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SHOPFLOOR MANDATE TRADE UNION

MAY 2015

After April 2 strike, Dunnes workers vow their fight to secure decent hours and pay will go on...

NATIONAL DEMO SHOW YOUR SUPPORT ON SATURDAY, JUNE 6 MARCH DETAILS BACK PAGE


John Douglas

STRAIGHT TALKING General Secretary Mandate Trade Union

The fight is on... THE old saying “a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work” is as relevant today as it was one hundred years ago. Work should pay, a job should be a route out of poverty and a job should mean that workers are able to provide for themselves and their families. But today it’s hard to exaggerate the extent to which work no longer pays. The extent to which large companies have passed on the responsibility of providing their workers with a living wage to the State/Taxpayer and indeed charities beggars belief. At the same time, these large companies – many of which are household names here and abroad – pay their shareholders ever-increasing dividends and their CEOs exorbitant salaries and bonuses which are hundreds of multiples of the average wages of their workers. Ireland, for example, is second only to the US in the proportion of overall jobs which are classified as low paid – meaning we are now officially a low-wage economy. The share of the economic pie going to labour is falling. It is now lower than it was in the 1940s with the ever-increasing productivity and the corresponding increase in wealth going to shareholders, investors and senior management. While at the same time a growing proportion of working families cannot provide for the basic needs of their families and are depending on State Welfare such as FIS (Family Income Supplement) or part-time social welfare, or, in many cases, depending on charities. One of the main causes of this situation, aside from pure greed is that there has been an ongoing attack on labour standards and trade unions across the world. The elite of this world are very aware that a strong labour movement makes sure that workers get a fair share of the economic pie they create, so they attack unions, they attack workers’ rights and they bully governments to remove protections against exploitation. This story is all too familiar here in Ireland – we have seen Ryanair attack workers’ rights to organise, Dunnes Stores and the German discounters refuse to recognise unions, the Hotels’ Federation and the Restaurant Association attack the Joint Labour Committees for hotel and restaurant workers, the Grocery Employers’ Organisations refusing to partake in the Joint Labour Committee for retail workers, the electrical contractors and building contractors attacking minimum terms and conditions in the construction sectors and so it goes on. Any measure of decency, which provides fairness and dignity for workers is seen as fair game – their motive is a race to the bottom where workers will

work for the lowest possible wage and tip the forelock, afraid to organise. This is the sad reality in many sectors of the Irish economy today, and globally the picture is no different. In the UK and the US, large sectors of the workforce are surviving on poverty wages subsidised by the State through welfare or food stamps. It does not have to be like this, we can create a vibrant economy and society that treats all citizens fairly and provides for their needs. But there is a number of things we as workers and as citizens must take responsibility for, many of the things that impact most on our wellbeing as workers or as citizens are political choices made by our politicians – we deserve what we get if we don’t vote for change. Governments of the past have willingly allowed themselves to be bullied by Big Business and on many occasions they have indeed often become willing participants working in unison with Big Business to dismantle workers’ rights and halt progressive legislation. Just listen to the end-of-the-world scaremongering of Big Business when there is talk of increasing the minimum wage, or introducing collective bargaining rights for workers, just listen to the puppet politicians who are all-too-willing to join in the chorus of business concerns and ask yourself is it in your or your families’ best interests to return these politicians to power? The very same politicians have facilitated Big Business in avoiding paying all but the very bare minimum of corporation tax both here and abroad thereby starving our public services of basic resources to provide for our most vulnerable citizens, ensuring that each night there will be another 400 Irish citizens suffering in pain on hospital trollies for lack of facilities. But not only have these Big Businesses’ lobbying minimised their own tax contribution, but also they have created lowpaid jobs in which workers do not earn enough to pay tax themselves. So the Welfare State is being bled of financial resources from both ends – so who is going to pay for schools, hospitals, roads, houses, welfare etc? The whole Welfare State is in real danger of collapse, but the ‘one per cent’ won’t care, they will have their private health care, private schools and live in their gated communities. This is their vision of the future, a future for the few, as Warren Buffet (one of the wealthiest men in the world) put it, “There’s class warfare alright, but it’s my class – the rich class – that’s making war and we’re winning.” It does not have to be like this, we must organise and mobilise to create our vision of a different society, of a fairer society, a society that cares for all its citizens, an economy which distributes wealth created fairly. We must fight back against the cancer of low pay and poor contracts which is eating at the very fabric of our value system. So on June 6 get out on the streets of Dublin and fight back against greed, fight back for decent jobs, fight back for decent wages – economically and politically we must win this class war for our future and future generations.

June 6, 2015: D-DAY Decent Work Decent Wages Decent Future Decent Dail

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

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Roster changes and pay hike as workers get set for June 6 demo MANDATE has given a cautious welcome to bosses at Dunnes Stores conceding the union’s 3% pay claim for staff – but has insisted that more has to be done. The union said the pay rise must be implemented with secure, banded hour contracts for it to have any meaning. The May 5 move follows the lodging of a 3% pay claim by Mandate on April 16. As Shopfloor goes to press, management at the national retailer confirmed the move at a series of in-store “communications meetings” with staff across the country. According to Mandate, this shows what workers can achieve when they stick together, but ultimately the pay rise does not address the key concerns of our members. And it comes as the Decency for Dunnes Workers campaign is to stage a major public solidarity rally on Saturday, June 6. Dunnes workers, their families, friends and supporters will assemble on Merrion Square at 1pm on the day and march to Dunnes Head Office on Georges Street. Mandate Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light told Shopfloor: “This concession of our claim for a 3% pay increase is important, and it shows our campaign is making progress, but workers also need security of hours. What use is a pay increase if management can reduce your hours by two or three in a week, leaving you with less income?” He added: “Any pay increase must be implemented with banded hour contracts to ensure workers have decent and secure earnings from

week to week. At the moment they don’t know if they’ll have the hours and the income to pay their electricity bill or feed their families next month. They can’t get a mortgage or a credit union loan because of their low-hour contacts.” The concession of 3% means members in Dunnes Stores have won a total of 9% in pay increases over the last three years. Mandate claim these rises demonstrate the success of the Decency for Dunnes Workers campaign, pointing out that the campaign would continue.

Reasonable

Mr Light said: “What Dunnes workers are asking for is very reasonable and is afforded to all workers in Dunnes’ major competitors in the retail sector, including Tesco, Penneys, Marks & Spencer and Supervalu. They want secure hours and earnings, job security, fair pay and the right to be represented by their trade union.” Earlier in the month, management at Dunnes started issuing four-week rosters, giving workers the chance to plan their lives for the a month ahead. However, the union insisted the move did nothing to address the key issue of security of hours. The shift on the issuing of rosters came a month after a major one-day stoppage at the retail chain. Some 6,000 Mandate members working for the major retailer took to the picket lines on April 2 as part of the Decency for Dunnes Workers campaign. The campaign, which was launched just over a year ago has four key demands – secure hours and earnings, job security, fair pay,

and the right to representation by a trade union. The changes to rosters are another concession made by Dunnes Stores as a result of the campaign. It follows the company conceding two 3% pay increases and the implementation of a number of permanent contracts late last year. Commenting on the development, Mr Light said: “While this is obviously an improvement in terms of life planning, it can be removed just as quickly as it was implemented, and without notice. It simply means the workers know the hours they’ll have for four weeks, but offers them absolutely no guarantees for the future.” He said: “This is still a long way from where our members want to be – which is to genuinely have a voice and to have security of hours, including banded hour contracts. Our members won’t be bought off with temporary concessions.” Mr Light claimed Dunnes Stores bosses were “completely misguided” in their bid to address the issue of insecure hours. “This reaffirms the need for management to sit down and engage with the workers through their trade union on how to implement meaningful change in relation to security of hours.” And he credited Mandate members in Dunnes Stores for forcing management’s hand in making the rostering change. “There’s no doubt this concession, along with all of the other ones, came as a result of the ongoing Decency for Dunnes Workers campaign. Dunnes management can see the workers are united and deterSHOPFLOOR

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NORTH EARL STREET, DUBLIN

NEWTOWNMOUNTKENNEDY

WINE STREET, SLIGO

THURLES SCOTCH HALL, DROGHEDA

CRANMORE, SLIGO

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mined to force greater change. But they also know that the public is very much on their side. “It is encouraging to see what unity, solidarity and commitment can do, and our members in Dunnes have now proven that change is possible. Now we’ll go on to make even more long-lasting positive changes May 2015

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at the company,” he added. Meanwhile, Business and Employment Minister Ged Nash has written to Mandate stating that he will be enacting collective bargaining legislation by the middle of 2015. Mr Nash indicated to the union that the new legislation would “provide a strong and effective remedy

where employers refuse to negotiate by way of collective bargaining”. Welcoming the commitment, Gerry Light said it would see the Labour Court given stronger powers in issuing determinations that will be enforceable through the Circuit Court. “It’s important that this power

would specifically be applied where employers – such as Dunnes Stores – refuse to engage in collective bargaining with workers through their unions. There is also a commitment to protect workers from victimisation for claims lodged by their unions. “Clearly one of the priorities for

SHANNON

our 6,000 members on the picket lines on April 2 was to be represented by their union. Due to the current lack of collective bargaining legislation, they have no way of enforcing that right other than [through taking] industrial action,” he added.

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THANK YOU! A MESSAGE FROM GENERAL SECRETARY JOHN DOUGLAS On behalf of all of our members in Dunnes Stores, we’d like to thank all Mandate members in Tesco, Penneys, Marks & Spencer, SuperValu and all other employments for standing with the Dunnes workers on Thursday, 2nd April as they took action for decent work and fair contracts of employment. We also want to thank all other trade unions and members of the public for the solid support they gave to Dunnes workers on the day. Many of you brought vouchers, bought 8

tea, coffee and sandwiches. This generosity and support is deeply appreciated. Together we are stronger! We hope to see you all on Saturday, 6th June as we mobilise for decency again. Assemble at 1pm, Merrion Square, Dublin 2 where we will then march to Dunnes Stores Head Office on Georges Street to demand the decency and respect that all Dunnes Stores workers deserve.

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GENERAL NEWS Mandate shop stewards at Tesco show their backing for colleagues at Dunnes Stores

Tesco national shop stewards meeting sets talks agenda A NATIONAL shop stewards meeting for Tesco workers was held on Monday, March 23, in Dublin. More than 100 Mandate activists met in the CWU headquarters to decide a set for priorities for forthcoming talks with the company. Negotiations are due to begin on Friday, May 15 and topping the agenda for the national negotiations team will be a

pay increase and a review of the lower bands in hours in order to give more security of earnings. Divisional Organiser Brendan O’Hanlon told Shopfloor: “The shop stewards meeting was again very positive with a very strong attendance. Obviously our members are determined to make the most of the negotiations this year and we’ll be tabling

Low-paid workers suffer range of ‘unfair practices’, TDs are told THE Irish Congress of Trade Unions has told a Dail Committee that low-paid workers are more likely than other employees “to suffer from a range of unfair employment practices” that adversely affects their ability to earn a living. On March 24, Congress Legislation & Social Affairs’ Officer Esther Lynch made the comments while addressing the Joint Committee on Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation on legislation establishing the Low Pay Commission. She told the TDs: “Our overall analysis is that raising the hourly rate of the national minimum wage is critically important, but the hourly rate is only part of the problem faced by low-paid workers. “They are more likely to be subject to a range of unfair employment practices, such as deductions from wages and unstable ‘zero hour’-type arrangements in which they are vulnerable to having their hours reduced,” Ms Lynch said. “In that context, improving certainty about hours of work is as important as increasing the rate that the worker is entitled to be paid – both are equally critical factors. Likewise

deductions should not bring workers’ wages below the national minimum wage rate.” Ms Lynch, right, said any new legislation had to include provisions that ensured employers could not frustrate attempts to improve working conditions, such as efforts to establish of Employment Regulation Orders in sectors such as Hotel and Catering. Ms Lynch told the Committee that it was also critical that workers who gave evidence to the Low Pay Commission “are protected from possible employer reprisals”. She continued: “It is unacceptable that workers could be threatened – with having their hours of work reduced, for example – if they give evidence regarding their own situation.” A copy of the Congress submission can be downloaded from www.ictu.ie/download/pdf/low_paycommission_submission_march_2015.pdf

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

‘Special focus’ needed for young workers THe Youth Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has called for all those involved in the public sector pay talks should maintain a “special focus” on the needs of young workers, who had suffered greatly since the onset of the crisis in 2008.

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Chair of Congress Youth, Teresa Walsh told Shopfloor: “Young people have seen job opportunities closed off and incomes cut. Many thousands have been forced to seek work and opportunities abroad. They have sacrificed and contributed enormously to the

recovery. They now face a higher cost of living and find it difficult to earn a living wage. Restoring pay and pensions for new entrants into the public sector would be a step forward in securing a positive future for all young people in Ireland.”

their demands with the company.” Mr O’Hanlon said he fully expects the company to rely on recent events in the UK related to property write-downs during the negotiations. He said: “Unfortunately we do not have access to Tesco’s financial position in Ireland because those figures are not published. However, what we do know is that

Tesco is again the top grocery retailer in Ireland with consistent market share at one quarter of all sales in the Republic of Ireland over the past six months. “The success of Tesco, including modest growth in the past three months, is down to the hard work of all of their workers. We expect this loyalty and hard work to be rewarded in these negotiations,” he added.

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© Zul Mukhida/Sightsavers

GENERAL NEWS

You can make a blind child see When you woke up this morning, you probably didn’t think you were going to do something miraculous. But you can. © Zul Mukhida/Sightsavers

Enoch was two years old when he developed cataracts in both eyes. With his vision blurred he couldn’t even take a few steps on his own. Instead of being full of life and curiosity, Enoch was close to losing his sight for good and spending the rest of his life totally reliant on others. A cataract operation, costing A cataract operation saved just €56, saved his sight before he Enoch from a lifetime of tears. lost it forever. After a start in life overshadowed by sight loss and tears Enoch can now look forward to a better future.

Joe, left and below, at his retirement do and, above, in his younger days as a Mandate activist

Please give €56, or whatever you can afford to Sightsavers, and help save more children like Enoch from needless blindness.

Mandate official Joe Donnelly retires after 48 years service MANDATE Divisional Organiser Joe Donnelly retired in April after more than 48 years’ service to the union as an activist and an official. Mr Donnelly started his union experience in 1967 in BT where he became a member of IUDWC – one of Mandate’s forerunner unions. He became an activist and union collector in 1968. By 1971, Joe was a shop steward and was elected to the Dublin

District Drapery Branch Committee in 1974 where he later became Chairperson of the Branch. Joe was elected to the National Executive Committee in 1980 and became President in 1983. He became a full-time union official in 1989. Mandate General Secretary John Douglas told Shopfloor: “There are very few people who have given the service to the trade union movement that Joe

Donnelly has given. He has been at the heart of Mandate for decades and his knowledge on industrial relations law is second to none.” He added: “It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with Joe and to learn from him along the way. We all wish him well in his retirement and we want to thank him for his commitment and his service to Mandate and the trade union movement in general.”

Could you write for Shopfloor? Please donate today. Call 1850 20 70 20 or visit www.sightsavers.ie Registered charity number: CHY15437

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Do you have a perspective on the Irish political, social or economic environment that you'd like to share with your fellow members in Mandate Trade Union? Do you have a good news story about how being a union member has benefited you and your colleagues in the workplace. Have you a story about how you or your family are coping in the current recession. Whatever it is, we'd like to hear from you. Please contact Shopfloor at news@mandate.ie or post your article to Shopfloor, Mandate Trade Union,9 Cavendish Row, Dublin 1 SHOPFLOOR

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INDUSTRIAL NEWS

Penneys 3% pay claim goes before Labour Court MANDATE members in Penneys had their claim for a 3% pay increase heard in the Labour Court on Thursday, May 7. The union had lodged the claim for a pay increase with no concessions attached, but the company has resisted on the grounds they are seeking to introduce a new pay scale. Both Penneys and Mandate attended the Labour Relations Commission (LRC) in February in order

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to reach a settlement but instead the issue was referred to the Labour Court. Mandate’s Gerry Light told Shopfloor: “Penneys is one of the most successful Irish and international retailers. We believe that success is down to the highly motivated and loyal staff and they should share in the success of the business.” Penneys is owned by Associated British Foods (ABF) who last year alone achieved group revenue of

£12.9 billion which represents an increase in operating profit to £1,163 million. Earnings per share and dividends per share both increased by 6% . In their annual report, Chief Executive of ABF, Mr George Westin said: “…Significant progress was achieved in operating profit by Grocery, Agriculture, Ingredients and Primark, all of which substantially outperformed last year. Primark’s trading success and significant expansion delivered

Picture: Mandate

Gerry Light: ‘Staff should share in success’

another magnificent year…” The report also shows that Mr Weston’s total reward package increased by 22.65%. Penneys offered a 1.5% pay increase which was emphatically rejected by the union. Mr Light added: “When you look at the success of Penneys and the expansion that the business in engaging in across the world, a 1.5% pay increase is a drastic undervaluation of Penneys workers.”

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TRAINING

CONFERENCE REPORT

Mandate training praised for ‘best practice’ approach IN OCTOBER 2014, Industrial Officer Jonathan Hogan travelled to Brussels to attend a UNI Europa/Euro-commerce workshop, titled More and Better Jobs for Young People in the Commerce Sector. The workshop looked at recent research into employment prospects for young workers in the commerce sector, which includes retail, wholesale and the distributive functions. Participants were seeking to identify the key enablers and drivers for the transferability of best practices within the EU. Subsequently, in January 2015, a conference was held in Brussels to examine the findings that came out of the earlier workshop. National Executive member John O’Donnell and Industrial Officer Jonathan Hogan attended the conference during which they outlined for delegates the training and development opportunities Mandate provided for its members in conjunction with Skillnets. Delegates were particularly interested in the transferability this partnership approach could have across member states. John O’Donnell told Shopfloor: “It was astonishing to hear how bad the levels of youth unemployment had become in the EU. It is the biggest emergency we currently face, bearing in mind the social and economic consequences this will have on us all.” He added: “Training is of the ut-

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Jonathan Hogan

John O’Donnell

most importance to help try and solve this problem. And not just training that can only be used in one place of employment but one that is completely transferable to all workplaces across the commerce sector. “By doing this we can ensure that through investing in training, our unemployed youth and young workers are given every opportunity to gain and improve upon their job prospects within the sector.

Commitment

“But this problem cannot be solved by trade unions alone. There needs to be a concerted effort and a full commitment shown from employers, the Government, and indeed all the stakeholders over the provision of training.” Mr O’Donnell continued: “The examples presented by Jonathan Hogan to the conference were highly regarded by the delegates at the conference. They viewed it as a ‘best

practice’ model in trying to solve the growing problem of youth unemployment within the EU. “Delegates were particularly interested in the transferability this partnership approach could have across member states and, indeed, how attractive the commerce sector is to work in and how it could be to young workers, if they were provided with the various personal and professional skills needed to work within the sector.” Jonathan Hogan said: “The Irish problem reflects the current reality in Europe. Ireland’s current rate of youth unemployment stands at about 28%. “The provision of training by the trade union movement along with Skillnets and other training providers is an important tool in encouraging and supporting personal development that some workers may ordinarily not engage in.” Given the personal devastation and social impact joblessness can have on someone leaving second/third level education, John O’Donnell, who is a youth activist in Mandate, remains hopeful that the penny will finaly drop with stakeholders that training is essential if the problem of youth unemployment is to be solved. It couldn’t come too soon – currently just under five million young people under the age of 25 are without a job across the EU.

Participants on the Mandate Continuing Personal & Professional Development Course visited the Dail recently as part of their study. The Mandate group were facilitated by and were guests of Thomas Pringle TD, left, who is pictured with (back from left) Dorothy Hornby, Claire Coughlan, (front from left) Rhonda Hayden, Susan Higgins and Val Burke SHOPFLOOR

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TRAINING

Mandate Shop Stewards Training Programme 2015 Course Title

Course Dates

Duration

Location

Union Representative Introductory

June 22, 23, 24

3 days

OTC Dublin

Equality course – Facing Up to Racism

June 30

1 day

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Fetac 5 Advanced

September 7, 8, 9

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Advanced Senior

September 14, 15, 16

3 days

Waterford

Union Representative Introductory

September 14, 15, 16

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Rep Introductory Tesco Specific

September 21, 22, 23

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Introductory

September 28, 29, 30

3 days

Cork

Safety Representation for Elected Reps Fetac 5

October 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

5 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Advanced Senior

October 12,13, 14

3 days

Limerick

Union Representative Fetac 5 Advanced

October 19, 20, 21

3 days

Portlaoise

Union Representative Introductory

November 2, 3, 4,

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Advanced Senior

November 9, 10, 11

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Fetac 5 Advanced

November 16,17,18

3 days

OTC Dublin

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 *OTC = Mandate Organising and Training Centre / *TBC = To be confirmed

Venue dates and times may vary.

Joint mentoring scheme success By Karen Wall Mandate Divisional Organiser LATE in 2013 Mandate joined two other unions, the CWU and the IBOA, in launching a joint pilot scheme on mentoring. This programme was first initiated at a UNI Women’s Conference with the CWU fronting up the initiative. The aim of the pilot scheme was to put in place structures and guidelines that would facilitate the mentoring of members, both male and May 2015

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female, in order to encourage a greater participation within their own union at both local and national level and, indeed, within the wider trade union movement. As Mandate represents predominately women, the pilot scheme at first focused on mentoring a small group of women in a bid to try and break down barriers that stop women participating in the trade union movement. It is hoped the scheme will encourage more women

to get involved at a higher level within Mandate. The pilot scheme was supported by Mandate’s National Executive Council. As a result female members and staff from across the country began the mentoring programme as mentors and mentees. All the members who took part in the mentoring programme found the experience to be positive and they now participate at a greater level within their own unions, including

Carol Sheffer receives award in Cape Town

Mandate. The mentoring not only increased their sense of belonging to their union but also knowledge of their roles within the trade union movement as well as boosting their overall confidence in participating at all levels. In December 2014, at the UNI Global conference in Cape Town, CWU Equality Officer Carol Scheffer received a prestigious award for her promotion of this mentoring programme. Mandate wishes to congratulate Carol on her achievement. Mandate will continue working with the CWU and IBOA and all involved in promoting greater participation of members in the trade union movement into the future.

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GENERAL NEWS

Airport members backing for new plan in pensions ballot A SIGNIFICANT majority of Mandate members employed by the Dublin Airport Authority at Dublin and Cork Airports have voted for a set of pension proposals to end a long-running dispute. Most of the other unions at the three airports (Cork, Shannon

VIEWPOINT

and Dublin) – IMPACT, TEEU, UCATT and SIPTU – have also backed the deal. The conclusion of this process is the culmination of a protracted set of negotiations aimed at addressing issues with the existing scheme and ensuring meaningful pension provi-

sion going forward. Brendan O’Hanlon, who was involved in the talks process on behalf of Mandate, told Shopfloor: "We are satisfied that these proposals represent a positive outcome for our members, ensuring that there is

meaningful pension provision for our members into the future and addressed the serious issues that existed with the old scheme. It also brings to an end a particularly lengthy negotiation process and the uncertainty associated with what

was a challenging issue." Shop Steward Mandy La Combre, a member of National Executive for the Dublin North Division, also backed the outcome. She said: “This deal brings to an end a very complex and difficult process and is to be welcomed.”

Picture: Oxfam

Unions must do more over fight for justice in Palestine By Ruairi Creaney TRADE unionists and activists gathered in March at the CWU offices in Dublin to discuss how the labour movement can help the struggle for justice in Palestine. Speakers at the Trade Union Friends of Palestine event included Mandate General Secretary John Douglas, Basma Ghalayini from Khan Younis, Gaza, and former Dunnes Stores Anti-Aparteid striker Liz Deasy.

Speaking before the March 12 meeting, TUFP chair Mags O’Brien insisted there was a need for activists in Ireland to forge direct links with people in Palestine. She told Shopfloor: “If you can get people emotionally invested in what is happening there, I believe we can change things.” TUFP was set up after the 2007 ICTU Biennial Conference which passed a motion to support Palestinian civil society’s call for Boycotts Di-

vestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Ms O’Brien said: “The Palestinian trade union movement is among those who called for a campaign of BDS against Israel. It’s our duty as trade unionists to support this call. “Although support for BDS is official ICTU policy, I believe more needs to be done by reaching out to our membership.” The group has since been active in protests and making representations to the Government

regarding the various Israeli bombardments of Gaza. Activists have also worked with other solidarity groups to bring speakers to Ireland and have visited the West Bank and Gaza. Liz Deasy also underlined the key role unions play in the campiagn. She said: “When I look back on what our union did in 1984 and what was achieved by our actions about Apartheid South Africa, I think trade unions have a huge role to play in sup-

porting the struggle for justice in Palestine. Obviously the main thing unions can do at the minute is support the boycott campaign. Our strike helped to make ordinary people aware of what was happening in South Africa at the time. Before I went on strike I had never even heard of the Anti-Apartheid movement, but after it was huge. Thousands were involved with it. Our strike shows that small numbers of people have the ability to make change happen.”

Safety Representation for Elected Reps FETAC Level 5 Topic covered on course: • Health and Safety Legislation

• Occupational health

• Role of Health and Safety

• Identification of hazards

• Safety statements

• Accident investigation

Representative

• Role of Health & Safety Authority

and risk assessment

• Fire safety

RIGHT: Placard reads ‘Brazil first place in corruption’

Safe firs ty t wor at k! 14

Pictures: Ben Tavener (CC BY 2.0) Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this course receive a FETAC Level 5 component award certificate and may progress to other courses offered by Mandate. If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: mandateotc@mandate.ie

Mary’s Meals provides a life-changing meal to hungry children every school day. /marysmeals /mar ysmeals

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marysmeals mar ysmeals © Mar Mary’s y’s Meals Ireland, Ireland, 82 Senior Senior House, House, All Hallows Hallo ows College, College, Gracepark Gracepark Ro Road, Road, Drumcondra, Drumcondrra, D Dublin ublin 9 Registered Registered Charity: Charity: CHY16897 CHY16897 | Comp Company any Number: 4 420286 20286 SHOPFLOOR

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INDUSTRIAL NEWS

Lab Court tells Tesco Ireland to re-engage over sick pay scheme IN THE latest development involving the numerous sick pay schemes in operation at Tesco Ireland, the Labour Court has recommended that the company re-enters talks with the union.This is to help in documenting the various aspects of the scheme that have been agreed in principle. The Court further recommended that “the parties need assistance to bring about a meeting of minds on the terms on which staff transition to any new scheme” and that the services of an “expert facilitator” should be used, (LCR 20917). The recommendation was issued after the failure of local negotiations

TRAINING

following the previous Court’s decision (LCR 20808) which addressed the issue of how the company applied social welfare payments to the various schemes. Commenting on the recommendation, Divisional Organiser Brendan O’Hanlon told Shopfloor: “The company needs to approach these negotiations in a manner which reflects the size and complexity of the issue and be realistic in relation to what may be required to achieve a successful outcome.” And he added: “The company should not underestimate the strength of feeling that exists among the members concerned.”

Both parties have agreed to use the Labour Relations Commission as the “expert facilitator” detailed in the Court recommendation. Discussions took place on Thursday, March 12 and Friday, March 20 to document what had been agreed between the parties and while progress was made, no agreement could be reached over arrangements for transition from existing schemes to any new scheme. In accordance with the Court’s recommendation the matter has been referred to the Labour Relations Commission for a conciliation conference and will then be referred to the Labour Court if no agreement is reached.

Union Representative Advanced Senior Course The Union Representative Advanced Senior Training Course is for union representatives who have completed the Introductory and Advanced course and who have experience as a union

Course content

BOOKSHELF

Health & Safety course November 2014

Tribute to The Kingdom’s patriot dead

DYing For The Cause tells the story of the lives and deaths of 161 Kerrymen who died for the ideal of an independent, 32-county Irish Republic. Many were killed in action while others were executed or died while in captivity as a result of brutal treatment or neglect. In telling their stories, Tralee native Tim Horgan provides us with an intriguing social history of the county and a snapshot of life in Ireland in the 20th century. Stories include Thomas Ashe, whose funeral was attended by over 100,000 people; 17-year-old Tom Moriarty who was buried secretly by his comrades; and First World War marksman Con Healy who, though dying of tuberculosis, went on to beMay 2015

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come a hero fighting for his own country. Then there are contrasting stories like those of Patrick Lynch, who was shot dead on his doorstep, and Tim O’Sullivan, who was executed in faraway Donegal, though the two men were born in neighbouring parishes in South Kerry. Tim Horgan works as an ophthalmologist at Kerry General Hospital but has a lifelong interest in local history giving regular talks on the War of Independence in the Kerry area. He also comes from a proud republican tradition, as his grandmother was secretary to both Ernie O'Malley and Liam Lynch. Dying For The Cause: Kerry’s Republican Dead is published in hardback at €35.

 The history of trade unionism emergence and development  The of the market system  The impact of globalisation trade and open markets  Free in a modern society Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this training course will obtain a Mandate certificate. They may progress to the FETAC level 5 Certificate in Trade Union studies or other relevant training courses offered by Mandate. If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate Official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: mandateotc@mandate.ie 15


Gerry Light VIEW

from the

SHOPFLOOR Assistant General Secretary Mandate Trade Union

The truth will always out... AT the start of March I was invited to make a presentation as part of a multiunion delegation to the Joint Committee onf Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. My colleagues in SIPTU and Unite were also asked to address the core issues of low pay and the Living Wage. What happens is that you deliver a preprepared position paper and before being questioned on its contents by members of the Committee drawn from both Houses of the Oireachtas. Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, Fine Gael TD for Laois/Offaly, chairs the Committee. The main thrust of my presentation was that as we emerge from economic recession there is moral imperative on both the State and employers to look afresh at the world of work to ensure the benefits of increasing economic growth are allocated to workers in a fair way. Of course the best way of ensuring this is done is by generating decent and sustainable jobs. I was also anxious to point out that one of the main reasons why we needed statutory minimum wage thresholds was because many thousands of workers who were not members of trade unions are denied proper access to the negotiating table and have therefore no chance of extracting a just and fair return for their labour. I went on to highlight the blatant hypocritical approach adopted by many employers in that on the one hand they vehemently oppose any attempt to strengthen collective bargaining legislation while at the same time equally resisting the existence of – and the need for – statutory minimum wage thresholds. Simply put, they cannot have it both ways – it’s either one or the other. In response to the points raised by many employers and right-wing politicians that

an obligation to pay minimum wages often results in business closures and job losses, I pointed out that this was not an inevitable outcome given the way the current statutory minimum wage legislation is framed. This provides for an ‘inability to pay’ clause which any employer can submit to the Labour Court for consideration. The fact is since the introduction of the legislation only a handful of such cases have been taken to the Court. One is reasonably entitled to ask why this should be. Some employers would have you believe that the reason for this level of inactivity is because businesses are too embarrassed to go before the Court to plead inability. On the other hand, it might well be the case that the burden of proof which is placed upon them is beyond their capacity to deliver. In an effort to support my arguments I attempted to reference the behaviour of, and statements attributed to, certain individual employers and employer organisations. I was disappointed that the Committee chair, citing procedural requirements, prevented me from doing this. What I had attempted to place on the record were matters of fact – all of which were already in the public domain. These were: FACT: The primary reason we are in a dispute situation with Dunnes Stores is because this hugely profitably employer will not engage with the union in order to deal with the introduction of measures which would bring greater certainty of earnings for our members employed by them. FACT: The IBEC position strongly rejects the concept of a living wage but also strenuously argues against any increase in the statutory minimum wage FACT: The ISME approach seems to suggest that the State should step up its commitment to social transfers in order to offset the potential poverty traps associated with precarious low-paid work, thus shifting the responsibility to pay decent wages from employers to a position where the State effectively subsidises low pay. In response to this determined opposition by major employers and employer groups, the State in the form of our current Government must set out a clear vision as well as creating a culture whereby a fairer, sustainable deal is achievable for not only those on low pay but all workers. As I have already stated this is a moral imperative and essential if we are to create a society in which the general discourse around issues such as collective bargaining, statutory minimum and living wage thresholds can take place in a balanced manner ensuring that the voices of all parties can be afforded the respect, dignity and influence they deserve.

GENERAL NEWS Patricia King: TTIP ‘different to any deal that has gone before’

Picture: Photocall Ireland

TTIP could endanger rights and standards across EU THE Irish Congress of Trade Unions has claimed there are “significant and very strong reasons” to oppose the planned Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the EU and the US. General Secretary Patricia King made the comments at a seminar on the trade proposals organised by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation on March 27. Insisting that unions were not opposed to trade, she warned, however, that TTIP was “different to any deal that had gone before” and claimed it could lead to a serious erosion of rights and standards across the EU. She said: “The proposed deal will change regulations and standards across a whole range of areas and could see workplace and

consumer rights driven down to the lowest common denominator. “We also have the spectre of secret courts being established to satisfy the needs of corporations and investors, courts whose findings could not be subject to judicial review and that ultimately would privilege investors over citizens. That is plainly wrong and is an alien concept. They do not need these extra powers.” Ms King continued: “Congress is also fearful that the deal could have a negative impact on the Foreign Direct Investment sector (FDI), which employs over 150,000 people in Ireland. From our reading of the research, this could be the untold story of TTIP and the FDI sector could experience significant levels of turbulence and job displacement.”

Facing Up to Racism Mandate Trade Union has scheduled an Anti-Racism course in the Training Centre, Distillery Road, Dublin 3. This course would be of interest to trade union activists and members who wish to learn more about anti-racism in their workplace and in their communities. The course will be interactive and will allow for discussion to raise the participants’ awareness to how they can face up to racism when they encounter it. The course will be delivered by the European Network Against Racism (Ireland).

Date: Tuesday, 30 June 2015 Venue: Mandate Training Centre, Distillery Road, Dublin 3 Time: 10:00 to 16:00 Places are limited. As there is a big demand for this course, please ensure to contact Mandate’s Training Centre at 01-8369699 by Friday, 19 June. There is no release for this course.

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SHOPFLOOR

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FROM WHERE I STAND... experienced in the rest of the economy. We cannot afford to allow that to happen again. And the Irish economy cannot afford to have pay recovery confined to particular sections of the workforce. Now, more than ever, the campaign for pay recovery needs to be inclusive, and capable of expressing solidarity across the entire workforce. It is now widely expected that the state’s spending deficit will go below the 3% target set by the Troika this year. Ireland’s deficit and borrowing costs will be lower than those of France, Britain and other EU states. These are the signposts that show we’re moving out of the crisis, and they are accompanied by signs of pay movement in sectors such as construction, finance and in the multinationals. There’s also been pay improvements in the retail sector, thanks to the ongoing excellent work by Mandate. All of these are modest pay movements, but they are real signs of recovery, and we welcome them.

By Niall Shanahan IMPACT Head of Communications IT’S BEEN a little over a year since the Troika got out of town and we left the bailout programme. Last year was dotted with signposts of cautious optimism and some signs of economic recovery. But the lingering effect of austerity measures can still be felt, and what does economic recovery really mean unless you can feel the difference in your own personal finances? Not a whole lot. That’s why workers and unions need to work together towards the goal of income recovery this year. There are clear indications that the Government is keen to reach an agreement with public sector unions about how to begin unwinding the emergency legislation that was used to cut public service pay. If the emergency has passed (and it looks like it has), then there is no need for emergency laws. We need to look at how pay improvements in the public sector can be achieved.

A huge challenge for all unions this year will be to avoid feeding the notion of a publicprivate workers’ divide ... our most influential detractors have rightly identified this as the most effective political lever in their toolbox

Recovery for all

Hopefully, there will be a consensus between the Government and unions that the pension levy would be seen as a sensible place to start. The pension levy, which is widely understood as a pay cut, is applied to pay at a very high rate and at very low earnings levels. It was a crude emergency measure and, as such, is an anomaly that was caused by the economic crisis. But pay recovery cannot be the preserve of the public sector. It’s needed right across the economy. Wage movement is just one ingredient of economic recovery, and public service pay improvement is just one element of that. The whole country needs a pay rise. Wherever it’s possible, and where employers can afford to, it’s good for domestic demand. Be it in the public sector, or retail, hospitality, manufacturing or the community and voluntary sector, wages need to be increased after almost eight years of wage suppression. It’s a vital, yet missing, ingredient to foster the continuing recovery of the Irish economy. A huge challenge for all unions this year will be to avoid feeding the notion of a public-private workers’ divide. Our most influential detractors have rightly identified this as the most effective political lever in their toolbox. Back in 2009, as the pension levy was followed by the FEMPI laws that cut pay a second time, we (the public sector unions) were portrayed as ignorant or dismissive of the hardships – particularly unemployment – being

Picture: Brian (CC BY-NC-2.0)

Nevertheless, CSO figures published in November 2014 revealed that average annual earnings have fallen by almost €700 in the September-November period despite economic growth and longer working hours. 2014 saw a fall in domestic demand in September after nine months of improvement since the start of the year. It demonstrates that optimism can’t and won’t be sustained without real wage recovery. This is our shared goal, and it’s vital that we retain the sense of unity and purpose as union members that has given us strength throughout the crisis.

SKILLS FOR WORK

City of Dublin Education and Training Board

Interested in doing a Communications course?

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

Communication skills Starting from scratch this course helps you to improve your communications skills. Mandate Trade Union in conjunction with Skills for Work are offering members the opportunity to attend training. The courses are to encourage members back into learning and training while aiming towards a FETAC level 3 Award.

If you are interested in attending this training contact:

Mandate Training Centre, Distillery House, Distillery Road, Dublin 3 Phone: 01-8369699 Email: mandateotc@mandate.ie Courses are free and open to members who have not achieved Leaving Certificate or who have an out of date Leaving Certificate. You can also achieve a FETAC Level 3 Award. Skills for Work is funded by the Department of Education and Skills. May 2015

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VIEWPOINT

Don’t fall for Govt’s recovery con trick THE Government is misleading Europe about the reality of austerity and the debt crisis in Ireland so as to avoid admitting that they took the wrong approach with austerity and their failure to get a meaningful debt deal. The truth is austerity is based on flawed economics and it hasn’t worked in either Ireland, Greece or for Europe and Ireland’s debt is unsustainable. Austerity has devastated Irish society. For most people recovery is just a word being spoken by politicians and the media. The Central Bank and ESRI have highlighted that the much-lauded growth figures do not reflect the true health of the Irish domestic economy because they are artificially inflated by multinational and financial activities that do not take place here. Austerity has resulted in 1.4 million people, almost 31% of the population, suffering from deprivation – which is up from 14% in 2008 and 37% of children suffer deprivation (up from 18% in 2008).

The Government is dodging its responsibility for needlessly immisersating the Irish people and depressing the economy to pay back an illegitimate debt,. After years of austerity, argues Dr Rory Hearne, it’s now time to achieve a Republic of Equality...

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Picture: Joanna (CC BY 2.0)

Legacy crises

The legacy crises are multiple – from mortgage arrears, rent, homelessness, childcare, hospitals, and community services. Unemployment figures are largely reduced because of emigration and the use of unpaid jobs schemes. Domestic demand remains static and working class communities, small towns and rural areas are devastated. Austerity has not worked for the low income and working people of Ireland. At a European level the euro area is mired in stagnant growth of 0.8%, mass unemployment of 11%, and a debt-to-GDP ratio that that has risen from 72% in 2009 to 92% today. The calculations of economists Reinhart and Rogoff that austerity was required to reduce government debt levels below 90% in order to return to growth was also found to be incorrect. The IMF has also admitted that it underestimated the negative impact of austerity’s higher taxes and spending cuts on economic growth and unemployment. The Government continues to peddle the myth that our national debt is manageable and sustainable. It is assuring the international markets that the Irish people will continue to pay all of the debt accumulated from the crisis and bailing out the banks, irrespective of its impacts. But why are we immiserating and impoverishing our population, and depressing our economy in order to pay back this illegitimate debt? In 2009, Ireland’s national ‘general government’ debt was €104 billion. This year it stands at a staggering

Template for Ireland? Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’s Syriza party was swept to power an anti-austerity platform

€210 billion. In 2009, the Irish debtto-GDP ratio – the figure used to assess the sustainability of a national government’s debt levels – was 62%. This year it has risen to 108%. In 2009, we paid €2.5 billion in interest on the national debt. This year we are paying three times that figure – €7.3 billion. How is an economy that has undergone such a deep recession to be expected to pay double in debt payments what it was paying during an economic boom? That €7.3bn debt interest is 20% of all taxes taken in by the Government. It is equivalent to the entire education budget. But these repayments and the debt are going to get even worse in the coming years. The national debt will be €214 billion in 2018. So what the Government really means when it continues to argue to Europe and the markets that our national debt of €215 billion is manageable is that the Irish people accept that a fifth of all taxes collected will go to

debt interest repayments. The interest on this debt will be paid each year through the massive diversion of resources away from the education system, social housing, employment-creation supports, disability services etc.

Debt repayments

Rural services will remain shut and mental health services will remain underfunded. The waiting lists of the sick to get hospital treatment will lengthen and more children will go hungry. The domestic economy will underperform as personal taxes are diverted to debt repayments. Ireland’s debt-to-GDP figure is also misleading in a way that hides the true size of the debt relative to the economy. Ireland’s GDP figure is inflated by multinational economic activity, some of which is not real activity taking place here in Ireland. The GDP growth figures (which are used to claim Ireland is in recovery) are also artificially inflated in this way.

This means that Ireland’s debt-to-GDP ratio should be even higher and we have even less economic capacity than our GDP figures suggest to pay back this debt. This is worsened by the fact that corporations pay low levels of tax in Ireland which leaves a disproportionally higher burden of the debt with the general population. This is a major downside to the way in which multinational activity and taxation is organised in Ireland that is often overlooked. What this shows is that Ireland’s debt crisis is being ignored and downplayed to the detriment of the economy and public services. Yet the Irish government is now a leading opponent of a Greek debt deal despite the fact that we could save up to €3bn a year on our debt interest as part of Greece’s European debt conference proposals. But the Irish government and European elite are more concerned that a deal for Greece will boost anti-austerity politics in Ireland, Spain and Portu-

We’ve had our fill: Those parties which have implemented austerity are set to be punished at the polls

gal. So their strategy is to try to isolate Greece now and beat it into submission before it is joined by like-minded governments. If Greece gets a deal then it will show in very stark terms to the Irish people that the last two governments’ strategy of savage austerity and passively accepting Europe’s debt was wrong and unnecessary.

Imposing policies

The other real reason that the elite don’t want to ease austerity is that they have used the debt crisis to impose policies on the bailout countries that the financial elite, the wealthy and big business have been trying to get in during the last 30 years of neoliberalism. That is to reduce the surplus value (wealth or profit) that is produced in society that goes to working people and the poor and increase that going to the rich and capital. So taxes on corporations and the wealthy are reduced and new flat SHOPFLOOR

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BLOW THE WHISTLE ON THE BAD BOSSES

TO JOIN 10 MANDATE REASONS

1. An organising and campaigning union:

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

2. Modern and effective training:

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

Picture: infomatique (CC BY-SA 2.0)

3. Campaigning for success:

stealth taxes are introduced, low and middle income workers wages are reduced, working conditions are made ‘flexible’ (i.e. precarious such as zero hour contracts), funding for core public services such as health, welfare, housing is reduced, state assets are privatised to provide more opportunities for wealthy businesses owners and the cost of repaying the massive credit expansion of the boom years is loaded on to households. Austerity involved a massive transfer of wealth from the lower and middle classes to global capital. This has given rise to a rapid rise in inequality across Europe and the US pointed to by economist Thomas Picketty. But it is not an accident – it is the purpose for which the European elite are pursuing austerity capitalism. What the European elite have not realised, however, is that something has changed for ordinary Europeans. The victory of Syriza has given them hope and confidence to stand up to juggernaut of austerity. May 2015

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Europe has blocked a deal to alleviate the debt burden and austerity on Greece but Syrizia has indicated it will start to roll back on aspects of austerity. What is clear with the emergence of Syriza, Podemos in Spain as well as the independent and socialist Left and Sinn Fein in Ireland is that Merkel’s mantra, ‘There is no alternative to austerity and debt slavery and impoverishment for the PiigS’ [Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece Spain] –is being fundamentally challenged. A few weekends ago I experienced first-hand the impact of the Syriza victory on ordinary working people at a meeting in the Sean O’Casey community centre in East Wall in Dublin’s inner city. The meeting was organised by the newly-formed Greece Solidarity Campaign. Syriza speakers addressed hundreds of anti-water charge campaigners and activists from Left parties. These ordinary people – working and middle class – who have organised the biggest social movement in Ireland since inde-

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.

pendence, applauded the speakers’ call for solidarity against a Europe of austerity.

6. Better pay:

A sense of hope, possibility and determination filled the hall. Calls were made for the formation of an Irish Syriza-type party that would stop austerity and bring about an Ireland of fairness, equality and democracy. Water activists made it clear that they are a strong, self-organised movement, and they called for Left parties to work in a united way with the communities. The poet Theo Dorgan spoke of connections between today’s struggles and those who died fighting for Irish freedom. Did we feel the ghost of Sean O’Casey in the hall? O’Casey participated in the 1913 Lockout and the Irish Citizen Army. If he was in the hall with us, I imagine he was willing the people to rise again and achieve a Republic of Equality.

7. Legal protection:

Determination

Dr Rory Hearne is a lecturer in the Department of geography, Maynooth

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

8. Mandatory pensions:

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

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

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

10. You’re less likely to be sacked:

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

Together we’re stronger

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

19


EMPLOYERS PRSI

COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS

The French elephant in HOW do EU countries manage to provide better public services and income supports than us? And are the Irish willing to pay for Europeanstyle public services (the implication being we are not). These were the two questions posed by the Claire Byrne Live show which compared life in France with our lives here. It was both provocative and frustrating; frustrating because it did not answer the first question. Had it done so, we would have realised the second question is irrelevant. Provocatively, we learned that in France: l Children receive full-time education from the age of three, totally free l A visit to the GP costs €7 and the waiting times for medical procedures can be measured in days – not months or years l If you become unemployed, you get 80% of your last wage in unemployment benefit for up to two years. In other words, the French social model is far, far advanced compared to ours. How do they do they achieve this? Do they tax their citizens more? The programme provided a couple of statistics in a video introduction that should have alerted the discussion. They compared a French twoearner household with an Irish one – both on €80,000. The Irish household paid higher personal taxes (income tax, USC, PRSI). The second stat showed French government spending at 57% of GDP; Irish government spending is well below that at 40%. So, if Irish personal taxes are higher, but spending is much lower – well, somewhere in there is the answer. Let’s see if we can find it with the help of Eurostat and the EU’s Ameco database... When it comes to personal taxation on employees and household consumption tax (VAT and Excise), Ireland and France are pretty close with both trailing the EU average. So the reason can’t be found here. What about corporation tax? The effective French corporate tax rate in 2012 was 32.1%; the second highest in the EU. The Irish rate is a lowly 8.5%. But, in actual fact, this can’t explain the disparity in expenditure on public services and income support. While the Irish rate is nearly four times less than the French one, we receive more corporate tax revenue than France. Corporate tax revenue in Ireland makes up 2.3% of GDP; in France, it makes up 2.2%. How can this be? Simple. Companies transfer 20

Picture: Remy Rossi (CC BY-2.0)

By Michael Taft billions of euro in profits generated in other countries and ‘book’ them here (i.e. pretend that they are ‘Irish’ profits). This increases the volume of profits taxed in the country and, therefore, the same amount of revenue in corporate tax can be raised. All this to say, the level of corpo-

rate tax revenue cannot explain the disparity between France and Ireland. So what does? Employers’ social insurance or the ‘social wage’. Employers’ social insurance is part of an employee’s compensation package. It is that part of the employees’

wage that is paid into a social insurance fund from which we obtain services for free or at below-market rates – just like France’s free early childhood care/education and GP visits for €7. The employees’ social insurance gap between Ireland and France is substantial. Ireland’s social wage, or employers’ PRSI, is the lowest in the entire EU (save for Denmark which doesn’t have a social insurance system). It would have to quadruple to reach the French level which is the second highest in the EU. Let’s put euro and cents on this. In 2012, Irish employers’ PRSI raised €5 billion. If it were at French levels, it would have raised €21 billion. That’s €16 billion more than what Irish employers pay now. Imagine the public services and social protection income supports you

could provide with an additional €16 billion. Of course, France is an outlier when it comes to employers’ social insurance – it is well above the EU average. And because they have an older age demographic, their expenditure has to be higher than ours. Nonetheless, if Irish employers’ PRSI were increased to just the EU average, it would raise an additional €8 billion – still a hefty sum for investment in our social infrastructure. There is little appreciation of the role of employers’ social insurance in European taxation structures. In many countries, employers’ PRSI raises more than personal taxation on employees: Estonia, France, Czech Republic, Lithuania, Italy, Slovakia, Cyprus, Spain and Sweden. SHOPFLOOR

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VIEWPOINT

the room A JobBridge too far As to whether Irish people should be willing to pay more for public services – my response is: why? Irish workers are already paying – through labour and consumption taxes – at average EU levels. But they are not getting EU level of public services and social protection support Effective Employers’ Social Insurance Rate 2012 (%) 32.8

20.4

7.8

Ireland

EU

France

Effective Tax Rates: 2012 (%) Personal Taxation (Employees)

Household Comsumption Taxation

26.2

23.1

21.6 11.4

10.2

Ireland

France

11.7

EU

In 2012, Irish employers’ PRSI raised €5 billion. If it were at French levels, it would have raised €21 billion. That’s €16 billion more than what Irish employers pay now. Imagine the public services and social protection income supports you could provide with that... In France, employers’ social insurance raises €266 billion; personal taxation on employees raises €175 billion. In other words, employers’ social insurance raises 51% more than employees’ taxes. In Ireland, the situation is radically reversed. Employers’ PRSI raises €5 billion; personal taxes on employees raise €15 billion; employers’ PRSI raises 65% less than employees’ taxes. So to answer the questions posed by the Claire Byrne Live programme: in other EU countries, higher levels of public services and social protection income support are funded by much, much higher levels of employers’ social insurance, or social wages. As to whether Irish people should be willing to pay more for public services – my response is: why? Irish workers are already paying – through labour and consumption taxes – at average EU levels. But they May 2015

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are not getting EU level of public services and social protection support. Why? Because Irish employers are not making an equivalent contribution that their European counterparts are making. In addition to benefitting from ultra-low corporate tax rates, they benefit from ultra-low social insurance. Workers are already paying their fair share; employers are not. There are two things that follow from this: l Under the current regime, there is little chance of achieving European level of public services and income supports if the entire cost is imposed upon workers – whether through personal taxation or consumption taxes. l We will not achieve those European services and income supports unless the social wage, or employers’ PRSI, is substantially increased. It’s that simple.

By Breandan O Conchuir Youth Activist SINCE it was announced by the OECD that Ireland has the second highest percentage of low-paid jobs in the world, the Government has done little to resolve the situation. Despite claims of recovery, almost a quarter of the population live in economic deprivation – one of the highest rates in Europe – while, according to CSO data, unemployment stands at 10.5%. This means that 15% of the population, some 691,440 people in the Republic, suffer from material deprivation despite not being unemployed. This is the Government’s great recovery. The Government’s own figures recognise that 691,400 people are suffering poverty despite not been unemployed. And the broad jobless rate, which includes those in government-funded schemes, is 21% (Two new schemes, JobsPlus Youth and First Steps were recently an-

nounced). These schemes will no doubt lower the unemployment statistics but will do nothing to help the hundreds of thousands of people struggling financially. It has become clear that the socalled recovery is not in a position to deliver for ordinary workers. It is about creating economic growth without any of the social benefits which should come with economic growth.

Attacked

Instead, conditions of employment continue to be attacked through free labour schemes and the demand from employers for flexibility – the combination of which have led to a drastic increase in number of working poor in Ireland, as shown by the over half a million people living in deprivation despite not being without work. The announcement of yet more internship schemes shows that the Government is more interested in

INDUSTRIAL NEWS

managing live register figures not creating more jobs. These schemes actively contribute to the problem of underemployment. The availability of free labour provides no incentive for employers to give more hours to existing staff who need them. More worryingly, the Government is actively promoting the creation of an internship culture by providing state-funded, free labour. In doing so, it is actively creating a situation where workers have to compete with free labour. Under these schemes what chance do workers have of achieving better pay and conditions of employment when employers have access to statesponsored free labour? These schemes continue to be central to the Government’s so-called recovery. It is the duty of trade unions to defend the conditions workers have won from attacks by free labour schemes.

Kilrush Credit Union Unanimous vote to workers accept 4% accept 2.5% offer WORKERS in Kilrush Credit Union have accepted a 4% pay increase negotiated on their behalf by Mandate. This will be paid in two phases, the first increase of 2% has been backdated from July 1, 2014 and will expire on January 31, 2016, with the second phase of 2% applying from February 1, 2016 until July 31, 2017. Industrial Officer Caroline Clifford told Shopfloor: “This is the first increase paid to these workers since 2008 and we look forward to a more positive environment as the economy improves.”

MANDATE members in Arthur’s Quay Security have unanimously accepted a proposal negotiated on their behalf by their union. The workers will pocket a 2.5% pay increase over the next 12 months. This agreement also incorporates the restoration of a 7% pension contribution by their employer over the next 36 months. This follows a lengthy pension contribution freeze. Divisional Organiser Karen Wall told Shopfloor: “Although pensions seem to have had little value in recent years, our members in Arthur’s Quay Security recognise the value of providing for their retirement.”

Progressive News , Views & Solut ions VOL.2 Issue 20 | €2 / £1.50

Ireland’s magazine of PROGRESSIVE NEWS NEWS, VIEWS and SOLUTIONS. New issue covering water tax movement, Greece, prospects for a left government and more, will be in shops last week of March.

21


INDUSTRIAL NEWS

Miss Selfridge redundancy Setting out our stall Outstanding payments decision upheld by Court THE Labour Court has upheld the decision of a Rights Commissioner who directed the Arcadia Group to pay out the remainder of a voluntary redundancy package to a Mandate member employed at Miss Selfridge. In January 2014, following the successful resolution of a six-week industrial dispute at Wallis (another Arcadia Brand), a national agreement was concluded that provided for a four weeks’ pay per year of service formula for redundancies. A redundancy situation arose for the member on the basis of a decision to rationalise a number of management roles within the company. The four-week package was applied to two other individuals at the same grade but was not applied to the claimant. The company contended that the inferior offer of just over two

sought after closure of Towers Pub

weeks’ pay per year of service had been accepted before the agreement was brokered. Divisional Organiser Brendan O’Hanlon, who represented the member in question, had argued that there was “no justifiable reason” to treat the claimant less favourably than other staff “given that the agreed formula was reneged upon by the company when the rationalisation arose but the agreement on the four-week package was reached before she left the company.” Mr O’Hanlon added: “We are satisfied that this is a fair outcome for the member involved.” As Shopfloor goes to press, Mandate is still await confirmation of acceptance of the decision by the company.

Connect with Mandate www.mandate.ie

Picture: Rodrigo Senna (CC BY 2.0)

A KeY objective of Mandate’s continuing Fair Shop campaign is to support and promote quality employment in the retail sector by encouraging trade union members, their families, supporting organisations and the public to make an informed choice to use Fair Shop retail outlets. Fair Shop will also help reward retailers that recognise and do business with Mandate by encouraging people to shop in their stores. Over the busy Christmas period, officials and activists in the Dublin North Division set up information stalls in shopping centres across the Northside to engage with the public. Information about

the campaign, Fair Shop-themed shopping bags as well as details of unionised shops on the Northside were handed out to festive shoppers. Marie Murphy, a shop steward at Tesco Artane, told Shopfloor: “Overall the message was very well received by the public. We hope the event will help consumers make a more informed shopping choice.” Divisional Organiser Brendan O’Hanlon and Industrial Officer David Miskell both described the initiative as “very successful”. Mr O’Hanlon added: “This is the best way to get our message directly to people on the street.”

FOLLOWING the recent closure of the Towers Pub in Ballymun, Mandate members are continuing to chase notice payments and awards made by the Rights Commissioner for breaches of employment legislation. However, redundancy payments have been paid to all the members. Slamming the delays, Industrial Officer David Miskell told Shopfloor: “This is very frustrating for workers after places of employment close down and is especially so when added to the huge shock of hearing the bad news that their jobs are gone.” He added that the union would continue “to use every channel available to us” to secure the outstanding entitlements. It is understood the Towers Pub had been in receivership for a number of years. Shop steward Ann Fagan said: “It was a huge shock to us. All our jobs were gone – and some of us had been there for all our working lives.” Pointing out that it highlighted the importance of being in a union “to ensure that we receive our entitlements”, she added: “Through Mandate and ICTU, we were able to access interview skills training, CV preparation and other courses. “Following on from that, most of use have since got other jobs. We have found this to be invaluable to retrain and prepare for the employment market.”

Specialist Membership Benefits to Mandate Trade Union Since 1996 HMCA is a specialist provider of membership benefits to over 600 membership groups in the Republic of Ireland and the UK. Low cost benefits plans on oīer to you and your family are: -

· HOSPITAL CASH INCOME CARE · HOSPITAL CASH ACCIDENT · MEDICAL TRAVEL · PERSONAL ACCIDENT · VEHICLE BREAKDOWN RECOVERY · DENTAL · LIFE EXTRA For further informaƟon on any of the above plans, telephone HMCA on Dublin 01-6130316 Or alternaƟvely enquire online at

www.hmcaireland.ie/mandate.htm 22

Picture: Emanuela Zibordi (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Malahide Golf Club pay talks referred to LRC MANDATE members working at Malahide Golf Club, who have been seeking a pay rise in talks with management on the past few months, have had the issue referred to the Labour Relations Commission for further discussion. Members at Malahide Golf Club have been in talks with management over the past few months in relation to a pay increase and the matter has

been referred to the Labour Relations Commission for further discussion. It is a number of years since any pay increases have been awarded at the Club and there is a very strongly held view that it is time now to give recognition for staffs efforts over the years. Industrial Officer David Miskell told Shopfloor: “There can be little doubt that the golfing industry has

suffered over the years, and unfortunately our members have felt this in their pockets like many others.” He added: “But now is the time to give something back to staff.” According to the news website Irish Golf Desk, the industry is preparing for an inevitable upswing to the backdrop of an economic recovery. It is the union’s view that this upswing should also benefits staff. SHOPFLOOR

y May 2015


SPOTLIGHT

FAMILY INCOME SUPPLEMENT

SKILLS FOR WORK Interested in a computer training course? Picture: GotCredit (CC BY 2.0)

Making ends meet... THERE may be help available to you from the Department of Social Protection. They run a scheme called Family Income Supplement (FIS). If you are employed for more than 38 hours each fortnight and have family income less than a set limit, you could qualify for a supplement. The income limits are based on the number of qualified children you have. A qualified child is one under 18, who normally resides with you or between 18 and 22, who is in full-time day education. Family Income is based on your earnings after pension deductions, Income Tax, Employee PRSI and the Universal Social Charge plus any other income your family has, e.g. selfemployment, social welfare payments, rental income, private pensions etc. The income limits are as follows:

to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance and for home improvement grants from Sustainable Energy Association of Ireland.

Example: Shop assistant with three children, who is a single parent... Gross Earnings 2014:

€21,142.89

Pension Deductions:

€0

Income Tax:

€1,408.57

Employee PRSI:

€417.10

USC:

€600.13

Net Assessable Earnings:

€18,717.09

Annual Income Limits

Weekly Income Limit

Weeks Employed:

52

Average Assessable Earnings

€359.94

1 child

€26,312

€506.00

One-Parent Family Payment

€184.90

2 children

€31,304

€602.00

Total Family Income:

€544.84

3 children

€36,556

€703.00

FIS Income Limit

€703.00

4 children

€42,848

€824.00

Difference

€158.16

5 children

€49,400

€950.00

6 children

€55,432

€1,066.00

7 children

€62,504

€1,202.00

8 children

€67,496

€1,298.00

Children

If your family income is less than the set weekly income limit, the Department of Social Protection pay a supplement worth 60% of the difference. If you qualify at all, there is a minimum payment of €20 per week. FIS is non-taxable and is not assessed as income for the medical card. It is a qualifying payment for the Back

FIS Payable weekly:

€95.00

The requirement to work 38 hours per fortnight means that the scheme is open to work-sharers. In fact, a couple can share the hours to qualify. For example one could work 10 hours a week while the other works nine hours. The scheme is open to single parents as well as those who are married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting. Further information and an application form can be obtained from www.welfare.ie, by email to FISNewClaims@welfare.ie by phone to 043-3340053 or in writing to FIS Section, Department of Social Protection, Government Offices, Ballinalee Road, Longford.

End to zero-hour contracts at Co-op Funeralcare UK retail workers union Usdaw has hailed as “ground-breaking” the successful conclusion of a long drawn out set of talks that will see zerohour contracts scrapped at Co-op Funeralcare. Under the agreement brokered between Usdaw and management, staff who were formerly on zero-hour contracts will be offered new contracts with guaranteed hours and imMay 2015

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SHOPFLOOR

proved terms and conditions. National Officer John Gorle told Shopfloor: “I am delighted that after 18 months of negotiations we have reached a position where no member of staff will have to take a zero-hour contract. “The new arrangements mean that the employees will have the security of income that allows them to properly plan their finances and the company can have the flexibility required

in the funeral arrangements business. We welcome the company’s recognition that zero-hour contracts provide a high level uncertainty for their employees and that they could have suffered reputational damage had they continued to use these undesirable employment arrangements.” He added: “Co-op Funeralcare has shown the way to many employers and I hope more will follow suit.”

Do you have a desire to improve your communication through computer skills but never got around to it?

Communications through Computers Starting from scratch this course helps you to use a computer and builds confidence for communicating on-line. Mandate Trade Union in conjunction with Skills for Work is offering free training. The courses are to encourage members back into learning and training whilst aiming towards a FETAC level 3 Award. If you are interested in doing a Communications through Computers course, contact: Mandate Training Centre Distillery House Distillery Road Dublin 3 Phone: 01- 8369699 Email: mandateotc@mandate.ie Courses are free and open to members who have not achieved Leaving Certificate or who have an out of date Leaving Certificate. You can also achieve a FETAC Level 3 Award. Skills for Work is funded by the Department of Education & Skills.

Picture: European Parliament

23


UNDER THE SPOTLIGHT...

GOES

GL BAL Humble beginnings... Boots store in Preston, Lancashire, turn of the last century

Picture: Preston Digital Archive (CC BY-SA 2.0)

MANY people may consider Boots their local chemist. Of course, it’s a big chain with almost 80 outlets in Ireland and 2,500 throughout the UK, but customers tend to be familiar with their local Boots shop. In fact, Boots now spans the globe, and people may not realise how big their neighbourhood pharmacy has become, and the implications of its size and business trajectory for workers.

Boots pharmacy is now part of a company that spans the world – and that, argues Michael Bride, requires a coordinated, global trades union response

the deal, which led to finance costs wiping out all profits for the year following the transaction. Despite its 160 year-long history in Nottingham, within months of going private the company chose to reincorporate in the low-tax canton of Zug, Switzerland, although it generates no revenue there – a process known as inversion. KKR and Pessina have each received approximately £70 million in fees since the deal closed2.

From humble beginnings… Boots was established in Nottingham in 1849 by John Boot and, when he died in 1860, the business was run by his widow, assisted by their 10-year-old son, Jessie Boot. The company was headquartered in Nottingham right up until 2007.

…to the largest leveraged buyout in European history… In 2007 – just one year after Boots had already merged with Alliance Unichem – the company went private in the largest-ever leveraged buyout in Europe, led by US private equity firm Kohlberg, Kravis, Roberts & Co. L.P. (KKR) and Executive Chairman Stefano Pessina, who is a billionaire resident of Monaco1. KKR and Pessina set up a holding company in Gibraltar that they used to complete the acquisition of Alliance Boots, for a total buyout price of £12 billion. The company took on more than £9 billion in debt to fund

24

…and now a global pharma giant… Now Boots is part of a merged entity with Alliance and the US pharmacy giant, Walgreens, following a deal completed in December 2014. Walgreens is the largest pharmacy retailer in the United States, with 8,200 stores in all 50 states and over 240,000 employees. Walgreen had revenue of $76.4 billion in the year ended August 31, 2014 and filled 856 million prescriptions – 19% of all retail prescriptions filled in the US. The merger was worth $25 billion, made up of $5bn in cash, $11bn in shares, and $9bn in Alliance Boots debt that Walgreens took on. The 73year-old Chairman of the company, Stefano Pessina, will take home £3bn from the deal3. A series of crises leading up to the deal “shone a light into boardroom infighting between the two firms and

disappointing performance at Walgreens” and in December last “matters come to a head … as … the chief executive of Walgreens reversed a decision to stay on post-merger, and said he would retire after it completes”4. Such boardroom wrangling can often eventually impact workers on the shop floor.

Workers’ rights at Walgreens… Of the three large chemist chains in the US, Walgreens is considered the most anti-union. Until recently, it maintained a website called walgreensndr.com. NDR stands for “No Dues Required”, dues being the term used for union subs. The purpose of the website was to tell Walgreens employees that they did not need a union. Among the statements that were published on this website was the

Picture: Mike Mozart (CC BY 2.0)

following: “Walgreens feels very strongly that labor unions do not serve the best interests of our individual employees or the company as a whole.” The website included warnings to workers that should they choose to go on strike, the company may stop their paychecks, force employees to pay the entire premium on their employer-provided health insurance, and in some cases may hire permanent replacements to take the place of striking workers5. The website was taken down shortly after Mandate raised the site and its contents at a Labour Court hearing in Dublin. Walgreens does recognise unions in two locations – New York and San Francisco – but resists the formation of unions in any other city. On August 6, 2013, Walgreens disclosed new financial projections for

2016 that were $2 billion lower than previous figures and also announced a plan to cut $1 billion in costs by 2017 through “accelerating a multifaceted cost-reduction initiative across the enterprise” including “corporate, field and store-level cost reductions.” 6 As part of the cost-cutting initiative, management has said will reduce “cost per fill” –the amount of money it costs to fill each prescription – which is primarily a labour cost.7 Though the full extent of the cuts are yet to be revealed, pharmacists and technicians have reported a number of recent policy changes and cost-cutting measures that are affecting the pharmacy department: l Approximately a year ago, store managers took over supervision of pharmacy managers. The store managers have no pharmacy training, but their performance evaluations are based in part on pharmacy performance metrics, including the speed and number of prescriptions filled. l There have been anecdotal reports that higher-paid veteran pharmacists are being pushed out of the company in favor of lower-paid new graduates. Pharmacists in one market noted that new pharmacists were being hired as part time employees without benefits. l Pharmacists have reported recently that technician hours have been reduced or kept steady, even as the US entered the busy flu season. SHOPFLOOR

y May 2015


Public health notice: Protestors dressed in medical scrubs slam Boots over pharmacy chain’s tax practices. Poster, right, plugging the health case for tax reform

l A significant number of stores that have previously operated with 24-hour pharmacies will now be closed overnight. This seems likely to impact pharmacist workload, since the overnight pharmacist has traditionally prepared a large number of prescriptions for the following day. Whether Walgreens pushes out similar cost-cutting measures across the newly merged entity will be something about which workers in the new Walgreens Boots Alliance should be rightly vigilant about.

Picture: Mandate

outcry. CEO Greg Wasson told analysts that the company’s assessment found the potential risks of a headquarters shift "included potentially putting the company in a significantly worse position than if we had not inverted at all, such as a protracted controversy with the IRS" [Internal Revenue Service – US government agency responsible for tax collection] and possible "litigation which could go on for three to 10 years".10 Politicians applied pressure, too. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich recommended freezing the company out of political lobbying circles. Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, wrote a public letter to Wasson, mocking the company's slogan with the question: "Is 'the corner of happy and healthy' somewhere in the Swiss Alps?"11 Walgreens also weighed "harder to quantify" but equally significant risk of "consumer backlash and political ramifications, including the risk to our government book of business," said Wasson, referring to the millions of dollars in revenue the company gets from federal Medicare and Medicaid programs.12

Taxing matters…

During this time, Walgreens and its advisors also closely studied many other considerations with respect to a potential inversion transaction, including the potential financial benefits (and their sustainability) of an inversion to Walgreens and its shareholders, the ongoing public reaction and debate surrounding inversion transactions and Walgreens’ unique role as an iconic American consumer retail company with a major portion of its revenues derived from government-funded reimbursement programs.9 Ultimately Walgreens decided against inversion such was the public

“Alliance Boots and the Tax Gap: The case for corporate tax reform”, War onWant, 2014.

1

2

Alliance Boots 2008-2013 financial statements.

“Boots merger with Walgreens approved despite calls for remedies from Wall Street”, The Independent, 29 December, 2015. 3

“Dissident shareholders resist Boots’ £9bn plan to merge with US partner Walgreens”, The Daily Mail, 12 December, 2014.

4

5

http://www.walgreensndr.com/strikes.html (link no longer operational)

6

Investor call transcript filed with Walgreen Co. 8-K filed August 6, 2014.

May 2015

y SHOPFLOOR

Picture: AMSF2011 (CC BY 2.0)

The new structure of AllianceBoots following the merger in 2007 saved for the company an estimated £1.21bn in UK tax over a seven-year period. This seems egregious enough, but when one considers that “approximately 40% of Alliance Boots’ UK revenue comes, ultimately, from UK taxpayers for services that are mainly paid for by the NHS, including prescription drugs and dispensing costs”8, it is doubly so. War on Want, a UK NGO, along with Unite and US-based union alliance, ChangetoWin, launched a report in London to highlight the company’s tax practices. The press event, which took place at the British Parliament, prompted a widespread examination of the company’s tax schemes by politicians and the media but also led to Boots being targeted by fair taxation campaigners.

Global capital requires a global labour response…

Senator Dick Durbin: open letter to CEO

It is difficult to know what the future holds for Boots workers who are now part of this global company. UNI Global Union and IndustriALL Eu-

http://investor.walgreens.com/secfiling.cfm?filingid=1193125-14298537&CIK=104207. Q3F14 Walgreen Co. Earnings call transcript. June 24, 2014. http://seekingalpha.com/article/2284463-walgreens-wag-ceo-greg-wasson-onq3-2014-results-earnings-call-transcript.

7

8 Estimates based on Alliance Boots 2013 financial statements. The NHS pays for the majority of prescription costs, with patient charges and private insurance making up a smaller portion of the total.

Walgreen Co., Definitive Proxy Statement, November 24, 2014. http://investor.walgreens.com/secfiling.cfm?filingID=1193125-14-423359&CIK=104207

9

UNI Global and IndustriALL have called on unions the world over who have an interest in new merged company to come together in joint action rope, two international trades union federations, have decided that the implications of this merger could be too important to ignore. They have called on unions the world over who have an interest in the new merged company to come together in joint action. This global trades union coalition will seek to hold WalgreensBootsAlliance accountable for workers’ rights as the merger is being implemented. It is often said that “global capital requires a global labour response”. This is never more so when faced with a new global corporation which will likely seek to force new change upon workers across its business. We are no longer dealing with John Boot of Nottingham, and we should not act like we were. Michael Bride is Deputy Organizing Director for the United Food and Commercial Workers Union based in Washington, D.C.

10 “Walgreens stock smacked after tax inversion out”, USA Today, August 6, 2013, http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/08/06/walgreens-alliance-boots-chicago/13659809/ 11 “How Americans Scared Walgreens Out Of A $4 Billion Tax Dodge”, Huffington Post, August 7, 2014, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/08/07/walgreens-taxinversion_n_5655934.html 12 “Walgreens stock smacked after tax inversion out”, USA Today, August 6, 2013, http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/business/2014/08/06/walgreens-alliance-boots-chicago/13659809/

25


VIEWPOINT

Commodifying water so privatisation is on tap... is still estimated that almost a quarter of the water supply is lost though leaks. Money saved by having water in public ownership could be better spent on maintaining the necessary infrastructure When faced with the stark negative economic impact water privatisation has had in the UK, it is hard to follow the logic that privatisation promotes competition and delivers greater efficiency. The fact is these companies earn their huge profits at the expense of those paying for water.

Privatisation The Government does not acknowledge that the creation of Irish Water is the start of the road to privatisation, despite the European Commission admitting that water privatisation is a condition of Troika bailouts. Instead they claim Irish Water is about conservation, an almost laughable claim when Irish Water’s best case scenario is reducing the loss of water through leakage to 20% by 2040. Water charges are simply another facet of the Government’s austerity policy which mirrors events across Europe, where people who can’t

Union Representatives Advanced Course The Union Representative Advanced Training Course is for shop stewards/union representatives who have completed the introductory course or who have relevant experience. Course content: • Understanding Mandate’s structures • Overview of Mandate’s rules • Industrial Relations institutions and mechanisms • Mandate’s Organising Model

• • • • •

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

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

26

Picture: Richard Smith (CC BY-SA 2.0)

By Breandan O Conchuir Youth Activist THE Right2Water campaign is about more than simply scrapping water charges, it is about ensuring Ireland does not go down to route of water privatisation. A route made much more accessible by the creation of a semi-state company and the initial commodification of water. From Bray to Bolivia, Dublin to Detroit, there is a conflict over water, with people in organisations such as Right2Water fighting to keep what is a public good in public hands. While governments committed to neoliberalism expose people to the disadvantages of privatisation. The Government’s commitment to water charges raises the issue of whose interests they have at heart. Research carried out in the UK has shown the negative impact privatisation has on ordinary workers. The average water bill is £80 more since privatisation, and it is estimated that public ownership of water could save the public £2 billion a year. Despite these companies accruing huge profits, and continually raising the price of water, it

pay are being cut off. Clearly private profit is more important than providing a public service. The rise of water charges in Ireland is not unique – it is part of a global trend of turning public assets into commodities. The TTIP agreement is the next step in this process, this trade agreement between Europe and North America aims to remove regulatory barriers and allow market access. In practice this agreement would allow private companies to legally challenge public monopolies such as state-owned water, thereby forcing water to be treated as a commodity. Crucially this agreement would not allow for any future government to step back from water charges. If they did, the companies involved would be able to take legal action against the state for a loss of profit. This agreement – supported by the Government – would give private companies an effective veto on national sovereignty. It is not acceptable that corporate profit takes priority over the public good, that citizens are seen as nothing more than consumers to the extent that access to a fundamental resource – such as water – is left in the hands of profit-driven companies with the power to cut off those who can’t afford to pay the ever increasing bills There is an alternative – we can have publicly-funded water services that benefit ordinary citizens. Ireland is not alone in this fight, across the world people – through campaigns similar to Right2Water – are protecting publicly-controlled water from private interests. This is a struggle for water but the implications of it are much greater.

The Right2Water unions launch policy document and call for submissions By David Gibney Mandate communications officer MANDATE along with CPSU, CWU, Unite and OPATSI – the other four unions involved in Right2Water – presented a set of outline policy principles which they believe should underpin a future progressive government. The document was launched at the first Right2Water Unions conference in the CWU Headquarters on May 1. The document includes a water policy which would see our water being funded through general taxation which is progressive and fair, but will also protect the most vulnerable from water poverty. Furthermore, it would prevent the future privatisation of our water services. Also addressed were six other policy areas including: l Right2Healthcare l Right2Housing l Right2Education l Right2Jobs & Decent Work l Right2Debt Justice l Right2Democratic Reform. The intention of the document is to launch a discussion about what type of society we want to live in. The unions are seeking feedback from members of the public, community groups, trade unions, civil society groups, political parties and independent representatives. On Saturday, June 13, the Right2Water unions will host a second conference to determine a platform ahead of the next general

election. Mandate General Secretary John Douglas told Shopfloor: “For too long the Irish people have been serving the needs of the economy. What we’re trying to do is establish what type of society we want to live in – whether that’s to eliminate homelessness, establish a one-tier public healthcare system, reduce our class sizes so our children receive quality education, while also addressing the clear democratic deficit that exists – and then forming our taxation and economic policies around that vision for Ireland. “Let’s make the economy work for the people instead of the other way around.” Some of the proposals set out in the document include: l The ability for citizens to recall elected members of the Dail before the end of their term for broken electoral promises. l The right for every worker to avail of collective bargaining legislation and to earn a living wage. l The enshrining of a right to housing to be included in the constitution. l A quality healthcare system that is not dependent on income. l The introduction of a Financial Transaction Tax. l The restoration of and increased provision of Special Needs Assistants. Mandate is to make a comprehensive submission based on union policy. The union is also urging all members to go to www.right2water.ie and make a submission themselves. SHOPFLOOR

y May 2015


IN FOCUS...

Why Regulatory Convergence in TTIP favours big business... ulations. A Regulatory Co-operation Board (RCB) – will have the overall responsibility for regulatory co-operation and one of its obligations will be to “give careful consideration” to business proposals on future and existing regulations The RCB must make sure the whole process of convergence between US and EU regulations moves forward, ensuring that rules on harmonisation or “mutual recognition” are produced and adopted. However, the proposal is not clear on the division of competences between elected bodies – whether parliamentary or governmental – and the RCB itself. The Commission proposes: “...the Parties shall endeavour to ensure compliance with this Chapter by authorities at levels of government lower than EU Member State or US

By Frank Keoghan TEEU President A LOT of the criticism of the EU/US TTIP deal has centered on the ISDS provisions, which allow corporations to sue sovereign governments before ad-hoc arbitration tribunals. But leaked EU TTIP proposals reveal an equally insidious system of regulatory cooperation between the sides that will enable decisions to be made without public oversight or engagement. Business will be involved from the beginning of the secretive process, well before any public debate takes place, and will have excellent opportunities to ditch important initiatives. Big business groups had been pushing for this corporate dream scenario long before the negotiations began. What they want from regulatory cooperation is to essentially ‘cowrite legislation’ and to establish a permanent EU-US dialogue that will enable them to influence the outcome of new laws, new regulation, and even existing ones and to continue to work towards harmonising standards – long after TTIP has been signed.

The documents known to the public so far tell of negotiators trying to modify decision-making processes to enhance trade and investment with no regard for the consequences for our democratic institutions

Profit-driven The agenda is first and foremost about profits – not about securing consumer rights, public health, or any other public policy objective. Regulatory Convergence in TTIP can be broken into three distinct processes: 1. Mutual recognition between the two trading blocs of a given set of standards: a US product meeting US standards would automatically be allowed into the EU – even if it does not meet EU standards – and vice versa. 2. Harmonisation: After US standards – i.e. on pesticides – are accepted by the EU for imports, the next step is to get the EU standards down to the same lower level. The pesticide lobby document demands "significant harmonisation" between US and EU rules in establishing pesticide limits for food and feed products. 3. Regulatory cooperation: Under TTIP’s chapter on 'regulatory cooperation', any future measure that could lead us towards a more sustainable food system, could be deemed a 'barrier to trade' and thus rejected before it sees the light of day. Corporations should be informed of new regulation through an annual report, and be involved through the process of “early information on planned acts”. Already, at the planning stage, “the regulating Party” (EU) must offer business lobbyists an opportunity to “provide input” which “shall be taken May 2015

y SHOPFLOOR

Picture: Ed Uthman (CC BY-SA 2.0)

into account” when finalising the regulation. So, businesses, at an early stage, can try to block rules intended to prevent the food industry from marketing foodstuffs with toxic substances or regulations to protect consumers; ‘non-tariff barriers’ (NTBs). New regulations would undergo an

“impact assessment”, primarily tilted towards the interests of business and should it go against their interests, the report will have to cite a detrimental impact on transatlantic trade. The EU model gives business many tools that will allow them object to an “envisaged or planned regulatory

act”, and even regulations under review. A “regulatory exchange” must take place if a party is unhappy with the effect of a proposed rule on its trade interests. A dialogue must take place, and the party whose rules are under attack, must co-operate. Business may also propose their own reg-

State level,” i.e. municipalities and regional authorities. This would broaden the scope of regulatory co-operation to affect city planning, public procurement, natural resources, and environmental policies at the local level. Regulatory co-operation deserves sustained attention from unions and legislators across Europe whose future influence will, be severely limited by regulatory co-operation. The documents known to the public so far tell of negotiators trying to modify decision-making processes to enhance trade and investment with no regard for the consequences for our democratic institutions. Irish trade unionists urgently need to mobilise on a large scale in opposition to these ‘trade agreements’, otherwise the social standards and workers’ rights that have been so hard-won will be incrementally eroded through the processes enshrined in TTIP and CETA.

27


GENERAL NEWS

ANALYSIS

Top 10% in Wages and recovery Ireland own 54% of wealth NeW figures from the Nevin economic Research Institute (NeRI) show that a small proportion of the wealthiest in Ireland own more than half of all wealth in the country. Key statistics from the research reveal: l The bottom 20% of households have no positive net wealth – they owe more than they own. l The top 10% of households own 54% of all net wealth. l The top 5% own 38% of all net wealth; and l The top 1% own 15% of all net wealth. Mandate say the increase in the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest hasn’t happened in a vacuum and it’s down to political choices. Mandate General Secretary John Douglas said: “The past seven years of austerity have increased the gap between the have’s and the have-not’s in Ireland and we continue to see that trend. “The implementation of policies like water charges – which impact harder on low-paid workers than everyone else – and cuts to taxes for the highest paid, are making

Ireland a much more unequal country. “In most other eU countries workers have the opportunity to close the inequality gap through collective bargaining where workers can negotiate pay increases. In Ireland, the vast majority of workers in the private sector are shamefully still not afforded that right,” he added. Mr Douglas explained how the reluctance to tax corporations and the wealthiest has landed an unfair burden on everyone else. He continued: “In Ireland there has only been two sacred cows during the recession – corporation tax and the high rate of income tax. In last year’s Budget, our government increased the threshold for the high rate, effectively giving a €405m tax break to the top 17% of earners, while pushing water charges on everyone else including the unemployed, underemployed, those already living in poverty and low paid workers. “It’s these types of policies which increase income and wealth inequality.” Check out http://bit.ly/1JWDQap

Notes on the Front

Picture: Ervins Strauhmanis (CC BY 2.0)

By Daragh McCarthy Nevin Economic Research Institute WAGE adjustments were part of the response to the recession, but becoming a society where earnings continually fall, or stagnate, will leave households and the wider economy in trouble. Pay rises have an important role to play in sustaining Ireland’s economic recovery. Targeting pay increases towards workers at the low-to-middle point of the earnings scale would provide relief to households that have seen living standards reduced significantly in the past six years and often quickly translates into higher consumer demand across the economy as people spend more. The year immediately preceding the crisis saw average (median) wage growth rates of between 4.5% and 6.1% across the labour market. It’s well established that the economic climate changed drastically in 2008 and Ireland’s labour market is flexible; wages went down for many and we have yet to see a widespread recovery in earnings. The response to the downturn in the labour market in the public and private sectors varied significantly. The average worker in the public sector experienced a 6% reduction in earnings. In addition, the various public sector agreements led to additional working hours, restricted promotion opportunities and a considerably lower pay scale for new entrants. The level of strain experienced by different sectors of the economy, and the response of private employers to the challenges posed, varied considerably over the course of the downturn. Overall, however, average weekly wages were largely unchanged from the start of 2010 to the end of 2014. This aggregate figure hides a diverse response to the economic collapse, with the proportion of workers experiencing wage cuts more than doubling with the onset of the economic crisis. In total, 47% of private sector workers took a pay cut at some point between 2009 and 2012. Others accepted a pay freeze, while many employees in certain occupations and sectors received pay rises over the same period. Job losses were a significant feature of the response to the crisis and workers in sectors of the economy exposed to changes in domestic demand – the retail sector, for instance

Figure 1: Real average weekly earnings by selected occupation groups, Q2 2010 – Q4 2013

Managers, professionals & assoicated professionals Production, transport, craft & other manual workers Clerical, sales & service employees

Source: CSO (2015) Earnings, Hours and Employment Costs Survey (2015)

– were more likely to lose their jobs over the course of the downturn. Young people, construction sector workers, and migrants from new EU member states experienced the greatest fall in employment over the recession. As aggregate wages stagnated and the number of people at work declined, the capacity of households to meet basic needs and fund more discretionary purchases has been hit by increased levels of taxation and higher costs associated with fundamental goods and services such as healthcare, education, transport and water.

Reducing income Tax increases began in 2009 with the introduction of the income levy and rose further with the introduction of the Universal Social Charge and the reduction in the entry point to the higher rate of income tax, though Budget 2015 reversed the upward trend in the level taxation on earned income. The combined effect of the reduction in wages with increased taxation and charges has been to reduce nominal average (mean) disposable income by 24% since the start of 2008. An increase in the number of people in employment over the past two years is welcome and has helped boost economic growth. However, domestic demand is 18% below the precrisis peak levels and there is a case for an increase in wages, across the public and private sector, to start restoring living standards and to boost consumer spending. To this end, increases in core pay rates are preferable to bonuses or allowances, as they create a sense of certainty in expected future income, whereas households are more likely

to save one-off pay concessions where possible. Admittedly, persuading businesses to raise wages when unemployment is still high, weakening the bargaining power of workers in many parts of the labour market, remains a serious challenge. Those interested in protecting public services, maintaining welfare payments, and investing in public infrastructure should pause before attempting to increase take home pay by advocating for reductions in income tax. Compared to most advanced economies in the world, income taxes in Ireland remain low for the majority of earners. For instance, a single earner on the average wage contributes 17.9% of their income on taxes (excluding VAT and excise duties). This is the lowest income tax rate for this category of earner in the OECD. The rates are similarly modest for couples on the average wage. In the absence of offsetting measures, reductions in the rate of income tax will damage the capacity of the public sector to provide services that all in society rely upon. After years where pay has broadly stagnated in the private sector and living standards have declined, there is a strong case for wage increases targeted at lower earners to relieve real hardship, while having the potential to boost domestic demand in the economy. Achieving wage increases is a challenge, particularly when many sectors of the economy remain in the early stages of recovery. However, it is important to think carefully about the consequences of advocating income tax cuts as a way of boosting household disposable income.

Commentary on Irish Political Economy by UNITE research officer Michael Taft 28

www.notesonthefront. typepad.com

Picture: Images of Money (CC BY 2.0) SHOPFLOOR

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SPOTLIGHT

available to all as a right; decent work, job security and workers’ rights; an adequate income for all and greater income equality; fulfilment of social, economic and cultural rights for all; equality between women and men; equality for all people and diverse groups in our society; valued and strong communities with a vibrant civil society; and an environment that is protected, renewed, and made available for future generations.” There is, it seems, loads of energy. Maybe there is creativity. There is certainly goodwill. There is a much needed shift from a defensive strategy, holding out against what we don’t want, to a more positive strategy, establishing and pursuing an agenda of the alternative we want.

By Niall Crowley Claiming Our Future THERE was a sense at the recent Claiming Our Future annual assembly that 2015 would be a make-orbreak year for those who espouse values of equality, environmental sustainability, participation, solidarity and accountability. It was an event that energised and mobilised. Key themes were discussed including the challenges to civil society to move from defensive strategies to more positive strategies based on what we want, to break the fragmentation that limits us, and to explore new relationships between civil society and political society. Internationally there is no doubt about 2015 being a big year. There is the United Nations process to agree Sustainable Development Goals. These will be agreed in September and are to be universal, applying to all countries, including Ireland. There is the Conference of the Parties under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change to agree a universal and binding treaty on climate change to replace the Kyoto Protocol. This is to conclude in December in Paris. Its success will largely determine whether or not we have a future to debate about.

Déjà vu

But there is a whiff of déjà vu as we all head off in our own directions. Fragmentation appears to remain the order of the day for those who would seek an alternative to austerity. The relationship sought with political society and how that might work also remains to be teased out. This is a make-or-break year. We do need to be establishing convincing alternatives to austerity. But we also need to be talking more within and across sectors about how we get over our fragmentation and our distaste of political society. We need to be exploring how we build relationships of solidarity within civil society and with political society, how we establish structures to give expression to these, and how we find ways to operate such structures. It is these relationships, structures, and ways of working that have proven elusive, to our cost, over the past six years. This is a conversation that needs to start urgently.

May 2015

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Picture: Tiffany Terry (CC BY 2.0)

Make or break Nationally it might seem harder to be convinced that 2015 could be a make-or-break year. It might be an election year. Political society is shifting with new formations promised, debated and maybe even emerging. However, there seems little to get enthused about with Reboot ireland and networks of independent politicians of wildly different standpoints being the main talking points. It will certainly be a year focused on the next election but it is hard to see it as the year when a politics of equality and environmental sustainability might take wing. There are some interesting moves, though, that may hold more promise. A Platform for Renewal is promised from Mandate, Unite, CPSU, Communications Workers Union and OPATSI, the so-called ‘Right2Water unions’. A May Day conference is to be organised where “trade unions, individuals, political parties and independents, NGOs, academics, representatives of the not-for-profit sector and community activists will all be invited to input into this Platform for Renewal”. SIPTU has proposed a Charter 2016. As Jack O’Connor said in a recent speech: “It is incumbent upon all of us Social Democrats, Left Republicans and Independent Socialists who are inspired by the egalitarian ideals of Jim Larkin and James Connolly to set aside sectarian divisions and develop a political project aimed at winning the next general election on a common platform, let’s call it Charter 2016.” Claiming Our Future has been developing its Declaration for a Future ireland, also inspired by the 1916 Centenary commemorations. This seeks “a fundamental transformation of our current society to become an equal, sustainable and inclusive Republic” and suggests that “this New Republic will be created by mobilising and using the creative capacity, commitment and abilities of all”.

There is a much needed shift from a defensive strategy, holding out against what we don’t want, to a more positive strategy, establishing and pursuing an agenda of the alternative we want...

In an initial draft, Claiming Our Future set out some of the issues to be addressed: “This New Republic should guarantee to all its people: a system of government based on principles of true democracy and participation; an economy that serves the needs of society and respects environmental limits; quality public services available to all irrespective of income level; properly funded, excellent and accessible public health, education and childcare; affordable, high quality, housing and a home SIPTU General President Jack O’Connor has called for a united Left approach to winning the next General Election Picture: Workers Party (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

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GENERAL NEWS

By Bill Kelly Mandate Divisional Organiser I ATTENDED the launch of the Trade Unionists for Marriage Equality campaign in SIPTU’s Liberty Hall on February 13. The theme of the night was Love & Pride and was kicked off with a moving speech by Mandate General Secretary John Douglas, current President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. John said that many unions within ICTU, including Mandate, would be calling for a Yes vote in the referendum which is planned to take place on May 22. The trade union movement has a long-held, positive policy of support for equality, solidarity and social justice and on a daily basis is involved in defending the rights of workers who are victimised, bullied and treated unfairly in the workplace and in society in general. We have been to the fore in securing equal pay for women, maternity rights, equality legislation and in seeking to improve the rights of working parents. By denying members of the LGBT community full equality, we are saying that LGBT relationships are not worthy of the support of society and are second class. This is no different than saying that it is OK to treat LGBT workers less fairly in the workplace or in society and that we are not really committed as a movement or a society to full equality for all. Is this really the type of Ireland we all want to live in – and where would it stop? There is nothing wrong with society expressing its support for two people who want to make a lifelong commitment to each other and this is a threat to no one. Many gay and lesbian friends of mine have been together in loving, committed relationships for several 30

Mandate calls for a YES vote in Marriage Equality Referendum decades and although I cannot currently count myself among them, it is something I continue to aspire to. I would like to think when that day comes, I will have the support of a society who will not treat my relationship as second class. Surely all loving relationships are of equal value?

Rainbow flag

Message What message do we want to send to our LGBT young? Would you not want to tell them that they are equal members of society and not second class? If your son or daughter told you they were lesbian or gay, would you not want to them to form a longterm, committed relationship that had the support of society and the Constitution of our country? On May 22, we can choose to say that all long-term committed relationships and families are equal and vote to change the Constitution to allow lesbian and gay couples civil marriage. It is important to remember that the referendum has nothing to do with religion or religious marriage and will not impact in any way on the position of the various churches to marriage. Some people are saying

Pictures: Photocall Ireland

trade unionists and workers to ensure that they vote Yes in May and called on all activists to get actively involved in the campaign. As General Secretary of Mandate he gave the example of how unacceptable and illegal it would be if a customer was told they could not buy something solely based on their sexual orientation. Why then it is acceptable that someone cannot get married for the same reason? Minister of State Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, addressing the launch, asked: “Who are the State to say that you cannot have a civil marriage to celebrate love in the Republic?” Seamus Dooley of the NUJ and Ethel Buckley of SIPTU – conveyors of the campaign as well as being members of the Congress Executive Council – also spoke passionately in support of a Yes vote.

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: ‘Who are State to say you can’t have a civil marriage to celebrate love?’

that voting to pass the referendum will damage children and the family. However, we already have many different types of families in Ireland today, including lesbian, single and gay parents. The referendum does not seek to redefine either the family or the rights of children in any way. The Government is enacting new laws under the Children & Family Relationships Bill (2013) which is intended to deal with the variety of families we already have in Ireland today.

Although Civil Partnership already exists, this does not confer the right of full marriage and maintains a twotier system which says that LGBT people are not really entitled to full equality. If marriage has a special place in the Constitution, then the Constitution should not exclude LGBT people from having the right to marriage. In his speech at the launch of the Trade Unionists for Marriage Equality campaign, John Douglas speaking as President of Congress, called on all

The exterior of Liberty Hall was lit up in the colours of the rainbow flag for the launch which was well supported and attended by members from many unions. The night finished with a showing of the film Pride. Based on a true piece of trade union/LGBT history and solidarity, the film tells the story of a group of young LGBT activists who raised money in support of the 1984 British miners’ strike. The solidarity shown later by the National Union of Mineworkers was instrumental in changing the policy of the British Labour Party in favour of LGBT rights. It's an excellent film and well worth watching if you haven't already and it was an honour to watch it together with fellow LGBT members from most of the unions affiliated to Congress. On May 22, don’t be fooled by the fear being spread by the No side and vote for full equality in the Civil Marriage referendum. SHOPFLOOR

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May 2015

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GENERAL NEWS

For many survivors of the Rana Plaza collapse, the injuries were life changing and the scars will last for ever

Benetton to pay Rana Plaza funds

Philip Jennings: ‘generous colours’

Jyrki Raina: ‘colour of their money’

John Douglas: ‘justice must be done’

A MASSIVE online petition calling on Benetton to join a compensation scheme set up after the horrific Rana Plaza factory collapse in April 2013 has, it seems, done its work after the Italian clothing giant agreed to contribute funds. A total of 1,134 Bangladeshi garment workers died in the disaster with hundreds more maimed – many left with life-changing injuries. According to Avaaz.org, which organised the petition, the high fashion label had been the only major international brand with connections to the Dhaka factory complex not to have joined the scheme, dubbed the Rana Plaza Arrangement. The accord brings together all the key players, including the Bangladesh government, manufacturers and global retailers as well as labour organisations. Scheme proponents claim that, if successful, it will be a game-changer for corporate accountability, supply chain scrutiny and workers’ rights around the world.

Cautious welcome

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Pictures: UNI Global, Mandate, IRFL, IndustriALL and R/DV/RS (CC BY 2.0)

UNI Global Union and its sister global union IndustriALL had led the calls on Benetton to contribute to the fund which is $9m short of the $30m needed to compensate victims. And they were joined by Mandate in demanding that the well-known retailer paid up. Now leading trade unionists have given a cautious welcome to the fashion manufacturer’s move. Mandate’s John Douglas said: “The news that Benetton has committed to pay compensation to the victims of Rana Plaza is a massive boost to the families and survivors of the one of the biggest workplace tragedies of all time. “Benetton agreed to pay this compensation as a result of international pressure, and it really shows that when we organise and mobilise internationally, we can achieve significant change and ensure justice is done.” IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raina said: “We are pleased that at long last Benetton has promised to pay into the Rana Plaza Trust

Desperate search for survivors following collapse

Fund. Now, it’s time for Benetton to show us the colour of their money. “We call on Benetton to do what’s morally right and compensate with compassion. We expect to see a significant contribution to the Rana Plaza Trust Fund by Benetton in keeping with a major brand that sourced from Rana Plaza and has a considerable investment in Bangladesh.” These words were echoed by UNI Global Union General Secretary Philip Jennings. He said: “We understand that Benetton promises to step up and take their share of the responsibility for the victims of the Rana Plaza tragedy. For a company with a profit of more than $200m and a turnover of $1.6 billion, we expect Benetton to show their most generous colours.” Both IndustriALL and UNI have sounded a note of caution and highlighted a number of outstanding issues with regard to that amount Benetton intends to pay into the fun and the identity of the “independent, globally recognised third party” commissioned by the fashion label to advise the company on how much it should pay. SHOPFLOOR

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GENERAL NEWS

Begg: ‘We need a model of social investment’ DAVID Begg has claimed “a new model” of social investment is needed to combat the dramatic inequality that has resulted from the “demand of the markets” that working people bear the brunt of the ongoing crisis. He made the comments at the Congress Women’s Seminar in Belfast on March 5 in his last public engagement as Congress General Secretary. Mr Begg said: “Inequality has worsened since the crash and our politics have been torn between the competing expectations of markets and citizens. Markets demand higher profits and bonuses for the rich while requiring lower wages, precarious work and minimal security for all others. In Ire-

land, we see mouth-watering levels of pay for a minority at the top while half of all wage-earners take home less than €28,500 a year. “We need a new model of social investment to defeat and mitigate social risk across Europe in order to equip welfare states to respond adequately to modern kinds of social risk. This requires an adequate tax base but debt servicing is now a huge drag on tax revenue. “The feminisation of the labour market now requires different kinds of risks to be taken on board. Family formation is different. Caring needs are different. These have to be provided for if people – male and female –

Europe. He said: “Austerity combined are to be able to participate in the labour market and achieve their full with reform was never a good choice potential. In a nutshell it is about turn- to offer Europe. Growth has to be part ing vicious circles of poverty and un- Presentation of cheque of the deal. A newtogrand bargain is Greyhound workers employment into virtuous circles of a needed in which the European econstrong economy, good public services, omy is stimulated, both by fiscal and high taxes and full employment." monetary means. Referring to International Women’s “For the bargain to work everybody Day on March 8, Mr Begg said: “That is has to see that they benefit. A strong what I always wanted – for women to commitment to arresting the rise in be equal in a way that gives every perinequality through social investment son the opportunity to be fulfilled, to is a necessary first step in constructhave children and yet have the freeing the new grand bargain. dom to obtain your own dreams, “This is the only way the European whatever they might be." Mr Begg pointed out the Irish recov- integration project, the most ambitious political experiment in history, ery was still fragile and claimed “a can be saved.” new grand bargain” was required for

Mandate

David Begg: ‘new grand bargain needed’

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keep up to date

Union Representatives Introductory Course The Union Representative Introductory Training Course is for new shop stewards/union representatives. The course aims to provide information, skills and knowledge to our shop tewards/union representatives to assist them in their role in the workplace. Course content: • Background to Mandate. • The role and responsibilities of a Shop Steward/Union Representative. • Examining disciplinary/grievance procedures. • Developing negotiating skills. • Representing members at local level. • Communication skills/solving members’ problems. • Organising, Recruitment and Campaigns. • Induction presentations. Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this course will obtain a Mandate certificate. They may progress to a Union Representative Advanced Course and to other relevant training courses offered by Mandate.

City of Dublin Education and Training Board

SKILLS FOR WORK

Interested in doing a personal finance or maths course? Do you have a desire to improve your personal finance skills? Or maths skills? But never got around to doing it?

Personal Finance and Maths course Starting from scratch this course helps you to improve your maths and personal finance. Mandate Trade Union in conjunction with Skills for Work are offering members the opportunity to attend training. The courses are to encourage members back into learning and training while aiming towards a FETAC level 3 Award. If you are interested in doing a Communications through Computers course, contact: Mandate Training Centre Distillery House Distillery Road Dublin 3 Phone: 01-8369699 Email: mandateotc@mandate.ie Courses are free and open to members who have not achieved Leaving Certificate or who have an out of date Leaving Certificate. You can also achieve a FETAC Level 3 Award. Skills for Work is funded by the Department of Education & Skills.

If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: mandateotc@mandate.ie May 2015

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SPOTLIGHT

ONE PARENT FAMILY PAYMENT

Picture: Steven Feldman (CC BY-NC 2.0)

OFP changes: what you need to know... What is changing on the One-Parent Family payment (OFP) scheme?

The OFP scheme is changing from July 2, 2015, and will only be available to lone parents who have a youngest child aged under seven years from that date onwards. This means that a large number of OFP customers (approximately 30,200) will no longer qualify for the OFP payment after July 2 because their youngest child is aged seven or over. You may qualify for a different payment with the Department of Social Protection when your OFP payment stops – and the staff at your local Intreo Centre/Social Welfare Office will be happy to help you to apply for the right payment for you. They will also explain what this change means for you. There are a number of alternative social welfare payments available to you – namely (but not exclusively): l the Jobseeker’s Allowance (JA) transitional arrangement if your youngest child is aged under 14 years; l the Jobseeker’s Allowance (JA) if your youngest child is aged 14 years or over; l the Family Income Supplement (FIS) if you are currently working a minimum of 19 hours per week or can increase your working hours to this amount. If you move to either the JA scheme or the JA transitional arrangement, you will continue to receive additional benefits such as the Fuel Allowance. If you are currently in education or training, the Department can arrange for you to continue to receive a suitable payment until you complete your course. If you are currently in receipt of a SUSI grant, you can also keep this grant until you complete your course, provided that you continue to be eligible for the grant. If you are currently on a Departmental employment programme, like Community Employment (CE) or JobBridge, the Department can arrange for you to complete this programme with a suitable payment, so please

make contact with the Department. Special arrangements are in place for customers who are in receipt of the Domiciliary Care Allowance (DCA) on behalf of a disabled child, or who are recently bereaved, that will allow them to remain on the OFP payment. A new youngest child age limit of 16 years is also being proposed for customers who are caring and are in receipt of both the half-rate Carer’s Allowance and the OFP payment. This means that you will be able to continue to claim both of these payments after your youngest child turns seven, provided that you meet the conditions for both schemes. This proposal is subject to legislation and is not yet in force. There are also some child care schemes available to assist you into employment. These

Back to Work Family Dividend IF YOU are currently working less than 19 hours per week, or 38 hours per fortnight, the best option for you is to try to increase your working hours to a minimum of 19 hours per week and then apply for the FIS payment. The additional hours can be with a different employer. You will then qualify for the new Back to Work Family Dividend (BTWFD). This will be the best financial option for you – and you may see a gain in your overall income.

SPARK

(Single Parents Acting for the Rights of Kids)

will be hosting a demonstration against the cuts on Wednesday, June 10 at 3.30pm outside Leinster House in Dublin 2 34

are the After-school Child Care (ASCC) scheme and the Community Employment Childcare (CEC) programme. These schemes build on the existing supports that are provided for, and implemented by, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) in the child care sector, through which child care is provided to some 25,000 children of low-income parents at reduced rates. Information on both of these schemes is available at your local Intreo Centre/Social Welfare Office or from your CE sponsor. More information on the above is available on www.welfare.ie and www.citizensinformation.ie.

What is the Jobseeker’s Allowance (JA) transitional arrangement?

The JA transitional arrangement is a special arrangement that was introduced in 2013 for lone parents who are affected by the changes to the OFP scheme and who have a youngest child aged between seven and 13 years inclusive. This arrangement exempts these lone parents from some of the conditions that normally apply to a JA payment. You do not need to be available for, and seeking, full-time work to qualify for the JA transitional arrangement, and you can work more than three days per week (for example, on mornings only for five days) and still qualify for payment, subject to the means test. You can also study part-time or full-time and, if your course qualifies you for a SUSI grant, you can get this grant and it will not be assessed as means by the Department. You must continue to parent alone to receive the JA transitional arrangement payment. The JA transitional arrangement payment will help you with your child care costs if you want to work, as you can work mornings only, but it does not force you to work. You will also get access to the Department’s range of Intreo services, including a meeting with a case officer. The case officer will help you to develop a personal plan to move you towards education, training, and employment support pro-

grammes so that you are prepared for the time when your children are older. Once your youngest child reaches the age of 14 years, you can apply for the JA payment, with the full conditionality of that scheme attached.

What will happen before July 2, 2015?

If this change affects you, the Department will be in touch with you to assist you to apply for a different income support payment and, also, to help you to understand what this change will mean for you. This may include a request to attend an information seminar. It is very important that you attend the seminar so that you fully understand your options and are not left without income support when your OFP payment stops in July. The Department is holding these seminars at this early stage to make sure that they can arrange alternative payments for you. If you cannot attend the seminar, you should contact your local Intreo Centre/Social Welfare Office as soon as possible so that staff there can arrange another date for you. The letter that you receive from the Department will provide you with an email address for queries. Not all customers will be invited to a seminar. If you are working and in receipt of both the FIS and OFP payments, your FIS payment will be automatically reviewed when your OFP payment ends. You may also qualify for the new BTWFD dividend. The Department will write to you before your OFP ends to explain this change and you will not be asked to attend an information seminar. You will also receive an application form for the BTWFD dividend with this letter – and you should return this form immediately to local Intreo Centre/Social Welfare Office. If you have a general question about FIS, you can contact the Department’s FIS Section by telephone at 043-334-0053 or by email at FISSection@welfare.ie.

Mandate calls for reversal of changes to OFP scheme MANDATE has called on the Government to reverse its decision to implement cuts to the One-Parent Family Payment scheme saying that some low-paid single parents could be facing a loss of €80 per week – many of whom will be Mandate members. The Government and the Department are making the cuts under the guise of “reducing long term social welfare dependency” when the reality is very different. At the moment a lone parent with children can get the lone parent’s allowance until the youngest child reaches 14. The Government aims to bring that down to seven years which will affect more than 30,000 lone-parent families. Mandate say this is unfair and will destroy the living standards of single parents and their children right across the country. “The vast majority of lone parents receiving this allowance are already among the most vulnerable and poorest in our society. They’ve paid enough for a crisis not

of their making and it’s about time the Government changed focus and stopped targeting those on low pay and instead went after those who caused the economic mess,” said John Douglas, Mandate General Secretary. Ireland has the second highest underemployment rates in the EU15 – with 140,000 workers classifying themselves as wanting more hours – but not having access to them. Mr Douglas added: “For the Government to be saying they want to move ‘lone parents out of the poverty trap and into work’ is to ignore the reality on the ground. “As we’ve seen, Dunnes Stores workers have no mechanism for accessing more hours and cuts to the One-Parent Family Payment will result in many more families entering our poverty statistics.” Here are some facts in relation to the One-Parent Family Payment cuts: l Lone parents are poorest sector in

Irish society with 65% deprivation rates in most recent EU SILC report. This is going without two or more basic needs such as food, warm clothing and heating. l Minister Joan Burton in 2012 said she would not go ahead with these cuts unless she had a Scandinavian-type childcare in place. These cuts and changes are happening without childcare. l The immediate financial loss is to low paid parents mostly working part time. Those with low-hour contracts are most vulnerable to cuts as FIS is not even on option. l The Government is talking about recovery, but lone parents are not part of that recovery. By 2017 a lone parent working 20 hours on minimum wage will be down €108 a week. This does not include cuts on children’s allowance, rent allowance or back to school which are all additional cuts. SHOPFLOOR

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THE LAST WORD... I RECENTLY attended, along with The ugly excesses of capitalism exposed over three days... Mandate five other shop stewards, a Mandate training course. This three-day course which was given by tutors Mel Shop Steward Helen Gavin, who works at Penneys in Mullingar, Corry and Stevie Nolan was held in Mandate’s Training Centre in early found a Mandate training course she attended recently very February. Prior to commencing the course, because of its title, I was thought it enlightening indeed. In this article she explains why... would cover areas such as contracts,

Decline

and greed are all they know – to treat workers fairly would eat into their profits. Picture this – 225 people in the world own 47% of combined income in the world. Tax these 225 people a mere 4% and it would STOP WORLD HUNGER. This course reaffirmed my belief in that people have a right to say “Enough!” whether it’s in the workplace or in the wider world. I now question things and have come to my own understanding as to why the EU chiefs fear the new Greek government for what they are trying to do, which basically is rule themselves and look after their people. We found out why privatisation of our services will not be good for the country. It will not lead to improved services but will only serve to line the pockets of Big Business. Privatisation of health, water and education would mean many workers could no longer afford these services, putting us back into a situation where we have to go with the cap in hand to State and Church looking for help.

I learned about the different forms of capitalism and their effects on society. How one event such as the founding of the first factory by Richard Arkwright in Cromford, England, led to the decline of cottage industry and evolved into what we have today. Today’s Stock Exchange in London has its roots in Jonathan’s Coffee House, London, in the 17th Century, where the traders of the day sat and organised trading of commodities arriving back on the ships from abroad. The Long Depression, the Great Depression, the Scramble for Africa, Fordism, Taylorism, Thatcherism are all events which have evolved and in one way or another impact on us, the workers of today. How? You ask. In today’s workplace we are faced with zero hour contracts, flexibility, in-work poverty and in many parts of the world, intimidation and brainwashing, to stop people joining trade unions. All of which can be linked back in one way or another to the above events. One does not have to be a member of a trade union to be treated fairly or respected in the workplace but the capitalists of the world fear trade unions. Trade unions give members – the workers – a voice. A voice to look for respect, equality, proper working conditions and a fair wage for an honest day’s work. Not much to ask for but capitalists don’t have a moral conscience. Profit

Do we deserve such treatment? No! We can no longer let our Government go ahead to impose such things and not call them to account. Ireland has found its voice where the water charges are concerned but there is a bigger problem out there. One that has not been fully revealed by our Government, it’s called TTIP. Please research this and then ask your local TD about it – but remember they will only tell us what the good points are and not the hidden agenda. TTIP is a monster looming and if it ever comes to pass, it will have huge consequences for us as workers and for society as a whole. In many ways I feel I have not done justice to this course or to the tutors. I have only briefly touched on the many topics discussed. They reignited my voice for I have always known that money follows money, the rich get richer, governments play us. While I never felt the benefits of the Celtic Tiger, I – along with every other worker in this country – am feeling the full effect of austerity. So if you – like me – want to learn how to improve your shop steward skills, to start to question and learn why it’s so important for people to stand together and say “Enough!”, I would highly recommend this this Mandate training course. So take the first step on the road and put your name down for this course.

Picture: Fabrizio Pucci (CC BY 2.0)

legislation and changes in work-related policies. I was wrong for making such an assumption. The dominant topics were economics and capitalism and it proved to be one of the most interesting and informative courses I have ever attended. For a lot of people, including myself, when either topic is discussed on the news, I would have had a vague understanding or interest. Now I have far more understanding as the tutors explained both topics in a down-to-earth fashion and showed how they can relate to us – the workers.

Voice

Union Representative Advanced Senior course November 2014

May 2015

y SHOPFLOOR

Union Representative Advanced Senior course February 2015

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Shopfloor May 2015