SHOPFLOOR MANDATE TRADE UNION
Decency for Dunnes Workers campaign is launched PAGE 5
OUR MESSAGE TO RETAIL BOSSES AND POLITICIANS...
SPECIAL CONFERENCE REPORT & PICTURES
STRAIGHT TALKING General Secretary Mandate Trade Union
Dispute ends as Smoke and mirrors improved deal to hide the truth! backed by 82% margin in vote
The riTual political budget dance has begun in earnest before the Government announces its October 2014 budget proposals for 2015. The political band is playing some old favourites such as tax cuts, welfare cuts and eﬃciencies in services to the backdrop of an election drubbing of the Government parties in the recent local and european elections. Their choice of mood music is designed to win back public support and to repair their image before the 2016 general election. A word of caution, do not let them lead you on a merry dance of promises and false choices. Government is about choices and the values that underpin these choices – at budget time these values are clearly exposed for all to see, they shape our society and the well being of our citizens. As part of our Troika bailout agreement, this October 2014 Budget should continue in the same vein of a long line of austerity budgets by making a €2bn adjustment through tax increases and cuts to public spending, thereby reducing Ireland’s borrowing below 3% of GDP by 2015. The IMF, the EU and our own national austerity hawks, the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council, are insisting that the Government delivers on the two billion in cuts, while the trade union think-tank NERI says that two billion is not required because of our slight economic improvement and because of the domestic damage two billion in cuts would cause, particularly to those dependent on state services. Some of the choices have already been made and the value systems that underpin them clearly exposed for all to see. For example, this Government has already made the choice that Irish citizens regardless of means will pay property tax on their home; they have decided the citizens will have to pay for water – a basic human necessity; they have decided not to invest in capital expenditure such as social housing projects; they have decided to cut welfare for the under-25s; they have decided that the unemployed are a problem and should either be banished from these shores or forced into largely futile work for free schemes such as JobBridge. They have decided that multinational corporations are a privileged and protected species who must never be asked to make a contribution to the repair of Ireland’s economy or fiscal condition. Our Taoiseach has pandered to the multinational corporations and their threats of capital flight – his reassuring words, “You can ring me anytime”, rings hollow in the ears of those citizens struggling to put food on the table or keep a roof over their heads. The facts are that this Government continues to facilitate multinational corporations avoid and minimise their social contribution (Tax). The existing corporation tax rate of 12.5% (headline) is low by international standards but the “real eﬀective rate” (what they actually pay) is closer to 4%. For example, Apple paid only €36 million in corporation tax on profits of €7.11 billion. Social Justice Ireland (www.socialjustice.ie) has proposed in its pre-budget submission to Government that all corporations must pay an “effective rate” of corporation tax of at least 6% an increase of a mere 2% in the effective corporation tax rate for most major companies. This proposal could yield up to €500 million per year. Mandate has called for similar changes in the past and we fully support this policy as the very least the major multinational companies contribute to the repair of our national finances. But, alas, the Irish Government has already indicated that it is not prepared to upset its corporate friends. Instead the Government would rather impose water charges on every household to collect the €500 million to balance the books. Water charges will start at circa €240 per year and, no doubt, go only upwards from thereon. The imposition of these water charges on top of the already regressive property tax will have a devastating impact on consumer spending, and lead to more retail job losses and pressure on workers’ terms and conditions of employment as a consequence. In one fell swoop the pay increases won by Mandate and other unions over the past 12 months will be wiped out. Mandate members intend to pursue our pay policy with renewed vigour so as to ensure that ordinary workers see a real beneﬁt in their wage packets. Making Work Pay is our rallying call – this can only be achieved through joining unions and taking collective action to win. But if the fruits of our collective industrial struggle are stolen through the imposition of unjust, unfair charges when other options are clearly available, then workers must continue to mobilise both industrially and politically to ensure that those making the policy decisions have the values of social justice and a fairer society at the centre of all their decisions. The next time a politician tells you we are all in this together, tell them you don’t believe that bull and that you are organising and mobilising to ﬁght back for choices, choices which support workers, a decent living wage – a future in your own country.
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
MandaTe members working in Marks & Spencer have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a new set of proposals, which puts an end to a protracted dispute at the company. details of the vote – revealed on Friday, June 13 – showed there was a margin of 82% of workers who voted in favour of the deal. Mandate assistant General Secretary Gerry light claimed it represented “a signiﬁcant improvement on the original proposals put forward by the company last year”. he told Shopﬂoor: “not only does this agreement improve the situation for our members in terms of the original set of proposals put forward by management, it is also an improvement on the labour Court recommendation issued in March of this year.” The dispute between
Flashback: how February’s Shopfloor covered M&S dispute
Marks & Spencer workers and their employer began when the company sought cost-cutting measures and put forward a range of proposals which would have impacted heavily on the living standards of staﬀ at the major retail chain. Mandate members rejected the original proposals out of hand which led to a one-day national strike last december. Members also emphatically rejected the labour Court recommendation issued in March of this year. Mr light said: “This once again shows how pragmatic our members can be when facing an unsavoury situation. “They were put in a very diﬃcult position but through their unity they have managed to secure a much more satisfactory oﬀer. Our members have shown
they are extremely determined and if any employer or other body makes a demand of them which they feel is unjust, inequitable or unfair, they will resist it in any manner necessary.” Mr light also called for the restoration of a better industrial relations environment at Marks & Spencer. “it is incumbent on all concerned to restore the good industrial relations environment that existed before this dispute which were clearly damaged over the past eight months.” he added: “This again shows how – during good times and bad – being a trade union member can ensure you achieve the best possible outcome for you and your colleagues, particularly when unfavourable conditions are being imposed on you by your employer."
Picture: Pete (CC BY 2.0)
Cheers! Bar staff win claim over failure to pay Sunday premium A GROUP of bar and lounge staff from a well-known pub on Dublin’s Northside were recently successful in a claim that their employer failed to pay them a Sunday premium. Attempts had been made to resolve the issue locally with management before taking the claim to the Rights Commissioner Service. However, management responded by introduc-
ing a premium for staff that were working part-time and on lower wages than those members who had made the claim. In his decision, the Rights Commissioner said it was illegal not to pay a premium for Sunday working because of a view that the claimants’ wages were higher than some other staff. David Miskell, who represented
the group of workers, pointed out that those members who had brought the claim were “loyal and long-serving members of staff” and the position that had been adopted by the employer over the payment of the premium was “unfair”. He added: “Mandate strives to improve terms and conditions for all workers regardless of length of service.” SHOPFLOOR
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workers get pay hike of 2% MOre than 2,500 Mandate members at Supervalu have received a 2% pay increase effective from June 1, 2014. The workers were part of the former Superquinn business, which is now owned by Musgrave
Operating Partners ireland (MOPi). Mandate assistant General Secretary Gerry light told Shopfloor: “Our members in the former Superquinn business have joined with our members in Tesco, Penneys,
Boots, and many other retailers, and won a very valuable pay increase. at a time when workers are under increasing financial pressure, every cent matters and that’s why Mandate has made winning pay in-
creases a priority.” he added: “Significantly due to the structure of the Supervalu business, there are a lot of other workers within the brand who did not receive this pay increase. This positive develop-
Sign me up! This festival-goer heard some convincing arguments at the Twisted Pepper and opted to join a trade union
May Day festival focuses on youth MANDATE Youth supported the recent May Day Festival staged at the Twisted Pepper in Dublin, on Friday, May 2 and Saturday, May 3. The event, which was the first of its kind, was a joint project between ICTU Youth, the Dublin Council of Trade Unions and the We're Not Leaving campaign, an initiative that brings together young workers, young unemployed and students. May Day is International Workers’ Day and the festival’s aim was to complement that with a series of talks and workshops as well as musical and cultural events. Seamus Farrell, a member of We’re Not Leaving and one of the organisers of the event, explained to Shopfloor that they wanted to bring together the workers’ movement with the youth crisis as well as
wider struggles. He said: “We wanted to create a passionate, culturally-vivid and politically-empowering event with an atmosphere of collaboration and celebration.” The two-day festival featured talks by a number of speakers, including Mandate organiser Eoin Griffin, as well as a range of cultural
events. Subjects included how young people can get organised, reproductive rights, migrant rights, housing, mental health, economics, education and LGBTQ in the workplace. Festival-goers also enjoyed a range of diverse music from young Irish artists as well as a powerful social justice message from Working Class records. Mandate communications officer David Gibney, who is also Secretary of ICTU Youth, said: “The event was a resounding success. We had a huge range of people from all sectors of society come together to hear about workers’ rights and workers’ struggles. “There were even a number of attendees who joined their relevant union on the spot. This type of event certainly helped young people to
connect with trade unions and served as a fantastic way to educate young workers about the benefits of being in a union and being active within it.” He added: “Hopefully next year we can build an even bigger and better event.” Moira Murphy, also from Mandate, told Shopfloor: "It is important that unions have a presence in cultural spaces around the country. “Young people are less inclined to attend formal meetings about workers’ issues. “By creating an inclusive, informal space to talk about union issues in unconventional spaces such as cafés, youth clubs and college campuses, organisers plant the seeds that can go a long way and expand union membership at the same time."
ment clearly demonstrates that by being a member of a trade union improves your chances of advancing your standard of living and the general environment in which you work.”
workers vote for 4% pay increase By David Gibney Mandate communications officer MandaTe members working in Boots ireland have voted in favour of a 4% pay increase. They will receive the equivalent of 2% backdated to June 2013 with a further 2% due in June 2014. Boots employs more than 1,600 workers across the republic. Welcoming the vote, Mandate divisional Organiser Brendan O’hanlon told Shopfloor: “On the day that the irish Congress of Trade unions held a conference discussing decent work and a living wage, our members delivered for themselves a very significant increase in their take-home pay. “This will allow our members and their families to have a better living standard which is vital in these tough economic times." he added: “in addition, the extra income these workers have achieved for themselves will be a boost for local shops and businesses where they spend most of their income. This will drive the economic recovery and jobs recovery that is badly needed at this moment in time.”
Appeals Tribunal awards dismissed member €13,000 THE Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) has overturned an earlier Rights Commissioner’s decision and awarded €13,000 to a Mandate member for unfair dismissal. The member, who was employed by a major retailer in Dublin city centre, was dismissed for breach of his employer’s reservation of sale policy in 2012. It was initially the subject of a Rights Com-
missioner’s hearing at which it was found that the dismissal was fair. However, Mandate appealed the decision and brought his case to the Employment Appeals Tribunal. And following a full hearing of the EAT, the dismissal was deemed to be unfair. In its determination, the Tribunal stated: “Having carefully considered the evidence ad-
duced at the hearing, the Tribunal finds that the respondent acted unreasonably in deciding to dismiss the claimant. “It is clear that it was open to the decision makers to consider sanctions other than dismissal in regard to the alleged breach of the ordering and reservation policy for all sale goods. “However, no other sanction was considered. The sanction of dismissal was disproportionate
to the alleged actions of the claimant and was contrary to fairness and natural justice.” The Tribunal overturned the Rights Commissioner’s decision and determined that the member was unfairly dismissed. The member was awarded €13,000 under the Unfair Dismissals Acts and a further award of €1,540 was made to him under the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Acts.
Marks & Spencer
Picture: Tommy Clancy/Mandate
John Douglas points out how being in a union pays dividends both for members and for the wider economy
Wage rises boost domestic economy MANDATE members have won more than €20 million in pay increases over the past 24 months, General Secretary John Douglas has claimed. He made the comments to 300 delegates gathered for the union’s Biennial Delegate Conference in Killarney. Mr Douglas called for more workers to join trade unions so that more pay rises could be won which would in turn help boost the local economy. “Mandate members in the retail sector have been very successful in achieving higher rates of pay and better security of hours since our last conference two years ago.” Mandate, which represents 45,000 retail and bar workers in Ireland, has won pay increases in: Argos – 3%; Arnotts – 2%; Boots – 4%; Brown Thomas – 2%; Debenhams – 2%; Dunnes Stores – 3%; Heatons – 5%; Marks & Spencer – 2.5%; Penneys – 3%; Superquinn 4
(now Supervalu) – 2% and Tesco – 4%. Mr Douglas said: “Our members spend almost all of their income in local shops, restaurants, bars and other local businesses. “By winning these pay increases, Mandate members have put an extra €20m spending power into the local economy, which in turn will protect existing jobs and hopefully create more decent jobs in every community across Ireland.” He added: “While zero hour contracts and low hour contracts are becoming the norm in the Irish economy, the vast majority of our members have achieved ‘banded hour contracts’, ensuring they have certainty of hours of employment. “This, combined with the pay increases they have won, will secure a decent wage for them and their families.” Mr Douglas, who is also the President of Congress, encouraged workers in all industries to join their union and fight for pay increases.
“Irish workers are underpaid by comparison with our European neighbours. We’re also more productive and Irish company profits are rising at a faster rate than the EU average. “In this context, it is important that Irish workers in profitable businesses seek pay increases so we can grow the domestic economy. The only logical way they can do this is by joining a union and organising their workplaces.”
Mr Douglas went on to explain the benefits of pay increases to wider Irish society. “Winning pay increases in profitable enterprises will reduce poverty levels. It will increase revenue for government through extra income tax, USC, PRSI and VAT receipts, meaning we can invest in better public services. “It will also mean we have more ability to pay off the odious banking
debt that was thrust on Irish workers illegitimately, meaning future generations won’t have to pay as much for the banking crisis created by Ireland’s elites,” he added. Mr Douglas told conference that in the past having a job meant a route out of poverty, but underlined that this was not the case any longer. “At a time when 16% of those at work are living in deprivation; when one in 10 people suffer from food poverty; and 147,000 workers say they cannot get enough hours at work, the solution to our economic and social crisis is clear – joining a trade union and collectively bargaining with your employer will always be the greatest way to ensure decent income and decent work.” Turning to the issue of tax cuts, Mr Douglas said: “While government and employer representatives argue that tax cuts are the best way to increase domestic demand, this
policy is not in the best interests of our members or lower paid workers generally. “Low paid workers don’t earn enough money to pay income tax. They rely on social transfers like the Family Income Supplement (FIS) and they also rely on decent public services in health and in education. “Cutting tax for the top 20% or 30% of earners will only starve our public services and widen the income inequality gap that is already far too wide.” Mr Douglas concluded: “Our union is determined to reduce poverty levels in Irish society. “We’re determined to put more spending power into our members’ pockets and we’re determined to ensure that decent work becomes the norm for the Irish workforce. “We make no apologies for achieving these goals by collectively bargaining and winning pay increases for our members.” SHOPFLOOR
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Decency for Dunnes Workers drive MANDATE has launched a Decency for Dunnes Workers Campaign in the union’s push for better employment conditions for more than 4,000 of its members who work for the national retailer. Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light outlined four key demands at Mandate’s Biennial Delegate Conference in Killarney on April 27. These are: decent hours and earnings, job security, fair pay, and the right to trade union representation. The union wants to highlight and
tackle the ongoing deterioration of employment standards for Dunnes workers and bring employment conditions in line with the firm’s major competitors in the retail sector. Launching the campaign, Mr Light said: “There has been a dramatic increase in precarious work across the Irish retail sector and we have serious concerns based on feedback from our members that the employment standards in Dunnes Stores have deteriorated in recent years. “Our members are demanding
that the company address their key issues of concern. In this context, the union will be lodging a substantial claim with the company in the immediate future addressing all of the pertinent issues including a claim for a pay increase.” Dunnes Stores is the most successful Irish-owned retailer employing 14,000 workers across 116 stores in the Republic of Ireland. Mandate believe this campaign is an important step in the fight for decent work in the Irish retail sector.
Mr Light said: “There are now 147,000 people in the Irish economy classified as ‘underemployed’, meaning they cannot get enough hours of work. Many employers, particularly retail employers, are using the allocation of hours as a method of control and discipline over their workers and they do this by issuing low and zero hour contracts.” “Workers in Dunnes Stores are seeking the right to ‘banded hour contracts’ similar to their counterparts in Tesco, Supervalu and Penneys. This would give Dunnes workers a level of security over their hours and earnings.” The union also argues that despite a National Agreement being in place since 1996, Dunnes management has refused to implement the terms of the agreement meaning workers
have been denied their right to representation, both individually and collectively. “It is simply unacceptable to enter into an agreement with your staff only to walk away from it without any explanation. We want the company to implement the terms of the 1996 agreement with immediate effect and allow our members the right to representation that they are entitled to,” he said. Mr Light added: “Major employers like Dunnes Stores must not be allowed to continue to erode the employment conditions of workers in the Irish retail sector. The success of this campaign will depend on the participation of all Dunnes workers. Our members are simply seeking the decency they deserve in the workplace.”
Key objectives of the campaign... deCenT hOurS and earninGS: dunnes workers report low and insecure working hours. Workers want standard banded hour contracts that provide decent and secure hours and earnings similar to other major retailers. JOB SeCuriTy: dunnes workers report the use of insecure ﬁxed and temporary contracts. Workers are seeking permanent contracts and that temporary or ﬁxed contracts only be used in exceptional circumstances. Fair Pay: dunnes workers report rates of pay below industry standards and inconsistent pay scales across stores. Workers want a fair pay rise along with the cost of living increases and transparent universal pay scales rePreSenTaTiOn and The riGhT TO diGniTy aT WOrk: dunnes workers are denied trade union representation by the company. Workers want their right to individual and collective represented to be recognised and respected by dunnes.
For updates go to www.dunnesworkers.com
Respect: Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light launches Dunnes drive at conference in Killarney
Picture: Tommy Clancy/Mandate July 2014
Challenge call to consumers and workers over child labour
This young girl works as a child weaver in the production of carpets in Lahore, Pakistan
Picture: @ILO/M.Crozet (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
MANDATE General Secretary John Douglas has called on workers and consumers to “challenge” the scourge of child labour by checking out how shops source their products and making ethical choices about what they buy. He made the comments on World Day Against Child Labour, marked internationally on June 12 each year. John Douglas, who is also President of Congress, said: "Child Labour is still a massive industry in many regions around the world and it is something we should not ignore here in Ireland. “In developing countries, it denies children the opportunity to go to school and avail of their right to an education. It facilitates a growth in profits for those who exploit young children and it is something that we can – and must – challenge. “As workers and consumers, we must ensure that our money is spent in ethical retailers who ensure child labour is not part of their supply chain. Every day we make choices about where we spend our money and what type of employers and businesses we support. “We can challenge child labour by simply checking how a company sources their goods and establishing the procedures they take to make sure they are not contributing to the problem." Mandate strongly backs pressure group Clean Clothes Campaign Ireland and has called on its members to find out more about the issue on www.cleanclothescampaignireland.org
Union Representatives Advanced Course
Heatons deal will see pay rise by 5%
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
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Negotiations & Collective Bargaining Understanding Equality and Diversity Developing induction presentation skills Introduction to Employment Law Identifying issues and using procedures
Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this training course will obtain a Mandate certificate. They may progress to the FETAC level 5 Certificate in Trade Union studies or other relevant training courses offered by Mandate.
If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rana Plaza: fashion brands must act now 6
scheme is to be relaunched in a bid MANDATE members working in to drive sales. This will be paid to Heatons have overwhelmingly apstaff twice a year. proved a new deal brokered with Divisional Organiser Bill Kelly told company bosses which will see pay Shopfloor: “Under the scheme when rates increase by 5%. a store beats the sales Working hours budget, 10% of the will also be mainoverachievement is tained under the paid to them.” Heatons agreement which have agreed to mainwas backed by 97% tain the average workof members. ing hours of existing A stabilisation staff and to increase agreement had been them in line with inagreed with the creased trading volcompany in 2012, umes. The firm has also which included the agreed to improve the suspension of the contracts of employChristmas bonus, a ment of staff on the 3% pay cut and a lowest contracts. freeze on the payMr Kelly added: ment of increments. Bill Kelly: ‘real improvement’ in pay “These commitments However, under will ensure a real improvement in the new deal: the income levels of members over l The Christmas bonus will be the course of the agreement which paid to all current qualified staff. continues until December 31, 2015. l The 3% pay cut is to be re“Members will also receive one stored from May 1 this year and the extra day’s leave during the agreepay rates will increase by a further ment and an additional €500 staff 2% from October 1, 2015. discount will continue to be allol The freeze on paying increcated to each staff member on Dements will also cease from May 1. cember 1 each year.” In addition, a sales incentive SHOPFLOOR
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Dismissed Dunnes worker made genuine mistake A DUNNES stores worker, dismissed for selling alcohol to a customer who was aged under 18, has claimed she was being used as a “sacrificial lamb” for having made a genuine mistake. She made the comments on the second day of a Tribunal hearing into the dismissal. The worker said she genuinely believed that the girl was of age and claimed that in essence she was being made a sacrificial lamb as the store
had been subsequently fined and ordered to close for three days. Dunnes later won an appeal against the conviction and instead agreed to donate money to charity. Appearing on behalf of the member, Mandate Divisional Organiser Willie Hamilton pointed out to the Tribunal that the dismissed worker had an exemplary work record of 12 years. He also argued that the procedures used dismiss the worker were grossly
unfair, insisting that alternative or lesser sanctions should have been considered by management. Mr Hamilton disagreed with barrister Marcus Dowling, who was acting on behalf of Dunnes, that the incident represented gross misconduct or that the worker should have been sacked. He said: “Sale of alcohol policies can be very subjective and rely very heavily on different perceptions of age and as a result huge responsibility is placed
ECJ hols pay ruling: implications for those on zero/low hour contracts THE European Court of Justice has made an important ruling over how annual leave is calculated so workers do not suffer a loss when taking holidays – which potentially could discourage them from taking annual leave. The case involved a group of workers who sought to have holiday pay assessed on the basis of commission earnings as well as basic salary.
European Court of Justice
Picture: Alsal Photography (CC BY 2.0)
Their employer’s policy had been to take only the workers’ basic salary into account.
The Court held that a worker is entitled to the maintenance of basic salary and any aspects of pay linked to it, in this case commission. The law in Ireland states that holiday pay should be calculated by using the normal weekly rate or, as appropriate, proportionate to the normal
weekly rate. While this case focused on commission – this ruling will have implications for the calculation of
Mr Miskell said: “Mandate has campaigned extensively to combat the rise in precarious employment; in particular zero hour/low hour contracts and this ruling could form an important part of that campaign.”
Women retail workers in the US lose out on $40.8bn a year in pay
much of what she termed “flat out discrimination”. Ms Traub writes: “The typical woman working as a salesperson earns just $10.58 an hour: a wage that keeps a family of three near poverty, even if the employee is able to secure enough hours for full-time work. “Jobs that could be a source of stability to families and growth for the national economy too often involve not only low pay but erratic schedules, a lack of sufficient work hours, and the scarcity of basic benefits like paid sick days – mak-
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Mandate Industrial Officer David Miskell pointed out that the lines of argument used by the Court in coming to their conclusion are potentially important for workers on zero hour/low hour contracts as they should be paid by reference to their previous earnings and not the understated hours on their contracts.
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FeMale employees working in the retail sector in the uS earn an average of $4 an hour less than their male counterparts, a new report, titled Retail’s Choice, by public policy organisation demos has revealed. according to author amy Traub that adds up to a staggering $40.8bn in lost wages each year. She outlined a number of factors that impacted on the earning power of women workers in retail outlets across the States. These include numbers of women working in part-time roles, the types of goods sold as well as
Commentary on Irish Political Economy by UNITE research oﬃcer Michael Taft
holiday pay for other workers for whom basic pay is only a part of their remuneration.
The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), set up in 1952, comprises the Court of Justice, the General Court and specialised courts. It ensures compliance with the law in interpreting and applying the Treaties of the European Union.
A UK Tribunal referred the issue to the ECJ in Luxembourg for a ruling.
on individual checkout operators.” This is the State’s first conviction under a new law that prosecutes off-licences for selling drink to under-age customers. Mr Hamilton told Shopfloor: “Trenchant protection must be given to checkout staff who are responsible for the sale of alcohol.” The Tribunal retired to consider the matter and a decision is expected shortly. ‘m
Notes on the Front
ing hourly retail jobs precarious positions holding back not just women but their families and our nation as a whole.” There were some 4.6 million people working in retail sales across the States in 2012, according to goverment figures. Women make up less than half of all retail workers (48.7%), but constitute 55.4% of retail's low-wage workers. On average they are paid $10.58 an hour, compared to $14.62 paid to men. Check out Retail’s Choice report at http://bit.ly/1joxeAh
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Picture: European Parliament
l Douglas congratulates workers l Win shows importance of being in a union
As Paris Bakery occupation ends Mandate calls for change in law MANDATE General Secretary John Douglas has congratulated workers who took part in the Paris Bakery after they won their hard fought battle to have their company wound-up. The workers had spent 19 days occupying their former workplace on Moore Street, Dublin, after their owner shut the bakery leaving employees with almost €100,000 in unpaid wages and other entitlements. Mr Douglas told Shopfloor: “These workers deserve enormous credit for the way they stuck together and for the resilience they have shown. It is difficult enough to lose your job, but to lose it while not being paid for almost three months is devastating.” He said workers had been un-
necessarily placed in a difficult situation. “For several years, Mandate has highlighted to government the flaws in the insolvency legislation whereby employers can simply walk away from a business, hiding behind Limited Liability and refusing to wind their company up. Workers are left having to occupy buildings simply get what is rightfully theirs.” Mr Douglas added: “We said it on day one of this sit-in: no worker should be forced to occupy a building to get their wages.” He pointed out that the Paris Bakery workers had been fortunate in that Revenue Commissioners were also owed money. “Today the Paris Bakery work-
ers received a letter from Revenue indicating their intention to wind the company up in the High Court. This will allow the workers to access the State’s Insolvency Fund at last. “Had Revenue not intervened, these workers may have been forced to take a case to the High Court themselves, at a prohibitive cost and possibly taking several years, in order to win what was rightfully theirs.”
‘High and dry’
Mr Douglas cited the case of four Mandate members in Dun Laoghaire who had been fighting to secure entitlements – totalling more than €100,000 – for almost four years because of their employer’s continued refusal to wind up the business. “This situation of employers leav-
ing workers high and dry is not new. We’ve seen it happen in recent years in Vita Cortex, La Senza, HMV, Game and in Connolly Shoes. In all of these cases, workers could have been protected, but weren’t due to lack of political will.” Mr Douglas said: “Now that the Paris Bakery workers have won their fight, we cannot allow this to happen again. We must keep the pressure on government to change the legislation so that we’re not talking about another sit-in taking place in two or three months time.” The General Secretary congratulated the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland for their hard work and dedication during the occupation. He also thanked OPATSI union for
their support along with all the other unions and individuals who kept the workers spirits up during the prolonged dispute. Underlining the need for all workers to join trade unions, Mr Douglas added: “Unions are about standing together and working as a collective for the betterment of all. “The Paris Bakery workers have won their fight be being strong and working together. “There will always be rogue employers who will exploit their workforce and when that happens the best protection you can have is by being united with your colleagues in your workplace. It’s an old phrase and a cliché but it is still relevant to say that unity is strength.”
Burton l Protection Joan Minister for Socia the sit-in at rs rke wo to spoke
One Direction fans fro m Donegal give their 8
backing to Paris Bak ery workers Pictures: Man date/Flickr
‘We knead our bread!’ Workers earning a crust at Paris Bakery deserve to be paid... SHOPFLOOR
y July 2014
INDUSTRIAL NEWS Baguette-wielding John Douglas at protest in support of Paris Bakery workers outside the Dail
An inspirational struggle and hard fought for result UNTIL RECENTLY the Paris Bakery on Dublin’s famous Moore Street was a popular café and bakery. Always full of customers, it was featured regularly in the media and was frequented by government Ministers and TDs. Since March of this year, despite the obvious success of the bakery, payment of wages was occasional or nonexistent. Repeated promises that they would be paid “tomorrow” never materialised. Many workers left in despair; others stayed, afraid that if they left they would get nothing. This was a group of mainly young migrant workers from Brazil, China, Italy, France, Mauritius, Mexico, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Spain and Venezuela. Many were owed up to €4,000 each; together, some 30 workers were owed more than €100,000. On Wednesday, May 21, a group of Paris Bakery workers turned up for work and found themselves locked out. With the support of OPATSI, the plasterers’ union, the workers began to protest on Moore Street. They started a social media campaign. On Thursday, Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) met with the group to offer our support. It quickly became clear that their situation was exactly the kind of exploitation we’ve been combating for years. In a strategy meeting July 2014
By Edel McGinley Director of Migrant Rights Centre Ireland in MRCI offices on the morning of Friday, May 23, the workers decided to occupy the building if necessary, to prevent the employers from stripping assets from the premises. At 1.30pm that day, after a human chain blocking the exit failed to get results, the workers with the support of MRCI, Mandate and OPATSI began a sit-in. Despite being threatened with arrest, we remained, determined to get the stolen wages back. For the next eight hours, negotiations took place with Gardaí until workers and supporters won the right to stay in the bakery. Throughout the 19 days the support from the trade union movement and the general public was incredible. Over 3,600 people signed a petition, another thousand emailed the Taoiseach, 4,800 ‘liked’ the Facebook page. MRCI set up a
solidarity fund and contributions flooded in from unions, groups and individuals. Five public actions took place in Dublin and Wicklow. Two visits were organised to the Dáil and issue raised during Topical Questions. Numerous politicians lent their support and two Government ministers visited the Bakery. The MRCI team was there every step of the way, providing legal advice, media support, campaigning expertise, moral and practical support. MRCI staff handled casework for individual workers and the team took it in turns to sleep at the bakery overnight with the workers. Owners, Yannick Forel and Ruth Saville refused either to engage with the workers or to wind up the company and allow them to access State supports. Over the course of the 19
days the workers’ determination grew not only for their rights but also for the rights of fellow workers. The campaign focus shifted from the owners to the Government to take action. Finally, on the afternoon of Tuesday, June 10, a letter from Revenue was hand-delivered to the bakery indicating that the Government was to wind up the company. That week it was also announced that the rules governing access to the Insolvency Fund were to be reviewed. A great result, hard-fought for. It was a privilege to work with this group of workers. They are inspirational. Throughout the darkest times when a positive outcome seemed impossible, they were determined to make sure this would never happen again. Workers like Anissa, Inna, Eduard and Mati went from having little public speaking experience to juggling live radio appearances and rally speeches while living in the bakery. What started as a fight to get back their own wages became a mobilisation of public support for the legal changes proposed by ICTU and others. Through their action there is now political momentum and a spotlight on the loophole in current law that prevents workers from accessing the Insolvency Fund. Trade unions – in particular Mandate and OPATSI – stood with the
workers every step of the way. They provided media, legal, casework and financial support, negotiation expertise and political support to advance long-term change. Mandate organisers and ICTU President John Douglas kept the workers company on the very first night of the sit-in. It is important also to acknowl-
‘Throughout the darkest times... they were determined to make sure this would not happen again’ edge the contribution made by SIPTU, Uplift, ENAR Ireland, GMB, CWU, Workers Solidarity Movement, TEEU, Young Workers Network, PSEU, USI, NUJ, UNITE, ICTU, Were Not Leaving and all the other individual supporters. From financial donations to sharing expertise, giving time, sleeping in the bakery, taking a stand, mobilising connections; it is these acts of solidarity that strengthen the labour movement and the collective fight for workers’ rights and human rights. 9
MAKE SPACE FOR OXFAM OUR SHOPS REALLY NEED YOUR UNWANTED CLOTHES, BOOKS, AND HOMEWARES. YOUR DONATIONS MAKE A REAL DIFFERENCE TO FIGHTING POVERTY.
‘Stalwart’ Ann retires after 28 years MandaTe said goodbye to one of its longest serving members of staﬀ, ann Curran, who retired in May having given more than 28 years of service to the union. ann began working with idaTu (Mandate’s precursor union) in 1969 but left for a period of time between 1974 and 1991. She worked in the north eastern division as an admin and secretarial assistant and then progressed into Membership accounts. Mrs Curran worked with four different general secretaries, including John douglas, Owen nulty, Seamus O’donnell and Willie Fitzpatrick. She saw many signiﬁcant changes over the years including the amalgamation between idaTu and inuVGaTa in 1994. Mandate General Secretary John douglas told Shopﬂoor: “ann has been a loyal stalwart for Mandate and its members. She’s been with the union during good times and bad and we’re sad to see her retire. “On behalf of all staﬀ and members of our union we sincerely thank her for her service and wish her well in her retirement.”
ABOVE: Ann, ce ntr TOP: Ann says a e, with Margaret O'Dwyer (Trea few words on he su r last day. BELOW: rer) & Doreen Curley (Vice Pr esident) Ann with her Ma ndate colleague s
y July 2014
So here we go again... workers are to blame
I PREVIOUSLY discussed on the Notes On The Front blog (http://notesonthefront.typepad.com) the assertion that rising housing costs were caused by over-paid construction workers. It wasn’t true but that never stops some commentators from trying to find blame – and finding it in workers’ pay packets. It’s been going on since the start of the crisis. And it still goes on. The Irish Times reported that consumer prices in Ireland are still much higher than in most other EU countries: “Even after six years of austerity, consumer prices in Ireland are on average 18% higher than the European Union norm, prompting renewed concern about the country’s competitiveness.” Why should this still be the case? Costs associated with being an island on the periphery (transport and import costs?). Oligopolistic price-setting in key sectors? Alan McQuaid, economist with Merrion Stockbrokers, believes he has part of the answer: He writes: “The other key issue which these figures highlight is the underlying cost for retailers – e.g. rents, insurance and wage costs – are higher than elsewhere. You cannot look to have one of the highest minimum wages in Europe, and then not be surprised that prices are more expensive than the rest of the bloc.” Oh, my, it comes back to those darned over-paid workers, this time in the in the retail sector where workers are undermining our competitiveness by getting an average weekly income of €512 a week (and this includes management salaries; weekly income for shop floor workers are bound to be much lower). Let’s look at this claim about high wages in the retail sector and see how we compare with other countries, using the National Accounts. We will use the wholesale/retail sector (there is little data at the retail sector only) but this sector as a whole would impact on costs for consumers. First up, employee compensation:
Usual suspects on the job...
Picture: Bill Jacobus (CC BY 2.0)
By Michael Taft It shows that Ireland is below the mean average of other EU-15 countries (no data for Sweden) and wellbelow most other countries. We’re only higher than other peripheral countries and low-paid UK. This shouldn’t be surprising. Unite the Union examined employee compensation using the Eurostat Labour Cost Survey and found pretty much the same picture. If employee compensation were to rise to the mean average of other countries, workers in this sector would be getting a 9% pay rise in 2012. More interesting, if we exclude the bail-out countries (Greece and Portugal), Irish wages in this sector would have to rise by 21% to reach the average of the other EU-15 countries. But let’s take a look at the flip side of this wages equation; namely, profits. Wages may be low in a sector
because profits are low and enterprises are struggling. Fortunately, the National Accounts provides data on profits, or net operating surplus and mixed income. Net operating surplus is the gross profits minus capital depreciation – a measure favoured by the Department of Finance. Mixed income refers to the profits of the self-employed. How much profits are made for every hour worked by an employee?
The situation is reversed. Irish profits in the wholesale/retail sector are well above the average of most other EU-15 countries – approximately 31% above the mean average. When the bail-out countries are excluded, Irish profits in the wholesale/retail sector are still 19% above the mean average of the other EU countries. We haven’t factored in currency and living costs; these are just nominal numbers. So let’s use one more measurement to get a better sense of the relationship between total profits in the sector and total wages.
In Ireland, profits make up 64% of wages in the sector. The average for other EU-15 countries is much lower – 45%. In short, Irish employers grab a much higher proportion of the value-added created than employers in most other EU-15 countries. So what have we got? Employee compensation is lower than the average of other EU-15
countries Profits, however, are much higher than this European average – whether measured as profits per hour worked or profits as a percentage of personnel costs. This is not intended to be a complete analysis of the sector – and certainly not after years of austerity which has seen many enterprises in this sector go to the wall, or cut prices to maintain volume. There’s no sense in pretending
‘Irish employers grab a much higher proportion of value-added created than than employers in most other EU-15 countries’ that all is well in the wholesale/retail sector. But it gives a much different perspective than McQuaid offers. He would have been much closer to the mark if he had said the following: “The other key issue which these figures highlight is the underlying cost for retailers – e.g. rents, insurance and wage costs – are higher than elsewhere. You cannot look to have one of the highest minimum wages profit levels in Europe, and then not be surprised that prices are more expensive than the rest of the bloc.” But that never gets said. Funny that.
Michael Taft is a Research Officer for UNITE the Union
When ISME cry ‘madness’ something is going right... By David Gibney Mandate communications officer MANDATE members’ recent pay rise successes have not gone unnoticed by employers’ bodies in Ireland. Mark Fielding, Chief Executive of the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises (ISME), went as far as to say looking for a pay rise is "madness" as the country is barely out of economic "intensive care". He went on to suggest that “reckless union wage demands could sabotage [the] recovery.” The Small Firms Association (SFA) used less emotive language stating that pay increases were "not a consideration" for its members at the moment. What these employers’ bodies don’t mention is that it is their members, small and medium businesses, who will benefit most from the €20 million in pay increases Mandate members have won over the past 24 months. Mandate members tend to spend almost all of their money in local shops, bars, restaurants and supporting local businesses and producers. So when they receive a pay increase, they can help small and medium enterprises represented by ISME and the SFA. Mandate Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light went head to head with Mr Fielding on Radio Kerry where he called him out for his nonsense stance on pay rises. “Mr Fielding is nothing if not consistent,” he said. “He was against pay rises for low-paid workers during the so called boom times – more than 10 years – and he’s still against them now. It appears ISME simply never want low paid workers to receive a pay increase.” The fact of the matter is that workers in sectors such as the retail and bar industry are genuinely struggling to make ends meet. The numbers of those at work yet living in deprivation has more than doubled – from 6.6% in 2008 to 16.4% in 2012. As was highlighted by Shopfloor in the past, profits are rising. So when employers’ bodies claim pay increases are “madness”, they’re saying they’re more concerned with protecting those profits while ignoring the growing social and economic crisis being faced by tens of thousands of workers across the country. This attitude is not new. Michael O’Lehane, who headed up the Irish Drapers Assistants’ Association – a 12
precusor to this union, writing more than 100 years ago about employers resisting pay increases, said: “No doubt we will be told ‘competition is keen,’ ‘we cannot afford to pay any more,’ ‘our neighbours are underselling us,’ etc, etc. “This is all very fine for traders who have consistently adopted the cut-throat system of competition, whose sole object is to make money for themselves at the expense and to the detriment of their employees, but we say in reply to these, and to all whom it may concern that if the public are to be granted privileges by grasping, greedy employers, this must not be done at the expense of the workers, at the cost of cheap, sweated, and in many cases unpaid labour.” It seems some things never
‘When employers’ bodies claim pay increases are ‘madness’, they’re saying they’re more concerned with protecting those profits while ignoring the growing social and economic crisis being faced by tens of thousands of workers across the country’ change. The workers of 1914 knew that the greatest manner in which to achieve a pay increase was by being members of their union and making sure every other worker is a member too. When employers put on a show of unity to protect their interests, it is up to us as workers to show that same level of unity and organisation. Employers’ representatives have but one purpose: to protect and increase profits for their members. Trade unions on the other hand have a completely different purpose as was defined by Cissy Cahalan, President of Mandate’s precursor union IDAA between 1921 and 1924: “The root principle of a trade union is not that of piling up capital but of improving the conditions of employment and lifting the workers to a higher state of existence.” Join you union and get active today.
Fashion brands must step up to the plate
General Secretary John Douglas joins CCC in collecting signatures from passers-by in Stephen’s Green, Dublin, to highlight the Rana Plaza tragedy
MANDATE has called for renewed efforts to be made to secure compensation and support for survivors and for families of victims of the Rana Plaza tragedy. It comes more than a year after the Bangladesh factory collapse where almost 1,200 workers – mostly young women – were killed. The Rana Plaza textile factory collapse was the worst industrial disaster in Bangladesh’s history. Mandate Communications Officer David Gibney told Shopfloor: “Local activists have pointed out that one of the reasons the tragedy occurred was because workers did not have a voice at work. “Staff were simply too afraid to voice their concerns about safety – despite cracks that were clearly visible in the building.” Following the disaster, international trade unions put together a historic agreement on workplace safety, dubbed the Accord, which has now been signed by more than 150 companies. The Accord ensures that 1,619 factories in Bangladesh
have safety inspections and work with unions to correct safety hazards. However, it is understood many firms that use suppliers from Bangladesh have yet to pay into the Rana Plaza Trust Fund. The fund is an unprecedented coordinated approach to ensure that those who have suffered as a result of the collapse will receive payments to cover loss of income and medical costs. According to the Clean Clothes Campaign (CCC), the trust fund needs a total of US$40 million to ensure payments can be made. The pressure group has called on all brands that used the factory to pay up immediately. But to date the
Bangladeshi workers at a protest over Rana Plaza compensation payouts in October last year
fund has received just third of cash it needs to ensure that victims’ families and survivors receive the compensation they deserve. Just half the companies that were connected to factories that operated in the Rana Plaza building have made contributions. They include: Bonmarché, C&A Foundation, Camaïeu, El Corte Inglés, Inditex, KiK, Loblaw, LPP S.A., Mango, Mascot, Premier Clothing, Primark and Walmart and The Children’s Place through BRAC USA. However, the CCC have pointed out that all of these brands have failed to make a significant enough contribution and have called on them to increase their donations to the fund. The Clean Clothes Campaign’s site – www.cleanclothescampaign.org – has listed a number of high street brands which they claim have yet to make a donation to the fund. They include, among other brands: Benetton, Carrefour, Iconix, J C Penney, KANZ/Kids Fashion Group and Matalan
Picture: UNI Global
y July 2014
Union Representatives Introductory Course
Equality Tribunal awards €30,000 to Tesco worker A LIMERICK woman has been awarded €30,000 by the Equality Tribunal after lodging a claim for reasonable accommodation against her employer Tesco. Mandate has described the decision as “significant for disabled workers”. Marian Halpin has worked at the Tesco store in Dooradoyle, Limerick, for more than 36 years. In later years, she suffered from a disability and needed reasonable accommodation from her employer. This required her to use a chair in her customer service role as well as having disabled toilet facilities on hand so she could return to work following a serious accident. However, these requests were ignored by her employer which led subsequently to the matter being brought before the Equality Tribunal. The Equality Tribunal found that Tesco had failed to provide appropriate measures under Section 79(6) of the Equality Act and awarded €30,000 for the infringement of the Act. In outlining her decision, Equality Officer Orlaith Mannion said: “The respondent is one of the world’s largest retailers and its revenue in
Ireland for the last reporting period was £2,315 million (€2,895 million). “Therefore, I find that it does have the financial resources to install sanitary facilities for people with varying physical disabilities in the store where Ms Halpin works.”
Karen Wall: ‘significant decision’
Divisional Organiser Karen Wall told Shopfloor: “This decision is significant for disabled workers. The company was ordered to conduct a review of its employment policies and procedures to ensure that they are in compliance with these Acts with particular reference to how employees with disabilities are treated.” She added: “Mandate is committed to ensuring that all employers comply with the equality legislation.”
The Union Representative Introductory Training Course is for new shop stewards/ union representatives. The course aims to provide information, skills and knowledge to our shop stewards/union representatives to assist them in their role in the workplace.
Course content: • Background to Mandate. • The role and responsibilities of a Shop Steward/Union Representative. • Examining disciplinary/grievance procedures. • Developing negotiating skills. • Representing members at local level. • Communication skills/solving members’ problems. • Organising, Recruitment and Campaigns. • Induction presentations. Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this course will obtain a Mandate certificate. They may progress to a Union Representative Advanced Course and to other relevant training courses offered by Mandate.
If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: email@example.com
Usdaw wins justice for sacked Comet staff Affordable Car Insurance AT L AST!
uk shopworkers union usdaw has won justice for thousands of former Comet workers, after the leeds employment Tribunal granted a protective award as it found staﬀ had not been properly consulted about their redundancy, as required by British law. Just before Christmas 2012, 6,661 Comet staﬀ were sacked when the administrator deloitte announced the closure of the company, including all 195 stores, ofﬁces and distribution centres. usdaw General Secretary John hannett, right, said: “yet again the taxpayer will have to pick up the bill for what is owed to sacked staﬀ because administrators deliberately ﬂouted the law. “it's absolutely disgraceful that companies can get away with this sort of tactic in the 21st century.” he pointed out that former staﬀ at Comet had to wait for more than 18 months for the decision, having already been put through the trauma of losing their jobs and July 2014
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Union Representative Advanced Senior Course The Union Representative Advanced Senior Training Course is for union representatives who have completed the Introductory and Advanced course and who have experience as a union representative in their workplace
The history of trade unionism and development ofThetheemergence market system The impact of globalisation trade and open markets inFreea modern society Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this training course will obtain a Mandate certificate. They may progress to the FETAC level 5 Certificate in Trade Union studies or other relevant training courses offered by Mandate. If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate Official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Musicians Aidan O’Halloran and Raymond Hegarty provided a musical opening to proceedings at Housing Action Now’s manifesto launch event in Dublin
Housing Action Now’s manifesto for change By Oisín Fagan HOUSING Action Now, a new collective of community workers, activists and researchers, launched their housing manifesto on Tuesday, June 12, in Dublin. Opening the launch at the Teachers’ Club, Chairperson Seanie Lambe introduced musicians Aidan O’Halloran and Raymond Hegarty who played a number of songs on the theme of homelessness. After this rollicking start, community activist John Bissett, a founder of Housing Action Now, spoke briefly about how the group came together as a response not only to the housing crisis in Ireland but also to that across Europe. He explained that Housing Action Now was an active member of European Action Coalition for the Right to Housing and the City, and read out letters of support from various major housing campaigns across the continent. After this, Joe Lee and Fidelma Bonass presented Scattered, a short film about the failed regeneration project in O’Devaney Gardens and the resulting destruction of their homes and community. Mick Byrne then took to the floor and thanked the other housing groups and the residents of O’Devaney Gardens for attending the launch, before speaking about the group’s manifesto. He made it clear that up to now, the Government’s housing policy had to use €67 billion of public money on NAMA – an institution, he added, that had not helped on single Irish household out of the approximately 100,000 households in mortgage arrears. Mr Byrne claimed that the real solutions to the arrears problem was a total restructuring of mortgage debt to reflect the interests of those who
held the mortgages – not the banks that profited off them. He then talked about the chaos in the private rented sector, describing the refusal of rent supplement as a form of discrimination against the poorest in society, adding that the current rate of rent supplement was out of touch with costs and that it needed to be increased immediately. Mr Byrne insisted that rent control needed to be introduced across the board as lower income families were living in fear of unregulated rent hikes. He closed by calling for a general moratorium on evictions from principal family residences, which was greeted by loud applause. Next Eilish Comerford and Paul Hansard spoke about the Government’s total failure to provide sustainable social housing for its people, leading to waiting lists of a decade or more. They linked this failure to the Government’s unsustainable reliance on profit-seeking private companies to provide homes, stating that it was willing to finance and incentivise private builders.
Both speakers insisted that the only proper response was immediate, wide-scale construction of quality social housing, directed and planned by the State. In his contribution, Daithi Downey took the floor to address the explosion of homelessness across the country, speaking of the sometimesirreversible damage and suffering it caused families, individuals and communities. He claimed that homelessness is now a much greater risk than it has been for decades, pointing out that sometimes families were only one bank statement or one illness away from being out on the streets.
Closing the talk, Damien Walsh, of the Irish Traveller Movement, outlined how the Traveller community had been disproportionately hit by austerity. He urged a lockdown on councils that refused to grant available sites to Traveller communities and said that swift action was needed as now more than 10% of his community were officially homeless and without any form of accommodation. Finally, Seanie Lambe opened the floor for questions. TDs and councillors from the United Left, People Before Profit, Sinn Fein, and independents who were present at the meeting urged unified direct action among the various housing groups and across the broad left spectrum, claiming that the manifesto was the starting point upon which people could begin to work. Left to the floor, single parents, migrants, community activists, and those directly affected by the crisis, spoke and it soon became clear that the housing crisis manifested itself along class lines, with the poorest being the hardest hit. It was repeatedly made explicit that all government housing policy up to now had only been implemented to help the rich protect their wealth, while workers and communities suffered. It was agreed by all present that direct housing action was a necessity, that housing was a human right, and that unless communities, workers and the unwaged mobilised and united to protect their rights, the crisis was only going to get worse. Housing Action Now organisers urged attendees to share their manifesto, follow them on Facebook, Twitter, and on their website at http://housingactionireland.wordpress.com, and to attend future rallies, protests and meetings to discuss strategy. SHOPFLOOR
y July 2014
Tsunami of homelessness IF A TSUNAMI had hit the coast of Ireland a week ago, and five thousand people were left homeless, a national emergency would be declared. The Government would mobilise all resources, bring together the Local Authorities, banks, Nama, construction industry and voluntary bodies to rapidly re-house those who had been made homeless. Doing nothing would not be an option – there would be a public outcry. Happily, there was no tsunami. Unhappily, there are indeed more than five thousand people homeless. Not only is nothing being done to reduce homelessness, but the problem is escalating rapidly: the official statistics show that in the Dublin region (where homelessness is most acute) there are six new people becoming homeless every day. There is no public outcry, no plans for dealing with this crisis have been produced. Perhaps the difference comes down to attitudes. People, including some decision makers, often see homeless people as drug users, alcoholics or people with serious mental health problems, whom they consider as almost impossible to accommodate except in hostels. I can understand this perception, as most homeless people are invisible: the only homeless people whom we encounter are those who are a problem to themselves or others. Homeless people are therefore seen as different from us. But those who would have been left homeless following a tsunami could easily have been us. The reality, however, is that the majority of those who are homeless are, in fact, like us, but their homelessness is invisible. The biggest increase in homelessness are those who have lost their rented accommodation either because the landlord has increased the rent beyond a level that they can afford, or the buy-to-let accommodation which they are renting has gone into receivership. Currently 40,000 buy-to-let houses are in mortgage arrears and an estimated 15,000 to 25,000 home repossessions may occur over the next couple of years. A tsunami of homelessness is racing towards our shores. The other major cause of homelessness is breakup of relationships. If you are sharing accommodation with partner, parents or friends, and that relationship breaks down, then you leave the shared accommodation. Unless you have about €2,000 in the bank to pay for rented accommodation, or very easy-going friends who are willing to put you up indefinitely, then you become homeless. It is an appalling predicament to be in. Many of those who are currently homeless never thought that it would be a problem they would ever have to face. The first experience of July 2014
... a warning for Ireland
Service users at Peter McVerry Trust’s supported temporary accommodation service which provides residential placements
Picture: The Peter McVerry Trust
By Fr Peter McVerry homeless services is critical. A bad experience and some will simply refuse to engage with homeless services again. Unfortunately, this first experience will be awful. Either they will be told that there are no beds available, offered a sleeping bag and told to sleep rough, or – even worse – they will be offered a bed for the night in a drug-filled dormitory. There they will be offered drugs, risk being assaulted and often wake up in the morning to find their roommates gone, along with their money, their mobile phone and any other valuables they possessed. It is a frightening experience, leading quickly to a sense of hopelessness and despair. While homelessness is increasing rapidly, the exits out of homelessness are blocked off. The normal exit should be into social housing, but the Government has failed to maintain an adequate supply of social housing making it almost impos-
‘Currently 40,000 buy-to-let houses are in mortgage arrears and an estimated 15,000 to 25,000 home repossessions may occur over the next couple of years’
sible now for single homeless people to access social housing, and very difficult even for families. The social housing waiting lists have been going up and up over the past 20 years, from 27,000 in 1996 (when the Celtic Tiger was just beginning), to 54,000 in 2008 (when the Celtic Tiger was just finishing), and to 89,900 in 2013. They have announced a €65 million fund to build 454 social houses, which will reduce this waiting list by a massive 0.5%. Single homeless people (who are 75% of all homeless people), are effectively at the bottom of this waiting list. The alternative exit is into private rented accommodation, but the demand for rented accommodation from those who are working, with money in hand, is far greater than the supply, so landlords can discriminate against homeless people and others on welfare. Less than 2% of landlords in the Dublin region are currently accepting welfare tenants. Given the shortage of rental accommodation available, they can also name their price, further excluding those dependent on a hopelessly inadequate rental subsidy. About 20 years ago, the Government consciously made a decision to transfer responsibility for social housing (and other social needs) to the private, market sector. Instead of providing social housing through the Local Authorities, they relied on the private rented sector to meet the housing need. Consequently, there was a huge
transfer of taxpayers’ money to private landlords, through the rent allowance, sometimes for appalling, unfit-for-human-habitation accommodation, rising from €7.8 million per year in 1989 to more than €10 million per week today. However, with the recession, the private rented sector has now shrunk considerably. A further transfer of responsibility for social housing came with Part V of the Planning and Development Act 2000, which required developers to allocate 20% of residential output to social or affordable housing. However, developers and builders, during the Celtic Tiger years, made available, on average, only 2.8% of residential output to social and affordable housing. This dependence on the private sector has, not surprisingly, failed miserably. Landlords, builders and developers are not social workers, they are investors looking for a profit. The Government have produced a National Homeless Strategy, which seeks to end long-tem homelessness by 2016. How do they propose to do so? By using social housing and private rented accommodation, both of which are now effectively out of reach of most homeless people! The Homeless Strategy was a waste of ink. And what about the current crisis? The Government have set up a committee to look at the problem, which, no doubt, will produce a report in due course!
Fr McVerry is founder and Secretary of the Peter McVerry Trust
More must be done to tackle housing crisis MANDATE has slammed as “totally unacceptable” government inaction on tackling the housing crisis. It is estimated that 90,000 households are in need of social housing yet it appears ministers are planning to cut spending instead of increasing investment. General Secretary John Douglas pointed out that Dublin City Council – the largest housing provider in the country – is slated this year to spend €80m on social housing – a sum he described as “already totally inadequate”. He continued: “Yet next year, the Council are planning to cut spend-
ing by almost half to €44.5m. This is completely unacceptable.” Mr Douglas, who is also President of Congress, told Shopfloor: “Housing is a right and the Government’s hands-off approach and reliance on the free market is contributing to the social and economic crisis in this country. It is also contributing to misery for thousands of families across the state who are subjected to unnecessarily protracted housing lists.” Mandate believed, he said, that the Government would be better off investing significantly in social housing construction rather than
concentrating almost solely in pumping millions into rent supplements which go directly to private landlords. “The shortage in accommodation has seen rents rise right across the country with Dublin experiencing a 22% increase in three years. This is not good for ordinary workers and it’s not good for the real economy.” Mr Douglas explained: “When a worker has to spend more than 50% of their income on simply putting a roof over their head, it means they have less ability to pay for essential items like food and clothing. “This has been one of the contrib-
utory factors towards the increases in poverty and deprivation levels in Ireland and it has also been a factor in damaging jobs in the retail and hospitality sectors.” The union has claimed it makes economic and social sense for government to adopt a more hands-on approach to the housing crisis. “While there are 90,000 households on the social housing lists and an estimated 5,000 people homeless, we have tens of thousands of construction workers looking for jobs. The Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI) believe that up to 35,000 jobs could be created in di-
rect employment should the government choose to address this problem.” He added: “It is simply not good enough to rely on a market system which has completely failed in the past. l Tsunami of homelessness set to hit ireland – page 15
Pay ballot a larGe majority of Mandate members working in arnotts and Boyers have voted in favour of accepting a 2% oﬀer on pay following a ballot which was counted on June 3. The Mandate house Committee for arnotts and Boyers had recommended acceptance of the oﬀer. divisional Organiser Michael Meegan told Shopﬂoor: “Following a number of meetings management took on board the concerns raised by Mandate and agreed to a proposal for a 2% pay increase. “This will take aﬀect from april 28, 2014 and will be reviewed again in 12 months time.”
Mandate launches smartphone app MandaTe has pioneered another first for irish trade unions – a new smartphone app for members. The app was launched this year’s Biennial delegate Conference by General Secretary John douglas. he told Shopfloor: “We’re delighted to announce that Man-
date is the first union in ireland to launch a smartphone app. Our app is available on all of the main platforms including iPhone, Windows and android.” Mr douglas predicted the new app would prove to be a valuable resource for shop stewards and
activists as well as ordinary members of Mandate. he said: “The app contains an online version of our shop steward manual with a very comprehensive guide to employment and trade union law. as the app is available offline, it will mean
SKILLS FOR WORK
Interested in doing a Communications course?
members can use it even when they have no internet access.” The app provides quick links to the union’s website, ensuring members are kept up to date with news. it also provides an easy to use facility where members can contact their local official.
City of Dublin Education and Training Board
Do you have a desire to improve your communications skills, but never got around to it?
Starting from scratch this course helps you to improve your communications skills. Mandate Trade Union in conjunction with Skills for Work are offering members the opportunity to attend training. The courses are to encourage members back into learning and training while aiming towards a FETAC level 3 Award.
If you are interested in attending this training contact:
Mandate Training Centre, Distillery House, Distillery Road, Dublin 3 Phone: 01-8369699 Email: email@example.com
Courses are free and open to members who have not achieved Leaving Certificate or who have an out of date Leaving Certificate. You can also achieve a FETAC Level 3 Award. Skills for Work is funded by the Department of Education and Skills.
y July 2014
FROM WHERE I STAND...
Beware when ministers switch to recovery mode By Tomás O'Murchu WHEN Government ministers wax lyrical these days about “recovery just around the corner”, “green shoots” and “light at the bottom of the tunnel”, beware! They are far from talking about a return to ‘the good old days’ of the Celtic Tiger when the Irish capitalist economy boomed (for some). What they are talking about is the prolongation, if not intensification, of this era of super-exploitation, when the resulting super-profits are to be divvied out among our rulers’ parasitic sociopathic pals, the super-rich. As the International Labour Organisation (ILO) points out in a recent report, never was wealth more unequally distributed with 0.5% of the world’s population possess one third of the world’s wealth, they say – and this situation is deteriorating. The ILO warns of the serious risk that we are facing a macroeconomic recovery without recovery of either employment nor adequate salaries. This is the kind of recovery that Kenny, Noonan and Co are touting. Since 2008, workers know that the international financial collapse has eroded the greater part of the social gains made through generations of working class struggle. Our present rulers are far from planning to bring them back in the sort of “recovery” they have in mind. In 15 of the developed economies, the ILO points to an increasingly unequal and unfavorable remuneration of labour, in spite of the fact that
there was an appreciable margin that could have been used to increase the quality of jobs created in that period, and so reduce the gross inequality that has resulted in fact. From the ILO perspective, future prospects for the world’s working class look bleak. According to their data and calculations, in 2012 the number of unemployed was 197 million, now it has risen to 202 million – including 74 million young people – and in 2018, following the present tendency, it will have risen to 221 million. The projected outlook is clear: present inequalities will grow and sharpen. At the same time, more than a half of the world’s population now has no social protection and only 20% of the world’s labour force has adequate cover. The ILO also draws attention to the problem of child labour, an activity that has entrapped 168 million boys and girls worldwide. Over half of these are, according to ILO data, employed in dangerous work, in mines, workshops and on farms, with ruinous effects on their health and danger to their lives. One out of nine minors in the world is currently working. However, the organisation sees as positive the apparent fact that the number of enslaved youngsters has been decreasing over the last 10 years; in 2000 up to 246 million child workers were recorded. The ILO aims to effectively eliminate this practice as soon as possible. But,
The Drogheda Resource Centre Ltd in collaboration with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions intend to deliver the following programme in September:
By Ed Teller unions and reduces the demand for wage increases, as workers are THERE IS very little point in talking forced into negative competition with about what capitalism should be, or the unemployed. As businesses have what we wish it to be, and kidding become larger and global, this comourselves into believing it can provide something that it can’t. petition is now global, and workers are pitted against Personal/Interperworkers on the far more value the trade – Computer This programme offers 3 Of FETAC Level 3tomodules Literacy, other side of the globe, reducing union movement is an analysis of sonal Skills and Work Experience over a 6-weeks period. The participants will then complete labour costs to secure profits. what capitalism actually is, of really two weeks work experience and will have an additional 4 weeks mentoring to assist existing capitalism. Employers also invest in new them ma- in seeking employment or seek further education opportunities. chinery and technology to reduce Capitalism has never provided their cost of production; and far from (with the exception of Nazi Germaking workers’ lives easier, these many), andshould will neverbe provide, full To qualify, participants in receipt of new anyinnovations one of the following replace workers, as employment, or anything close to it. disability/illness welfare employers again seek to reduce their Unemployment is a necessity under payments: labour and Benefit mechanise their and here’s why. l Disabilitycapitalism; l Invalidity l costs Allowance Pension Illness production process. Wages and profits are inversely rel Blind Pension l Disablement This Benefit is the traditional explanation lated: when wages go up, profits tend l Incapacity Supplement for unemployment in commodityto be reduced. Employers therefore want to reduce as as possible lmuch Injury Benefit production capitalism. But things have developed; and, as capitalists the cost of wages. High unemployseek to make profits from credit and ment disciplines workers and their
We are currently taking names for the course and if you know of anyone who would be interested in attending the course, please contact Mairead or Louise in the Drogheda Resource Centre on 0419835754 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Picture: g4114is (CC BY-SA 2.0)
given the global reach of an increasingly profit-hungry capitalism, this aim will be more easily said than done. On the other hand, the ILO report points to the emergence of a generation of youth “marked by a dangerous mixture” – high unemployment, growing idleness and precarious work in the developed economies and an increase in the number of impoverished workers in the so-called developing world. This is a result of the fact that capitalism in this so-called developed world can only reboot itself by screwing production costs (including wages) downwards to match those of the developing world. North Africa, the Middle East and the European Union (including Ireland) are the three areas with the worst prospects in this regard, according to the ILO. These are thoughts to be borne in mind as Kenny, Noonan, Gilmore and Co lull us with promises of pulling out of the recession and with the mantra that, with a little patience and sacrifice, the good ship Ireland Ltd will soon leave the harbour under full sail. Maybe – but the working class won’t be aboard on that journey to their promised land of macroeconomic recovery. Employment, job security and an equal slice of the social product rather than this diet of empty promises are what every worker needs. Needs that can only be met by socialism!
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: email@example.com 17
Another look at Richard Bruton’s changes to labour relations set-up place Relations Commission and the first instance functions of the EAT, Equality Tribunal, NERA and the Labour Court will be merged into this. With one first instance body there will be one entry point, one form, one standard process for complaints and one approach to hearings and investigations etc. The Labour Court will essentially became a court of appeal and enforcement taking over functions from the EAT. The EAT, NERA and Equality Tribunal will be wound down. There are a number of worrying aspects to his proposals. Firstly, they potentially give extraordinary power to a registrar to strike out claims before a hearing is even held. This appears to be a breach of natural justice but also more specifically of Article 47 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Secondly, will the increased workload on both the LRC and Labour Court negatively affect the already very poor timeframes to have a complaint heard and waiting lists which
play to the advantage of an employer? Thirdly, there is a proposal to introduce a fee for submitting a claim so as to pass some of the cost of the service on to the ‘users’ (ie. the worker who may have been potentially dismissed, trying to have his or her rights upheld). And finally, the Minister clearly places the reforms in the context of austerity and the political economy of public sector reform (pass the cost of public sector ‘services’ on to users as a form of double-taxation
which hits workers the hardest). In essence, this – if introduced – monetizes the service and leaves it open and vulnerable to privatisation, just like many other parts of the public sector. The current cost for operating all five services is approximately €20 million a year and the Minister wants to do it for cheaper. Resources are key to the securing of rights. If there aren’t enough investigators, conciliation offers to visit sites and resolve disputes and
By Ed Teller IN 2011, Richard Bruton, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, announced reform proposals for the employment rights institutions of the Labour Relations Commission (LRC), Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT), National Employment Rights Association (NERA), Labour Court and Equality Tribunal. Since then a number of superficial changes have occurred, such as one website for all at www.workplacerelations.ie, a telephone-based early resolution service and one online claim form. Legislation has been expected since the end of 2012 but we are led to believe it is imminent. We won’t hold our breaths. But what we do know is the Minister’s proposals will see significant change in how individual workers will seek to have their rights vindicated if they feel an employer has breached them. This is not necessarily a bad thing as it is well accepted by workers and unions that the current set-up is confusing, complex and hinders workers from having their rights upheld. But will the Minister’s current proposals improve this for workers? The LRC will be renamed the Work-
‘This [passing cost to service users] – if introduced – monetizes the service and leaves it open and vulnerable to privatisation...’
THE BIG QUESTION...
other necessary mechanisms, then the current reform process will not deliver what is necessary for workers. It may provide equality before a law process but it will not provide a level playing field for worker and employer. Equality before the law does not take into account inequality in power and resources.
Equality before law
As the old French legal anecdote goes, you can ban sleeping under the bridges over the Seine at night for both rich and poor people and achieve equality before the law, but who does this affect in real terms? So resources from the State, workers’ taxes, must be invested in services that equalise the inequality in resources and power, that employers hold the balance of over workers. This means there should be absolutely no fee for submitting a claim. All cases should receive a hearing in a timeline manner. Early resolution should include site visits. There should be enough inspectors. Free legal aid should be provided for complex legal cases but hearings should be informal and not dependent on legal representation.
By Niall Crowley ON MAY 6, 10 Member States of the European Union agreed to introduce a financial transactions tax. Slovenia, the 11th participant in the process, is due to sign up on the formation of its new Government. The 10 Member States include some big players such as Germany and France. They include some of the more economically-troubled areas of the Eurozone such as Greece, Portugal, and Spain. This important step has been taken through what is called an Enhanced Cooperation Procedure. This is a process used at EU level to progress a policy issue where at least nine Member States are agreed but where agreement on the issue cannot be secured across all Member States. It is rarely used. The exact details of the tax, which they will introduce from January 2016, will now be worked out. It is likely to be based on the proposal of the European Commission that kickstarted this process. The European Commission proposes a small financial transactions tax on the financial sector. This is a 18
Picture: Woody1778a (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Why didn’t Ireland sign up to Financial Transactions Tax?
tax of 0.1% on trading in bonds and shares and 0.01% on trading in derivatives. This is a small financial transactions tax but it will raise significant revenue for the public purse. In Ireland it is estimated that a financial transactions tax, along the lines proposed by the European Commission, would raise a net €300 million to €500 million for the public finances. It is estimated that the tax will raise between €30 billion and €35 billion for the 11 Member States involved in the enhanced cooperation
procedure. A financial transactions tax would act as a curb on speculation and risk-taking by increasing the cost of transactions. Short-term speculators, hedge funds and high frequency traders would bear the brunt. This is casino economy territory where money is the principal commodity being traded rather than real goods and services. It is the casino economy territory that contributed to the economic collapse. Strange then to know that Ireland has played no part in the process of agreeing a financial transactions tax and, as things stand, will not implement the tax. We bear the brunt of the failures of our financial sector as they bring crisis down around us. But we are fearful of offending them by asked them to pay their part. We charge VAT on goods and services but not on financial transactions. We are searching all corners for savings to balance our public books – even to the point of withdrawing crucial supports from people in need. Yet we fail to seize an opportunity
to secure additional revenue. All of this is happening away from any critical media interrogation. The Government and the financial sector claim jobs will be lost. They say the financial sector will migrate to the safer climates of London or other financial centres that have stayed out of the financial transactions tax process. No evidence is given for this. Germany is a large financial centre but appears to hold no such fears. The particularly beneficial corporation tax conditions for foreign companies in Ireland are most likely to hold the loyalty of the international financial sector over any inconvenience from a small financial transactions tax. Claiming Our Future is running a campaign to change this position of the Irish Government. Some 25 organisations, drawn from trade unions, community groups and environmental groups are supporting the campaign. Mandate and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions are among these. The response so far has not been positive. Strangely there has, actu-
ally, been no response. Michael Noonan and his officials are not replying to our letters. They have not responded to the emails of over 250 people who participated in the recent ‘Thunderclap’ social media initiative organised by Claiming Our Future. This can change if the financial
‘Strange that Ireland has played no part in the process of agreeing a FTT and as things stand won’t implement the tax’ transactions tax were to become a more central focus for media debate, political discourse and civil society demands. It has failed to surface in these arenas to date. Claiming Our Future is aiming to change that. Find out more about the campaign at www.claimingourfuture.ie. SHOPFLOOR
y July 2014
Evans duo win ruling over Good Friday entitlements TWO members of Mandate, employed at Evans, Patrick Street, in Cork, have won a case at the Rights Commissioners after they challenged a management decision to remove their entitlement to an additional day’s leave for Good Friday trading. Both had worked at Evans – part of the Arcadia Group – for more than 20 years. Following the introduction of Good Friday trading at Evans in 1996, the firm complied with the terms of the Cork Trade Agreement. Under this agreement, staff were entitled to an additional day’s leave in lieu of Good Friday should a retailer decide to trade on that day. Also working on Good Friday was considered voluntary. In recognising members’ contractual right to the provisions in the agreement, the company continued to apply the terms. However, a decision was taken by management in 2013 to
withdraw the additional day’s leave without consulting or giving notice to those members involved. Mandate Divisional Organiser Lorraine O’Brien told Shopfloor: “The two members were determined to pursue the issue and were not prepared to allow the company to dismiss their long-standing contractual entitlement. “Both also felt that the company was attempting to erode their terms and conditions of employment because they were the last two long-serving members of staff at the store.” She added: “Ultimately their perseverance yielded a positive result for them as the Rights Commissioner found that the company should apply the terms of the Cork Trade Agreement in respect of Good Friday as had been the case during the course of their employment and awarded them two days additional annual leave for the years 2013 and 2014.”
Irish tax-take among EU lowest
Liberty Hall shows some pride... demonstrating trade union solidarity with the lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community and celebrating dublin’s Pride Festival, the rooftop of liberty hall is lit up with rainbow coloured lights. The lights were switched on at 10pm and shone brightly through to 7am from June 21 to June 28 July 2014
38.8% in 2011. The overall tax ratio in the euro area (EA18) increased to 40.4% in 2012 from 39.5% in 2011. In 2013, Eurostat estimates show that tax revenues as a percentage of GDP are set to continue rising in both zones. The total tax-take varies significantly between Member States, ranging in 2012 from less than 30% of GDP in Lithuania (27.2%), Bulgaria and Latvia (both 27.9%), Romania and Slovakia (both 28.3%) and Ireland (28.7%), to more than 40% of GDP in Denmark (48.1%), Belgium (45.4%), France (45.0%), Sweden (44.2%), Finland (44.1%), Italy (44.0%) and Austria (43.1%).
THE latest edition of the European Commission’s annual audit of taxation has flagged up once again how Ireland’s total tax-take is one of the lowest in the EU – despite what the right-wing commentariat might pontificate about in op-ed columns. Published in June, Taxation Trends in the EU shows that Ireland’s tax-to-GDP ratio now stands at 28.7% compared to an EU average of 39.4%. The overall tax-to-GDP ratio – meaning the sum of taxes and compulsory social contributions as a percentage of GDP – in the EU28 has risen to 39.4% in 2012, up from
Gerry Light VIEW
SHOPFLOOR Assistant General Secretary Mandate Trade Union
It’s time to deliver on collective bargaining
THE recent announcement by the Government of its intention to legislate for workers to be given the right to collectively bargain in the workplace is most welcome and long overdue. However, based on past experience such positivity should be tempered until we see the detail of the final statutory provisions covering this area. Be in no doubt that significant and aggressive lobbying by certain employers and their representative bodies will take place in an attempt to make the proposed legislation meaningless. With an increasing volatility surrounding the lifespan of the current government and the real possibility that any newly-elected regime in Leinster House could be devoid of a cohesive left-orientated involvement, such an attack by employers will manifest itself rapidly and potentially to the point of removing the intention to legislate entirely. Since the recent local and European elections much debate has centred on the treatment meted out to the Labour Party and whether it was justified. Those who defend Labour forcefully argue that without their involvement attacks on workers and the most vulnerable in Irish society would have been much worse if governance had been solely left to their right-wing partners Fine Gael. While this proposition is difficult to definitively prove, it does not require a lot of historical analysis to accept that it bears more than a grain of truth. To their credit, it is Labour who can point to the indisputable fact that it was they who committed to the establishment of collective bargaining rights in both their election manifesto and programme for government while their current partners were deathly silent on the issue. This particular point is in no way a blind defence of the Labour Party and their role in
government as there are many issues which they need to deeply reflect upon and in doing so take heed of the serious and potentially-fatal warning shot which was recently aimed at them by the electorate. If any doubts exist as to the potential of what damage a sole right-wing party in government could inflict on workers, you need look no further to our closest neighbours. The principal piece of restrictive legislation covering union activity is the 1990 Industrial Relations Acts which was born out of post-Thatcher Britain. The latest proposals emanating from the Conservatives are, if re-elected, they would impose more draconian rules on unions and their members employed in essential services by introducing minimum thresholds on the number of employees who must take part in a ballot before a strike can take place. There is a large degree of irony in this proposal given that most governments are formed and given authority based on overall election turnouts which are far from impressive and steadily decreasing.
Strong statutory collective bargaining rights for Irish workers are needed now. Be under no illusion, this is not a ‘nice to have’ concept – rather it is absolutely necessary to ensure that ordinary working people and their trade unions can effectively deal with the ravages of right-wing economic orthodoxy and ruthless employers. Such employers see recessions, such as the one we are living through, as no more than an cynical opportunity to depress workers’ rights and entitlements while at the same time bloating excessive levels of their own personal and corporate wealth. Significantly the existence of these rights is recognised by the European Court of Human Rights as well as the International Labour Organisation and are viewed as not only workers’ rights but also basic human rights. The headline measures regarding collective bargaining rights which were announced recently must as a minimum reflect what ends up in the final legislation, nothing less will do. The establishment of these rights will ensure that we in Mandate and indeed the trade union family generally can forcefully pursue important issues such as the Decent Work/Pay agenda. Regardless of their political hue, all politicians – whether those you have recently supported or those who will be looking for your vote in the future – should be tested against this simple demand. Any failure on their part to deliver must be clinically dealt through the ballot box at the earliest opportunity.
SPOTLIGHT WORLD CUP 2014
IN MY VIEW...
By James Petras FOR decades social critics have bemoaned the influence of sports and entertainment spectacles in ‘distracting’ workers from struggling for their class interests. According to these analysts, ‘class consciousness’ was replaced by ‘mass’ consciousness. They argued that atomised individuals, manipulated by the mass media, were converted into passive consumers who identified with millionaire sports heroes, soap stars and film celebrities. The culmination of this ‘mystification’ – mass distraction – was to be found in the ‘world championships’ watched by billions and financed by billionaire corporations: the World Series (baseball), the World Cup (soccer), and the Super Bowl (American football). Today, Brazil is the living refutation of this analysis. Brazilians have been described as “football crazy”. Its fans are said to “live and die with football” . . . or so we are told. Yet it is in Brazil where the largest protests in World Cup history have taken place. As early as a year before the games kicked off, there have been mass demonstrations of up to a million Brazilians. In just the last few weeks, strikes by teachers, police, construction workers and municipal employees have proliferated.
Propaganda bust To understand why the mass spectacle has been a propaganda bust, it is essential to understand the political and economic context in which it was launched, as well as the costs and benefits and the tactical planning of popular movements. In 2002, Brazilian Workers Party candidate Lula DaSilva became president. His two terms in office (2003 – 2010) were characterised by an embrace of free market capitalism together with populist anti-poverty programmes. Aided by large scale inflows of speculative capital, attracted by high interest rates, and high commodity prices for its agro-mineral exports, Lula launched a massive anti-poverty programme providing about $60 a month to 40 million poor Brazilians, who formed part of Lula’s mass electoral base. The Workers Party cut unemployment, increased wages and supported low-interest consumer loans, stimulating a ‘consumer boom’ that drove the economy forward. To Lula and his advisers, Brazil was becoming a global power, attracting worldclass investors and incorporating the poor into the domestic market. Lula was hailed as a ‘pragmatic leftist’ by Wall Street and a ‘brilliant statesman’ by the Left! In line with this grandiose vision, Lula believed that Brazil’s rise to world prominence required it to ‘host’ the World Cup and the Olympics and he embarked on an aggressive campaign... Brazil was chosen. The ascent of Brazil was based on foreign flows of capital conditioned by differential (favorable) interest rates. And when rates shifted, the capital flowed out. Brazil’s dependence on high demand for its agromineral exports was based on sustained double-digit economic growth in Asia. When China’s economy slowed down, demand and 20
Brazilian masses blow whistle on World Cup funding folly
prices fell, and so did Brazil’s export earnings. The Workers Party’s ‘pragmatism’ meant accepting the existing political, administrative and regulatory structures inherited from the previous neoliberal regimes. These institutions were permeated by corrupt officials linked to building contractors notorious for cost over-runs and long delays on state contracts. Vast sums were siphoned from public services into private pockets. Puffed up on his own rhetoric, Lula believed Brazil’s economic emergence on the world stage was a ‘done deal’. He proclaimed that the billions of public money spent on dozens of stadiums and costly infrastructure would “pay for themselves”. Brazil’s new president, Dilma Rousseff, Lula’s protégé, has allocated billions of reales to finance her predecessor’s building projects. The contrast between the immediate availability of massive amounts of public funds for the World Cup and the perennial lack of money for deteriorating
public services has been a huge shock to the population. For decades, Brazilians were told that “budgets had to be balanced”, that a “budget surplus was needed to meet IMF agreements and to service the debt”. For years public funds had been siphoned off to pay for electoral campaigns, leading to transport overcrowding and commuter delays.
Miserable salaries For decades, schools were in shambles, teachers rushed from school to school to make up for their miserable minimum-wage salaries leading to low-quality education and neglect. Public hospitals were dirty, dangerous and crowded; under-paid doctors frequently took on private patients on the side, and essential medicines were scarce in public hospitals and overpriced in pharmacies. The public was outraged by the obscene contrast between the reality of dilapidated clinics, overcrowded schools and unreliable mass transport for the average Brazilian and the huge new stadiums, luxury hotels and air-
ports for wealthy foreign sports fans and visitors. The final detonator for mass street protest was the increase in bus and train fares to ‘cover losses’ – after public airports and highways had been sold cheaply to private investors who raised tolls and fees. The protestors marching against the increased bus and train fares were joined by tens of thousands of Brazilians denouncing government priorities. Oblivious to the popular demands, the government pushed ahead intent on finishing its ‘prestige projects’. Nevertheless, construction of stadiums fell behind schedule because of corruption, incompetence and mismanagement. Under-pressure building contractors lowered safety standards and pushed workers harder, leading to an increase in workplace deaths and injuries. Construction workers walked out protesting the speed-ups and deterioration of work safety. The Rousseff regime’s grandiose schemes have provoked a new chain of protests. The Homeless People’s Move-
y July 2014
INSET: A phalanx of riot police stand ready to confront one of dozens of mass protests that have erupted across Brazil in the run-up to the World Cup
Picture: Gabriel Cabral (CC BY 2.0)
RIGHT: Placard reads ‘Brazil first place in corruption’
Pictures: Ben Tavener (CC BY 2.0)
ment occupied urban lots near a new World Cup stadium demanding ‘social housing’ for the people instead of new five-star hotels for affluent foreign sports aficionados. Escalating costs for the sports complexes and increased government expenditures have sparked a wave of strikes by factory workers, teachers and health workers to demand higher wages. The embrace of the grandiose sports spectacle, instead of highlighting Brazil’s debut as a global power has highlighted the vast contrast between the affluent top 10% and the rest of the population. The political elite have fallen victim to their own delusions. They believed that subsistence pay-offs (food baskets) to the very poor would allow them to spend billions of public money on sports spectacles to impress the global elite. They believed the mass of workers would be so enthralled by the World Cup, that they would overlook the great disparity between government spending on grand spectacles
and the absence of support to meet the everyday needs of workers. Even trade unions, seemingly tied to Lula, broke ranks when they realised the money was out there – and that the regime, under pressure by construction deadlines, could be pressured to raise wages to get the job done. Make no mistake, Brazilians ARE sports-minded, but they are also conscious of their needs. They are not content to passively accept the great social disparities exposed by the current mad scramble to stage the World Cup and Olympics in Brazil.
Social inequalities The government’s vast expenditure on the games has made it clear that Brazil is a rich country with a multitude of social inequalities. They have learned that vast sums are available to improve the basic services of everyday life. They realised that, despite its rhetoric, the Workers Party was playing a wasteful prestige game to impress an international capitalist audience. They realised they have strategic leverage to pressure the gov-
ernment and address some of the inequalities in housing and salaries through mass action. They realise they deserve to enjoy the World Cup in affordable, adequate public housing and travel to work (or to an occasional game) in decent buses and trains. Class consciousness, in the case of Brazil, has trumped the mass spectacle. ‘Bread and circuses’ have given way to mass protests.
BLOW THE WHISTLE ON THE BAD BOSSES
l Dunnes strike trio recall famous dispute
Taking a stand REASONS and making TO JOIN 10 MANDATE labour history 1. An organising and campaigning union:
Mandate is focused on building an activist base to protect and improve employment conditions. Through better organised workplaces and the power of the collective strength, we will deliver justice for working people.
2. Modern and effective training:
Mandate provides free courses to help you learn new skills, improve existing skills and develop you and your prospective career. We negotiate agreements with employers to pay for attendance at courses and also to provide reasonable time off for employees to attend them.
3. Campaigning for success:
Mandate is a progressive campaigning union fighting on issues that really matter to our members, their families and society in general. Mandate campaigns challenge social injustice at all levels of Irish society.
4. Protection at work:
Highly trained and skilled Mandate officials provide professional advice and assistance, where appropriate, on a variety of employment issues.
5. Safety at work:
Mandate health & safety representatives are trained to minimise the risk of workplace injuries and ensure that employers meet their legal obligations at all times.
6. Better pay:
Year on year, Mandate campaigns for and wins pay rises for its members. Mandate also campaigns to close the widening gender pay gap in Irish society.
7. Legal protection:
Mandate has won significant legal compensation for members who are injured as a result of an accident at work.
8. Mandatory pensions:
Mandate has secured pension schemes with a variety of retail employers and will campaign to secure mandatory pension schemes for all members working in the private sector, partcularly those on low wages.
9.You’re less likely to be discriminated against:
Mandate has won agreements with employers on respect and dignity at work policies and procedures. Mandate will continue to campaign for tougher laws to make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sex, race, age, disability or sexual orientation.
10. You’re less likely to be sacked:
Membership of Mandate protects you and strengthens your voice in your workplace.
Together we’re stronger
JOIN MANDATE TRADE UNION ONLINE AT http://www.mandate.ie/Contact/Join.aspx
THREE shopworkers involved in one of the most famous labour actions in Irish history – the Dunnes Stores strike of the mid-1980s – spoke at a special event organised by Trocaire earlier this year in Belfast. Cathryn O’Reilly, Liz Deasy and Tommy Davis were interviewed by broadcaster Seamus McKee at The Black Box venue on March 27 and recalled their experiences of taking part in the action along with nine other colleagues over their refusal to handle goods imported from Apartheid South Africa. It all began on July 19, 1984, when Mary Manning, a 21-year-old shop worker at the Dunnes outlet in Henry Street. Dublin, refused to check out two oranges from South Africa. She had simply been following an instruction issued by her union IDATU (forerunner to Mandate) but it led to her suspension and sparked a strike which was to last for twoand-a-half years and lead ultimately to an import ban on Apartheid-era South African produce to the Republic. “To us it was a work instruction,” Cathryn recalls about joining the strike. She was simply doing what her trade union had instructed her to do. She admits at the time she did not know a great deal about the situation in South Africa, though that was to change as the dispute continued. In particular, Cathryn remembers the support the strikers received from Marius Schoon, a Dublin-based white South African and antiApartheid activist. Marius had suffered a recent tragedy – he had lost his wife Jeannette Curtis and six-year-old daughter Katryn in a letter bomb attack. “Marius had lost his wife and his daughter – and he was thanking us for going on strike,” adds Cathryn. Liz, who was only 17 and working part-time in her first job, remembers the moment she decided to join
the dispute. ”The girls were in the changing room waiting to go out on strike. I told them, ‘I have to go with you. It’s a union instruction’. At the time, I was only in the union about eight months. I thought it would last the weekend – and it was such a lovely weekend!” For Tommy, who was in a different
‘I would do it again if I was younger. There is oppression going on all over the place. I am glad I played a part in the dispute. I am glad I did what I did...’ union from the others, it was clear what had to be done. “Once I was told there was a picket line, that was it. You don’t cross a picket line.” Joining the dispute, of course, meant sacrifices for those taking part. “We didn’t receive pay,” Cathryn recalls. “We got £21 a week from our trade union – our pay had been about £90 a week. “It was very difficult. One of the girls on the strike lost her home. She couldn’t afford to pay her mortgage. People did make huge personal sacrifices. “We were so in awe of what Marius said to us. We were very lucky. We still had our families to support us. We might not have had all the luxuries but our families stood be-
hind us.” Liz agrees. “People like Marius and Nimrod [Sejake] – they played a major part in educating us.” Some employees opted not to join the dispute and Cathryn, who had worked full-time before the strike, remembers colleagues “who would have been friends” walking past her as she stood on the picket line into work. She also recalls how the reaction of passers-by wasn’t always positive. “We had a delegation of white South Africans who came down when the strike was only a few days old. They told us that we had it wrong and that black people liked living in squalor. “They told Mary Manning she didn’t know what she was talking about and she replied, ‘I didn’t know Hitler but I knew he was a bad man’ and they went on their way.” “People were coming to us to coerce us back into returning to work,” adds Tommy. “They were saying if you don’t return you’ll get sacked.” Though some people walked past the Henry Street picket waving pay cheques, Cathryn also remembers the generous donations that warmed the hearts of strikers in the depths of winter. “There was one anonymous donor – I can’t remember the exact amount – but it was quite near Christmas and he came up and he gave an envelope [with cash] to every one of us.” She adds: “It got to the stage that we got to know better about the struggle in South Africa. The money bit really was irrelevant. You had such a passion and you wanted to get people involved – the money was secondary.” Tommy also spoke about how strikers had to deal with “ongoing constant harassment” from Special Branch officers. He explains: “There was harassment by the Branch. We finished about six o’clock to go home with some of the placards. They would SHOPFLOOR
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SEPTEMBER 2014 INSET: Eithne McNulty (Trocaire's regional director for NI) and three of the strikers Cathryn O'Reilly, Liz Deasy and Tommy Davis BELOW: Flashback to 1984 – eight of the 12 strikers take up their places outside Dunnes Henry Street outlet in Dublin:
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Pictures: Courtesy of Trocaire
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stop the car and ask ‘Who are you?’ and there was verbal abuse from Branch officers, calling you ‘n***er lover’ and ‘black supporter’.” And when ICTU asked other unions not to allow their members to deliver produce to the store, management went to great lengths to ensure shelves were restocked – but the strikers found a new use for their placards! Cathryn remembers: “We stood up on the ledge and put up our placards as they tried to throw the stuff over our picket line!” In 1985, eight of the strikers along with their union official, Brendan Archbold of IDATU, flew to South Africa at the special invitation of Bishop Desmond Tutu. The strike delegation was not allowed to enter the country but and its members held under armed guard in Johannesburg Airport. Of that incident, which made headlines across the world, Liz reJuly 2014
members the “line of army along the road to the airport” as their plane came in to land. She says: “We initially thought this was a normal procedure, but when we got into the terminal, there was a soldier, like a sergeant major, who asked us to stand aside…” Cathryn adds: “At one time we had 32 armed guards surrounding us. There were no direct flights from Dublin so we had to fly from Heathrow. People were very hostile to us on that plane. “We were very young and the guards had dark gloves on and we thought that they might strip-search us. Nobody knew where we were because as far as our families were concerned we were still in Heathrow. “They didn’t tell us what they were going to do with us. There was a state of emergency at the time and people were disappearing left, right and centre. It was a terrifying expe-
rience especially when we were surrounded by all those soldiers. We thought, ‘When are we going to see our families again’?” The South African government decided to rid themselves of the problem and put the strike delegation back on the plane to the UK. “As soon as we got back,” Tommy adds, “we all went to the picket line again. We got more support by not getting into South Africa. It was international news at the time. “As soon as we got back to Dublin, we got all walks of life down on the picket line – union leaders, [Nobel Prize winner] Sean McBride…” Some 27 years after the protest ended, does Tommy have any regrets? Not surprisingly, none. He says: “I would do it again if I was younger. There is oppression going on all about the place. I am glad I played a part in it. I am glad I did what I did.”
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Hard work mantra is
LaurPhil (CC 2.0) Picture:Picture: David Fulmer (CC BYBY 2.0)
IN MY VIEW...
By Ruairí Creaney WHEN the British Conservative Party announced at its 2013 conference that it had the interests of “hardworking people” at heart, they invoked a mantra long propagated by an out-of-touch political class. “Hard-work”, we’re often told, is a positive thing in and of itself, regardless of its social effects or the impact it has on the individual actually carrying it out. The term is rarely challenged and forms much of what is viewed as “common sense”. Hard work is seen as a virtue, a service to the nation and an ideal to aspire to. Yet, when we are honest with ourselves, most of us hate work. It’s why Mondays are grim and Fridays awesome. It’s why we spend most of our weekdays watching the clock in anticipation of 5 o’clock. A recent Gallup poll found that only 13% of people actually like going to work. This is unsurprising, given that work for most people under capitalism is often low paid, unrewarding, stressful, degrading and tedious. There is nothing noble about coming home from work mentally, physically and emotionally exhausted. Neglecting your friends and family in favour of helping your boss increase his or her profits is not virtuous. And restricting the time you spend on developing talents such as music, art or sports due to excessive working hours is not only detrimental to you personally, but also to wider society. How many people with the musical or literary potential of a Jimi Hendrix or a George Orwell have been unable to develop their talents because they had to spend most of their time in a factory? Since the 2008 financial crisis, trade unions and the left have argued for the creation of more jobs to tackle unemployment. Yet, in doing so, they have failed to highlight one of capitalism’s most absurd contradictions – the fact that there are 200 million people unemployed across the globe, while those who are in employment are generally OVERWORKED. Rather than increasing the number of jobs, we should be arguing for existing jobs to be shared out while simultaneously cutting the length of the working week. The New Economics Foundation (NEF) recently outlined a strong economic, ecological and social case for reducing the standard working week to 21 hours – something that has the potential to resonate in the 21st century. Less work can help in the fight
against climate change and allow us to live more sustainable lives. The fast pace of our working lives forces us into many environmentally and socially destructive habits. We drive cars because they are deemed to be more “convenient” instead of using less carbon-intensive public transport. And instead of growing our own food, many people consume nutritionless ready meals and packed veg-
etables which, as the NEF shows, are grossly more damaging to the ecosystem. Trips abroad can also become more ecologically friendly than the carbon-intensive short-term holidays of modern capitalist society. As it stands, most people can only avail of two or three weeks away from their jobs at any one time, meaning slower modes of transport, such as trains,
are not a viable way of visiting a foreign country. If workers were given the opportunity to take a number of months off at one time, in exchange for working extended hours at another time of the year, what is to stop them getting a train to Beijing or a ship to New York? In 1930, British economist John Maynard Keynes predicted that technological advancement would
allow people in the 21st century to enjoy a 15-hour working week. Leisure time, it was suggested, would become so plentiful that people would struggle to find enough activities to occupy themselves. Yet, despite a rise in productivity and the abundance of material goods, these predictions failed to materialise. Across Europe, the average working week stands at 41.6 hours, and that doesn’t include time spent commuting to and from work. Negative aspects of any class society, such as inequality, ecological degradation and social deprivation, need to be justified or excused by widely propagated myths in order to be sustained. The worship of work is as old as capitalism itself, and it is under the unique characteristics of capitalism as a mode of production that the work ethic takes hold. Under slavery and feudalism, work was seen as a negative thing, something that was bestowed upon humans from God as punishment for ‘original sin’. Ancient societies in Greece and Rome saw human labour as something to be avoided at any cost. Work was for the slaves — the lowest rungs of society. Before capitalism, most labour was done out of necessity. In feudal Europe, for example, peasants produced their own food and the surplus was passed on to the lord who owned the land. Since the production of huge surpluses was not necessary, people enjoyed extended periods of leisure once they produced what was needed. Work did not define individuals, as is the case today; work was merely a means to an end. The Protestant Reformation challenged the traditional idea of work, with Martin Luther arguing that God’s Will could be fulfilled by individuals working hard. Labour was seen as a service to God, an outlook which helped to normalise the long, gruelling working hours which defined the Industrial Revolution. These ideas proved useful for an economic system which was based on, as Marx wrote, production “for production’s sake”. Max Weber, who coined the term ‘the Protestant work ethic’, argued that the rise of these ideas ensured that capitalism would surface in Europe before it would in any other part of the planet. The work ethic transformed over time, gradually becoming more secular to reflect societal values. Where people once served God, we now aim to be seen as “contributing” to society, a perverse form of social Darwinism under which humans beings must justify their existence through “hard work” before they can benefit SHOPFLOOR
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Don’t be a dummy...
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a con job
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‘One of capitalism’s most absurd contradictions – the fact that there are 200 million people unemployed across the globe, while those who are in employment are generally OVERWORKED’ from the fruits of civilisation. In the US, the ‘American Dream’ played on the unrealistic aspirations held by many working people, who were conned into believing they could one day be millionaires, provided they put in the work. During the World Wars and the subsequent recovery, the population was called upon to work in the ‘national interest’, a term which has been resurrected by the right following the global financial collapse of 2008. Today, as Sharon Beder pointed out, “the work ethic is promoted primarily in terms of work being a responsibility both to the family and the nation”. She went on to explain: “As we begin the 21st century work and production has become ends in themselves. Employment has become such a priority that much environmental degradation is justified merely on the grounds that it provides jobs. And July 2014
people are so concerned to keep their jobs that they are willing to do what their employers require of them even if they believe it is wrong or environmentally destructive.” The capitalist work ethic dehumanises us and commodifies our very being. We are not seen as individuals with aspirations and interests; we are mere beasts of burden, with the sole life purpose of “working hard”. Our lives should not be defined merely by productivity nor should we have to justify our existence by proving to others our ability and willingness to “work hard”. Human progress is about overcoming the need for human toil as much as is practicable, and this is a case the left needs to make. As the great Scottish trade unionist Jimmy Reid once quipped: “A rat race is for rats. We are not rats. We are human beings.”
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Seeing red over YFG plan to cut minimum wage
Join off ssatisfied Mandate J oin the the hundreds hundreds o atisfied M andate members members ttoday! oday! Call uss n now 1800 200 and quote Mandate 200 00 Call u ow on on 1 800 200 200 2 00 a nd q uote Ma ndate Scheme Scheme 2 or go www.mandate.jltonline.ie or g o online online at at w w w.mandate.jltonline.ie **Subject Subject to to u n d e r w r i ti n g c riteria, terms terms and and c onditions. Offer O f fer is is only only a vailable tto o new new and and existing existing customers customers ttaking ak ing out out underwriting criteria, conditions. available a new new home home insurance insurance policy policy through through JJLT LT IIreland. reland. Home Home IInsurance nsurance iiss u n d e r w r i t te n b urich Insurance Insura nc e p l c. D is c o u nt underwritten byy Z Zurich plc. Discount inclusive of of Government Government levy. lev y. O ur guarantee a pplies ffor or o ne year year only only and and iiss subject subject to to a m inimum premium premium of of € 270.0 0 inclusive g u a r a n te e applies one minimum €270.00 Our p r ov i d e d c over iiss on on a like like ffor or llike i ke b iiss a guarantee g u a r a n te e o n price price b ased on on a m inimum a nd maximum ma x imum p rice d iscount provided asis. Proof P ro of on based minimum and price discount cover basis. analysis, we we d on ot beat beat your yo u r e xisting renewal o lternative quote q u o te m aybe rrequired equired tto o avail avail of of tthis his o f fer. IIf, f, after a f te r a m arket analysis, re n e wa l off a alternative maybe offer. market do not existing of €25 € 25 up up to to a m a x imum o €150. Guarantee G u a r a n te e p remium or or quotation quotation we we w ill then th e n d i s c o u nt o ur premium p re m i u m b inimum of premium will discount our byy a m minimum maximum off €150. retrospectively tto o c over already already in in place place vvia o f fer must must be be rrequested equested at at q uotation stage stage and and c a n n ot b e issued issued retrospectively ia JJLT LT offer quotation cannot be cover Cover tto o commence commence b e t we e n 1 3 / 09 / 2013 and and IIreland. reland. O nly o ne voucher vo u c h e r c an b e used used for for each e ach e ligible proposer. proposer. Cover Only one can be eligible between 13/09/2013 ank of of IIreland. reland. 3 1/12 / 2013 inclusive. inclusive. Z urich IInsurance nsura nc e p lc iiss regulated regulated by by the th e C e ntr a l B 31/12/2013 Zurich plc Central Bank inancial Services, S e r v i c e s, G IS Ireland, Ireland, Charity Charit y Insurance, I n s u r a n c e, JJLT LT IInsurance nsurance Brokers Brokers IIreland re l a n d L imited trading trading as as JLT JLT IIreland, reland, JJLT LT F Limited Financial GIS T eacher wise, Childcare Childcare IInsurance, nsurance, JLT JLT O nline, JLT JLT Trade Trade Credit Credit IInsurance nsurance is is rregulated egulated by by the th e C entral Bank Bank o Ireland. Teacherwise, Online, Central off Ireland.
Arcadia deal means union members get doublethe statutory redundancy rate if stores are restructured By David Gibney Mandate communications officer MANDATE members working for major retail group Arcadia Multiples have voted overwhelmingly – by more than 99% – in favour of an enhanced redundancy package. As a result of the new agreement, union members in the Arcadia Group – which includes leading high street outlets Burtons, Dorothy Perkins, Evans, Miss Selfridge, Topman, Topshop and Wallis – will receive a re-
dundancy package of four weeks pay for each year of service in the event that any of the stores are restructured. The statutory redundancy package is two weeks pay per year of service. The union claims the deal clearly demonstrates the value of being a trade union member in the Arcadia Group. The agreement also includes a number of provisions and sets out criteria for redeployment if stores
are restructured Mandate Divisional Organiser Brendan O’Hanlon explained: “This new agreement will give our members a greater level of security, including financial security, in the unfortunate event the company needs to restructure any of its stores.” He also pointed out that nonunion workers “will not benefit from the new agreement”. The company has already confirmed that Burtons, Dorothy Perkins and Evans in the Blanchardstown Wallis workers on picket line in Limerick last August
FROM WHERE I STAND...
Shopping Centre will be restructured on August 16. Mr O’Hanlon, left, told Shopfloor: “Mandate is currently seeking redeployments to other stores but in the unfortunate event that redeployment is not an option, Mandate members in those stores will benefit from the new agreement.” He added: “This shows the value of being a union member in this uncertain economic environment, particularly in the retail sector.”
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YOUR CONCERN WORKS 26
By Mandy La Combre Mandate National Executive Committee member THE EU-Colombia Free Trade Agreement will be brought before the Dail in the next couple of weeks and it will not be beneficial to the vast majority of workers in Colombia – despite what many politicians might say. Colombia boasts some of the richest natural resources in the world but also has some of worst human rights violations. These violations form a part of everyday life in Colombia for anyone that dares to speak out against the regime. The implementation of this Free Trade Agreement could worsen the human rights situation, escalate the conflict and see the deterioration of the already precarious working conditions of millions of people. It is well documented that Colombia is the most dangerous place in the world to be if you are a trade unionist. Violence is used to repress labour organising and freedom of speech. In the last 15 years, almost 3,000 trade unionists have been murdered. More trade unionists, journalists and teachers are killed in Colombia than anywhere else in the world. These assassinations are carried out by the Colombian military or rightwing paramilitary death squads. The root of the problem lies in a war that has been raging between the Government and leftwing rebel groups for more than 50 years. This conflict was sparked by Colombia’s extreme social and economic inequalities that sees 65% of its population of 47 million live in poverty. This ongoing violence has meant that between 4.9 million and 5.5 million people have been forced to flee their homes, resulting in one of the worst population displacements in the world. These ‘forced migrations’ take place in areas that are not politically active (as shown in their elec-
Concern’s pioneering partnerships in many of the world’s poorest countries have empowered communities to understand and address malnutrition, significantly reducing mortality rates in children under five.
toral participation) but are very socially active (protests, demonstrations) proving the high social costs of the displacements. Especially targeted are those organising for the rights of indigenous people, peasants and farmworkers. Land occupancy has been driven by a focus on the needs of foreign markets – but social conflicts (such as workers’ demands) also occur simultaneously. The culmination of this displacement now sees 1% of the population owning 52% of the land, making Colombia one of the most unequal places in the world. Trade unionists in particular are targeted. Countless numbers of union activists have simply ‘disappeared’ never to be seen again. In 98% of these crimes no one has ever been brought to justice. The Colombian armed forces cannot be trusted, they work alongside the paramilitaries. These facts are hidden by the Colombian Government who insist such union activists were somehow involved in guerrilla activity. Ordinary men, women and children are the principal victims of violence in Colombia. Terror is used to suppress radical political views and ensure that the regime monopolises the wealth of the nation. There is no clear evidence to suggest that the EU-Colombia FTA will bring about any improvement even though there appears to be a political expectation that somehow this agreement will harness a desire for change. I am urging all Mandate members to become proactive in opposing the ratification of the EUColombia FTA. Members can do this by writing to their TDs, by joining the Justice for Colombia campaign at justiceforcolombia.org and by signing the petition at http://chn.ge/1q0Rvna If violence is part of doing business in Colombia, why would the Irish people want to be part of that?
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Working with the world’s poorest people to transform their lives www.concern.net SHOPFLOOR
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Weak domestic economy hampering retail sector
THE LATEST CSO data shows a stabilisation in unemployment rates when compared to the previous month. The standard unemployment rate is currently at 11.8% for May, identical to the rate in April, and 12.0% for the period January to March. This is equivalent to roughly 4,300 fewer people unemployed. Though the rate has continued to decline, it is declining at a slower pace than previously. At the current speed it will take eight and a half years (or autumn 2022) before unemployment reaches 5%. However, due to a weak domestic economy, the wholesale and retail sector is performing worse than the economy as a whole. Employee numbers (which exclude the self-employed) are up by 1.8% for the whole economy (comparing the first quarter of the year with the same period of 2013), but employee numbers are down 2.9% for the wholesale and retail sector. This is a loss of 8,100 jobs. This is despite the volume of retail sales increasing by 7.5% over the same period. The length of the working week has also declined from 29.9 hours to 29.6 hours. Therefore, the fall in employment cannot be explained by an increase in full-time employment. Average hourly earnings are largely unchanged (but have fallen in the economy as a whole, largely due to falls in the public sector) as increases in irregular bonuses have offset falls in core pay.
‘It should be noted that this data applies to the sector as a whole and the pay of Mandate members seems to be doing better than the average showing the value of being in a union...’
By Rory O’Farrell It should be noted that this data applies to the sector as a whole, and the pay of Mandate members seems to doing better than the average, showing the value of being in a union. “Other” labour costs (which include things like employers’ PRSI and uniforms paid by employers) have increased from €2.50 to €2.67 per hour. Compared to May 2013, the number on the Live Register fell by 32,973 while the number of casual and part-time claimants fell by 11,181. Therefore, “full-time” claimants are down by 21,792. In line with other CSO data, workers seem to be shifting from part-time and casual employment to full-time employment. The number who describe ‘sales’ as their last held occupation stands at 43,900 (an improvement of 2,629 people on May 2013). The Live Register is not a measure of unemployment. However, it is interesting to compare Quarterly Na-
tional Household Survey (QNHS) annual trends with those of the Live Register. According to the QNHS, the numbers for those unemployed fell by 33,900 in the first quarter of 2014 compared to 2013, while the numbers on the Live Register fell by roughly 31,500 in the same period but with roughly 8,500 fewer people signing on as part-time/casual. This suggests there are about 23,000 fewer ‘full-time’ unemployed on the Live Register. This requires large numbers of people moving from outside the labour force such as ‘home duties’ into employment and this is consistent with QHNS data. However, it is unclear why this is the case. In most EU countries how people transition into employment is reported and the CSO
plan to do this in the future. Some of these patterns may be due to the CSO altering their sample for the QNHS in light of the 2011 Census. However, the mismatch is less than in the previous quarter. These patterns are very unusual, though not unprecedented.
In May 2014, the number of people claiming Jobseekers Allowance is almost identical to the figure for May 2013 (300,266 compared to 299,633) with a large fall for those on Jobseekers Benefit (52,785 compared to 112,107). This suggests there are some people with broken spells of employment/unemployment. Live Register figures have fallen most for those signing on for less than one year, and for under-25s (which can be due to changes in eligibility rather than changes in the labour market). The number of those who were last employed as craft workers (which includes construction workers and agricultural workers) on the Live Register has fallen by almost 14,000.
Rory O’Farrell is an economist at the Nevin Economic Rsearch Institiute
Adult Education Courses for the Workplace
Mandate Trade Union with the VEC network is offering a programme of Training Courses called Skills for Work. Skills for Work offers members the opportunity to get back into education at their own pace with a wide range of courses to choose from. Each course has 6 – 8 participants and may be held locally and outside of working hours. Some of the courses include:
Communication Skills/ Personal Development and Effectiveness
For those who want to brush up on their writing and spelling skills while you develop personal and interpersonal skills which are important for dealing with workplace situations and improve communications in everyday life situations
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
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
Diggers get organised...
Mandate course blew away the cobwebs!
COnTraCT archaeologists working in ireland have decided to get organised in a bid to improve their terms and conditions of employment. For ‘diggers’ are joining unite’s newly set-up archeology branch in droves. at present site assistants – most of whom have postgraduate degrees in archaeology and related disciplines – earn little more than a euro above the minimum wage. at their inaugural meeting, members of the new branch highlighted the need to negotiate a registered employment agreement similar to the agreements governing other occupations which ensure that workers’ terms and conditions cannot fall below a speciﬁed ﬂoor. Matt Seaver – who was elected chair of the new branch and is the union representative for the leinster region – told Shopﬂoor: “Site assistants comprise the majority of ﬁeld archaeologists: they are the ones
tasked with excavating and recording our country’s heritage on the ground. “yet many site assistants are working for between €9.50 and €10 per hour. at little more than a euro above the Minimum Wage, that is poverty pay. “low pay is compounded by job insecurity, with many archaeologists working on short term contracts or as self-employed contractors and others seeing no option but to emigrate.” Connacht representative Jean O’dowd added: “The only weapon workers have against low pay and job insecurity is collective action through a trade union. “unite’s new archaeology branch has already secured recognition in a number of workplaces, and our next challenge is to ensure that all archaeologists in ireland are covered by an industry-wide employment agreement – a threshold of decency.”
Picture: John Atherton (CC BY-SA 2.0) SHOPFLOOR
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COUNTERBLAST YFG CALL FOR 23% CUT IN MINIMUM WAGE
Seeing red over young Blueshirts’ plan
A group of Green MEPs show their opposition to the TTIP at the European Parliament in March Picture: greensefa (CC BY 2.0)
By David Gibney Mandate communications officer A NUMBER of weeks ago, Young Fine Gael, the youth wing of Fine Gael, made the dramatic call for a cut in the minimum wage by 23% or by €2 an hour. Their plan was for the minimum wage to be restructured so that an experienced adult worker would get €6.65 an hour; a worker who is over 19 and in their second year of employment would get €5.79 an hour; a worker who is over 18 and in their first year of employment would get €4.92 and those under 18 would get €4.06 an hour. If ever there was a warning to young workers and socially-conscious people, this is it. At a time when poverty and deprivation rates are escalating towards record levels, and when many large businesses are experiencing pre-recessionary profit margins, the youth wing of the controlling government party are calling for more deprivation and higher profits. They say that they would refund the €2 for those already earning the minimum wage through an “income tax credit”, but don’t explain where the money to pay for this credit will
come from. There can only be two reasons for such an absurd proposal like this. The first is that it’s a softening-up mechanism whereby, Young Fine Gael call for a cut in the minimum wage, but when their party doesn’t actually cut it, or cuts it by less than the €2 per hour, we’ll all be grateful and think, “Well, it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been.” The second – and more likely – reason for the statement is that, temporarily as it may have been, the ideological veil has slipped on the future of the Fine Gael party.
Big business A plan to cut pay for the lowest paid workers in our society, irrespective of how profitable their employer is, is simply a plan to subsidise big business. As if they don’t get enough of a subsidy already with free labour schemes, low taxation rates and a range of loopholes to avoid paying any tax in the first place. And who’ll pay for these subsidies? Low and middle-income earners of course. This is ideological and young people and progressives cannot stand by while the people proposing this monstrosity of a policy become possible future governors of this country. The failure of YFG to com-
prehend the effect such a plan would have on the labour market is significant in itself, but unfortunately we don’t have time to get into that in detail. However, they deceptively say that Ireland has one of the highest minimum wage rates in Europe which – wait for it – acts “as a barrier to job creation.” Have they slept through the crisis? Do they know that one of the biggest problems facing our country is, and has been, the collapse in domestic demand due to cuts in income levels? Cutting further will only deepen the crisis in domestic demand –
which affects the retail, bar and services sector disproportionately. Irish workers need more money in their pockets to boost local business, create more jobs and get the economy going again, not less. Then there’s the disingenuous element, whereby they only mention the headline minimum wage rate and not the other employment costs such as employer’s PRSI rates – which are up to 50% below the rates of some other countries in Europe. You see, the minimum wage is only one portion of an employee’s pay (i.e. employer’s PRSI, pension contributions etc). Put simply, it is far cheaper to employ a worker in Ireland than in the average EU country. We are a low labour-cost economy but employers and right-wing political parties hide behind a headline minimum wage rate rather than discussing the full employee compensation package. Furthermore, if the state is to subsidise profitable employers to the tune of €2 for every hour a worker is employed, where will the money come from? Do you think it’ll be from higher taxation on corporations, a wealth tax or the introduction of more stealth taxes that
disproportionately impact on lower paid households? I know which one of those options is most likely under the current and previous governments of this country. Worryingly, if Fine Gael’s record is anything to go by, it’ll be through cutting public expenditure, which is already at breaking point. Just ask anyone attending an emergency room in any hospital across the country this weekend.
rallying call What YFG’s proposals do is issue us with a rallying call. This is our future unless we on the Left get organised and resist. This is especially true for young workers who will be most affected if YFG are to be part of any future government. Remember, it wasn’t long ago that people like prominent politicians Minister Leo Varadkar or Lucinda Creighton were in Young Fine Gael. The best way to resist these ideological attacks on workers and their incomes is by mobilising industrially – through getting involved in your trade union and by politicising yourself. If you’re interested in getting involved with Mandate Youth, please email us at email@example.com
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU POST
Think twice before you click By John Douglas Mandate General Secretary SOCIAL media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube are becoming an ever increasing popular way of communicating with family, friends and others who share your interests. Social media is a powerful tool, but with it comes responsibility and dangers. It is important that social media users are very aware of the possible consequences of their actions on the various platforms. They are, by their very nature, public platforms so do not say or do anything on a social media platform that you wouldn’t be prepared to do in public because the consequences are the same. Understand the social media platforms you use, understand their privacy settings and policies, and remember that re-tweets and reposts and sometimes even ‘likes’ have the potential to go far beyond your intended audience and some of those unintended recipients may not understand the context of your post or indeed may be offended by it as others add to it. Employers and perspective employers are increasingly keeping a very close eye on social media platforms, monitoring any negative July 2014
mation may be used by others. Understand the concepts of privacy, confidentiality, defamation, cyber-bullying and copyright and of how they apply to social media content. In short, social media platforms are not the ‘wild west’, you can and will be held responsible for what you say and post and the consequences can be very serious. Do not post or respond in anger –
‘Do not post or respond in anger – pause before you post – think!’ Picture: OTA Photos (CC BY-SA 2.0)
comments about their company or anti-social behaviour of staff or potential staff. Mandate have in recent months had to deal with a growing number of serious disciplinary cases arising from members posting com-
ments about their employers, customers or work colleagues. In the most serious of these cases some members have been dismissed. As a rule of thumb, keep your work life and your personal life separate and
remember that social media platforms are public. Protect your personal identity online by using strong passwords and think carefully about what information you want to share about yourself and how this infor-
“pause before you post” – think! Ask yourself would I say this in a crowded room of strangers? If the answer is no, then it’s probably best not to post it. Finally, remove any ‘likes’ between you and inappropriate content online. Ask to be untagged and for any inappropriate photos or videos to be removed. It is a powerful communications tool, if used wisely. Enjoy it but be safe.
Pictures: Tommy Clancy
y July 2014
Pictures: Tommy Clancy
This is your union, your voice MANDATE”S Biennial Delegate Conference (BDC) took place on April 27 and 28 in the INEC in Killarney, Co. Kerry. The conference was attended by 300 delegates from across the country representing 45,000 Mandate members. The BDC is the democratic arm of the union and shapes Mandate’s policies in respect of industrial relations and social issues. Yet again, Mandate delegates demonstrated that our members are a vibrant, socially conscious and passionate membership with a wide range of progressive motions discussed and endorsed. Cooperative working with other unions Mandate members endorsed plans to develop closer working arrangements between unions in order to make the most out of our resources. National Budget Conference endorsed strategic lobbying campaigns ahead of the National Budget in order to represent the membership of Mandate. Decent Work, Decent Pay, Better Future The Conference recognised the need for decent work and decent pay and called for a continued campaign in relation to these issues. The conference highlighted the use of zero hour contracts and low hour contracts and called for resistance to them – instead, ensuring that retail
workers have contracts that guarantee them a living wage. Recruitment, Organising, Density and Power The BDC endorsed the integration of industrial relations with organising and recruitment emphasising that every non-union member is an attack on our members’ terms and conditions of employment and job security. Job Security The conference condemned employers like Dunnes Stores who are increasingly employing staff on temporary contracts while reducing existing staff hours. Mandate members are demanding the creation of real jobs with secure hours of employment. Illness Benefit Criticism was made of the impact changes to the Illness Benefit Payment Scheme would have on vulnerable workers who have no contractual entitlement to sick pay. With no benefit being paid for the first six days of illness, as opposed to the previous three days, many workers will lose out if they become ill. Conference called for the measure to be reversed. JobBridge Mandate delegates condemned the JobBridge Programme which is being used to fill legitimate vacancies and to provide cheap labour to
opportunistic employers. The BDC called for resistance to the scheme in the retail sector. Insolvency Directive Conference criticised inaction from successive governments who have failed to properly implement the EU Employers’ Insolvency Directive. This means that employees cannot recover debts owed to them by an insolvent company unless that company has been wound up by the High Court and a liquidator appointed. Since the conference, another group of workers in the Paris Bakery have been subjected to an unnecessary sit-in in order to get what is owed to them. Conference called for legislation to be enacted as a matter of urgency. Pensions Successive Irish governments have failed to address the pension crisis in the private sector. This has resulted in the closure of thousands of defined benefit schemes resulting in workers losing all or significant portions of their retirement savings. Conference called for legislation to protect workers’ pensions and secure a decent retirement income. Conference also called on Government to address the mismatch between contractual pension age (normally 65) and the age at which the State pension becomes available. Water charges and property tax Conference called for the removal of
the “unjust” water charges and property tax which places “unreasonable burdens on those struggling to survive.” Adoption Mandate delegates backed a motion condemning the inequalities contained in the Adoption Act 2010 where a biological parent who has a new partner seeking to adopt their child, must go through the same process of adoption as the new partner. This means the biological parent ceases to be legally recognised as the biological parent if the application is successful. Conference also supported equal rights in respect of adoption for same-sex couples. Cut to Unemployment Benefits for Under-25s Mandate delegates condemned the cuts to unemployed benefits for under-25s in Budget 2013 citing that they are not considered “equal citizens by this government.” Mandate delegates called for a reversal to the cut and for the Government to “treat all citizens equally regardless of their age.” Abolition of the Death Grant The recent abolition of the death grant was criticised by Mandate members who believe it was a mean and needless cut that could easily be avoided if the Government chose to tackle more obvious tax breaks and ensured our wealthiest citizens paid their fair share in taxes. The death
grant is only €850 and benefits many low-earning families who need it most at those difficult times. Child Tax Credit Conference called on the Government to rescind changes in the last budget that removes tax credit for children from parents who are separated (usually fathers). This creates hardship on parents trying to provide a second home for their children at times when they have custody of them. Nelson Mandela The conference called for the establishment of the “Madiba Solidarity Award” in recognition of the great Nelson Mandela which will be awarded at the Mandate BDC from now on. Social Wage & Tax Cuts Mandate supports the “social wage” and the necessity to fund it through a progressive tax regime. “Hundreds of lower to middle-income families rely on the social wage to provide income supports, decent education, health provision housing and services.” Mandate is critical of calls from “vested interests” for tax cuts which undermine the ability of the State to provide for its own citizens and further polarise Ireland making it a more unequal society. These are just some of the motions passed at the Mandate BDC. For a full list, contact your local official.
Pictures: Tommy Clancy
y July 2014
Pictures: Tommy Clancy
A look back at The Drapers’ Assistant, the journal of the Irish Drapers Assistants’ Association – precursor to Mandate...
The Wages Question AT A period when we hear so much about salaries, wages, conditions of employment, higher cost of living etc., and when all these questions affect shop assistants and clerks, more immediately, and, perhaps, more seriously, than any other section of the community, the time has undoubtedly arrived when we must seriously take stock in regard to these matters. As our readers are aware, the establishment of a fair Minimum Wage has been dealt with previously on many occasions, so frequently indeed that some members have come to the conclusion that the subject has become rather hackneyed, and that we have said enough in regard to it to convince (if such conviction were necessary) all concerned of the great urgency of bringing the matter to a head. The establishment of a Minimum Wage will not, in our opinion, solve the question, but it will, at least, go some distance in that direction. We have always believed that raising of workers on the lower plain to a higher level will, in itself, help in the upliftment of all, because it is common sense to state that if a large proportion of any section of workers is paid but a miserable pittance, all in that particular employment, except in the case of a few privileged individuals, must suffer as the result. And where the standard is high in a department in any particular trade, this standard will undoubtedly be held up as a basis upon which all other departments should be placed. At this time of the year employers and boards of directors are having the figures compiled or completed, they are comparing the incomes and expenditures, the profits and the outlay, and are, no doubt, notwithstanding the alleged depression, compiling glowing reports, containing the all-important notification of the usual or increased dividends. Now, during this yearly half-yearly stock-taking, we would suggest to those employers, or boards of directors, that a most important item, which has frequently been neglected, and which must not be overlooked in the future, is that of an equitable division of the profits which, after all, have been produced in many cases by those who are inadequately and disgracefully remunerated for their work. No doubt we will be told “competition is keen,” “we cannot afford to pay any more,” “our neighbours are underselling us,” etc., etc. This is all very fine for traders who have consistently adopted the cut-throat system of competition, whose sole object is to make money for themselves at the expense and to the detriment of their employees, but we say in reply to these, and to all whom it may concern that if the public are to be granted privileges by grasping, greedy employers, this must not be done at the expense of the workers, at the cost of cheap, sweated, and in many cases unpaid labour. Greedy employers who work their business largely through the labour of boys and girls , who are not only unpaid for their services, but who, in many cases, are the victims of designing individuals, who induce them, under 34
false pretences, to serve their apprenticeship in shops , and incidentally, of course, to pay substantial fees for doing so. If employers are anxious to give their stuff away for nothing, that is no affair of ours, but we must see to it that they are not going to be philanthropists at our expense, at the cost of the sweat and blood of the workers. Frequently we have suggested to employers and to employers’ associations that one of their main functions should be the regulation of prices, and the standardisation, as far as possible, of the cost of certain commodities. By doing this they would be securing a fair and equitable ground of competition and at the same time curb the designs of greedy employers in the mad race to get rich quickly, which seems to get hold of most employers nowadays. We would suggest to them to pause in this dangerous career as it must inevitably lead to the overthrow and the crushing out of
‘We have always believed that raising of workers on the lower plain to a higher level will, in itself, help in the upliftment of all...’ that upon which their hearts are set. When employers, managers, and directors come to peruse, as they will during the coming week, their balance sheets, let them consider carefully and conscientiously, as far as their conscience will permit the portion which is the workers’ due – those who have made the profits and dividends. Let them, as in the case of some shops, which we could name, consider the boys and girls, the men and women, who have been working 60 or 70 hours per week for a miserable penny an hour, and if they do not take heed of what we say, the reckoning undoubtedly will come, and come much sooner than they anticipate. When a badly treated and indignant section of the workers rise up in their wrath let them not hypothetically turn the whites of their eyes to heaven, and say, “you have taken us unawares, we are willing to treat you well,” and so forth. We would advise employers to take time by the fore-lock, to grant their employees a fair living wage, and not to wait until these employees have put the force of redress and regeneration into such a state of motion as to become furious and extremely dangerous. Our warning on this occasion will no doubt, in many cases at least, fall on deaf ears, but we are satisfied that the seed is being sown, the employers cannot say they did not get timely notice. As business men they do not live in the moon, but if they desire to live in the moon in so far as the conditions of their employees are concerned, then it behoves the employees to assert their rights, and to bring these employers down to terrafirma, and to a sense of their duties and responsibilities.
Unions must AUSTRALIA might well be an island at the end of the world but our unions are well and truly active participants in a global labour movement. The spread of global capitalism and neo-liberal, free market fundamentalism means unions in every nation must see themselves as part of a global network, and seek out how we can work together across borders. We have seen that alongside the globalisation of capital has been a globalisation of corporate power. Decisions made in boardrooms in London or New York or Frankfurt impact on the lives of workers in Bangladesh, Bangkok or Nairobi. And the ripple effects are felt by other workers throughout the world, both developing and developed. Globalisation has also seen the internationalisation of the free-market ideology of privatisation, deregulation and the reduction of workplace rights. The assault on public sector workers that began in the United States has spread rapidly to Europe and to Australia. And it is also flowing the other way: Rupert Murdoch’s Australianborn media empire has for decades been exporting severe neo-liberal
By Dave Oliver
Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions
propaganda to the rest of the world. Unions are confronting these attacks in their own countries, but we also need to improve how we respond as a global movement. Capital knows no boundaries, and so we must also be a globalised movement. As [ITUC General Secretary] Sharan Burrow has said: “The fallout from the global financial crisis has led to a global slump in wages and growing inequality. Employers have used the economic crisis and the global threat on jobs as an excuse to step up their anti-union attacks. “The export of the American corporate model, represented by the American Chamber of Commerce, is
driving an exploitative model of profit at any cost – and it must be stopped.” We need to start thinking as a global movement and fighting global campaigns – we need to recognise that what happens to labour rights in China or Qatar is important because capital is mobile and we need to ensure that workers throughout the world have the right to decent work, freedom of association, right to organise/right to bargain and right to strike. Globally, our challenges are not only on the wages, conditions, safety, and rights of workers, but the very existence of organised labour. Big business and free market ide-
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THE RIGHT TO KNOW
WHAT’S AT STAKE IN AN EU-US TRADE DEAL SHOPFLOOR
y July 2014
become global players endeavour – through unions in the sphere of work, through community organisations in neighbourhoods and regions, and ultimately through governments in democratic nation states. Yes, there is a role for markets. Yes, freedom and liberty are prime attributes of a fair and democratic society. But the power of collective action is the essential countervailing force to the inexorable concentration of capital. As champions of collective endeavour, the global union movement must resist the policies that seek to constrain and shut down the collective rights of working people and the common interests of community. The war has a long way to run. The global crisis exposed the flaws of this policy suite and they are clear for all to see – unemployment and misery at large. There will be innumerable battles to come – small and local, large and national, huge and global. We need to build alliances and maintain solidarity.
ologues around the world are doing all they can to constrain the ability of unions to do their jobs, to outlaw much of our core activities, and to destroy our reputation and legitimacy in our communities. We must resist these attacks, because without strong unions the relentless advance of globalisation will continue without check. The most recent phase of the war against economic fundamentalism has already been running for more than 30 years, since Reaganomics and Thatcherism swept the Englishspeaking world in the eighties and underwrote the rise to dominance of neo-liberalism. Australia has not been immune from this. Neo-liberalism champions individualism. It is inherently hostile to collective action. In the name of individual freedom and liberty, its rallying cry is small government and deregulation. But the world we are all born into is one of vast inequality, of power, wealth, income, and opportunity. This is true within and between countries. Without intervention these inequalities rise inexorably. And the fact is that concentrations of wealth and power – concentrations of capital – can only be constrained through collective
This is an edited version of the keynote address given by Dave Oliver to the LabourStart Global Solidarity Conference in Berlin on May 23.
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
Every wipe of his eyes takes Talla closer to blindness
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Talla is just five. He has trachoma, a painful eye disease which can lead to a lifetime of blindness. Repeated infections cause the eyelashes to turn inwards and slowly and painfully every blink damages the eye and leads to blindness. Trachoma can be treated effectively in its early stages with a course of ointment costing just 50p – but for millions of people this is still too much. If, like Sightsavers, you believe that nobody should go blind needlessly from trachoma, river blindness or cataract, please make a donation today to support our eye care work in some of the most deprived communities in the world.
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The 48m long and 26m wide Rosie Hackett Bridge spans the Liffey joining Marlborough Street to Hawkins Street and is intended solely for use by public transport, taxis, cyclists and pedestrians
Bridge named to honour Rosie “ROSIE Hackett represented all that was best in the labour and trade union tradition,” SIPTU General Secretary Joe O’Flynn claimed at the official naming ceremony of the bridge that will forever bear her name. He told a crowd gathered for the May 20 event: “The huge public support [for naming the bridge in her honour] is a reassertion of the values of social solidarity, the values of justice that marked not just Rosie but marked her generation.” Rosie was a long-time ITGWU member who served in the Irish Citizen Army during the 1916 Rising and went on to work for many years in the union shop. Last September, Dublin City Councilors chose her name for the new bridge following public submissions and a series of votes.
Pictures: William Murphy (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Handing out the plaudits MandaTe General Secretary John douglas and President Joan Gaffney joined other leading trade unionists at a special ceremony in the Mansion house on May 18 in recognition of the roles a number of unions played in making last year’s centenary of the 1913 lockout such a resounding success. lord Mayor Oisin Quinn, centre, presented each of the unions with a special certificate as well as a limited edition sterling silver replica of the original 1913 irish Transport union’s red hand badge.
y July 2014
Mother of all festivals returns!
Celebrated Corkonian: Mother Jones
Picture: Courtesy Library of Congress LC-B2- 3354-10
A FESTIVAL and summer school honouring Mother Jones, an icon of the trade union movement in the US, returns for a third year to Cork, the city of her birth, and runs from Tuesday July 29 to Friday August 1. Festival goers can expect a packed programme of lectures, films and gigs over four days at the Firkin Crane theatre and Maldron Hotel in Shandon. This year The Spirit of Mother Jones festival has invited along a number of speakers, including American academics and Mother Jones experts Rosemary Feurer and James Green as well as prominent civil rights lawyer Gareth Peirce.
A series of events on July 31 will examine the struggle of miners and their communities with a special showing of the film The Battle of Orgreave and a talk by Ann Scargill and Betty Cook, a founder member of Women Against Pit Closures. James Green and Rosemary Feuer will also speak on the legacy of the infamous Ludlow Massacre of striking miners in Colorado in the centenary year of the outrage. Music highlights include gigs by the Mother Jones Ceili Band, Wildflower Bluegrass band and folk singers Si Kahn and Ann Feeney. Jim Nolan, of the Cork Mother Jones Committee, said there was
particular delight that Prof Feurer was returning to the festival. He said: “Rosemary Feurer’s contributions to packed crowds at the inaugural festival in 2012 were well received and her devotion to Mother Jones in the United States has ensured the growing fame of this extraordinary Cork woman will forever be honoured.” He added: “We are delighted that the construction of the new museum to Mother Jones at Mount Olive, her final resting place is going ahead and will be completed in 2015, this is largely testament to the magnificent efforts of Professor Feurer and her committee.”
SKILLS FOR WORK
City of Dublin Education and Training Board
Interested in doing a personal finance or maths course?
Do you have a desire to improve your personal finance skills? Or maths skills? But never got around to doing it?
Personal Finance and Maths course
Starting from scratch this course helps you to improve your maths and personal finance. Mandate Trade Union in conjunction with Skills for Work are offering members the opportunity to attend training. The courses are to encourage members back into learning and training while aiming towards a FETAC level 3 Award. If you are interested in doing a Communications through Computers course, contact: Mandate Training Centre Distillery House Distillery Road Dublin 3 Phone: 01-8369699 Email: email@example.com Courses are free and open to members who have not achieved Leaving Certificate or who have an out of date Leaving Certificate. You can also achieve a FETAC Level 3 Award. Skills for Work is funded by the Department of Education & Skills.
Picture: cogdogblog (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Mandate Shop Stewards Training Programme 2014 Course Title
Equality and Integration
Union Representative Advanced Senior
Union Representative Advanced FETAC 5
Union Representative Introductory
Union Representative Introductory (Supervalu) TBC
Union Representative Introductory
29/30 Sept, 1 Oct
Union Representative Advanced Senior
Union Representative Advanced Senior
Union Representative Introductory
Health and Safety Elected Reps FETAC 5
Union Representative Advanced FETAC 5
*OTC = Mandate Organising and Training Centre *TBC = To be confirmed *Venue dates and times may vary.
Participants in the Train the Trainer course held at the Mandate Training Centre in June. Back row: Inga Sperlina, Tara Keane, Frank Barry, Margaret Nolan (tutor), Fiona O’Reilly, Helen O’Keeffe; Seated: Dave Gibney, Helen Kennedy, Joe McGouran, Mandy LaCombre 38
Congress Centres Network coordinators & tutors during their recent fact-finding visit to Greece
Study visit examines Greek approach to jobless training A DELEGATION of Congress Centres Network coordinators and tutors – including Mandate’s Aileen Morrissey – representing the Irish Congress of Trade Union’s Executive Committee, took part in a recent study visit to Greece. The purpose of the study visit was to examine the education system, particularly the training supports for the unemployed, and to share experience and expertise in this area. The itinerary included visits to the University of Patras, Unemployed Training Centres, the Confederation of Trade Unions plus a visit to a vocational education facility. As the Congress Centres Network train unemployed people in Ireland, there was opportunity to examine best practice training schemes and discussions were held as to how adult unemployed can up-skill and reskill so that they can re-enter the workforce. One of the biggest learning elements for the group was how the austerity measures have impacted on the Greek people. Currently some 26% of the workforce unemployed. People under 30 years of age are the worst hit, as 65% of that group are unemployed. The average monthly wage for
those in employment is €600 with staples such as milk, bread and petrol costing more than in Ireland. As English is not widely taught, emigration is not an option for many unemployed. Approximately three million unemployed do not have state financial support and many depend on soup kitchens while living rough in the larger urban cities. In rural areas, they depend on family support for their upkeep. Despite these extreme conditions, the people that met with the delegation – be these trainers, teachers, coordinators of unemployed centres or university lecturers – were very open, welcoming and willing to share their experiences with the group. Strong networks have been formed between the parties and the sharing of information will continue into the future. This networking will benefit the unemployed both in Ireland and Greece as best practice models will develop to assist workers back into the workplace when the market improves which hopefully will not be too far into the future for both countries.
Greek workers take to the streets to protest against austerity measures Picture: Apostolos (CC BY 2.0) SHOPFLOOR
y July 2014
THE LAST WORD...
R IG H TS
Putting it all together Jean Browne reflects on how a Mandate course on politics and the economy blew away the cobwebs from a ‘dusty mind’... Listening to Conor McCabe’s lectures successfully stimulated my thoughts. There were moments I did put a pencil in my mouth and tilt my
an audacity is austerity?’ My brain was rusty and took off on those silly tangents often but they were excellent lectures, nicely paced and delivered in a very relaxed, helpful group of people. I felt I had hope. Like a lot of people, I left school believing I was stupid, or the polite way to say it ‘I was not academic’. I carried that thought with me into my adult life. My country could be getting run by a gang of monkeys on acid and I wouldn’t have had the confidence to challenge it. My oppression was internal as well as external. After I got over the fear that anyone would notice I knew absolutely nothing about either politics or economics, I started to enjoy taking in new information and getting my head around new terminology. I had to bounce the information off something that was understandable to me, so I used the body. Conor drew a diagram on the flip chart circling three groups in society – workers, employers and bankers. Looking at society divided up like cells in the body, I wondered about the natural intelligence that allowed for the healthy functioning of the body and how would that apply to society. I developed the opinion that Ireland has cancer. Cancer is when a few cells deviate from the normal, healthy functioning of the whole system and go off and do their own thing, creating a tumor that if not contained spreads throughout the whole body. If all these cells collaborated together to support the body then there wouldn’t be a problem. This malignant thinking can be seen in Ireland, A few people got caught up in pure greed, went off and did their own thing and it developed a tumor in our banking system. And, I believe it spread throughout the whole system. This malignant thinking can be seen within our own group of people. There has been a lot of talk of ‘my job’, ‘my house’ , ‘my children’, ‘my pension’... If we unified our thinking to our jobs, our children, our houses and our pensions we begin to recover a
S NG RO W
AU STE A K I RIT O Y R T ECONO MICS
CL A SS
I ALWAYS thought I was an active person – and I am. However, my ‘activism’ was as futile as trying to do the back stroke in quicksand. I was initially inspired by a desire to re-shape my body. My Wednesday evenings were very proactive, I did ‘Hot Yoga’, which incidentally should be called scalding Hot Yoga. I voluntarily got electrocuted in a pair of speedos while doing lunges, to stimulate core muscles and lose enormous amounts of weight quickly. I even bought a skipping rope, so I could skip my way through the whole box set of Downtown Abbey. I could tell you how many calories are in a Cornetto but I couldn’t tell you how much interest I was paying on my credit card. I never even noticed the so-called boom times because I was busy watching my waistline booming – and when the Celtic Tiger came roaring into town and our cars, houses and loans got bigger and bigger, I was too busy to notice because I was trying to get smaller. Those were the days my worth and value seemed to be wrapped up in the illusion that having a heavy bank account and a light weight on the scales defined success. I failed miserably at both. Luckily, events in the last few years have made me reassess what’s really important to me. Experiencing loss can be the beginning of a desire for a more authentic path. I questioned my own mortality, I questioned what am I going to say about myself to my grandchildren? That I ate more carrots than kebabs? And took up less space on the pavement because I lost three stone? So in order to generate a few new thoughts, inspire some meaningful action, I took part in 10 lectures at Mandate on politics and the economy. It was a toss-up between that and tribal drumming but I'd overdosed on all that New Age stuff and wanted to open my mind to a subject that intimidated me, scared me and totally confused me. I wanted to re-shape my thinking as opposed to my body. I wanted an opinion and the confidence to share that opinion.
head to the side as if I deeply understood what was being said when in fact I was thinking, ‘Did he say austerity? Or audacity? And how much of
sense of unity and a reminder that ‘an injury to one of us, is very much an injury to all’. Like the cancerous cells in the body, we are divided and it’s spreading rapidly. That’s my diagnosis and the great thing about an opinion is, you can expand on it, change it and share it. An opinion is not a fixedterm contract. Since dipping my toe in an educational lecture, I have spoken up at a community meeting on property tax, something I never would have felt equipped to do before. I engaged in a conversation with a politician and felt confident asking meaningful questions. I discussed corporation tax with a nerdy banker in a cocktail bar and intellectually tortured him into getting in touch with his moral compass and, like me, he started questioning what he does and why. Dipping my toe in an educational lecture has encouraged me to dip my toe in conversations I would have shied away from due to feeling intimidated. I strongly encourage anyone to attend training or anything that challenges you to think outside the box. It was a huge challenge for me to stay behind on a dark winter’s evening when I could have sat in front of my box and watched rubbish. I had the negative committee in my head putting forward the motion I was 'not clever enough', that it ‘wasn't for me' – all sorts of insane ideas. But I was inspired by the belief it suits the elite members of our society that I remain imprisoned by the belief I'm not good enough or clever enough. I think the intention behind the lectures was to simply equip us to question what we hear and read. For me, it was about dusting off the cobwebs in my very dusty mind and that was a massive success. One of my favorite people, Bill Hicks, said, “What we need most is a ‘revolution of ideas’ and this is what gives birth to action”. I think his quote perfectly sums up the experience of taking part in these lectures. I look forward to going forward and learning more.
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