Issuu on Google+

SHOPFLOOR MANDATE TRADE UNION

A. Boss Signed

THIS OUT!

Mandate members €15 million €15,000,000

CHEQUE

DECEMBER 2013

IT’S BETTER IN YOUR POCKET

MANDATE members working for a number of major retailers have secured more than €15 million worth of pay rises during the past 18 months. Workers in Tesco, Dunnes Stores, Debenhams, Argos, Marks & Spencer, Superquinn, Brown Thomas and now new proposals at Penneys have all secured wage increases of between 2% and 3%. Many of the employees have also won the right to better contracts of employment and now enjoy a greater sense of security over their hours of work. Mandate Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light told Shopfloor: “Our members in some of the largest retail employers in Ireland are living proof that there’s power in a union.

Continued on page 3

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL OUR READERS


Picture: infomatique (CC BY-SA 2.0 )

INDUSTRIAL NEWS

M&S workers in strike action vote

Mandate concerns for Arnotts & Boyers jobs By David Gibney Mandate communications officer MANDATE has voiced its concern over the future of more than 1,200 jobs at Arnotts and Boyers department stores. It comes as the bidding process for the Arnotts debt held by Irish Bank resolution Corporation (IBrC) and Ulster Bank reaches a conclusion. It is speculated that there are a small number of serious bidders, including some trade bidders. Mandate understands that a decision will soon be made by Ulster Bank on offers for its share of the debt. The union has demanded that both IBrC and Ulster Bank put the jobs of existing Arnotts and Boyers employees as well as potential to grow future employment at the very top of the criteria in making their decision on a successful bid. General Secretary John Douglas said: “Arnotts and Boyers workers have gone through a very painful and difficult five years. Nonetheless, they have worked with the current management to turn Arnotts and Boyers around in a very difficult re-

tail environment, once again making Arnotts a unique and successful Irish retail brand.” He added: “It would be a slap in the face to all Arnotts and Boyers workers if either IBrC or Ulster Bank were to merely try to maximise their return on their debt without any consideration of what is best for the workers now and into the future.” Mr Douglas said it appeared that Ulster Bank will be first to sell their debt, adding that he had a strong message for them. “Mandate and our members employed in Arnotts and Boyers will work closely with any new owner who has the best interests of the workers at heart. However, if Ulster Bank simply think they can maximise their return on their debt without consideration of the loyal workers, then they are sadly mistaken. “In the current retail environment, decent jobs are a priority. Any bid which seeks to undermine or strip these decent jobs will be resisted and will damage the unique Arnotts brand in Ireland."

Could you write for Shopfloor?

Do you have a perspective on the Irish political, social or economic environment that you'd like to share with your fellow members in Mandate Trade Union? Do you have a good news story about how being a union member has benefited you and your colleagues in the workplace. Have you a story about how you or your family are coping in the current recession. Whatever it is, we'd like to hear from you. Please contact Shopfloor at news@mandate.ie or post your article to Shopfloor, Mandate Trade Union,9 Cavendish Row, Dublin 1 2

ANGER OVER PENSIONS MOVE

MArkS & Spencer workers across the republic have voted overwhelmingly in favour of taking industrial action to defend their pensions. The November 29 vote comes after the company’s defined benefit pension scheme was closed without agreement. Mandate, which represents the vast majority of the 3,000 staff at M&S, have written to management informing them that strike action will take place across 17 stores nationally on Saturday, December 7, 2013 with a two further days planned before Christmas. On October 31, Marks & Spencer management closed the workers’ defined benefit pension scheme without agreement – informing the workers that their retirement fund is a ‘discretionary benefit’. Unlike many other defined benefit schemes, the Marks & Spencer scheme is a performing scheme and is in surplus to the tune of approximately €17m. The company has also put forward proposals in relation to a whole range of cost saving measures including: • A reduction in the number of Section Managers; • A reduction in the Sunday and Public Holiday premium; • The elimination of the Christmas bonus. Mandate claims the company’s plans are not justified and have described the move as an opportunistic attack on long-established terms

and conditions of employment for their loyal workers. Mandate Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light, said: “While we fully recognise that some employers in the retail sector are struggling and that Marks & Spencer, like many, are operating with reduced profits, the company have given their workers absolutely no satisfactory proof that the permanent withdrawal of terms and conditions of employment is necessary or justified. “Mandate and our members have always worked responsibly with employers struggling financially and we will continue to do so, but what we will not do is allow companies to exploit and unilaterally remove their workers’ terms and conditions of employment in the pursuit of even higher profits.” Mandate claim members at M&S are now concerned for all their terms and conditions of employment due to recent company actions. “Mandate has traditionally had a good relationship with Marks & Spencer. However, in recent months the company has made many decisions which are baffling and shocking to the union and our members and, if implemented, would impact negatively upon them and their families. “Now they’ve implemented one of those changes without agreement. This is not how you conduct good industrial relations in 2013. “Our members feel there’s been a

fundamental breach of trust by senior management. “We’ve been given limited access to the company’s financial accounts and as Marks & Spencer are another multinational company which does not reveal accounts for their Irish business, we and our members are left at a distinct disadvantage whereby we cannot contextualise the viability of the cost saving proposals,” he added. “We’re prepared, when necessary, to have discussions in relation to cost savings but it needs to be done in an open and transparent manner and without the unilateral implementation of company decisions which impact negatively on our members now and into the future.” Mandate and SIPTU will now place pickets on all Marks & Spencer stores in Ireland on the following dates: • Saturday, 7 December 2013; • Thursday, 12 December 2013; • Friday, 20 December 2013. At the most recent Labour relations Committee conciliation conference, the company put forward proposals to buy out existing terms and conditions of employment which has been described by the Marks & Spencer National Negotiating Committee as derisory. Significantly, however, the company have retained their position to unilaterally change the workers’ pension scheme which is entirely unacceptable.

‘Our members feel there’s been a fundamental breach of trust by M&S senior management’

Concerns over Dunnes Xmas parking move By David Gibney Mandate communications officer DUNNES Stores’ move to withdraw parking facilities for employees in a number of stores over the Christmas period has left members feeling “troubled, anxious and angry”, sources at Mandate have claimed. Slamming the Scrooge-like decision as “inconsiderate”, the union pointed out that the move placed a further financial burden on hardworking staff at the retailer as well as claiming it represented a potential risk to members’ health and safety. Mandate Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light told Shopfloor: “A very large proportion of our members in Dunnes have contacted us telling us their concerns. With the

lack of rural transport in certain areas, workers, in many instances, have no option but to drive to work.  “This means they face extra costs to pay for private parking and also face the risks associated with having to walk long distances in isolated areas at unsociable times. “Parking rates can be €1 to €2 per hour meaning a full-time worker could lose between €38 and €76 per week from their income. “These are very difficult economic times for everybody but to add this expense to retail workers who are already low paid is simply mean and will result in no savings for the company but a lot of anxiety for their staff. “Dunnes workers, many of whom are female, can start at 6am and fin-

ish anywhere after 11pm at night.  “If the company refuses to back down on this, many will be forced to walk 10 minutes in very isolated areas and this puts a very unnecessary risk on the individual involved,” explained Mr Light. Dunnes Stores management informed staff in a number of stores that the parking facilities were being withdrawn over the Christmas trading period. Even more worrying is that workers in several other stores have been informed that this is a permanent measure. Mandate has written to the company calling on management to rescind their decision or to offer appropriate alternative facilities to the staff concerned. SHOPFLOOR

y December 2013


INDUSTRIAL NEWS

How it all adds up...

John Douglas

Company

Approx No of Employees

% increase

Total per year €

Argos

1,400

3

631,449

Dunnes Stores

14,000

Marks & Spencer 3,000 Penneys

3,500

Superquinn

2,200

Brown Thomas Debenhams Tesco Total

3

2.5 3

1,500

2 2

1,450

14,000 41,050

2 2

6,314,490

1,127,587.5 1,578,622.5 451,035 661,518

436,000.5

4,209,660

15,410,362.5

It’s better in YOUR pocket!

From page 1

“While the Irish economy is continuing to struggle after more than four years of austerity, our members are playing a major part in bring the economy back from the brink. “By using the collective bargaining process, Mandate members have been able to secure pay increases which will not only help raise many families out of the poverty net, but it will bring economic benefits to every corner of the country.” Mr Light pointed to the domestic economy as one of the main beneficiaries of the wage increases won by Mandate members.

“Obviously having €15 million in the back-pockets of ordinary workers – rather than in the coffers of already wealthy shareholders – will be of benefit to the retail sector and other parts of the domestic economy. “After all, our members spend almost all of their income in the local restaurant, pub or shop and these increases in pay will help to support existing jobs and create new ones.” He added that government ministers should also pay close attention to the wage increases won by Mandate as it will have a positive impact on exchequer balance sheets. “While pay increases are of most benefit to the workers, the increase in revenue for government will be substantial. Extra earnings mean extra income tax, PrSI payments and

contributions to the Universal Social Charge. It will also mean increases in VAT – which, as we all know is badly needed at this time.” Throwing down a challenge to the Fine Gael/Labour government, Mr Light insisted Mandate members were playing their part in the economic recovery and that it was now time for them to step up to the plate. He said: “It is time to legislate for real collective bargaining rights so that members in non-union employments can join and have their right to collectively bargain vindicated. “This will assist in our economic recovery and will help to lift living standards for hundreds of thousands of Irish workers.” Picture: ptc24 (CC BY 2.0)

December 2013

y SHOPFLOOR

STRAIGHT TALKING General Secretary Mandate Trade Union

Bosses must show more Xmas spirit...

It’s that time of the year again, the run into Christmas and all the madness that goes with it, the rushing around, the last minute presents and the short break with family and friends. For shop and bar workers the Christmas period means more pressure at work, longer hours and the shortest of breaks off work (Christmas Day). Over the past years, retail sector employers have turned what was a busy time of the year followed by a decent short break (December 25, 26, 27) into a busy time of the year with virtually no time with family and friends for retail workers. retail employers in their quest to chase every last single Christmas euro engaged in a bidding war of opening hours at the expense of the health, safety and well-being of retail staff. The irony of the current situation is that none of the retailers are any better off, they have cannibalised their own consumer spending and now have to resort to phony pre-Christmas sales and pre-emptive New Year sales. The very same false economy drove the same retailers down the cullde-sac of 24-hour trading and unlimited Sunday trading when like sheep they followed each other until the economic rationale of opening all these extended hours disappeared. As a result today we have seen some retraction of opening hours. While successive governments have said they cannot legislate for shop opening hours because of constitutional issues, the rest of Europe still protects and recognises the rights of retail workers to free time at Christmas and other important times so as to afford retail workers decent breaks. retail by and large is not such an essential service that it cannot close for two or three days over the Christmas period. The world for customers will not end if they cannot buy that shirt or blouse on St Stephen’s Day. Mandate calls on all retail employers to show some common sense and concern for their hard working staff. A decent job equals decent wages and a decent break. Shopfloor is published bi-monthly by Mandate Trade Union. Mandate Head Office, O'Lehane House, 9 Cavendish Row, Dublin 1 T: 01-8746321/2/3 F: 01-8729581 W: www.mandate.ie Design & Editing: Brazier Media E: braziermedia@btinternet.com Shopfloor is edited, produced and printed by trade union labour

Give Decent Work a boost – buy your presents at a Fair Shop this Christmas MANDATE members have been encouraged to spend their money in a Fair Shop this Christmas.  The Fair Shop campaign is about promoting decent work and rewarding employers who voluntarily recognise the right of their employees to be represented by their trade union for collective bargaining purposes. General Secretary John Douglas said: “At a time when the retail sector has many challenges and workers are asked to bear the burden for

the economic crisis, it is important that we all remain committed to decent work and to a workers’ right to have a say in their workplace. “That’s why our union is calling on all trade union members across Ireland to support the Fair Shop campaign when they’re purchasing their presents this Christmas. But don’t forget, Fair Shopping isn’t just for Christmas, it’s for life.” You can sign the Fair Shop pledge by going to www.fairshop.ie 3


ANALYSIS

How Budget 2014 impacts on young unemployed people By Rory O’Farrell NERI Institute Researcher BUDGET 2014 introduced major cuts to Jobseeker’s Allowance (which is means tested) for young workers. The payment to new entrants aged 22-24 is reduced from €144 to ���100 per week, and for those aged 25 the payment is reduced from €188 to €144 per week. The Government says the aim is to “ensure that young people are better off in education, employment or training than claiming”, and the Government hopes to save €32 million from the measure. Despite being portrayed as lazy, 82% of 18-24 year olds are not on the Live register, 85% of those on the Live register have worked before, and almost half of young people on the Live register have been claiming for less than six months. As there are 32 unemployed people for every job vacancy, the issue is one of a lack of jobs, rather than a lack of motivation. It is worth looking at if young people need to be pushed into taking up work. The Live register figures published by the Central Statistics Office give a wealth of information regarding those receiving Jobseekers Allowance. Claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance or Benefit does not necessarily mean a worker is unemployed. They may be working part-time, but receive a social welfare payment for the days they do not work. Although it is difficult for young workers to find employment, 85% have previously worked, and only 15.2% are described as having no previous occupation. This group includes those that never worked, and also those that simply did not state what previous

occupation they held. This shows that the young unemployed already have an incentive to work, as the vast majority have already worked. Also, young workers are not likely to have been on the Live register for a long period of time. During the first six months of 2013, about one third (35%) of young claimants have been on the Live register for under three months, and roughly half (46.9%) for under six months. Only about one third (34.6%) have been on the Live register for over a year (compared to 46.4% for older claimants). Of course these figures are for those on the Live register, and there are many under 25s not on the Live register. A total of 82.1% of those aged 18-24 are not on the Live register at all. The evidence shows that the problem is not that younger workers are unwilling to work, but younger workers are finding short-term insecure jobs. Young workers from some regions need to migrate to regions where more jobs are being created. For a young person to move to another region, and away from their parents, substantial costs are involved. According to the Daft (2013) rental report, renting a single room costs €433 in Dublin city centre, and €286 in Cork city centre per month. If a young worker moves to Dublin city centre, and then becomes unemployed, €100 per week is not enough to support themselves. Unemployed young workers may need to move back to their home region, and search for work again. Workers may now be unwilling to move regions for three reasons: 1) Workers realise that given the insecure nature of employment, there is a strong chance that they will

become unemployed at some point. Young workers know that they will now likely have to move back home if they become unemployed and the moving costs may not be worth the effort. 2) Building social and professional connections are an important part of finding work and developing a career, with casual acquaintances being very important. Forcing young workers to break these connections, by leaving a region they have worked in to return to their parents’ home, can damage their career and hits those from regions with high unemployment particularly hard. 3) Finally, those on JobBridge will receive €50 per week in addition to their other social welfare. This means a worker may have to survive on €650 per month. The new measure therefore reduces the incentive to move regions. Budget 2014 introduced major changes to the level of Jobseeker’s Allowance, with a 30% cut for those aged 22-24. This is a blunt instrument. According to the European statistics agency, in 2011 41.8% of those aged 18-24 were at risk of poverty or social exclusion. Clearly young people are already a vulnerable group. It remains to be seen how the new measures will impact on youth poverty. Jobseeker’s Allowance is already means tested, showing that recipients need the payment. Although young people are less likely to need to support others (such as children or partners), the system already gives payments (such as child benefit) to deal with dependents. This measure will likely increase poverty among the young.

CONGRESS President John Douglas joins ICTU Assistant General  Secretary Peter Bunting in unveiling a new mural in honour of Jim Larkin. The artwork, which adorns the gable wall of ICTU’s Belfast  office, was painted by Belfast muralists Danny Devanny and Mark Ervine. It details more than a century of working class struggle in the city – from the Dockers’ and Carters’ strike of 1907. through the struggle of women in the factories and mills to today’s battle against austerity and for social justice. Pictures: Kevin Cooper/Photoline

Good question...

Picture: JSchueller2 (CC BY 2.0)

4

SHOPFLOOR

y December 2013


GENERAL NEWS

TDs get the Decent Work message By David Gibney Mandate communications officer MANDATE has called on politicians to support ‘Decent Work’ and not the ‘jobs-at-any-cost’ approach that has been creeping into the Irish workforce since the economic crisis began. Mandate gave a presentation to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, where the union highlighted the increase in precarious work that has come to light following a study they commissioned entitled, Decent Work? The Impact of the Recession on Low Paid Workers. Assistant Secretary Gerry Light told the committee there are more than a quarter of a million people working in the retail and wholesale sector but the quality and standards of employment are being rapidly eroded. “recent CSO data shows that involuntary part-time working is growing with over 135,000 workers classified

as underemployed which represents a staggering increase of 46% from 2008. It is also the highest figure in the EU.” Mr Light claimed politicians and public representatives need to have real awareness of precarious work and we need to make a decision as to what type of workforce and society we want. He said: “While Mandate welcomes the recent news that Irish employment has increased of late, we must be sure to create quality employment and not precarious, insecure and unsustainable jobs that don’t provide workers with a decent standard of living.” Mandate commissioned market research group Behaviour and Attitudes to conduct a survey of its membership which produced the following findings: • Less than 33% have full-time contracts;

• 50% have their hours changed at least once a month; • 40% reported a fall in take-home pay, on average €109 per week; • 60% were seeking additional hours; • 70% said they were less inclined to go to a doctor; • 97% receive no shift allowance; • 17% claim a social welfare payment; and • 10% have another job. He added that calls from employers for more and more flexibility from Irish workers were dangerous and ill-founded. “The Irish labour market is currently one of the most flexible within the OECD with statistics showing that we are sixth out of 42 countries. More significantly, only the Uk is more flexible in the EU. “More than 25% of the workforce is low paid and recent Eurostat

Gerry Light: presentation to Dail committee

labour cost data shows that Irish retail labour costs are 20.6% below the average of the other EU-15 countries and 37.4% below the average of

Recent meeting of Argos shop stewards at Mandate’s Dublin HQ

Argos workers win pay rise and improved hours security By David Gibney Mandate communications officer MANDATE members in Argos have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a set of proposals negotiated between their union and the company. It means Argos workers will receive a 3% pay increase with 2% back-dated to July 2013. A further 1% will be payable in July 2014. Also included in the deal will be increased guarantees over minimum

hours of employment which will give Argos workers greater income security. Existing staff will be prioritised when additional hours become available during peak and normal trading times. Ahead of the ballot, Mandate informed members that there would be some changes to the out-of-hours window and payment for long service increments would start at the beginning of years seven and 10.

other comparable small open economies.” Mr Light concluded by pointing out that the Government had a very large part to play in providing solutions to the growing phenomena of precarious work, including: • reforming the PrSI system to remove the incentive to hire part-time rather than full-time workers; • reforming the social welfare system to recognise the reality of precarious work; • Introducing a refundable tax credit; • The introduction of effective collective bargaining rights for workers; • Introducing a stimulus package to lift consumer confidence and spending in the domestic economy; and • Introducing an effective training support system for the under-employed and low-skilled workers.

Mandate Industrial Officer David Miskell told Shopfloor: “It is very encouraging to see such an overwhelming majority voting in favour of what is a very good deal. “Most retail workers are struggling financially in the current economic environment but this deal will give our members in Argos a muchneeded boost to their take-home pay and also ensure they have protections around their income.

“This represents a positive outcome for all staff in these challenging times. Mandate will seek to continually improve the terms and conditions of employment of our members in Argos. “The proposals have been achieved through constructive engagement between the company and Mandate and a mutual commitment to a positive industrial relations climate. We hope this constructive part-

nership – which is beneficial to both the company and the workers – continues into the future.” He added: "Yet again this result shows that being united in your union is the best way to have a say in your workplace and achieve the best possible outcome. We'd obviously encourage all retail workers to join Mandate and work together with their union to ensure their voice is heard."

Mandate secures Christmas bonus at Heatons JOIN US December 2013

y SHOPFLOOR

Use your smart phone and find out why...

By Bill Kelly Divisional Organiser MANDATE has welcomed the decision by Heatons to restore the Christmas bonus for staff this year. It comes after a number of meetings with Mandate officials over the issue and follows a national meeting of Heatons shop stewards on October 17. The bonus was initially suspended after agreement was reached with the retailer on a re-

duction to staff terms and conditions as part of a move to stabilise the company. This temporary stabilisation agreement is currently under review.  At the October 17 meeting in Mandate head office, shop stewards voiced their concerns about the impact the recession was having on members’ living standards. Divisional Organiser Bill Kelly told Shopfloor: “Certainty of income was a major issue with shop stew-

ards stating strongly how much they relied on a bonus at Christmas to help them make ends meet. A further meeting took place with the company on November 15 at which the company agreed to restore the Christmas bonus to staff for 2013.” Welcoming the decision, Mr Kelly confirmed that talks are to continue in the New Year on a comprehensive set of proposals aimed at securing “a positive future for members and the company”.    

5


INDUSTRIAL NEWS STAFFING CUTS PROPOSAL

Airport workers expected to reject Terminal 1 proposals Picture: DAA

MANDATE members employed by the Dublin Airport Authority are expected to reject management plans to cut staffing levels in retail at Terminal 1. It follows the company’s announcement that it plans to restructure retail outlets at the airport. In October, the company made a presentation to union representatives and members – the effects of which would see a potential headcount of 23.5 Full Time Equivalents (FTE). Mandate Divisional Organiser Brendan O’Hanlon claimed the DAA announcement had “caused considerable anger and distress among members”. He said: “Our members not only made significant sacrifices over the past four years as part of the Cost recovery Programme (CrP) agreement which not only included pay cuts and a loss in benefits but significant reductions in staff numbers as well.

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.

• • • • •

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

FollowIng the announcement that wH smith is to take over the Eason’s outlets at Dublin Airport, Mandate Divisional organiser Brendan o’Hanlon held a number of meetings with the firm over the protection of workers’ terms and conditions of employment in line with the transfer of Undertakings Regulations and the issue of union recognition.

Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this training course will obtain a Mandate certificate. They may progress to the FETAC level 5 Certificate in Trade Union studies or other relevant training courses offered by Mandate.

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

Union wins B&Q test cases 6

agreed terms and conditions. Mandate is to write to the DAA following the planned general meeting to advise them of the position taken by members. The news further compounds the already difficult industrial relations atmosphere at the airport given the lack of progress on the workers’ pension scheme. The scheme currently has a deficit of approximately €750 million, with no real optimism to resolve the issue despite the fact that talks, which included a Labour Court hearing in May, have been going on for the past three years. A recent proposal by the pension trustees has been rejected and the parties are currently examining the possibility of ceasing contributions to the scheme as part of what staff describe as a final attempt to resolve the issue, although the prospect of industrial action is becoming increasingly more likely as workers’ frustrations boil over.

Assurances given to union over airport retail takeovers

Course content:

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

“The members feel extremely let down by their employer who is a cosignatory to the CrP agreement which achieved savings of €40 million and put a process in place designed to see the pay cuts reversed over the medium term. This latest proposal will very much be seen as a slap in the face and will be resisted.” In addition to the proposed staff reductions, the company’s plans include changes to previously-agreed rosters, greater flexibility to meet business needs and a voluntary severance plan. Mr O’Hanlon told Shopfloor that he doesn’t expect any great take-up on the voluntary severance package as “all of these workers have declined similar offers in the past”. He said he had no doubt this initative was not about “a headcount reduction” but was “more a cost-saving exercise”. Mr O’Hanlon claimed staff who did leave under the programme will be replaced by employees on newly-

PAGE 12

Mr o’Hanlon told Shopfloor: “At this point in time assurances have been given that all terms and conditions of employment and the existing collective agreement will be honoured. “the company has committed to reviewing the existing agreement but stated that any agreement will only be in relation to the airport stores.” He added: “Mandate’s objective is ultimately to achieve an appropriate recognition agree-

ment between the company and the union for all its stores in the Republic.” wH smith currently has stores in terminals 1 and 2, shannon Airport and a concession in Arnotts Dublin store. Members recently reached an agreement with wH smith over the introduction of monthly pay. Mr o’Hanlon described it as a “difficult decision for union members, but one they made understanding the practical problems presented and one which will be relied upon in future negotiations around pay.” the company dates back to 1856 when Charles Eason was appointed branch manager in Dublin for wH smith. Charles Eason bought the Irish business from wH smith in 1886. SHOPFLOOR

y December 2013


GENERAL NEWS

Fiona takes flight for Fair Shop...

MAnDAtE member Fiona o’leary recently took a gutsy decision to promote the Fair shop campaign... she jumped out of a plane at 10,000ft! For the plucky tesco shop steward from Douglas in Cork decided to take part in a sky dive to underline the vital importance collective bargaining rights have for retail workers. Fiona is an avid supporter of the campaign and is obviously willing to risk life and limb to hammer home the fact. speaking at the Cork launch of the Fair shop campaign, Ms

o’leary said: “obviously Fair shops are not perfect and many retail workers in Fair shops will still have some problems. “But at least with a Fair shop, you know they have a genuine ability to address any grievances and ensure they can participate in the workplace in a fair and democratic manner.” she added: “It is so important to me, as a retail worker, to be able to collectively bargain with my employer and that is a right I believe all retail workers should have. that’s why I support the Fair shop campaign.”

Notes on the Front

Commentary on Irish Political Economy by UNITE research officer Michael Taft www.notesonthefront. typepad.com

SKILLS FOR WORK

Interested in a computer training course?

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

Communications through Computers Starting from scratch this course helps you to use a computer and builds confidence for communicating on-line. Mandate Trade Union in conjunction with Skills for Work is offering free training. The courses are to encourage members back into learning and training whilst aiming towards a FETAC level 3 Award. Courses are free and open to members who have not achieved their Leaving Certificate or who have an out of date Leaving Certificate. This course will commence on Monday 20th January from 6.30pm-9.00pm and will be held in Mandate Training Centre, Distillery House, Distillery Road, Dublin 3 Places are limited with a maximum of eight per course. If you are interested in attending this training contact:

Joan Devlin, Skills for Work Co-ordinator, at 087 7419805 by Monday 6th January 2014 Please Quote Reference Number OTC 3-2014

December 2013

y

SHOPFLOOR

Picture: European Parliament

7


IKEA

INDUSTRIAL NEWS

WATCH

It’s I spy IKEA! €7,000 compensation for ‘There is need to police all our agreements with Tesco’

IT HAS been reported that Swedish multinational retailer is in trouble in France among other places. In France, the retailer has been placed under investigation by prosecutors examining allegations of spying on staff and customers. The IkEA store in Versailles, France was raided by police who seized documents and computers following allegations that IkEA spied on workers who were members of trade union groups. In Ireland Mandate has had problems with IkEA. Our union organis-

ers have been consistently forced to remove themselves from the store in Ballymun, Dublin, and even told to leave the car park. One might ask what IkEA has to hide when it is so concerned about its employees speaking to trade unions? Time will tell whether flatpack furniture equals to flat-pack conditions of employment. Don’t forget, this Christmas as trade unionists to check out www.fairshop.ie before shopping – you won’t find IkEA there! Spend your money where workers count.

City of Dublin Education and Training Board

SKILLS FOR WORK

Interested in doing a personal finance or maths course?

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

Personal Finance and Maths course

Starting from scratch this course helps you to improve your maths and personal finance. Mandate Trade Union in conjunction with Skills for Work are offering members the opportunity to attend training. The courses are to encourage members back into learning and training while aiming towards a FETAC level 3 Award. Mandate are offering these courses to members who have not achieved their Leaving Certificate or who have an out-of-date Leaving Certificate. This course will commence on Monday, 20th January from 6.30pm-9.00pm and will be held in Mandate Training Centre, Distillery House, Distillery Road, Dublin 3 Places are limited with a maximum of eight per course. If you are interested in attending this training contact:

Joan Devlin, Dublin City Skills for Work Co-Ordinator, at 087 7419805 by Monday 6th January 2014 Please Quote Reference Number OTC 4-2014

8

Picture: cogdogblog (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Dundalk Tesco members

A BID by tesco to change the contracts of employment of eight workers at its Dundalk store without offering any form of compensation was recently brought to the attention of union officials. the members in question had worked on the night crew until they were moved – without reference to the union and in disregard of the night crew agreement – on to the day shift. this was five years ago. However, local shop steward Mary o’Donnell informed Divisional organiser willie Hamilton, pictured right, that the company now wanted to change those members who had been on the night crew contracts to day-time staff contracts. Mandate Divisional organiser willie Hamilton told Shopfloor: “when we learned of this noncompliance with the terms of our collective agreement, we con-

fronted tesco management. “Following several meetings, and at one stage the involvement of the lRC, we secured a settlement for our eight members which resulted in them being placed on the night crew rate of pay.

INTERNATIONAL COLOMBIA

“this represents a 33% increase in their salary plus they each received a €7,000 payment as compensation for loss of earnings.” It is understood the members concerned will be offered any jobs on the night crew that may come available when the new store opens in Dundalk in August. Mr Hamilton said: “If at that stage they wish to keep their night shift rate, they must take up these positions. However, members will be allowed to remain working on days if they choose but at that stage they would revert back to day rate wages.” Mr Hamilton added: “this case is a good example of the need to police all our agreements with tesco on an ongoing basis.” wishing the eight workers a “very happy Christmas”, he singled out Mary o’Donnell for praise “in spotting this injustice”.

Historic agreement on political participation brokered at talks AN historic agreement – hailed as a significant step towards ending the conflict – has been brokered between the Colombian government and the FArC guerrilla movement as part of the continuing peace talks taking place in Havana, Cuba. A joint statement, issued on Wednesday, November 6, confirmed that an agreement had been reached on the issue of political participation – the second of six points on the talks agenda. The agreement is being seen as an important move forward in bringing an end to an armed conflict which began almost 50 years ago. Peace talks between the Colombian government and the FArC started just over a year ago and this latest agreement follows on from a partial accord made on the issue of land, the first point on the agenda, in May. An agreement on political participation is of far-reaching significance. The roots of the conflict sprang in part from the lack of access to the political system afforded to those living in the poorest parts of rural Colombia. This was one of the motivations that led to the formation of the FArC. This political exclusion

has not just been structural: thousands of opposition political activists, including trade unionists and rural community leaders, have been targeted precisely to ensure they do not gain access to political institutions. This was most vividly seen during a 10-year period from the mid1980s when members of the Patriotic Union political party – which included demobilised FArC guerrillas as well as trade unionists, peasant farmers, and those looking for a social transformation in Colombia – were targeted by a combination of state forces and paramilitary death squads. Up to 5,000 party members were killed, including two presidential candidates and eight congressmen. The agreement has focused on ensuring both the necessary structural changes and security guarantees to enable a far wider access to the po-

litical system. Some of these changes include transitory electoral arrangements in areas most affected by the armed conflict, the creation of a statute guaranteeing rights to the political opposition, and a reform of the electoral system. There are also changes proposed to guarantee greater access to the media and guarantees in terms of security for demobilised guerrillas taking part in electoral politics. This is without doubt an important step forward in terms of the peace process and in achieving increased equality and social justice in Colombia. It was hailed by opposition politician Ivan Cepeda, pictured inset left, whose father was an assassinated congressman for the Patriotic Union, as a “clear demonstration that we can really believe that peace is possible”. As with previous agreements made on the issue of land, nothing will be implemented until all the points have been agreed. The four points to follow are: drugs and illicit crops, victims, ending the armed conflict, and implementation. SHOPFLOOR

y December 2013


INDUSTRIAL NEWS

Pay tops agenda at Tesco shop stewards meeting A NATIONAL meeting of Tesco Ireland shop stewards was held at the CWU’s Dublin offices on November 18. It was convened to seek endorsement of the strategy proposed by the Tesco National Negotiating Team: to enter immediate talks with the retailer on a single-item agenda – pay. representatives, who were welcomed by Mandate Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light, were informed that the most recent pay agreement, allowing for a 2% increase across all rates of pay from the January 1, 2013, is set to expire on December 31 this year. Mandate – the union that represents the vast majority of Tesco Ireland’s 15,200 staff – is anxious that there is no slippage occurs between the end of the current agreement and whatever deal succeeds it. Divisional Organiser Brendan O’Hanlon told Shopfloor: “Members working for Tesco Ireland have been very responsible over the past number of years regarding pay increases. “However, it is imperative that we build on the agreement reached in 2012 and ensure that our members’ pay not only keeps pace with inflation but continues to move towards a decent wage.” He added: “This would be a small recognition for their contribution to the company’s undeclared significant

improvements in their working conditions has to be the way forward. “We cannot allow employers to keep using pay negotiations to seek concessions from workers and cause further division among staff.” Mandate is seeking an early meeting with the company to discuss members’ claim. At the meeting, Mr Light expressed concern about the growing number of individual cases being referred to third parties due to Tesco’s deliberate misinterpretation of local and national agreements. He cited as a recent example Tesco’s bid to unilaterally break a long-standing agreement about rostering for traditional Christmas Sundays. As a result of direct discussions and the union’s request for an urgent

‘We cannot allow employers to keep using pay talks to seek concessions from workers and cause further division among staff’

profits.” The meeting, which was attended by more than 100 local union representatives, was informed of developments on a range of issues. These included information on Tesco’s Dot Com drivers and team leaders’ terms and conditions as well as issues relating to Express stores and retail security officers.The appli-

cation of the 2003 night shift agreement to those members affected by Tesco’s decision to cease 24-hour trading in all but three of outlets was also referred to. A detailed presentation was given about the progress made in these areas and the clear benefits attached

to focussed engagement on behalf of categories of workers as opposed to negotiations dealing with a diverse membership. Mr O’Hanlon said: “Organising workers to take responsibility for events in their workplace and identifying agendas which seek to bring

SKILLS FOR WORK

LrC hearing, the company has agreed on a without-prejudice basis to honour the agreement this year with a view to entering discussions early in the New Year. Notwithstanding this positive development, it is clear there is a necessity to re-examine the company/union procedures with a view to developing a robust process designed to either prevent or limit the number of issues in dispute. Mr Light assured those present that Mandate would work with the National Negotiating Team and the company to help bring about a more positive working relationship.

Interested in doing a Communications course?

Communication skills

City of Dublin Education and Training Board

Do you have a desire to improve your communications skills, but never got around to it? Starting from scratch this course helps you to improve your communications skills. Mandate Trade Union in conjunction with Skills for Work are offering members the opportunity to attend training. The courses are to encourage members back into learning and training while aiming towards a FETAC level 3 Award.

Mandate are offering these courses to members who have not achieved their Leaving Certificate or who have an out-of-date Leaving Certificate.

This course will commence on Monday the 20th January from 6.30pm-9.00pm and will be held in Mandate Training Centre, Distillery House, Distillery Road, Dublin 3 Places are limited with a maximum of eight per course. If you are interested in attending this training contact:

Joan Devlin, Dublin City Skills for Work Co-ordinator, at 087 7419805 by Monday 6th January 2014 Please Quote Reference Number OTC 5-2014

December 2013

y SHOPFLOOR

9


INDUSTRIAL NEWS

Solidarity: November 7 protest outside Shoe X Culsive, formerly Connolly Shoes

Justice for the Connolly Shoes four! By David Gibney Mandate communications officer A rALLY in support of sacked Connolly Shoes workers was held in Dun Laoghaire on November 7. The four workers, who were unfairly dismissed more than three years ago, have still not received compensation from their employer. Following their dismissal in 2011, the workers – John Mulpetre, Damian keegan, Susan Tonge and Patrick Byrne – were awarded compensation sums in excess of €100,000 over various breaches in employment law, including unfair dismissals. One of the workers, John Mulpetre, has picketed the store five days a week for more than three years seeking justice and his entitlements. Mandate General Secretary John Douglas said: “After three years and seven months, these workers deserve justice. It is shameful that they still 10

haven’t received the compensation that they are legally entitled to and it is even more shameful that the Irish industrial relations system allows rogue employers like Matthew Connolly to continue as a director after giving these workers the run-around for so long.” Mr Douglas slammed Irish company and employment law and called on politicians to address obvious inadequacies in the legislation. “As it stands, the legislation allows managers like Mr Connolly to hide behind a veil of corporate secrecy in order to avoid their responsibilities as employers. “Transferring assets from one company to another and avoiding sanctions while employees like John Mulpetre, who gave 38 loyal years of service to the company, are left out in the cold and rain fighting for justice.”

‘Fighting for justice’: Congress President John Douglas, above, lashes rogue employers at protest. John Mulpetre, left, who gave 38 years of loyal service to Connolly Shoes, continues the picket Pictures: Mandate

Connolly Shoes worker John Mulpetre told Shopfloor: “I’ve been on strike for more than three years trying to receive some level of justice from my former employer who has treated all of us appallingly. “Matthew Connolly, owner of Connolly Shoes, has absolutely no concept of loyalty and his disregard for the combined service of 100 years we gave his company is a real kick in the teeth for all of us. “However, the level of support we’ve received from the local community in Dun Laoghaire has been

immense,” he added. “I certainly would not be picketing this employer now if it wasn’t for the fantastic support I’ve received since 2010.” Vowing that he would continue his campaign for justice, Mr Mulpetre added: “I’m not going anywhere. I will continue to picket my former employer and with the support of my union and the local community I’m determined to achieve a fair and just resolution for all of the sacked workers. “This is now a matter of principle.” SHOPFLOOR

y December 2013


INDUSTRIAL NEWS

Boots agree to go Union Representatives to Labour Court Introductory Course after talks fail BOOTS retail Ireland Limited has finally agreed to attend the Labour Court after three days of local negotiations failed to produce a breakthrough in the long-running pay dispute. Mandate agreed to further local pay talks following a conciliation conference in September where the company asked the union to fully explore a proposal being tabled. The union agreed to the local discussions provided they took place on a without-prejudice basis and that the company agreed to joint referral to the Labour Court if the talks ended without agreement. The talks focussed on a number of matters, around the outstanding issue of a pay increase for all Boots employees, the unfreezing of increments and the non-payment of a bonus to almost 20% of its employees. Those on the pre-2009 pay scale (numbering roughly 400 employees, or about 20% of Boots Ireland staff) did not receive the 2% pay increase paid to Boots Ireland employees in June, as it applied only to those on the realigned 2009 scale. Bonuses have also stopped for the pre-2009 pay scale employees, while those on the realigned scale can receive an annual bonus for demonstrating “performing and legendary” service Parties met at the LrC in September, following a Boots request for more time to consider its position over Mandate proposals on pay. The union is seeking a 3% pay in-

crease for all Boots employees backdated to June 2012. The LrC session ended with agreement to meet again for two days of direct discussion on the pay issue, including pay increases and harmonisation of scales. Divisional Organiser Brendan O’Hanlon said that while some progress was made during the local discussions, a considerable gap still existed between the parties and it was not possible reach agreement. The Labour relations Commission was advised that the talks had failed and requested the issue in dispute be referred to the Labour Court. However, it became clear despite previously agreeing to the referral, that the company were now reneging on the commitment as it was seeking a further conciliation conference to discuss what it described as “procedural matters”. A further conciliation conference took place in November and it was agreed that the issues of the pay increase, the unfreezing of increments, non-payment of the June bonus and pay alignment would be referred. Mr O’Hanlon said: “Ultimately Mandate remains committed to ensuring that a fair and equitable solution is found in the interests of all our members in Boots. “The Labour Court recommendation will provide the opportunity to determine whether or not this has been achieved and, more importantly, what they are prepared to do in pursuit of such an outcome if its not.”

Staff at Penneys Dublin store pocket refurbishment bonus By Michael Meegan Divisional Organiser stAFF at Penneys Mary street have received €50 each for their cooperation during a recent major refurbishment of the Dublin store. the one-off payment followed talks between Mandate and management representatives. the building work, carried out in trading hours over a number of months, substantially increased floor space for trading. Mary street staff contributed fully and without complaint as the building work progressed. After December 2013

y SHOPFLOOR

the work was completed, Mandate opened discussions with management to highlight the large contribution made by members to the hugely successful refurbishment. After a number of meetings, an agreement was reached. this resulted in all Mandate members who were in employment during the refurbishment and who were still in employment on date of agreement receiving a one-off payment of €50 for their full cooperation while the work was carried out.

N UNIO P E R

The Union Representative Introductory Training Course is for new shop stewards/union representatives. The course aims to provide information, skills and knowledge to our shop stewards/union representatives to assist them in their role in the workplace.

Course content: • Background to Mandate. • The role and responsibilities of a Shop Steward/Union Representative. • Examining disciplinary/grievance procedures. • Developing negotiating skills. • Representing members at local level. • Communication skills/solving members’ problems. • Organising, Recruitment and Campaigns. • Induction presentations. Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this course will obtain a Mandate certificate. They may progress to a Union Representative Advanced Course and to other relevant training courses offered by Mandate.

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

AT L AST!

Affordable Car Insurance

MANDATE MEMBERSHIP SERVICES

FOR AND YOUNG F OR FFIRST IRST TTIME TIME A AND Y YOUNG DDRIVERS RIVERS ! Cover for Full & Provisional Licence Holder s

“I am a young driver who bought a car recently. I applied to a number of insurance companies for insurance and was quoted ver y high prices. As a member of Mandate Trade Union I contacted JLT for a quote and was ver y surprised to find out that the insurance quote I received from JLT was the lowest of all by €400. As a first time driver it was a ver y positive experience for me and I would recommend JLT to any young driver.” Shane, Dublin

Subject to under writing and acceptance criteria. Terms and conditions apply. JLT Insurance Broker s Ireland Limited trading as JLT Ireland, JLT Financial Ser vices, JLT T Online, GIS Ireland, Charit y Insurance, Teacher wise, Childcare Insurance, JL JLT Trade Credit Insurance is regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland. 11


INDUSTRIAL NEWS

Union Representative Advanced Senior Course

Picture: Takver (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Mandate win B&Q test cases at the Rights Commissioners

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

MANDATE has won a number of test cases on behalf of members at B&Q at the rights Commissioner’s service. They involved B&Q summer and Christmas bonuses and a zone allowance, which the company had unilaterally deducted from members’ wages. Mandate have now called on the DIY store to do the right thing and pay their workers what they are owed. B&Q management had withdrawn a Christmas bonus, summer bonus and a zone allowance (which applied only to workers in their Liffey Valley, Swords and Tallaght stores) without agreement. Since 2012, Mandate has processed claims for a reversal of that decision on behalf of its members, all of which have been won by the union. However, as each claim must be processed individually, this means hundreds would have to go through the rights Commissioner’s office. At a rights Commissioner’s hearing on July 22, B&Q management verbally agreed to take a number of test cases rather than have hundreds of

Divisional Organiser Mandy Kane

cases clogging up the state’s mechanisms for resolving industrial disputes. Now that the test cases have all been heard and won by Mandate members, the union has written to the company calling on them to pay the awards to all staff entitled to a payout and to restore the payments to their workers as a matter of urgency. Mandate’s Divisional Organiser Mandy kane, who took a number of successful cases in July, told Shopfloor: “Our members need to be

congratulated for their perseverance and their patience in relation to this ongoing claim. The whole process has been painfully slow but, hopefully, the company will now see sense and give these workers what they’re entitled to. “The company needs to do the honourable thing and hold up their end of the agreement. “We’re talking about a relatively minor sum of money for a major multinational like B&Q, whose parent company is the kingfisher Group and is worth billions.” Praising the solidarity shown by B&Q workers, Mandate’s Industrial Officer Jonathan Hogan said: “When an issue like this is brought to the fore, it can be very frustrating. “Our members in B&Q made a conscious decision not to roll over while the company removed hard fought terms and conditions of employment. “They fought for something they felt was fair and just and they’ve won. Mandate is now calling on B&Q management to pay the monies owed to Mandate’s members and accept the recommendations of the rights Commissioners.”

‘Our members in B&Q made a conscious decision not to roll over while the company removed hard fought terms and conditions of employment...’

Course content

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

12

Palestinian trade unionist in sanctions call LEADING Palestinian trade unionist Dr Mohammed O M Amara is presented with a 1913 Lockout commemorative sterling silver coin by Congress President John Douglas following his presentation to ICTU’s Executive Council on November 20. At the presentation, Dr Amara, representing the PGFTU, outlined the economic impact of the Israeli occupation which had caused devastating levels of unemployment as well as

the day to day humiliation of Palestinian workers at IDF checkpoints as they travelled to and from work. Dr Omara asked for help from Irish trade unions in supporting sanctions against Israel as well as the boycott of Israeli goods, especially of goods and services from illegal settlements.   For list of Israeli products go to: www.ipsc.ie/campaigns/consumer-boycott SHOPFLOOR

y December 2013


INDUSTRIAL NEWS

‘When your employer breaks an agreement and then tries to force you to take much lesser terms, you’re left with no choice but to stand up for yourself...’

Striking Wallis workers accept enhanced redundancy proposals MANDATE members at Wallis stores in Limerick and Dublin have secured a significantly enhanced redundancy offer following nearly five weeks of strike action. In September, retail group Arcadia Multiples Ireland Limited announced plans to close two of its Wallis stores in Cruises Street, Limerick and Grafton Street, Dublin. It also announced that it would be restructuring its stores in Childers road and Crescent Shopping Centre, Limerick, and its Dublin outlets on Henry Street and in Clearys. A number of loyal Wallis staff – some with 28 years of service – were made redundant in the shock move. This appalling news was further compounded when it was revealed that the firm intended to renege on previously agreed redundancy terms of five weeks pay for each year of service, instead paying those selected for redundancy 2.75 weeks a year. The workers made it clear they were not prepared to accept the inferior offer, particularly when colleagues in two other locations had received the agreed redundancy terms only nine months before. Also, the firm had only just paid €92 million to its Uk-based parent company. After a unanimous ballot in favour of taking industrial action, workers at the closed down Cruises Street store began a picket at the Wallis outlet on Childers road. They received 100% backing from their colleagues at the Childers road store who also joined the picket line. A great deal of support was also shown by the general public over the course of five weeks with those on the picket line reporting many acts of December 2013

y SHOPFLOOR

kindness and generosity. Local Mandate Divisional Organiser karen Wall praised both Mandate members and the public for their acts of solidarity. She told Shopfloor: “In these difficult times for everyone, it is absolutely reassuring that some sense of collectivism exists and it demonstrates what can be achieved when the so-called ordinary people stick together.” Despite initially stating – in keeping with the company/union agreement – that they were prepared to attend the Labour relations Commission (LrC), the company refused to

were also placed after another unanimous vote was taken in favour of taking industrial action. Pickets were then transferred to the Wallis store on Henry Street. Once again workers inside the Henry Street store showed their full support by joining their colleagues on the picket line. Local Mandate official David Moran told Shopfloor: “The effect of the pickets really cannot be overstated – customers refused to pass the picket line. The company appearing to be willing to lose hundreds of thousands in potential sales to make

offered redundancy terms based on four weeks pay for each year of service. Commenting on the outcome of the dispute, Wallis worker Denise redmond said: “None of the workers wanted to go on strike but when your employer breaks an agreement and then tries to force you to take much lesser terms, you’re left with no choice but to stand up for yourself. “We were always willing to compromise but the company refused to engage and thought that we would just accept what was on offer and go – they were so wrong.

‘... it was extremely difficult to ask colleagues to take industrial action and lose their wages every week, so as we could get a fairer deal, but I was amazed at the solidarity shown, they were brilliant’ attend despite being contacted by the Commission directly. Describing the move as a “disturbing development”, Divisional Organiser Brendan O’Hanlon said: “It demonstrated from the outset the company’s intentions to face the workers down. This was a fatal mistake on their part and a gross underestimation of the resolve our members would later display, despite the difficult circumstances. “The only reason for some of those on strike was to show solidarity with fellow union members – an extraordinary act in a society which very much appears driven by individualism and an ‘I’m alright’ mentality.” In a further move, the Arcadia group closed the Grafton Street store on October 16. Following this, pickets

their point.” As the industrial action continued, workers in the Wallis store in Blanchardstown – who were totally unaffected by the company’s plans – unanimously voted in favour of taking industrial in support of their striking colleagues. The company was served with strike notice to take effect on Saturday, October 26 at 9am. The culmination of action and the potential for further stores to be drawn into the dispute finally brought the company to its senses and through a series of indirect discussions, proposals were agreed. These were overwhelmingly accepted by the workers affected in all locations, bringing an end to the dispute. As a result staff who did not accept a redeployment option were

“People say you don’t need to be in a union these days, they couldn’t be more wrong, without our union we would have been cast aside as individuals with no chance.” Limerick worker Clare White recalled: “We had tears, laughs, singsongs and only for the union’s support, we would have been lost. “What was most inspirational to me was the professionalism of the union and this left me with no doubt that the union was there to represent us the workers.” Cruises Street store worker Margaret Braddish, who had 17 years service with the company, was on strike for more than five weeks. Thanking her colleagues and union for all the support and hard work, she said: “I felt really annoyed at the

way the company were treating us and I knew that I wasn’t going to tolerate it. “However, it was extremely difficult to ask colleagues to take industrial action and to lose their wages every week, so as we could get a fairer deal, but I was amazed at the solidarity shown, they were brilliant. “I was on strike in Limerick and Dublin during the dispute and the support shown by the general public was fantastic. “I was never so glad I was part of a trade union and the effort and time put in on our behalf by the union officials was appreciated by all the members.” As part of the deal brokered to end the dispute, both parties are committed to meeting in the near future with a view to starting negotiations on a new agreement to address any potential future redundancy situations which may arise. Divisional Organiser Brendan O’ Hanlon told Shopfloor: “It is imperative that, whatever agreement is reached following our discussions is honoured in full and hopefully disputes such as this can be avoided in the future. “Employers who believe they can exploit the current economic climate and play on the fears of workers need to take heed – unilateral changes to terms and conditions will not be tolerated by our members and when workers are prepared to defend their interests, their union will ensure that it uses all the resources available to protect their interests. “We applaud the Wallis workers for taking the stance they did and thank all those who showed their support throughout the dispute.” 13


GENERAL NEWS

Fair Shop launched in Cork MAnDAtE’s innovative Fair shop initiative was launched recently in the Rebel County. Divisional organiser lorraine o’Brien, speaking at the launch event, right, said: “In Cork city and county there are 16 Fair shops and we are asking local consumers to shop with them because they respect their workers. “By doing so, consumers are supporting and promoting quality employment in the Irish retail sector.” she noted: “over recent years, there have been increasing assaults on workers’ rights, pay and conditions of service by many unscrupulous employers. “this reality has been further fostered through the employer-

driven legal challenge to have the Joint labour Committees and the Registered Employment Agreements deemed unconstitutional.” general secretary John Douglas, left, also spoke at the event. He told those gathered at the gresham Metropole Hotel:“In 1913, thousands of workers fought for the right to collectively bargain and for trade union recognition. For the vast majority of workers in Ireland, that ideal is still an aspiration. “However, what we can do to ensure we continue the legacy of those involved in the lockout is to support retailers who allow their workers to avail of the basic human right to be in a trade union and to be represented for collective bargaining.”

BRASS TACKS CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION

Putting human rights front and centre By Colm O’Gorman Executive Director, Amnesty International Ireland “It shall be the first duty of the Government of the Republic to make provision for the physical, mental and spiritual well-being of the children, to secure that no child shall suffer hunger or cold from lack of food, clothing, or shelter, but that all shall be provided with the means and facilities requisite for their proper education and training...” THE language of the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil might be dated, but the principles it contains are not. It guarantees fundamental human rights to everyone living in Ireland – the right to a decent living, the right to health, to social security, to food. It even goes on to make it an obligation of the State to guard the health of its people. Our history since then is littered with broken promises and empty political pledges all the way through to today. Successive Irish governments have pledged to de-

14

liver the human rights outlined in the Democratic Programme. They have even signed and ratified legally binding international human rights treaties that make it a legal, as well as a moral, obligation to fulfil the pledges made to the Irish people in 1919. Some might suggest those promises are unrealistic, that the people calling for them are not living in the real world.It is patronising to suggest that people in this country struggling to keep a roof over their heads or choosing between paying the rent and taking a coughing child to the doctor are not living in the real world. If we could contemplate social and economic rights in the Ireland of a century ago, when our elected representatives faced imprisonment for the pursuit of national independence, why not today? At a time when it is commonly understood

that a lack of transparent, effective and evidence-based decision-making, as well as poor systems of administration and oversight, led us to this place of crisis, shouldn't the overwhelming demand be that we radically change the system? right now, with the Constitutional Convention examining reforms to Bunreacht na hÉireann, we have a crucial opportunity to seek better protections for our human rights. Throughout 2013 the Convention has been examining issues for possible Constitutional reform chosen for them by the Government. The 66 ordinary people and 33 political delegates are themselves now choosing the final items for discussion. This is an opportunity for us to look at what our Constitution means and what is important to hundreds of thousands of families

across Ireland. They are worried about how much money is left in the bank account by the end of the month and whether their children are getting the education they deserve. Successive governments have made their promises to this country. They have promised to fix the health service, improve education standards, get people back to work, ensure everyone has enough to live on. This Government has promised universal healthcare, based on need not income, a basic part of the right to health. But we have yet to see these promises delivered. Who should get priority from this Government, the banker or the mother counting her change to pay for a GP visit? Whose need is greater, the bondholder or the carpenter pawning his tools to pay the electricity bill? The problem is that

when the Government has to choose between promises given to banks and election promises made to you, there’s no contest. The bankers win. Every time. We all have a right to health. We all have a right to housing. We all have a right to a decent living. These are fundamental human rights that belong to us all, that no government, no political party, no Troika can ever take away from you, but which are not properly protected in Irish law. Putting our human rights front and centre in our Constitution is a crucial step in ensuring future governments have to deliver these rights. Almost a hundred years from when the people of Ireland were first promised these rights, it’s time we set about making sure they were made real. More info: www.amnesty.ie/constitution

‘Who should get priority from this Government, the banker or the mother counting her change to pay for a GP visit? Whose need is greater, the bondholder or the carpenter pawning his tools to pay the electricity bill? SHOPFLOOR

y December 2013


PLATFORM SINN FEIN

Subservient Government happy to outdo the Troika THE GOVErNMENT is clapping itself on the back for exiting the bailout while it ignores the exit sign over the door for young people. Sinn Fein used its Private Members time to bring forward proposals on a Youth Guarantee scheme. The motion was voted down by Fine Gael and Labour Deputies. This Government talks big but delivers little for young people. Indeed the insulting and disparaging remarks about young people sitting at home watching “flat screen TV's” by Labour Deputies was galling as they justified cutting the dole for the under 25s. Our subservient Government has been more than content to obey the austerity diktats of the Troika and, indeed, to go beyond them, by imposing hardship on the old and the young, the sick and the vulnerable, those on the margins and those struggling to survive with inflated mortgage debt and the rising cost of living. We have a shocking rate of unemployment – 30% – for people aged under 35. And this does not include those on training schemes. This is a huge indictment of the

By David Cullinane failure of austerity but an even greater indictment is the figure of 105,000 young people aged between 15 and 24 who have emigrated since 2011. The figure for those aged 25 to 44 who have emigrated since 2011 is 112,000. I represent Waterford City and County which has the highest un-

Picture: Sean MacEntee (CC BY 2.0)

Dublin Airport: point of no return

employment rates in the state. I know intimately the devastation being caused to our communities by the outflow of our young people. The lifeblood is literally being drained from communities throughout the length and breadth of this country. This Government is clap-

ping itself on the back for the socalled exit from the bailout. But it prefers to ignore the ‘Exit’ sign over the door as our young people leave our country in droves every week. The mentality behind the slashing of Jobseekers Allowance for people under 25 says it all about the regard this Fine Gael/Labour government

‘The lifeblood is being drained from communities throughout the length and breadth of this country’

has for our young people. Like many governments before them, as far as they are concerned – the more that leave, the better, because it means less dole, less rent supplement to be paid out and lower demand on health and education services.The Government parties will deny this vehemently. Their words will carry no weight. If they have real concern for youth unemployment and youth emigration, they would immediately implement the relatively modest measures called for in the Sinn Fein youth employment motion. Nothing less is acceptable.

Modern Communications & Personal Development Course content: l Communications in today's modern world and how it influences you l Using social media (Facebook, Twitter). What is cyber bullying? l How to speak to people in authority that you meet in day to day life l Public speaking (getting over your fears, building on your skills) l Taking advantage of internal promotional opportunities in your workplace (application forms, CV, interview techniques)

Date: Tuesday, 14th January 2014 Time: 6:30 - 9:00 pm Venue: Mandate's Training Centre, Distillery House, Distillery Road, Dublin 3

Places limited to 20. To secure your place please phone the Training Centre @ 01-8369699 Please quote the reference code OTC 1-2014 December 2013

y SHOPFLOOR

15


PLATFORM LABOUR PARTY

Making Ireland a fairer place NO IrISHMAN or woman will ever forget where they were the day they heard that our country’s sovereignty was about to be handed over to the IMF/EU/ECB Troika. In 2010, just three short years ago, this State was in the eye of an economic and financial firestorm. It was a fight for our very survival. The rescue of bust banks and the reckless mismanagement of an economy based on speculation forced Ireland into the clutches of the lender of last resort. Fianna Fail had brought us to our nadir as a nation. The national humiliation was complete. Three years in from the infamous bank guarantee, 250,000 more people had joined the dole queue. Public services witnessed unparalleled cuts. Social welfare recipients were in the firing line. In February 2011, the people of Ireland made their judgment on Fianna Fáil at the ballot box. On our election to government, we promised to get our country on track again. To restore our independence. To fix our broken economy. To create jobs. To give the dignity of work back to those who had been denied it. To open up Irish society. To make Ireland a fairer place. In March of 2011, we might have got a new government, but we certainly didn’t get a new economy. The bad deal with the Troika which was foisted upon us by Fianna Fáil was reopened and renegotiated. We had to fix the bust banks, the institutions on which businesses depend to create jobs. The gap between what we took in as a State and what we could spend had to be closed so we could function again as a viable State, and we had to do so in as fair and equitable a manner as possible. The process of getting our country back on its feet has been a long and hard process. The Irish people are only too conscious of this. Labour is often open to criticism for the decisions we have had to take in government. rarely is the question asked – what would our government look like without Labour at its heart? • Would the JLC/ErO system on which many Mandate members depend for fairness at work have been restored? No. • Would the National Minimum Wage have been raised to pre-cut levels? Never.

Turning around the economy: new jobs are being created at a rate of 3,000 a month Picture: Unhindered by talent (CC BY-SA 2.0)

By Gerard Nash TD

• Would 330,000 of the lowest paid people in Ireland have been taken out of the USC net? No. • Would weekly social welfare rates have been protected? Not a chance. • Would the €3 billion a year Promissory Note payments have been torn up, and would Anglo Irish bank have been buried? No way. • Would we see legislation being prepared on collective bargaining rights in the absence of Labour? Absolutely no way. Ireland is making huge progress. New jobs are being created at a rate

‘Fianna Fail had brought us to our nadir as a nation. The national humiliation was complete’

INDUSTRIAL NEWS

Members at Debenhams vote for new proposals By Michael Meegan Divisional Organiser MAnDAtE members at Debenhams have accepted a proposal document by a large majority after being balloted. the proposals came out of a series of discussions between the union and management on a 16

range of issues. these discussions included: • Changes to Christmas bonus; • the incremental pay freeze; • the reduction in overtime premium in place for the last two to three years, followed by the 2% pay rise secured by the union

earlier this year. It is understood management shared detailed information about the firm’s current trading position in Ireland at the meetings. the outcome of the discussions resulted in no change to the Christmas bonus, with the incremental pay freeze and reduction in overtime pre-

mium remaining as is. this will be reviewed along with pay again in June 2014. As part of the agreement, Mandate secured an additional two days annual leave for all staff for the 2014 holiday year as well as an increase in staff discount for the month of December.

of 3,000 per month. This has meant that the jobless figures have reached below 400,000 for the first time since 1990. When we came into government, this figure was heading perilously close to 500,000. There are still far too many people suffering the horror of unemployment. There is a long way to go. But we are heading in the right direction. These levels of job creation have ensured that, for the third Budget in a row, social welfare weekly rates have remained at the same level since 2011 – in the teeth of the worst economic crisis in the history of the State. On November 14, the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste announced that Ireland will leave the Troika’s bailout programme unaided. In mid-December, 36 months after that day of ignominy, we will regain the right to allocate the resources available to us the way we, the Irish people, want them to be spent. This is no insignificant achievement. However, regaining our sovereignty is worthless if we, as a republic, don’t know what to do with it. The annual Labour Party conference provides party members, supporters and our colleagues in the trade unions an opportunity to reflect on our period in government at the half-way stage. More importantly, it gives us the chance to debate the future, to paint a picture of what a post-crisis Ireland will look like. In 1912, Labour was founded as the party of work. The opportunity to work, to play a full role in the economic and social life of one’s country is at the core of everything we do. Conference will focus on the goal of full employment; on fairness and dignity at work; on a new economy not based on speculation and graft but on hard work, innovation, imagination and skill. Simply fixing our broken economy would never be enough for Labour. We would never be content with that alone. Creating a fair and more equal society on the foundations of a sound economy is our goal, and that is what we have set out to do.

Ged Nash is a Labour TD for Louth. He is Vice- Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party and is Chair of the Labour Party’s Policy Committee.

Why I’m in Mandate... ‘I joined Mandate to help people who are being unfairly treated’

Lorraine O’Brien, Tesco, Carlow SHOPFLOOR y December 2013


INTERNATIONAL THE PHILIPPINES

Gerry Light

the SHOPFLOOR VIEW from Assistant General Secretary Mandate Trade Union

Drawing strength from our proud past

Tacloban bore the brunt of the super-storm Picture: Australian Aid photo library (CC BY 2.0)

Dig deep to help Typhoon Haiyan victims IrISH charities are appealing for donations after Typhoon Haiyan reportedly killed more than 5,000 people in the Philippines. Plan Ireland estimates around four million people have been affected by one of the most powerful storms ever recorded. Meanwhile, the Irish red Cross has said that almost one million people have been temporarily sheltered in

353 evacuation centres after the typhoon. And Irish development agency Trócaire has committed emergency support to its partners working in the Philippines. Anyone wishing to donate to the Irish Red Cross can do so online at www.redcross.ie or by phone, at 1850 50 70 70. Meanwhile, the aid agency GOAL has dispatched an emergency response team to the

Philippine island of Leyte. The public can support GOAL's appeal by telephoning goAl on 01 280 9779 or visiting www.goal.ie; Donations to the children's charity, Plan Ireland, can be made online at www.plan.ie or by calling 1800 829 829. For more information on donating to trocaire, visit the website at www.trocaire.org/donate.

Filipinos wait in line for evacuation by air from Tacloban airfield Picture: Commander US 7th Fleet (CC BY-SA 2.0) December 2013

y SHOPFLOOR

RECEntly I attended a service of remembrance for all members of the global trade union family who have passed away. Obviously the event coming as it did during the commemoration of the centenary of the 1913 Lockout held greater significance but, for me, it offered a brief opportunity to not only reflect on the varied contributions made by our deceased brothers and sisters through the ages but once again to fully realise the pivotal role played by the labour movement in shaping the quality of life that we enjoy and sometimes take for granted here in Ireland and around the world. One of the many fine contributors to the service was Joe Armstrong from the Humanist Association of Ireland who in citing the Universal Declaration of Human rights argued, correctly in my view, that this charter would never have been enshrined in the UN declaration were it not for the tireless and selfless work of trade unionists here and abroad. In pondering this question for yourself it is appropriate that we highlight the principal aspirations contained in the Declaration: • A right to work, to just and favourable conditions and protection against unemployment. • Without discrimination, a right to equal pay for equal work. • The right to just and favourable wages which allows the worker and his or her family an existence worthy of human dignity supplemented if necessary by other means of social protection. • The right to form and join trade unions for the protection of their interests. • The right to rest and leisure, including limitations on working hours and holidays with pay. • The right to a standard of living adequate for his or her health and well being and that of his or her family, including food, clothing housing and medical care and necessary social services, as well as the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his or her control. • Mothers and children are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection. For many workers some of these fine aspirations remain a distant hope while others who have benefited from their existence realise now more than ever that the struggle to maintain these standards, not only in the workplace but across society generally, is a constant struggle largely because of the concerted attack deployed by right-wing ideologies many of which based on recent experiences have admissibly failed us all with the exception of the ruling and wealthy classes. The most appropriate way we can effectively commemorate the efforts of those from the trade union movement who have died, some directly in the act of the labour struggle itself, is to double our individual and collective resolve to ensure that what they achieved was not in vain. In the recent past our movement has been castigated and presented as something that does not belong in – or advance the cause of – modern civilisation. Nothing could be further from the truth and if in doubt of this assertion take a moment once again to read the contents of the above Declaration and ask yourself if it wasn’t for the trade union family, who else either now or indeed in the past, would have championed and promoted such broad-minded and socially-just principles? Let us draw strength and renewed determination from the past and use it for the further advances and victories that undoubtedly lie ahead.

17


INTERNATIONAL WALMART

HANDOUTS THANKSGI

End Lockout of young people 18

PAGE 23

By Michael T Bride UFCW International Union IT WILL not surprise those who follow the debates around austerity to know that there is a push for workers to get paid more, and not just for their sake but for the sake of the economy. If regular workers got a higher wage, goes the theory, then they would spend the additional income in the local economy as the option of utilising a Cayman Island tax shelter is rarely a luxury that a regular worker can avail of. This will be familiar to people who have followed the austerity debate in Ireland, but it is a debate which is also happening beyond Irish shores. The income disparity between the top 1% and the bottom 99% was famously highlighted by the Occupy movement. But this is more than a slogan – it is an economic and social crisis which must be fixed in order to enable the economy to work for the majority again, or at least to the extent that it ever did. In the USA, the gap between rich and poor is greater than at any time in history since 1929. The top 1% of Americans have 40% of the nation’s wealth, whereas the bottom 80% only have 7% of the country’s wealth between them. The richest 1% of America take

home 24% of the national income today; in 1976, they took home only 9%. And the top 1% own half the country’s stock, bonds and mutual funds, compared to the bottom 50% of Americans who own a paltry 0.5%. Pulitzer Prize-winning economic journalist David Cay Johnston conducted an exhaustive study on the development of income disparity over the past 50 years and found that in America incomes for the bottom 90% of Americans grew by a mere $59 on average (adjusted for inflation), whereas the average income for the top 10% of Americans rose by $116,071 by comparison. It is against this backdrop that there are calls for an increase to the minimum wage. The inability of regular workers to get by in today’s economy, coupled with the knowledge of the wealth that is present in the economy but made inaccessible to them, is what drives many workers in industries such as fast food and retail to demand better. Perhaps the best manifestation of rampant capitalism gone wrong is SHOPFLOOR

y December 2013


S FOR IVING

Hard to stomach: sign asking workers to donate food so colleagues could enjoy a decent Thanksgiving meal

Walmart employees took their grievance to the Walmart HQ in Bentonville, Arkansas in 2011 Picture: OurWalmart

Strikers outside a Walmart store in Seattle last November Picture: UFCW (CC BY-NC 2.0)

the Walmart business model and all it entails; luckily, it is also the site of one of the most notable fight-backs. Walmart, as the world’s largest retailer by far, boasts more than 11,000 stores in 29 countries, employs 2.2 million staff and grossed $466 billion in earnings in financial year 2013. However, an equally outlandish statistic is that its soon-to-retire CEO, Mike Duke, will benefit from a retirement package 6,200 times higher than that of the average Walmart worker. Add to this that the six members of the Walton family who inherited the company have a net worth equivalent to the bottom 42% of all Americans, and the level of inequality in the Walmart world becomes even clearer. Of course, Walmart contends that it does pay fairly; that its pay rates are indicative of the market but that workers can raise a family on what they earn working for the company. This contention was thrown into some disrepute recently when a picture emerged from the employee-only section of a Walmart in Canton, Ohio, detailing a table upon which was placed numerous food bins and a sign which read “Please donate food items here so Associates in Need December 2013

y SHOPFLOOR

‘Let’s be clear – this was not Walmart the company offering to donate food to its workers. Rather, this was Walmart providing a mechanism whereby its workers could donate food to other workers so that they would not be hungry through the Thanksgiving holidays’

can enjoy Thanksgiving”. Let’s be clear – this was not Walmart the company offering to donate food to its workers. rather, this was Walmart providing a mechanism whereby its workers could donate food to other workers so that they would not be hungry through the Thanksgiving holidays. Walmart continually states that it provides a benefit to poor people by selling cheap food. Upon seeing this picture, one can’t but wonder whether the only poor people who can’t afford to shop at Walmart are those employed by the company? Walmart workers have been fighting back. They banded together to found Organization United for respect at Walmart, or OUrWalmart for short. The day following Thanksgiving in the USA is known as “Black Friday”, and is the busiest shopping day of the year. On this day in 2012, for the first time ever, Walmart workers engaged in a series of work stoppages and actions which ultimately impacted more than 1,000 stores. These actions drove unprecedented media coverage about the lot of retail workers and the two-tier economy in America. Following on from this, Walmart workers escalated their actions throughout the year, culminating in

what they called a “ride for respect” where Walmart workers went on strike and travelled from the four corners of the USA to Walmart’s head office in Bentonville, Arkansas, where on June 3, 2013, they held a rally. Following this action, a number of the Walmart strikers were disciplined and sacked. Their organisation, OUrWalmart, took exception to this and challenged the workers’ dismissals under US federal law. On November 18, 2013, and just in time for Black Friday, the government agency which oversees labour law stated that it found merit in some of the charges filed against Wal-Mart, including allegations that stores in 13 states unlawfully threatened, disciplined or terminated employees for participating in legally-protected strikes and protests. Noted academic John Logan, professor of labor and employee studies at San Francisco State University, said that the ruling is hugely important, adding “it really basically said that there is very compelling evidence that Wal-Mart had significant violations of the law.” This ruling may provide a springboard for the way of protests set to engulf the retailer again on Black Friday this year. And Walmart workers in the USA are being supported by Walmart workers the world over, in-

cluding in Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Zambia, Japan, India and the Uk. These Walmart workers in other countries are taking such actions as part of the UNI Global Union Walmart Workers Alliance, which is a consortium of worker representative organisations under the umbrella of the global union federation of which Mandate is a member. The support that US Walmart workers are getting is indicative of the implications of their fight. David Cay Johnstone, cited earlier in this article, stated, “This is a fight that, if it is lost, will be devastating to all the unionised grocery workers in America – it will drive down their wages”. It is self-evidently true that these workers are fighting for workers everywhere. What has also been said, given the scale of the company, is that if we can change Walmart, we can change America. The workers’ rights and economic justice movements have been fighting for change for decades, but it is hard to imagine a more vital time for victory to arrive. To learn more about the struggle for respect at Walmart, go to www.forrespect.org. Michael T Bride is Deputy Organizing Director for Global Strategies UFCW International Union

19


STATESIDE VIEWS

VIEWPOINT

Focus on pay States

Picture: Images_Of_Money (CC BY 2.0)

of the unions

INCrEASED life expectancy. Better levels of educational attainment. Greater social mobility. Less obesity. Lower rates of imprisonment. Less violence. More trust. Better mental health. The list is extensive and goes further. These are all goals that most of our politicians readily aspire to. research has shown that these are among the characteristics of societies that have achieved greater levels of income equality. That is a goal that few of our politicians seem to aspire to. We do have the minimum wage, just about. We do have effective forms of redistribution through taxation, public services and social welfare. We also have growing levels of income equality and deprivation. The highest earning 20% in our society earned 4.9 times what the lowest 20% got in 2011. This is up from 4.3 times in 2009. Poverty and deprivation are increasing. The deprivation rate has more than doubled from 11.8% in 2007 to 24.5% in 2011. There is little evidence of any aspirations towards equality in these figures. This is not just an Irish phenomenon. Globally the incomes of the top 1% of earners have increased by 60% in 20 years. The growth in income of the top 0.1% is even greater. In the US the share of national income going to the top 1% has doubled since 1980, from 10% to 20%. In China the top 10% now take home nearly 60% of the income. This is not just a phenomenon of the good times. The process has accelerated since the onset of the crisis with the top 1% further increasing their share of total income. The luxury goods market has registered double-digit growth every year since the crisis hit. Politics at home and abroad are failing us. The demand for equality 20

By Niall Crowley Claiming Our Future from civil society or the general public is remarkably muted. Take Switzerland by way of contrast. They have just had a referendum, as part of their system of direct democracy, on a proposal to limit the monthly pay of the highest earners in Swiss firms to that of the yearly pay of the lowest earners. The referendum was lost, but a remarkable 35% of those who voted supported the proposal. An earlier referendum on a proposal to limit executive salaries in companies on the Swiss stock market was successful with 67% support. This will result in legal provisions to give shareholders a binding power of veto over the salaries of managers and board members; and to outlaw golden handshakes to managers for joining or leaving a company and bonus payments to executives involved in mergers or acquisitions. We are a long way from achieving such an outcome. We are a long way from that type of democracy too. Our debates on income equality have tended to focus on low incomes or on issues of redistribution. These are important, but there is a need to also focus on high incomes. It is as if we somehow feel high incomes are high because they are deserved. No one deserves the high incomes that are available in Ireland.

We do need a debate about high incomes, at what point ‘enough’ is reached, and how high incomes could be curbed. We could do salary caps. This was set up for the banking world and for Government advisors. Slippage was the order of the day as the limits were breached time and again. We could do some form of ratio like the Swiss proposal. This is not even on the policy horizon. We could tax any earnings beyond an ‘enough’ limit at 100%. There have been some policy proposals for a new tax level for the super rich but without real political traction. Claiming Our Future is campaigning on this issue of income equality and of high incomes. There are a lot more organisations with similar concerns. The trade unions have been key players in this. The various economic think tanks have done work on these issues. NGOs such as the National Women’s Council of Ireland have already raised issues of income inequality, including in terms of the 17.1% gender pay gap in Ireland. We need to coordinate and develop more effective action on this issue if popular support is to be developed to a point where political will for change might begin to emerge.

Economist Joseph Stiglitz recently pointed to the role declining union membership rates have played in the ever-widening gulf between rich and poor in the US. He wrote: “Strong unions have helped reduce inequality, whereas weaker unions have made it easier for CEOs, sometimes working with market forces that they have helped shape, to increase it.” You don’t have to be a Nobel prize winner – like Stiglitz – to know this is as true in Ireland as it is in America. Last month, a delegation of US trade unionists visited Ireland to mark the centenary of the 1913 Lockout as well as to meet with union activists, politicians and workers to share their experiences of fighting austerity. Shopfloor spoke to two members of the delegation, Terry O’Sullivan of labourers’ union LiUNA and Dan Kane of the Teamsters...

MAINTAINING membership density levels is as much of a problem Stateside as it is here. In 2010, the total percentage of workers belonging to a union in the US was 11.4% yet those who do pay their subs earn between 10% and 30% more than their nonunion colleagues. So why are unions finding it hard to recruit when it obviously pays to be in a union? LiUNA President Terry O’Sullivan thinks the reason union density levels are falling is because the legislative decks are stacked against American unions. “A lot of people think we have pro-worker labour laws in the US. In fact, we have proemployer labour laws.” A “significantly high” percentage of workers, if given a choice, will join a union, he insists, but “when employers can intimidate and thwart one’s ability to decide to join a union, you have unionisation rates like we have in the US.” Dan kane, who is International Vice President (Eastern region) at the Teamsters, agrees and points to “really deplorable” rates that are under 7% in the private sector. “When you put public and private to-

gether, it’s an aggregate of about 10%,” he adds. The picture varies across the US with union membership rates higher on the eastern and western seaboards and in the major cities. And for several years, unions have been battling aggressive and wellfunded, anti-union drives at state level. These so-called ‘right-to- work’ campaigns – in labour heartlands such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio – are being bank-rolled by big business interests. Their purpose is simple: to frustrate workplace organising as well as crippling union finances. According to LiUNA, employees in right-to-work states make an average of €5,300 less than other American workers. Workplace death rates are also 36% higher in right-to-work states. Dan jokes: “We call it ‘right to work for less’!” Terry says: “Particularly with the Tea Party, what you see is right-towork battles at state level, collective bargaining battles at state level, prevailing wage battles at the state level. We’re fighting on all fronts [but] with more money being put in by the opposition.”Dan adds: “[They are SHOPFLOOR

y December 2013


Despite falling density levels, unions are pulling out the stops to keep the labour fire lit Stateside

Picture: AFSCME

Teamsters’ Dan Kane

Pointed message: Terry O’Sullivan of LiUNA

Picture: SF (CC BY 2.0)

Picture: Sinn Fein (CC BY 2.0)

Immigration reform is potentially a ‘game changer’ for US unions

Picture: LiUNA

spending] enormous sums of money – just to keep us spending money and chip away at the state level until they can do it again at the Federal level.” And Terry points out that once right-to-work legislation is passed at state level, union density levels drop even further. “People stop paying dues because they don’t have to. When you take your money out of the union, the union is still legally obligated to represent you.” Dan agrees: “There is a lot of incentive for people to say to you, ‘I get the same thing as the guy who does pay for it’.” But despite deploying massive financial resources, republicans were still unable to defeat President Obama last year. Can unions draw comfort from the fact that the GOP is on the wrong side of a demographic shift in the US, with a growing Latino population that tends to vote solidly Democrat? Terry thinks there is what the calls “a bunch of dynamics” going on and though he doesn’t disagree with the premise, points out that in his experience “it’s hard to tell a Democrat from a moderate republican”. “[But] it’s easy to tell anybody and December 2013

y SHOPFLOOR

everybody from the crazy ass Tea Party! And I believe at the end of the day, the Tea Party potentially can do more damage to the republicans than the rest of us could ever do to the republican party as a brand.” A key battleground for many unions is comprehensive immigration reform. This Senate Bill – seeking to bring in an “earned path to US citizenship” – is being bitterly contested by the Tea Party fringe in the

republican party. Terry, whose forebears hail from kerry and Tipperary, points out that LiUNA was founded by immigrants more than a century ago. He says: “If we get them to pass comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship – we have over 11 million undocumented immigrant workers in the US – it’s a game changer! This is why the House of representatives is dragging their feet

[on the issue] and the [republican] party just doesn’t want to see it happen because if we’re given the opportunity to engage and interact with 11 million immigrant workers, you’re going to see the needle going in a different direction for the labour movement – and for the Democratic Party.” Terry insists that immigration reform is “personal for us… it is who we are, it is what we are” and describes it as LiUNA’s “number one legislative priority”. “We were founded by a group of immigrant workers who were tired of the abuse and the exploitation they were confronted with. “Our union was founded by Irish, Italians, Germans, eastern Europeans and African Americans – minority workers that all came together to be in a union that nobody else wanted.” Immigrants, he continues, are “looking to be treated fairly, justly and have the same rights and protections as every other worker. Forget about the politics of the thing, it’s the right thing to do.” Dan, a proud member of the Friendly Sons of the Shillelagh whose family came from Derry, concurs: “Look these [immigrants] are basically going to be working class Democrats as opposed to ‘lace curtain’ Democrats. When they become citizens, their income and their status in life, they are going to be what we consider the old-fashioned Democrat.” Terry outlines how the construc-

Organising and politics are key to our future... LiUNA has not accepted managed decline as a given and has funnelled valuable resources towards what it regards as two key areas – organising and politics. Terry says: “The perception of the labour movement is not necessarily a good one. For no other reason than in many instances we don’t promote ourselves – which takes money. Does that take away from organising? Does that take away from your political activities? As our membership has declined, we have [had] fewer resources [to deploy].”  At its 2006 convention, LiUNA delegates took a bold move to address this problem and garner more funds for the fight.  Delegates voted for 25 cents to go towards organising for every hour worked. At the

time, LiUNA members worked 400 million hours a year, so the move had the potential of generating a princely $106m per annum for the purpose. Terry explains: “Our work hours are down because the economy is down but we’re generating about $80m a year [for organising] from those 25 cents.”   But there are still complicating factors, he admits: “We have seen some of the fruits of our labour [but] organising takes time as the laws in our country they stack up against us not for us.” In another move, LiUNA’s 2011 convention passed a further levy of five cents for every hour worked – this time to go towards a political fund which generates another $14m a year. 

tion industry, which used to be the occupation of choice for young people who did not intend going to college, was no longer seen as an attractive option because employers have been able to drive down wages to “damn near minimum wage”. In the US, undocumented immigrants tend to get the blame for this, but Terry begs to differ. “It’s not undocumented immigrants, it’s the employers [who are to blame]! It was a trade, people fought to get in. When I was young in San Francisco, you either became a cop, a firefighter or you went into the trades. “You aspired to do that but because of what we’ve gone through over the last 30 years, they’ve driven wages down in San Francisco, New York City, and a lot of places.” Observers from outside the US often scratch their heads and wonder why so many American workers seem to vote against their economic and class interests during elections. Terry suggests that for his union, construction jobs are “by their nature temporary” and when union density levels fall because work is scare, “you do start losing your influence.” “You can’t have single digit union density and expect to have any ability to influence your members when it comes to elections or anything else.” Dan’s view is that low union density is a symptom of the continuing evisceration of America’s core industries – those jobs, he quips, that “Corporate America has not figured out how to export or do away with”. And he adds: “It is beyond a personal choice [about whether to join a union or not]. Low density is caused by manufacturing going overseas. That has been forgotten because we have been living with it for so long – this deregulation of major industries, airlines, communications, trucking.” As to the future, Terry thinks it is essential that the trade union brand is “rebuilt” in the US. He says: “The long and the short of it is this: we need to reinvent ourselves so we become relevant again, so we show up on people’s radars as a viable alternative to young men and women. I think we need to build this thing from the ground up again.”

Interview by Joe Mitchell 21


GENERAL NEWS

First all-Ireland ICTU youth conference held in Dublin MOrE than 60 young trade unionists attended the first Irish Congress of Trade Union’s all-Ireland youth conference on November 16 and 17. The event was hosted and supported by Mandate, CWU and the IBOA. The objective of the conference was to hear directly from young workers about the issues affecting them today and to educate them on a range of issues such as austerity, political economy, emigration, precarious work, workers’ rights and unemployment. Derek keenan, who is Chair of ICTU Youth, said it was important that so many young people attended the event as Irish society faced up to a crisis for young people and a crisis of young members in the trade union movement. He told the conference: “Young people are bearing the brunt of the economic and social crisis in Ireland. It is clear that a coordinated fightback is needed and what we wanted to do is find out what’s happening on the ground and feed that into the leaders of the trade unions in Ireland. We can no longer allow our issues to take a back seat within the trade union movement.” Precarious and insecure work, emigration, low-hour contracts, attacks on social welfare rates and many other issues affecting young people were discussed at the event. David Gibney, from Mandate Youth, said: “Young people are not part of the problem, they’re part of the solution and the trade union movement needs to embrace that fact. For too long now, young people have had their voices hushed and haven’t had a fair say in how their society is run.

22

“The trade union movement offers young workers the opportunity to engage in important debates about their own future and this conference was a conduit for that.” Congress President and Mandate General Secretary John Douglas, who attended the event, had a strong message for young workers. He told them: "The best thing you can do is get active. Get out there and talk to people. Tell them how it is and speak from the heart. You don't have to understand GDP or inflation rates to know when something is simply wrong. “So make sure you first of all mobilise and get active in your union

and then get active in your society. Change will only happen if we make it happen." Also attending the conference were many experts and international speakers including Dr Conor McCabe, UCD School of Justice; Dr John Barry, QUB School of Politics; Christopher Cutajar, Secretary Maltese General Workers Union; Cesc Blanco, Coordinadora Obrera Sindical (COS), Catalunya; Elenore Perrin Massebiaux, Trademark Belfast; Paul McFlynn, NErI Institute; and Moira Murphy from the We’re Not Leaving campaign. Mr Gibney supported Mr Douglas’s calls for young people to get involved. He told Shopfloor: “Mandate is a young trade union by comparison with others around the country. However, sometimes it’s difficult for young people to have their voices heard. “That’s why Mandate Youth is a great opportunity for young workers under the age of 35 to get involved and gain some trade union experience. “In the coming months, Mandate Youth will be organising training events for young workers and we’re encouraging all young members to participate.” If you’d like to get involved in Mandate Youth or find out more, contact youthnetwork@mandate.ie

‘Make sure you first of all mobilise and get active in your union and then get active in your society’

SHOPFLOOR

y December 2013


BRASS TACKS

End the Lockout of young people By Shane Fitzgerald We’re Not Leaving ACrOSS Ireland a generational gulf is forming. Years on from the bank guarantee and the imposition of austerity, we now live in an anti-democratic society that locks young people out from basic social protections and the decision-making processes that impact on our lives and futures. The result is common negative experiences – such as fee hikes and grant cuts, youth unemployment, forced emigration, escalating mental health crises, internship culture, lack of affordable housing, precarious and unpaid work – being aggressively foisted on us but not caused by us. We won’t accept this ‘new normal’ of increasing impoverishment or be their ‘safetyrelease valve’ through forced emigration. Young people and workers played no part in creating this crisis of the wealthy, the corrupt and the powerful – and we will not tolerate these attacks on our present and futures to pay for it. This is a call out to any young person who feels ready to take that step into getting organised with their generation to fight back against all the crap, against all the corruption, against all their attacks on our lives. On November 9 at the Young People’s Assembly in Liberty Hall, the largest and broadest gathering of young people since the crisis began – for the first time bringing together students, young trade unionists, the unemployed and their representative organisations – started work on a common charter and strategies to get organised and fight back. The organisers and members of Mandate and ICTU Youth Committee played a leading role. Facilitated by the national We’re Not Leaving campaign, the Young People’s Assembly collectively produced the following:

Mental Health We demand: 1. Universal access to free, local and high-quality public mental health services. 2. A collective and social approach to the de-stigmatisation of mental health issues and that positive mental health be promoted in the community, workplace and education system. 3. recognition of the impact of precarious work, internship culture, unemployment and poverty on the mental heath of young people in Ireland.

Youth unemployment and forced emigration We demand: 1. That young people who have been forced to emigrate must have the right to vote in elections in Ireland. 2. An end December 2013

y SHOPFLOOR

HMCA is a specialist provider of membership benefits to over 600 membership groups in the Republic of Ireland and the UK.

to the recruitment embargo within the public sector. 3. The recognition of our status as adults in society. 4. That our trade unions be recognised and be allowed to collectively bargain on our behalf. 5. real job creation from the government instead of token measures.

Low cost benefits plans on oīer to you and your family are: -

Housing We demand: 1. That quality, accessible housing be recognised as a universal social right – free from discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation, age and/or ethnicity – and that this right is guaranteed by the state. 2. Strong regulation of landlords and developers in order to control housing costs and ensure access to adequate housing. 3. That the state utilise the existing social-housing stock, as well as properties belonging to NAMA and the bailed-out banks, in the interest of the public.

Fee hikes and grant cuts We demand: 1. A third-level education system that is truly free at the first point of entry that is funded by a system of progres-

End the siege of Cuba

PAGE 28/29

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

www.hmcaireland.ie/mandate.htm MANDATE MEMB ERSHIIP P SERVIIC CES

We GUARANTEE* to Beat Your Home Insurance Premium!!! Introduce a family member or friend and they get our guarantee* too!

Precarious work and internship culture We demand: 1. That companies be barred from displacing current paid workers with internship positions. 2. That a day’s work should equal a day’s pay – a living wage. 3. An end to the institutional normalisation of internship culture and the commencement of independent monitoring of internship schemes. 4. Stability and security in the workplace in terms of hours, income and location. 5. That the concept of “experience” should not replace paid work.

Specialist Membership Benefits to Mandate Trade Union Since 1996

sive taxation. 2. A grant system be put in place for all stages of further and higher education, which enables access to education for everyone in society and reflects the cost of living. 3. The recognition of the broader non-economic benefits of education, as well as the recognition of the economic and social role that the students of today will play in the society of tomorrow. 4. Solidarity between all student representative bodies and the encouragement of political learning and engagement at all levels of education. This opening draft will be further developed in the coming weeks and months, but we hope this inclusive charter by and for young people will help us to finally come together in solidarity to organise and fight for an alternative Ireland for young people – to campaign for a profoundly different vision of social justice for this society. Get in touch(see below) if you want to get involved. We’re students, the young unemployed, precarious workers and mixes of all three – we’re angry and #werenotleaving. Check out: WNLIreland@gmail.com;twitter.com/WNLIreland; facebook.com/werenotleaving

Join off s satisfied Mandate J oin tthe he hundreds hundreds o atisfied M andate members members today! today! Call us now 200 and quote Mandate 200 Call u sn ow on on 1800 1800 200 200 2 00 a nd q uote Ma ndate Scheme Scheme 2 00 or go www.mandate.jltonline.ie or g o online online at at w w w.mandate.jltonline.ie *Subject underwriting criteria, conditions. only available new existing out *Subje ct to to u n d e r w r i ti n g c riteria, terms terms and and c onditions. Offer O f fer iiss o nly a vailable tto on ew and and e xisting customers customers ttaking ak ing o ut JLT underwritten byy Z Zurich plc. Discount a new new home home insurance insurance policy policy through th ro u g h J LT IIreland. reland. Home Home IInsurance nsurance iiss u n d e r w r i t te n b urich Insurance Insura nc e p l c. D is c o u nt applies one minimum off €270.00 Our guarantee applie s for fo r o ne year ye ar only only and and is is subject subje ct to to a m inimum premium p re m i u m o € 270.0 0 inclusive inclusive of of Government Governme nt levy. lev y. O ur g u a r a n te e is is a guarantee g u a r a n te e o on n price price b based ased on on a m minimum inimum a and nd maximum ma x imum p price rice d discount iscount provided cover on basis. Proof p r ov i d e d c over iiss o n a like like ffor or llike i ke b a s i s. P ro of of of a alternative lternative quote q u o te m maybe aybe rrequired equired to to avail avail of of tthis his o offer. f fer. If, If, after af ter a market m a r ke t a analysis, do not beat nalysis, we we d on ot b e at yyour our existing existing rrenewal e n e wa l premium premium or or quotation quotation we we w will ill then th e n d discount i s c o u nt o our ur premium p re m i u m b byy a m minimum inimum o off €25 maximum off €150. € 25 up up to to a m a x imum o €150. Guarantee G u a r a n te e offer of fer must must be be rrequested eque sted at at quotation quotation stage stage and and c cannot a n n ot b be e issued issued retrospectively retrospe ctively tto JLT o cover cover already alre ady in in place place vvia ia J LT Ireland. Ireland. O Only nly o one ne voucher vo u c h e r c can an b be e used used for for each e ach e eligible ligible proposer. proposer. Cover Cover tto between 13/09/2013 o commence commence b e t we e n 1 3 / 09 / 2013 and and 31/12/2013 31/12 / 2013 inclusive. inclusive. Z Zurich urich IInsurance nsura nc e p plc lc iiss regulated re gulated by by the th e C Central e ntr a l B Bank off Ireland. ank o Ireland. JLT IInsurance JLT nsurance Brokers Brokers IIreland re l a n d L Limited imited trading trading as as JLT JLT IIreland, reland, J JLT LT F Financial GIS inancial Services, S e r v i c e s, G IS Ireland, Ireland, Charity Charit y Insurance, I n s u r a n c e, Teacherwise, Online, Trade Credit Central off IIreland. T e acher wise, Childcare Childcare Insurance, Insurance, JLT JLT O nline, JLT JLT T rad e C redit IInsurance nsurance is is rregulated e gulated by by the th e C e ntral Bank Bank o reland.

23


BLOW THE WHISTLE ON THE BAD BOSSES

COMMENT MUSIC Q&A POL McADAIM

TO JOIN 10 MANDATE

REASONS

1. An organising and campaigning union:

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

2. Modern and effective training:

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

3. Campaigning for success:

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

4. Protection at work:

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

5. Safety at work:

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

6. Better pay:

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

7. Legal protection:

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

8. Mandatory pensions:

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

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

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

10. You’re less likely to be sacked:

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

Together we’re stronger

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

24

Bye Bye Troika

Graphic: UNI Global

By John Douglas Mandate General Secretary YOU might have heard that the Troika are leaving Ireland on December 15 satisfied that manners have been put on the Irish Government and the Irish people. Ireland no doubt will be held up as a glowing example of the success of the Troika programmes and its harsh medicine dished out, the patient the world will be told is on the road to recovery. The Irish Government is already bathing in the glory of this turnaround from basket case to show case. You will hear it pronounced that we have regained our “financial sovereignty”, that our future destiny is now once again in our hands, that the sacrifices although harsh were worth it and that we can start rebuilding. Well, what a load of complete and utter rubbish. Yes, farewell to the Troika, but it will continue to monitor us every six months to ensure that we do no slip back off the path of continued austerity, that we continue to repay the bank bailouts, that we continue to cut public spending on health and services and that we continue to condemn future generations to shoulder the burden of massive unsustainable bank debt. The Troika has done its job and done it well – it has Ireland and the people of Ireland locked into permanent austerity. And what of the trail of destruction

that it has left in its wake? What of the social consequences of its policies? Policies which were designed to save bond holders and financial institutions. What of the 400,000 workers locked out of jobs, the 50,000 emigrating each year, the 100,000 mortgage holders in arrears and in danger of losing their homes? What of the

‘The Troika has done its job and done it well, it has Ireland and the people of Ireland locked into permanent austerity’ young workers under 26 years of age who saw their dole payments slashed, the hospitals and schools that will never be built? While part of the initial crisis was caused by the greed of the banking elite and speculators of Ireland and their cheer leaders, the policies imposed by the Troika targeted ordinary workers and citizens who had no hand or act to play in the crash. If there is one positive side to the departure of the Troika, it is that the Irish Government will have to take

full responsibility for all future policy decisions, no longer will it be able to blame the Troika. And what of the €64 billion (€32 billion Anglo Irish) of banking debt the Irish people has had to shoulder? Every single euro will be repaid and the banks will eventually be “sold off” to the private sector with clear balance sheets in the hope that we as taxpayers and citizens can recoup some our money. And, dare we say it, no banker jailed, no fine imposed? Contrast this, if you will, with the US, Lehman Brothers Bank was allowed to fail as were other delinquent institutions, senior bankers were jailed and heavy fines and settlements were extracted from banks for their misbehaviour – for example JP Morgan Chase, the biggest bank in the US has been forced to pay the US Government more than $20 billion dollars in fines and settlements. While at the same time in Europe, we cannot even reach an agreement to put a small financial transaction tax on financial institutions so that they might contribute to the repair of the damage they caused. Be in no doubt, the austerity brigade has not gone away, the senior bankers and speculators are seeking to cleanse themselves of accountability and responsibility through insolvency here and abroad, readying themselves for a rebirth of their financial empires as if nothing happened. You have been warned! SHOPFLOOR

y December 2013


FROM WHERE I STAND...

Putting record straight over ‘layabout’ slur on our youth...

By Derek Keenan Chair, CWU & ICTU Youth Committee ON November 9 the youth committees of the CWU, Mandate and the TEEU held a protest outside the gates of the Dail in order to draw attention to the fact that the Department of Social Protection had sent correspondence to unemployed workers relating to job opportunities abroad. Innocuous enough some might say, but when one considers the letters within the context of the recent budgetary decisions taken by the Government, a far more insidious picture begins to emerge. In the weeks leading up to the budget it was clear that young people were going to be in the firing line. The kite-flying had begun early and the ideologically groundwork prepared, as the Government sought to justify an attack on those who had no hand act or part in creating the current economic mess. But someone needed to be blamed for the stubbornly high rate of youth unemployment and political expedience on the part of the Government dictated that blame was to be placed solely at the door of the unemployed themselves. Unemployment was de-politicised, presented as an individual problem and not a structural problem Our young were vilified, crudely depicted as layabouts who couldn’t be dragged away from their flat-screen TVs for long enough to notice the line of employers who were beating at their doors offering them jobs. Incentivisation became the new buzzword in debates about youth un-

‘What actually made this assertion particularly galling was the fact that few in government actually believed that this was true’

Voice of youth: November 9 Dail protest

employment and formed part of the justificatory spin employed to explain why it was necessary to cut the rate of Jobseekers Allowance applicable to those under 26. This, the Government argued, would encourage young people to get “off the couch” and get back into work, edu-

cation or training. The message from the Government was clear, if you were unemployed and not engaged in any of the above, it was because you were staying on the dole as a lifestyle choice. What made this assertion particularly galling was the fact that few in gov-

ernment actually believed that this was true. They knew well that it was patently untrue. They knew well that before the economic crisis Ireland enjoyed one of the highest youth employment rates across the Eurozone. They knew well that there were 32

unemployed people for every one job vacancy and they were acutely aware that there was nowhere near sufficient a quantity of relevant training or education places for the unemployed to avail of. Furthermore, by acting as an unofficial recruitment agent for international employers, the Government implicitly recognised that, despite the rhetoric, they had nothing to offer young people and yet they still cut their dole. The Government showed that they may have been bereft of ideas but certainly not of scapegoats. Unfortunately politics in Ireland has always been a cynical game and a whole generation of young people are now learning that the hard way.

Adult Education Courses for the Workplace

Mandate Trade Union with the VEC network is offering a programme of Training Courses called Skills for Work. Skills for Work offers members the opportunity to get back into education at their own pace with a wide range of courses to choose from. Each course has 6 – 8 participants and may be held locally and outside of working hours. Some of the courses include:

Communication Skills/ Personal Development and Effectiveness

For those who want to brush up on their writing and spelling skills while you develop personal and interpersonal skills which are important for dealing with workplace situations and improve communications in everyday life situations

Maths

Perhaps you’d like to brush up on your everyday maths, including home budgets, tax and weights/measures.

Communication through Computers

This course is ideal for adults just learning about computers and confidence for communicating online.

Please tick the box or boxes of the courses which interest you and return this form with your details to: Mandate’s Organising and Training Centre Distillery House, Distillery Road, Dublin 3 Phone 01-8369699, email mandateotc@mandate.ie

December 2013

y SHOPFLOOR

Name

Address

Workplace Location Phone

Courses are free and open to members who have not achieved Leaving Certificate or who have an out of date Leaving Certificate. You can also achieve a FETAC Level 3 Award. Skills for Work is funded by the Department of Education & Skills

25


THE BIG IDEA...

Why unemployment is necessary (under capitalism, that is...)

By Ed Teller THErE IS very little point in talking about what capitalism should be, or what we wish it to be, and kidding ourselves into believing it can provide something that it can’t. Of far more value to the trade union movement is an analysis of what capitalism actually is, of really existing capitalism. Capitalism has never provided (with the exception of Nazi Germany), and will never provide, full employment, or anything close to it. Unemployment is a necessity under capitalism; and here’s why. Wages and profits are inversely related: when wages go up, profits tend to be reduced. Employers therefore want to reduce as much as possible the cost of wages. High

unemployment disciplines workers and their unions and reduces the demand for wage increases, as workers are forced into negative competition with the unemployed. As businesses have become larger and global, this competition is now global, and workers are pitted against workers on the other side of the globe, reducing labour costs to secure profits. Employers also invest in new machinery and technology to reduce their cost of production; and far from making workers’ lives easier, these new innovations replace workers, as employers again seek to reduce their labour costs and mechanise their production process. This is the traditional explanation for unemployment in commodityproduction capitalism. But things have developed; and, as capitalists

seek to make profits from credit and asset appreciation, making money from money and skipping the production process altogether, unemployment has another advantage.. The war on inflation, led ideologically by the likes of Milton Friedman and politically by Thatcher, reagan and, closer to home, McCreavey and Harney, coincided with the systemic turn for profits to finance products and asset appreciation in response to stagnation in the real, commodityproducing economy. For those accumulating millions and, these days, billions of wealth, high levels of inflation eat into their wealth and reduce its value. In addition to this, the higher the rate of inflation the higher a return they need for the investment to be profitable. So speculators—those making profits

off the speculation of prices—require a war on inflation to maintain their profits while also having the benefit of providing an ideological excuse for keeping wages low in the commodity producing economy. While there is no one cause of inflation but rather a combination of processes and circumstances we do know that unemployment is a tool for keeping inflation low and so is an essential feature of capitalism today with its dual purpose of buttressing profits in both speculative finance and commodity production. The European Central Bank, the principal monetary policy institution in Europe, is mandated to maintain a low rate of inflation: less than 2 per cent. This is why you never see the ECB calling for full employment.

They simply do not want it, and in fact actively work against it. This is the reality of the system today; but unions cannot accept this. It is not good enough for our class. The eight-hour day was won by our movement 150 years ago. The five-day working week was won by trade unions generally for workers 60 years ago. We have to recognise the limitations of our industrial leverage today with such high degrees of global unemployment and find new ways of mobilising workers and communities to fight for a better life and better future for working people.

‘Speculators... require a war on inflation to maintain their profits while also having the benefit of providing an ideological excuse for keeping wages low’

INDUSTRIAL NEWS HIGH COURT JUDGEMENT

Every wipe of his eyes takes Talla closer to blindness

©Jenny Matthews/Sightsavers

Talla is just five. He has trachoma, a painful eye disease which can lead to a lifetime of blindness. Repeated infections cause the eyelashes to turn inwards and slowly and painfully every blink damages the eye and leads to blindness. Trachoma can be treated effectively in its early stages with a course of ointment costing just 50p – but for millions of people this is still too much. If, like Sightsavers, you believe that nobody should go blind needlessly from trachoma, river blindness or cataract, please make a donation today to support our eye care work in some of the most deprived communities in the world.

Euro donations, please call 1850 50 20 20 or visit www.sightsavers.ie Sterling donations, please call 0800 089 20 20 or visit www.sightsavers.org

26

Please quote ICTU. Thank you! Registered charity numbers 207544 and SC038110

©Jenny Matthews/Sightsavers

Dunnes loses appeal DUNNES Stores has had a High Court appeal dismissed over an earlier Employment Appeals Tribunal decision. The EAT had found in favour of Mandate member Liz Doyle after her request to return to night duty was refused by management. Ms Doyle, who is employed as a full-time member of staff in the Stillorgan branch, has worked with Dunnes since 1982. She was never issued with a written contract but always worked 37.5 hours plus a late-night. She was paid double time for the late night. At the end of 2009 the staff in Stillorgan were informed that it was to change from a clothing to a grocery outlet and that they could transfer to Cornelscourt for six weeks for training or opt for statutory redundancy. Ms Doyle transferred to Cornelscourt and continued to work the same hours including the late night. The Stillorgan store was actually closed for some months and then reopened as a clothing store with a reduced offer. Our member was told

that the trading hours would be cut and if she transferred back it would be on a basic full-time contract. If she wished to retain her late-night, she could stay in Cornelscourt. Ms Doyle opted to return to Stillorgan but on her return realised that even within the reduced trading hours, it would be possible to honour her original contract. She requested that her late-night working be restored but this was refused by management. Mandate through Divisional Organiser Joe Donnelly lodged claims under The Payment of Wages Act on the basis that Ms Doyle was contracted to work 40 hours but was only being paid for 37.5 hours. Following a couple of cases before the rights Commissioners the issue was referred to the Employment Appeals Trubunal. The EAT unanimously found in favour of Mandate’s position and ordered the company to pay compensation to Ms Doyle for the loss of pay for the late-night working. It is understood the fact that our member was paid for the late-night

when she went on holiday was a significant factor in that decision. Dunnes then appealed that decision to the High Court on a point of law. The hearing took place over two days in the High Court before Mr Justice Birmingham. In his court decision on November 1, the Judge found that the Tribunal had decided that Ms Doyle worked 40 hours and was remunerated for 42.5 hours and that the company had failed to put forward any point of law that would invalidate that decision. The judge therefore dismissed the appeal by Dunnes Stores, awarding costs to the union. Joe Donnelly told Shopfloor: “Liz Doyle is to be congratulated for her determination to pursue this case over the long period of time and through all the various forums that it necessitated. “Mandate for its part will not be intimidated by Dunnes use of heavy legal tactics and will represent our members’ rights whenever and wherever necessary.” SHOPFLOOR

y December 2013


SOUNDING OFF... By Brian Forbes Mandate National Co-ordinator A HUNDrED years ago workers desperate to feed their families would have lined up down by the docks or in hiring fairs hoping to be lucky enough to be selected to do a day’s work. Later, after receiving their payment, some employers would even have “encouraged” the dockers to spend what they had earned in – you guessed it – pubs owned by those same bosses. If the worker didn’t comply, he simply wouldn’t be chosen to work the next day. Bosses today have similar ways of exercising control over their employees. Low hour contracts of employment have increasingly become the norm in the Irish retail sector – yet many shop workers work well over the number of hours stated on their contracts. Because so many work over their contracted hours, should they ‘misbehave’ in the eyes of the employer, their working hours can be slashed to the contracted minimum – both as a means of punishment and a way of controlling the worker. This insidious tactic is used by many employers to stifle trade union activity and to help forge an increasingly subservient workforce. Another control mechanism being deployed is to withhold the posting of rosters until the last possible moment so workers are continually unaware of their working hours week to week. As a result, they become virtual hostages to their employer. They are unable to secure additional employment elsewhere because of the uncertainty of their working week. Some employers spread low hour contracts over four or five working days which prevents employees from claiming social welfare assistance. This keeps them both hungry for additional hours as well as flexible to the needs of the business. Thousands of Irish retail workers in 2013 are locked out from earning a decent income because of the insatiable desire for total employee flexibility – a flexibility that replicates the experiences of their forebears in 1913. Statistics show that the Irish labour market is one of the most flexible in the developed world – Ireland is ranked sixth out of 42 countries in figures compiled by the OECD. And within the EU, only the Uk is more flexible than us. The National Employment Survey has revealed that workers in retail are the second lowest paid in Ireland. recent Eurostat analysis also shows that Irish labour costs are 20.6% below the average of other EU 15 countries. Evidence, if it was needed, that employers have everything tipped in their favour at the expense of workers, especially those earning a living in retail. With the large numbers of businesses closing or threatening to close in recent years, it has been the workers that have invariably borne the brunt. Companies such as La Senza, HMV and Laura Ashley – to name but a few – have shut down outlets

December 2013

y SHOPFLOOR

Checkpoint: Thousands of Irish retail workers are locked out of decent earning a decent income

Picture: Hifabulous (CC BY 2.0)

The modern hiring fair... with almost complete impunity given the weak legislation that exists. Some profitable companies have opted to grasp the opportunity to renegotiate rents downwards and have used their workers as cannon fodder in the process. And increasingly workers desperate to secure what is owed to them have occupied premises – sometimes for months on end as in the case of the truly inspirational Vita Cortex workers – in a virtual economic Mexican standoff with bosses. Companies limited by guarantee are increasingly using “tactical insolvencies” and abusing the limited liability system to suit their own nefarious means. Employers who refuse to pay outstanding wages or awards made by employment rights bodies – such as the case in the long-running Connolly Shoes dispute in Dun Laoghaire – can, if they construct their company in a certain way, avoid having to pay their workers what is owed. This is further exacerbated when these employers use outstanding monies owed to workers to continue their businesses conveniently trading

under a different name. And sometimes they even use the very same premises! Limited liability as it is currently constructed provides impunity for businesses and allows the directors of these companies to move on to their next project without any moral qualms while workers are left to struggle without securing their basic entitlements, including wages for work already done. To further compound this problem, some employers fail to properly wind up their firms meaning the Department of Social Protection Insolvency Payment Scheme will not make a payment. This results in a double injustice for those workers involved. retail in Ireland has seen frightening increases in precarious work impacting most heavily on the lowest paid. The drive for ever-increasing flexibility and widening profit margins means many retail workers are hired on flexible part-time contracts that do not provide either certainty of earnings or a decent standard of income. As any semblance of decent work vanishes, it is being increasingly re-

‘Employers who refuse to pay outstanding wages or awards made by employment rights bodies – such as the case in the long-running Connolly Shoes dispute in Dun Laoghaire – can, if they construct their company in a certain way, avoid having to pay their workers what is owed’

placed by precarious working arrangements. recent CSO data shows that the share of involuntary part-time working is growing with more than 135,000 workers classified as underemployed. This represents a staggering 46% increase on 2008 figures and is also the highest

within the EU. William Martin Murphy, the employers’ darling in 1913, would have been so proud of such an achievement. Labour market security in 2013 is becoming increasingly eroded by demands for greater flexibility to hire and fire, growing use of temporary and part-time contracts, very flexible working hours, downward pressure on pay, limited investment in training and up-skilling along with an erosion of social security rights. Many thousands of retail workers are underemployed and trapped in jobs that don’t allow them to earn a living wage while denying them the opportunity to seek another job or even to qualify for social welfare payments. In 2013, we – the Irish taxpayer – are helping to subsidise the flexibility of workforces of major multi-national, hugely-profitable retailers through creating underemployment and the social welfare net that some workers manage to fall into. In 1913, it was all about workers’ rights to join and be represented by their trade union. It is incredible that we remain one of the few countries in the developed world (and one of only three in the EU) where workers are denied the basic human right to be a member of and be represented by a trade union for collective bargaining purposes. Our Fair Shop campaign recognising employers that collectively bargain with unions will continue to carry the message of solidarity, collectivism and the benefits of trade unionism just as in 1913. However, until such times that we as a nation properly legislate in favour of our own working people and redress the current imbalance that is skewed heavily in favour of big business and the capitalist classes, we will remain stuck in a William Martin Murphy-style 1913 time-warp with workers and wider society paying the heaviest of prices!

Health & Safety FETAC Level 5

This course is aimed at Health and Safety representatives Topic covered on course: • Health and Safety Legislation • Role of Health and Safety Representative • Safety statements • Role of Health & Safety Authority • Occupational health

Saf e firs ty t wor at k!

• Identification of hazards and risk assessment • Accident investigation • Fire safety • Effective communications • Health and safety promotion

Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this course receive a Fetac Level 5 component award certificate and may progress to other courses offered by Mandate. If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: mandateotc@mandate.ie 27


VIEWPOINT

End the siege of

By David Gibney Mandate communications officer THE Cuban embargo by the United States of America, which has been in place for more than 50 years, continues to strangle the economic and social progress of the small country. Now, more than ever, it is costing lives. At a recent meeting between the Cuban Ambassador to Ireland Teresita Trujillo and Mandate General Secretary John Douglas, Ms Trujillo said: “The embargo is worse now under the Presidency of Barack Obama than it ever was under George Bush jnr.” This illustrates the longevity of the petty grudge held by the most powerful nation on earth, which is determined not to allow an independent country with an alternative economic, democratic and social model to succeed. The Americans will insist that their policy of isolation against the Cuban people is based on breaches of human and civil rights and the promotion of democracy. But this is quite clearly a convenient smokescreen for the real reasons for the policy. How is it that the US is so concerned for civil and human rights in Cuba, but continues to deal openly and positively with Saudi Arabia, Iran and China? Where is the concern for the citizens of Palestine who are consistently oppressed by the Israeli government? The hypocrisy is palpable. The history between the two countries goes back centuries but their modern history began in 1898 when, after fighting for independence against the Spanish for more than three years, the Cubans were joined by the US during the final three months of the war. After the Cubans were successful, the US felt it should be them and not the Cubans who should put in place future determinations for the country. “Our new subjects, foolish, impulsive, headstrong, unreasonable… We are old in this learning and they must obey those who are in tutelage. They are children and we are men in these deep matters of governance and justice,” said Woodrow Wilson, future President of the United States. The US set up conditions for America to intervene in Cuban affairs under the Platt Amendment with the result that within a few short years, American interests controlled 80% of all sugar mills, the banks, electric and telephone companies and all oil refineries. By 1958, 75% of all arable land was foreign-owned. Governor Leonard Wood said: “There is, of course, little or no independence left in Cuba under the Platt Amendment. It is quite apparent that she is absolutely in our hands.” The US also blocked the introduction of a minimum wage in the 1920s and put in place one of the most brutal dictators in the history of Latin America, Fulgencio Batista. In 1959, a small group of Cubans, frustrated with high levels of poverty and corruption fought back in one of the most famous revolutions in recent history led by Fidel Castro. The revolution grew in numbers and strength over time and its success was immediate. Before the revolution, 23.6% of the population were illiterate. Within 12 months the country was comparable with any first world nation. Pre-revolutionary Cuba had an infant mortality rate of 60 per 1,000. This reduced to 6 per 1,000. Today only Uruguay and Argentina fection based on economic dissatiscan compare out of the 19 Latin faction and hardship,” said Deputy American countries. Assistant Secretary of State Lestor D. At first, the US didn’t know how to Mallory in April 1960. “We wanted to react, but when Castro began taking keep bread out of the stores so that back control of land from foreignpeople would go hungry,” comowned businesses, a new urgency mented one CIA officer in the 1970s. was found by the US but it had nothing to do with civil rights or democThe aggression of the US was never racy. more evident than when, in 1962, US President John F. kennedy, sanc“The majority of Cubans support tioned the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. Castro. The only foreseeable means Lesser known is the fact that JFk was of alienating internal support is through disenchantment and disafplanning a second full-scale invasion, 28

Picture: Twice Pix (CC BY 2.0)

Carribean hot seat: Mandate’s David Gibney flanked by a mural to the Cuban Five, taken during his recent visit to Cuba

set to take place 50 years ago on December 1, 1963. JFk was shot one week before so his plans never came to fruition. The aggression continued into the 1980s when Secretary of State to ronald reagan, Alexander Haig, said to the President: “You just give me the word and I’ll turn that fucking island into a parking lot.” The US has also supported terrorist organisations based out of Miami, who have taken the lives of more

than 3,000 innocent Cubans in the past four decades. People often blame the Cubans or the Soviet Union for the Cuban missile crisis, but clearly when you are faced with this level of aggression, a small country, isolated by a very powerful aggressor, will take refuge from any nation willing to help protect it. The placing of Soviet missiles in Cuba was not an act of aggression by Cuba, but an act of protection for its

citizens. The failed military interventions resulted in an economic response – the longest blockade ever – with dire consequences for the people of Cuba. On a recent trip to Cuba, I asked one of our tour guides what he thought of the US embargo on his country. His response was simple: “It is a policy dictated by a few very powerful wealthy people based out of Miami. People who lost property and entitlements due to the revoluSHOPFLOOR

y December 2013


ANALYSIS HOUSING

We are being...

General Secretary John Douglas presents Cuban Ambassador to Ireland Teresita Trujillo with a 1913 Lockout commemorative coin during her recent visit to the union’s Dublin HQ

tion. The vast majority of Cubans in the US want the embargo lifted.” His understanding of the situation is precise. Yet, still, the US persists in making life difficult for ordinary Cubans. This year saw the US more isolated than ever at the UN General Assembly when 188 countries voted against the blockade and only two countries (the US and Israel) voted to continue it. Cuba's Foreign Minister Bruno rodriguez Parrilla said: “Cuba has lost more than $1.1 trillion dollars because of the embargo.” According to the minister, “the blockade prevents Cuba from getting heart and antiAIDS drugs for children.” An estimated 90% of all medical patents are under the control of American companies meaning the Cuban people have to suffer the most damning effects of an extended, unnecessary and pointless grudge. “Children have died because we haven’t been able to purchase certain items that are prohibited under the embargo,” said Dr Alejandro Gonzalez, head of hematology at the Cuban National Children’s Hospital. Another farcical aspect to the blockade of Cuba is the travel embargo. Although recently relaxed to allow US residents born in Cuba to return, they still refuse to allow US citizens to visit the country. rafael Hernandez, who edits the Havana-based Temas magazine, said: “The way they want to deal with Cuba is to deny Americans to travel here, to deny freedom of trade, to deny those freedoms they say they are so supportive of in Cuba, but they deny them to their own citizens. “There is a perverse logic to it, and their rationale is ridiculous. Are they afraid that the Americans would become Fidelistas or communists if the visited Cuba? They believe this political system is so awful, so let them December 2013

y SHOPFLOOR

come and see it for themselves. They will find what the American press says about Cuba is not true. “The US press controls the message about Cuba, based on the rightwing agenda. If Americans came here they would see for themselves, and see that message is false.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently said: “The Castro brothers do not want to see an end to the embargo… because then they would lose all the excuses for what hasn’t happened in Cuba in the last 50 years.” responding to this, National Assembly President ricardo Alarcon said: “If she really thinks that the blockade benefits the Cuban government – which she wants to undermine – the solution is very simple: that they lift it even for a year to see whether it’s in our interests or theirs.” Quite clearly, the US cannot allow a socialist economic and political system to succeed because it would undermine everything the Americans believe in. The current siege will not work and has only strengthened the revolution, so what are the real motives behind it? Is it being used as a punishment for disrupting the natural order of the free market? Is it to being used to dissuade other countries from following the same path? Or are the smart people in the CIA and the US government still of the belief, after more than 50 years, that starving people of food and medicine will somehow incentivise the overthrowing of the Cuban government, which is without any historical precedence. I’ll let you decide. If you’d like to find out more about the Cuban embargo, read Cuba Under Siege: American Policy, the Revolution and Its People, by keith Bolender.

By Dr Conor McCabe AS OF October 31, 2013 the median residential property price in Ireland stood at €139,000. That is, half of all houses and apartments sold in the country so far this year went for under €139,000, the other half over that figure. This was a drop of seven per cent from the previous year, when the median price was €150,000. Back in 2010, the first year of the property price register, the median price was €202,643. Given that this is the case, and given that employment and wages have been stagnant, why is all the talk of a return to property boom times? The above figures are national figures, while the rise in price has been a regional feature – essentially confined to about half a dozen postal addresses in Dublin. One curious feature of Dublin residential property is that the rise in price has not been on all houses and apartments. In fact, prices at the lower end of the scale continue to drop, while prices near the median and upwards are rising. Nationally, the 19,380 properties sold up to the end of October have a total value of: €4.005 billion. Half of that figure is accounted for by the sale of 3,366 properties – that is, 17% of all sales. The other 83% makes up the other half. For example, the most expensive property listed related to the sale of Clancy Barracks, Dublin, which went for €61 million, not including VAT. The next most expensive was an apartment block on Clancy Quay which went for €60 million. Both of these sales were to international corporate investors. The director of research at Savills Ireland, John McCarthy, tried to explain the rise in prices by saying that cash sales were driving them up in the capital. The top 10% in sales in Dublin this year – a figure of €400 million

– relates to just 90 properties out of a total of 7,312 sold from January to October this year. I wonder if these are part of Savills Ireland’s ‘cash sales’ phenomenon? Outside of the gated communities of Dublin’s more affluent suburbs, both within the capital and across the country, the picture is not so chipper. Prices continue to fall while little is put in place to deal with the rising negative equity which comes with such a scenario. Government policy remains fixed on dampening wages, avoiding any form of employment-led growth, while it increases taxes and charges on the majority of the population. There is a plan at work here. This is an economic policy designed to protect those whose wealth is based not on production but on paper assets, and in particular financial paper assets. They experience it as securing their wealth; we experience it as austerity. In April of this year the Financial Times printed an article which got to the heart of drive for austerity. It talked about inflation and how for the past 30 years the policies which kept inflation at ultra-low rates came at a price, and that price was carried by the labour force. “It is not a coincidence that the share of labour in GDP [that is, the share of national GDP which is held by the labour force] peaks in the 1970s for both the US and the Uk,” it said. “Given that the largest element of costs was – and remains – labour, the fight against inflation amounted to a campaign to squeeze labour incomes.” At the same time, the drive to dampen wages (and wage-led growth) “produced a 30-year bull market for bonds.” This policy to dampen wages to benefit bonds took place under the heading of ‘beating’ inflation. And, as the Financial Times concludes,

“this success in beating inflation has been achieved at the cost of a declining share of labour in national income.” With regard to housing, what is the link? Well, as wage-growth declined in order to favour financial paper asset markets such as bond markets, personal credit was used to bridge the gap between living costs and pay packets. The largest single example of this is in housing as the vast majority of home-owners do not buy a house – they purchase a mortgage and then with the mortgage they pay for a house. Irish banks first moved into the mortgage market in a serious way in the mid-1970s. By the mid-tolate 1990s Irish residential property prices lose any relation to actual wage income. As this gap increased, negative equity became a case not of if, but when. At the same time the national agreements known as Partnership had the economic policies of finance hotwired into their very architecture. Wage-led growth was side-lined in lieu of tax breaks and cheaper credit. These policies were designed to benefit finance and investors in paper assets as it kept wage-led growth at such low levels as to make profit-seeking in paper asset speculation affordable. For the first eight years of the Partnership agreements the lack of employment growth was a constant criticism of the process. Then the commercial and residential property speculation bubble took off, and all sins were forgiven. Today, the structural defects remain. Investment in paper assets is privileged over actual employment which pays a living wage. We need inflation which eats into paper assets by transferring national wealth back to the labour force. If there is a battle going forward, this is where it needs to take place.

‘There is a plan at work here. This is an economic policy designed to protect those whose wealth is based not on production but on paper assets, and in particular financial paper assets’

29


LEGACY

How Anne Devlin fanned the living flame.... Jean Browne, an administrator for Mandate, writes about how a visit to Kilmainham Gaol one freezing winter’s day sparked a fascination with Anne Devlin, heroine of Robert Emmet’s ill-fated 1803 rebellion ONE winter’s day I was introduced to the story of Anne Devlin. You can read about her online but in kilmainham Gaol you can feel her story and that’s a huge difference. What I will do, is explain the person I was who walked into the gaol that day, the impact Anne’s story had on me and the admiration I have for the man who told her story so beautifully. Since leaving school in the 1980s my life has flown by. I have since learned that Madonna was far from being Like a Virgin and robert Palmer wasn’t really Addicted to Love. I remember my Last Christmas listening to George Michael before he came out of the closet destroying a five year crush. In my early twenties I became a mammy to a little girl, Hannah. It wasn’t until she entered secondary school that something started to wake up inside me. We were approaching our first parent/teachers meeting and I wanted to appear to be positively contributing to her education. Hannah had inherited my apathy in the classroom and doing homework with her was as appealing to me as chewing rusty nails. So I took her to kilmainham with the good intention of telling her history teacher, I was a pro-education parent. One cold grey Sunday Hannah and I took off to kilmainham. Our tour guide was Micheal O Doibhilin. He walked us through the gaol giving us an impressive insight into its political and social history. His delivery was spellbinding. It’s an eerie, atmospheric building and there was so much information to process in one visit. However, that day Michael spoke with feeling about 30

Anne Devlin and his words created a beautiful monument to her. In brief, Anne posed as a housekeeper to the rebel leader robert Emmet. Emmet, for those of you who were snoozing their way through the Leaving Cert (as I was), led a rebellion in 1803 against British rule in Ireland. Her role as housekeeper was to give the appearance of a normal household but she was much more than a housekeeper. She carried crucial secret messages to and from the house. She took part in discussions with Emmet and his supporters on their aspirations for an Ireland of self-rule, equality, and the eradication of poverty. However, Emmet’s rebellion failed and he was arrested. Anne was subsequently arrested and imprisoned in a cold, filthy cell in kilmainham Gaol. She had enough information to lead to the arrest of an-

other 50 men who had supported Emmet yet she choose to stay silent. Emmet told Anne, “Save yourself, I’m a dead man”, but to no avail. She was physically and mentally tortured, kept in horrifically harsh conditions and witnessed her family’s arrest, none of which broke her silence. When torture failed, she was offered and refused a bribe that would have been the equivalent to 40 years wages at the time. I was certain at this stage her courage and strength could only have been due to her being romantically and hopelessly in love with Emmet – but that wasn’t the case. Emmet was romantically involved with Ann Curran and Anne selflessly passed letters between the two lovers with no regard to her own personal safety. Anne survived imprisonment and kept her silence. She went on to marry, have children, before dying in poverty, alone.

Statue of 1803 Rebellion heroine Ann Devlin

But it wasn’t how she died that inspired me, it was how she lived. She was a mother, a daughter, a wife; she was an ordinary woman with an extraordinary character. Her story revealed to me what integrity, clearly defined principles and loyalty actually meant. She went outside herself and found meaning and purpose in cause greater than personal gain or self-gratification. She didn’t die dramatically in front of a firing squad and – unlike Emmet – she didn’t leave behind a charismatic speech but she left a loud message in her loyal silence. As I left kilmainham that day, I knew I had got temporary release from the prison of my own ignorance. Hannah and I took the little book Michael had written homw. The Disney books went under the bed and we read Anne’s story together, both deeply moved. I took more than that book home with me that day. A friend once told me that the role of education is to leave us with more questions than answers. I left kilmainham with many questions and a real sense of excitement. I questioned what the word integrity meant to me? What were my principles? What were the values that underpinned them? What do I stand for with conviction? Would I be willing to snub personal gain in place of what’s right and for a greater good? Am I capable of being half the women Anne Devlin was? My biggest contribution to a cause was sharing a page on Facebook. I only moved my finger over a keypad. robert Emmet got his whole head removed for a cause and Anne Devlin was willing do the same. I was blown away by their bravery and passion. The impact on me has been huge. I

feel like a tourist in my own city now. I now look up while I’m walking the streets at the buildings that could tell a hundred romantic, tragic, courageous stories. Stories that inspire our passion, that shapes our thoughts and actions. Do we really want to read stories about the size of kim kardasian’s behind or what was it that Miley Cyrus smoked on the MTV Music Awards stage? But who wants a nation of passionate, courageous people with integrity? And what better way to medicate that energy than feed them bullshit stories straight into our living room via X Factor and I’m a Celebrity. Are we planting the seeds for the next generation of uninspired, disillusioned nitwits, adults whose values have been shaped by the fashion and music industry? I think it’s a step forward in challenging our apathy when we stand on a picket line in the rain, speak our truth , stand behind what’s right instead of getting ahead ignoring what’s wrong. In a nutshell Anne’s life story makes me want to be a better person. I don’t think I’m quite ready to get tortured in freezing prison cell and I still like the odd Madonna song but I want to know more and be more and most importantly give more. There’s a great quote in the book, it reads: “Is iad a d’aighean an tine beo “ (“It was they who fanned the living flame”) On that note, I am grateful to that wonderful tour guide who fanned the flame of interest in me, I’m grateful for living a beautiful city that I’m looking forward to getting to know better and I’m grateful to Anne Devlin for the sacrifices and hardship she endure for a better Ireland. SHOPFLOOR

y December 2013


INTERNATIONAL QATARI WORLD CUP

OPINION

The changing face of M&S

Play fair: Injured construction worker in a Qatari labour camp Picture: ITUC

Let’s score for workers’ rights! By John Douglas Mandate General Secretary WHILE much of the debate surrounding the 2022 World Cup in Qatar continues on the playing conditions (the effect of intense heat on millionaire soccer stars), little or no focus has been placed on the plight of the tens of thousands of migrant construction workers who have been drafted in to build the football facilities and infrastructure in one of the richest countries in the world. Amnesty International has issued a recent report on the plight of thousands of migrant workers, mainly from South Asia – the report has found “alarming levels of ex-

ploitation”. The International Trade Union Confederation has also highlighted mass abuse of workers’ rights in Qatar from poor to nonpayment of wages, appalling and squalid living conditions and many dangerous health and safety violations. Workers are often housed in huge camps and bussed to and from the construction sites, where they work 12 hour days, seven days a week in the soaring heat of Qatar. Workers are forced to work for the one employer and are refused the right to change employers – no matter how badly they are being treated. Passports are often held by

the employer, thereby prohibiting workers from returning to their home countries. FIFA needs to make it clear to the government of Qatar that human rights abuses and poor labour standards are not in keeping with the spirit of the World Cup. And we as football fans need to be satisfied when we watch our well-paid soccer stars grace the pitches of the 2022 World Cup, the facilities are not littered with the blood and exploitation of vulnerable migrant works. Let’s score for workers’ rights! For further information, visit www.ituc-csi.org

Domestic slavery victims need protection, support and time tHE Migrant Rights Centre Ireland has welcomed the rescue of three women from alleged domestic servitude in london, claiming it underlined the need for all victims of slavery to be protected and supported. Director siobhán o’Donoghue pointed out that the reported details of the women’s situation resembled many of the cases MRCI had dealt with, although she added that the length of time they were held was beyond anything the MRCI had encountered. she told Shopfloor: “we’ve seen women and men held in domestic servitude, afraid for their lives, threatened, physically and mentally abused, their documents withheld, their movements controlled. this is happening right now in Ireland – a fact the authorities here are often reluctant to beDecember 2013

y SHOPFLOOR

lieve, which means victims of slavery are often not identified as such.” the MRCI has dealt with almost 200 separate cases of forced labour around the country, a high proportion of which were cases of domestic servitude. Forced labour (the modern term for slavery) was only criminalised in Ireland earlier this year. “Domestic servitude is by its nature a hidden crime – limited contact with the outside world means victims have no one to turn to,” Ms o’Donoghue continued. “It cuts across all sectors, communities and classes. Modern slavery happens in the most mundane, ordinary households and businesses. People need to know they have rights, no matter what their age, nationality or immigration

status.” MRCI highlighted the need for a period of recovery and reflection for all victims of slavery, as mandated by the Council of Europe but rarely applied in Ireland. Ms o’Donoghue explained: “Victims are likely to be traumatised and extremely vulnerable; they often need time to adjust and process what they have been through before they can participate in an investigation. “their health, security and wellbeing are paramount, especially in the months immediately following escape. “so many of the people we work with have been left in limbo by the state. “Modern slavery is a growing issue in Ireland and globally, and shocking cases like this highlight the need for vigilance and action.”

By Gerry Light Assistant General Secretary AT THE start of August, senior management at M&S contacted the union seeking engagement across a range of cost-saving initiatives. Central to these were the closure of four stores, the removal of the Christmas bonus and reductions in Sunday and public holiday premiums and the overall number of section managers. At the start of the negotiations with the company we were emphatically assured that these items constituted the full range of issues being targeted. To our astonishment a couple of meetings later management also declared their intention to unilaterally remove the long-established defined benefit pension enjoyed by some 900 of our members in the company. Initially the blame for this course of action was laid at the door of the scheme Trustees who we were told by management had to act because the scheme was in deficit. After some further investigation the union subsequently discovered that in fact it was the company who was responsible for requesting the closure of the scheme and in fact the scheme was in surplus to the tune of some €16m. Incredibly management hold the view that the pension scheme was a discretionary benefit and did not constitute a term and condition of employment. Clearly the manner in which management decided to unilaterally act and the reality that their decisions were less than credible forced the union to immediately suspend the national negotiations on all issues. The scheme was ultimately closed on the October 31 without agreement. Accordingly following a series

of general meetings to gauge the feelings of the members, we commenced a ballot for industrial action nationwide. At the time of writing two conciliation conferences have taken place at the Labour relations Commission. Sadly no real progress can be reported at this stage. It is apparent that if management hold their position and our members ultimately decide to vote for industrial action this action will happen in the run up to Christmas 2013. Over the past five years in particular this union and our members have shown a real capacity to grasp and deal with difficult situations which largely arise from the drop off in sales due to the economic recession. regardless of the scale of these difficulties we will not tolerate in M&S or elsewhere unilateral action by employers that amounts to the reduction or removal of valuable terms and conditions secured for our members in the past. While we would have preferred not to have arrived at this impasse in M&S, it is somewhat reassuring to observe the determination and sense of solidarity shown by our members in responding to the company. There can be no doubt that the industrial relations environment has significantly changed in M&S over the last number of months. Clearly the change is not for the better and has come about solely as a result of the behaviour of the management team. Whether these difficulties deepen and prolong is entirely down to them. One thing is certain and should not be doubted and that is the will of our members to defend their interests through whatever legitimate means available to them.

31


GENERAL NEWS

‘A better, fairer way is not going to happen on its own’ By David Gibney Mandate communications officer MANDATE member Sandra Stapleton gave a rousing speech at the recent People's Assembly protest outside Leinster House. Criticising the political system and government parties, she called for people to come together to demand a better and fairer Ireland for all. Ms Stapleton, who worked in the retail sector for 11 years, is now an unemployed member of Mandate. She told protesters that roughly 50,000 retail workers had lost their jobs during the past four years. "That’s 50,000 families from one

MUSINGS...

By Niall Shanahan IMPACT communications officer AS THE LAST of the Troika representatives check out of their rooms at the Merrion Hotel and we wave a final goodbye (don’t let the door hit you on your way out, lads), we might ask ourselves if we’re in a better place now? The collective trauma of the bailout experience is, I think, still with us. The Troika arrived after two years of economic catastrophe, bringing giant clouds of doom to rival those giant spaceships from Independence Day. For the first few weeks we watched with a mixture of wonder and horror as these hitherto anonymous figures walked into Government buildings each morning to go through the nation’s books. Every unpopular policy decision that came after that was credited to the severity of our new economic masters. And now they’re gone. The clouds of doom are being traded for high hopes. The political class will talk much about what it means to regain our economic sovereignty, but as one of them once said, that doesn’t ‘butter too many parsnips’. We still have a very serious problem with unemployment. Emigration is back, and no amount of talking about the consolations of Skype can disguise the fact that lots of young people are not choosing to leave, they 32

sector of the economy in this country who have lost at least one person who was providing for them. “That means less money to heat their homes, less money to buy decent healthy food for their families and it also means less money to be able to participate in this society. “That's not to mention the thousands of other retail workers who have had their pay reduced and are also struggling to get by." Ms Stapleton explained why she believes people are losing jobs and having their income slashed. "Because our political leaders insist on cutting public sector pay. They

‘Workers thrown on scrapheap’: Sandra Stapleton addressing People’s Assembly protest outside Leinster House Picture: Trade Union TV

insist on introducing taxes, like the property tax and water charges. Taxes that take money from the pockets of the very people who used to spend money in the shop I used to work in. “If you keep taking money from ordinary workers’ pockets, then they can't shop in their local restaurant, bar or supermarket. "Then they act all surprised when the social welfare bill goes up because retail workers keep losing their jobs. So what do they do? They cut the social welfare rates and then even more people have less money to spend in the shops."

Ms Stapleton in particular vented her anger at politicians who tell workers they should ‘pull on the green jersey’ and ‘we're all in this together’. "Well, how is it that the richest people in this country are actually getting richer? “How is it that the poorest face social welfare cuts, reduced public services, cuts to carers grants? Why is it that workers have to work more hours if they can get them, just to make ends meet? "How do they not see that all these attacks on workers’ incomes is contributing to our unemployment cri-

Here’s to high hopes are being forced to leave. But the harder economic reality is that Ireland’s experience is not unique. In an analysis of Europe’s current circumstances, a new study by the International Federation of red Cross and red Crescent Societies (IFrC), says that Europe is facing its worst humanitarian crisis in six decades, and is sinking into a protracted period of deepening poverty, mass unemployment, social exclusion, greater inequality, and collective despair, while the long-term consequences of the European economic crisis remain unknown.

Whoah! Easy on there fellas, I said we were trading the clouds of doom for high hopes! What just happened? Well, in a nutshell, this report confirms to us that – in or out of a bailout situation – the Europe-wide economic crisis has corroded everything it has touched. It contains lots of stark information about how people are coping across Europe with the fallout from the economic crisis, including wealthier countries such as Germany and Denmark. But I’m still hanging on to the idea that there is light at the end of this tunnel. I believe that feeling is shared by a lot of Irish people, despite everything. So I drew some comfort from a recent visit to Dublin by TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady. She acknowledged the grim outlook outlined by the red Cross, but reminded the audience that Europe has overcome very significant challenges in the past: in the aftermath of the Second World War, the fall of the Berlin Wall and EU enlargement to the East in the last decade. “Each time our continent succeeded in rising to these challenges

‘...if regaining economic sovereignty means anything, it’s about a renewed capacity for us all to make decisions for the collective good’ because we had the courage to take the high road. Because collectively we refused to walk away from the social solidarity that has brought the diverse peoples of Europe together,” she said. That bit about social solidarity I really believe is the key to Ireland’s post-Troika fate. If we can be guided by that idea, I think there’s genuine cause for optimism. Social Protection Minister Joan Burton recently called for the introduction of a ‘living wage’. That means ensuring workers are paid enough to meet the cost of hous-

sis?” Ms Stapleton asked what consequences a growing economy would have on the social fabric of Ireland if we continue down the same failed path of austerity. "They may, and I emphasise may, get our economy growing eventually, but at what cost? “How many ordinary workers will have been thrown on the scrapheap to improve our GDP ratio? “How many families will have lost their homes to the banks that they've bailed out? “How many children have lost their one chance for the best education they could possibly get, damaging their future prospects? “And how many older people have died on hospital beds because they didn't get the care they deserved or where entitled to? "And all because our politicians decided to bail out bankers and protect the wealthy!" she added. Ms Stapleton, explaining why she was at the protest, said: "I am here today because I believe a better and fairer way is not only possible but it is also achievable. “But it's not going to happen on its own. We all need to come together as a strong collective and send an emphatic message to the people in Leinster House who were elected to represent us. "We need the unemployed, the under-employed and the trade unionists. We need the volunteers, the NGOs and the local community groups. We need young people, older people and the middle aged. “We need the men and the women of this country to stand up and say, enough is enough. This is our country and we're taking it back."

ing, healthcare, food and heating. It’s a familiar concept in the Uk, but the conversation in Ireland has only just begun. Columnist Colette Browne wrote about it in the Indo recently. Browne highlighted the fact that some employers have been using the economic crash as a pretext for attacking workers’ pay and conditions. Sound familiar? It’s one of the reasons the gap in income between rich and poor has opened up so widely in recent years. The introduction of a living wage, alongside a prohibition on things like zero-hours contracts, is precisely the kind of policy that gives real expression to that idea of social solidarity. It’s the kind of policy that enables greater economic participation by all citizens, which is vital to Ireland’s economic recovery. Starting the debate about a living wage is a good sign. It’s likely to be rubbished by employer bodies and the business lobby. But they will have to take a longer view, and realise that a living wage will ultimately provide a better economic environment for them too. You might even say their future depends upon it. So, as the Troika departs, it seems to me that if regaining economic sovereignty means anything, it’s about a renewed capacity for us all to make decisions for the collective good. I have high hopes. SHOPFLOOR

y December 2013


IN MY OPINION...

POLITICAL ECONOMY

Why we need The forging of new alliances statutory trade union recognition... Below is an extract from an interview conducted by the politicaleconomy website with Michael Yates, Associate Editor of Monthly Review journal

By Robert McNamara Industrial Officer It Is the centenary year of the 1913 lockout, and we still have not established legislation for statutory trade union recognition. this is despite clear commitments given by the previous government during the course of the lisbon treaty debates over the provision of collective bargaining rights. Clear commitments were also given by the labour Party before the last general Election that legislating for collective bargaining was a priority for them. Indeed a clear commitment was made in the Programme for government that this administration would reform the current law on employees’ right to engage in collective bargaining, so as to ensure compliance by the state with recent judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. the absence of the right to collective bargaining and mandatory trade union recognition impedes the ability of unions to protect and improve the rights of workers, particularly lower paid workers. this government must stop shirking its responsibility to workers and knuckle down to business when it comes to workers’ rights. the labour Party, for many years, has supported statutory recognition and has given commitments to introduce the necessary legislation in election

December 2013

y

SHOPFLOOR

manifestos. this year has to be the time for the party to honour its pledges. trade union density levels now stand at 35.1% in the Republic of Ireland – a figure which has fallen from 38.5% in 2003. this is a massive drop from the figure for 1980 when more than half of the workforce were in trade unions. In fairness, in an effort to tackle density levels, most trade

‘This Government must stop shirking its responsibility to workers and knuckle down to business when it comes to workers’ rights’ unions are going to great lengths to halt the decline, through specific recruitment and organising campaigns. But unions are severely disadvantaged because of the absence of the right to statutory trade union recognition in the workplace. the time is now for the trade union movement to unify and mount a serious campaign for the introduction of the necessary legislation.

yoU recently wrote a book, Why Unions Matter, can you describe the state of the trade union movement in the Us post the massive public sector struggles we have seen? I don’t know if I would characterise the public sector struggles as massive, though both the one in Wisconsin and that of the Chicago Teachers Union were important, at least in terms of giving public sector workers confidence that they could fight back and even win some battles. However, these and others that might develop in the future will face considerable obstacles. Most of us who see the need for a radical labour movement in the United States, or at least one that embraces the old Industrial Workers of the World motto that “an injury to one is an injury to all,” tend to see every victorious strike or Wisconsinlike uprising as the start of something new and revolutionary. However, while hope springs eternal, we should understand that powerful obstacles face all labour reform efforts, including that spawned by the Chicago Teachers Union. First, while the COrE and the CTU won a remarkable victory with the strike, the union still faces powerful enemies: billionaires who control large swathes of the economy, the nation’s political machinery, and the media. When they suffer a defeat, they don’t crawl into a corner and lick their wounds; they find new ways to get what they want. The CTU did not manage to win the things they wanted most. What is more, Chicago Mayor rahm Emanuel didn’t miss a beat in continuing to close schools. His handpicked school board agreed to close another 49 schools, the largest mass closing in US history. Draconian budget cuts have been implemented, targeting mainly poor communities while maintaining funding for schools in richer areas and continuing the move toward charter schools. School principals are to gain broad new powers to hire and fire teachers and to decide how funds are to be spent, under a new budgeting scheme that lumps teachers’ pay in with every other expenditure. Each school will be allocated funds according to the number of students. Instead of the number of teachers being determined by rules for class size, staffing will be determined by principals, who will now have a fixed sum of money available to them. Therefore, administrators will have a strong incentive to get rid of tenured, better-paid educators in order to stretch tight budgets as far as possi-

Got the message, Rahm? CTU protest at school closures Picture: firedoglakedotcom (CC BY-SA 2.0)

ble. The CTU has vigorously opposed the new cuts, with mass protests by teachers, parents, and students, in which scores of protestors have been arrested. These actions saved a few schools from closure. The union is planning more protests, lawsuits against the closings, and efforts to rid the city of Mayor Emanuel and hostile state legislators. A massive voter registration campaign is in the works. These are praiseworthy efforts, but they are defensive and certainly not assured of success. Second, while the joining together of teachers and communities is essential to the consolidation of both union and citizen power, more solidarity will be needed if a labor movement worthy of the name is to be built. The working class itself will have to be mobilised, beginning with members of the teachers’ unions nationwide and spreading to those of other unions, in Chicago and everywhere teachers are on the march. If the teachers’ unions are unlikely to aggressively support the CTU and other radical local union actions, the rest of organised labor is still less likely to do so. Support might come from local unions, but, except for the United Electrical Workers and perhaps a few others, national unions will be missing in action. These are still mired in the muck of labor-management cooperation; they are top-down autocracies, afraid of their own members. Like the AFLCIO, the federation to which most of them belong, they are joined at the hip to the Democratic Party, whose leaders and major money donors

support rahm Emanuel and not public school teachers. Third, rank-and-file insurgencies, in and of themselves, do not guarantee that a union will be radically transformed. The new leaders are susceptible to cooptation by employers and political elites, and to a retreat to business as usual when times get tough. Creating a new, more democratic culture within a union is hard work; it requires patience, rank-and-file education programs, a willingness to trust the members, and a commitment to a permanently adversarial relationship with those sitting across the bargaining table. Finally, the fact that a group of reformers gets elected to lead a union does not mean that the union will embrace the kind of class conscious, anti-capitalist perspective that alone could help create a labor movement. COrE’s commitment to embed itself in the communities that teachers serve, especially those where poor, mainly minority parents live, is important. We are facing the imposition by our economic masters of what promises to be unending austerity, and those most supportive of COrE have and will continue to suffer most as a result. The promise of public sector unions has been debated for at least 40 years. Perhaps some teachers have finally seen the light, and, in the face of unprecedented attacks on them and public schools, are beginning to create new unions, new alliances, a new politics in our towns and cities. As always, I am hopeful.

The full interview can be read at http://politicaleconomy.ie/?cat=5

33


TRAINING

Time to get into training ...they did!

By Aileen Morrissey Mandate National Co-ordinator

On behalf of Mandate Trade Union, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the members who participated in Mandate's training courses in 2013. It has been a very successful year with many members achieving Fetac awards. It was a pleasure to meet with these learners during their training. I do hope that many more members will take the opportunity to avail of the training that their union provides for them. The following are comments made by Mandate members who attended Mandate training courses:

What Mandate training has done for me – Dave Reid In 2007, I was elected shop steward in Superquinn Blanchardstown. In September of that year, I attended my first training course with Mandate. It was the Introductory Shop Stewards course. On my arrival the first morning, I was amazed such facilities in the Training Centre. It has to be the most up-to-date Training Centre. The training itself is so informal. The room of strangers on that first morning soon became a close-knit bunch that helped each other through the course and also enjoyed each other's company. That first course gave me the confidence to go on and do five or six more courses. It also gave me the confidence to speak in public – something I thought I could never do. One of my other courses was the Train the Trainer course for which I received a distinction at Fetac Level 6. This union and its Training Centre has given me confidence in myself that I don't think I would ever have got without them. My experiences to date has been the highlight of my career and to think it has all be free. I would recommend these courses to every Mandate member as it will bring out the real you. The courses and tutors are the best of the best.

Connecting into training – Crina Bordei Coming to the Training Centre, I have discovered that this is a great opportunity for people/members to connect with other Mandate members and network. Mandate's Training Centre runs a wide range of courses which are very practical for adult people who wish to complete their education. I would recommend these courses to every Mandate members.

What my Mandate course did for me – Communication course student My course gave me knowledge about myself, my workplace, how to speak in public, how to improve language

‘ 34

Course participants from Newbridge show off their certificates...

skills (if English isn't your first language). Thanks to the Communication course I know what to expect from the media, internet or other means of communication.

What I think about the Mandate Training Centre – Communication course student The Mandate Training Centre has a very positive impact on people’s lives. Personally, I found out about the number of courses through email. I signed up for a Communication course in September 2013. My first impression about the Mandate Training Centre exceeded my expectation. All staff working in there were very helpful and very informative. The Mandate Training Centre is running a number of courses which are very informative and could help people in their careers. The trainers are very professional and exceptionally good. The Communication course helped me to improve my writing skills and gave me the confidence to stand up and speak in front of other people.

My Mandate Training experience – Martin Mahony I, like so many people, left school at a young age as I had a chance to take up an apprenticeship. I have been a member of a trade union since my teens. In 2007, I was asked would I put my name forward as a shop steward. I did and I am still enjoying it. Like all shop stewards, I represent the members and deal with management but the positives to this for me is Mandate's Training Centre courses. I have attended various courses such as Shop Stewards, Train the Trainer and Communications. Some of these are Fetac level 5 and 6. Like many people my age, it's been a long time since I was in school but all of the training I have received in Mandate was nothing like school. The teaching methods are very relaxed and I feel they are aimed at adult education. I think most adults who have not attended a class in school since their school days should not be nervous.

Everyone helps each other along and I feel I would not have attended any evening courses anywhere else because of my lack of confidence. But thanks to Mandate, I am not nervous to attend any course and I would highly recommend any course of interest to all members. So what does my union do for me? Training, confidence but, most importantly, education.

If these members' comments about their training has inspired you to participate in a training course, please contact the Training Centre on 01 8369699. New courses will be starting in January 2014. Courses are delivered throughout the country so there may be one starting in your area. Details of Mandate's training schedule for shop stewards and of evening courses are available in this issue of Shopfloor and on Mandate's website www.mandate.ie SHOPFLOOR

y December 2013


By Margaret O’Reilly I STArTED working in the grocery section at Dunnes Stores on Edward Street, Newbridge, in 1975. At that time Owen Nulty was our union official and most of the staff were fulltime and female. Over the years there were many industrial disputes, such as over split shifts and support for merchandisers who were being treated indifferently. Just before it opened the Dunnes Stores Shopping Centre opened its doors in 1987, staff from Edward Street were preparing the store when Ben Dunne arrived. He was asked by a number of staff about the possibility of disturbance pay. Ben Dunne ordered the staff back to Edward Street informing them that if they wanted a job in the new store, they would have to apply for it. In 1990, a dispute arose in Edward Street about stock taking. Staff were asked to sign that they would agree to stay working until stock taking was finished regardless of time. Some staff refused to sign and they were suspended indefinitely. In March 1991, the remaining staff arrived for work and were asked if they would agree to do stock taking. Management were informed they would not. Head Office made the decision that the store would close and the company attempted to make the staff redundant. The union took the case to the Employment Appeals Tribunal who found in our favour. We were to be reinstated with loss of earnings. Dunnes appealed the decision to the Circuit Court and a agreement was reached that staff would be reinstated and transfer to the new store with all loss of earnings. Over the years being a member of the union has been a real advantage to me and I have remained an active House Committee member. As a member of the union all these years I know how important it is to have the support of my other fellow union members. We have a very active House Committee who from time to time would represent staff at grievance and disciplinary meetings. Mandate held an evening training course recently which I found very December 2013

y SHOPFLOOR

helpful. The course involved how to represent staff at grievances and disciplinary meetings, how to recruit members into the union and how to communicate information to members. It is so important that staff are asked to join the union as your employer is more likely to listen to you if you have the backing of other union members. This year, as a member of the union, I received information about Fetac IT and Communication courses. We encouraged as many

‘It is so important that staff are asked to join the union as your employer is more likely to listen to you if you have the backing of other union members’ people as possible to do these courses and I did both. I found these courses invaluable and now network with my official and my colleagues. The Communication course challenged me in so many ways. I had to read a novel of my choice and then write a paper on it. I made a short presentation to my group wherein my subject was travel. All this was new to me as I finished my school education at 15 years of age. In October, I received two Fetac certificate awards along with 12 of my colleagues. There was a beautiful presentation ceremony and I was very proud of myself and all those who received certificates that evening. Being a member of the union has been a real benefit to me, and I hope to continue being active. The courses are free and members should avail of them as not only do you come away with a new skill that you can bring with you, but you also meet new people who – like me – are members of Mandate.

Course Title

Dates

Course Location

Union Representative Introductory

13/14/15 January

OTC

Union Representative Tesco Introductory

3/4/5 February

OTC

Union Representative Advanced Senior

Union Representative Advanced Senior Union Representative Introductory

Health and Safety Elected Reps FETAC 5

Union Representative SQ Advanced FETAC 5 Union Representative Advanced Senior

Union Representative Tesco Advanced FETAC 5 Union Representative Introductory

Union Representative Advanced FETAC 5 Union Representative Advanced FETAC 5

27/28/29 January

Sligo

17/18/19 February OTC

24/25/26 February Athlone 3/4/5/6/7 March

OTC

24/25/26 March

Limerick

10/11/12 March

12/13/14 May 19/20/21 May 26/27/28 May

16/17/18 June

OTC

OTC OTC

Cork OTC

*OTC = Mandate Organising and Training Centre / Venue dates and times may vary. Picture: Schmechter (CC BY 2.0)

Skills you can bring with you...

TRAINING COURSES Mandate Shop Stewards Training Programme Jan - June 2014

Interested in a computer training course? Mandate Trade Union is offering you a place on a free computer training course This course is open to Mandate members and unemployed members only. Places are limited with a maximum of 15 per course.

Starter Computer Course

Starting from scratch this course helps you to use a computer and builds confidence for communicating on-line. This course will commence on: Tuesday, 14th January 2014 from 6.30pm to 9.00pm Venue: Mandate's Training Centre, Distillery House, Distillery Road, Dublin 3 If you are interested in attending this training please confirm your place immediately by phoning Mandate’s Training Centre at 01-8369699 quoting Reference code: OTC 2-2014

35



Shopfloor December 2013