Issuu on Google+

SHOPFLOOR MANDATE TRADE UNION

DECEMBER 2015

HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL OUR MEMBERS ...AND LET’S MAKE 2016 COUNT! Picture: waldopepper (CC BY-NC 2.0)

WINTER OF OUR DISCONTENT Good shops Good jobs... Gone.Why?

MORE THAN 600 retail workers have lost their jobs in recent months in Supervalu, Clerys and Boyers, among other retailers. These were decent, trade union jobs with secure hours and earnings and it will be devastating for the families of all those workers, particularly in the run up to Christmas. The loss of these decent jobs illustrates the continued erosion of decent work in the retail sector. When the economic crash occurred in 2008, we lost more than 55,000 retail jobs due

to a loss in disposable income of over 25%. That disposable income still hasn’t recovered, particularly for low-paid workers and the unemployed who spend all of their money in the local economy, resulting in enormous pressure in the retail sector. The lack of collective bargaining rights and the non-existent protections for low-hour contract workers means many unscrupulous employers are taking advantage of a vulnerable workforce. They are accelerating a race to the

bottom, at the expense of retail workers. That’s why we have to fight back collectively. We must support Fair Shops (www.fairshop.ie) and spend our money where workers count. We must also join our unions, get active in them, and tell all of our family and friends to join them too. Together we can protect decent work and end the race to the bottom in the retail sector. STRAIGHT TALKING SEE PAGE 2


John Douglas

NEWS

STRAIGHT TALKING General Secretary Mandate Trade Union

Picture: otama (CC BY 2.0)

Decent jobs and a living weekly wage

Spearheading the battle

In the retail sector the fight for decent work and a living wage is a battle which Mandate and our members have spearheaded for the last number of year. We have made substantial progress on banded hour contracts, rosters and certainty of earnings, but much more needs to be achieved. We believe that every worker in the retail sector is entitled to a decent job and a living weekly wage, which affords them the basics of life. Too many retail employers are happy to create part-time flexible jobs with no certainty of hours or income. Too many retailers are prepared to grab media headlines – such as Aldi, Lidl and IKEA – by committing to paying the hourly rate of the Living Wage, i.e. €11.50 per hour. While the hourly rate is important, the amount of hours and the scheduling of those hours is also vitally important to the quality of retail employment – what use is there in getting the hourly living wage if you are only scheduled for 10 to15 hours each week? Mandate demands that all workers have a right to a decent weekly living wage. This means workers have access to full-time hours and decent scheduling. Recently the University of Limerick in a report to the Minister with responsibility for Enterprise and Employment, Ged Nash TD, called for legislation to curb the abuses of low hour contracts and scheduling. Mandate has called for the recommendations in this report to be implemented as a matter of urgency. Retailers in Ireland can afford to pay a decent living weekly wage – the reality is that they choose not to. But we can all make a choice ourselves this Christmas. We can choose to support Fair Shops where workers are afforded their basic human right to be represented for collective bargaining purposes, thereby allowing workers access to decent, fair contracts of employment. Let us make 2016 the year of decent work and a living weekly wage in retail and for all workers. I wish all Mandate members and their families a Happy Christmas and a Peaceful New Year. Thank you for standing up and fighting back during 2015...

2

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

Tesco pay and bonus talks for Labour Court A CLAIM for a pay increase and payment of a share bonus on behalf of more than 12,000 members in Tesco Ireland is set to go before the Labour Court. It follows Tesco Ireland’s refusal to consider paying an increase to all workers during a conciliation conference held at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in November. The retailer continues to cite declining sales as the basis for its decision. However, it categorically refuses to reveal the level of profits it has made in the Republic of Ireland. Both unions involved have requested that the pay and bonus issues be subjected to separate referrals at the Labour Court, following which the company has sought an adjournment to consider the matter. Mandate has since written to the WRC seeking an update of the company’s position. Despite claims of declining sales, leading retail analyst Kantar Worldpanel recently commented that “Tesco Ireland – Ireland’s largest grocery retailer – has returned to growth for the first time since 2013”. Interim figures released by Tesco on October 7 show group operating profits before exceptional items for the UK and Republic of Ireland of £166m. Tesco further claimed that it had “delivered unprecedented level of change in our business over the last 12 months and it is working”.

According to Mandate, in the Irish Republic this “change” has led to: 900 redundancies without reference to the union, ultimatums issued to 212 staff over changes to working terms and conditions, the non-payment of an agreed bonus, a pay increase, recruitment of staff in a manner contrary to the national collective agreement, removal of rest breaks, and many agreed established local agreements across numerous stores. Divisional Organiser Brendan O’Hanlon expressed the union’s disappointment at the retailer’s unwillingness to address members’ claims over pay and bonus payments, while at the same time unilaterally imposing changes to members’ terms and conditions of employment. Mr O’Hanlon said: “The relationship between the company and its staff representatives is undoubtedly strained at present, with an unprecedented number of national issues either in the WRC or the Labour Court (i.e. pay, sick pay, pay for annual leave etc). “Mandate is absolutely committed to defending our members’ interests while at the same time working with employers, who are genuinely prepared to honour the agreements entered into and who are prepared to use the agreed procedures to bring about changes.” He added: “Employers who choose to enforce changes whether on individual or groups of workers can expect to meet an appropriate response.”

Member’s delight at holiday ruling MANDATE member Marta Zadarko has expressed her “delight” after a claim taken against fashion retailer Zara for non-inclusion of commission payments in the calculation of holiday pay was settled. The claim was referred to the Rights Commission Service on Ms Zadarko’s behalf by Mandate. The union’s position was based on a reading of the Organisation of Working Time Act, 1997-2005 as well as a number of recent decisions made in the European Courts. The Courts had ruled that employers could not base holiday pay on ‘basic pay’; but rather had to take into account commission and

European Court of Justice

other payments in their calculations. As a result of the referral the issue was resolved between Zara and Mandate. Ms Zadarko received back payment for commission owed and the company confirmed that their system has now been corrected to ensure that commission will be included in the calculation of holiday pay for all employees. Industrial Officer Caroline Clifford onfirmed that Ms Zadarko was “delighted with the successful outcome” and flagged up the wider impact of the settlement – that all Zara employees in Ireland will now benefit as a result of Mandate’s referral of her claim.

Picture: Alsal Photography (CC BY 2.0)

THE RECENT announcement by Musgraves/SuperValu of the closure of their stores in Clonmel and Carlow was a hammer blow for the 100 plus Mandate members and their families employed in these stores with the announcement coming as it did in the mouth of Christmas. Mandate officials have met with all the members involved and they are understandably angry at the company’s decision to cease trading following heroic efforts by staff across the old “Superquinn chain of stores” to keep all locations viable and open. Mandate will be meeting with the company in the coming weeks to negotiate a package of measures which will give our members real options for the future and every opportunity of rebuilding their lives post closure. It is hard to overstate the importance of these 100 plus decent jobs to the local communities and economies of Clonmel and Carlow – both are towns which in the recent past have seen major closures of well-paid industrial employments. The announcement of the closure of the SuperValu stores follows on from this year’s announced closures of Clerys and Boyers with the loss of almost 600 jobs in Dublin. Again, these were decent trade union jobs that provided workers with secure incomes and a decent standard of living and it is a devastating blow for the workers and their families.

SHOPFLOOR

y December 2015


NEWS

Mandate initiates Dunnes certainty of hours claim MANDATE has started the process of pursuing a claim on behalf of its members in Dunnes Stores over certainty of hours/earnings. The union has written to Dunnes manage-

ment as required under the existing 1996 procedural agreement with the retailer. Mandate Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light told Shopfloor: “If there is no meaningful engagement from the company during

these internal stages, the initial referral to the Workplace Relations Commission under the new legislation will most likely happen in January with a projected Labour Court hearing hopefully in the early part of 2016.”

Striking IKEA workers Skype us during historic first stoppage

Picture: Alan Hanson, UFCW

Striking IKEA workers talk to Mandate’s Dave Gibney during the action. Messages of solidarity were exchanged...

WHAT’S SWEDISH FOR STRIKE? SPECIAL REPORT CENTRE PAGES

staff left devastated after store closures THIS will be a bleak Christmas for 98 retail workers in Carlow and Clonmel after Supervalu announced it will close stores in both stores in January. According to Mandate, the December 2 announcement – made in the face of the festive season – has devastated staff. Bill Kelly, Mandate Divisional Organiser for the Clonmel store, said: “These closures are down to the lack of investment and a continued lack of disposable income for workers and unemployed people in the local areas. The outcome, of course, will be that the whole region will suffer further as a result.” He continued: “These jobs were comparatively good retail jobs that provided workers with decent work and secure incomes. Unfortunately there are very few alternatives at this moment in time, partly because the southeast of Ireland has become an unemployment black spot.” Betty Dillon, Mandate’s Divisional Organiser for the Carlow storem said: “We have sought an urgent meeting with the company to discuss redundancies, possible redeployment and other employment options that may be available. We will be giving the workers every support possible at this difficult time and we’re calling on the government to step in and provide these workers with any assistance they require.” Mandate say there are 54 workers employed in the Carlow store and 44 workers in the Clonmel store.

Arcadia members accept certainty of wages proposals MANDATE members working for Arcadia brands Evans, Wallis, Topman, Topshop, Dorothy Perkins, and Miss Selfridge have overwhelmingly voted to accept proposals which will give them far greater protection when it comes to the number of weekly working hours that they can be rostered for. Under the terms of the agreement, workers will iniBrendan O’Hanlon: ‘extremely positive’ tially have their existing number of

weekly hours averaged using an agreed reference period, following which any uplift in hours will be recorded in a new contract of employment or, alternatively, the employee can opt to remain on their existing contract. However, in what is being seen as significant in terms of achieving certainty of hours, retail workers will have their working hours averaged four times

Sacked worker compensated A MANDATE member who was dismissed from Marks & Spencer Douglas in Cork has won his case for unfair dismissal at the Rights Commissioner. The member – who had four years of an unblemished record – was dismissed in November 2014, after dumping stock which had been properly recorded as waste. The waste was later removed by an external party. Management blamed the Mandate member for

December 2015

y SHOPFLOOR

the actions of the third party and subsequently sacked him. Divisional Organiser Lorraine O’Brien told Shopfloor: “This zero tolerance attitude and failure to consider any other alternatives available to the company resulted in our member losing his livelihood. The Rights Commissioner awarded our member full compensation for the losses he incurred as a result of his dismissal.”

throughout each year. Divisional Organiser Brendan O’Hanlon told Shopfloor: “The agreement with Arcadia represents an extremely positive development in the Decent Work campaign. “For the first time workers will have their hours continuously formally assessed and increased if appropriate under the terms of the agreement. We

need to continue to strive for far greater certainty of earnings for workers who face each week not knowing how much will be in their take-home pay.” Notwithstanding this positive development in this particular area, no progress was made on securing a pay increase and the matter has been referred to the Workplace Relations Commission for concilaitation.

Merry Christmas

to all our readers

...best wishes from Shopfloor editorial

3


NEWS

Labour Court overturns asst manager demotion THE Labour Court has overturned the demotion of an assistant manager at Boots and ordered the retailer to reinstate the employee to the position she formerly held. The issue arose last year after the assistant manager played a practical joke on a colleague during a lunch break. Both employees were friends outside of work – and there was no issue between them over the incident. However, on November 1, 2014, management decided to demote the assistant manager for her actions. The matter was referred to the Rights Commissioners Service which found in Mandate’s favour. However, Boots appealed the decision to the Labour Court. Mandate argued that the demotion was excessive and claimed that the company’s investigation process was flawed. Boots countered that the joke was completely inappropriate and unbecoming of a member of management. In its recommendation delivered on October 27, 2015, the Labour Court found that after carefully considering the submissions from both parties at the hearing, it was satisfied that Boots had taken appropriate steps to inves-

Jonathan Hogan: Our arguments were vindicated

tigate and arrange for appeals within agreed procedures. However, the Court expressed its concern that “some occurrences during the investigation and appeal process” could give rise to “a percep-

tion of bias or lack of fairness of procedure”. Tbe Court noted that the “focus” of internal procedures at Boots was on being “corrective and supportive” rather than “punitive”, and found that the measures imposed at the disciplinary were “disproportionate in the circumstances”. Therefore, it recommended that the demotion imposed on November 1, 2014 “should be terminated with effect from February 1, 2015 and the Claimant restored to her former grade with effect from that date”. Mandate Divisional Organiser Jonathan Hogan, who submitted the case on behalf of the worker, told Shopfloor: “This Labour Court decision vindicates the arguments Mandate made throughout the process. This decision also underlines the need for Boots to review its internal disciplinary procedures, to ensure that any imperfections noted by the Rights Commissioner and the Labour Court do not occur again.” Mr Hogan also stressed the need for workers in Boots to join Mandate and benefit from the level of representation that was presented to win this case.

€2k payout in unfair dismissal case A MANDATE member in the Teach Na Ndaoine Family Resource Centre has won €2,000 in an unfair dismissal case after the company failed to adhere to procedures. Mandate’s Willie Hamilton told Shopfloor: “Despite our member only having three months service in her employment, we were able to take the case to the Labour Court who has found in her favour.

COMPETITION

“This company clearly felt that because the worker had less than 12 months service, they could treat her in this despicable manner and not give consideration to fair procedures. “It’s a classic example of an employer abusing the unfair dismissals legislation and avoiding their responsibilities to their workers.”

Reclaim the Vision of 1916 – the Citizens’ Initiative International Poetry Competition

Theme: ‘The Vision of 1916: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow’. Original submissions (not more than 30 lines) will soon be invited from persons over the age of 16, living at home or abroad, and should not have been previously published, including on social media. In line with the competition theme and the inclusive nature of RV1916’s broader initiative, entries can be submitted in English, Irish, or any of the languages that are in common use in Ireland today (with English translations). Judges: Ciaran Carty, Louis de Paor, and Rita Ann Higgins Professor Michael Cronin will act as an advisor to the competition on poems that have been received in languages other than English and Irish. A significant prize will be awarded to the author of the winning poem, as adjudicated by the panel of judges.

4

A €10 fee will be charged for each entry, and we are presently working to install a pay and submit facility on our website, www.reclaim.ie. We will be advertising the

competition nationally and internationally to: • Members of poetry and writing groups, at home and abroad • Leaving Cert. scholars (via contacts with teachers’ unions) • Universities: all the humanities departments in Ireland, Irish studies departments in Britain, US, etc. • The Diaspora (present and offspring of ‘lost’ generations) through Irish- America, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, etc. • “The world’s yer oyster!” The competition will be formally launched in mid-December 2015 at a press conference and ‘photo shoot’ hosted by the President of RV1916, Robert Ballagh, along with the panel of judges. The closing date will be 29 February 2016. The winning poem and the author’s name will be announced on or around the 100th anniversary of the Rising on 24 April 2016. Michael Quinn, Competition Coordinator, michael.j.quinn.2010@nuim.ie SHOPFLOOR

y December 2015


NEWS

FACT: 1 in 3 women in Europe has been has been victim of sexual or physical violence

‘Combat this violence in all its formats’ By David Gibney Mandate communications officer ACROSS the European Union, trade union confederations marked November 25 – the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against women – with a pledge to combat violence against women, whether at the workplace, in society or at home, until it is eliminated. Mandate, along with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, has called on all employers, trade unions and civic society organisations to work together to put an end to violence against women. The shocking facts are that across Europe: l One in three women has been a victim of physical and/or sexual violence; l Just over one in 10 of those women was assaulted by someone from work – a supervisor, colleague or customer; and l Up to half of women in European Union countries experience unwanted sexual advances, physical contact or other forms of sexual harassment at their workplace. Speaking on behalf of Mandate,

Violence against women – trade union response

John Douglas: ‘shocking’ statistic

Jan Goudriaan: reverse service cuts Luc Visentini: ‘we won’t stop’ vow

General Secretary John Douglas, told Shopfloor: “It is shocking that in Ireland in 2015 we are still campaigning for an end to violence against women. Disgracefully, one in three women across Europe has been a victim of sexual and/or physical violence and over one in 10 of those women was assaulted by someone from work. What’s badly needed on a pan-European scale is a co-ordinated campaign that raises awareness of the issue and combats violence against women in all of its formats.” Mr Douglas’ call was echoed by

prominent trade unionists from across the EU. UNI Europa Regional Secretary Oliver Roethig said: “Let’s use the power of media to eliminate violence against women, to transport images of strong and independent women and to promote gender equality all around the world.” ETUC General Secretary Luca Visentini vowed that trade unions “would not stop” until violence against women was eliminated, while Jan Willem Goudriaan, who heads up EPSU, called for a reverse in cuts to services that combatted such violence.

TRADE unions have a track record of action against violence against women, both in the workplace and at home. Research conducted by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) shows that: l The vast majority of trade unions in Europe are involved in tackling violence against women. l Action taken includes collective agreements at national, sectoral and company level featuring clauses on dealing with violence against women. l Agreements have included obliging employers to develop procedures for dealing with violence, training for managers and employees to identify signs of workplace violence and how to prevent it, and medical and psychological support for employees who are victims of domestic violence. l Many trade unions offer legal and other supports for members who are victims of violence in the workplace, and in some cases victims of domestic violence.

l Many trade unions have organised events to discuss violence against women, and taken part in Government initiatives to combat violence against women.

l National trade unions have used the 2007 European Framework Agreement to Prevent, Manage and Eliminate Violence at Work negotiated and signed by the ETUC and European employers (BUSINESSEUROPE, UEAPME and CEEP) to press for measures to protect women from violent behaviour. Picture: Feans (CC BY 2.0)

140,000 children living in consistent poverty

Image/ Flickr/Frank De Kleine Coloring (Creative Commons)

ALMOST 140,000 children in Ireland are living in consistent poverty and one-parent families are twice as likely to be living in poverty as the rest of the population, according to the Central Statistics Office’s Survey on Income and Living Conditions for 2014. Some 8% of the population is in consistent poverty, with the highest rate among unemployed people at 22.6%. To be ‘at risk of poverty’ is to be dependent on an income set at 60% of the median wage, which last year was a threshold of €10,926 per year. The CSO said the ‘at risk’ of poverty rate was 16.3% compared with 15.2% in 2013 and that this change was not statistically significant. Enforced deprivation was experienced by 29% of the population last year, down from 30.5% the year before. Again, the CSO said the change was not statistically significant. The group at greatest risk of poverty was the unemployed, with 36% of this sector at risk in 2014, compared with 37% in 2013. Also at risk in large numbers were students (34%). 32% of households headed by single parents were at risk of poverty last year, compared with 31.7% in 2013. Single parent households, however, suffered the most deprivation of all groups, with 58% of those at risk of poverty experiencing two or more types of “enforced deprivation” such as not being able to afford to have friends or family over for a meal or

December 2015

y SHOPFLOOR

drink, or to replace worn out furniture. The most common types of deprivation were an inability to replace worn-out furniture (25.5%), inability to afford a morning/afternoon/evening out (22.2%) and an inability to have friends or family over for a meal or drink (19.3%). The St Vincent de Paul (SVP) charity said very little had improved for the people that the society assists, “in spite of the economic upturn”. Head of social justice and policy JohnMark McCafferty said calls for assistance to the charity remained stubbornly high and continued at twice what they were in 2009. “More than one-third of households who are renting their accommodation at below the market rate or rent free are at risk of poverty, reflecting the extent of poverty and low incomes among those living in social housing.” The CSO figures also showed an increase in the at-risk-of-poverty rate for those who are in private-rented housing, with almost a fifth of such households at risk of poverty. Barnardos described the lack of improvement in child poverty rates was “extremely distressing” with Chief executive Fergus Finlay dubbing the rates a “national scandal”. “We would expect to have seen the beginnings of a reduction in child poverty rates in 2014,” he said. “However, one in nine children still live in consistent poverty and more than a third of children experience deprivation, while the number of children at risk of poverty has not improved

since 2010. This puts paid to the rhetoric that ‘a rising tide will lift all boats’.” Mr Finlay pointed out that two children in every classroom were living without access to basic necessities through no fault of their own or their parents. “They are going without warm winter clothing, living in substandard housing and even going hungry. “Just think about what it means for the future of Ireland. These are the children who may well be the early school leavers, the ones who will live a life of dependency and alienation. We know enough about this by now to realise that if we don’t break this vicious cycle, its effects will last for generations.” Karen Kiernan, chief executive of One Family, claimed the high deprivation rates among one-parent families directly resulted from Government choices and policies. She said: “It is unacceptable to continue to sentence a generation of children to a lifetime of poverty and poor life chances. People parenting alone tell us ... that they constantly live on the knife edge of poverty. Government continues to enforce illformed activation measures without the provision of effective supports such as long-promised, affordable quality childcare.” Director of Social Justice Ireland, Dr Sean Healy, commented that the figures provided “conclusive evidence that, despite what we are being told, government policy has failed to protect our society’s most vulnerable, or to significantly ease their difficult circumstances”. 5


NEWS DUNNES UPDATE

Dunnes questionnaire results are in MANDATE has thanked the 1,300 Mandate members in Dunnes who took the time to complete the national online questionnaire in October. Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light said the comprehensive and nationwide nature of the responses had help glean critical information needed to prepare the union’s certainty of hours/earnings claim under the new collective bargaining legislation. A snapshot of those responses shows that: l Members who replied to the survey were spread over 103 Dunnes Stores branches across Ireland; l The shortest length of employment of respondents was three months; the longest more than 40 years;

l Some 97% had permanent contracts; l Types of contract: 74% – flexicontract; 17% – full-time; 9% – parttime; l Average hours per week worked by flexi-contract staff: 26 hours. Mr Light told Shopfloor: “Clearly the results of the questionnaire point to improvements throughout stores nationally regarding contracts and hours. “Firstly, the number of staff employed on temporary contracts has dropped significantly. “Secondly, the average number of hours worked by staff with flexi-contracts is now 26 hours per week. Members have indicated that the company have not taken on as many additional staff with even fewer on temporary contracts. This has re-

Gerry Light: ‘Time Dunnes did the decent thing’

sulted in additional hours for existing staff in most cases.” Mr Light said the findings on earning and certainty of hours was “still

far from what members in Dunnes deserve, but it is an overall improvement and worth acknowledging.” He continued: “Someone appears to be listening in Dunnes HQ and it also shows that a number of the core demands contained in the continuing Decency for Dunnes Workers Campaign are being realised, albeit at a slower pace than we would like.” Mr Light cautioned that though improvements were “evident”, they were also “fragile”. “Be in no doubt they have come about through the strength of your campaigning efforts. Members need to remain strong and vigilant as these gains could be taken back as quickly as they have been given.” Mandate insists that Dunnes management have a clear opportunity to make a solid commitment to staff

over certainty of hours and earnings without any additional cost. Mr Light continued: “The reality is that the average weekly hours are now 26 but remarkably 86% of staff state they are still only guaranteed a minimum of 15 hours.” And laying down a challenge to management, he suggested that Dunnes “do the decent thing” in the run up to Christmas and put in place new contracts “which reflect increased minimum thresholds based on the hours workers are actually working”. Mr Light added: “That is is why the Decency for Dunnes Workers Campaign must press ahead with the claim for certainty of hours and earnings with your employer under the new industrial relations legislation.”

Flashback: Dunnes workers on the picket line in North Earl Street, Dublin

Dunnes HQ in Dublin

Picture: Infomatique (CC BY 2.0)

Advanced rostering problems ABOUT one in four respondents to the Dunnes questionnaire reported problems with the four-week advanced rostering that was put in place by the company in May. While it has some benefits, the main problems raised by members were that managers were frequently changing rosters after being posted without notifying staff of those changes. The other main difficulty was securing basic day-off requests from local management because of the strict application of advance notice requirements of five to six weeks in some locations. Many locations now appear to have moved to a two to three week advanced rostering. 6

You CAN build your union locally SOME 75 respondents to the Dunnes survey indicated that they would like to take a more active role in the union in their store. Describing this as “an encouraging sign”, Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light: “This is vital for the union so that it can help members and remain strong and relevant in stores across the country.

“If you would like to take up a more active role in your store please speak with an existing shop steward or contact your union office or official.” He added: “Training and support is provided to anyone who takes up these important roles. Please check out www.mandate.ie or Shopfloor for details about upcoming training courses.” SHOPFLOOR

y December 2015


NEWS

Picture: Hernán Piñera (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Mandate launches national survey of bar workers WORKING conditions across the licensed trade have greatly deteriorated and it is clear that bar workers deserve better. Mandate is in the process of organising a national campaign for better conditions for bar workers. As a first step, the union is launching a National Bar Workers Survey to establish what conditions are like currently in the sector as well as to find out what changes bar workers themselves want to see brought about. Mandate Divisional Organiser Jonathan Hogan told Shopfloor: “This survey is a really important part of Mandate’s campaign to improve workers' terms and conditions of employment in the bar trade. “We have anecdotal evidence that working conditions have deteriorated, and with them, the living standards of many workers. We have to fight back and the first step is for bar workers to fill in this survey and help us develop our new campaign." If you work in the bar industry, please take a few minutes to fill it out and make sure to pass the word on to others in your trade. Go to www.barworkers.ie for more information.

ADVICE

What to do if your PPS number ends in a ‘W’... BEFORE 2000 when some women got married they had to use the same PPS number as their husband, but with a ‘W’ at the end of the number. This ‘W’ number was issued by Revenue to identify spouses in a jointly assessed relationship. The ‘W’ number was linked to the PPS number of the assessable spouse (which is the term used in Revenue for the spouse who is charged tax on the income of both spouses). These numbers are being slowly phased out and ‘W’ numbers have not been issued since 1999. If your PPS number is the same as your husband’s PPS number but the last letter is ‘W’, you must get a new PPS number in these circumstances: l If your spouse is deceased, l If you are divorced or separated, or l If you were issued with a Social Insurance number before 1979. However, Mandate’s National Coordinator of Training Aileen Morrissey told Shopfloor: “I recently encountered a problem with my PPS number, December 2015

y SHOPFLOOR

Aileen Morrissey: advice to members

which I have had for 38 years, while dealing with probate for a close family member. My PPS number was not accepted by the Probate Office and I had to apply for a new PPS number which has been a delay to finalising probate. “I was not aware of the issue with

PPS numbers ending in ‘W’. This is a knock-on effect of the requirement in the 70s when a married woman did not hold on to her own PPS number which she had issued as a single working woman. “I would advise any Mandate members who have a PPS number ending in ‘W’ to contact the Department of Social Protection and change your number now to prevent you having to do this at a very stressful time.” If you are changing your ‘W’ number for a new PPS number, you do not need to go through the same application process as everyone else. To get your new number or to be re-instated with your old number, contact the Client Identity Section in the Department of Social Protection. The phone number is 1890 927 999 or (071) 967 2616. When you get your new number from the Department of Social Protection you should inform any organisations that may hold your old number, e.g. your employer, your bank, the National Driver License Service, the HSE and the Revenue.

Right2Change tour of Ireland ‘huge success’ THE Right2Change campaign has completed a tour of Ireland bringing progressive policy principles to every corner of the country. Right2Change is a campaign established by trade unions, including Mandate, and aims to educate members, individuals and community groups as well as influence the political and social direction of our country. Included in the campaign is the Right2Jobs & Decent Work, Right2Water, Right2Health, Right2Education, Right2Housing, Right2Sustainable Environment, Right2Debt Justice, Right2Natural Resources, Right2Equality and Right2Democratic Reform. Mandate’s David Gibney said: “We’ve been in Letterkenny and Cobh. We’ve been in Waterford, Dundalk, Dublin, Limerick, Sligo and beyond, and it’s the same everywhere. People are fed-up with the old style of politics. They want policies implemented that are representative of their needs, instead of the same old broken promises after elections.

Principles first

“Right2Change is about putting policies and principles first, instead of political parties and personalities. It’s about education and establishing exactly what type of society we all wish to live in.” Mr Gibney continued: “In terms of Europe, Ireland is at the bottom end of the league table in all of the wrong areas. Whether it’s child poverty, food poverty, homelessness, precarious and insecure work, low pay or even debt, Irish people are unfortunately suffering due to a democratic deficit and a failed political system. If we’re to change this country we need people to start voting for policies instead of potholes. “It’s not good enough anymore to vote for someone who provided your local GAA club with €20,000 but their political party then went and closed the local hospital down. It isn’t good enough to say you’ll give your vote to the local politician because he attended a family funeral, but then implemented policies that left your loved ones on hospital trolleys for 48 hours. We have to wake up to the failure of parish pump politics.” The Right2Change campaign will continue in the New Year. Please go to www.right2change.ie for more information. 7


Picture: Mike Mozart (CC BY 2.0)

NEWS

Lisavaird Creamery workers vote to accept 4% pay rise

Aldi drops disciplinary Willie Hamilton: Aldi claim

MANDATE members working in Lisavaird Cooperative Creamery, Clonakilty, West Cork, have voted to accept a 4% pay increase backdated to January 1, 2015. It is understood the pay agreement will conclude in August 2017. Divisional Organiser Lorraine O’Brien told Shopfloor: “The increase was paid in acknowledgement of the ongoing commitment and cooperation of our members to Lisavaird Co-op

... rather than deal with us, claims Mandate official A MANDATE member working for Aldi has successfully fought a disciplinary at the Germanbased multinational’s Maynooth store. The worker had been called to a disciplinary hearing but rather than attend on his own, had requested help from his union. But instead of having to deal with Mandate, Aldi management decided to drop the disciplinary case. Comment-

ing on the development, Mandate Divisional Organiser Willie Hamilton claimed this flagged up the value of being a member of a trade union. He told Shopfloor: “It’s quite telling how Aldi would drop this disciplinary case rather than deal with Mandate. It’s obvious that either the disciplinary was a bogus one or the company are simply running scared of our union.”

Picture: Rodrigo Senna (CC BY 2.0)

and there are no changes to existing agreements or terms and conditions of employment.” She added: “The agreement is in keeping with pay increases across the sector and brings surety and stability for our members in relation to their pay for the lifetime of the agreement.”

Connect with Mandate www.mandate.ie

This training course is designed for YOU!

Learn English with Mandate for free! Mandate, your trade union, is offering English speaking classes for members. The course is for members who while speaking some English have never had the opportunity for formal training. In the course you will learn the basic grammar and improve your vocabulary. You will have the chance to correct those mistakes that your workmates are too polite to tell you about! Improved language skills can add to your confidence and improve your quality of life. Training is free to Mandate members. If there are 10 Mandate members who wish to attend this training, classes

Word Processing QQI Level 5 What you’ll learn...

• Word processing common uses, for example: document formatting, graphics tables and mail merge. • Create documents applying a range of processing features. • Use proofing tools such as spell-check, thesaurus and search/replace. • Learn File Management facilities.

will take place in a location near to your workplace.

Venue: Mandate Training Centre, Distillery Road, Dublin 3

Unless we have numbers classes will not take place.

Date: Tuesday 12th January 2016 – Tuesday 29th March 2016 Time: 6.30pm – 9pm; Eligibility: Mandate members

Classes will commence in January 2016, if you are interested please contact: Mandate’s Training Centre on 01-8369699 by 5th January 2016 8

Contact: Mandate’s Training Centre on 01-8369699 or apply online at www.mandate.ie by 5th January 2016. Places are limited and are allocated on a first come, first served basis. SHOPFLOOR

y December 2015


NEWS

Homeless rally marks tragic anniversary By David Gibney Mandate communications officer ALMOST 1,000 protesters marched on Leinster House on December 1 to mark the first anniversary of the death nearby of Jonathan Corrie. The death of the 43-year-old homeless man sparked national outrage, leading to emergency measures being introduced by the Government. But 12 months after Jonathan’s tragic death in a doorway, the crisis has worsened. The protest outside the Dail was to highlight the crisis, not only in homelessness, but also in housing. The figures outline the depth of the problem. There has been a relentless rise in the number of homeless children: from 668 (September 2014) to 865 (January 2015) to 1,054 (May 2015) to 1,496 (September 2015). There are 89,000 families and individuals on the social housing lists today – in 2005 it stood at 40,000. A total of 79,000 households receive rent supplement while another 98,137 households (13% of all mortgage accounts for Principal Dwelling Houses) are in arrears. Some 38,041 households are in arrears over 720 days and 15,276 buy-to-let accounts are in arrears for 720 days. There have been approximately 350 repossessions of principal dwelling homes in the first six months of this year and 23,751 repossession cases have been initiated in the Courts. There are 607 families are in emergency accommodation in Dublin. The protest got under way outside the GPO at 5pm and demonstrators, including a contingent from Mandate Trade Union, marched to Leinster House for a rally.

‘Utter failure’

General Secretary John Douglas said: “Homelessness is a major crisis in Ireland, but our overall housing strategy is an utter failure. Even if you’re very lucky to be in a job, the increases in rents means that many of our members are spending more than 50% of their income on putting a roof over their heads. “This means they’ve less money to spend on heating, on food and on other essential items.” Campaigner Fr Peter McVerry claimed the crisis was “much, much worse” than a year ago, and emphasised that the long-term focus had to be on building social housing. He told Shopfloor: "The empty local authority buildings that exist – and there's a huge number of them around the country – ought to be brought back into operation as rapidly as possible. "And I can't understand why they are not being renovated and used again as quickly as possible." He said that most of the emergency accommodation that is available is of an appalling quality where people feel intimidated and are often attacked and that the least that should be done is to provide everyone with a room of their own. Head of the Dublin Simon Community Sam McGuinness said that not enough had been done to end homelessness since Mr Corrie’s death and insisted that the real issue behind the problem was the shortage of housing. He pointed out that almost 5,000 people were in emergency accommodation in September, adding that 168 people were sleeping rough last winter. Figures detailing the number of people sleeping rough this winter is to be released shortly. December 2015

y SHOPFLOOR

A thousand people marched through Dublin on the evening of December 1 to remember homeless man Jonathan Corrie, right, who died within sight of Leinster House

1600

1400

1200 1000

1,496

HOMELESS CHILDREN IN IRELAND

800

600

400

200

5 t 14 t 14 ov 14 ec 14 an 15 eb 15 ar 15 pr 15 ay 15 un 15 ul 15 ug 15 ept 1 J S Sep Oc N D J F M A M J A

9


BLOW THE WHISTLE ON THE BAD BOSSES

NEWS MRCI’s Grainne O’Toole (third from left) at report launch: ‘There are no penalties for employers who withhold wages... this huge wage theft needs to be addressed’

TO JOIN 10 MANDATE

REASONS

1. An organising and campaigning union:

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

2. Modern and effective training:

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

3. Campaigning for success:

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

4. Protection at work:

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

5. Safety at work:

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

6. Better pay:

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

7. Legal protection:

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

8. Mandatory pensions:

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

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

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

10. You’re less likely to be sacked:

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

Together we’re stronger

JOIN MANDATE TRADE UNION ONLINE AT http://www.mandate.ie/Contact/Join.aspx

10

Picture: MRCI

Survey highlights exploitation of migrant workers in Ireland NEW research conducted with migrants working in low-paid sectors in Ireland has revealed that exploitation, lack of progression and discrimination are rife. The report, titled All Work and Low Pay: The Experience of Migrants Working in Ireland, was commissioned by Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) and launched on November 26. Congress President Brian Campfield, speaking at the launch in Dublin, pointed out that the report echoed the key demands contained in ICTU’s Charter for Fair Conditions at Work. He said: “It is an undeniable fact that while many workers experience exploitation at work, the sad fact is that migrant workers are particularly exposed to this treatment and abuse given their very vulnerable status in society. “As we move to celebrate the centenary of 1916, there is an opportunity and an obligation on all of us to campaign for equality and fairness at work, especially for the most vulnerable and exploited in our society.” The MRCI report, which surveyed migrants working in the restaurant sector, security, home care and domestic work, highlighted precarious working conditions, widespread breaches of employment law and chronic underpayment. Its findings were reinforced by focus group discussions and analysis of a decade of data from the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland’s case files. Grainne O’Toole, of MRCI, told Shopfloor: “The issues that emerged

Key survey findings... l 44% received less than €8.65 per hour l 48% are living on less than €300 per week l 61% are required to work extra hours without pay l 45% had no contract l 26% do not receive payslips l 82% did not receive a salary increase in the last year l 82% are not compensated for working on Sundays in this research range from severe exploitation and wage theft to discrimination and lack of progression. The level of exploitation of migrant workers in certain sectors of the labour market is shocking. “One of the most interesting findings is that most migrant workers are fully aware of their rights, but do not feel empowered to challenge their employers when breaches occur. We must ensure that migrant workers are facilitated to access justice and end this culture of impunity for exploitative employers.”

She continued: “Currently, even those who manage to take their employers to court still cannot get justice. MRCI examined 48 employment cases we filed to workplace relations bodies between 2006 and 2015 for breaches of employment law. “A total of €1,100,805 was awarded in judgements and settlements in these 48 cases, but just €295,677 – a third of the overall amount – has been recouped. “There are no penalties against employers who have withheld wages or denied workers the benefits rightfully owed to an employee. This is wage theft and needs to be addressed head on.” Samy Selvedah, activist, said: “I came to Ireland 10 years ago to work as a chef in a hotel on a work permit. The work permit only allows you to work for one employer. So I stayed working in the same hotel and I was paid only minimum wage. “It is a terrible struggle surviving on minimum wage while the cost of living is always rising. I asked for a pay rise but I never got it. Despite my experience, despite retraining in hotel management, I was always passed over for management positions. “There is a need for a work permit that allows migrants to move employers within a given sector. This is the only way migrant workers can progress and be free from exploitation.” All Work and Low Pay: The Experience of Migrants Working in Ireland is available to download at http://bit.ly/1lbnlxX SHOPFLOOR

y December 2015


Niall Crowley WHICH Irish Government Minister would say no to €350 million being added to their budget? Just think what you could do about homelessness with that sort of money. You could go for a Scandinavianstyle childcare service and hold to promises made in the past. You could invest in actually meeting some of our EU environmental targets and maybe even a fossil fuel-free Ireland. Global justice might be your priority and we could rebuild the aid budget to match all those promises made over and over again at the United Nations. You could rebuild and expand area-based, anti-poverty actions. You could renew our education system and reduce the problems besetting our hospitals.

Even Angela’s listening on FTT so why aren’t you, Michael? Pictures:Αλέξης Τσίπρας Πρωθυπ (CC BY-SA 2.0

COMMENTARY

Agreement

It is not a panacea for all our problems. It is a discrete amount of money and limited in the context of our current needs. However, it would make a significant difference if invested in these areas. The Financial Transactions Tax would do more. It would broaden the tax base into a sector that is acknowledged by the IMF as being undertaxed. It would bring transparency to financial transactions and reduce speculative trading in this sector. What’s not to like about this? The financial sector says ‘no’. It will lose us jobs. Financial services will migrate to London and other tax-free

centres. The Minister seems happy to agree with and re-articulate their perspective. However, this does not take account of the very low level of the tax. It does not take account of the very favourable conditions already provided to foreign companies in the financial sector. It would take more than a tiny tax to get them to give up these attractions. It does not allow for the jobs to be created by investing €350 million. These arguments are also unconvincing in a European Union context where 11 Member States have been negotiating the introduction of a com-

Pictures: Don Moloney/Press 22 (CC BY 2.0)

A firm ‘no’

So it is a bit of surprise that Michael Noonan is saying a firm ‘no’ to this €350 million. How can it be? Well it’s not really even a bit of a surprise. It’s about muscle and the power of the financial sector in Ireland. It’s hard to believe that a sector that has brought us so much grief can still yield such power, but it does. This €350 million is about introducing a Financial Transactions Tax in Ireland. It’s a tiny tax on financial transactions, with a 0.1% tax rate proposed for transactions in all types of financial instruments except derivatives (to which a 0.01% rate would apply). NERI have just published a paper estimating a net yield in Ireland in the region of 350 million Euro. This is the money that Michael Noonan is saying ‘no’ to. This is the tax the Irish financial sector doesn’t want. A Financial Transactions Tax has a lot going for it. It would increase revenue and that can’t be bad in such a revenue-strapped State. It would allow us reinvest in eliminating poverty, strengthening our public services, contributing to global justice and achieving environmental sustainability.

mon Financial Transactions Tax through a new enhanced cooperation procedure. Ireland, of course, has stayed well away from this. However, there is no evidence of financial services moving from countries such as Germany, France, Austria or Belgium, as they move ever closer to introducing the tax. Angela Merkel, of all heroes, has said “that financial markets have to contribute their share to the recovery of economies”. She is right. At times the argument is made that Ireland is an indebted nation and is itself involved in financial transactions to manage its debt. As such a Financial Transactions Tax would be anathema to such a country.

This does hold up when you consider that Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Greece, with whom we share huge indebtedness, are also in the group of 11 Member States involved in negotiating the Financial Transactions Tax. It holds up even less when it is seen that the European negotiators have agreed to exclude Government bonds. As the 11 Member States move close to agreement we need to demand that our Government enters the enhanced cooperation procedure, makes its mark in the negotiations, and introduces an ambitious Financial Transactions Tax. It is possible to do this at any point, so there can be no excuses. Claiming Our Future is building a campaign on this issue with trade unions, community groups, global justice groups and environmental organisations. There will be a big social media element to this campaign launched in December to try and grab public attention, especially as the elections loom. There will be a political lobby launched in January to get commitments in manifestos to a Financial Transactions Tax and, ultimately, in any Programme for Government. It’s a struggle and your help in this would be appreciated!

MAKE A LOT MORE PEOPLE H HAPPY. The brand new selecction of locally sourced ch harity gifts.

TO BUY A Visit

Go To o Call December 2015

y SHOPFLOOR

Children at the Christ the King School in Nairobi’s Kibera slum.

Trócaire, Maynooth, Co. Kild da are / 12 Cathedral Street, Dublin 1 / 9 Cook Street, Co. Cork or 50 King Street, Belfast, BT1 6AD www.trocaire.org 1850 408 408 / 0800 912 1200 00 Charity no: CHY 5883 / Charity no: XR 10431

11


Gerry Light VIEW

from the

SHOPFLOOR Assistant General Secretary Mandate Trade Union

ADVICE

Picture: Samaritans

SAMARITANS

United we stand APPROACHING the end of another hectic year here in Mandate it is clearly obvious that the promise of economic recovery does not automatically bring with it the enhanced likelihood of concessions which will be easily won for our members during the course of 2016. There can be no doubt as we increasingly engage in the process of free collective bargaining, many employers see it as an opportunity solely to engage in concession bargaining regardless of their means to fairly and appropriately reward their workers. It is true to say that the many years of economic recession have left a mark on the retail landscape. There now exists greater and fiercer competition between more retailers for a declining pot of retail sales. Trends among the shopping public show a deep and persistent desire for cheaper products with less regard being shown to factors such as loyalty, service and quality. The relentless growth of online shopping has resulted in significant amounts of retail sales being generated through remote computer terminals and not store-based activity. In many cases the new retailers of choice show equal disregard for workers’ terms and conditions and vehemently resist any efforts on their employees’ part to join a union. It is incredible to report that one of the fastest growing retailers has achieved its success by offering its workers contracts which promise only statutory minimum wages, no guarantee of weekly hours, no specific work duties or, indeed, a definitive place of employment. It is against these realities and challenges that we must carefully shape our priorities for the coming year and beyond. Because the retail world is changing so dramatically around us we must not fall into the trap of believing that we can afford ourselves the luxury of ignoring the rapid pace and nature of the change that is occurring in the false

12

hope that it is some type of passing trend which will eventually go away of its own accord. We are now challenged to deeply examine some of the old traditionalist ways of how we engage in the workplace and come up with a creative and innovative approach which has – at its core – the objective of maintaining as many quality retail jobs as possible. In adopting this approach we must also strive to lift the perception of retail jobs to ensure that they are given the same degree of respect shown to other workers within other sectors. Above all we must create a debate which focuses not only on the duties performed by retail workers but also the significant profits and wealth their efforts generate. Notwithstanding these difficult realities we can proudly say that we are achieving real advances for our members. Apart from general wage increases we have also seen significant wage growth and stability through the introduction of banded hours and certainty of earnings.

Legislative change

In our Decency for Dunnes Workers campaign we have shown an ability to create an environment for legislative change even in the face of determined resistance by the employer. In this regard we intend to maximise whatever advantages we can for our Dunnes members by taking a case under the newest piece of industrial relations legislation. We lobbied hard and our demands found recognition in many of the recommendations contained in the recent report on zero hour contracts issued by the University of Limerick where they called for, among other things, the right to be contractually guaranteed for the hours that you actually work. The next step is to politically lobby for all of the other recommendations in the report to be transposed into law. While we must show a capacity for change and adaptation, this will never be allowed to be used by certain employers who believe it is a green light to change without agreement our members’ well-established and hard-won terms and conditions of employment. This is one stance we will never compromise on. Coupled to this determined view we will continue to ensure that whatever dividends flow from the much promised economic recovery, our members will receive their appropriate allocation which is something they not only expect but deserve. We will only deliver these outcomes through bringing the power of our collective strength to the negotiating table. Let’s us all resolve during the coming year to not only maintain but strengthen this sense of collectivism for the good of all our members and push ahead confidently knowing that fully united we can continue to achieve real and meaningful progress.

What do you do when Christmas is not the most wonderful time of year? By Rachel Wright Policy & Communications Manager, Samaritans CHRISTMAS on TV and in the movies is usually shown as the happiest time of the year. A time where families gather together happily, everyone is happy and there is an abundance of food, drink and presents. However, for many people, Christmas can be a very difficult time where feelings of loneliness and depression are heightened against a backdrop of relentless cheer. There are many reasons why people find Christmas difficult. Issues like loneliness and isolation, family and relationship problems, financial pressures, depression and illness can become more pronounced as the rest of the world enjoy their Christmas dinner and after-dinner naps. For those who have lost a loved one or ended a relationship, Christmas can be a painful reminder – an empty space at the table, one less person to put presents under the tree for, constant memories of someone who is no longer there. Financial worries are another reason why people struggle to cope at Christmas. Despite the fact that we are being told that the economy is improving and that we will all have lots of money to spend this Christmas, financial worries are a concern for many. The percentage of people calling Samaritans about financial worries increased in 2014 compared to 2013. Financial worries were mentioned in 20.4% of calls. It’s easy to feel out of sync with the rest of the world if you’re not enjoying the holidays. The pressure to have a good time added to whatever problems you are facing can create a sense of isolation from the rest of the world. That’s why we believe that it is important to provide a space for people to talk about how they are feeling honestly and what they are going through.

The Christmas period is always a busy time for Samaritans. Last year, we received 15,006 calls during the period from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Day. We received 1,387 of those calls on Christmas Day alone. People can talk to Samaritans any time of the year, in their own way, about whatever is getting to them. Some people think that you have to be suicidal to talk to Samaritans but that is not the case. In fact, 78% of the people who call us are not suicidal, but they do have something they need to talk about. This Christmas, just like every other day of the year, Samaritans volunteers in our 12 branches across the country, will be there for anyone who needs to talk about how they are feeling. We are there for anyone struggling to cope, whoever they are, however they feel, whatever life has done to them. It doesn’t matter what kind of problem our callers have, however big or small it may seem compared to the problems other people have. What matters to us is how their life is making them feel. Sharing how you are really feeling without fear of judgement can be help you feel less isolated. When people are in crisis, talking can help them to feel calmer and get through that moment. Through human contact with someone who really listens, people can begin to feel hope. Talking can help people to see their situation in a different light and find their way forward. If you are finding Christmas tough, why not talk to us and see if we can support you? Samaritans is available round the clock every single day of the year. You can call 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org. You can also get in touch by calling into a branch. For opening hours of each branch and to learn more about our work please visit www.samaritans.ie. SHOPFLOOR

y December 2015


VIEWPOINT

ICTU: €600m lost because of bogus selfemployment THE Irish State could have lost more than €600 million since 2007, due to the huge growth in ‘bogus self-employment’ in the construction sector, a new report from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has revealed. False Economy: The Growth of Bogus Self-Employment in the Construction Industry details the alarming growth of ‘bogus self-employment’ in the sector and the possible loss to the state and taxpayer of up to €80 million per annum, since 2007. Bogus self-employment is the deliberate misclassification of workers as ‘self-employed’ to ensure major contractors save money on social insurance payments. There are further losses arising from workers without social insurance coverage being forced to rely on social protection payments and from possible fraud in public contract pricing. According to Fergus Whelan, the author of the report, the losses stem directly from a lack of adequate risk control: “In 2007, unions, employers and Revenue agreed a Code of Practice to tackle bogus self-employment, but the numbers shot up after that date, strongly suggesting the code is not being adhered to. “In 2012, Revenue changed from a paper based application system for contractors, to an online system. A number of controls were lost with the move online and the numbers have since risen further,” he said. The report reveals that every single bogus selfemployed worker means an annual loss to the State of €2,886 in PRSI payments. Current figures show some 27,600 sole traders operating in construction – with no adequate controls to ensure all are legitimate. If all are bogus, this equates to a loss of almost €80 million per annum and close to €640 million since the Code was agreed in 2007. Mr Whelan said: “Everybody – bar a few contractors – loses in this: workers lose employment protections and social insurance cover, the industry sees an erosion of standards and the State and citizens are deprived of substantial revenue.”

Billy Wall

eRCT EMPLOYMENT SYSTEM Picture: Elmira College (CC BY 2.0)

NEWS

AS the construction industry begins to pick up in the capital and workers are starting to see longer spells of work, employers refuse to employ workers in the normal way and take on workers on a bogus self-employed system. This is a specialised tax system that only exists in the construction, forestry and meat industries. The system is run by the Revenue Commissioners who allow employers to freely designate workers as self-employed workers. What is the net effect of this? Workers have no rights to any statutory employment legislation as they are now categorised as self-employed workers and that they have no employer. The system was first introduced in the 1970s when sub-contractors fell behind in their tax affairs. The system allowed for tax to be deducted at the rate of 35% from the sub-contractors’ account with the builder and this was remitted to the Revenue Commissioners until such time that the sub-contractors’ tax affairs was up to date. Successive governments over the past 20 years have allowed employers, be it big or small, to abuse the system and workers for healthier profits. The big bonus for the employer is that they do not have to pay employer PRSI as they are not considered as an employer but they have people working for them throughout week in and week out, working the same hours each week, working for an hourly rate of pay, and under the control of a line manager who directs them on where and when to work. If the worker asks to be properly designated as an employee, they are told to leave and they lose the work, with no notice, redundancy or entitlement to unfair dismissal. A further injustice regarding this corrupt system of falsifying workers as self-employed workers is that, our young people are losing out on apprenticeships which for years featured largely as a part of the industry. These young people are not looking for careers in the crafts because of the hardships brought upon by this system. Why would any mother or father reading this article allow their child to take up a career in the crafts? The unions involved in the construction industry have met government ministers including

Cement our rights and do away with bogus system

Young people are not looking for careers in the crafts because of the hardships brought upon by this [bogus self-employed] system. Why would any mother or father reading this article allow their child to take up a career in the crafts?

Our pleas were ignored and it remains the same today. This cannot be allowed to be the norm in an industry where strength was always associated with the people that earned a living from it for decades. At the ICTU BDC this year, our union, OPATSI, tabled a motion that Congress would work to have the bogus self-employment system, known as eRCT, abolished. This, we believe, is some step in the right direction but it will need the workers affected by the system to stand up in the same way that Mandate members in Dunne’s Stores have done in the recent past. This has shown real strength and just how workers should act.

Ruairi Quinn and Jan O’Sullivan regarding contractors designating workers as bogus self-employed workers on publicly-funded educational building projects.

Billy Wall is General Secretary of the Operative Plasterers & Allied Trades Society of Ireland

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 tewards/union representatives to assist them in their role in the workplace. COURSE CONTENT: • Background to Mandate • The role and responsibilities of a Shop Steward/Union Representative • Examining disciplinary/grievance procedures • Developing negotiating skills • Representing members at local level • Communication skills/solving members’ problems • Organising, Recruitment and Campaigns • Induction presentations. CERTIFICATION AND PROGRESSION: Members who successfully complete this course will obtain a Mandate certificate. They may progress to a Union Representative Advanced Course and to other relevant training courses offered by Mandate. If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: mandateotc@mandate.ie December 2015

y SHOPFLOOR

13


SOLIDARITY

The first ever IKEA strike in the US demonstrates the lengths to which workers will go to form a uni ON MONDAY, November 16, a group of workers from the IKEA store in Stoughton, Massachusetts, walked off the job and went on strike. This wasn’t a strike about pay and conditions per se, but about the right of these workers to be represented at work. To understand why these IKEA workers felt that they had to go on strike to demand this right, one has to look back at the role of IKEA USA in thwarting union organising in its stores over many years. IKEA prides itself on being a good company. Much of what the company stands for is rooted in the Swedish values that it espouses. This is no different when it comes to how IKEA says it treats its employees and IKEA has published eight Global CoWorker Principles for how it deals with employees. Among these principles are the commitments to be a preferred employer, to encourage dialogue, to respect co-worker associations (another name for unions) and to ensure that IKEA leaders and managers act responsibly. In the USA, workers who were interested in forming a union at IKEA stores were particularly interested in the commitment concerning coworker associations or unions. In full, this IKEA Principle reads: “We respect their work. We believe in a free and balanced exchange of ideas and information. IKEA stays neutral – no campaigns, no preferences, no steering.” IKEA’s global values did not, however, survive the rough journey across the choppy Atlantic it would seem. As far back as 2010, IKEA was holding union avoidance meetings in all its US stores. The backdrop at the time was the possible passage of a pro-organising piece of legislation called the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) aimed at ensuring that workers who wanted to join the union could do so without fear of intimidation or retribution and could do so in a timely manner.

Staff meetings

14

IKEA worker Chris DeAngelo on the picket line

IKEA Stoughton worker, Veronica Cabral, declares that she is on strike

Picture: Alan Hanson, UFCW

This was a central part of the then new President Obama’s platform, as acknowledged by IKEA at the time when management held in-store antiunion staff meetings. In these meetings in 2010, IKEA management outlined to employees how IKEA gives them the opportunity to grow, how HR wants to help with that, how IKEA offers fair wages, benefits, and working conditions and how the company – according to management – has a partnership with its employees. In regard to resolving problems, the company was at pains to point out that there was already a problem-solving mechanism in place – the open door programme, which included things called separation reviews and peer reviews. Then these presentations moved on to talk about EFCA and unions. It was stated that unions were something that were needed in the 1930s but not today and not at IKEA and that – according to IKEA – unions are a for-profit business. It was pointed out to employees that a union would not understand your everyday problems like IKEA would and when the question was put to the IKEA manager as to why IKEA was unionised in other countries but not in the USA, the answer was given: “because the USA is different”. While this was undoubted a very crude and transparent anti-union push by IKEA, it did expose the underlying hostility that IKEA USA management have against unions, notwithstanding whatever the global principles say about IKEA’s neutrality in the face of unions. Since this early manifestation of IKEA USA’s antiunion sentiments, the company has gotten much more sophisticated in its approach. Workers in College Park, Maryland, in Seattle, Washington, and in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, found this out when they attempted to organise a union. They were subjected to “captive audience” meetings whereby the manager addresses the whole store, to one-on-one meetings where individual workers are spoken to in management’s office and to anti-union letters sent by IKEA to their home addresses. In what is common practice in the USA, members of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) visited IKEA

workers at home. This was following repeated refusals by IKEA to permit UFCW access to IKEA stores to talk to workers. The UFCW is America’s retail union and the message that was delivered to workers was a positive one: “join the union to build a better IKEA”. The union was not delivering a negative message against IKEA and was seeking instead to build upon the many positive impressions that workers had about the company. Nevertheless, IKEA management in the USA were swift with their anti-union action. In Pittsburgh, the letter sent to workers’ home addresses did indeed outline the IKEA Co-Worker Principles and stated: “We respect the right of our co-workers to form, join or not to join a co-worker association of their choice without fear of reprisal, interference, intimidation or harassment”. This seems fair, except for the fact that the rest of the correspondence was a subtle but very effective anti-union message. The letter stated in its main body: “Several coworkers ... have reported that they have been solicited at their homes by the local retail union. I

WH SW FOR STR

want you to know that IKEA has not provided any of your personal information to the local union and we will not do so, unless lawfully required.

‘Organizing effort’ “We do not know how the union has obtained coworkers’ personal addresses or phone numbers. This means that you may be contacted at home to support the union organizing effort. If that happens you have the legal right to request that your name and phone number be removed from any list. You have the right to say you are not interested and you have the right to express interest without fear of reprisal. It’s your choice.” The letter continued: “Per our co-worker principles, the management team and I are open to dialogue and will provide factual information to any coworker who enquires about third parties.” It concluded: “We also recognize that you have the right to choose third party representation. However, we believe strongly that this choice should be well-informed. The decision to choose third party representation should not be taken SHOPFLOOR

y December 2015


ion in the face of an employer’s fierce opposition, Michael Bride reports from the front line...

Picture: Moira Bullock, UFCW

AT’S WEDISH R( ) * RIKE?

side of Boston. The IKEA store based in Stoughton serves the entire Boston area and is, by any measure, remarkably successful. Workers at the store generally like their job and like the company, but have repeatedly raised issues with management only for their issues to remain unresolved. Despite workers being left in no doubt that the company did not want them to be unionised, a brave group of workers in the Goods Flow In department decided to take matters into their own hands. These workers wrote to Lars Petersson, the US Country Manager of IKEA USA, and informed him that they wanted to form a union at IKEA and that they would be taking IKEA at its word when it claimed to be neutral and would be talking to workers in the employee cafeteria. The response from Mr Petersson was very encouraging. In his letter of October, 9, 2015, Mr Petersson stated: “Regarding your specific request, as an IKEA co-worker, you are most welcome to spend non-work time meeting and talking with other IKEA co-workers on non-work time in the staff cafeteria. Any co-workers acting as a representative of any union also has the right to meet in the staff café on non-work time. Providing our coworkers a safe and private space to meet and discuss whatever they wish among themselves is important and necessary.” With this letter as encouragement workers spoke to their co-workers in the cafeteria and support for the union blossomed. This support was despite the fact that they were subjected to the

From left: Ken Carling, Raymond Petion, Fidel Castro, Caleb Rodriguez, Alcidia Montond, Veronica Cabral, Reggie Thornton, Akil Johnson, Sandra Sousa, Steve Ferguson, and Nick DeVasto

*Strejk

lightly because all of us will be affected by this decision.” This kind of correspondence is classic unionbusting in the USA. It is very subtle but very effective. The references throughout to unions as “third parties”, the heightened manner in which the home visits are portrayed, the instructions on how to legally demand that your name be taken off a union list and the comments about third party representation affecting “all of us” are psychologically tried and tested ways to chill support for union organising in America. It was, therefore, no surprise when it emerged that the lawyers of record for IKEA in Pittsburgh were a firm called Jackson Lewis. Jackson Lewis is the preeminent union avoidance firm in the USA. The company’s website profile of the lawyer representing IKEA states that he was primarily involved in “representing employers faced with all types of third-party interference. This representation consists of management education, conducting extensive vulnerability audits and assisting clients in the development and impleDecember 2015

y SHOPFLOOR

mentation of preventive workplace practices, procedures and programs.” In the above context, for “preventive”, in my opinion this should read “preventing workers from organising”. To be fair to IKEA, it is not only successful in selling furniture. It’s union-busting efforts were largely rewarded in Seattle, College Park and Pittsburgh. Workers who had previously stated that they wanted to join the union came back after the anti-union pressure from IKEA and said that since the company had made it so evident that it was so opposed to them unionising, workers felt that they could not form a union and still be secure in their jobs. Workers were still supportive of the union and still felt that they needed a union, but they did not want to be vocal about it. And in the USA, where no worker has a contract and where job security is a paramount concern, this is a fully understandable position for workers to adopt. And then there was Stoughton.... Stoughton is a small town about 20 minutes out-

same union-busting tactics that were now synonymous with IKEA US management. Not only did the store manager send out an anti-union email to all employees in Stoughton, the company also constructed what workers referred to as a “unionbusting wall”, which was an area near the noticeboard that management placed all of the materials containing the reasons why IKEA Stoughton did not need to be union. And, unsurprisingly, Jackson Lewis was again on the scene. And yet – despite all of this – workers time after time were saying that they wanted the union, and much of this was based upon the conversations happening in the staff cafeteria. On November 2, 2015 an IKEA US Human Resources Manager issued a revised “General Safety Policy.” Incredibly, under a brand new heading in the safety policy called “Access to IKEA Locations” on page six, the revised policy states: “Co-workers who have completed their assigned shift are not allowed to enter or re-enter the interior of the facility or any restricted area except when conducting IKEA-related business… Restricted areas include,

but are not limited to the staff café...” In a stunning development, not one month after the letter from the US Country Manager saying that it was important and necessary to give workers a safe and private place to meet, IKEA had introduced a brand new policy under “health and safety” which had the immediate effect of removing the one safe and private (and very successful) means that workers had to talk to their colleagues about joining the union. This was the last straw. On Wednesday, November 11, 2015, a majority of the workers in the GFI department of IKEA Stoughton delivered a public petition to IKEA management in the store demanding union recognition.As a majority of workers in what is called a “bargaining unit” demanded recognition, IKEA is completely free to voluntarily recognise the union and begin sitting down to negotiate with workers about their issues of concern. Indeed, if one were to believe IKEA’s rhetoric, there is no reason why the company wouldn’t do this. Instead, however, IKEA erected yet another hurdle and demanded that the workers subject themselves to a secret ballot election – a tactic often used by Walmart to create space to argue against the union in the hope of convincing union supporters to change their preference. Instead of rewarding the company’s union-busting behaviour by opting for the secret ballot, workers decided to bravely and loudly strike for recognition. And so it was that on Monday, November 16, 2015, a majority of workers in the GFI department at an IKEA just outside of Boston led the first-ever strike at an IKEA on US soil. These workers led the strike with chants such as “Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho - Union-busting’s got to go” and, in a homage to Ireland, “Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole, Union! Union!”

‘Jeopardise your job’

Speaking about the strike, Chris DeAngelo, an IKEA worker with eight years service with the company, said: “The last thing we wanted to do was go on strike. You lose your pay, you jeopardise your job – and we like a lot about our jobs at IKEA – but we felt that the company’s anti-union actions had left us little choice.” Coinciding with the strike in Stoughton, messages of support flooded in from retail unions all over the world, including Sweden, Denmark, Spain, Turkey, Indonesia, Pakistan, Singapore, Australia, South Africa and, of course, from Ireland among many other places. On the morning of the strike, and before workers took to the picket line, Skype calls were arranged with Scandinavia, with UNI Global Union in Switzerland and with Mandate in Ireland. The outpouring of support that the strikers received was inspirational. “To think that IKEA workers and retail workers the world over were not only paying attention to what we were doing but supporting our action was the source of enormous pride for those of us on the picket line,” said Sandra Sousa, an IKEA worker of three years service. IKEA now knows the truth of workers’ views on union representation. There is now no going back. Workers at IKEA in the USA will demand their rights for as long as it takes for the company to recognise those rights. This will be achieved in conjunction with the global trades union community, and particularly with members of retail unions and with IKEA workers the world over. The solution must be through dialogue. IKEA has consistently refused to come to the table to negotiation with the UFCW, the union of choice for IKEA workers. It is time for the company to sit down with UFCW and agree corrective steps aimed at fixing the destructive antiunion atmosphere that it has created over its consistent and persistent unionbusting activities over a period of years. The alternative is for IKEA to finally and openly admit that its Swedish values and global policies do not apply in the USA. And that – for its US employees and for the company itself – would be a shame indeed.

15


TRAINING

Scrolls of honour Mandate members Mandy La Combre, Martin Mahoney and Doreen Curely at their graduation ceremony at University College Cork in October. Mandy, right, Martin, below left, and Doreen, below right, receive their IITD awards from ICTU General Secretary Patricia King and Sinead Hennigen from IITD

SHOPFLOOR news@mandate.ie Got a story? Email us at

16

SHOPFLOOR

y December 2015


TRAINING

Shop Stewards Training Programme 2016 Course Title

Course Dates

Duration

Location

Union Representative Introductory

January 18/19/20

3 days

OTC Dublin

Trade Union Representative QQI Level 5

January 25/26/27

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Advanced Senior

February 8/9/10

3 days

Cork

Union Representative Introductory

February 15/16/17

3 days

OTC Dublin

Trade Union Representative QQI Level 5

February 22/23/24

3 days

OTC Dublin

Training Development 2

February 29; March 1/2/3/4

5 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Advanced Senior

February 29; March 1/2

3 days

Waterford

Safety Representation for Elected Reps Level 5

March 7/8/9/10/11

5 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Introductory

April 4/5/6

3 days

Cork

Union Representative Advanced Senior

May 9/10/11

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Introductory

May 16/17/18

3 days

OTC Dublin

Trade Union Representative QQI Level 5

May 23/24/25

3 days

Cork

Trade Union Representative QQI Level 5

May 30/31; June 1

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Introductory

June 13/14/15

3 days

OTC Dublin

Equality and Integration

June 21

1 day

OTC Dublin

Trade Union Representative QQI Level 5

September 5/6/7

3 days

OTC Dublin

Trade Union Representative QQI Level 5

September 12/13/14

3 days

Waterford

Union Representative Introductory

September 19/20/21

3 days

OTC Dublin

Safety Representation for Elected Reps Level 5

September26/27/28/29/30

5 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Advanced Senior

October 3/4/5

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Introductory

October 10/11/12

3 days

OTC Dublin

Training Development 1

October 17/18/19/20/ 21

5 days

OTC Dublin

Trade Union Representative QQI Level 5

October 17/18/19

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Advanced Senior

November 7/8/9

3 days

Galway

Trade Union Representative QQI Level 5

November 14/15/16

3 days

OTC Dublin

If you are interested in attending any of these courses, please contact your Mandate Union Official or Mandate Organising & Training Centre on 01-8369699. OTC = Mandate Organising & Training Centre. Please note venue dates may vary.

December 2015

y SHOPFLOOR

17


VIEWPOINT

Picture: RovingI (CC BY 2.0)

We used to make shit in this country, build shit. Now we just put our hand in the next guy’s pocket... – Frank Sobotka, Fictional union leader on Baltimore Docks, The Wire

By Seán Byers Queen’s University; Trademark Belfast THE ‘Fresh Start’ agreement between the British and Irish governments and Northern Ireland Executive has provoked varying degrees of criticism from the trade union movement and political left. Cries of “Green and Orange Tory sell-out” underestimate or wilfully ignore the power relations entailed in the Executive’s dealings with an intransigent Tory government, which are akin to Syriza’s encounters with the financial elite represented by the European institutions, and fail to acknowledge the considerable ideological differences between Sinn Féin and what the late loyalist leader Billy Mitchell once described as “Ulster’s answer to the Taliban” (the DUP). Anti-austerity resistance of this variety also fails to go beyond slogans in presenting a credible alternative. What would we do with 30 MLAs? What can be done within the current confines of a glorified county council? If we were to secure enhanced fiscal powers, what steps would we take to build a fairer and more equitable society? We can and must do better on this front.

Critical examination

Recognising these challenges does not, however, preclude a critical examination of the devolution and planned reduction of corporation tax, which is a home-grown policy being pursued independently of Tory pressure. Progressive taxation is a cornerstone of Sinn Féin thinking, featuring heavily in alternative budget submissions and election manifestos. It is unarguable that this has contributed to the party’s popularity with sections of the population that are yearning for an alternative to establishment politics and an economy that delivers for the majority. However, the policy of seeking to build a common tax regime across the island lays bare a fundamental contradiction at the heart of the Sinn Féin project. Built into the ‘Fresh Start’ agreement (1.19) is a commitment that the Executive will, by April 2018, reduce the North’s headline corporation tax rate to the 12.5% applied to companies in the 26 counties. This route to tax harmonisation would be regressive and could represent one of the most cataclysmic economic adjust-

...and neoliberal reconstruction in the North ments since the ceasefires. Space does not allow for a full exploration of the arguments against this destructive and unwinnable race to the bottom, although its detractors include PwC – hardly a bastion of heterodox economics. Of the strong objections presented by respected tax experts Richard Murphy and Andrew Baker, two stand out. Firstly, what makes the South such an attractive prospect for ‘investment’ is not necessarily its corporation tax rate, but the fundamental structure of its tax regime, which is geared towards the financial sector and enables a number of wealthy individuals and large multinationals to pay little or no tax. The second relates to the Azores judgement, which states that a central government within the EU cannot subsidise tax cuts by a regional administration. Murphy and Baker suggest that the block grant faces a cut of something in the region of £400-£700m per annum. There is, of course, no way the Northern Ireland economy can grow by this much on the basis of private sector investment. Even if the cut in corporation tax does create the 50,000 private sector jobs envisaged by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (by 2037!), this will not compensate for the loss of public sector jobs and degradation of

public services resulting from lost tax revenues. It is a leap of faith and imagination to suggest otherwise. The socialist economist Michael Burke has used the OECD’s historical data to demonstrate that although the average of corporation taxes applied in OECD member states has fallen consistently over the last three decades, this has failed to yield advances in GDP growth or higher levels of investment in labour-intensive, export-led industries.

Speculative activities

The same is true in Ireland, where the 10-year period of GDP growth since the drastic cut to corporation tax in 2003 has been the worst in the history of the state and the speculative activities of the finance sector have mushroomed at the expense of the productive economy. Similarly, Donagh Brennan of the Irish Left Review has debunked the oft-repeated claim that reducing the headline corporation tax rate has historically attracted greater foreign direct investment to Ireland, and demonstrates that the introduction of lower flat rates has more often preceded a real decline in FDI. While the 12.5% rate of corporation tax acts as Ireland’s ‘for sale sign’, reducing the tax base available for public expenditure on other investment location drivers, it is Ireland’s tax haven qualities that sees the exorbi-

tant profits of large multinationals flow through the state without any discernible benefit to the Irish economy. Despite all of this, the allure of the get-rich-quick Celtic Tiger model, a massive Ponzi scheme, has proven too much for some to resist. The reconstruction of Northern Ireland in the image of the South’s rentier capitalist economy proceeds apace. Indeed, the prioritisation of finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) has been fundamental to what Conor McCabe and Trademark have described as the North’s “double transition” from conflict to peace and from social democracy to neoliberalism. However, it looks unlikely that the Executive will assume the necessary powers to promote the same level of financialisation that has taken root in the South. Commenting on the Corporation Tax (Northern Ireland) Bill, Richard Murphy makes the crucial point that businesses engaged in lending and making investments, those responsible for investment management, and those engaged in reinsurance, are all excluded from taking advantage of a reduced corporate tax rate. ‘Back office activity’, which encompasses accounting, data processing and call centre functions, is also excluded. By extension, the new tax arrangements rule out the relocation

of financial services to the region. A reduction to the rate of corporation tax carries only two guarantees: the gift of a tax cut to 30,000 existing businesses in the North and a hefty reduction to the block grant. It makes sense for Stormont to pursue the devolution of fiscal powers in the interest of breaking its dependence on Westminster and utilising those levers to advance a progressive economic programme.

Ill-served

At least 15 reports since the publication of Isles and Cuthbert’s Economic Survey of Northern Ireland (1957) have made the point that the people of the six counties have been ill-served by the region’s peripherality and partial economic integration with Britain. This is something that should be addressed in conjunction with a serious appraisal of the long-term viability of the northern state. However, in our efforts to win the battle of ideas and build a left alternative in Ireland, it is essential that we eschew the fetishisation of FDI, resist shortcuts to all-island integration and embrace pluralist thinking around the longterm development of the Irish economy. In short, the answer to our structural economic problems and the crisis of neoliberalism is not more neoliberalism.

Please contact SHOPFLOOR at SHOPFLOOR KEEPS YOU INFORMED... news@mandate.ie or post your article to Shopfloor, Mandate Trade HELP KEEP US INFORMED BY EMAILING Union,9 Cavendish Row, Dublin 1 STORIES AND PICTURES ABOUT YOUR WORKPLACE... 18

SHOPFLOOR

y December 2015


ANALYSIS

Everyone on board for the

Great Hamster Wheel?

Picture: frankieleon (CC BY 2.0)

Michael Taft FEEL like your pay rise – if you get one – is barely covering the cost of living? Feel that the tax cut you’re going to get next year will only bring you back to where you were this year? Feel like you’re running just to stand still (if you’re lucky)? Welcome to the Great Hamster Wheel where you can run and run and go absolutely nowhere. So Christmas is coming and Santa is bringing a big bag of price increases... Health insurance: Now is a busy time for health insurance renewals and Charlie Weston reports a series of price increases. Aviva is to increase prices by 5.1% in January: “The Aviva price adjustments come just months after similar hikes. At the start of the year, the insurer announced a rise of 3.5%. And in the summer, it announced rises of 5.1%, effective from the start of last July.” Other insurers have also announced prices increases. The health insurance market is getting more complicated. 72 Aviva health plans (yes, 72) will experience increases, many won’t while 47 plans will be withdrawn. These will entail increases of €150 to €200 per year for many policy holders. Weston quotes one independent broker as saying that most plans only have a life-span of 12 months. Sign up if you will but realise that your plan may not exist after 12 months. Hands up all those who would just December 2015

y

SHOPFLOOR

Are we all going to follow the Fine Gael line: here’s a tax cut, here’s some cash, now go away and don’t be bothering us. Are we just going to grease the Great Hamster Wheel?

rather pay for their health through social insurance – one plan to cover all contingencies – and share that cost with employers. Public transport fares: Urban bus, Luas, rail and Bus Eireann fares are going up, though some travellers will experience a decrease with a number of zones being merged. Some of the increases will reach 15% meaning an additional €70 per year. But while there will be winners and losers in these price increases and changes, over the last four years public transport has experienced considerable inflation: l Rail fares: 17.3%; l Bus fares: 21.4% l Overall inflation: 1.6% That’s a substantial gap. Private rents: Not only is there no end to rent increases, they’re actually accelerating. Here’s what the Private Residential Tenancies Board reports over the last year (up to the second quarter) for a one-bedroom tenancy. Minimal rises in Galway or Waterford. But rents are rising in Cork and Limerick and in Dublin they are ballooning. In money terms, monthly

rents increased in Dublin by €81 while in Cork and Limerick they are rising by €26 and €19 respectively. These numbers only go up to the second quarter this year. DAFT reports that in the third quarter rents rose at the fastest since 2007 – by 3.2%. Yearly increases in Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford – above 10% – are now exceeding Dublin. Rents are not only rising, they are spreading. So there are increases in health insurance, public transport fares and rents. Though average weekly earnings are also rising, they are concentrated among managers and professionals. And we get tax cuts. But in the great hamster race everything cancels out everything else. The next election will be dominated by tax cuts. But who will raise the issue of living costs? Does anyone have a coherent health policy – apart from piling in more money, which is necessary but not sufficient; not when we have a three-tier health service (those covered by insurance, those covered by medical cards and those who fall between the two)? Is anyone going to propose increased public transport subventions which badly trail European norms? And how are we going to fix our broken housing market – from the homeless and those on waiting lists, to those in a highly-inflationary private rental sector and those still trapped in substantial arrears? Or are we all going to follow the Fine Gael line: here’s a tax cut, here’s some cash, now go away and don’t be bothering us. Are we just going to grease the Great Hamster Wheel? Michael Taft is Research Officer at Unite the Union

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: mandateotc@mandate.ie 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

19


ANALYSIS

Rising inequality is at the heart of this recovery

By Rory Hearne Senior Policy Analyst, TASC THERE has been much debate in recent months about economic inequality. A recent CSO Survey on Income and Living Conditions (check out http://bit.ly/1PcG4Wy) reveals some very worrying trends that show Ireland is a deeply unequal country and that that the level of inequality is worsening despite the economic recovery. The share of income going to the top 20% in Ireland has increased each year since 2011 and is now back at pre-crisis levels. In contrast, the share of income going to the bottom 40% of the population has fallen. The CSO figures highlight, once more, the reality that rising economic growth does not automatically ‘lift all boats’. Indeed in Ireland’s ‘recovery’, the benefits from a growing economy are ‘trickling up’ rather than being spread more evenly across society. Ireland’s Gini co-efficient, the most commonly used measure of income inequality worsened between 2013 and 2014 as it increased from 31.3% to 31.8% (see Figure 1).

Highest level

Growing gap

EQ UA L

UN

As the CSO notes: “This indicates an increase in income inequality across the total income distribution.” This is the highest the level of inequality in Ireland since 2006 when the Gini was 32.4. Inequality has in fact increased each year since 2011. Another useful measure of inequality is the share of income held by quintile of the population. The CSO figures show that the top 20% in Ireland have almost 40% of the income while the bottom 20% have just 8% and the bottom 40% just 20% (see Figure 2). This is indeed a deeply unequal country. The figures highlight that Ireland’s ‘success’ story of austerity and recovery has in fact left significant social ‘scarring’. This has taken the form of a major increase in the proportion of the population who are suffering from deprivation and are at risk of poverty. In 2004, for example, 12% of the population experienced two or more types of deprivation. In 2014, the figure had almost trebled to 29%, which is an additional 765,000 people suffering from deprivation. This is not a ‘success’ by any measure. It highlights the danger in solely using GDP economic growth rates as the measure of ‘recovery’ and the necessity to include social and human impact indicators also. There were many worrying aspects in these figures but the persistence of the historically high deprivation rate must be of major concern. The deprivation rate dropped by just 1.5% between 2013 and 2014. Neither economic growth nor government policies have ad-

Illustration: Jurgen Appelo (CC BY 2.0)

dressed these unacceptably high deprivation rates. The crisis years have had a profoundly unequal restructuring effect on Irish society with an additional 10% of the population now reliant on social transfers (welfare, FIS, grants, child benefit, housing support etc) to keep out of poverty than what was the case before the crisis and austerity. Half the Irish population would

Figure 1 Gini Coefficient and Quintile Share Ratio 2005 - 2014

20

second lowest 10%. The top 10% have €2129.88 per week which is thirteen times what the bottom 10% has in disposable weekly income or seven times the second lowest 10% of the population. This means that the current reliance on a ‘jobs’ strategy as the principal solution to reducing inequality, poverty and deprivation is unlikely to work. Clearly the availability, type and quality of job matters hugely. And the CSO statistics reveal that poverty and deprivation rates for those at work actually increased significantly in the last year. The deprivation rate for households with one person at work rose from 33.8% in 2013 to 35% in 2014. The ‘at-risk of poverty rate’ for these households rose from 13.4% to 15.9%. Having a job is not enough. A living wage and affordable housing, child care, and health care are required to ensure low paid workers can get out of poverty and deprivation. There is also a need for an employment strategy that addresses the broad range of skills of the labour force and goes beyond the narrow ‘high-tech’ low corporate tax approach.

be at risk of poverty without social transfers. This raises huge questions about the long term impact of policies pursued in the last decade in Ireland and the sustainability of the type of economy, welfare system and public services that we have developed. Ireland now has the second highest pre-tax and welfare income inequality in the OECD. Essentially we

Essentially we have a deeply unequal economy with a large proportion of the population receiving either low wages or no wages and a minority on very, very high incomes...

have a deeply unequal economy with a large proportion of the population receiving either low wages or no wages and a minority on very, very, high incomes. If we look at disposable income we can really see the gap between the top and the bottom. The average weekly household income (net disposable income after tax) is €161.78 for the bottom 10% and €298 for the

The growing gap between the rising wealth and incomes at the top of society and the rest (or the 99%) has become a major problem globally. Even the IMF is concerned that rising inequality is affecting economic growth and social cohesion. Richard Wilkinson, author of the ground breaking book The Spirit Level (on why more equal societies do better), said recently that the high level of market income inequality in Ireland should be of major concern due to the detrimental impacts on society well-being. It is not just concern for material poverty but the negative impacts on people’s sense of self-esteem and the knock-on detrimental effects on their physical and mental health. For example, think of the negative impacts for the 20% of the population who are unable to afford to have family or friends for a drink or a meal or to go out and socialise. Inequality and poverty are profoundly socially isolating and stigmatising. That the recovery in the economy is leading to worsening inequality in Ireland should be of major concern for everyone. It shows that the free market, neoliberal approach of ‘trickle-down economics’ does not work. The latest CSO figures show the need for an honest and evidencebased debate on the type of recovery Ireland is undergoing and what needs to be done to ensure it is equitable and sustainable.

Figure 2 Share of Income by Quintile

SHOPFLOOR

y December 2015


ISSUES HOMELESSNESS

HOMELESS and housing charity Peter McVerry Trust launched its 2014 annual report in November and the report shows that for the seventh year in succession the numbers of people accessing Peter McVerry Trust services increased. The charity has now warned that the rapid rise in people accessing its services has placed a huge strain on its resources and is concerned that a spike in rents could push more people out of their accommodation and into homeless services. Speaking ahead of the report launch, Pat Doyle, CEO of Peter McVerry Trust, said: "Last year, Peter McVerry Trust worked with 4,460 participants across its services. “That was an increase of 24% on the number of people we worked with in 2013 and a very significant rise on the number people we worked with at the start of the recession back in 2008 when we supported 383 participants. "The increase in the numbers we are working with is due to Peter McVerry Trust's ability to respond quickly and flexibly to the needs of people experiencing homelessness. “In 2014 we opened at least one new service in each of our four core areas of service provision. These new services, combined with the rapid rise of people presenting as homeless, have seen us experience a large rise in participant numbers.

"Unfortunately, this year has been even busier than 2014 and we now expect to work with 7,500 participants across our services during 2015. That will be a 68% increase in a single year and it will be more than double the 2013 figure." "Responding to these needs has placed a huge strain on our resources as well as our ability to respond and offer additional supports to those in need. “This winter, for the first time in the organisation's history, we may not have the financial resources needed to respond quickly to the emergency needs of people in homelessness. This simply underlines the scale of the challenge we are attempting to tackle." Mr Doyle has called on the Government to continue to prioritise homelessness and the factors that contribute to it. "We have welcomed recent measures on rental reform and housing supply but warned that rents will rise sharply unless new legislation is introduced immediately. “The recent Daft Rental Report which shows the single largest quarterly increase in rents since early 2007 only adds to our concerns that we will see a sharp rent rise result in a spike in homelessness at time when the sector could easily be overwhelmed. "We cannot afford a situation where politicians feel they have done enough to respond to

Trade Union Representation This course for shop stewards/union representatives who have completed the introductory course or who have relevant experience.

Course content: • Understanding Mandate’s structures • Overview of Mandate’s rules • Industrial Relations institutions and mechanisms • Mandate’s Organising Model

• • • • •

Negotiations & Collective Bargaining Understanding Equality and Diversity Developing induction presentation skills Introduction to Employment Law Identifying issues and using procedures

Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this training course will obtain a Mandate certificate. They may progress to the FETAC level 5 Certificate in Trade Union studies or other relevant training courses offered by Mandate. If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: mandateotc@mandate.ie

Picture: William Murphy (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Homeless charity sees 24% rise in need for services this emergency. The numbers in need of our help are staggering and those at risk are even greater. “We can't afford for thoughts of a general election to deflect from the huge challenges that exist, challenges that can only be successfully tackled with strong Government leadership." Mr Doyle said that housing supply remained the charity's number one strategic objective and that despite the huge rise in the numbers accessing homeless services the charity has remained committed to making significant investments in new housing supply.

Invested heavily

The numbers in need of our help are staggering and those at risk are even greater... – Pat Doyle, Peter McVerry Trust CEO

"Peter McVerry Trust has invested heavily in securing housing units to help people move out of homelessness. Last year we managed to move 132 people into their own homes and recorded a 168% increase in the number of people worked with in their own homes. "The charity ended 2014 with 136 housing units scattered across Dublin, compared with less than 10 units in 2008.” He added: “The challenge that we face is ensuring that housing supply when it does come on-stream meets the needs of people in homeless services and is built to meet the needs of all cohorts including single people who make up the majority of those in homelessness.”

ONE DAY COURSE

Facing up to Racism On behalf of Mandate, the European Network Against Racism (Ireland), will deliver a one-day course on Facing Up To Racism, in Mandate Training Centre.

Course objective: This course would be of interest to trade union activists and members who wish to learn about anti-racism in their workplace and in their communities. The course will be interactive and will allow for discussion to raise the participants awareness to how they can face up to racism when they encounter same.

Venue: Mandate Training Centre Date: Thursday, 18th February, 2016 Time: 10am – 4pm Eligibility: Mandate members Training is free to Mandate members but courses are also open to Mandate members who are currently unemployed. Places are limited. As there is a high demand for this course please ensure to contact your Mandate union official or the Mandate Training Centre on 01-8369699 by Friday 12th February 2016. There is no release sought for this course.

December 2015

y SHOPFLOOR

21


VIEWPOINT RIGHT2CHANGE THREE are three obvious agendas behind the imposition of domestic water charges. If you were to believe the government spin, you’d think it was about conservation. But the three real reasons are: 1. Shifting the burden of paying for water from commercial enterprises to households; 2. Giving tax breaks to the wealthy while imposing water charges on everyone else; and 3. Lining up the future privatisation of our water industry. There are a number of ways we can prove the conservation argument is a farce. The first and most obvious is through direct comparison with other countries that already have domestic water charges in place. According to the UK water supply boards, where they have had domestic water charges in place since the 1980s, the average end user uses 68,405 litres of water per year. Yet, according to Irish Water, that figure in Ireland is 54,750 litres. So the evidence shows that water charges actually increase water consumption by up to 20%. A SIPTU report from 2011 flagged up the results of international research into the issue. It found that installing domestic water meters was unlikely to make any real difference to the amount of water used by families. The report stated: “In the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands it has been found that metering each home makes little difference to the amount of water used by families. Researchers have found that while consumption dropped initially following the installation of meters, after a relatively short time, this was more or less reversed with families returning to the pre-metered level of consumption.” Senior Executive Engineer for Water, Gerry Concannon, estimated that the costs of metering – involving installation, maintenance, administration and replacement – would double our spend on water in the medium term. That figure has now trebled, and yet the professional body Engineers Ireland stated: “The proposed expenditure on water metering would mean spending more than €1 billion which we don’t have on something we don’t need!" So if conservation is not the real motivation behind water charges, and we’re spending so much money on a phenomenally-expensive metering programme, what is the real motivation behind water charges?

1. Shift the burden from corporations to households The EU says that households account for only 10% of all water usage. The biggest users of water are agriculture and commercial companies, using 90% of all water. Yet, a quick look at the breakdown of the new water billing structure shows that householders will initially be expected to pay up to 78% of all costs, and that figure will no doubt rise in the immediate future. Commercial companies will be expected to pay 22% of the costs for using 90% of the product, yet at this point in time, evidence shows they already have a non-compliance rate of 37% and €50m in water debt has been written off for them.

AGENDA ON WATER Shift burden to households...

Tax breaks for rich – waters charges for rest of us

Line it up for privatisation...

from the poorest in our society to the wealthiest. The unemployed, underemployed, disabled and pensioners all spend more of their time in the home than those who are lucky enough to be in full-time employment. This means they’ll use more water and when the cap on charges of €260 per year ends in 2019, their water bills will spiral out of control. Picture: Pablo Trabattoni (CC BY 2.0)

3. Lining up the future privatisation of our water industry Water is one of the most profitable industries in the world. In 2013, in Britain, private water companies made profits of €2.81bn and paid €2.55bn to shareholders while paying only €101m in taxes. Seven water companies paid no corporation tax at all.

WATER CONSUMPTION LEVELS Metered v General Taxation

Ireland uses 20% less water than metered countries

FACT

The dividends paid out to UK water companies are double that of your average non-financial company. As a result, there is almost no retained profit which is usually used to upgrade infrastructure future. More than half of all water companies in the UK are owned by Private Equity Consortiums – a group of High Net Worth Individuals who pool their money to strip profits from any industry they can get their hands on. The impact is that for every £100 spent on a water bill in the UK, between £20 and £30 goes directly to the companies. Anyone who still believes that Irish Water is about conservation should ask themselves why the Irish Government is steadfastly refusing to hold a referendum which would enshrine ownership in the hands of the public. This simple referendum could save the Labour Party and many of the seats for Fine Gael and yet they still stubbornly refuse.

Troika When the Troika visited Portugal and Greece, their bailout terms included the privatisation of water services. That was because they had already metered, meaning there was a revenue stream in place. In Ireland we hadn’t put in place a revenue stream so the Troika played the long game and forced the metering programme into our Memorandum of Understanding first. Next step, full privatisation. Without a referendum, there will be nothing a future government can do to prevent this. In lining up this policy, the last two governments have cut spending on water by 65% and then have the neck to complain about the need for further investment after the infrastructure falls apart. As Noam Chomsky said: “That's the standard technique of privatisation: defund, make sure things don't work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital.” That’s why water will continue to be the single most important issue for the upcoming general election. This one policy exposes the priorities for political parties and politicians. Some are happy to lift the burden on employers, who already benefit from one of the lowest corporation tax rates and lowest employers’ PRSI rates in Europe, and impose that burden on low and middle income households. They are happy to transfer wealth from some of the poorest in our society to the wealthiest. And they’re happy to line up our water services for future privatisation. They do this unashamedly hiding behind a bogus conservation argument. It’s our job to hold them accountable, and we can do this by joining and supporting the Right2Change campaign as the election looms. Go to www.right2change.ie for more.

Households use 10% of the water but are expected to pay 78% of the costs. Corporations, agriculture and business use 90% of the water but are expected to pay 22% of the costs...

2. Give tax breaks to the wealthy while imposing water charges on everyone else In the 2015 Budget, the Government gave a €405m tax break to the top 17% of earners. In the most recent Budget they gave further tax cuts disproportionately benefiting the highest earners. Those political decisions widened the wealth gap by €1,003 in two short years. At the same time, Minister Alan Kelly has said he expects households to pay €271m in water charges. This is simply a transfer of wealth 22

SHOPFLOOR

y December 2015


INTERNATIONAL By Pablo Vicente Free Otegi, FreeThem All campaign THE Irish Appeal for the release of Basque political leader Arnaldo Otegi was launched in Dublin on November 19. The event was hosted in Leinster House by TDs Gerry Adams, Maureen O’Sullivan, and Finian McGrath, and was addressed by Basque musician Fermin Muguruza, Basque Senator and human rights lawyer, Urko Aiartza and Irish artist Robert Ballagh. The Irish Appeal has been endorsed by artists, sports personalities, politicians, religious leaders, musicians, academics, writers, journalists and trade union members, including Mandate General Secretary John Douglas. The Appeal is part of the wider international initiative ‘Free Otegi - Free Them All’, which was launched last March in the European Parliament in Brussels and is endorsed by amongst others Desmond Tutu, Angela Davis, and Pepe Mujica. In October 2009, Arnaldo Otegi was arrested in the Basque city of Donostia while preparing a new peace initiative. Spanish military police stormed the headquarters of Basque trade union LAB where Otegi and members of the leadership of the Basque left pro-independence movement were preparing documents designed to commence a debate within the Basque left wing pro-independence movement on a new peace initiative.

Free Arnaldo Otegi appeal launched

Dispersal policy

Release demands In response to these arrests more than 50,000 people took to the streets of Donostia demanding their immediate release. Despite these arrests, the proposal was distributed among members and supporters of the movement and was discussed in meetings throughout the Basque country, attended by almost 10,000 activists. Following this extensive debate the proposal was agreed as the new way forward in the pursuit of independence and socialism for the Basque Country. The core of the new strategy is a unilateral commitment to exclusively peaceful means and after more than 50 years of armed conflict and three collapsed peace processes, this strategy has opened the way for the resolution of the conflict in the Basque Country. The international community has played a crucial role in promoting a resolution of the conflict. In October 2011, the International Conference of Aiete, attended by among others Kofi Annan, Gro Harlem Bruntlan and Gerry Adams, presented the Aiete Declaration. The Declaration presented four proposals for the resolution of the conflict, calling for: 1. ETA to end the armed campaign (ETA responded positively, declaring an end to armed

logue with political representatives of the Basque people about the causes and potential resolution of the conflict. The sentencing of Arnaldo Otegi, Rafa Diez (former General Secretary for Basque Trade Union LAB), Sonia Jacinto, Arkaitz Rodriguez and Miren Zabaleta to six years imprisonment represented a clear signal that efforts to bring a new and positive dynamic Basque politics would be frustrated. As a consequence of the conflict, more than 420 Basque citizens are currently held in Spanish and French prisons. Political prisoners are subject to a dispersal policy designed to punish the prisoners and their loves ones. Basque political prisoners are held at an average 673 km from their homes. As a result, every weekend family and friends have to travel more than 1,400 km to visit their loved ones, costing on average of €2,000 per month. Massive demonstrations have taken place calling for an end to the dispersal policy. In 2014, over 120,000 people mobilised in Bilbao in support of the prisoners, which represented the largest demonstration in the history of the Basque Country. Prisoners in the Basque Country have an important part to play in cementing the peace. However, they also present an emotional challenge when they and they families are treated poorly in the context of a growing peaceful environment. The continuing dispersal of Basque prisoners causes unnecessary hardship to their families and unnecessary strains on the peace. There is no lasting solution to any conflict without dealing with the origins of it. It is only through dialogue that a lasting peace can be ultimately achieved. International support and solidarity still has a fundamental role. We appreciate the ongoing support and solidarity of workers throughout Ireland for efforts to end the conflict and for the establishment of a lasting peace in the Basque Country. "Solidarity is the tenderness of the people" – Gioconda Belli Pablo Vicente is coordinator of the Irish Appeal Free Otegi, Free Them All campaign. Check out onwardstopeace@gmail.com

Prisoners in the Basque Country have an important part to play in cementing the peace...

Picture: Kaosenlared.net (CC BY-SA 3.0)

actions three days after the Conference); 2. The Spanish and French governments to open dialogue with ETA about the consequences of the conflict; 3. Basque society to address the suffering of all victims; and 4. Basque political parties to address the root causes of the conflict.

There has also been international support for this initiative among workers – the National Executive Committee of South African Trade Union Nehawu has supported the Aiete Declaration. Unfortunately, to date, calls for the development of a peace process have gone unheeded by both the Spanish and French governments, who have refused to enter into dia-

SKILLS FOR WORK

City of Dublin Education and Training Board

Interested in doing a Communications course?

Do you have a desire to improve your communications skills, but never got around to it?

Communication skills

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: mandateotc@mandate.ie 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. December 2015

y SHOPFLOOR

23


HERE’S MY VIEW...

WHETHER it was to meet your family or friends for a spot of afternoon tea and a cake, pick up a few bargains as you were passing through, or just to pop in and say hello to some former colleagues and friends, there was always something for everyone in Boyers. Considered to be a very personal shopping experience, with a very obliging and friendly team of staff, as noted by many customers time and time again, Boyers has remained in high regard for over five decades within Dublin, and around the country. With the retail trade constantly evolving, regardless of whether it’s the styles and trends each season, conversion to online shopping, or even just the layout of a store itself, one thing that can never change is the atmos-

Losing Boyers... what it means to me

Boyers staff member Kieron Byrne reflects on what he and his colleagues will miss about Boyers – a ‘very special’ place to work – when it closes it doors on January 31... phere and nature of the staff that work in a store. For over 50 years Boyers has maintained a sense of family and a warm welcoming atmosphere that has never left the building, despite thousands of people passing through the doors every year. Customers and staff alike have become familiar over the years with the brands, and how it is a very unique shopping experience compared to other department stores around Dublin and across Ireland.

Sadly, on January 31, 2016, Boyers will close its doors for the very last time. Staff were informed of the news during a meeting in September and it was a shock to everybody.

Loyal customers The very same afternoon, newspapers were informed of the news and it made headlines as the second department store to close its doors in less than 12 months on North Earl Street. Inevitably, this will induce a very negative impact to the retail trade on

that side of the city, but it will also affect not just staff who will lose their jobs, but what seems to be an evergrowing number of loyal customers. Without fail, every day a customer says to at least one member of staff: “It’s terrible the place is closing, what are we going to do now?” This is the big question for a lot of people, as Boyers is one of the few remaining stores in Dublin that caters for a very niche market, and is next to impossible to find another place which supplies these brands.

Despite being considered “Arnotts’ little brother”, over the last seven years when the economy began to dip, it was a major struggle for businesses everywhere, and Boyers was no exception. There were rumours around that time that the store was to close due to bad trading conditions and lack of profit. Yet, as time went on, things picked up and so did business in Boyers. Shoppers began to feel more confident spending their money, and as Lorraine Keegan, a member of staff from the accessories department, re-

Personal & Professional Development Venue: Mandate Training Centre, Distillery Road, Dublin 3

Date: Tuesday 12th January 2016 – Tuesday 29th March 2016 Time: 6.30pm – 9pm; Eligibility: Mandate members • How to communicate your needs and wants • Finding the right information that will steer you in the right direction

• The environment in which we live and work

• The social, political and economic landscape of trade RIGHT: Placard reads ‘Brazil first place in corruption’

unions

Pictures: Ben Tavener (CC BY 2.0)

• Media ownership – who is telling you what and why

• Social Media – What it is all about

• How to write a good application form and designing a CV

• Strengthening abilities to engage and influence

Contact Mandate’s Training Centre on 01-836 9699 or apply online at www.mandate.ie by 5th January 2016. Training is free to Mandate members but courses are also open to Mandate members who are currently unemployed. Places are limited and are allocated on a first come first served basis. 24

SHOPFLOOR

y December 2015


marked: “We’ve been holding our own for longer than people think. Everybody knows that Arnotts and Boyers are the same company, but we have proven time and time again that as a separate store, we can produce and it has stood the test of time.” This is the belief of a lot of people who pass through the doors. Customers are consistently remarking on how well business has been, as regulars coming in several times a week, and cannot understand why the store is closing. Staff have become accustomed to hearing such comments since the news of the closure broke in September.

Devastated

Of course it is sad to see any business go, but there is solace to take from it all, believe it or not. Hundreds of members of staff have come and gone over the years, and the small number I have had the pleasure of working with are essentially devastated that the store is going. In my experience when they left the store to progress in their careers, not one has ever said a bad word about the shop. It became very apparent, very quickly, that anybody who has ever worked in Boyers has many fond memories and will always hold a soft spot for the store for as long as they live. For some members of staff, the closure will mean a new direction in their career, for others it will be their last job, as some will be retiring soon, and it will be with a sense of pride and dignity in the work they have done over the years. Jacinta O’Donohue, a member of the ladies fashions managerial team, who has worked in Boyers for the last 39 years agreed that it will be very sad to see it go. “The brands have changed, the staff have changed so many times, the store itself has undergone many changes over the years, but the sense of family and camaraderie hasn't. “Boyers has always been a friendly place and you can tell from the minute you walk in the door. We've had some characters work here over the years and some also some famous people too.” President Mary McAleese has December 2015

y SHOPFLOOR

popped in to buy some clothes, Senator David Norris has enquired about some eccentric suits, Packie Bonner has come in to buy a few things, even Brendan O’Connor was in recently having a poke around. You just never know who’s going to walk through those doors. When I had approached my colleagues and informed them I would be writing this article, I was told many great stories – some which are too long to include here, and some which wouldn't be suitable for print. One recurring theme with the staff was the restaurant. It would be regarded as “world famous” within the four walls of the shop, and many people, not just staff, have a very high opinion of the food available. It doesn't matter if you just went in for a cup of tea, a carvery dinner on a Sunday with all the trimmings for €6.99, or just a glass of wine (if that's takes your fancy), the restaurant catered for everybody. It was always considered very good value for what you got, and the staff are constantly being praised for how good they are at what they do. It will be missed greatly by a lot of people. On a personal note, it has been a very interesting road working in Boyers. I'm only 25 and I have nearly 10 years experience in retail, most of which is from working in Arnotts and

Boyers. It has paid my way through college, allowed me to afford a standard of living I probably won't be able to maintain after I leave, given me a lot of friends I wouldn't otherwise have known along the way, some who will definitely be a friend for life in my opinion. There have been some highs and lows over the years, some more than others, but I would consider it to be almost my second home at this point. Even on my days off I pop in to see people and have a chat, it's almost as if it's a magnet and you can't stay away for too long.

Absolute pleasure

I also think at this point I know everyone in the shop, and if I don't I will before we leave. I personally consider my colleagues to be a second family and I will be very sad to leave them when the doors close at the end of January. A few tears will definitely be shed – and not just by me. It has been an absolute pleasure to have worked with such an amazing group of people and you have all done so much for me over the years, more than you or I realise. I owe an awful lot to Boyers as I've pretty much grown up there and there will never be anywhere else like it on the planet. It truly is one in a million. From the Christmas parties in February (which is definitely the only place in the world to do that), to the very eclectic mix of music, everyone's little catchphrases they've seemed to acquire over the years, customers saying the brand names all wrong, running up and down a million times a day to get everyone change for their till, the two Franks or Sean giving the 10-minute announcement at the end of the day, to all the regulars who pass through and have a chat, nowhere will be as unique, crazy or loved as much as that shop is and forever will be among many. It's so strange how a job, or a store has have such an impact on so many people's lives, but it's what you make of the time you spend there that counts, and I would like to think everybody will think fondly of the store, years after it closes, as it is a very special place.

Union Representative Advanced Senior Course 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

Course content

 The history of trade unionism emergence and development  The of the market system  The impact of globalisation trade and open markets  Free in a 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: mandateotc@mandate.ie 25


TRAINING Members who took the Union Representative Introductory course held at Mandate’s OTC on November 2,3 and 4

to up

SPPECIAL OFFER FO R ME M BERS O F

t un 25disco

%

HMCA have now introduced the “NEW” Caare Startter Cash Plan and ĂƌĞĂƐŚWůĂŶ͕ǁŚŝĐŚĐĂŶƉƌŽǀŝĚĞƚĂdžͲĨƌĞĞĐĂƐŚďĞŶĞĮƚƐƚŽǁĂƌĚƐ͗Ͳ  KǀĞƌŶŝŐŚƚ,ŽƐƉŝƚĂůĞŶĞĮƚƐ ĂLJĂƐĞĞŶĞĮƚƐ Maternity Grant 'WΘWƌĞƐĐƌŝƉƟŽŶĨĞĞƐ KƉƟĐĂůΘĞŶƚĂůĞŶĞĮƚƐ Personall A Acciden id t C Cover Special Services ŽŵƉůĞŵĞŶƚĂƌLJDĞĚŝĐŝŶĞĞŶĞĮƚƐ KǀĞƌƐĞĂƐĞŶĞĮƚƐ



ICTU warns on EU competitiveness boards CONGRESS has expressed "deep concern" at new EU proposals to set up National Competitiveness Boards that would “inform the wage setting processes” in all Eurozone member states. The proposal to establish Competitiveness Boards in all Eurozone member states emerged from an October 23 Commission meeting and has already drawn strong criticism from the European Trade Union Confederation, which called for the plan to be shelved.

According to ICTU General Secretary Patricia King, the proposed boards “could infringe upon the autonomy of social partners in collective bargaining and wage setting”. She added: “Such a mechanism is unacceptable to workers and their trade unions and would, we believe, lead to a wage ‘race to the bottom’, resulting in depressed internal demand, deflationary risk and prolonged economic depression across the Eurozone.”



The full range of plans also available for Manda M te Trade Union ŵĞŵďĞƌƐĂŶĚƚŚĞŝƌĨĂŵŝůŝĞƐŝŶĐůƵĚĞ͗Ͳ Care Cash Plans Life Plan Pl Dental Plan Personal Accident Plan Travel Plan Vehicle Breakdown Recovery All of your calls are handled personally by a friendly and professional ƚĞĂŵǁŚŽĐĂŶĂŶƐǁĞƌLJŽƵƌƋƵĞƌŝĞƐĂŶĚŽīĞƌĨƵƌƚŚĞƌĚĞƚĂŝůƐŽĨĂůů the plans.

PLEASE CALL DONNA OR LISA ON 01 6130316 FOR AN IN NFORMAL CHA AT T OR ENQUIRE ON NLINE www.hmcaireland.ie/m mandate.htm 09/56650 ©2015 26

SHOPFLOOR

y December 2015


REPORTING BACK 5th Betty Sinclair Winter School, Lusty Beg Island, Boa Island, Co Fermanagh

Insightful and thought-provoking... By Sandra Stapleton Mandate organiser IATTENDED what has to have been one of the most interesting Betty Sinclair Winter Schools yet – where a mixture of political and economic analysis definitely stoked the fires... The education on offer from all at Trademark in Belfast was second to none – the speakers were the best in their fields and they all shared their in-depth knowledge and their research with us. I felt humbled to have been in the presence of such giants. The opening address, delivered by Congress President Brian Campfield, enthused us all for what was to come in the subsequent talks. Nevin Economic Research Institute Director Tom Healy gave us his expert analysis and set out an alternative to the neo-liberal agenda which has been forced upon this island by successive governments.

identity in comtemporary capitalist societies in a cultural, political and social context. We also had Cat Boyd, activist and co-founder of Scotland’s Radical Independence campaign, who spoke to us about her involvement as well as explaining the vision she has for her beloved Scotland. We also attended a talk on reproductive rights, in which we heard from Dr Lesley Hogg and Mairead Enright, who told us of their involvement in pro-choice campaigns. One of the most challenging talks I attended was by economist Steve Keen. He "debunks economics" and bamboozled us with graphs and equations. The presentation was excellent. Steve predicted the last global financial crash and has forecast the next one in about four years... so don't say this time you were not warned!

Devastated

Devastated

His talk gave rise to a lot of debate which was great to see. Tom’s presentation was relevant to all of us in the room from across Ireland, and set out thought-provoking ideas for a better future, for the labour movement as well as the betterment of society and the environment in general. Tom pointed out that the involvement of younger people in the trade union movement was essential and how we must make it relevant to their lives – how they must see that being a part of the labour movement is critical. Unfortunately, as I was chairing Tom’s session, I missed out on John Callow’s talk on Keir Hardie. However, the reports from all who made it to the talk was that it was terrific. I was equally blown away by Dr Ann Pettifor, who spoke on the global financial crisis and her involvement in the Jubilee 2000 (Drop the Debt) campaign. She was simply brilliant. NUI Galway economist Prof Terry McDonough spoke about inflation, deflation and stagflation. It’s always good to hear about financial crises

Closing the winter school was Brendan Ogle who spoke on Right2Change. He explained how Right2Water evolved into Right2Change and how it’s a growing movement. Brendan talked about the Right2Change policy document as well as telling us how to get involved in the initiative. It wasn’t all work and no play though, we were entertained by the wonderful Grace Petrie and we had an outstanding “quizmastering” (is that even a word? – it is now!) by NIPSA’s Paddy Mackel and Dooley Harte. All in all, it was a brilliant few days which were educational, inspiring and fun. Speakers at this year’s Betty Sinclair Winter School included, Brendan Ogle (top left) Lesley Hoggart (top right) and Stephen Baker (bottom left). Dr Ann Pettifor (bottom right) name checks the Financial Times from the lectern during her talk on Jubliee 2000 (Drop the Debt) drive

from an economist interested in Marxian theory. Another insightful talk was delivered by Stephen Baker, who has cowritten a book titled British Media and Bloody Sunday. Stephen talked

about probably one of the most controversial events in Irish history. His cross-media analysis of the event was excellent. It was really interesting and really scary – the upshot being don't believe everything you read or

see... The media coverage of Bloody Sunday and its legacy was a disgrace with the press trying to protect the image of the British Army. Dr Maria Moran spoke to us about

After spending a few days at Lusty Beg, we now have the reasons why the world is the way it is... so it’s down to us to use this knowledge or sit back and do nothing – I know which option I will choose. Thanks again to all at Trademark Belfast for another great Betty Sinclair Winter School.

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 City of Dublin Education and Training Board

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: mandateotc@mandate.ie

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. December 2015

y SHOPFLOOR

27


KNOW YOUR ENEMY 4 trade deals that threaten our rights

CETA

Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement Between Canada and EU S: U T A ST ent

rliam EU Pa ly te ear o v l l i w 2016

TPP

Transpacific Partnership Between US and 10 other countries (but not EU) US: T A T S votes

ng Awaiti tional by na ents m parlia

TTIP

Transatlantic and Investment Partnership Between US and EU S: U T A ST r

Unde n iatio negot

TISA

Trade in Services Agreement Between US, EU and 21 other countries US: STAT er

Und iation t o g e n

...and the 4 threats they have in common 1. Corporate courts for investors to sue governments (aka ISDS*) 2. ... but no enforcement of workers’ rights

3. Public service open to privatisation 4. Threaten regulation on environment, health and safety, and working conditions

*ISDS = investor-state dispute settlement. TISA doesn’t include this but will use the courts created by the other three agreements

First up is CETA – so let’s stop it:

bit.ly/no2ceta

with thanks to TUC


Shopfloor December 2015