SHOPFLOOR MANDATE TRADE UNION
DUNNES STORES DON’T SPEAK TO US
DON’T LISTEN TO US
DON’T SEE THE NEED...
BUT LABOUR COURT & OUR MEMBERS SEE THE NEED SO MANDATE SAYS THIS TO DUNNES: IT’S
TIME TO TALK Labour Court says Dunnes failed to engage over wage claim PAGE 10
OUT IN FORCE
Strong Mandate presence at Lift the Burden demos Report and pictures PAGES 3,4,5
B&Q decision to sack 92 staff ‘beyond contempt’ MANDATE has described B&Q’s announcement that it is to make 92 workers at its outlets in Athlone and Waterford redundant as “beyond contempt”. The union, which represents a large percentage of staff at the DIY retailer, claims workers have been treated in the most inhumane manner possible. Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light said: “Coming off the back of a refusal by the company to meet with workers’ representatives in order to address the concerns of their own loyal workforce, this confirms our suspicions that the company is using the examinership process as a way to drive down costs at the expense of their own staff. “For any worker to discover they have lost their job in this manner shows a basic lack of decency on the part of those in a position of power.” Mandate also claimed the company had yet to outline why it is in examinership. However, the union has received confirmation from the examiner, Declan McDonald of PwC, that he is prepared to meet with Mandate representatives to discuss matters. Mr Light told Shopfloor: “While we understand that many retailers have been struggling in this current economic climate, and while we recognise the fact that B&Q owe €17 million to their parent company, Kingfisher plc, they have not explained what has happened to
reserves they built up over the past number of years. It is less than two years since B&Q UK & Ireland announced a profit increase to £215 million (March 24,2011). “Is this the case of a company exporting profits during the good times and when a difficult period inevitably comes, the company uses the opportunity to address the high rental contracts and conveniently attack the living standards of their own workers – many of whom helped build those profits in the past? “We’d also like to establish what exactly is meant when Kingfisher plc say they will support B&Q provided there is ‘implementation of a cost-cutting programme and the successful negotiation of a survival scheme’.” Mr Light added: “This is a worrying enough time for all of the workers in B&Q without reading in the media that their terms and conditions, including their income, could be up for renegotiation. “Mandate will continue to make representations on behalf of our members and we will resist any attempts to undermine the conditions that they enjoy in B&Q. “Due to the dismissive nature of B&Q management towards their workers, the union will now be focusing our energy on an urgent meeting with the examiner to establish what has been going on in this company and what the future will be for these workers.”
Brendan O’Hanlon speaks at a meeting of Boots shop stewards in Mandate HQ last year Picture:John Chaney/Mandate
Boots pay alignment strategy ‘is divisive’
MANDATE has slammed a new “pay alignment initiative” by Boots management as “divisive” and aimed at “pitching worker against worker”. As reported in the last issue of Shopfloor, members at Boots are seeking an unconditional pay increase from the company which recently announced profits of more than €18 million. The firm is insisting that any wage rise – which it claims it is prepared to pay staff on a new pay scale agreed in 2009 – must be paid for by staff colleagues who remained on the old pay scale. Mandate claims Boots is attempting to disguise its actions under what the firm dubbed a “pay alignment initiative”, requiring staff earning more than €12 an hour to reduce their rate of pay to €12. This will result in some employees
having their pay cut by between 3c and more than €2 an hour. Although the company informed staff that their decision was “voluntary”, it clearly stated that those who refused to change would lose their entitlement to all bonuses. Even though Boots received an almost 100% rejection of its “pay alignment initiative”, it continues to make it the precondition to the payment of any wage hike. Following a meeting of the Boots National Negotiating Committee in January, it was decided to refer the claim to the Labour Relations Commission for a conciliation conference in line with the procedural agreement brokered between the company and the union. Mandate Divisional Organiser Brendan O’Hanlon expressed disappointment at the company’s stance
which he described as “a deliberate move… to divide the staff and pitch worker against worker despite the fact that all employees of the company had made massive contribution to the company’s continued success”. He said: “ The national negotiating team had made a strategic decision with regard to communicating to all Boots employees to ensure that the staff of Boots realise the importance of remaining unified and not to allow their employer create this divisive situation.” It is understood all existing members were written to individually to update them on developments. Text messages and store circulars were also sent out. Mandate Industrial Officer Jonathan Hogan also called on all members to ensure they informed the union of their up-to-date contact details.
Could you contribute to Shopfloor? LRC talks still under way
Do you have a perspective on the Irish political, social or economic environment that you'd like to share with your fellow members in Mandate Trade Union? Do you have a good news story about how being a union member has benefited you and your colleagues in the workplace. Have you a story about how you or your family are coping in the current recession. Whatever it is, we'd like to hear from you. Please contact Shopfloor at firstname.lastname@example.org or post your article to Shopfloor, Mandate Trade Union,9 Cavendish Row, Dublin 1
over Penneys 3% pay claim
TALKS are still under way at the Labour Relations Commission over a 3% wage claim made by Mandate members at Penneys. Mandate has agreed to a twoweek adjournment of the proceedings at the company’s request so that they can “fully respond” to the members’ claim. Mandate Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light told Shopfloor: “While we reluctantly agreed to a
two week adjournment, we have reminded the company that our claim is nearly one year old and that they are one of the few remaining main retail employers who have not settled on a wage increase for their workers.” He added: “We expect the company to factor in this reality when agreement in principle has been reached.” SHOPFLOOR
y March 2013
STRAIGHT TALKING General Secretary Mandate Trade Union
The Anglo deal:
smoke and mirrors or a game changer?
If AT this stage like me you have had it up to the “eyeballs” with spin and counter spin on the Government’s Anglo Bank promissory note deal, then read on and we will try and give you some simple facts. First, the cost of bailing out the Irish banks as of 2013 is just over €64 billion, this equates to more than €9,000 per Irish citizen, as opposed to the EU average of €190 per EU citizen. Ireland is shouldering over 40% of the total European banking debt. Of the €64 billion, over €29 billion is debt related to Anglo Irish Bank and €5 billion is Irish Nationwide Building Society. And yes, you might well ask what has this banking debt got to do with me? The answer is nothing whatsoever – it is not your debt, you did not run it up, but the Irish Government chose to guarantee all private banking debt, thereby making it a debt on every citizen of Ireland. The Government in the case of the Anglo Irish promissory notes previously decided to repay all of Anglo’s debt to the tune of €3.31 billion per year, each year up to 2023 plus interest. This money has to be found, and both this government and the previous one finds this money either through borrowing, cutting services, welfare, increasing taxes/charges, attacking wages and conditions of workers in general but, in particular, public sector workers. These austerity policies are crushing the Irish economy, forcing tens of thousands to emigrate, condemning thousands more to a life of poverty and ensuring that the 400,000 workers unemployed remain unemployed for the foreseeable future. Now back to the promissory note deal. The main point to note is that Ireland/we will still have to pay back every cent of the €30 billion debt which was not ours in the first place, but we can now spread the payments over a longer period – 40 years. This gives us some short-term relief but the debt will be passed on to our children and grandchildren so that they may face the prospect of living in austerity. During the talks on a deal at no time did the Irish government seek to write off the debt or threaten not to pay or stall payments. They fully accepted responsibility for it and, in doing so, have turned this private banking debt into a debt owned by the Irish State and Irish people.
Strong Mandate turnout at all six Feb 9 protests MANDATE members took to the streets in great numbers on February 9 to voice their anger at the €64 billion bank debt being unjustly forced on to the shoulders of the Irish people They joined an estimated 110,000 protestors at six mass demonstrations across the country, venting their frustration at the paying of vast sums of their money to bondholders. General Secretary John Douglas said: “Mandate has taken the position that any deal with the ECB should include a significant write-down in debt, particularly considering this was never the debt of the Irish people in the first place. “The deal this week does not achieve a reduction in the principal debt that will be paid to bondholders.
This time last week the Irish people owed €28 billion and they still owe it this week so as far as we’re concerned, very little has changed. “The fact is, it will just be paid over a longer period of time and will result in our children and grandchildren being saddled with a debt that was never ours in the first place.” The banking crisis in Europe has so far cost the Irish people €9,000 per person, while the average across the EU is €192. Mr Douglas pointed out that Ireland had borne 42.6% of the total net costs of the European bank debt crisis and that this was simply unfair and unsustainable. He said: “The legacy debt issue is also far from satisfactory for our
members, many of whom have very young children who will be in their thirties and forties when the actual principal repayment of the debt starts to be paid back. “How are future generations going to look back on us when they realize they are paying billions of Euros to very wealthy bondholders who speculated and lost, but didn’t lose a penny from their gambles?” Speaking at the Limerick protest, Mandate member and retail worker Doreen Curley said: “I work in a supermarket and can see in people’s eyes the difficulty they have in working to the tightest of budgets in order to feed their families. “I have three children of my own. My eldest is out of school now and out of work.
More pictures from the February 9 protests on pages 4 & 5
So this is the scenario as I see it, your neighbour buys a house on your road for €500,000 financed by a bank mortgage over 20 years, with monthly repayments of €1,000 per month. Unfortunately, your neighbour dies, the bank calls you in and tells you that you must take over the neighbour’s mortgage and guarantee the mortgage of all your other neighbours and you agree (the bank guarantee scheme). You are now faced with paying your own mortgage and your neighbour’s mortgage and you sign up to promise to do so (the promissory note). After a number of years scrimping, saving and going without it all gets too much for you so you go to the bank and tell them you can’t afford to pay both mortgages anymore. They offer you a “deal” which spreads your neighbour’s mortgage over 40 years, the repayments on which are reduced to €500 per month, but – critically – you must still pay off the total cost of your neighbour’s mortgage. You go home and tell everyone that you got a great deal. Now that is what the Government did with the Anglo Irish promissory notes – the sting in the tail is that after 40 years of scrimping and saving to pay your neighbour’s mortgage, you will not even own his house and furthermore, in the case of Ireland’s €64 billion banking debt, you are not only paying for one neighbour’s mortgage but a whole road of neighbours’ houses and their mortgages. The banking debt heaped upon Ireland is simply not sustainable and not fair. It is undermining our society, destroying our jobs, living standards, welfare and services – enough is enough, it is not our debt. I ask you – smoke and mirrors or a game changer? You decide. I did, and that is why I marched and my children marched on the trade union Jobs Not Debt demo on February 9. Did you???
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
LIFT THE BURDEN PROTESTS PICTURE SPECIAL
y March 2013
Pictures: Photocall Ireland; Mandate
GALWAY DUBLIN CORK
Picture: Conor Healy Photography
Fair Shop drive gets thumbs-up FOLLOWING on from the very successful launch of Fair Shop at Christmas, a range of national and international organisations have announced their backing for this exciting and innovative initiative. Uni Global – the voice of 20 million service sector workers – is one such organisation that has thrown its weight behind the drive. It has 900 affiliated unions and represents workers in 150 countries. Alke Boessigner from Uni said: “We are delighted to be able to support wholeheartedly an initiative that puts workers first, incentivises consumers and union members to spend wisely and highlights the vitally important matter of collective bargaining for workers in retail in Ireland.” National Coordinator Brian Forbes told Shopfloor: “It is fantastic news that Uni are supporting us alongside every single trade union in Ireland. This is a really positive development in our campaign. “We are also indebted to progressive organisations in Ireland including the European Anti-Poverty Network, the National Women’s Council, the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland, Open and the Vincentian Partnership who were all among the first tranche of supporters for the Fair Shop campaign – with many more joining us as we progress with the campaign.”
Praise for the campaign has come from far and wide and from a range of organisations in the UK, Canada, USA and Australia. Mr Forbes said: “As a fledgling ethical consumerism campaign, we have many innovative ideas on how to promote Fair Shopping and if our website wwwfairshop.ie is any indication of interest in the concept, then we are off to an excellent start and are very positive for the future. “We aim to get out to every nook and cranny across the country over the coming months and years to promote the issue of ethical consumerism. “It certainly is an exciting time to be involved with Fair Shop as many more consumers are getting increasingly aware of both where they shop and how workers are treated in that shop. Fair Shop helps to point them in the right direction.” Future announcements of more fair shops are expected and the site www.fairshop.ie is Smartphone compatible and includes a Fair Shop location finder which helps consumers pinpoint Fair Shops locally so there really is no excuse for shopping elsewhere. Mr Forbes added: “Fair Shop with retail companies in Ireland who support their workforce and spend your hard earned cash where workers count. You know it makes sense!”
Why I’m in Mandate...
‘I would tell non-union workers in shops to come together, show strength in force. Show you can make a stand for your rights as an employee’
Joe Burke, Tesco, Santry
Pictures: INMO; cdsessums (CC BY 2.0)
Mandate General Secretary John Douglas drafted in Santa to help with Fair Shop launch
24/7 Alliance slam dunks Govt plan to slash pay AT LEAST 4,000 frontline workers from across the public service crammed into the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght on February 18 to voice their anger at Government plans to cut their pay. The plan involves reducing their Sunday Premium rate from double time to time-and-a-half as well as abolishing special Saturday and “twilight” payments. The Government is reported to be holding firm despite the passionate display of resistance to the move shown by workers at the rally. Mandate National Coordinator Brian Forbes told Shopfloor: “Private sector union members, their families and, indeed, workers everywhere rely on the dedication and commitment of these frontline public service workers – whether they are nurses, fire and emergency services personnel or gar-
dai.” He continued: “Despite claims from some commentators that it threatens to divide public sector workers on the issue of pay – especially in the shadow of the Croke Park deal – surely it is gratifying to see workers declaring they have suffered enough and clearly drawing a line in the sand over any further cut to their pay and income. “And this is especially so for those working at night, at weekends or doing unsocial hours.” Mandate has been to the fore in the struggle to defend workers’ pay in the private sector particularly over attacks on the minimum wage and the Joint Labour Committees. Mr Forbes added: “We called on workers in the public sector to join with us in defending low paid workers in the private sector because as sure as night follows day once they are finished with attacking private sector wages and abol-
ishing protections for the most vulnerable private sector workers, they would swiftly move on to those most vulnerable in the public sector. “We support the frontline staff workers making a stand and fighting to defend their incomes and urge all workers and union members to be mindful that solidarity of purpose across unions and members in the public and private sector is absolutely vital. “This is especially so if we want to eradicate failed austerity policies and to fight back against the draconian attacks on low-paid private sector workers, social welfare recipients, low and middle income families and those struggling to maintain a decent living wage across the public service – not just in the frontline services but everywhere” SHOPFLOOR
y March 2013
In an interview that first appeared in radical economics website politicaleconomy.ie, Prof Terrence McDonough, NUI Galway, looks at the crisis of global neoliberalism and sets out why it can’t be resolved with policies that call for yet more global neoliberalism...
How useful is Marxist political economy in understanding crisis in capitalism? All analyses of capitalist crisis have their origins in Marx and the Marxist political economic tradition. The analysis of capitalist stages and their subsequent crises which forms the basis of the position laid out above goes back to Marxist analyses of the resolution of the long depression of the late 19th century in the emergence of the imperialist stage in the early 20th century. You have written recently about Kondratiev’s long wave theory, do you see this crisis as fitting into that understanding? Kondratiev* first observed a long pattern of accumulation and crisis in capitalist history. His analysis, however, was too rooted in technical change and attributed too much regularity to these long periods. Long periods of accumulation result from the consolidation of a new stage of capitalism based in the transformation of number of economic, political, ideological and cultural institutions. Major crises result when these institutions break down due to class struggle and capitalist contradictions. Major crises can be resolved by the creation of a new institutional structure and a new stage of capitalism. This has happened several times in capitalist history but there is no guarantee this will happen again this time. What developments have there been the system over the last number of decades? And do you see these as lasting changes to capitalism? I have made reference to neoliberal policies and institutions, globalisation, financialisation and the relative defeat of labour. These institutions are specific to the last 30 years of global neoliberalism and are at the root of the current crisis. If these turn out to be lasting changes to capitalism, the price will be paid in a continuation of the current crisis. What do you see as the main characteristics of capitalism today and what implications does this have for workers both in mature capitalist economies and those emerging economies? Capitalism today is characterised by the crisis and establishment responses to the crisis. So far these responses have mainly involved an attempted intensification of neoliberalism. This has prominently involved a further weakening of organised labour and an acceleration of efforts to
drive down wages and working class standards of living. Countries have been increasingly subjected to the disciplines of international markets both for goods and finance. Austerity programmes have pursued a deepening of neoliberal policies and a further hollowing out of the role of the state in the capitalist economy. We are obviously seeing austerity, in various degrees of measures, being rolled out across Europe. Why austerity? What is it actually designed to do? I think many of both the political and academic advocates of austerity are the victims of a tremendous poverty of establishment response to the crisis. Since the crisis is a crisis of neoliberalism, neoliberal analyses have no resources with which to address the crisis and the past 30 years have driven all alternatives off the field of respectable discussion. They are at a loss. The notion that austerity will restore “confidence” and promote investment is simply a desperate hope. Others more cynically see a shrunken state and a demobilised working class as good things in themselves and the crisis is an opportunity to pursue these goals through austerity whether it achieves anything else or not.
Why have the massive injections of capital into the US economy not resulted in job creation and growth? Part of the answer is that they were simply not big enough to respond to the severity of the downturn. The rest of the answer is that it is not enough to simply pump up spending. A redistribution of income and the regeneration of investment opportunities along with a massive re-regulation of the financial sector are also necessary to address the crisis within a capitalist framework and there is little evidence of this so far. Many alternative economic proposals from ‘left’ sources seem to want to try and revive a capitalism from a previous era, namely through Keynesian-inspired stimulus plans – can this work in today’s economy? This is understandable given the tremendous sacrifices forced on ordinary people during the neoliberal era. Any route out from under neoliberalism will have a great deal of appeal. It was true that a kind of global “New Deal order” did address the crisis of the Great Depression without revolutionising capitalism. It is also the case that the crisis of a liberal style of capitalism has been addressed in the past through the institution of a more regulated and organised capitalism. Sometimes capital succeeds in regulating itself through the imposition of monopoly markets or the authoritarian state. This is much more difficult to accomplish today on a global scale. Sometimes a regulated capitalism is a compromise forced on capital through popular mobilisation. This was accomplished after the Second World War through the threat of communism from Eastern Europe, militant labour organising and anti-colonial revolutions in the Third World. Popular mobilisation on this scale would be necessary to achieve a similar compromise. Such an outcome would be unlikely to conform to any predetermined blueprint. If such a mobilisation comes to pass, it will be the duty of the left to try to push beyond a capitalist resolution of the crisis and for a more permanent socialist solution. What economic demands should be made if one is trying to build socialism, a different economic system? In periods of crisis, big changes enter the agenda. The global neoliberal crisis will not be resolved through more global neoliberalism. One demand is the demand for socialism itself which will stem from the need to put a radical alternative before the people. This is not adequate, however, in itself. A movement for change will be radicalised first through the raising of “transitional” demands. These are demands which, if met, will strengthen the working class, which have popular support but cannot be granted by capitalism, or which raise the opportunity for education about alternatives to capitalism. Directly addressing the causes of the crisis creates the opportunity for these kinds of demands. On a global level the crisis stems from stagnant wages, sluggish private investment, a hollowed-out state and unregulated finance. This raises the opportunity to demand income redistribution, public investment, a more activist state in working class interests, and a nationalisation of finance. At the European level the crisis stems from a neoliberal euro system without a state capacity for massive fiscal intervention in distressed areas and a central bank which conducts monetary policy while ignoring unemployment. Europeans must demand what is called a transfer union to provide support for the unemployed and countries in crisis or, in the absence of this, an end to the euro. The central bank must act to fight unemployment as well as worry about inflation. In Ireland, rising inequality must be reversed, debt must be written down, and taxes must be shifted to the well-to-do. To the extent any of these demands are realised working people will be strengthened and capitalist resistance to them will provide the opportunity to raise the struggle to a higher level. *Nikolai Kondratiev (1892 - 1938) Russian economist, victim of Stalin’s Great Purge, developed theory that capitalist economies have long-term cycles of boom followed by depression.
Picture: m.a.r.c (CC BY-SA 2.0)
What are its origins? This type of crisis is a crisis of the immediately preceding stage of capitalism. That is, it arises from the breakdown of a range of the institutions which have underpinned the previous period of capitalist accumulation. Neoliberalism, globalisation, weakened labour and financialisation all initially served to raise the profit rate and resolved the crisis of the 1970s, but it is these same institutions which have led to the current crisis. Weakened labour has led to stagnant wages in the major capitalist economies. Global competition has led to excess capacity in many industries. Excess capacity and stagnant markets have led to sluggish investment. A reluctance to invest in real capacity along with financialisation has sucked money into a series of unsustainable bubbles. The collapse of the latest bubble has brought the consequences of stagnant wages and sluggish investment to the fore. The crisis is multidimensional and can only be addressed multidimensionally. It also has global, regional and national dimensions. The euro, neoliberal policies and a conservative and dysfunctional European Central Bank have intensified the crisis in Europe. Along with replicating many of the global dynamics, rising inequality, debt, and a low tax regime have been important in the crisis dynamics in Ireland.
Picture: Conor McCabe
How do you describe the crisis? The current global crisis is a world historical one similar to the stagflationary crisis of the 1970s or the Great Depression of the 1930s. It is the crisis of global neoliberalism.
ANALYSIS By Tom Healy
SAFE AS HOUSES? Picture: Bill Ward's brickpile (CC BY 2.0)
THE recent ICTU demonstration has highlighted the importance of reaching a satisfactory deal on banking. While this is related to the state of public finances, it is only one step towards reversing some of the damage done through austerity over the last five years. Was the ‘bank deal’ reached on February 7 a good deal? My view is that it was one step forward and very possibly two steps back! Let me explain: Up to February 7, Irish taxpayers were expected to pay more than €3.1 billion a year to pay down a debt of a dead bank which had already largely paid off its bondholders and corporate deposit holders. This amount was to be paid every year for at least another decade and, together with interest on borrowing was set to cost in excess of €50 billion in the long-run (some of these details were outlined in a NERI working paper at a February 6 seminar – www.NERInstitute.net). What we got on February 7 was a two-edged sword: In return for a significant relief in terms of public finances in 2014 and 2015, we got an outcome where – for sure – future generations as well as this will continue to pay for the possibly illegal debts of a dead bank (which is now being liquidated along with the employment contracts of up to 800 workers) for the remaining half of this century. It is difficult to calculate what the final bill will be because: • Interest rates on moneys borrowed by the Government/Central Bank will vary and will certainly rise from their current historically very low levels; • The immediate cost of paying off bondholders remaining in AngloIrish (thought to be less than €1 billion) together with the very risky transfer of bad assets to NAMA over the coming months leaves the Irish taxpayer exposed to future costs and shortfalls. The Department of Finance estimates little or no gain in this year because of the ‘transaction costs’ of winding up IBRC (the new name for Anglo-Irish and what was INBS). From 2014 there could be a net saving of up to €1 billion in public finances. While politicians have claimed victory in terms of possible fiscal easing with an additional one billion, others have cautioned against jumping to this conclusion. There are many uncertainties this year and beyond. A comparison may be made with a couple – Pat and Anne with three children who took out a mortgage on a house worth €300,000 during the boom years and with a market value of only €150,000 today. They had got bad advice from people in the bank who pushed all sorts of loans at cheap rates of interest. Then, in 2008, Pat lost his job while Anne had her working hours cut in half. The couple simply could not pay the mortgage of €3,000 every month. So, rather than lose everything the bank – smartly – gave Pat and Anne an ‘interest-only’ mortgage with special low (variable) in-
Another look at that bank deal and what it means for the Pats and Annes of Ireland terest rates so that their monthly bill only came to €1,000. They were given an extension on the mortgage to 40 years. This seemed like terrific news at first and there was a family celebration where all the local big-wigs were invited into the party in Pat and Anne’s home. “A real game-changer,” said the grandparents. “The best possible deal in the circumstances,” added the neighbours who knew how stressed-out Pat and Anne had been recently. Their dear uncle from Limerick told them how he had bought a
house for £3,000 many years ago and paid off the mortgage with one month’s salary years later. “It will all work out well,” he assured them. For months after, the local moneylenders stopped pursuing them and the Credit Union upgraded their credit standing. However, Pat could not get employment apart from a few hours here and there. Anne’s wages were increased but the cost of energy, school, household charges and then water charges made it increasingly difficult for them to make the monthly repayment. Added to this the interest rate
doubled over a short period of time (their uncle had not told them that the same thing happened to him back in the late 1980s). The last straw was when their welfare benefit on part of the mortgage was stopped as part of a combined activation/incentivisation scheme to get people like Pat back to work. Pat and Anne approached the bank to see if they could stop making monthly paymentns for a while. The bank refused. A nice solicitor helped Pat and Anne to take a case against the bank having discovered that the house
they had bought and which was ‘noted’ and approved for loan approval by the bank in the first place had been built on a flood plain with no solid foundations. Not only was the bank corrupt but it had received letters from other financiers who lent to the bank to say that under no circumstances should people like Pat and Anne be given a debt-write down on their mortgage. The letter also said that people lending to the bank – called bondholders – should be allowed to default by having all their money back when due without any reduction in SHOPFLOOR
y March 2013
Manner of dismissal ‘totally inappropriate’
We will never pay off that debt because we can’t afford to do so...
Picture: pasukaru76 (CC BY 2.0)
THE Rights Commissioner has recommended that a Mandate member dismissed by Marks & Spencer for an alleged breach of company policy be paid €4,000. The member, who worked at the retailer’s Athlone store, had been dismissed for breach of the ‘Company Reservation of Sale Policy’. Before her dismissal, she was asked to attend a meeting with her employer to investigate the purchase of a sales item where she was represented by a member of the Mandate House Committee. At the end of this meeting the investigation manager instructed the member to clear out her locker and hand back her swipe card, She was then escorted out of the store. At a follow-up disciplinary hear-
the amount owed even though their loans were now worthless and they had originally agreed to take a risk with consequences. This discovery of the letter together with the proof of defective house plans was a major breakthrough for Pat and Anne and they now had a perfect legal case to challenge the legality of the whole mortgage contract in the first place – so they thought. So off they went to court. After much contestation it came to light that what they thought was a mortgage originally was not a mortgage but a strange arrangement referred to as a Promissory Note debt which was very similar to a mortgage but was open to legal challenge according to advice the bank got from its legal team (in fact the bank’s legal teams strongly urged the bank to get rid of the Promissory Note arrangement quickly to make it look like a big win for people like Pat and Anne). In signing up for an extension in the term of the loan and no repayment of the ‘value’ of the house, Pat and Anne did not fully understand the meaning of a clause written in by the bank that they could never default on mortgage payments and, if they did, they would lose their home. Things did work out – in a manner of speaking – for Pat and Anne eventually. Pat got a job eventually even though his wages and Anne’s remained very low and both ended up working longer hours than ever. Decades after all of this happened, Pat and Anne passed away and there was the question of the will. There were three children and they expected a share in the final esMarch 2013
tate. However, not only was there no estate but the contract designed by the bank when Pat and Anne got an extension stipulated that, legally, their children and their grandchildren were obliged to repay the debts in full. This had been pointed out at the time by Pat and Anne’s first solicitor but he had reassured them that inflation and economic growth would make the real value of the debt to their children tiny. Their children would be earning huge salaries and everything would cost more so that the outstanding mortgage of €300,000 would be worth only a fraction of what it is worth in today’s prices and wages. Pat and Anne believed this story and took the view that a good deal involving interest-only payments would free up money to pay for the children’s education and welfare. As it turned out the children were not able to meet the debt payment after the parents passed away so they agreed to a new arrangement with the bank which by now was a major international player earning huge profits and present in many parts of the world. The debt was simply ‘rolled over’. As Pat said before he passed away: “We will never pay off that debt because we cannot afford to do so.” This is indeed true and banks and governments know this. This is why they charge a rate of interest on the amounts you and I own. And in the Irish language there is a saying, thíos seal, thuas seal – “down for a time and up for a time”. The interest rates are very thíos right now across Europe.
Tom Healy is Director of the Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI)
ing the member was represented by her Mandate shop steward and by a full-time official. At this later meeting, the Mandate official, among other representations, strongly objected to the manner of the initial suspension. Quite apart from the humiliation and anxiety this caused, the official argued that it was an affront to the member’s entitlement to a presumption of innocence. The M&S representative claimed this was normal practice, but the official asked that the employer note the union’s concern that this practice was prejudicial. In fact, Mandate’s concerns were later vindicated at a hearing taken about the case with the Rights Commissioner.
The Rights Commissioner found the action had been “totally inappropriate” because it had “compromised the claimant’s right to the presumption of innocence before the disciplinary or appeal meetings took place.” According to the Commissioner, the investigation manager “went beyond his role as an investigator”. It was recommended that M&S pay €4,000 to the claimant for the unfair dismissal, contrary to the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977-2007 with the stipulation that sum should be paid within six weeks of the recommendation being made. M&S later complied with the recommendation and paid out the amount.
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N UNIO P E R
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: firstname.lastname@example.org 9
Labour Court backs union over 3% claim and points out that...
Dunnes failed in its obligation to process claim under ’96 deal
clear in that they found Dunnes failed in their obligations contained in collective agreement and that our claim for a 3% pay increase had real and obvious merit. “Hopefully, Dunnes might learn from some of its competitors that treating people with respect is in fact a business asset – not a liability.” Mr Light claimed that most retail companies had emerged intact from the economic crisis and had remained highly profitable. “And he also pointed to industry
A MEMBER in Dunnes Stores, Stillorgan, was recently awarded compensation for the loss of late night overtime by the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT). The member, who joined the company in 1982, was a full-time member of staﬀ and had continuously worked a late night at an overtime rate of double time as part of her roster. This payment
was included in her holiday pay. In 2009, the company closed its Stillorgan store for a re-ﬁt and the member was transferred to Cornelscourt where she continued to work and was paid for her late nights. When eventually the Stillorgan store re-opened, it did so on the basis of trading reduced hours. The member was informed that
‘Hopefully, Dunnes might learn from some of its competitors that treating people with respect is in fact a business asset – not a liability’
MANDATE has welcomed Dunnes Stores’ announcement that it is to pay its staff a 3% pay rise from the beginning of February 2013 – but expressed continued disappointment that bosses at the retailer were still failing to respect their workers’ right to be appropriately represented by a trade union of their choice. The wage hike – the first since 2007 – was announced on January 17 and affects more than 14,000 shop workers across the Republic Mandate claims there can be little doubt that the decision to greenlight the pay increase came as a direct result of the union serving a claim on the employer. The fact that management decided to announce concession of the claim on the eve of a Labour Court case initiated by the union clearly points to this being the case. According to Mandate, it came as no surprise that management again decided that neither the union, its members nor indeed the Court deserved the common courtesy to be informed of the decision. In its subsequent recommendation, the Court found that Dunnes failed in its obligations set out in the 1996 National Agreement in refusing to meet the union to process the wage claim on behalf of its members employed in the company. The Court went on to further find that it had no hesitation in recommending in favour of the union’s 3% wage increase. Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light said: “The company persists in being high-handed in its dealings with their workers at local and national level as well as the institutions of the State. “In this instance management has displayed once again a total disregard for basic decency and respect in dealing with its workforce and the Labour Court. “The findings of the Court are
– Gerry Light
estimates that Dunnes Stores generated sales of around €3.8bn a year and was achieving significant profits – efforts which were in large part
due to the efforts of hard-working staff.” He added: “Since early 2011 Mandate has with some degree of achievement sought to engage with
retail employers to put in place pay arrangements that reflect their workers’ contribution to that success.”
Late night worker awarded compensation 10
she would now be rostered for 37½ hours. She underlined her willingness to maintain her hours over two evenings but management refused to listen and proceeded to implement the new roster which meant our member was at a loss of €67.65 a week. The union lodged a claim under the Payment of Wages Act and following a hearing – which the com-
pany failed to attend – was awarded compensation. Dunnes appealed this case to the EAT but, in the meantime, because our member was still suffering a loss, a further claim went to the Rights Commissioner’s Service. The company attended this hearing and a diﬀerent Rights Commissioner ruled in their
favour. The union then appealed this case to the EAT. The tribunal heard both cases at one hearing. In its determination, the Tribunal stated that it was satisﬁed that the overtime working formed part of our member’s contract and ordered Dunnes to compensate her for the amount lost for each week of her claim. SHOPFLOOR
y March 2013
VIEWPOINT MORTGAGE DEBT
How Reykjavik kept the home fires burning... By Patrick Nulty TD
Picture: Labour Party
FOR many people the single biggest investment of their lives is buying a home. Homes aren’t just bricks and mortar – they are also the places where newborn babies are welcomed into the world, where birthdays, communions and other important family occasions are celebrated. When someone’s home comes under threat due to mortgage arrears, this creates huge financial and emotional pressures. There couldn’t be a more pressing issue for the thousands of families who are struggling to make mortgage payments today. There are now 180,000 mortgages in some form of distress or difficulty in Ireland. According to the Central Bank more than 10% of private mortgages are in arrears for 90 days or more. Last September there was some €16.8 billion of Irish mortgage arrears debt. Clearly this is a problem that needs to be tackled head on by the Government which controls the main Irish banks. There are two key principles that should underline the way this is approached. Firstly, no family that is making a genuine effort to make reasonable payments should face eviction from their home. Secondly, the problem of addressing mortgage arrears should be treated as a national priority in the same way that the Government has
focused its attention on re-structuring the Anglo and Irish Nationwide Debt. If the Government can go to great lengths to ensure that the private debt of banks immersed in irresponsible and speculative lending is paid, then surely they can prioritise assisting families who are in difficulty. To date the effort by banks in Ireland has been to re-structure mortgages. This means that people have been moved to lower payments based over a longer period (sounds familiar?).
In some instances households have been moved to interest-only payments for a period. However, there has been no serious effort to actually write off part of the debt that is unsustainable and cannot be paid. This approach will be necessary if the country is to move forward and confidence is to return in our economy. The sooner we come to terms with the part of the mortgage arrears debt that cannot be paid off the better. In Iceland after the banking crash
In Iceland, loans were written off if they exceeded 110% of a house’s value, helping the nation move towards recovery
there were similar problems with mortgage arrears. Some 20,000 households (or one in every five) were in difficulty with mortgage arrears. Inflation and currency devaluation put many households into difficulty. Like Ireland, debt restructuring was offered to these households but also debt forgiveness. Loans were written off if they exceeded 110% of a house’s value. So a person who borrowed the equivalent of €500,000 to buy a house that then halved in value could potentially have €225,000 of the mortgage written off. This helped Iceland move towards recovery. And because only debt that was in negative equity was written off, this system was a fair way of helping struggling families while not giving them any advantage over other families who had managed full repayments in better times. In addition the Icelandic government is spending the equivalent of €100 million on interest rate subsidies for indebted households. There is also a debt ombudsman that can accompany house-
holders in negotiations with the banks. Of course these reforms in Iceland had benefits beyond the families who benefited from debt forgiveness. These measures helped to restore confidence and spending in the domestic economy which was of particular benefit to the retail industry. Without debt forgiveness these mortgage arrears will continue to have a dampening effect on our economy. There are plenty of options open to the Government if they wish to make dealing with our mortgage arrears crisis a top priority. We must demand a swift response that will take pressure off families and households and will speed up a recovery of our domestic economy.
Young Icelander takes part in banks protest Picture: happyjed (CC BY 2.0)
State must move swiftly on Magdalene Laundries payouts MANDATE has welcomed the Government’s apology to 10,000 women and girls treated as virtual slaves over a period of 90 years in the Church-run Magdalene Laundries. But the union called for compensation payments for the estimated 800 victims who are still alive to be fast-tracked by the State. In his emotionally-charged speech to the Dáil on february 19, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, left, said what had happened had "cast a long shadow over Irish life, over our sense of who we are".
He said he "deeply regretted and apologised" for what had been done. It came a fortnight after a damning 1,000 page report was released outlining the horriﬁc treatment suﬀered by those sent to the laundries, where they laboured for no pay. The report, headed by Senator Martin McAleese, found that the State was complicit. It is understood a senior Irish judge is to be appointed to oversee how the survivors are looked after.
The compensation package will include counselling services, healthcare and individual payments. National Coordinator Brian forbes said: “Tears in the Dáil are all well and good, but these women need to get a tangible redress from the State for what they have suﬀered. “It really is a question of our national integrity and it is of the utmost importance that this compensation process is expedited as quickly as possible.”
Equality agenda being diminished Co-ops must
‘Capitalism is not a success. It is not intelligent, it is not beautiful, it is not just, it is not virtuous – and it doesn't deliver the goods. In short, we dislike it, and we are beginning to despise it. But when we wonder what to put in its place, we are extremely perplexed’
– John Maynard Keynes
By Niall Crowley to their members who experience discrimination. It is not clear how this support has weathered the various vicissitudes that have beset the trade unions and the resources available to them. This important role in championing, defending and asserting the right to equal treatment in the workplace has to continue. It has always been important. It is now more important than ever, as the State appears to renege on this responsibility. 2013 should be an important year in relation to these rights to equal treatment. Minister Alan Shatter will shortly bring forward legislation to create a new merged Human Rights and Equality Commission. This legislation must ensure the new body is sufficiently independent to be a champion for workplace change so that discrimination is eliminated, diversity is adjusted for, and equality is achieved.
Picture: Big Dubya (CC BY 2.0)
WORKERS beware! Your protection against discrimination is being eroded! The potential of the Employment Equality Act to ensure there is no discrimination or harassment in your workplace is diminishing. This is bad news, particularly for pregnant women, migrant workers, employees with disabilities and older workers. Since 2008 the number of cases referred to the Equality Tribunal under the Employment Equality Act plummeted an incredible 38%. This was from 831 cases in 2008 to 517 cases in 2011. Could this be the good news that workplace discrimination is being defeated? Not so, sadly! The ESRI and Equality Authority published a report on discrimination in Ireland in 2012. This was based on the Central Statistics Office’s special equality module in the Quarterly National Household Survey (QNHS) of 2010. They found that work-related discrimination was perceived as being experienced in the previous two years by 7.8% of those aged 18 and over. This is at least 187,300 people who felt they had been discriminated against while in work or seeking work. Far from decreasing, this figure represented a very slight rise from 7.2% in 2004. Workplace discrimination is not going away. It is just becoming more hidden and invisible. The fall in cases referred to the Equality Tribunal is, therefore, an issue of increased under-reporting of workplace discrimination. It is no coincidence that this is happening at the same time as the withering away of the institution set up to implement this equality legislation. The Equality Authority currently has no legal staff available to support people to take cases. Anecdotal evidence suggests that they are telling callers they cannot offer support at present. The Equality Authority never took all such cases. However, its litigation provided a flagship that secured a strong and constant visibility for the equality legislation and the protections it offers workers. Its legal work provided the reassurance that change was possible and it was worth taking the case if you had been discriminated against. This role has disappeared with the demise of its litigation work. There has been an extraordinary drop of 66% in the number of cases supported by the Equality Authority between 2008 and 2011. Trade unions have always been the key provider of support
It must ensure that the new body is sufficiently effective and adequately resourced in order to rebuild a culture of compliance with the equality legislation. This requires that it can take and support a sufficient number of cases under the equality legislation each year. The Equality Rights Alliance, which includes a strong trade union presence, is now working to ensure there is a public demand for such legislation. This is no easy task with promissory notes, long-term bonds, mortgage crises and unemployment crowding out attention. Trade unions have been a powerful voice for equality and this voice is badly needed now if the protections that should be available to the diversity of workers are to be effectively in place.
form part of alternative response to neo-liberalism By Stephen Nolan ACROSS the globe neo-liberal economics continues to see increases in inequality, poverty, social instability, new imperialist adventures and environmental degradation. In Northern Ireland the welcome transition from violence to a functioning assembly is accompanied by a second transition from an economic framework formulated upon the post-war social contract, to one that is dominated by market agendas and neo-liberal principles. In the south we are witnessing a fast-track transition to the same neo-liberalised economy using the financial crisis as cover. An insidious media, business, political and third sector consensus has emerged which seeks to ‘re-balance’ the economy by selling off state services making the country more ‘favourable’ to foreign direct investment through increased corporate welfare and a concerted ideological attack on workers, the unemployed and the vulnerable. Such political and institutional addiction to a failed neo-liberal orthodoxy only guarantees future economic and social insecurity. If we want a balanced, stable and sustainable island economy it is time to start building co-operative and socialised alternatives, and that is what Trademark, the anti-sectarian unit of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions is attempting, in our way, to do. In parallel with our traditional role, we recognise the importance of forging allegiances with other progressive social movements that seek to create a more equal and democratic world. This, of course, must include the co-operative movement. In Ireland north and south the cooperative movement comprises
credit unions, agricultural co-operatives, housing associations and the co-operative retail movement with billions in assets, tens of thousands of employees and with the contribution of the credit union movement, millions of members. Worker-owned co-operatives, however, are almost entirely absent. It is clear that worker-owned and worker-managed co-operatives must be part of a new alternative economic landscape. They can offer an alternative means at creating dignified and socially-useful employment that is democratically controlled by those whose labour creates the wealth. In order to create more sustainable, independent and democratic work practices, the model of co-operative development needs to expand beyond retail, social finance and farming, just as the focus on social enterprises generally needs to seriously look at worker management and ownership. co-operative forms of economic activity deserve to be part of the creation of a sustainable economy, that minimise the ‘leakage’ of revenue streams (profits, wages, assets and credit creation) from the economy. In 2009 we undertook research into worker co-operatives and the contribution they might make in tackling inequality and promoting democracy. The research showed that worker co-operatives can distinguish themselves as democratic and community focused and can contribute to a cooperative ‘commonwealth’ in partnership with other social movements that can act as an alternative to neo-liberalism. Trademark took a strategic decision to begin a Worker co-operative Development Programme with the initial focus on interfaces in Belfast. The organisation felt that the deSHOPFLOOR
y March 2013
Proud and noble tradition: Lancashire co-operative shop at the turn of the last century
velopment of Interface co-operative structures held potential to resist and challenge sectarianism by bringing workers together daily to work democratically for joint benefit in which values of solidarity and democracy can replace the dynamics of suspicion and mistrust At the 2011 much vaunted MTV Europe showcase in Belfast, where Lady Gaga and Justin Beiber took the headlines, a perhaps more sigMarch 2013
nificant event was taking place back stage. A group of worker-owners from the Falls and Shankill Roads, set about establishing Belfast’s first Interface Worker Co-operative, The Belfast Cleaning Society (www.belfastcleaningsociety.com). Belfast native Alice McLarnon, a trade unionist, community activist and co-worker, was one of the founding members. It is unionised, it is worker controlled, it is democratic
and the workers pay themselves above the industry average, while re-investing their profits in their future. Following the successful establishment of the first co-operative, Trademark became involved in assisting the establishment and development of a number of co-operative start-ups leading to the establishment of the all-island Workers’ Cooperative Network (www.workersco-operativenetwork.org) who alongside the development of inter-cooperation are lobbying to secure progressive changes to Irish and British law on co-operatives. Worker co-operatives can make a difference because of the presence of political consciousness expressed through core values – values such as the sovereignty of labour, the subordinate nature of capital, democracy, inter-cooperation and sustainability. co-operatives offer opportunities for political engagement and expose workers to tangible democratic experience. In distinguishing themselves as democratic, and as community focused, worker co-operatives offer new experiences and can act as spaces of collectivism and social solidarity. The system that is in crisis is not absolute. It is always resisted, challenged and transformed. Whether in the struggles of labour against capital or in those co-operative spaces where the markets grip is loosened, we are challenged to look beyond the system for answers. We can perhaps look to alternative structures where participative democracy is practised and where collective forms of ownership still exist.
Stephen Nolan is a co-director of Trademark. Trademark is a social justice co-operative established in 2001 and dedicated to tackling sectarianism and inequality.
the SHOPFLOOR VIEW from Assistant General Secretary Mandate Trade Union
Examining what lies behind B&Q examiner move THE manner and motivation behind the recent decision to seek the appointment of an examiner to B&Q Ireland deserves our careful attention for the following reasons... Like other many UK-based operations, B&Q came to these shores and profited hugely from the lucrative spoils which were on offer during the era of the Celtic Tiger. Significantly the vast amount of these profits were shipped, after the payment of one of the most lenient corporation tax rates in the world, back to the home land of the parent company. In the case of B&Q the parent is the Kingfisher Group – a hugely profitable international business. When B&Q Ireland was placed into examinership, it was reported to have been €17 million in the red – all of which was owed to the parent company. It would appear at face value that very little parental loyalty has been shown to the Irish business and its dedicated workforce. Little has been offered in defence of the view expressed by many business commentators that the route chosen by B&Q management is essentially a one-issue examinership in that it is solely focused in bringing pressure to bear on landlords in order to get them to reduce rents. If this proves to be the case, then it must be argued that this is far too convenient and borders on an abuse of the examinership process itself. An increasing amount of easy escape routes are available to employers which simply allow them to walk away from their responsibilities when a business gets into trouble leaving in their wake many distressed workers and their families. There can be no doubt that many other retailers in similar circumstances are watching and awaiting what emerges from the B&Q situation. It is reasonable to suggest that some might think twice about following the same route because of high levels of union membership and organisation in their respective businesses. One thing is for certain that wherever this union is active we will attempt to close down these routes of easy exit and demand that employers remain loyal to their workers and face the challenges facing the business together in a sense of true and meaningful partnership. An ironic development emerged in the commercial court last week when one of the potential investors prepared to put money into the B&Q business was identified as their current owners, but only when the Irish operation is suitably restructured, in this case by somebody else and not them. A typical example of getting others to do the dirty work for you. Few morals or little decency involved here I would suggest – rather it seems a clear case of having your cake and eating it.
Picture: avlyxz (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Picture: Co-operatives UK
Belfast Cleaning Society: forging links across the Peace Line in Belfast
Willie Hamilton: ‘Blunt message to Dunnes’
Dunnes staff at Drogheda store praised for taking united stand
Mandate Youth Network activist Robert Rattigan gives a presentation on the Irish experience of youth unemployment to delegates at the UNI Europa Youth conference Picture: Mandate
Forging links at UNI Europa HAVING recently worked with staff at Mandate to set up a youth committee for our union, we jumped at the chance to represent the union and meet other young union activists from overseas. By doing this, we hoped to gain from their experiences of engaging with young workers in other parts of Europe. The meeting, which is held every two years, kicked off on February 6, with a welcoming address from outgoing members of the steering committee. There was also a report of the various issues UNI Europa Youth had been involved with since the last meeting. No doubt, the most interesting aspect of our first day was an ‘icebreaker’ exercise we all took part in. And it was uplifting to speak face to face with so many young activists who are continuing to exercise their right to organise and campaign for workplace rights in the face of growing austerity. We then had a video conference with the UNI Regional Secretary Oliver Röthig. Despite the poor internet connection, his message was crystal clear. The world has changed, he told delegates. National governments were making decisions in Brussels without regard for national interests. 14
Mandate Youth Network members Christopher Byrne, Daniel McCarthy and Robert Rattigan attended UNI Europa Youth’s biennial committee meeting recently in Albufeira, Portugal. This is their report...
He argued that the fight for a fairer economy was no longer an ‘at home’ issue, but had to be fought on a European level, which is why European trade unions had to stand together. The following day was no less fascinating. We heard a very motivating speech by Rui Riso, the president of Portuguese banking union SBSI, who made it perfectly clear that the labour movement’s young members were its future. We also heard from outgoing members of the steering committee who shared their experiences of visiting Payatas, a very poor region of the Philippines. In this region, children as young as five scavenge in the local landfill for materials to recycle so that their families can survive. Some were moved to tears as they recalled how they had treated the children to a day out at the zoo, a local theme park and a visit to a fast food restaurant. The whole conference was very emotional as they heard about the joy experienced by these children, who are ordinarily only used to ex-
treme poverty, because of the fundraising efforts of UNI Europa Youth. Later that evening there was much debate about what motions should go before the conference. Topics for discussion included the rise of extreme right-wing organisations across Europe, the regulation of internships, reductions in the working week and the fight against European austerity. UNI Europa Youth aims to take action by consensus, so motions were then referred back to a resolutions committee who worked on drafting new motions that would be acceptable for everyone to vote on the following day. On Friday the conference opened with a presentation from delegates from Turkish union Koop-Is on work carried out by its activists. The main part of the presentation centred on their work to organise in IKEA. This was of great interest to us as Mandate members and showed us why it was so important for unions to cooperate with each other when dealing with employers that operate
in many countries. We then heard case studies on youth unemployment in Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy. Robert made a presentation on this subject from an Irish perspective, which was well received by the other activists. The closing of the conference was immediately preceded by the election of the new steering committee tasked with overseeing the work of UNI Europa Youth over the next two years. Then, there was nothing left for us to do but enjoy the conference party with our new friends in UNI Europa Youth. Over all, the conference was very informative and we also managed to get a Mandate representative elected to the UNI Europa Youth steering committee. We came away feeling energised as young trade unionists and feel it is now more important than ever, for us to help build a union that is open to the ideas and energy that young people can bring. We are the generation that will be most affected if the trend towards low paid, precarious work continues. We hope that young members of Mandate will join us in our efforts. If you would like more information on Mandate Youth Network, please email email@example.com.
MANDATE has praised workers at Dunnes Stores in West Street, Drogheda, for taking a united stand in a bid to address a number of local issues. The union claimed regional management had ignored “a long list of complaints” from the staff about “unacceptable behaviour” at the store. Divisional Organiser Willie Hamilton told Shopfloor: “ A general meeting of staff was called and it was agreed our members would pursue their grievances using our procedural agreement right up to strike action.” It is understood Dunnes management tried to ignore members’ rights to be represented by their union, refusing to attend either the LRC or Labour Court. Mr Hamiton said: “But just prior to our members going to the Labour Court, the company came to their senses and convened a meeting with the regional management. “Our members communicated a very blunt message to them that our members were not prepared to put up with the behaviour.” Another general meeting was subsequently held where it was decided to call off the Labour Court hearing and to monitor management behaviour on an ongoing basis. Mr Hamilton added: “It was very clear at this meeting that the members were prepared to continue their campaign up to and including all out strike if the management failed to address the complaints.”
Why I’m in Mandate... ‘I joined Mandate to help people who are being unfairly treated’
Lorraine O’Brien, Tesco, Carlow SHOPFLOOR
y March 2013
Labour Court ruling backs Mandate on long-service progression
The Irish Trade Union Congress Executive Committee of 1914. IDAA chief Michael O’Lehane, far right front row, sitting next to Jim Larkin. James Connolly stands at the far left
Picture: 1913 Committee
Shop workers’ leader had a pioneering vision for unions By Therese Moriarty A CENTURY ago, among the most energetic trade unionists in Ireland was Michael O’Lehane, general secretary of the Irish Drapers’ Assistants’ Association – Mandate’s forerunner. His memory has been overshadowed by later comrades, especially James Larkin and James Connolly. But before either had joined the struggles of the Irish Trades Union Congress, Michael O’Lehane had built a national shop workers’ union, with its own monthly journal. His short life – he died before he was 50 years old – has contributed to his national obscurity. But in his 20 years spent as a trade union organiser, O’Lehane built a union with members throughout the country, in city and small towns, with dedicated women’s sections for members and in their publications. Michael O’Lehane was a west Cork man, born near Macroom (Knockaveillig, Killinardish). His working life began as an apprentice in Cork city’s drapery stores. When he took up working in Limerick, he contracted typhoid in the March 2013
poor working conditions at Cannock’s. He recovered, but it may well have undermined his long-term health. In 1899, he arrived in Dublin to work at Arnotts. Here among other committed men and women the Irish Drapers’ Assistants’ Benevolent Association (IDAA) was formed. O’Lehane became its general secretary, and prominent among the Dublin labour movement, first, and as new branches formed across the country, in the national labour movement. The IDAA was built on three principal grievances, the living-in system where young workers in the drapery trade lived in dormitories above their workplaces; long, unregulated working hours, and poor pay. The IDAA campaigned for better wages, early closing and a minimum wage. Shopfloor’s predecessor, the IDAA’s monthly journal, the Drapers’ Assistant, was Ireland’s first trade union journal. Michael O’Lehane filled its pages with information on new employment laws affecting members, union
business, reports of their local gatherings and provincial meetings, a regular ‘Ladies Letter’, building it up to 30 or so pages. It published photographs throughout – which was still unusual in journals at that time. All this was achieved at a time when better-resourced British unions were recruiting workers in Irish trades and industries. Alongside his IDAA commitments, Michael O’Lehane was involved with Dublin Trades Council, and was elected its president in 1910. He was an elected Poor Law Guardian and city councillor, an executive member of the Irish Trades Union Congress for two terms and its elected treasurer. There he was a frequent supporter of smaller union claims, especially for the Belfast linen women workers. In 1912, he became the president of Congress, chairing the historic conference in Clonmel that voted for independent labour representation. He represented Ireland at early international trade union conferences in Europe. O’Lehane was also a Gaelic League member.
Women were members from the start – almost unknown among Dublin unions – and addressed in a dedicated column in the union journal. A women’s section of the Dublin branch was set up and O’Lehane himself was a public supporter of the women’s suffrage campaign. By 1914 over a third of IDAA members were women (1,400 out of 4,000). Michael O’Lehane died suddenly on March 1, 1920. He had never married, and died without a family to tend his reputation. The record of his 20 years of activism demonstrates he was a crucial figure of the Irish trade union movement both in the capital and across the country in the opening decades of the 20th century. The Irish Labour History Society journal published the fullest account of O’Lehane’s life, from which most of these details are taken, ‘Michael O’Lehane and the organisation of linen drapers’ assistants’, by Dermot Keogh (Saothar 3). Dictionary of Irish Biography also has a shorter account by Angela Murphy.
THE Labour Court has found in favour of Mandate on the issue of incremental progression in Argos. The case – which was taken by Divisional Organiser Amanda Kane on behalf of a member in the Midlands – has a bearing on members across the company. The issue arose out of an interpretation of when progression on to a long service increment starts – on the anniversary of the start date or on completion of the service, in this case six or nine years. It was Ms Kane’s contention that it should apply on the anniversary of the start date, an argument accepted by the Labour Court who found in the member’s favour. As incremental progression forms part of a collective agreement between Mandate and Argos, both sides will seek to rectify the issue at a meeting scheduled to take place over the coming weeks. In the meantime, steps have been taken to inform members of the development in all stores.
Meeting of Argos reps
A MEETING of Argos shop stewards has been scheduled in the coming weeks to formulate an agenda for a meeting with management in early March. This will be a good opportunity to engage with the members in Argos and address areas of concern. Industrial Officer David Miskell told Shopfloor: “Given the progress that has been made on pay by Mandate in other major retailers in recent times, it is imperative that our members in Argos keep abreast of these trends. “We remain committed to constructive engagement with the company on all issues.
Why I’m in Mandate...
‘As a unionised workforce we have the ability to stand together’
Jennifer Mullins Penneys, Galway
THE BIG QUESTION IS IRELAND BEING DRAFTED INTO PLANS TO FORM A EUROPEAN ARMY
Marching to the be By Frank Keoghan
People’s Movement MINISTER for European Affairs Lucinda Creighton has recently described Ireland’s position on military neutrality as “narcissistic” and says that she is “very supportive” of Ireland joining a common European defence – in other words, an EU army – but doesn’t believe her party could gain “political traction” for that in the short term. Of course this is just empty rhetoric that hides the reality that we are at the point where we practice a peculiarly Irish form of military neutrality. The ‘triple-lock’ mechanism, drawn up in the wake of Ireland's referendum rejection of the EU's Nice Treaty, requires UN, Government and Dáil approval for any deployment of Irish troops overseas. But In September 2010, the then-Fine Gael foreign affairs spokesman Seán Barrett, Creighton’s predecessor, argued that the triple-lock system, “though honourable”, is “flawed” due to its requirement of a UN Security Council resolution for any overseas mission. Dropping this requirement would open the way for a government with a strong Dail majority – such as the present administration – to commit Irish troops to any conflict anywhere in the world – with or without UN sanction. The triple lock was weakened by Irish Defence Acts of 2006, which states that such a force should be ‘established’ by the Security Council or General Assembly. A number of recent military missions were ‘authorised’ by the UN Security Council, but this new authority is deliberately vague. The Acts also gave the gov-
ernment the right to approve the Irish Army taking part in an EU Battle Group assembly and embarkation – dangerously close to active deployment. These are the Defence Acts that Gay Mitchell, MEP and Presidential candidate wanted amended to allow Irish troops to take part in ‘peace missions’, even when those missions were not set up as an international UN force. For some, he seemed to be promoting unimpeded involvement of Irish soldiers in NATO operations, and the abandonment of neutrality. So, why is this so important and is there the possibility of the formation of an EU army to which Ireland would be committed? “Our Defence Forces must possess an appropriate level of capability to properly participate in a UN or European context,” according to Minister Shatter. We all know what a UN mission is but what about the European element? While there is not yet an EU army, all the building blocks have been put in place over the past decade or so. Back in 2001 the EU Commission President Romano Prodi candidly asked the European Parliament: “Are we all clear that we want to build something that can aspire to be a world power?” This was at a time when the EU was trying to establish an embryo military capability – and let us not forget that two members of the EU possess nuclear weapons! Since then, the EU has incrementally increased its military capability as it pursues Prodi’s vision and throughout that time, Ireland’s involvement has deepened. The Single European Act in 1986 had ensured that EU common foreign policy
provisions became part of European Law. And it was specifically the transfer of power over foreign policy that swung the Irish Supreme Court in favour of Raymond Crotty, who had challenged the constitutionality of the Act – resulting in a referendum in Ireland. This was consolidated by the Amsterdam Treaty in 1992, which added defence to the provisions of the EU’s common foreign and security policy. In June 1999, the EU set up the Political and Security Committee (PSC), consisting of the member states’ ambassadors to the EU which meets twice a week. It also set up the Military Committee consisting of the member states’ Chief of Defence Staffs to advise the PSC on military issues and in December 1999 the EU agreed to establish an EU military capability. This involved the creation of an EU Rapid Reaction Force of 50,000-60,000 soldiers with a self-sustaining military capacity, including intelligence, air, naval and combat support units capable of deployment within 60 days to any region up to 6,000 km from the borders of the EU for up to a year. Fortunately, the EU states lacked the capacity to do this as most of their military was already allocated to NATO. They lacked the necessary strategic air force to carry these 60,000 soldiers 6,000 km as well as the required air-to-air refueling planes. This was recently demonstrated during the recent French invasion of Mali when the US provided aerial re-fueling and transportation. There are presently 18 EU Battle Groups, each consisting of more than 3,000 soldiers. Two are mobilised every
six months and are ready for deployment at any time and can be sent anywhere in the world at five days notice. The decision to deploy them is made by the EU Council of Ministers. They are trained as an advanced guard for an even larger military force. The Battle Group has to be “the minimum military, credible, rapidly deployable, coherent force package capable of acting alone, or for the ini-
allocated to the EU B original tasks of hum and peace-keeping an ment missions have n by Lisbon into “joint tions, military advice and post-conflict stab Article 28 B (1) sta may contribute to the ism, including by sup
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen with Irish Defence Minister Alan Shatter at a meeting of defence ministers held in Dublin Castle on February 12 and 13
tial phase of larger operations”. As Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the Dutch Secretary General of NATO, said in 2005: “EU Battle Groups could be used to go to war. Why did the EU create the Battle Group? It is not just to help rebuild a country. The Battle Groups are not there for building schools. We shouldn’t think the EU is for soft power and NATO for tough power.” The Petersberg Tasks define the roles
tries in combating te territories.” Ireland joined the with Sweden, Finland and Latvia in 2007. W number of countries try takes the lead rol commander and mos One of the outcom that officers and sold countries get to know
y March 2013
eat of the EU drum? learn to work together (interoperability), creating over time a growing number of military that develop a European, as distinct from a national, sense of identity within a military framework The last time Irish troops were on standby in 2012, the Battle Group was led by Germany as we have committed a further 175 soldiers to a second Battle Group comprising Germany, Austria, the
errorism in their
Czech Republic, Croatia and the Republic of Macedonia. The Government has allocated €10.7 million to cover the potential cost of Irish Army participation for 120 days if they were actually deployed. Of course, if it was deployed, it is an absolute certainty that the €10.7 million will turn out to be a massive underestimation of the actual cost, and there is no chance whatsoever that the war the Bat-
Picture: Irish Defence Forces (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Battle Groups. The manitarian, rescue, nd peace enforcenow been expanded disarmament operae and assistance tasks bilisation.” ates: “All these tasks e fight against terrorpporting Third Coun-
Nordic Battle Group d, Estonia, Norway When troops from a take part, one counle and provides the st of the troops. mes has been to ensure diers from different w each other and March 2013
tle Group takes part in would be over in four months. While the Irish Defence Forces have remained small, at 9,500 in total, throughout the period of its integration into the EU military bloc, defence expenditure increased to over €1 billion per annum in 2010 – €914m estimate for 2013. This money was spent primarily on the substantial upgrading of its military equipment to ensure military interoperability with NATO as the majority of member states are NATO members. NATO and the EU cooperate on issues of common interest and are working side by side in crisis-management, capability development and political consultations. Ireland is a member of NATO’s Partnership for Peace, widely considered as an annex to full NATO membership. The Lisbon Treaty established an EU Minister for Foreign Affairs responsible for EU foreign, security and defence policy. Article 19(2) states than when the EU has defined a common position; those member states on the UN Security Council shall request the EU Foreign Minster to present that position. The member states are now legally obliged to support the EU’s foreign and security policy, “actively and unreservedly in a spirit of loyalty and mutual solidarity”. Lisbon also includes a Mutual Assistance Clause and a Solidarity Clause which states: “The Union and its member states shall act jointly in a spirit of solidarity if a member state is the object of a terrorist attack or the victim of a manmade disaster. The Union shall mobilise all the instruments at its disposal, including the military resources made available by the member states...”
All these developments represent an unremitting drive to establish an EU army, enthusiastically supported by successive Irish governments. The EU institution, the International Security Information Service (ISIS) in its July 23, 2004 European Security Review, quoted by PANA, states that joint disarmament operations “could include anything from providing personal security to UN inspectors to full scale invasions á la Iraq”. Nowhere in the Lisbon Treaty does it state that a UN mandate before EU Battle Groups can be deployed. It is commonly said that one person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. An example is the jihadists fighting the secular government in Syria with the encouragement of some EU countries while on the other hand, the EU lauds French intervention in Mali to combat jihadists and Tuareg tribesmen fighting a government installed with the assistance of the French, who have long-standing interests in the region, not least in the uranium and substrate deposits. The question is: should we get involved? As it is, Irish soldiers may help train the Malian army. Alan Shatter is to bring a plan to Cabinet that would send about a dozen Irish soldiers on the mission. This would commit personnel to train an army that maintains an unelected government – and in whose interest? It’s not a huge step from training to combat duties. Then there’s the European Defence Agency (EDA), whose budget was €30.5 million in 2011. This budget covers the Agency's operating costs. Individual projects are funded separately. Its role in encouraging the militarisation of the EU was consolidated by Article 28(3) which states: “Member states shall undertake
progressively to improve their military capabilities. The Agency... shall participate in defining a European capabilities and armaments policy, and shall assist the Council in evaluating the improvement of military capabilities.” In early February 2013, Tony Blair let the cat out of the bag when he pointed out that “the rationale for Europe in the 21st century is stronger than it has ever been. It is essentially about power, not about peace anymore”. At a press conference in Strasbourg a few years ago, EU Commission President Barosso said: “Sometimes I like to compare the EU as a creation to the organisation of Empire. We have the dimensions of Empire.” These statements represent the views of those at the highest level in the EU and the only thing standing between Ireland and full participation in EU imperialist ventures is the requirement for a UN mandate to satisfy the triple lock – and we have seen how precarious that is! The other more powerful impediment is the antipathy on the part of Irish people towards war – an antipathy we should nurture. A vital element of that task is to inform ourselves of developments and not allow ourselves to be quietly and silently incorporated into an EU army. The last word is appropriately left to Frau Merkel, who said in 2010: “We have a shared currency but no real economic or political union. This must change. If we were to achieve this, therein lies the opportunity of the crisis... and beyond the economic, after the shared currency, we will perhaps dare to take further steps, for example for a European army.”
Picture: Eric Constantineau – www.ericconstantineau.com – (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Computer Course Fetac Level 4
Communications Course Fetac Level 4
Skills for Work courses offer Mandate members a gateway back into learning By Joan Devlin fOR the last ﬁve years, Mandate has been oﬀering members the opportunity to become involved in second chance learning in the workplace through an initiative called Skills for Work. The initiative is a national programme that is funded by the De-
Feedback Personal Finance Course
the opportunity to return to learning in a nurturing, safe, friendly training environment. All tutors have vast experience within the VEC and are more than happy to meet the requirements of each participant. As the workplace education coordinator with the City of Dublin VEC, I have been working in part-
partment of Education and Skills. And this training is provided to Mandate members by the local VEC. The City of Dublin VEC has delivered many courses to members drawn from across the greater Dublin area in the modern and up-to-date Mandate Training Centre on Distillery Road. This programme gives members
nership with Mandate's training department on this programme for four years. These courses oﬀer a great opportunity to return to learning and for Mandate members to take that initial step forward. Many Mandate members have built up their conﬁdence to return to further learning.
‘This is my third course in Mandate's Training Centre. I have completed two computer courses and one on communications. I really enjoyed them and am now attending one on personal finance’ – Linda Rogers
‘I am really looking forward to this course and learning about personal finance. I am also doing a communications course in Mandate Centre and am enjoying that course also. It’s brilliant that these courses are available for us’ – Maria Heaney
And as the Skills for Work co-ordinator, I am delighted to be involved in any way that encourages and motivates people back into learning. These courses are a beneﬁt in every way to an individual. It is very encouraging that Mandate continues to support the Skills for Work training initiative.
‘I really enjoyed the three courses that I have attended so far. The tutors are people friendly and make everyone very welcome. I am now just beginning my latest course which is personal finance’ – Martina May
‘I attend this course to improve my confidence and also to improve my knowledge no matter how small. So far in the course I have acquired a lot of knowledge in what I have done and I am really delighted’ – Geraldine O’Connell
Adult Education Courses for the Workplace Personal Finance Course
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
Perhaps you’d like to brush up on your everyday maths, including home budgets, tax and weights/measures.
Communication through Computers
This course is ideal for adults just learning about computers and confidence for communicating online. Please tick the box or boxes of the courses which interest you and return this form with your details to: Mandate’s Organising and Training Centre Distillery House, Distillery Road, Dublin 3 Phone 01-8369699, email firstname.lastname@example.org Closing date Friday 29th March 2013
Workplace Location Phone
Courses are free and open to members who have not achieved Leaving Certificate or who have an out of date Leaving Certificate. You can also achieve a FETAC Level 3 Award. Skills for Work is funded by the Department of Education & Skills SHOPFLOOR
y March 2013
JUST A THOUGHT...
The bank debt through Fr Dougal’s eyes... By Brian Forbes
Mandate National Coordinator DO YOU remember the classic scenes from Father Ted’s famous caravan episode? The one were Father Ted is trying to unsuccessfully explain to Dougal the difference between a plastic cow being “small” and the cows outside the caravan in the fields being “far away”. Priceless Irish comedy at its best. In the same episode Ted and Dougal decide to put Father Jack to sleep by putting a cardboard box over his head. It’s the same episode when the island eccentric Tom who happened to be transporting raw sewage stopped to give our intrepid heroes a lift and in trying to open the truck door releases his cargo showering the priests in excrement. Hilarity ensued. The entire episode in many ways and given a little stretch of imagination could be seen as a metaphor for recent events orchestrated by the cabal of politicians who have given up their day jobs to run our country. These political experts create, as a famous ex-Taoiseach would say, a “smoke and daggers” scenario of manufacturing a so-called “deal” on
Fr Ted explains the ins and outs of bank debt deal to an uncomprehending Fr Dougal
bank debt by treating us all like Father Dougals. This debt is “large” but don’t worry because this debt is “far away”. They replaced the plastic cow
A Century of Workers in Struggle 1913-2013 National Commemorative Event 11am - 4pm, March 2nd, Liberty Hall, Dublin Save the Date
in the Father Ted episode with billions of euros of bank debt and changed the cows in the fields into sovereign debt right under our noses. Far away doesn’t mean gone
and it certainly doesn’t mean resolved. They have merely kicked the can down the road by transferring the pain of this odious debt to our children and our grandchildren. We must now collectively qualify as the worst generation of parents in the history of our young country by allowing this burden to be heaped on to the shoulders of our young people and by not fighting back. The image of Father Jack falling asleep when the box is placed over his head feels similar in many ways to us collectively sleepwalking our way into the future as Enda et al carefully place the bank debt metaphorical box over our heads and we nod off when they talk about the principal debt needing to be paid in 2038. Our future generations born and unborn will not appreciate the legacy they have been bequeathed. We nod off when Micheál Martin places the electoral box over our heads and we forget the notion that the instigators of our loss of economic sovereignty, Fianna Fail, are back in opinion polls as the largest
party electorally. We obviously must have the collective memory of a goldfish to have forgotten already the damage inflicted upon us as a sovereign nation by the gombeen parish pump politics of Fianna Fail and their ilk and their wrecking ball approach to our economy and our future at that time.History will not absolve us for our inactions and general apathy. We are by our behaviour and subservience a lot like the island eccentric Tom in this episode of Father Ted, merely heaping more sh*t onto the heads and backs of our sons, daughters and grandchildren in the form of bank debt not of our making and certainly not of their making. “I don’t think it helps people to start throwing white elephants and red herrings at each other” and “We shouldn’t upset the apple tart” are two famous quotes from the aforementioned ex-Taoiseach which humourlessly sums up the thinking of our political classes on a range of issues including bank debt. Father Ted and Father Dougal put it rather succinctly when they donned the campaign trail “Down with this sort of thing!” and “Careful now!”
Hosted by Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Workers’ Rights, Senator David Cullinane
Austerity IS By Ed Teller
Picture: AFL-CIO (CC BY 2.0)
WE often hear the slogan ‘austerity isn’t working’ at various demonstrations or see it on placards at protests. But I’m here to say that austerity is working. It is doing exactly what it is designed to do. Let me start by saying what austerity is not designed to do. It is NOT designed to create jobs. It is NOT designed to protect pay. It is NOT designed to tax income and wealth fairly. It is NOT designed to redistribute wealth to working people. It is NOT designed to protect community services. It is NOT designed to provide adequate supports to those out of work. It is NOT designed to protect public services and public wealth. And, surprise surprise, it is not doing any of those things, in fact the opposite. Austerity is designed to pass corporate debt onto the shoulder of working people, privatise valuable state assets, maintain unemployment to reduce labour costs, impose direct pay cuts, reduce the cost of pensions for employers,
provide state welfare and free labour to global monopolies, cut state expenditure, increase state dependency on private financiers, secure the financial system as an avenue for accumulated capital, maintain core periphery (deficitsurplus) relations within the EU, maintain low inflation to protect accumulated capital, weaken the trade union movement and collective consciousness. Fundamentally austerity is designed to transfer wealth from working people to monopolies and debt and risk from monopolies to working people. It is a policy designed to restore profitability for monopolies (not small businesses) through reducing production costs, weakening state regulations and providing new outlets for private investment and profit. Austerity is not the mistaken policy of people who just don’t understand its impact. They understand very well its impact on people and its impact on the domestic economy but they don’t care because the role of the Irish economy is a combination of a legal money laundering unit for global monopolies and a cheap access point to European markets for non-EU monopolies. Austerity is working because it has
succeeded in the largest ever transfer of corporate debt onto workers’ shoulders in history. It has succeeded in maintaining high levels of unemployment to facilitate pay cuts to help restore profitability for monopolies. It has taken economic sovereignty away from the control of nationally-elected states and into unelected and unaccountable hands. Close to €100 billion will ultimately be handed over to banks and their wealthy investors. Austerity is class war. It is a war against working people, against public wealth, against collective organisations and consciousness and against national democracies (even as limited as these are). Those who are not working to recover capitalism but are actually fighting to overthrow it must produce slogans and campaigns that are not merely what might be popular but that actually expose weaknesses in the system and lead popular consciousness. Austerity is working, for example, poses this challenge. Thanks to the Nevin Institute for some of the stats used in this article.
y March 2013
Digitise or die...
working ( ( seriously... it REALLY is
Income distribution is heavily weighted towards the top 20%... and austerity policies have actually made the rich richer and disproportionality targeted the poor and middle income earners...
By Padraig Yeates NEW technology is not only changing our world, it is also reconﬁguring our past. History is no longer being written by the victors but by anyone who can access information online. One consequence is that archives are divided into two categories – those that are digitised and online and those that are gathering dust on a shelf somewhere. Unfortunately most trade union records fall into the dust category. Given the year that is in it, the centenary of the 1913 Lockout, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions has decided to digitise the records of the Irish Trade Union Congress and Labour Party from 1900 until 1925. The task is almost complete and this major historical record will be made available online for students of history and the general public alike in the coming months. SIPTU is to launch a Chronology of the Lockout on March 1 in partnership with University College, Cork. This will be far more detailed than any previous attempt at a chronology of the event and will be available online for people to access if they wish to follow the dayby-day record of events in Dublin a hundred years ago. Mandate members may ask themselves, ‘What has that got to do with us?’ Well, quite a lot actually. One of the union’s principal forerunners, the Drapers’ Assistants Association, was extremely active in Dublin
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How to get Ireland on to the right track
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before the first World War. It was one of the largest and certainly the wealthiest Irishbased trade union of the time. During the Lockout many DAA members in Dublin gave up their half-day to help organise the distribution of supplies from the food ships that sailed over from Merseyside to help feed strikers and their families. At a national level the union was less happy about supporting ‘Larkinism’ during the Lockout and many DAA members’ own livelihoods were threatened because the Lockout drained money out of the city. It is estimated that working class districts of the capital lost £400,000 in wages because of the action by William Martin Murphy and other employers determined to starve workers into submission. The DAA also produced the Drapers Assistant, one of the best trade union newspapers of the day, which was edited by the Association’s founder and general secretary Michael O’Lehane. A collection of this magniﬁcent publication is held in Mandate’s head oﬃce and deserves to be accessed by members and a much wider audience. The easiest way to make it available is through digitisation and placing it on the union’s website. The cost of digitisation is relatively low, although it can rapidly escalate if people opt for elaborate add-ons. If unions don’t take care of not only preserving but also promoting their own history, they can be sure that no one else will do so. 2013 is a good year for starting the habit.
BLOW THE WHISTLE ON THE BAD BOSSES
TO JOIN 10 MANDATE
MUSIC Q&ASINN PLATFORM POL FEIN McADAIM
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
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Picture: LoC Bain Collection
A proud history but what of the future? EVERY nation, and every labour movement, has in their collective memories landmark moments of social agitation and of workers asserting themselves. In the US, they recall the Haymarket massacre, and the Homestead strike; in Britain, the 1926 General Strike and the miners’ strikes of 1974 and 1984. All around the world these incidents and disputes – where ordinary workers stood up for their rights and said, “Enough!” – are recalled with special significance by ordinary people and by trade unions. In Ireland, the 1913 Lockout stands out clearly as the most significant event in Irish labour history. Faced with such arrogance and a blatant effort to intimidate Irish workers, the ITGWU had no choice but to respond decisively, and the Irish working class, not just in Dublin, but also around the country, responded, and took to the streets, in a remarkable show of strength and of defiance. William Martin Murphy and the rest of the Dublin employers responded with venom and pitilessness, bringing the full force of official repression and media manipulation to bear on them. The suffering of these workers and of their families has long passed into folk memory and has been commemorated in literature, film, song and poetry. While the dispute was ultimately defeated in the short term, Irish employers learned that the Irish working class, organised and unified, was
Picture: Sinn Fein
1. An organising and campaigning union:
Striking dockers and carters march across London Bridge in a show of strength during a pre-WWI stoppage
By Senator David Cullinane a force to be reckoned with, and would never again attempt in such a brazen way to intimidate Irish workers and to deny them their right to organise. So much progress has been made since then. Workers are better paid, are much safer, have better conditions and better employment protections. They cannot be restricted from joining a union, nor can they be summarily dismissed. Workers have taken on unscrupulous employers and achieved substantial victories. We have seen these efforts in recent years with Vita Cortex, La Senza and Lagan Brick – but yet many, many challenges remain. While they cannot be restricted from joining a union, the lack of collective bargaining in this state means that they do not achieve the full benefits of union membership. In many workplaces workers are actively discouraged from joining a union, accompanied by both inducement and intimidation. The legal rights that exist for workers are often flouted due to a lack of inspection and through weak compliance mechanisms. This is particularly the case with migrant workers and other cate-
gories of vulnerable workers, and while the Government’s decision to bring in legislation to tackle forced labour is welcome, there is much more yet to be done in this area. The 100th anniversary of the Lockout offers an excellent opportunity to reflect upon the struggles of workers in the past, and on the challenges facing workers today, both in Ireland and abroad. To that end, I – as the Sinn Fein spokesperson on workers’ rights – will be hosting a major conference in Dublin to consider all the key issues workers faced today and in the past. The conference, entitled A Century of Workers in Struggle 1913-2013, is to take place on March 2 in Liberty Hall in Dublin. As well as addresses from invited guests, the conference will hear from union leaders, including Mandate's John Douglas, on the challenges facing workers today. This conference will be an excellent opportunity to reflect on the traditions of the union movement, and an opportunity to consider how we continue to bolster and protect the rights of workers as well as strengthen the labour movement in Ireland and elsewhere. I hope that you will be able to join us in this celebration of past achievements, and discussion of present and future challenges, and look forward to seeing you in Liberty Hall. David Cullinane is the Sinn Fein spokesperson on workers’ rights For more information contact email@example.com or 01 6184069 The full programme will be published in the coming weeks. SHOPFLOOR
y March 2013
ekend e W s ’ n e l Wo1m0, 2013 a n o i t a n r Inte March 8 SIPTU Equality in conjunction with Women’s History Association of Ireland, History Ireland, the Irish Labour History Society, 1913 Tape stry Project, and the National Womens Council of Ireland presents
By Dr Conor McCabe ON February 14, 2013 a report was released which stated in no uncertain terms that in the EU, austerity was not working. It also found that Ireland was one of only two countries in the union where “the greatest impact of financial distress in households has been in the lower income quartiles rather than the upper quartile.” The report, written by the Caritas Europa group, concluded that the present measures were “putting the social cohesion of Europe and the very political legitimacy of the European Union at risk.” Given that this is the case, why is austerity put forward as the only game in town? Why, when austerity is challenged, the response from the State is TINA (There Is No Alternative)? The answer can be found, of all places, on one of the most popular shopping streets in Dublin. A week before the report was released, the Irish Times carried a story on the sale of the River Island and Wallis buildings on Grafton Street. The German fund management company, GLL Real Estate, bought the properties for just over €40 million – a drop of 65% from the €115 million that the developer David Daly paid in 2007. Three years ago GLL Real Estate bought the AIB branch next to River Island and is now one of the largest property owners on the street. Despite the loss in value and, indeed, in sales due to the crash and subsequent austerity measures, GLL Real Estate continues to charge Celtic Tiger prices for the properties. In the case of River Island, the company is paying €2,152,500 in rent a year for its Grafton Street store. This is because the shop is on a long-term, upward-only rent lease. And while River Island may be able to afford it, the issue of unsustainable costs has led to a raft of closures – most recently Korky’s shoe store in Dublin, Cava restaurant in Galway, and B&Q home stores nationwide. The Irish Examiner reported on February 13 that almost one-third of all retailers are in danger of collapse. Celtic Tiger rents in a postTiger world is a causal factor in all of this. The scramble to save finance from itself has led to a situation whereby one of the most protected sectors in the economy is the landlord sector – that is, those landlords who are financial institutions. This shift in economic power, away from producers and distributors of products and services, and towards landlords and rentiers of wealth, has also seen a change in what is perceived as growth. What we are facing here is a clash between employment and inflation. For rentiers who draw an income from paper assets – that is from interest and dividend payments on loans, bonds, shares, curMarch 2013
Women Workers 1913-2013 SAT 9TH MARCH
LIBERTY HALL THEATRE, DUBLIN
Grafton Street – Dublin’s premier shopping area Picture:Sebastian Dooris (CC BY 2.0)
Challenging the rentier class’s grip on economy rency, hedge and money market funds – inflation is a disaster as it eats into the profit-margins of their investments. For those whose income is drawn from their wage, inflation is partand-parcel of a growing economy and rising levels of employment. For example, last year in China, Brazil, Russia and India – the four countries seen as the most dynamic in terms of growth in the world today – inflation ran at 5.53%, 6.63%, 8.46% and 8.87% respectively. In Ireland the figure was 2.59%, while in the eurozone it stood at 2.2%. In order for the Irish economy to grow, it needs to stimulate the economy and get people back to work. And growth in inflation is part and parcel of this process. Yet, such is the hold that rentiers have on Ireland and the eurozone that any government policy that might in any way create employment and cause inflation to rise is immediately shot down.
This is the real reason why austerity is being foisted upon us. We have to suffer unemployment and cuts in social spending in order for those whose recklessness caused the crisis in the first place to continue making money from their rent-seeking activities. Ireland and Irish society needs jobs and that means inflation. And for that to happen we need to challenge the rentiers. Almost everything we need is routed through the money circuit. This gives rentiers enormous social power and influence. Nevertheless, for Ireland to have a future, the rentiers need to be challenged. The best way to do this? Employment-based growth. Let that be the focus and let us consign the wealthrenting growth model to the dustbin where it belongs. Dr Conor McCabe, Equality Studies Centre, UCD School of Social Justice.
One Struggle: Women Workers 1913-2013 is a day-long FREE event in Liberty Hall on Saturday, March 9. The day will feature a hedge school, conference papers, speeches, film, the announcement of a major new art project, an opportunity to observe democratic art in the making and the launch of a new book. The theme is 100 years of women’s struggle with an emphasis on women in the trade union movement. Online registration at: www.siptu.ie/services/equality/conference/ The day before, on International Women’s Day, Friday, March 8 there will be a ceremony to launch the Irish Women Workers Union Commemorative Plaque on Liberty Hall. The ceremony will take place in Beresford Place at 5pm. All welcome. Straight after the plaque launch, we will host an International Women’s Day 2013 celebration. The evening of food, drink, ceol agus craic will feature a pop-up Lockout Commemorative Soup Kitchen in the basement of Liberty Hall. 100 years after Countess Markievicz fed the 1913 Lockout strikers and their families in the same spot, we want to welcome friends to come and join us as we eat, drink, chat, sing and celebrate our proud tradition. Tickets, €5, are available on the door. All proceeds to IWWU Commemorative Committee. On the Seventh Day She Rested on Sunday, March 10 and is a tour of the graves of prominent women activists buried in Glasnevin Cemetery. Orator Shane Mac Thomais. Meet at the front gates at 2.30pm; €3 per person.
Health & Safety FETAC Level 5
This course is aimed at Health and Safety representatives Topic covered on course:
• Health and Safety Legislation • Role of Health and Safety Representative • Safety statements • Role of Health & Safety Authority • Occupational health
Saf e firs ty t wor at k!
• Identification of hazards and risk assessment • Accident investigation • Fire safety • Effective communications • Health and safety promotion
Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this course receive a Fetac Level 5 component award certificate and may progress to other courses offered by Mandate. If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org 23
Towards a people’s recovery HERE’S the good news: the recession is slowly coming to an end. All the main indicators are finally bottoming out: consumer spending, employment, domestic demand, investment; either this year or next year they should all stop falling. Like a ship that has been sinking, the economy has started to hit the ocean floor. Here’s the bad news: the ship is likely to remain on the ocean floor for a while. And it will take a long time for it to rise back to the surface. • Unemployment will remain high for a number of years. The Government has already admitted that unemployment will only fall by one percentage point by the next election. On current trends unemployment will remain above 10% for a number of years. • Over one million people suffer multiple deprivation experiences – or nearly one-in-four. Nearly 400,000 of these are children. This is not something that just affects those reliant on social protection payments. More than half of those suffering deprivation live in households with at least one person in work. • Investment is half the rate other EU countries. When we invest, we spend money today to generate more money in the future. If a business does not invest, it will stagnate. The same thing happens to a Gov-
By Michael Taft ernment: if it does not invest in new technologies such as next generation broadband or in modern energy and water systems or – most importantly of all – in education and retraining, the future growth will be low, unemployment high with deprivation persisting. So, we are leaving the recession behind us only to enter into a prolonged period of stagnation. Now, for some better news: this stagnation is utterly avoidable. We can have a recovery that benefits everyone, creating more jobs and raising living standards. But things will have to be different. Workers themselves will need to participate. In other words, we must launch a people’s recovery programme. First, there are demands we should be making on the Govern-
ment. With over €20 billion at their disposal (yes, this is the amount the Government is holding in cash), there is no reason to put off a sustained and substantial investment programme into modernising our infrastructure and upgrading our education system. Here is the benefit of just €1 billion of investment – based on work from the trade union think-tank Nevin Economic Research Institute. • In the first year, more than 16,000 temporary jobs would be created. When the construction work is done, the economy would still benefit – with nearly 1,000 permanent jobs being created. • Over half-a-billion euros in additional consumer spending would occur – spending in shops and businesses throughout the country.
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.
• Understanding Mandate’s structures • Overview of Mandate’s rules • Industrial Relations institutions and mechanisms • Mandate’s Organising Model
• • • • •
Negotiations & Collective Bargaining Understanding Equality and Diversity Developing induction presentation skills Introduction to Employment Law Identifying issues and using procedures
Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this training course will obtain a Mandate certificate. They may progress to the FETAC level 5 Certificate in Trade Union studies or other relevant training courses offered by Mandate.
If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: email@example.com
‘Our Govt asked for little and got less’
Eugene McCartan 24
• The Government would receive more than €700 million in tax revenue in the first three years. They wouldn’t have to cut public services, child benefit, social protection payments, etc. This is just the benefit from €1 billion investment. Imagine doing that three or four times over. Launching an investment programme is a demand that people should be making to their local TDs, and through their trade unions, to the Government.
A first step to all this is to organise workers into unions. The reason is simple – being in a union means higher pay. This is called the ‘trade union premium’
Another demand is to stop hitting low and average income earners. The latest idea floated is to tax Child Benefit. For those on the standard rate tax band (that is, if you earn more than €320 a week), taxing Child Benefit would mean a loss of over €300 for every child. Families would receive another substantial blow to their living standards. Are there other sources? Here is one small example: the Government grants tax relief for people who own foreign property. This is worth over €70 million. Simply put, the Government is writing owners of foreign property a cheque to cover their interest payments. Where is the equity in that? There are just a couple of examples from a very long list of policies that could grow the economy while
at the same time ending austerity. But there’s more to be done and this is where workplace organisation becomes a vital element of a people’s recovery programme. When workers succeed in increasing their income, they are helping to rebuild the economy. It doesn’t matter if the increase comes via the hourly wage or an increase in hours (an issue which Mandate has highlighted). What are the benefits – besides the obvious one to the workers themselves? • Business a big beneficiary: Increasing the income of low-paid workers will immediate translate into higher consumer spending. This means more money in the tills and cash registers all over the country. • Workers in those businesses benefiting from the increased consumer spend: they will find it easier to negotiate their own income increases. This, in turn, will benefit more businesses and more workers – a virtuous cycle. • Public Finances: here is another big winner. More tax revenue with higher wages, increased spending and rising profits. But a first step to all this is to organise workers into unions. The reason is simple – being in a union means higher pay. This is called the ‘trade union premium’. Recent research shows that being a member of a trade union (and bargaining collectively) will result, on average, between eight and 10% higher pay. So it starts with being in a union, with persuading your fellow worker to join – your family members and friends; join and become active. By strengthening ourselves in the workplace, we can start a people’s recovery from below while demanding alternative policies from above. From the workplace to Merrion Street – that’s how we will get this country on the right track.
Notes on the Front
Michael Taft is a research officer with Unite
y March 2013
Lockout TS Centenary EV
Admission is free unless otherwise stated
MARCH – International Women’s Day and the role of women feature prominently during the month. The main events will be the unveiling of a plaque to the Irish Women Workers’ Union on Liberty Hall on Friday, March 8th and a major conference at the same venue on Saturday, March 9th including leading experts on labour and women’s history March 1st and 2nd: Cork Studies in the Irish Revolution – ‘The Cause of Labour: 1913 and beyond’ . This will be accompanied by the joint launch of the Lockout Chronology by UCC and SIPTU. The Chronology will be a major research tool for academics, teachers, students and the general public – more details to follow March 2nd: A Century of Workers Struggle 1913-2013, Liberty Hall, hosted by Senator David Cullinane, Sinn Fein Workers Rights Spokesperson March 8th: International Women’s Day: Commemorative Plaque to the Irish Women Workers’ Union by Sculptor Jackie McKenna to be unveiled at Liberty Hall, 6pm. ‘Food Kitchen’ enactment with music in Liberty Hall afterwards March 8th: 1913-2013 Celebrating the Involvement of Women in the Lockout. Speakers include James Curry on Delia Larkin and Lynn Ni Bhaoigheallain on Women’s Journey 1913-2013, plus A scene from ‘The Risen People’ directed by Peter Sheridan and music by Niamh Parsons and Graham Dunne in The President’s Room, The Law Society, Blackhall Place, Dublin, at 7.30pm March 8th-9th: ‘The British Labour Party and Twentieth Century Ireland’, Speakers include Dr Kevin McNamara, Joan Allen Gearoid O Tuaghaidh, Emmet O’Connor, Henry Patterson and Steven Howe, Moore Institute, NUI Galway and Harbour Hotel March 9th: Irish Women Workers Union and the Lockout Conference. Venue: Liberty Hall Session 1 Chair: Suzanna Griffin Prominent Personalities of the IWWU (9.30 am -11.00) Nell Regan on Helena Molony; Rosemary Cullen Owens on Louie Bennett; James Curry on Delia Larkin; Francis Devine on Jenny Shanahan; Session 2 Chair: Helen Murphy Events of the Time (11.30-13.00) Leann Lane on Cultural events at this time; Theresa Moriarty on the IWWU and the Lockout; Brendan Byrne on Jacobs during the Lockout; Mary McAuliffe on The Early Years Session 3 (14.00 to 15.30) Hedge School: Chair: Tommy Graham Panel: Mary Jones; Padraig Yeates; Francis Devine; Theresa Moriarty; Mary McAuliffe; Rosemary Cullen Owens Session 4 Modern Times and the Role of Women in Trade Unions Speakers: SIPTU General Officer 16.50 Close of Conference 17.00 Launch of Mary Cullen’s book ’Telling It Our Way: essays in gender history’. Publisher, Arlen House March 21st: ’Class Conflict or Social Compact? 1913-2013’ John Lovett Memorial Lecture by Padraig Yeates, University of Limerick, 7.30pm March 21st: Mechanics Institute, Galway: ‘Locked out: 1913 in Dublin and Galway’ – John Gibney, Mary Muldowney, Francis Devine, James Curry, John Cunningham (History Ireland Hedge School with Centre for Labour and Class) March 26th: Launch of One City One Book, ‘Strumpet City’ in Liberty Hall at 10.30 am by Dublin’s Lord Mayor, Naoise O Muiri. Members of Plunkett family and actors from the cast of the RTE adaptation of ‘Strumpet City’, including Bryan Murray will attend
REPORT CLEAN CLOTHES CAMPAIGN
CCCI visits scene of horror factory blaze that claimed 259 lives...
‘A stark reminder of value placed on the lives of garment workers’ CLEAN Clothes Campaign Ireland (CCCI) recently took part in a solidarity mission to Pakistan following last year’s devastating factory blaze which claimed 259 lives. Clare Nally travelled to Karachi, Lahore and Faisalabad on behalf of the pressure group. During the 10day visit she met with garment workers and labour organisations and spoke to victims’ families. Ms Nally first visited the gutted remains of the Ali Enterprises factory, situated in the industrial district of Baldia, Karachi, where the September 11 blaze tragedy occurred. She told Shopfloor: “The fire began in the fabric store on the ground floor and quickly blocked the only entrance to the cutting department located in the basement, leaving all the workers trapped inside. “The factory itself had no fire escapes, and it was possible to see from the burnt remains that all the windows in the factory were barred shut – some doubly so with a metal grid over the bars. “This was one of the major factors that caused the huge loss of life when the fire took hold.” As the inferno tore through the factory, workers on the first and second floors tried to break the bars from the windows when they realised they could not escape by the stairs. Workers who had escaped the fire inside, tried to remove the bars from the windows from the outside, but this proved to be almost impossible. Ms Nally said: “One of the workers who escaped the factory told of how local people brought ladders to try and reach the windows from outside. “The ladders could not reach high enough so workers fortunate enough to escape though the windows were falling on to the hard gravel below. He told how they watched helplessly though the bars as their friends and colleagues burned inside the building.” Ms Nally described the “poignant sight” of seeing a large pile of finished jeans lying in a pile outside the gutted factory – some covered in dust, some charred. She said: “Each is labelled with the Okay mark of German discount brand KIK, pictured above – the only brand so far identified as sourcing from the factory. 26
Gutted: the now-derelict Ali Enterprises factory in Karachi where 259 workers died in a horrific blaze last September
“For the most part, these jeans are all perfectly made and still perfectly wearable. Despite their cheap price, they were all hand-made with skill, and are now strewn at the side of the factory as a stark reminder of the value society has put on the lives of garment workers. “It was a reminder of the hard work and appalling conditions the
high street fashion industry and the Pakistani government is constantly turning a blind eye to.” Ms Nally added that it was impossible not to notice while driving through the area that factories – many of them producing garments – has their windows barred shut. After visiting the blaze site, the CCCI delegation then met the families of some of the victims to hear their accounts of what happened on that terrible evening and what support they subsequently received. Many of the families affected lost more than one member – often the sole family breadwinner. Some families received a small amount of compensation from the Pakistani government. The sums
they received varied from 6,0007,000 rupees, around €60-€70, a pittance given that the price of a litre of milk in Karachi costs 80c. In order to receive this compensation the families had to have the dead body of their relative. However, many bodies were burnt beyond recognition. Ms Nally said: “At the time of the trip, there were more than 40 families still waiting for a body and there were only 26 unidentified bodies in the morgue. “The families of the 17 bodies still unidentified are not entitled to compensation, and neither are the relatives of those whose bodies were completely destroyed in the fire. Families have submitted DNA tests, but are still waiting for results. “Tragically, one man lost five of his six children – four daughters and a
son. Another girl the delegation spoke to was 14, with two younger siblings, and lost both of her parents in the blaze.” But these stories are unfortunately not unique. “On numerous occasions the families mentioned how they were struggling with money, finding it hard to pay for simple needs like photocopying documents – the financial strain of photocopying was mentioned on several occasions. “These families are very concerned about the future, but also worried about finding enough food to feed themselves in the short term.” Ms Nally added: “Justice is a basic human right but seeking it is a long and hard process which these families can’t afford.” SHOPFLOOR
y March 2013
Why I’m on side with Fair Shop!
DAVE Meade from Tesco, Clearwater in finglas, Dublin, won the ﬁrst ever fair Shop competition run by the campaign and received a €200 fair Shop voucher. Dave, pictured above with his son Cillian, is a long-time Mandate Trade Union activist and said he was delighted to receive the voucher. He told Shopfloor: "fair Shop is a fantastic idea and it's something I'm very supportive of. fair play to everybody involved. Any campaign that highlights the importance of collective bargaining in the workplace and the right for workers to be represented by a trade union has to be commended. “I look forward to future fair Shop initiatives and my involvement in them." March 2013
Game in extra time at Croker
IT’S NICE to be back. Shopfloor’s editor was kind enough to invite me back to make another contribution to the paper this year. I’m flattered and grateful, not least because one senior trade unionist was forced to note my last effort (‘Stuff Croke Park’- Shopfloor March 2012) was a “surreal defence of the Croke Park agreement”. Shopfloor’s editor was much more succinct. “Mad” was how he described it, and I don’t blame him. It was. But back to business. Despite all of the complaints, demands and hate levelled at the Croke Park agreement, its capacity to deliver savings and reforms meant that by the end of a very challenging year in 2012, it remained intact, and had delivered beyond its savings targets for the second year running. As I mentioned before, this was only possible through the hard work and commitment of public sector workers since the agreement came into existence. There was still much disbelief within the media. At every IMF press conference last year journalists sought their view on the agreement (expecting criticism), but the IMF confirmed it was happy with it; though that response rarely got much attention.
portionately on any group of staff, particularly those on low and middle incomes. 3. The outcome would have to pass the tests of ballots in IMPACT and other unions. “Management will have to convince us of the genuine need for any changes they seek, and also convince union members that they are preferable to any possible alternatives,” said Shay. Ministers from both Government parties have recently said there will be “no further ask” of public servants if an extension to the Croke Park deal can be agreed. The comments come as negotiations intensify; following detailed talks on cross-sectoral issues in recent weeks, management is expected to table the overall shape of a potential agreement shortly.
Return to Croke Park
However, when economic growth fell below expectations, and a further requirement to reduce the public sector pay bill surfaced, it was to the Croke Park model that the Government turned to once again. Management wants to reduce the total public service pay and pension bill by €1 billion, on top of the measures currently being implemented under the Croke Park agreement. Unions and Government are now in discussions and the deadline for a conclusion of those talks is at the end of February. This is a very tough call for all of the staff in the public service. Our general secretary, Shay Cody, described the negotiation of a further cost saving deal as “probably the most difficult ever”. We’ve told management that we’ll try to reach an agreement, but that it would have to meet three criteria to succeed: 1. Management would have to prove that its proposals would make genuine and necessary savings. 2. Any measures would have to be fair and could not fall dispro-
By Niall Shanahan
Management have raised the issue of extending working hours for public servants, and has tabled a proposed increase of an hour per day during the negotiations. It has provoked a lot of discussion at member AGMs and at the union’s executive. IMPACT and other unions have demanded data on how, and by how much, any added time would reduce the public service pay bill. The unions have engaged external financial advisors to examine the management data. There is some way to go yet, but IMPACT continues to emphasise that anything that emerges must be equitable, and that it will be put to a ballot of all members. They will have the final say on whether to accept or reject it.
Saving our forests
When we’re not down on the pitch at Croke Park, we’re out in the forests trying to save the precious resource of our state forests. As you might already know, our Government is weighing up a lot of state assets for sale in order to reduce our substantial debts. Despite recent events in relation to the
banking debt, the asset sale proposals are still on the agenda. Among the assets up for consideration are the harvesting rights of our state forest company, Coillte. What it would mean is that private interests could harvest our trees, but we would still own the land. The responsibility for maintaining and replanting that land would fall to the state. And that would mean spending money we don’t have on a once-profitable asset. IMPACT has formed an alliance with a number of groups, including Mountaineering Ireland and the Woodland League, to oppose the proposed sale. Save Our Forests is the name of the campaign, and you can found out more (and sign up to support it) at www.saveourforests.ie. Just this month, the campaign published a report, by economist Peter Bacon, which find that the economic rationale for the proposed sale of Coillte harvesting rights “no longer stands up and cannot be justified.” The report finds that the state would remain liable for costs of €1.3 billion following a sale of harvesting rights. To cover these costs, Coillte would need to sell the rights at almost twice the current commercial price for supply to the timber industry. If the proposal goes ahead, we’d have sold off 80 years of harvesting rights for a relatively small amount of money (a grain of sand in our desert of debt), and then have to find more money to service and replant the land. There are also the vital issues of access to our forests and the amount of money lost from tourism and trade. State forests welcome 18 million visitors a year. In private hands, it’s doubtful that could continue. As Professor Gunther might say, “Don’t sell off your lovely forests for a handful of colouredy beans pixie heads.” Niall Shanahan is a communications officer with IMPACT 27
Tesco told to reinstate worker AT A significant cost to Tesco Ireland the Employment Appeals Tribunal has ordered the retailer to re-instate a worker dismissed more than two years ago over an alleged “breach” of its privilege card policy. The move follows two hearings held in July and November last year. In its decision, the Tribunal found that Dominic Shiels, who worked at the supermarket in Clarehall, was unfairly dismissed and cited numerous failings by Tesco during the course of an investigation and appeals process. In its determination, the EAT stated that there was “no fact in finding to justify” the company’s assertions that Mr Shiel’s continuously altered his version of events during the investigation. The Tribunal relied on three principal points when reaching its decision – “the unreliability of
documents relating to the privilege card, the lack of warning and improper procedure”. It accepted that Mr Shiels “honestly understood that his use of the privilege card in December 2010 was not prohibited”. It claimed the “various documents outlining the use, misuse, transfer and all rules relating to the privilege card are ambiguous at least and do not set out with adequate accuracy the rules relating to the use of the card”. Mr Shiels, had worked for Tesco Ireland since 2004, was checkout manager at the time of his dismissal. Despite his unblemished record he was dismissed by the company on the January 12, 2011 for what it described as a “breach of the privilege card policy”. Mr Shiels appealed the decision in accordance with the
company/union appeal process through his trade union representative Brendan O’Hanlon. However, the company upheld the dismissal, leaving Mr Shiels with no
‘My union and my local rep supported me and were with me all the way throughout the case’
option but to refer the matter to the Tribunal. During cross-examination, the appeals manager stated in evidence that he saw no difference between alleged “misuse or abuse” of the
card, before going on to say that he had not dismissed an employee in another store for a similar breach. The Tribunal flagged up this point and referred to Mr Shiels being “treated differently to other employees without any apparent reason”. Mr Shiels in sworn evidence told the Tribunal that he could have made “an honest mistake” in the use of his privilege card during certain transactions. He added that there was no intention on his part to deceive the respondent and added that he might have misinterpreted the privilege card rules. Commenting on the decision Mr O’Hanlon said he was “delighted” for Mr Shiels, who had taken the “brave decision to challenge the injustice carried out against him”. He told Shopfloor: “It is clear from the Tribunal’s decision that the com-
pany had not acted reasonably. “Notwithstanding the fact that Mr Shiels will have all his entitlements – including his pay, annual leave and bonuses etc – backdated to his date of dismissal, the stress of having no job and having to make ends meet for over two years is an enormous burden and extremely stressful on any employee. “This is a burden and stress which the Unfair Dismissals Act does not legislate for.” Expressing his gratitude “for all the help I got from the union and my local representatives”, Mr Shiels added: “They supported me and were with me all the way throughout the case. “I am delighted with the Tribunal’s decision and I’m really looking forward to returning to work and getting my life back on track after a long two years.”
y March 2013
BRASS TACKS ANGLO DEAL
Our government asked for little and less was granted Repudiate The Debt Campaign
THE Government and the EU have been attempting to spin the deal done on the Anglo promissory note (a giant IOU) as the best deal possible, one that will benefit the country to the tune of €1 billion a year, thereby easing the austerity by that amount. This is simply untrue: we still have borrowed and owe the same amount of money, just from a different source. The fact is that the Government asked for little, and less was granted. All of the internal Irish troika – Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, and Labour – have agreed from the very beginning that they would make the Irish people pay back every penny of the debt, because they (not us) were duty-bound to “honour” the debt of their political and financial backers, a debt they incurred to German, Dutch, British, French and other banks. This was a political deal between the European and Irish elites and nothing else: it was never for the people or for relieving the suffering of the people. What the Government’s much-heralded “bank deal” has done is to turn very dodgy promissory notes (which were possibly illegal in the first place) between institutions into sovereign debt. What that means is they turned a debt between corporate institutions into your debt and your responsibility to pay for the next three to four decades. This is like being asked to pay the mortgage on a house you don’t own and that will never be yours and that you will never live in, but you accept the responsibility of paying the mortgage regardless, while your income is constantly being cut, and your job becoming more precarious.
Cost of the bank bailout A recent study by Eurostat showed that Ireland, and the Irish people, have paid the highest cost for the bank bail-outs in Europe. Ireland has paid 42% of the total European bank bailout, or €41 billion; that is a quarter of
the country’s GDP. This compares with the €40 billion Germany has paid, which is only 1.5% of its GDP. It is costing the Irish people the equivalent of €9,000 per person, compared with Germany’s €491 per person or an EU average of €192 per person. Economists believe that a debt of 80% of a country’s GDP is unsustainable and becomes unpayable. Ireland’s national debt today is 120% of GDP. Without a significant write-down of the debt, the situation becomes impossible. The recent deal presented by the Government was not a write-down of the money owed in the form of the promissory-note debt: they just extended the repayment period. What is important is to remember that the Irish bailout was ultimately paying back loans made to Irish financial institutions by our “partners” in Germany, Britain, France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The Irish guarantee was a guarantee that we would pay them back. All the main parties in the Dáil, including some on the left, and even some trade union leaders (though not Mandate), have been telling the people that the debt is payable if we “grow” our exports, thereby generating more jobs and so more taxes, thereby providing income to the Government with which to pay the debt. The obvious question to ask is: if every one of the heavily indebted countries – Ireland, Portugal, Spain, and Greece – is being told to export more to pay the debt, who is going to import? One example of how false this argument is can be seen in the fact that in the last three months of 2012 the German economy had its second-largest trade surplus (exports greater than imports) in almost 60 years, in part because of an unexpected drop in imports in December, while during those three months the economy contracted by 0.5%. German workers’ wages have barely kept pace with inflation, in more than 20 years. As we have argued before, “austerity” is about the transfer of wealth from workers, the unemployed, the sick and pensioners to the rich, to global finance houses. It is taking money out of your pocket and
giving it directly to foreign banks. The harder we work, the more we produce for export, the more poverty will grow. So what they are planning is economic growth that generates greater profits and at the same time generates more poverty and austerity for the mass of people. Who benefits? The transnational corporations and bankers. Who loses? You and your family. The real challenge that working people now face is that we can’t resolve the debt burden on the terms laid down by the banks, the EU, or all the main parties represented in the Dáil. We need to start thinking outside the box. We can no longer afford to think in terms of “I” and “me” but need to start talking, thinking and – most importantly – acting as “we” and “us.” There are alternatives to permanent debt slavery, but they are not wished into being, they are built. Just as previous generations of trade union activists were told that a 40-hour week or overtime payments or meal breaks were pie in the sky, they dreamt bigger dreams than the small minds that controlled their lives. They had the courage to think outside the box, to stand up for their own demands, and through bitter struggles realised those dreams.
‘Economists believe that a debt of 80% of a country’s GDP is unsustainable and becomes unpayable. Ireland’s national debt today is 120%’ Picture: Infomatique (CC BY-SA 2.0)
By Eugene McCartan
Troubled waters: View of a protestor at the February 9 demo in Dublin
Croke Park UNI Global urge Mandate members to back US strikers Report blog INTERNATIONAL NEWS USA
UNI Global has called on Mandate members to send their support to striking workers at US shopping chain Walmart. Staff at stores in Lauren, Maryland and Dallas,Texas are taking action over what UNI Global claim are attempts to silence workers who dare to speak out. According to UNI Global, management made it clear in a February 6 memo directed at those who took part in the ‘Black Friday’ strikes at Walmart last November that staff could be disciplined for going on future strikes. UNI Global General Secretary Philip Jennings described the memo as “another low” March 2013
on Walmart’s part.He said: “Their cynical attempt to rewrite history will not wash. The striking Black Friday Walmart workers were exercising their legal right to withdraw their labour and putting their jobs on the line in the face of severe intimidation. “They acted courageously and correctly. The Bentonville bosses are now attempting to run roughshod over the US law. The workers in Lauren and Dallas are fighting back and they will not be the last.” Colby Harris, a striking worker from Dallas, said: "Walmart's threats and retaliation are a direct violation of my rights under the national labour relations act. I believe in a better
Walmart and that silencing associates who want to make Walmart better is immoral and illegal.” Colby has started an online petition – "Walmart: Stop silencing associates who speak out” – addressed to the CEO of Walmart USA. UNI Commerce chief Alke Boessiger told Shopfloor: “Every Walmart worker anywhere has the right to speak freely and to be treated with respect." And she urged Mandate members to register their feelings online at: www.facebook.com/OURWMT www.coworker.org/petitions/ walmart-stop-silencing-associates-whospeak-out
UNITE analysis and information on issues relating to the re-negotiations of the Croke Park Agreement
While academies have made headlines across the water, the UK government’s new ‘studio schools’ are making children work for corporate sponsors, Alex Diaz reports THE new academic year saw the launch of another 12 ‘studio schools’, the work-based sister project of academies. By next year there will be 30, with more on the way. Launched quietly in 2010, studio schools allow private businesses to run state education for 14 to 19year-olds with learning ‘on the job’ and not in the classroom. For under‑16s, that means unpaid work for corporate sponsors as part of the curriculum. For UK Education Secretary Michael Gove, studio schools are a manifestation of his government’s pledge to teach children what employers want them to learn. “I am committed to responding to calls from employers for an education system that develops the future workforce with the skills they need,” he has said. As such, they are backed by business lobbies such as the Confederation of British Industry, the Chambers of Commerce and the Institute of Directors. Since they are designed to meet the needs of sponsor businesses, some of the specialist courses they provide include catering, manufacturing and social care. They also reflect working life, with long days and short holidays. They teach a basic version of the national curriculum in the UK, which is taught outside of the classroom and through workbased projects. While on the one hand the opportunity for students to combine academic study with work experience may give them a competitive edge when applying for certain jobs in the future, this watereddown curriculum is equally likely to narrow students’ career prospects. Almost any business can set up a studio school by paying a voluntary subscription of just £8,000 to the UK government. In return, the government builds and maintains a school, but the power to run the school remains firmly in the hands of private sponsors. National Express, GlaxoSmithKline, Sony, Ikea, Disney, Michelin, Virgin Media and Hilton Hotels are just some of the corporate players who have bought into the scheme. So what is in it for these investors? First, they hope that graduates of studio schools will work for them in the future – the taxpayer is paying to train their future employees. Second, pupils must spend up to 40% of their school lives working for these companies. Predictably, these sponsor firms only pay the minimum wage – and that’s only
for their over-16 students. Under-16s, meanwhile, must work at least four hours a week for local sponsors unpaid. It is perhaps ironic that a system that is supposed to teach children what it is like to work in the real world does not pay them to do a job. Moreover, the introduction of cheap child labour into the workplace is likely to drive down wages for adult workers doing similar jobs. For NUT General Secretary Christine Blower, “studio schools are an unnecessary additional type of school within a system that already has too much diversity”. The teachers’ union believes studio schools represent a threat to local education provision because they fragment neighbouring schools’ funding and admissions arrangements, their approval system and application process lacks transparency, and they have been set up with little consultation or evidence of demand or even effectiveness. The NUT does not see how students at these schools will experience a broad and balanced curriculum because most of them focus on a narrow range of vocational subjects beyond the basic core of English, maths and science. Studio schools are also not required to employ qualified teachers, or adhere to national pay arrangements. The small size of studio schools (which usually hold just 300 students) means class sizes are smaller. But making class sizes smaller does not require corporate sponsorship of schools. Moreover, since the intention is to appeal to students who fail to thrive in a conventional school setting, studio schools may just turn into a way to remove under-achieving students from mainstream education and stream them into vocational pathways at an early age, instead of helping them to improve academically. Studio schools raise a wider question concerning education: what is it for? Employers have already told university graduates that they no longer require so many workers with degrees. Now they are suggesting that pupils as young as 14 would be better off working for them for free than going to school. With studio schools, education is increasingly becoming indistinguishable from preparation for limited-horizon work. Their rise represents another step in the creeping corporate takeover of our public services.
This article first appeared in radical bimonthly magazine Red Pepper. Check out www.redpepper.org.uk
Peace talks to broker Colombia settlement inch on despite killings
By John O’Brien
THE Colombian government and leftist FARC rebels returned to the talks table on January 14 after a threeweek break over Christmas and the New Year. Both sides stated their desire to quicken the pace of negotiations – the talks process is the fourth attempt to end bloodshed that has cost 600,000 lives and left millions of others displaced since the conflict began in 1964. Ivan Marquez,leader of the FARC delegation, called on the government to "cease the warmongering rhetoric that accompanies false promises to resolve social problems." He also told reporters that the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos must "publicly commit to presenting quick and tangible solutions that are devoid of demagoguery." The rebels' unilateral ceasefire was due to end on January 20 and FARC told reporters they would not extend their ceasefire unless the government declared one too, but, the government has continued its offensive, accusing the guerrillas of continuing to attack civilians and soldiers. "We are in a phase in which we can get results for an agreement to end the conflict," said chief government negotiator Humberto de la Calle, stressing that Colombians want an "efficient, dignified, quick and serious" peace process. Colombian President Santos, who has warned that the talks must conclude by November, admitted last month that the negotiations were moving slowly. At the opening session, the FARC delegation unveiled 15 proposals to "break up and redistribute land ownership by getting rid of unproductive large estates." They also aim to "overcome the political, economic, social and cultural conditions that generate violence in Colombia. However, the
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Backing: Sir Alex Ferguson
Sir Alex phones Vita Cortex workers with this advice...
MANCHESTER United manager Alex Ferguson made a surprise phone call to the Vita Cortextell workers on February 13 to and them he supported their fightseto “stick in there” until they cured victory. The sporting legend expressed the his admiration and backing for workers' stand for justice. inHe told them he had been at volved in the apprentice strikes and the Clyde shipyards in 1961 going understood what they were through in their battle to secure agreed redundancy terms. SIPTU organiser Anne Egar described it as a “magical moment”
Perseverance and team work will win out in the end
came two days after more than so I'm delighted but everyone 5,000 people marched in solidarity to hear Sir Alex endorse the them here – even the Liverpool FC with the Vita Cortex workers Last workers’ stand and reassure guys – are saying 'fair play'." acthrough the centre of Cork. that they would succeed if they is month, veteran human rights the Speaking at the rally, organised stick together and fight for what tivist Noam Chomsky emailed for by the Cork Council of Trade just. workers to voice his suppporton in Unions, Anne Egar praised the She said: “When someone like their “determination to carry workers’ “stamina and principle” Alex Ferguson tells you perseverthe face of suffering and oppresyou and vowed they would not sucance and teamwork will see sion”. huge a cumb. course of is it concluded: win out, His January 19 email The Vita Cortex workers are and boost." “I hope that your courageousmodel entering their third month occupyVita Cortex worker Jim Power, actions will be a honourable detheir former workplace on the ing Ferguson, to who spoke to Mr that will inspire others as well Kinsale Road, Cork. scribed the phone call as a "masact instead of succumbing passively, The facility was closed on sive boost". and wish you the greatest success December 16 with management "He spoke about his involvein this just and crucial campaign strike claiming they could not honour ment in an apprentice boys' for basic rights.” in agreed redundancy terms. in Glasgow and told us to 'stick The call from the Man Utd boss there’. I'm a Man United supporter
‘demand deficit’ Congress: Jobs plan fails on
Public hearing: Congressman Ivan Cepeda
government representatives countered that the FARC were merely seizing on ideas proposed during an agrarian forum that was held in Bogota in December to score political points. The third round of negotiations were scheduled to last 11 days during which time the two delegations would debate the ideas offered by the forum, which came up with 546 proposals from 1,314 Colombian citizens and 522 organisations. In addition to land reform, the negotiations would include drug trafficking, political participation, disarmament and victims' rights. A few days later, on January 18 and 19, a public hearing opened in the Cauca department of Colombia, organised by the nationwide social and political movement, Patriotic March. Its stated aim was to raise awareness of the humanitarian crisis taking place in the region as a result of the conflict and highlighted the urgent need for a bilateral ceasefire to be agreed between the FARC and the Colombian government. The event, attended by more than 1,000 delegates from 33 organisations, representing 15 municipalities
across the region, included testimony from local communities, and provided medical and psychological assistance. Congressmen Iván Cepeda and Hernando Hernández attended, as well as representatives from the Human Rights Ombudsman’s Office, the UN High Commission for Human Rights and Patriotic March leading member, former Senator Piedad Cordoba. Cauca, the department in southwest Colombia often described as the “epicentre” of the conflict, has been marred by abuses against the civilian population, including assassinations, the occupation of civilian homes, schools and infrastructure by the Colombian armed forces and illegal armed groups with a strong paramilitary presence in the area. The military operation, known as ‘Sword of Honour’, was also denounced as having resulted in the arrests or legal proceedings being taken against several community leaders and human rights activists. Hundreds of arrest warrants have been issued. The beginning of 2013 was also marked by more bloodshed in Colombia. On January 16, seven people were assassinated in Puerto Asis, Putumayo. The killings are part of a wave of violence by the Urabenos paramilitary group, which has already led to the assassination of 18 people in the town. Among the dead have been loggers, taxi drivers and young people. On January 30, teacher trade unionist Elizabeth Gutiérrez was assassinated in Victoria, Valle del Cauca. Ms Gutierrez was an activist in SUTEV, the teachers’ union of Valle del Cauca, affiliated to the FECODE national teachers’ union, and taught at the San Jose de Obando Institute for education. Justice for Colombia (Ireland) is an ICTU campaign committee. For further details, please contact John O'Brien by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
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WORKERS’ JOY AS EPIC SIT-IN ENDS Page 2
CONGRESS general secretary David Begg has praised the tude and resilience” of Vita “fortiworkers following the end Cortex of their epic 161-day sit-in. The 23 workers ended occupation of the Kinsale their plant in Cork at 2.30pm Road The sun was shining and on May 24. were cheers from family there members and supporters as they walked out together for the last time.
It came after company bosses paid the staff an agreed sum as a final settlement to the dispute. David Begg told The Union “The extrordinary fortitude Post: and resilience shown by the workers in securing this deal is an example to trade unionists everywhere. “SIPTU – and its organisers – should also be justly proud of the role they played in supporting members at Vita Cortex.”
Shop steward Sean Kelleher, a Vita Cortex employee for said: “Five months was a 47 years, time but I’m just glad wevery long never decided to walk away.” He said the workers wanted to thank SIPTU, the people “and those further afield”of Cork for their solidarity and support. SIPTU organiser Anne the Vita Cortex dispute Egar said should show workers “that if you stay to-
gether and never give up, justice can be achieved.” Jack O’Connor, the union’s general president and past president Congress, added: “The courage of and determination shown by the workers has provided inspiration people in Ireland, and abroad,to are struggling against unfair who ment. I wish to congratulatetreatfor maintaining their resolve them and achieving a successful outcome.” Picture: Courtesy TV3 News
y March 2013
Union Representative Introductory
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April 8, 9,10
May 20, 21, 22, 23, 24
May 27,28, 29
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June 17, 18, 19
Union Representative Introductory Union Representative Fetac 5 Advanced
Health and Safety Elected Representatives Fetac 5 Union Representative Introductory Union Representative Introductory Union Representative Introductory Equality and Integration
*OTC = Mandate Organising and Training Centre; Venue dates and times may vary
Generations unborn burdened with debt By Frances Byrne TWO very alarming reports have been published since the last edition of ShopFloor. The first was the 2011 EU Survey on Income & Living Conditions, known as SILC, which is an annual picture of our income and poverty levels. The second was by Caritas-Europa, a network of European Catholic charities. The group released a study looking at austerity covering those countries deemed to be worst affected – Ireland, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain. The EU SILC looks at poverty, income levels and reports on deprivation rates. It is released annually and usually the Central Statistics Office publishes the Irish figures in late November; but ironically the 2011 report was delayed and arrived in mid-February, within days of the infamous ‘prom note’ deal. March 2013
Whether you think it’s a great deal or not, the fact is that it will in future heap bankers’ debts upon the shoulders of our children and even our as yet unborn grandchildren. The headline 2011 SILC figures are stark. They won’t surprise anyone who knows the reality of the impact of austerity, but they are shocking nevertheless: • 733,000 people are living in poverty – a new record, • One in seven of those identified as ‘at risk of poverty’ has a job, • 232,000 children, or 18% of all children are at risk of poverty, • The percentage of those of us who experience economic deprivation has more than doubled from 11.8% in 2007 to 24.5% in 2011, • Single-parent households stood out as the most deprived in the survey – with 56% classified as deprived. The Caritas-Europa report was no less worrying, albeit that it also went beyond these shores. Its key
findings about Ireland were: • Youth unemployment rates are particularly high (30.7%), • Our long-term unemployment rate is now third highest in Europe behind Greece and Spain,
‘Fact is growing up in poverty has lasting & profound impacts on children. This is uncontested’
• 1.3m people are at risk of poverty, and • Without social welfare payments, 90% of over-65s would be living in poverty. In summary, the official CSO figures and the findings of the first report about those countries worst affected by austerity demonstrate
that the choices being made by government are leading to increasing poverty and worsening deprivation for many. OPEN and others representing those living in worsening poverty, have warned repeatedly that constant cuts to social welfare and vital services would result in dire outcomes for generations. The fact is growing up in poverty has lasting and profound impacts on children. This is uncontested. As we go to press, the Children’s Rights Alliance has issued its 2013 Report Card and has given the government an ‘F’ for child poverty. It’s long past time the government stopped congratulating itself for protecting basic welfare rates. They were never enough to live on anyway. So other supports, such as Child Benefit, Back to School Clothing & Footwear Allowance, Rent Supplement, Medical Cards and the Earnings Disregard for lone parents, have all played a key role in
protecting those on a weekly payment from abject poverty. Every single one of them has been cut. The Children’s Rights Alliance in its 2013 Report Card stated: “A recent longitudinal study of children showed that in 2008 only 7% of the children reported that their families had some or great difficulties in making ends meet. When asked the same questions in 2012, the figure had tripled to 23%”. Unless government wants this figure to keep increasing, it needs to stop cutting vital income supports which all families have to rely on to keep their heads above water. Otherwise future generations will carry a deeply unfair double whammy: the long-term impact of the choices now being made under austerity, as well as the private debts of anonymous bondholders. Frances Byrne is CEO of OPEN, representing one-parent groups in Ireland