SHOPFLOOR MANDATE TRADE UNION
N I L B U D 9 2 T S U G U A O M E D L A N O I T A N R E T A W 2 T H RIG
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STRAIGHT TALKING General Secretary Mandate Trade Union
Walgreens Boots Alliance Why we have a staff endorse 3% pay rise Right2Change... OVER the last seven years, we’ve been hammered by austerity. Some more than others. For instance, some billionaires have had hundreds of millions of their debt written off (only to be picked up by taxpayers) while the rest of us are told that if we don’t pay our water bills, we could end up in Court and have money taken directly from our wages. One rule for them, one rule for us. l We’ve lost approximately 250,000 of our children to emigration – just to keep the unemployment figures down, while politicians and economists warn us of the dangers of capital flight when we simply mention corporation tax. l We’ve bailed out developers and bankers to the tune of €65 billion, while 40 families lose their homes every month. l We’ve given €400 million in tax cuts to the top earners in our society – with more promised in the next Budget, while one in 10 of us suffer from food poverty. l We have the largest class sizes in Europe while millionaires and billionaires use Ireland as their tax avoidance hub. We could go on and on and on… but the point is, we have created one of the most unequal countries in the developed world where hundreds of thousands of us struggle to just get by – yet a relatively small few flourish in wealth we could barely imagine. We don’t deserve that. None of us do. So we have to change it. The Right2Water campaign has been one of the largest mobilisations of popular people power in the history of the state. One that has united the Left and brought the broadest possible coalition of people under the one banner proclaiming that water is a human right and water charges are an infringement of that right. Our experience
shows that if we work together, we can mobilise and we can make enormous change in this country. The Right2Water Trade Unions have been engaging with communities, political parties and other unions in recent months. We produced a Policy Principles Document for a Progressive Irish Government document in May 2015 and sought feedback through a submission process where everybody had a chance to have their say. That resulted in almost 150 detailed submissions on areas as diverse as education, healthcare, housing, the arts, trade agreements (TTIP), natural resources and workers’ rights. It is clear the society that has been carved out for us is not the one that people want. Since the submission process, we have held a conference with 220 activists who made amendments to the policies identified. What’s obvious is, people feel we have a Right2change. A right to change the type of society we live in. No more corruption, no more cronyism. Everyone should pay their fair share, including employers. Our society should be based on decency, equality and respect, not inequality, profit and greed. With an election looming, the Right2Water Trade Unions will be asking election candidates to sign up to our policy principles. We have produced a fiscal and economic blueprint which could raise more than €9 billion in revenue over four years, giving us scope to tackle homelessness, hospital waiting lists, A&E trolley numbers and lower class sizes, among other areas that benefit us all. If we want to change Ireland, it has to begin with us. We need to get involved in the change we want. That begins on Saturday 29th August in Dublin where the Right2Water campaign will be hosting another major demonstration. We’re asking all Mandate members to come along, bring your family and friends, ask your neighbours to come and let’s make this the biggest demonstration yet. The event will be another familyfriendly event with balloons and face painting for children. There may be an exciting announcement made on the day – so don’t miss out! Go to www.right2water.ie for more information.
Shopfloor is published bi-monthly by Mandate Trade Union. Mandate Head Office, O'Lehane House, 9 Cavendish Row, Dublin 1 T: 01-8746321/2/3 F: 01-8729581 W: www.mandate.ie Design & Editing: Brazier Media E: email@example.com Shopfloor is edited, produced and printed by trade union labour
MORE than 83% of Mandate members in Boots Ireland have voted in favour of a 3% pay rise. It follows a series of meetings held earlier in the year between the firm’s Irish management and Mandate representatives. The agreement comes following the expiration of the previously negotiated deal which saw workers receive a 4% increase over 24 months. The negotiated proposals led to an overall increase of 3% – with members receiving a 1.5% pay rise on June 1, 2015 plus a further 1.5% to be paid out on November 1, 2015. Separately but during the course of the negotiations the company committed to reviewing the issue of working hours and all sides agree to engage in the near future. Agreement, however, could not be reached on a dispute regarding the interpretation of an agreement concluded in 2009 surrounding the issue of “frozen increments”. It was agreed to park this issue until early 2016 with both parties agreeing to meet in an attempt to resolve the matter. Divisional Organiser Brendan O’Hanlon told Shopfloor: “While the continued improvements in our members’ terms and conditions are to be very much welcomed, it is important that the issue around working
hours and frozen increments are also brought to a satisfactory conclusion and that we continue to drive the campaign for decent work across the whole of retail.” Boots Ireland is part of Walgreens Boots Alliance – reportedly the world's largest buyer of prescription drugs. Following the merger of the Brendan O’Hanlon: welcome iconic Walgreens and Boots brands in December 2014, the group employs some 370,000 people worldwide. The merger has meant that the company will now have a presence in more than 25 countries, acquiring the largest retail pharmacy footprint in the US and across Europe. At the same time it offers one of the largest global pharmaceutical wholesale and distribution networks. Divisional Organiser Jonathan Hogan said: “The merger has already resulted in restructuring plans being put in place in the UK. However, Mandate welcomes the commitment given by the Boots Irish management team to maintain jobs here in Ireland in a recent edition of Checkout magazine.”
Low Pay Commission 50c rise call ‘not enough’ By David Gibney Mandate communications officer THE Low Pay Commission, set up by the Government earlier this year, has recommended increasing the minimum wage from €8.65 to €9.15 an hour. Trade union representatives on the Low Pay Commission, including Mandate Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light and ICTU General Secretary Patricia King, submitted their own ‘minority report’, claiming that the 50c increase “isn’t enough”. Mr Light told Shopﬂoor: “We’re not happy with this increase. We believe it’s not enough and should have been increased by €1 per hour. In Ireland we have the second highest prevalence of low pay in the OECD. We have among the lowest employee compensation rates in the EU. This was an oppor-
tunity to address the issue of low pay.” He continued: “The focus on a headline hourly rate of pay is misguided to say the least. As we have seen through the Dunnes Stores dispute and in other retail outlets, workers want and need security of hours and a guaranteed minimum income. What use is a minimum wage increase to a low-paid worker if their employer simply reduces their hours? “Also, with this 50c increase, for a full time worker on 39 hours per week, less than 5% will actually go to the worker due to PRSI and USC thresholds. Revenue will collect the other 95% of the increase.” And Mr Light slammed the employers’ bodies that have criticised the increase pointing out that have consistently stood against pay increases – in both good times and bad. He said: “A number of
employers’ representatives have falsely made claims that the increase in the minimum wage will impact on jobs. They refuse to back up their premise with statistics and are simply scaremongering. “ What is very worrying is that they are seeking a reduction in employers’ PRSI to counter the increase despite the fact they already pay less than 50%of social insurance rates in the average EU country.” Mr Light added: “The sectors that the minimum wage is prevalent in are the sectors that refuse to give workers a commitment on weekly hours. “Government must address this, along with ensuring the taxation system is progressive and fair if the minimum wage is to achieve a level of decency and fairness for workers.”
Tesco pay talks referred to LRC TEScO workers have referred their claim for an improvement in working hours, pay and the non-payment of a bonus to the Labour Relations commission (LRc) following the breakdown of local negotiations in June. As reported in the last edition of Shopfloor (May 2015), a national meeting of Tesco Shop Stewards in March had agreed to pursue a claim for an improvement in working hours and pay. However, in June – and without any prior notification – the retailer unilaterally withheld the payment of a bonus which affected almost 70% of workers. The move caused considerable anger among those members of staff affected. At a subsequent meeting between Mandates’s National Negotiations Team and Tesco management, the union put a number of items on the agenda, including: l Immediate restoration of a share bonus payment, l 3% pay increase across all grades, and l Review of Banded Hour contracts Framework to ensure maximum benefits to members.
Key to the breakdown in talks was management’s refusal to justify the unilateral decision to stop the share bonus for staff and concede a 3% pay increase for the current year. Mandate Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light told Shopfloor: “It is extremely disappointing that Tesco has refused to provide detailed information in respect of their profits in the Republic of Ireland. This financial data is necessary in order for us to establish the capacity of the company to fulfil our claim. “If they can’t pay the share bonus and a modest pay increase, they should show us evidence of that fact. In the absence of this evidence, we have to assume Tesco is capable of fulfilling our claim. “We have informed the company their actions in relation to the share bonus scheme, where they did not inform the union in advance of their decision, is entirely unacceptable and will not be tolerated.” He added: “Our members are justifiably angry and upset and that’s why this was the number one item on the agenda.”
SHOPFLOOR August 2015
Hickeys staff endorse 2% rise and deal on increments
Macroom store deal on hours & pay restoration
MANDATE members in Hickeys have voted yes by a signiﬁcant majority to accept a 2% pay rise and an unfreezing of increments. The union had sought the increase as well as the move on increments. Mandate Divisional Organiser Michael Meegan, who brokered the deal, told Shopfloor: "Our members in Hickeys have over recent years been willing to work with the company through diﬃcult times. “We welcome that fact that through constructive engagement with management staﬀ have now been rewarded for their loyalty and hard work."
MANDATE members in O’Leary’s Supervalu, Macroom, have unanimously accepted a 5.5% pay increase. The rise will be implemented from June 1, 2015 for 12 months with a commitment to review pay going forward in June each year. The increase recognises both a pay claim made by Mandate on behalf of members as well as a claim for the restoration of a pay cut accepted by workers in 2009. As part of the 2009 agreement members also agreed to a voluntary reduction in hours. At the time the pay cut and reduced working week helped to avert the prospect of redundancies and signiﬁcantly contributed to the future sustainability of the business. Divisional Organiser Lorraine O’Brien told Shopfloor: ”This agreement acknowledges the importance of the role played by staﬀ in 2009 and the sacriﬁces they made. Staﬀ who voluntarily reduced their hours have had them restored to their original level. “It also serves as an example of an employer who recognises the value of engaging with their staﬀ’s representatives in a meaningful way to achieve an outcome which is positive for both parties.”
Aisle support you says June 6 bride!
There was an amazing amount of support shown by the general public for Dunnes workers during the big June 6 march through Dublin... but the sight of a bride popping out of the Newman University Church on St Stephen’s Green to back the Decency for Dunnes Workers campaign really wowed marchers. Lisa McLoughlin looked absolutely stunning as she took a break from the nuptials to show her solidarity and hold up a Decent Jobs placard. One marcher said: “It was a marriage of hearts. We were absolutely thrilled – what an endorsement of our campaign.”
WHAT A DAY!
MORE JUNE 6 PICTURES...
TURN TO PAGES 4,5 & 6
ICTU BDC rejects imposition of water charges
Dave Moran of Mandate speaks on the water charges motion August 2015
Picture: Kevin Cooper Photoline
By David Gibney Mandate communications officer THE trade union movement in Ireland has voted to reject the imposition of water charges. It came as more than 700 delegates from across Ireland North and South gathered in Ennis, co clare, in early July to put in place policies that will guide the movement over the next two years. The motion to reject water charges put forward by the Waterford Trades council did spark some debate among delegates but was eventually passed by an overwhelming majority. IMPAcT had proposed an amendment to the original motion calling for an adequate household allowance to meet normal domestic usage. This amendment, which was supported by a number of other unions, was defeated by 203 votes to 194. Mandate’s Dave Moran, who spoke in support of the original motion and against the amendment, pointed out that the household
allowance would, ironically, end up proving even more regressive than the existing water charges. He told delegates: “If every household receives an adequate allowance, the Government would still have to raise 50% of its income from both commercial and domestic water charges. “At the current rate of investment, which is already too low, that means between €600m and €1bn would have to be raised. In order to do that, the price of every litre of water above the household allowance would have to increase significantly to an extortionate level impacting most on the most vulnerable in our society.” Mr Moran continued: “The people who use more domestic water are those who spend more of their time in their homes. This includes the unemployed, the underemployed – like many of Mandate’s members, the disabled and pensioners. “They obviously use more water for cooking, cleaning, drinking and for sanitation pur-
posed than those who are in full-time employment meaning they would make up a disproportionate amount of the €600m to be raised through water charges.” After a heated debate, the amendment to the motion was eventually defeated and the original motion to reject water charges was passed. Meanwhile, Eurostat has now ruled that Irish Water must remain on the Government’s balance sheet, meaning the utility has failed the EU Market corporation test. This is another serious blow for the Government and for Irish Water and comes after it was revealed more than half of the population has so far refused to pay a second time for their water provision. The Government’s primary motivation to push the introduction of water charges was to remove water provision from the balance sheet. The failure to do so means there is no logical economic reason to continue with the charges and they should be abolished with immediate effect.
JUNE 6 MARCH & RALLY
SHOPFLOOR August 2015
JUNE 6 MARCH & RALLY
JUNE 6 SOLIDARITY IN THE SUN
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JUNE 6 MARCH & RALLY
SHOPFLOOR August 2015
Plaque honour for Dunnes anti-Apartheid strikers A PLAQUE honouring those who took part in the Dunnes Stores antiapartheid strike has been laid on Henry Street in Dublin. In 1984, 11 young shop workers went on strike for two years and nine months for their right not to handle goods from Apartheid South Africa. Their strike eventually led to the Irish government banning goods from South Africa and is credited with helping to end the Apartheid regime. Nelson Mandela said the Dunnes workers’ stand helped keep him going during his time in prison. Speaking at the May 18 unveiling of the plaque, Mandate General Secretary John Douglas said: “These workers deserve to be honoured in this way and much, much more. “When they took their principled stance in 1984, they weren’t very popular. Their employer, Dunnes Stores, targeted them, but so too did the State. They were ridiculed. Their work colleagues passed their pickets and abused them on a daily basis. As did many members of the public."
and handled South African produce, we would have lost our jobs before we did that." Roseleen Archbold, wife of the late Brendan Archbold, also spoke at the event. She said: "Today's ceremony and unveiling is an acknowledgement of Brendan's lifelong contribution to the trade union movement and wider society. He was passionate about the South African struggle and was immensely proud of the strikers and the sacrifices they made.
Pride: the Dunnes anti-Apartheid strikers at the official unveiling of the plaque in Henry Street, Dublin
“Sadly neither Bren or his hero Mandela can be here to witness this wonderful event. However, this tribute will ensure that their legacy will never be forgotten and we as a family are immensely proud of him and his work." Mr Douglas added: “It’s fitting that Brendan Archbold, former Mandate official, is also honoured today. Brendan was the heart and soul of the strike and he believed in these workers and stood by them every step of the way. “This plaque is a part of Brendan’s legacy, but the larger part of his legacy and the legacy of all of the strikers is the free South Africa that we see today.” The plaque honours all who took part in the strike including: Brendan Archbold, Karen Gearon, Mary Manning, Liz Deasy, Michelle Gavin, Vonnie Munroe, Alma Russell, Tommy Davis, Sandra Griffin, Theresa Mooney, catherine O’Reilly and Brendan Barron.
He added: “They were only teenagers at the time and it would have been so easy to just walk away, but they stood strong. They stayed outside this shop for more than twoand-a-half years because of an injustice that was happening to people they had never met more than 10,000 kilometres away. “That type of solidarity is very rare and this city and this country should be very proud of their inspirational stand.” Karen Gearon, shop steward during the strike, said the plaque was laid in memory of Brendan Archbold, who was the workers' union rep at the time. "When the strike started he told us we wouldn't be out for more than two weeks – it was probably the only thing he got wrong in the whole dispute. He was so supportive to us, but we never thought it would go on for two years and nine months. "There were times on the picket line when we felt so down, that we just wanted to walk away from it. But we would never have gone back in August 2015
“ General Secretary John Douglas: ‘These workers deserve their honour’
There were times on the picket line when we felt so down, that we just wanted to walk away from it. But we would never have gone back in...
Walmart’s tax havens revealed
Picture: Mike Mozart (CC BY 2.0)
Guess where one is...
By Ed Teller MAIN Street 824 (Proprietary) Limited is the home of Walmart in the Republic of Ireland. No, it’s not a giant superstore selling everything from bullets to frozen pizzas. It is one of Walmart’s 78 subsidiaries in countries with no Walmart stores yet holding more than $76 billion worth of the company’s assets. Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF), a tax justice campaigning group, released a report in revealing Walmart’s vast network of subsidiaries located in 15 overseas tax havens, including Mauritius, cayman Islands, Panama, Barbados, cyprus, Gibraltar and – of course – Ireland! This reaffirms Trademark’s Dr Stephen Nolan’s description of Ireland as “a
tax haven with bad weather”. According to the report, the primary purpose of these subsidiaries, which employ few or any staff, is to avoid tax and to maintain the company’s financial secrecy. As well as avoiding tax, these subsidiaries also provide interest free, or virtually free, loans to Walmart stores avoiding US credit/lending legislation. The report calls for a congress investigation into Walmart which is unlikely to happen. commenting on the release of the report, Debt and Development coalition Ireland (DDcI) stated: “The discovery that Walmart, operating in the retail sector, has a complex web of tax-haven subsidiaries around the world suggests that the variety of ag-
This [Americans for Tax Fairness] report reaffirms Trademark’s Dr Stephen Nolan’s description of Ireland as ‘a tax haven with bad weather’
gressive tax avoidance strategies used by multinational corporations especially is being adapted for new sectors of the economy, and that even more corporations than imagined are systematically using new devices and loopholes (guided by legal and tax advisers) to avoid contributing their fair share to the public purse.” DDcI called for “public country by country reporting for all large companies in all sectors, so that multinationals have to publish, for each country where they operate, the names of subsidiaries, employee numbers, taxable income and taxes paid.” DccI continued: “Allied to this is the need to establish public national registers of the real, beneficial own-
ers of companies, trusts and other legal structures. Taken together, these two actions would go some way to removing the shield of secrecy that allows multinationals [to] drive down the taxes they contribute to the public purse.”M This report once again calls into question whether Ireland is really a tax haven for corporations – something the Government has been keen to deny. But a more honest question has been posed by Forbes magazine when it asked, If Ireland is not a tax haven then what is it? check out http://onforb.es/1J3JJ0e And as the article explains: “No jurisdiction, except perhaps Bermuda, has more at stake per capita in the international tax game than Ireland.”
Brokering of Turkish agreement ‘win for IKEA workers worldwide’ TURKISH trade union Koop-Is has signed its first collective bargaining agreement with local IKEA management in a move that has been described as “a win for IKEA workers everywhere”. It follows a protracted three-year campaign by the union with the support of the IKEA Global Union Alliance. A total of 20 unions spanning 14 countries joined the Alliance, launched in Istanbul in March 2012, in a bid to forge a global solution to local issues at IKEA. A mobilisation plan to support Turkish IKEA workers was put in place after the retailer’s Turkish franchisee, Mapa, refused to engage in dialogue with Koop-Is and openly resisted unionisation. But now the IKEA union has secured recognition from the Turkish Ministry of Labour and Social Security that gives it negotiation rights on behalf of workers. The collective bar8
IKEA workers in Turkey and their union Koop-Is sign first collective agreement Picture: UNI Global
gaining agreement sets out provisions for better pay and social benefits as well as improved working hours. Head of UNI commerce Alke Boessiger told Shopfloor: “This victory belongs to IKEA Turkey workers and their union Koop-Is who never gave up in the face of strong resistance on the part of the company. “The UNI IKEA Global Union Al-
liance is proud to have supported Turkish workers throughout this long campaign with both public and direct support actions around the world. “The union and local management now have to continue to build trust and develop constructive relationships for the good of both the workers and the company.” She added: “A positive ongoing constructive dia-
logue between workers and employers in Turkey could be a model for IKEA sites all over the world. This result is a win for IKEA workers everywhere.” Welcoming the move, Mandate General Secretary John Douglas said: “This is a great victory for the IKEA workers in Turkey and we’re delighted to have supported the campaign since the start, albeit in a small
Picture: Håkan Dahlström (CC BY 2.0)
role. It sends a message to all IKEA workers everywhere, that if you stand up and demand your right to representation, you can not only achieve that recognition but it will give you and your colleagues the ability to improve your pay and working conditions. “In the future, we hope the IKEA workers in Ireland will be releasing a similar statement.”
SHOPFLOOR August 2015
Calling for Decency for Dunnes workers knows no borders...
Trade unionists from across Europe show their support in many different languages for Dunnes Stores workers in Ireland. The delegates involved in this display of solidarity were attending the UNI Europa commerce conference in Gdansk, Poland, in early June.
Picture: UNI Global
Significant win under TUPE at Employment Appeals Tribunal MANDATE recently secured an important win under the Transfer of Undertakings Legislation for two members in Dundalk. The members involved had been working for a company since the early 1980s but their employment was subsequently transferred to another firm in 2012. It formed part of the original terms and conditions that a certain number of Sundays would be guaranteed at Christmas. However, these Sundays were not given to the two workers because of what the new employer claimed was a downturn in trade. The Rights Commissioner decided against the members and the matter was later appealed to the Employment Appeals Tribunal by Mandate. Willie Hamilton, Divisional Organiser for the North Eastern Area, argued at the Tribunal that the Rights Commissioner had erred in law and misdirected himself as to the thrust of the original European regulations. The Tribunal accepted this argument, overturned the decision of the Rights Com-
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Usdaw action day highlights mental health USDAW, Mandate’s sister union in the UK, has launched a new mental health awareness drive as part of its Supporting Parents and carers campaign. It held a ‘Spotlight Day’ with the theme Is worry tying you up in knots? on June 24 with activists organising August 2015
street stalls and a series of workplace events. Usdaw General Secretary John Hannett said: “Many people feel under pressure at work and at home; having to cope with changes to hours, rising food and fuel bills and changes to benefits. When times are tough people can
feel anxious and worried, which can in turn affect their mental health. “We want to encourage workers who feel under pressure to talk to their union sooner rather than later. We can help to make a difference by ensuring they get the advice and support they need.”
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IN FOCUS QATAR
Exploitation amid desert splendour
Dave Miskell, Rob McNamara & Daniel McCarthy at the UNI event (John Douglas, Gerry Light & Fiona O’Reilly not pictured)
Historic first as UNI Penneys reps meeting held in Dublin
A MEETING of Penneys reps from a number of countries including Ireland, Belgium, France, UK, Germany and Spain took place recently in Dublin. The UNI conference was the first time that reps from the many nations Penneys trades in had an opportunity to meet and discuss issues of common concern. Over the two-day event, knowledge and information was shared on many areas, including health and safety, wage structures, contracted hours and working environments. Over the coming months further engagement is planned with the company under the auspices of UNI with a view to securing a global agreement relevant to all countries. In recent years, Penneys has developed into an impressive retail giant with an expansion into many new markets. Stores
have opened across Europe and expansion is planned in US cities such as Boston, Philadelphia and New York. Primark’s operating revenue has increased by 48% from €1.7 billion in 2009 to just under €2.6 billion in 2013. Between 2009 and 2013 the number of employees has grown by 36%. Members of Mandate’s National Negotiating Team for Penneys – Gerry Light, David Miskell, Robert McNamara, John Douglas, Fiona O’Reilly (Artane) and Daniel Mccarthy (cork) – attended the event. David Miskell told Shopfloor: “There is a strong consensus from the National Team that it is essential we build global alliances with partner unions across Europe and the US to further the agenda of decent work and to improve pay andconditions. The conference in Dublin was the start of this process.”
New ‘collective bargaining’ law set to come into effect
THE Irish government has pushed through new workplace legislation through the Oireachtas which will give workers the ability to have a say on their terms and conditions of employment where collective bargaining is denied by their employer. The legislation will enable the Labour Court to make binding recommendations which will be enforceable through the Circuit Court. The new Bill is waiting to be signed by the President of Ireland and Mandate has stated its commitment to exploring and exploiting this legislation on behalf of
members as soon as it comes into force. Mandate Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light said: “While the legislation doesn’t deliver full collective bargaining rights for Irish workers, it certainly opens a number of opportunities for our members to have an impact on their terms and conditions of employment.” He added: “As soon as the legislation comes into eﬀect, we will be taking our case in relation to Dunnes Stores to the Labour Court and we’ll be looking at other employments where there is a reluctance or a refusal to engage with their workers through their trade union.”
Vision and leadership Read John Douglas’ address to ICTU BDC – CENTRE PAGES 10
By Dave Miskell Mandate Industrial Officer QATAR has done little to improve conditions for migrant workers despite promising reform last year, human rights body Amnesty International has said in a recent report. In December 2010, Qatar won its bid to host the 2022 World cup. In preparation, Qatar will spend an estimated US$100 billion on infrastructure, including a new airport, roads, hotels and stadiums. The international media, unions and human rights organisations have shone a spotlight on abuses of migrant workers’ rights in Qatar. Major concerns include the exploitative “Kafala” sponsorship system; lack of freedom of association/right to form unions; confiscation of passports; and harmful working and housing conditions. In May 2014, the Qatari authorities made promises to improve the sponsorship system and exit system. In late 2013, the government commissioned an international law firm, DLA Piper, to review the migrant labour issue.
ment contracts a clause stating: “The company reserves the right to automatically terminate your contract as a flying cabin crew member should you become pregnant.” It is gravely concerning that despite such employment practices Qatar Airways was recently voted Airline of the Year by Skytrax, an international body that rates airlines for their customer service and overall flight experience. Qatar Airlines operates to a significant number of airports across Europe, including Manchester, Birmingham and London. Itself dogged by controversy, FIFA needs now to act definitively to bring about real and meaningful change on employment practices in Qatar. It is
The firm interviewed government officials and the business community, and studied reports by human rights organisations and trade unions. In May 2014, DLA Piper handed the government its final report which included more than 60 recommendations. The government has not published the DLA Piper report, nor made any public response to its content. The Kafala system is a procedure whereby employers sponsor migrant workers by controlling their visa and legal status. Employers can withhold wages and passports from migrant employees, preventing their exit from the country. crucially reports have also criticised the lack of access to a judicial process to address breaches of employment rights and the restrictions on trade union activity. This system, which was abolished in Bahrain in 2008, was described as by the Labour Minister as “a form of slavery”. Also the International Labour Organisation has called on Qatar Airways to scrap contracts that allow it to sack members of cabin crew for being pregnant. Following a year-long investigation sparked by complaints by workers at the state-owned airline, the labour arm of the United Nations ruled it discriminated against women by including in employ-
Skyscrapers in Doha, capital of Qatar
gravely concerning that real consideration is not given to human rights abuses when deciding on a successful bid to host the event. The World cup, enjoyed by millions across all nations should not be built on exploitation and discrimination. All Mandate members are urged to sign a petition on Change.org to prevent Qatar hosting the World cup
Qatar is an absolute monarchy (unrestricted sovereign power) and its head of state is Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. After Saudi Arabia it is most conservative society in the Gulf operating a strict interpretation of Islam called Salafi. Certain provisions of the Qatari Criminal Code allow for practices such as flogging and stoning. Other countries that operate a similar system are Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
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SHOPFLOOR August 2015
How unions can outface the racists By Shane O’Curry Director, ENAR Ireland WE LIVE in a society where the problem of racism is only slowly getting recognition. If as few as 10% of society-wide incidents of racism are reported to an authority, in the workplace it is even much less than that. Reasons for this vary. While some studies emphasise people’s reluctance to be labeled as troublemakers, others reveal that people don’t see the point because they don’t believe anything will be done about it. Workplace racism can have a deep negative impact on the individual, it can affect their psychological and even physical wellbeing, as well as their ability to fulfill their duties. One woman recently told me that, after four years of racial bullying and in exasperation at not being understood or getting support, she quit her job.
In the context of the fight back against austerity, this “silence” imposed on people who experience racism can also have a particularly corrosive effect on solidarity among workers, and on the ability of a union to organise. How can union activists face up to this workplace racism which may divide us in ways that are invisible to us? Recently, ENAR Ireland were delighted to pilot their expanded Face up to Racism! training with 22 participants from six different unions at the Mandate Training centre. We had a very energetic and entertaining day with a diverse group of activists, shop stewards and organisers, from Mandate, PSEU, IBOA, cPSU, cWU and TEEU. The workshop is based on a half-day one originally developed with SIPTU and IcTU’s congress centre’s network, and funded by the Irish Human Rights and Equality commission’s Equality Mainstreaming programme. The one-day training provides a safe, non-judgmental environment in which union members can develop their own skills for identifying and thinking about racism in its different forms and different contexts. It offers plenty of space for exploring scenarios, asking questions, discussing
Activists drawn from six trade unions took part in the recent Face up to Racism! one-day course at the Mandate Training Centre
ideas, and bringing in their own experiences. The highly participative workshop explores three things in particular: 1) workplace racism, relying on real-life case scenarios and participants own experiences; 2) the importance of recording and monitoring workplace racist incidents, using the iReport.ie racist incident reporting system, and 3) what can be done about racism in a union context. If you are a union activist and want to help build a strong union move-
The one-day training provides a safe, nonjudgmental environment in which union members can develop their own skills for identifying and thinking about racism in its different forms & different contexts
ment that is racism free, then this is the workshop for you. But don’t just take my word for it... Niall McGuirk, PSEU: "This was a thought-provoking and challenging course. It provides people with a chance to participate and look at the way we deal with issues around ethnicity and race. It was a hugely enjoyable experience and I recommend it 100%. We all need to take stock every now and then and examine our actions and the actions of colleagues. A trade union needs to be a safe envi-
ronment for all its members and a course like this helps build that safety." Rob Murphy, Mandate: “I went away from this course with such positivity. I have a lot of ideas that I hope to put forward in work. I would recommend it to everyone to attend, it will open your mind.” Shane O’Curry is the Director of ENAR Ireland, the European Network Against Racism Ireland, a network of over 50 organisations, including SIPTU, the INMO, ICTU’s Congress Centres Network and USI.
OTC veteran Margie retires after 20 years of service
Margie, left, with OTC colleague Aileen Morrissey, worked at Mandate for nearly two decades August 2015
MANDATE Administrator Margie O’Rourke has retired from the Organising and Training Centre (OTC) after giving almost 20 years’ service to the union. Margie began working for Mandate in 1998 as coordinator for IT (Information Technology) where she remained until 2008 when she became Administrator for the OTC. In her role as Administrator, Margie had a great relationship with members who were participating in education courses. Mandate Education Coordinator Aileen Morrissey told Shopfloor: “Margie was always very welcoming to all of the members who arrived in the training centre. She has a remarkable memory for names and faces and she always managed to connect with them and made them feel special.” And Ms Morris-
sey also explained how Margie always ran a tight ship at the OTC. “Everyone knew you could not let Margie see you sneak a cup of tea or coffee into one of the training rooms or else you’d get ‘the look’ which was said more than words.” Mandate General Secretary John Douglas said Margie would be missed by everyone in the union. “Margie has been a large part of Mandate for close to 20 years. She’ll be missed by all of us – but it’s been a pleasure to work with her since 1998.” Margie intends to volunteer in Temple Street Children’s Hospital following her retirement and everyone in Mandate wishes her well in her next adventure.
Argos worker’s pay rate ‘not an error’, Labour Court finds THE Labour court has overturned a Rights commissioner’s decision and supported arguments put forward by Mandate on behalf of an Argos worker who had her hourly rate of pay cut. The court agreed that the rate agreed between the shop worker and her manager had been affirmed in successive contracts, had not been paid in error and had been agreed in good faith. The employee at Argos’ Liffey Valley store claimed the reduction in the agreed rate had been made without her consent. She first entered into a contract in 2010 when her hourly rate of pay was €12.63. This rate was confirmed by local management on nine occasions through the signing of successive contracts up until 2013, when the company, Argos Distributors, changed the rate to €11.72. The company, which was represented by IBEc, said it sought to “cor-
rect” a pay anomaly and placed the worker on “the appropriate rate of pay yet did not seek to recoup the overpayment”, and claimed therefore that it had “acted reasonably at all times”. Mandate took the claim on behalf of the member to the Rights commissioner, who found in favour of that part of the claim of not giving the worker the required notice of the change in rate of pay (with an award of €100), but found against the larger claim, stating that the employer was entitled to correct the error and place the worker on to the correct rate of pay. At a recent court hearing, the union argued that the higher rate of pay “was agreed with management on the basis of the worker’s previous experience”. Noting that the first agreement between the worker and her manager (acting on behalf of Argos) specified the pay rate, the court stated: “There
is no suggestion that both parties to that agreement acted other than in good faith.” The agreement on the pay rate had been confirmed nine times between 2010 and 2013. On this basis, the court said it could not accept the rate could reasonably be characterised as an error. The court concluded the claimant should be restored to her original rate of pay – as adjusted by subsequent wage increases – and that she be paid appropriate arrears. (AD1511 – chairman, Kevin Duffy). Industrial Officer Jonathan Hogan pointed out that during the hearing the company had indicated that there may be more than one worker in a similar situation. Welcoming the decision, he told Shopfloor: “The Labour court recommendation may well assist other workers who have entered into similar, unambiguous written contracts with their store managers.”
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CP paper outlines how widening inequality hits the most vulnerable
A NEW paper produced by the Community Platform (CP) has called for a combination of progressive taxation and investment in communities and public services to ensure the rights and welfare of the most vulnerable in Irish society are protected. The paper, A Future Perspective of the Community Platform, launched in Dublin on July 14, draws on available data and outlines the devastating impact austerity policies have had as well as charting the growing economic and social inequality in Ireland. A Future Perspective poses specific challenges for government and all political parties to redress the damage to the lives of poor and marginalised communities caused over the past six years and sets out a road map to build a more equal, inclusive and sustainable society. Edel McGinley, speaking on behalf of the Community Platform, an alliance of 28 national organisations, said: “It is essential that we take urgent action to undo the harm of austerity policies that have
Edel McGinley: ‘essential action needed’
deepened poverty and inequality, incentivised low paid and insecure work, and increased discrimination. There is no evidence of recovery for many people and low income families are struggling to survive.” She continued: “The lack of investment in public services continues to undermine our society’s ability to ensure those with the least have adequate supports and access to essential tailored public
services. This coupled with the decimation of the community sector is deeply worrying as communities across Ireland become more and more distanced from decision makers and policies that affect their lives.” CP spokesperson Brid O’Brien added: “Austerity policies over the past six years have increased the rate of deprivation from 13.7% in 2007 to a staggering 30.5 % in 2013, the gender pay gap has widened from 12.6% to 14.4%, while the top 20% hold the same share of wealth as the bottom 60%.” Robin Hanan, also speaking at the launch, said: “The Community Platform is calling on the Government and all political actors to invest in a renewed, innovative, independent and effective community sector working with resourced communities; a progressive tax system which moves towards the EU norm of 40% to 45% of GDP; and a renewal of public services and publicly-funded services to begin to level the playing field.”
SHOPFLOOR August 2015
Mandate Trade Union Training Programme for the autumn of 2015 Course Title
Union Representative Fetac 5 Advanced
September 7, 8, 9
Union Representative Advanced Senior
September 14, 15, 16
Union Representative Introductory
September 14, 15, 16
Union Rep Introductory Tesco Specific
September 21, 22, 23
Union Representative Introductory
September 28, 29, 30
Safety Representation for Elected Reps Fetac 5
October 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
Union Representative Advanced Senior
October 12,13, 14
Union Representative Fetac 5 Advanced
October 19, 20, 21
Union Representative Introductory
November 2, 3, 4,
Union Representative Advanced Senior
November 9, 10, 11
Union Representative Fetac 5 Advanced
If you are interested in attending any of these courses, please contact your Mandate Official or the Mandate Organising and Training Cen*OTC = Mandate Organising and Training Centre / *TBC = To be confirmed
Venue dates and times may vary.
Union Representatives Introductory Course The Union Representative Introductory Training Course is for new shop stewards/union representatives. The course aims to provide information, skills and knowledge to our shop tewards/union representatives to assist them in their role in the workplace. COURSE CONTENT: • Background to Mandate • The role and responsibilities of a Shop Steward/Union Representative • Examining disciplinary/grievance procedures • Developing negotiating skills • Representing members at local level • Communication skills/solving members’ problems • Organising, Recruitment and Campaigns • Induction presentations. CERTIFICATION AND PROGRESSION: Members who successfully complete this course will obtain a Mandate certificate. They may progress to a Union Representative Advanced Course and to other relevant training courses offered by Mandate. If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: email@example.com August 2015
SHOPFLOOR Gerry Light
Assistant General Secretary Mandate Trade Union
Let’s meet the challenge and fight back
Gerry Light moving Motion 15 at the ICTU BDC in Ennis
In kEEPInG with our objective to maintain the issue of decent work high on our priorities, we used the occasion of the recent ICTU Biennial Delegate Conference in Ennis to move Composite Motion 15 on zero hour/low hour contracts and underemployment. Below is the address given by me to the delegates who unanimously voted to adopt our motion... President, delegates, As we slowly emerge from many years of economic recession much emphasis has recently been placed on the importance of work in building both sustainable eco-
nomic and social prosperity into the future. The mantra of “work must pay” is one which is commonly recited. However, we must ensure that we go beyond the rhetoric and insist that this aspiration becomes a reality for the many thousands of current and indeed prospective workers who are not only entitled to it, but also deserve it. There now exists a moral imperative on the State and employers alike to create a fundamental shift in how we view the world of work and ensure that the jobs-at-any-cost approach is not blindly pursued to the point of being counterproductive.
Extent of challenge
Based on previous experiences if left to their own devices far too many employers will ignore this call for a fairer and more decent workplace. You only have to listen to some of the utterances in recent times to fully realise the extent of the challenge which faces workers, particularly those who are caught in exploitative, low paid, precarious employment. Little hope is offered to them by IBEc, for example, who strongly reject the concept of a living wage along with strenuously arguing against any increase in the statutory minimum wage. The ISME approach seems to suggest that the State should step up its commitment to social transfers in order to offset potential poverty traps associated with precarious low paid work. Of course the clear intent behind this sugges14
tion is to primarily shift the principal responsibility from employers to pay a fair and decent wage. Frequently we hear the call for wage restraint based on a premise that to do otherwise might cause damage to our fragile economic recovery. Surely a more courageous and creative attitude must be demanded from employers? They cannot be allowed to continuously oppose the introduction and strengthening of statutory measures designed to protect vulnerable workers whilst at the same time refuse to deal with unions who seek to represent the very same workers. Make no mistake about it the champions of the failed capitalist order have not gone away. Instead they have re-emerged in vulture-like fashion hovering to swoop on any distressed loans they can find resulting in devastation for many ordinary working families trying to keep a roof over their head. Think of the clerys workers who were crudely
There is something particularly sick and inhumane about a system which allows those who initially caused such destructive social and economic mayhem to be ﬁrst in line to yet again proﬁt from the sacriﬁces and humiliation of others
deprived of their livelihoods in the pursuit of naked greed and profit. There is something particularly sick and inhumane about a system which allows those who initially caused such destructive social and economic mayhem to be first in line to yet again profit from the sacrifices and humiliation of others. In the face of this determined resistance by large groups of employers, the State for its part must step up and set out a clear vision about the future of work through creating appropriate legislative supports that promote recognition and respect for the rights and legitimate demands of not only low paid but indeed all workers.
If nothing else one thing the years of austerity has shown us is that any credible fight-back on behalf of workers which relies on individual disparate actions will not succeed in the face of vested powerful interests that largely control the means of communications, commerce and politics. As always the simple manifestation of the true power and potential of a collective approach starts first with union members in the workplace. Over recent years we in Mandate have prioritised and driven the decent work agenda ignoring the predictions of many who advocated a more cautious approach. Some even had the audacity of accusing us of unpatriotic, selfish and reckless behaviour. Imagine the irony of that, when you consider that many of our accusers were the disciples of the failed extreme right
Picture: Kevin Cooper Photoline
wing economic model that landed us in the mess in the first place. Our motion calls for congress to highlight and campaign on the issues of zero hour/low hour contracts and underemployment. The call for action has already been heeded and we have seen in recent months a clear willingness from the movement across the island in both the public and private sectors to get on board. Along with credible issues at their core, successful campaigns also need brave and inspirational leaders to drive them forward. It clearly works best if such leaders come from the rank and file membership. One such example is the Decency for Dunnes Workers campaign and, delegates, I can think of no more an appropriate occasion for us to once again show our support and appreciation for the courage and determination shown by the 6,000 Mandate and SIPTU members, some of whom are present here today, for standing up and taking the fight to their employer for better and fairer working conditions. Remember, delegates, the Dunnes fight for secure hours, permanent contracts and full representation rights is your fight, it’s our fight, let us together meet the challenges ahead with renewed determination and resolve to create a more progressive society which prioritises fairer and decent workplaces that, in turn, provide a better future for all workers and their dependents.
SHOPFLOOR August 2015
Supreme Court confirms €92k award to chef
Justice for Younis MANDATE has welcomed the overturning by the Supreme court of an earlier High court decision – and the awarding of more than €90,000 in compensation to former chef Mohammed Younis. The June 25 judgment upheld a 2011 Rights commissioner decision – which was endorsed by the Labour court – to award Mr Younis €92,634.42 in unpaid wages and compensation for seven years’ work in a clondalkin restaurant. A 2012 High court judgment had overturned the award on the grounds that an undocumented worker cannot have a valid contract, but the Supreme court move has reversed this decision. In 2002, restaurant owner Amjad Hussein recruited Mr Younis promising him a decent job, but soon confiscated his passport, limited his movements and refused to renew his work permit.
For seven years, Mr Younis worked 80-hour weeks in Poppadum restaurant, with only christmas Day off. During that time he was paid just €0.51 per hour. The Migrant Rights centre Ireland (MRcI) first made contact with Mr Younis in 2009 and supported him to leave his situation, and later to take his case to the Rights commissioner and the Labour court.
Mandate General Secretary John Douglas said: “The exploitation experienced by Mr Younis is shocking. It’s very disturbing that both Mr Younis and the MRcI had to go to such lengths and wait so many years for this simple piece of justice. “Mr Younis, in highlighting his case, has done some service to others who are being exploited in a similar manner.” Welcoming the decision, MRcI
spokesperson Gráinne O’Toole said: “The High court judgment essentially gave unscrupulous employers a license to exploit undocumented workers with impunity. For Mohammed, and for all other workers, we are relieved that the Supreme court has disagreed with that decision. “Mr Younis has spent the last six years fighting for his rights, and we are overjoyed that the Supreme court has ruled in his favour at last. In the course of his fight for justice, he has changed the law and made Ireland a better place for all workers.” Mr Younis, speaking outside the court, said, “I am very happy and I want to thank all my supporters. After six years, I’ve finally got justice. The next step is to get the €92,634.42 that is owed to me.” check out the judgment at http://www.mrci.ie/?attachment_id=6488
INTRODUCTION TO COMPUTERS FETAC Level 4
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
• Tuesday evening training for 12 weeks from September 8, 2015 • Training is free to Mandate members • Places are limited.
WHAT YOU WILL LEARN: Use Windows Explorer Open, edit, and print a document Create, open, close and save a worksheet Enter, edit and sort data Insert and delete rows and columns in a worksheet Enter formulae Send and Receive e-mail messages Reply to / forward an email Move / delete a message Access a web page Use search engine tools (Google) Places are limited so book your place by Friday, August 14, 2015 Contact Mandate’s Training Centre at 01-8369699 August 2015
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 15
AGENDA BROTHERS AND SISTERS, as we gather here today in Ennis, co clare, as the largest civil society organisation on the island of Ireland, we do so at a time of great uncertainty – uncertainty about an economic and social recovery not only in Ireland but also across Europe, and particularly our thoughts and solidarity are with the people of Greece, who are being put through the ringer by their creditors – the potential longterm damage to the social fabric of Greece is immense and as in Ireland will penalise the most vulnerable, while the elite are allowed to continue their lifestyle unhindered. The governments of Europe, including the Irish, sit idly by with a smugness which to say the least is inappropriate, if not downright offensive. There needs to be a European Debt conference at which the issue of debt and debt restructuring is considered from the social perspective of the peoples of Europe, rather than solely from the financial institutions of Europe and the ideologues of austerity. As trade unionists and internationalists we take no satisfaction from the distress of others either at home or abroad – our watchword is solidarity with the workers, families of Greece, Spain, Portugal etc., let us as an international trade union movement stand together for justice. In the very near future our solidarity as an international trade union movement and as an effective campaigning movement will again be called into action…
Mandate General Secretary and ICTU President John Douglas gave the Presidential Ad Ennis. In his speech he emphasised the need for unions to mobilise and to put members
The so called Brit Exit Referendum in the UK must not be allowed to give the UK Tory Government an opportunity to attack social Europe, human rights and workers’ rights – the rest of Europe must stand firm in defending decency in the UK – failure to do calls into question the very rational for the existence of a European Union, if the Tory government succeeds the European Union will become no more than a patchwork of opt outs in which countries try and gain advantage over the neighbours. We must also continue to vigorously campaign against one-sided international free trade agreements such as TTIP – which are a charter for a race to the lowest common denominator in which labour standards and trade union rights are seen as blockages to so-called “free trade” and where international financers and global corporations can sue sovereign states in secret corporate courts as part of the ISDS process. These secret courts and free trade agreements have little to do with free trade but all to do with protecting international capital and weakening labour. Turning back to Ireland, there appears some tenacious signs of a recovery in the Irish economy, at least in the Republic of Ireland, I will turn to Northern Ireland later.
The trade union movement must be vigilant that those forces that wreaked havoc on our economy and our society are not allowed to rebuild their same failed economic model again. We must ensure that the most vulnerable are prioritised in any recovery and that the unfair damage inflicted on the social wage is repaired, that resources are prioritised to lift families out of poverty and homelessness, that decent living wage jobs are created and that all sectors of our economy make a fair and equitable contribution towards resourcing the recovery of our society. We cannot allow political parties to play loose and easy with our vision of a real fair sustainable social recovery by auction politics to secure votes. We must expose these politicians and selfinterest groups that would trade decency and a social wage for power and gain. A mature conversation is required among all the citizens of Ireland as we approach the centenary of 1916 as to what sort of economy and society we want and what are we prepared to pay for that vision. Self-interest must be set aside, the “I’m alright Jack” attitude of appeasing sections of voters or union members must be set aside… We must all “join the dots” between decent public services in 16
health, education, housing etc and our social contributions as citizens of this island. Our public services on receiving theses resources must continue to deliver a world class service to those who resource the social wage and must be willing and able to adapt to the changing needs of citizens and society. The broken social wage system we have at the moment forces tens of thousands of citizens to
take out private provision in a market driven solely by the profit motive and that market only exists because of the inadequate manner in which we fund and deliver public services, this suits the ideology of many political parties hence they have a vested interest in starving public services of resources. The trade union movement is a resilient movement, we have withstood, as did our comrades
across Europe, an orchestrated campaign to destroy and marginalise us… On this island of Ireland the trade union movement is stronger than ever. We have rediscovered our activism and campaigning spirit, we have shaken off the shackles of top down centralised bargaining … our members are mobilising and winning, they have rediscovered collectivism and collective action where necessary. Our unions have retrained, re-
SHOPFLOOR August 2015
ddress at the recent ICTU Biennial Delegate Conference in s at the centre of the movement. This is what he said... nities, forming alliances and as a result we have won the public narrative, in fact we have changed the public narrative. Nothing proves this more than the Decency for Dunnes Stores Workers campaign … the public get it, a decent job and a decent living wage are basic human rights. The Irish public are now disposed to trade unions now more than ever in the recent past because we are fighting for and standing up for real everyday issues which impact their families, communities, their work places. The public’s experience of previous corrupt regimes has been exposed, the public has outed the cheerleaders of big capital, they understand that a strong social movement such as the trade union movement is essential for a fairer society, for without one the financial wolves would have another field day. The demonisation of unions and workers had failed, collectively our members and their communities have a central role in rebuilding this country from the ground up. We are not interested in a social dialogue which confines and constrains the legitimate role of all our members. In what was the biggest mass social mobilisation since the founding of the State, the Right2Water and anti-water charges movement can give us an indication of just what can be
The trade union movement must be vigilant that those forces that wreaked havoc on our economy and our society are not allowed to rebuild their same failed economic model
Picture: Kevin Cooper Photoline
focused and redeployed tens of thousands of new union activists … We are stronger now and more capable of defending and winning for our members. We are cutting the teeth of a whole new generation of trade union leaders and community activists in struggles such as Greyhound, Paris Bakery, Rhatigan, Dublin Bus, connolly Shoes, clerys, Vita cortex, and Dunnes Stores. We are again working with and in local commuAugust 2015
achieved by people power, by communities, union members and some trade unions working together towards a single objective. While the anti-water charges movement did and does not have universal support within the trade union movement, it is true to say that the extensive concessions won by the campaign will be enjoyed by all trade unionists. And while it is understood and understandable that some unions because of their particular membership base or indeed constitutions cannot openly support the campaign, it is clear that union members across all unions are a central part of the anti-water charges movement. I believe that if the trade union movement was totally absent from the anti-water charges movement that it would have severely damaged the credibility of this movement. There are two motions on water charges on the agenda for decision this week and I am confident that as trade unionists we can have a respectful and reasoned debate in the knowledge that there are no enemies in this hall today, just comrades with different views and tactics – all striving for the same goal. It is two years since the Belfast conference at which we set ourselves some very important objectives, some of these objectives we have achieved, others we continue to struggle for – a work in progress. For example, we have managed to win legislation on collective bargaining. Although far from perfect, it can form a foundation on which to win and build on further. But, delegates, legislation on collective bargaining alone will not do the heavy lifting for the trade union movement. We must recruit and organise, educate and agitate, every union must
work as part of a movement. We owe our very existence to the unselfish sacrifices of previous generations of trade unionists, dockers, builders, retail workers, public servants all of whom who put the self-interests of their own grade aside for a greater ideal. No legislation will ever do this for us, so whether it is Fair Hotel or Fair Shop campaigns, we must stand together in supporting each other and supporting goods and services that are delivered and manufactured in employments which respect their workers and their workers’ rights, the others are not deserving of our support. We also won the re-establishment of the Joint Labour committees and the Registered Employment Agreements after they were struck down by the High court on application by various employers’ groups. The Joint Labour committees and the Registered Employment Agreements have the potential to set basic decency thresholds and standards in sectors of the economy where abuse and exploitation are rife, such as hospitality, retail, cleaning, security and construction.
Attitude of employers
But we are concerned with the attitude of employers in these sectors, already we have seen employers in the retail sector refuse to engage in the newly-established JLc thereby vetoing the expressed wishes of Government. I am calling on the Irish Government to introduce immediate legislation to either compel employers in these sectors to engage or legislation which makes it possible to proceed without them. I am also disappointed that during my term as President we have as yet not succeeded in removing FEMPI from the Statute Book – this legislation is an affront to good industrial relations and has no place in free collective bargaining. But I also acknowledge the first step at pay restoration in the public service under the Lansdown Road Agreement, but I will refrain from further comment as I am aware that a number of unions are still consulting their members on same, suffice to say that our objective is full restoration and the removal of FEMPI. The other objective remaining as work in progress is the Trade Union commission. While progress has been painfully slow, there are a considerable number of unions working behind the scenes co-operating and sharing resources and projects. The work of the commission is as much a state of mind as a brick and mortar project. The commission has allowed the conversation to happen, with unions opening up to each other, to supporting our shared objectives – none so much as the Decency for Dunnes campaign. The level of support, shared resources, staff etc., was overwhelming there was no divide between public/private, higher/lower paid, or North and South. The commission’s work by its very nature is ongoing and it will bear fruit, we are changing, and we are changing to win.
Attacks on welfare
Turing now briefly to Northern Ireland, and I know brother Bunting will cover Northern Ireland more extensively during the week. I would like to commend the NIc-IcTU for its ongoing campaign against the Tory Government’s austerity agenda and attacks on welfare. This campaign brought tens of thousands of trade unionists and their families onto the streets across Northern Ireland on March 13, 2015. Northern Ireland is already the most deprived region in the UK and the welfare cuts and the 20,000 public sector jobs loses being enforced by the Tory Government will, if unchallenged, plunge Northern Ireland into the dark ages. The present budgetary impasse in Northern Ireland is a reflection of the seriousness of the situation, the trade union movement in Northern Ireland has lead the way in opposition to the cuts and arguably has forced some political parties to shift and support our stance. While the Good Friday Agreement was essentially a political settlement between the parties which delivered the peace, it must also deliver on its commitments to the citizens of Northern
Ireland for decent jobs, social services and a bill of rights. Not to do so would jeopardise the peace which all on this island hold so dear. The British and Irish governments need to recognise Northern Ireland as a region emerging from conflict, a region with special and unique requirements, austerity policies are damaging to all communities in Ireland and the UK, but they are doubly damaging in an already fragile and poverty stricken region which is Northern Ireland. This is the reality, the Irish and British governments need to grasp, and the reality that all parties in Northern Ireland who have the real best interests of their communities at heart must accept. A united cross-community opposition platform to Tory austerity cuts is the best and only way of protecting all communities against poverty and discrimination in Northern Ireland. As we head into the centenary of 1916 and the first reading on the streets of Dublin of the Proclamation of a Republic which has at its core the socialist principles of equality, liberty and fraternity, we must critically examine the Ireland of today in terms of these founding ideals, we must ask ourselves as one of the wealthiest nations in Europe, why are we also one of the most unequal? Do we still as a nation aspire to these core principles? And, if the answer is yes, then we need to know how falls the statistics on child poverty, on homelessness, on social housing, on income inequality, the attacks on single parents and under 26 year of age welfare payments, our treatment of mi-
We must show real leadership, real vision, most of all our members must believe that they and they alone acting together can achieve this vision
grant workers and asylum seekers in direct provision – all of these devalue our status as a Republic and are an indictment on this and previous governments. 2016 also leads us into a possible election year during which we as trade unionists must grasp the nettle of political power with our membership bases. We must campaign for a government which advocates and implements the true ideals of a Republic, we must campaign for a mass mobilisation akin to what we witnessed during the marriage equality referendum in order to secure the political ground which allows us to deliver the social agenda along with the industrial agenda... l We must challenge our members; l We must question party loyalties; l We must set aside our own self-interest or the self-interests of our members; l Our vision can never be achieved by industrial agitation alone! l No union can profess to be non-political! Each morning your members wait for a bus, or wait in A&E is a result of a political decision, in fact some unions who claim to be generally nonpolitical are often the most political when it comes to protecting and advancing their own members’ interests. We must engage with our 750,000 members and their families so that they appreciate the great potential for change as yet unharnessed within the trade union movement. We must not abandon the future wellbeing of our members, their families and future generations. We must show real leadership, real vision, most of all our members must believe that they and they alone acting together can achieve this vision.
Right2Water to organise August demo THE Right2Water campaign has called another major demo in Dublin on Saturday, August 29 at 2pm. The Right2Water campaign has been the biggest popular mobilisation since the foundation of the state with approximately half a million people attending four previous demonstrations. R2W spokesperson Dave Gibney told Shopfloor: “It’s very clear this government believes the water charges issue has gone away. We’re saying very firmly that it hasn’t and this will be the biggest issue when it comes to the next general election. On Saturday, August 29 we intend to show this government that water charges are still the number one item on the agenda.” The Right2Water campaign believes recent events where the government gave the courts the ability to attach unpaid water bills to earnings in two years time have only added fuel to the fire. Gibney continued: “People are outraged. The government obviously recognise they have lost the debate. Nobody wants these unfair water charges because they see it for the scam that it is. “We already pay for our water and sanitation through general taxation, which is progressive and fair and we want it to remain that way. Instead of listening to us, this government wants to intimidate and threaten people with court dates and attachment orders, but we’re not falling for it. “At the recent IcTU Biennial Delegate conference, delegates voted to make abolition of these water charges their policy for the next two years. By then we believe the people's movement against these charges will have succeeded in protecting our human right to water and abolishing these regressive charges. “Right2Water promised when it was launched it would finish the job and remove water charges from the statute books. We have done so much already but we have much more to do. In the coming months we will fulfil our promise.”
R2W do the sums... THE trade unions involved in the Right2Water campaign have published a paper, titled A new Fiscal Framework for a Progressive Irish Government, which outlines the economic choices a progressive Irish government could avail of in order to create a fairer more equal society. crucially, included in the Fiscal Framework is an explanation on how a government can fulfil the Right2Water policy of abolition of domestic water charges and how funding for water provision, sanitation and investment can be provided through progressive general taxation. check out the full document at: http://bit.ly/1La5hyp 18
Politics of trade Developments on trade policy in the US have real implications for Irish and European workers, Michael Bride reports... REGULAR readers of Shopfloor will need no introduction to the debate surrounding free trade agreements in general, and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (or TTIP for short) in particular.
In the United States, the dangers to workers of free trade agreements have been evident since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFA) in 1994. Then President Bill clinton promised much when he stated at the signing of NAFTA: “I believe we have made a decision now that will permit us to create an economic order in the world that will promote more growth, more equality, better preservation of the environment, and a greater possibility of world peace.” He went on to claim that “…it will create the world's largest trade zone and create 200,000 jobs in this country by 1995 alone.” With specific reference to the concerns that trades unions had, President clinton argued that “the environmental and labor side agreements negotiated by our administration will make this agreement a force for social progress as well as economic growth.” 1 So what happened? Did President clinton’s promises come to pass? Quite the opposite, in fact. In a report issued in March, 2014, to mark the 20-year anniversary of NAFTA, the American Federation of Labor – congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-cIO), which is essentially the IcTU of America, produced a report entitled nAFTA at 20. In this report, the AFL-cIO demonstrates that agreements such as NAFTA drive rates of income inequality skywards, do not create quality job opportunities, do not raise wages and play a huge role in decimating unions.2 Of course the argument goes that unions representing “rich” workers in rich countries would baulk at these trade agreements as their jobs are taken by cheaper labour in other countries, but that workers in those other poorer countries benefit and therefore one has to weigh the increased quality of life that these latter workers’ experience as a result of the inevitable economic progress that would result from a trade agreement such as NAFTA. However, the reality is that despite the massive displacement of manufacturing plants from the USA to Mexico, the situation for production work-
MEPs debate TTIP in the European Parliament
Picture: © European Union 2015 - European Parliament (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
ers in Mexico actually got worse. In 1994, Mexican hourly compensation costs for a production worker were 17.98% of US costs; but by 2009 they had dropped to 14.53%. 3 If these types of trade agreements are bad for workers in the richer countries and also bad for workers in the poorer countries, then in whose interests is this public policy so vigorously pursued? The fact is that these global trade agreements massively benefit multinational corporations, which are perfectly positioned to take advantage of all the elements contained within.
The American agenda...
It is against this backdrop that the Obama administration is pushing for two new trade agreements – the Transpacific Partnership (TPP) and the proposed TTIP agreement with Europe. In order to do this, the administration needs one further piece of legislation called Trade Promotion Authority (TPA or “Fast Track” to give it its common name). Essentially, when it comes to trade law, successive American presidents have reasoned that the US congress is so dysfunctional that it cannot be trusted to debate fully the merits and demerits of a trade bill. Therefore, presiNAFTA... a warning from history
dents insist that the only way in which they can send a trade bill to the floor of the US congress is if the congress adopts this so-called “Fast Track” approach to passing trade legislation. “Fast track” means that when a trade bill gets to congress, the members of congress may approve or reject the bill but may neither amend it nor prevent it from becoming law by virtue of a process called filibustering. Think about what that means in reality. The legislative body that represents the American people may not amend a law which affects every single American citizen. And without “Fast Track”, American presidents – including President Obama – see no prospect of a trade bill being voted into law by congress. And so to pave the way for the passage of TPP and TTIP, President Obama first had to pass “Fast Track”. The push to do so crystalized in a vote on June 12, 2015, where just 40 Democratic members of the House of Representatives – or less than one quarter of the Democratic caucus – voted to support the president on a related bill, which essentially meant that “Fast Track” failed to pass. In a measure of how much trades unions influenced the vote, the Atlantic magazine stated that “the party responsible for its demise was a coalition whose numbers have diminished for decades and whose political clout has been questioned: the American labor movement”, going on to point out that “Democrats rejected the most aggressive personal
lobbying campaign that Obama has undertaken since the passage of his healthcare law five years ago”. 4 The reason that American trades unions were against the proposal for “Fast Track” was due to the fact that nothing had occurred in the 20 years since NAFTA to demonstrate that these trade agreements were good for workers and nothing that seemed to be in the TPP or TTIP indicated that things were going to get any better. Six days after this incredible victory for workers in the halls of congress, the President teamed up with Republicans to pass the same version of “Fast Track” but using a different legislative strategy. Many worker advocates bristled at the sight of President Obama – a Democrat president – siding with the same Republican Party which opposes increasing the minimum wage, opposes fairer taxation for corporations, despises trades unions and is opposed to every workerfriendly legislative initiative that happens to see the light of day.
Rights abuses no barrier to deal...
As a measure of the lengths to which proponents of the free trade agenda are willing to go, it is worth noting the recent moves by the administration in regard to Malaysia. The “Fast Track” legislation that was eventually passed contained a provision barring the US Government from entering into a free trade agreement with any country which attracts the worst rating by the US Government on human trafficking. Malaysia – one of the countries to which the TPP would apply – is one such country. Many wondered how Malaysia could possibly improve its record on human trafficking so that it may be an active signatory of TPP. As it transpires, it no longer has to. citing “US sources”, a recent report by Reuters maintains that “the United States is upgrading Malaysia from the lowest tier on its list of worst human trafficking centers … a move that could smooth the way for an ambitious US-led free-trade deal with the Southeast Asian nation and 11 other countries”. 5 To underscore what is at stake for people in TPP countries, the Reuters report comes just weeks after 139 migrant mass graves and dozens of people smuggling camps were discovered in Malaysia.6 In short, there is no end to what US politicians and their paymasters will do to railroad through a free trade policy which benefits corporations. But why does this matter for Ireland or for Europe?
SHOPFLOOR August 2015
QQI Certificate Course in Business Studies (Trade Union Studies) Evening Programme 2015 - 2016
The ICTU/SIPTU QQI Level 6 Certificate in Business Studies (Trade Union Studies) will run in Dublin in the academic year 2015 - 2016 There are six modules which can be achieved within a 15-month period with the awarding of a QQI Level 6 Certificate on successful completion of the programme. The modules will be delivered on a consecutive basis of one class per week for 10 weeks.
American unions mobilised against the use of ‘Fast Track’ methods to getting legislation dealing with trade agreements through the US Congress
pensation on national legislation. This opens the door for big business to put pressure on social Europe and the future of constructive tripartite agreements.”
Danger for Europe...
The US is actively negotiating the TTIP treaty with the European Union right now. One of the most egregious elements of the stated proposals from the US was the insistence on having a windowless, nonaccountable dispute resolution procedure called Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). This innocuously technical-sounding mechanism represents one of the stealthiest assaults on democracy in the modern era. It essentially allows a private company to take action against a government where public policy is deemed to have created an adverse impact on that company’s interests, even where that public policy is aimed at the betterment of the life of citizens. ISDS allows companies such as tobacco giant Philip Morris to sue tiny Uruguay on the grounds that the country’s decision to increase the size of health warnings on cigarette packets are injurious to the interests of Philip Morris. As if proof were needed as to the dexterity of these global players in seeking such “compensation”, the “tobacco behemoth is taking its legal action under the terms of a bilateral trade agreement between Switzerland – where it relatively recently moved from the US – and Uruguay.”7 This is precisely the type of provision which would be contained within TTIP. There are those in Europe who argue that the European system of democracy is not the same as that in the US and that the worst elements of these trade agreements will be 1
Where to now?..
Oliver Roethig: ‘opens door for big business’
stripped out before enactment. However, notwithstanding the chorus of opposition to ISDS within Europe and claims that it will never form part of TTIP, the European Parliament passed compromise language on July 8, 2015, on ISDS. This compromise language led Oliver Roethig, Regional Secretary of UNI Europa, which represents trades unions in Europe and of which Mandate is a member, to state: “Although the signal to the negotiators is that the right to regulate must be respected, nothing in the European Parliament opinion says that foreign investors don’t have a right to sue governments for com-
All of the above leads to a question for trades unions and workers in the US and Europe – what do we do to ensure that free trade becomes fair trade? Mia Dell, the chief Lobbyist for the United Food and commercial Workers International Union (UFcW) in the US and an expert on trade policy, said: “Workers’ voices must be heard in the trade debate and it is incumbent on trades unions in the US and the EU to ensure that we are to the fore in shaping trade policy so that it does serve those we represent rather than being solely constructed for the benefit of global corporations.” We remember the words of Bill clinton at the signing of NAFTA – done to create “an economic order in the world that will promote more growth, more equality, better preservation of the environment, and a greater possibility of world peace”. Perhaps while rightly admonishing the fact that this promise spectacularly failed to come to pass, we can perhaps also take this text as the articulation of the goal for which we should strive. For that would be a free trade agreement worth fighting for.
Michael Bride is Deputy Organizing Director for the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, based in Washington D.C.
Bill Clinton Remarks on the Signing of NAFTA, December 8, 1993, available at: http://millercenter.org/president/speeches/speech-3927 “NAFTA at 20”, AFL-CIO, April 2014, available at: http://www.aﬂcio.org/content/download/121921/3393031/March2014_NAFTA20_nb.pdf 3 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, International Hourly Compensation Costs for Production Workers in Manufacturing, 1975–2009, Table 1.1, available at: www.bls.gov/ﬂs/pw/ichcc_pwmfg1_1.txt 4 “A Big Win for Labor”, The Atlantic Magazine, June 12, 2015, available at: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/06/a-big-win-for-big-labor/395699/ 5 Exclusive: U.S. upgrades Malaysia in annual human traﬃcking report – sources, Reuters, July 8, 2015, available at: http://ca.reuters.com/article/topNews/idCAKCN0PJ00F20150709?pageNumber=1&virtualBrandChannel=0 6 Malaysia migrant mass graves: police reveal 139 sites, some with multiple corpses, The Guardian, May 25, 2015, available at: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/25/malaysia-migrant-mass-graves-police-reveal-139-sites-some-with-multiple-corpses 7 Big Tobacco puts countries on trial as concerns over TTIP deals mount, The Independent, 21 October, 2014, available at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/analysis-and-features/big-tobacco-puts-countries-on-trial-as-concerns-over-ttip-deals-mount-9807478.html 2
The six modules covered are: l Introduction to Irish Employment Law l Collective Bargaining and The Theory and Practice of Negotiation l Human Resource Management l Safety, Health and Welfare at Work l Equality & Diversity l Introduction to Economics The course is available to members of Congress-affiliated unions and is suitable for those who want to further their studies in trade union issues and employment law. In general, members wishing to participate should seek to get the nomination of their union. There is a cost of €200 per module. In some cases unions may be able to assist members with this fee. Check with your union for details. Commencement date:
Monday 28th September 2015 Venue:
SIPTU College, 563 South Circular Road, Kilmainham, Dublin Time: 6.00pm – 9.00pm Contact:
Eileen Meier at 8586470 or email: email@example.com for registration form or further information As well as Dublin this course is also available in Cork, Waterford and Limerick. If you are interested in attending this course please contact Mandate’s Training Centre at 01-836966 for registration form
ICTU launches boycott of Israeli settlement goods THE Irish congress of Trade Unions has formally launched a campaign calling for the boycott of Israeli settlement goods. The drive, launched on July 9, targets goods and services produced in the illegal Israeli settlements established on occupied Palestinian land and congress has urged all of its affiliated trade unions and members to refuse to purchase these goods. congress International Development Officer David Joyce told Shopfloor: “The campaign originates from successive motions passed by unions affiliated to congress over a number of years and is supported by Palestinian civil society. We would ask members to actively support the campaign and boycott settlement
goods and ask your local retailer to refrain from stocking them." The Israeli settlements – some of which are so large they have gained city status – are illegal under international law. congress has also urged the Irish government to take the lead at an EU level to bring about a complete ban on settlements goods. For more information on the Stand Up for Palestine campaign, visit: http://www.ictu.ie/palestine
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.
Young Bláithín flies the flag! Four-year-old Bláithín Reilly, from Navan, shows her colours by waving a Mandate flag at the annual Jim Connell Festival, held in Crossakiel, Kells, Co Meath, in May. Bláithín, a granddaughter of former Dunnes Stores shop steward and branch secretary Rosaleen O'Brien, is a dedicated young activist who a month earlier had blown her whistle and marched up and down the picket line during the April 2 Dunnes Stores strike.
Repeal the 8th activists make support call DELEGATES at the recent IcTU conference in Ennis have received a positive response over the campaign to repeal the 8th Amendment. Mandy La combre, of the Dublin Airport Authority and a National Executive member for Dublin North, told Shopfloor: “The 8th Amendment and its removal is a key issue for women. It is a campaign that trade unions can play a significant role in.” A 2013 Irish Times poll showed that 83% of those surveyed believed that abortion should be permitted in cases where the foetus is not capable of surviving outside the womb. And a total of 81% of respondents said abortion should be allowed in cases of rape or abuse. Health Minister Leo Varadkar has also called the 8th Amendment too “restrictive”. The Trade Union campaign to Repeal the 8th Amendment group is urging all pro-choice workers to encourage their unions to support the campaign. You can check out details of the campaign on Facebook or Twitter at #repealthe8th.
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Unite Ireland Secretary Jimmy Kelly and Mandate General Secretary John Douglas gather signatures at a Repeal the 8th stall at the Congress BDC in Ennis. Mandy La Combre, pictured right
SHOPFLOOR August 2015
EU is hammering Greek workers By Eugene McCartan CPOI AS EVENTS unfold in Greece, it’s clear that the EU is determined to make Greek workers pay for the crisis now engulfing that country. The Greek debt, like the Irish debt, is simply unsustainable and unpayable. Many myths have been spread about the Greek people over these last five years. One is that they don’t pay taxes. Well, do workers employed by the government, road-sweepers, people who fix the water system, repair roads, work in hospitals, etc., not pay tax? Do those workers employed by both large and small businesses or transnational corporations not pay tax? If the taxes are taken from workers’ wages and not handed to the government, then who is responsible for that? Regarding pensions and the increase in the age of retirement, we have to ask the question – why should workers have to work to 67 or 68 years of age? Are workers not entitled to have time to enjoy and experience other elements of their lives – to enjoy travel and to experience new countries and cultures? Most workers work 40 or 45 years of their lives; they are more than entitled to experience what life has to offer. As we create, produce and build everything in the first place, why should only the professional classes and the rich experience and enjoy these things?
What German and other workers around Europe who fall for all these myths fail to understand is that these same people and institutions – the EU commission, EU central Bank, German big business, the IMF, and the rest – when they have demolished and pulverised Greek and Irish workers they will come after German and French workers’ rights, their terms and conditions, using the Greek and Irish workers as the example. They will play one off against the other. certainly in Greece, as in Ireland, the tax code is skewed in favour of the rich and powerful, to make sure they pay little or no tax. The professional classes also received favourable treatment under previous and present governments’ taxation policy. So no – Greek workers, like workers everywhere, carry an unfair share of the tax burden, and derive little in return. The Greek debt now stands at about €328 billion. 90% of the money borrowed in the form of loans went straight back out of the country to service old debts, to banks that the new money was borrowed from. This revolving door of debt was also a feature of the Irish debt. Greek workers got nothing from all this borrowing. As Irish workers contribute most in taxes, both direct (income tax) and August 2015
indirect (VAT), we pay nearly €8 billion a year in interest to service the massive national debt, which is 17% of all tax revenue. The present government, since it came into office, has paid more than €35 billion to international finance houses to service this debt. Have we not other priorities for this money? We are made to pay every day for debt that does not belong to Irish workers or the Irish people in general. This was a debt incurred by bankers and speculators, while egged on by European financial institution, all too willing to lend vast sums to Irish banks in order to make a killing, in the form of huge profits from property speculation. They were complicit in the whole deal. These German and French banks knew that Irish banks were borrowing money off them on a short-term repayment basis, and that they were then lending it on a long term-basis to speculators. These EU and global financial institutions were planning on a quick turnover and a high return, with high risk. As the Dáil banking inquiry has shown, when the economic system went into crisis the EU’s priority was to save German and French banks and the euro, while the priority of the Irish political establishment was to protects the economic interests of
The Greek debt now stands at €328 billion. 90% of money borrowed in the form of loans went straight back out of the country to service old debts, to banks that the new money was borrowed from...
Illustration: CC0 1.0 Universal (CC0 1.0)
the Golden circle. These buccaneers of the casino economy took a massive speculative risk; and when everything went pear-shaped, as it inevitably does under capitalism, workers were and are forced to pay the bill and for generations to come will continue to pay it. It’s clear why the government was so forceful and outspoken in criticising the new Greek government. Why would they do anything different? They never protected the interests of the Irish people but rather put their own selfish interests and their dependent relationship as gatekeepers for the European Union ahead of their own people, and make us pay for a debt that does not belong to working people.
So the likelihood of them standing up for the Greeks was slim to nil. To put it simply, it would have exposed their own hypocrisy. They know who butters their bread. Debt was and is the means of imposing austerity. It has provided them with the pretext for launching a massive assault on workers’ terms and conditions throughout the EU. With the defeat of the Soviet Union, they are fully confident that they are now in a position to take back from workers the rights, terms and conditions and the social advance that they were forced to concede during the 20th century because of the very existence of the Soviet Union and the organised strength of workers. They don’t have to keep looking over their shoulders any more. It’s a simple fact that workers will find no solutions to their problems so long as they believe that the euro is more important than their own interests. Greek workers are learning a very painful lesson. They will be sacrificed to pay a debt that is not theirs and to save the euro.
SKILLS FOR WORK Interested in a computer training course?
Do you have a desire to improve your communication through computer skills but never got around to it?
Communications through Computers Starting from scratch this course helps you to use a computer and builds confidence for communicating on-line. Mandate Trade Union in conjunction with Skills for Work is offering free training. The courses are to encourage members back into learning and training whilst aiming towards a FETAC level 3 Award. If you are interested in doing a Communications through Computers course, contact: Mandate Training Centre Distillery House Distillery Road Dublin 3 Phone: 01- 8369699 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Courses are free and open to members who have not achieved Leaving Certificate or who have an out of date Leaving Certificate. You can also achieve a FETAC Level 3 Award. Skills for Work is funded by the Department of Education & Skills.
Picture: European Parliament
Mandate points the way forward into training... FOR MANY, September is the start of a new year – parents and children prepare for the return to school, a new teacher and a new term. Third level colleges and students are also preparing for the start of their academic year. Many adults have lasting memories of these days – for some these memories are good and for others not so good. For those of us who carry a legacy
of fear from our school days, it is almost impossible to imagine ever going back into a learning experience. In Mandate, courses are offered in a friendly adult learning environment. Staff and tutors support learners so that they enjoy their time on a course. Some Mandate members who have attended our training courses have said that on the first day they arrived
almost in dread at having signed up for a course. They had to persuade themselves to actually come into the room and not to turn back home. However, within an hour they were more relaxed, felt welcome and were even looking forward to learning with adults from similar backgrounds to themselves. The way that Mandate’s courses allow adults to use and share their own skills and expertise with each
other highlights that they have knowledge and life experiences which are often more valuable than what can be learned from a book. If you have ever had a brief thought of attending a Mandate day or evening course, talk to us! Mandate will give you full support and encourage you to make that start. Mandate offers a range of evening courses (check out ads for courses in this issue of Shopfloor) which are
Mandate lone-parent motion unanimously backed at BDC A MOTION put forward by Mandate at the recent IcTU Biennial Delegate conference opposing cuts to lone parents was unanimously supported. Aileen Morrissey, the union’s National coordinator for Training, who moved the motion told delegates: “The main rationale put forward for cuts to the One-Parent Family Payment Scheme is to incentivise lone parents to seek more hours at work. “However, as we know only too well from our experience in Dunnes Stores and other precarious employments in Ireland, workers have no legal right to avail of more hours at work. “Even where workers are desperate for extra hours to top up their income, in the majority of cases, workers are denied those extra hours by their employer. It becomes a case of, ‘please sir,
can I have some more’, yet that usually falls on deaf ears.” Ms Morrissey told conference that the idea that cuts were an incentive to seek more hours ignored the truth, before listing a number of facts: l Ireland has the second highest level of underemployed workers in the EU15 – meaning workers want more hours but can’t access them. l Almost 147,000 workers put themselves in this category – many of these workers are loneparents. l In 2008, only 0.4% of the total workforce said they were underemployed. Shockingly, that figure is now at more than 7%. She continued: “Furthermore, the industries
Picture: Paul Mison (CC BY-SA 2.0)
free for members. courses are offered on: computers; communications & Personal Development and Maths. If there is a group of 15 members or more in your area, these courses can be held in a location that is accessible for you. If you are interested in attending an evening course please contact Mandate’s Training centre on 018369699, and start on the road back
that lone-parents are largely employed in – such as retail, hospitality, cleaning, hotels, restaurants, and others – are all low-paid industries. Many of those workers earn the minimum wage, or close to it. The absence of affordable childcare makes it very difficult for families to survive – even if they had the ability to seek and avail of more hours at work.
Aileen Morrissey: ‘absence of affordable childcare makes it very difficult for families to survive’ Picture: Kevin Cooper Photoline
“This is borne out by the statistics that show that nearly two-thirds of lone-parent households with one or more children experience deprivation.” Ms Morrissey added: “We must also remember that 98% of recipients of the One-Parent Family Payment are women. The cuts to the One-Parent Payment scheme will cause enormous hardship for some of the most vulnerable and already impoverished families in the country. “In the absence of affordable childcare and in the absence of legislation enabling workers to seek more hours, these cuts must be seen for what they are – an attack on the living standards of lone-parents and we have an obligation to resist these cuts.”
Training & Professional Development (CPPD) This is a 12-week course commencing September 8, 2015 Training free for Mandate members (places are first come, first served)
The course is held in the Mandate Trade Union Training Centre, Distillery Road, Dublin 3, on Tuesday evenings, 6.30pm to 9.00pm
• How to communicate your needs and wants • Finding the right information that will steer you in the right direction
• The environment in which we live and work RIGHT: Placardyou reads ‘Brazil • Media ownership – who is telling first place in corruption’
what and why
Pictures: Ben Tavener (CC BY 2.0)
• The working and role of trade unions
• Presenting yourself in various situations
• How to write a good application form and designing a CV
• Strengthening abilities to engage and influence
• Social Media – What it is all about.
The objective of this course is to create understanding of issues that affect members; developing personal & professional communications skills, this includes creating a strong CV with interview techniques. Also included would be promoting activism in examining the work of the union and how media ownerships shapes public opinions and getting through the phenomenon that is social media. 22
Places are limited so book your place by Friday, August 14, 2015. Ring Mandate’s Training Centre at 01 8369699 to book. y
SHOPFLOOR August 2015
By Sandra Stapleton Mandate organiser NEXT Easter marks the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising against British imperialist rule. Those who played a pivotal role in the rising along with ordinary working class men and women are to be honoured by a citizens’ initiative titled Reclaim the Vision of 1916. It was felt by Reclaim ‘16 that the leaders of the Rising – Pearse, Plunkett, MacDonagh, MacDiarmada, ceannt, clarke and connolly – and their supporters should not be erased from the centenary celebrations. Reclaim ‘16 wants the people of Ireland to rise up again and join in a colourful, musical and theatrical pageant that this country will not forget for another hundred years. Ordinary citizens rising up and fighting for their liberty and the vision of an Irish Republic. Men and women who downed tools and dish cloths and picked up arms to ensure that future generations would be know their heritage, would know their history and would be free of the chains of British rule. citizens from all over Ireland have become patrons of Reclaim ’16, citizens who are determined that the men and women who laid down their lives for us will be remembered fittingly in a parade of celebration.
‘Bravery and sacrifice’
The initiative’s President is artist Robert Ballagh, who at the public launch on June 9, explained: “Reclaim the Vision of 1916 – a citizens’ initiative was established to ensure that the centenary of the Easter Rising be celebrated in an appropriate and relevant manner... “It is right and proper that the bravery and sacrifice of the men and women who fought in 1916 be marked with dignity and respect but, I believe, it would be a disservice to their memory if we failed to recognise why they did what they did, in the first place. “Let’s face it, these people were not merely rebels – they were visionaries! What they desired was not simply a government in Dublin, a green flag over Dublin castle and a harp on the coinage. They were calling for a cultural revolution – a complete transformation of both public and personal reality!” On Sunday, April 24, 2016, the actual day of the commencement of the Rising, the Reclaim initiative will be organising a major national gathering in Dublin in the form of a parade and pageant. The theme of the parade will be the Proclamation of the Irish Republic and it will progress through the streets of Dublin in a rousing, unfettered celebration of the vision of 1916, conducted in a lively, colourful, dramatic and musical manner, involving bands, dancers, community groups and the magic of Macnas.
Artist Robert Ballagh speaks at the Reclaim ’16 launch. Also pictured, from left, James Connolly Heron, Mandate General Secretary John Douglas and historian Mary Cullen
Picture: Reclaim 1916
Making Rising centenary a fitting tribute Already more than 75 significant figures from Irish civil society have signalled their support by becoming patrons of the initiative. A partial listing includes Brian Friel, Sinead O’connor, Eugene Mccabe, Stephen Rea, John Douglas, Frances Black, Damien Dempsey and Tim Pat coogan. The list of patrons is truly inspiring, the level of support for the initiative is phenomenal. A 1916-2016 phone app is also being developed and is near completion. This will include a one-hour sound recording of music and narration taken from the Reclaim The Spirit of Easter 1916 – A Dublin Itinerary recorded specially for the 75th anniversary of the 1916 Rising and produced by the late Tomás MacAnna. Profits will go to the National Graves Association who restore and maintain the graves of our patriot dead, commemorate those who have died for Irish freedom and compile important records about these graves and memorials.
One of the patrons who contributed to the launch night was James connolly’s great grandson James connolly Heron. Speaking at the launch, he said: “There are those who argue that a mandate is required before one can rise up and resist oppression. To resist slavery by all means at one’s disposal hardly requires a mandate – it requires a response, it requires immediate action. “From the comfort of 21st century Ireland we can afford to debate such issues. How fortunate to be free to do so. Freedom is taken for granted by those who are free but not by those yet to achieve it. Our freedom did not fall from the
Our freedom did not fall from the sky – it had to be fought for and, in some cases, died for...
SKILLS FOR WORK
sky – it had to be fought for and, in some cases, died for.” Artist Jim Fitzpatrick has provided a wonderful print of James connolly which was produced especially for Reclaim ‘16, which is hoped to be as iconic as his picture of che Guevara still is to this day. copies of this print will be available to purchase at a later stage. Reclaim are calling on GAA clubs, soccer clubs, sports clubs, LGBT groups, community groups, dance troupes, youth clubs etc. to get on board and play their part in the celebrations. If you or your organisation would like to get involved on the day, let us know. Those who died in the 1916 Rising gave their lives for the freedom of every Irish man, women and child, therefore all sections of Irish life should be represented on April 24, 2016. Email – email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org Facebook – Reclaim 1916; Twitter – reclaim_16
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: email@example.com Courses are free and open to members who have not achieved Leaving Certificate or who have an out of date Leaving Certificate. You can also achieve a FETAC Level 3 Award. Skills for Work is funded by the Department of Education and Skills. August 2015
Thirst for Justice award for Dunnes workers By Karen Wall Mandate Divisional Organiser ON June 14, I had the great pleasure of attending the Labour Youth conference Dinner in Newpark Hotel, Kilkenny, to accept the Jim kemmy Thirst for Justice Award on behalf of the Dunnes workers for their determination and strength in their struggle for decency. An Tánaiste Joan Burton presented the award. It was a particular privilege for me given that prior to working in Mandate I had worked in Dunnes Stores in Kilkenny for over 20 years. On the night I was accompanied by Karina McGovern, Northside, and two of my former colleagues from Kilkenny, Jean Falsey and christine Murphy, both of whom I had organised in my days in Dunnes. I was in good company. I recalled the personal conflict I experienced – of having enjoyed the retail environment, serving customers, being proud of the job I did along with feelings of absolute frustration at the Irish company I worked for and now represent workers in. That company ignores the real issues of its dedicated workforce that has helped build Dunnes Stores to the successful business it is today. Our current Decency for Dunnes Workers campaign is a result of the frustrations felt by Mandate members across the country. It is about workers having the
Christina Murphy (Kilkenny), Karina McGovern (Northside), Tanaiste Joan Burton and Divisional Organiser Karen Wall
courage to speak out and highlight the need to have a decent job that they can be proud of – a job that meets their needs to pay bills and provide a decent family life. I know it is not easy to stand up and speak out, but there are times when you are left with no other choice. No matter what situation or work problem you find yourself in while working in Dunnes, the company does not allow you to have professional representation regardless
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
I know it is not easy to stand up and speak out, but there are times when you are left with no other choice
of whether you are being dismissed or not. An Tanaiste Joan Burton, who spent time during her college years working in Dunnes and the hospitality industry, said: “We have to be the party of workers – all workers, and all those who want and need fairly paid, decent and secure employment. “We have the opportunity to build a state that protects and empowers in equal measure. And we must be unafraid of presenting the battle for decent work and better pay – the battle for equality of opportunity – in the starkly moral terms of what is right, and what is wrong.” We used the night as an opportunity to speak and promote the need for change in the current legislation. To argue for the strengthening of workers’ rights and to highlight the plight of not only Dunnes workers but the challenges facing workers across the country. Just two days previously staff in clerys had been presented with a fait accompli, once again underlining the total disregard for workers and their representatives. Our delegation on the night was well received. We left with the sense that our continuing campaign had reached far and wide and had strengthened the need for Government to take responsibility to ensure workers are protected and that jobs need to be jobs we can be proud and that they should provide a living wage.
Ryanair hit by Danish Labour Court ruling RYANAIR has suffered a defeat in Denmark’s Labour court following a ruling that trade unions are within their legal rights to take industrial action against the airline. According to reports, the Irish-based carrier had refused to enter into negotiations on collective agreements with LO – the Danish confederation of Trade Unions. The court has upheld the LO position that all companies operating in Denmark, domestic and foreign, must comply with Danish labour law – a basic tenet of which is that workers’ wages and conditions are collectively bargained between LO and the employers’ body DA.
Warned Three of Denmark’s major unions have long warned that they are ready to take action against Ryanair in support of the Airline Personnel Union. Responding to the ruling, Simon Tøgern, who heads up the retail and admin staff union HR/Privat, said: “The Danish Labour court has once again confirmed that when you work in Denmark you are subject to Danish labour laws. “The ruling of the court means our members at copenhagen airports can now legally undertake industrial action in order to, hopefully, make Ryanair enter into a collective agreement with workers.” The July 1 ruling has been hailed by Danish trade unions as a “win for principle” and the most important Labour court verdict in many years. For the trade union movement the Danish labour market model – the backbone of which is collective bargaining – functions as a safe-
guard against social dumping when large multinationals seek to set up shop in Denmark. Motivated, willing and united, LO won its case, proving that good wages and conditions are things worth fighting for. Meanwhile, Ryanair has reacted strongly to the court ruling and has lodged an appeal, claiming that it was “absurd” for Danish trade unions “to attempt to force collective agreements on Irish personnel who spend less than two per cent of their shifts in Denmark”. In a July 3 press conference in copenhagen, Ryanair chief Executive Michael O’Leary described the ruling as “bizarre” and claimed that there was “no requirement on us to negotiate with Danish unions under European regulations”. And he warned that if Danish unions attempted to block Ryanair aircraft flying into copenhagen from other bases, Ryanair would close its operations at Billund in Jutland at short notice. However, Danish unions have refused to be bow to pressure though they have expressed a willingness, as they have done since Ryanair appeared in Denmark, to enter talks to negotiate an agreement with O’Leary and Ryanair.
SHOPFLOOR August 2015
PERSONAL REFLECTION... By Bill Kelly Mandate Divisional Organiser ON May 22, 1, 2015 compassionate and accepting Irish people voted in favour of amending the Irish constitution to allow for civil marriage for same-sex couples. In doing so I like to think that we have collectively said goodbye to the Ireland of closets and laundries where anyone that did not fit a very narrow view of what was acceptable was shut away. With a record turnout and a 62.07% vote in favour which saw many people returning home to vote, the majority of Irish people have given the clearest signal yet that they want to live in a more equal society. Mandate played its part together with many other unions in calling for a Yes vote. The strong stand taken by Mandate sends a message to any LBGTQ member who has had, or is currently having, difficulty in the workplace because of their gender or sexual orientation that YOUR UNION STANDS WITH YOU.
Positive experience I campaigned with Yes Equality Waterford for two short weeks in the lead up to the vote, knocking on doors and campaigning in John Roberts Square in the heart of Waterford. I have to say that the experience was one of the most powerful and positive of my life. I campaigned with people of all ages and genders – gay and straight – standing together in solidarity for a common cause. The number of young people involved in the campaign both impressed and surprised me and proves that activity is neither dead nor dying but that with the right motivation we can increase the number of activists and activity among our younger members. For many LBGTQ people it is clear that this vote felt like it was about a lot more than civil marriage, it was about acceptance. I have never seen so many people come out before, both high-profile people in the spotlight and ordinary working class men and women to family and friends. Some friends of mine that have been out for more than 20 years even came out a bit more.
gious ethos. If you think of the diverse nature of families in Ireland today that would include most of us on the unacceptable list. The Repeal the Eighth Amendment campaign is also worthy of support. The Eighth Amendment to the constitution acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and has been used in Ireland to inflict terrible suffering on women and families. Many women whose unborn child has already died or has no chance of life due to foetal abnormalities have been forced to carry them to term. Many others find themselves pregnant through rape or incest. This is not an acceptable way to treat women in a civilised society. On the basis of the empathy and acceptance shown by the majority of Irish people in the civil marriage referendum, I refuse to accept that the majority of Irish people accept that the infliction of such suffering on
Historic victory for equality, “ tolerance, love ” and acceptance
Now that we have all arrived at the station for civil marriage equality, it is important to remember that this is only one stop on the journey to full equality for all... it is a journey that must never end...
Picture: Catherine Cronin (CC BY-SA 2.0)
women is acceptable. When in Ireland are we finally going to give women control over their own bodies? One of the worst forms of inequality in Ireland today is economic. Many workers are simply not earning enough to feed their children and pay bills. Yet employers continue to com-
Historic and positive As historic and positive as the vote was, it was tough for all involved. We got the right result and I believe that the large number of personal stories played a significant part in achieving this victory. However, I don’t believe that any minority group should depend on the popular vote of the majority to achieve rights. The necessary legislation which will allow for civil marriage has yet to be enacted. This is because two challenges to the vote were brought to the High court. These challenges were quickly dealt with and dismissed by the High court but an appeal has been entered which will not be heard until the end of July and this will prevent the Government from enacting the legislation until after the summer. It is very unacceptable that the courts can be used to frustrate the will of the people and the Government needs to re-examine the procedures used to challenge referendum results to prevent this happening in the future. Now that we have all arAugust 2015
Thumbs up: Mandate Headquarters staff make their feelings clear in advance of the historic Equal Marriage referendum on May 22
rived at the station for civil marriage equality, it is important to remember that this is only one stop on the journey to full equality for all. In fact it is a journey that I believe must never end or we may see the pendulum swing back against us removing one by one the many rights
we have fought together to achieve. I have no doubt that the pendulum will be assisted by many of the rightwing people that campaigned against civil marriage equality, divorce, equal pay for women and many other advances achieved by the solidarity of the trade union movement. Many of
the stops on the journey are already clear and need our action and attention now. Section 37.1 of the Employment Equality Act allows for schools to fire, or not hire, people whose sexual orientation, gender identity or family status is not in line with their reli-
plain seeking even more flexibility while providing less stability. It is clear that our journey to full equality for all is not over and that the campaign and struggle will continue. I have no doubt that Mandate will continue to play its part.
BLOW THE WHISTLE ON THE BAD BOSSES
HUMAN RIGHTS IN IRELAND
TO JOIN 10 An issue of ritual or reality MANDATE REASONS
1. An organising and campaigning union:
Mandate is focused on building an activist base to protect and improve employment conditions. Through better organised workplaces and the power of the collective strength, we will deliver justice for working people.
2. Modern and effective training:
Mandate provides free courses to help you learn new skills, improve existing skills and develop you and your prospective career. We negotiate agreements with employers to pay for attendance at courses and also to provide reasonable time off for employees to attend them.
3. Campaigning for success:
Mandate is a progressive campaigning union fighting on issues that really matter to our members, their families and society in general. Mandate campaigns challenge social injustice at all levels of Irish society.
4. Protection at work:
Highly trained and skilled Mandate officials provide professional advice and assistance, where appropriate, on a variety of employment issues.
5. Safety at work:
Mandate health & safety representatives are trained to minimise the risk of workplace injuries and ensure that employers meet their legal obligations at all times.
6. Better pay:
Year on year, Mandate campaigns for and wins pay rises for its members. Mandate also campaigns to close the widening gender pay gap in Irish society.
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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.
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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.
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Membership of Mandate protects you and strengthens your voice in your workplace.
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By Niall Crowley Claiming Our Future TO WHAT extent do we value human rights in Ireland? Are they a matter of form or substance, rhetoric or practice? We like to think we value human rights. It’s not that hard really. They are just about minimum civil, political, economic, social and cultural standards for all. They merely reflect the equal human worth of every individual. However, when it comes to practice, it is far from clear that human rights are valued. This critique will be tested now. The United Nations Economic and Social council committee on Economic, Social and cultural Rights recently held hearings on the Government’s performance on the UN International covenant on Economic, Social and cultural rights. They made 32 recommendations to the Government on foot of these hearings. The test is whether or not there will be any action taken to implement these. The committee noted the failure of Government to assess the impact of austerity measures on economic, social and cultural rights. It pointed to the disproportionate focus in these measures on cuts to public expenditure in social policy areas. It found a significant adverse impact on the enjoyment of their human rights for a range of disadvantaged groups. If there has to be austerity, a human rights-based approach would ensure that all possible means are deployed including tax measures. It would ensure there was no discrimination or increased inequality as a result. Austerity as we know it here in Ireland is now officially a breach of human rights. The committee recommended that Government “review, based on human rights standards, all the measures that have been taken in response to the economic and financial crisis and are still in place with a view to ensuring the enjoyment of economic, social and cul-
tural rights” and that “austerity measures are gradually phased out and the effective protection of the rights under the covenant is enhanced in line with the progress achieved in the post-crisis economy recovery”. The next budget will be a key test of our commitment to human rights in practice. A round of tax reductions, benefits to the wealthy, and a failure to renew and refund our public services in the budget will be a clear marker that our concern for human rights is limited to rhetoric.
The UN committee raised a number of specific human rights abuses. It noted the “persistent institutionalisation of persons with disabilities” and recommended that all necessary steps be taken to provide “alternatives to institutionalisation, including community-based care programmes”. A HSE Working Group on congregated Settings has already recommended, back in 2011, that the Department of Health and children should issue a policy statement to the effect that, within seven years, all people with disabilities living in congregated settings should move to community settings. At that time there were 4,099 people living in such facilities. The HSE currently has a target of moving 150 people with disabilities
The next budget will be a key test of our commitment to human rights. A round of tax cuts, benefits to the wealthy, and a failure to renew our public services will be a clear marker our concern for rights is limited to rhetoric
each year from these institutions. Even this minimal target is not being met with only some 100 people with disabilities moved last year. The speedy closure of all these institutions will be another test of our commitment to human rights in practice. The committee noted “the poor living conditions and the lengthy stay of asylum-seekers in Direct Provision centres”. Its recommendation was limited. However, it sought action to “improve the living conditions in Direct Provision centres”. Reception and Integration Agency figures for January 2015 show that there were 4,460 people in Direct Provision, including 1,482 children under 18 years of age. Only 695 of these people have been there for six months or less and 1,631 people have been in these centres for five or more years. A recent working group report recommended that no one should have to stay in this system for more than five years. This too is an incredibly limited recommendation. A further test of commitment to human rights in practice would be the closure of these centres and a return to the status quo before their establishment. Asylum seekers used to be able to access social welfare payments and rent supplement while their claim for refugee status was being processed while living in the community. The Government is back before the committee in June 2020 to account, once again for its performance under the UN covenant for Economic, Social and cultural Rights. Is this just going to be a repeat performance by all parties? The recommendations should have generated some institutional urgency, political tremors, even public concern, but there is little evidence of that. All concerned with human rights need to demand implementation of these recommendations or human rights will be reduced to a ritual in Ireland. Picture: Kelly Cree (CC BY 2.0)
SHOPFLOOR August 2015
TRANSATLANTIC TRADE & INVESMENT PARTNERSHIP
By Frank Keoghan MOST trade unionists are now opposed to the Transatlantic Trade and Invesment Partnership (TTIP), the EU/US trade deal, because of the many threats it poses – the recent IcTU biennial conference in Ennis passed a motion calling for a stop to TTIP. They think it will cost jobs, reduce workplace rights and threaten regulations that protect workers, consumers and the environment as well as opening up more public services to privatisation and make reversing that more difficult. Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) and Regulatory cooperation are the worst elements of the deal though. ISDS gives foreign companies extra legal powers to challenge governments that workers, consumers and citizens aren't allowed to use. In the past ISDS has been used by companies to sue governments for increasing minimum wages, renationalising their health services and protecting the environment. Recently, the EU Parliament voted on its position on TTIP but the lastminute compromise deal, passed with some imaginative juggling of the parliament’s procedures by its president, Martin Schulz, suggests that MEPs are willing to permit trade deals that are bad for working people.
Don’t be fooled by ISDS compromise proposals
Picture: Global Justice Now (CC BY 2.0)
Leaving any form of investor protection in TTIP means that the threat to public services remains as does the possibility of suing any government brave enough to return privatised enterprises or services back to public hands. Governments can even be sued for increasing the minimum wage, as happened recently in Egypt, because it would reduce anticipated profits. And, the compromise would still provide foreign investors with compensation arrangements not available to other potential litigants such as domestic investors, workers, consumers or environmentalists. It would be like restricting access to the European court of Human Rights to just one class of litigants, foreign investors. The imbalance of access to justice which is so offensive in ISDS would remain – workers would still get what they have in the EU-canada deal – cETA – the possibility of a strongly worded, expert report. I am sure that we all agree that if that’s good enough for workers, then why should investors get more? And we all know the value of strongly-
The proposal tackles some of the drawbacks of ISDS but it certainly isn’t an alternative. It’s designed to fool people into thinking that ISDS has been removed from TTIP
Picture: Garry Knight (CC BY 2.0)
Deal rejected The deal had been rejected by the Parliament a few weeks previously when campaigning MEPs were about to press in plenary session for stronger measures around ISDS, tabling amendments that sought to strike out ISDS but it was sent back to the International Trade committee by Schulz. From there it was promptly referred back to the Parliament for reconsideration. This was done in the best democratic traditions of the EU – if you don’t get the desired result the first time round... who remembers Lisbon? The compromise deal meant that the Parliament only had the option to vote for the current draft of the resolution or ISDS as in the compromise, rather than the original amendment put down by MEPs which called for excluding ISDS from TTIP altogether. The deal's backers say this new ISDS plan rules out the worst excesses of ISDS, but it does leave intact the position that gives foreign investors a privileged route to massive compensation payments when democratically-elected governments do something that, it could be argued in court, affects the profits or even anticipated profits of a multinational company. The proposal tackles some of the drawbacks of ISDS but it certainly isn’t an alternative. It’s designed to fool people into thinking that ISDS has been removed from TTIP. But, the deal still provides for individual foreign investors to challenge state decisions directly, with all the problems that entails, such as ‘regulatory chill’, an example of which was when tobacco giant Philip Morris sued the Australian government over plain paper packaging – a case still not concluded – the New Zealand government shelved its plain paper packaging proposals for fear of being similarly sued.
worded, expert reports! Some of the changes proposed sound good – “private interests cannot undermine public policy objectives” but how can they be guaranteed? In practice, the private ISDS courts, as usual will decide how far these principles are affected and we can’t guarantee, once set up, that courts will do as we wish.
Creative lawyers corporate lawyers will exercise creativity – as they have been shown to do in ISDS cases in the past. Anyway, the costs involved in taking cases under this arrangement will mean it is only really available to big companies. Fundamentally, the move throws away the Parliament’s negotiating position with the European commission. The TTIP negotiations seem to have some years to run, and opposition to ISDS will continue to build. Rather than accept a compromise investor protection system at this stage, the Parliament could have held off until popular opposition to ISDS has made all special deals for foreign investors unacceptable and there will
be no alternative other than to scrap TTIP. A good shop steward would have told them that! It wouldn’t have been the first time a deal has been scrapped, the EU/US data sharing deal being one example. The lengths that EU Parliament politicians have gone to, responding to public concern, demonstrates how effective and influential the campaign against ISDS has become. No one in the EU Parliament is now defending the sort of ISDS that has been included in the already-concluded EU trade deals with canada, Singapore and so on and though the Parliament does not have the final say in acceptance or rejection of TTIP, its decisions give a good idea of how national parliaments might vote – should they be given the opportunity! At the moment the situation is finely balanced, which is all the more reason why unions and other campaigners should be strengthening their demands that these trade deals be scrapped and in the meantime, continue building popular opposition to special rights for foreign investors, whether they’re called ISDS or not.
ITUC data flags up rights threat “ ”
had worsening conditions this year in a clear negative trend for workers. These nations were Burundi, Dominican Republic, Hong Kong, Iran, Georgia, Russia, United Kingdom and Spain. “Workers in colombia and Guatemala have been murdered for trying to negotiate better working conditions, while in Qatar and Saudi Arabia migrants continue to endure forced labour and labour law exclusions which amount to modern slavery. “In 73 of 141 countries, workers faced dismissals, suspensions, pay cuts and demotions for attempting to negotiate better working conditions, while in 84 countries employers adopted illegal strategies to deny or delay bargaining with representative trade unions. “While a handful of countries have attained perfect scores compared to last year, there’s been an increase across the board in the number of countries where conditions have worsened, including nations such as cameroon, Hungary, Spain and South Africa,” Ms Burrow said. The reports key findings include: l Out of a total of 141 countries, the number where workers faced arbitrary arrest and detention increased from 35 to 44, and included countries such as Spain and Brazil. l In almost 60% of countries, certain types of workers are excluded from their fundamental labour rights. l Trade unionists were murdered in 11 countries, one up from last year, including 22 deaths in colombia alone.
GLOBAL RIGHTS INDEX
The 2015 ITUC Global Rights Index rates countries from one to five according to 97 indicators, with an overall score placing countries in one to five rankings...
Picture: Piazza del popolo (CC BY 2.0)
THE Gulf States are among the world’s worst countries for workers’ rights, while workers under European austerity measures – Ireland included – endured the starkest deterioration of standards, according to the 2015 Global Rights Index. The ITUc rights index ranks 141 countries against 97 internationally recognised indicators to assess where workers’ rights are best protected, in law and in practice. “Workers in the Gulf States where the draconian ‘kafala’ system is widespread endure many of the violations which make the Middle East and North Africa the world’s worst region for fundamental rights at work,” said ITUc General Secretary Sharan Burrow. “But in a worrying trend, European workers have witnessed the starkest deterioration of their rights in the last 12 months due to widespread government-imposed austerity measures taking effect.” The International Trade Union confederation has been collecting data on the abuse of trade union rights around the world for more than 30 years. This is the second year the ITUc has presented its findings through the Global Rights Index, offering a snapshot for government and business to see how their laws and supply chains have deteriorated or improved in the last 12 months. The 10 worst countries for working people are Belarus, china, colombia, Egypt, Guatemala, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Swaziland and United Arab Emirates. Other countries ranked lower but
Irregular violations of rights: 16 countries including Finland & Uruguay
Repeated violations of rights: 26 countries including Japan & Ireland
Regular violations of rights: 36 countries including Israel & Australia
Systematic violations of rights: 27 countries including Poland & USA
No guarantee of rights: 27 countries including Belarus, China & Nigeria
No rights guarantee due to breakdown of law: 9 countries including Syria, C.A.R. & Palestine
...in a worrying trend, European workers have witnessed the starkest deterioration of their rights in the last 12 months due to government-imposed austerity measures taking eﬀect
l 70% of countries have workers with no right to strike. l Two-thirds of countries deny workers collective bargaining rights. l More than half of countries in the survey deny workers access to the rule of law. In the past year, unions have reported violent crackdowns on peaceful protests in cambodia, costa Rica, Paraguay and Ukraine; in Qatar around 100 migrant workers striking against poverty wages were arrested last November, while in March this year a Filipino union organiser became the 18th case of extra-judicial killing since 2010. “International labour standards prescribe access to fundamental rights for all workers,” Ms Burrow added. “Yet as corporate power and inequality grows internationally, these results show governments and employers in almost every country around the world must improve their treatment of workers and arrest the increase in workplace violations.”
SHOPFLOOR August 2015
Blood Fruit in the Big Apple
Mary Manning and Karen Gearon, both strike veterans of the Dunnes Store anti-Apartheid dispute of the mid-1980s, recently travelled to the US along with ﬁlmmaker Sinead O’Brien. They were attending a number of screenings of Blood Fruit, Sinead O’Brien’s documentary about the famous strike that made headlines across the world. Here Mary Manning writes about the trip... We had brought one of campaign banners with us so got some photos taken with it there. As we had a couple of days before the next screening, we made the most of our time off. Blood Fruit director Sinead O’Brien arrived over on Monday in time for the second screening on Tuesday, May 26 in the Irish Arts centre, a beautiful and intimate theatre venue in New York. Again the documentary was received really well. It's surprising to hear people talking about their own memories of being on the picket line. There was alot of interest shown again about what is happening in Dunnes Stores at the moment and how working conditions don't seem to have changed much in over 30 years. The following morning we took the
9.30am train to Washington Dc. The screening that night was the closing feature of the Dc Labour Film Festival held in the AFI Silver Springs theatre. This was a fantastic night starting off with seeing our names in lights when we arrived at the theatre which was very funny. Especially with Sinead nearly getting knocked down jaywalking across the road as she tried get a better picture taken of it! The documentary went down really well with a long Q&A afterwards. Again there was lots of interest shown by the audience in both the documentary as well as the current campaign. We met up with Michael Bride [a regular contributor to Shopfloor] and other members of UFcW who had very generously donated to the fund to get us to the US and had
organised a hotel in Washington for us. We had a great night with everyone – it was great to meet up with them all. The final night’s screening was held in a lovely venue, Busboys and Poets, in Washington and was hosted by the Niall Mellon Township Initiative. Once again there was loads of interest shown in the documentary and an interesting Q&A after meeting up with some lovely people. Overall Blood Fruit went down really well with everyone finding it very interesting comparing our strike with what is happening in Dunnes now. It was an amazing trip we really appreciate everyone's help in organising it. And a huge thank you goes to John Douglas and David Gibney from Mandate for all their help in organising the trip.
Pictures: Bruce Guthrie (CC BY-NC 3.0)
OUR trip to the United States started out first thing on Friday, May 22 with an early morning stop to vote Yes in the Equal Marriage referendum. That done it was off to the airport to meet Karen Gearon for our flight to New York. The first showing of the documentary Blood Fruit was later that night in the Workers United Film Festival. There was a good crowd at the screening and it went down really well. We met with Andrew Tilson, the Executive Director of the festival, who had been instrumental in organising the trip. In fact, we were staying with his mother in New York. There were plenty of interesting questions to answer at the Q&A session following the screening with people wanting to find out more about the Decency for Dunnes campaign.
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Children at the Christ the King School in Nairobi’s Kibera slum.
Trócaire, Maynooth, Co. Kildare / 12 Cathedral Street, Dublin 1 / 9 Cook Street, Co. Cork or 50 King Street, Belfast, BT1 6AD www.trocaire.org 1850 408 408 / 0800 912 1200 Charity no: CHY 5883 / Charity no: XR 10431
Pictures: Kevin Cooper Photoline
Hundreds of delegates stand in solidarity with jailed Colombian trade union leader Huber Ballesteros at the ICTU biennial conference in Ennis on July 9
OEcD have given to the government in order to join the international community will put even more people at risk. They say we should lower the minimum wage which already is only €200 per month, they’re recommending to hike up the rates on VAT and taxes on services – but not on earnings or on wealth – and to dismantle the pension scheme. “We’re also opposed to the free trade agreements being signed with colombia. Previous agreements were signed on the grounds that the colombian government improves their labour rights but as Peter Bunting pointed out, trade unionists are being murdered with complete impunity. We’re very concerned that the same will happen with the EUcolombia free trade agreement. “The US is the biggest importer of our products and the EU is second. What we’re exporting is oil and coal and other natural resources. However, what we’re importing is maize and wheat and other agricultural goods which have put our peasant farmers out of jobs.”
By David Gibney Mandate communications officer AT THE IcTU biennial delegate conference in early July, colombian activist Witney chávez thanked the Irish trade union movement for its solidarity and support. But he underlined the need for that support to continue as his country fought against some of the most horrific crimes against human rights in the world. Delegates gathered at the West county Hotel, Ennis, were told of how colombia had become the most dangerous place in the world to be a trade unionist with more than 2,500 activists murdered over the last 15 years. IcTU Assistant General Secretary Peter Bunting recalled his recent visit to colombia where a delegation of Irish and UK representatives – including Mandate’s John Douglas and Aileen Morrissey – were protected by armed guards. “There are right-wing paramilitaries who collaborate with the military in putting down the trade union movement and anybody who seeks equality and fairness and justice.
“We were taken to a women’s group called the Mothers of the Disappeared. The colombian government introduced a bonus payment for the military – for every guerrilla they killed, they got extra holidays and extra money. “The official military set up an unemployed agency to attract people to work in this place called Sowatra. When they got the workers up to an area, they shot them all dead, buried them in a mass grave and said they were guerrillas to collect the bonuses.” He continued: “The paramilitaries in one area used to have a place called ‘chophouses’. And the idea of the chophouse was, they’d tell you to leave the fishing village and if you refused, they’d bring you in in the middle of the night and dismember you bit by bit, alive. “And you’d be screaming horrendously, obviously, and your neighbours – in all shacks beside each other - would hear and so this whole thing was intimidation, torture and fear. You’re not allowed to stand up to the paramilitaries or the military or you might face the same fate.” In his contribution, Mandate General Secretary John Douglas told delegates: “What we are witnessing in colombia is the systematic extermination of the trade union movement. It’s as simple as that. And the systematic oppression of all opposition, 30
Witney Chavez addresses delegates and, below left, receives a presentation from ICTU President John Douglas
In 2012 we had 20 of our members assassinated, we had seven survive assassination attempts, we had 431 members receive death threats and we had 626 registered human rights abuses against our members
including peasant farmers, NGOs to community groups. “There is a regime in colombia that is corrupt to its core which doesn’t value human rights, doesn’t value workers’ rights, and the people of colombia need our support. There will be no peace in colombia, until there’s justice first.” Mr Douglas went on to explain how the people of colombia can be supported. “First of all, all trade unions should affiliate to the Justice for colombia campaign. Individuals can look up the campaign and support it too. I met some of the bravest people I’ve ever met in colombia – housewives, farm workers, peasant fishermen and women, priests, religious groups, all who are putting their lives on the line for justice in colombia. “What I witnessed first-hand was horrendous, I’ve never seen anything like it. But the resilience of the colombian people – like a man I met in the jungle who a month earlier had to dig his 16-year-old son out of a ditch after he was executed while studying for his exams. That’s what’s going on. And it’s going on largely unnoticed across the world –
and we have to shine a light on that corruption and that dark space that is colombia at the moment.” Witney chávez thanked the trade union movement for giving him an opportunity to tell the story of the colombian people. He said: “In colombia we have the violence of the neo-liberal model that you Irish people suffer from but we also suffer from the dark forces that accompany that model in colombia. “We have 20% of the population – that’s eight million people – living in absolute poverty and homeless. We have some of the highest levels of unemployment in the world. The Gini-coefficient index [a measure used to measure income distribution within a country] is 0.53% and the level of human development is 70 points which shows that we’re on a very low level of equality in terms of the international context. “We have 22 million people that are available for work but only seven million have some sort of formal employment or access to negotiations and social security. About two million are unemployed which is about 10% of the population. “The recommendations that the
Mr chávez continued: “You know how the economic model affects us but in terms of the physical violence that is politically inflicted on our members and all of those infringements on our labour rights, the union movement has withstood thousands of assassinations, death threats, attacks and we’re the sector most targeted in colombia. “Just to give you an example of one year – in 2012 we had 20 of our members assassinated, we had seven survive assassination attempts, we had 431 members receive death threats and we had 626 registered human rights abuses against our members. “In 2014, 14 of our members were murdered, 15 survived assassination attempts, 78 received death threats and 145 other registered types of abuses,” he added. Mandate believes it is incredibly important that international pressure is kept on the colombian government. colombia want to be a respectable part of the international community so if the international trade union movement continues to shine a light into the corruption, murders and violence, then the people of colombia may begin to see real change. Go to www.justiceforcolombia.org for more information on how you can help.
SHOPFLOOR August 2015
THE LAST WORD...
France acts against food waste By Eugene McCartan CPOI IN LATE May the French National Assembly unanimously passed legislation banning the throwing away of food. Instead supermarkets must donate it to charities that are feeding those struggling to get enough to eat or for animal feed. Supermarkets will be barred from deliberately destroying unsold food so it cannot be eaten. Supermarkets measuring an area of 400m2 or more will have to sign contracts with charities by July 2016 or face penalties including fines of up to €75,000 or two years in jail. Poor families, students, unemployed or homeless people regularly forage in supermarket bins at night to feed themselves – many only surviving on foodstuffs that have been thrown out. Some supermarkets douse binned food with bleach to prevent potential food-poisoning by those eating food from bins while others lock waste food in warehouses for later collection by refuse trucks to prevent people foraging.
Measures In February this year measures were introduced to remove best-before dates on fresh foods as one of a number of measures to cut food waste in France. Some of those who forage in supermarket bins have been charged with theft by police. In 2011, a 59-year-old father of six working for the minimum wage at a Monoprix supermarket in Marseille almost lost his job after a colleague called security when he was seen picking six melons and two lettuces out of a bin. A number of organisations have emerged to highlight and campaign against this gross waste of food by the supermarkets. So-called ‘recycling commandos’ and direct action foraging movements have grown in strength both in France and other countries to high-
Some of the food France’s foraging activists have found in supermarket bins
light this obscene waste. Members of Les Gars'Pilleurs, an action group founded in Lyon, remove food from supermarket bins at night and redistribute it on the streets the next morning to raise awareness about waste, poverty and food distribution. Some campaigning groups believe that the law will only create an illusion that supermarkets are doing their bit, while the central question remains unresolved that of overproduction in the food industry as well as the wastage in food distribution
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chains. The French want to cut by 50% the amount of food wasted by 2025. It is estimated that the average French person throws out between 20kg and 30kg of food a year. A staggering 7kg of which is still in its wrapping and valued at nearly €20 billion in wasted food. Other figures show the extent of food waste in France – of the 7.1m tonnes of food wasted each year, 67% is binned by consumers, 15% by restaurants and 11% by shops. The French government also plans to run education programmes about
food waste in schools and businesses. There is little doubt that proportionately similar figures for food waste in Ireland. Globally it is estimated that each year 1.3bn tonnes of food is wasted, while tens of millions go hungry. Supermarkets have said that charities must now also be properly equipped with fridges and trucks to be able to handle the food donations. This is clearly a mad and wasteful economic system that has been imposed upon us all.
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