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SHOPFLOOR MANDATE TRADE UNION

HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL OUR MEMBERS ...AND LET’S MAKE 2015 COUNT!

DECEMBER 2014

Illustration:Valeriy Osipov (CC BY 2.0)

We’ve marched in our hundreds of thousands, now we demand change... DUNNES: INDUSTRIAL ACTION ‘MAY BE UNAVOIDABLE’ PAGES 2&3


STRAIGHT TALKING

They can’t spin us any more lies...

Unemployment is down to 10.7%. GDp growth is expected to be 4.6% – the highest in the eurozone. emigration is lower than in previous years. Government is implementing tax cuts. looks like we’ve turned another corner and we’re on the mend. So why is combined support for the government parties (Fine Gael and labour) down to a record low of 25%? Because we can all spot the spin.

It’s easy to list off positive statistics and tell people that all is good and that the worst is behind them. It’s harder to prove it. especially when the very people they’re selling spin to are living through the reality. If truth be told, most of us don’t feel the effects of GDP growth because it’s obscure and we don’t feel it impacts on our day to day lives. But here are some of the real statistics that do affect us and our families: l The real unemployment rate – when you remove JobBridge and other labour activation measures – is 13.2%. l earnings are down by 1% while rents have increased by 11%. l One in four tenants fear losing their homes from rent increases. l Underemployment (workers seeking more hours but have no access to them) is up by nearly 60% from 2008. l Ireland has the second highest prevalence of low pay in the developed world, behind the United States. l There has been a 21% rise in the number of people sleeping rough in Dublin. Over 480,000 people have no money at the end of the month after paying essential bills. More than 1.7 million people across Ireland say they have less than €100 at the end of the month after essential bills are paid. Try telling them all is OK because GDP is up. Yes, there are more jobs coming on-stream. But what type of jobs are they? They’re low paid, precarious contracts where employers control hours and workers have to kow-tow to every unreasonable demand that is made of them. Sometimes waiting on the end of a phone for 24 hours hoping to get that call to tell them they have a day’s work ahead of them. People are struggling to get by and they’re losing patience, and no amount of promises of growth and manipulated statistics will appease them. Hence the success of the water charges protests taking place right across the country. As Donna Hartnett, a mother from Cork, said: “The legacy of Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen has resulted in our two children being raised in childcare centres like caged hens while we work, breaking our necks and our children’s hearts trying to keep up with tax after tax with nothing left by month end. We never financially over-extended ourselves or left a bill unpaid, but still my two very young children are daily out of their home longer hours than the average industrial worker... as we work to meet another tax to our incomings. Our reasons for not protesting before – exhaustion, anxiety, fear and not a minute to spare. But this is where it ends.” There are tens of thousands of Donna Hartnetts all over this country who are not fooled by the finely polished utterances of politicians telling them we’ve turned the corner. When homeless people are dying on the streets and couples are forced to live in their cars, and when still, despite losing a quarter of a million people to emigration, unemployment is unacceptably high, it should be abhorrent to even consider cutting taxes for the wealthy, but that’s just what happened in the last Budget. That’s why we have to continue to fight back both in the industrial field and the political one. If workers want better terms and conditions of employment, then the solution is simple – join a union and get active in it. If we want a fairer political and social system, we have to fight for it politically. We have to take a stance and say we will not accept any more austerity. We’ve paid enough for the crisis that was caused by others and is being cast on to our shoulders and our children’s shoulders. As Audrey Clancy from the Edenmore 9 said at the recent Right2Water rally: “The power of the people is greater than the people in power.” But only if we show solidarity and unity in our endeavors for a better and fairer Ireland. And as Donna Harnett said: “No one will ever stand over my grave and say, ‘Wasn't she great at paying her water tax?’, but it will be at that exact moment that my children will evaluate the quality in the years I gave them.” In Mandate, our members haven’t been fooled by glossy statistics, promises of growth and smart-talking political representatives and all their spin. That’s why we’re all fighting back and Mandate and our members have been – and will continue to be – at the forefront of that fight back.

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Shopfloor is published bi-monthly by Mandate Trade Union. Mandate Head Office, O'Lehane House, 9 Cavendish Row, Dublin 1 T: 01-8746321/2/3 F: 01-8729581 W: www.mandate.ie Design & Editing: Brazier Media E: braziermedia@btinternet.com Shopfloor is edited, produced and printed by trade union labour

INDUSTRIAL NEWS

Industrial action at Dunnes ‘may be unavoidable’

Dunnes Stores activists attend the Labour Court hearing earlier this month despite their company’s refusal to attend

By David Gibney Mandate communications officer ManDaTe Trade Union has condemned Dunnes Stores for refusing to engage meaningfully with their own workers after the company wrote to the Labour Court stating that they had no intention of meeting with their workers’ representatives. Dunnes said they will be disregarding the Labour Court recommendation, issued on november 14, which said a meeting between Mandate and Dunnes should take place within four weeks. The union pointed out that this was the fourth time in as many years the firm had displayed a dismissive attitude to the findings of the Labour Court and that in doing so had shown an entirely disrespectful attitude to its own workforce, as well as the State’s most senior industrial relations body. Mandate assistant General Secretary Gerry Light said: “The letter demonstrates the arrogance and utter lack of respect senior management have for their own workers. “Ultimately the next steps in our Decency for Dunnes Workers campaign will be decided by our members and we most certainly cannot rule out disruptive action in the near future.” Mr Light explained that despite Dunnes workers raising a number of very serious concerns and requesting a meeting, the company have written to the Court stating that

they saw “no purpose in any meeting”. Reacting to the development, Sarah Browne, a Dunnes worker from Dublin, told Shopfloor: “I’m deeply disappointed that Dunnes management continue to reject the efforts of our union and now the Labour Court to resolve our concerns. “Insecurity over working hours is a major issue for almost all Dunnes staff and we need that addressed immediately. “It leaves me and thousands of my fellow co-workers no other option than to now consider taking more serious action to have our concerns addressed.” Dunnes continue to claim there are no issues in dispute but a Dunnes worker survey completed by more than 1,200 workers shows undeniably that there are major issues that Dunnes workers want resolved. Preliminary results show more than three out of four workers are on insecure flexible hour contracts in which employees have no security in how many hours they will work, when they will work and how much they will earn each week. These contracts cause extreme hardship for Dunnes workers who, with unpredictable income and rosters, struggle to pay bills and rent and to plan family necessities such as childcare

Pictures: Mandate

John Douglas

General Secretary Mandate Trade Union

‘Insecurity over working hours is a major issue for almost all staff. We need that addressed immediately’ SHOPFLOOR

y December 2014


INDUSTRIAL NEWS

Protesting will get you nowhere!

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TeLL that to the 300,000 people who won major concessions from the water charges protests. although nobody marched for “clarity and certainty�, the hundreds of thousands of protesters who have won major concessions can be very proud of themselves. We’ve all been told that protesting will not achieve anything but the Government’s roll-back on water charges – described as one of the biggest roll-backs ever – is a significant win. The Government has been forced to: l Stop Irish Water’s access to PPS numbers; l Provide certainty to household payments; l Introduce a conservation grant; l Reverse the sanction of reducing water flow to a trickle for non-payers;

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requirements from one week to the next. Other results from the survey indicate: l 98% want more stable hours. l 85% say insecurity over hours and rostering is used as a method of control over workers. l 88% say that they are not treated with dignity and respect at work. l 98% say they want Dunnes to respect their right to trade union December 2014

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representation. Mr Light added: “The issues are undeniably clear. Our members in Dunnes Stores are clear. “For management to continue insisting there is no need to engage with the union in relation to matters of concern to its members is frankly an insult to every single staff member in the company and flies in the face of the findings of the Labour Court.

l Provide new statutory guarantees to keep water service under public control; l Delay the introduction of bills; l Increase the cap from nine months to four years; l Make the roll-out of water meters redundant in the medium-term; l Introduce new governance measures. These victories were never the real prize but they’re a start. The Right2Water campaign will continue until our real objective is achieved – the scrapping of water charges. That is why on International Human Rights Day – December 10 – we all declared that water is a human right and demanded the scrapping of unfair water charges. More info at www.right2water.ie

By David Gibney Mandate communications officer ManDaTe members cannot afford water charges. Many of our members are included in the Irish League of Credit Unions' most recent "What's Left" tracker, which showed 483,000 people surveyed have nothing left at the end of the month after paying essential bills and 1.76 million people have ₏100 or less left at the end of the month once all bills are paid. Over the past two years, approximately 90% of Mandate members have won pay increases of up to 6% – totalling more than ₏30m for 40,000 workers. However, these hard-fought-for improvements in pay have been wiped out by the Local Property Tax and now our members are expected to pay unfair and regressive water charges. That’s why in January 2014, one of our local branches drafted a motion calling for a campaign against water charges. This motion was unanimously endorsed at our Biennial Delegate Conference (BDC) in april culminating in Mandate’s involvent in the Right2Water campaign. Right2Water is a broad-based umbrella group coordinated by trade unions and supported by many leftleaning political parties and community organisations. We have one belief – that water is a human right; and one objective – that water charges should be abolished. We are told water charges are being implemented because we need better conservation, more funding for our infrastructure and we need off-balance sheet accounting prac-

tices. The problem is most people don’t believe these are the real motives. notwithstanding the fact that the new ‘regime’ is a flat charge which undermines the Government’s argument about conservation, we believe conservation should take place through the provision of grants for water-saving devices and through education, instead of dehydration. Does our water infrastructure need upgrading? Of course, but that should be paid for through the general taxation system which is progressive and fair and is based on your ability to pay. In Budget 2015, the Government gave tax concessions (â‚Ź405m according to neRI) to some of the top 17% of earners while forcing water charges on the most disadvantaged.

Expensive campaign

More than ₏500m is being spent on installing water meters, consultants, public relations experts and an expensive advertising campaign. Combined that’s a total of almost ₏1bn that could’ve been spent fixing leaks where we lose more than 40% of all treated water before it gets to our taps. That would’ve shown real conservation concern. We believe even if allowances and credits and other alleviation measures are initially granted, they will be eroded and withdrawn over time. We also believe water will eventually be privatised and turned into a forprofit industry. When you look past all of the complexities, this is about two things. How we pay for essential services (and there’s almost nothing more es-

sential to the preservation of life than water) and what type of vision we have for our society. Should we pay for water through a consumption charge which disproportionately impacts those on social welfare, those living in poverty, pensioners and those on low pay, including many Mandate members? Or should we pay for water as a collective and treat water as a public good instead of a commodity? You can have the smartest economists in the world arguing which method of paying for water is more economically viable, but the crux of the problem is this: l You cannot put a cost on the anxiety of a pensioner who’s afraid to take a second bath in a week; l You cannot put a price on a single mother’s anguish about telling her children not to flush the toilet; and l You cannot put a value on a lowpaid worker’s fear of the next water bill coming through the door when they’re already in mortgage arrears. These social impacts do not translate on to spreadsheets (they’re offbalance sheet, for want of a better phrase) so the question remains – what type of society do we want to live in? One which gives birth to a new type of poverty – water poverty – and a new set of anxieties which is confined to the poorest in our society, or one where we ask the wealthiest individuals and corporations to pay that little bit more for the common good. In Mandate we’re choosing the latter under the Right2Water banner.

THE RISEN PEOPLE PICTURES AND REPORTS PAGES 15-19

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INDUSTRIAL NEWS

Dunnes workers win Tribunal cases WORKeRS at Dunnes in Kieran Street, Killkenny, have won payment of outstanding wages in a recent decision at the employment appeals Tribunal. During the boom years, the Kilkenny store used to trade 24 hours a day but that was subsequently cut and it now trades 13 hours each day. Workers there had established shift patterns going back over many

years. In October 2010, management informed them that their working hours were to change. at the time the company were not prepared to discuss the change of hours nor give any assurances about the future. Following this, some workers refused to cooperate and continued to work their old shift pattern for a number of weeks. Two workers continued until they were suspended by the company for

three days. In its decision the tribunal awarded payment of the outstanding wages for the hours worked but did not award payment for the periods of suspension. The tribunal felt that the dispute as to the change of hours was an industrial relations issue that should have been addressed through the I.R. machinery. Mandate Divisional Officer Bill Kelly told Shopfloor: “It would appear

that even the employment appeals Tribunal is frustrated by Dunnes’ refusal to behave normally and use widely accepted avenues of resolving issues such as the Labour Relations Commission and the Labour Court. Had they done so, this issue could have been easily and quickly resolved. “Members in Dunnes are entitled to be represented by their union in the same way as other retail work-

ers.” He added: “Clearly this experience underpins the importance of why proper and meaningful engagement between the union and management at local level is so important. This is why it is one of the key demands of our current Decency for Dunnes Workers campaign.” at the time of going to print, it is not known whether Dunnes will appeal the tribunal decision to the High Court.

‘Double Irish’ tax scheme closed off by EU pressure By David Gibney Mandate communications officer THe IRISH government has bowed to pressure from the eU to close off the tax avoidance scheme popularly known as the ‘Double Irish’. However, the scheme is only to be closed to new entrants after January 1 and it will be phased out after 2020. To compensate for the closure of the tax avoidance scheme, the Government is to introduce a new scheme – called the ‘patent box’ – which is already being probed by the european Commission in nine other countries. Patent boxes are tax devices which allow countries to offer low tax rates on profits derived from intellectual property activity. Mandate General Secretary John Douglas told Shopfloor said: “This Government, as with previous governments, appears to have a very strong commitment to low taxation and tax avoidance for major multinational corporations. “It seems it’s easier to introduce sophisticated schemes of tax avoidance for the most profitable enterprises in the world. “On the flip side we introduce sophisticated and complex tax measures which are designed to ensure the lowest paid and those on social welfare pay a larger amount , while at the same time proudly stating that this Government has protected core social welfare rates.” Mandate has long argued that corporations need to pay more, whether it is in Ireland or abroad. John Douglas added: “Ireland is not the only country in crisis in europe. There are more than 20 million workers who don’t have a job. “If we were to introduce a Financial Transaction Tax or close some of the loopholes, we could have a much fairer society. That doesn’t appear to be a priority for our Government who seem hell-bent on ensuring a taxation race to the bottom across europe continues.” 4

Yes, we do!

Dan o’neill of SIptU, ImpACt’s Una Faulkner, tiernan Brady of yes equality, linda Kelly, ImpACt, Into’s teresa Walsh and laure Duggan from UnIte make a stand for marriage equality in front of the iconic statue of Jim larkin on november 17. the young trade unionists are calling on other young people to get involved in next year’s referendum campaign on civil marriage and make their voices heard. ICtU’s youth Committee is backing the yeS equality campaign for a yes vote in the referendum. Picture: Leon Farrell/Photocall Ireland SHOPFLOOR

y December 2014


GENERAL NEWS

l Homeless man’s death metres from Dail ‘national disgrace’ l Political choices to blame

A candle-lit vigil was held outside the Dail following the death of homeless man Jonathan Corrie close by

Austerity kills Pictures: Photocall Ireland

By David Gibney Mandate communications officer THe body of Jonathan Corrie, a homeless, 42-year-old father of two from Kilkenny, was found just metres from Dail eireann on December 1. Over the past six years or more, politicians inside that building made political choices that put Mr Corrie on the streets and failed him, his family and the rest of society. Cuts to homelessness services, failure to adequately invest in mental health services, a disastrous housing policy, a persistent and relentless adherence to austerity – all were political choices that no doubt played a part in Mr Corrie’s passing. In november, we heard how Conor Cribbin, a 25 year old suffering from aDHD and in need of expensive medication took his own life days after hearing his medical card had been stopped. He’d also learned a few days before that he’d been denied a college grant. Galway Coroner Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin said: “Those drugs are quite expensive and it may have been enough to create a situation he could not handle. This may be one of the consequences of austerity.” austerity has negatively impacted on almost all households in Ireland – but some more than others. The above examples are but two from the thousands upon thousands who’ve suffered in silence December 2014

y SHOPFLOOR

Flowers mark spot where Jonathan Corrie died

over the past few years. and yet politicians of all hues express sympathy, horror, grief, shock and all other emotions that can easily be jotted down on paper. actions, it seems, are much harder than expressions of emotions. Let’s examine political actions. How was the tax cut of €405m for the top 17% of earners in the recent Budget going to help out the above victims of austerity? How was the tax cut for chief executives of multinational corporations supposed to help them? How is the refusal to tax wealth or to implement real and effective corporation tax measures going to prevent these incidents from occurring again? Inequality was growing long

before the bank guarantee and the subsequent bailout. Decades of policies implemented by all political parties who entered government ensured that that income gap grew and grew with the result being that working class people experience death at a much younger age than those from a more affluent background. The Institute for Public Health (IPH) estimates that more than 5,400 preventable deaths occur every year due to income inequality. a recent report showed that people living in Blakestown in north West Dublin, a working class community, experienced cancer death rates of 381 per 100,000 compared with 128 per 100,000 in Castleknock South east, a more affluent area. That means if you live in a working class community and you’re diagnosed with cancer, you’re three times more likely to die than if you’re from a wealthy background. So much for treating all the children of the nation equally. Kathleen O’Meara from the Cancer Society explained: “In some deprived Dublin areas, there are not enough primary care resources – for instance, in north Dublin there is one GP for every 2,500 people. nationally this figure is 1:1,600. “In addition there have been increased a&e charges, long stay charges and increased prescription charges. By 2013, it has meant that every person in Ireland was on average paying about €100 in additional costs for accessing care and prescribed drugs.” This is the result of

inequality and austerity. and the result of political choices. The homelessness crisis and the mental health crisis do not exist in a vacuum. They’re the direct result of political choices where we give tax breaks to the rich and cuts to the poor. and it’s all wrapped up in a convenient blanket of, “there is no alternative”. l We can’t invest more in tackling homelessness – because that would mean taxing wealth. l We can’t tackle mental health disorders – because that will mean no tax breaks for the well off. l We can’t create a more equal and fairer society – because we’re busy bailing out speculative bondholders and refusing to write down debt. These are choices. Jonathan Corrie and Conor Cribbin’s deaths are the result of those choices, as are the tens of thousands of others who die from inequality without the attention they deserve. The unnecessary deaths of these young men should enrage you. But their deaths should not be in vain and we must focus on solutions. Closing the inequality gap and voting for political parties and individuals who advocate that position is a start. Demanding an end to austerity is another and holding politicians accountable for their failure to challenge the “there is no alternative” mantra is another.

Concerns raised over lobbying bill

THe Registration of Lobbying Bill 2014, published in June, is currently moving through the legislative process. Its purpose is to set up a webbased register of lobbying activity and deliver appropriate transparency on who is contacting whom about what. The new legislation comes on the back of findings of the Mahon Tribunal which dealt with alleged corruption in the planning process and highlighted the fact that lobbying was unregulated in Ireland. Lobbying involves interest groups making representations to politicians with the aim of influencing decisions. Industrial Officer Dave Miskell told Shopfloor: “as part of our work, Mandate engages with politicians on issues that are important to our members to try to positively influence decisions that are made by government. “While greater transparency in the political process is to be welcomed, it is also important that this new law applies equally to employers’ groups and that it does not operate in way that limits the ability of trade unions to positively influence politicians in the interests of our members. He added: “Some aspects of the Bill are concerning, particularly exemptions for organisations that have 10 or fewer members of staff as some very influential employers’ groups have small numbers of staff. “Mandate will be monitoring the progress of the legislation carefully and engaging with the department to ensure that we can continue to engage at all levels on behalf of members.”

Jailed Huber is nominated JaILeD Colombian trade unionist Huber Ballesteros, inset, has been nominated for the Silver Rose award given to those who advocate and campaign for the rights of the most vulnerable in society. The award is given by the Solidar network of european nGOs that seeks to advance the cause of social justice in europe and across the world. Huber’s name was put forward by a large number of organisations, including – among many others – ICTU, Unite, UnI, eTUC and the TUC. a TUC spokesperson said: “In a country where death threats are taken seriously, Huber was one of the most threatened trade union leaders. In spite of this he was one of those who openly led mass industrial action in Colombia in 2013 and it was shortly after this he was arrested and charged with terrorism and rebellion.”

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INDUSTRIAL NEWS

Tesco workers vote for night working proposals nIGHT WORKeRS at Tesco Ireland have voted overwhelmingly in favour of proposals designed to address company plans to review a significant number of its night-working operations across the country over the coming months. The move to review night working in 62 out of the 79 stores that have such shifts is being seen as a significant U-turn in the retailer’s thinking since it brokered a national agreement with the union in 2003. The 2003 agreement was designed initially to deal with Tesco’s plans to trade over 24 hours. However, in March 2014, following the conclusion of a national pay agreement, the company sought to re-negotiate the terms of the 2003 agreement. This agreement contained provisions for the full or partial closing of a night-shift operation. However, the company had difficulties with parts of the deal and was seeking to “modernise” it to reflect current circumstances. negotiations took place over the summer months with proposals finally agreed in October. These were subsequently put to a ballot of the 1,600 members affected.

Some 72% of the 1,350 workers who took part in the ballot voted in favour of the proposals, which contained a number of precedent-setting initiatives. Under the deal, members working in stores where the night-shift operation is earmarked for review – and potentially full or partial closure – will have a range of options available to them.

‘Agreement designed to meet the needs of members affected by company’s actions’ These include: l Redeployment to the day operation in their existing store with parameters agreed around starting and finishing times, as well as a buyout of their night-shift premium at twice the annual loss. l Rosters designed to reflect the needs of the individual as much as the needs of the company.

l Redundancy based on five weeks’ pay (based on average earnings) per year of service. l Career break with a buyout of the night-shift premium. Commenting on the agreement, Divisional Organiser Brendan O’Hanlon told Shopfloor: “The agreement is designed to try and meet the needs of the members affected by the company’s actions and provides them with jobs in their existing stores with the current average number of working hours guaranteed and this has to be welcomed. “a number of the hours these workers will be required to work will also attract an unsocial hours’ premium of time-and-a half which will help offset any loss of the night-shift premium, notwithstanding the terms attached to the buyout. “Ultimately when the company decides that a particular store’s night operation is closing, the member decides which options best suits their own circumstances.” Tesco Ireland has since started a consultation process in the 62 stores and Mandate has sought assurances that the agreement will be implemented in a consistent manner by local management.

Got a story? Email us at news@mandate.ie

Mandate donation goes to JJ Rhatigan workers on dispute mAnDAte organiser David moran and treasurer margaret o’Dwyer attended a Unite fundraising event in support of JJ Rhatigan workers earlier this month. the workers have been engaged in an official dispute since September 19. According to Unite, the dispute centres around a complex web of sub-contracting and bogus selfemployment which has resulted in workers on the company’s Kishoge Community College site in lucan 6

Dave Moran, right, during the cheque handover. He is flanked by, from left, Mandate treasurer Margaret O’Dwyer, Unite Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly and Rob Kelly

being paid less than €5 per hour. David moran – whose Dublin South-West division covers Kishoge – told Shopfloor: “that’s less than the minimum Wage – and less than a third of the agreed industry rate.” During the presentation of the cheque to the workers’ Hardship Fund on behalf of mandate, mr moran said he had drawn parallels between the zero hours contracts forced on retail workers and the web of sub-contracting in which

many construction workers are caught. He added: “the result is the same: workers have no security, and struggle to earn a living wage to support themselves and their families.” Following the presentation, paddy Redmond, the Unite shop steward at the Kishoge site, said that the solidarity shown by members of mandate and other unions had heartened the workers as they continued their fight for decent work and a living wage.

SHOPFLOOR

y December 2014


GENERAL NEWS l Glanbia’s billion euro transfer claim l OECD report puts Luxembourg total at $1.9 trillion

World needs a wage rise a LeaDInG trade unionist has claimed that “wage-led growth” is the only way the world can exit the economic crisis. UnI General Secretary Philip Jennings made the comments during a speech at the L20 Summit in Brisbane, australia, last month. The L20 Summit, which unites trade unions from G2o countries as well as Global Unions, coincided with the november 14/15 G20 Summit in the city, attended by the politicians from the world’s most powerful economies. Leaders of the IMF, the World Bank, OeCD and ILO listened as Mr Jennings told delegates: “The workers of the world – from Brisbane to Bentonville to Bangladesh – need a pay rise. “Inequality is the number one threat to the global economy and if we are to fight off flat-lining economies and fend off deflation, then wage-led growth is the only solution.” addressing his comments to a number of well-known global employers, he warned: “Your poverty wages and Dickensian working conditions are some of the root causes of the human and financial crises that plague our planet today. The boom and bust boomerang economic model will come back to hurt you. Workers are no longer prepared to take it.”

PwC documents reveal Luxembourg tax scheme By David Gibney Mandate communications officer MULTInaTIOnaL Glanbia transferred more than €1bn into Luxembourg-based companies with no employees as a way of cutting its Irish tax bill, it has been claimed. It comes after 28,000 pages of documents from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) detailing so-called advanced Tax agreements (or aTas) between tax authorities in Luxembourg and companies were made public. There is no suggestion there is anything illegal about the transactions in the PwC documents. according to reports, the material reveals how foreign multinationals use Ireland as part of Luxembourgbased structures to reduce their corporation tax bills in the Republic and elsewhere. aTas include cross-border interest costs that can be charged against tax outside the tiny european state but which incur very little tax charges in Luxembourg. More than 340 compa-

The leak will ramp up the pressure on the administration in Luxembourg as national governments target global tax avoidance, pressure which recently saw the Irish government remove the 'Double Irish' tax loophole.

Global tax

The Organisation for economic Cooperation and Development (OeCD) noted in a recent report on global tax change that $1.9 trillion went into Luxembourg’s special-purpose entities – companies that often have few, if any, employees – as part of global financing and tax planning structures. according to experts, most of the money came straight back out again.

nies are referred to in the leaked papers, including Pepsi, Ikea and Fedex. It is claimed the documents reveals how foreign multinationals use Ire-

Picture: European Parliament (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

land as part of Luxembourg-based structures to reduce the amount of corporation tax they pay here and elsewhere.

It has also been claimed that Luxembourg’s tax avoidance industry was developed when new european Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was Luxembourg’s finance minister and then PM.

Study ‘first step towards tackling insecure work’ ManDaTe has welcomed Minister Ged nash’s announced investigation into zero hour and low hour contracts, which have grown exponentially in recent years. according to the union, while there is an undoubted growth in zero hour contracts, low hour contracts are fast becoming the norm in many sectors of the economy – with very detrimental impacts on workers. General Secretary John Douglas said: “There are thousands of workers in the retail sector alone who experience low hour contracts and are

living hand to mouth. We know this type of contract is being used as a control and disciplinary mechanism over workers, with managers allocating hours arbitrarily. “a worker may be on a 15-hour contract but will regularly work 40 hours a week. If the worker makes a complaint or steps out of line, their employer can cut them down to the bare minimum removing their ability to earn a living and pay their bills. This is completely unacceptable and must be tackled. “While this investigation into zero

ing hugeofinsecurity hour and low hour contracts is to be Presentation cheque to in relation to their earnings.” welcomed, it has to be in the context Greyhound workers He added: “as it stands, this investithat it’s a first step. We need to expand the parameters of the investiga- gation does not take into account workers in Dunnes Stores, Lidl, aldi tion beyond the eight hours and and many more major employers legislate to ensure workers are prowhere staff are given 10 and 15 hour tected from unscrupulous employers contracts. Many of these members of under the false premise of ‘flexibilstaff feel they are on low hour, preity’.” carious contracts of employment but Mr Douglas, who is also President will not be taken into account when of Congress, pointed out that thouthis investigation is completed. sands of Mandate members on 15Mr Douglas said Mandate was lookhour contracts would consider that they had “precarious contracts of em- ing forward to engaging in the study on behalf of its 45,000 members. ployment” and were thus “experienc-

Ged Nash: contracts probe announced

ICTU: restore wage setting mechanisms call

December 2014

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THe Irish Congress of Trade Unions has called for the restoration of wage-setting mechanisms in key sectors of the economy such as construction, in order to halt the race to the bottom in wages and standards and to restore some protection for workers’ livelihoods. Congress vice-President Patricia King, left made the call in an address to the Joint Committee on Jobs, enterprise & Innovation on november 11. Ms King, who was speaking about the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill 2014, said: “We

need to bring back some balance for workers in key sectors through the restoration of wagesetting mechanisms. In areas such as construction, the absence of these mechanisms has seen wages and standards undermined in a race to the bottom. “Restoration of these mechanisms in sectors where they previously applied would help address this problem and provide some certainty and protection in relation to peoples’ livelihoods,” she added. Check out full Congress submission at: http://bit.ly/1xI0xG3

7


GENERAL NEWS

l Tesco shop steward victim of 7am attack l Management should act to reduce risk to staff

STABBED ON THE WAY TO WORK

Ordeal:Tesco shop steward Dessie Finnegan

neC member attacked on way to work ManDaTe national executive member and Tesco worker Dessie Finnegan was attacked by a gang and stabbed with a screwdriver on his way into work last month. Mr Finnegan, who is a Mandate shop steward in Tesco, Dundalk, was walking to work to begin his 7am shift when he was confronted by a man with a screwdriver who demanded his wallet. as Mr Finnegan was attempting to remove his coat to access his wallet, he noticed two more men behind him. He was kicked to the ground where one of the men kneeled on his chest and the others went through his pockets. He suffered a stab wound to his face below his right eye and another under his chin. His attackers made off with his wallet and his rucksack which contained only a pair of shoes. Mr Finnegan explained: “It was a Wednesday morning and I was walking

the same route to work that I’ve taken for 30 years when it happened. “I called the Gardai and they were terrific. In fact, they’re still checking in on me to make sure that I’m OK. everyone in work has been great support too with management and staff holding a collection for me.” Mr Finnegan explained how he has been traumatised but refuses to let his attackers get the better of him. He told Shopfloor: “They stole what was in my wallet but they’re not gonna steal my confidence. I was scheduled to do a charity fashion show for Temple Street Children’s Hospital soon after the attack, and when the guys rang to see if I was still interested in participating, I just asked if they wanted me to model sunglasses or rugby gear.” He added: “I’m now getting a taxi to work every morning and it’s costing me an awful lot but it’s not worth the risk. I’m lucky I have an employer who’s caring and has shown understanding but I

think all retailers need to take responsibility for their staff when they’re scheduled on early shifts or late ones.” Mandate assistant General Secretary Gerry Light Gerry Light: dangers said: “The Tesco that Dessie works in has ample car parking facilities and a management structure that understands the risks associated with early morning starts and late finishes. “With cuts to Garda resources all over the country and with growing crime and poverty levels, it is becoming increasingly dangerous for workers who are working anti-social hours. “all employers need to be conscious of the risks and do whatever they can to reduce those risks and protect their staff,” he added.

Brendan, second from left, with Madiba and sons Dylan, Michael and wife Rosaleen during their family visit to South Africa in 2008

Mandate deeply saddened by passing of Brendan Archbold mAnDAte has extended condolences to the family, friends and comrades of former mandate and IDAtU official Brendan Archbold who died on thursday, november 27 . Brendan was a tremendous advocate for workers’ rights both in Ireland and internationally and was one of the key leaders in the Dunnes Stores Anti-Apartheid strike during the 1980s. He was also a vocal supporter of the pales8

tinian people and a long-standing member of the Irish Congress of trade Union’s Global Solidarity Committee. His class awareness knew no bounds, in Ireland or abroad. General Secretary John Douglas said: “Brendan was a formidable trade union official and an exceptionally intelligent individual who brought huge energy to the trade union movement. He will be very sadly missed by all but his legacy,

particularly within mandate, will live on and we can look back in admiration at all of his achievements.” He added: “less than 12 months ago Brendan attended the funeral of nelson mandela in South Africa, having played a significant role in Ireland’s fight against the apartheid regime that mandela was also fighting. “While it is sad that both are now at rest, we can be thankful for the

time we had with them and the energy they both brought to the working class movement, and we should all endeavour to continue that battle ourselves.” l When nelson mandela died nearly a year ago, Brendan had this to say: “If the legacy of this great man means anything to us, we must redouble our efforts to promote the human rights agenda that was at the heart of everything he stood for. Solidarity is the cornerstone of

trade unionism. that is what mandela recognised in the Dunnes Stores strikers. “Both he and they have set the bar at a very high level so let us not delay. there is work to be done. Farewell Comrade madiba. We’ll miss you”. And as was later said during Brendan’s own funeral: “Brendan was privileged to meet madiba and Desmond tutu – but they were equally privileged to meet him." SHOPFLOOR

y December 2014


INDUSTRIAL NEWS

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

Tesco sick pay issue goes back to Labour Court TeSCO Ireland has referred the issue of a company-wide standardised sick pay scheme back to the Labour Court. This follows the collapse of negotiations that came after a recent Labour Court recommendation (LCR 20808) as reported in the September edition of Shopfloor. In July 2014, the Labour Court issued a recommendation following a referral by both Mandate and SIPTU earlier in the year resulting from the company’s decision to deduct social welfare from members’ sick pay for the 4th, 5th and 6th day of any absence period. This was despite the fact they had not received any such payments from the Department of Social Protection due to changes introduced in the 2013 Budget which came into effect on January 6, 2014. The Court ruled in the unions’ favour and found that Tesco were in breach of the collective agreements and that the company should repay all monies deducted. The Court further recommended that the “parties engage with a view to reaching agreement” on the issue of a standardised sick pay scheme. Before the onset of talks, the unions sought confirmation that all outstanding monies due to the affected members would be paid. The company has stated that all payments were to be made by the end of november 2014. In the event, negotiations ended in December 2014

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October after only two meetings. It followed the absolute rejection of a set of proposals that had been tabled by the company. Divisional Organiser Brendan O’Hanlon described what had been put forward as “probably the most regressive set of proposals ever tabled by an extremely profitable employer the unions’ side had ever seen”. There are currently 26 sick pay schemes operating in Tesco’s 147 stores, with the vast majority of staff being covered by the eight weeks scheme with the first three days being unpaid. The company has complained that the administration of so many arrangements is extremely costly.

‘Inferior scheme’

But, according to Mr O’Hanlon, this provided Tesco with “all the more reason to approach the discussions in a manner which gave some reasonable possibility of a successful outcome”. He continued: “not only did the company propose an inferior scheme to those currently in existence, their proposal in itself contained sub schemes, contradicting the very argument it relied upon during the Labour Court hearing. “Given this totally unreasonable proposition, we had no alternative but to reject the company’s position.” The matter has been referred back to the Labour Court and a hearing is scheduled for January 13.

Course content: • Background to Mandate. • The role and responsibilities of a Shop Steward/Union Representative. • Examining disciplinary/grievance procedures. • Developing negotiating skills. • Representing members at local level. • Communication skills/solving members’ problems. • Organising, Recruitment and Campaigns. • Induction presentations. Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this course will obtain a Mandate certificate. They may progress to a Union Representative Advanced Course and to other relevant training courses offered by Mandate. If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: mandateotc@mandate.ie

Word Processing FETAC Level 5 This training course is designed for YOU Places are limited and are allocated on a first come first served basis WHAT YOU WILL LEARN: • Word processing common uses for example: document formatting, graphics tables and mail merge • Create documents applying a range of processing features • Use proofing tools such as spell check, thesaurus and search/ replace • Learn File Management facilities Starting: Tuesday 13th January 2015 Time: 6.30- 9.30 pm

Venue: Mandate’s Training Centre, Distillery Road, Dublin 3

Contact: Mandate’s Training Centre, Phone 01-8369699 By: Monday 22nd December 2014 Training is free to Mandate members but courses are also open to Mandate members who are currently unemployed 9


MAKE SPACE FOR OXFAM OUR SHOPS REALLY NEED YOUR UNWANTED CLOTHES, BOOKS, AND HOMEWARES. YOUR DONATIONS MAKE A REAL DIFFERENCE TO FIGHTING POVERTY.

WWW.OXFAMIRELAND.ORG 10

TRAINING

Mandate members from Tesco Oranmore who are taking a 12-week Communications course. Pictured back: Breda Kealy, Trish Kelly, Anne Byrne, Mary O'Shea, Lynn Holland, Cathy Campion; front: Shane Brennan, Catherine Spaight and Geraldine Maloney

We found course hugely beneficial aS MeMBeRS of Mandate in Tesco Oranmore, we took part in a Fetac Level 5 Communications Course. The 12-week course which commenced in September was held at the Maldron Hotel, Oranmore, on Wednesday evenings. We explored various communications skills and discovered the difference they make in dealing with people on a daily basis. The areas covered included written, oral and verbal skills in the form of letter writing, discussion, dialogue, presentations, public speaking and the use of modern technology. The main reason we decided to do this course was to develop our own communication skills professionally and personally. The most important

thing we learned is that communication isn’t just about what we say, it’s also about how we say it, our tone of voice and our body language. These methods make a huge difference between what is perceived as good or bad communication. an equally important part of communication is that a message must be conveyed in a way that is clearly understood by those receiving it. We thoroughly enjoyed the way this course was presented. We found this to be hugely beneficial, practical, enjoyable and informative. We hope to be ˜more confident in speaking and corresponding at the end of the course. We would not hesitate in recom-

mending this course to other Mandate members. Following this Mandate training course, it is planned to be more actively engaged with Mandate Trade Union in order to have members better represented in their workplace. after completing this course, we see ourselves availing of other Mandate courses and encourage other Mandate members to do the same. It was also great spending time with colleagues outside of the workplace. trish Kelly, Cathy Campion, Breda Kealy, Catherine Spaight, Shane Brennan, Geraldine moloney, lynn Holland, mary o’Shea and Anne Byrne

Participants proudly show off their certificates after completing a Union Representative Introductory course in Cork in late September SHOPFLOOR

y December 2014


TRAINING

Mandate offers new opportunities for learning in 2015 THe training programme set out below has shop stewards courses scheduled in various locations across the country at different times of the year. This will allow shop stewards to avail of training which will give them the skills to professionally represent members in their workplaces and also will assist shop stewards to fully engage with their union. a list of all of Mandate courses is available on the Mandate

website www.mandate.ie. new evening courses have been designed which we hope members will find appealing. There is a big focus on social media training as members have identified their interest in this area and want to know more about how they can interact in the usage of Facebook, Twitter, etc. The Communication and Social media course starting in January in the Mandate Training Centre will include a topic title ‘What

young people are using social media for’. This section of the course will assist parents understand social media in today’s world. The Word processing Fetac level 5 course, which is also commencing in January, is a follow-on course for members who have completed the Fetac level 4 computer course. The personal and professional Development (CppD) course will build your skills to help you progress your personal and profes-

sional development. an element of this course will also help you understand social media plus the political and economic landscape of trade unions. I would like to encourage members to participate in Mandate’s training courses and wish to take this opportunity to wish all a Happy Christmas and good wishes for 2015. Aileen morrissey National Coordinator of Training and Development

Mandate Shop Stewards Training Programme 2015 Course Title

Course Dates

Duration

Location

Union Representative Introductory

January 19, 20, 21

3 days

OTC* Dublin

Union Rep Fetac 5 Advanced Tesco Specific

January 26, 27, 28

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Advanced Senior

February 2, 3, 4

3 days

OTC Dublin

February 9, 10, 11

3 days

Galway

Union Representative Fetac 5 Advanced

February 23, 24, 25

3 days

Cork

Union Representative Advanced Senior

March 2, 3, 4

3 days

Sligo

Safety Reps Fetac 5

March 9,10,11,12,13

5 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Introductory

March 23, 24, 25

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Fetac 5 Advanced

April 13, 14, 15

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Advanced Senior

April 20, 21, 22

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Introductory

April 27, 28, 29

3 days

Limerick

Union Representative Fetac 5 Advanced

May 11, 12, 13

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Advanced Senior

May 18, 19, 20

3 days

OTC Dublin

June 8, 9, 10

3 days

Waterford

Union Representative Advanced Senior

June 15, 16, 17

3 days

Kerry

Union Representative Introductory

June 22, 23, 24

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Fetac 5 Advanced

September 7, 8, 9

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Rep Introductory Tesco Specific

September 21, 22, 23

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Introductory

September 28, 29, 30

3 days

Cork

Safety Reps Fetac 5

October 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

5 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Advanced Senior

October 12,13, 14

3 days

Limerick

Union Representative Fetac 5 Advanced

October 19, 20, 21

3 days

Portlaoise

Union Representative Introductory

November 2, 3, 4,

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Advanced Senior

November 9, 10, 11

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Fetac 5 Advanced

November 16,17,18

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Introductory

Union Representative Introductory

December 2014

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SHOPFLOOR

*OTC = Mandate Organising and Training Centre / *TBC = To be confirmed

Venue dates and times may vary. 11


TRAINING

Members who took part in a Union Representative Advanced Senior course in the Training Centre in early November. The course was delivered by Trademark’s Mel Corry and Stevie Nolan, pictured back row second and third from left

More smiles from members after they completed a Union Representative Introductory Course in the OTC in November

Media training course was a real eye-opener By John O’Donnell National Executive Council, Southern Division I ReCenTLY attended the Media Training course held in the Training Centre. I have to admit that before I attended the course I thought that I was going to find it daunting. Frankly the thought of facing the media, through radio or TV interviews was terrifying. Pleasantly I now know that this is the complete opposite. This training course is fantastic. It takes you step by step through everything you need to know about dealing with the media. From the dos and don'ts while doing an interview, how to prepare for an

interview, all the way up to doing the interview itself. a very interesting thing I learned during the course is how some people have different comfort levels while doing TV and radio interviews. Some people may strive at one aspect, while they may not be as confident or as comfortable at the other. This course also helps to push you to a level you that might not think you are comfortable at and helps you get to another level of confidence within yourself. I would strongly recommend this course to all activists as it fully prepares

you and helps you deal with the nervousness of dealing with the media, in a way I personally could never have imagined. I know that after doing this training course, I now have the confidence and improved ability to deal with the media. This is vital due to the current state of the economy as well as the industrial relations climate we live in. Obviously there will always be a preference for officials to speak to the media, but at the same time we should all have the ability and confidence to do so, if needed. This course could help you achieve this ability and confidence.

Safety Representation for Elected Reps FETAC Level 5 Topic covered on course: • Health and Safety Legislation

• Occupational health

• Role of Health and Safety

• Identification of hazards

• Safety statements

• Accident investigation

Representative

• Role of Health & Safety Authority

and risk assessment

• Fire safety

RIGHT: Placard reads ‘Brazil first place in corruption’

Safe firs ty t wor at k! 12

Pictures: Ben Tavener (CC BY 2.0) Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this course receive a FETAC Level 5 component award certificate and may progress to other courses offered by Mandate. If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: mandateotc@mandate.ie

Mary’s Meals provides a life-changing meal to hungry children every school day. /marysmeals /mar ysmeals

find us on:

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y December 2014


AGENDA EQUALITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS

New start after years of reverses and drift IN MY VIEW...

By Niall Crowley Claiming Our Future IT was nearly six years ago that the statutory equality and human rights infrastructure was effectively dismantled with budget cuts of 43% to the equality authority and 33% to the Irish Human Rights Commission. These have been years of reversal and stagnation for human rights and equality. now a new start is promised – the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act has been enacted and the new Commission is officially up and running. The new Commission needs to go beyond a silo-based approach to equality and human rights. It should find new concepts and new ways of advancing equality and human rights that can realise the potential in the merger of the two former bodies. Decent work, promoted by the International Labour Organisation of the Un, could usefully be one such concept. Decent work can integrate a concern for equality and human rights and focus attention on the workplace, where equality and human rights have suffered reversals over the crisis. The ILO has established and defined four components for the decent work agenda: l Creating jobs – to develop an economy that generates opportunities for investment, entrepreneurship, skills development, job creation and sustainable livelihoods. l Guaranteeing rights at work – to obtain recognition and respect for the rights of workers. all workers,

and in particular disadvantaged workers, need representation, participation, and laws that work for their interests. l extending social protection – to promote both inclusion and productivity by ensuring that women and men enjoy working conditions that are safe, allow adequate free time and rest, take into account family and social values, provide for adequate compensation in case of loss or reduced income, and permit access to adequate healthcare. l Promoting social dialogue – to involve strong and independent workers’ and employers’ organisations as a means of increasing productivity, avoiding disputes at work and building cohesive societies.

Systematic

The promotion of those parts of the decent work agenda that fall within its very broad remit by the new Commission should integrate human rights and equality. The former equality authority developed supports for a planned and systematic approach to equality in workplaces. This covered the grounds of gender, civil status, family status, age, sexual orientation, disability, race, religion and membership of the Traveller community. It would now be expanded to cover the ground of socio-economic status with the inclusion of a human rights focus. a planned and systematic approach to equality involves companies in: l Putting equality policies in place that set a standard for their operations in employment, service provision and procurement.

l Training staff in the awareness, knowledge and skills required in implementing the equality policy of the company. l Reviewing current operations of the company as an employer, service providers and procurer of goods and services for their impact on equality and setting out an equality action plan to enhance this impact. l assigning responsibility for equality within the company. The equality authority published templates to guide companies in developing equality policies and providing equality and diversity training. This work provides a starting point for new templates that would include the socio-economic status ground alongside a focus on addressing human rights issues. The Centre for Human Rights in nUI Galway has identified that business and human rights remains underexplored in Ireland. It recommended that guidance should be given to business on the requirements of human rights due diligence, which should be a mandatory requirement. It also recommended that the Government should require human rights compliance and reporting by business for access to public procurement contracts, state investment or listing on the Irish Stock exchange. In this way, enterprises should make a policy commitment to respect human rights, incorporate human rights due diligence in their operations, make compliance with human rights a contractual requirement for suppliers and provide remediation in the event of human rights breaches.

Picture: Nina Matthews Photography (CC BY 2.0)

Decen t Wor k...

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

Course content

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

December 2014

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13


Gerry Light VIEW

from the

SHOPFLOOR Assistant General Secretary Mandate Trade Union

GENERAL NEWS

Ireland’s tax net must be spread beyond incomes THE ongoing debate about how the Government gathers and distributes tax revenue has been brought into sharp focus since the announcement of Budget 2015 and the public debate which has surrounded the Irish Water debacle and, in particular, the attempts to counter the indisputable success of the Right2Water campaign. It is alarming to observe the attempts by the majority of those supporting Irish Water to crudely scaremonger by suggesting that any successes achieved now in defeating the regressive water charges would ultimately be paid by workers through the imposition of additional income taxes in the future. The adoption of this overly simplistic and convenient argument affords, not only in the context of the debate about water, but in general terms, an opportunity to critically analyse the current tax collection model and ask the question as to whether opportunities exist to spread the burden of payment beyond the easy go-to option, which is workers and their dependents. In many ways what is happening in case of Irish Water is a repetition of the well-used taxation model which was maintained in Minister noonan’s latest budget pronouncements in that low tax is favoured at the expense of meaningful investment in public services. For obvious reasons many workers are attracted to this approach failing to see the long-term and broader implications. equally, workers see the appeal in the general war cry of taxing the wealthy. While the sentiments behind such a declaration are laudable, sometimes they are advanced in a manner which is overly simplistic that allows for it to be easily diminished as a concept. Therefore, we much advance the debate in a detailed and structured way and offer a broad range of credible suggestions as to how this might be achieved in order to advance the cause of the common good and of society

14

as a whole. a call for tax increases must not be automatically resisted as long as the sources of additional and future tax revenues are directed away from the income of ordinary workers and focused elsewhere. Those who seek to maintain the status quo in an effort to protect already-wealthy vested interests would have us believe that our options to expand the tax net are not only limited but if pursued would result in an impediment to economic growth and stability. Of course these views are both untrue and not founded on any credible evidence – instead, their primary objective is to stifle any constructive debate on the issue and, in turn, to prevent meaningful change taking place. The following represents just a small selection of options available to the current government if they wanted to create a more expansive and progressive tax regime. all that is lacking is the will and political bravery to pursue them: 1. Increase the rate of Corporation Tax or, at the very least, ensure that we achieve an effective rate which is closer to the actual current rate of 12.5%. 2. Impose a tax on financial transactions and ensure that the movement of capital from one country to another for the sole purpose of tax evasion is significantly curtailed. 3. Remove tax avoidance and excemption schemes for wealthy individuals. 4. Increase Capital Gains Tax. This would have the additional benefit of reducing speculative property investments and the potential of another property bubble. 5. Increase consumption taxes on luxury goods while at the same time reducing the standard rate of VAT as this would benefit low-income households. as already stated, these are only a few options but many more exist. The scale of the recent public backlash against the Government’s efforts to introduce unfair and unaffordable water charges must serve to convince them that there is no further scope to impose additional tax burdens on workers’ incomes either now or in the future. Central to any concept of fairness and justice in society is a requirement that we share and spread in a proportionate way the financial contributions made by the various players who are active and depend on the society in question for their very existence. The message on the streets in the past number of weeks is there is a rapidly decreasing tolerance for the rising tax and general social inequality which is now apparent. The Government ignores the people at its peril and there is no doubt that if they choose to do so this administration will pay the ultimate political price. We can only hope that in their frantic efforts to protect their political skins, they do not destroy and inflict irreparable damage to the fabric of the unique cultural and social norms that as a fair-minded people we are so rightly proud of.

Mandate shop steward Mary, centre, receives flowers to mark 40 years of service

40 years on the shop floor! TeSCO supermarket worker Mary O’Donnell, a veteran member of Mandate, has marked 40 years working at the same store in Dundalk. Mary began working in the old Dundalk Shopping Centre in november 1974. and she has been around long enough to see the store change from Quinnsworth, to CrazyPrices, back to Quinnsworth before being taken over by Tesco. She is the longest serving member of staff and along with her friend and colleague Patricia McGuinness – who joined the

staff in 1979 – had the honour of cutting the ribbon when the new Tesco opened earlier this year. Mary, who has been a Mandate shop steward for many years, now works in the new pharmacy department and is enjoying the experience of being involved in a different sort of retail. She told a local newspaper: “I’ve had great times here. I enjoy meeting the customers and I used to be on the checkout a lot so I got to know lots and lots of people.”

SHOPFLOOR

y December 2014


WATER CHARGES

VIEWPOINT

The people are rising! By David Gibney Mandate communications officer THeRe’S a change in the air – or, more appropriately, in the water. The people of Ireland have, it seems, experienced the potential behind their own power… and they like it. again on December 10 our citizens gathered in unified opposition to what has become the symbol of all that is wrong with our political, economic and social system – water charges. Many commentators say this isn’t just about water. and they’re probably right. People have had enough of austerity, cronyism and the failed Irish version of capitalism for the poor and socialism for the rich that is consistently meted out to us. after six years of relentless austerity, when hundreds of thousands of lives have been made miserable in order to pay off an odious bank debt heaped on Irish people by bankers and politicians, and after 70 years of civil war politics, where we flip from one civil war political party to another, the water protests have the potential to reshape how society is run – and, by heavens, has it scared those who run Leinster House.

Major shift

Just over 20 years ago, the combined vote of Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Labour Party was 83%. Ten years before that, it stood at 94%. Today that figure stands at 48%. One of the key reasons for this shift is that people are becoming informed and educated about the political system and the political choices of all parties. Water charges are a crystal ball with which we can see inside the political spectrum and identify the vision of Irish political parties. While most Irish people believe that water is a human right and that it should not be charged for through a consumption charge impacting most on the lowest paid; the established political parties can see no problem with commodifying the thing that keeps us all alive. This disconnect between political parties and our citizens has long been there but it’s been difficult to identify because of a perceived lack of alternatives. Sure, over the past six years, the “there is no alternative (TIna)” mantra has been used as a stick to beat us all with.

austerity. The Irish people will pay almost €9 billion this year in interest payments for that odious bank debt. Imagine what we could do with that money – it’s TWICe the entire education budget for the year. It’s more than 30 TIMeS what the entire country is expected to pay for water charges in 2015. and it’s only the interest. Yet our political leaders, including our Taoiseach, pride themselves on not asking for a debt write-down, stating “We have paid our way and will pay our way”. Well, the people don’t want to pay their way if it means we’re paying for very wealthy speculative gamblers who lost on a very significant bet. The potential provided by the Right2Water campaign is significant.

Sacrifical lambs

The Right2Water campaign has helped to provide what could be an alternative where for the first time in a long time, trade unions, political parties of the broad left, independent representatives and community groups have come together under the one banner in a bid to utilise our collective power and defeat these water charges. Social media and traditional community or-

boost to public morale since David O’Leary slotted home that penalty against Romania in 1990. and on november 1, we saw over 200,000 people attend 106 local demos proving that this was no once-off and that resistance to the charges was to be felt in every corner of the country. There was a feeling of confidence and of togetherness on both days. a real sense of

Despite the lack of mainstream media attention, more than 100,000 people took to the streets in the biggest boost to public morale since David O’Leary slotted home that penalty against Romania in 1990 ganising has been key. ahead of the first Right2Water demonstration on October 11, not one newspaper ran a story about the protest and not one broadcast outlet mentioned it. Despite the lack of mainstream media attention, more than 100,000 people took to the streets in what turned out to be the biggest

solidarity. Some protesters held signs saying they couldn’t pay again for their water while others said they wouldn’t. More stated they were against privatisation and many just said they’d had enough of paying for other people’s mistakes – clearly identifying bank debt as the reason for the implementation of this round of

The ‘Left’ is notorious for being fragmented and not being prepared to work together. The people who pay for that lack of pragmatism and that inability to work together are ultimately working class people who time and time again are the sacrificial lambs at the altar of neo-liberal capitalism. It’s up to all of those involved in the Right2Water campaign to ensure we remain unified and to achieve a successful outcome where we abolish unfair and regressive water charges. We may have differences of opinions but a win for the people is so important and would be a massive boost to our collective morale. But we also have a responsibility to examine whether Right2Water can serve as a framework for future collaborative work. Why shouldn’t the Right2Water campaign morph into the Right2Housing campaign or the Right2aUnion campaign after we win this one? If working together, with a few minor concessions given by everyone, can achieve a more equal, fairer society, then it’s our obligation and responsibility to examine this potential. The success of Right2Water has been largely through the sum of its parts and an educated and mobilised citizenry. This politicisation of the electorate must be nurtured and encouraged and Mandate must play its part in that.

SKILLS FOR WORK

City of Dublin Education and Training Board

Interested in doing a Communications course?

Do you have a desire to improve your communications skills, but never got around to it?

Communication skills Starting from scratch this course helps you to improve your communications skills. Mandate Trade Union in conjunction with Skills for Work are offering members the opportunity to attend training. The courses are to encourage members back into learning and training while aiming towards a FETAC level 3 Award.

If you are interested in attending this training contact:

Mandate Training Centre, Distillery House, Distillery Road, Dublin 3 Phone: 01-8369699 Email: mandateotc@mandate.ie 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. December 2014

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WATER CHARGES

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PICTURE SPECIAL

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December 2014

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WATER CHARGES

ANALYSIS

Funding this essential service a DIFFICULTY about writing on the topic of water charges and related matters is that what one writes on Friday may be out of date on Monday. In the course of 2014, we have seen many twists and turns on the road to where matters stand today. and it would seem that the last word has not yet been spoken on this issue. However, there is near universal agreement on the following principles: l access to clean water is a human right; l It costs to procure and deliver clean water; and l Water infrastructure in Ireland is not in good condition and a major programme of investment is needed. So far so good. Where differences arise is on how costs are borne – by whom, how and by how much. Up to now, most households paid for water through general taxation (or local taxation before domestic rates were abolished in 1978). a minority of households paid for water obtained from private ‘group schemes’ or standalone sources. The current Government as well as the previous one is intent on introducing a country-wide scheme for households to pay directly for water. Usually, such arrangements in other countries entail payment on the basis of usage with allowances based on household circumstances or socioeconomic conditions of a household.

Intolerable burden

The problem for many people is that the introduction of a water charge is an intolerable financial burden when family budgets are already tightly very squeezed. add to this the uncertainty about how much is to be paid and when. The Government statement on november 19 established some degree of certainty for the coming three to four years. However, there is no certainty about the long-term level of costs. Moreover, for most people, the scale of the charge proposed in 2015 is not hugely different to what was already indicated prior to november 19. Overall, the Government expects that, at most, around €270 million will be raised from households next year (including the ‘conservation grant’ element) compared to just over €300 million previously. To the extent that some households will not pay the figure will be lower. However, offsetting these amounts is a range of measures. Up to november 19, the plan was to grant households a tax relief/welfare, fuel allowance package of around €100 million. This is now replaced by a flat €100 grant for ‘conservation’. The total net contribution by households could, therefore, be closer to €130 million or even lower if private group schemes are taken into account. While some households would be significantly better off under the re18

vised arrangements (e.g. households with adult children living at home), it is not clear that the revised payment plan represents a huge difference for most households compared to what was on offer before november 19. However, the overall picture is that most households will be required to pay between €60 and €160 per annum after receipt of the ‘conservation grant’ of €100 (they will be billed €160 or €260 but will get a rebate of €100 called a conservation grant). The time lag between when bills are due and the receipt of the conservation grant is a matter of concern especially in households surviving from week to week with little or no cash left over before wages or social/pension payments are received. Leaving aside the possibility of paying a slightly lower bill because of water conservation, the outcome is essentially a home tax or a ‘poll tax’. The single millionaire pays €60 and the single parent pays €60. The millionaire household pays €160 and the household with unemployed adults pays €160. That’s what is called a regressive tax or charge.

By Tom Healy

Seeking to improve living standards through tax cuts is incompatible with the goal of maintaining high quality public services free at the point of use There is a strong unease that with the ‘commodification’ of water (measuring the use of water and charging on the basis of water use) is a doorway to privatisation. The installation of water meters and their proposed use to enable households to cut their annual bill by cutting down on water consumption establishes a vital principle, namely, that water is a commodity and is paid for by the ‘consumer’ to a commercial enterprise which, for now, is publicly owned. a referendum, if it were held and if it were carried, could help to copperfasten public ownership provided it does not cut across some eU rules on competition or some secret international trade agreement rules. So, the difference in view is between, on the one hand, those who support, in principle, water charges for domestic household and, on the other hand, those who believe water should be provided by public agencies and funded out ,of general taxation. Once meters are installed and in the ground the principle is established! even if households were not to be charged for water except be-

water on the basis of use or charging for water through taxes or levies? The choice is political and depends on a range of factors. While water as a service is not completely comparable to education or health services, there is a parallel. Some might question why education and health should be ‘free’ especially for those who are well off and could pay for these services. Moreover, it is argued, charging for education and health cuts down on waste. The counter-argument is that a universal ‘free’ provision of education, health (and water) paid for out of a progressive and fair taxation system is the most efficient, fairest and effective way. Whatever the outcome of the current debate on water, it is clear that the matter is far from resolved and many households and trade unionists will continue to campaign against charges. Would a taxation-funded water service as distinct from a chargebased approach place a big burden on government finances? The net difference is closer to €500 million (and not €800 million as sometimes claimed by commentators). There is a technical issue about whether Irish Water will continue to be ‘on-the-books’ or ‘off-the-books’. eurostat, the official statistical agency of the european Union will rule on that next year.

Balance tipped

Pictures: Error Tribune (CC BY-SA 2.0); waldopepper (CC BY-NC 2.0)

yond some very high threshold (say half a million litres of water a year per household), the principle has been established. Once established, the principle facilitates increases in charges to households (and other consumers of

water such as enterprises, schools, hospitals, etc). This is not only possible but likely in the long run as the cost of supplying water and investing in infrastructure will be under severe upward pressure. Which way is best – charging for

Currently, the situation is far from clear. If, for example, eurostat were not to allow the ‘conservation grant’ as ‘off-the-books’, then it is likely that the balance would be tipped in the direction of ‘on-the-books’. The net impact on the deficit would be that money which is currently planned as ‘off-the-books’ – mainly capital spending of a few hundred million a year. That’s a lot of money especially as the Government finances are still in the red with a deficit of around 2.5% of GDP next year. However, at a cost of €400 million per year, Budget 2015 cut the top income tax rate and raised the threshold at which it is paid by €1,000. This sum could pay for most of the cost of water services to households. Funding investment in the infrastructure would require substantially more to be raised through the tax system or through commercial borrowing. Put simply, there is a choice between tax cuts with a greater reliance on direct charges, or a public provision of essential services, but with no further moves to erode the tax base. Seeking to improve living standards through tax cuts is incompatible with the goal of maintaining high quality public services that are free at the point of use. This is the case with health and education, just as it is with water services. Paying for water through the tax system would involve fewer headaches, uncertainty and muddling through.

Tom Healy is Director of the Nevin Economic Research Institute SHOPFLOOR

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WATER CHARGES

g course in n e v e W E N D N A R Mandate’s B

VIEWPOINT

Communication & Social Media This is a 12-week training course, commencing January 14, 2015

Training is free for Mandate members (places are first come, first served) The course is held in the Mandate Trade Union Training Centre, Distillery Road, Dublin 3, on Wednesday evenings, 6:30pm to 9:30pm

Water charges, the EU and TTIP

Picture: World Development Movement (CC BY 2.0)

By Frank Keoghan TEEUGeneral President THe ORIGIn of the planned water charges lies in the eU’s Water Framework Directive (2000), which provided for full cost recovery for water use and whose article 9 states: “Member States shall take account of the principle of recovery of the costs of water services …” It also required Member States to have in place water-pricing policies by 2010. The Directive, which was transposed into Irish law in 2003, seeks to commodify water provision through the establishment of the principle of recovery of the costs of water services. The eU took advantage of the ‘bailout’ to make it a condition of the ‘loans’. This will open the way for the sale of Irish Water either in whole or in part, ostensibly to complete the single market or to promote competition “in the interests of the consumer”. Both sides in the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership December 2014

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(TTIP) negotiations have made clear their intention to use TTIP to get access to what is described as “public monopolies” – that is public utilities, including water. These services would then be vulnerable to greater outsourcing and private tendering for service delivery and eventually, to privatisation. TTIP would open up public procurement contracts to the private sector, meaning that social, environmental or “public good” goals in public procurement would be removed.

Private monopoly

a private monopoly can fix its price at an unaffordable level, as Bechtel did in Bolivia, leading to a popular uprising; the termination of the contract and replacement of the government. It would also make the nationalisation (or renationalisation) of services or resources virtually impossible, as incredibly, corporations would be able to sue for loss of future and expected profits. This is facilitated by the inclusion of an Investor State Dispute Settle-

ment (ISDS) clause in TTIP. TTIP would increase the pressure for the privatisation of “services of general interest”, such as water services. Foreign suppliers of services of general interest should not be entitled to claim “forgone profits” through ISDS. This provision, in effect would further legalise neo-liberalism as the economic and social framework in Ireland and the eU. But even if ISDS is removed from TTIP, the main goal remains – to remove regulatory ‘barriers’ which restrict the potential profits to be made by transnational corporations on both sides of the atlantic. Yet these ‘barriers’ are in reality some of our most prized social standards and environmental regulations, such as labour rights, food safety rules, regulations on the use of toxic chemicals and digital privacy laws. Public water provision is only one of the services under threat from TTIP. Both water charges and TTIP must be defeated!

Course Content includes: • Social Media and critical thinking • The Google phenomenon • Facebook / Twitter – every touch of a button leaves a fingerprint • Security – online activities we may think are safe. But, are they? • What young people are using social media for? • Who is online? The good, the bad & the ugly on the internet • Online advice: understanding medical records, tax, sales on computers • Downloading: What is it? How to download. This is beneficial training for members who want to know what happens and where information goes. And, who knows what about you? You will learn how to create a positive online presence; learn the do’s and don’ts on various social media outlets and how to look for information online. Members who attend can bring their own laptops or tablets to use during this course.

As places are limited, act now! To book your place, phone 01-8369699 Deadline for booking is: Monday, 22nd December 2014 19


SPOTLIGHT

FINANCIAL TRANSACTION TAX ing the tax such as Greece, Italy and Spain. Bonds are not on the table at the moment in the enhanced cooperation procedure and they are unlikely to be, given the countries involved. another myth bites the dust. Job losses and relocation of business was the big one. It was pointed out that this is a low tax and would form a small percentage of the charges already applied to financial transactions. This could only be an insignificant push factor in a context of the tax breaks already enjoyed by multi-national finance in the IFSC.

Picture:Ken Teegardin (CC BY-SA 2.0) www.SeniorLiving.Org

By Niall Crowley Claiming Our Future THe introduction of a Financial Transactions Tax is a political not a technical matter. Ireland has not joined other eU Member States in the european enhanced Cooperation Procedure through which 11 Member States will introduce such a tax. This is a political decision and a marker of the continuing influence of the financial services sector. a Financial Transactions Tax offers a steady revenue stream to a cashstrapped Government. It renders the financial services sector transparent. It reduces harmful behaviour by bearing most heavily on high frequency traders. It offers resources to invest in anti-poverty initiatives, public services, action on climate change, and development aid. There must be some significant interests at play to block this tax. Myth is the tool of choice blocking this tax. The tax is just a revenue raiser for the eU. It will cost jobs. It will increase the cost of our debt. It will endanger our pension systems. Claiming Our Future invited David Hillman, Director of UK-based group Stamp Out Poverty and a leader of the european campaign for a Financial Transactions Tax, to brief political parties. He also met community organisations, global justice organisations and trade unions. He burst these myths. Meetings were held with Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein, the Green Party and the Labour Party. While there was some caution, there is a realistic chance that a Financial Transactions Tax could feature in political party manifestos come the next election if pressure for this tax is sustained. David Hillman started with a revelation – there is already a limited form of tax on shares in Ireland, Stamp Duty Tax. In 2007, the Government introduced an exemption for intermediaries, a market makers’ relief. This exemption has contributed to a re-

Demolishing the myths about FTT duction from €600 million to €170 million in the take from this tax. The recession accounts for some – but not all – of this. It is incredible that not only do we fail to introduce the tax but at the same time we actually reduce the contribution of the financial services sector. The first myth to go was that a

Financial Transactions Tax is merely a revenue raiser for the eU. The source of this myth is a Department of Finance briefing paper from 2012 that states that two thirds of the revenue from the tax will go to the eU. It concluded that there was therefore little to be gained from the tax. This is not true, the full revenue from the tax

will accrue to the Irish Government. It would appear that the Department has failed to issue any correction to this briefing. another Department of Finance position is that a Financial Transactions Tax would increase the cost of our debt. Other highly indebted countries are committed to introduc-

It is incredible not only do we fail to introduce the tax but at the same time we actually reduce what the financial services sector pays Initial work by neRI and UnITe actually suggests that a Financial Transactions Tax would increase jobs when investment of the revenue is taken into account. Finally, the pensions myth that the tax would undermine our pension systems bit the dust. Pension schemes operate a long-term ‘buy and hold’ strategy for their investments. This minimises exposure to the tax and ensures limited impact. So it is down to the political. The gain is estimated at €350 million from the tax. The post-crisis logic across the major economies of the eU is to tax and regulate the financial services sector. We need to make sure that Government embraces that logic or, at worst, that the political parties do so in their election manifestos. a good starting point would be to reverse the 2007 exemption for intermediaries introduced into Stamp Duty legislation.

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December 2014


INDUSTRIAL NEWS Picture: Trevor Cummings (CC BY 2.0)

BLOW THE WHISTLE ON THE BAD BOSSES

Arcadia workers seek deal on pay and banded hour contracts ManDaTe members working for the arcadia group are to seek a pay increase as well as the introduction of banded hour contracts following a national meeting of shop stewards on november 4. The arcadia group – which includes well-known high street brands Wallis, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge, Burtons, and evans – operates in 96 locations. Until recently it also included the Topman Topshop brand – now set up as a separate legal entity, registered as Topshop Topman Ireland Limited, and with 17 stores in the Irish Republic. In addition to the pay and banded hours issues, members are also seeking to discuss bonus payments and the framework for the setting up of an information and consultation forum to ensure com-

pliance with the european Directive. Divisional Organiser Brendan O’Hanlon told Shopfloor: “Mandate members in the arcadia group have been extremely patient over the past five years and have given the company a lot of latitude to deal with the effects the recession had on the business and its plans to restructure its operations in the Republic of Ireland over the past 12 months.

Organised

“The workers have now got themselves organised and our membership levels in the company have never been as strong as they are today. “We are aware of further plans to downsize its operations. However, it is clear by the separation of the Topshop Topman brand from the arcadia group that the company plans to

invest in this particular brand, as it currently accounts for almost 50% of its staff.” Workers have not received an increase in pay since 2009 with the last phase of Towards 2016 and some staff have contracts that only guarantee them a minimum of eight hours a week. Mr O’Hanlon added: “These type of contracts in retail are simply unjustifiable, with many workers working in excess of their minimum hours for sustained periods only to have their weekly earnings slashed at the stroke of a pen. “We intend to raise all these issues at a meeting scheduled for January 15 and to ensure that we continue our campaign to give retail workers greater certainty in relation to their earnings.”

December 2014

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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.

Survey shows undocumented migrants part of life’s fabric here a neW survey of undocumented migrants in Ireland has revealed that one in five undocumented people have lived in Ireland for over 10 years, and the vast majority have been here for more than five years. The research was conducted by Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) along with undocumented migrants from MRCI’s Justice for the Undocumented campaign group. “This research is the first of its kind in Ireland,” said MRCI’s Helen Lowry. “540 undocumented migrants responded to the survey, opening up about their jobs, their families and their lives in Ireland. We now have a picture of the undocumented population in Ireland.

TO JOIN 10 MANDATE REASONS

Miss Selfridge: one of several well-known Arcadia brands

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:

Congress President John Douglas at launch of new MRCI survey of undocumented migrants

“The vast majority are working – in restaurants, as cleaners, as carers and childminders – and a huge percentage have young children either here or in their country of origin.” The research was launched by Congress President John Douglas on november 26. The research estimates that there are between 20,000 and 26,000 undocumented migrants in Ireland at the moment – including thousands of children. Ms Lowry added: “What this re-

search shows is that many undocumented people are now long-term residents of Ireland. Given that one third of those surveyed have children living in Ireland, the Government simply cannot continue to ignore this population. Undocumented migrants are part of our communities, they have put down roots, made Ireland their home – and for many of these children, Ireland is the only home they have known.”

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

21


GENERAL NEWS

EU-US trade deal is ‘profoundly anti-democratic’ COnGReSS General Secretary David Begg has described the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership as “profoundly anti-democratic” and warned it would make it almost impossible for governments to introduce any progressive legislation in the future. He made his comments as he addressed delegates at the TeeU Biennial Conference in Kilkenny last month. Mr Begg claimed the proposed TTIP deal would effectively

complete the “subjugation of society” to corporate needs. He said: “Ireland is a very small open economy and, generally speaking, it is in our interest to have a rules-based trading environment. "But it has to be fair, and TTIP is anything but fair. In fact the rules are stacked in favour of business from the beginning.” He said one provision of the deal – known as ‘Investor-State Dispute Set-

tlement’ (ISDS) – would “allow corporations to sue governments before an arbitration panel composed of corporate lawyers, at which other people have no representation and which is not subject to judicial review.” Mr Begg warned this could allow a US multinational to sue a future Irish government for raising the minimum wage on the grounds that such a move would affect its profits. “Consider the chilling effect that would

have on governments and civil servants. We would never again as a Congress be able to achieve legislative change to benefit workers.” He cited several examples of major corporations which are already suing national governments in Germany, Uruguay, australia, el Salvador and ecuador, using similar mechanisms. “In short, TTIP is a manifestation of an aggressive neoliberalism aimed at so circumscribing the policy space

for governments that politics will be separated from economics so that it will matter little what kind of government is elected... it will complete the subjugation of society to markets.” He also warned that TTIP could result in the alignment of “european labour markets with those of the United States with all the inequality and insecurity this implies – a kind of transatlantic race to the bottom.”

TTIP revealed: terms of reference for privatisation IN MY VIEW...

The Union Representative Advanced Training Course is for shop stewards/union representatives who have completed the introductory course or who have relevant experience. Course content: • Understanding Mandate’s structures • Overview of Mandate’s rules • Industrial Relations institutions and mechanisms • Mandate’s Organising Model

• • • • •

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

Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this training course will obtain a Mandate certificate. They may progress to the FETAC level 5 Certificate in Trade Union studies or other relevant training courses offered by Mandate. If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: mandateotc@mandate.ie

22

Picture: Garry Knight (CC BY 2.0)

Union Representatives Advanced Course

By Ed Teller THe eU finally released their negotiating terms of reference over a year late for citizens to see exactly what is being negotiated in the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). and, as feared, they further cement liberalisation, privatisation and race to the bottom for workers’ terms and conditions of employment. The document is riddled with phrases such as “reciprocal liberalisation of goods and services”, “...with a high level of ambition going beyond existing WTO [World Trade Organisation] commitments”, “effective opening of each other’s markets removing unnecessary obstacles to trade and investment”, “...by reaching an ambitious level of regulatory compatibility for goods and services, including through mutual recognition, harmonisation...” and it goes on... “This should include specific and substantive provisions and procedures in sectors of significant importance to the transatlantic economy, including, but not limited to, automotives, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and other health industries, Information and Communication Technologies and financial services...” and continues... “The aim of the negotiations on trade in services will be to bind the existing level of liberalisation... at the highest level of liberalisation... covering substantially all sectors and all modes of supply while achieving new market access by tackling remaining long-standing market access barriers... aim at including provisions on anti-trust, mergers and stateaids. Furthermore, the Agreement should address state monopolies, state owned enterprises and enterprises entrusted with special or exclusive rights... ensuring un-

restricted and sustainable access to raw materials.” and there’s more... “...ensuring treatment no less favourable than that accorded to locally established suppliers... to address barriers having a negative impact on each other’s public procurement markets, including local content or local production requirements, in particular Buy America provisions,” and, “The Agreement shall include provisions on the full liberalisation of current payments and capital movements...” The TTIP is not about increased trade based on a reduction of tariffs as we know there are virtually no tariffs left in place. It is primarily about increas-

ing the profits and potential profits of big business in europe and the US through a downward harmonisation of workers’ terms and conditions of employment and regulations – what they describe as barriers, we call protections. never in the history of such trade agreements has harmonisation meant the upward lifting of standards in such areas as food safety, health and safety at work, minimum capital ratios, workers’ rights, or other such “obstacles”. The harmonisation will be downwards and will negatively affect workers, consumers, citizens, and the environment. Trade unions must campaign against TTIP and not merely for the exclusion of the InvestorState Dispute Settlement mechanism (ISDS). While ISDS is a major issue, highlighted in previous issues of Shopfloor, there is a lot more to TTIP that unions oppose. ISDS is currently in the Canadian european Trade agreement (CeTa), which has been signed but not yet ratified. aside from the ISDS, workers will have to compete with their US colleagues who have no federal annual leave allocations or no federal maternity pay. education and health services will be further liberalised and privatised leading to a worse, more expensive, service for citizens. Trade unionists in Ireland are coming together to start this fight but a major question facing us is how will the CeTa and TTIP agreements be ratified. Will they require a parliamentary ratification process or will qualified majority vote at a council of ministers meeting suffice? The answer to this question will determine the strategy required to scrap CeTa and TTIP and protect workers and citizens across europe. SHOPFLOOR

y December 2014


SEMINAR REPORT

Marriage Equality and healthcare key themes of INMO’s LGBT event By Bill Kelly Mandate Divisional Organiser I RePReSenTeD Mandate at the second annual LGBT conference of the Irish nurses and Midwives Organisation on november 21. as part of InMO’s commitment to equality for its LGBT members, a decision was taken to hold an LGBT conference each year to educate, inform and assist with the development of union policy. The theme of this year’s conference was Marriage equality and access of LGBT persons to healthcare. The conference was well attended by members of the InMO as well as representatives from a number of unions. The conference was bookended by wonderful speeches. InMO President Claire Mahon gave a moving introduction. There was no doubt of her personal commitment and that of the InMO to helping LGBT members. and the conference closed with a keynote address, titled A March for Love, by Senator Katherine Zappone, which was equally moving and eloquent.

dressed all of the difficulties and discrimination faced by LGBT people when accessing healthcare – from finding a doctor or dentist to the major problems faced by the Transgender and HIV Positive communities. One thing that I have learned in life is that your rights and entitlements, including the right to be treated fairly and equally, is not a destination that we are all going to arrive at passively by train. even if achieved, equality can quickly be lost unless we continue to actively campaign together in solidarity. History has shown that without solidarity, rights are slowly stripped away group by group and one by one. The most stark example of this is the Weimar Government in Germany in the 1920s gave Jewish people legal equality for the first time. But in the 1930s and 1940s, their rights and lives were taken away, as they were from trade unionists, polit-

Senator David Norris spoke at event

ICTU Equality Officer David Joyce

History has shown that without solidarity, rights are slowly stripped away group by group and one by one

Workplace rights

The first half of the conference looked at Marriage equality, workplace rights and what we as a movement can do to assist addresses were given by Moninne Griffith of Marriage equality, ICTU equality Officer David Joyce, Brian Sheehan of Glen and eillis ni Chaithnia of the national Women's Council of Ireland. On the basis of the percentage of LGBT people in the general population, there are 56,000 LGBT members across the trade union movement – many of whom are members of Mandate. Isn't it time that we stood up and together with our Mandate brothers and sisters ensured that all enjoyed the right to freedom from discrimination in the workplace and society in general? as the Government is planning to hold a referendum on civil marriage equality next year, a significant amount of discussion on this issue took place at the conference. The Irish Constitution gives marriage special protection. However, until this protection is extended to all, true equality will not be achieved. To deny equality to same-sex families contributes to a perception that their relationships, love and commitment to each other and their children is of a lesser value. To put a lower value on the lives of LGBT people is the same as stating that homophobic bullying or discrimination against LGBT in society – whether at work or elsewhere – is acceptable. This is simply wrong. During the constitutional convention which recommended the holding of a marriage equality referendum, more than 160 December 2014

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Pictures: INMO

INMO President Claire Mahon

statutory differences were identified between civil marriage and civil partnerships, which are restricted to same-sex couples. For more information there are a host of websites you can visit: Gay & Lesbian network at www.glen.ie; www.marriageequality.ie; and www.belongto.org which provides support to LGBT young people in Ireland. The group has also joined with ICTU in producing a video titled Stand Up At Work, which is well worth checking out on YouTube. The second half of the conference dealt with access to healthcare for LGBT persons. There were contributions by Patricia O'Connell of Transgender equality network Ireland (TenI), Dr Grainne Courtney from St James's Hospital and Lysander Preston from Positive now. This section of the conference ad-

ical activists, Romany, disabled people, gay men and many more groups. History also shows us that when we stand together in solidarity much can be achieved, such as the support shown by the group Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners during the British Miners’ strike. Later backing given by the national Union of Mineworkers was instrumental in changing British Labour Party policy in favour of LGBT rights. Mandate has always had a strong commitment and belief in equality. Current Mandate rules guarantee all members equal treatment and opportunity within the union without discrimination on many grounds including sexual orientation. In addition there have been positive workshops and motions at Mandate conferences which have dealt with LGBT issues. as a result the national executive Council have recently given their approval for the setting up of a Mandate LGBT Group. and we are seeking members who are prepared to STanD UP for equality. l If you are interested in taking part, please contact David Gibney (dgibney@mandate.ie), Bill Kelly (bkelly@mandate.ie) or your local official.

23


© Zul Mukhida/Sightsavers

RESEARCH

You can make a blind child see When you woke up this morning, you probably didn’t think you were going to do something miraculous. But you can. © Zul Mukhida/Sightsavers

Enoch was two years old when he developed cataracts in both eyes. With his vision blurred he couldn’t even take a few steps on his own. Instead of being full of life and curiosity, Enoch was close to losing his sight for good and spending the rest of his life totally reliant on others. A cataract operation, costing A cataract operation saved just €56, saved his sight before he Enoch from a lifetime of tears. lost it forever. After a start in life overshadowed by sight loss and tears Enoch can now look forward to a better future.

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Notes on the Front

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Commentary on Irish Political Economy by UNITE research officer Michael Taft 24

www.notesonthefront. typepad.com

Knocking off time... but for not for many workers on rotating shift rotas Picture: Alan Cleaver (CC BY 2.0)

Prolonged shift work can impair your brain SHIFT work carried out over the long term could be linked to impaired brain power, a new joint study carried out by a number of european universities has suggested. Just like chronic jet lag, shift work is known to disrupt the body’s internal clock and has been linked to a range of health problems, including ulcers, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and some cancers. However, little is known about its potential impact on brain functions, such as memory and processing speed. But the study, published in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine, suggests that the impact seems to be most noticeable over a period of 10 or more years. although the effects can be reversed, this may take at least five years. One of the contributors to the study, Dr Philip Tucker, Professor of Psychology, Swansea University, said: “The study shows the long term effects of shift work on the body clock are not only harmful to workers’ physical health, but also affect their mental abilities. “Such cognitive impairments may have consequences for the safety of shift workers and the society that they serve, as well as for shift workers’ quality of life.” The researchers tracked the cognitive abilities of more than 3,000 people who were either working in a wide range of sectors or who had retired, at three time points – 1996, 2001, and 2006. Just under half (1,484) of the sample had worked shifts for at least 50 days of the year.

The second set of analyses looked at the impact of working a rotating shift pattern and found that compared with those who had never worked rotating shifts, those who had – and had done so for 10 or more years – had lower global cognitive and memory scores. This is equivalent to 6.5 years of age-related cognitive decline. Finally, the researchers looked at whether stopping shift work was linked to a recovery in cognitive abilities. The results indicated that

Participants were aged exactly 32, 42, 52 and 62 at the time of the first set of tests, which aimed to assess long and short-term memory, processing speed, and overall (global) cognitive abilities. around one in five of those in work (18.5%) and a similar proportion of those who had retired (17.9%) had worked a shift pattern that rotated between mornings, afternoons, and nights. The first set of analyses looked at whether any abnormal working hours were associated with a decline in cognitive abilities. The data showed that those who currently or who had previously worked shifts had lower scores on memory, processing speed, and overall brain power than those who had never worked shifts.

‘Such cognitive impairments may have consequences for the safety of shift workers & the society that they serve...’ it was possible to regain cognitive abilities after stopping shift work, but that this took at least five years, processing speeds excepted. Researchers warned: “The cognitive impairment observed in the present study may have important safety consequences not only for the individuals concerned, but also for society as a whole, given the increasing number of jobs in high hazard situations that are performed at night.” Read the study, titled Chronical Effects of Shift Work On Cognition: Findings from the Visat Longitudinal Study, in full at ttp://bit.ly/1ytRQiJ SHOPFLOOR

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INDUSTRIAL NEWS

Improved contracts after Heatons deal eARlIeR this year mandate members in Heatons voted in favour of a new deal that will improve pay rates by 5%. Also included was a commitment by the retailer to improve contracts of employment for staff on the lowest contracts. Since the deal was brokered, 97 part-time workers have been issued with improved contracts guaranteeing them better minimum working hours each week. Also as part of the agreement, Heatons agreed to maintain the average working hours of existing staff and to improve them in line with any increase in trading volumes. they also agreed to continue a

Bill Kelly: ‘positive commitments by Heatons’

sales incentive scheme which shares 10% of the overachievement of the store sales budget with staff.

Welcoming the improvement in the contracts of employment, Divisional organiser Bill Kelly stressed how important the commitment from Heatons to maintain and increase working hours is to staff. He told Shopfloor: “many parttime workers throughout retail struggle to make ends meet against a rising tide of bills and an outdated unfair social welfare system that offers no help. “We need to ensure that by working together the positive commitments given by Heatons continue to provide real improvements for the living standards of members over the course of the agreement which continues until December 2015.”

Got a story? Email us at news@mandate.ie

Ban on French squaddies joining a union breaches key article of ECHR tHe european Federation of public Service Unions has welcomed a recent european Court of Human Rights ruling that the banket ban on unions organising in the French military violates Article 11 of the european Convention on Human Rights. Article 11 protects the right to freedom of assembly and association, including the right to form trade unions. the eCHR ruling on october 29 confirms that while certain restrictions over expression and action can apply to military personnel, a blanket ban on union membership infringes on their human rights. epSU General Secretary Jan Willem Goudriaan said: “It is a very important ruling, the first of its kind. It brings alive the notion that soldiers are citizens in uniform which epSU promotes. It means soldiers should have the same rights as any other citizens. “It is good news for soldiers and other workers in uniform in other european countries where the right to join trade unions is a distant dream. And it is good news for those soldiers and civilians working in the army who are affiliated to epSU and who already enjoy trade union rights as they are proven to be right unanimously by european judges.” the French government has three months to appeal against the ruling. December 2014

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g course in n e v e W E N D N A R Mandate’s B

Personal & Professional Development (CPPD) This is a 12-week training course, commencing January 13, 2015 Training is free for Mandate members (places are first come, first served) The course is held in the Mandate Trade Union Training Centre, Distillery Road, Dublin 3, on Tuesday evenings, 6:30pm to 9:30pm Course Content includes: • How to communicate your needs and wants • Finding the right information that will steer you in the right direction • The environment in which we live and work • The social, political and economic landscape of trade unions • Media ownership – who is telling you what and why • Social Media – What it is all about. • How to write a good application form and designing a CV • Strengthening abilities to engage and influence The objective of this course is to provide you with tools and techniques that will allow you to know more, learn more and develop yourself, your knowledge and your abilities for your own personal and professional development.

As places are limited, act now! To book your place, phone 01-8369699 Deadline for booking is: Monday, 22 December 2014 25


GENERAL NEWS

GeneRaL Secretary John Douglas has warned a special CPSU seminar on outsourcing of a “pervasive race to the bottom” that was happening across both the public and the private sectors. He told the november 21 seminar he regarded members of Mandate and CPSU as “kindred spirits” because both groups of workers had to deal with low pay and the problems caused by low pay, bad training, attacks on terms and conditions as well as the precarious nature of work. Mr Douglas made his comments to CPSU delegates gathered at the CWU headquarters in Dublin. He said: “There’s no doubt about it – right across the public and private sectors, there is a class war going on. I don’t mind calling it that – it’s the only way to describe it. “Hedge fund investor Warren Buffet, who is no friend of the trade union movement, said as much and said his class was winning it.” Mr Douglas, who is also Congress President, spoke about the “demonisation of public sector workers” with claims that they were being “featherbedded”.

Popular psyche

“You’ve heard it all before, but unfortunately it’s gained some traction in the popular psyche out there – and it’s totally untrue.” He pointed out that outsourcing was “not uncommon” in the retail sector either and pointed out that Tesco had outsourced almost all of its administrative HR function to India. “If you have a problem with your wages, left short in your overtime or got a written warning – you have to ring someone in India to query to wage packet or unpaid overtime. “There is this pervasive race to the bottom. It’s a phrase that is used often but its very, very true – and it’s happening in both private and public sectors.” Referring to the Greyhound dispute, he said it was heartening to see so much community and cross-trade union support for those workers targeted in the lockout. This had given him “a lot of hope for the future of the trade union movement”. Mr Douglas reminded those present that the trade union movement was still the biggest civil society organisation on the island of Ireland but warned that individual unions needed to “step out of our own little silos and look at the struggles of our brothers and sisters in other unions, in other sectors”. If this was done, he added: “I think we can achieve great things.” He pointed out that Greyhound workers once had “decent public sector jobs, decent conditions, pensions and overtime rates” but that these were “deemed to be too expensive”. “On the short road in which I live, we have four bin collection lorries driving up and down picking up a bin here and a bin there, competing with each other to see who can do it the cheapest.” Pointing out that capital, insurance, waste disposal costs would be similar, he asked, “What have these companies left to compete on?” The answer was that only way of competing was on “labour costs and labour standards”. “You can see that commodification 26

John Douglas: hope for the future of the trade union movement Pictures: Moya Nolan/CPSU

We must step out of our ‘own little silos’ to fight privatisation

PCS Vice President John McInally posing the question about how to fight privatisation, pointed out to delegates that “if we don’t fight it, it’s not going to get better – their appetite will never, ever be satisfied”. Giving the view from north of the border, Kieran Bannon of nIPSa described the “black machine of propaganda” surrounding privatisation. He said: “It says that the private sector is good and the public sector is bad. It’s based on starving the public services of funds and [therefore] contrives the argument that the private sector is going to be better.”

EPSU speaker Pablo Sanchez

CPSU chief Eoin Ronayne

process starting off – to commodify a public service or a public resource, you put a price on it then the profit motive comes in and then the hedge funds come in and the big players come in and say, ‘We can do it cheaper”. He warned: “But this is at a cost and it will be at the cost – ultimately – of labour.” Pointing out that though TUPe legislation gave some protection, “it was not protection forever”. “I think the only real protection that workers have is their collective

Ethel Buckley: lessons from Greyhound dispute

strength and their ability to act in solidarity with each other. It’s about moving our own members and our own unions out of that silo mentality where what happens in their own square foot is all that matters to them – it’s my grade, it’s my shop. “There is that commonality, that bigger battle, that ‘over-battle’ which is the right of workers to form trade unions and protect their terms and conditions.” The outsourcing seminar, which was attended by more than 100 ac-

tivists from the CPSU, featured an expert panel of speakers from Ireland north and South, the UK and europe. SIPTU national Campaigns Organiser ethel Buckley gave a detailed summation of the Greyhound dispute. She cautioned: “as trade unionists we need to secure the absolute best terms and conditions of employment possible for workers who are outsourced. That, for me, means following the work if it involves privatisation to the private sector.”

On a more positive note, Pablo Sanchez of ePSU looked at the new phenomenon of ‘remunicipalisation’ [the taking back into public ownership services that had previously been privatised] that was occurring across europe and beyond. He asked:“Why is this happening? It is happening because public services [in private sector hands] were being run by people who did not know how to run them and did not want to run them [as they should be run].” SHOPFLOOR

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GENERAL NEWS

We need more public housing! ManDaTe HaS called for the introduction of rent controls and insisted that putting in place a real and effective housing policy must be a priority for government. Communications officer David Gibney told Shopfloor: “Increasing the supply of public housing will help to stabilise house prices which are growing at a worrying rate raising concerns of another housing bubble.

“It will also ensure the rental market is brought down to a realistic level while also making sure workers have more spending power for the real economy, by reducing spending on property.” He added: “This will, in turn, reduce poverty levels, increase spending in the local economy and support decent retail jobs all across the country.”

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Picture: Bart Everson (CC BY 2.0)

Housing crisis threat to retail jobs By David Gibney Mandate communications officer WHIle the housing crisis in itself is causing enormous damage to the social fabric of the country, and creating hardship for hundreds of thousands of citizens, it is also threatening thousands of jobs in the retail sector. Figures from the Central Statistics office (CSo) show a reduction in av-

erage earnings of 1% in the past year while rents have increased by 10.8% during the same period – taking much needed disposable income out of workers’ pockets and from the domestic economy. In real terms, a 10% rental increase equates to a 3%-4% cut in a mandate member’s take-home pay. nationally, average rents stand at

€933 – which is 32% of the average monthly income. this causes poverty, deprivation and feeds into a vicious cycle where people don’t have enough money to buy essential items resulting in more pressure on the retail and services sectors. this has shown through in the CSo’s figures where the volume of retail sales fell 0.7% in october.

Got a story? Email us at news@mandate.ie

An average of 300 shopworkers are assaulted each day across the UK, a new survey has revealed. the shock findings from the survey, carried out by British retail union Usdaw, were released at the start of the union’s Respect for Shopworkers Week, which ran from november 10 to 14. Usdaw General Secretary John Hannett said: “too often retail employees are confronted with violence, threats and abuse and it is really important we stand together and ask people to keep their cool and respect shopworkers. “In the course of their duties, shopworkers are expected to enforce the law. Whether that is preventing under-age purchases of products like knives, tobacco or alcohol, or detaining shoplifters until the police arrive, they can be put in real danger. “parliament has given shopworkers the duty to enforce the law and parliament should provide the necessary protection.” mr Hannett said he had also been shocked by the leniency of some of the sentences handed out to those found guilty of assaulting workers. “our survey shows there is a real need to tackle this problem. every minute of every day another shopworker is assaulted, threatened or abused and it is time to say enough December 2014

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SHOPFLOOR

Pictures: Usdaw

Cool it! call from Usdaw as survey reveals assault stats

Don’t get in a flap: Usdaw’s ‘Keep Your Cool’ penguin mascot. Usdaw chief John Hannett, below

is enough. the Government must act to address this issue and act quickly. “Usdaw continues to campaign for a change in the law to ensure that proper punishments are given out. We must give a clear message that assaulting workers who are serving the public is totally unacceptable.”

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

Communications through Computers Starting from scratch this course helps you to use a computer and builds confidence for communicating on-line. Mandate Trade Union in conjunction with Skills for Work is offering free training. The courses are to encourage members back into learning and training whilst aiming towards a FETAC level 3 Award. If you are interested in doing a Communications through Computers course, contact: Mandate Training Centre Distillery House Distillery Road Dublin 3 Phone: 01- 8369699 Email: mandateotc@mandate.ie Courses are free and open to members who have not achieved Leaving Certificate or who have an out of date Leaving Certificate. You can also achieve a FETAC Level 3 Award. Skills for Work is funded by the Department of Education & Skills.

Picture: European Parliament

27


GENERAL NEWS

Mandate Executive endorses trade union ‘repeal the 8th’ campaign ManDaTe’S national executive has endorsed the trade union campaign to repeal the 8th amendment. Speaking on the decision, Mandate General Secretary John Douglas said: “Women should have control of their own bodies but unfortunately the 8th amendment does not afford them that right. “In Ireland, once a woman becomes pregnant, she is no longer considered a woman but a vessel for the state, and that has to stop.” He added: “More than 150,000 women have travelled to the UK for terminations, which can cost anything from €1,500 up to €3,000. “Many of our members are lowpaid and the cost of travelling can equate to more than 10% of their annual income, forcing many young women into debt and causing serious mental health problems. “This is one of the reasons why this is a trade union issue.” Mandate member Mandy La Combre, and proposer of the motion, explains: “The trade union movement has joined together to repeal the ar-

chaic 8th amendment. “The amendment as it currently stands is an affront to the equal rights of the women in this country. Women currently make up half of our workforce and as we know many women are on low wages or in precarious employment. “CSO figures show 50% of women earn €20,000 or less which means facing this dilemma falls hardest on the poorest. “as Mandate is predominantly made up of female membership, it is particularly important that we at Mandate support this campaign. “The financial cost to a woman who is faced with an unwanted pregnancy can be anything from €1,500 upwards. This amounts to significant stress for a low-paid worker, that compounded with the emotional stress of having to travel abroad –often alone – and in fear and distress denies women any semblance of dignity and is nothing short of an abuse to their basic rights. “If a woman chooses not to travel and tries to obtain abortion pills through the internet, she can face up

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to 14 years in prison – so too can anyone who attempts to help her. “The fact that we are legally entitled to travel abroad for a procedure that is illegal in our own country shows just how hypocritical this amendment is. “Over the last 30 years we have seen just how hypocritical and discriminatory this amendment can be – from the ‘X Case’ in 1992, the tragic death of Savita Halappanavar in 2012 to the recent shocking obscenity of the treatment of the migrant woman in the ‘Y Case’ this year.

‘Hunger strike’

“Lest we forget, the foetus in the ‘Y case’ was afforded its own legal team in the High Court while ‘Miss Y’ was suicidal, on hunger strike and forced to have a baby that was conceived through a rape. “This is due to nothing other than our state’s refusal to address this amendment and equating the life of a woman with that of a foetus. “The Irish Congress of Trade Unions opposed article 40.3.3 in 1983 stating that ‘the rigidity and in-

flexibility of constitutional directives on social and moral issues is inappropriate in a democracy’.” Ms La Combre pointed out that more than 150,000 women and girls have travelled to the UK for abor-

The 8th amendment as it stands is a barrier to progress – it denies women their rights and dignity, further fuelling the shame this state has heaped on women over the years... tions, and that 12 more travel for a medical procedure each day – a procedure they should be able to access in their own country. She continued: “Men in Ireland currently face no restrictions to any

medical care that they may need. We cannot over-emphasise enough how much of an equal rights issue this actually is. “Recent polls have indicated that consistently attitudes to abortion in Ireland have changed, Ireland is a more liberal country where individual rights and freedoms are more respected. “The 8th amendment as it stands is a barrier to progress – it denies women their rights and dignity, further fuelling the shame this state has heaped on women over the years who may have found themselves in the position of an unwanted pregnancy. It’s about time we dispelled with all the ‘secrets and lies’.” Ms La Combre added: “This campaign intends to face up to what the issue really is – we as women residing in this state expect nothing short of being treated equal to our male counterparts and insist that decisions concerning our own bodies and our own lives fall with us, and not others determining our fate through a constitution that is outdated, archaic and inhumane.”

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

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MEMBERSHIP PROMOTION

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29


CONFERENCE REPORT

Educate activists, transform society We came from across the island of Ireland to the Fermanagh Lakelands to discuss politics, economy and other issues and to debate what alternatives are possible. Unite Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly, in his opening remarks, spoke about the challenges facing trade unions today as well as outlining a number of recent successes. Guest speakers dealt with a varying list of topics, though all agreed on the same principle that unless we seriously come together as trade unionists, activists, academics and community groups to fight back against the capitalists who continually drive down labour costs and erode workers’ rights, then we have no chance of a win! not winning is not an option. We need be ready when the big corporations come knocking on our doors as the progression of the TTIP (Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership) – that vast deregulation machine coming to privatise everything in its path – shows. The first session I attended was titled Undercover Policing of Labour Activists given by trade unionist Caroline Murphy. Caroline explained how workers were blacklisted and labelled as troublemakers due to their union activity and made unemployable.

The fourth Annual Betty Sinclair Winter School, hosted by Trademark Belfast, was held in the beautiful surroundings of Lusty Beg resort on the shores of Lough Erne, Co Fermanagh, in November. Mandate organiser Sandra Stapleton compiled this report for Shopfloor...

Dr Conor McCabe: making economics accessible to ordinary people is a must for trade unions

Fascinating

She also gave us a fascinating and frightening account of the lengths that the British police went to in order to infiltrate a group of environmental activists. Some police officers married activists and had children over a number of years – all the time living double lives after assuming the identities of dead children to get the relevant paperwork to seem credible. This was shocking enough but she then explained how these men planted ideas or suggested tactics for the women to use in their fight to protect the environment in order to get them arrested. These women have lost everything as a direct result of the disgusting behaviour of these police officers, they have lost all trust and faith in humanity, they have lived as part of a lie for many years without knowing it, but apparently this was the norm for police to find out information. If it is happening in the Britain I have no doubt it is happening elsewhere too! We heard how the family of Stephen Lawrence were also targeted by police spies in order to discredit Stephen and his family. Spies are an ongoing threat to campaigning groups, we just need to be aware that they are there and try to root them out and keep them out! next we listened to nIPSa Organiser and education Officer naomi Connor in a session titled Who Profits from Peace? She spoke about the Titanic Quarter in Belfast. It was opened with as much fanfare as the original Titanic but unfortunately the only thing sinking is the local community – they 30

Pictures: Trademark

NERI Director Tom Healy with NIPSA activist Paddy Mackel at one of the winter school workshops

were promised great things from the building of this great hulk of steel rising out of Belfast docks. Millions of pounds were given to the owners in grants and it was supposed to transform docks into a thriving hub of activity. It was claimed that so far it has failed to do this, except to bring tourists from all over the world to the attraction and then to wander around empty building after empty building which surrounds it. The profits have not improved the lives of local communities over which the sprawling complex towers. In attracting businesses into areas such as Belfast docks, the investors always win – with tax breaks and grants. Capitalists just move on when they think they have squeezed enough money from a place. There followed two workshops on the theme Social Democracy is Dead with Dr Seán Byers and Organising in the 21st Century by Dr Stevie nolan. neRI Director Dr Tom Healy also gave a talk. titled What is to be Done: an Econonic Strategy’ On Friday, we were introduced to John Hilary, who is executive Director

Naomi Connor delivered one of the presentations

of War on Want. John’s presentation was on The Poverty of Capitalism: TTIP, Austerity and the Fight for our Common Future. TTIP is being marketed as a response to global reces-

sion but we should not believe the spin. John described in frightening detail the horrors of TTIP. We must be prepared for this – if we allow all of our public services to be privatised, we will never be able to get them back. John spoke of how TTIP is the most destructive trade deal we have ever been faced with and that we must resist it completely. He outlined how trade deals in the past had been defeated by campaigning, which gave all who heard the presentation the hope that together we can beat TTIP too. War on Want highlights injustices and inequalities across the world and TTIP is right at the top of their list of priorities. I suspect this will provide the main focus for the labour movement in the months and years to come. Here is the TTIP in all its glory: 1. Deregulation – There are very few tariff barriers between the eU and US, so TTIP gets “beyond borders” and tries to harmonise labour rights and environmental standards. For example, in the eU, 1,300 substances are banned from cosmetics, but only 12 are banned in the US. a 'Regulatory Co-operation Council' would be formed as part of the treaty to vet any future regulatory proposals. 2. Privatisation – This would open up local procurement in the US, which currently allows for 'Buy america' and 'Buy Local' clauses; but in the UK it would would mean the opening up of the nHS and public services to US corporations too. 3. ISDS mechanism – The InvestorState Dispute Settlement mechanism would give big business the same status as a nation state. Under ISDS, decisions would not be made by tenured judges, but by appointed corporate lawyers instead. Dr Conor McCabe spoke on the subject Education and Activism: How to Fight and Idea. as academics go Conor McCabe has got to be the coolest of them all, he makes listening to a talk about political economy so enjoyable and easy to understand! We are all part of the political economy and therefore we should not be afraid to discuss it, debate it and object to it if we feel the need. economists in the main make it seem like us ordinary folk could not possibly understand how the world of money works and how clever they are at percentages. The need to educate activists and demystify the scary world of economics must be a priority in any trade union that is serious about the needs of their members. Conor and the Trademark team have made a huge difference to the lives of many Mandate activists. Their instruction has been hugely beneficial both in our personal lives, as activists and as working class people fighting together for decent wages, respect and union recognition. Conor explained that education can be used to either cope with a situation (managerial) or change a situa-

tion (transformative). For me, I choose transformative every time! We also listened to anne McVicker, who is a director of the Women's Resource and Development agency (WRDa). anne’s organisation supports women's groups and organisations with training and campaigning on key issues that affect women in northern Ireland. The theme of anne’s talk was Building Progressive Social Movements. anne feels we have to be ready to adapt in order to keep up with the ever-changing environment in which we live. She spoke about the Reclaim the agenda group, which strives for women’s equality in a progressive world. Its key objectives are that women should have a life free of domestic and sexual violence, discrimination, poverty, to have adequate childcare provision, to have equal representation and to have healthcare which suits their needs. a very thought-provoking session with anne, and a lot to think about in the world of patriarchy, particularly in decision making process. The last speaker was Policy Officer andrew Fisher, from the UK Civil

The need to educate activists and demystify the scary world of economics must be a priority in any trade union that is serious about the needs of their members Service trade union PCS, who asked the question, How can Trade Unions Aid the Transition to a Democratic Society? andrew has recently published a book detailing how governments have become the servants and not the masters of corporate interests. explaining how the root of the economic downfall in Britain is decades old, he said: “We don't have discussions about the UK economy, we have consensus. This led to the crash and will lead to another one.” Power and wealth is hoarded by the choosen few – the 1% – while the rest of us scramble around trying to survive when we should instead be thinking about what we can do to get off the neoliberal path they have decreed for us. It’s time to say no more, to be the ones who make the change, let’s not wait any longer, we are the ones who can do it. as in previous years, the Betty Sinclair Winter School was informative, educational and inspirational. To have so many people together who can discuss and debate in such an inclusive and democratic way is a triumph and I thank Trademark for allowing me to experience another year in the company of comrades from near and far. I always come away having learned so much and energised with hope that we are going to make a difference. SHOPFLOOR

y December 2014


THE LAST WORD...

One Shopfloor reader’s experience with JobBridge

How mine collapsed...

tasked with exactly the same role as my colleague in Customer Service. I was confident I would be kept on, as I was always kept busy. My six months was up at the end of October, and when no discussion regarding a future position seemed forthcoming, I emailed my boss. I was called in to the office and promptly told that I was no longer any use to the company. I was given the excuse that my employer had recently been suffering from back pain and would be staying in the office in future, and therefore someone else could be transferred from accounts to Customer Service.

I was called in to the office and promptly told that I was no longer any used to the company... I was given a week’s notice and told that I could do up my own reference. That was the end of it

Picture: Niklas Morberg (CC BY-NC 2.0)

I HaD started working in 1983 after completing a decent Leaving Cert. Life was simple then, and over the next 14 years I had moved from working for a small local company to working in a major international conglomerate as Pa to the chief executive. In 1996 I got married and the following year our first child was born. My husband and I decided that one of us should give up work to mind our children. I agreed to give up work, even though I was earning far more than my partner. Some years later, in 2009, I took up a course in Women's Studies, which was sponsored by one of the universities. The course lasted four years and I graduated with a Diploma in Women's Studies last June. In 2013, I had decided to re-enter the workplace after finishing a computer course, another one of these measures which would hopefully "maximise my employment prospects", as the Government is so fond of telling us. I got a few days here and there before getting a position for three months at the end of the year. It was a boost to my morale to be earning money again. Then again, it wasn't simply of my own volition that I returned to employment. My spouse hadn't received a pay rise since 2008, which means his net wage has fallen as his employer's pension contributions have stopped altogether. I signed up with various recruitment websites in the new Year, yet the only part-time positions available (it wouldn't be practical for me to accept a full-time post) were part of the JobBridge scheme, which I wasn't eligible for. at the end of March I spotted an offer on one of these websites for a company located nearby and I applied for it, despite the JobBridge tag. Soon afterwards I got a call and went for the interview. I told them that I wasn't eligible for the Job-

Bridge scheme, to which they replied, "Well, that changes things". I was offered a six-month placement at €100 a week for 25 hours' work. They indicated that there would be a permanent placement at

the end of the contract. I accepted as I wasn't going to get the experience elsewhere and thought this would look good on my CV. My spouse was disgusted at the news and the kids were slightly

aghast, but they saw my side and I knuckled down. I enjoyed the work, although the employer always kept me at a distance and never spoke to me once during the six months about my position, even though I was

I was given a week's notice and told that I could do up my own reference. That was the end of it. a month has passed since I was let go and I feel cheated. I don't regret taking up the six-month placement in the first instance as I really hadn't any other options. I am probably only one of thousands of people in this country who just want a half-decent job to ease the financial burden, but have been duped by an unscrupulous, miserly employer who simply doesn't want to pay a proper wage. He moves on, unperturbed by it all, and will probably to the same thing again. Name and address was supplied by author of this article but was withheld by the Editor

Do your bit on the Shopfloor! SHOPFLOOR KEEPS YOU INFORMED... HELP KEEP US INFORMED BY EMAILING STORIES & PICTURES ABOUT YOUR WORKPLACE Please contact SHOPFLOOR at news@mandate.ie or post your article to Shopfloor, Mandate Trade Union,9 Cavendish Row, Dublin 1 December 2014

y SHOPFLOOR

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Dunnes Stores

Make Christmas for your workers

Picture: Alan Cleaver (CC BY 2.0)

f Secure hours and earnings f Job security f Fair pay f Respect their right to trade union representation


Shopfloor December 2014