-line. Mandate Trade Union in conjunction with Skills for Work is offering free training. The courses are to encourage members back into learning and training whilst aiming towards a FETAC level 3 Award. If you are interested in doing a Communications through Computers course, contact: Mandate Training Centre Distillery House Distillery Road Dublin 3 Phone: 01- 8369699 Email: email@example.com
Courses are free and open to members who have not achieved Leaving Certificate or who have an out of date Leaving Certificate. You can also achieve a FETAC Level 3 Award. Skills for Work is funded by the Department of Education & Skills.
Picture: European Parliament
IRELAND’S latest GDP figures, which show a contraction in 2013 of 0.3%, have been described as “disappointing” by the Nevin Economic Research Institute. However, NERI researcher Rory O’Farrell explained to Shopfloor why despite this there was still “scope” for wage increases to boost consumption in the domestic economy. He pointed out that last year’s contraction was due to a combination of a stagnant economy along with a ‘patent cliff’ [meaning a potential decline in revenues following the expiry of patents on various products]. Meanwhile, Ireland’s current account surplus had reached a record high of 6.6% of GDP. Mr O’Farrell explained that the current account surplus was the trade surplus (exports less imports) less 'current' payments abroad, such as interest payments and the repatriated profits of firms. He continued: “For comparison – in 2012, Germany had a surplus of 7% and the Netherlands had the highest surplus of 7.7%. “In a similar way to personal current accounts, a surplus shows that the nation as a whole is saving, while a deficit shows the nation as a whole is borrowing.” But Mr O’Farrell was keen to point out that a negative current account was “not necessarily a bad thing”. He said: “Since the 1960s, Ireland
Picture: LendingMemo (CC BY 2.0)
has usually had a deficit. Only during the period 1992-1999 has Ireland sustained a surplus, with a surplus of 3.7% in 1993. “This is normal for countries in a catch-up phase that import machinery and other productive assets. “In 2007, however, the current account deficit measured -5.6%. The recent figure may be a little exaggerated due to foreign firms deciding to reclassify themselves as Irish firms, but even given this, the current account is firmly in surplus.” Describing the current account as “the ultimate measure of a nation’s economic competitiveness”, Mr O’Farrell added: “Ireland has re-entered a phase of 'super-competitiveness' allowing scope for wage increases. “There is scope to increase personal consumption, boosting the domestic economy, while still maintaining a healthy balance with our trading partners.”
State failures have seriously eroded pensions provision POLICY and regulatory failures have led to significant losses for hundreds of thousands of pension scheme members and seriously eroded confidence in the principle of pension provision, Congress has claimed. ICTU official Fergus Whelan made the comments to a hearing of the Dail Joint Committee on Education and Social Protection on March 5. He told TDs: “Throughout the pensions crisis – which began before the financial crisis – the state and pensions regulatory system failed pension scheme members. “At times both appeared to be actively working against the best interests of scheme members. “Those who are responsible for directing public policy on pensions and getting us into this mess – successive governments, public officials and the highly paid doyens of risk management orthodoxy – got it totally and utterly wrong. Yet they suffer no consequences.They keep the Rolls Royce pensions,” he added. Among the policy and regulatory failures Mr Whelan cited to the Committee were: l Government and the Regulator clung resolutely to a funding standard that artificially overvalued liabilities; l The Government levies on pen-
Picture: SecretLondon123 (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Still scope for pay rises despite 0.3% contraction in GDP
sion schemes – a confiscation of pension savings – served to undermine schemes at the worst possible time; l Regulatory failure encouraged “a flight from Defined Benefit Schemes” and resulted in heavy losses for members.
He told the Joint Committee: “The burden of their failure is borne by workers and former workers. Most workers who have lost out have so far borne their losses stoically. Perhaps this is because they feel no immediate pain. “But in a decade hence when workers, who contributed huge amounts of income to their pension, are sunk in poverty, the pension time bomb may finally detonate.” Mr Whelan said such had been the impact of the regulatory and policy failure that “few well informed workers believe their pension funds savings are safe.” He warned that many people close to retirement will “slowly descend into poverty from the moment they retire... but if high inflation returns, the fall into poverty will be rapid.” He welcomed stated Government plans to address the pensions crisis, but said it would not succeed without proper regulation. “Congress is concerned that the term ‘pension reform’ has become a euphemism to cover policy and regulation failure, the transfer of pension risk from employers to workers, and neoliberal attacks on social security provision for the elderly,” he added. Check out the ICTU submission at http://bit.ly/1lOq9L
Raising awareness about HHT
Mayday Festival 2nd-3rd May Twisted Pepper There May be craic supported by Mandate Youth 8
PaUL Woods, from Swords, dublin, died suddenly aged only 22 in 2012, after a blood vessel ruptured in his lungs. His death was caused by Hereditary Hemorrhagic telangiectasia, or HHt, and led to the setting up of HHt Ireland to raise awareness of the condition. HHt is a genetic disorder of the blood vessels, which affects roughly one in 5,000 people. each child born to an HHt parent has a 50% chance of inheriting the HHt gene mutation. HHt can be found mainly in the liver, lungs, brain and gastro-intestinal (GI) tract. a person can be diagnosed with HHt through clinical examination or genetic testing. the Woods family want to prevent another death from HHt occurring and to raise awareness of this disorder. Paul’s mum, dara, and his sister, Katie, both have the condition. dara said: “the prevalence of HHt in the US is the same as Cystic Fibrosis but it is so unknown particularly here in Ireland. this has got to change.”
although, as yet, there is no way to prevent this disorder from occurring, most forms of it can be treated once they occur. Patients should be treated if they are experiencing a significant problem, as is often the case with frequent unexplained nosebleeds or if they are at high risk of a stroke from a pulmonary bleed or cerebral (brain) bleed. the Woods family ap-
pealed to Shopfloor readers to raise awareness of the condition. “We need your help, please tell people about this article and HHt. thank you for helping us raise the awareness of HHt.” Check out more info on HHt at http://bit.ly/1eVrnUq and http://bit.ly/1dR4Y6W or click on the "Manage HHt" tab at www.hht.org
SHOPFLOOR April 2014
Picture: Duncan C (CC BY-NC 2.0)
BOB CROW – AN APPRECIATION
Inspirational leader whose loss is a profound blow to our class BOB Crow’s profoundly shocking death on March 11, 2014 at the young age of 52 deprives RMT members of the most inspirational and effective leader in the trade union movement at a time when workers across the world face economic attacks and imperialist aggression to an extent not seen since the 1930s. Perhaps this partly explains why his friends, colleagues and comrades have been deluged by messages expressing solidarity, condolence and almost inconsolable sadness from workers’ representatives from Cuba to Iraq and all points in between. This is no media-concocted emotional frenzy. Bob’s brilliance as a media performer, whether as a panellist on BBC’s Question Time or his mercurial press conferences before each TUC Conference (the only events that hardened conference hacks wouldn’t miss), was based on his instinctive razor-sharp intellect and a direct honesty that got straight to the point. He had no airs and graces. Not a trace of pomposity attached to him, April 2014
By Alex Gordon, former President of the RMT and – as anyone who had the privilege of hearing him address large meetings of trade unionists could testify – his powers of communication were exceptional. I have not heard any trade union or political leader since Arthur Scargill at the peak of his powers, who could speak to an audience with the power of Bob Crow. On several occasions I have seen him reduce audiences to tears of anger and uproarious laughter both at the same time. In September last year, Bob was honoured to address SIPTU’s biennial conference in the Round Room of Dublin’s Mansion House, on the centenary of the Dublin Lockout, the only British trade union leader to be so invited. Paying tribute to the men and women of the 1913 Lockout, Bob Crow apologised for the failure of our union’s leadership to support them at the time. However, he paid
tribute to the “rank and file members” of the National Union of Railwaymen who raised funds for Dublin’s workers and organised waves of unofficial sympathy strikes across the north of England and South Wales carrying out the call that Jim Larkin made to them. Bob Crow had a deep respect for the history of struggle of the Irish working class. Although some assumed his family name originated from anglicisation of the Irish ‘Crowe’, he told me his geneological research did not reveal Irish ancestry. Nevertheless, his commitment to the cause of Labour and the cause of Ireland were indistinguishable and his greatest hero was James Connolly whose Collected Works had pride of place in his office. Under Bob Crow’s leadership RMT co-sponsored the Jim Connell Festival in Kells, Co Meath, for many years in memory of the man who
Bob Crow’s greatest
hero was James Con nolly Pic: Jarle Vines (CC BY-S A 3.0)
wrote The Red Flag. RMT’s brass band was a regular fixture there along with RMT young members meeting and socialising with young Irish trade unionists. Tommy and Anne Grimes of the Jim Connell Society were close friends to Bob and his family. In December last year, Bob was pleased to see the publication of James Connolly and the Reconquest of Ireland by Dr John Callow, co-sponsored by RMT, GMB and SIPTU, which is a magnificent addition to the literature on Connolly and permits a great insight into the development of his thought following the Lockout. The vast expression of grief and loss by class conscious workers and politically progressive people around the world are an acknowledgement that we have lost a true comrade of rare talent and power. One of Bob’s greatest friends, John Samuelson, President of the Transport Workers’ Union Local 100, which organises New York public transport workers wrote: “Bob’s
death is a crushing blow to Britain’s and the world’s labor movements. He was without question the most important and profound voice for industrial unionism and the working class in the world.” This is a measured assessment. The RMT he leaves behind is so much stronger than the one he took over in 2002 when we elected him our General Secretary. Although Bob Crow’s legacy will be felt around the world wherever workers organise, it finds its concrete expression in the pride, combativity and solidarity of his RMT members in the transport and offshore energy industries, which will go on from strength to strength. As Bob told audiences on many occasions when embarking on struggles against job losses or pay cuts: “They say that fear is contagious. But there is something more contagious than fear. And I’ll tell you what that is. It’s courage!”
Alex Gordon was President of the RMT between 2010 and 2012 9
Privatisation threat looms over community development SENIOR executives have been called before the Dail's Public Accounts Committee to account for the very high salaries they are paid. They have defended their position in terms of much of their operations being 'commercial'. The Public Accounts Committee is now sifting through the evidence and trying to work out what is commercial about REHAB, other than the salaries, and what is charitable, other than the people with disabilities bereft of rights. At the same time another initiative from the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government suggests REHAB may be the model of preference for the future. The community sector is under attack again and needs the defence of all progressive forces across civil society. Community development is about to be privatised. The Community Division of the Department has written to the chairpersons of the Local Development Companies to tell them that the new programme currently being prepared will be subject to EU procurement directives and will be required to comply with tendering obligations. Ironically part of the advice given to the Department states there could only be an exemption where “it can be proven that the contracting authority exercises over the entity with which it contracts, a similar control that is exercised over its own department”. The irony lies in that this exemption is not deemed to apply despite the Department and the local authorities deepening their control over the local development process through the alignment policy. Recent local government reform legislation provides for the establishment of Local Community Development Committees (LCDCs). These are local authority committees that will be established to achieve an alignment between local and community development and the work of local authorities. The alignment process will further diminsh any independent local and community development work left. So as we watch the ‘commercial’ voluntary sector increasingly shamed at national level, we are 10
By Niall Crowley
‘Little room will be left for empowerment, dissent & community defined development in a commercialised community sector. Maybe wages will be better but nothing else’ about to have a ‘commercial’ community sector developed at local level. Civil society has not fared well during the crisis. It looks likely to fare even worse in the post-crisis. Independent voices, it would appear, are not required. Profit rather than social justice must now be the imperative driving local and community development. This is not good news for those in the community sector. However, it is not good news for society, for those who value equality, participation and accountability for communities expe-
riencing poverty and inequality. Community sector organisations deliver services. That has increasingly become the norm. For many it has distracted and diverted from their original vision and purpose. It is this original vision and purpose that needs defending. The starting point for most of these organisations was community development rather than community services. This community development was vital to enable the participation of communities experiencing poverty, inequality, discrimination and exclusion. Community organisations provided the space where individual problems were shared and became collective issues. They offered the opportunity for people to develop skills and awareness to better analyse their situation and develop responses to it. They made available a platform from which people could articulate their shared demands, campaign for change and negotiate new initiatives from the statutory sector. It must be acknowledged that many organisations still do this work. However, during the boom these priorities got swamped in the rush to secure funding that directed these organisations increasingly into service provision. During the crisis this work became the victim of disproportionate funding cuts. In the brave new post-crisis Ireland these activities are to be privatised. Little room will be left for empowerment, dissent and community-defined development in a commercialised community sector. Maybe the wages will be better, but nothing else.
MAKE SPACE FOR OXFAM OUR SHOPS REALLY NEED YOUR UNWANTED CLOTHES, BOOKS, AND HOMEWARES. YOUR DONATIONS MAKE A REAL DIFFERENCE TO FIGHTING POVERTY.
SHOPFLOOR April 2014
Union Representatives Introductory Course
The Union Representative Introductory Training Course is for new shop stewards/ union representatives. The course aims to provide information, skills and knowledge to our shop stewards/union representatives to assist them in their role in the workplace.
Mandate claims Tribunal case flags up why workers should retain all work-related paper work
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Redundancy award after Tribunal throws out company’s claim A MANDATE member, who acccording to her union, was “left high and dry” after being made redundant by Graham Anthony & Co Ltd in Galway, has been awarded a redundancy settlement by the Employment Appeals Tribunal. Her employer had argued she never worked for the firm but claimed she had instead been employed by retailer Brown Thomas. Mandate Divisional Organiser John Carty said that when Mandate referred the case on, the Tribunal relied heavily on documentation the claimant had retained from her period of employment at Graham Anthony & Co Ltd.
He told Shopfloor: “This included her original contract, pay slips, relevant tax numbers etc, which lead to the Tribunal finding in the claimant’s favour.” The Tribunal awarded the claimant her redundancy and dismissed the employer’s version of the story. However, as the employer is now claiming inability to pay, the union is currently pursuing the issue under the Insolvency Payments Scheme. Mr Carty added: “This case clearly demonstrates why workers should retain all paper work connected with their employment in safe keeping – pay slips, P60s etc.”
l Fair Shop workers can collectively bargain for better wages and conditions
l Fair Shops tend to have better health and safety procedures
If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
AT L AST!
Affordable Car Insurance
MANDATE MEMBERSHIP SERVICES
Cover for Full & Provisional Licence Holder s
Why I back Fair Shop campaign
There’s a level of unity in our store and people get treated fairly. Management and staﬀ are both recognised as important and there’s no fear going into work anymore. I think all union members should support Fair Shops where that atmosphere is promoted.
Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this course will obtain a Mandate certificate. They may progress to a Union Representative Advanced Course and to other relevant training courses offered by Mandate.
FOR AND YOUNG F OR FFIRST IRST TTIME TIME A AND Y YOUNG DDRIVERS RIVERS !
l Fair Shop allows a level of democracy in the workplace
Course content: • Background to Mandate. • The role and responsibilities of a Shop Steward/Union Representative. • Examining disciplinary/grievance procedures. • Developing negotiating skills. • Representing members at local level. • Communication skills/solving members’ problems. • Organising, Recruitment and Campaigns. • Induction presentations.
Cliona Moore, Tesco, Limerick
“I am a young driver who bought a car recently. I applied to a number of insurance companies for insurance and was quoted ver y high prices. As a member of Mandate Trade Union I contacted JLT for a quote and was ver y surprised to find out that the insurance quote I received from JLT was the lowest of all by €400. As a first time driver it was a ver y positive experience for me and I would recommend JLT to any young driver.” Shane, Dublin
Subject to under writing and acceptance criteria. Terms and conditions apply. JLT Insurance Broker s Ireland Limited trading as JLT Ireland, JLT Financial Ser vices, JLT T Online, GIS Ireland, Charit y Insurance, Teacher wise, Childcare Insurance, JL JLT Trade Credit Insurance is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland. 11
Union Representative Advanced Senior Course
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INTERNATIONAL BANGLADESH FACTORY COLLAPSE
The Union Representative Advanced Senior Training Course is for union representatives who have completed the Introductory and Advanced course and who have experience as a union representative in their workplace
The history of trade unionism and development ofThetheemergence market system The impact of globalisation trade and open markets inFreea modern society Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this training course will obtain a Mandate certificate. They may progress to the FETAC level 5 Certificate in Trade Union studies or other relevant training courses offered by Mandate. If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate Official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: email@example.com
Compo payouts for Rana Plaza victims NEARLY a year after the Rana Plaza factory collapse, which claimed the lives of at least 1,138 Bangladeshi garment workers and injured more than a thousand others, victims and their families have finally started to apply – and receive – compensation. An investigation following the April 24 2013 tragedy revealed that the Rana Plaza building, which housed five garment factories, was illegally constructed. Investigators also found that workers had been forced to work at the facility despite the appearance of cracks in walls on the day before the collapse. It is understood beneficiaries have been invited to submit a claim, with the aim of processing and delivering all payments within six months. All beneficiaries will have received an advance payment of at least 50,000 Bangladeshi Taka (equivalent to about €470) towards their full claim by the date of the first anniversary of the disaster. Those workers whose full claims can be fully
Pictures: UNI Global Union/Flickr; LRFL
Alke Boessiger called on top fashion brands to contribute to the Rana Plaza compo fund
processed by April 24 will also receive their first full instalment, which will represent 20% of the total claim. Compensation is to conform to ILO Convention 120 and will be based on both international standards and Bangladeshi law. Meanwhile, Irish clothing retailer Primark has undertaken to take full
responsibility for the compensation of 581 New Wave Bottoms (NWB) beneficiaries, and is to make direct payments to them. All payments and support will be conducted under the auspices of the ILO-chaired Trust Fund. A total of nine fashion brands, including Primark, have already confirmed they will donate to the fund. However, UNI Global Union have called on other leading brands to contribute to the compensation pot – a total of $40m is needed to cover all claims. Head of UNI Commerce Alke Boessiger told Shopfloor: "Primark, C&A and Mango have already paid. There is no reason why Benetton and Walmart cannot contribute $5m to the fund. “Brands sourcing from Rana Plaza have responsibility for ensuring all the claims can be met by making a significant contribution to the Rana Plaza Donors Trust Fund and declare their donation publicly."
SHOPFLOOR April 2014
THINKING OUT LOUD...
Ireland: Gombeen nation ombeen
By Conor McCabe THE Ireland we know of today, of bankers, developers and politicans – the so-called “gombeen men” – has deep roots in this country. And their emergence to positions of prominence was well-flagged by those who came before them. On Tuesday, January 3, 1882 a great national meeting of the nobility and landed gentry of Ireland took place in the Exhibition concert hall in Earlsfort Terrace, Dublin. Among those present was R.J. Mahony, a landowner from Kerry. He told the audience that as the landlord class is put out of the way, another will come along to take their place. “The merchant, the trader, the usurer, the gombeen man,” said Mahony, “those are the future rulers of the land.” He warned the Irish people that in promoting the interests of this class, “you will establish an institution that has been admitted on all hands to be the very ruin of our country, for you will bring back the middleman.” A hundred years later, looking back on this period, our current president Michael D. Higgins cowrote an article with John P. Gibbons of University College Galway that focused on the economic foundations of this merchant, trader and gombeen class. The mainstream image of the period – and the one taught at secondary level – was one of “native smallholders struggling against an alien landlordism that ends with defeat of the latter” and with the smallholder’s future “assured by possession of their holdings.” However, “what is neglected in such an image,” wrote Higgins and Gibbons, “is the presence of intervening levels of exploitation represented by the graziers. They too were opposed by the smallholders.” The grazier families – large farmers who fattened cattle for export – were on occasion the local shopkeepers as well: the arbiters of credit in the community, and the dispensers of loans. It gave them significant societal influence and power. Not all shopkeepers were graziers, of course, but neither one was the friend of the smallholder. The social relations which underpinned Irish rural society were not only framed by land, but by credit: those who needed it, and those who profited from it. And in the north and west of Ireland, it was the Irish entrepreneurial spirit of the middleman and his gombeen cousin that held sway over credit. April 2014
ing at usury – “a usurer; the practice of borrowing or lend der, -len ney mo a \ biːn mˈ \gɒ un no
time to needy farmers… touching heavy interest on their three or six months’ bills.” Their business acumen brought them to the attention of the Ribbonmen. The ex-policeman explained what happened next: When a gombeen man infringed the rules of the Ribbonmen he was put on trial, and if found guilty, the sentence was carding. His house was visited by a select party of these legislators, generally between midnight and 2am, and he was taken out of bed naked, and placed on a chair in the room, and a pair of wool cards were used with vigour on his chest and back until the blood flowed freely. He was then solemnly cautioned to obey their orders in the future or worse would follow... The parish priest denounced [the Ribbonmen] from the altar, and a message was
Know your enemy: ‘Praise the Lord for the tyrant’s hand was paralysed’ – farm workers in Co Clare, circa 1887, with an effigy of a gombeen man
In an article for the London Times on October 7, 1845 the newspaper’s Irish correspondent explained the “middleman” system to his English readers. Large tracts of land, including waste-land, were let by landlords
Picture: National Library of Ireland/Flickr
to a class of businessman known as middlemen. “The middleman of 100 acres is no farmer as in England, who invests his capital and skill and industry in the land, and looks for a fair profit,” the
Stateside gombeenism: ‘Tax Dodgers’ join a May Day march in New York
Picture: Paul Stein (CC SA-BY 2.0)
journalist pointed out. The middleman’s “laziness makes him prefer doing nothing, his greediness and necessities make him resort to subletting at exorbitant rents to poor tenants, whilst he lives an idle, useless extortioner on the profit rent.” The poor tenants, in turn, become themselves rent-seekers. “He lets out an acre out of his farm of six acres in conacre to some wretched labourer,” wrote the correspondent, “who for the potatoes grown on this land is perhaps compelled to work for the farmer the whole year” This is not to say that the middleman and gombeen man always got their own way. In the early 1850s the sin of usury and profiteering was punished in the North-West of Ireland by local secret societies such as the Ribbonmen or Molloy Maguires. In one particular case in 1852, recounted by an ex-policeman 50 years later in the Irish Times, three men “known as gombeen men purchased agricultural produce in the harvest time and sold out seed in the spring
‘Sins of middleman, grazier-shopkeeper, rank-renter and moneylender have concertinaed into a Pat Shortt-like bumbling character of cloth cap and Guinness stains proportions’ conveyed to him to mind his own business. Since the 1920s the gombeen man has become a shorthand for all the ills and evils of the Irish business class. The sins of the middleman, the grazier-shopkeeper, the rank-renter and the money-lender have concertinaed into a Pat Shortt-like bumbling character of cloth cap and Guinness stains proportions. Throughout the 20th and early21th centuries, although the type of business has changed, the underlying principles have not. The Irish entrepreneur is still a rentier-class, still acting as middleman between foreign capital and the resources of the State – but whereas before it was the Georgian houses that marked their lives, now it’s the IFSC and the law and accountancy firms that make millions by handling the tax-avoidance millions of others. The business suit has replaced the cloth-cap, but the gombeenism and Guinness-stains remain. 13
Picture: Nick Saltmarsh (CC BY 2.0)
Tesco workers balloted on pay
teSCO workers at 147 locations across the Republic are expected to benefit following the conclusion of pay talks that took place in January and February. the negotiations were held in advance of the expiry of an existing pay agreement which saw employees receive a 2% increase in January 2013. Proposals have been agreed and were overwhelmingly endorsed at a national meeting of tesco shop stewards on March 25.
Under the terms of the proposals, the workers are to receive a 2% pay increase for a 12-month period, 1% payable for March 1 and 1% for the September 7 next with no concessions. In addition some workers will be offered a buyout of certain terms and conditions. However, this arrangement will be on a strictly voluntary basis. as part of the proposals and in accordance with the company/union agreement, the
union has agreed to enter separate discussions with tesco management on pensions and night working. a national ballot of members is currently under way with the result due to be known on april 25. Commenting on proposals, divisional Organiser Brendan O’Hanlon, pictured right, told Shopfloor: “the increase is expected to be widely welcomed by the members, particularly given that no concessions were given in return”.
City of Dublin Education and Training Board
SKILLS FOR WORK Interested in doing a personal finance or maths course?
Do you have a desire to improve your personal finance skills? Or maths skills? But never got around to doing it?
Personal Finance and Maths course
Starting from scratch this course helps you to improve your maths and personal finance. Mandate Trade Union in conjunction with Skills for Work are offering members the opportunity to attend training. The courses are to encourage members back into learning and training while aiming towards a FETAC level 3 Award. If you are interested in doing a Communications through Computers course, contact: Mandate Training Centre Distillery House Distillery Road Dublin 3 Phone: 01-8369699 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Courses are free and open to members who have not achieved Leaving Certificate or who have an out of date Leaving Certificate. You can also achieve a FETAC Level 3 Award. Skills for Work is funded by the Department of Education & Skills.
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PLATFORM CLAIMING OUR FUTURE
Overwhelming backing: Tesco shop stewards meeting in Dublin
Why you should get involved By Dr Rory Hearne MANY people in Ireland are struggling just to get by on a daily basis – to put food on the table, to pay their mortgage, to be able to afford to go to the doctor, elderly and sick trying to deal with the loss of home help support, and disability supports, ever increasing waiting lists for health care, rising rents, and basic living costs like household charges. For others they are having to say goodbye to their children or partners who have to emigrate for work. Despite the talk of “recovery” and “turning the corner” many people are seriously suffering. Recent figures show that almost one in five young Irish people experience serious deprivation – more than double the number in 2007. Most work available is low paid, with zero security. Families are being evicted from their homes, unable to afford the rent or mortgage. But it didn’t and doesn’t have to
be this way. There are many alternative policies available to the Government that would not cause the pain that is being inflicted on families across the country. Many groups including Claiming Our Future (which Mandate is part of) have campaigned for these including raising tax from wealth, financial transactions, high incomes and corporations, writing down the banking debt (that is now costing us €8bn a year in interest), build social housing, take back our natural resources for the people, create jobs in child care, the health services, renewable energy, and stop austerity and cuts. These ideas and alternatives show that this suffering is unnecessary. These would make the present circumstances much improved. Implementing them would require the Government making decisions in favour of the majority of people and standing up to the ECB, IMF, EU
Commission, the financial markets and the elite. But that is a choice. Currently they are choosing to inflict the pain on us. At the heart of the problem is a political system that once a government is elected it becomes unaccountable and ignores the policies they stood for. Therefore, to get change requires organisations such as trade unions, NGOs, charities, community groups and individuals to take action. Across Europe such organisations are organising massive protests, forming new Left political parties and building alternative social movements that challenge austerity, neoliberalism and the democratic deficit. However, in Ireland there has been a failure of such groups to mobilise the public in this way. Campaign groups are fragmented and divided. Many organisations are afraid of losing funding or their relationships with power (in partner-
SHOPFLOOR April 2014
By Michael Taft IN the ancient Trojan War, the Greeks pretended to surrender and built a wooden horse as a tribute to their enemies. The Trojans rolled the horse into the city and celebrated their ‘victory’ with wine and dance until the early hours. When everyone was asleep, the Greeks – who had actually hidden in the horse – came out, opened the gates, and proceeded to slaughter the Trojans. This incident bequeathed us the phrase ‘Trojan Horse’ – meaning that we should be sceptical about appearances. Fast forward a few thousand years and we have another Trojan Horse at the gates – this time in the form of tax cuts. The same Government that destroyed jobs through spending cuts, reduced living standards through stealth taxes (example: increase in VAT rates), overseen three years of a domesticdemand recession, is now holding out the prospects of tax cuts to ‘reward’ working people who suffered during the recession. Let’s remember the lesson and look inside before we start celebrating throughout the night. First, the Government wants to cut taxes but in exchange for pay freezes. Apparently, pay rises are bad for the economy. The National Competitiveness Council recently twisted evidence, claimed that rising labour costs are a threat to the economy (in actual fact, wages are falling) and said now is not the time for workers to look for pay increases. So, the agenda is no pay increases, only tax cuts. And what kind of tax cuts is the Government contemplating? Extending the standard rate tax band. This is the level at which workers move from the standard tax rate (20%) to the top rate of tax (41%). Single people enter the top rate of tax at €32,800 (for couples where both are working, the threshold is
The Trojan Tax-Horse TAX CUTS double that). Extending the threshold will only benefit workers above €32,800. Here’s the problem with that. Only 25% (approximately) of taxpayers would benefit from extending the standard rate threshold – that is, the top 25%. Most taxpayers don’t make enough to benefit. Indeed, more than 50% of PAYE employees make less than €30,000. It is also unlikely that part-time workers would receive any benefit from tax cuts; again, because their incomes are so low. The Government intends to bypass low and average income earners in order to benefit the relatively wellpaid. But there’s something more
Picture: David Holt (CC BY-SA 2.0)
fundamentally wrong with the tax cuts approach. We need affordable childcare. In Ireland, costs can rise to as much as €200 per week for a single child because we don’t treat childcare as a public service. In most other EU countries, childcare costs less than €50 per week because they do treat it as a public service. There is no tax cut that can reduce fees by that amount. Only investing in affordable childcare can do that. We need a fully free health service – from hospital care, outpatient services, and GP care, with heavily subsidised prescription medicine. Tax cuts can’t achieve that. We need a truly free education sys-
‘Ultimately, the Government’s tax cutting agenda is about boosting profits. And if workers get a tax cut they will have to pay for it by a reduction in their living standards. In other words, workers subsidise their own tax cuts’
tem – from pre-primary education (which Ireland is poor at) all the way to third level. No ‘voluntary’ fees, no university tuition, no schoolbook costs. How will tax cuts achieve that? We need adequate retirement income – an adequacy that is guaranteed by the state. Again, tax cuts are of no help. We need a range of public services (affordable nursing care, disability services) and income supports (such as pay-related unemployment benefit, stronger maternity and paternity benefits) that are taken for granted in other EU countries but which are absent here. Once more, tax cuts will be of no help. These are the services and income supports that raise living standards and provide a strong social security net. These help out workers and their families at critical stages of their life. They provide a strong sense of security – that no matter how difficult times are, our illnesses will be treated, education will be free, and our parents and grandparent will have a dignified life in retirement. None of these services can be provided for by tax cuts. Nor can they be provided on the private market; not for most people, anyway (only those with lots of money can ‘buy’ security). For the vast majority of people these can only be provided by a strong public service sector and strong state supports. However, the Government wants to weaken the state’s ability to support workers and their families, to undermine the living standards of the overwhelming majority of people. By cutting taxes – and, so, tax revenue –
it will have fewer resources to promote the well-being of society. They’ll give us a few cents but take euros from our living standards. Workers are in a strong position to stop this desultory agenda. First, they should make clear through their trade unions that we will absolutely oppose the tax cuts agenda. This doesn’t exclude reforms to make the system more equitable. But cuts do not equal reform. Second, we should pursue pay rises. We should demand that the Government legislate for parttime workers who want to work full-time – by letting them take any extra hours available in the workplace. We should demand that employers play their part. For let’s not be under any illusions – an agenda that depresses wage increases benefits employers who can then maintain and increase their profit levels (and profits are growing, make no mistake about that). Ultimately, the Government’s tax cutting agenda is about boosting profits. And if workers get a tax cut they will have to pay for it by a reduction in their living standards. In other words, workers will have to subsidise their own tax cuts. So let’s not forget the lesson: the Trojan Horse is not empty. What lurks inside can be a danger to our living standards. Leave it outside the city gates. The Government offering tax cuts? There is nothing to celebrate.
Michael Taft is a Research Officer for Unite the Unoin
in a Declaration for a New Republic, a New Ireland ship with government, with TDs, parties and civil servants etc) if they are seen to be too ‘political and critical’. This has led to a lack of cross-society solidarity and a belief that the only thing you can do is fight your own individual battle. But this approach has not worked. The people suffering across Ireland need something different. We need a new way of doing politics, a new way that can inspire and involve the public in taking action themselves. In Claiming Our Future we believe that these things will only change when people who are losing out – such as low paid workers – stand up to the injustices that things will change. We have seen in Ireland individual groups of workers such as Marks & Spencers and ESB employees stand up and win their battle. We have seen campaigns like the Ballyhea Says No protest every week since 2011 in their Cork village April 2014
against the bank debt put on the Irish people. Thousands have protested against hospital closures around the country. Half the country refused to pay the household charge initially. Clearly these campaigns and struggles are important, but to transform Ireland they are not enough on their own. We need a campaign that can mobilise together all those suffering and all those who believe that we should have a country run for the people, not private corporations, elite civil servants and politicians, profit and financial markets. We need a social movement that can unite everyone who believes in the values of equality, environmental sustainability, social justice, participation, accountability and solidarity. Claiming Our Future is proposing that creating and campaigning for A Declaration for A New Republic, A
New Ireland could be that unifying moment that could empower the Irish people, after six years of austerity and crisis, to say enough! Between now and 2016 the achievements and failures of the Republic will be commemorated, debated and contested. During the crisis idea of the need for a Second Republic, a New Republic that would offer change way beyond that offered in a mere change of government gained support. Creating and implementing A Declaration for A New Republic offers people the potential of a more radical and profound transformation of our failed institutions, our failed state, in many ways, our failed Republic. The original proclamation of the first Irish Republic read: “We declare the right of the people of Ireland to the ownership of Ireland, and to the unfettered control of Irish destinies, to be sovereign and indefeasible…
The republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all the children of the nation equally…” But the Irish Republic that these revolutionaries envisioned has never been enacted in Ireland. Claiming Our Future is inviting groups, organisations and individuals (in Ireland and emigrants) to create their own Declaration and submit it over the coming months. We will collate the submissions and put them forward in a large public assembly in early 2015 where we will collectively agree on a 10point common Declaration For A New Republic/A New Ireland. Then we propose to try to campaign to get the Irish public to sign the Declaration in their thousands and organise a people’s parade in 2016 that ex-
presses the Declaration. The aim is to create a new politics. To be visionary and inspire people with the vision and values of a New Republic/A New Ireland, but to propose concrete demands such as the right to decent paid and quality work, to affordable and quality housing and a home, to demand the natural resources be used for the people of Ireland, for sustainable environmental development. We are aiming for it to be broad enough, relevant and clear to allow and motivate maximum public participation but still be meaningful with demands that, if implemented, will bring about real change for all those suffering, excluded, and in pain in austerity Ireland. We hope that this will give a hope to people that there is something to fight and get active for and that there is a future worth fighting and struggling for. 15
THINKING OUT LOUD...
How unions redefined equality THE fight for equality has been a cornerstone of the modern trade union movement. The ICTU and its constituent unions can rightly be proud of the work done to make discrimination and victimisation a vital area of trade union struggle. We have been so successful that people now take for granted the many gains that had to be fought for over the years and it may have become too easy for the institutions of the state to roll back those gains under the guise of Austerity. It would be unthinkable that any trade union activist would accept that a woman should be paid any less than a man for doing the same job, or that a person would be denied a promotion because of their race, sexuality or for any other reason. The trade movement has been central to the development of equal opportunities for decades now, but the question needs to be asked: is it enough? Historically there have been different interpretations of what was meant by equality. The famous phrase from Orwell points to the difficulty in arriving at a point where we can all agree on the meaning of the word. It would seem that we have adopted the American liberal concept of equality of opportunity, that is, the notion that no-one should be denied a chance because of whatever particular group they come from. While it is an important definition of equality which has led to much advancement for under-represented groups, it has its limits. It is based on the theory of meritocracy, whereby, a talented individual who works hard in life will succeed if all the barriers that are put in their way because of their race, gender, sexuality or a whole host of other reasons are removed. In today’s world that is considered fair because the person applied their talent diligently and reaped the available rewards. The point is that all it guarantees is equal access to an unequal system. It’s like being invited into a poker game that’s already rigged. It ignores the advantages of wealth and privilege. The trade union movement pioneered another version of equality: equality of outcome, where the results are judged at the end of the race rather than the beginning.
Worldwide fight for equality: Australian workers take to the streets in their demand for equal pay Picture: ASU
‘The trade union movement pioneered another version of equality: equality of outcome, where results are judged at the end rather than the beginning’
By Mel Corry Trademark It relies on the understanding that if life is a race, then some people start further along the track while others hardly make it to the starting line. It is the sort of equality that gives guarantees and goes beyond mere aspiration. It is the kind of equality that created the idea of universal healthcare, free education, pensions and dignity in old age and it gives
those who are denied the advantages private education, disposable income and social connections the opportunity to apply whatever talent they have in order to make a genuine difference to their lives. It requires a study of the system and how it works. The social safety nets available in both jurisdictions on this island are paid for through pro-
gressive taxation and for a generation or more the rich have been getting away with not paying into the pot. We have been fixated with giving tax breaks for corporations while wages stagnate. In some cases blatant tax evasion has occurred and been ignored by the establishment and a kind of corporate welfare in the form of subsidising low wages has emerged which has become accepted as a social norm. When the fabric of public services becomes threatened, it is easy to point to new immigrants or ‘shirkers’ and ‘scroungers’ for over-burdening
the system and encourages those who defend the services to blame the easy targets. The response from the unions in recent years has been restricted to looking at issues around identity politics and not properly critiquing the system that prevents all of us from sharing in the wealth we produce. This is why focused political education for shop stewards, safety reps, equality reps and officials is crucially important for a vibrant forward looking trade union movement.
Mel Corry is a project worker with Trademark
SHOPFLOOR April 2014
€15k payout for sacking over not meeting targets A MANDATE member who lost her job at a high-profile cosmetics firm for allegedly failing to meet sales targets has been awarded €15,000 in compensation by the Rights Commissioner. She had received a series of disciplinary sanctions for allegedly not meeting targets at the firm which is based in Blanchardstown Shopping Centre. At the hearing, Divisional Organiser Brendan O’Hanlon argued that the member had an unblemished work record before reducing her hours of work. He pointed out that no account was taken by management of the employee’s drop in hours and how this might have im-
pacted on her sales figures. In addition Mr O’Hanlon argued that the procedures used by the firm had been unfair. This was because the employer had moved to a written warning without any apparent justification and that an appeal of sanctions had not been heard. These arguments were accepted by the Rights Commissioner and the member was awarded €15,000 compensation. Brendan O’Hanlon told Shopfloor: “Employees are being placed under increasing pressure in a challenging working environment. It is clear employers should not place unreasonable burdens on workers to deliver on targets that are not realistic.”
More engagement over IASS dispute Mandate has continued its engagement with the expert panel set up in a bid to resolve the long-running issues surrounding the Irish airlines Superannuation Scheme. the dispute at aer Lingus and the state airports over the fallout from a €780 million deﬁcit in the IaSS pension trundles on. the expert panel is made up of key ﬁgures drawn from employers’ organisations and trade unions as well as number of ﬁnance experts. Brendan O’Hanlon, who is leading
the discussions on behalf of Mandate members, has described the situation as “exceptionally diﬃcult for the members of the scheme” and underlined their “signiﬁcant frustration at the current state of aﬀairs”. He told Shopfloor: “It is imperative that robust engagement takes place with the employers through the expert panel to bring about a sustainable solution to the problem.”
l Fair Shops recognise the right of workers to join a union
l Fair Shop workers have access to advice on workplace rights
Gerry Light VIEW
SHOPFLOOR Assistant General Secretary Mandate Trade Union
Just how clean are your clothes?
MUCH attention has been focused in recent times on the need to ensure that every citizen of a society in which they live has reasonable access to appropriate means which allows them to adequately participate both from a social and economic perspective. At home the call for the introduction of an adequate living wage has become more common place largely due to the recognition of how many of our own citizens have been left financially scarred after six years of austerity budgets blindly pursued by our current Government and their bedfellows at the ECB. Obviously one of the direct routes out of poverty is through the provision of work that provides decent and secure financial support. Unfortunately due to the evolving nature of work and the type of precarious employment which is becoming increasingly the norm, the traditional reliance on a job to deliver financial independence can no longer be assumed. This is why Mandate has prioritised over the past two years the delivery of collective agreements which address the issue of decent work in a real and tangible way. Unfortunately the gains that we have secured for thousands of our members have quickly evaporated through the imposition of many new and punitive taxes. This is why we must continue to lobby and campaign on broader social issues which, while they may evolve from circumstances outside of the normal employer-employee relationship, they still at the same time have the potential to negatively impact on our members’ and ordinary workers’ standards of living. Our activities in this area should not be confined to matters of sectoral or, indeed,
national concern and therefore the contents of a recent report issued by Clean Clothes Campaign Ireland must be seriously considered. The report, titled Tailored Wages, asks the question as to whether 39 leading brands on the Irish and European high street are paying enough to those at the manufacturing end of the supply chain in order that can earn a living wage. While half of the brands surveyed included wording in their respective codes of practice stating that wages should be enough to meet workers’ basic needs, only four – Inditex (Zara), Marks and Spencer, Switcher and Tchibo – were able to demonstrate clear steps in how they might achieve this aspiration. However, the report further states that even they have a long way to go before a living wage becomes a reality. In fact, none of Europe’s leading 50 companies is yet paying a living wage. Shockingly – but not surprisingly – of the Irish retailers surveyed, only Penneys were willing to share details of their current projects regarding manufacturing workers wages. Neither Dunnes nor O’Neills sportswear were able to supply even rudimentary information on the issue. Kath Nolan, who co-authored the report, said: “We were disappointed but not surprised to find that so many retailers are doing so little to ensure living wages are met in their supply chains. The fact remains that a living wage is a human right and retailers who continue to abdicate their responsibilities in this matter are infringing upon those workers’ human rights”. At a time when it is entirely understandable that many Irish working families are doing their upmost to make ends meet, we must spare a thought for the millions of women and men worldwide who depend on the international garment trade for their basic subsistence. In many cases the old adage that if the price of an item is too good to be true, then it might just well be the case. Where possible we simply cannot chose to ignore those whose suffering and needs are far greater than ours in relative terms. A conscious effort on all our parts to remember this every time we shop is an act of basic social solidarity which is, after all, surely one of the key principles which underpins the trade union movement and the values that we stand for.
l Giving a Fair Shop your custom is good for the economy
CONGRESS WOMEN’S CONFERENCE WEXFORD 2014
Organising for decent work for women...
Mandate’s Aileen Morrissey, above right and top, made several contributions to the debates
CONGRESS President and Mandate General Secretary John Douglas has said he is “very conscious” that women now constitute the majority of trade union members across Ireland, North and South. He made the comment in his opening speech to the Irish Congress of Trade Union’s 2014 Women’s Conference on March 6. Addressing some 200 delegates gathered at White’s Hotel in Wexford, he said: “I am very conscious that – not least within my own union! – women make up the majority of trade union membership on the island of Ireland. “And that the delegates here this morning represent nearly 400,000 working women on the island. And
that this number of women organising for decent work is a very considerable resource for this movement to have – and one whose participation we need to improve if we are to fully realise our potential for change in Irish workplaces and wider society. “It is my intention as Congress President to commit all of us in Congress to continue to progress our stated commitment to achieving gender equality in our programmes and structures by agreeing an equality action plan with stated targets and time lines. “This means ensuring an equal voice and representation to thousands of working women, by further developing strategies and actions to overcome these challenges. I urge all
of you to continue your work as active change agents within your own unions in that regard.” The theme of this year’s conference was Organising for Decent Work for Women and five women, including Mandate delegate Margaret O’Dwyer, gave personal testimonies about their experiences of the labour market. These speeches set the framework for the motions and discussions that followed over the next two days. Leadership was a prominent aspect of the event and trade union women leaders of the past were acknowledged and their role in progressing women’s issues and women within the trade union movement was recognised. Mandate’s motion for the conference read: “The theme of this conference, ‘Organising for Decent Work for Women’, captures the essence of Mandate’s Fair Shop campaign. This campaign stems from the need for decent jobs for retail workers, predominantly women, jobs that support these workers’ families and communities. Jobs that give a living wage with a guaranteed pattern of hours and not the insecurities of precarious work with reduced hours and earnings. The motion continued: “Mandate calls on conference to encourage all trade unions and conference delegates to support Fair Shop and help Mandate raise the bar for retail workers.” Mandate National Coordinator Aileen Morrissey, speaking to the motion, explained why the campaign secures terms and conditions for retail workers. She urged delegates to “shop till you drop in a Fair Shop shop” pointing out that their spending power could make a real difference for retail workers. Mandate delegates spoke to a number of motions highlighting Mandate’s position over the issue of organising for decent work for women.
SHOPFLOOR April 2014
Congress President John Douglas underlined how 400,000 unionised women North and South was a great resource for changing society for the better Pictures: Kevin Cooper/ Photoline
ONFERENCE 014 VOICES
THE ICTU Women’s conference has once again highlighted to me the challenges female workers face on a day-to-day basis. The conference was not only highly informative and educational, it also highlighted the necessity for female workers to not only join a trade union but to become active in their union. I particularly enjoyed the fringe events at the conference where I learned about the deplorable trade in human trafficking and the work that trade unions across the globe are engaging in to combat it.
THE ICTU women's conference this year was a welcome illustration of how things are changing. Pamela Dooley and John Douglas both spoke about the importance of mentoring and support. This was all the more obvious from the speakers on Motion 10 dealing with marriage equality. For the first time since I got involved in the movement I witnessed parents who were delegates, coming out for their gay children. They demanded equal treatment for all of their children. Equality is a key factor for Mandate’s delegation: (back row) Gerry Battles, Joe Quinn, Joe McGauran and Aileen Morrissey (front row) Margaret O’Dwyer, Helen O’Keeffe, Lorna Dempsey and Tara Keane
the future strength and success of the trade union movement which was demonstrated by all participants at the conference.
A MOTION titled ‘Women, the Working Poor’ called on ICTU to lobby the Government to legislate for a living wage and an end to zero hour contracts. Both items are very important to us, Mandate members, as in the retail sector we know only too well many struggle to make ends meet. Working in low paid, precarious employment, we are daily faced with the challenge of unscrupulous employers taking advantage of the recession to erode our terms and conditions and use zero hour contracts to control a vulnerable workforce largely made up of women. When speaking in support of the motion I also wanted to remind delegates that we have a moral obligation to campaign for all vulnerable workers, both nationally and internationally. The first anniversary of the Bangladeshi Rana Plaza disaster is fast approaching marking the loss of more than 1,100 lives in one of the worst industrial accidents in history. Mandate, as an ardent supporter of the Clean Clothes Campaign, has been calling on employers and the multinationals that sourced their products from Rana Plaza to accept responsibility for the health and safety of their workers, and compensate the injured and the families of those who were killed. Penneys/Primark – one of our Fair Shop employers – have accepted that their company has a responsibility for these workers. But this is not enough, we need to hold all employers accountable for the health and safety of their workers, either directly employed, outsourced or sub-contracted and this includes security and cleaning workers in the retail sector in Ireland. IndustriALL, UNI Global Union and the Clean Clothes Campaign have launched an online campaignto pressurise those companies to pay compensation. We would like to get as many signatures as possible before the anniversary. Please sign the online petition at www.labourstart.org and spread the word about this very important campaign.
I FELT very proud to be asked to speak at the Women’s Conference as I work in retail and 75% of this workforce is women. The economic crisis in Ireland has left many sectors fighting to hold on to their terms and conditions of employment. Workers in retail, catering, bars and cleaning are finding it hard to maintain a living wage and the situation is much worse when they are not union members The Women’s Conference for me has highlighted the core issues that women in the workforce have to face on a daily basis – be they equality, decent work, childcare arrangements, pensions, maternity leave, flexible working hours and many more. We have some great women leading us in Congress and great role models for younger women. The trade unions are leading the way in education and the training of women to play a bigger role in the workplace and in their trade unions.
THE Women’s Conference was very interesting as I got an insight into the ways some woman have been and still are treated in the workplace in terms of low pay, maternity benefits and leave. I would like both men and women to be treated the same, working together on the same level with the same opportunities. All unions need to come together and work to achieve this goal. What I gained from the conference was the chance to meet members from other unions and to make new contacts. We should all work together in unity for the good of all workers.
I THOUGHT that the Women’s Conference was a great opportunity for female activists within the movement to network. There are not a lot of events where you get this chance and, for me, it was probably the best part of the conference. It was fantastic to see so many delegates speak for their first time. It gave me the sense that there are people coming up through the ranks who are capable of building on the work that's already being done. The only thing that bothers me is that I feel sometimes we spend too much time talking and not enough time doing. We have similar motions each year and I would like to see us progress some of these issues forward and not still be talking about them again next year.
BLOW THE WHISTLE ON THE BAD BOSSES
TO JOIN 10 MANDATE
1. An organising and campaigning union:
Mandate is focused on building an activist base to protect and improve employment conditions. Through better organised workplaces and the power of the collective strength, we will deliver justice for working people.
2. Modern and effective training:
Mandate provides free courses to help you learn new skills, improve existing skills and develop you and your prospective career. We negotiate agreements with employers to pay for attendance at courses and also to provide reasonable time off for employees to attend them.
3. Campaigning for success:
Mandate is a progressive campaigning union fighting on issues that really matter to our members, their families and society in general. Mandate campaigns challenge social injustice at all levels of Irish society.
4. Protection at work:
Highly trained and skilled Mandate officials provide professional advice and assistance, where appropriate, on a variety of employment issues.
5. Safety at work:
Mandate health & safety representatives are trained to minimise the risk of workplace injuries and ensure that employers meet their legal obligations at all times.
6. Better pay:
Year on year, Mandate campaigns for and wins pay rises for its members. Mandate also campaigns to close the widening gender pay gap in Irish society.
7. Legal protection:
Mandate has won significant legal compensation for members who are injured as a result of an accident at work.
8. Mandatory pensions:
Mandate has secured pension schemes with a variety of retail employers and will campaign to secure mandatory pension schemes for all members working in the private sector, partcularly those on low wages.
9.You’re less likely to be discriminated against:
Mandate has won agreements with employers on respect and dignity at work policies and procedures. Mandate will continue to campaign for tougher laws to make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sex, race, age, disability or sexual orientation.
10. You’re less likely to be sacked:
Membership of Mandate protects you and strengthens your voice in your workplace.
Together we’re stronger
JOIN MANDATE TRADE UNION ONLINE AT http://www.mandate.ie/Contact/Join.aspx
l How a union-company partnership deal
CAR WARS By Michael T Bride THE United States of America is known as the land of the free and the home of the brave. If there is one virtue that the US prides itself on it is the concept of freedom. Since freedom is supposedly the bedrock of the country, one would think that it transcends politics. The reality, however, is very different – at least when it comes to the freedom for workers to choose a better life. Nothing encapsulates the contradiction that is the idea of America as compared to its harsh reality more than the state of industrial relations in the country, and nothing captures the state of industrial relations like the recent developments in a town called Chattanooga in Tennessee. American manufacturing jobs were once the foundation of the middle class. The American middle class was built as a result of unionisation across America’s once vast manufacturing sector. There is nothing inherently glamorous about the repetitive toiling that is required, often in less than safe conditions, when one works in a manufacturing facility. And yet these jobs became the most coveted jobs in working class America precisely because they were heavily unionised and provided good salaries and terms and conditions of employment as a result. It was said that a manufacturing job in America in the 1950s could pay for a home, send your kids to college and provide for your retirement. Of the myriad of manufacturing jobs available across the US, perhaps the most aspired to was a job in America’s automobile manufacturing industry. The so-called ‘Big Three’ – Ford, Chrysler and General Motors (GM) – were based in Detroit, Michigan, and provided not just hundreds of thousands of jobs directly but countless more in their supply chains. To some extent the initial philosophy of paying people well to produce cars predated the unionisation of the plants. In January 1914, Henry Ford announced that Ford Motor Company was doubling the rate of pay to $5 per day and shortening the workday for many workers from nine to eight hours in an attempt to arrest worker attrition. The net result was a massive reduction in employee turnover and a surge in people looking for work at Ford. According to the Ford website, Henry also reasoned that since it was now possible to build inexpensive cars in volume, more of them could be sold if employees could afford to buy them. However, the United Autoworkers Union (UAW), formed in 1935, still had to fight to gain recognition with
the car companies. This struggle led to the famous sit-down strikes of 1936 and 1937 and the victory they achieved grew the UAW’s membership to more than 500,000 within its first few years in existence. The UAW secured increases in living standards for its members employed in the Big Three and eventually developed a labour-management partnership model aimed at jointly managing the work environment which rivaled anything else in America. The biggest threat to the living standards of auto workers in recent years was the arrival of the “foreign” automakers into America. Companies such as Toyota, Honda, Nissan and Hyundai set up plants in the US to serve the American consumer. And while consumer choice is something to be welcomed, there was a common factor in most of the foreign-owned car plants: it seemed that they wanted to remain unionfree. The focus of the investment was in Southern “right-to-work” states in the US, so called because they had labour laws at State level
‘The right managed to get workers to make decisions on the basis of culture rather than class, and if this continues there is little hope for the American worker’ which were more hostile to unions than other states. Car companies – as with other manufacturers – were incentivised to set up operations in these states by way of grants and tax breaks provided by local politicians, and those same politicians also touted the fact that these states were not union friendly. In fact, not one wholly owned foreign car company in the southern states has workers whom are represented by a union.
Chattanooga One such “right-to-work” state is Tennessee, where Volkswagen in 2008 announced its intention to invest $1 billion by building a plant in Chattanooga and the plant went live in 2011 with a projected output of 150,000 cars per annum. The jobs were estimated to pay $27 per hour – less than the jobs at Ford, GM and Chrysler but way above the average hourly wage in Tennessee of $12.30 for assembly workers. Volkswagen, however, does not fit
the mould of a typical US company in the southern states. Run from its German headquarters, with the German State of Lower Saxony holding a substantial stake and worker representatives making up half the composition of the Board, the company is renowned for having an enlightened corporate social responsibility policy and managing the company via participatory Works Councils in every country in the world where this is permitted. These Works Councils are joint labour-management initiatives which seek to promote a decision making and consultation structure which is focused on problem solving and the improvement of efficiency. Due to a quirk in US labor law, Volkswagen’s wish to have a Works Council in the Chattanooga plant meant that there had to be a union in situ first. In light of the above, the UAW and Volkswagen entered into talks to secure what’s called a neutrality agreement. This essentially meant that the company would remain neutral as the UAW spoke to workers about the union, and that the union had worksite access in order to do so. If a majority of workers voted for the union, then the company would grant recognition. In any objective assessment, this is a far better system for workers to choose whether they want to be union than the typical pitched battle that normally ensues when a union in the US begins to talk to a nonunion workforce. However, even though there was a neutrality agreement between Volkswagen and the UAW, even though workers could freely choose whatever they felt was in their best interests and despite the company unequivocally stating that if the workers voted for the union, it would have no effect upon production, outside forces decided that this scenario could not be permitted.
When culture defeats class Perhaps Harold Myserson writing in The American Prospect said it best when he wrote, “America is where class struggle gets derailed by culture wars”, and so it was in Chattanooga. In the face of an enlightened company which had no problem with the union and a union which had promised to act in partnership with the company, outside groups, right-wing in nature and mainly corporate in their funding, set about communicating with workers in the plant. They bought up practically every billboard site in the town and took to the airwaves in order to urge the VW workers to vote against the union. Their communication strategy was to link a
SHOPFLOOR April 2014
forced the US right wing on to the offensive
failed Detroit car industry to the UAW and, in turn, scare workers who may be inclined towards unionisation. No matter that the Detroit auto ove industry was booming and reprebillboard ab d right-wing an p, to sented a method of partnership , er UAW post that delivered results. One of the affairs of business, Corker exthese anti-union groups was the plained his intervention by mainlaughably-named “Center for taining that the UAW discussion was Worker Freedom”. It is linked to a already having a dampening impact republican strategist named Grover on attracting business to Tennessee Norquist who, in an interview with and that “if the UAW organizes the Reuters, outlined that he wants to VW plant, it will hurt the standard of take the victory against the UAW in living of people in the state”. Chattanooga and fight unions elsewhere. the vote The purpose of this anti-union On Valentine’s Day, 2014, the crusade is an attempt to deprive the workers at the VW plant in ChatDemocratic Party of funding by tanooga voted 712 to 626 against weakening the labour movement the UAW. Those on the right herwhich often provides the financial support for Democrat candidates. In alded it as a great victory and a fact, in staunchly Republican eastern blueprint on how to defeat unions generally and the UAW’s push into Tennessee, a great deal of effort the south specifically. went into linking President Obama On the left, initially there was deand the UAW, safe in the knowledge jection, then consternation and fithat this alone would chill support nally anger. Anger that a system for the union. that supposedly puts workers at its It seems the political message centre permits such outside interbeing pushed was: “Everybody who ference under the guise of free wants to steal your guns is funded by the unions. Everybody who wants speech. Since the vote, there has been no substantiation of Senator to raise your taxes is funded by the Corker’s claims – claims that likely unions. Everybody who wants to swung the vote again the union. borrow too much money is funded The UAW has appealed to the Naby the unions". tional Labor Relations Board Into the fray also went politicians. (NLRB), which is the regulatory Senator Bob Corker – a multimilagency with authority over labor lionaire, former mayor of Chatelections in the US, arguing that the tanooga – publicly stated just before vote was unfair as a result of the the workers voted that he is “very outside interference. The NLRB certain that if the UAW is voted down”, the automaker will announce hearing and decision process will take some time, but it could order a new investment in the plant “in the rerun. next couple weeks”. The fact that Corker’s statement was a direct conthe future tradiction of the VW chief executive in the US seemed to matter little to Whatever happens at the VW the Senator, who issued a second plant, right-wing, anti-union propastatement standing by his remarks. ganda-peddlers – and their political As a member of a political party masters – have succeeded in which typically argues that medtelegraphing to any company which dling politicians should stay out of may be considering a more enlightApril 2014
ened approach to labour relations the vitriol that awaits them should they try to embrace a more partnership-based approach. Those on the left in America tend to take trades unions for granted and many would lament that the days of unions have passed, focusing their efforts instead on other progressive issues such as marriage equality for the gay community or environmental issues. In stark contrast, the right in American politics seems to fully comprehend the importance of trades unions if you look at how vehemently they battle with the labour movement. Ultimately, this is about the future of work and the future of the middle class in America. A strong union movement equates to more income equality and fairness at work. The right has managed to get workers to make decisions on the basis of culture rather than class, and if this continues there is little hope for the American worker. In 1951, during a tour of an early automated car plant in Ohio, an executive for Ford pointing to the robots, turned to then-UAW President Walter Reuther and wisecracked: “Aren’t you worried about how you are going to collect union dues from all of these machines?” Reuther’s quick reply was: “The thought that occurred to me was how are you going to sell cars to these machines?” While that exchange referred to automation in the car industry, it could equally be applied to pay rates or to the wider economy. Workers are ultimately consumers. If a consumer is not afforded the means to buy his or her own products, then the corporation will suffer. Henry Ford knew this in 1914. One wonders how long it will take modern day corporate America to understand it too.
Michael T. Bride is Deputy Organizing Director for Global Strategies at UFCW International Union
Age discrimination a key issue for older unemployed people By Brid O’Brien Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed THE INOU is a federation of unemployed people, unemployed centres, unemployed groups, community organisations and trade unions. Our vision is for full employment for all and for an acceptable standard of living for unemployed people and their dependents. Our key aim is to represent and defend the rights and interests of unemployed people. The unemployment crisis and resulting jobs famine has had a major impact on hundreds of thousands of workers who lost their jobs and who are struggling to get back to work. The current lack of decent jobs is a major barrier to people getting back to work. Unfortunately, it’s not the only barrier. Age discrimination is not a new phenomenon. The INOU carried out research with older, long-term unemployed people in the late 1990s as part of a key project called Combating Prejudice Against the Unemployed. At the time, age discrimination was identified by 68% of longterm unemployed people surveyed as being a major barrier to their getting back to work. Our experience of working with unemployed people over the last five years unfortunately shows that age discrimination is still a major barrier facing older unemployed people. Recently the INOU was contacted by RTE’s The Business about an email they had received from an unemployed man who has good ICT experience and skills but who cannot find a job in spite of all the coverage of the lack of skills in this area. The man is in his fifties, a fact which should make no difference but his experience says otherwise. On the same day they contacted us, we had been contacted by another unemployed person who is in her mid-forties and who is finding it very hard to get back to work. As she says in her own words: “I was made redundant in November 2013; this is my second compulsory redundancy in five years which in itself is very disappointing. However, to make matters worse as a 46-year-old woman I am now experiencing active age discrimination and it is soul destroying. “I have twenty plus years experience with leading multinational companies and I have never strug-
gled to get a job before even in 2010 at the height of the recession.” Further on in her email she notes: “My husband and I are both very hard workers, we want to work and we do not want to be a burden on the state or forced to emigrate again. “We are both returned emigrants and we were so confident when we returned to Ireland that we could finally make it our home. “As a couple we both have a wealth of experience and wisdom with so much to share with both employers and our local communities, it would be such a shame if we had to take the emigrant ship again.” The person is also frustrated at all this talk of jobs. She continued: “I don't know where are all these jobs are that the Government are announcing, it seems to be a race to the bottom with very low paid jobs or, even worse, the JobBridge which just offers an extra €50 on top of the dole – what good is that to somebody who has a big mortgage?” We followed up on these contacts with our unemployed individual members with a view to hearing about their experiences. There was a very significant response highlighting age discrimination being seen as a major barrier for older unemployed people. One of the respondent’s experience stood out given the recent coverage of vacant jobs in the hospitality sector and the lack of experienced staff. As he says himself: “I am 49 years old and worked in the hospitality sector for over 30 years and since I was made redundant almost three years ago, I have had no luck finding employment mainly due to my age. “Almost all the interviews I have gone to are just going through the motions and wasting my time, they know the job is going to someone a lot younger with less experience and less pay. Indeed a friend of mine who is manager of a pub for a large pub group was told not to employ anyone over 35.” This is illegal under the Employment Equality Acts. If the Government is serious about tackling long-term unemployment, then a concerted effort must be made to tackle age discrimination in the labour market – 33% of those who are long-term unemployed are aged 45 years and older. 21
EDUCATION & TRAINING
l From May 1, 2017, the Irish trade union movement is setting a new course...
By Aileen Morrissey Mandate National Co-ordinator THE IRISH trade union movement is developing a new learning institution, a “Workers’ College”, and Mandate is engaged in the development of this new education initiative. A College that would provide education and training to union members and their families; that would reflect the interests and values of the trade union movement When the Commission on the Trade Union Movement was set up, its terms of reference identified the importance of the “promotion of social and democratic values through education and communication” and of developing a capacity for “political education and awareness building”. In line with these objectives, a small ad-hoc working group – of which Mandate is a member – was set up and tasked with advancing a proposal to develop a Workers’ College. It is envisaged that from 2017, the people of Ireland will have a new college for the study of politics, economics, work and social policy. The College, through its courses, seminars and conferences, will be a significant provider of opportunities for the examination of the interaction of economic, legal, political and social developments. Students attending courses will equip themselves with the academic and practical skills for their own personal development and for the benefit of the wider society and for the good of the trade union movement. The College, through its graduates and students, will be a source of analysis of competing theoretical models of political economy and will provide alternative choices for economic and social progress focusing on fairness, justice, equality and social freedom. Central to its contribution to social democracy will be its continuing articulation of an alternative to the neo-liberal consensus that has emerged at both national and European levels. As an institution for the study of politics, economics, work and social policy, it will focus on educating and building the capacity of union activists and citizens generally to challenge the existing political and economic hegemony. Its curriculum will concentrate primarily on political economy and address alternatives to the dominant economic orthodoxy. The College will provide a range of courses at different levels of competencies and qualifications. Subjects will be offered under the following faculties: l Department of Economics; l Department of Finance and Financial Administration; l Department of Sociology, Occupational Psychology, Work and Employment; 22
Health and Safety
l Department of Sources and Administration of Law; l Department of Trade Unionism, Union Organising and Collective Bargaining. The faculties will offer training which will consist of: l Access Studies: Literacy and Numeracy Skills – at Work and in Society and Basic Computer Skills and Research Skills; l Economics; Micro, Macro with the following specialisms: Labour Market, Health, Education, Income Distribution and Taxation Policy; l Sociology, Occupational Psychology, Work and Employment with the following specialisms: Structure and Ownership of Wealth, Capital and Labour, Forms of Work Organisation, Social Relations of Employment, Equality in Society and Occupational Safety and Health; l The Sources and Administration of Law with the following specialisms: Labour (Employment) Law, Trade Union and Industrial Relations Law, Law of Contract and the Contract of Employment and European and In-
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ternational Law; l Trade Unionism, Union Organising and Collective Bargaining with the following specialisms: Theories and Practice of Collective Bargaining and Industrial Disputes, Third Party Institutions, Government (State) and Voluntary Agencies, Trade Union Organising and Campaigning, Information Technology Skills and Building Union Activism and International Trade Unionism; l Finance and Financial Administration with the following specialisms: Financial, Financial Auditing, Practices and Consequences, Occupational Pensions, Funding and Investment Strategies; l Communications with the following specialisms: The Media, Information and Communications in Society, Print, Tele-media and Social Media Skills; l Politics with the following specialisms: Political Theories and Society, Politics and Economics, European and International Politics. From May Day, 2014, a programme of courses will be provided to trade
union representatives and trade union officials on a centralised basis through existing trade union training centres and in other suitable facilities throughout both jurisdictions. The scope of courses will embrace a range from basic representatives training through to highly-specialised topics for trade union leaders. Seminars, workshops and briefings will be provided on current topics and issues as required. Mandate’s Training Department will be promoting this training and placing members on to these courses. During the period of transition, course topics will be determined by reference to what knowledge and skills are necessary for trade unions to organise and operate effectively and to progress their objectives. Typically, the following will be included in the core topics: l Economics and Politics; l Employment Law; l Equality; l Financial Information; l Health and Safety;
l Pensions Bargaining; and l Union Organising and Collective Bargaining. Recognition and accreditation of learning have become important elements in adult education. Progression paths to enable union representatives and officials to participate in further education will be set out and guidance provided to help them in achieving this. Currently there is a national qualifications framework which provides a transparent system of qualifications. Experience indicates that participants in current trade union courses value the benefits of having their training achievements formally recognised by certification. The new Qualifications and Quality Assurance Ireland (QQI) has replaced FETAC, HETAC, and NQAI. The development of the European Qualification Framework means that qualifications in Ireland and the UK
‘Central to its contribution to social democracy will be its continuing articulation of an alternative to the neo-liberal consensus that has emerged at both national and European levels’ can now be mapped directly to each other. This means that the College can more easily correlate qualifications between the Republic and Northern Ireland. The working group is currently examining the certification and qualifications that will be available in the College. The College will be established as an institution separate from Congress but with its Board of Management appointed by the Congress Executive Committee. The Congress Executive Committee will have the discretion to appoint the members of the Board from within or without the trade union movement. Congress will appoint the College President, who will be a full-time employee of the college and be its chief executive officer. When established, the Board will adopt regulations for the conduct of its business and the management of the College. Mandate is delighted to be involved in the development of this new college which will educate the trade union activists of the future. May 1, 2017 is the date set for the formal opening of the new Workers’ College.
SHOPFLOOR April 2014
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Airline unions under attack By Clare Daly TD "THERE seems to be a jihad against the unions at present. The company want rid of them. The unions will have to be prepared to fight and fight hard to ensure their continued survival." This was the opinion of a colleague at Aer Lingus in response to the latest developments at the airline. He has summed up the situation pretty well. In an unprecedented move, Aer Lingus has decided to sue SIPTU in general – and union official Dermot O'Loughlin personally – for damages as a result of the planned industrial action that never took place on St Patrick's Day. This is nothing more than a blatant attempt to intimidate the key organiser of the workers’ battle to save our pension fund, and by extension designed to strike terror into all of the shop stewards. They must not be allowed to succeed. To add insult to injury, the initiation of the legal action was followed by the publication of the company’s annual report which showed that Chief Executive Christoph Mueller received a €1 million bonus, on top of his €500,000 salary. Aer Lingus – which is refusing to pay a gain sharing payment owed to workers for restoring the company to productivity – decided to increase Mueller's pension contribution from 25% to 40% while failing to resolve workers’ pension issues. These double standards show the direction in which the airline wants to go – a race to the bottom to create a low-budget carrier such as Ryanair, which will pay out large dividends to stockholders at the expense of workers’ terms andconditions of employment. Obviously the organised workforce at Aer Lingus stands in their way so resorting to bully-boy tactics has been embarked on with the backing of the courts. This is a threat to all trade unions. It marks a new low in industrial relations in the state and must not go unchallenged. The unions have to stand firm and refuse to be cowed. The alternative will be for workers to question the value of being in a union if it cannot defend your interests. The backdrop to the dispute lies in the serious crisis in the Irish Airlines Superannuation Scheme (IASS), a defined benefit pension scheme with members from the DAA, Aer Lingus, and some from SR Technics. Earlier this year SIPTU members of the pension scheme voted overwhelmingly to engage in a four-hour stoppage over the failure of the employers to address the €780m deficit in the scheme. If the deficit is not adApril 2014
dressed, employees could receive just 4% of their expected pension benefits, with current contributions simply going down a black hole. Talks around the pension scheme have been on-going for the last two years. Recommendations last year by the Labour Court failed to solve the problem as both Aer Lingus and DAA refused to take responsibility to pay more money into the fund to protect their members’ pensions. With Aer Lingus alone almost having cash reserves of €1 billion and a sizeable part of the strain on the scheme coming from management decisions to allow people to leave early as part of their cost-cutting programmes. Employer responsibility is the key to solving this issue which will see people pauperised in their retirement even though they contributed hefty amounts to their pension funds over the decades. This is not good enough. Following two planned strikes which did not go ahead in 2012 and 2013, the strike action planned for St Patrick’s Day was blocked by a successful High Court injunction application by the DAA, also pursued by Ryanair. Mr Justice Paul Gilligan granted an injunction, based on the evidence that only members of the pension scheme in the airport authority had been balloted. He said there was a serious question as to whether this group of workers, on their own, were allowed to vote for a strike. The High Court’s injunction to prevent strike action shows that the legal rights granted to Irish workers are restricted. While corporations gain ever more freedom, workers face ever more legal obstacles The labour and trade union movement as a whole should be challenging the right of any court to interfere with the right to strike. The strike ballot is a matter for the union and its members. The withdrawing of labour has always been the most effective weapon workers have to protect their interests. Without it, it is very difficult for to protect living standards. That this is happening in companies which are 100% and 25% owned by the state is an absolute disgrace and a particular indictment of the Labour Party in government. These attacks need to be met with the strongest opposition from the entire union membership. The unions will have to fight hard to protect their members and to ensure their survival.
Clare Daly is the independent socialist TD for Dublin North. Clare is a shop steward at Aer Lingus, currently on leave from that role.
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VIEWPOINT By Conor McCabe IN NOVEMBER 2006 one of the richest men in the world sat down in an office in Nebraska to converse with a journalist and together they talked about class war. The billionaire was Warren Buffett and he pointed out to the New York Times that he paid a far lower percentage of his total income in tax than his cleaner. The journalist said that while this may be true, those who raised the issue in public were always accused of fomenting class warfare. Buffett agreed, adding that “there’s class warfare alright but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” It was a moment of frankness and honesty from one of the 85 men who together possess the same amount of wealth as 3.5 billion of their fellow human beings. The disparity in world income, as well as that between the tax bills of a cleaner and a billionaire, are not by accident but design. And in this world system of accumulation and tax avoidance, the tax lawyers and accountants of Dublin play for themselves a profitable role. In 2005, the Limerick-based academic Mark C. White published a paper which looked at the role of the International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) in Irish regional development. He found that “Irish legal services benefit more than most sectors from the continued development of the IFSC and international financial services.” White pointed out that “almost all financial services multinationals purchase legal services locally” and that regarding the labyrinth of Irish financial and tax law “these legal firms provide important tacit knowledge necessary for the production of financial products.” Seven years later the Wall Street Journal cast its eye over the world of Dublin’s financial and legal services. It focused on one address: 70 Sir John Rogerson’s Quay, home to hundreds of companies and the head office of the Irish legal firm, Matheson, “an Irish law firm that specializes in ways companies can use Irish tax law.” The newspaper reported that Matheson’s lawyers “often serve as directors of businesses registered at its address [in the docklands].” It gave two examples: “Matheson attorney Dualta Counihan has served as a director of at least 274 entities, based on Irish records, while attorney George Brady has served as a director of at least 232 entities.” Matheson replied to the WSJ that “when a client is setting up a new company in Ireland, it is not unusual for a lawyer to act as an initial director of such a company for a short period.” Among the companies listed at Matheson’s address are subsidiaries of Goldman
A system stacked in their favour... There’s class warfare alright but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war and we’re winning Sachs, Microsoft, Pepsi Co, J.P. Morgan and Yelp. The law firm’s office is also the official registered address of Google Ireland holdings, an Irish company that is listed in Bermuda for tax purposes. This is because under Irish tax law companies are taxed where their management meet, not where the company is registered. This set-up allows Google to avoid billions in tax payments – a situation recently highlighted by the US Senate, the Guardian newspaper and the BBC. It is easy for wealth to avoid tax in Ireland. In fact, it’s the law. In 2011, there were about 190,000 enterprises in Ireland, of which somewhere around 36,000 paid corporation tax that year. However, that does not give the full picture. According to the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report for that year, “just 129 taxpayers accounted for almost two-thirds of total [corporation] tax receipts.” Far from the headline rate of 12.5%, the median rate of corporation tax in Ireland appears to be zero. The majority of companies – both Irish and international – seem to pay no corporation tax whatsoever. The issue of corporation tax is made all the more complicated by the fact that it is possible for individuals to effectively set themselves up as companies and avail of all the tax
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n Warre t t Buffe Illustration: DonkeyHotey (CC BY 2.0)
‘Far from the headline rate of 12.5%, the median rate of corporation tax in Ireland appears to be zero. Most companies – both Irish and international – seem to pay no corporation tax whatsoever’
avoidance measures which come with such a legal situation. This is because since 2003 Ireland does not have any special tax zones – the entire state is a special tax zone. In July 2012 the Irish Independent reported that a number of high-profile radio and TV personalities are paid through private companies rather than as PAYE workers, which can potentially slash tens of thousands off tax bills. Tax expert Niamh Keogh told the newspaper of some of the benefits of such a setup. “If an employer pays you €100,000,” she said, “you get half of that or less if you're an employee, whereas if those fees are paid to a company, the full amount would be paid to that company… there are more generous limits to what you can do if you're managing your own company, for example a pension fund with a generous pay-out [and] if you keep the money in long enough and wind up the company down the road, instead of [the top rate of] income tax, you pay Capital Gains Tax, which is just 30%.” Tax avoidance remains a rich person’s game. It has a serious impact on the sustainability of nations, yet in Ireland it remains state policy – not because it is of benefit to the many but because it is of benefit to the few. Warren Buffett is correct. It’s class war. We should have the courage of billionaires and name it as such.
SHOPFLOOR April 2014
FROM WHERE I STAND...
By Siobhán O’ Donoghue Director, Uplift IRELAND Inc. is off its knees. If you are having some difficulty believing this news it may be because you are too busy, working harder to make ends meet; figuring out how you will get yourself or your children through education without incurring debts that will last half a life time; worrying yourself sick about what you will do if you ever do get sick; trying to pay the rent that has just gone up and busy attending leaving parties for your friends and family who managed to raise the funds to seek a better life elsewhere. It’s only a matter of time before that old familiar mantra “a rising tide will lift all boats” pops up in carefully-crafted political speeches and media interventions. The rising tide analogy was a particular favorite in the 1990s and a clever device to sugarcoat policies and decisions designed to lay the ground for rampant growth deregulation and unfettered financial speculation. The basic idea being that the benefits of economic growth would flow to everyone if we allowed the market to have free rein. All we had to do was get out of its way. The rest is history! Social Justice Ireland estimate almost 120,000 people with a job in Ireland are at risk of poverty. The Credit Union ‘What’s Left Tracker’ calculated that in 2013, 1.8 million people had just €100 or less disposable income left per month once essential bills have been paid. This amounts to a safety net of just over €3 per day. The precarious and vulnerable status of so many people stands in sharp contrast to the disposable income of the top 10% of households who have a disposable income of more than €88,000 – almost €1,700 per week. Income inequality increased during the recession with the income of those in the top 20% now 5.5 times higher than that of the bottom 20%. The excellent book The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett details the many ways in which income inequality damages society. The authors clearly show how
Breaking the cycle
what matters is not how much wealth is generated in a country but how it is distributed. Mental health, levels of violence and addiction, safety levels even life expectancy are affected by the gap between the incomes of those at the top and bottom of the income ladder. The university of life teaches us that we generally judge our success by comparing ourselves to others. When we see people buying bigger houses, shinier cars, taking multiple
Picture: Bert Everson (CC BY 2.0)
holidays and generally living it up it is hard not to believe that this is the norm. For many people this pressure generates a lot of stress and anxiety when in reality it is impossible to keep up without generating huge debt. For many more living and working alongside such displays of decadence and wealth simply compounds a sense of hopelessness in the daily struggle to survive. During the boom we were told we
‘During the boom we were told we were fools if we didn’t want to join the party. Then we were told we had all partied too hard. In reality there were many in Irish society who never even got an invitation to the party’
were fools if we didn’t want to join the party. Then we were told that we had all partied too hard. In reality there were many in Irish society who never even got an invitation to the party. Particular ridicule is reserved for those who experience deep-rooted, often intergenerational poverty and inequality. The spotlight of hate is constantly targeted on the so called “socially excluded”. We are regularly subjected to the ‘You get what you deserve and deserve what you get’ diatribe on media and political platforms. Lone parents, the welfare dependent, minimum wage workers, asylum seekers, migrant workers, Travellers and others are either blatantly or subtly blamed for the situation they find themselves in. They are portrayed as a risk to society; the cause of social unrest; a drain on public resources. They are regularly served up to us as armchair entertainment through programmes like Tallafornia, Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, Paddy’s People. What if the same spotlight and interrogation was directed towards the top echelons of society? Questioning their degree of commitment to and participation in mainstream society is a highly valid exercise. They attend exclusive private schools, live in gated communities, are never seen using public transport, use private health care, attend private health clubs and spas; do not have regular jobs and in many respects exclude themselves from the mainstream. Consider the damage to society caused by this lack of participation. Compare their lack of integration with those in the bottom levels of society who have little or no choices. On the other hand the group who hold so many of the resources within society fostered the growth of an un-
accountable global financial oligarchy operating freely outside the remit and control of national governments. It has been widely acknowledged that this most definitely contributed to the creation of an unstable economic system, nationally and globally. The existence of a largely unaccountable and ungoverned, highlyprivileged group represents a significant threat to a democratic and fair society. There is ample evidence that they use their power and resources to shape and influence policies and decisions designed to benefit themselves at a cost to the greater good of society. Tax reform is an obvious way to assist with the re-integration of those members of society who proactively choose to live outside the mainstream. The more tax the top echelons of society pay, the more invested they would be in the systems and structures that provide the essential scaffolding for a functioning and democratic society. The same goes for education and health system reform. Tax reform designed to make those with the most pay the most would also enable greater accountability and transparency, badly needed in our socalled democracy. If economic inequality had a role in bringing us to our knees, surely greater economic equality would be the obvious way forward. Right now the idea of tax reform supporting more equal distribution of resources may seem somewhat radical. However, I leave you with the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.”
Siobhán worked with the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland for more than 11 years and is now the Founding Director of Uplift a new people powered campaigning organisation. Check out www.upift.ie
Adult Education Courses for the Workplace
Mandate Trade Union with the VEC network is offering a programme of Training Courses called Skills for Work. Skills for Work offers members the opportunity to get back into education at their own pace with a wide range of courses to choose from. Each course has 6 – 8 participants and may be held locally and outside of working hours. Some of the courses include:
Communication Skills/ Personal Development and Effectiveness
For those who want to brush up on their writing and spelling skills while you develop personal and interpersonal skills which are important for dealing with workplace situations and improve communications in everyday life situations
Perhaps you’d like to brush up on your everyday maths, including home budgets, tax and weights/measures.
Communication through Computers
This course is ideal for adults just learning about computers and confidence for communicating online.
Please tick the box or boxes of the courses which interest you and return this form with your details to: Mandate’s Organising and Training Centre Distillery House, Distillery Road, Dublin 3 Phone 01-8369699, email email@example.com
Workplace Location Phone
Courses are free and open to members who have not achieved Leaving Certificate or who have an out of date Leaving Certificate. You can also achieve a FETAC Level 3 Award. Skills for Work is funded by the Department of Education & Skills
l Strongarm populist introduces tough new labour code
Tightening his grip: Hungarian PM Viktor Orban has strengthened an already draconian penal code and invested heavily in beefing up a paramilitary police force since his 2010 election win Picture: Jorge Gonzalez (CC BY-SA 2.0)
By Stephen Nolan Trademark AFTER 1989 and the fall of the Soviet bloc, the transformation to a capitalist ecomnomy in Hungary raised expectations of increasing democracy and rising living standards. Hungarians in contrast to other Eastern European countries had a comparably good life under the ‘Goulash Communism‘ of Janos Kadar, so expectations were high. The country’s transformation to a market economy in the 1990s was driven by foreign capital through Foreign Direct Investment, leaving Hungary with one of the highest shares of foreign investment in Europe counting for 40% of GDP and 80% of its exports. However, as with all market models there has been a dramatic increase in wealth at the top of society but following the fiction of trickle down economics there was a huge rise in inequality and the deepening of poverty. Nonetheless it maintained strong labour laws and extensive social protections throughout that period. The result was that by 2006 Hungary had a budget deficit of at 9% of GDP and came under pressure from the EU to introduce Europe’s first of the now very popular austerity packages. It led to a 4% decline in its economy (comparable to Greece and Ireland). It was only after Hungary’s second austerity budget that the financial crash of 2008 tipped it over the edge, and they went to the EU for an €18bn IMF-EU bailout acompanied by the now standard conditions that included reducing pensions, an assault on family benefits, an increase in income tax, increase in the retirement age, privatisation of public resources and cuts in public transport subsidies. In 2010, the country‘s social democratic government was kicked out and replaced by Fidesz and its leader Viktor Orban. In what is familiar to us in Ireland, Viktor Orban claimed in the run-up to the elections that he was against austerity, would renegotiate the IMF deal or kick them out and protect “Hungarians“ from the worst impacts of the financial crash. The difference is whereas the Irish political elite blamed a few rotten apples, each other and, of course, the irresponsible property-obsessed people, Orban adopted a more populist and corporatist approach casting blame on a shadowy corrupt capitalist elite that was serving for-
Picture: EPP (CC BY 2.0)
Hungarian bailout and the rise of the right...
Symbol of the far-right Jobbik party
eigners and the EU. In the 2010 elections he won 52% of the vote. He morphed quickly into the role of a populist who stated that his primary role was to look after “the peo-
ple”. His definition of who the “people” were saw him drift into dangerous political territory. Orban moved towards the traditional right-wing and populist values of the three F’s – flag, family and faith – and something of a flirtation with the far-right Jobbik party (which has more than 40 seats in parliament). Orban has since built a hegmeonic power structure based upon patronage and loyalty and an ever-increasing authoritarianism. Alongside undermining the constitutional court, he has strengthened an already draconian penal code and invested heavily in a paramilitary police force. In order to maintain this populist balance, he has adopted a quasi-left approach to some economic policies such as price controls on energy
prices, increased taxes on foreign banks and has cast “foreign” capital as the enemy. However, he has also introduced a flat regressive income tax directly benefiting the wealthy while introducing tight fiscal policies which is “austerity” in all but name. This includes the usual attack on public spending and, in particular, Hungary’s social model. He has limited unemployment benefit to three months, introduced a work-to-welfare scheme, attacked employee rights, and sought a reduction in trade union power. A new labour code – designed to strip away security and rights – includes: l Curbs on union rights; l Limits to the right to strike; l Reduction of shift work and overtime allowances; l Cutting of holiday entitlement; l Termination of employment protection for mothers on maternity leave and older workers; l Requirement of employees to accept changes to work without consultation; l Restriction of the right to severance pay after termination by the employer; l Removal of working time exemption for education for trade union representatives; and l Removal of the right of unions to participate in the electoral committee of works councils. Unsurprisingly the Confederation of Hungarian Employers and Industrialists (MGYOSZ) supports the new labour code as it will “add to the competitiveness of the Hungarian economy”. As workers and trade union activists we understand what this means, when employers say ‘competitiveness’ and ‘flexibility’, it translates as ‘insecurity’ and ‘vulnerability’ for us and our families. In taking a ‘populist’ line Orban continues to cast a ‘shadowy capitalist elite’ as the enemy, while at the same time introducing policies that benefit that same class. He uses classic populist misdirection by stoking right-wing nationalist passions, attacking minorities and labour unions while claiming he is working for a "system of national unity". Whether it’s unelected ‘technical’ governments, unstable coalitions or populist right-wingers, what they hold in common are their brutal austerity programmes. Programmes which are not good for workers and not good for democracy.
Mandate launches Media Training course
MANDATE has set up a media training course for senior shop stewards which will help them to understand how the Irish media operates and give them practical experience in doing interviews. The aim of the course is to give members some experience in TV and radio interviews and ensure they are comfortable with the process. Participants will gain an understanding of the media landscape and the processes that are behind what makes the news and what doesn’t. Aileen Morrissey, Mandate National Coordinator of Training, told Shopfloor: “Our union is committed to education and we hope the expansion of our education programme will be of practical use for our members as they engage in local and national media debates. “We have already seen members participate very successfully in media interviews but as with most things, education and practice will only help to alleviate stress and improve performance.” Mandate Communications Officer David Gibney said he hoped the training would give members more confidence in getting their message out there. “There’s something very powerful about a worker making their case in the public arena. Whether it’s seeking pay increases or protecting their terms and conditions of employment, a worker’s voice is so much stronger than a union official’s.” The first course took place at the end of March but more courses are due to follow in the coming months. Details regarding future dates for media courses will be available as part of Mandate’s training schedule which will be on our website.
Be media savvy! If you’d like to take part in our Media Training course, you can register an interest by emailing us at: mandateotc @mandate.ie y
SHOPFLOOR April 2014
What would he do? By Ed Teller THERE is a temptation to sometimes ask the question, ‘What would Connolly do today?’ but rather than ask that question, it is far more valuable and insightful to ask ‘What did Connolly do?’ The burgeoning movement of unskilled industrial workers, after the heroism of the Lockout and the deflated return to work in 1914, could well have been tempted to temper their radicalism and seek accommodation with Murphy and his band of employers and seek to become one of the ‘approved’ unions. But they did not. Not mentioned too much today is that Murphy recognised unions and would recognise another union for the tram workers, he just would not deal with the ITGWU. So, what lesson did Connolly conclude from the experience of the Lockout and the class weapon of sympathetic strike? He wrote in the February 2, 1914 edition of Forward: “It may then be asked: how far has the Dublin experience justified or failed to justify those who, like myself, contended for the practicability of this [sympathetic strike] policy? We have been forced in Dublin to abandon the policy temporarily because other unions whose cooperation was necessary had not adopted a similar policy. “It was not practicable to enforce the policy of tainted goods in Dublin whilst the goods so held up could be transported from other ports and handled across channel by other unions. The executives of other unions failing to sanction the cooperation of their members, the enforcement of this policy became an impossibility.” A week later in the February 9, 1914 edition of Forward, Connolly returned to the same theme.
He wrote: “We asked our friends of the transport trade unions to isolate the capitalist class of Dublin, and we asked the other unions to back them up. But no, they said we would rather help you by giving you funds. “We argued that a strike is an attempt to stop the capitalist from carrying on his business, that the success or failure of the strike depends entirely upon the success or non-success of the capitalist to do without the strikers. “If the capitalist is able to carry on his business without the strikers, then the strike is lost, even if the strikers receive more in strike pay than they formerly did in wages. We said that if scabs are working a ship and union men discharge in another port the boat so loaded, then those union men are strike-breakers, since they help the capitalist in question to carry on his business. “That if union seamen man a boat discharged by scabs, these union seamen or firemen are by the same reason strike-breakers, as also are the railwaymen or carters who assist in transporting the goods handled by the scabs for the capitalist who is fighting his men or women. In other words, we appealed to the collective soul of the workers against the collective hatred of the capitalist. “We asked for no more than the logical development of that idea of working class unity, that the working class of Britain should help us to prevent the Dublin capitalists carrying on their business without us. We asked for the isolation of the capitalists of Dublin, and for answer the leaders of the British labour movement proceeded calmly to isolate the working class of Dublin.” James Connolly, in particular among the leadership of the ITGWU, showed great revolutionary courage
Picture: Labour Party (CC BY 2.0)
‘...we appealed to the collective soul of the workers against the collective hatred of the capitalist. We asked for no more than the logical development of working class unity...’
The Drogheda Resource Centre Ltd in collaboration with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions intend to deliver the following programme in May:
By Ed Teller unions and reduces the demand for wage increases, as workers are THERE IS very little point in talking forced into negative competition with about what capitalism should be, or the unemployed. As businesses have what we wish it to be, and kidding become larger and global, this comourselves into believing it can provide something that it can’t. petition is now global, and workers are pitted against Personal/Interperworkers on the far more value the trade – Computer This programme offers 3 Of FETAC Level 3tomodules Literacy, other side of the globe, reducing union movement is an analysis of sonal Skills and Work Experience over a 6-weeks period. The participants will then complete labour costs to secure profits. what capitalism actually is, of really two weeks work experience and will have an additional 4 weeks mentoring to assist existing capitalism. Employers also invest in new them ma- in seeking employment ornever seekprovided further education opportunities. chinery and technology to reduce Capitalism has their cost of production; and far from (with the exception of Nazi Germaking workers’ lives easier, these many), andshould will neverbe provide, full To qualify, participants in receipt of new anyinnovations one of the following replace workers, as employment, or anything close to it. disability/illness welfare employers again seek to reduce their Unemployment is a necessity under payments: labour and Benefit mechanise their and here’s why. l Disabilitycapitalism; l Invalidity l costs Allowance Pension Illness production process. Wages and profits are inversely rel l profits tend Blind Pension Benefit This is the traditional explanation lated: when wages go up, Disablement l Incapacity Supplement for unemployment in commodityto be reduced. Employers therefore want to reduce as as possible lmuch Injury Benefit production capitalism. But things have developed; and, as capitalists the cost of wages. High unemployseek to make profits from credit and ment disciplines workers and their
We are currently taking names for the course and if you know of anyone who would be interested in attending the course, please contact Mairead or Louise in the Drogheda Resource Centre on 0419835754 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
and foresight in leading the union deeper into the politics of the day. He did not concede that the class weapon of sympathetic strike and militant class consciousness was doomed to fail but that those opposing it within the movement must be defeated. And it was this experience which convinced Connolly, more than ever, that freedom for the Irish working class would be won, primarily, by the Irish working class themselves. For the first time over the next number of years, the working class of Ireland would be the vanguard of social progress and be at the forefront of the struggle for national independence and freedom, seeing this as part of the same struggle for the liberation of our class from the ravages of capitalism. In 1914, Connolly, and his fellow class-conscious workers, formed the Irish Neutrality League opposing the world war as an imperialist butchering of working people for the re-division of the world among imperialist powers under the now famous slogan, “We serve neither Kink nor Kaiser but Ireland”. In this, Connolly joined Lenin, Maclean, Zetkin, Luxemburg, Liebknecht and many other great socialist leaders in rejecting the national chauvinism of those that would eventually lead the social democratic split within the Second International. And in 1916, Connolly and the Irish Citizen Army, founded during the Lockout, would lead the 1916 Rising initiating the popular revolution which ended in bitter compromise with imperialism and the tragic division of the island. Connolly’s anti-imperialism and Marxist socialism cannot be divorced or separated from his militant class leadership and courage as a union leader. And this is the inspiration we should be drawing on today to lead our movement and class out of the crisis that capital has imposed on us and expects us to pay for. Don’t ask, what would Connolly do, just ask, what did Connolly do.
Health & Safety FETAC Level 5
This course is aimed at Health and Safety representatives Topic covered on course: • Health and Safety Legislation • Role of Health and Safety Representative • Safety statements • Role of Health & Safety Authority • Occupational health
Saf e firs ty t wor at k!
• Identification of hazards and risk assessment • Accident investigation • Fire safety • Effective communications • Health and safety promotion
Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this course receive a Fetac Level 5 component award certificate and may progress to other courses offered by Mandate. If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: email@example.com 27
QUOTES TEN OF THE BEST... British Labour veteran Tony Benn was once described as ‘one of the few UK politicians to have become more left-wing after holding ministerial oﬃce’. He served as an MP for 47 years (from 1950 to 2001) and continued his activism right up to shortly before his death on March 14. Here are a few of his most memorable – and wise – comments on the times he lived through... 1. ‘democracy is not just voting every ﬁve years and watching Big Brother in between and wondering why nothing happens. democracy is what we do and say, where we live and work’
2. ‘We are not just here to manage capitalism but to change society and to deﬁne its ﬁner values’ 3. ‘If I rescued a child from drowning, the press would no doubt headline the story: Benn grabs child' 4. ‘the House of Lords is the British Outer Mongolia for retired politcians’ 5. ‘It is wholly wrong to blame Marx for what was done in his name, as it is to blame Jesus for what was done in his’
6. ‘It would be as unthinkable to try to construct the Labour Party without Marx as it would to be to establish university faculties of astronomy, anthropology or psychology without permitting the study of Copernicus, darwin or Freud, and still expect such faculties to be taken seriously’ 7. ‘I think there are two ways in which people are controlled. First of all frighten people and secondly demoralise them’ 8. ‘I am not a reluctant peer but a persistent commoner’ 9. ‘there is no moral diﬀerence between a stealth bomber and a suicide bomber. Both kill innocent people for political reasons’ 10. ‘If we can ﬁnd money to kill people [during a war] we can ﬁnd money to help people [in peacetime]’
Picture: Glastonbury Left Field (CC SA-BY 2.0)
Benn was ‘giant of his generation’ CONGRESS General Secretary David Begg has paid tribute to UK Labour veteran Tony Benn, who died on March 14, describing him as a “giant of his generation”. He said: “Tony Benn was the outstanding political figure of his age and, indeed, one of the brightest stars of the wider labour movement. He was a giant of his generation. “His enduring honesty and integrity won him respect across the political spectrum, even as his insistence on speaking truth to power caused great discomfort in many circles. “He had an unshakeable faith in human nature and this was the cornerstone on which rested a deep conviction that a better world was not only possible, but also necessary and achievable. It is our task to see that this work Is carried on.” Mr Begg added: “On behalf of the Irish trade union movement, I extend my deepest condolences and sympathies to his family, colleagues and comrades.”
Fair Shop launch in Dublin West South Dublin Mayor Cllr Dermot Looney, pictured centre, with Mandate members, officials, local politicians and supporters at the March 10 launch of the Dublin West Fair Shop campaign. Unite economist Michael Taft gave a presentation setting out why spending your money in a Fair Shop was good for the economy
SHOPFLOOR April 2014
Larkin after the Lockout By Fran Reid ON January 13, 1914, Irish Transport and General Workers Union founder James Larkin admitted in the aftermath of the Lockout: “We are beaten we make no bones about it, but we are never so badly beaten not to be able to fight.” He had been speaking of how the Labour Party leadership had opposed his strategy of encouraging other union members to provide industrial support for striking workers in Dublin. Dublin was then known as the second city of the British Empire but was a city where rampant poverty and disgraceful living and working conditions prevailed. Larkin was now committed to independence as the only way to improve the conditions of the Irish working class. He left Ireland in October 1914 for a lecture tour of the US where he hoped to raise funds for the cause of Irish independence. While in America he joined the Socialist Party of America. Banned from returning to Ireland, Britain, or any April 2014
of her dominions, he had to stay in the US for longer than he had anticipated. It was while he was there that he heard the news that his friend James Connolly had been executed by the British for his leading part in the 1916 Rising. The following year there was another revolution in Russia. (He would one day visit post-revolutionary Russia, and openly reject it as a solution for the cause of the working man.) The 1917 Revolution led to the socalled ‘First Red Scare’ in America. In 1919, President Woodrow Wilson ordered the arrest of communists across the US. A total of 10,000 people were arrested, including Larkin. Larkin defended himself at his subsequent trial. In the court, he exposed governments’ supposed concern for minorities, and claimed it was a mask used to protect the only minority that governments were really concerned about – the protection of the rich at the expense of the working class. In 1920, he was sentenced to serve a term of five to 10
years in the notorious Sing Sing prison for “criminal anarchy”. During his subsequent incarceration, he would learn the trade of boot making. In 1922, New York governor Al Smith would hold a review of his case and he was released from prison returning home to Ireland. Back in Ireland, he received a hero’s welcome, but found that he had been expelled from the ITGWU. Larkin then set about forming another union, the Workers Union of Ireland. In 1927, Larkin won a seat representing Dublin North in the Dail – a seat he held, with one break, up to 1944. In 1945, he was finally accepted into the Irish Labour Party. On January 30, 1947, he died in his sleep, aged 72. Larkin was a man who had been sentenced three times to prison, fined heavily, beaten – a figure of hatred for the ruling employer class. His open coffin lay in Haddington Road Church for three days while thousands of mourners filed past to
Voice of Labour: ‘Big Jim’ Larkin (second row, fourth from right) with a group supporters following his return to Ireland from the US in the 1920s. Below: Larkin’s body, flanked by a honour guard, is taken to Glasnevin Cemetery Pictures: SIPTU
pay their respects. Catholic Archbishop of Dublin John Charles McQuade concelebrated his requiem Mass. Larkin was buried in Glasnevin, and his grave is rightly pointed out if you take a tour of the cemetery
today. Glasnevin is the final resting place of many of Ireland’s heroic dead – and it is fitting that Big Jim is among that number.
Fran Reid is a Mandate member who works at Tesco, Bloomfield 29
INTERNATIONAL VENEZUELA UNREST
Just how popular are the anti-government protests in Venezuela? Here’s one insider’s view... A FEW months ago barricades popped up on streets across Venezuela – most notably in the rich and middle class urban centres – all calling for the ‘ousting’ of President Maduro and the Bolivarian Revolution. Since, the population has largely rejected this violent form of protest – known locally as guarimbas – which includes self-sealing street barricades, masked gangs patrolling the streets, and running battles with the police. The protests have fed on very genuine economic woes, such as shortages and inflation, and have later taken on the slogans of fighting against “repression” and the “dictator”. This is how they describe President Maduro, even though he was democratically elected less than a year ago in the one of the world’s most secure voting processes. The government describe it as an attempted coup d’état, the opposition describe it as a national uprising, but what is the reality of life behind one of the few remaining street barricades? This is a story about an upper middle class community located in a middle class city, where some of the most resistant barricades and protests remain. Three times have these particular barricades been taken down by the authorities, and three times they been re-erected… For those living in the communities behind the barricades, daily routine has been turned on its head with simple tasks suddenly seeming monstrously difficult and complicated. What used to be a 15-minute bus ride into town has become an hour’s journey, navigating the death trap of barbed wire, spiked hoses, taut neck-high cables, extortion payments, and involves an eye-tothe-ground double-step as one negotiates the 5m-high barricades and those manning them, hoping to pass without incident. A simple upwards glance to a dummy figure dressed in revolutionary red clothing hung by its neck from a tree could result in problems for the resident. The dummy sends out a clear message to all pro-government supporters in the sector of what fate awaits them should they be discovered. It is a horrific display which reveals the real nature of these socalled “peaceful protests”. Basic supplies in the community are low, with both the local shops and major supermarkets empty. Lorry drivers are reluctant to enter the sector following the kidnapping and burning of many trucks by masked protestors. Gas is running out, and following the recent news that the main water tank for the entire city had been contaminated with 100 litres of diesel by those looking to sew chaos and disaster to undo the elected government, even drinking water cannot now be taken for granted. Fear is high, and paranoia even higher. One has to be safely indoors by nightfall, and anyone found asking too many questions or taking a photo is likely to suffer consequences. Passage through the barricades during the day is often accompanied by a request for “collaboration”, an extortion payment to secure safe passage. If you want to pass with a vehicle, the payment is much higher. One doesn’t ask who the masked protestors are for fear of being labelled an informer. The same repression and restriction of liberties which the protestors falsely claim exists in the country is what they are enforcing behind their barricades. Messages are painted on the streets, talking of peace, of resistance, of freedom from a so-called “dictator” and his “repression”. The red and black War to the Death banner of Simon Bolivar flies behind the barricades, themselves erected with tin sheets, furniture, stones, planks, and, according to national statistics, more 30
Defending the revolution: Nicolas Maduro, centre, salutes supporters bedecked in red
e h t d n i h Life be
. . . s e d a barric
The losing side: opposition supporters during the 2013 presidential election
Pictures: Maduro Jaka Madruga (CC-BY 2.0); Nicolas Raymond (CC-BY 3.0); Carlos Adampol Galindo (CC SA-BY 2.0)
than 5,000 trees have been burnt since the protests began. In some communities, it has been reported that school desks, hospital beds, and even animal carcasses have been used to block the roads. The economy of the community has taken a pounding, with only two of the roughly 60 shops in the shopping centre caught between the barricades being able to open. Ironically the shortages which were used to justify such protests have worsened as a result of these actions. Some travel five or six hours to find products in cities where such craziness is a distant memory. Those involved in the barricades play joyfully behind their makeshift defences. Some even practise their marksmanship, openly carrying slingshots, pistols, Molotov cocktails, and other weapons as badges of pride in their commitment to the ‘ousting’. Most are falsely confident that here in this community – in one-third of one municipality, itself one of the 23 municipalities in the state, itself one of the most insignificant states of the 24 which make up the Republic – their actions will overthrow the government. They are impervious to the reality that the rest of the country is calm, and only 10-15 municipalities of the 335 in the country are in similar conditions. They believe that the country is up in arms, that they are part of a great historic movement. Reality begs to differ. Some in the community who were previously stirred to react to the situation and make their anti-barricade presence
known are now reluctant to do so following the recent assassination of a National Guard member. He was shot through the neck from a distance of 300m, suggesting the involvement of a professional marksman. In the same incident a public worker cleaning the streets, armed only with a broom, was shot through the leg simply for bearing a red sunhat. All community resistance to the barricades seems to have disappeared behind the curtain of fear following such terrorism. Others in the community support the barricades. Those who are most confused, most susceptible to the clever political spin of the opposition, have convinced themselves that they need the barricades as a popular defence against the police force and backers of the revolution. They are willing to sacrifice their income, their lifestyle, their freedom, if and only if they achieve their life’s objective – ousting Maduro. Some bring supplies and help to the masked men to the fore in the running battles with police. Young girls flock to them to daub them in praise for their bravery and principles. Others organise logistics, food, supplies, finance, warning systems, weapons, information and counter-information. And others just look on, updating their Facebook pages. The majority opinion in this sector is made up of anti-government supporters who are against the methods of self-imprisonment and terrorist violence used by the barricades. However, they just keep their heads down, they don’t voice such opinions. They put on the opposition colors when needed, and are careful not to be identified close to the barricades by the police and National Guard, who are collecting intelligence so as to later bring to justice those who have broken the law. Fear and a shared hatred of the revolution cause such people to momentarily forget their democratic ideals which have bought them out to vote 19 times in 15 years of revolutionary government. Their 18 losses at the ballot box have forced them to look to other methods to achieve their objectives – any methods, including terrorism. As one passes the barricades, the voice behind the masks, almost never with local accents, confirm the political objective of the enterprise – to oust Maduro and force a change in government (or what we would call a coup d’état). For those donning opposition colors, few problems are created, but for those known to be pro-government supporters, outsiders to the community, or unknown faces, pass is denied or the situation is aggravated, often resulting in verbal abuse, thefts, beatings or worse. Those manning the barricades number no more than 10 to 15 people, in a community of thousands. What do these people who sit around all day behind the barricades do? They can’t work for a living, and don’t study. They tend to come from well-off families, not families who have to work to be able to eat every week. These people know nothing of poverty, nothing of hardship. Yet they revel in their new-found hope, their new-found inspiration in defiance of state authorities. They revel in their new-found community spirit, organisation, and militancy. For those in the community who work, those who have to take their car to get their children to school every day, those who have to leave the community during the hours of dark to visit a sick relative in hospital, those who can’t afford the extortion payments, those who want to have friends to visit, to get their car out, or those who don’t agree with the terrorist road map to power, life is very different. This is the reality of life behind the barricades.
SHOPFLOOR April 2014
A people’s manifesto targets on the overall level of debt will then have to be met. While official figures suggest that reducing the debt to GDP ratio to 60% will involve 30 to 40 years of further austerity measures, independent figures suggest that the real debt is much higher and would require austerity policies for 80 years or more. This is clearly not possible – it would also be wrong: the people did not incur this debt, and they should not be forced to pay it back to protect the elite, the rich, and the powerful. Why are the many so unable to protect their interests, while the few can impose policies that further enrich them and increase their sway in society? An important reason is that the representative parliamentary system we live in is not designed to allow the people have any meaningful control over society. Only a truly democratic society in which the people would have full decision-making powers in all areas of their lives, including politics and the economy, can change the balance of power in favour of the people and see policies implemented that are in their interests. The role of the eurozone, the ECB, and the EU in imposing the austerity policy in Ireland and across Europe has been central. The imposition by the eurozone of limits for budget deficits and debt-toGDP ratios is at the core of austerity; the insistence by the ECB and EU that the people assume the debt they did not incur is a direct attack on ordinary people; the control by the ECB over interest rates and exchange rates transfers further sovereignty from the people to the elites; and the EU membership condition that all states run competitive, free-market economies denies the democratic right of the people to seek other ways of running the economy in their own interests and for the common good. As the economic and political crises have continued and deepened, the response of the eurozone and EU has been to support the system and policies that helped originate the crises and to advocate that they be further entrenched and developed. There has been no considera-
tion of whether the system and policies might themselves be part of the problem or if there could be a different way of doing things. This is because the interests they represent are those of the elites and the rich, not of the ordinary people. The only long-term solution to these problems is to place full democratic control and sovereignty in the hands of the people – a continuation or repair of the system that created this and previous crises will lead to further crises in the future. The people must have real democratic control over all aspects of society, including the economy and the wealth in society and the wealth-creating processes. The debt should be repudiated and an exit from the eurozone devised and carried out. Both of these actions will provide the possibility of freeing the people from the huge financial burden and the undemocratic control that now exist. But, this potential will only be realised if the decision-making power in society is fully democratised. Repudiating the debt and exiting the eurozone will not happen under the current political parties and their policies and ideas – under such leadership, in any case, this course of action would only lead to the further immiseration of the people through a continuation of policies that are designed to make them pay for the crisis. What is required is that repudiation of the debt and exit from the eurozone are accompanied by the people taking full democratic control of society and exercising their decision-making power in the interests of the common good. In this case, a determined political control of the economy and the wealth in society will be necessary to ensure that this wealth is used to provide a decent standard of living and proper services for all, instead of being diverted to enrich the few as it is now. Moving from the undemocratic, unfair, and unequal society we live in to a truly democratic society in which the interests of all prevail will not happen over night, but that is what we must aim for. In the movement to a fully democratic society, there are many interim measures that
can help carry the transition forward. Controls on capital and the subordination of markets and the pursuit of private profit to the common good will be essential. Financial and other large corporations should be closely regulated. All the wealth of the country, from its natural resources to the produce of its industries and services, should be made increasingly available for the common good through higher taxation on wealth and more social ownership of important enterprises. Maximum and minimum incomes should be set to reduce the gross inequalities that exist at present. Regular referendums on important economic and other decisions should be held. Wide-ranging consultative processes with statutory recognition should be established. Representation should be increased to the maximum at
all levels of government. Recall of representatives by the citizens should be facilitated. Transparency and accountability in politics and business, in both the public and private spheres, should be fully implemented. While these interim measures are being implemented, it must be remembered that they are just that, steps on the way to a fully democratic society. The long-term goal is to create a society where the people have full control over all the decisions that govern their lives and where they determine how society is organised and run. When the people have real democratic control over all political, social, and economic matters, the interest of the few can finally be subordinated to the needs and wishes of the many.
l For real democracy: the people must control their lives by making the decisions about the things that aﬀect them l Repudiate the debt: it is not the people’s debt – it cannot and should not be paid l Return sovereignty to the people – exit the eurozone: the eurozone, european Central Bank, and european Union have been central to austerity and prevent the people exercising real democratic control
l Control capital: the markets and the pursuit of private proﬁt must be subordinated to the common good l the wealth of the country belongs to the people: our natural resources, industries, and services must be utilised in the interests of the people and subjected to increasing social control l For a society where the people have full control over the decisions that govern their lives and where they determine how society is organised and run.
The Debt and Democracy candidate
The above manifesto was part of an initiative that I was involved in which I was attempting to get a genuine independent candidate to fight alongside and to give voice as well as actively mobilise working people in the Dublin Constituency.
Every wipe of his eyes takes Talla closer to blindness
As we face the local and European elections, Eugene McCartan calls on workers to think about what choices – if any – are being placed before them by the glut of election material being dropped through the door. This is what he thinks a genuine people’s candidate should stand for...
Talla is just five. He has trachoma, a painful eye disease which can lead to a lifetime of blindness. Repeated infections cause the eyelashes to turn inwards and slowly and painfully every blink damages the eye and leads to blindness. Trachoma can be treated effectively in its early stages with a course of ointment costing just 50p – but for millions of people this is still too much.
THE economic and political crises that we face are inextricably linked. The debt and the policy of austerity have been foisted on the people because they do not have the democratic power to prevent this. At home, the citizens can vote for one set of politicians or another every few years but can exercise no real power over decision making—this is exacerbated by the transfer of many decisionmaking powers to outside bodies, particularly the eurozone and the EU. Until real power rests with the people, there will be no meaningful resolution to the crisis. Democracy means that the people control their lives and society by making the decisions about all the things that affect them. In Ireland today, the people have little control over the decision-making processes: power in the political arena, in the economy, and in society generally rests with unaccountable, often unelected and rarely transparent groups and organisations. There is little meaningful democracy. This campaign wants to place decision-making power in the hands of the people: the people should be able to directly determine how society is organised and run. In the economy, the insistence that all the debt be repaid by the people and that the deficit be reduced at their expense has been driven by the ECB, the EU, and the IMF from without and willingly endorsed by the political parties, economists, and media at home. Neither the debt nor the deficit was incurred by the people or for their benefit. Those who benefited from the years of “boom” were the speculators, financiers, developers, and those who serviced them in politics, the media, and the academic institutions. What trickle-down benefit occurred came on the back of much personal debt, including mortgages, to pay for bubbleera house prices, which placed people in decades of debt servitude and is now proving unsustainable. Put simply, it is not the people’s debt: it cannot be paid and should not be paid. At present, we are experiencing reduced living standards and more and more inadequate public services, while many also struggle with unmanageable debt. This comes courtesy of the austerity policy, which is directed at reducing the budget deficit to eurozone targets – what they don’t tell us is that this is being done at the expense of the ordinary people in a huge allocation and transfer of wealth to the rich and powerful. Once the deficit has been reduced at the expense of the people, the eurozone
If, like Sightsavers, you believe that nobody should go blind needlessly from trachoma, river blindness or cataract, please make a donation today to support our eye care work in some of the most deprived communities in the world.
Euro donations, please call 1850 50 20 20 or visit www.sightsavers.ie Sterling donations, please call 0800 089 20 20 or visit www.sightsavers.org Please quote ICTU. Thank you! Registered charity numbers 207544 and SC038110
A group of Green MEPs show their opposition to the TTIP at the European Parliament in March Picture: greensefa (CC BY 2.0)
FREE trade agreements are a crucial part of the modern economic system and particularly of the neoliberal turn. Capitalism as a system hates limits and regulations, it needs to grow and find new markets. Free trade agreements are about removing those barriers, tariffs and protections allowing for the free movement of capital, goods, services and, in some circumstances, labour. Our very own EU is, first and foremost, a free trade zone that promises economic growth, rising living standards, employment and of course profits. Alongside these core economic benefits, however, it also promises a “social Europe”, a Europe of social security, sustainable growth, environmental protections and workers’ rights. But that vision was dealt very real blow when between December 11, 2007 and June 19, 2008 the European Court of Justice (ECJ) made similar decisions in four cases known as Viking, Laval, Rüffert and Luxembourg. In the Laval case, Laval Un Partneri Ltd won a public building contract and posted Latvian workers to Sweden where they were employed on much less favourable conditions and pay than comparable Swedish workers. The Swedish Building Workers Union asked Laval Ltd to sign its collective agreement, Laval refused and the union took collective action. The Latvian company went bankrupt and the European Court of Justice held the Swedish union liable for their losses. This case and the others gave clear precedence to freedom for business in the EU over fundamental collective and trade union rights. In 2013, the ILO Committee of Experts which investigates member 32
countries’ implementation of ILO’s conventions (in this case Convention 87 on the freedom of association and protection of the right to organise) criticised the changes to Swedish law following the case which they found to be a severe breach of the fundamental right to freedom of association. The economic crisis has of course dealt an even more severe blow to the vision of a social Europe which has been sacrificed through a Europe-wide austerity programme, the result of which has sunk Europe into a protracted slump characterised by mass unemployment, rising inequality and political instability. In 2014, millions of people are queuing for food in the richest part of the globe and millions more find are under-employed with falling incomes. But unfortunately it doesn’t end there. The EU is currently in negotiation with another free trade zone, the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA). The negotiations are fraught with difficulty and suspicion on both sides (US bugging of Merkel and other EU leaders) and for good reason, because in the very near future these two free trade zones are going to be joined together. TTIP – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – will extend from Alaska to Romania encompassing almost 50% of the world’s total economic output, liberalising trade between two of the world’s biggest economies. And, of course, it’s being negotiated behind closed doors, and out of parliamentary and democratic oversight. Where it does appears in the public domain, it’s being sold as a powerful vehicle for boosting economic
Picture: BorderExplorer (CC BY 2.0)
Trademark’s Stephen Nolan probes the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership – a free trade zone that will extend from Alaska to Romania – and asks if we should be worried about this development...
growth with predictions of an increase of up to 1% in GDP and the creation of millions of jobs. But what will TTIP actually look like? Will it be a leveling up of rights and protections like those promised in the old vision of a social Europe, or will it be a move towards the lowest common denominator? If it looks like NAFTA, which encompasses the US, Canada and Mexico then we really are in trouble. Since its introduction in 1994, NAFTA has seen the displacement of a million manufacturing jobs to Mexico and a 20% drop in wages in the US as previously well-paid manufacturing jobs are replaced by low-paying service jobs. It has also led to the loss of 1.3 million farm jobs in Mexico due to the subsidising of US agribusiness. In response, campesinos have expanded into more marginal land, resulting in massive deforestation averaging 630,000 hectares per year. It has also led to a 30% expansion in Maquiladoras, specialist ‘enterprise zones’ which litter the US-Mexican border in which the minimum wage has dropped to $3 per hour buying a quarter of the basic necessities that are essential for a typical worker’s family. There are exemptions from child labour laws, an expanded working week, reduced health and safety laws, reduced environmental protections and, of course, a ban on unions. Macquiladoras are gendered, employing a higher percentage of young women workers who are forced to work longer hours for less money, to ensure their loyalty to their work, forced pregnancy tests on women workers is not uncommon. Since NAFTA’s implementation, the share of national income in the US collected by the top 1% has shot up to 40 % and Mexico has some of the highest rates of inequality in Latin America. The negotiations on what might constitute the detail of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will effect almost area of public
SHOPFLOOR April 2014
‘TTIP... is an all-out attack on the rules and protections that limit the ability of private corporations to buy and sell goods and services...’ the right to sue governments for compensation over rules that affect their expected profits. This would enable US companies investing in Europe to skirt around European courts and directly challenge democratic governments at an international tribunal whenever they find that laws in the area of public health or social protections interfere with their profits. Of course this isn’t new, investorstate dispute settlement provisions are central to most free trade agreements permitting corporations to claim massive sums in compensation against democratically made laws designed to protect the public interest and the common good. The number of such disputes has risen 250% since 2000 and US and EU investors have initiated 64% of all disputes – the majority of cases have been found in favour of the investor. These tribunals empower private corporations to engage in litigious wars of attrition that limit the sovereignty of democratic states, and in threatening massive fines and costs convince the governments to water down or abandon progressive legislation. Border busters: a wall of freight containers Picture: IESM (CC BY-SA 2.0) l Vattenfall v. Germany (2012): Swedish policy and economic strategy. energy giant launched a With regard to finance, lawsuit against Gerand at a time when even the many for €3.7 billion in IMF and the World Bank compensation for lost have begun to recognise profits related to two nuthat capital controls repreclear power plants. The sent a useful way to prevent case followed the German and stop speculative and government’s decision to destabilising capital flight, phase out nuclear energy TTIP is proposing the libafter the Fukushima disaseralisation and deregulater. tion of ALL service l In 2001, Argentina sectors, including the fifroze utility rates and denancial services sector, Warning from valued its currency in rewith the risk of ensuring abroad? AntiNAFTA protes sponse to the financial tors in the US rather than preventing, jimw (CC BY crisis, it was hit by more 2.0) another international financial crisis. than 40 lawsuits from CMS gas in that exists in TTIP also stands to pose a real energy (US) and Vivendi many European states. threat to public services and the (France). By 2008, awards against And unsurprisingly, as with NAFTA foundations of Europe’s social welthe country had totalled US$1.15 biland the Maquiladoras, one of the key fare model because central to the nelion. targets in the negotiations are workgotiations is the opening up of public l Lone Pine v. Canada: On the ers’ rights. services and utilities to competition, basis of NAFTA, US company Lone or mass privatisation. Pascal Kerneis of European ServPine Resources is demanding ices Forum (ESF), a lobby group for The jewel in the crown for inglobal corporations such as Deutsche US$250m in compensation from vestors is the European welfare sysBank, IBM and Vodafone, stated: “...in- Canada. The ‘crime’? The Canadian tem which in the absence of profits province of Quebec had put a moradustry will oppose any deal in which elsewhere can secure income torium on fracking. streams for private investors through investment protection is traded off TTIP is not jobs, growth, freedom against public policy objectives, intransforming tax-funded public servand democracy. It is an all-out attack cluding human and labour rights.” ices into toll-booth style pay-as-youfrom both sides of the Atlantic on the go services for decades into the And just in case you’re holding on rules and protections that limit the future. to a naive belief that democracy ability of private corporations to buy might intervene on your behalf and It is also targeting consumer and and sell goods and services that maxchallenge that view, or decide to hold environmental protections, animal imise profit, regardless of the conseresources in common through public welfare and agricultural pesticide, quences. It is a corporate bill of ownership, TTIP will provide an inopen access to the personal data of rights, it is anti-democratic and it’s vestor-state dispute resolution citizens and significantly, an end to process (ISDR), which gives investors coming this way... the moratoria on extraction of shale April 2014
TRADE UNION LEFT FORUM
Broadening collective bargaining to include all of this society... THE future of the trade union movement depends on winning back the hearts and minds of working people generally in society. Historically, in Ireland, the movement has been at its strongest and grown most when it has represented a vision of society for all working people and made demands for our class as a whole. Over the last number of decades this vision and practice has been eroded to the point now where the sole concern for many unions appears to be its members alone, sometimes to the detriment of other workers or the unemployed. Collective bargaining has been reduced to a number of terms and conditions of employment with management prerogative encompassing an increasing number of areas of a worker’s life. ‘Partnership’ and the servicing culture this promoted removed the union from the workplace, stifled activism and promoted an insurance mentality within members. With the raft of minimum protections and consultation periods legislated for, even the terms and conditions agenda is being challenged and eroded as often employers will seek to consult under a specific piece of legislation rather than engage in meaningful negotiations with the union or reduce terms to the legal minimum. Experience from the US, and elsewhere around the world, tells us not only is it possible to change but it is necessary and successful. The Chicago Teachers’ Union places student-centred education demands at the heart of their agenda and is growing in influence and membership. Likewise, the California Nurses Association takes militant action for patient/nurse ratios and has seen extraordinary membership growth contributing to California’s impressive growth in union membership in the private sector in
recent times. What might this look like here in Ireland? Teachers’ unions fighting for free universal education, inclusive of third level education and linking up with student unions and groups; health unions seeking a free universal health service; finance unions fighting for service to customers over sales and community focussed lending over speculation. If each union, in cooperation with other stakeholders – such as the community and students – put out a set of principles for their sector that are focussed on delivering universal, equal care and service to society, it would go a long way to winning back the respect of a large section of non-union workers as well as the communities we live in. These demands combined will create a positive vision for working people and an alternative political programme to mobilise behind and win support for. By championing the cause of working people more generally, as well as being the right thing to do, we will strengthen our leverage necessary to defend our members and enhance the position of workers in society. By fighting for the unemployed, for students, for an end to exploitative internships, we win over future members. This will strengthen our collective ability to win a better society for all working people in a virtuous circle, quite distinct from the vicious one we are currently in. We do not need to wait on legislation to change the way we collectively bargain. We determine our collective agenda and we create and use leverage to force upon employers and the Government a bargaining space. That’s collective bargaining, legislation or no legislation. We can make it happen if we choose to fight for it.
Why I back Fair Shop campaign
When union members have a choice between a union friendly shop and non-union company the choice for me is an obvious one. I’m always loyal to a union friendly workplace. I support a worker’s right to be in a union and to be represented by their union in negotiations. I’d urge all other union members in the country to make the same decision. Karen Lawlor, Boots, Swords, Dublin
Mandate Shop Stewards Training Programme 2014 Course Title
Union Representative Tesco Advanced FETAC 5
Union Representative Introductory
Union Representative Advanced FETAC 5
Union Representative Advanced FETAC 5
Equality and Integration
Union Representative Advanced Senior
Union Representative Advanced FETAC 5
Union Representative Introductory
Union Representative Introductory (Superquinn) TBC
Union Representative Introductory
29/30 Sept, 1 Oct
Union Representative Advanced Senior
Union Representative Advanced Senior
Union Representative Introductory
Health and Safety Elected Reps FETAC 5
Union Representative Advanced FETAC 5
*OTC = Mandate Organising and Training Centre *TBC = To be confirmed *Venue dates and times may vary.
Above: participants in a Union Advanced Senior course held at the Mandate Training Centre in February. Below: all smiles in the MTC computer room during a recent evening IT class
l By shopping in a Fair Shop you acknowledge workers have a right to collectively bargain
l Fair Shop workers tend to have minimum levels of hours and therefore a decent income
l Fair Shop workers understand that there is strength in numbers y
SHOPFLOOR April 2014
THE LAST WORD... By Paige Turner ACROSS employment sectors we are seeing a worrying increase in the number of disciplinary actions – and indeed dismissals – taken against workers resulting from posts or pictures on social media sites, but most often on Facebook. While there is no doubt social media has many positives – the spread of news, the maintenance of relationships with friends overseas and providing lobbying opportunities for campaigning – it also has some serious downsides. In the UK, social media has formally been recognised as an addiction – just like alcohol or drugs. And a recent study from the University of Chicago suggests social media can be more addictive than cigarettes or alcohol. This study showed how likes and re-tweets give users a burst of the addictive neurotransmitter dopamine, while a lack of endorsements can provoke jealousy and anxiety. A Harvard study suggests the act of disclosing information about yourself through these mediums activates that part of the brain associated with pleasure. Simply put, people enjoy sharing information about themselves. We are fundamentally social beings after all. However, another recent study from the US shows how social media users lie more than non-users and promotes egocentricity. Users also disconnect their activity on these sites from the real world. This is where it becomes dangerous – not least when it comes to your job. While many workers would never dream of standing up at their till or in their office to shout about how useless their employer is, some people seem to think this can be done with impunity and with no consequences on their Facebook or Twitter accounts. Or alternatively think that they can phone in sick to work while at the same time posting pictures from the night while out celebrating their team’s win in the Champions League.
How a Facebook posting
could sink your career... Picture: mkhmarketing (CC BY 2.0); mkhmarketing.wordpress.com
Yes, your Facebook account is yours but it is not private. Once you connect to others, anything you post or like or share is immediately in the public realm. And you are leaving yourself even more vulnerable if you identify your employer on your account or are friends with either colleagues you work with or customers of your em-
ployer. We are living in a world of unprecedented surveillance and monitoring, as recently exposed by the Garda bugging scandals and the information released by Edward Snowden. We know employers monitor social media. Posts and tweets have been – and are being used – to dismiss workers. A cynical employer
‘A good rule of thumb is would you say out loud what you post? Think before you post or tweet!
could deliberately monitor the social media of unwanted staff, such as trade union activists, waiting for an opportunity to pounce. While this shouldn’t prevent us from using social media, we should be aware of some of its dangers. A good rule of thumb is would say out loud what you post? Think before you post or tweet.
SHOPFLOOR KEEPS YOU INFORMED... HELP KEEP US INFORMED BY EMAILING STORIES & PICTURES ABOUT YOUR WORKPLACE
Please contact SHOPFLOOR at firstname.lastname@example.org or post your article to Shopfloor, Mandate Trade Union,9 Cavendish Row, Dublin 1 April 2014
STAND UP FIGHT BACK!
MAY DAY THURSDAY MAY 1 ASSEMBLE 6:30PM GARDEN OF REMEMBRANCE
Dublin Council of Trade Unions