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shopfloor mandate trade union

winter 2011


THE GovERnMEnT must act in the interests of its citizens in the next Budget – not on behalf of the foreign bankers and speculators who have wreaked havoc on Irish society. Mandate General Secretary John Douglas said: “To date, the government has slavishly taken the EU/IMF/ECB Troika medicine. “Budget 2012 on the face of it looks like more of the same as the government is committed to reducing services and increasing taxes to the tune of €3.8 billion, but the devil will be in the detail. “The democratically elected government has the opportunity in this Budget to draw a line in the sand and say enough is enough, to say that we are not going to impoverish ordinary lower and middle income families to satisfy German and French banks. “We will write no more billion dollar cheques to unsecured bond holders.” Mr Douglas pointed out that 400,000 Irish citizens were now without a job and that another 50,000 were leaving the country each year in search of a better future. “Thousands more are in fear of losing their homes – a price which we cannot

and should not pay. This government was elected by the Irish people to protect and provide for the best interests of its citizens, not the interests of foreign bankers and speculators.”

‘Struggling workers’

He claimed Mandate members did “not expect much” from Fine Gael, but did expect the Labour Party “to protect struggling workers and their families”. “We expect that the Budget targets the wealthy and those with assets. The cheap one-liners about welfare rates and welfare fraud must not act as covering fire for an attack on those on the lowest incomes.” Mr Douglas insisted that the Budget

must be about setting “a strong foundation” for “a new Republic”. He added: “A Republic built on solidarity and social justice, if not there is very real danger that those who destroyed this country will resurface and it will be business as usual for them and their cronies. “I would urge all Mandate members and their families to contact their local TDs before the December Budget and tell them that we will not suffer in silence. It’s not business as usual – you expect your local TD to act in your and the Irish people’s interests by creating jobs and protecting the most vulnerable in society.”

Picture: John Chaney

Pictures: John Chaney

There’s something happening here...

Irish supporters of the worldwide Occupy movement take to the streets of Dublin on November 12. Ordinary citizens sick to their back teeth of corporate greed and political mismanagement marched from the Garden of Remembrance to the seat of Ireland’s finance sector at Dame Street.

shopfloor mandate trade union • view from the

Govern for us not for the bankers...

POLITICIANS have no right to close emergency services in hospitals, or close schools, they have no right to remove the services of special needs assistants and they have no right to fill the airport departure lounges with our brothers, sisters and friends. The hospitals, schools and other services belong to the Irish people. They are not the property of the political elite either here or in Europe. There is no justification for these cuts, Ireland is awash with money and wealth, but our politicians elected here and in Brussels have decided to give the money to the banks, bondholders and speculators. They have decided that the wellbeing of bankers, bondholders and speculators takes priority over the wellbeing of its own citizens. Government is about policy priorities – it’s about prioritising those on welfare, or those facing eviction or those unable to pay bills or put food on the table, it should never be about balancing the books regardless of the consequences and pain for citizens. This new government needs to prove that it understands the hurt and pain of the Irish people, it needs to stand up for workers and for jobs, it needs to tell the Troika that their austerity agreement is unacceptable and that the Irish government is going to put Irish citizens first. The Irish trade union movement also needs to reinvent itself, it needs to get back to basics, it needs to reconnect with members and their communities and it needs to give a voice to those suffering in silence. The trade union movement needs to smash the myth that “We are all in this together” because clearly we are not all in this together, the wealthy and those with assets are not being asked to pay. What is needed is a redistribution of wealth through a progressive taxation system which targets those on high incomes and those with assets. As we approach the centenary of the 1913 Lockout, when union-busting bosses locked out and starved thousands of Irish workers, we must ask ourselves, has much really changed? Today, we have 450,000 workers locked out of employment, denied respect and a decent income. Workers still do not have a right to have their unions collectively bargain on their behalf. Jim Larkin’s words in 1913 are equally appropriate today: “The great only appear great because we are on our knees ... let us arise” Shopfloor is published quarterly by Mandate Trade Union. Mandate Head Office, O'Lehane House, 9 Cavendish Row, Dublin 1 T: 01-8746321/2/3 F: 01-8729581 W: Design & Editing: Brazier Media E: Shopfloor is edited, produced and printed by trade union labour

ICTU: Growth key to unlock the economy CONGRESS has emphasised the importance of stimulating economic growth as the only way out of the recession. Speaking at the launch of ICTU’s pre-budget submission, Growth is the Key, general secretary David Begg said: “The most important deficit facing Ireland is the deficit in the demand for labour. “The most effective way to tackle our financial deficit is with policies that create jobs and develop innovative new products and services. Austerity

is self-defeating and is suffocating the economy. Growth is the key to recovery.” Pointing to the example of Denmark where a new government has embarked on an ambitious programme of public investment to boost growth, Growth is the Key outlines a number of proposals to reverse the downward spiral of the Irish economy. Check out the full Growth is the Key pre-budget submission at

industrial news €2k compo award for Penneys employee THE Rights Commissioner has awarded compensation of more than €2,000 to a Penneys employee after the company removed unsocial hours she regularly worked as part of her roster. Mandate stepped in when one of its members Lisa Wallace, from Sligo, had the hours – which were subject to a premium payment – removed unilaterally. The hours were described as

being of “considerable importance to the member”. Mandate accepted that Ms Wallace was no longer required to work the hours due to a revamp in Penneys’ delivery operation, but argued that her employer was responsible “either to protect our member’s earnings or offset the obvious loss in some form”. Mandate was unable to persuade Penneys of its obligations on the issue through the normal com-

Fashion staff ‘collectively’ join Mandate A MANDATE official has claimed clued-in shop workers at the Alexon Group in Galway joined Mandate “in the nick of time” so they could have their union application forms processed before the fashion company was bought over by private equity firm Sun European Partners on September 29. Divisional organiser John Carty said: “As these workers joined Mandate in a group as opposed to individuals, Mandate were able to fast-track their applications so that they became full benefit members before the transfer of ownership of their company. “Therefore, as union members they will have the assurance that their rights as workers subject to an ownership transfer will be monitored by Mandate.” He emphasised that if the Sun European Partners breached the legal entitlement of the new Mandate members “for any reason”, the union would be able to “make representations and, if necessary, prosecute cases on their behalf”. Mr Carty added: “Additionally, as these employees are now members of a union, these workers will have the legal entitlement to engage in a strike or other form of industrial action should they decide collectively such a course of action is required. “Obviously, it is hoped that such a course of action will not be required. Mandate has met with the company and it is expected that further meetings may be necessary.”

pany/union grievance process and had no alternative but to refer the matter to the Rights Commissioner. At a subsequent hearing, the Rights Commissioner found that Penneys had a responsibility to offset Ms Wallace’s loss of earnings as a result of its actions, upholding Mandate’s arguments. Ms Wallace received a total of €2,106 in compensation which has been paid by her employer.

Mandate backs Sinn Fein bill to reinstate JLCs MAnDATE has given its backing to a Sinn Fein Bill to reinstate Joint Labour Committees. The High Court struck down JLCs on constitutional grounds earlier this year, following a legal move by the Quick Service Food Alliance, a group comprising of the major fast food chains in Ireland. Since then Mandate has lobbied the government to bring in legislation that would underpin a new system of protections for workers in service sectors such as retail, hotels, cleaners and security. Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton has promised to bring the legislation forward but nothing has happened as yet. This delay means that workers in sectors covered by the JLCS have been exposed to attack from unscrupulous employers. one Mandate source said: “Maybe the reason Minister Bruton is in no hurry is because he himself offered the ‘gutting’ of the JLC system to the Troika as part of the ‘bail out deal’ – it’s just that the Quick Service Food Alliance beat him to the punch.” Sinn Fein introduced its Bill to re-establish and protect a new JLC system to the Dáil on october 7. The source added: “While the Bill is not perfect, Sinn Fein is to be commended for taking the initiative and its Bill should form a good foundation on which other parties with an interest in protecting workers’ rights can build on at committee stage.” Earlier on october 7, Mandate General Secretary John Douglas spoke on the importance of protecting workers – in particular their earnings such as Sunday premium and unsocial hours pay – at an open meeting in the Dáil of Deputies drawn from Sinn Fein, United Left Alliance and Labour. Later, Mandate activists joined a protest with workers, other unions and community groups demanding an end to the race to the bottom.

Independent Grocery Sector group set up A GRoUP of Mandate officials have been assigned to look into the possibility of organising and recruiting in the independent grocery sector – a sector that employs about 90,000 workers. A union source said: “obviously such an exercise is timely given the dramatic demise of the Employment Regulation order which up to recently offered basic

statutory protection to workers in the sector. our ability to respond to potential opportunities that might arise will in no doubt be heavily influenced by what resources are available to us once we have discharged our obligations to our current members.” one meeting of the group has already taken place and another is scheduled for the near future.

Boots ballot

LRC date for Easons talks

FOLLOWING a national ballot, Mandate members at Boots have agreed to a pay freeze until July 2012. However, in an apparent attempt to lessen its impact, management have made a oneoff payment, equivalent to 0.75% of annual earnings.

FoLLoWInG the failure of local talks between unions and management at Eason and Son over the issue of significant annual payroll savings sought by the company, the matter has now been referred to the Labour Relations Commission. A number of voluntary redundancies are also being sought and both Mandate and SIPTU are currently in consultation before all sides meet at the LRC on november 23. It is understood Mazars and Farrell Grant Sparks carried out comprehensive financial analyses of the company. Both consultancy firms have since issued reports flagging up the need to make savings, but have stopped well short of recommending the amount sought by Eason and Son.

in Brief

Dunnes talks team meets oFFICIALS assigned to the newlycreated Dunnes national negotiating team have held their first meeting at which “ongoing difficulties” with the employer were discussed. A union source said: “obviously if the solution to deal with Dunnes was easy, we would have implemented it a long time ago.” It is understood the team has identified a number of areas for consideration. The source added: “There is a clear determination that we will not continue to allow Dunnes management to sideline the union and the many thousands of our members employed in business. “For far too long they have applied a meaningless approach to their obligations contained in the national procedural agreement negotiated following the national strikes in the early 90s. “

Mandate slams Israeli attack on the Saoirse MANDATE has joined other trade unions in condemning the Israeli assault on the Irish-owned MV Saoirse in international waters. During the November 4 boarding of the vessel – part of the blockade-breaking Freedom Waves to Gaza initiative – it was claimed that passengers and crew were hosed down under gun-point by IDF commandos before being taken into custody. The 14 activists initially held at the Israeli port of Ashdod were later released. According to activists’ accounts, the Saoirse was “corralled to such an extent” during the operation that it collided with sister ship the Tahrir, damaging both vessels. Slamming the strong-arm Israeli response, Mandate National Co-ordinator Brian Forbes said: “It beggars belief that a foreign

government can deploy this level of force against Irish citizens taking part in a humanitarian mission. “This is appalling and shocking behaviour. Our government should make the strongest representations possible to the Israeli government.”

FOLLOWING recent talks with Mandate, Marks and Spencer management have indicated they are prepared to offer a pay rise to members in April 2012. A union source said: “The exact level of the increase on offer and what, if anything, the company is seeking in return is unclear at the moment as these details will emerge from further negotiations over the coming months.

Union surveys bar workers

‘Act with impunity’

An Irish Ship to Gaza spokesperson said: “This latest of 11 attempts to break the blockade of Gaza via the sea demonstrates once again that Israel is able to act with impunity when it comes to the welfare of the Palestinian people and anyone trying to help them. “It is because of the continuing inaction of governments around the world, including the Irish government, that ordinary people feel compelled to act.”

M&S commit to 2012 rise

Gaza blockcade runner: The good ship Saoirse before Israeli assault

MAnDATE officials working along with the Licensed Trade Council have started a representative survey of bar workers to gauge the scale of non-compliance with collective agreements and statutory entitlements in the sector. It is planned that data collected will be used to support effective industrial and public relations campaigns. Meanwhile, the final stages of the wind-up process of the LvA pension scheme have started. Members will be contacted over the coming weeks to inform them of their entitlements.

Membership boost after Brown Thomas success MAnDATE has reported a welcome boost in membership at Brown Thomas following a successful unfreezing of pay increments at the store chain. The union’s success came during recent negotiations with management. For the past two years, Mandate members have been affected

by cost-saving measures agreed with the firm primarily resulting in a pay freeze. A Mandate source explained: “Pay levels are normally advanced in two ways – the first being through the application of general annual percentage awards to compensate for increases in cost of living and the

second by way of incremental pay progression which is normally activated on the anniversary date of joining the company.” Importantly all losses endured by members over the period will be paid in full along with appropriate credit for service accrued. It is understood Mandate has also pushed for the introduction

of a new national procedural agreement, intended to deepen constructive engagement with Brown Thomas. The source added: “not surprisingly as a result of our recent achievements we have experienced a discernable increase in membership in this employment.”

Organising Sharan Burrow: Rights under attack Pic: ITUC

Workers rights crucial in recovery

MoRE than 400 actions were held across 80 countries to mark World Day for Decent Work on october 7. This aim of this year’s protests was to highlight the deepening trend towards casual, temporary and insecure jobs – defined as “precarious work”. The latest figures reveal that there are more than 200 million people unemployed across the world, with hundreds of millions more lacking decent, sure employment. ITUC general secretary Sharan Burrow, who addressed a special conference in Amsterdam to mark the day, said: “People’s rights at work are under attack as never before, and governments lack the vision and commitment to fix a global economy which is failing working people “Decent work – rights at work, job creation policies, social protection and social dialogue involving unions and employers – is crucial to turning the global economy around and generating the tax revenues for governments to tackle the fiscal situation.”

By Michael T Bride oRGAnISInG a union among retail workers can be notoriously difficult anywhere in the world. A typical retail store can have a lot of part-time workers who don’t see the work as a central component of their life and a lot of casual employees who see themselves as just passing through and hence not committed to changing their work life for the better as they won’t be there for a long period. In addition, there are usually a very high percentage of young workers to whom, speaking frankly, unions have had a problem demonstrating our relevance. Canada is no different in this regard, and it was against this background that workers in Toronto decided to vote to have the United Food and Commercial Workers’ Union (UFCW) represent them.

Hard working

H&M’s Square one in Toronto is one of the company’s most successful stores in Canada. When customers enter the store, they are greeted by hard working, knowledgeable sales associates who care about customers and their shopping experience. The demographics of the store are primarily younger, which promotes a vibrant and energetic atmosphere for workers and customers alike. Without contradiction to the above, workers of course had issues in the workplace, which is usually the case in any job. In addition, north America is caught in the wider grasp of an economic downturn which, while worse in the US,

Using global union links won victory in Toronto is also a concern for those in Canada. An interesting dynamic was evident in the Square one store, however, which went beyond a simple concern for one’s security of employment tenure or the next pay packet. Young workers generally, but in this store in particular, spoke about their concern for the wider environment and of their awareness of the issues being raised by the occupy movements from Wall Street to Dame Street to, yes, even Toronto. In fact, one of the workers, Jerome Arguelles, told the Toronto Star in a videoed interview: “I want to be part of the union because I believe it’s a great opportunity to combat this concept of corporate greed…” Jerome was not referring to H&M specifically, but rather to the gen-

eral environment and how he saw unions as a key part in the solution to this problem. It is fair to say that H&M initially strongly resisted the efforts of the workers to unionise. Canadian management held oneon-one meetings with workers to inform them of their preference and intention to remain union free. Had UFCW Canada simply fought the company on that turf, who knows what the outcome may have been?


Instead, recognising that H&M is a global company and that, crucially, it had signed a global agreement with UnI Global Union on labour rights, UFCW took the behaviour of the company to senior management in Sweden, with UnI’s assistance and that of Handels trade union of Sweden, which organises H&M in its home country.

‘Canada’s no different... there is a high percentage of young workers to whom unions have a problem demonstrating our relevance’

UnI Global Union is a worldwide labour federation representing service sector unions and workers, of which Mandate is also a member. Using UnI’s good offices and those of the H&M union in Sweden, UFCW persuaded H&M to intervene in Canada to curtail the worst practices of Canadian management. UFCW Canada’s national President Wayne Hanley said: “The intervention of UnI at a global level was the perfect complement to the strength and solidarity displayed by workers on the shop floor and contributed in no small way to the victory that the H&M workers secured.” Indeed, on october 6, the workers at H&M Square one, Toronto, voted for the union. Showing that the issues that need to be addressed include those at store level, nabeela Irfan, a sales associate, said: “our store, H&M Square one, just got certified and we’re really excited as a group to begin the bargaining process and see some real changes happen in the store.” The events of September and october 2011 in Toronto is a great example of the connection between retail workers who make a stand on

Austerity policies given red card UnIonS representing millions of workers across Europe have sent a clear message to EU and IMF chiefs – the austerity measures being imposed on Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Spain are not working but are instead driving tens of thousands on to the dole queues and penalising the most vulnerable in society. More than 700 delegates drawn from retail and services trade unions attended the Union network International Europa Conference in Toulouse, France, in early october. Delegates heard speakers from Greece outline how the destruction of jobs and terms and conditions of employment had impacted on ordinary Greek workers. They were told how the media had made a concerted attempt to brand all Greek workers “lazy” and as “tax avoiders”. But the reality could not be further from the truth. Just as in Ire-

Card vote in Toulouse. Delegates heard how austerity policies were impacting on workers and families across Europe Picture: UNI Global Union

land, the Greek bailout agreement was heaping pain on workers and communities who had no role to play in creating the economic mess. There was surprise expressed by some delegates at why Irish workers and their families had not taken to the streets to protest against having to pick up the bill for the corruption and mismanagement of the Irish economy. In their contributions, Spanish

trade unionists painted an all too familiar picture to that of Ireland – a property bubble fuelled by cheap money and low banking standards – with predictable results.

Situation in Ireland

As a result, more than 20% of Spanish workers were now without jobs. Mandate general secretary John Douglas and president Joan Gaffney spoke about the situation in Ireland.

Delegates were told how the Irish bailout agreement with the EU/ECB/IMF Troika had committed every Irish citizen to repay in full the gambling debts of senior bankers, property developers and speculators, resulting in the “slow suffocation of the Irish economy”. They also explained how the Irish economy will be forced to shrink by more than 20% between 2008 and 2015 leading to mass unemploy-

ment and emigration. Conference heard how over half of the 450,000 unemployed workers in Ireland were now classed as longterm unemployed – with more than 12 months on the dole – and that each year 50,000 workers were leaving the country in search of work. Added to this, tens of thousands of Irish households are unable to meet their mortgage payments and were “living in fear of losing their homes”. Delegates were also told how of how funding for schools and hospitals had been slashed resulting in thousands of sick people waiting for treatment on trollies. Mr Douglas said: “The recent official media claims that we are on track and that we in Ireland are seen as the ‘good guys of Europe’ for taking our medicine conveniently ignores the pain and suffering being imposed on ordinary workers and

Walmart workers forge new alliance

Walmart workers hope the retail giant’s management gets the message... Picture: UFCW

Organising them young: UFCW protest. Poster produced for H&M drive, right Pictures: UFCW

the shop floor in one country, supported by the union there, workers in the company’s “home” country and their union, and a global labour federation all working together to secure a positive outcome for working people. As the world becomes ever more global, these connections between grassroots activism and global net-

UNI Global Union has formed a Walmart Workers Alliance as a trans-national forum so that unions can forge a common agenda in dealing with the US-based retail giant. Walmart has 8,500 retail units in 15 countries and employs more than 2.1 million worldwide. Unions representing Walmart workers in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Canada and the US have joined the alliance. A UNI Global Union spokesperson said: “No one personifies globalisation better than Walmart – the largest company in the world by revenue, with sales in fiscal year 2010 of $405bn. “The term ‘globalisation’ is well understood by workers the world over as they see companies move jobs to other countries at a whim. “Vast supply chains mean raw materials can come from one country, be assembled in another and shipped to yet another to be marketed and sold. “A company of the size and scale of Walmart requires an international response from the labour movement.”

Thursday, October 6 10:00AM to 10:30 AM 2:00PM to 2:30P M 6:30PM to 7:00P M Deco/Visual Prep Room

working can only become ever more vital as we strive to improve conditions for workers everywhere. Michael T Bride is Deputy Organising Director for Global Strategies at the Organising Department of leading retail sector UFCW

Thank you for your

support. We apologize

for not getting everyone’s

photo, due to time


General secretary John Douglas claimed media reports about Irish ‘good guys’ taking austerity medicine ignored the painful truth

their families.” He went on to tell delegates that what was required in Ireland was an “investment agreement” where funds rather than being pumped into a “zombie bank” like Anglo Irish would be invested instead in infra-

structure and services such as hospitals, rail, broadband and special needs assistants – investment which will create growth and jobs and spending in the domestic economy. “Ireland does not need a ‘bailout’, we need a social agenda, a vision of

how we can get our sons and daughters back working again. The Troika and the austerity economists must not win, the vision has to be more than dole or airport. We must create a society, values and opportunities for all.”

Benefit CD for teen Palestinian detainee A nEW CD is being released to highlight the case of Mohammed, a young Palestinian sentenced to 10 years in prison by an Israeli military court when he was only 15. The release, titled Lost Youth – Songs of Solidarity, features traditional Irish and Basque tracks alongside political folk and Palestinian hip-hop songs. Each year roughly 700 Palestinian children, some as young as 12, are detained and prosecuted in Israeli military courts. The overwhelming majority are detained in contravention of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Mohammed was a performer in A’edoon, a youth theatre group from Balata refuge camp on the West Bank, when he was arrested in 2005. He had been due to visit Ireland with his colleagues to perform ‘dabke’ dance and drama at festivals here. Mohammed was taken away by Israeli soldiers as the group crossed the border between the West Bank and Jordan.

Mohammed: 10 year sentence

He was kept in jail under interrogation for more than two months before being sentenced to 10 years in jail by a military court. The organisers of the original tour in Ireland are behind the benefit CD for Mohammed, who is due for release next year. And a portion of the proceeds from the sale will also go towards highlighting the child prisoner issue.

Lost Youth – Songs of Solidarity is available from various outlets, including direct at or pages/Lost-Youth-Songs-of-Solidarity/301722723176853.

Gilmore: Labour law reform is a priority MANDATE has welcomed assurances by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore that the government is “at long last” moving towards reforming current legislation on collective bargaining. Mr Gilmore, who was speaking at SIPTU’s biennial delegate conference in Ennis on October 5, also said that the administration was going to put back in place as a “matter of priority” a “functioning system” of JLCs. The Labour Party leader told 500 delegates gathered at the West County hotel: “There is a commitment in the Programme for Government to reform the current law on employee rights to engage in collective bargaining so as to ensure compliance with recent judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. “The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation is currently engaged in a review of the collective bargaining machinery, to reform and streamline it. I expect that the legislation to give effect to those changes will also give effect to the commitment on collective bargaining.” He added that the government was also working to put “back together” a functioning JLC system. Mr Gilmore continued: “The recent court ruling means that the system cannot continue as it was, and there are some who argue that it should be abolished entirely. The government does not intend to go down that route. “We want to see a reformed and modernised JLC system, and the minister is working on the legislation as a matter of priority.” Reacting to the comments, Mandate general secretary John Douglas said: “Ireland lags far behind most other EU nations in basic protections for workers. At long last, we’re seeing some movement. It’s a shame what is seen elsewhere in the civilised world as the most fundamental of rights has taken so long to deliver here.” Union-busting activities from blacklisting to court injunctions have become more widespread and are putting at risk rights such as freedom of association and the right to organise in unions. This is happening despite the fact that Ireland has signed up to six human rights treaties and ratified all the core ILO conventions. Congress is taking Irish government’s record on union rights before the ILO’s Committee on Freedom of Association Rights later this year. It is also pursuing its case through the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Mr Douglas added: “The trade union movement will proceed with these cases until robust legislation is enacted guaranteeing workers the right to have their trade union negotiate on their behalf.”

GloBal solidaritY

National Coordinator Brian Forbes outlines to GS champions Mandate’s commitment to supporting textile workers in the developing world Picture: John Chaney

GS Champions can spearhead the fight for textile workers’ rights

ConGRESS-trained Global Solidarity Champions in Ireland have a key role to play in empowering crassly-exploited textile workers in the developing world. Mandate national Coordinator Brian Forbes made the comments as he spoke to GS Champions about the Clean Clothes Campaign Ireland and his union’s involvement in the initiative at a meeting held in the organising and Training Centre in Dublin on november 4. The CCCI is the newest branch of the wider Clean Clothes Campaign network that currently spans 15 European countries. The network is dedicated to improving working conditions and supporting the empowerment of workers in the global garment and sportswear industries. Mr Forbes pointed out that poverty wages, lack of rights and poor working conditions were the

norm for millions of garment workers across the world. He said: “Mandate members are at the end of a very long supply chain, in many cases stretching from the tills in our retail outlets to the villages of Bangladesh and further afield and subsumed in a maze of dodgy sub-contractors and unscrupulous factory owners.”

Building a coalition

A key aim of CCCI is to build a strong coalition of organisations in Ireland that will work to improve working conditions in the global garment industry. Mandate, Comhlamh, Redress and the Global Solidarity arm of ICTU have emerged as partner organisations driving CCCI towards this aim. Commenting on Mandate’s role in the initiative, Mr Forbes said: “our vice-President, Margaret

o‘Dwyer, attended a Global CCCI conference in Istanbul recently and met with CCC delegates from all over the world. “This shows the level of commitment and activism members such as Margaret have for the important issue of global human rights.” on the issue of globalisation, he added: “The global economy stands at a crossroads. The casino free market capitalism fuelled by deregulation, cheap credit, financial greed, unsustainable consumerism and world production levels which pushed the planet to the brink of environmental crash has now imploded. “The time is right now for the creation of a new world economic order based on sustainability, not only economic sustainability but also environmental and social sustainability. “The global trade union move-

ment and civil society have a key role to play in this development at many levels. “one such level is Global Solidarity in support of decent work and decent standards for all workers both nationally and internationally. “GS Champions can and will make a real difference by helping CCCI to educate and mobilise consumers, lobby companies and governments and offer direct solidarity support to workers everywhere as they fight for their human rights.” CCCI will be initiating urgent appeals on human rights injustices in the global garment industry over the coming months and years ahead. To find out more about the CCCI or to get involved in the campaign check out www.clean An injury to one is an injury to all.

Fighting for justice in Colombia JUSTICE for Colombia (JFC) was set up in solidarity with trade unionists in Colombia, because it is the most dangerous country in the world to be a trade unionist. Research carried out by Amnesty International indicates co-ordinated strategies exist, between the Colombian military and paramilitary death squads, to make the work of trade unionists impossible, through assassination and intimidation. More than 2,500 trade unionists have been killed in Colombia in the last 15 years while trying to defend the right to collective bargaining and freedom of speech. It’s an inter-

national trade union issue. In early 2010, a new government came into power under President Santos. Unfortunately, trade unionists in Colombia saw no improvement in their situation. The number of trade union leaders assassinated remained high – 49 – while many trade union activists faced death threats and assassination attempts. The legal system continues to be ineffective in solving these murders and bringing those responsible to justice. While the new government claims to take workers’ rights seriously, anti-union attitudes among

employers remain strong. numerous violations of collective agreements have been reported. The Irish branch of the trade union network Justice for Colombia was set up in December 2008 and is chaired by SIPTU’s Mick Dowling. The aims and activities of JFC are: l To support and promote links with trade unions and other civil society organisations in Colombia in their struggle for human and trade union rights, democracy, peace and social justice, l To campaign for the freedom of the trade unionists, held in prison, simply for carrying out normal trade union activities,

l To support and promote a peaceful, politically negotiated settlement to the conflict in Colombia, and l To lobby the Irish government and Irish MEPs in the campaign against the EU/Colombian Free Trade Agreement. Recently, JFC Ireland hosted the visit of Ms Aida Avella, former Colombian senator and president of the popular opposition party Unión Patriótica. Ms Abella was forced into exile after a series of assassination attempts and the murder of a number of her colleagues and leaders of the party who had contested Colombian presidential elections

Austerity threat to Social Europe THE WHoLE concept of a Social Europe is being killed off “to balance the books” general secretary John Douglas has warned. He made the comments in a speech to a special conference organised by Belfast and District Trades Council on october 15. A large number of trade unionists gathered at UnISon headquarters to hear a range of speakers debate the theme ‘Building Resistance and Developing Alternatives’. Mr Douglas gave the northern audience a run-down of how a series of grim austerity budgets had impacted on workers in the Republic.

many institutions but, just like a balloon, if you keep putting more air into it, it will burst – and that is exactly what happened.” The deflationary policies being pursued by governments to deal with the consequences of this crisis were exactly the wrong course of action, he added, and risked a Japanese-style “lost decade”. What was needed instead was a strategy to promote growth and which would “invest in jobs, essential services, infrastructure and boost economic activity”. He said: “Growth is the only thing that is going to reduce the deficit. You can’t keep pruning your tree and keep pruning and pruning it and expect it to live.


He told them that a team from the EU/IMF/ECB troika was in Dublin to rubberstamp yet another attack on jobs, services and living standards of workers in the next budget – taking €3.6bn out of the economy. In marked contrast, he noted there did not seem to be “any appetite” to “tax the wealthy”. Acknowledging a general sense of “fear and hopelessness” in the South, Mr Douglas added: “We’re faced with another budget – an austerity budget – which is being dictated to and has to be signed off by the troika. our ability to even frame our own budget has been removed. “The troika medicine they’re prescribing is killing the patient. It will do permanent damage, not just to the economy but to the very fabric of Irish society.” Dubbing it “the invasion of the troika”, he predicted the current

‘Pruned to bone’

‘Troika strategy will turn Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Greece into an economic and social wasteland for decades’ EU/IMF/ECB strategy would “turn Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Greece into an economic and social wasteland for decades”. “It is true to say that Ireland is fac-

ing its greatest crisis in living memory. The origin of the crisis is well known – fuelled by cheap money, low standards and a financial disease that had infected the banking

Scaffolding boss fined A ConSTRUCTIon company boss has been fined for failing to pass on employee pension contributions to the Construction Worker Pension Scheme. John J Dolan, of Liskey, Ballinadrait, Lifford, Co Donegal, was fined €1,500 at Letterkenny District Court on october 24. He is a director of John J Dolan Scaffolding Ltd, which went into liquidation in September 2010. Mr Dolan’s firm was also fined €3,000 for the same offences. The court heard the firm had deducted pension contributions from wages in october 2008 and in May, September, october and December 2009 but had failed to remit the contributions within the time frame. This meant employees working were not covered for pension benefits, sick pay benefits or death in service benefits for those months.

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Picture: ETUC

system across the world.” Financial institutions had invented and sold junk bonds “as if they had some financial worth”. “They made vast amounts for

First meeting for Left Forum




ETUC demo against austerity earlier this year in Luxembourg





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MANDATE NEWS MAND IIssue s e 8, February uary 2011

MANDATE NEWS Issue 5, Spring 2010

MANDATE NEWS Issue 7, Winter 2010

Issue 3, Winter 2009

A Nightmare Before Christmas


WAGE MUUM WAGE MINIMUM MINIM E & SOCIAL WELFARE TES ARE SLASHED RAT RATES Mandate wishes a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all our members and their families. | email:




Universal Social Charge

Tax on lower pay

Child Benefit Cut

Minimum Wage Cut | email:

Mandate site revamped Aida Avella

Rosalba Gaviria Toro

In THE coming weeks JFC (Ireland) will host another Colombian visitor, Rosalba Gaviria Toro. Rosalba is a trade unionist and former political prisoner who was held for two years, without charge, by Colombian authorities, for her trade union activities. She was released earlier this year following a concerted campaign in Ireland and UK to secure her freedom. She will be in Cork & Dublin from December 4 to December 6, and her visit will conclude with a public meeting in Dublin on the 6th. venue to be decided. To join Justice for Colombia Ireland, go to the Colombia page under or email John o’Brien, JFC Secretary, at

MANDATE is set to launch a revamp of its website. Brian Forbes, Mandate national coordinator of organising, campaigning and recruitment, said: “We want the site to reflect the vibrancy and activism of our union as well as improve the ease of the flow of information to our members. “It’s hoped that members find it is more clearly signposted and easier for them to use.” David Joyce, of Dublin-based creative company Language, was given the redesign brief.

“It has to be watered and fertilised. At this point in time, the Irish economy has been pruned to the bone.” Mr Douglas also remarked on the attempt to “demonise” workers and trade unions over the last few years, labelling them “as part of the problem not part of the solution” and said he was in no doubt this was part of a “class war” between “labour and capital”. Concluding, he said at a time when people were “suffering in silence” on the dole queues or “awaiting the final demand coming through the letterbox”, it was vital that the trade union movement step forward to engage with communities and “mobilise with solidarity” to rebuild Irish society.

He told Shopfloor: “Even though the brand has performed well in the past, Mandate's identity is considered too ‘middle of the road’.

‘Encourage activism’

“So we want to use the design as a spur to mobilise people and encourage activism and to outline more clearly what Mandate stands for. “It is clear that the trade union movement in general and Mandate in particular has never been more relevant so we wanted to evolve the brand to reflect a more radical position.”

ARISInG out of the CPI publication The Challenge for Trade Unionism, launched earlier this year, the Trade Union Left Forum recently held its first meeting at the TEEU offices in Dublin. The Forum’s purpose is to encourage serious examination and debate from a Left/class perspective of the major questions facing the labour movement in Ireland. Margaret Thatcher once infamously declared, “There is no such thing as society” and the Forum hopes to outline through debate the fact that real alternatives do exist to that sterile vision. Austerity and debt have been foisted upon our once-sovereign nation but alternatives do exist to the political and economic agendas pushing privatisation and the neoliberalism. Mandate is committed to playing its part in working with all likeminded unions through the Forum in promoting that old – but vitally relevant – trade union slogan “Educate, Agitate, organise” to help create mechanisms for real and meaningful change in society. A source added: “This will bring trade unions back to basics so they can operate as a ‘Sword of Justice’ for workers once again.” Further details will be posted as the Forum develops.


The bankers win the Lotto,we pay for it... By Eugene McCartan Repudiate The Debt Campaign AT THE end of october the government handed over to foreign banks (or maybe even to Irish speculators—as we don’t know, and the government won’t tell us who they are) $1 billion, or €730,000,000, to unsecured bond-holders. This is almost the same figure the government announced in cuts to spending and the shelving of such important projects as Metro north—an amount that could build dozens of schools, refit some of our run-down schools, re-employ teaching assistants to help children with learning difficulties, or provide more assistance to the elderly. But this government chose to put bankers and speculators first and you and your family and community last. This is not the first time this has happened but has been going on since the government guarantee of the banks’ losses. Billions have been handed over, and billions more will be taken from your pocket, your colleagues’ pockets, from old people’s pensions, from the sick, from children. This money is coming from what you have paid and will pay in taxes and levies and in cuts in health, education, and social welfare. Between now and Christmas,

the shelves, or, if you are sitting at home and there may be two, three or four others in your home – they all owe close to €40,000 each because of this debt—a debt that is not yours, nor that of your family or friends. If there are three others in your family, that comes to about €160,000, What could your family do with that sum? our lives and that of our families and neighbours have been thrown into a state of flux, not knowing what tomorrow will bring.

Odious debt

while we are all trying to make savings, skimping on what we might spend on our families, the government will hand over another tranche of money to foreign bankers. Clearly those bankers must feel that they have won a massive jackpot in the lottery, and we are paying for it. Between now and December 31, 15 more bonds will fall due – smaller bonds, admittedly, but that

will add up to a further €787 million; and this government is hellbent on paying them, no matter what. Just think of what our country could do with such large amounts of money for our schools, hospitals, or public transport! What could you do with €40,000? Take a look around you. The person working across at the next till, or the colleague stacking

Will our children emigrate, or will my family have to leave? Can we meet the mortgage repayments? Can I squeeze a few more dinners out of reduced wages? Can I get a few more hours’ part-time work to keep things going? This odious debt is simply not payable, nor should we pay it. It is not our debt in the first place. This is the debt of the big high-fliers, those who wined and dined in the plush restaurants, swanned around the Fianna Fáil tent at the Galway Races, who lived lavish life-styles, bought yachts, villas, racehorses, and valuable paintings; the directors of Irish banks who believed that the money in the banks was for their own use and that they were not accountable to anyone, and cer-

tainly not to you or me. our lives are now controlled by the external troika of the EU, ECB, and IMF, and their decisions are carried out by an internal troika of Fine Gael, the Labour Party and Fianna Fáil in what they call an austerity pact. They tell us we owe €140 billion to foreign banks, mainly German, French, Dutch and British banks. They are all agreed that we, the citizens of this state, must pay this debt. Well, some of us do not accept this to be the case. We believe that the people should not pay this debt, as it is not our debt in the first place. We believe that this debt should be repudiated – that is, we should not pay it but disown it – and the foreign banks should be told to go to hell. We think we should put our people first. At the end of november there will be a general strike by millions of workers in Portugal. Their slogan is “Reject the aggression pact—robbery of the people and the country.” on December 6, we will be holding a lunchtime action outside the Dáil to highlight this robbery of our people and our country. We will be demanding that the bonds due up to the end of December should not be paid for a start. visit or

Austrian trade unionist Mike Huber reflects on a placement he spent with Mandate during the summer

Organising is vital to the future of all unions

MY nAME is Mike Huber, I’m aged 27 and an official in an Austrian trade union – to be precise, in the GPA-djp (Union of Private Sector Employees, Graphical Workers and Journalists). I attended the “Sozialakademie” – a school for trade unionists and shop stewards – on a 10month course. The last month of the course involves a placement in a European country. My dream came true, when Mandate informed me that I was to go to Ireland. My union in Austria represents retail workers as Mandate does in Ireland. My first day at Mandate in Dublin was on May 30. I was very excited to see how another union in another country carries out its work and I was glad to meet other trade unionists. It was a big surprise how many experiences I got there. Everyone was very nice and I met the friendliest people I’ve ever seen. General Secretary John Douglas took a lot of his personal time to show me Mandate and some areas around Dublin. I’m fascinated about the hospitality of all the people at Mandate. I noted many differences between Irish and Austrian unions and I’ve learned about the Labour Court system, the difficult work in the shops and quite a few things about organising.

To compare the two countries – in Austria, we have a good labour law. It is legal to vote on work councils. Council members enjoy a good level of protection against employers, so they carry out their duties without fearing adverse consequences. I think in Ireland it is a little bit different. The workers need to embrace solidarity to be strong against the employers. Shop stewards in Ireland haven’t got as many protections as shop stewards in my country. I’ve great respect for the work and the courage of all shop stewards representing Irish retail workers.


In my opinion, one of the most important things at Mandate is the organising work. I’m very glad that I got the opportunity to go along with a professional organiser to some shops to watch him work on the frontline. I think the organising is the future of the work of unions. Another interest of mine is Irish history. I’ve visited loads of historical places to learn more about Jim Larkin, Patrick Pearse and James Connolly – he is one of my favourites. I’ve seen Kilmainham Gaol, sites dealing with the Great Famine and many other sights. There were many different things I’ve seen but the most important thing is that all the members

of Mandate can be happy with the splendid team in their office. The management crew made a lot of time for me. I’d like to say thanks to all the officials and admin staff in the head office and the organising and training centre. I would like to express my gratitude to Linda Tanham who showed me all about the Labour Court, Aileen Morrissey, who invited me home and who showed me all about Mandate training courses, Brian Forbes, who made my placement possible, and, of course, General Secretary John Douglas who spent a weekend showing me around Dublin. I want to thank all the other Mandate people who spent a lot of time showing me the Irish union and labour system. In deep solidarity. your brother in Austria, Mike Huber


industrial news

SITUATION Mandate gives backing to Superquinn takeover CRITICAL A campaign has recently been launched to safeguard services and secure adequate funding for Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown. Mick Dowling reports on an initative that has the support of doctors, nurses, admin, catering and transport staff at the hospital as well as concerned local residents THE last 15 years has seen investment of some €100m by the taxpayer in developing Connolly Hospital into a multi-specialty academic medical centre in a new state-of-the-art building. It caters for a catchment area of 330,000 people with 33,000 ED attendances last year, has a Level 3 ICU and CCU and receives more ambulance emergencies than St Columcille's Hospital, Loughlinstown, St vincent's and St Michael's hospitals combined. Connolly's location with recently-opened direct access on to Dublin's M50 and its large area of available land makes it uniquely well suited for further development as a major trauma centre. Connolly Hospital is one of only four hospitals in the country to receive four 'green lights' in a recent HSE assessment of performance and efficiency of hospitals nationwide Recent cutbacks in the HSE have resulted in a reduction in the hospital's annual budget from €104m in 2009 to €84m in 2011. This has led to the closure of one of six acute wards and closure of clinics for four weeks of the year against the expressed wishes of the physicians. Critical hospital infrastructure developments, such as clinical IT systems and an MRI scanner, have also been postponed annually for several years. Connolly Hospital because of its rich and hard-earned reputation in clinical teaching and research has never had a problem in attracting high-quality staff and filling nCHD posts. As a result, there has never been a significant requirement for locum nCHD staff here. Since July 2011, and for the first time ever at Connolly, thanks to the failure of the newly-centralised national HSE nCHD recruitment process, our hospital has a significant number of vacant nCHD posts – especially and crucially in the Emergency Department. The repeated refusal of the HSE to allow Connolly to advertise and interview for these posts and the insistence that the vacant nCHD posts could only be filled by the prolonged and as yet incomplete HSE nCHD overseas recruitment drive in India and Pakistan has forced our hospital to employ locum nCHD staff as an interim measure.

We have just now been instructed by the HSE that our hospital cannot employ any locum nCHD staff from August 15 onwards. This in addition to the proposed closure of an additional ward amounts to HSE managementsanctioned reduction of hospital services to a level that is no longer safe. Most tellingly, the HSE asked management at Connolly Hospital to come up with costings for an 8am-8pm A&E Service as opposed to the current 24 hours. If this happens, lives would be endangered with patients having to travel to hospitals further away which are already overcrowded. Authorities have repeated the mantra that there are “no plans” to cut the A&E. But this has been said by politicians and the HSE in every single area, including just this month to Portlaoise Hospital which just had its A&E downgraded.

Lower tier hospital

So what would a 12-hour A&E would mean to our hospital? l It would make Connolly a lower “tier” hospital with reduced justification for an ICU, 24-hour anaesthetic cover and so on. l Unrecognised higher specialist training for doctors. Less attractive for high calibre doctors. Lower quality of service, with recruitment becoming impossible. l For patients, of course, it means longer queues in crowded A&Es at the Mater, Beaumont and Tallaght, with more dangerous outcomes likely for many. We can’t let this happen. Blanchardstown Hospital is a highly successful and respected hospital, in the top six nationally for efficiency and performance. It is needed by the population it serves in west and north-west Dublin, Meath and beyond. Money was put in for a new A&E building, a new bridge and ramp to facilitate access from the M50/n3. Why squander this investment by the taxpayer? These cuts and the cost to health and lives is for what – to bail out speculators and very wealthy people who gambled in the banks. nothing more can be skimmed, enough is enough. The community who depend on Connolly Hospital and the staff have to act to defend the hospital.

MAnDATE has welcomed the Competition Authority’s decision to approve the Musgrave Group’s takeover of Superquinn and claimed it brought “a degree of long-awaited certainty” for employees. ownership of Superquinn was transferred to Musgrave operating Partners Ireland – a wholly owned subsidiary of The Musgrave Group – on october 11. About 2,800 staff – most of whom are Mandate members – work at Superquinn which has 24 stores nationwide. It is understood staff had been concerned for some time about the long-term viability of the supermarket chain.


The business was acquired through a receivership process before it was cleared by the Competition Authority last month. In August, a High Court challenge was mounted by some members of the Select Retail Holdings consortium in a bid to block the sale. It ultimately proved unsuccessful. At the time of the legal challenge, the union made a judgement call to support the bid by Musgrave, which already owns Supervalu, Centra and Daybreak. This was based on information available to the union and was largely influenced by the track records of both the prospective and previous owners.

According to the union, the new owners have a level of expertise and financial clout that did not exist over the last number of years. Crucially the new owners have also undertaken to maintain employment levels, continuity of service along with all established terms and conditions of employment, including pensions. Speaking after a meeting of the national Company Forum on october 14, Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light said: “Initial signs appear good in that the all terms and conditions have been protected and the new management team have given a clear indication that they are

Musgrave FACTBOX Group l Family-run business established 135 years ago with head office based in Cork l Operations in Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, UK and Spain l Owner of leading brands such as, SuperValu, Centra, Budgens and Dialprix l Weekly brands serve more than 20 million customers l Combined annual turnover of €6.5 billion l 50,000 employed either directly or in stores associated with brands

Gerry Light: ’Intial signs appear good’

prepared to work in a constructive manner with the trade unions in order to secure and grow the business into the future. “By and large, the Superquinn business has in recent years been starved of relevant expertise and meaningful financial investment.

‘Potentially fatal’

“This coming as it did during the most severe economic recession to hit the country created a real and potentially fatal challenge which could have easily resulted in the entire collapse of the business. Thankfully, this has been averted.” Mr Light added: “However, it is not a time for complacency as many difficult issues remain to be confronted and these will be subject to formal negotiations between the union and management over the coming weeks.”

Concern raised over DAA request MAnDATE has received correspondence from management at Dublin Airport Authority seeking a meeting to discuss the future operation of the Distribution Centre and Pier B in Terminal 1. A union source described the development as “a matter of considerable concern” considering restructuring only took place in 2009 as part of the Cost Recovery Programme Agreement. “There is real concern that the company’s intentions are to introduce further redundancies and to outsource the distribution operation.” Talks are continuing over a procedural agreement, pay

progression and rosters that will apply to members employed by Airport Consolidated Services Limited, a subsidiary of the DAA. A meeting is scheduled for november 22 in a final bid to broker a deal. A series of conciliation conferences have also been scheduled in an attempt to address the IASS pension scheme, which currently shows a deficit of €600 million. The source added: “These are difficult negotiations as there are three employers involved – DAA, Aer Lingus and SR Technics.”

Fears grow over refuges shortfall WoMEn and children looking for safety could not be accommodated on more than 3,000 occasions last year because domestic violence refuges were either full or were unavailable in a particular area. According to Safe Ireland – this represents a massive 38% hike on figures for 2009. Safe Ireland – a national organisation for 39 frontline domestic violence services – also revealed that it had helped 7,235 women last year. Women who felt under threat made a total of 38,629 calls to helplines during the same period. Referring to the figures contained in Safe Ireland’s 2010 National Statis-

tics on Domestic Violence report, director Sharon o’Halloran said: “When a woman leaves her house with her children, often in the middle of the night, she should expect to be accommodated safely behind the first door she knocks on. “While accommodation is found for all women who come to a refuge, if it is not immediately available, it only prolongs stress and anxiety.” Ireland has just a third of the refuge capacity recommended by the Council of Europe. Mandate has added its voice to the call for better provision for women and children who are victims of domestic violence. Aileen Morrisey, the

union’s co-ordinator for training and development, said: “As a union, Mandate has a high proportion of women as members – and officials of the union have, on occasion, had to help and advise members when issues regarding domestic violence impacted in the workplace. “The role of Mandate's officials is one of support and, given the complexities of the situation, would direct members to contact organisations which assist victims of domestic violence. “Mandate calls for resources to be made available in order to ensure that refuges are available to victims of domestic violence.”

For times they are BoB Dylan could have been writing about these times when he composed the lyrics ‘the times they are a changing’ This was never so apparent than on a recent trip to the US to connect with social and economic justice organisations. Most striking was the shift in the parameters of the public debate about wealth, income inequality and social mobility, all in the space of a few months. Mainstream print media and Tv networks are now regularly carrying stories and editorials questioning how much inequality can be tolerated and if wealth redistribution is necessary to save the country from the abyss. Underpinning much of the debate is the realisation that the land of opportunity or the so-called ‘America Dream’ is more a myth than reality. Up and down the country or in truth the east and west coasts, the failure of the economic model to deliver a meaningful and sustainable life for so many people who call America home is being discussed and debated. The realisation that children are facing a poorer and less secure future than their parents is a very painful reality that is slowly dawning on many Americans. The aspiration of social mobility has in many respects underpinned the reasons why social and eco-

nomic inequality has been tolerated for so long. In the ensuing vacuum there is a battle royal between the ideologically left and right to claim the space that has emerged. The rise of the Tea Party is a clear example of the search for a vehicle to harness the views of the conservative value base within American society. The occupy Movement provides a much needed counter force. Interestingly the similarities to be found in the manner with which they organise, cannot be overlooked or undermined.

Picture: NNU

By Siobhan O’Donoghue



Horizontal governance and leadership, grass roots mobilisation, an emphasis on values, flexibility and use of online advocacy are proving to be powerful features of this new form of movement building on all sides of the ideological divide and in many respects are leaving the traditional institutions standing in their wake. The occupy Movement in the space of a few months has generated more space for the progressive left than any other development in decades. Recent opinion polls show widespread support for the ideals of the movement. Many activists involved in social, economic and labour rights work all echo the sentiment that key issues especially income inequality have gone from being a marginal to a mainstream concern.

tions, trade unions and others. It is realised that the key is not to attempt to coordinate, structure or manage this phenomenon but to get behind it practically and publically. The overriding sense is that ‘business as usual’ is no longer good enough and the challenge this presents to traditional methods and organisations is immense. The attack on immigrant rights, trade unions and social justice work has gained significant ground in recent years.

Say it loud: US union National Nurses United march on Wall Street earlier this year

There is a growing consensus that the occupy Movement is providing the vital oxygen for progressive ideas and campaigns. The debate about what demands it has

and exactly what it stands for are largely seen as irrelevant. What matters is that it has an energy that is resonating with the mainstream and social organisa-

This attack received a boost in the past year as the Republicans took control of the majority of state legislators. Socially progressive laws have been flipped or regressive ones passed. Anti immigrant laws have been introduced in a number of states. Undocumented children in Alabama are to be reported by teachers and police powers extended. The political climate is such that the wildly supported Dream Act, which would enable children born and educated in the US to be regularised, cannot be passed into law at national level because of the political stalemate on Capital Hill. In a number of states, anti union laws have been introduced including the limitation of negotiating rights in the public sector and making the collection of dues very difficult. Alongside this concerted effort is the reality that union den-

thinKinG outloud...

There’s something happening here: Protest placards from Occupy Wall Street

a changing sity is at its all time lowest. The light in the tunnel is the new forms of organising and and alliance building taking place across civil society. Politicalisation of union members and sharing of resources and priorities are just some of the ways in which unions are fighting back. In many cities unions have become active in supporting the local occupy movement. Initatives like the Working Families Party, an initiative of several unions in new York State demonstrates really innovative ways of exerting political pressure through the fusion voting system there. It is impossible to avoid the dominant role of the media in US politics. The 24/7 news cycle is relentless. Social change organisations require 24-hour tactics to keep up, never mind get ahead. Like in Ireland, the framing of public debate is crucial to gaining public support for socially and economic just policies. The role of Tv networks in shaping pubic opinion is very significant and many civil society organisations spend much of their time participating in debates where the terms of the discussion guarantee that they can not progress their goals i.e. debates about budget cuts rather than focusing on jobs. The refreshing counter movement is the re-energised effort to rebuild from the bottom up. Grass

roots mobilisation of union members, community members – geographical and interest based, students, faith communities, progressive thinkers are now considering the most powerful and successful approach to sustainable social change. organisations and unions are pooling their energy, are sharing their resources and skills and joining forces to hold the line of decency at a state and national level.

Pictures: CC Peter Woodbridge

Is a decent living wage too much to expect?

forward. The risks are obvious but in general the feeling is one that they ultimately have more to gain from cooperating than competing for space, funding and recognition. The obstacles are immense but the possibilities for change are crystalising in a way never known before. The energy generated through the occupy movement has real potential to be turned into transformational power. This requires decisive goals that match the scale of the problems faced on both sides of the Atlantic. Decisive leadership less conUseful websites cerned with holding power but building grass roots ownership will be key as will be the capac ity to stretch the boundaries of our respective sectors, organi sations and organising meth ods. There is no doubt that the belief system that has held soThe level of cooperation evident cieties together is no longer in the social justice struggle is realigned with the realities of peomarkable. Key issues like income ple’s lives. equality, bank foreclosures, jobs, The winner takes all approach racist immigration laws, anti-union has failed. The question is can we attacks are dominant themes. harness the anger and sense of There has been a noticeable shift possibility to break with the past away from formal coalitions to a and realise a new tomorrow. more nimble, alliance-building approach capable of a speedy and flexible reaction. Siobhan O’Donoghue is Director of MiThe interdependence of civil sogrant Rights Centre Ireland and an active member of Claiming Our Future. She reciety actors who share mutual valcently spend some time on the east coast of ues and goals has become the USA meeting with social and economic jusdriving force for moving campaigns tice, labour, immigrant rights organisations.


THE Irish retail sector could be extremely important to the future well being of the Irish economy, both in terms of employment numbers and economic activity. The sector comprises a diverse number of employers ranging from the local independent store to the multinational retailer. The sector is also vitally important for the employment of young workers and women. But, behind the facade of a thriving, flexible trading industry lies the sad reality for tens of thousands of retail workers, the sector does not provide decent contracts, contracts which provide a decent living wage on which workers can survive. Compounding systemic low retail pay rates are the even poorer quality of contracts of employment driven by employers’ greed to maximise profits and control staff. The uncontrolled casualisation of the retail sector by employers has created a sector which generates billions in turnover and profits but fails to deliver decent incomes for workers. Employers urged by a desire to open longer hours pushed out store opening times and pulled back on quality in employee contracts, in many cases the contracts offered by employers are little better than “zero hour” or “stand by the phone” contracts offering no security of earnings or times of work. These pervasive contracts are often used by employers to control the behaviour of workers or to limit protest. For example, if you protest against your treatment, then your hours of work and your earnings are vulnerable to reduction. This is just one step away from bonded labour, where employers’ decisions on your hours of work impacts on your ability to put food on the table, pay rent or make provision for children. A tool of fear in the hands of unscrupulous employers! The vast majority of retail workers are now part-time, the majority of whom are “underemployed”, which means that they want more hours, more earnings, but the employer won’t give them extra hours, preferring instead to fur-

ther casualise employment and offer additional hours to an ever increasing number of part-time staff who in turn cannot earn a decent living wage. The Irish State and the Irish tax payer also picks up the bill for the greed of these profitable employers through income support payments such as Family Income Supplement (FIS), back to school allowances, welfare payments etc. In effect this is a State subsidy, a reward to retail employers to behave badly. Added to the misery being caused by insufficient contracts of employment is the drive by employers to reduce unsocial hours’ payments such as Sunday and out of hours’ payments. This was clear during the employers’ campaign to dismantle the Joint Labour Committees which set basic terms and conditions for workers in retail, restaurants, hotels, cleaning and security. The vast majority of Irish retailers through their membership of IBEC and its sub committee, Retail Ireland, applauded and supported the attack on lower paid workers. Mandate will vigorously campaign to force retail companies to act responsibility and show commitment to their employees by offering new contracts of employment which give a decent living wage. Mandate will raise this issue at every negotiating table with employers, particularly those who are now in bad times seeking the support of their employees in turning around the business. We say, you show your employees some respect and decent contracts and then and only then can you expect the loyalty/support of your employees. Mandate intends to expose the poor behaviour of major retailers in not providing a decent living wage for their workers. We intend to name and shame – to expose the worst practices of major retailers to consumers. The message is simple: major retailers who do not support a decent living wage for their workers do not deserve the support of consumers – many of whom are workers and trade union members.

Trade unionism


Growing and The next generation working our way out of the crisis By Fiona Dunne

By Michael Taft ACCoRDInG to the Government, 2012 is set to be a grim year. Consumer spending, investment, real wages, employment – all are expected to fall. The domestic recession is expected to continue for another year. And now the EU Commission has warned that Europe is in danger of falling back into recession. For low-paid workers, things look grimmer still. Average wages after inflation are expected to fall while Minister Bruton has targeted wage cuts in the retail and hospitality sectors. With consumer spending falling, many businesses will cut back on their costs – and that means wage cuts, shorter working hours and even lay-offs. In this appalling scenario the Government announced it will be taking nearly €4 billion out of the economy in the next budget. What can we expect? The Minister for Finance is already looking at increasing vAT and carbon taxes, in addition to the €100 flatrate tax for households. These taxes, taken together, are highly regressive – they will impact on low-income earners much more than high-income groups. The low-paid are being forced to carry the burden for the economic crisis. The spending cuts will also hit the low-paid. Child Benefit could be one target. Cuts in education and health services will mean more crowded classroom and less teaching supports; fewer and more crowded hospital wards. In short, the living standards will fall for all workers. The Government and their media cheer-leaders will claim these cuts are necessary to reduce the deficit. What the Government and their allies won’t admit is that the strategy is not working. Spending cuts do not reduce the deficit (if they did, we wouldn’t be in a crisis or in a bail-out). The growth which drives up unemployment (and all the costs associated with that) while at the same time driving down tax revenue. This is the hole that Government has dug for all of us. But instead of trying to climb its way out, the Government believes that

it only has to dig harder and faster. So how can we get out of the hole? ICTU has put forward a three-part strategy in its pre-budget submission, ‘Growth is the Key’. First is to substantially increase investment which will put more people back to work and more money back into the economy. Second, ICTU proposes new and higher taxes be introduced for high-income groups. This does less harm because those on highincomes don’t reduce their spending if faced with higher taxes – they just save less (unlike those on low incomes who have to cut their spending). Third is to end overall spending cuts which have the effect of driving down employment in the economy while reducing the spending power of people on social welfare. ICTU wants savings achieved through public sector reform, to be reinvested back into current spending – back into public services and social protection. This will increase employment and spending at no extra cost to the taxpayer. There is an alternative. ICTU’s programme will not solve everything. There will still be a long ways to go to get out of this crisis. But, at least, we will finally be heading into the right direction. We can turn 2012 from being a grim year into a year of hope – hope that we can grow and work ourselves out of this crisis. Michael Taft is a political and economic researcher for Unite

InEvITABLY these days talk about the economy swings around to the burdens left to future generations, the fatal blows of high unemployment and mass emigration on the young and the perception that all young people are disenfranchised, disengaged and disinterested. But this isn’t and doesn’t have to be the case. Walk into any school and you meet a buzz of energy and enthusiasm. For many students, there is a keen interest in the world of work and what rights they have in it, although, unfortunately, most of them know next to nothing about the realities of the workplace or the role of the trade union movement. YouthConnect

seeks to address this. Since September our team has been visiting schools from Dublin to Doneraile, Sligo to Skerries and Kilkenny to Killaloe. We have met many students, some of whom are getting ready to leave the cosy world of the classroom. For these and hundreds of other students, it is crucial that they are made aware of all their rights and what they may face in the workplace.


It is imperative that we help them make as easy a transition as possible from the school yard to the workplace. But long before students ever leave school it is important that they develop a set of skills which will stand to them throughout their lives. This is one of the reasons why we have teamed up with the Irish Second-Level Students’ Union [ISSU].

We want to encourage students to establish and participate in democratic student-led school councils. It is here that they will learn how to set an agenda, chair a meeting, analyse and assess issues, develop and negotiate positions, something similar to what we do in the trade union movement. It will, hopefully, lead students to develop their own voice and participate in decisions affecting them, perhaps leading them to question the conditions in which they find themselves later on. our ultimate aim is to connect students with the world of work and empower them to engage in decision making, be it at school, college or work. So how is this done? our YouthConnect champions, recently graduated teachers, are now visiting schools around the country and have been getting a great reception from teachers and students...

Day in the life... By Laura Dooley Youth-Connect Champion WHEn I first heard about YouthConnect, I was finishing my Postgraduate Diploma in Education in UCD and was very interested in getting involved. I got in touch immediately and by the end of the summer, myself and a few other graduates, had joined with Fiona to deliver talks directly to students. I have a dual role which is to schedule and visit schools, so it keeps things interesting and busy. Working in this project puts me in direct contact with hundreds of students and gives me the opportunity to visit numerous schools throughout the Dublin area. The work is fascinating because I get to see how each school operates, the different approaches taken and the variety of questions students ask. Each visit and class is different which keeps the material fresh and me on my toes. With an ambition to reach all second-level schools in the country, scheduling can be a logistical challenge, but all in all things have worked out very well since we started. We have been warmly welcomed by teachers and the students appear to have enjoyed the classes, particularly those who have earned a couple of freebies by answering questions. A typical visit involves an early arrival at the school to meet the Principal or vice-principal and maybe a quick cuppa. I then set up and greet the students. The presentation focuses on the 5 modules of the teaching resource pack including working rights and the role of trade unions. I aim to keep it as interactive and dynamic as possible which is helped by playing the video, shot especially for the project, getting the students in-

Youth-Connect Champion Laura Dooley: ‘Fascinating work that is very rewarding’

volved in discussions, pair work and some project giveaways. It’s a very rewarding role as the students are always enthusiastic and find the topics, particularly workers’ rights, relevant to their own lives. The best part of the double class I have with them is always when they share their own experiences and stories. A lot of them are surprised to find out that they are entitled to rights and a minimum wage like other workers. I also highlight various injustices that are happening in the world today in the hope that students will become more aware of their role in society and their responsibility to others. on a small scale this could

mean that students pay more attention to where their clothes come from and the conditions those workers have, and on a larger scale could lead to students deciding to become active in their own campaigns to raise awareness and lend support to issues they feel are important. Generally, the students are very receptive to these ideas and are interested in finding out more about how they can become involved and lend support. We are hoping that we can encourage students to get involved in our campaigns through our new, soon to be live, website, check out over the coming weeks for more information.

Newly-freed Miami Five René now in ‘legal limbo’

Reneé Gonzalez rings home after his release last month

FREE the Miami Five activists in Ireland have lashed as “vindictive” a US court ruling that prevents one of the detainees René Gonzalez from returning to Cuba. Gonzalez – the first of the five to be freed – left Marianna prison on October 7 but under the terms of the release must remain on US soil for a three-year probationary period. Four others – Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino and Fernando González – remain in prison. Upon his release and as he embraced and kissed his daughters, Ivette and Irmita, Gonzalez said: “I am to continue fighting until I die.” The five were convicted of espionage activities against the US in 2001 but claimed at their trial that they were only monitoring Miamibased anti-Castro terrorist groups. They insisted their actions were

FACTBOX Miami 5 SENT to work undercover in Miami, their mission was to gather information on Floridabased right-wing terrorist groups. Nearly 3,500 people have died in terrorist attacks carried out against Cuba in over 50 years. After their arrest, the five were accused of espionage and conspiracy offences and sentenced to varying lengthy terms in 2001. Amnesty International has described their treatment as “contrary both to standards for the human treatment of prisoners and to a state’s obligation to protect family life”.

never directed against the US. Since then a massive international campaign, supported by Mandate, has been launched to secure their

release. Simon McGuinness, Cuba Support Group Ireland’s national coordinator, told Shopfloor: "René may be out of jail, but he will only be free when he arrives back on Cuban soil. “There, a hero's welcome awaits him and the arms of his wife, Olga Salanueva, who is still banned from visiting him by the US authorities for reasons it cares not to explain, let alone justify to the international community.”

‘Legal limbo’

Mr McGuinness claimed that Gonzalez was now placed in “a kind of legal limbo” by the court move. “He is no longer in jail yet he must remain within the jurisdiction of the Miami court and daily run the gauntlet of the very Miami-based terrorists groups he had infiltrated.” He added that forcing the probation on Gonzalez was “vindicative” and a “new low for US justice”.


If we fight, we can win By Alex Gordon BEInG proved right gives us no pleasure. Media headlines in 2011 about European Union austerity and threatened default of Euro zone economies mask a grim reality. Draconian public spending cuts in the EU27 is causing economic stagnation leading to global recession as trade unions long predicted. UK unemployment rates rocketed by 114,000 between June and August 2011 to 2.57 million (8.1%) a 17-year high, according to official figures (widely regarded as an underestimate). Some parts of Birmingham now have official unemployment rates of over 10% in the city where in the 1980s, local band UB40 sang: “I am the one in ten. A number on a list. I am the one in ten. Even though I don’t exist. Nobody knows me. But I’m always there. A statistical reminder. Of a world that doesn`t care.” UK unemployment for 16-24 year olds hit a record of 991,000 (21.3%) last quarter. A new UK Chartered Institute of Personal Development poll of 1,000 firms predicts further “slow and painful” contraction in the recruitment market, which could worsen if the Euro zone crisis thrust the world back into recession. This rising tide of joblessness is a pattern familiar across Britain, Ireland and Europe. Yet, profits for many private companies are booming in this environment. Public spending cuts in Britain are driving local authorities and public service providers in education, health, transport and housing more and more into the arms of

Hands off our union! RMT members at Carlisle Cleaning Services make their feelings clear Picture:RMT

sub-contractors operating under a variety of euphemisms as ‘outsourcing specialists’, ‘facility management’ companies, labour-only supply agencies, etc. Recently two of the world’s largest such firms G4S (which manages Britain first privatised jail, Birmingham Prison) and ISS (Danish cleaning and catering company) narrowly missed out on a £5.2bn merger, which would have created the biggest security and cleaning services company and the secondlargest private employer in the world, with 1.2m employees in more than 130 countries. Firms like ISS, Carlisle Group (owned by Tory Party sugar daddy, Lord Ashcroft), Mitie plc, and others have targeted public sector contracts in Britain to provide ancillary services and increasingly specialist engineering and consulting roles, as public authorities try to cut expenditure by outsourcing employees to

firms that rely on a minimum wage business model. In this way contracts to public service agencies (universities, the nHS and local councils) and leading private sector brands (such as virgin) have become a growth area in a stagnating economy, where low pay and abusive management practices including racial and sexual harassment are often institutionalised and endemic.


RMT as an industrial union organising workers throughout public transport has tried to develop a strategy in recent years targeting sub-contracting companies in the sector. In the past few years some successes have been achieved through recruiting and organising sub-contracted cleaning workers and taking industrial action to raise pay rates towards a ‘London Living Wage’ figure, the problems of low pay in the

sector extend nation-wide. This autumn, RMT targetted two cleaning contract companies. RMT members employed by Churchills, a company with a contract to clean stations for the Tyne and Wear Metro, a local authority-run public transport system, ran a successful and highly-public campaign in newcastle for trade union recognition. Carlisle Cleaning Services, owned by Impellam Group – part of the business empire of top Tory tax exile Lord Ashcroft – has increased its profits by almost 30% to £16.2 million in the past year off the backs of its low paid workforce, yet offered the workforce a real-terms pay cut and moved to de-recognise RMT in an attempt to undermine the collective strength of cleaners. More than 350 RMT cleaners employed by Carlisle on the virgin West Coast Mainline targeted Sir Richard Branson’s virgin brand in a fight to end poverty pay on the pres-

tige train route. RMT members took 72 hours of strike action in october and refused to empty train effluent tanks or refill fresh water tanks for the weekend 4-6 november. Last week, Carlisle Group agreed a 10% pay increase along with further improvements in benefits, allowances and working conditions. In the run up to the dispute RMT recruited hundreds of new members. The deal means that since June 2010 RMT has moved the cleaners’ rate of pay from £5.80 to £7.12 per hour by September 2013, so as a result of more than three years of campaigning and building the union we have achieved a 23% increase in members’ pay. RMT General Secretary Bob Crow said: “It is solely down to the strength, solidarity and sheer courage of the virgin West Coast Cleaners that we have been able to negotiate this 10% pay deal. We have moved the cleaning contractors, Carlisle, from a 1% offer to a 10% settlement and in the current climate that is a fantastic achievement. “This 10% pay deal sends out a message to low paid workers everywhere that if you organise in a trade union, and are prepared to put up a fight that you can win. “RMT is now stepping up campaigns for a fair deal for cleaners and catering staff across the transport industry and the model campaign on the West Coast Main Line cleaners will be rolled out to other companies with the clear message that we can win.” Alex Gordon is RMT  National President

Solidarity TAx Forever!

Claiming Our Future argue for new levy on wealth

CLAIMInG our Future has called on the government to tax wealth in Budget 2012. The national movement, which is endorsed by Mandate and campaigns for an “equal, sustainable and thriving Ireland”, claims Ireland’s higher income earners and wealthy can shoulder more of the burden of budget austerity adjustments which, up to now, have been mainly borne by low and middle-income earners. CoF is calling for the introduction of a series of ‘solidarity’ taxation measures on wealth that would avoid further cuts to welfare and public services and, provide additional funding for job creation initiatives. And it’s clear that there’s still plenty of money left in the economy in the hands of the top earners and wealthy. According to the Sunday Independent Rich List 2010, the 300 richest people in Ireland are worth close to €50bn. And Ireland has the second highest proportion of millionaire households in the EU with an estimated 19,000 “high net worth individuals”. CoF states that the government could introduce a series of taxation measures on wealth. These could include, for example, high net worth Irish citizens paying their dues here so that the number of tax exiles decreases and eliminating tax breaks for those with high incomes so that they pay their fair share. Research reveals that tax increases are less damaging than spending cuts, less deflationary and are more effective in reducing the deficit. Furthermore, analysis of the impact of tax and welfare changes introduced in last year’s budget shows that those on lower incomes lost a greater proportion of their incomes than people on higher incomes. But this masks further inequality, because cuts to direct public services have a bigger impact on lower income households who are more reliant on them. Spokesperson Dr Rory Hearne said: “one of the most effective ways of enabling those with

Claiming Our Future says government has real choices about raising revenue Picture: RMT

Tax wealth - don't cut for the common good. The enormous burden on families living on low and middle incomes is unfair, unjust, unwise and unsustainable. Ireland still has the 2nd highest proportion of millionaire households in the EU. Responsible wealthy people want to play their fair part. Increasing taxation on those who can well afford it will be less damaging than spending cuts, less deflationary and more successful in building recovery.

Dr Hearne said: “The government has real choices and if it chooses it can take some of the pressure off those suffering the most by ensuring those with the most pay more. “The austerity approach is clearly not working. As consumption falls, unemployment climbs, essential services are cut, businesses close, government revenue from taxation falls and the cost of managing growing levels of poverty increases. “Solidarity taxation on wealth is a real option for the government to generate revenue which can go towards maintaining essential public services and the incomes of the low paid and welfare dependent. “Generating revenue by targeting the assets of the wealthy and high incomes makes economic sense.

‘Patriotic Duty’

Do what’s fair. Do what works.

not new, and indeed is growing the most to contribute a fair in popularity across the world. amount, a much greater amount other countries – including than they currently pay, is Germany, France and Canada – through taxation. have various forms of taxation “Introducing such taxation on wealth in place. measures on wealth is a politiIn August, American billioncal decision that can be made iraire Warren Buffett called on respective of the confines of the US Congress to make him – and IMF/EU agreement.” his “mega-rich friends” – pay Solidarity taxation measures more income tax. would involve putting in place The legendary investor – “a progressive rather than a reknown as “the Sage of omaha” gressive taxation system” as – said the US government well as applying a levy on assets should “stop coddling the and property worth over €1 Dr Rory Hearne: Time Ireland’s rich did their ‘patriotic duty’ super-rich”, and revealed that million; a levy on financial he paid an effective tax rate of transactions (Tobin Tax) and a 17.4%, less than the 33% to 41% paid by emhigher tax rate on incomes over €100,000. ployees in his office. “Low paid workers spend almost all of their The CoF warned that savage cuts to public income. High income earners on the other services are being signalled for the coming hand don’t have to spend all their money, inbudget but underlined that the government stead choosing to save it, invest in stocks and could, if it wanted, forge an alternative ecoshares or investing it overseas.” nomic strategy instead. The idea of solidarity taxation on wealth is

“By failing to take this approach the government is reneging on its commitments to fairness, inclusion and social protection. Those on lower and middle incomes have suffered enough already and are being forced, in the name of ‘patriotic duty’ to pay the most for the economic survival of Ireland. “It is time that the wealthy demonstrated their solidarity and patriotic duty.” You can play a part in getting the government to tax wealth rather than cutting services and hitting the lower paid in the coming budget by signing the petition that calls on TDs to vote for Budget 2012 ONLY if it includes increasing taxation on wealth. CoF aims to get 10,000 signatures and present these to TDs before the Budget. This will demonstrate to the government the public support for these measures. You can play your part by: l Signing the petition on l Email your local TD asking them to support the campaign. Let Claiming our Future know how they respond. l Ask your friends, family, work colleagues to sign the petition.

Building an economy for Irish society CORK’S Millennium Hall hosted the most recent Claiming our Future national discussion. The event debated the building of an economy for society. It was organized in association with PlanBetter and over two hundred and fifty people participated. The event was a response to concerns that the current economic structure serves neither the environment nor society. It is built on resource misuse, high levels of unemployment and diminished public services. The current economic structure is based on false accounting. Prosperity needs to be re-defined in terms of health, participation,

By Niall Crowley wellbeing and community rather than just money and possessions. New ways must be found of measuring progress in terms of social inclusion and environmental sustainability rather than the narrow focus of GDP.

The unrelenting and unsuccessful search for economic growth as a resolution to the current crisis was critiqued by participants. This approach will do no more than lead us into the next crisis – the environmental crisis. Growth must be robustly regulated to ensure environmental sustainability and to achieve social cohesion. Participants at the event explored a range of elements that could contribute to an alternative economic structure. Three elements were identified as holding particular potential: l A new value base is needed where the values of equality, environmental sustainability and par-



ticipation underpin economic policy. Civil society organizations have a key contribution to make in building and demonstrating support for these values l A new localism is needed that empowers communities with control over their own wellbeing. Initiatives are required to maximize the level of food, energy and well-being services generated by local networks. l A steady state economy needs to be pursued. This is characterized by a stable population and by consumption patterns at or below the carry capacity of the environment. It constrains current and future use of non-renewable

physical resources but allows nonphysical stocks, such as knowledge, to grow indefinitely. The state was identified as having a key role to play in advancing change. The state should enhance local economies, further develop the public services it provides, and regulate the national economy to stop it damaging the environment and society A consensus was articulated that change in our approach to development was not possible without political reform. New forms of democracy are needed to enable a wider participation in the decision making that is shaping our future.

Ireland’s trans-union online monthly Produced in association with Congress

Barry Gough and Jim Cusack, presenters on the Connolly Association radio show in Melbourne

Tuning in to ideals of Connolly Down Under By David Gibney HUnDREDS of thousands of young people have left Ireland in search of jobs since the economic collapse three years ago. Many have made their way to Australia, including several thousand who have settled in Melbourne. According to the most recent census, from 2006, the Australian State of victoria had over 450,000 people of Irish ancestry and more than 11,000 residents born in Ireland. There’s no doubt that has increased hugely since. With such a strong Irish heritage, it’s not surprising that Melbourne has a very active Irish community. The Connolly Association is a huge part of that community having been established back in the mid 1950s. Irish Australian Molly neilson set up this group literally in the front room of her house. At first it published a magazine called The Harp, which gave political commentary on Ireland. At the time, the meat industry and the construction industry had a lot of Irish trade union officials so it was distributed through the trade union movement and in Irish pubs as well as through regular subscribers. The magazine was published right up until the mid 1970s when the Connolly Association got a slot on the 3CR Community Radio Station and it was felt that it would be cheaper and easier to get information out through this medium. The Connolly Association first broadcast in 1975 under the guidance of Seamus McGettigan, a Donegal native who was also mad about the ideals of James Connolly. Seamus was the face of the Connolly’s for many years and strangely passed away on the same date as James Connolly himself – May 11. Since it first broadcast over 35 years ago, the show has had a regular stream of contributors. Jim Cusack, one of today’s presenters, said: “Since I joined the show more than 15 years ago, we’ve had about 10 presenters in total keeping a regular broadcast going every week. “The show plays a big part in the

in Ireland earlier this year and we’ve also covered the hugely important issue of the abolition of the Joint Labour Committees (JLC). These issues, along with the criminal bailout by Irish politicians of defunct banks and property developers are just some of the stories we try to focus on. Stories that are perhaps not sexy but have real relevance to millions of Irish people, at home and abroad,” said Mr Gibney. “The Irish community in Melbourne is growing every day. We have thousands of Irish arriving, again, as a result of bad political policies implemented by Fianna Fail and now other political parties. “others will arrive from the six counties in the north as a direct result of cuts by David Cameron’s government. Many of the people who arrive will go home at some stage, sadly others will settle down and be here for good.

‘Equality and justice’

David Gibney – a former Mandate member who worked in Communications with the union – outside 3CR radio station in Melbourne

lives of some of the Irish who moved here decades ago and perhaps do not have access to the internet to find out what’s going on at home. They rely on the wireless and our slot every Saturday morning to update them on developments.” 3CR is the perfect platform for The Connolly Association according to David Gibney, one of the show’s new presenters. It broadcasts daily and weekly shows concentrating on a range of issues including Aboriginal rights, women’s rights and workers’ rights. Set up in 1976 by members of the Australian trade union movement to give an alternative voice to the people of Melbourne, 3CR has been a “voice of dissent” on issues such as the Iraq war and the anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s. It was even attacked by other elements of the media in 1978 and said

to be “the voice of terrorism” when it supported the Palestinian struggle. The radio station has strong links with the political left and includes shows such as the Solidarity Breakfast Show, Keep Left and Stick Together – all deriving influence from the Australian trade union movement. Mr Gibney, who joined the Connolly Association earlier this year having left Ireland in 2010, said: “The show is a great way for Irish emigrants to follow what’s really been happening in Ireland. “We have strong links with unions like Mandate so we don’t just regurgitate what other media outlets in Ireland are saying. We’re close to the people who are on the ground and know what the real issues are. “We had in-depth coverage of the minimum wage cuts that took place

“For those that do go home, my hope is they will be more engaged in what has happened and is still happening in Ireland and will go home to demand a better, fairer country which is based around principles of equality and justice for all its people.” Mr Gibney concluded: “The success and longevity of the Connolly Association is testament to the pride the Irish diaspora have in their country. To paraphrase Brendan Behan, ‘other people have a nationality, the Irish have a psychosis.’ “We’ve had seven decades of volunteers sacrificing their time and energy to keep the Irish spirit alive in Australia. Long may it continue.” With developments in technology, you can now listen to the show online and it has listeners not only in Melbourne, but in Ireland, Sweden and as far afield as Japan. If you’d like to listen to the Connolly Association, you can get listen in live at 10.30pm (Irish time) every Friday night on You can also contact Connolly Association at m or follow us on Facebook or Twitter.


Tesco shop stewards meet to set talks agenda ABoUT 120 Tesco shop stewards from both Mandate and SIPTU have met to decide a set of priorities in dealing with management over the next 12 months. The subject of a pay rise was one of many issues discussed at the november 8 strategy meeting in Dublin. There was a clear demand arising out of discussions for management to re-enter meaningful pay talks early in 2012. Correspondence was then sent to management seeking a commitment on talks. A number of shop stewards were elected to serve on the national negotiation Team. They are: Denise Curran (Sligo), Dolores McKenna (Tullamore), Cliona Moore (Roxboro), Declan Murphy (omni Park), Martin Myles (Clondalkin), and Peter Kennedy (Clearwater). Speaking after the meeting. Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light said: “It is vitally important that our shop stewards, not only in Tesco but across all employments, are given the opportunity on a regular basis to come together to prioritise issues which require to be raised with their employers. “This ensures that the union’s agenda remains relevant and driven by the general membership. “It is also vital that we retain the capacity and confidence to remain proactive in our ability to bring issues to employers rather than waiting to respond to their various agendas which have been filled with many negative and regressive issues over the course of the current economic recession. “What we do now will no doubt shape the nature of industrial relations and employment relationship after the recession and possibly for many years to come. “It is crucial that we face into the many challenges that lie ahead with a sense of unity, confidence and a determination to achieve the best we possibly can for all our members.”

Alexon Group bought over SEnIoR management at the Alexon Group admitted – like many retailers in Ireland during these difficult economic times – that business has suffered across all brands. The admission, in a meeting with Mandate officials, came as it was also revealed the fashion retailer had been bought over by venture capitalist firm Sun European Partners. A review of the business is now under way and management will meet the union again once this has been completed. It is understood all established terms and conditions of employment have been protected following the transfer of the business.

Setting course for success! By Aileen Morrissey MAnDATE members are very skilful. Working in retail and the bar trades they have developed a wealth of experience and expertise which is an untapped resource. This resource is valuable to Mandate as it is our members who are the union and are active throughout the organisation in various roles. Unfortunately this resource is often not recognised by employers. We would regularly hear members question as to why their employers do not accept that they know the business that they work in. The changes that Ireland experienced over the last 10 years have been reflected in the changing nature of Mandate’s membership. Some of our members are early school leavers with others educated to Leaving Cert standard. We also have members from a wide range of nationalities, many don’t speak English as their first language. In 2009, Mandate undertook a national Training needs Analysis (TnA) to identify the training requirements of members.

Members receive FETAC Level 3 awards at a presentation at Mandate OTC in September

‘Once I started learning, I found I was spending a lot of my spare time practising my new skills and wanted to learn more’ Sarah Egan, Boots, Tallaght

‘I enjoyed the IT course very much and hope to do an advanced course next year’

‘The course has opened up a lot of new and creative ideas that I did not know were possible’

Kay Morrin, Tesco, Rathmines

Verona Murphy, Boots, Tallaght

This TnA highlighted the need for well-trained shop stewards and house committees to ensure that they could represent members in their workplaces. Along with this training the TnA highlighted a requirement for IT, communication skills and personal development courses as well as

business English. The TnA uncovered a huge appetite for training from within our general membership. Courses based on the needs identified by the TnA have been designed and are currently being delivered on a national basis. Along with Mandate funding,

other funds have been secured through Skillnets and the vEC Skills for Work programmes. This funding allows for courses to be free of charge for our members. Some courses are so popular that we have members on a waiting list. Members recognise that they can do a FETAC-accredited course and develop transferrable skills. Indeed, it is the development of transferrable skills, not just company specific skills that is a priority for Mandate. This is even more important now in this current economic climate. Mandate is helping to equip members with the necessary skills to help maintain and develop their careers. There is the ongoing difficulty of paid release for training during working hours. However, our members’ commitment to training has meant that they will come to a night class after a long day at work and apply themselves to the training needed to achieve a FETAC award. The experience has been highly rewarding for those taking part and has helped them discover their own

potential, their value to their union and also their value in their workplace. This is investing in the person, members have welcomed this and are really energised by it. Members say that they thought they were obsolete before training but now that they have upskilled, for example how to use a computer, they feel happier and more confident. Many members did not identify the skill sets they already had but the training has helped them recognise their potential. They can identify their skills and are more confident in using them. Many are now going on to further training courses with some progressing to third level studies. others are becoming more actively involved in their union. Mandate helps members gain an appetite for training and personal development and helps members advance into a world of learning.

Aileen Morrissey is Mandate’s National Coordinator of Training

mandate shop stewards training programme 2012 If you are interested in attending any of these courses, please contact your Mandate Official or the Mandate Organising and Training Centre at 01 836 9699.

Course Title


Duration of Course

Course Location

Union Representative Introductory

January 16, 17, 18

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Fetac 5 Advanced Boots Specific TBC

January 23, 24, 25

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Fetac 5 Advanced

January 30, 31, Feb 1

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Introductory Tesco Specific TBC

February 6, 7, 8

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Fetac 5 Advanced M&S Specific TBC

February 20, 21, 22

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Fetac 5 Advanced

March 5, 6, 7

3 days


Union Representative Introductory

March 26, 27, 28

3 days


Union Representative Introductory Superquinn Specific TBC

May 14, 15, 16

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Fetac 5 Advanced

May 21, 22, 23

3 days

OTC Dublin

Health and Safety Elected Representatives Fetac 5

May 21, 22, 23, 24, 25

5 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Introductory

May 28, 29, 30

3 days


Union Representative Introductory

June 11, 12, 13

3 days


Union Representative Introductory

June 18, 19, 20

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Introductory

June 25, 26, 27

3 days


Equality and Integration

July 10

1 day

OTC Dublin

Tesco Forum Training TBC

September TBC

3 days


Union Representative Fetac 5 Advanced

September 3, 4, 5

3 days


Union Rep Introductory Boots Specific TBC

September 10, 11, 12

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Fetac 5 Advanced Tesco Specific TBC

September 17, 18, 19

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Fetac 5 Advanced

September 24, 25, 26

3 days

OTC Dublin

Marks and Spencer Forum Training TBC

October TBC

Union Representative Introductory M&S Specific TBC

October 1, 2, 3

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Fetac 5 Advanced

October 8, 9, 10

3 days


Health and Safety Elected Representatives Fetac 5

October 15, 16, 17, 18, 19

5 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Fetac 5 Advanced

October 22, 23, 24

3 days


Superquinn Forum Training TBC

November TBC

Union Representative Fetac 5 Advanced

November 12, 13, 14

Boots Forum Training TBC


*OTC = Mandate Organising and Training Centre / *TBC = To be confirmed. Course venues, dates and times may vary.


TBC 3 days

OTC Dublin TBC



FAMILY Income Supplement (FIS) is a top up payment from the Department of Social Protection for families on low wages. But most people who would qualify don’t apply for the payment – it’s been estimated that as few as four in 10 of those who are eligible actually claim their entitlement. There are many reasons why take up is so low, for example, some think you can’t get social welfare when you’re in work and others worry that they’ll have to pay more tax if they get FIS. none of this is true, and with so many employees under pressure trying to make ends meet, this is one payment you should check out if you’re entitled to.

Are you claiming what you are entitled to? More than half of those eligible to claim FIS don’t do so. Camille Loftus does the sums and shows how it can make a real difference to hard-pressed households

Do I qualify for FIS? FIS is for low paid families, so there are three basic requirements to qualify: 1. You are employed: for at least 19 hours a week (or 38 per fortnight). If you’re part of a couple (married, civil partner or cohabiting), you can combine your working hours; 2. You are living with at least one child: a child is under age 18, or under 22 if still in full time education. 3. You have a low income: your total household income, after tax, must be below the level set by the Department for your family size; in 2011 the levels for different family sizes are:

Family size

Weekly household income limit

1 child


2 children


5 children


4 children


5 children


6 children


7 children


8 or more children


Useful things to know and Family Income Supplement:

What’s it worth? The amount of FIS you get depends on your household income and the number of children you have. The FIS payment is 60% of the difference between your income, and the income level for your family size. The example below shows how FIS payments are calculated.

Kevin and Susan are both working, but their hours have been cut. Between them they work 30 hours a week. Their combined weekly take home pay is €450, and they have no other income coming in. They have two children. FIS income limit


Take home pay


Subtract net income from limit

€602 – €450 =


FIS payment is 60% of payment

€152 x 60% =


• FIS is a tax free payment. • only employees are eligible – hours worked in self-employment cannot be used to qualify, but any income from self-employment will be included in your total household income. • Both lone parent and couple families are eligible, and the income limits are the same for both. • once you qualify, the minimum FIS payment is €20 per week. • FIS is paid directly into your bank account. • FIS is paid for one year, after that, you have to re-apply. • You can’t claim FIS if you’re getting a Jobseeker payment, but if your partner is working, they may be able to. You should check with the Department which payment is better for you.

How do I apply? The application form can be downloaded from the Department of Social Protection’s website, or you can request a form to be sent to you. Forms are also available from local social welfare offices. You also have to provide evidence of your earnings: your two most recent payslips, P60 and Statement of Tax Credits. If you don’t have these documents to hand, you should complete the form as fully as possible and send it to the Department. You can send on the tax documents as soon as you get them. The form includes a section that must be completed by your employer. Remember do keep a copy of the form, wage slips and tax documents – applications can go missing! If this happens, it will be a big help to have a record of your application.


Got a hopfloor story? mandate trade union

email our newsdesk at

ILO report on ‘greying’ of retail workforce A nEW report has claimed retailers will need to hire larger numbers of older workers to cope with predicted labour shortages in the sector. It is estimated that by 2050 two billion people will be aged 60 or over. This “greying” of a sector that has traditionally attracted a large percentage of younger workers was the subject of an ILo Global Dialogue Forum held in Geneva in September. The conference, attended by government, employer and union delegates from 25 countries, heard there was a need to adapt work processes and working environments to cope with this generational change. According to the report’s authors, this was essential as the retail sector was known cur-

• People who are separated and not living with their children, but who are “wholly supporting” their ex-partner (i.e. they have no other source of income), may also qualify for FIS.

workers. In the UK, for example, the 16-24 age group constituted nearly a third of the industry’s workforce in 2009. In the US, that age group constituted 29% of all retail workers. “However, subtle changes in the age structure of the industry are already taking place. “While 16-24 year-old employees still dominate the retail profile in the UK, the number of retail workers aged 55 or over increased by more than 50,000 between 2002 and 2009, even as overall employment in the sector declined. “This means that older workers now represent one in seven of the industry’s workforce in the UK.”


Demographic changes mean that the retail sector will increasingly need to recruit older workers

rently for its “high labour-intensity and aboveaverage labour turnover” and this reality had to change to attract and retain workers who were over 50. John Sendanyoye, a commerce sector spe-

Picture:Age NI

cialist with the ILo, claimed the commerce sector had in the past focussed on attracting large numbers of workers who were under 30. He said: “Traditionally, the retail workforce has included a very high proportion of young

He said that retailers had to examine their “employment practices, work processes and working environment” in the light of these changes. “Measures to make the sector more attractive to such older workers need to be developed and implemented by the social partners in the retail sector, in cooperation with policymakers. “Such measures could draw on good practices that already exist in both public and private sector organisations, covering such areas as training, development and promotion, flexible working practices, ergonomics and job design.” Mr Sendanyoye added that these demographic changes will create fewer problems for the industry only “if the right policy measures are put in place”.

letters to the editor Write to: The Editor, Shopfloor, Mandate Head Office, O’Lehane House, 9 Cavendish Row, Dublin 1

Can’t afford a 10% cut FOR the last six years I have worked for a multinational retailer in one of their Dublin stores. Recently my employer advised all staff that they are seeking a 10% pay cut and if we don’t concede there will be job losses. Well, I don’t know about anyone else, but I can’t afford a 10% pay cut. My family and I are finding it very difficult to survive on the wages I earn each week. While I accept that the retail sector is not trading well at the moment, I do not see why my fellow workers or I should have to pay for the mistakes of bankers and property tycoons and the retail bosses who signed up to upwardly only rents. During the so-called good times, my employer did not lavish me with pay increases or other benefits. In fact, even during the good times my wages were such that we barely got by. Well, enough is enough! My workmates, with the help of our Mandate shop steward are organising our shop and contacting other shops. We are not going to lie down, we are going to fight back. The members are the union, it is our responsibility to mobilise our workmates and our union against the cheap shots by employers – our union is the only line of defence between a decent living and poverty. Sandra Murphy, Dublin

Join our justice campaign I WOULD appreciate the opportunity to highlight a very important campaign which Mandate is involved in and which I feel very passionate about. The Irish branch of the Clean Clothes Campaign has been established and needs support from retail workers across the country. I would urge members to log on to and join us helping to

protect workers in the global supply chain. Workers globally from shopfloor to factory need to stand united and fight back against injustices everywhere. That's what CCCI is all about. Join us now.

Margaret O’Dwyer. Mandate Vice President Marks & Spencer, Grafton Street

and finallY...

Unions risk being sidelined if they don’t take radical path THE TRADE union movement in Ireland and across the EU must become more radical or risk becoming redundant. Brian Forbes, Mandate national co-ordinator of organising, campaigning and recruitment, made the warning at a special conference of the Independent Workers Party [Parti ouvrier Indépendant] in Paris on october 2. He outlined to delegates the impact of the EU/ECB/IMF troika-imposed austerity programme on Ireland and claimed an “internal troika” – consisting of Fine Gael, Labour Party and Fianna Fail – was intent on pushing through the measures.

assault on workers’ rights, wages, and working conditions. “The political cliques have clearly lost touch with the daily reality faced by tens of millions of people, whose lives and very existence have been turned into a nightmare in order to pay off private corporate debts assumed by their governments without the consent of their people.” How the trade union movement in Ireland and Europe reponded to the current crisis was crucial. He warned: “This will either result in the movement becoming more radical or redundant. There is no other way forward.

‘More partisan’

‘Orgy of speculation’

Mr Forbes blasted the Irish banks for fuelling “an orgy of speculation” not just in Ireland but across the EU. He told delegates: “Ireland became the fifth-largest lender in the world to Italy, Greece and Portugal and seventh largest lender in the world to Spain, exposing Irish banks – and now the Irish people – to debts of €5.1bn to Portugal, €25.3bn to Spain, €40.9bn to Italy, and €7.8bn to Greece.” Mr Forbes pointed out that current round of austerity measures were doomed to failure. “The much-heralded recovery from the 2007/08 economic crisis has proved short-lived, and the poli-

Brian Forbes at IWP conference in Paris

cies pursued by the obama administration of quantitative easing and the EU’s continuing attempts to prop up a collapsing financial system have been shown not to provide any long-term solution. “The deepening crisis is exposing as never before that monopoly capitalism has long passed its sell-by date and is in deep, possibly terminal, decline.” He said the political establishments had “neither answers or solutions” other than continuing the

“Trade unions must become more partisan and clearly identify firstly with their members and secondly to become the rallying point for the millions of unorganised workers.” Mr Forbes added that in Ireland’s case, this meant breaking with the very idea of Social Partnership “not just organisationally... but more importantly with the ideology or political values that underpin it.” Across the EU, it was also necessary to break the grip of the “external troika” of EU/ECB/IMF “over the lives of working people” as well as challenging “the internal troika” of “the political establishment, bosses organisations and the mass media”.




dublin council of trade unions

pre budget


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.


reverse the Cuts! tax wealthY not needY! for an investment proGramme in joBs!

march against

austerity Saturday November 26

Assemble 12 noon Garden of Remembrance Parnell Square, Dublin. March to the GPO

speaKers: eugene mcGlone (president iCtu & unite)•aviva shop steward lucia fay (siptu hospital cleaner)•Cathleen o'neill (community activist)


Mandate Trade Union Magazine