sHopflooR MAndAte tRAde union
439,600 k r o w t u o h it w e r a emigrated 76,000 in last year
JOBS PlaN ‘DelUSIONal’ Same old, same old: The Coalition Government’s much publicised jobs plan falls well short of what is needed
THE Government must act in the best interests of its citizens and not on behalf of the bankers and speculators who have wreaked havoc on this society. Mandate general secretary John Douglas made the call as ministers launched an Action Plan for Jobs last month. He described the initiative – which aims to create 100,000 jobs by 2016 – as “delusional”. “They plan to do this within existing, significantly reduced budgets while lining up at least two more austerity budgets.” This would, Mr Douglas warned, further drive down domestic
We need real stimulus package demand, increase unemployment and perpetuate “an ever shrinking economy”. “While Ireland burns on its bonfire of debt, the Government launches a jobs initiative that is significantly lacking in imagination and with little or no new innovative ideas. It’s the same old same old – to coin a phrase.” Mr Douglas reiterated Mandate’s view that job creation and growth remained the “vital medicines” that
would nurse Ireland back to economic recovery. He said: “We now have close to half a million people on the dole with many families barely scrapping by to maintain dignity and self-respect. “This is happening while our political masters continue to feed more good money after bad into the black hole of failed banks here in Ireland and also to greedy bondholders who gambled and lost yet still get paid by Irish workers and
society.” Against this backdrop, 76,000 people had emigrated in the last year alone in search of a better future. A total of 1,640 companies have been declared bankrupt and thousands more businesses are in dire straits. Mr Douglas said: “Long term unemployment has increased by 14.5% to nearly 200,000 people – and that simply is a national disgrace.” He called for funds that were being used to prop up “failed banks
and gambling bondholders” to be directed instead to invest in people. This would create “a real and effective jobs stimulus package”. Mr Douglas added: “Emigration is now sadly once more in vogue for our young people desperate to find work but not desperate enough to work as free labour for profitable multinationals for what amounts to slave labour wages on government initiatives such as the JobBridge scheme. “What a legacy they are building. Our legacy will be to fight back by organising and campaigning. If we tolerate this, then our children will be next!”
MAndAte tRAde union • vieW fRoM tHe
Mandate warning over B&Q cuts plan MANDATE has highlighted the consequences of new cost cutting plans at B&Q, involving “significant changes” to members’ terms and conditions. In January, management at the DIY chain – part of the very successful Kingfisher Group – proposed a series of measures. These include: • Immediate scrapping of the winter/summer bonus, • Removal of a zone allowance (worth 41c) from April 1 this year, • Introduction of new starter rates,
THE Irish economic/social policy is now effectively ruled by the Troika whose fiscal austerity measures have wreaked havoc with our economy and social infrastructure and face us into the potential of a lost decade with mass unemployment, personal/national debt mountains and mass emigration. The crisis in capitalism which is reflected in the international banking and debt crisis and the euro debacle will have profound impacts on the world economy and social order. The so-called developed world is experiGeneral Secretary encing unprecedented levels of unemployMandate Trade Union ment, the banking systems have all but collapsed and in political terms we are seeing a marked move to the right across Europe. On a human front, Irish citizens, Mandate members and their families are struggling to get work and to earn a decent living wage and the welfare infrastructure which many of the most vulnerable sections of any society depend on is under attack. The present government seems to be stuck on the same “treadmill” of appeasement to our Troika masters as the previous government did to the detriment of our economy and our society. While all this poses very serious and immediate questions for the broader trade union movement both home and abroad, each individual union must get its own house in order. There is a pressing need for leadership at all levels of the trade union movement. While the movement in Ireland has been consistent in putting forward alternatives for a Better Fairer Way, we have not been able to mobilise mass opposition and sustained support. In fact, the Irish people – union members included – came within a whisker of giving Fine Gael an overall majority. If we are serious about a better and fairer way, then we need to organise, educate and mobilise around a vision for a diﬀerent economy, for a new society. For if we do nothing, history will write oﬀ the trade union movement as the “dog that did not bark”. The task ahead is daunting, but again I say, doing nothing is not an option.
Shopfloor is published bi-monthly by Mandate Trade Union. Mandate Head Office, O'Lehane House, 9 Cavendish Row, Dublin 1 T: 01-8746321/2/3 F: 01-8729581 W: www.mandate.ie Design & Editing: Brazier Media E: email@example.com Shopfloor is edited, produced and printed by trade union labour
Health & Safety FETAC Level 5 This course is aimed at Health and Safety representatives Topic covered on the course: • Health and Safety Legislation • Role of Health and Safety Representative • Safety statements • Role of Health and Safety Authority • Occupational health • 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: firstname.lastname@example.org 2
terms and conditions of employment must be justified and brought about by agreement. “Over the years, our members at B&Q have not benefitted from national pay agreements and as a result, the employer has enjoyed huge profitable growth. “The Kingfisher Group’s annual accounts for 2010/11 flag up this astronomical growth – contributed to by our members.” He added: “Further investment in stores – as projected by the company – must recognise the contribution made by workers.”
Pictures: John Chaney
DOING NOTHING IS NOT aN OPTION...
• Introduction of new premiums, • A ban on recruitment, and • A 5% reduction in the staff headcount. Mandate wrote to management on January 23 seeking an urgent meeting. B&Q responded by confirming they would communicate directly with staff over the measures. Industrial officer Jonathan Hogan said: “Members at B&Q are seeking to be represented collectively over the proposed changes. “Any proposals that have the impact of reducing our members’
‘Extremely enthusiastic’ was how divisional organiser Brendan O’Hanlon described Mandate’s first rate team of shop stewards at Boots
Mandate calls on members at Boots to back their reps
MANDATE shop stewards at Boots are seeking election to the company’s consultation forum in March – and the union has called on members to make sure they cast their votes for them. The poll follows the introduction of the Consultation and Information Directive in 2006. At the time, union and management hammered out a framework for the consultation forum. In a national agreement brokered with the company in 2007, it was agreed that the store’s forum representatives would initially serve three years on the body. However, this was extended by 18 months in 2010 – during which time, it was agreed that Mandate shop stewards were to be co-opted on to the forum in advance of elections taking place. The company and union have agreed timescales on nominations and elections which will take place throughout the company. Nominations for forum representatives were submitted earlier this month. Divisional organiser Brendan
Brendan O’Hanlon speaks at a January 31 meeting of Boots shop stewards
O’Hanlon said: “Shop stewards are extremely enthusiastic about taking part and see this as a natural extension of their roles as representatives. “Our shop stewards are well trained representatives and have vast experience which would be of great benefit to the members and the consultation framework in Boots at store, regional and national level.” He added: “We are calling on all Mandate members to support their
representatives by voting for them in the upcoming election.” Mandate has consultation agreements with several employers in the retail sector and positively promotes the practice. They serve as a valuable forum for workers and employers to share information over a firm’s performance and future business plans as well as addressing issues of concern to employees. sHopflooR
y March 2012
£68m payout for former Woolies staff
A large contingent of Mandate members turned out to show their solid backing for the actions of the Vita Cortex at a support rally in Cork on February 11 Pictures: Mandate
Showing support for Vita Cortex workers MANDATE members in Cork have had a whip around to show solidarity with fellow workers involved in the Vita Cortex sit-in. The big-hearted gesture came after more than 5,000 people took part in a February 11 rally in Cork to support the stand taken by the former employees of the now-defunct foam factory. A sizeable Mandate delegation joined the crowds marching through the city centre for the Cork Council of Trade Unions-organised rally. Divisional organiser Lorraine O’Brien said: “From our perspective in Mandate Cork, we were delighted to be able to play a part in
rallying our members to come out and march to support their colleagues in Vita Cortex. “It was an honour to do so and we will continue to give whatever support is necessary to ensure that they receive their just entitlements.” Ms O’Brien, who is also a member of CCTU, added: “We will work with the Council to keep the campaign alive.” The 32 Vita Cortex workers have occupied the Ballyphehane site in the south of the city since the factory closed on December 16. The workers – with a combined total of 847 years service for the company – are owed €370,000 on
top of their statutory entitlements. Mandate members Fiona O’Leary and Avril Sreenan, who both work at the Tesco store in the Cork suburb of Douglas, were at the rally. Earlier they had taken part in raising funds for the sit-in at their workplace. They then visited the workers involved in the sit-in to pass on the proceeds of the collection. Shop steward Fiona O’Leary told Shopfloor she understood the difficulties facing the Vita Cortex workers having taken part in a strike herself in 2009. She said: “I was moved to tears and found the conditions in the
factory deeply upsetting. “I was shocked to think that in this day and age people had worked in such desperate conditions – let alone living in them as they are at present.” She underlined that not once did the workers complain about the conditions they were having to deal with at the plant. Despite the damp and the cold, the two Mandate members were given a warm reception and taken on a tour of the factory. Avril Sreenan added: “I could not believe just how upbeat the workers were and how appreciative they were of the good will and donations being given to them.”
UK retail workers union Usdaw has won a massive compensation settlement totalling £67.8 million for former Woolworths employees. The iconic high street retailer went into administration in November 2008 and by early January 2009 all of its stores, offices and distribution centres had closed. Now more than 24,000 workers who were made redundant will be awarded 60 days' pay, capped at £330 a week – the maximum amount payable. The union won the compensation in a January 20 judgment following an employment tribunal in London. It affects ex-Woolies’ staff in England, Scotland and Wales. Usdaw has already made a separate and successful claim for its members formerly employed by Woolworths in Northern Ireland. The union had argued that the administrators had failed in their legal duty to consult with the union before making redundancies. It is understood the payout will not apply to 3,000 former employees who worked in smaller branches where fewer than 20 redundancies were made. Usdaw national officer John Gorle said: “While the award is never going to fully compensate people for losing their jobs, I'm sure our members will welcome the money and appreciate the effort Usdaw has made to secure the compensation for them. “Cases like this once again demonstrate the immense value of belonging to a trade union. However, I'm once again bitterly disappointed that a tribunal has limited the scope of the award.”
Bests store set to close
Solidarity forever: Some of the Mandate members involved in the successful La Senza sit-in turned out to support their fellow workers in the on-going Vita Cortex dispute March 2012
MANDATE has vowed to secure the “best possible outcome” for members employed at a branch of Bests Menswear in Northside Shopping Centre, Dublin. It follows the announcement that the company plans to close the store in early March in a bid to reduce costs. Mandate oﬃcials met with management on February 9 and asked for up to date ﬁnancial information. They also requested the company open a voluntary redundancy scheme with options for relocating those staﬀ who wished to remain in employment. Industrial oﬃcer David Miskell said: “Mandate is committed to constructive engagement with the company going forward to ensure the best possible outcome for the staﬀ of Northside.” A general meeting of all Mandate members is being scheduled in the coming weeks to review the situation. 3
issues sinGle pARents
Budget cuts push us into poverty ONE-parent households are FOUR times more likely to live in consistent poverty, according to rights group SPARK. And figures show that 65% of Ireland’s poorest children live in a single parent household. Leah Speight, a spokesperson for the group which campaigns to raise awareness of the challenges facing single parents and their children, said: “Despite the fact single parents were, as a group, living in consistent poverty during the boom years, they are now being stereotyped and stigmatised in parts of the media and by some politicians for being on a supposed gravy train. “The stark reality for many lone parents is very different.” One example is the income disregard that has not been increased for 15 years. This is now to be cut from €146.50 to €60, affecting a significant number of low-paid
workers, especially in the retail sector where many part-time jobs are filled by single parents. For a large number of these parents, organising their working hours around childcare and domestic needs, the cut in the income disregard will force many out of the workplace. Leah Speight added: “Minister Joan Burton claims this is an incentive to get parents back to work, but fails to mention that 60% of single parents work atypical hours in an effort to keep childcare costs down. “The introduction of the income disregard in 1997 was to assist parents into the workplace. “It is now ironic that government is claiming cutting it will help parents back into work.” Cuts impacting on single parents and their children include: • Withdrawal of double payment for OPFP recipients on CE schemes,
• Reduction in income disregard, • Reduction in child-care subvention rates, • Contribution to CETS for those availing of education and retraining, • Reduction in qualifying age from 14 to seven, with no supports in place, • Cuts in rent allowance, • Cuts in back to school allowance, • Reduction in back to education allowance, • Cuts in Child Benefit for families with more than three children, and • Cuts in fuel allowance. Leah Speight flagged up the reallife consequences these cuts will have. She said: “A combination of these cuts will inflict poverty and homelessness, and more parents will stay in abusive relationships because of these extra financial
barriers. Single parents burdened with childcare commitments and with no affordable childcare will continue to struggle to compete in a jobless market, with 450,000 registered unemployed. “Remember, a lone parent plays a role of two parents – and one income has to do the work of two incomes in other family set-ups.” According to SPARK, Minister Burton’s budget contains no provisions to assist childcare costs, and will force single parents into a life of dependency. Leah Speight added: “Like the previous government, there is no appetite or genuine commitment by Fine Gael or Labour to save single parents from a poverty trap. “It is not so long ago in Ireland when single mothers were sent off to work in laundry homes and SPARK will make a stand against the discrimination that still in exists in Ireland today.”
SPARK – Single Parents Acting for the Rights of our Kids – is a diverse group of single parents that have united together to protect their children from the radical policy changes introduced in Budget 2012. The group – which staged a protest highlighting their concerns at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin, left, on February 18 – seeks to raise awareness of the many challenges one-parent families face and to identify essential supports needed to give them equal participation in society. Single mum Andrea Galgey said: ‘’I joined SPARK because of the CE Scheme changes, and what that means to me, which is basically not allowing lone parents to work. “All the changes that have been aimed at lone parents in this budget have made me feel we’re an easy target to victimise.’’ SPARK member Leah Speight added: “I have been inspired that single parents across Ireland have come together to organise a campaign against the cuts. “Many parents will be forced out of their parttime or job-sharing positions because of these cuts. Having worked in retail for many years on a low wage I cannot see it feasible for parents in low paid sectors to now go out and work.”
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
Communication through Computers
This course is ideal for adults just learning about computers and confidence for communicating on-line.
Perhaps you’d like to brush up on your everyday maths, including home budgets, tax and weights/measures. 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.
Workplace Location Phone
Please tick the box or boxes of the courses which interest you and return this form with your details to: Mandate’s Organising and Training Centre Distillery House, Distillery Road, Dublin 3 Phone 01-8369699, email email@example.com Closing date Friday 30th March 2012 You will be contacted to confirm places after the 30th March 2012 4
Skills for Work is funded by the Department of Education & Skills
anger over ryanair ad THE Advertising Standards Authority has banned a series of sexist newspaper adverts for Ryanair – following a number of complaints to the UK watchdog and an online petition signed by 11,000 people. The ads featured women posing in bra and pants under the headline "Red Hot Fares & Crew! One way from £9.99". Ryanair had claimed that as the women – employees of the budget airline – had volunteered to take part in the campaign, the ad could not be construed as “objectifying” women. However, the ASA concluded that the women's appearance, stance and gaze – along with the headline – would be seen as linking female cabin crew with sexually suggestive behaviour, so breaching the advertising practice code. A spokesperson for online petition site change.org claimed the victory was “an extraordinary example of people power – and a testament to the power of anyone, anywhere to start, join and win campaigns about issues they care about”. Also welcoming the ruling, Mandate national co-ordinator Aileen Morrissey said: “The ads were sexist and provocative and played up to the worst stereotyping of female aircrew. I’m glad Ryanair got its wings clipped over this.”
Improved deal at BSS MANDATE has managed to secure significant improvements to redundancy packages following the closure of BSS Ltd in Cork. The heating and plumbing supplies merchants closed its doors in the middle of December last. Eight of the employees out of a total workforce of 12 were members of Mandate. Initially BSS offered only statutory redundancy but Mandate insisted management tabled three weeks for each year of service – as they as had done in the past. This was agreed by BSS chiefs – along with an additional five per cent compromise agreement – following a number of discussions. The union was also instrumental in negotiating a series of extra concessions including: • The redundancy payout was based on a five-day week – even for those members who worked only a three or four-day week. • Each member of staff received 12 weeks pay in lieu of notice as well as six weeks additional pay up to January 13. • VHI Health Care payments is to be honoured up to May 2012. Staff also received payment for any untaken annual views and BSS agreed to fund two days training – worth around €500 per person – in job finding and interview skills. Mandate industrial organiser Robert McNamara said: “It is of course highly unfortunate that jobs were lost, but we did our utmost to secure the very best deal we could for our members.” sHopflooR
y March 2012
tHinKinG out loud...
When enough is enough By Joan Gaffney Mandate President THE government seems to have little else to say except to repeat over and over again that we, as a nation, are broke. This dreary mantra from on high rightly sends a shiver of anxiety through all low paid workers, because they know what is coming next – less in their pay packets to pay the bills. Now with bin charges being introduced, rising heating, electricity and fuel costs, an income levy as well as a two to three-year pay freeze put in place by many employers, the lower paid are being made to bear the brunt of the melt-
down in our economy . The list of rising taxes and charges can go on and on, but still they will come after the lower paid wanting more and more. When will this government understand there is NO MORE left in the pot to give – for many it is already empty. All the government is doing is inflicting damage on the lowest paid in society, taking away their ability to took after their families’ interests. These people are working hard – sometimes doing long or unsociable hours – but they are doing that so they can to eke out a decent standard of life for their families and to pay their bills.
Why doesn’t the government see this? Are they so blinded by their own lavish lifestyles, that they don’t care about the rest of us? Well, I think it’s time to remind them who they are working for... and that the low paid have had enough. The next time they come to your door with smiles and promises looking for our vote, the answer should be NO! This government has done nothing for us except take, take, take. I advise you to phone or call in to your local TD and let them know what’s it like working for an evershrinking pay packet. It’s time for them to listen for a change...
Hours cut at Finglas Dunnes ‘will have a serious impact on pay’ MANDATE is to call a general meeting of members working at the Finglas branch of Dunnes stores. It follows serious reductions in hours worked by some staﬀ – with some members having their hours cut by half. Management have sought to justify the move by claiming there has been a decline in trade. Industrial oﬃcer David Miskell claimed the move would have a serious impact on members’ take home pay.
He said: “This comes at a time when members are faced with a plethora of additional government charges. “In addition the company refuses to assist staﬀ by allowing them to integrate social welfare beneﬁts with wages by condensing their hours into three days.” Mr Miskell added that despite being contacted by the union, management had “refused to respond constructively or meet to address the situation”.
BienniAl deleGAte ConfeRenCe 2012
Conference theme revealed as countdown to Wexford begins ALL roads lead to Whites “Fair” Hotel, Wexford, on Sunday, April 22 and Monday, April 23 for Mandate’s Biennial Delegate Conference 2012. Following on from 2010 BDC’s Waking up taking action, this coming conference’s theme will resonate strongly with hard-pressed retail workers across Ireland as it focuses on the slogan Decent Work = Better Future. General secretary John Douglas said: “The theme is certainly something we can all unite around. “So much of our time is spent away from home and our families at our place of work. “Having a decent and secure job is a fundamental human right as work defines so much of who and what we are. “It adds to the quality of our life and gives us a future worth living. “Unfortunately, in this economy and in this society, decent work is something we have to fight and organise for – but, as the conference will show, that is what we are determined to do.” What is sure is that tens of thousands of retail workers and union members across Ireland face challenging and uncertain times as the coalition government’s failing austerity strategy draws us ever closer to the economic abyss. Huge economic and social upheavals have been forced upon us by our political masters in Europe. The so-called Troika continues to denude workers’ spending power and presents us with a challenge about what type of society we want for our children. National co-ordinator Brian Forbes said: “Not since the foundation���of the state has trade union March 2012
creasing spectre of casualisation. “The union recognises the need for a change in emphasis not only in retail but across all employment sectors and a fundamental shift in attitudes by employers as to how workers and their families should be treated – treated with dignity, respect, certainty of hours and certainty of earnings.” He insisted that the Decent Work campaign was not simply a slogan to concentrate minds at the BDC, but would continue to focus the union’s response on to the plight of workers facing increasingly greedy and, in some cases, exploitative and aggressive employers. Mr Light added: “The increasing push for flexibility in all aspects of retail operations means a significant decrease in decent work and this flexibility works insidiously, pushing workers into ever more less secure forms of work. It also supports ‘the race to the bottom’ mentality of some employers. “Our 2012 BDC will be the launch pad for Decent Work and a Better Future for all. Union members demand and deserve the opportunity to access more hours if so desired, a regular income and working week, legal and enforceable protections at work and to be treated with dignity and respect by their bosses.”
Whites Hotel, Wexford, will host the coming Biennial Delegate Conference. Whites is part of the Fair Hotels initiative
membership and the idea of collective social solidarity meant so much to its current and future generations of retail workers.” He pointed out that hard working employees in the sector were faced with low wages, perilous job security, little or no control over their hours of work and workplace condi-
tions as well as poor opportunities for training and career development. Added to that many employers increasingly expected their loyal workforce to be ever more transient and ultra flexible to “suit the needs of the business”. But assistant general secretary Gerry Light believes workers can
once again take the initiative by focusing on their traditional strengths – solidarity and organisation. He told Shopfloor: “There is no doubt that workers need to stand united with their brothers and sisters across the shopping mall or on the high street to halt the ever in-
l Join us in our campaign and help spread the word that Decent Work = Better Future. Watch out for our upcoming special 2012 conference edition of Shopfloor which will outline in more detail the conference theme and our Decent Work campaign. We hope to see you at conference or at events following our conference. Stay union! 5
Pictures: European Parliament; TUC
suMMinG up tHe fisCAl CoMpACt
John Douglas: Heading up the new Services & Communications Committee
Sectoral committees established for unions CONGRESS is setting up a number of sectoral committees to help advance the implementation of the A Call to Action report, adopted at its Biennial Delegate Conference last year. The decision was taken by Congress’ Executive Council on February 15. Mandate general secretary John Douglas is to head up the Services & Communications Committee and is tasked with driving co-operation between Mandate and other unions, including SIPTU, CWU, IBOA and Unite. He is joined by other prominent trade unionists who also take leading roles in various sectoral committees – Sheila Nunan (Education); Shay Cody (Public Service); Jack O’Connor/Patricia King (both Transport and Community); Eamon Devoy (Construction); Jimmy Kelly (Manufacturing) and Liam Doran/Joe Cunningham (Health). The report formed a central part of last July’s BDC in Tralee. Philip Bowyer, of UNI Global Union, who presented the report to the conference, underlined to delegates that “standing still” was not an option for unions in Ireland.
He called instead for a “much stronger, more focussed” approach from unions through the setting up of joint services and by pooling resources in areas such as communications and legal services. In his response to the presentation, John Douglas flagged up the necessity of forging closer links and sharing resources with other unions. He said: “Unions can’t work in splendid isolation – to do this would be to manage our own demise.” Rather, he told delegates, unions had to be “fit for purpose” and “articulate a real alternative”. “It’s not all about structures and rules of trade unions. It’s not about words – it’s about actions. “It’s about trade unions working together and sharing resources. It’s about putting personal agendas and egos to one side. “It’s about using scarce resources to best effect. It’s about workers, public and private, North and South, East and West, uniting to fight back.” 6
European parliamentarians cast their vote... but where is Europe heading? TUC chief Brendan Barber, right, fears the worst
a death knell for the idea of a social europe TUC chief Brendan Barber has described the growth-killing policies crippling Europe’s economies and plunging living standards into the abyss as a “collective suicide pact”. If that’s the case then the Fiscal Compact signed in January is its last will and testament and sounds the death knell for social provisions that have for long been a defining part of the European experiment. The Fiscal Compact enshrines the concept of a balanced budget as a new standard. Up to now, the acceptable EU general government budget deficit target – as defined in the 1997 Stability and Growth Pact – was 3% or less as a share of GDP. In attemping to define what a “balanced budget” means, the actual figure turns out to be an eye-watering 0.5% over the medium term. This means enshrining in treaty form a regime of tight fiscal rectitude, labour market deregulation and the constant chipping away of welfare provision. It forces governments to aggressively pay down their over-all debt, particularly if that debt exceeds 60% of GDP. Any attempt by individual member states to deviate from this medium adjustment programme will automatically trigger a correction
to the budget plan. Though exceptional circumstances are allowed for in the provisions, defining what these circumstances are is difficult to outline – and probably deliberately so. In effect, it seems governments’ scope to determine changes to taxing and spending plans at national level is being sacrificed on the altar of austerity. The frequent visitations by men in grey suits from the Troika to those states on the European Commission’s ‘naughty step’ – Greece, Portugal, Italy and ourselves included – seems to herald a growing infringement of national rights from the European centre.
No social solidarity
But this is not internationalism as we would like to define it. There is no social solidarity here. There is no glowing display of European fellowship. As Barber points out this is turning into a Europe run in the interests of “bankers and bond vigilantes”. And get ready for more men in grey suits. For next July, the EU is to set up the European Stability Mechanism – basically a permanent bail-out facility for member countries. Assistance from the fund is conditional on signing up to the Fiscal Compact.
And in contrast to other treaties that require unanimous support of all EU member states, the new Fiscal Compact only requires 12 member states to rubberstamp it for it to apply to the other 13 participating states. A total of 25 EU states have signed on the dotted line so far – at least to the draft proposals – with the UK and the Czech Republic opting out for the present. And the treaty has sharp legal teeth too – any failure to set down in full treaty provisions in individual state constitutions or national legislation could mean goverments being frog-marched before the EU Court of Justice. A penalty of 1% of GDP may well apply. That translates into losing a small army of care workers, nurses, doctors and teachers. Lashing the proposals, Brendan Barber said: “Not only does it effectively outlaw any kind of Keynesian economic stimulus, not only does it undermine long-term prospects for jobs and growth, but it is also profoundly undemocratic. “It is an attempt to impose European-wide austerity measures to which no national electorates have given their consent. “What has happened in Greece and Italy could now happen across the continent.” We could add Ireland to that shortlist...
Unions agree Eason’s deal
Robert McNamara: ‘Beneficial to staff’
UNIONS have agreed a new cost saving and restructuring deal with management at Eason’s. The agreement – brokered between Mandate, SIPTU and Eason’s at the Labour Relations Commission in December – followed a lengthy talks process. Members of both unions who work at Eason’s 23 retail outlets and distribution depots voted to accept the deal in separate ballots earlier this month. Mandate industrial officer Robert McNamara said the parties had agreed to finalise an “information and consultation” agreement by the end of March, which he added would “prove greatly beneficial to staff”. Redundancy terms agreed are five
weeks gross pay per year of service, inclusive of statutory entitlements. Management confirmed the voluntary redundancy scheme had been launched and that the firm was seeking 150 redundancies. For its part, Eason’s underlined the need for a “flexible business model” and stressed it would be setting in train a “root and branch analysis” of its operations. However, the deal also sees the setting up of a new dispute resolution procedure that commits management to consult with unions “in a timely manner” if the restructuring process “negatively impacts” on workers’ terms and conditions. Eason have also agreed to consider a reward mechanism with
SIPTU and Mandate, if and when the company's trading performance improves. During negotiations, anomolies also came to light over differences in pay between employees at Eason’s Dublin and Cork airport stores and the rest of the retail chain. It is understood these anomalies arose when these stores – formerly owned by Hughes & Hughes – were taken over by Eason’s. Mr McNamara: said: “Mandate raised the issue during cost -saving discussions and it resulted in some workers getting an increase in hourly pay as well as an increase in unsocial hours premium. “There was also a major improvement in the sick pay scheme.” sHopflooR
y March 2012
AnAlYsis Joint lABouR CoMMittees
War against the low paid Mandate National Coordinator TENS of thousands of low paid workers will still be afforded protections under the new system of Joint Labour Committees despite the best efforts of the business lobby and the unwelcome intervention of the EU/ECB/IMF Troika to restrict the operation and application of universal collective agreements. The new JLCs proposed by Minister for Jobs Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton and published on the department’s website on December 22 last year has yet to be introduced into the Dail. The Bill was drafted in direct response to the ruling last July in the High Court in the John Grace Fried Chicken Ltd case in which JLCs were deemed unconstitutional. The previous JLC system – which worked perfectly well for both employers and workers – was sacrificed on the altar of the Troika by the last government in late 2010. Mandate has successfully campaigned and intensively lobbied with other unions and the Coalition to Protect the Low Paid to ensure that workers previously covered by the wage-setting mechanisms will continue to be protected under the new provisions.
By Brian Forbes
International issue: Australian worker shows her feelings about attempt to cut wages
Also, it is imperative that any new JLCs would be able to provide for overtime rates, pensions and sick pay which were not contained in the previous system. Mandate is not satisfied that the provision for Sunday premiums has
not been included in the proposed changes to the new JLC mechanism. Working Sundays is not optional for thousands of workers in retail and in many other sectors. The vast majority of workers both in Ireland and internationally who
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If you or a member of your family need a click-start in computer basics, then this 6-hour training course is ideal – and what’s more, it’s free! During the sessions, you will spend 4 hours learning how to use a computer as well as simple online transactions. You will also receive 2 hours of training on a choice of options – such as an introduction to digital photography; using the internet for voice or video; and the use of Government and other public services online. There will be a maximum of 8 students per class. To apply, contact Fiona Elward 01- 889 7711 at Irish Congress of Trade Unions or Mandate Training Centre at 01-8369699 or email firstname.lastname@example.org March 2012
MARKS & Spencer has agreed to enter into talks with Mandate’s M&S National Negotiating Committee. It is understood the discussions will have a wide-ranging agenda and include a pay review. The outcome of these talks will be brought to a M&S national shop stewards’ meeting before April. The shop stewards will then decide if the proposals should be put to members at M&S with a recommendation.
Bar staff to be balloted MANDATE members working at the Homestead Bar, Cabra, are to be balloted over roster changes. It follows a number of discussions between Mandate oﬃcials, Licensed Vintners Association representatives and local management. A number of cost-saving measures had been sought by management intially involving pay cuts and a redundancy agreement. However, an agreement was brokered on roster changes, allowing the company increased ﬂexibility but maintaining the earning levels and working hours of members.
work on Sundays receive an additional premium for doing so. Despite the provision for low paid workers covered by the Bill to achieve a Sunday premium through a yet to be agreed code of practice to be developed by the JLCs it is a backward step for workers and their families and could see many workers working Sunday’s for significantly less than at present. In the Irish retail sector we have seen basic hourly rates in some employments fall to the National Minimum Wage of €8.65 and unsocial hours payments fall from time plus 33% per hour to time plus 50 cent per hour. These reductions are having a devastating impact on low paid workers and their families. Mandate believes a code of practice will not reverse this trend as it is more likely to, rather than set a rate; suggest what employers may find as “fair and reasonable”. Challenging what is meant by “fair and reasonable” is like pushing against a haystack. It is also disappointing that provisions for employers’ pleading an “inability to pay” the agreed JLC rates would have an extended exemption of up to two years for the employer. Mandate working with other trade unions and organisations rep-
resenting low paid workers managed through direct campaigning to achieve significant concessions in the drafting of the original Bill and we continue to exert influence over the final Bill to be brought before the Dail soon. We achieved a basic adult rate and two higher rates based on experience and service in the industry when it was originally proposed by the Minister that there would only be one adult rate and that any increases would be based on service with the employer. We also achieved a climb down on the original intention to include a reference that the JLC must take into account pay in equivalent employments in Northern Ireland and the UK when setting rates here. This intention was replaced by a reference to wages in “other relevant jurisdictions”. Mandate is anxious for legislation to be enacted as quickly as possible so unions can get down to the business of putting back in place the mechanisms required to protect low paid workers against the determination of the business lobby to drive costs down while maintaining and, in some cases, increasing profits through reducing workers’ wages and term and conditions in a constant race to the bottom.
Union Representatives Introductory Course The Union Representative Introductory Training Course is for new shop stewards/union representatives. The course aims to provide information, skills and knowledge to our shop stewards/union representatives to assist them in their role in the workplace. Course content: • Background to Mandate. • The role and responsibilities of a Shop Steward/Union Representative. • Examining disciplinary/grievance procedures. • Developing negotiating skills. • Representing members at local level. • Communication skills/solving members’ problems. • Organising, Recruitment and Campaigns. • Induction presentations. Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this course will obtain a Mandate certificate. They may progress to a Union Representative Advanced Course and to other relevant training courses offered by Mandate. If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: email@example.com 7
plAtfoRM RepudiAte tHe deBt CAMpAiGn
Repudiate The Debt Campaign GUITAR LEGEND Ry Cooder wrote a song a few years back called no Banker Left Behind. It’s a great, catchy song, and the words go around in your head, leaving you with a numbing feeling, “Why the bloody hell are the bankers always first in the queue when the money is being handed out?” While the song is about the US, one has to ask the same question about our little sod. It looks like 2012 will be a tough one for workers in this country, as this government insists on pursuing a policy of “No bond-holder left behind”. By the end of March, the government or the banks that we control will hand over more than €3.7 billion to bond-holders. Most, if not all, will come out of your pocket. What could we do with that sort of money? We could employ more nurses and more home helps, undo the cuts in the fuel allowance to your granny or grandfather, open up closed hospital wards. But no – we will be handing over the money to bond-holders, to keep German and French banks afloat, while we drown in a sea of cuts, in-
Ry Cooder’s song No Banker Left Behind contained a shrewd analysis of finance crisis
creased taxes, household charges, water charges – and with no end in sight. Between now and the end of the year it is estimated that we will pay out more than €19 billion to bondholders. This will all come out of our
pockets directly, in the form of the government paying the cheque, or indirectly, in the high bank charges from the financial institutions that the government has pumped our money into – such as AIB etc. One way or the other, we will pay. So all the talk about getting the
public purse in order and balancing the books, that the state must collect enough revenue or cut spending to ensure that income and expenditure match, is a load of hot air. Not only will we be paying these bond-holders but we will also be paying interest on the huge debt. This is all about fleecing the people – nothing more, nothing less. That is why we have massive cuts in public spending, increased deductions from workers’ wages, where there is no longer room on your payslip for all the levies and additional deductions taken from your wages before you get out the door to go home. All these cuts and levies are being imposed on working people, forcing them to make impossible choices each time a bill comes in. They debts imposed by the EU in the form of the bank bail-out are not to keep Irish banks solvent but to keep German, French, British and Dutch banks – and the euro – afloat. In addition the EU/ECB/IMF, the previous and the current government have eagerily agreed to sell off public companies and services. The rouge for the sell -off will be that some of the money will be reinvested in jobs, while most of the money will be handed over to German and French banks. They will sell enough of Ireland
to make us all strangers in our own country just to save their cronies. By mid-February, each one of us will owe an additional €40,000, on top of our rent or mortgage and credit-card bill. This burden is simply too great for four-and-a-half million people to carry. There is only one solution to this odious debt burden – that is in the interests of working people, and that is repudiation. The message is simple – it is not the people’s debt, and we should not pay it. All other solutions would mean that we sacrifice all that we have now and into the future so that the EU and its big-money backers can have a free lunch, while we pick up the tab. l You can see a video of the Ry Cooder’s no Banker Left Behind on YouTube, but I would recommend you buy the album and so help to keep your local record shop open. And while you’re there, ask if they are in a union; if not, give them an application form. The more people in a union, the stronger we all are. Give the bosses less room to undermine our wages and conditions. Visit www.nodebt.ie or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Picture: Taslima Akhter/Clean Clothes Campaign
By eugene McCartan
Picture: NonSuch Records
a ry take on the banking crisis
Union Representatives Advanced Course The Union Representative Advanced Training Course is for shop stewards/union representatives who have completed the introductory course or who have relevant experience. Course content: • Understanding Mandate’s structures. • Overview of Mandate’s rules. • Industrial Relations institutions and mechanisms. • Mandate’s Organising Model. • Negotiations and Collective Bargaining. • Understanding Equality and Diversity. • Developing induction presentation skills. • Introduction to Employment Law. • Identifying issues and using procedures. Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this training course will obtain a Mandate certificate. They may progress to the FETAC level 5 Certificate in Trade Union studies or other relevant training courses offered by Mandate. If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: email@example.com
Garment workers on the early shift enter a factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh
You can help to clean up garment industry...
MANDATE vice president Margaret O’Dwyer has called on union members to support and sign up to the Clean Clothes Campaign. The CCC is dedicated to improving working conditions in the global garment and sportswear industries. An alliance of organisations in 15 European countries, the CCC supports the empowerment of workers in developing countries. It works with a partner network of more than 200 groups and trade unions in garment producing countries. Margaret O’Dwyer said: “We all need to be aware of where we buy our clothes and where they come from.
“The Clean Clothes Campaign is working hard to raise awareness by educating and mobilising consumers. “It also pressurises companies to take responsibility for workers throughout their supply chain.” She underlined the importance for all workers – regardless of their sex, age, country of origin, legal status, employment status or location – to have good and safe working conditions. “They should also be able to exercise their fundamental rights to associate freely and bargain collectively and earn a living wage which allows them to live in dignity. “ www.cleanclothescampaignireland.org sHopflooR
y March 2012
A SIGNIFICANT number of Irish households that rely on social welfare or the national minimum wage have insufficient income to lead a decent life as defined by the UN, a new study has found. The report, a Minimum income Standard for ireland, presents the results of a year-long research project that sets out the cost of a minimum standard of living for individuals and households across the entire life cycle – from childhood to old age. The UN-defined minimum essential standard is one that meets a person’s physical, psychological, spiritual and social needs. In fact, the 1948 UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for health and the well being of him/herself and his/her family including food, clothing, housing and medical care…” Researchers from Trinity College’s Policy Institute produced the study in association with The Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice and the Department of Social Protection. Speaking at the launch in Dublin earlier this month, Dr Micheál Collins, one of the report’s authors, underlined the importance of establishing this minimum income stand. He said: “It provides a new benchmark grounded in the lived experience of people, one which complements other poverty measures and assists in the formation of income support policies to tackle poverty and enhance social inclusion at each stage of the life-cycle.” Dr Collins, a former assistant professor of economics at Trinity, claimed the research was useful in assessing how adequate current welfare payments were as well as outlining the challenges faced by low-income working families. It was also relevant to debtburdened households in their dealings with the courts, banks, or with the counselling service MABS. He said: “The minimum essential standard of living is the same for all households irrespective of their income level. “The minimum is the minimum for all and above this people can consume more given their incomes. However, below this level a household is unable to experience a basic standard of living.” VPSJ director Sr Bernadette MacMahon flagging up the importance of the research, warned: “Failure to ground the national minimum wage and social welfare transfers in a tangible measure of March 2012
adequacy, such as defined in this research, means that poverty and social exclusion will continue to be a reality in Ireland.” To come up with a figure for a minimum income standard required for a minimum essential standard of living, researchers brought together representative focus groups to work out budgets on the basis of a household’s minimum needs rather than wants. The budgets looked at 16 areas of expenditure – food, clothing, personal care, health related costs, household goods, household services, communication, social inclusion and participation, education, transport, household fuel, personal costs, childcare, insurance, housing, savings and contingencies. They were then checked for their nutritional and energy content to ensure appropriate sustenance and heat for families, before being priced. Researchers worked out the weekly cost of a minimum essential standard of living for five household types – a single person of working age living alone, a two parent household with two children, a single parent household with two children, a pensioner couple and a female pensioner living alone.
Interesting variables highlighted in the research included the differing costs of raising children at different ages. For example, an analysis of spending on food showed a child of pre-school age had the lowest food costs (€18.69 a week in urban areas and €22.58 a week in rural areas) while a 19-year-old had the highest food costs (ranging from €50.16 per week in urban areas to €55.71 per week in rural areas). Mandate national co-ordinator Brian Forbes predicted the research would prove to be an “invaluable toolkit” and a “superb ready reckoner” for those challenging the prevailing austerity agenda. He said: “When the suits from the Troika come to town and ask for benefit cuts and more belttightening, they can be confronted with solid facts showing how their policies are forcing people to live below civilised and internationally-recognised living standards.” Mr Forbes, who attended the February 6 launch, added: “This information is extracted from the lived experience of people. Many of our members subsist on low incomes and know only too well the pain and hardship of making ends meet.”
Picture © DAA plc
Calculating human cost of poverty
Daa outsourcing plan is ‘sickening blow’ to staff MANDATE has called “a sickening blow” Dublin Airport Authority proposals to outsource its distribution centre to a third party provider. The move – announced at a recent meeting with union representatives – could have significant consequences for the 20 Mandate workers involved. It is understood DAA has already referred the matter to the Labour Relations Commission for a conciliation conference. For its part, Mandate has told LRC it intends to consult members before giving any indication of its willingness to attend. Divisional organiser Brendan O’Hanlon said: “The company’s plans are a sickening blow to the workers who are now potential victims of this continued race to the bottom and of DAA’s pursuit of lower costs with no regard to how this will impact on its loyal workforce.”
At a general meeting of members on February 8, it was decided to engage with management locally to explore alternative options. Talks with management are scheduled to take place over the coming months. But Mr O’Hanlon warned that any attempt by them “to unilaterally impose any situation on the workers” would leave the union with no choice but “to take whatever steps it deems necessary to protect its members’ interests”. The management proposals come just two years after staff in the Distribution Centre agreed to a cost recovery plan. This saw numbers of staff reduced through a voluntary redundancy programme as well as cuts in pay. It also involved increased productivity following the opening of Terminal 2 and the shouldering of responsibility for distribution to both Cork and Shannon airports.
The new proposals have been described as “an extremely worrying development” by the union, representing a part-privatisation of the Dublin Airport Authority. Mandate also points out it is in marked contrast to sentiments expressed by outgoing DAA chief Declan Collier in the company’s 2010 annual report. Then, he appeared to acknowledge the sacrifices that had been made by staff. He wrote: “As the economic environment deteriorated dramatically through late 2008 and early 2009, the company and its staff responded rapidly to the changed circumstances. “The combination of the successful implementation of Cost Recovery Programme, a continued focus on non-manpower costs and the introduction of new terms and conditions in Terminal 2, has brought the company’s cost base to 2005 levels, in line with passenger volumes.”
Workers ‘rewarded’ by more austerity DAA has signalled it is to ﬂoat another voluntary redundancy programme involving retail staﬀ at Terminal 1. The programme, designed to reduce its cost base, follows a DAA announcement last year that it had returned to proﬁt. DAA revealed in June 2011 that group proﬁts had risen to €33.1 million compared with a loss of €13.3 million the previous year. The voluntary redundancy programme comes only two years after staﬀ in the retail area voted to accept a cost-saving plan which saw the loss of a signiﬁcant number of jobs. At a recent meeting, divisional organiser Brendan O’Hanlon warned management that the launch of any programme must only take place after agreement had been reached with the union. He noted that current staﬀ had not availed of the last redundancy severance scheme and – given the
current economic climate – would be unlikely to opt to leave the company now. And in what the union has described as a “bizarre twist”, it is understood management are seeking to make a number of employees, who are on ﬁxed-term contracts with diﬀerent terms and conditions, permanent. Mr O’Hanlon claimed this was a clear indication of DAA’s intentions towards long-serving employees who had made such a contribution to the company’s return to proﬁts last year. They were, he said, “being rewarded by further austerity measures”. Mr O’Hanlon added: “We will not be participants in this race to the bottom and furthermore we will not tolerate our members being constantly subjected to this threat and uncertainty, when clearly there is no justiﬁcation.” 9
plAtfoRM tRAde union left foRuM
Debating the way forward
the vast amounts of unproductive capital currently in circulation globally. In order to advance this agenda, there was drive to commodify all social relationships from waste collection and water supply to health services. This process was being championed by the media as one aimed at providing better quality services with the interests of public service workers presented as being at odds with those of the population at large. Whitston argued that the trade union movement must take a holistic approach when campaigning against privatisation – the battle could not be won by only making calls to sectional interests based on protecting workers’ pay and conditions. “A coalition of interests opposed to privatisation must be built at the higher political level, based on the need to expand democratic control,” Whitston said. This argument should be linked with a clear explanation of the wider neo-liberal agenda of “driving down the share of national in-
come going to labour so as to increase the share going to capital”. He added that across Western Europe, trade unions and labour parties were, to a large degree, hamstrung in presenting this wider political case against the privatisation agenda due to their acceptance of the neo-liberal economic model in recent decades. Whitston pointed out that this had “left them with nothing much to say when things went wrong”. The forum’s second presentation, on the ESB and the threat posed to the state enterprise from privatisation, was delivered by TEEU national organiser Jimmy Nolan. He outlined the initial creation of the ESB as a state enterprise aimed at furthering the Irish state’s economic development by bringing electrification to all parts of the country. The setting up of the state company had been undertaken by rightwing governments who accepted that private capital was unwilling to invest in such socially beneficial projects. But recent years have seen an erosion of government support for
this crucial state enterprise with moves to undermine the ESB and place it on the road to privatisation. These included the introduction of price controls on electricity which ensured the ESB charged more than private companies which were being encouraged into a newly-established “electricity supply market”. Nolan said he was extremely worried for the future of the ESB as a state enterprise despite the overriding economic arguments for its staying within democratic control. The presentations were followed by a lively debate during which the forum decided to support the publication of a pamphlet on combating the privatisation agenda for distribution within the trade union movement Forum member Tom Redmond said: “The forum aims to examine issues not from the point of view of a sectional interest but from the wider viewpoint of what the trade union movement can do to assist in beneficial social change. “It is understood that the working class has a central role in shaping Irish society, apart from
defending the immediate living standards of its members. “As a catalyst for change, it accepts that an analysis of the factors instrumental in governing society has to be done from a class viewpoint.” He added: “The March meeting of Trade Union Left Forum will discuss the structural causes of the crisis of capitalism and the resultant debt and austerity. The Trade Union Left Forum is an open space where active trade unionists are welcome to put forward ideas, topics for discussion, and suggestions for activities related to the discuss.” For more information contact the Trade Union Left Forum at firstname.lastname@example.org
THE Trade Union Left Forum was set up in September 2011 by trade unionists concerned with reinvigorating debate on the movement’s strategic direction. The group held its second meeting at the TEEU’s Dublin offices in late January. The meeting focused on the threat posed by the neo-liberal privatisation agenda and how the trade union movement could successfully combat it. In his presentation to the forum, Colm Whitston, a senior lecturer in industrial relations at the National College of Ireland, outlined the arguments behind the current wave of privatisation which he described as “only one important part of the neo-liberal agenda.” Whitston said the current economic turmoil in Europe and the US was, in reality, a classic capitalist crisis brought about by the over production of capital rather than due to "un-competiveness" or any of the other explanations proposed by the right-wing media. The push to privatise public enterprises was an attempt by capitalist forces to find new areas to park
y March 2012
issues foRCed lABouR
Modern day slavery still not a crime in Ireland By Grainne O’Toole
MODERN day slavery or forced labour is severe exploitation involving threats, abuse, deception and coercion of workers. It is a growing problem in Ireland and globally. Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) has dealt with 167 cases of this kind over the last six years and we know this is only the tip of the iceberg. Modern day slavery is prevalent in the restaurant, agriculture, entertainment, domestic work and construction industries. In Ireland, there is no legal punishment for modern day slavery. As such there is no justice for workers who have been subjected to this severe exploitation and unscrupulous employers continue to profit from this heinous act. The only remedy open to workers is to pursue breaches of employment law. In line with international and European law, the State has a legal obligation to ensure there are laws protecting people from slavery, servitude and forced labour. Ireland is
in breach of these laws by not having legislation to tackle modern day slavery in force. Modern day slavery is an issue for all workers and for our society. Workplaces that go unchecked can deteriorate in to modern day slavery situations. In a recent UK case of modern day slavery, a large percentage of the victims were UK citizens. We do know from experience that migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to modern day slavery largely because of the ease at which an exploitative employer can control someone who has fewer rights and is less secure. The case of Muhammad Younis, a restaurant worker, shows the urgent need for the law. Muhammad Younis was awarded more than €90,000 by a Rights Commissioner, following an official complaint about alleged breaches of employment rights. However, Mr Younis’ ex-employer, Mr Amjad Hussein trading as Poppadom, has not yet paid the award. For many years he Muhammad Younis: Awarded €90k Picture: MRCI
was paid well below minimum wage, 55 cent an hour. He worked extremely long hours (77 hours per week) with no day off. He was subjected to threats and severe exploitation. The employer also failed to renew Muhammad’s work permit which rendered him undocumented in the State. He was forced to share a house with nine other workers in very poor conditions. He had to endure these degrading conditions for many years. Muhammad now lives in a hostel, is unemployed and has not seen his family in nine years. He is still suffering yet his employer has been subjected to no penalty and refuses to pay Muhammad what he owes him. MRCI is campaigning for the government to introduce a law to criminalise modern day slavery and protect victims as a matter of urgency. For more information visit www.mrci.ie/Forced-Labour-and-Trafficking Grainne O’Toole, MRCI, is Community Worker with responsibility for forced labour and exploitation
AnAlYsis tHe WAGes Question
Why it pays to pay well
By Michael Taft
PEOPLE in work are made to feel guilty about their wages. Employers, ‘experts’ and government ministers tell workers that if they resist pay cuts – never mind, look for pay increases – they are putting jobs at risk. That is the state of the debate today. This could not be further from the truth. People’s pay packets did not cause the crisis and forcing wages downwards will only worsen the crisis. Wages are not the problem. Rather, they are part of the solution – the solution to rising living standards, to job creation and to repairing public finances. Let’s see how that can work.
Spending power But, first, let’s look at what happens when wages or weekly income is cut. A business on main street (a restaurant, for example) cut wages in response to falling sales. Now those workers have less to spend in the other shops and business on main street: the department store, hairdresser, sports shop, off-license, supermarket, etc. When this happens the sales in these other businesses fall. They, in turn, cut their employees’ wages, working week or even lay-people off. Now you have more employees’ with less money in their pocket to spend – including the restaurant that cut their own employees’ wages. Not only that, this whole process costs the government. Wage cuts reduce tax revenue – income tax, PRSI, Universal Social Charge and VAT (because workers are consum-
ing less) – and may increase unemployment costs where workers are laid-off or part-timed due to everyone having less to spend. This is the vicious spiral downwards that has collapsed the economy over the last three years. And the government admits it will continue. On their own estimates, consumer spending will fall again this year and flat-line next year. They don’t expect spending to start rising until 2014 – and even then, by only a minimal amount. In addition, there will be fewer people this year at work than last year. We’re still spiralling downwards.
So what can we do – both the government and workers? Congress has called for a substantial investment drive which will create thousands of jobs. These newly-employed people will than have more money to spend in the economy. Businesses will start to recover and workers in those firms will be more secure – both in their jobs and in their pay packets. There is, though, something that workers in their own workplace can start considering. Obviously, there are businesses that are suffering. After all, the fall in consumer spending in Ireland
has been unprecedented in the history of the EU. No wonder businesses are suffering. They can barely pay their employees, their bills, their rates and rent. These businesses badly need an increase in customers and sales. However, there are businesses that can afford pay increases. Don’t forget – in a recession not all businesses suffer. If those businesses paid out wage increases this would have a threefold beneficial effect: First, it would benefit workers’ living standards. That goes without saying. Second, it would benefit the gov-
ernment’s finances. Pay rises increase tax revenue. Third, those businesses, and their employees, that are in difficulties also benefit – because the workers who receive a pay increase go out and spend it. This increases sales in other businesses. We start to run vicious cycle downwards into a virtuous cycle upwards. We should be clear: there are businesses that continue to pay increases; they are contributing to economic growth. There are businesses that are just hanging on; we have to help them.
Hurting employees But there are businesses that can afford wage increases or longer working hours but are holding on to it – to maintain profits or provide bonuses for their managements. These businesses are hurting their employees, undermining public finances and are starving other businesses that need more people at work with more money in their pockets to spend. So despite what ‘experts’ and governments claim, when workers resist pay cuts and try to achieve wage increases in profitable businesses, they are helping the economy. And the best way to do this is by being a member of a trade union where people can work together. Because it is only by working together can we hope to escape this crisis and bring about economic recovery. Michael Taft is a research officer with Unite
Wage cuts reduce tax revenue and may increase unemployment costs where workers are laid-off or part-timed because everyone is spending less... this is a vicious spiral that has collapsed the Irish economy over the last three years March 2012
Tesco career break ruling THE Labour Court has found that Tesco failed to comply fully with strict provisions set out in the retailer’s career break agreement in relation to one of its workers. The employee – who has been at Tesco since 2002 – worked night shifts while attending college. He took a year-long career break in November, 2007, but resumed employment at Tesco before his due return date. This was under a new contract and on a lower pay rate. The worker claimed he should have been re-employed on the same rate of pay he received before he took his career break. He said he had signed the new contract on his return under protest. The claimant told the Labour Court he had raised this issue repeatedly with several managers – but to no avail and had been told he would be put on the correct rate of pay “in due course”. Tesco maintained the employee resigned in 2007 and was re-employed in July 2008 under a new contract. A Rights Commissioner recommended that the claimant’s period of leave from 2007 to 2008 be accepted as a career break and that his starting pay upon his return should have “reflected his actual service” with the retailer.
The Rights Commissioner recommended all back money owed to him should be paid within six weeks. The recommendation stated there was no evidence to back up Tesco’s claim the employee had tendered his resignation in 2007, and that the union produced evidence that formal procedures exist for the “application of a career break” and that “confirmation of same are not always applied”. The Court affirmed that the employee’s service should be regarded as continuous for all relevant purposes and the worker be restored to the consolidated night rate with effect from one year after his scheduled return from his career break with a requirement for the company to make up any financial loss arising. Welcoming the recommendation, industrial officer David Miskell said: “This represents a positive outcome for the member in circumstances where a significant loss was incurred by a failure to provide him with a rate of pay that corresponds to his service. “It is also, however, a lesson to anyone intending to take a career break that in advance of doing so to look up the policy and seek assistance from your shop steward during the process.” 12
So who does rule IT IS becoming increasingly clear that fewer and fewer people benefit from the current economic system of production and distribution. Fewer and fewer people, also, make the decisions that determine the living conditions, life experience and expectancy for the billions of people who share this planet. And, fewer and fewer people are responsible for the environmental catastrophe that is threatening the very existence of the human race. It is not a Dr Evil or a cabal of ‘bad guys’ pulling the strings somewhere. Rather the responsibility lies with a class of human beings who have the wealth and capital to buy and sell labour – and other commodities – in order to increase their own wealth and power in this world. They did not achieve this as a reward for their own hard work and efforts – if this was the case, most retail workers would be millionaires! No, most of those belonging to this class were born into wealth and privilege. And, if allowed, they will pass their position of dominance on to their kids. The old saying, “You have to speculate to accumulate” isn’t too far off the mark. It takes money – significant amounts of money – to increase your wealth and avail of the opportunities the economic system creates. This means that opportunity under capitalism is reserved for a tiny few. Lots of money wouldn’t, necessarily, be such a bad thing if the condition of wealth didn’t also inflict poverty as well as control and submission. This is grim reality of the system and pointing to the number of philanthropists or “rags to riches” stories can deny this truth.
Almost half the world — more than three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day. The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the 41 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (accounting for a total 567 million people) is less than the wealth of the world’s seven richest people combined. Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or to sign their names. Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn’t happen. At total of one billion children live in poverty (one in every two children in the world). Another 640 million live without adequate shelter, 400 million have no access to safe water, 270 million have no access to health services. A shameful 10.6 million died in 2003 before they reached the age of five (that translates as roughly 29,000 children a day).
Global wealth distribution
Contrast this to the recent Global Wealth report produced by Credit Suisse, This study outlined how the rich continue to get richer. It demonstrated that there was a super-abundance of capital concentrated in a class of monopoly capitalists. These people are using this crisis as an opportunity to attack decades of hard-won rights and services and to make us pay for their crisis. According to the report, global wealth increased to $231 trillion in 2011, from $195 trillion in 2010, and they expect it to reach $345 trillion by the end of 2016. Wealth has more than doubled,
from $113 trillion in 2000. The top one per cent – those with more than $712,000 – account for 44% of that $231 trillion, with the top 10% owning 84% of the world’s wealth while the bottom 50% have barely one per cent of this wealth. This is how uneven, unequal and monopolised capital is. North America and Europe, the centre of monopoly capitalism, with only 20% of the world’s population, holds 62% of global wealth. The share of the world’s millionaires has risen sharply in the US to 34%.
researchers describe it, is that the accumulation process of capital is controlled to meet the designs and needs of a very small number of largely financial organisations. The control of production is even further divorced from demand, and consequently speculative bubbles and crises have become a constant feature of the system.
Accumulation of catastrophe
In a recent article in the journal Monthly Review, scientist John Bellamy Foster coined the phrase “the accumulation of catastrophe” meaning the profit-creating process of Power distribution the economic system that places Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich re- short-term profit ahead of everything else is driving the destruction cently published research into the extent of monopolisation of control. of the planet to the point of global catastrophe that threatens human The article, entitled the network life as we know it. of Global Gorporate Control, is imLife on Earth is already being deportant because of its specific look stroyed at a phenomenal rate with at the feature of control, as distinct unknown and in some cases unprefrom wealth and income. It reveals the degree of monopoli- dictable consequences. And in responding to problems sation that is the dominant feature the system has created such as deof contemporary capitalism. forestation, species extinction, The authors of the report found drought and desertification as well that of the 43,060 transnational as the depletion of soil nutrients, it corporations analysed – taken from exacerbates these by its inability to more than 30 million economic enstop or slow down the ruthless tities identified – that a little over drive for profit by these monopo730 entities control 80% of these lies. corporations, and a mere 147 conSo, rather than stop the action trol more than 40%. that is having���catastrophic conseOf these 147 controlling entities, quences, it merely tries to introduce 75% are financial institutions. And something else into the environthe 10 with the largest control ment to counter the negative. were: Barclays PLC, Capital Group This is failing, and failing miserCompanies, FMR Corporation, Axa, ably, State Street, JP Morgan, Legal and General Group, Vanguard Group, UBS and Merrill Lynch. The result of this “network of control”, as the
y March 2012
the world? Unions as the sword of justice
Ordinary workers, such as the La Senza and Vita Cortex workers, have to go to extraordinary lengths to get just basic entitlements and rights. Other workers, like those in the Ulster Bank, face the choice of redundancy on poor terms or an uncertain future on worse terms and conditions of employment. Senior managements in the public and private sector continue to be paid huge salaries and bonuses implementing policies that pauperise workers. And the global billionaires continue to make more and more money in what can only be described as a system of “trickle up” economics where money is constantly flowing from
Profit before people: The big business view of the world
those who have very little to those who have loads. The trade union movement must broaden its agenda and the scope of activity away from just representing the immediate interests of its members to representing the interests of its class – indeed the people of the
austerity is not working
planet, as a whole. It must become the sword of justice that people look to for inspiration, hope and deliverance from the catastrophe that will surely happen if this economic system is not changed in radical and meaningful ways.
By eoin Ó Broin
Pictures: CC Rainforest Action
with the result that those with least are suffering most. Those who do not benefit from the profit creating system, those with not enough money to get an opportunity, those with no control suffer the most as a result of the actions of those with most.
plAtfoRM sinn fein
FINE Gael and Labour have been in government for one year. During the election campaign both parties promised change. They offered a vision of the future very different from the failed politics of Fianna Fail. They promised to invest in job creation. Fine Gael had a plan to invest €7 billion in the lifetime of the government. Labour promised €2 billion to be invested in a strategic investment fund. They promised to dispense with the failed banking policy of their predecessors and to stop blowing taxpayers’ money on bailing out toxic private banking debt. We were told that not “one red cent” would be paid to senior bondholders until the banks got their houses in order. They promised to renegotiate the EU/ECB/IMF austerity deal that it would be Labour’s not Frankfurt’s way. Twelve months on and people are starting to ask, what has changed? Are things getting better under Fine Gael and Labour? Unfortunately when you look at the evidence, the answer is no. Unemployment remains stagnant at 14.1%. A staggering 435,589 people were on the Live Register at the end of January. The CSO estimates that 6,000 people are emigrating every month – mostly young people in search of work. Rent arrears and mortgage distress are also on the increase. Central Bank figures for December show the number of families in serious mortgage distress is now more than 100,000. From September to December 2011, 92 families fell into serious mortgage distress every day. Families are struggling to make ends meet, reducing spending on food, clothing and other essentials and spending more of their shrinking disposable income servicing their debts. While Fine Gael and Labour didn’t cause the economic crisis, the policies they have been implementing since taking office are making things worse. The billions promised for job creation before the election have not materialised. In the muchhyped jobs initiative last April only an extra €29 million was invested into jobs. The new banking policy has also failed to materialise. In the last 12 months, Fine Gael and Labour have poured €21.3 billion into the banks – including €3.1 billion into Anglo Irish Bank. And rather than helping struggling low and middle income families make the most from their
household budgets, the government has introduced a long list of extra charges and stealth taxes pushing people further into financial hardship and poverty. The core problem is that Fine Gael and Labour are making the same mistakes as Fianna Fail and the Green Party before them. They are blindly acquiescing to the failed policies of crippling austerity and bank bailouts. They say that they have no choice, that they have to implement the EU/IMF/ECB programme or there will be no money to pay for public services and no money in our ATMs. These arguments are simply untrue. There are always choices, always alternatives. The government must as a matter of urgency use the remaining €5.3 billion in the National Pension Reserve Fund to invest in jobs. Getting people off the dole and back to work is the best way to reduce the deficit.
Refusing to pay Anglo Irish Bank... would cut our national debt by 20% They must stop giving taxpayers’ money to Anglo Irish Bank. Refusing to pay Anglo Irish Bank the €3.1 billion due on March 31 and every March till 2031 would reduce our national debt by 20% and our annual deficit by 2%. They must also force the banks to assist struggling mortgage holders by insisting on negotiated debt write downs to assist those in mortgage distress remain in their family homes. Crucially they must scrap the household charge and reverse the VAT hike. Extra tax revenue can be raised by the progressive reform of our tax system making those most able to pay give their fair share. We urgently need a change of direction if we are to shed the social and economic legacy of Fianna Fail. Unfortunately, if the last 12 months are anything to go by, dashed hopes and broken promises is all we can expect from the Fine Gael Labour government. Eoin Ó Broin is Sinn Féin’s representative in Dublin Mid-West, a member of the party’s Ard Comhairle and works as a political and policy advisor to Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty. 13
Trade Union Skillnet set for launch IN December 2011, Mandate – along with CWU, IBOA, INMO, TEEU, SIPTU and Congress – applied for funding for training to Skillnets. The application was successful and a full programme of courses will be available to members in 2012. The Women at Work Skillnet and the Union Learning Skillnet have been amalgamated and will now be known as Trade Union Skillnet. Under Trade Union Skillnet a number of courses will be available to members from each of the unions involved plus to some of unemployed members. These may be jointly delivered to participants. There will also be courses available specifically for Mandate members and staff.Aileen Morrissey, national co-ordinator for training, said: “Mandate wants to take this opportunity to thank Alacoque McMenamin – project manager for Women at Work Skillnet – for her support and dedication to members over the past four years.” The VEC Skills for Work training initiative has also recommenced.
Courses in IT, Communications and Maths at FETAC Level 3 are once again available to Mandate members across the country. Mandate's Introductory and Advanced Shop Stewards courses are also to be held at several locations. These are designed to help shop stewards develop and augment their skills and expertise. A Mandate Health and Safety FETAC Level 5 course, for elected health and safety representatives, will be held at Mandate’s Training Centre in May. All courses are available free of charge to members and are held at times and in local venues to suit our members. All courses are listed on Mandate’s website www.mandate.ie. If you are interested in attending any of these courses or wish to have more details regarding training, ask your Mandate official for more information or phone Mandate’s Training Centre on 01 8369699. Also see this edition of Shopfloor for some course advertisements.
Tutor Mary Muldowney, left, taking the Mandate Introductory Union Representatives Pictures: John Chaney course in February
AUSTERITY is wreaking havoc in society and damaging the economy. Just to be sure European leaders have agreed a Fiscal Compact. Politics is ever more about holding power than offering any real change. There is a deepening political unresponsiveness to any opposition to austerity. The mainstream media continues to divide. First it was the public against the private sector. Now it is the so-called squeezed middle against those on welfare and low pay. This is the same media that offers almost no space to alternatives. Opposition remains limited and fragmented. It is mostly limited to challenging specific issues like workers being made redundant unfairly or disadvantaged schools being cut back. It is usually sectoral in that it is left to those who are immediately affected by the issue to make the challenge. This opposition is important 14
an alternative to cuts, cuts, cuts By Niall Crowley and has made gains. However, it is inadequate to the scale of the challenge faced by those who believe in equality, environmental sustainability and solidarity. There are alternatives to austerity being developed by trade unions, environmental organisations, community groups and various thinktanks. Even within the parameters of a loss of sovereignty, political choices are being made, choices to create a
society of inequality and injustice. Alternatives are possible and necessary. We need to secure greater traction for these alternatives. People need to believe things could be done differently, to commit to alternatives based on equality, environmental sustainability and solidarity and to place new types of demands on our decision makers. We have to move beyond our individual organisations and our own sectors to make this challenge. Claiming Our Future offers one such space from which to advance alternatives. It brings individuals and organisations together from trade union, community, environment and other sectors of civil society. It has organised events to enable people to deliberate on the issues and to identify shared priorities. Now it is building its campaigning role. The first challenge is to agree the
issues that have resonance and that can be framed in a way to unite civil society. The second challenge is to develop new ways of campaigning that focus on people and building popular support for these issues. This is about developing a popular movement for social change rather than a lobby like any other vested interest. The third challenge is to find innovative ways to demonstrate the support for a more equal, just and environmentally-sustainable society. Three campaigning themes have emerged from the deliberations to date: 1. Income equality and the challenges of achieving an adequate minimum income threshold, limiting excessive incomes with a maximum income, and reducing the gap between high and low incomes. 2. An economy for society and the challenges of stimulating resilient local economies, securing a steady state economy and establishing a
new value base of environmental sustainability. 3. Democracy and the challenges of securing more participative forms of political decision making, reforming local government and inserting the values of equality, environmental sustainability and solidarity into the Constitution. An overarching campaign is also being developed by Claiming Our Future under the heading of ‘Plan B’. A set of demands are being worked on that would reflect an achievable alternative to austerity, that could be framed in a manner to bring civil society together and that would serve to build support for change. This will only work to the extent that different sectors buy into the idea. It will only work to the extent that individuals within different sectors decide it is worth investing their time in the idea. Find out more on www.claimingourfuture.ie sHopflooR
y March 2012
The world’s largest retailer is facing business woes and a workers’ insurgency as it looks towards an uncertain future, reports US union organiser Michael T Bride
2010 picket outside Connolly’s Shoes
Dispute at Connolly’s Shoes still not resolved
Workers stage protest at Walmart’s global HQ in Bentonville, Arkansas, in June 2011
WALMART needs no introduction. The behemoth from Bentonville, a small town in Arkansas, has grown into not just the globe’s largest retailer, but perhaps the most powerful corporation the world has ever seen. It is the third largest global employer in terms of the number of people who work directly for it, behind only the Chinese and US militaries. It boasts global annual revenue of more than $400bn, dwarfing the GDP of the vast majority of countries. In the retail sector, it is four times bigger than the number two player in the market, and bigger than the next five global retailers combined. All of this would simply be fascinating if it were not for the manner in which Walmart uses its vast power. It is well known for being the most anti-union company in the US, and is widely viewed as impacting adversely on workers’ conditions both in the retail sector and the supply chain. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) of North America – representing 1.3 million workers in the retail and food processing industries in the US and Canada – has long grappled with the rise of Walmart. Not only does Walmart’s growth threaten union supermarket jobs, but the downward pressure that Walmart brings on retail sector wages has a direct impact on the ability of the union to drive standards up at the bargaining table. The UFCW is engaging Walmart on a number of levels, directly challenging the ability of the company to grow in the cities and around the world, while supporting mobilisation efforts by Walmart’s staff.
Resistance in the cities…
Despite reporting a good quarter recently, the company had before then suffered a decline in same store sales for nine consequtive quarters.
Our bid to outsmart Walmart Walmart, having saturated rural markets in US, must now expand both into American cities and countries outside its US base. The UFCW has joined with community organisations in cities such as New York, Washington DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles to highlight Walmart’s track record and hold it accountable to higher standards if it wants to access these markets. The company’s refusal to compromise means that its successful entry into these markets is far from certain. And even if the company does access these markets, consumers will not easily forget the intransience demonstrated in the face of the community concerns.
…and around the globe
The UFCW has also partnered with unions across the world that have had to deal with Walmart. At the invitation of local retail workers’ union SACCAWU – the UFCW travelled to South Africa and played a pivotal role in a merger approval process there as Walmart tried to gain access to the market. The UFCW did this by submitting affidavits, arranging expert testimony as well as speaking to the press. Also, the UFCW, along with UNI Global Union, briefed the govern-
ment in Delhi on the possibility of Walmart entering the Indian market in the wake of a proposal to deregulate the retail sector there. Latin America is another forum where the UFCW is working with unions – specifically in Chile, Brazil and Argentina – to share relevant information about the firm’s plans and policies.
Walmart workers rise up Walmart’s reputation as an antiunion retailer is highly deserved. The company employs psychometric testing, in part, it is claimed, to root out pro-union workers. In 2005, when one of its stores in Jonqiere, Canada, voted for UFCW representation, Walmart infamously closed it down, pitching 300 workers into unemployment and sending out an unmistakably clear message to its workers elsewhere in North America. The closure of the store at Jonqiere followed the disbandment of an entire worker classification about five years earlier when Walmart eradicated butcher positions across the US following a vote by butchers in Texas to join the union. All of this would be bad enough – but added to the dearth of workers’ rights protection in the US and coupled with the state of the economy – it means that Walmart workers would be forgiven
for keeping their heads down and being grateful for having any job. They, however, have refused to do so. Walmart workers have instead banded together and formed the Organisation United for Respect at Walmart, or OURWalmart for short. They are creating a nationwide network of workers who come together to take direct action on issues such as pay, scheduling and workloads. The underlying theme of the workers is that they demand respect, encapsulated by the name of their website – forrespect.org. The workers have taken their message directly to company bosses on two separate occasions, visiting Walmart’s Bentonville headquarters in June and October last year. They have spoken out at rallies and events across the nation, causing ally groups to band with them in the struggle. With a US workforce of 1.4 million employees, OURWalmart is using online tools such as Facebook, Twitter and its forrespect.org website to stay in touch with each other and build towards the next event. OURWalmart means that, not only can workers stand together and speak with one voice, but also that the company must now take account of what they are saying. Following the firm’s decision to change its healthcare coverage – which many workers think was to their disadvantage – an OURWalmart member recently appeared on the CBS nationwide news highlighting the move. Walmart workers should be commended for standing up to the largest company on earth. Of course, they will tell you that they don’t want commendation – they want respect. History demonstrates that workers coming together with a united voice is by far the most effective way to achieve this. It is high time for Walmart to heed their voices. Michael t Bride is uFCW’s Deputy organising Director for Global Strategies
THE LONG-RUNNING dispute at Connollys Shoes is no nearer resolution and has now been in progress for nearly two years. The dispute arose following the dismissal of two members of staff at the Dun Laoghaire retailer on April 6, 2010. A few weeks later two other members of staff were dismissed for striking in support of their colleagues. The four employees had a combined total of 110 years service at the store. All attempts by people and groups as diverse as the Labour Relations Commission, Dun Laoghaire Chamber of Commerce and some local TDs failed to get shop owner Matthew Connolly to sit down and negotiate with staff. Mr Connolly – who refused to recognise Mandate’s right to represent its members at the shop – also refused to talk directly to his own employees. All four staff have been awarded compensation for illegal deduction from wages before their dismissal. And an Employment Appeals Tribunal found all four to have been unfairly dismissed. They were awarded compensation totalling thousands of euro. Divisional organiser Joe Donnelly said: “So far the employer has not paid one cent of these awards. Mandate is now instigating legal proceedings for the recovery of these monies.” Time has moved on for those members involved in the strike. One of the strikers opened his own store – Keegan Shoes – in the nearby Dun Laoghaire Shopping Centre and employed one of his former co-workers. Mandate would encourage all members to try and support this new enterprise. A third striker has since moved to Co Wexford and can no longer participate in the ongoing strike action. The remaining striker – John Mulpetre – continues to picket the shop which has now been rebranded Shoe Exclusive by Mr Connolly. Despite the change of image, the picket is still in place and many locals have continued to show their support by refusing to shop there. 15
BlOW THe WHISTle ON THe BaD BOSSeS
IKea workers forge reaSONS international links TO JOIN Representatives from a number of unions from various countries organising in IKEA met in January in Copenhagen
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 16
MANDATE has described as “exciting and innovative” a new international trade union alliance focusing on relations with IKEA. In 2011, UNI Commerce formed an IKEA working group, with Mandate as a key stakeholder. The group was tasked with reviewing and analysing local and national practices at IKEA and developing suggestions for a Global Agreement between UNI and the Swedish-based multinational. The UNI IKEA Global Union Alliance will be officially launched in Istanbul, Turkey, next month. National co-ordinator Brian Forbes will speak on the Irish experience of dealing with the iconic retailer at the event. He said: “Our message to IKEA is that the Alliance should be seen by them as a constructive global partner. One of our key aims is to strive for a Global Agreement that guarantees good labour standards of all IKEA workers.” Mr Forbes pointed out that IKEA had already developed national agreements, guaranteeing union and organising opportunities, in a number of countries, including Norway, Sweden, Australia, Austria and France. On Mandate’s role in the new alliance, he added: “This is an exciting and innovative way of forging coalitions across borders and jurisdictions and a great way to get IKEA to recognise global standards of behaviour when it comes to recognition and collective bargaining among other things. “Mandate looks forward to making our contribution in Istanbul and to the emergence of increased global union solidarity when organising workers in multinationals such as IKEA.”
PUBLISHED IN ASSOCIATION
WITH THE IRISH CONGRESS
OF TRADE UNIONS
STICK IN THERE
NEWS YOU CAN USE
Backing: Sir Alex Ferguson
tex Sir Alex phones Vita Cor .. workers with this advice.
Picture: CC braveheartsports
manager MANCHESTER United Alex Ferguson made a surprise phone call to the Vita Cortex to tell workers on February 13 fight and them he supported their seto “stick in there” until they cured victory. The sporting legend expressed for the his admiration and backing workers' stand for justice. inHe told them he had been strikes at volved in the apprentice and the Clyde shipyards in 1961 going understood what they were secure through in their battle to agreed redundancy terms.Egar deSIPTU organiser Anne scribed it as a “magical moment”
Perseverance and team work will win out in the end
than came two days after moresolidarity so I'm delighted but everyone 5,000 people marched in the FC to hear Sir Alex endorse here – even the Liverpool Last with the Vita Cortex workers them workers’ stand and reassure guys – are saying 'fair play'." acthrough the centre of Cork. if they that they would succeedfor what is month, veteran human rights the Speaking at the rally, organised stick together and fight tivist Noam Chomsky emailed for by the Cork Council of Trade the just. workers to voice his suppport Unions, Anne Egar praised like carry on in She said: “When someone their “determination to oppresworkers’ “stamina and principle” perseversucnot of suffering and Alex Ferguson tells you see you would face they the and vowed ance and teamwork will huge sion”. cumb. are win out, it is of course a His January 19 email concluded: The Vita Cortex workersoccupyand boost." “I hope that your courageous entering their third month on the Power, be a model Vita Cortex worker Jim dehonourable actions will well to ing their former workplace who spoke to Mr Ferguson, that will inspire others as passively, Kinsale Road, Cork. a "masscribed the phone call as act instead of succumbing success The facility was closed on sive boost". and wish you the greatest December 16 with management campaign honour crucial not and "He spoke about his involvejust could in this claiming they strike ment in an apprentice boys' for basic rights.” agreed redundancy terms. 'stick in boss in Glasgow and told us tosupporter The call from the Man Utd United there’. I'm a Man
on ‘demand Congress: Jobs plan fails
TraDe UNION NeWS NOrTH aND SOUTH Produced in association with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions
y March 2012
industRiAl neWs Tara Keane – who took part in the successful La Senza sit-in – recalls four momentous days in January...
My advice? Don’t allow yourself to be treated badly... join a union
BEING in a union is a vital protection for workers – that’s the conclusion one of those involved in the recent sit-in at La Senza has come to. Tara Keane – a member of Mandate – was reflecting on January’s successful four-day action at the lingerie chain’s premises in Liffey Valley, Clondalkin. Successful only in the sense that the La Senza staff had secured what was rightfully due to them – though they lost their jobs. The 20-year-old retail worker from Inchicore said: “Trade unions gave us huge support. I don’t think we would have gotten the result we did if they hadn’t been involved. “Mandate came and really got the ball rolling for us, got us organised. I think it’s really important for workers – particularly in retail – to join the union. If we hadn’t have had members in the union we really would have been lost.” Tara, who spoke to Eoin Ó Broin for An Phoblacht earlier this month, added: “The main lesson from our experience is the importance of being in a trade union. “I would say to all workers, no matter what sector you work in, join a union. You have rights, there is legislation there to protect your rights, and if you take a stand like we did, you are standing up for your basic rights as an employee; don’t allow yourself to be bullied, don’t allow yourself to be treated badly. “We didn’t and we got what we asked for.” What fuelled the La Senza women’s protest was the deep sense of injustice of it all. It followed a busy Christmas and staff had worked flat out over the festive season. But on a cold day in early January, the company’s beancounters acted and 100 outlets were closed across the UK and Ireland. A total of 1,300 employees were thrown on the scrapheap and adminstrators KPMG were called in to oversee the wind-up of the business. Employees received word from head office: “The store that you work in ceased trading this morning and all stock has been prepared for collection. As a result of your store having ceased to trade the Administrators regret to inform you that the company is no longer able to make payments to you for services rendered under the terms of your employment. Your employment with the company is therefore terminated with immediate effect.” Tara remembers how she heard the news first. “On Monday morning I went into work and received calls saying that there were men there packing up the other stores shops. A few of us spoke together and decided that we March 2012
Tara Keane, above, during the La Senza sit-in. Shop window slogans, below
Michael Meegan: Offered advice
would sit-in in solidarity with the girls who had just lost their jobs. “As far as I was concerned my job was still there. I hadn’t been told otherwise. “So we went straight to Liffey Valley from work and sat with the girls. “On Monday night KPMG phoned
me and said my job was gone and not to come to work on Tuesday morning. “That made us more determined to do the sit-in. The way we found out was just absolutely appalling. “On Tuesday morning I made a few phone calls to the media. We ex-
pected to be booted out by Tuesday afternoon. But it just snowballed once the media took interest. “Then everyone got behind us so it just gave the movement a lot more power.” Tara describes it as an “impluse decision” to occupy, adding, “we were all so angry.” Winning through together: La Senza staff involved in the protest
She said: “We didn’t know what else to do. We had no answers from anyone; we had no paperwork to take to social welfare. “As far as we were concerned the store stock and whatever money was in the safe were the only bargaining chips we had to get what we were entitled to. “So the occupation was just common sense. If we left the store then La Senza would have won. By sitting-in we were shining a little bit of light on what they are doing, making bad publicity for them forcing them to resolve things as quickly as they can.” And Tara was “completely overwhelmed” by the “incredible public support” the staff involved in the sitin received. “From the moment Liffey Valley opened on Tuesday morning people stopped to read the signs we put in the windows, they came with food, money, blankets, and cups of tea. The stores in Liffey Valley were also great; they did collections, sent down tea every hour. The support was unreal. “I think what was happening to us was really resonating with people, because it is happening all across Ireland and I think we captured the mood of people who are fed up and not willing to take it anymore. That’s why they got behind us so much.” Mandate negotiated throughout the week with KPMG and late on Friday – four days after the start of the sit-in – officials were able to bring word that the workers would receive their full entitlements. Tara said: “I was absolutely delighted. I think I speak for all the girls when I say we were so emotional because we had been there all week getting two hours sleep a night, and then suddenly to realise we got what you asked. “It was great, the pride we all felt was unreal. We didn’t expect to get a successful result. We thought we would raise awareness help the next people after us. We were very proud and very happy.” Meanwhile, divisional organiser Michael Meegan, who played a key role in in the La Senza negotiations, called on members of the union to actively recruit their non-union colleagues into Mandate. He told Shopfloor: “It is essential that retail workers collectively organise themselves into unions and are professionally represented in situations such as those faced by the La Senza workers. “These situations are becoming more prevalent – especially in the current economy. It is now more important than ever that retail workers join a union and this message should be constantly communicated by Mandate members to those colleagues that are not in a union.” 17
POCKeT GUIDe TO
ParT ONe Why organise in Mandate?
We organise because it helps us build a strong effective Mandate capable of delivering for members in the workplace and beyond
What does organising mean in Mandate? • Building a union that draws its strength not just from its member numbers but also from our shop stewards and activists • Campaigning on the values and issues that members and potential members care about and involving them in campaign activity • Reﬂecting the diversity of the workforce the union supports and represents
What does an organised workplace look like? • A high level of union membership and activity • Mandate shop stewards in all areas of the workplace • Mandate meetings are well attended • Mandate members prioritise and participate in union activity • Eﬀective two-way communication between Mandate and our members Organising gives us a chance to turn what we have (our resources) into what we need (Power) to get what we want. Union organisers turn resources into power that helps members. Source: The TUC Pocket Guide to Organising 18
y March 2012
lTD members’ survey to shape future agenda
Older & Bolder launches fight on the home front By Jemma Hogan
HOME is a special place for most of us. We want to continue to live in our own homes as we grow older. Older & Bolder is running the MAKE HOME WORK campaign throughout 2012 to highlight the policies, supports and services that enable us to remain living in our own homes – as well and as independently as possible – as we grow older. Throughout the year ahead we will, with your help, be deepening our campaign – speaking out and taking action to secure the right to age without fear in our own homes. Despite the strong collective message we sent to government in advance of the budget, we are facing cuts of €750 million to HSE funding which could work against our shared goal of enabling older people to live at home and in the community. Older & Bolder believes that this is a moment for action. We are asking you to let politicians and decision makers know that cuts to home help, respite, day care and other community services do not make sense. What we need now are forward, not backward, steps.
What you can do:
Join us in delivering a strong message to politicians and decision makers. Write, phone or email all of your local TDs with the message March 2012
that cuts to community services for older people are a backward step and tell them why. • Let decision makers know that the home help service is already thinly spread and that with promised cuts to these services of 4.5%, it will now be on life support. Tell them that just 3% of the older population receive home help services and we know that 12% of older people with limitations in activities of daily living receive no formal or informal support. • Let them know your concerns about cuts to respite services which are vital to family carers who are the backbone of our community services. • Tell decision makers that it does not make sense on a human level to cut vital community services. • Tell them that it does not make sense on an economic level to cut vital community services because people will spend more time in acute hospitals; and will move to nursing homes too soon. Both will
cost more in the long run. • Ask your TDs to carry this message to the Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly or to their health spokesperson. The MAKE HOME WORK campaign is about planning community care services for older people. That makes sense on a human level and on an economic level. Making your views heard is important. Older & Bolder is planning a series of actions as part of the MAKE HOME WORK throughout 2012. We will continue to keep you involved and informed, inviting you to help shape a better system for everyone. For now, please take the first step and show politicians and decision makers that we will not allow cuts to vital services to happen in silence. If you would like support or suggestions on the most effective and appropriate ways to lobby your political representative, please contact us on 01-8783623 or email email@example.com l Older & Bolder is an alliance of eight organisations that work with older people in Ireland: Active Retirement Ireland, Age & Opportunity, Alzheimer Society of Ireland, Carers Association, Irish Hospice Foundation, Irish Senior Citizens Parliament, Older Women’s Network and Senior Help Line.
IN RECENT years, Mandate has reorganised the way it represents members in the Licensed Trade Division. It follows the retirement in June 2010 of Licenced Trade Division divisional organiser Eddie Cassidy. It means that LTD members are now serviced by the official who looks after the geographical area they work in. In effect, this has increased to nine the number of officials who can be of help to members working in the sector. And this has also augmented the union’s ability to deal with members’ queries as promptly as possible. The licensed trade national negotiating committee – charged with dealing with issues of more general concern to members – is led by assistant general secretary Gerry Light, divisional organiser Dave Moran and industrial officer Jonathan Hogan. It also includes members of the Licensed Trade Council, comprising of National Executive Council members and representatives from various licensed premises across Dublin. The two current National Executive Council members for the licensed trade are Noel Dunphy and Dermot Fay, who are both long-serving and active members of the union. At its council meeting in October 2011, the Licensed Trade Council decided to commission a survey looking at employment practices within the trade. The move was based on anecdotal evidence that compliance with employment legislation was – at best – only being paid lip service to by some employers. Among issues the Council wished to explore were: • Contracts of employment – if
Jonathan Hogan: ‘Interesting trends’
members, in fact, had one or knew their rights in relation to them, • The age profile of members and length of service in the trade, • Pensions – if members were aware of recent changes and to determine if they had an opportunity to avail of the new scheme agreed with the Licensed Vintners Association, • Pay rates and premium payments current in the trade, • Changes to members’ terms and conditions – had changes been introduced and with members’ agreement? • Health and safety – to try and determine compliance with the legislation, and • To establish what the main concerns of members were in relation to their employment. The survey was conducted at a broad selection of licensed premises across Dublin in November and December last year and the response was excellent. Data is currently being compiled and it is hoped results will be presented at the biennial conference in April. Industrial officer Jonathan Hogan said: “Early results have shown up some interesting trends in the industry and we believe it will help shape the agenda for the licensed trade into the future.”
A-Wear meeting sought MANDATE hopes to hold an early meeting with the new owners of the A-Wear chain. This follows the acquisition earlier this month of the fashion retailer by the Luxembourg-based Jesta Group. It is second time A-Wear, which has 37 outlets in Ireland and employs 450 staﬀ, has been sold in recent months. Last October, it was bought over by Hilco Capital Ireland who then set about a restructuring process. Mandate industrial oﬃcer Robert McNamara said: “We’re seeking an immediate meeting with management so we can discuss all the pertinent issues impacting on our members arising from this transfer of ownership.”
‘It's not the people's debt Why we should not pay it’ Saturday 31st March 2pm – 4.30pm
Venue: Ireland Institute 27 Pearse Street (5 mins College Green) Speakers: Prof Kathleen lynch (equality Studies UCD) Dr Conor McCabe (Historian and author) Trade union speaker 19
even The rain film prompts debate on privatisation A HUGE crowd attended a Mandate sponsored ‘Alternative Cinema’ night – featuring the enthralling Spanish film Even the Rain – in Gweedore, Co Donegal, earlier this month. Even the Rain, directed by Iciar Bollain and written by Paul Laverty, recounts the 2000/2001 Bolivian water demos and riots against the then-government’s decision to sell off the country’s water supply to private global company Veolia. Beautifully constructed and acted, the film centres on a Spanish film crew’s visit to Bolivia to make a movie. There, along with imported stars, a large local cast of extras and key actors are hired to dramatise the brutal Spanish colonisation and conquest of the Americas in the 16th century. The pursuit and exploitation of natural resources of the Americas was central to Christopher Columbus and his bosses’ (the Spanish King and Queen) expeditions. While the movie is being shot in the town of Cochumba, the local campaigns and demonstrations against the privatisation of Bolivian water impacts and connects with the making of the film, as key local actors central to the campaigns are increasingly caught up in the simmering and eventual unrest against their government’s actions. The film has a clear message – colonisation might not come in the guise of a Christopher Columbus, but it has been replaced by a more creeping, but nonetheless brutal, privatisation of natural resources and national industries by multinationals and global finance companies. Similarly there are number of cameos in the film which clearly 20
demonstrate that the film-makers – despite their liberal views – still harbour the exploitative and colonial-type attitudes and actions towards the local population. This climaxes in their incredulous “the film comes first – at all costs” perspective, despite the fact that Bolivia was going up in flames around them! Its poignant and powerful privatisation message was felt by the large audience. More so, when following the February 11 screening, local TD Thomas Pringle, further argued that the government’s intention to create a company/organisation called ‘Water Ireland’ is a potential step towards the privatisation of Irish water – a move which must be fought at all costs.
Mandate official Ciaran Campbell also underlined the impact that privatisation has on workers’ job security, pay, terms and conditions. He added that this also had a knock-on impact on families, communities and, thus, society at large. Ciaran Campbell told the audience: “Water privatisation poses a moral dilemma. Access to a valuable natural resource is then at the behest of a private company not even organised or resident in the country.” “Local campaigning on a piecemeal basis – such as anti-household or septic tank charges and school closures – must be seen in the context of a wider neoliberal agenda that is pushing the view that there is no alternative but for ordinary people to pay for the economic collapse.” He suggested that this agenda effectively being used to ensure that the current amassing of huge financial reserves by private financial institutions – some of which
are the very bond-holders we are paying billions to – is directed and invested in areas, projects or utilities that are currently the property of the people. “In doing so”, Ciaran Campbell explained to the audience, “the financial reserves are then being used to make more profits for the very same institutions that have led to the economic bust, and will deny natural resource and utility sovereignty.” He noted that the Troika were key to the process – the IMF, EU and ECB were, he said, “acting and behaving” as “agents for the circling financial vultures”. Mr Campbell pointed out that opposing privatisation had to have a political angle and presented the views of James Connolly as presenting a real alternative to the current bail-out programmes. The Alternative Cinema nights – while maybe not dealing with “earthy” subjects such as local hospital and school closures – clearly provide an educational and challenging stimulus for those people interested in escaping the dross that monopolises much of today’s TV and cinema – where much of the output is arguably politically controlled and directed. Ciaran Campbell claimed that after the screening of Even the Rain, the evening positively “hummed” with “social and campaigning ideas and activism”. February’s Alternative Cinema night was very successful. The events are usually free and held every three months. It is hoped that the project will now spread out across the country. Already it appears a number of people are considering organising a similar event in central Dublin. Mr Campbell added: “Long may it grow!”
Pictures: Mercier Press
Executed: Paddy Moran
Retail workers’ chief paid ultimate price ExECutED for ireland: the Patrick Moran Story is a moving and at times harrowing account of events that unfolded in this country during the War of Independence. The focus of the book is, as the title suggests, the tragic ending of Patrick Moran's young life – he was hanged in Mountjoy at the hands of British Forces. Patrick Moran was murdered for his involvement in Bloody Sunday – November, 21, 1920 – although he was quite conclusively proved innocent of the actual crime for which he was eventually convicted. Before his life was taken, Patrick was quite heavily involved with the Volunteers, and was stationed at Jacob's factory during the Easter Rising. He was an active member of the GAA, and was involved in setting up the Dunleary Commercials football team in his adopted county of Dublin. Patrick Moran was also a member of the Gaelic League and an active trade unionist. Having played a key role in winning improvements in pay and working conditions, he was elected President of the Irish National Union of Vintners', Grocers' and Allied Trades Assistants in September 1920. This union was the forerunner of what became Mandate Trade Union. The book was written by May Moran – a neice of the protagonist – and throughout she draws on the experiences, memories and personal recollections of older members of her family. When these accounts are coupled with the thoroughly extensive re-
search that went into the book, you are left with an accurate account of what happened but delivered from a decidedly personal and impassioned angle. Even after Paddy Moran's death, the family’s struggle continued for 80 years, as they sought to have his remains removed from the boundary walls of the prison where he was executed. In 2001, Patrick Moran, along with nine other men, were exhumed from their graves in Mountjoy, and finally laid to rest in Dublin's Glasnevin cemetery. At times, when reading this story, it is impossible not to feel anger at the actions of the British Forces in dealing with this particular case, and with many other mistreatments and injustices mentioned throughout. However, it is difficult not to feel awe and pride at the manner in which Paddy Moran and his comrades faced their deaths. To try and place yourself in the shoes of a man condemned to death is nigh on impossible, but there are transcripts of letters written by Paddy to friends and family while he faced that very situation. Executed for ireland: the Patrick Moran Story would be a hugely interesting and relevant read for anyone with an interest in Irish history, any trade union activist, or anyone interested to reading about an individual who would give all for his country. Executed for ireland: the Patrick Moran Story is published by Mercier Press, Dublin. €16.99. Ken Reilly sHopflooR
y March 2012
Stealth cuts chipping away at your income Low paid workers know all about the headline tax hikes they’ve had to endure over the last few years, but Camille Loftus takes a look at stealth cuts steadily eroding social protection in Ireland THE last number of years have seen increased taxes for low paid workers, and cuts to social welfare payment rates – cuts that Mandate members are all too familiar with. But less attention has been paid to other social welfare changes that are quietly eroding the level of social protection for workers in the Irish economy. These are the ‘stealth cuts’ of the social welfare system. Below we look at Jobseeker’s Benefit (JB), a core element of workers’ social protection, paid for through their social insurance (PRSI) contributions. Qualifying for Jobseeker’s Benefit There are two PRSI ‘contribution conditions’ that a person must meet to qualify for JB: • The first condition is to have paid a certain number of social insurance contributions since first starting work. Historically, 39 paid contributions were needed to meet this condition; this was increased to 52 in April 2004. Budget 2009 doubled this to 104, so that a worker can’t qualify for JB (and many other social insurance payments for working age people) until they have at least two full years of insurable employment. • The second condition is to have a certain number of paid or credited contributions in the ‘relevant year’ (the second last complete tax year before the year in which your claim is made – e.g. for claims in 2012, the relevant year is 2010). Workers receive credited contributions during the period when they are unemployed, or sick for example. Budget 2009 introduced a new requirement that at least 13 of those must be paid rather than credited.
How much is the payment?
To qualify for the full rate of payment, weekly earnings in the relevant year must be over a certain amount. In 2008, weekly earnings of at least €150 per week gave entitlement the full JB weekly rate. Budget 2009 doubled this to €300 per week – a cut that affects low paid workers most. (See table)
Working reduced hours
For workers who have had their hours cut, one option is to claim JB on days they’re not working – if you’re not working on three days in six, you may be eligible. The most recent budget announced changes to the entitlements of such workers, due to come into effect over the next year. Traditionally, JB payments are calculated on a six-day week – i.e. for each day a person is unemployed, they receive a sixth of their weekly rate. For example, a person working three days would receive half (i.e. three days) the weekly rate; €94 for a single adult. From July 2012, JB payments will be calculated on a
Stealth cuts in summary
Taken together, these stealth cuts add up to a significant erosion of workers’ social protection. It’s harder to qualify for benefits, payments don’t last as long, and how much of a payment workers are entitled to has been cut; cuts that come on top of the reductions in basic rates – while workers’ contributions remain the same. These stealth cuts attack rights and entitlements that workers fought hard to achieve, and they hit hardest on low paid workers, who are more vulnerable to reduced hours and unemployment. With pressure for even more austerity, the risk of further stealth cuts to workers’ social protection grows.
War Crimes verdict flags up injustice over Cuban 5 By Ciaran Campbell CONSIDER the differing treatment meted out to five Cubans who sought to defend their country from terrorism, and a US Army sergeant sent to Afghanistan to fight the ‘War on Terror’ and later convicted of three murders. The Cubans – dubbed the Miami five – are, barring one, spending years in jail with little likelihood of release. Rene Gonzalez was freed on October 7 last year but must remain on American soil for the next three���years. This effectively endangers his life, given that he has to avoid the very right-wing groups he and his comrades had infiltrated in attempting to thwart Miamilaunched terrorist attacks against their native land. US Army Staff Sergeant Calvin Gibbs, 26, was convicted and court martialled of 15 charges including three murders. Some of the charges involved cutting off the fingers of corpses and the taking of teeth as trophies. Sgt Gibbs will be eligible for parole in less than nine years. He was the ringleader of a rogue US Army unit – which he
called the ‘kill team’ – that was regularly responsible for attacking unarmed Afghans for sport, after which they photographed themselves with the bloodied corpses of their victims. Prosecution witnesses portrayed Gibbs as a bloodthirsty renegade who despised Afghans, calling them “savages” and who regularly played with and mocked Afghan corpses. Cited as having being responsible for the “ultimate betrayal... he betrayed his folk, he betrayed his unit and with the flag of his nation emblazoned across his chest, thousands of miles from home, he betrayed his nation”, the Montana native was sentenced to life in prison. His lawyer, pleading for leniency for his client, stated that Gibbs was “not the same person he was in Afghanistan” and that he didn’t “want his wife to have to raise their son on her own” The defence must have struck a chord as the military jury decided he would be eligible for parole in eight-and-a-half years. Unike Rene Gonzalez, I suspect he won’t have to spend a probationary period of three years living among “savages” of Afghanistan upon his release...
Weekly wage bands Rate of payment
Less than €80
Less than €150
€80 & less than €125
€150 & less than €220
€125 & less than €150
€220 & less than €300
€150 or more
€300 or more
How long the payment lasts
Up until 2009, if you had paid a total of 260 contributions since first starting work, you could qualify for unemployment benefits lasting up to 15 months; with less than this, the payment lasted up to a year. Budget 2009 reduced JB to a maximum of 12 and 9 months respectively.
five-day rather than six-day week, so that a single person working three days will only be entitled to €75.20. In addition, work on Sundays isn’t currently included when calculating the amount of benefit due; this is due to change from January 2013, when Sunday working will be included, which will also reduce the level of payment received.
Rene Gonzalez following his release from a US penitentiary last year 21
accidents at work... what are your entitlements? By John Flynn Partner & Solicitor at Murray Flynn Maguire ON A recent visit to Mandate offices I noticed a brochure entitled 10 reasons to join Mandate. One of those reasons was “legal protection”. Mandate, through its solicitors, Murray Flynn Maguire (MFM) has won significant legal compensation for members who were injured as a result of an accident at work. As a Partner in MFM solicitors who work with Mandate in pursuing compensation for injured employees it might be useful to explain when and how employees are entitled to compensation. Over the past five years we have acted in approximately 180 cases involving Mandate employees who have been injured at work. Approximately €4,500,000 was awarded in compensation for those
members. The average award/settlement figures have been €25,000.
Duties of an Employer
Employers have a duty to maintain a safe system and a safe place of work. They have a duty to provide proper equipment and to provide adequate and appropriate training. Should they fail to comply with these requirements and this failure results in an injury to an employee, that employee is entitled to seek compensation. Compensation is divided in to two categories. Firstly, “out of pocket expenses”. This comprises mainly of loss of earnings, medical bills and other expenses incurred as a result of the injury. Secondly, General damages. which is the category that attracts most media attention. It is essentially compensation for “pain and
peRsonAl vieW By Niall Shanahan
I’M not a sports fan. I’m not proud of it, but I find the perpetual cycle of premier leagues, all-Ireland competitions, and seemingly endless golf tournaments, has become an excuse for people (men especially) to speak to each other in statistics. Sports results, and especially football, have replaced meaningful conversation at the beginning of every meeting, every pub conversation, and every casual encounter. To me, they might just as well be speaking fluent Greek. I simply don’t care. Can we please talk about something else? OK, I can get behind the national team (in just about any sport) when they’re on form and in need of support. I can muster up a little enthusiasm to see the Dubs win the AllIreland after such a long spell without winning it. You would have to have a heart of stone not to take some pleasure in Ireland ’s Grand Slam win in… whatever year it was that we won it. I have no deep rooted connection to any team. I never remember the scores or the names of the players. I don’t retain that information, it doesn’t really interest me, and I am painfully aware that puts me in a minority. If I’m honest, I blame Croke Park . At the age of four I was taken to a game there by my dad and my uncle. I remember noise, and being surrounded by adults who jumped to their feet every few seconds which meant I couldn’t really see what was going on. There was shouting, and swearing and cigarette smoke everywhere (this was
suffering” both to date and into the future. It is possible that an employer may not have a safe system of work but the employee may also have caused the injury to some extent. This is known as “contributory negligence.” In these cases an employee may have his or her compensation award reduced by the same amount and same degree that he or she is considered at fault for the accident. For example, if an employee is 50% responsible for the accident he or she will only receive 50% of the compensation they would otherwise be entitled to.
All personal injury claims must initially be registered with the Injuries Board (see injuries board.ie). More than 90% of claimants use a solicitor to bring a claim to the In-
juries Board. Mandate pay the costs of the medical reports (approximately €350 each) and recoup this expense out of the employee’s settlement. Most Injury Board Assessments take approximately one year. If the assessment is accepted by both parties that should be the end of the matter. If either party reject the assessment the case is referred to court and will normally take a further nine months.
Types of Cases
Many people injure themselves when they slip, trip or fall in the workplace. This can be due to an unsafe cleaning system or indeed no cleaning system. It can be due to hazards being left on the work floor. If injured, an employee is entitled to claim in these circumstances. Another common cause of injury is where an employee is obliged to
Stuff Croke Park!
Croker and me: Niall Shanhan today and, inset, in 1973
1973 after all). I was tired, bored, hungry and disinterested. So what might have been an awe inspiring visit to a field of dreams was, for me, an alienating and slightly frightening experience. And my relationship with Croke Park has been a difficult one ever since, now further complicated by the fact that ‘ Croke Park ’ has come to mean something else too. In 2010, members of IMPACT and other public service trade unions signed up to the Croke Park agreement. This was after two successive cuts (averaging 14%) to public service pay, with an additional
10% reduction to new entrants’ pay.After the second pay cut, trade unions warned that attacks on pay across the private sector were inevitable. Very quickly, wage setting mechanisms for low paid workers came under attack along with the minimum wage, as many employers pursued the race to the bottom. So for public servants, Croke Park means that as their numbers decline they will have to change the way services are delivered. For all of us, that means they will have to deliver a service to a society that needs more services, not less, in a time of economic crisis. This process has started, and has so far proved effective in saving money and ensuring delivery of the services people need. But, like the four-year-old boy who found all the shouting and swearing and smoke at Croke Park too much to bear, there are a lot of commentators, pundits, and armchair economists who feel much the same way about the Croke Park agreement. Just as I might attempt to analyse a game of football, my disinterest and antipathy for the game means I am almost entirely incapable of an informed or fair analysis. And so it is with many of the critics of the agree-
lift an excessive weight and sustains an injury. This is regularly due to inadequate training or no training or where the task is too much for one person with no help provided. Over recent years there has been a significant increase in claims being brought by employees who have been traumatized by armed robberies or assaults in the work place. This can be due to an employer not providing a safe place of work or a safe system of security for workers. This can occur were an employer has reduced a number of security staff to reduce overheads. If you are injured in an accident at work you may be entitled to bring a claim for compensation. You should get professional advice. Contact: John Flynn, Partner with Murray Flynn Maguire solicitors offices in Ballsbridge and Fairview Telephone 01 6600622 or 01 8363551; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
ment.Attacks on the Croke Park agreement, on public servants and their unions, are usually launched by the same people who want to cut everyone’s pay – public and private – including yours. The same critics tend to argue that the very well paid in society have contributed enough. That’s code for “no more taxation please, cut workers pay”. That’s why the calls to scrap Croke Park have become so aggressive. We are standing in their way. They don’t like that. I can understand and appreciate that Croke Park (the stadium), and the sporting life within it, means a lot to people throughout Ireland and beyond. I know that it plays an important role in Irish life, that it provides a social glue to bind us all in moments of glory as well as defeat. And I know that it is all for nothing without the collective efforts of the players, teams and supporters. In short, I might not understand it, but I can appreciate its value. And so, whenever the public debate descends into chaos and public sector workers are pitted against private sector workers, and critics call for the shredding of an agreement whose purpose they don’t seem to understand, I try to remember that behind all the shouting, swearing and noise and smoke, there are teams of people working hard to ensure that Croke Park means something. More importantly, there’s a bunch of us standing together to slow down the mob trying to tear it all apart. Niall Shanahan is an information officer at IMPACT
OBITUARY Bobby Gourley 1943-2012
Staunch opponent of bigotry BOBBY Gourley embodied the spirit of the trade union movement which he was involved with from his first day of work. When Bobby retired in 2005 after 23 years leading the Usdaw union in Northern Ireland, he described his years of service as a “roller-coaster ride.” Before taking the helm at Usdaw, Bob was active with the engineering union AEUW, eventually becoming convenor at the ICI plant in Carrickfergus. Bobby was a long-time activist for peace and the unity of workers, and dur22
ing the Ulster Workers’ Council strike in 1974 joined the then-TUC leader Len Murray in the “back to work” march to Belfast Shipyard. Bobby also served on the ICTU Executive Committee and was chair of the Northern Ireland Committee of the ICTU in 2003 when he spoke at the rally held in August 2002 after the murders of a Catholic teenager, Gerald Lawlor, and a Protestant worker, David Caldwell. Addressing several thousand people in front of Belfast City Hall, Bob
said: “The evil purveyors of bigotry have declared war on us all and wished to ensure that the legacy of hatred continued. “Sectarianism kills all of us and we must all fight against sectarianism at every opportunity – in our workplaces, societies, clubs, as well as in our immediate and extended families.” It is a measure of Bob’s open mind that he had no qualms, as a long-serving part-time member of the UDR, when he accompanied me to an All-Ireland GAA football final in Croke Park. Bobby was
also a founder member of the Progressive Unionist Party and was a staunch supporter of the ICTU’s anti-sectarian work. His bravery in confronting bigotry was matched by his sense of mischief. You always walked away from a chat with Bobby with a smile on your face. If we can emulate that bravery in our future struggles against bigotry, Bob will have the legacy which he richly deserves. Peter Bunting, Congress sHopflooR
y March 2012
recruit, organise, influence... only way to push our agenda Linda Tanham is leaving Mandate and moving to new role at the Labour Court
Championing the rights of workers LINDA Tanham – who has left Mandate to take up a role at the Labour Court – started her career in retail as a 16-year-old sales assistant at Roches Stores in Henry Street, Dublin. She soon became involved in the union IDATU [now Mandate], ﬁrstly as a shop committee member and later as senior shop steward. Linda’s union activity brought her to the attention of fellow shop assistants in Dublin who selected her to run for the union’s Executive Council. She was elected and later progressed to the position of National Treasurer. Linda’s interest in the issues facing shop workers and her growing reputation as a stalwart defender of workers’ rights led her to take a job as a union oﬃcial based in the union’s Cork oﬃce, representing workers in Cork/Kerry. She was later to move to the union’s Western Division dealing with the interests of retailer workers from Galway to Donegal. It was during her time in the west that she successfully led thousands of Dunnes stores workers – under the Mandate banner – in two national strikes for fair play and decent contracts. Later she transferred back to her native Dublin where she had begun her journey with the union. After a number of years, she was promoted to the role of assistant general secretary with national responsibilty for the industrial relations agenda. She was also elected to the Executive Council of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. Her tireless work as assistant general secretary and as a member of the ICTU Executive Committee was also a time of great progress for retail and women workers. This resulted in her been selected as a board member of the Equality Authority and the National Employment Rights Authority. General secretary John Douglas said: “Linda has been a fearless advocate of workers’ rights with a keen intrest in issues facing women workers and the lower paid. “So it was no supprise when in 2011 she was choosen for the position of permanent worker representive on the Labour Court.” He added: “Mandate’s loss is the Labour Court’s gain. All workers now have a champion in the court – someone who knows the reality of working in shops and the problems facing them each day. “Linda never forgot she was a retail worker. She will continue her trade union work and we wish her every success.” March 2012
“YOU need a fierce commitment to sustain [the fight for workers’ rights] but it’s the only way.” Brian Higgins was speaking to Shopfloor a few days before he retired as Mandate’s divisional organiser for the Mid West. The 64-year-old, who bowed out at Christmas after serving Mandate members for 29 years, was in upbeat form and looking forward to a trip to South Africa in January. But as the clock was ticking down, his mind was also focused on bigger issues – in particular the future of trade unionism. “I was opposed to the social partnership model. I didn’t think it was good for the trade union movement and, with the benefit even of hindsight, I think I’d be more convinced of that now.” Brian’s view is that social partnership made unions more “remote from the membership”. “There is less trust and there is also a problem with credibility in terms of workers in general and even the workers that we represent. I think social partnership put us in a position where we were seen to be too close to the corridors of power.” But would social partnership – had it still been in operation – have given unions an added leverage – at least with the Labour component of this coalition government? Brian is far from sure and he describes as “limited” unions’ ability to influence the current government. “Even if we had access now, I don’t think we could achieve very much, given the economy of the country is virtually governed by external forces – the so-called Troika. “They are the ones who are also responsible for these austerity measures that have been imposed upon us.” However, the fact that social partnership did not deliver on union recognition was, he suggested, a “damning indictment of the whole [social partnership] strategy”. He points out that had union recognition been enshrined in law, it would have been “very beneficial” to Irish workers. “The right to collectively bargain would have been real and lasting progress, something that was needed.” Brian also thinks that Fine Gael and Labour make a bad fit – “I don’t think that is a good combination anyway… and it is bound to create tensions.” As it stands, the government seems far from eager to listen to trade union calls for a changed approach based on social solidarity and growth. Brian puts this down to the “fierce pressure” being brought to bear by “employers, the media and other propagandists” in order to shape the agenda in favour of austerity. “That Ireland is not competitive, that we’ve priced ourselves out of the markets, that we have to cut wages – got to reduce people’s terms and conditions of employment to make ourselves more competitive. “In other words, having people working for the minimum wage. That seems to be the approach. That has gained a lot of traction in [this] government.” In the light of this, should unions become more active outside of the workplace – in communities, for example? “I think that is another area in which we’ve fallen down. We need to be making progress on all fronts – social, economic and political – in terms of educating people, generating poli-
Mandate stalwart Brian Higgins, now retired, with general secretary John Douglas Picture: John Chaney
cies and to have a real impact on people’s lives in terms of their workplace, in terms of their communities, in terms of the country as well. All our futures are linked in that respect… and we haven’t done that.” However, Brian does not think that this increased community involvement should move towards the formation of a separate political party. “There is no such thing as a quick fix in the political sense. You have to be involved at community level, at shop floor level, involved in your locality. That means opposing policies that are against working people and mobilising people against them.” However, he does emphasise the need to “politicise our membership” and to use “our influence in terms of numbers”. “Getting numbers on the streets [at demonstrations] is one thing but you ought to deliver at the ballot box as well. “That is where political parties sit up and take notice. If you deliver, they may deliver in return in terms of policies that make life better for working people.” Trade unions have shown how they can mobilise tens of thousands of people in oneoff anti-austerity demos, but where do they take it from there? “You need to have a direction, a strategy and a clear objective. I think it is very difficult to mobilise people if they don’t see progress. “It’s where we have been falling down. I remember the tax marches in the 70s. We got hundreds of thousands of people on the streets back then – but it didn’t deliver. “What happened subsequently was you had right-wing parties like the PDs and they were the ones who delivered on their neoliberal agenda. So in the end it’s down to credibility and being able to bring people with us.” Brian blames the media for “fashioning the political consensus” and “keeping people virtually in a state of fear” with so much uncertainty about their futures. “There is all sorts of fear out there. We are encountering it on the shop floor – that people are afraid to stand up or stick their head above the parapet. In some places we have had resistance to cuts being imposed – in pay, terms and conditions – but it is sporadic.”
He remains unconvinced that attempts by power elites, banks and the media to shore up the capitalist model will succeed. “I think their ability to do it is more limited now than it was in the past. It is a model based on consumerism – based on money that is borrowed rather than improving people’s conditions, their incomes and wealth. “Where all the wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few, you’re bound to have problems with the system and that is exactly what has happened…” As roughly 200,000 people work the retail sector in the Republic, Brian thinks there is certainly an opportunity to boost Mandate’s membership. In the boom times of the early noughties, he claimed he detected a feeling – especially from some younger workers – that “If I’m not happy with my job, I can just go elsewhere”, because there were so many jobs available. That has now changed. “In truth, they didn’t see the need for a trade union, but now we have a lot of people coming into the office and saying, ‘My job is on the line’, ‘I’ve been dismissed’, ‘I’ve been made redundant’.” Pointing out that membership is the “life blood of any union”, he adds that the key to attracting new members lies in “the vibrancy of the organisation”. “It’s about your profile [among workers], your ability to organise and your ability to represent.” So what can unions do restore their influence in society? “The only thing we can do is restore our credibility, the trust that is required.” But having “worked at the coalface” for many years, Brian acknowledged that this is not an easy task. “You need a fierce commitment… but that is the only way. You’ve got to build from the ground up. You’ve got to organise people, but also recruit them first – and do that on an ongoing basis. “Organise and try and build it from there. Then use whatever influence you have – industrial, campaigning, whatever – in the best way possible. That is the only way to do it.” 23