SHOPFLOOR MANDATE TRADE UNION
REPORT & PICTURES
‘Mr Mandela’s passing is an enormous loss to South Africa and the rest of the world. His knowledge and leadership will leave an enormous vacuum, which will be extraordinarily difficult to fill’
PAGES 2 & 29
– General Secretary John Douglas
1918 - 2013
OUR FITTING TRIBUTE ANTI-APARTHEID DUNNES STRIKERS AT MADIBA’S FUNERAL
Proud stand: M&S strikers outside Grafton Street store
M&S staff strike as management abandons a consensus approach By Gerry Light Assistant General Secretary ON Saturday, December 7, more than 2,000 Mandate members took part in a national dispute that effectively closed all Marks & Spencer’s chain of 17 stores in the Republic. As in all industrial disputes, members of the union engaged in this collective action as a last resort. They believed they were left with no other option as a result of the unacceptable way they had been treated by their employer. In the last issue of Shopfloor, we flagged up the changing face of Marks & Spencer and predicted industrial strife was likely if management did not mend the error of their ways. This message went unheeded, leading to the widespread action on December 7. Whether at this stage management believe that some form of rethink is necessary with regard to their strategy to bludgeon through changes to our members’ terms and conditions of employment without their agreement is unknown. However, they should be in no doubt of our members’ insistence that such a change of mind and strategy from management must and will happen if we are not to see a recurrence of last December’s dispute. In essence, the dispute took place because of management’s blatant refusal to give sufficient access to the 2
Irish business accounts so that union negotiators and, ultimately, our members working for M&S could make an informed decision as to whether the removal and reductions sought to certain well-established terms and conditions of employment were necessary and proportionate. Similar to all other negotiations, the absence of this crucial information renders any progress in respect to management’s cost savings agenda impossible. Ultimately this position was vindicated by the Labour Court after an emergency hearing which was convened following the one day action. In its recommendation, the Court stated: “ ... In order to facilitate meaningful engagement on the substantive issues, the Court recommends that the unions, with immediate effect nominate a professional financial advisor to engage with the company to establish the financial facts that underpin the company’s proposals. The company should, subject to normal confidentiality terms, provide the unions’ nominated advisor with all of the relevant financial facts that apply in this case...” Based on the information which was established from this examination, both parties attended a further conciliation conference at the Labour Relations Commission on Friday, January 24.
However, no progress was possible and the matter has now been referred back to the Labour Court for further consideration. Obviously because of strict confidentiality terms imposed by management, we are prohibited from disclosing any detailed information contained in the report produced by our designated financial advisor. However, suffice to add that the national negotiating team believes that, based on their knowledge of what is in the report, the position previously adopted by the unions at the Labour Court across all issues in dispute to be fair and reasonable. In summary the unions’ position were as follows: Removal of Christmas bonus There are no circumstances which warrant the permanent removal of this bonus. However, we are prepared to conduct an annual review to establish whether payment of the bonus in the year in question is financially sustainable based on the trading performance of the business. Removal of the Defined Benefit Pension Scheme If the removal of the scheme was essential we sought the following: l Full protection both now and in the future of the closing value of benefits;
l Appropriate use of the significant surplus which currently exists in the scheme; and l Introduction of the best possible Defined Contribution Pension Scheme going forward. Reduction of public and Sunday premia payments Appropriate compensation for loss should be offered to the affected workers on a strictly voluntary basis. Reduction in section manager numbers Any redundancies that arise should be applied on a strictly voluntary basis. When the reductions are achieved, there should be no negative consequences arising for those workers remaining in employment across all grades. As Shopfloor went to press, it was confirmed the next Labour Court hearing is scheduled to take place on Monday, February 10. There is a real possibility based on the limited financial information now available that we will alter our position in respect of some issues the next time we are before the Court. For example, it does not appear at this stage that there should be any immediate threat to either the Christmas bonus or premium payments.
MORE STRIKE PICTURES ON PAGE 29
Ultimately whatever comes out of the Court process will be decided upon by our members employed in Marks & Spencer. There is no doubt that Saturday, December 7 marked a significant changing point for industrial relations in the company. On that day our members stood firmly and proudly side by side and sent out a message that not only their employer but indeed all other employers in the retail sector should listen to. No circumstances justify an approach whereby members of Mandate will stand idly by and watch their employer unilaterally dismantle before their eyes terms and condition of employment which were fought for in the past. Conversely any employer who wishes to engage with the union and its members properly will be given a fair hearing and more than likely consensus and agreement will follow. This is the model adopted by management at Marks & Spencer for many years. Why they have chosen to abandon it in favour of a more adversarial approach at a time they describe as their greatest challenge to the Irish business is beyond understanding. The test of a proper relationship is that it serves you through thick and thin. SHOPFLOOR
y February 2014
His legacy will continue forever...
CONGRESS President John Douglas has written to the people of South Africa extending his condolences on behalf of the Irish trade union movement following the loss of their “inspirational leader” Nelson Mandela. In his letter, Mr Douglas noted that Irish workers – in particular those in the retail sector – had a “very close connection to the people of South Africa and to Mr Mandela”. He wrote: “In 1984, members of IDATU (now Mandate Trade Union) took a very brave and ethical stance and refused to handle goods produced in the Apartheid state. “Those workers were victimised
by their employer, Dunnes Stores, and ended up on strike for almost three years in defence of their antiApartheid position.
Unclaimed wages won at New Look MANDATe wrote to New Look management recently highlighting a complaint involving unauthorised deductions from the wages of one of their employees at the retailer’s Liffey Valley store in Dublin. On the back of representations made by Industrial Officer Jonathan Hogan, the firm responded confirming that they have now resolved the claim made by the union. New Look management explained that the company had moved to a new payroll provider and the error had occurred as a result of that migration. The company also confirmed that it would continue to ensure that members of staff continue to be paid fairly and consistently for their hours of work. Mr Hogan told Shopfloor: “While the company rectified their error, the successful conclusion to this case would not have occurred without the workers having access to Mandate representation.” He added: “It certainly pays to be in a union.” If any New Look workers would like to join Mandate they can do so by going to www.mandate.ie.
Draw for 30 Mandate Gaeltacht scholarships MANDATE is sponsoring 30 full scholarships, covering accommodation and course fees, to Irish colleges in the Gaeltacht this summer. The places, made available by the National Executive Council, are for the children, sisters and brothers of members of the union. All children must be between 10 and 18 years of age and only one
“It is ﬁtting that those courageous trade union members will attend the funeral of Mr Mandela as representatives of our movement and of our people.” Mr Douglas described Mandela’s passing as an “enormous loss to South Africa and the rest of the world”. “His knowledge and leadership will leave an enormous vacuum, which will be extraordinarily diﬃcult to ﬁll. “The world is a far greater place for having his presence for so long and although he is no longer here, his legacy of justice, equality and solidarity will continue, without borders, forever.”
Pennys workers receive back pay MORe THAN 3,000 workers at Penneys have received back pay as a result of the successful implementation of the new collective agreement negotiated at the end of last year. The back pay was owed from June 2013 and the 3% pay increase was part of a wider deal brokered between the firm and Mandate. Coupled with the banded hours component of the new agreement – which is in the process of being rolled out – the deal has the potential to have a very positive impact on the livelihoods of all Penneys workers. John Callan, a Penneys shop steward from Dundalk, told Shopfloor: “The back pay was of great assistance to me. It allowed me to pay off the new property tax and meant I had one less thing to worry about in my yearly finances. “There’s no doubt Penneys is one of the most successful retail companies in Ireland and it is only right that we received some recognition for that fact.” Mandate Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light said: “We hope the successful outcome for our members in Penneys will be the springboard for even greater activities within the company. “The only reason our members in Penneys received this pay increase as well as the back pay was because they were mobilised and were prepared to fight for it. What’s needed now for 2014 is more of the same.”
STRAIGHT TALKING General Secretary Mandate Trade Union
Ireland needs decent jobs & decent wages
You could be forgiven for believing that Ireland is “fixed” following all the official hype and fanfare which accompanied our exit from the Troika bailout agreement. The sad reality is that Ireland’s economy and society is severely broken, we are stuck in a quagmire of low growth, debt and poor consumer sentiment. The scourges of unemployment, poverty, emigration and inequality are still stalking the country. One area which is contributing to Ireland’s failure to recover is depressed domestic demand due largely to lack of disposable income. Household incomes have been under attack from high unemployment, stagnant real wages and increases in taxes and charges. Lack of disposable income itself has fuelled unemployment and under-employment in the local economy, such as retail and other local services. Wages for workers at best have been stagnant for the last five years while powerful, vested employer groups have attacked the minimum wage, the sectoral minimum wages (JLCs) in retail and other sectors, working hours have been cut, premiums slashed and precarious employment such as temporary and part-time working is increasing. All of this has meant that ordinary Irish citizens have less money in their pockets to spend in the local economy, thereby causing more job losses, more business closures and further pressure on wages and conditions – a race to the bottom. If Ireland Inc., can afford to pay a golden circle of consultants, law firms and accountancy firms €50 million in consultants’ fees to establish Irish Water, €35 million in consultants’ fees to set up an incinerator in Ringsend, Dublin, and millions of euro to bankrupt property developers to run their failed NAMA property portfolios, surely a decent living wage for those hardpressed workers is not too much to ask for? In 2013, Mandate pursued a policy of winning real wage increases and decent contracts for retail workers – a course we will continue in 2014 with even more vigour. We are also calling for an increase in the minimum wage which has been frozen at €8.65 per hour since 2007 and the re-establishment of the Joint Labour Committees. A Decent Wage, A Decent Job, A Decent Future. Shopfloor is published bi-monthly by Mandate Trade Union. Mandate Head Office, O'Lehane House, 9 Cavendish Row, Dublin 1 T: 01-8746321/2/3 F: 01-8729581 W: www.mandate.ie Design & Editing: Brazier Media E: email@example.com Shopfloor is edited, produced and printed by trade union labour
Could you write for Shopfloor?
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application can be made per child. Aileen Morrissey, Mandate’s National Coordinator for Training, told Shopfloor: “This is a great opportunity for children to get first-hand experience of the Irish language which could prove invaluable in their Junior or Leaving Certificate exams.” She added: “As a union, Mandate is committed to education
and the offering of 30 scholarships for our members is part of that commitment.” The scholarships will be awarded by means of an open draw. The closing date for applications will be Wednesday, February 26. For an application form go to page 35 or apply online at: http://bit.ly/1bOCL2U
Do you have a perspective on the Irish political, social or economic environment that you'd like to share with your fellow members in Mandate Trade Union? Do you have a good news story about how being a union member has benefited you and your colleagues in the workplace. Have you a story about how you or your family are coping in the current recession. Whatever it is, we'd like to hear from you. Please contact Shopfloor at firstname.lastname@example.org or post your article to Shopfloor, Mandate Trade Union,9 Cavendish Row, Dublin 1
l Irish contingent given rousing welcome l Praise for Mandate for funding trip
DUNNES STORES STRIKERS IN FAREWELL TO MADIBA Former Mandate official Brendan Archbold who helped co-ordinate the 1984 anti-Apartheid dispute at Dunnes Stores accompanied veterans of the historic dispute to Nelson Mandela’s funeral. Here is his account...
invited to speak and her contribution was greeted by loud cries of ‘Viva, Viva. Viva the Dunnes Stores Workers’. The COSATU event was scheduled to run from 10.30am to 2.30pm but, like everything in Africa, it overran by a couple of hours. The main reason for the overrun was the uniquely South African practice of interrupting the proceedings every five minutes with outbursts of song and dance. And I don’t mean just any old song and dance. Africa in general and South Africa in particular is blessed with a rich tradition of the most amazing and harmonic singing ever heard. This particular service constantly swung between passionate contributions to the memory of Nelson Mandela and a concert-like rendition of traditional African song. I couldn’t help thinking that a similar service
Picture: South AfricaThe Good News (CC BY 2.0)
MY LAST visit to Soweto was in 1994 when I spent six weeks travelling between Johannesburg and Pretoria as part of a 300-strong european Union observer team monitoring the first ever democratic elections in South Africa. I was back in Soweto again on December 12, 2013 with the full complement of the Dunnes Stores Strikers against Apartheid for the funeral of Nelson Mandela. Soweto looked a little more prosperous this time round as our group strolled in the bright sunshine from the Hector Peterson Memorial and Museum on Khumalo Street to the former home of Nelson Mandela on Vilakazi Street in Orlando West. The place was teeming with local inhabitants, tourists and many, mostly young, white South Africans who had come to say a final farewell to their beloved former President, or ‘Madiba’ as they call him in South Africa. There was none of the tension I experienced back in 1994 and all present seemed determined to celebrate the life of Mandela as opposed to mourning his passing. The next day we returned to Soweto, this time to a memorial service organised by the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and held in the Regina Mundi Catholic Church. This particular church played a very significant part in the South African liberation struggle and it was often the target for police raids. Indeed it was not unknown for police to pursue anti-Apartheid activists into the church and even open fire on them while inside. If the day before’s events seemed like a celebration, the COSATU service was an out-and-out hooley. The church was packed with a host of South African trade union delegations and the Dunnes Strikers were given a rousing welcome. Shop Steward Karen Gearon was
The Dunnes Strikers with South African friends during their recent visit
back home in Dublin might just tempt a few of us old atheists back to the fold. Three of the strikers – Mary Manning, Karen Gearon and Liz Deasy – travelled ahead of the main group and formed part of the official Irish government delegation at the main event in the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg. The Irish delegation was led by President Michael D. Higgins and Tanaiste eamon Gilmore. With the late arrival of Cathryn O’Reilly, the full contingent of the Dunnes strikers was united for the first time in many years at the COSATU service in Soweto on December 13. It was fitting that the strikers were finally together as a group in Soweto, a location that was in many ways at the heartbeat of the South African struggle. What started out on July 19,
1984, in Dublin’s Henry Street seemed to us to have reached its logical conclusion in Soweto in 2013 as we paid our own small tribute to the memory of Nelson Mandela. After finally tearing ourselves away from the COSATU memorial service, we negotiated our way through the heavy Johannesburg traffic to the suburb of Houghton and the Nelson Mandela Memory Centre. The occasion was an evening of poetry, song and personal tributes to Mandela. Karen Gearon was once again called upon to speak and, as always, she was a superb ambassador for the strikers and the union. Those of us who were lucky enough to be in Houghton that night heard a very moving – and sometimes humorous – contribution from Ahmed Kathrada, a South African Indian who spent 26 years in prison, most of it on Robben Island with SHOPFLOOR
y February 2014
Above: Dunnes Stores strikers on Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement national march through Dublin in 1986 Picture: An Phoblacht This iconic image, right, shows a teenager carrying the body of Hector Pieterson, the ﬁrst child murdered by South African police in the 1976 Soweto uprising. Running beside them is Hector’s sister Antoinette. While the Dunnes Strikers were visiting the Hector Pieterson Memorial in Soweto they met with Antoinette, pictured left.
Below: Brendan Archbold, Pat Craven of CoSATu and Mary Manning outside the Regina Mundi church in Soweto Mandela. Kathrada said he was often asked why he served just 26 years while Mandela did 27. “That,” he explained, “is because Indians always ask for a discount!” The Memory Centre was previously the Nelson Mandela Foundation where my wife, Roseleen, and I together with our two sons Michael and Dylan met Madiba in 2008. I took the opportunity to re-visit Mandela’s old office where the meeting took place. It was exactly as I remembered it but sadly, the warm, smiling and charismatic figure of Madiba was no more. Among the many events attended by the strikers was a visit to the Orlando Stadium in Soweto where, together with thousands of South Africans, they saw a TV broadcast of the burial in Mandela’s home town of Qunu on December 15. The ever-present singing and February 2014
dancing was much in evidence again as the week’s events drew to a close. It had been a hectic five days for the strikers but one they would not have missed for the world. each and every one of them expressed their gratitude to John Douglas and to Mandate for the prompt and generous decision to finance the trip and I too would like to echo those sentiments. As with all trips to South Africa, we came away with treasured memories of an amazing country and a people who are making a real effort to put the racial divisions of the past behind them. every so often, however, they are reminded in very harsh terms that some remnants of the old system still exist such as, for example, the killing of 34 miners by South African police in Marikana last year. While in Johannesburg I took the
opportunity to express our horror at such atrocities and all trade unionists appeared to share my revulsion at this particular slaughter. South Africa has come a long way since that election I observed in 1994 but, like ourselves, they still have a long way to go. Finally, and as always I must say a few words about the strike and what it means to me as a trade unionist. Solidarity is the cornerstone of our movement and it recognises no border or frontier. What happens in Africa, Latin America or Asia is as much our business as are the recent disputes in Marks & Spencer’s and the eSB. The Dunnes Strikers set the bar at a very impressive level but it is a level that we must all aspire to. We are trade unionists and we need each other. Let us never lose sight of that fact.
JLCs reinstatement victory for low paid protect or improve their conditions of employment. "The re-establishment of the JLCs will ensure that thousands of low-paid vulnerable workers will be protected and will ensure that the concept of decent work is put back on the agenda. “Mandate is calling on all of the relevant employers to engage positively with the process as a matter of urgency.” SIPTU Vice-President Patricia King also welcomed the re-instatement of the JLC system and called it “a good day for low paid workers”. She said: “It follows the intensive lobbying, and engagement with the Government, by the trade union movement. “We now expect that the CeO of the LRC will be requested to invite the parties to make their nominations to the JLCs. "We would expect the employers in the six relevant sectors – including hospitality and catering, retail, contract cleaning, security and agriculture – to take a full and productive part in the process."
MANDATe has welcomed news that the establishment orders for the Joint Labour Committees (JLCs) have been signed. Mandate General Secretary John Douglas described the move as a “huge success for the trade union movement and for low-paid workers”. The JLCs, once they are formed by trade union and employer representatives under the auspices of Labour Relations Commission chief Kieran Mulvey, will set basic levels of pay, above the minimum wage, for tens of thousands of low-paid workers. John Douglas told Shopfloor: “A number of years ago, employers saw potential in collectively attacking low paid workers’ terms and conditions of employment. “Their success was the elimination of the Joint Labour Committee system but through a lot of hard work and lobbying by trade unions, we have at last had them reinstated. "The JLC system operates mostly in low-paid sectors and where workers have little ability to
Picture: Informatique (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Union Representatives Advanced Course The Union Representative Advanced Training Course is for shop stewards/union representatives who have completed the introductory course or who have relevant experience.
• Understanding Mandate’s structures • Overview of Mandate’s rules • Industrial Relations institutions and mechanisms • Mandate’s Organising Model
• • • • •
Negotiations & Collective Bargaining Understanding Equality and Diversity Developing induction presentation skills Introduction to Employment Law Identifying issues and using procedures
Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this training course will obtain a Mandate certificate. They may progress to the FETAC level 5 Certificate in Trade Union studies or other relevant training courses offered by Mandate.
If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: email@example.com
Shape better future for the EU 6
Mandate General Secretary John Douglas and SIPTU VicePresident Patricia King welcomed JLCs announcement
TEEU seeks meeting with Quinn over service charge for appentices
Minister Ruairi Quinn: still to meet with TEEU
IN Budget 2014, the Government took a swipe at young craft workers throughout Ireland by imposing a student service charge on apprentices. While apprentices already pay an exam fee, the new charge would see them pay anything from €833 to €1,433 for the brief 10 week to 18 week period they spend in an institute of technology. This decision brought about an immediate reaction from the Technical, engineering & electrical Union – Ireland's largest craft union – and representatives sought an urgent meeting with education & Skills Minister Ruairi Quinn in a bid to seek some form of relief for this category of vulnerable worker. The union sent a letter to the Minister setting out why apprentices should not be defined as students but rather as low-paid workers. Minister Quinn responded by refusing a meeting with the TeeU. The Minister’s response did not
go unnoticed by other groups and it wasn't long before the Union of Students in Ireland (USI) and the TeeU (incorporating TeeU Youth & Apprentice Forum) came together to launch the "Axe the Tax on Training" campaign on January 10. The campaign was also supported by Labour MeP emer Costelloe who called on Minister Quinn, her Labour Party colleague, to meet with the union and to consider a reversal of the decision. To date, the campaign has seen motions adopted by councils throughout the country calling for a reversal of this decision. However, the Minister has yet to respond. A TeeU Youth & Apprentice Forum spokesperson told Shopfloor: “Despite the efforts so far it is obvious that this campaign will need to intensify and any future endeavours will call for the support of like minded groups.” For further information check out www.teeu.ie SHOPFLOOR
y February 2014
Notes on the Front
Commentary on Irish Political Economy by UNITE research oﬃcer Michael Taft www.notesonthefront. typepad.com
We need ‘inclusive job creation’ to help blighted communities CONGReSS General Secretary David Begg has called for a national policy of “inclusive job creation” to address the devastating effects of the recession on communities across the country. He made his comments at the launch of the Training Options programme on January 27. The programme, which was formally launched by Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton in the Longford employment Development Information Centre, provides training and skills upgrades to people with disabilities to improve their prospects of securing work. Mr Begg described the Training Options programme as "a model" and said it should be mainstreamed into national training and job creation initiatives. The current Training Options programme is run under the Disability Activation Project (DACT) and is targeted at the Border, Midlands and Western (BMW) region. The training is provided by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions through its national network of resource centres and is funded by the european Social Fund (eSF) and the Department of Social Protection (DSP). So far, 77 people have successfully completed the training and the aim is to train a further 300 in the coming months. Mr Begg said: “The recession has caused massive job
losses, which in turn have a corrosive long-term effect on individuals, families and communities. It has led to social and economic marginalisation, exclusion and isolation. “For that reason, any and every training or job creation initiative must be wholly inclusive and look to bring people in from margins, across all sectors of society. “In that respect, the Minister and the Department of Social Protection are to be congratulated for their foresight in helping fund this programme, as it can truly serve as a model of what can be done. “We are also pleased that the National Disability Authority is working with the relevant departments to develop a comprehensive employment strategy for people with disabilities. We would hope that the employment strategy for disability will form an integral part of the next version of the Action Plan for Jobs,” he added. Minister Burton said: “One of most striking and unique elements of the Disability Activation Project is the development of a pool of mentors or disability champions from amongst the participants. “This innovative approach will guarantee a positive impact of the project well beyond the lifetime of the project itself.” In her contribution DACT Training Options Programme Manager Sylvia Ryan described the initiative as an
“ambitious programme in the current economic climate”. She said: “We are working with employers, trade union officials and healthcare workers locally to recruit participants and secure work placements that lead to employment for the learners.” Outlining the background to the programme, Ms Ryan continued: “ICTU has been working with and for people experiencing a disability for over 20 years. “The Congress Centres through their many Community employment schemes would have trained and provided work placements for many people. Training Options was our opportunity to enhance and finetune our programmes. “This person-centred approach is key to alleviating fears and barriers people experience having been disconnected from the workplace. “Building confidence can only happen when people have resources – such as access to transportation and childcare – to participate in programmes. This is a built-in support on the Training Options programme.” She added: “each learner has the opportunity to achieve 3 FeTAC component certificates, 10 days work placement, one-to-one mentoring and apply to be an mentor/Disability Champion working partime in the Congress Centres Network.”
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. Courses are free and open to members who have not achieved their Leaving Certificate or who have an out of date Leaving Certificate. This course will run from Monday 20th January to Monday 31st March from 6.30pm-9.00pm and will be held in Mandate Training Centre, Distillery House, Distillery Road, Dublin 3. Places are limited with a maximum of eight per course. If you are interested in attending this training contact:
Joan Devlin, Skills for Work Co-ordinator, at 087 7419805. Please Quote Reference Number OTC 3-2014
ICTU General Secretary David Begg, Sylvia Ryan (DACT Training Options) and DSP Minister Joan Burton at programme launch in Longford February 2014
Picture: European Parliament
The People’s College hosts union-themed lecture series THe People’s College, under its new President Jim Dorney, is to run a series of lectures over the coming months that seek to strengthen and renew the college's long-standing links with the trade union movement. Mr Dorney, a former general secretary of the TUI, said the series of eight lectures will cover a range of topics affecting the movement and the challenges facing unions and workers across the state. He told Shopfloor: "The past decade has brought about a huge change in industrial relations, not all of which have been favourable to workers and their unions. “In response to this the People’s College intends to provide a forum for discussion of these critical changes and challenges for all trade unions and progressive organisations. “I would encourage any employed, unemployed or retired trade unionists and activists to be a part of the discussion of how we can modernise the movement and be remain a powerful, potent and relevant voice." The lectures will be held in Congress House, Parnell Square, Dublin, every Thursday at 6.30pm from February 6 and will deal with range of topics: the right to collective bargain-
Inequality For All shock doc for Dublin
WINNER SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL SPECIAL GRAND JURY PRIZE
Speakers include Mags O’Brien & David Begg
ing; the law and trade unions; Freedom of Information; trades unions and europe; women and trades unions, and reform of industrial relations. A full timetable can be found on the People’s College website at www.peoplescollege.ie Speakers for the trade union lecture series include David Begg, Ivana Bacik, Jim Dorney, eithne Fitzgerald, Noirin Greene, Mags O’Brien, Blair Horan, Paul Sweeney and Tom Wall. There will be a voluntary subscription to cover overheads and any Mandate member that wishes to enrol can do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
THINK-tank TASC has teamed up with the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival (JDIFF) to present a screening of Inequality For All, an award-winning uS documentary starring uCLA professor Robert Reich. Reich, who was Secretary of Labor under the Clinton administration, sets out how the widening income gulf has devastated the American economy. With valuable lessons for all advanced economies, Prof Reich explains how the massive consolidation of wealth by a precious few threatens the viability of the American workforce and even the foundation of democracy itself. He uses humour and imaginative graphics to explain how the issue of economic inequality aﬀects each and every one of us. The ﬁlm will be followed by a panel discussion, moderated by RTE economics correspondent Seán Whelan with audience participation. Conﬁrmed panellists are ﬁnancial journalist Margaret E Ward; SIPTu economist Marie Sherlock, broadcaster and comedian Colm o'Regan and Nat o'Connor of TASC. Inequality For All is being screened at Cineworld, Parnell Street, Dublin on Monday, February 17, at 6pm.
Troika mission to Ireland ‘violated EU principles’ THe Troika mission to Ireland repeatedly violated core european Union principles of solidarity and social dialogue, a eU Parliamentary inquiry into the operations of the mission in eurozone programme countries has heard. Addressing the eU Parliamentary team’s hearings in Dublin on January 17, ICTU Assistant General Secretary Sally Anne Kinahan, said: “Solidarity and social dialogue are fundamental building blocks of the eU and are enshrined as core principles in many treaties. “Yet they were repeatedly violated and ignored in the actions and operations of the Troika in Ireland. “Solidarity was absent in the mission’s determination to ensure that the blame for the crisis and the entire burden of adjustment fell on working people – who neither caused the crisis nor benefited
greatly from the false boom that preceded it. The failure to engage in social dialogue saw a point blank refusal to countenance all but one policy prescription – grinding austerity – despite the abundance of evidence proving it to be counterproductive, to say the least.” Ms Kinahan explained: “While there were regular meetings with Congress – the largest civil society body on this island – there was no dialogue. The Troika was ideologically blind.” She said ICTU welcomed the eU Parliamentary inquiry into the operation of the Troika but regretted that it had “arrived at least three years too late.” “In 2009 – before the Troika's arrival – Congress warned that a policy of deflation and austerity would result in a ‘lost decade’ for Ireland. Tragically, that now seems to have come to pass. During the Troika
years, Ireland was subjected to a painful ideological experiment whose aim was to engineer the shrinking of the state along with the erosion of labour rights and the wider european social model. “The Troika’s legacy is one of corrosively high unemployment, weakened social provision, frightening levels of emigration and the prospect of a ‘lost generation’ of youth, along with an entirely unpayable debt. “europe needs to make good on the promises it made on reversing the socialisation of private banking debt, if we are to have any hope of genuine recovery.” A dramatically new approach is now needed in Ireland and across europe, Ms Kinahan concluded. The ICTU delegation to the eU Parliamentary inquiry also included Dr Tom Healy of the Nevin economic Research Institute. Viewpoint: Page 10
y February 2014
Lifestyle Sports workers are ‘not pieces of stock’ By David Gibney Mandate communications officer MANDATe has expressed its concern over threats by management at Lifestyle Sports to close 10 of their 67 stores across Ireland as they seek rent reductions. The union described the January 31 announcement as both irresponsible and insensitive to staff members who were now unsure about the future of their jobs. Workers in Lifestyle Sports have been told they will not lose their jobs but may be forced to transfer to other locations if the store closures go ahead. Mandate Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light told Shopfloor: “These workers are not pieces of stock that can just be transferred from one store to the next. “Many have families and, at best, moving store will cost them extra in terms of a commute and, at worst,
may mean a worker will have to relocate their whole life. These are very serious concerns for retail workers in this current economic environment.” Mr Light said management had shown a total disregard for their workers and claimed workers’ jobs were being used as leverage in a game of poker with their landlords. Mr Light added: “We’re disappointed the company has taken this step and has not engaged with the workers’ union Mandate. We will be seeking a meeting with management in the immediate future to discuss our members’ concerns. “We are strongly recommending that any Lifestyle Sports workers who are not members of Mandate at this moment in time should join with the rest of their colleagues in order to protect their existing conditions and achieve the best possible outcome in the event any – or all – of these stores close.”
From left: Industrial Officer Caroline Clifford, Limerick Trades Council President Mike McNamara, Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light, Mayor Kathleen Leddin, and Divisional Organiser Karen Wall
Limerick ‘boasts 23 Fair Shops’
Write on! Signing the Fair Shop pledge February 2014
LIMERICK MAYOR Kathleen Leddin was on hand to officially launch the Fair Shop campaign in the city and county on December 10. Mandate Divisional Organiser Karen Wall told those gathered for the event in the City Hall: “In Limerick there are 23 Fair Shops. We would like local people to do their shopping at these outlets because they can be sure that in so doing they are supporting quality jobs in the Irish retail sector.” She also called on those present to make sure they signed the pledge at www.fairshop.ie/Fairshop-Pledge
From left: Assistant General Secretary Mandate Gerry Light at the December 9 launch with Waterford Labour TD Ciara Conway, Mandate Divisional Organiser Betty Dillon, Waterford Mayor John Cummins and John Halligan, Independent TD for Waterford
Fair Shop launch in south-east THe Fair Shop campaign came to Waterford in the run-up to Christmas with a launch at the city’s Granville Hotel. The event on December 9 was staged to remind consumers in the south-east to do their seasonal shopping in retail stores where workers’ rights are respected. Mandate Divisional Organiser Betty Dillon explained that a Fair Shop employer was one that recognised their employees’ basic right to join a union, and also very importantly afforded workers’ representatives full collective bargaining rights. Outlets across the county that are designated Fair Shops include Argos, Arnotts, Boots, Brown Thomas, Caulfield’s Supervalu, Clerys, Debenhams, Heaton's, Hickeys, Marks & Spencer, Penneys, Pettitt's Supervalu, Shaws, Shoe Zone, Superquinn and Tesco Ireland. She said: “In Waterford city there are 11 Fair Shop employers and we are asking local consumers to shop with them because they respect their workers. “By doing so, consumers are supporting and promoting quality employment in the Irish retail sector. We are also encouraging all consumers to take two minutes to pledge their support for the campaign and a worker’s right to have a voice in their workplace by signing
Lord Mayor John Cummins at the launch
the Fair Shop pledge.” Betty Dillon said the key driving force behind the Fair Shop initiative was the smartphone-compatible website www.fairshop.ie which runs regular Fair Shop promotions, features a list of Fair Shop employers and supporters as well as hosting a Fair Shop location finder. She added: “Waterford city has been badly hit by the recession, high unemployment rates, closure of industries and closure of quite a number of retail outlets. The retail outlets that remain, many of them are struggling and therefore there is a need to support quality employment and the Fair Shop campaign allows consumers to make that informed choice.
“Over recent years, there have been increasing assaults on workers’ rights, pay and conditions of service by many unscrupulous employers. This reality has been further fostered through the employer-driven legal challenge to have the Joint Labour Committees and the Registered employment Agreements deemed unconstitutional. “These employers have sought to gain an unfair and financial advantage over those competitors that do respect their employees’ entitlements. “This approach needs to be challenged across the retail sector by the spending power of thousands of ethically-minded consumers.” In his address, Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light said that the Fair Shop campaign was particularly significant in the centenary year of the 1913 Lockout. He said: “In 1913, thousands of workers fought for the right to collectively bargain and for trade union recognition. For the vast majority of workers in Ireland, that ideal is still an aspiration. “However, what we can do to ensure we continue the legacy of those involved in the Lockout is to support retailers who allow their workers to avail of the basic human right to be in a trade union and to be represented for collective bargaining.” 9
Shaping a better future for Europe...
IT DIDN’T make the front pages and barely registered on the national news, but late last month a small delegation from the european Parliament visited Dublin. Not much news there, you might think. Yet, in the months and years ahead, that visit could prove critical to the future of europe and help determine how it is shaped. The delegation was in Dublin as part of a eU Parliamentary Inquiry into the activities and operations of the Troika in programme countries: Greece, Portugal, Cyprus and Ireland. The inquiry is welcome, given the wholly undemocratic and secretive nature of the Troika but, as the Congress delegation told the inquiry team when they met, they probably arrived three years too late. Making the Troika amenable to democratic oversight is something that should have happened before that destructive instrument was constructed, not after they had been allowed to run riot for several years. Nevertheless, the fact that the eU Parliament has established the inquiry tends to suggest that the penny has dropped in at least some quarters of european Union. As a very forthright Congress delegation told the inquiry team, the Troika effectively abrogated and violated core principles of the european Union, such as solidarity and social dialogue. Ostensibly they were here to help. But the reality was very different. Courtesy of their rigid ideological outlook, only one solution was ever contemplated – cuts, austerity and social destruction. As a result, their actions in Ireland were no less than a painful ideological experiment designed to shrink the state and erode the rights of working people. The result – and the Troika’s true legacy – is corrosively high unemployment, weaker social provision, frightening levels of emigration with the prospect of a ‘lost generation’ of youth, topped off by an entirely unpayable debt. There is no language known to 10
OUR SHOPS REALLY NEED YOUR UNWANTED CLOTHES, BOOKS, AND HOMEWARES.
By David Begg Congress General Secretary
Has the penny dropped with Eurocrats? A chance for Europe to turn its back on Austerity
Picture: European Parliament
‘ Troika sought to immiserate, impoverish and punish nations. If they are found guilty as charged that could mark a fresh start for Europe’
MAKE SPACE FOR OXFAM
humanity in which the above translates as success. And while Ireland has been left severely damaged, countries such as Greece have been left wholly devastated by their actions. But even in non-programme countries, the race to the bottom accelerated in the last five years, as business and governments exploited the crisis to weaken labour rights and roll back gains won by working people over many years. In the short-term, they have won some ground and succeeded in a partial erosion of the broader european Social Model – but in the long term they risk eroding popular support for the entire european project. Across the eU, trade unions signed up to a vision of europe whose goal was to raise living standards and improve living and working conditions for all citizens. But the last five years have seen the literal opposite of this, as an agent of the eU institutions – the Troika – actively sought to immiserate, impoverish and punish nations. If they are found guilty as charged, that could mark a fresh start for europe. But trade unions cannot afford to wait for that day. We must move immediately to begin undoing the damage that has been done and start building for a sustainable future by placing the achievement of Decent Work at the heart of everything we do. These are the only foundations on which Ireland and europe can be successfully reconstructed.
YOUR DONATIONS MAKE A REAL DIFFERENCE TO FIGHTING POVERTY.
y February 2014
Elverys staff ‘left in dark’ over buyout RePORTS that management at elverys Sports are putting in place a ‘pre-pack’ receivership is a worrying development for staff due to the accompanying uncertainty about jobs and terms and conditions of employment. It follows the company announcement on March 31 that a receiver was being appointed and that the business would be sold to a group of managers. It later emerged that other parties had expressed an interest in the business, including it is claimed, Mike Ashley, the billionaire owner of Newcastle United Football Club and Lifestyle Sports. Mandate, which represents workers in elverys, has insisted that whatever the future is for the company, workers there will be best protected by being members of their union. “Whoever the new owner of elverys will be, whether Mike Ashley, Lifestyle Sports or the current management, the priority for the company will be to maximise profits in whatever way they can,” said Mandate Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light. He warned: “If any new owner puts in millions to buy out the company, they’ll want a significant return on that investment. What we’re saying is that it won’t be the workers who have to shoulder that burden.” Mr Light pointed out that workers in the retail sector are almost always overlooked in the receivership process. He said: “Over the past number of years, we’ve seen a number of strategic receiverships take place in the retail sector. They’re often used to drive down costs including rents and even labour costs. There’s no doubt that this is a stressful time for workers, particularly those who have no access to professional representation.” Mr Light said workers wanted to know the “implications for them” and an end to “uncertainty”. “They are, after all, one of the key stakeholders in the business and may
Gerry Light: workers overlooked claim
Union Representatives Introductory Course N UNIO P E R
The Union Representative Introductory Training Course is for new shop stewards/union representatives. The course aims to provide information, skills and knowledge to our shop stewards/union representatives to assist them in their role in the workplace.
Course content: • Background to Mandate. • The role and responsibilities of a Shop Steward/Union Representative. • Examining disciplinary/grievance procedures. • Developing negotiating skills. • Representing members at local level. • Communication skills/solving members’ problems. • Organising, Recruitment and Campaigns. • Induction presentations. Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this course will obtain a Mandate certificate. They may progress to a Union Representative Advanced Course and to other relevant training courses offered by Mandate.
If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: email@example.com
AT L AST! become the casualty in a corporate game of chess. “There’s a chance some workers may lose their jobs and have to seek compensation from the State’s insolvency fund. They may also have their conditions of employment challenged by their new owner and if that happens, the best way to protect their livelihoods is by being united as members of Mandate,” he added. Mandate has set up a special phone line for elverys workers. If you work at elverys and are concerned about the current situation, please call 01 8746321.
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Union Representative Advanced Senior Course
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Anger as IKEA drops same sex feature in its Russian magazine
THe latest issue of IKEA Family Live customers’ magazine features an article on lesbian couple Kirsty and Clara who live with their baby son in england. IKEA Family Live is distributed in 25 countries across the world. Interestingly, the article on Kirsty and Clara appeared in 24 of those countries, the holdout being Russia, where anti-gay “propaganda” laws would have, according to activists, made it a crime to be published. The ommission was noted by a
group of Russian-speaking LGBT activists in the US who organised a change.org online petition to protest the “erasure” of LGBT families. So far the petition has logged more than 45,000 signatures. The move prompted IKeA to post a public statement on both the online issue of IKEA Family Live and change.org. It read: “We are guided by our vision – to help create a better everyday life for the many people. We also believe you can be yourself as an
IKeA co-worker, an IKeA customer or in your home. “We do our best to stand for equal opportunities and support the human rights of all people. And every co-worker can expect fair treatment and equal opportunities whatever their ethnicity, religion, gender, physical ability, sexual orientation or age.” Of course, because the digital version of the magazine is accessed online, even subscribers in Russia will see IKeA's explicit support of LGBT customers and employees.
The Union Representative Advanced Senior Training Course is for union representatives who have completed the Introductory and Advanced course and who have experience as a union representative in their workplace
The history of trade unionism and development ofThetheemergence market system The impact of globalisation trade and open markets inFreea modern society Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this training course will obtain a Mandate certificate. They may progress to the FETAC level 5 Certificate in Trade Union studies or other relevant training courses offered by Mandate. If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate Official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Treat us like your meatballs! LEADING Swedish trade unionist Lars-Anders Häggström has called on IKEA to treat all its employees equally – wherever they work. In a interview last month with Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, he welcomed the fact that the global retailer had a working relationship with trade unions at home but questioned why this approach wasn’t replicated across the world. He said: “In Sweden IKEA has normal relations with the union. It is terrible that this is not the case in other parts of the world. “The company emphasises that it is a Swedish company where even the meatballs have to be the same everywhere, so it surely should be able to have a common personnel policy?”
IKEA ‘hired spooks to carry out data sweeps’ COURT documents have revealed that between 2002 and 2012, IKeA France approved nearly half a million euro worth of invoices from private investigators hired to carry out “data sweeps”. According to The New York Times, the subjects of these “data sweeps” included job applicants, consumers bringing complaints against the company and employees accused of
wrongdoing. It is understood that a number of executives have since been shown the door after the leaking of the details made headlines in the French press. The revelations came after an employee, who had been on long-term sick leave, was fired by the firm. She subsequently challenged the dismissal in court. It was claimed the company had provided a private de-
tective with her Social Security number, personal mobile number, bank account details as well as other items of personal data. There is no suggestion IKeA used these services outside of France and the company has expressed regret that certain managers took actions that were “contrary to our values and ethics standards”. SHOPFLOOR
y February 2014
PLATFORM CONNOLLY YOUTH MOVEMENT
Teasing out real agenda behind ‘learning mobility’ rekjerkreerjkrek
IN TIMeS OF economic crisis and relentless austerity such as these, it is crucial to take a step back from the situation in which we find ourselves and examine the bigger picture. While many of us are used to the typical news digest concerning the Government's quest for jobs and the public finances, one sector of our society is undergoing major "reforms" that receive little critical coverage: education. The state's budget deficits over the past few years have been used as an excuse for the ruling classes, both here and in the real centre of power, the eU, to implement fundamental changes in the way our education systems are funded. This unquestionably means the privatisation of our academic institutions, particularly at third-level, as well as an increased role by businesses and philanthropists (i.e. wealthy private investors) in how they are run. The consequences of such measures will be grave for young people and society in general if we leave our centres of learning at the mercy of market forces and the destructive demands of profit. Last November, the eU Parliament passed a resolution setting up a programme called "erasmus+", which will operate in all Member States of the eeA (european education Area) for the next six years. While RTÉ dressed the initiative up as a "€14 billion fund to help young people to study in other european countries", its scope and aims have a far wider reach. The preamble emphasises the importance of cooperation between higher education institutions and businesses, and apprenticeships are advocated as a means of bridging the gap between knowledge acquired through education and the skills needed for work. Such policies are casualising young people's entry into the labour market, making them grateful for the opportunity to work for nothing. If anyone was under the illusion that the Irish government is the only authority to have focused on internship schemes such as JobBridge, they're wrong. It's an official eU policy line, designed to provide enterprises with a free supply of highly qualified labour. It is not about young people upskilling themselves. What is usually referred to as “labour mobility” in the media has now been given the seemingly innocuous title “learning mobility” by the eU Parliament. The eU's attitude towards the cost of education for students is February 2014
European Parliament President Martin Schulz signs the upgraded Erasmus+ programme in December
Picture: European Parliament (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
contemptible. In a parliament resolution of April 2012, third-level institutions were encouraged "to expand scholarship and funding programmes", but in a resolution of October 2013, Member States were called on to "uphold the right of all persons, whatever their economic circumstances, to free and universal education of high quality". The “Social europe” we hear of so often clearly has no concrete plan regarding the provision of accessible, affordable education services in the future. The position is unambiguous however, when it comes to the more mercenary aspects of the eU's ambitions. The Bologna Declaration states: "We must in particular look at the objective of increasing the international competitiveness of the european system of higher education.... We need to ensure that the european higher education system acquires a world-wide degree of attraction.” The Bologna process aims to stan-
dardise qualifications throughout the eeA, a move which benefits employers seeking graduates from states with cheaper labour costs. It also gives support to "universities' independence and autonomy", which is simply a way of inviting private interests in through the front door, instead of a university being funded by taxes and subject to any government oversight. To bring the issue home, consider Dick Ahlstrom's recent article in The Irish Times (October 28, 2013). State funding for our universities is fast falling towards the 50% mark, and this article discussed the State's possible future role as a minority stakeholder in the third-level sector. Outgoing UCD president Hugh Brady expressed his opposition to what he perceives to be "State command and control", arguing that universities should be allowed to pay their own way in the world. How has UCD embarked on these plans as of late? With the help of philanthropists. Who are they?
Peter Sutherland, for one, chairman of Goldman Sachs, who part-financed a €25 million development, the Sutherland School of Law. Denis O'Brien is another, after whom the O'Brien Centre for Science is named, a development supported by numerous industry partners that will cost €300 million in total. The sky's the limit for these universities once they tap into the vast amounts of private capital at their fingertips. Companies such as Intel and Accenture hand over the funds, which may influence the areas where the investment should go, where the graduates should come from. These projects will serve to help UCD to "compete internationally for the best staff and researchers and the top-rated graduates and postdoctoral researchers", according to Dr Brady. And those who actually provide the education are suffering. Both Dublin and Westminster have used the crisis as an excuse to target
teachers and, particularly in the case of the South, to break the back of the resolute teachers' unions. The Haddington Road Agreement is simply condemning teachers and lecturers to unpaid labour. Just like their students, they are expected to work for nothing. All Supervision & Substitution Scheme payments have been abolished for secondary school teachers, with a minimum of 43 hours of such unpaid work to be put in every year. Third-level staff have to contribute an extra 75 hours of work per year, and they will only receive 75% of their former rate for marking exams. What is less known is the amount by which workers' pay in the education sector has declined. The latest figures from the CSO show that between Q3 2009 and Q3 2013, their weekly wages were reduced by a shocking 12.8%, more than any other employment sector in the economy. The corresponding figure is 13% in the North.
‘The Social Europe we hear of so often has no concrete plan regarding the provision of accessible, affordable education services in the future. The position is unambiguous, however, when it comes to the more mercenary aspects of the EU’s ambitions’ 13
Xmas bonus proposal gets green light A PROPOSAL on paying the 2013 Christmas bonus to staff at eason’s has been secured following talks with management. It was suggested that the issue could be removed from the current talks agenda over cost-savings at the newsagents chain. It would mean the speedy payment of an outstanding lump sum to members of staff for 2013. The proposal was considered and endorsed at a meeting of the National
Negotiating Committee on February 4. A series of general meetings and ballot will now be held to ratify the decision. Meanwhile, with regard to the cost-savings discussions, eason’s management invited Mandate and shop stewards to a meeting in Dublin on January 15. Mandate members were represented by Caroline Drohan (Patrick Street store) and Stephanie Kenny (Mahon Point store) along with In-
City of Dublin Education and Training Board
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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. Mandate are offering these courses to members who have not achieved their Leaving Certificate or who have an out-of-date Leaving Certificate. This course will commence on Monday, 20th January from 6.30pm-9.00pm and run to Monday, 31st March. The course will be held in Mandate Training Centre, Distillery House, Distillery Road, Dublin 3 Places are limited with a maximum of eight per course. If you are interested in attending this training contact:
Joan Devlin, Dublin City Skills for Work Co-Ordinator, at 087 7419805
Please Quote Reference Number OTC 4-2014
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After the presentation, Robert McNamara responded: “Given the severity of its cost-reduction agenda, the company should now hold store meetings setting out in detail their proposals. “After this has been done unions will consult with their members when they are in possession of all the facts before deciding on a response.” It is understood management have since held a number of store meetings.
dustrial Officer Robert McNamara. Management proceeded to outline in a PowerPoint presentation how the company wished to achieve savings in the following areas: l Reduction in rates of pay (current staff), l ending of Christmas bonus, l Reduction in over-time rates, l Reduction in sick pay, l Increment freeze, and l Reduction in Sunday premium payments.
Unions’ report reveals extent of food poverty A NeW report, jointly launched by Mandate and Unite in run up to Christmas, has exposed the extent of food poverty in Ireland. The research – titled Hungry for Action – sets out a county-by-county breakdown of food poverty across the country. Nationally, one-in-10 people suffer food poverty, but the figure rises to more than one-in-nine in Donegal, the county with the lowest income levels. The unions demanded the Government provides immediate aid to organisations providing food assistance to enable them to cope with the preChristmas demand on their services. They said this should be followed up by what they called an ‘emergency Relief Budget’ in the New Year to start reversing cuts to low-income groups which have seen food poverty increase dramatically since the start of the economic crisis. In the week following the publication of Hungry for Action, the Government approved a €1m donation to the Society of St Vincent de Paul, Protestant Aid and Crosscare. Also demanded by the unions was an increase in the National Minimum Wage which has not increased since 2007. The real value of the National Minimum Wage has been considerably eroded by inflation since then. Commenting on the findings of the report, Mandate General Secretary and Congress President John Douglas said: “Food poverty means that someone missed a meal in the last fortnight because of a lack of money. It may mean they cannot afford a meal with meat or the vegetarian equivalent every second day or afford a roast or vegetarian equivalent once a week. “Those suffering food poverty may be lone parent families; they may be the newly unemployed; they may be pensioners – and they may be people in work, struggling to survive on low
Jimmy Kelly: food poverty a reality in Ireland
John Douglas: pressurise government on issue
wages. In the short term, we need to ensure that the organisations working to alleviate food poverty have sufficient funds – but in the medium term we need to grow the incomes of low earners and those dependent on Social Protection.” Unite Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly said: “Food poverty in Ireland
today is part of a policy-made disaster – austerity, and the collapse in incomes it has brought in its wake. “The figures released by Unite and Mandate show that food poverty is a reality in every county in Ireland. “Organisations providing food assistance are stretched to their limits, which is why we are calling on the Government to immediately make €10 million available to such organisations. “But the cause of food poverty will only be addressed by starting to increase the incomes of the most deprived in our society, which is why we are also calling for an increase in basic Social Protection rates, and an increase in the Minimum Wage to help address the growing problem of in-work poverty”. Mr Douglas added: “While the €1m donation to these charities is very welcome and a big success for the unions in concern, there’s still an awful lot more to do if we really want to address this problem and Mandate and Unite will continue to put pressure on the Government in 2014.” SHOPFLOOR
y February 2014
Keeping tabs on rising prices and stagnant earnings
THe past six years have been very challenging with a succession of harsh budgets, pay cuts, tax increases and price hikes faced by all households. For those impacted most, unemployment and emigration have hit home. For others, the challenge to make ends meet has grown harder and harder. While the economy is perceived to be finally ‘turning the corner’, after many previous false dawns, the most recent NeRI economic commentary (published just before Christmas) highlighted that things remains fragile. We anticipate that 2014 will see small but positive economic growth with further, and welcome, gains in employment. However, the backdrop of high national and personal debt levels, weak growth in much of europe and continued high long-term unemployment remains a key concern. Furthermore, the Government still plans an austerity budget in Oc- telling. It details the distribution of tax cases (individuals or couples who tober. While it will be smaller than are jointly assessed) by total gross inin previous years, the plan is still to come. take more out of the economy and Simplifying the data, we can further reduce public services (it is roughly divide the Republic of Irehard to see how without damaging land’s annual earnings distribution front line services). into four quarters: Given that outlook, it is worth rel The bottom quarter of earners flecting on two points. First, the ability of households to absorb further austerity measures differs dramatically across the income and earnings distribution – a reality that seems to be often mentioned but swiftly ignored when ‘reforms’ and ‘adjustments’ are being designed. The most recent Revenue Commissioners earnings data is
By Micheál Collins have incomes of less than €15,000, l The next quarter have incomes of between €15,000 and €30,000, l The next quarter have incomes of between €30,000 and €50,000, l The top quarter of earners have incomes above €50,000. Within the top quarter 5% of tax cases have an income in excess of
‘The ability of households to absorb further austerity measures differs dramatically across the income & earnings distribution’
Shopping list: groceries and utility costs are beginning to rise
Picture: striatic (CC BY 2.0)
€100,000 and 1% have an income in excess of €200,000 (we provide full details in indicator 4.6a of the latest NERI Quarterly Economic Facts document). There may be room for further ‘adjustments’ at the top, but it is unlikely that those further down the earnings distribution (including Mandate members) can accommodate much more. A second issue worth watching is the potential for indirect reductions in living standards for households as the economy recovers. For the past few years prices for most goods and services have been relatively flat. However, it is becom-
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ing a concern that prices increases are beginning to appear again. Affording these higher prices, many of them for hard to avoid or substitute goods and services, will add further pressure on lower income households. Without commensurate increases in wage rates, living standards will further fall further. Unlike in the past, as a society we need to be more assertive and complaining about price increases – they are now a key threat to living standards.
Dr Micheál Collins is Senior Research Officer at the Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI).
City of Dublin Education and Training Board
Do you have a desire to improve your communications skills, but never got around to it? Starting from scratch this course helps you to improve your communications skills. Mandate Trade Union in conjunction with Skills for Work are offering members the opportunity to attend training. The courses are to encourage members back into learning and training while aiming towards a FETAC level 3 Award.
Mandate are offering these courses to members who have not achieved their Leaving Certificate or who have an out-of-date Leaving Certificate.
Starting on Monday, January 20th from 6.30pm-9.00pm and running to Monday, March 31st, the course will be held in Mandate Training Centre, Distillery House, Distillery Road, Dublin 3 Places are limited with a maximum of eight per course. If you are interested in attending this training contact:
Joan Devlin, Dublin City Skills for Work Co-ordinator, at 087 7419805 Please Quote Reference Number OTC 5-2014
THINKING OUT LOUD... THE EVOLUTION OF WORK
Squaring the circle for workers By Mel Corry Trademark ReMeMBeR when you were a kid and you were asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The answer would usually have been a fairly noble career option: fireman, footballer, doctor or, for a girl, a secretary, nurse, or teacher. Now, gender progress aside, because today anyone can and does perform those functions, the answer is likely to be more complicated. A young person moving into the world of work will more than likely see a very different path ahead of them than that which their parents would have known. The workplace in many instances was the glue that held society together, a place to earn a reasonable wage that might enable workers to provide for their families and plan a future. It provided the space for social interaction, a place where unions could organise and living standards might steadily improve. It was a place where ordinary people could gain dignity from their daily endeavours. Today it is different. Many workplaces are places where all of the values of human progress and dignity are disappearing and are being replaced by a new norm of vulnerability, precarious employment and in-work poverty for our children. The notion that you might leave education behind, enter the labour force and work at the same job for the rest of your working years leaving with a pension and a secure retirement is now a fading folk memory. Most people will have numerous jobs in which the ability to work, relax and develop as a human will be become increasingly difficult. Where and when did it begin to change? In the 1970s the post-war consensus between Capital, Labour and the State began to break down. The Social Democratic Compromise, as some called it, in which workers could expect a decent job and standard of living in return for labour discipline and high productivity began to crumble. It began to crumble by design of people such as Milton Friedman who led the way in influencing the development of Reagonomics, Thatcherism and what has become known throughout the world as Neo-Liberal16
‘When you don’t earn enough money to pay for food, energy costs and save for the future, the least priority is your union subscription’ ism. This new economic philosophy has at its very core the maximising of profit for shareholders through the breaking of union power and the wholesale privatisation of state assets thereby providing new income streams for private owners This new economic philosophy was accompanied by a new approach to managing work emanating from the Harvard School of Business, Workforce flexibility was a term used to convince many workers and indeed many in the trade union
American employee at work after World War Two – but the post-war consensus between bosses and unions broke down within a few decades...
Picture: Kheel Center, Cornell University (CC-BY 2.0)
movement that in order to compete with production methods in developing countries that we had to change. It started in the manufacturing sectors of heavy engineering, and the textiles industry which hadn’t changed since the 1950s. The new breed of Human Resources managers fresh out of university with their MBA (A masters in
The restructuring of labour l Outsourcing & agency temps l Part-time l Job share
l Fixed-term contracts
l Core group is full time l pensions l security
Advanced Capitalism?) in Business Administration replaced the traditional production manager who would normally have been a person who had worked their way up through the organisation and knew the people they were managing. These new HR managers were taught the Unitarist idea that the workplace relationship was one of employer and individual employee and that union organisers were, at best, a block on individual freedom and, at worst, deviants, agitators and troublemakers It didn’t take long for the re-organisation of work patterns to move across employment sectors. It is now common for workers in administrative roles, civil service, call centres and the retail sector to enjoy at best, fixed and short-term contracts, no liabilities for sick pay or holidays, no pensions, micromanagement of all work functions and at its very zenith the zero-hour contract, the notion that you can be called into work and sent home from work at any time and at the employer’s discretion. In-work poverty and vulnerability has become a way of life for many who because of this system can
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barely earn subsistence wages and have to take on a second or third job to provide the very basic necessary’s of life. When you don’t earn enough money to pay for food, energy costs and save for the future, the least priority is your union subscription. It has become increasingly difficult for unions to make progress in this constantly evolving environment. That is why the original question would find a greater variation of answers today than it would have 40 years ago. Now only those who can afford a third level education and not have to worry about paying off a student loan the size of a mortgage have the privilege of announcing what they want to do with their lives. Our children look to the future and a six-month contract with the possibility of rolling extensions becomes an attractive option. That option does not provide for the possibility of job security and a stable home and family life with an equal distribution of dignified work, enough time off for recreation and the ability to develop progressively as a society. The challenge for the trade union movement is to reverse the trend of the graphic (left) and make the small circle available to the maximum number of workers.
Mel Corry is a project worker with Trademark SHOPFLOOR
y February 2014
GLOBAL NEWS Picture: WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM/ swiss-image.ch/Photo Jolanda Flubacher
ITUC chief Philip Jennings hammers home a point during a discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos
Corporate bigwigs holding on to ‘magic mountains’ of cash CORPORATE bigwigs are holding on to “magic mountains” of cash rather than reinvesting the money in the economy, UNI Global chief Philip Jennings, right, has claimed. This approach, he explained, carried with it the risk of creating highly dangerous asset bubbles. Mr Jennings, a panelist at the World Economic Forum in Davos, said: “We have an investment strike that's taking place. I don't know what's happened to the animal spirits of contemporary business people and entrepreneurs. They are sitting on trillions of dollars. It's sitting in the bank, doing nothing, inﬂating the next asset bubble." Earlier he told Swiss newspaper Tages
Anzeiger: “The motto of this year’s WEF is Reshaping the World. However, before the world’s elite can start changing anything, they have to recognise that the world economy has gone oﬀ the rails. He continued: “When I said at last year’s WEF that the world needed wages to go up, people looked at me as if I had smoked something. “The reaction was, the world is in a crisis and the last thing you could ask businesses to do was to increase wages. ‘But the consequences of unequal income distribution on the economy are enormous – that was true at the time and it remains true today.”
Income gap and joblessness ‘frustrating hopes of recovery’ FINDINGS from a new survey carried out by the International Trade Union Confederation in the run-up to January’s World economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, have underlined how a combination of income disparity and structural unemployment is frustrating hopes of a economic recovery. The ITUC Global Poll of 13 countries found 87% of respondents stated their wages were either stagnant or had fallen behind the cost of living. One in eight of those surveyed said they are struggling financially and could no longer pay for basic living expenses. ITUC Chief economist John evans claimed financial forecasts pointed to stagnation – not recovery – with nearly 200 million people unemployed. He said: “The World economic Forum’s own Global Risks Report identifies widening income disparities and structural unemployment as the most serious problems confronting the global economy this year, yet government policies are worsening these trends. We need a change in policy direction.” The ITUC economic Briefing, issued in advance of the Davos conference, sets out how a pefect storm of high unemployment, wage cuts and high levels of household debt, is keeping key economies in the doldrums. ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow warned: “In a stagnant global economy, it is investment that will kickstart jobs and demand. We cannot assume that growth alone will creFebruary 2014
ate jobs. The global economy cannot recover on export-led growth if wages don’t rise. “There must be an expansion of demand – particularly from working households.” The past year has seen growing inequality and a widening income gap. Only 13% of people surveyed in the poll think that governments are acting in their interests. Another 28% of people are disenchanted – or worse, disengaged – believing that governments are acting in the interest of neither people nor business. Ms Burrow added: “There is profound mistrust of governments and institutions. Leaders must stand by their promises to end speculative behaviour, stand up to the banks and end tax avoidance to demonstrate to working people they are acting in their interests.” The Davos 2014 plan set out by labour leaders for investment and jobs, wages and social protection includes: l Targeted investments in infrastructure to improve long-term productive potential and move to a low-carbon economy; l Raising the purchasing power of low- and middle-income households by reducing inequality and strengthening collective bargaining and minimum wages; l Investing in active labour market policies to raise skill levels and reduce youth unemployment; and l Reducing informality and creating decent work in emerging and developing countries.
Gerry Light VIEW
SHOPFLOOR Assistant General Secretary Mandate Trade Union
Jobs debate: need for decent work...
AS previously reported in Shopﬂoor, a Mandate delegation recently appeared before the Joint oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. our main message on that occasion was focused on the need for decent work. In our written submission we urged that the thrust of the current Government’s job creation policy should have equal regard for the type and quality of jobs being created and not just solely the amount being generated. According to the Minister for Jobs Richard Bruton, the Action Plan for Jobs – which is overseen by his department – created 58,000 jobs during the course of 2013. Clearly there is a real need to generate employment growth if we are to offer any hope to the many thousands who are trapped by either underemployment or unemployment and the associated social deprivation which goes with these social ills. Only by releasing their collective potential as workers into the domestic economy is there any chance of real and sustainable economic recovery. Frequently the impression is given that those who are unemployed need to be somehow coerced into giving up life on the dole to enter the workforce. The reality is that the vast majority of unemployed workers are only too willing to take up a job if in doing so it represents real and meaningful progress for them and their dependents. This is the real benchmark for any jobs creation strategy. Getting a job should offer advancement in both an individual’s status and quality of living. Creating a job is one thing getting access to it is another. Figures from the ICTU economic unit NeRI shows that it is more difficult for an unemployed person in Ireland to get a job than it is in the majority of other eU countries.The last thing we need at the moment is a crude attempt by our policy makers to create an illusion in order
to convince us that the linkage between reductions in live register numbers is somehow largely influenced by the creation of large scale meaningful jobs and work-related training opportunities. While the relationship between jobs, training and social welfare is a complex one, the remainder of this article is intended to expose the myth or reality that surrounds the impression given by Minister Bruton that 58,000 additional jobs were created last year. The first thing that must be looked at is the claim for the number of jobs created against the number of jobs that have been actually lost. In the retail sector alone, figures from TASC show a decline in numbers employed between the years of 2007 and 2013 of some 65,000. Across all sectors during the same period, total numbers in employment fell by 270,000. The sad reality is that many of these lost positions were created as a direct result of the bubble economy that existed at the time and therefore are gone forever. Also many of these jobs were well paid and the challenge is making sure that those which replace them are good not bad, short-term, low-paid positions. Sadly the existence of persistent high levels of emigration particularly among our young people also clearly influences recent decreases in live register figures and not movement in any significant way into the domestic labour market. The quality of the jobs created and accounted for in the Minister’s own figures must also be questioned. Currently there are 6,425 people working in JobBridge internship schemes, many of which are questionable internships at best. Other schemes, such as the Tús initiative, Gateway, Momentum and JobPath which are all either in existence or about to begin implementation, may distort the real unemployment rates too. Notwithstanding the claims on job creation made by Minister Bruton the stark reality is that there is nobody actually quantifying in exact terms how many new net jobs are being created annually. Therefore, it is not safe to assume 58,000 more people entered the workforce during 2013. There is no doubt that these type of figures grab the headlines which has the effect of giving some form of instant credibility to the assertion that the current job creation strategies are indeed “working”. What is needed is an honest and transparent debate around the whole area of job creation policy and, in particular, the claims that are made regarding the results attributed to these policies and whether they are having a positive impact both from the perspective of the individual and society as a whole. Past experience has shown that we are unlikely to get this level of openness any day soon. However, those that need it the most not only deserve it but are entitled to it to ensure that they have a reasonable chance of fulﬁlling their legitimate aspiration of fully participating in the society in which they live. 17
INTERNATIONAL CAMBODIA Ryan Bingham: lyrics that pack a punch
A bystander collects bullet casings scattered around the Canadia Industrial Area on January 3
Cambodian garment workers are demanding a monthly living wage of $160 â€“ 90% are women
LRCs... wait for the backlash 18
Workers as well as bystanders, including monks, attacked near Yak Jin factory on January 2 SHOPFLOOR
y February 2014
Army vehicles seal off Freedom Park after it is cleared by force
l Unions call for inquiry into outrage l Leading fashion brands also call for probe Soldiers attack leading trade unionist Vorn Pao, above, during January 2 crackdown. Pao was later arrested
OUTCRY AS 4 DIE IN CRACKDOWN ON STRIKING GARMENT WORKERS
MANDATe has added its voice to a joint call by the International Trade Union Confederation and IndustriALL Global Union for an investigation into the killing of four Cambodian garment workers during strikes in early January. Trade unions and human rights group have also called for the release of dozens of other trade unionists detained during the brutal crackdown. Clothing factory workers had been campaigning to have the industry's minimum wage raised to $160 a month – $60 more than the government's latest offer – when the authorities acted to crush the stoppages. On January 2, Cambodian security units attacked workers near the South Korean/US-owned Yak Jin factory in the Pursenchey district of the capital Phnom Penh. According to human rights group LICADHO, soldiers used batons, knives, pipes, slingshots and rifles “to February 2014
intimidate and injure civilians”. The following day, state forces used live ammunition to clear the Canadia Industrial Area of workers. Four strikers died in the operation. Another 39 – 26 with bullet wounds – were hospitalised. Then on January 4, security forces personnel wielding batons and metal rods, cleared supporters of political party CNRP, including monks, women and children, from Freedom Park in the city. CNRP supporters had occupied the area and been staging protests against Prime Minister Hun Sen's government for three weeks. Mandate General Secretary John Douglas: “No matter where you are in the world, workers have a legitimate right to campaign to improve their pay and conditions of employment. “No worker should face brutal assaults for seeking a pay increase that
Pictures: LICADHO (CC BY-NC 4.0)
would lift them and their families out of poverty and the fact that four garment workers were killed during strikes is a travesty. “We’re demanding that all Irish companies sourcing products from Cambodia take action and pressure the Cambodian authorities for a full independent inquiry.” A joint ITUC/IndustriALL delegation visited Cambodia in mid-January. During a meeting with government officials, the delegation called for a investigation into the killings and the release of detainees. They also called for the minimum wage to be raised and a pledge from the administration to fully respect ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association, which Cambodia has ratified. Meanwhile, the world's leading clothing brands, including Adidas, Nike, H&M, Primark, Marks &
Spencer, Tesco and Wal-Mart, have also demanded a “prompt and thorough” probe into the use of "deadly force" by the security forces. In an open letter to Hun Sen, they called on his administration to immediately begin a dialogue with employers and unions to resolve the crisis. The government "should find prompt agreement on a new minimum wage and include a regular review mechanism to underpin more stable industrial relations". UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings said: "These protests were the legitimate action of Cambodian workers who should be protected and afforded their right to campaign for a decent wage.” He added: “We are pleased that a group of retailers shares our concerns about the rights of workers and is calling on the government to investigate this use of deadly force."
TO JOIN 10 MANDATE
1. An organising and campaigning union:
Mandate is focused on building an activist base to protect and improve employment conditions. Through better organised workplaces and the power of the collective strength, we will deliver justice for working people.
2. Modern and effective training:
Mandate provides free courses to help you learn new skills, improve existing skills and develop you and your prospective career. We negotiate agreements with employers to pay for attendance at courses and also to provide reasonable time off for employees to attend them.
3. Campaigning for success:
Mandate is a progressive campaigning union fighting on issues that really matter to our members, their families and society in general. Mandate campaigns challenge social injustice at all levels of Irish society.
4. Protection at work:
Highly trained and skilled Mandate officials provide professional advice and assistance, where appropriate, on a variety of employment issues.
5. Safety at work:
Mandate health & safety representatives are trained to minimise the risk of workplace injuries and ensure that employers meet their legal obligations at all times.
6. Better pay:
Year on year, Mandate campaigns for and wins pay rises for its members. Mandate also campaigns to close the widening gender pay gap in Irish society.
7. Legal protection:
Mandate has won significant legal compensation for members who are injured as a result of an accident at work.
8. Mandatory pensions:
Mandate has secured pension schemes with a variety of retail employers and will campaign to secure mandatory pension schemes for all members working in the private sector, partcularly those on low wages.
9.You’re less likely to be discriminated against:
Mandate has won agreements with employers on respect and dignity at work policies and procedures. Mandate will continue to campaign for tougher laws to make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sex, race, age, disability or sexual orientation.
10. You’re less likely to be sacked:
Membership of Mandate protects you and strengthens your voice in your workplace.
Together we’re stronger
JOIN MANDATE TRADE UNION ONLINE AT http://www.mandate.ie/Contact/Join.aspx
A JobBridge that goes nowhere...
eAMON Gilmore has said that the Government is waging an "economic war". Like the infamous "War is Peace" slogan of George Orwell's 1984, the phrase is loaded with double meaning. In reality, the Government's policies have been devastating for jobs. For example, the last budget cost 30,000 jobs, according to the Nevin economic Research Institute. The budget took billions out of the economy and further cut capital investment. If there has been an economic war, it has been waged against pay, terms and conditions of workers in an effort to re-adjust the economy to make it ever more malleable for capital and to discipline the workforce. The first casualty of this Government's economic war has been the truth. every effort is made to construct an image which can conceal reality. And so, we witness the same plans and documents being re-launched time and again. Grossly overpaid spin doctors and political party advisors conjure up new ways to hide the true state of unemployment and underemployment in Ireland today. For example, in Blanchardstown in Dublin 15, the live register has fallen by just 178 in 2013. Yet it is increasingly difficult to get a handle on the actual statistics of employment and unemployment in Ireland today. Despite my requests, I have been unable to secure, as of yet, a detailed breakdown from the Government of the Irish workforce, with particular reference to where new jobs have been created. The JobBridge initiative serves a dual purpose: it allows the Government to make a claim that it is tackling the jobs crisis, while simultaneously serving as a mechanism to further undermine the terms and conditions of work in the economy. Incredibly, those on JobBridge are not part of the unemployment figures. It is very clear that JobBridge is being used by companies to hire workers who would otherwise have to be taken on as part of general staff. Recently Advanced Pitstop advertised 28 posts through the JobBridge scheme. It is being
By Patrick Nulty TD for Dublin West
Pictures: Labour Party (CC BY-ND 2.0
BLOW THE WHISTLE ON THE BAD BOSSES
‘It is very clear that JobBridge is being used by companies to hire workers who would otherwise have to be taken on as general staff’
used increasingly in education to hire teachers and other staff. Huge, profitable companies such as O2 Telefonica and Glaxosmithkline are part of the Jobsbridge scheme. Caretakers and secretaries have also been taken on as part of JobBridge. This criticism of JobBridge is by no means a rebuke of those who take part. Those enthusiastic and determined citizens deserve better than a scheme which can be exploitative, and can serve to undermine decent work. Despite the spin from Minister Joan Burton and others, the facts expose JobBridge. Up to three-quarters of those who sign up to the scheme end up dropping out. It is hardly a wonder that opinion polls indicate that more young people have walked away from the “Labour Party” than any other sector of the population. In the midst of this bleak picture, there is hope. Groups such as Mandate Youth and the We're Not Leaving campaign are actively organising young people and refusing to bow to divide and rule tactics. We need more of this during 2014. Speaking the truth about the economic situation – which exposes Government spin – and actively organising are the best ways to achieve progress at this time. equally, the local and european elections next May provide an opportunity to set Ireland on a different course and to let Fine Gael and Labour know what we think of their treatment of people in work and looking for work. SHOPFLOOR
y February 2014
JOINT LABOUR COMMITTEES
Wait for the backlash!
THe Joint Labour Committees (JLCs) which set legal minimum wages and conditions in sectors such as retail, hotels, restaurants, hairdressing, security, contract cleaning and agriculture work were struck down by the High Court in “2011” in a challenge brought by fast-food outlets John Grace Fried Chicken, Cork, supported by an alliance of fast-food outlets (all the usual suspects). While the JLC rates were basic decency levels and not as high as union rates, they provided some legal protection against the mass exploitation of vulnerable non-union workers.
Once the JLC safety nets were removed, the employers had a field day, reducing rates to the national minimum wage (or below) and removing or reducing overtime and Sunday rates. employers’ organisations – such as the Irish Business employers Confederation (IBeC), the Small Firms Association (SFA), Irish Small and Medium enterprises (ISMe) and the Hotels and Restaurants’ Association – all danced with delight on the grave of the JLCs. But, the trade union movement was not going to give up without a fight – if we did not fight
back, a race to the bottom would have eventually seen union agreements torn up and wages collapse. A plan to lobby all political parties was developed and supported by a public communications strategy. eventually the Government agreed to a review of the JLCs with a view to “modernising” them. The unions, including Mandate, made detailed submissions to the review group and continued to lobby all political parties. As a result we are now certain that the majority of the JLCs will be re-established in
early 2014 although the exact terms and conditions contained within them will be a matter for future negotiations. We are confident that we can once again put in place decency thresholds that will protect the most vulnerable workers against rampant exploitation by employers. But as we do so, as we try to give workers a chance of a decent income and a decent future, wait for the backlash. The same employer groups, who danced for joy when the JLCs were
abolished, will be out in force wringing their hands predicting massive job losses and an end to civilisation as we know it. They will be given acres of coverage from their media allies on radio, TV and in the newspapers. The public will be fed a diet of “employers on the breadline”, “workers losing their jobs”, “anti-competition and interference with the free market”. You have been warned, the world will end the day after workers get a few miserable crumbs from the rich man’s table – don’t be fooled.
AND JUST IN CASE YOU NEED A REMINDER...
The world’s richest man, Mexican Carlos Slim Helu’s wealth is equivalent to the combined average wages of 4,000,000 Mexican workers. The combined wealth of the world’s 85 richest people is equal to the combined wealth of the poorest half of the world’s population i.e. 3.5 billion people.
Mexican magnate Carlos Slim Helu heads up the global rich list
Picture: ITU pictures (CC BY 2.0)
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Over 3 billion of the world’s population live on less than €2 per day. Average earnings of the 33,000 employees of Goldman Sachs for the year 2013 was £234,000 sterling (including bonuses). Barclays Bank this year paid 428 staff more than £1 million each in bonuses.
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Royal Bank of Scotland wants to pay its Senior Executives twice their annual salary in bonuses. In the US, the salaries of Chief Executives increased by 876% in the last 35 years, but between 2007 and 2012, American workers’ wages fell. February 2014
In Ireland, 48% of the increase in pre-tax income over the last 30 years went to the richest 1% of the population. 90,000 families are on local authority housing waiting lists, 253 local authority houses were built last year, the Government spent €400 million on rent supplements to private landlords last year. The Irish national minimum wage of €8.65 per hour has not increased since 2007; in the UK the government is proposing an 11% increase in the minimum wage.
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The top 10% of income earners in Ireland take nearly 26% of all income earned (2009). The bottom 25% of all income earners in Ireland have income of less than €15,000 per year. There are 28.5 people available for each job vacancy in Ireland – in Germany, it is 2.4.
None of the above happens by accident – so what are you going to do about it? 21
PLATFORM TRADE UNION LEFT FORUM
Defend public wealth by resisting privatisation
We have to get beyond sectoral interests and look at the common good, to defend the very idea of social ownership as an alternative to the anarchy and chaos of corporate monopoly capitalism’ – extract from TULF pamphlet Robbing The People’s Wealth IN January the Trade Union Left Forum met in the TeeU offices and agreed to launch a campaign in defence of public wealth and opposition to privatisation. Members and activists from a range of unions, from both the public and private sector, shared their experiences of the scale of privatisation that is under way and the loss to the public of valuable assets and services. Privatisation – or ‘outsourcing’, ‘sub-contracting’, ‘opening up for competition’ – is not new. Indeed over the years the State has sold off, for a quick buck, billions worth of public wealth in the form of various companies including ICC, ACC, Irish Life, eircom, Aer Lingus, refuse collection, natural resources, Irish Sugar, Irish Steel, Great Southern Hotels and many more. In more recent years they have also outsourced various parts of public service delivery, particularly in healthcare and most recently in Bord Gais. Many of these have ended in disaster for the public. Where profitable companies are sold, the ongoing return these provided to the State in the form of dividend is ended. For example, Irish Sugar went on to become Greencore and if retained in public ownership would be a valuable state asset today to invest in health, education and other vital services. Others, such as ACC and ICC, on privatisation lost their strategic investment mandate and went on to fuel speculate short-term investments contributing to the Irish property bubble. In the case of eircom, it has went
through various owners, been stripped of many valuable assets, loaded with hundreds of millions of private equity debt, fallen well behind in its provision of vital infrastructure and, in its most recent form, has become a state asset of Singapore through Singapore’s state company ST Telemedia. In refuse collection, we now have the sadly comical scenario of three or four massive trucks from different companies roaming through estates picking up bins from every third or fourth house with hidden registration charges often spent on pointless advertising touting for each household’s business. And this is presented to us as private sector efficiency? Nothing could be more inefficient from an economic and environmental point of view than this farce – and the public pay for it. A positive example of how an efficient State enterprise can be run and be of immense value to the public is the eSB. established in 1927, at its peak the eSB employed 13,500 workers in secure, well-paid decent work with education opportunities not available to many workers in the private sector. The eSB has never received a subsidy from the State and has been self-financing from its inception. Over the last decade it has returned in the region of €2 billion worth of dividends to the public purse. As a result of eU law on energy deregulation (privatisation of the market) imposed on the eSB, it forced eSB to raise its prices at the public’s expense so that lessefficient private sector companies could enter the market and profit at our expense – companies such as Airtricity and Viridian. In essence the State is imposing a profit tax on the public for private enterprise. As a result of this, the eSB
has had to hand over about 800,000 customers and been forced to make thousands of job losses, currently employing in the region of 6,500 workers. Any job ‘creation’ by Airtricity and other companies is not real job creation at all but job displacement from better paid more secure employment to lower paid work. The eSB, including its workers, should be defended and supported as a valuable state enterprise and public asset. The TULF is launching a politicised union campaign within the trade union movement and also more generally in the public because campaigning works. This Government wanted to sell off Coillte, the successful State forestry company. In recent years, Coillte has increased its value from €730 million to €1,400 million and turned itself from an operating loss to profits of more than €40 million. It currently employs more than 1,000 workers.
Picture: cpsucsa (CC BY-SA 2.0)
It is committed to sustainability and the biodiversity vital for Ireland’s ecological balance, and particularly for jobs in the agricultural sector. It is key to the broader forestry sector which creates €2.2 billion of economic activity each year and employs more than 12,000 workers. This sale was prevented by heightened public awareness and interest in our forests and the value of the company to the public led by both the IMPACT trade union and committed social and environmental activists. In Germany, union and public campaigning, has forced the state of Hamburg to re-nationalise its electricity grid after private sector involvement failed. Indeed, in Germany, since 2007 over 200 power and water grids have been re-nationalised by local authorities – evidence of the failure of privatisation and the value of public ownership. The trade union movement has to move beyond sectoral interests and lead a public campaign in defence of public wealth and ownership and fight privatisation where it is proposed. This needs to start with an ideological defence of public ownership and heightened sense of pride and value in successful public operations. Only the trade union movement has the capacity to make this campaign national and combine the complementary interests of the workers directly involved and the public who both own and rely on these assets and services. What’s more, it is ICTU policy to lead such a campaign yet little has been done. The TULF is committed to making this a union issue and encouraging cross-union support and activism. To contact us, get involved or to sign up to our newsletter go to www.tuleftforum.com
y February 2014
Irish workers need a pay hike... and lots of employers can afford it year earlier). In the eurozone, profits are still below their 2007 level,” said Mr Taft. “Not Ireland. Profits here have risen by 21% since 2007 and are growing at a much faster pace than almost anywhere else in europe,” he added. But what about wages? Since 2007 wage levels have been stagnant at best and most workers have experienced a dramatic drop in real wages as a result of extra charges and taxes. The eU Commission's AMeCO database shows that between 2007 and 2014 (estimate) 'nominal compensation per employee' increased by 0.2%. So from a macro level, wages have increased by 0.2% but non-financial profits by an astounding 21%. (See Table 2) Furthermore, in retail, Mandate’s Decent Work research from 2012 showed that our members had lost about €109 of their income per week (approximately 30%) yet when our members make up a little bit of that ground, we hear calls for wage restraint. It is well known that the domestic economy has taken a hammering over recent years. Figures show a drop of 26% drop in domestic demand as a result of reduced effective income. What will get the domestic economy going again and get people back to work is putting money in the pockets of workers who spend most of their income in local shops, restaurants, bars and other local businesses. When a company is highly profitable, from a national reTable 1 covery perspective, workers should be seeking Non-financial Corporations Profit Growth 2007: wage increases where 2010 (100 = 2007) possible. When you hear calls for wage restraint in the coming months, ask who the restraint is benefitting? And ask why profits, dividends and high income earners don’t have to play a part in our race for ‘competitiveness’.
By David Gibney Mandate communications officer IN OUR last edition of Shopfloor, we explained how more than 40,000 retail workers had received pay rises as a result of collective bargaining through Mandate. Our good news story was picked up in the national media receiving coverage in the Sunday Business Post, the Irish Times and the Irish Independent, among other media outlets. However, almost immediately the employers were out on the defensive. According to IBeC, pay increases should be productivityrelated. Big business says that a pay increase at inflation levels (which are very low) should suffice for workers. The debate is skewed. Why are workers expected to take ‘cost of living’ pay increases in line with inflation – and tied to productivity – when profits are never aligned to such an increase? In fact, when profits go through the roof, it’s seen as a good thing and not uncompetitive and yet workers are considered greedy if they seek a few extra euros in their back pockets as reward for the hard work they do. Well, let’s look at profits now and see how they match up with workers’ pay rises. According to Unite economist Michael Taft, profit growth in non-financial companies in Ireland far outstrips the rest of europe. (See Table 1) “Throughout europe profits fell in 2008 as the recession set in. They started recovering in 2009 (in Ireland they started recovering a
Non-financial profits v wage increases in Ireland since 2007
Increases since 2007
Profits February 2014
‘So from a macro level, between 2007 and 2014, wages have increased by 0.2% but profits by an astounding 21%...’
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Join off s satisfied Mandate J oin tthe he hundreds hundreds o atisfied M andate members members today! today! Call us now 200 and quote Mandate 200 Call u sn ow on on 1800 1800 200 200 2 00 a nd q uote Ma ndate Scheme Scheme 2 00 or go www.mandate.jltonline.ie or g o online online at at w w w.mandate.jltonline.ie *Subject underwriting criteria, conditions. only available new existing out *Subje ct to to u n d e r w r i ti n g c riteria, terms terms and and c onditions. Offer O f fer iiss o nly a vailable tto on ew and and e xisting customers customers ttaking ak ing o ut JLT underwritten byy Z Zurich plc. Discount a new new home home insurance insurance policy policy through th ro u g h J LT IIreland. reland. Home Home IInsurance nsurance iiss u n d e r w r i t te n b urich Insurance Insura nc e p l c. D is c o u nt applies one minimum off €270.00 Our guarantee applie s for fo r o ne year ye ar only only and and is is subject subje ct to to a m inimum premium p re m i u m o € 270.0 0 inclusive inclusive of of Government Governme nt levy. lev y. O ur g u a r a n te e is is a guarantee g u a r a n te e o on n price price b based ased on on a m minimum inimum a and nd maximum ma x imum p price rice d discount iscount provided cover on basis. Proof p r ov i d e d c over iiss o n a like like ffor or llike i ke b a s i s. P ro of of of a alternative lternative quote q u o te m maybe aybe rrequired equired to to avail avail of of tthis his o offer. f fer. If, If, after af ter a market m a r ke t a analysis, do not beat nalysis, we we d on ot b e at yyour our existing existing rrenewal e n e wa l premium premium or or quotation quotation we we w will ill then th e n d discount i s c o u nt o our ur premium p re m i u m b byy a m minimum inimum o off €25 maximum off €150. € 25 up up to to a m a x imum o €150. Guarantee G u a r a n te e offer of fer must must be be rrequested eque sted at at quotation quotation stage stage and and c cannot a n n ot b be e issued issued retrospectively retrospe ctively tto JLT o cover cover already alre ady in in place place vvia ia J LT Ireland. Ireland. O Only nly o one ne voucher vo u c h e r c can an b be e used used for for each e ach e eligible ligible proposer. proposer. Cover Cover tto between 13/09/2013 o commence commence b e t we e n 1 3 / 09 / 2013 and and 31/12/2013 31/12 / 2013 inclusive. inclusive. Z Zurich urich IInsurance nsura nc e p plc lc iiss regulated re gulated by by the th e C Central e ntr a l B Bank off Ireland. ank o Ireland. JLT IInsurance JLT nsurance Brokers Brokers IIreland re l a n d L Limited imited trading trading as as JLT JLT IIreland, reland, J JLT LT F Financial GIS inancial Services, S e r v i c e s, G IS Ireland, Ireland, Charity Charit y Insurance, I n s u r a n c e, Teacherwise, Online, Trade Credit Central off IIreland. T e acher wise, Childcare Childcare Insurance, Insurance, JLT JLT O nline, JLT JLT T rad e C redit IInsurance nsurance is is rregulated e gulated by by the th e C e ntral Bank Bank o reland.
The danger of dealing with organised money By John Carty Mandate Divisional Organiser PReSIDeNT Franklin D Roosevelt once stated that the influence of “organized money” can be as dangerous as the “organized mob”. Organised money in the labour market is personified by individual employers. The employment relationship between an employer and a worker is typically based on the employer’s greater power (Kahn-Freund 1983). This arises because the employer already is a collective entity, representing a collection of capital/money, but viewed by the law as an individual personality (Wedderburn 1986). Simple economics dictates that the more workers chasing work increases employer’s bargaining power in determining job offers. It was pointed out in a recent ICTU publication, Future Positive – Trade Unions and the Common Good, that when the Soviet Union collapsed and China and India entered the global economy, “almost 1.5 billion new workers were added to the existing industrial workforce almost overnight. Such a massive increase in the human resources available for capital to exploit could not but weaken organised labour”. To mitigate against employers’ power workers have formed organisations such as trade unions. Indeed, Wright (2000) contends that workers have two sources of power – (i) associational power and (ii) structural power. Associational power comes from the formation of collective organisations, mainly trade unions and working class political parties. Associational power often measured in terms of union density (the percentage of workers unionised) is one source of such power but is not always a reliable measure of workers’ power (Kelly 2003 and 1998). Structural power comes from such factors as (i) the state of particular labour markets or (ii) the strategic position of workers in the workplace. Workers’ power increases with low unemployment or possession of scarce skills or if they have alternatives to bad jobs. Sectional power in the workplace occurs where workers occupy a key position in a workplace, such as when a stoppage in one department can shut down the entire workplace. With the increased globalised workforce, employers can move some or all of their operations to low-wage economies or “threaten to do so” to gain concessions from their workforce (Freeman 2008). Katz (1997) notes that American automobile industry employers frequently forced workers in different factories to compete against each other through such concessions in what unions called 'whipsawing'. Retail employers do not have the same bargaining power as US car manufacturing employers.
example, by (i) labour market reform; cutting wages and repealing laws beneficial to workers, (ii) removing workers’ alternatives to bad jobs; cutting social welfare etc to compel unemployed workers to compete with employed workers, (isplitting workers solidarity; scapegoating public sector workers and public or private unionised workforces that threaten or go on strike. This scapegoating is usually led by media barons with their own vested interests. A less obvious strategy engaged in by employers, their organisations and the state is shifting the focus of bargaining with unions from the workplace to the labour market and vice versa as it suits them. For example, legislation enacted in America during the 1930s improved unions’ collective bargaining position in the market but the trade-off was it disempowered them in the workplace (Harvey 2012). Alternatively, the UK engineering employers Federation (eeF) viewed the national agreements with the engineering unions as a way limiting union “activity” and “influ-
‘Employers have a vested interest in weakening the organisational and structural power of their own workers’
Picture: K_Young_NYC (CC BY 2.0)
In manufacturing, the finished product can be assembled and exported to the market where the customer resides. In retail, however, the final product is consumption and Braverman (1998) observes such labour “must be offered directly to the consumer, since production and consumption are simultaneous”. Therefore, retailers cannot transfer some or all their Irish outlets’ consumption to some other country without losing some or all their Irish market share. employers have a vested interest in weakening the organisational and structural power of their own workers. Additionally, the weakening of other workers in other employments or sectors can benefit all employers (including retailers) as it can undermine the collective confidence and bargaining position of their own workforce.
Consequently, employers, their business organisations, political parties funded by employers and some of the media frequently attempt to undermine workers’ power. employers’ tactics include: (i) victimisation of union activists; for example dismissing a shop steward, (Kelly, 1998), (ii) union avoidance; refusing to recognise unions (iii) union substitution; employee representative structures controlled by the employer and (iv) marginalising unions; using sophisticated strategies designed to dupe workers away from having loyalty to union membership (Donaghey et al 2012). Right-wing political parties (and sometimes ‘left-wing’ parties such Gonzalez’s in Spain in the 1980s or Blair’s in the UK) encouraged by employers, business organisations and some media barons, set about undermining workers’ structural and organisational power for
ence within their own workplaces” (Joyce 2013) but in 1989 unilaterally shifted the focus of bargaining back into individual workplaces. The debate on the benefits of Ireland’s recent social partnerships is contentious (McDonough, and Dundon 2010). So as speculation picks up about the prospect of a new social partnership, unions and their members would do well to reflect before making any decision that this is the best utilisation of their organisational and structural power. “Organised money” may make us an offer, but we may have to refuse. References: Braverman (1998) ‘Labor and Monopoly Capital: The Degradation of Work in the Twentieth Century’; Donaghey et al (2012) ‘Non-union employee representation, union avoidance and the managerial agenda’; Freeman, (2008) ‘The New Global Labor Market’; Harvey (2012) ‘Reading Marx’s Capital Vol. 1, Chapters 4-6’; ILO (2012) ‘Confronting finance: Mobilizing the 99 per cent for economic and social progress’; ICTU (2013) ‘Future Positive – Trade Unions and the Common Good’; Joyce, (2013) ‘The Engineering Employers' Federation and the Crisis of 1989: A Case Study in the Decline of Multi-Employer Bargaining’; Kahn-Freund O. (1983) ‘Labour and the Law’; Katz, (1997). ‘Industrial relations in the U.S. automobile industry: An illustration of increased decentralization and diversity’; Kelly (1998) ‘Rethinking Industrial Relations: Mobilization, Collectivism and Long Waves’; Kelly (2003) ‘Countess Markievicz Memorial Lecture’; McDonough and Dundon (2010) "Thatcherism delayed? The Irish crisis and the paradox of social partnership’; Wedderburn (1986) ‘The Worker and the Law’; Wright (2000). ‘Working-Class Power, Capitalist-Class Interests, and Class Compromise’. SHOPFLOOR
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By Seamus Farrell Union activist and research intern with CTU IN SePTeMBeR 2012, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) balloted for strike action. Chicago’s mayor, Rahm emmanuel, had used new contract negotiations to push for a longer workday, with only limited compensation, and an increased link between student test scores and teachers’ pay, conditions and job security. Changes in labour laws in the 1990s meant that 75% of teachers needed to support the ballot for strike action – more than 90% did. It was the first teachers’ strike in Chicago in 25 years. While the US trade union movement was – by and large – in retreat, the CTU was on the offence calling for not only an end to attacks on its profession but improvements in living conditions and resources not only for its membership but students, parents and workers throughout the city of Chicago. For nine days in September, Chicago was a sea of CTU red. Teachers, parents, students and community supporters manned picket lines, marched through neighbourhood streets and attended mass rallies of thousands, day after day. After nine days of industrial action, a negotiated settlement was reached on pay and testing. The deal was endorsed wholeheartedly by the union membership after vigorous debate. An important victory against huge odds had been won. It was a pivotal moment in US trade union history. In the year of a presidential election, trade unionism, pay and conditions and largescale political discontent was again put centre stage and represented a major challenge to a right-ward, corporate-backed shift in US politics. The Chicago Teachers’ Union's success was built on a long period of activism and organisation consolidated from the trade union grassroots. In the late 1990s major education changes began to emerge. They were driven by attacks on teachers’ pay and conditions, movement of
Striking a chord: Walt Wilkins, left, with
How Windy City strike went down a storm... It’s a class issue... Chicago’s teachers on the march. The CTU had city-wide backing for the nine-day action
resources away from poor and working class schools toward preparatory, merit and elite institutions, narrowing of course content, increased use of standardised testing and moves to transform struggling public schools into for-profit, publicly-funded charter schools. These moves created great disquiet within the teaching profession and among the students, parents and communities affected. efforts to confront these changes began slowly with a small group of socially-engaged activists in 2008. They developed under the name Caucus of Rank and File educators, or CORe for short.
They built themselves around three ideas – a democratic union driven by an empowered rank and file, an engage support base drawn from allies in the community and a connection to wider social struggles as education cuts were not in isolation, and were part of a series of wider battles in a grossly-unequal society. Within the union, the call for greater democracy and rank and file engagement was not empty rhetoric – from 2008 to 2012, efforts were made to build issues and campaigns from the ground up. CORe activists saw themselves as facilitators and supports of the ordi-
nary membership and their concerns, while also connecting these concerns to wider social and economic conditions. Small rallies, targeted actions, school committees, localised networking all began to build empowerment from demoralisation. School actions were connected to community concerns, building alliances with community groups, activists and ordinary residents. This was a move built to help struggling and impoverished neighbourhoods, families and communities and based on the need to create a mutual powerbase to leverage the political and economic elite. Finally rank and file activists connected their struggle to the wider fight against inequality, civil rights and social justice built on a strong policy base and vision for education and society. All three ideas – union democracy and membership empowerment, community engagement and alliances and a vision for broader change – directly facilitated the ability of the CTU to win their strike in the face of a vicious media onslaught and a powerful conservative establishment. With strong union democracy and an empowered membership, members were not only willing to go out on strike, they were willing to hold and lead mass action. With an alliance of parents, students and communities behind them, members not only received full verbal support, they had their allies on the picket lines and on marches – as well as a connection to a broader vision. The union could defend its actions, provide an alternative and disprove attempts to paint the union as greedy and self-serving. Throughout the strike a majority consistently supported the position of the CTU over that of the mayor. With the CTU confronting rather than lobbying the political establishment, this was crucial for the CTU's success and an important message for any union fighting in the age of austerity.
Adult Education Courses for the Workplace
Mandate Trade Union with the VEC network is offering a programme of Training Courses called Skills for Work. Skills for Work offers members the opportunity to get back into education at their own pace with a wide range of courses to choose from. Each course has 6 – 8 participants and may be held locally and outside of working hours. Some of the courses include:
Communication Skills/ Personal Development and Effectiveness
For those who want to brush up on their writing and spelling skills while you develop personal and interpersonal skills which are important for dealing with workplace situations and improve communications in everyday life situations
Perhaps you’d like to brush up on your everyday maths, including home budgets, tax and weights/measures.
Communication through Computers
This course is ideal for adults just learning about computers and confidence for communicating online.
Please tick the box or boxes of the courses which interest you and return this form with your details to: Mandate’s Organising and Training Centre Distillery House, Distillery Road, Dublin 3 Phone 01-8369699, email email@example.com
Workplace Location Phone
Courses are free and open to members who have not achieved Leaving Certificate or who have an out of date Leaving Certificate. You can also achieve a FETAC Level 3 Award. Skills for Work is funded by the Department of Education & Skills
l Proposed EU-US Free Trade Agreement... there’s danger in the small print
BEWARE OF TAFTA! By Eugene McCartan CPOI GOING almost unnoticed the eU-US have been negotiating what they call “Trans-Atlantic Free Trade Agreement” (TAFTA) . On the face of it it sounds harmless enough. The proposal for a “Free Trade Agreement” came out of the G8 Summit in Co Fermanagh in early 2013. Most workers’ organisations and certainly most trade unions appear to be unaware of what is taking place. This agreement, if it goes through, will have a very profound impact on all our lives, on the whole concept of democracy and accountability. It will make George Orwell’s 1984 look pretty tame.
What is it about? First of all it not about reducing tariffs. The establishment media will spin it that is will reduces barriers and make things cheaper. It simply will not. In fact, duty barriers between the eU and the US are already low – under 3% in most cases. Remember the spoofing if we voted for various eU treaties we would get cheaper car insurance etc? It is about establishing "regulatory coherence" between the two blocs.
What that means is that the big monopoly corporations want the removal of all and any national restrictions that they believe interferes with their right to make profits, the bigger the profits the better. This means harmonisation not only of existing regulations but also of new regulations as they are being formulated, to prevent future trade barriers. They want the lowest possible standards and controls.
What will it mean for you and your family?
Genetically Modified Organism: It will impact the the food you eat. For instance Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) is very permissible in the US but the eU has restrictions on its use. Big pharmaceutical companies, such as Monsanto, want all eU restrictions removed regarding GMO because they define limits on genetically-modified foods and crops as trade barriers. This will also have an impact of animal food stuffs currently restricted usage within the eU. Patenting Laws: Other pharmaceutical companies
‘This is a permanent straitjacket woven by big business and they will control the straps...’
who control patented drugs want to extend the life of patents to maximise their profits. They are pushing for restrictions on price controls and probably also ways to extend the length and scope of their patent monopolies This will restrict the use of generic drugs keeping the cost of medicines artificially high. If this treaty goes through it will go a long way to the privatisation – ownership and control by corporations – of the global public good of knowledge through its intensifying “intellectual property” regime and the enforcement of patents, trademark and copyright. Fracking: The oil and gas companies will be able to secure and set minimal restrictions on fracking. The deal will then define anything more stringent as a restraint on trade subject to penalties. This will mean it will be almost impossible to prevent the destruction of the environment and pollution of the water table. Financial Controls: It is likely that it will try to include wording that would make it impossible to enforce a financial
APPEAL GALWAY ALLIANCE AGAINST THE WAR
transactions tax now being demanded by campaign groups. The aims is to hand foreign corporations ways to evade domestic laws and courts. This will give rights to big corporations greater than that of domestic governments. Trade-in services includes financial services – for example, banking and insurance, and investment. It is putting large area of corporate decision making beyond democratic accountability. National democracy versus global monopolies: If a state or country commits itself to liberalisation of a particular service to an international trade agreement, they are submitting and subordinating their people’s democratic, economic and social interests and opening them to international investor and external control. What this means when states make commitments within international trade agreements, those commitments become effectively irre-
versible, beyond national and eU law and irrespective of the nature of future governments. This is the purpose of international trade agreements and the pressure for them to be undertaken comes from corporations. They want to tie the hands of any future governments. The interests of big business will trump people’s democratic demand for change. They call it “InvestorState dispute rules.” It is described by campaigners as “a privatised justice system for global corporations.” EXAMPLE In Argentina during its financial crisis, responding to popular struggles and demands for change over rocketing energy and water charges, Argentina proposed to freeze these essential services (does this sound familiar?). It was sued by the international utility companies whose exhorbiant bills and bloated profits had forced the government to act. The Argentinian government was forced to pay out more than a billion dollars in compensation to foreign monopolies. In the trade agreement process, transnational corporations gain not just access, but rights, including rights to sue states. The rights of States to control corporations are correspondingly curtailed – and democracy severely restricted. Under current international law a state can sue states, now the rights of corporations have been elevated to the same as that of a state. If there is a trade dispute between a government and a corporation, it
Free Margaretta now! GALWAY peace activist and prisoner of conscience Margaretta D’Arcy was arrested on January 15 and brought to Limerick Prison where she is currently serving a three-month sentence. Ms D’Arcy is 79 and suffers from a number of medical conditions. The reason for her imprisonment is that she refuses to sign an undertaking that she would keep away from unauthorised zones at Shannon Airport, as a result of which her three-month suspended sentence has been activated. Margaretta D’Arcy and Niall Farrell were sentenced in ennis District Court in December 2013. each received a three-month prison sentence, suspended on 26
condition that they enter into a bond to uphold the law for two years and stay out of unauthorised zones at Shannon Airport. Her conscience would not allow her to give such an undertaking as she is opposed to the use of Shannon Airport by the US military. Nearly two million American troops have passed through Shannon Airport on their way to the Middle east, Iraq and Afghanistan. Shannon Airport is a major hub for US warplanes on their way to Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries in the Middle east. It is also a transit point for aircraft carrying US military drones, which have caused the death of thousands of people and the de-
struction of homes, schools and other public buildings. It has been claimed that victims of “extraordinary rendition” – another name for prisoners tortured in third countries before being transported to the prison in Guantanamo Bay – have been shipped through Shannon Airport. We all need to stand alongside Margaretta and support her courageous stand for human rights and a peaceful world. You can write to the Irish Government demanding her release. email Minister for Justice Alan Shatter at firstname.lastname@example.org Or send messages of support to Galway Alliance Against War at email@example.com
Peace and Neutrality Alliance protest at the jailing of Margaretta D’Arcy outside the Dail on January 22
Picture: Sinn Fein (CC BY 2.0) SHOPFLOOR
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Picture: Free Market My Ass (CC BY-SA 2.0)
will not be handled within the national jurisdiction but in an international trade dispute jurisdiction of the corporation’s choosing. In trade dispute settlements, judgments are made only on the basis of ‘free trade’ without regard to, for example, social or environmental factors, thus favouring corporations. States have no corresponding rights to sue corporations. The judges will be drawn from a panel of experts regarding the matter under dispute. This will stack the deck in favour of the corporations – for where will these “experts” come from? EXAMPLE The Australian government, decided that cigarettes should
be sold in plain packets, marked only with graphic health warnings. This decision was upheld by the Australian Supreme Court. But, using a trade agreement Australia struck with Hong Kong, the tobacco company Philip Morris has asked an offshore tribunal to award it a vast sum in compensation for the loss of what it calls its intellectual property. EXAMPLE In El Salvador, local communities managed at great cost (three campaigners were murdered) to persuade the government to refuse permission for a vast gold mine which threatened to contaminate their water supplies. A victory for democracy? Not for long perhaps.
The Canadian company which sought to dig the mine is now suing El Salvador for $315m – for the loss of its anticipated future profits. Yes, indeed, what is coming down the track will further erode the already limited democracy that we have. The Irish trade union movement needs to urgently campaign against this treaty. We need the workers’ movement across europe and the rest of the world to campaign against it. It will mean that there will be no democratic way to undo it or change it. This is a permanent straitjacket woven by big business and they will control the straps and how tight it is applied.
The Drogheda Resource Centre Ltd in collaboration with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions intend to deliver the following programme in March:
By Ed Teller unions and reduces the demand for wage increases, as workers are THeRe IS very little point in talking forced into negative competition with about what capitalism should be, or the unemployed. As businesses have what we wish it to be, and kidding become larger and global, this comourselves into believing it can provide something that it can’t. petition is now global, and workers are pitted against Personal/Interperworkers on the far more value the trade – Computer This programme offers 3 Of FETAC Level 3tomodules Literacy, other side of the globe, reducing union movement is an analysis of sonal Skills and Work Experience over a 6-weeks period. The participants will then complete labour costs to secure profits. what capitalism actually is, of really two weeks work experience and will have an additional 4 weeks mentoring to assist existing capitalism. employers also invest in new them ma- in seeking employment ornever seekprovided further education opportunities. chinery and technology to reduce Capitalism has their cost of production; and far from (with the exception of Nazi Germaking workers’ lives easier, these many), andshould will never full of any To qualify, participants beprovide, in receipt one of the following | new innovations replace workers, as employment, or anything close to it. disability/illness welfare employers again seek to reduce their Unemployment is a necessity under payments: labour and Benefit mechanise their and here’s why. l Disabilitycapitalism; l Invalidity l costs Allowance Pension Illness production process. Wages and profits are inversely rel l profits tend Blind Pension Benefit This is the traditional explanation lated: when wages go up, Disablement l Incapacity Supplement for unemployment in commodityto be reduced. employers therefore want to reduce as as possible lmuch Injury Benefit production capitalism. But things have developed; and, as capitalists the cost of wages. High unemployseek to make profits from credit and ment disciplines workers and their
We are currently taking names for the course and if you know of anyone who would be interested in attending the course, please contact Mairead or Louise in the Drogheda Resource Centre on 0419835754 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Picture: Charlie Sporn CC BY-SA 2.0
Health & Safety FETAC Level 5
This course is aimed at Health and Safety representatives Topic covered on course: • Health and Safety Legislation • Role of Health and Safety Representative • Safety statements • Role of Health & Safety Authority • Occupational health
Saf e firs ty t wor at k!
• Identification of hazards and risk assessment • Accident investigation • Fire safety • Effective communications • Health and safety promotion
Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this course receive a Fetac Level 5 component award certificate and may progress to other courses offered by Mandate. If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: email@example.com 27
THE BIG QUESTION... By Tom Healy Director, Nevin Economic Research Institute WHAT is a 'living wage'? How do we measure it? And how could it be brought about for everyone at work? As you may have guessed, there are no simple answers to these questions. Research by NeRI does throw some light on these questions and it is hoped to undertake additional research into these matters in the course of this coming year. First, a 'living wage' rests on the notion of a wage rate that is adequate and appropriate to enable people to live with dignity in today's society. Clearly, the needs of individuals will differ according to circumstances: the number of children in a household, whether or not someone lives in a rural area where they may need access to a car to get to work or for other reasons, as well as how income is shared in a household between adults. It probably makes sense to separate out the concept of (i) a 'living income' defined and measured at the level of a household where a number of people share living arrangements to some extent, and (ii) a wage paid to an individual for the work that he/she carries out. A wage is measured with reference to an hour, a week, a year or a one-off job that someone is contracted to do. An amount of money paid to an individual for work done and is typically accompanied in the case of most jobs by entitlements to pay for holidays, time taken during sickness, parental duties etc. Wages is one component of what a household receives along with (possible) social welfare payments (if, for example, a household is entitled to Family Income Supplement as a result of its combined wage income being too low) or income from investment, savings etc. Depending on the total wage income of a household, any number of combinations are possible within a household defined as a shared living arrangement involving some pooling of income and expenditures: low hourly wages and short hours for one adult combined with high hourly wages and long hours for another adult; high hourly wages for two adults but short hours for both; no wages because no adult in the household works etc. These distinctions may seem pedantic but they are important. But a 'living wage' is only one part of a discussion on 'living income' of households. Typically (and correctly) poverty and income inadequacy is
Just what is a living wage?
‘With dismantling of collective agreements and the growth in precarious employment involving hours and no benefits, an exclusive focus on hourly wage rates may be misleading and even possibly harmful’
approached and measured at the household level. There is, obviously, a strong statistical association between low pay (or no pay at all when adults in a household are out of work) and low income. Any society concerned about social cohesion and social justice needs to be concerned about ensuring high levels of employment for adults combined with decent (living) wages for individuals. The State has a vital role in supplementing income when needed (such as in old age or where individuals become unemployed for a period or where people are not able to work). However, the ideal policy goal, I would suggest, is to ensure that enough people have jobs and that these jobs pay an adequate wage or income (if people are self-employed or employ others). On this foundation it is possible for individuals to pay taxes and social
contributions which pay for services and income protection at various stages of the life cycle including significant temporary needs that can arise. A living wage should mean – to quote President Obama in a speech he gave recently – that “if you work hard, you should make a decent living. If you work hard you should be able to support a family”.
Work by the Vincentian Partnership along with work by my NeRI colleague Micheál Collins has thrown some light on the amount of income likely to be required by different types of households. In his paper, Micheál Collins reports a minimum essential standard of living defined as “one which meets a person’s physical, psychological and social needs”. To establish this figure, research by the Vincentian Partnership adopts a “consensual budgets standards approach” whereby representative focus groups established budgets on the basis of a households minimum needs, rather than wants. These budgets, spanning more than 2,000 goods, were developed for 16 areas of expenditure. The analysis distinguishes between the expenditure for urban and rural households and between those whose members are unemployed or work (part-time/full-time)'. While circumstances and needs differ and there is a large range of minimum income needs, it is possible to calculate a reasonable standard of living for – say – two adults (one working fulltime, the other part-time) in a rural area and with two children in second level education. The indicative income requirement is €785 per week. If, by way of example, total working hours came to 60 hours (40 plus 20) then the average hourly rate of remuneration after deduction of taxes (over two adults) would need to be just over €13. However, given that most workers at modest levels of remuneration might pay somewhere in the region of 10% to 15% in income tax and PRSI, then the hourly gross wage would need to be somewhat higher than €13 per hour in the specific example given here (two adults, two children and rural setting).
These figures are provided to explain the complexity and range of possible wage rates consistent with a 'living income' for households. One approach is to focus on some country-wide threshold below which a 'typical household' dependent mainly or exclusively on wage income would not fall. But, what is a typical household? The traditional image of a single bread-winner household with many children no longer applies. Hence, the idea of a 'just wage' for the 'working man' to provide for wife and children does not apply since at least the 1960s in the case of Ireland. The only operational way to approach the challenge of measurement is to separate the (crucial) concept of a living (or adequate) household income from that of a 'living wage' defined as a socially acceptable and appropriate wage which enables individual workers to live independently or, if they chose, with others. It is the role of the State or community to provide additional support either by way of direct provision of services or income where there is a need for this. Let’s take the case of a single adult living alone in an urban setting. According to the research cited above, that person would need a weekly wage, if they were working, of €385 to meet a minimum standard of living. In a rural area they would need €425 (reflecting the cost of getting to and from work). If the urban adult were working full-time, an hourly rate of €8.95 would suffice. But in a rural setting it would be €10.63. However, with rising rental costs and hours prices in some urban areas these estimate will need revision. Given that most workers are not single and given the fact that only some adults work full-time (whether by choice or otherwise) it would not be unreasonable to stipulate a higher hourly (or weekly) wage than the minimum indicated here especially if such a rate were to be applied and understood as universal or normative for all workers at a given time. From this point it gets more complicated! The dismantling of collective agreements (such as those covered by the JLCs, eROs, ReAs) poses a major challenge. Add to that the growth in precarious employment involving short hours and no benefits by way of sick pay etc means that an exclusive focus on hourly wage rates may be misleading and even possibly harmful. We need to focus on hourly rates and hours of work and all the other monetary aspects of a wage contract involving income continuance and protection when people are temporarily not able to work. A starting point for a debate on 'low pay' and the 'living wage' in Ireland could be the National Minimum Hourly Wage (currently frozen at €8.65 per hour since 2007). A restoration of this rate to its real 2007 value is the very least that should be considered at this time, especially in light of the growing inequality and rising incidence of material deprivation including food poverty. SHOPFLOOR
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M&S STRIKE PICTURE SPECIAL
Grafton Street Dublin
Grafton Street Dublin
Blackrock February 2014
FROM WHERE I STAND... Iconic emblem of division: Peace wall in west Belfast Picture: djprybyl (CC BY 2.0)
THROUGHOUT its existence, the Irish peace process has been defined by a seemingly endless number of negotiations aimed at resolving issues stemming from the 30-year conflict. In December, we witnessed another month-long set of discussions when US diplomats Richard Haass and Meghan O’Sullivan were summoned to Belfast by Martin McGuinness and Peter Robinson to broker a deal on flags, parades and dealing with the legacy of the past. The illusion that the US government – one of the most violent and aggressive on earth – can play a progressive role in the Irish peace process is one that is continuously promoted by the local media and political class. Following the talks, Richard Haass outlined a number of modest proposals, including a code of conduct for parades and “limited immunity” for ex-combatants, all of which were promptly rejected by the unionist parties. The lack of agreement was greeted by a mixture of derision, disappointment and frustration. But having occurred after 12 months of unionist disarray, which began in December 2012 with the Belfast flag protests, followed by serious sectarian violence in North Belfast during the summer months, it should come as little surprise that the Haass talks ultimately failed to deliver. 2013 was a year in which unionist intransigence led to unionist crisis. Having stoked up a climate of hatred and encouraged throngs of angry working-class people on to the streets after Belfast City Council opted to fly the Union flag on the same number of days as it is flown in Britain, the middle-class DUP and UUP quickly distanced themselves from the inevitable violence that followed, This has been a common feature throughout the history of the six-county state. Subjectively, unionism has changed little in 50 years. Infatuation with empire, social conservatism, homophobia and sectarian supremacy reflect the reactionary nature of unionism’s main representatives, the DUP and UUP. The Progressive Unionist Party, misguidedly lauded by many on the left, fares little better under any serious examination of its politics. Party members were reportedly among 30
Walled in The past has not gone away... the past is present. Ruairi Creaney argues that the failure of the Haass talks has once again shone a spotlight on how the legacy of sectarianism continues to warp the development of normal left-right politics in the North
Under the media spotlight: Dr Richard Haass with Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers at a photo op in October last year Picture: Northern Ireland Office (CC BY 2.0)
loyalists heckling trade union speakers with sectarian chants while flaunting Israeli flags at a recent ICTU-organised anti-G8 demo outside Belfast City Hall. Objectively, however, unionism has transformed dramatically in recent years. In the past, ‘Big House’ unionism – consisting of industrialists and leading politicians – managed to cultivate an alliance with working class Protestants to form an opposition to Irish nationalism and republicanism, as well as those Protestants deemed to be too left-wing. Secure manufacturing jobs and slight economic advantages over their Catholic counterparts ensured the loyalty of many working-class Protestants to the sectarian Orange state and their wealthier co-religionists. This cross-class alliance has
proven more difficult to maintain under neo-liberalism, as the previously secure well-paid manufacturing jobs in Loyalist areas have now been replaced by precarious employment or, in many cases, none at all. Harland and Wolff – once the largest shipyard in the world – is now the facade that is the Titanic Quarter. In 1992, economist Francis Fukuyama wrote that the collapse of the Soviet Union marked the “end of history”. Likewise, the Good Friday Agreement was meant to mark the end of Irish history. everyone was to “move on”, cast aside their contending national aspirations and forget about Ireland’s bitter past. The economic strategy of successive governments in Dublin which promoted low tax rates and enticed foreign investment at the ex-
pense of sustainable indigenous development was to be rolled out in the north. A new, bland “Northern Irish” identity was to be created which attempted to normalise the abnormal, beginning a process of political disengagement on the part of the general public. This was a distinctly neo-liberal peace process. So 15 years on from the Good Friday Agreement, the poison of sectarianism continues to thrive. Hideous “peace walls” – collectively now longer than the infamous Berlin Wall – snake their way through working class districts in Belfast, carving out areas designated for the rival tribes. Religious segregation is part of everyday life: our children attend different schools, we live in separate housing estates and we play different sports. Dissident republicans, to the irritation of almost everyone, continue to cling to the dead-end strategy of an unwinnable and unjustifiable armed struggle, which can achieve only the imprisonment of its members and yet more senseless deaths. That the Good Friday Agreement failed to eradicate sectarianism is common knowledge. The unspoken truth, however, is that that Good Friday Agreement was never intended to put an end to sectarianism. The aim was to institutionalise it and make it manageable. elected representatives are required to declare which religious group they belong to, with each tribe possessing a veto over the other – a mechanism that was used recently to stymie a probe into DUP dealings with a local construction firm. Despite being more than half a decade into the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, left-right politics have not taken hold in the North. An impotent Assembly, which is entrusted with the same powers as a
local council in england, is unable to fully tackle the insidious effects of capitalist collapse. The most contentious issues of the day do not arise from the fact that the region suffers from growing unemployment and a mass exodus of young people who see no future in an economy offering only lousy wages, debt and precarious work. Flags cause a bigger uproar than a crisis at an A&e. Parades still anger people more than welfare “reform”. The past has not gone away. The past is the present. Faced as we are with two apparently irreconcilable interpretations of the past, the conflict will continue to be a contentious issue. For mainstream unionism, the Troubles were merely a spontaneous outbreak of mindless criminality against a legitimate state. Accepting no responsibility for the outbreak of the conflict, unionist leaders have modelled themselves as defenders of a normal western democracy, methodically denying the systematic discrimination in employment and housing allocation which existed under unionist rule as well as disregarding the attempted suppression of a peaceful civil rights movement. A recurring theme has been the unwillingness of both mainstream and extreme unionists to accept a society in which sectarian domination of one group over another is no longer a reality. They have failed to embrace that reality. Amidst fantastic myths of an imaginary “cultural war” being waged against them, many unionists seem unable to realise that the union with Britain is stronger than it has ever been at any time in history. Republicanism and nationalism have changed. They are now incorporated into the northern state. Indeed, most Catholics – many of whom would even consider themselves to be “nationalist” – support the north remaining part of the UK. Partition is here for the foreseeable future, something neither sections of unionism nor republicanism can admit. There is, however, little to suggest that this six-county state will ever be anything other than a dysfunctional, sectarian colonial outpost.
Ruairí Creaney is Secretary of ICTU Youth (NIC) SHOPFLOOR
y February 2014
INTERNATIONAL BLOOD BRICKS CAMPAIGN
Modern day slavery in India’s brick kilns labourers at a brick kiln near Hyderabad. The State Labour Commissioner has ordered the inquiry after it was discovered that the kiln owner had no license to operate and had not registered with the Labour Department. This is not irregular nor is it uncommon, it constitutes the daily life for hundreds of thousands of human beings labouring away in the brick kilns – an industry that employs up to 10 million workers. The root cause of bondage in brick kilns lies in low wage rates. While wages are low across the unorganised sector in India these are abysmally low in the brick kiln sector. Analysis of records across three states shows that average wages over
the working period of six months range between two to three US dollars per day. These rates are significantly lower than statutory minimum wages. even for earning this level of wages, workers have to put in 12 or more hours of work every day. Children are forced to work as the food expenses given to workers are correlated to production levels. Lower production can simply mean that one family does not have enough to eat. Due to the nature of bonded labour, workers and their families are frightened for their physical safety and sadly remain in the brick kilns rather than approaching the authorities to intervene which, of course, would result in the scale of the prob-
Kiln workers in India – forced to produce more than 1,500 bricks a day
Pictures: Blood Bricks (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
against UK companies. This means that companies who have off-shore activities which are housed in buildings built through bonded labour conditions could be sued for damages in the UK by Indian workers. Companies cannot through wilful blindness continue to ignore where the bricks are being sourced from to fuel their expansion. Not only is there a moral obligation to take responsibility for their supply chains but a legal one. We will be working with our partners in the Blood Bricks campaign to ensure companies fulfil these legal obligations and, where they do not, we will take action. The modern day slavery in India's brick kilns is no longer a secret around the world and it will be exposed for the stain on humanity for which it is.
Every wipe of his eyes takes Talla closer to blindness
Shockingly there were cases in Odisha of bonded workers in the industry having their hands chopped off by contractors simply because they wanted to leave the brick kilns
lem being officially acknowledged. The campaign is designed to apply pressure on the ground in India but also use levers in the UK. The British government’s action plan Good Business: Implementing the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights outlines the UK’s commitment to protect human rights and sets out the clear expectations for companies. This builds on recent changes to the UK’s Companies Act (2006) with new regulations that came into force in October last year, requiring companies to report non-financial information including disclosures on human rights where such information is necessary for an understanding of the business. In certain circumstances the law allows workers based in foreign countries to bring claims in the UK
Talla is just five. He has trachoma, a painful eye disease which can lead to a lifetime of blindness. Repeated infections cause the eyelashes to turn inwards and slowly and painfully every blink damages the eye and leads to blindness. Trachoma can be treated effectively in its early stages with a course of ointment costing just 50p – but for millions of people this is still too much.
By Andrew Brady Director, Union Solidarity International OSCAR fever is reaching fever pitch with the modern day masterpiece 12 Years a Slave – set during the 1840's – many people’s tip to win the best film gong. Yet the abominable issue of slavery is not past-tense, it is very much in our midst today. According to the ILO, almost 21 million people are victims of forced labour – 11.4 million women and girls and 9.5 million men and boys. Union Solidarity International in partnership with Prayas, Action Aid Association, War on Want and Thompsons Solicitors (Scotland) have launched an international campaign, titled Blood Bricks, to highlight forced, bonded and child labour in the brick kilns of India. Blood Bricks focuses on organising, educating and mobilising hundreds of thousands of workers to raise wages, access public services, combat child labour and sexual exploitation. Workers are forced to produce more than 1,500 bricks every day. They are paid in advance and only able to leave after a minimum of six months while children also suffer from severe respiratory problems. Only recently workers’ hands were cut off in Odisha by contractors after they wanted to leave a brick kiln. And the local administration in Andhra Pradesh has ordered an inquiry after it was reported that children were working alongside adult
If, like Sightsavers, you believe that nobody should go blind needlessly from trachoma, river blindness or cataract, please make a donation today to support our eye care work in some of the most deprived communities in the world.
Euro donations, please call 1850 50 20 20 or visit www.sightsavers.ie Sterling donations, please call 0800 089 20 20 or visit www.sightsavers.org Please quote ICTU. Thank you! Registered charity numbers 207544 and SC038110
From Occupy Wall St to State of the Union WHO knew that when a small protest labeled “Occupy Wall Street”, taking place at Zuccotti Park in the shadow of Wall Street, was first reported on September 17, 2011, that it would lead to a pay raise for federally contracted workers in the US by virtue of an announcement by President Obama in his State of the Union speech to Congress on January 28, 2014? As tenuous as the above link may appear at first glance, I believe that it demonstrates the potency and enduring power of public protests which capture the imagination and mood of the populace. Within weeks, the “Occupy” movement had spread to 600 communities in the US and to 82 countries globally, including Ireland, where “Occupy Dame Street” echoed the by-then familiar chant, “We are the 99%!”. The debate about inequality and its effects was thrown firmly into the spotlight, and actually helped to shape the Presidential race in the US. One could be forgiven for thinking at the time that the Republican Party’s selection of Mitt Romney as their candidate for the 2012 election was an inspired choice. After all, America was in the midst of a recession, with massive unemployment, and here was a pro-business, “job creator” who allegedly knew how to get the economy going again. 32
US-based trade unionist Michael T. Bride reports on how some of America’s most vulnerable low paid workers finally got the President to act Instead, the election was focused to a large degree on Mr Romney’s wealth, his record of worker lay-offs while he was running a private equity firm, and even the money that he had stashed in a Swiss bank account in order to keep his tax affairs “efficient”. We were reminded of the scale of inequity in America by the revelation in July 2012 that the wealth of the five members of the Walton family – the heirs to the Walmart empire – was equivalent to the wealth of the entire bottom 40% of American families.
Jarring headline The recent report by Oxfam International which demonstrates that the world’s richest 85 billionaires have the same wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion people is so jarring that one has to read the headline three or four times just to make the message sink in as the figures are so outlandish. Against the background of this debate, US workers and the US trade union movement began a series of high-profile campaigns. The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), which is the sister
union of Mandate in the US, support Walmart workers who formed together to create OURWalmart, a worker-led group fighting for rights for those who work for the company. The labour movement also threw its weight behind the efforts of fast food workers nationwide to organise and demand higher wages, culminating in fast food strikes in 100 cities across America on December 5 last, with workers chanting, "Jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way, it's no fun, to survive, on low low low low pay”. And the trade union federation ChangetoWin backed workers who were employed by federal government contractors but suffered under horrendous employment conditions, so bad that it led 60 employees from the food court in Washington DC’s famous Union Station to lodge a complaint with the US Department of Labor on January 15 alleging wage theft by their employers. According to “Good Jobs Nation”, an advocacy group formed by these workers, those working in the food court of Union Station are owed $3 million in back pay and damages, with some of the workers in the complaint being paid well below
minimum wage and forced to work 60 to 70-hour work-weeks without overtime pay. From a campaigning perspective, the plight of federally contracted workers seemed like the one that could be addressed most readily. Here were workers who toiled in federal buildings, pursuant to contracts awarded to their employer by the federal government. Therefore, if one were to engage in an examination of the power dynamics in the employment relationship, the ultimate power lay with the federal government, which in turn provided a mechanism for engagement that would otherwise be absent. Dealing with the US government is far from simple, however.
Progressive policies The US government is divided into three parts – the executive branch (the White House), the Legislative branch (the Congress) and the Judicial branch (the Supreme Court). Although the Democrats control the White House and one branch of Congress in the Senate, the Republican majority in the House of Representatives makes it difficult, well nigh impossible, for progressive policies to make it through. And it is not just the fact that the Republicans have a majority in the House that poses the problem – it is the right-wing nature of the majority, leading to intransigence for the sake of blocking any initiative pro-
posed by the President. This desire to defeat the President at all costs was betrayed by the Republican leader in the Senate who stated in referring to the 2012 Presidential election that “the single most important thing that we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president”. Think about that. Beating Obama is more important to Republicans than getting Americans back to work, reducing the deficit or arriving at a peace arrangement with Iran, for example. With this backdrop, the prospect of Congress passing legislation to increase the pay of federally contracted workers lay somewhere between slim and none. For this reason, advocates pressed the President to use his executive Order functions to deliver pay rises for this vulnerable group of workers. executive Orders may be issued by the President where the goal is to make the Government more efficient and where the purpose of the executive Order does not conflict with a prior law passed by Congress. As President Obama stated in his State of the Union address on January 28, 2014: “Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those at the top have never done better. But average wages have barely budged. Inequality has deepened. Upward mobility has stalled. SHOPFLOOR
y February 2014
Over-consumption dire threat to us all Below is an extract from an interview conducted by the politicaleconomy.ie website with economist Dr Richard Smith who argues that the endless growth of production inherent in capitalism is leading to ecological collapse... What are main causes of climate change in your opinion?
“The cold, hard fact is that even in the midst of recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by; let alone to get ahead. And too many still aren't working at all.” The President boldly stated “...so our job is to reverse these trends.” Referring to the inability to move legislation through Congress, the President said: “… America does not stand still, and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that's what I'm going to do.” The President went on in his speech to announce: “In the coming weeks I will issue an executive Order requiring federal contractors to pay their federally-funded employees a fair wage of at least $10.10 an hour because if you cook our troops' meals or wash their dishes, you should not have to live in poverty.” While $10.10 is far from perfect, it is well above the current federal minimum wage of $7.25. More importantly, it represents a victory for those thousands of federally employed workers who took a stand to
Top: a selection of placards at Occupy Wall Street protests Above: Union Central Station in Washington DC. Activists claim workers in the food court there are owed $3m in back pay and damages Left: ChangetoWin deputy director Joseph Geevarghese Pictures: Peter Woodbridge (CC BY 2.0); Mark Fischer CC BY-SA 2.0); ChangetoWin
improve their lot. It also points a way forward for other workers and demonstrates that direct action, when coupled with strategic goals that are properly resourced, can lead to real and significant change. Joseph Geevarghese, deputy director of ChangetoWin, who has been a main player in the campaign for federally contracted workers, stated: “What this shows is that workers
can win when they act. It’s a signal that could move into the private sector with employers like McDonalds and Wal-Mart. Workers will be more emboldened when they realise President Obama is on their side.” And, in return, President Obama can no doubt rely on the support of those workers too.
Michael T. Bride is Deputy Organizing Director for Global Strategies at UFCW International Union
Learn more about the struggle of federally contracted workers in the US at www.goodjobsnation.org.
There are two main anthropogenic drivers of climate change/global warming. The first is of course the surging growth of the human population since the middle of the last century. When I was born in 1946, there were 2.6 billion people on earth. Today, there are seven billion. Since we live on a planet with finite resources, even if most of those billions consume very little, this trend is unsustainable in the long run. So the world needs to have a conversation about that, means need to be provided so that people can control their reproduction and see it in their interests to help bring the global human population back down to sustainable numbers (and by means I mean not just birth control, but all the social services including pensions, socialised healthcare and so on so that people do not need to depend upon their children to support them in their old age). But the more important driver is capitalism. For while human populations have tripled, the consumption of raw materials has multiplied many times over the rate of population growth. And that is owing to an economic system in which producers produce for market, in which market competition drives industries constantly innovate, cut costs, grow production, grow the firm, find and create new markets, push for ever shorter production/model/fashion cycles in every product line possible, thereby driving massive overconsumption of raw materials/sinks, and so on. This is the main driver of ecological collapse because, again, we live on a finite planet. So endless growth of production is, by definition, doomed to end in collapse.
Stark warning: Richard Smith
Climate change is not the only feature of the ecological crisis, what are its other main features? First, resource overconsumption – everything from fish to forests, minerals to oil, fresh water, you name it, we’re unsustainably consuming it. Second, pollution, especially toxic pollution: mountains of trash around the planet. New forms of unrecyclable trash – ewaste, etc. The wanton spraying of deliberate poisons all over crop lands, forests, etc. The use of the oceans as dumps. This will do us in in the end. Look at China. They could turn off the coal-fired power plants tomorrow. But now that they’ve poisoned virtually all the fresh water sources, and ever more of the cropland is being destroyed by toxic pollution – cadmium, chromium, all kinds of heavy metals from all the new industries, toxic dyes and all kinds of chemical dumped everywhere. (I have a chapter on China, my original academic speciality, in my upcoming book – but see my article in New Left Review in 1997: Creative Destruction: Capitalist Development and China’s Environment). So resource exhaustion and pollution, not necessarily in that order but these two are right behind global warming as our most dire threats.
The full interview can be read at http://politicaleconomy.ie/?cat=5
I’m in Mandate... ... because I decided to stand together with co-workers. This is because as a team we can achieve our objectives and aspirations. One alone is no use. United We Stand, Divided We Fall
Pamela Atkinson, M&S Mary Street
TRAINING Members who took the Union Representative Introductory course in the Mandate Training Centre in January
Union Representative Introductory, January
‘More informed’ "The course covered a huge amount over the three days and I am going away much more confident and more informed as a shop steward. Mary made it easy to learn with lots of examples and stories." – Molly Hennessy
‘More confident’ "I will feel more confident in my roll as a shop steward as I have a lot more knowledge of how to approach things. Thanks." – Marie Finnerty
‘Very interesting’ "I found this course very interesting. I would recommend all shop stewards to go for this training course. Our tutor Mary Mulhall was excellent and very helpful." – Laura Corrigan
‘Gained knowledge’ "I found the course was well informed on all subjects. I gained more knowledge on what to do." – Paul Counihan
‘Big thank you’
"I found the course very interesting and would like to learn more. A big thank you to all involved." – Breda Byrne
‘Enjoyed the course’ "I found the course very interesting. I learned a lot that I didn't know. All of the other members on the course were so involved. I enjoyed the course very much." – Sharon Moran
‘Extremely grateful’ "I found the Union Representative Introductory course very interesting. There are a lot of different scenarios to deal with as a shop steward. I feel I now have more information to best represent my fellow members. The tutor simplified the workload and she was very approachable. I feel extremely grateful for the knowledge I've been given." – Martin Mahony
Polish members of the union who took the Mandate Business English course recently in Killarney. From left: Magda Jeziorska, Piotr Bies, Artur Jarosz, Agnieszka Skiba, Malgorzata Szczygiel, Alicja Modrzejewska, Arek Mazur, Dawid Pietowski and Michal Stopa
SHOPFLOOR KEEPS YOU INFORMED... HELP KEEP US INFORMED BY EMAILING STORIES & PICTURES ABOUT YOUR WORKPLACE
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y February 2014
The Executive Council has decided to sponsor 30 full scholarships to Irish Colleges in the Gaeltacht during the summer of 2014. The Scholarships will cover accommodation for 22 days and course fees and will be awarded under the following conditions: 1. If your nominee is successful in the draw, but is unable to attend the scholarship course available and if notice of cancellation is not received in time to pass the vacant spot on to another child, the original winner will be obliged to pay for the course in full. 2. Scholarships are for children, sisters and brothers of members of MANDATE who are benefit members as at 1st January 2014. Benefit members are those who are not more than eight weeks in arrears with contributions at that date.
3. Children must be between the ages of 10 and 18 years. 4. Applications must be made on the official form provided, each form to cover one child only. 5. Only one application per child is allowed. 6. Scholarships will be awarded by means of a draw which will take place at a date and time to be decided by the National Executive Council. 7. Closing date for applications will be Wednesday 26th February 2014. Applications received after that date will not be eligible for the draw. 8.The decision of the Executive Council on all matters relating to this scheme shall be final. 9. Scholarships will not be transferable. Yours fraternally John Douglas General Secretary
The Union of Retail, Bar and Administrative Workers.
GAELTACHT SCHOLARSHIPS 2014 ENTRY FORM
I hereby declare that I am a benefit member of MANDATE and I wish to enter my son/daughter/brother/sister below for inclusion in the draw for Gaeltacht Scholarships which is to take place in accordance with the conditions above. PLEASE COMPLETE IN BLOCK LETTERS
NOTE: CLOSING DATE FOR ENTRIES WEDNESDAY 26TH FEBRUARY 2014 ONE APPLICATION PER CHILD ONLY
SURNAME OF CHILD ..........................................................................
DATE OF BIRTH ...................................................................................
NAME OF UNION MEMBER ................................................................
CONTACT TELEPHONE NO.................................................................
RELATIONSHIP TO CHILD...................................................................
PLACE OF EMPLOYMENT ..................................................................
UNION DIVISION........................... UNION NO..................................... I agree to be bound by all conditions and decisions of the Executive Council.
Date:________________________ For official use only...
Send completed application forms to: Ms Louise Foy, Mandate Trade Union, Oâ€™Lehane House, 9 Cavendish Row, Dublin 1
Mandate Shop Stewards Training Programme 2014 Course Title
Health and Safety Elected Reps FETAC 5
Union Representative Advanced Senior
29/30 Sept 1 Oct
Union Representative SQ Advanced FETAC 5
Union Representative Tesco Advanced FETAC 5 Union Representative Introductory Union Representative Advanced FETAC 5 Union Representative Advanced FETAC 5
Equality and Integration Union Representative Advanced Senior Union Representative Advanced FETAC 5 Union Representative Introductory
Union Representative Introductory (Superquinn) TBC Union Representative Introductory Union Representative Advanced Senior Union Representative Advanced FETAC 5 Union Representative Advanced Senior Union Representative Introductory
Health and Safety Elected Reps FETAC 5
*OTC = Mandate Organising and Training Centre *TBC = To be confirmed *Venue dates and times may vary.
Check out report at: http://bit.ly/LCeToA
Mandate Trade Union's publication Shopfloor is out now. Stories about Pennys, M&S, Easons, JobBridge, and much more.