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MAY 2012


fiscal treaty referendum for a better future

For a better Future...

Vote No



Make your vote count on May 31

mandate makes no apology for calling on its members to vote no in the may 31st referendum on the fiscal treaty. If passed, this treaty will not create a single job. Instead, it will choke the life out of our domestic economy pushing it from recession to depression. It will impoverish the Irish nation for generations to come and will lead us General Secretary into permanent austerity. Mandate Trade Union Don’t listen to those who claim this is about ‘good housekeeping’ or ‘managing the household budget’ – they are wrong, this is about locking our country into an internationally-binding agreement driven by and for the needs of a corrupt and immoral banking system. This anti-democratic treaty will mean that any future Irish government pursuing progressive economic and social policies that fall outside the narrow fiscal limits set out in this treaty will face international court proceedings. In essence, this treaty constitutes a derogation of sovereignty and is an attack on our basic hard-won freedoms. But make no mistake, you can be sure the bankers will continue to profit out of the continuing Market misery of Europe’s economies – out of the pain of Greek, Spanish, Portuguese and Irish workers – they will make billions on the way up and will make billions on the way down. And the EU’s political class seems in servile thrall to this madness – and they have engineered this treaty to build a firewall around the banking system to protect the rich and powerful at the expense of Europe’s peoples. Decades of social exclusion, mass unemployment and emigration – and further attacks on workers’ rights and the welfare system – lie ahead, unless we act now. Say No to permanent austerity. Vote No on May 31st.

John Douglas

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: Design & Editing: Brazier Media E: Shopfloor is edited, produced and printed by trade union labour

Daa ‘breached’ agreement DUBLIN Airport Authority, despite intending to launch a voluntary redundancy severance package aimed at cutting staff numbers at Dublin Airport, recently put a number of temporary retail staff on permanent contracts. Divisional Organiser Brendan O’Hanlon told Shopfloor this move was opposed by Mandate. He explained that while the union was obviously in favour of creating permanent positions, it could not support the appointments when it was clear the DAA intended to try and force long-serving existing staff to leave and replace them with other workers on inferior terms and conditions. In another move to casualise retail positions at the airport, the company 2

advertised for part-time positions to replace full-time staff that had left. This was done in the face of an agreement between Mandate and the DAA that the retail jobs would be full time. Mandate has written to the company about the ads and sought their removal pending a meeting to discuss the matter. Brendan O’Hanlon hit out at the firm for what he called a “blatant breach” of a deal with the union. He said: “It had been agreed to protect new positions created as a result of the opening of Terminal 2. The company are seeking to exploit the current unemployment situation, which actually requires the creation of meaningful jobs and ones upon which workers can build a better future.”

M&S store in Tallaght. Mandate’s first-class negotiating team scored a notable success during pay talks Picture:Informatique (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Mandate hails 2.5% rise for M&S staff

MANDATE negotiators have scored a notable success after more than 3,000 staff at Marks & Spencer received a 2.5% pay rise. A total of 80% of Mandate members voted for the package which was brokered through direct bargaining between M&S bosses and unions. Welcoming the agreement, Mandate general secretary John Douglas said: “This ground breaking deal proves companies can and should reward staff for their dedication and hard work. “Thanks should also go to our superb negotiating team who did a first-rate job in the talks. Other companies in the sector should now take note and do likewise.” Talks between Mandate – which represents 2,500 staff at the international retailer – and management began last October. It is understood pay rates will be reviewed again in April 2013. Mandate divisional organiser

Meeting sought on argos issues mandate has sought a meeting with management at argos to discuss a range of issues. in the meantime, officials have asked for feedback from members working at the catalogue merchant. divisional organiser Willie Hamilton said: “if a member has an issue they want highlighted in any review of our current agreement or is aware of any changes managers are trying to introduce before a review has taken place, they should contact their shop steward or speak to a union official.”

Lorraine O’Brien: Difficult to imagine a better outcome for deserving staff at M&S

Lorraine O’Brien said: “The deal for a 2.5% pay increase reflects Marks & Spencer staff’s high level of co-operation in embracing change, their high level of customer service and their engagement with their employers. “Given the current economic climate, it is difficult to imagine that it would have been possible to achieve a better outcome from local collective

bargaining.” Ms O’Brien also praised Marks & Spencer for its foresight in valuing the commitment staff had shown to the company. She told Shopfloor: “This agreement is the result of working through collective bargaining to the benefit of both the employer and workers.” There were a number of conditions attached to the rise, including an acceptance of the need for ongoing adaptation and flexibility – including the introduction of new technology – both to improve competitiveness and boost productivity and employment. Both unions and management also agreed to adhere to agreed dispute resolution procedures and to remain committed to the promotion of industrial peace and stability. Ms O’Brien also expressed confidence that the deal would set a precedent for the retail sector generally with staff being rewarded for their hard work after a number of very difficult years.

Voluntary redundancy package at Superquinn an aGreement was reached between the company and the three unions that organise at superquinn that opened up a voluntary redundancy package to those members “red circled” at stores across the chain. Going to print, it is understood only a small number of staff had approached the company to express an interest in the redundancy package. the package was worth four

weeks per year of service with all the normal criteria attached. a list of “red circled” members was given to all stores. the closing date to apply for the package was friday, may 4th. divisional organiser dave moran said: “it was emphasised to all members that this was a voluntary package and there was no onus on anyone to accept the offer of redundancy.” SHOPFLOOR

y May 2012


Cleaning duties ‘not appropriate’ Superquinn restructuring

MANDATE has written to Tesco management informing them cleaning duties previously carried out by a contract cleaning company is not appropriate work for sales assistants. It follows news that staff in all Tesco Express outlets had been instructed by local management to perform cleaning duties previously carried out by a contract cleaning company. It is understood the work involves use of an industrial cleaning machine. Tesco management have said staff should continue to carry out

these duties – under protest if necessary – but this has not been accepted by Mandate reps. Divisional organiser Brendan O’Hanlon told Shopfloor: “The company’s decision to remove the contract cleaning and assume that staff would naturally perform the cleaning tasks was contrary to both individual contracts of employment and collective agreements regarding the introduction of change. “Despite the existence of a Regional Store Forum process which sees all Express stores meet every

three months to discuss developments within stores, the company failed to outline its intentions regarding the cleaning operation. “Mandate is seeking a meeting with the company to discuss these concerns – in particular health and safety matters related to security and cleaning. “In the meantime, members are asked to contact their shop steward or local representatives should they be asked to carry out such cleaning duties or have any concerns regarding related tasks.”

mandate officials have held a series of meetings with chiefs at superquinn and are awaiting a proposal document on changes to management structures at the retail chain. following rejection of the previous proposal on changes to the management structures in february, superquinn ceo tim Kenny and Hr director claire leonard had outlined the rationale behind the changes to duty managers at a general meeting held at the Green isle Hotel, dublin, on march 21st. divisional organiser david moran said: “the meeting was very well attended and our members had the opportunity to question the company over proposed changes. a members-only meeting then took place, giving members the chance to outline their concerns over the changes and to elect a sub-committee to represent duty managers at any later negotiations. the document when received will be the subject of all members of the duty manager grade”

IKea alliance moblises after company reneges on talks Alke Boessiger hit out at Mapa over claims it is involved in harassing workers. Turkish IKEA workers have reported workplace harassment and even threatening visits to their homes as they battle to win recognition for Koop-Is. It is claimed local managers

have also taken workers to a notary and paid the fee so that they would disaffiliate from the union. Ms Boessiger told Shopfloor: “We are demanding that IKEA’s global management intervene immediately to stop this harassment of workers and their fami-

lies. It is completely unacceptable that IKEA management in Turkey would monitor or intervene in their employees’ family life and it raises a troubling spectre of the company’s attitude towards workers’ privacy and personal rights.” Alke Boessiger: Mapa broke talks promise

Picture: John Chaney

THE UNI IKEA Global Union Alliance have launched a new mobilisation plan to support Turkish IKEA workers. It comes after IKEA’s local franchisee, Mapa, went back on a promise to kickstart talks with the workers’ union Koop-Is. And Head of UNI Commerce

We stand with you!

mandate has sent a mass message of solidarity to retail workers organising in iKea stores in turkey. members gathered for the union’s biennial delegate conference in Wexford last month unanimously backed a motion calling on bosses at the iconic swedish multinational to “put its own values into practice” and to allow its workers in turkey to join a union “without fear of retaliation or recrimination”. the motion, put forward by mandate’s nec, called on the company to enter into talks with uni Global union to broker a worldwide agreement guaranteeing basic union and worker rights. it stated: “if iKea is able to impose the same concept and appearance to all iKea stores, all May 2012


the way down to meatballs in its restaurants worldwide, the company should also apply the same principle for a global labour relations policy, union and bargaining rights.” meanwhile, it is understood that “serious ongoing issues” with the way in which the franchise operation in iKea turkey operates may lead to the iKea Global union alliance calling for solidarity actions to be taken across the world in defence of turkish workers and in solidarity with their union, Koop-is. national coordinator brian forbes said: “this is unacceptable behaviour on the part of iKea turkey and can no longer be tolerated. the iKea parent company can no longer stand idly by without taking concerted and direct action to resolve these serious issues

Massive show of solidarity for Turkish IKEA workers, above, at Mandate conference, top 3


by Frances byrne

OPEN Chief Executive Officer OPEN, Barnardos and the National Women’s Council of Ireland have come together in a new campaign – 7 is Too Young – about one-parent families. The three organisations share profound concerns about the impact Budget 2012 has had on lone parents and the declared intention of the Government to reduce eligibility for the main social welfare payment to when the youngest child in a one-parent family turns just seven years of age. First, it’s important to note that all three organisations and many others want social welfare reform. The system is not perfect. It is complex. It doesn’t support part-time work the way it should. It doesn’t adequately support the welfare to work journey for any parent, not just those of us parenting alone. It needs to be reformed. This is not the way to do it though. In Budget 2012, there were a set of general cuts, which affected families who rely on a weekly, means-tested social income support such as the Back to School Clothing & Footwear Allowance, Rent Supplement and the Fuel Allowance. For our families though, there were a series of additional ‘reforms’: • The Earnings Disregard element of the One-parent Family Payment (OFP) was reduced by €16.50 to a weekly amount of €130. And the Department has signalled that this will reduce further over four years to €60 per week. • For lone parents on Community Employment (CE) before January 2012, the Qualified Child Increase (€29.80 per week per child) of their CE payment will no longer be paid from February 20, 2012. • Recipients of the OFP, who begin a CE scheme, will no longer receive a reduced OFP payment. At the time of going to print, the

Making our seven year olds austerity’s poster children

Mandate has given its full backing to the campaign Picture:7 is Too Young

Government is bringing the Social Welfare & Pensions Bill 2012 through the Oireachtas. Section Four will see the eligible age for the youngest child in a family in receipt of the One-parent Family Payment, go to 12 in 2012, 10 in 2013 and then seven in 2014 for new applicants for the Oneparent Family Payment. For lone parents already on the payment, this, the reduction to age seven, will happen in 2015. In short, the cumulative impact of Budget 2012 and the Bill will actually mean that lone parents will find it much harder to move off welfare, those in work already and on a reduced welfare payment will suffer

further cuts and poverty will increase inevitably. When introducing the Bill in the Dáil on April 18th, the Minister gave an undertaking that by December, when the next Budget is announced, unless “a credible, bankable childcare plan” is in place so that “Scandinavian childcare” can be delivered from January 2014, she wouldn’t proceed with the provisions of the Bill. We are, of course, delighted to hear a government minister recognise that quality, affordable and publicly subsidised childcare is what is needed for all parents. We admire her ambition but we have serious doubts in the capacity of the Government to have this in place by 2014. And we are asking serious questions which nobody seems prepared to answer, except in vague terms about the Troika, the need to

‘trigger’ the development of childcare provision and so on. So we are left wondering about the very worried lone parents who will have this uncertainty hanging over them. We are left questioning why we are putting the cart before the horse in this way? We are committed to working with the minister and her Cabinet colleagues but does anyone believe that the Government will be able to deliver on this commitment? So why proceed with Section Four when it is clear that the minister will have to acknowledge the inevitable next December? So the biggest question we are left with then is, why does this Government want to make the seven year olds in our families the poster children for austerity? OPEN is the national network of one-parent families:

Adult Education Courses for the Workplace

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

Communication Skills/ Personal Development and Effectiveness

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



Communication through Computers

This course is ideal for adults just learning about computers and confidence for communicating on-line.


Perhaps you’d like to brush up on your everyday maths, including home budgets, tax and weights/measures. Courses are free and open to members who have not achieved Leaving Certificate or who have an out of date Leaving Certificate. You can also achieve a FETAC Level 3 Award.

Workplace Location Phone

Please tick the box or boxes of the courses which interest you and return this form with your details to: Mandate’s Organising and Training Centre Distillery House, Distillery Road, Dublin 3 Phone 01-8369699, email Closing date Thursday 31st May 2012

You will be contacted to confirm places after Thursday, 31st May 2012 4

Skills for Work is funded by the Department of Education & Skills


Commissioner rules Dunnes breached act over change of contract a recent rights commissioner’s decision has been issued against dunnes stores after a worker’s contract was changed without notification. mandate brought the case before the commissioner after the employee, who was a sales assistant, was given cleaning duties. it was held that the claim was well-founded and that the retailer had breached terms contained in the Employment (Information) Act 1994 - 2001. compensation was awarded. divisional organiser amanda Kane, who presented the case, told Shopfloor that attempts to resolve the matter directly with management had been unsuccessful. she added: “this lead to unnecessary and avoidable litigation. this approach by dunnes stores to dealing with staff issues will continue to be challenged by all means available.”

union seeks meeting with club bosses mandate has contacted management at erin’s isle Gaa club over a number of issues raised by members of staff – but has yet to receive a reply. staff at the finglas sports club have a number of concerns over pay rates, working hours as well as issues relating to health and safety. industrial officer dave miskell, who is dealing with the issue, described the lack of response from erin’s isle management as “regrettable” and claims the union has no option but to seek the help of the labour relations commission. He told Shopfloor: “the staff involved are all locals and it is unfortunate that an organisation like this that relies on the support of the community in finglas would refuse a legitimate request from its staff to address their concerns in a meaningful way.” SHOPFLOOR

y May 2012


Heatons deal both ‘exceptional’ and ‘temporary’ MANDATE members at Heatons stores throughout the Republic have voted by a narrow majority to accept a further transitional agreement that included a wage cut. Shop stewards and officials engaged with management in a series of intense negotiations on the firm’s current financial position. The union’s negotiating team – after getting independent financial advice – concluded it was better to reach a short-term agreement that both secured jobs and the future of the firm. The temporary 18-month stabilisa-


tion deal included a 3% cut in pay rates. This loss was offset in part after it was confirmed that staff would receive an incremental increase this year. Management had initially sought to slash wages by 10%. Under the deal, the Christmas bonus will be temporarily suspended, there will be a new Sunday pay rate and staff will receive a one-off extra day’s leave. In a bid to boost sales, staff discount has been increased for December and a sales incentive scheme introduced that will share 10% of

sales above budget with the staff. Divisional organiser Bill Kelly said: “Mandate has also secured a clause committing Heatons to maintaining staff working hours at the level they were during comparable trading periods in 2011.” According to union sources, there were frank exchanges of views during the talks and shop stewards forcibly pointed out that lower paid retail workers could not carry the can for the mismanagement of the economy and the downturn in consumer spending and confidence. General secretary John Douglas

told Shopfloor: “Heaton’s management was left in no doubt that these proposals were both exceptional and temporary and that Mandate negotiators intended to monitor company performance with a view to restoring lost ground.” Members at Heatons department stores across the country were understandably unhappy with the proposals, but accepted that the difficult economic sitution had had a major impact on the retailer’s trading position. The proposals were accepted in a secret ballot by a narrow majority by the members who, according to the

Meet our new team...

National co-ordinator Brian Forbes, back left, with organisers Tara Keane, Inga Sperlina, Aideen Carberry and Colm Maguire with lead organiser Kathy McQuillan

mandate’s organising department is now fully staffed up and ready for action. lead organiser Kathy mcQuillan along with organisers aideen carberry, tara Keane and colm maguire join inga sperlina who was appointed earlier this year. the new team is pictured above with national co-ordinator brian forbes at the recent biennial delegate conference in May 2012


Wexford. Kathy told Shopfloor: “at this year’s conference, outreach was made to delegates to press them to get involved in recruiting new members. “they were asked to send messages to non-union retail workers by filling out quote sheets. they also had their pictures taken for use in future recruiting drives. “more than 100 delegates stopped by

the organising booth during the conference and volunteered to get involved in recruiting and organising. “the organising department is set to work with members across the union, both to recruit in new workplaces, and to get members involved as member-organisers who can help to recruit non-union workers in their own workplaces.”

union, showed “great maturity” in considering the proposals at local meetings. Mr Douglas said: “The situation which Heatons and indeed many other retail companies find themselves in is a direct result of the impact of the austerity policies which have been imposed on Ireland in the Troika bailout agreement and which have shrunk the domestic economy by 28% since 2008. “That is why Mandate is calling for an end to austerity policies and for a Plan B that will invest in economic growth and jobs and put spending power back into workers’ pockets.”

Lab Court victory for Tesco pair

TESCO employees Kevin Kelly and Eamon McAvoy have thanked Mandate for its support after successfully defending an appeal brought by their employer to the Labour Court. The Rights Commissioner had previously ruled in favour of the pair – both long-long section managers at Tesco’s Castlebar store – but the company later launched an appeal. Following unilateral changes to management structures in 2010, Mr Kelly and Mr McAvoy were given three options – to apply and be interviewed for a new line manager role for the same pay, to take on a new team leader role with a pay cut or take on a general sales assistant position, also with a pay cut. However, the last two options had no compensation element to “soften” the impact of the move. After going through internal grievance procedures, Mandate referred the cases to the Rights Commissioner. The cases, heard in July 2011, were successful and the Rights Commissioner issued a recommendation. The Commissioner stated: “An employer is entitled to change and adapt its management structure to meet the changing demands of customers and business and no employee should expect that their job or role will never change. “I am satisfied that there was good and valid reason for the management restructure... I note that the normal criteria is that compensation does not apply where the move or change is voluntary, but does apply where it is involuntary.” Because the changes were not voluntary, the Commissioner recommended both employees receive “one and half times their annual loss in salary” because of the pay cuts. Tesco’s appeal to the Labour Court was heard in March. After two lengthy hearings involving “robust representations” by both sides, Labour Court dismissed the employer’s appeals and upheld the Rights Commissioner original decisions for each of the cases. Mandate has asked Tesco to honour the terms of recommendations and is awaiting a response. 5


MANDATE have taken a courageous position on the upcoming austerity treaty in the face of all sorts of scaremongering and media bias. It’s an important position based on Mandate’s passionate commitment to low- paid workers and the need to resist austerity. The TEEU and Unite have also recommended a No vote. And both the ETUC and UNI Europa have also taken clear No positions on the forthcoming Fiscal Treaty that will impose permanent austerity on this island. These unions see the link between on-going austerity, job losses and low pay. They are anti-austerity, and so, are against this treaty. Those supporting the treaty or those who are remaining silent are willing to accept and support an economic straitjacket. This will impose economic hardship upon their members through on-going pay cuts and pay freezes, through pension entitlement reductions, through new regressive stealth taxes and, importantly, through the continued transfer of public wealth – sale of State assets, cuts to public services, privatisations, payments to banks and bondholders – to big business. Surely, this Treaty presents a dividing line? Austerity is robbing union members while enriching the wealthy. Recent research shows that austerity to date has resulted in the richest 10% increasing their disposable income while the poorest 10% have faced up to a 25% reduction in their disposable income. Figure 1 illustrates these findings. It is difficult to see how a union could claim to be anti-austerity but in favour of the economic straitjacket that makes austerity the legal economic framework of the State. Of course, the proposed permanent austerity treaty is part of the EU’s on-going response to the crisis – make working people pay for the debts greedy and irresponsible finance houses built up. Transfer debt and risk to working people and transfer money and healthy companies to big business. The austerity being imposed on workers and their families is a result of the EU’s clear policy of support for bondholders and financial institutions. The EU has decided

Why No can be only response to austerity...

that those people that caused the crisis are far more important and worth sacrificing you and me for. They are taking money out of our pockets and giving it to banks and bondholders. Ireland’s sovereign debt was not in crisis before the bank guarantees and bailouts. The State’s sovereign debt was €47 billion – or 25% GDP – in 2007. This was well within recom-

mended levels. It was only following the bank guarantee, recapitalisation costs, increased cost of State borrowing and the collapse in GNP imposed upon Ireland to protect the European banking system that Irish sovereign debt became unsustainable. The establishment is right about one thing. Debt and austerity are linked. But it is not our debt so nor

should it be our austerity. Working people and families have been laden with debt that is not theirs. That’s not fair. But then they are also being made pay with austerity to pay both the debt and interest back to some of the same banks in Europe. We are, in fact, being made to pay twice for a debt that isn’t ours to begin with to some of the same banks that created the debt! That really isn’t fair! Last year the State paid €5.4 billion in interest on the debt that isn’t ours. And Minister Noonan recently acknowledged that little if nothing of our principal sum was reduced. So it is not just the debt that was socialised that is crippling the State but also the interest. Bearing in mind our sovereign debt was just €47 billion and 25% GDP five years ago, the cost of saving private gamblers and speculators has put the Government debt at €165 billion – or 107% GDP – at the end of 2011! It is estimated by the IMF to reach 119% by the end of 2013 – that would put it about €185 billion, quadrupling the State’s debt to save the same people that created the debt and that actually benefit from

The EU are taking money out of our pockets and giving it to the banks and bondholders

brown thomas bosses sent signal on pay

Dave Moran: Hopeful about brokering deal


mandate officials have underlined to management at brown thomas that they expect to see a change in their pay policy during talks with the union. it follows three years of pay freezes in a row for staff. mandate’s national agreement with the retailer ended in february and the union met with bosses on march 15th to discuss pay and other issues. in advance of the discussions, the firm had agreed to pay the balance of the monies owed to members since the freezing of

austerity! Can anyone now not accept James Connolly’s statement that government is just a committee for managing the affairs of the capitalist class. And what have we to look forward to if Fine Gael and Labour are allowed to continue to ruin the country? The sale of productive public companies. The sale of valuable State assets. More cuts to social spending. Cuts to the dole. Increases to retirement age. Increases to the Household Charge. Water charges. Carbon tax. Increases in VAT. Further reduction in minimum wage and all sectoral wage rates. All of this is clearly outlined in the EU IMF conditionality. While no one is arguing banks are not necessary. Of course they are. They are necessary to lend to businesses to expand and create jobs. They are necessary as a safe place for savings. They are necessary to lend to families to secure a home. But they are not required to lend billions to addicts to speculate and gamble our futures on. They are not required to lend billions to unproductive enterprises like developers as they have done. The banking system should not be a profit-creating industry of itself. It should exist to support production that creates long-term, well-paying, decent jobs. Likewise, sovereign debt is not necessarily a bad thing. Sovereign debt has been used to build schools, hospitals, set up successful and productive public enterprises. But right now our sovereign debt is being quadrupled, imposing austerity upon working people to pay back gamblers. This is being done not to increase the wealth and wellbeing of the nation but actually to decrease it. This is only understandable when one considers the quote from Connolly or, more recently, echoed by the parliamentary whip of the German Christian Democrats, Peter Altmaier, who said: “If Mr Hollande were to say that he wants to increase government spending and save less, he’ll lose the confidence of the financial markets. “We will stick to our fundamental principles because there’s really no alternative.”

Shop stewards on boots forum

increments in 2009. divisional organiser dave moran said: “this has since been paid and is a welcome step for these members who had effectively lost out on two fronts – the pay freeze and the failure to receive their increments.” He added: “We told management that after three years of pay freezes, the time had come for this stance to be reversed and that we

expected to see movement on this in the talks. We also expressed our disappointment at the failure to broker a deal on a new procedural agreement after a year of talks. “While the pay discussions are only at the preliminary stage, we remain hopeful of reaching an agreement on pay and other issues with brown thomas and are currently awaiting a date for a further meeting.”

mandate shop stewards have been elected to the boots store forums for the first time since the consultation framework was set up in 2006. the elections, which took place in march, followed a campaign by the union to encourage members to take part in the process. divisional organiser brendan o’Hanlon congratulated the successful union candidates who were nominated by their colleagues. He added: “mandate looks forward to working with boots through the forum process and we encourage all members to contribute through their representatives in the future.” SHOPFLOOR

y May 2012


We need massive debt write-down strategy

by Ciaran Campbell

MANDATE’S laudable call for a ‘No’ vote on the May 31st referendum on the Fiscal Treaty was met with the expected mixed bag of responses from the Irish media and politicians. But it was a brave call and one that requires the due attention it deserves and not the scaremongering headlines it has so far attracted from those in the so-called ‘Yes’ camp. General secretary John Douglas clearly set out the union’s position on Primetime on Tuesday after the Mandate conference. This could not be taken in isolation. The call for a ‘No’ vote in the referendum is not an end in itself but should be a start of a process to determine how this country can recover and grow itself out of this economic quagmire. He is correct and it is up to Mandate and others seeking a ‘No’ vote to demonstrate what that process should be. Therein lies the difficulty. It is important to note that those politicians leading the ‘Yes’ camp campaign – Kenny and Gilmore at al – have only recently coupled an economic and jobs growth dimension to this Fiscal Treaty, pointing out that it is currently being worked on and should be ready in and around the time of the referendum. This is the same sort of stuff that accompanied the ‘Yes’ campaigns in both the Lisbon referenda. Posters proclaiming that saying ‘Yes to Lisbon’ would put us ‘At the heart of Europe’ and was a ‘Vote for jobs’ were clearly wrong. In fact, it seems we are nothing but an annoying pimple on Europe’s backside. And, of course, unemployment has soared in the Republic since the Lisbon I and II. Furthermore the recent announcements that the Troika now wants to direct Ireland’s economic recovery towards job creation should be treated with cynicism – as it appears incredibly coincidental that the same announcements were made practically on the eve of the referendum campaigns. It is correct that future governments in Europe should behave with the economic discipline expected of them but regulation has historically proven to be useless in controlling capitalism. Economic history has shown fiscaltype rules will either be rewritten or simply ignored in the pursuit of profits and control.

This Fiscal Treaty will be no different and serves as an indictment on previous governments and how they ran their affairs. To begin with, there needs to be a writedown of all the debt and a subsequent realignment of related and associated economies ahead of capitalism cannibalising itself entirely. Yes, this will introduce austerity but no more than what we are already experiencing and furthermore provides us with a means to control our own economic destiny. The recent bank write-down of a €152,000 mortgage debt for a nurse on an average income represents a microcosm of exactly what needs to happen on a larger and international scale.

Stabilising our livelihoods and our indebtedness is a necessity...

Both parties demonstrated real logic in dealing with a problem that was never going to be solved by the relentless pursuit of debt that not only couldn’t be paid back but had negative consequences for both the individual and the bank. Ireland is in a similar situation, and ahead of any attempt to recover and grow our economy, creating sustainable and long-lasting jobs as well as stabilising our livelihoods and our current indebtedness – which was caused by others – is a necessity. Rather than asking the Irish population should we agree or not to this new Fiscal Treaty, the Government should ask us should we bail out the very bondholders that continue to wreak economic havoc and hardship on us? Voting ‘No’ on May 31st is the right and proper thing to do. It is morally right and will serve as a reminder to the Government that enough is enough! Ciaran Campbell is a divisional organiser for Mandate in the North West

Health & Safety FETAC Level 5

This course is aimed at Health and Safety representatives Topic covered on the course: • Health and Safety Legislation • Role of Health and Safety Representative • Safety statements • Role of Health and Safety Authority • Occupational health • Identification of hazards and risk assessment • Accident investigation • Fire safety • Effective communications • Health and safety promotion

Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this course receive a Fetac Level 5 component award certificate and may progress to other courses offered by Mandate. If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: May 2012


StartS page 13

all the pix from bDC 2012 Super 8 page pullout


Divisional organiser John Carty: Warned employer over Tribunal settlement

tribunal awards €25k over redundancy case A MEMBER of Mandate has been awarded €25,000 compensation at the Employment Appeals Tribunal. Patrick Richardson, who worked at McCann’s Supervalu store in Moycullen, Co Galway, brought the case after being made redundant. It was claimed the employers had hidden behind a unilaterally-imposed ‘matrix’ in deciding who was to be laid off. Mr Richardson also had the right to appeal the decision to make him redundant to higher management. However, he did not attend the subsequent appeal as he was not allowed to bring along his trade union official. The Tribunal, in their

unanimous determination, said: ‘The manner in which the matrix results were considered and implemented and communicated to the respondent [Patrick Richardson] were also defective.” Divisional organiser John Carty told Shopfloor: “As the employer has yet to pay the award and has failed to appeal the Employment Appeals Tribunal determination to the Circuit Court, the matter is now with Mandate solicitors who are following up on the payment of the award to our member. “Should the employer fail to pay the compensation, Mandate will instruct its solicitors to initiate legal proceedings against the employer for failure to pay the award.”

Union Representatives Introductory Course The Union Representative Introductory Training Course is for new shop stewards/union representatives. The course aims to provide information, skills and knowledge to our shop stewards/union representatives to assist them in their role in the workplace. Course content: • Background to Mandate. • The role and responsibilities of a Shop Steward/Union Representative. • Examining disciplinary/grievance procedures. • Developing negotiating skills. • Representing members at local level. • Communication skills/solving members’ problems. • Organising, Recruitment and Campaigns. • Induction presentations. Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this course will obtain a Mandate certificate. They may progress to a Union Representative Advanced Course and to other relevant training courses offered by Mandate. If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email: 7


Vita Cortex workers give the thumbs-up after backing resolution proposals

Workers’ ‘courage’ hailed after 139-day sit-in ends MANDATE has hailed the “courage, resolve and solidarity” shown by workers involved in the four-month long Vita Cortex sit-in. It comes after they voted on May 2nd to accept proposals brokered between SIPTU representatives and the firm’s owners. Mandate general secretary John Douglas said: “Their courage, resolve and solidarity in sticking this out until they achieved a just settlement is an object lesson to all us. All workers are heartened by this development.” SIPTU manufacturing divisional organiser Gerry McCormack told Shopfloor the workers were “very pleased” to secure “equitable and fair” redundancy payments. He added: “They can now return to their normal lives satisfied they achieved their objective.”

Mr Douglas also flagged up the case of Connolly Shoes striker John Mulpetre who has been on strike for two-and-a-half years. He said: “Now that Vita Cortex has been resolved, the light of fairness and justice should shine on the plight of John Mulpetre. “Connolly Shoes owes John and his three colleagues tens of thousands of euro in awards by the institutions of this State yet Connolly Shoes – like many other employers – stick two fingers up to their loyal workforce and the taxpayer who ultimately ends up footing the bill. “It's time adequate legislative provisions were enacted to prevent this scandalous types of behaviour perpetrated on workers by Connolly Shoes and their ilk.” Mr Douglas added: “Shame on them! Buy union, buy Fair Shop.”


Workers of the world have been forgotten - uNI UNI general secretary Philip Jennings has warned “the workers of the world have been forgotten”. Speaking on May 1, International Workers’ Day, his comments were in reaction to a new ILO report setting out how the global labour market was cracking under the hammer of austerity. The World of Work Report 2012 predicts 202 million people will be unemployed by the end of the year. And it revealed that 50 million jobs have gone since the financial crisis hit in 2008. Calling the report a “May Day warning”, Mr Jennings said:“The ILO has called it correctly. Misguided fiscal austerity and thinly disguised attacks on unions dressed up as labour market reforms have had ‘devastating consequences’ on work-

ers’ lives. “The austerity measures have fuelled rather than cut deficits. There’s a saying, ‘When you are in a hole stop digging’. We are in it deep enough and only a real plan to put us back to work, is going to get us out. “Workers of the world are entitled to feel that they have been forgotten this Labour Day but we can see this through together. The unions both nationally and globally are prepared to fight for them and the disenfranchised 99% have shown they are prepared to stand up for themselves and demand change. “The calls will get louder and if the politicians and bankers do not listen and take positive steps to create decent jobs now, the civil unrest predicted in this report will come true.”


Voting ‘Yes’ is about the euro in your pocket ON May 31st every Irish voter will have a decision to make – to say yes or no to the Stability Treaty. This is a Treaty to help protect our future – to help bring an end to the crisis which has hit the euro so hard. The euro is the money in our pockets, what we’re paid in, what we spend with and, if we’re lucky enough, what we try to put aside in some savings. In hammering out the details of it with other European countries, we had one key question in mind – is this Treaty good for the Irish people or isn’t it? I firmly believe it is and I’d never have agreed to it if it wasn’t. The Treaty is part of a package that will help Europe’s economies to grow and to create new jobs. And new jobs are what the Irish economy needs right now. One big reason job-creators like Paypal and Google are happy to invest in Ireland is because we’re at the heart of the euro. If we support this Treaty, we stay there. This Treaty means also that we will never, ever let anyone destroy our economy again. That’s be-

by eamon gilmore tD tanaiste & Leader of the Labour party

cause it sets out rules which protect us from future governments squandering our hard-earned cash. The Treaty also provides us with a crucial insurance policy as we work our way out of the EU/IMF programme. If we support the Treaty, we will have access to the new bailout fund (called the ESM) if we ever needed it in the future. And even just having the ESM on standby helps us get the money we need as cheaply as possible. But if we vote No, those crucial benefits are lost to us. The “No side” in this

debate, can only offer uncertainty and risk. We could again fall victim to faceless market speculators and be forced into another round of very serious cuts. The Treaty’s opponents say “No to Austerity” – in reality “No = Austerity”. We’ve never claimed this Treaty will solve everything. But it is a vote about Ireland’s future and an important step in our economic comeback. I hope you see it this way too and support the Treaty on May 31st.

Wal-Mart forced to pay out $4.8m tHe us government’s department of labor has ordered Wal-mart to pay $4.8m in back wages and damages to thousands of employees. the decision affects 4,500 vision centre managers and asset protection co-ordinators who worked for the retailer between 2004 and 2007. Wal-mart was wrong in thinking the employees were exempt from federal regulations on overtime payments. labor secretary Hilda l solis said: “let this be a signal to other companies that when violations are found, the labor department will take appropriate action.” 8


y May 2012


Solidarity rained supreme!

thousands took to the streets of dublin to celebrate international Workers’ day on may 1st. unfortunately the heavens opened but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of those who took part in the dublin council of trade unions-organised march and rally. one of the floats featured a ghoulish outsize representation of a banker, right, along with the slogan “shower of bankers” – particularly appropriate give the weather! mandate general secretary John douglas was a keynote speaker at the event Pictures: Paula Geraghty

Check out Trade Union TV coverage of the day Mandate’s John Douglas and Rita Fagan, below, of Spectacle of Defiance, were among the speakers at the event






Labour Court recommends that warning be rescinded THE LABOUR Court has recommended that a written warning given to a checkout operator at Dunnes Stores be rescinded. The March 4th recommendation also called on management to ensure their disciplinary procedures are reviewed to ensure members of staff are treated fairly and with proportionality. Mandate member Mary Povey, who had worked for Dunnes for about nine years, was called to a series of meetings in June and December 2010 and March 2011 to discuss a number of till discrepancies. She was subsequently issued with a written warning. However, Ms Povey appealed the matter to the Rights Commissioner because she was unhappy with how the company had reached its decision. Dunnes Stores declined to take part in this process and in December 2011, Ms Povey, as was her right under Section 20(1) of the Industrial Relations Act, 1969, referred the issue to the Labour Court. At the Labour Court, Mandate argued that managers had never informed Ms Povey these meetings were disciplinary in nature and had not offered her any representation, and, in doing so, had contravened their own disciplinary policy. Mandate also claimed Ms Povey had been left “exposed and vulnerable” to a “management team culture” that had “deviated from the fundamentals of natural justice”. The Labour Court issued its recommendations on April 3rd noting that Dunnes Stores management had decided not to attend the hearing. It agreed with Mandate’s contention that Ms Povey had not been

given sufficient advance notice that the meetings were disciplinary in nature nor given the opportunity to be accompanied by a friend or colleague. The Court said management had failed to set out the charges against Ms Povey in sufficent detail to allow her “to prepare a defence, offer an explanation for, or make representations in mitigation of any shortcomings on her part”. It claimed this had “amounted to a denial of fair procedure in the exercise of its rights and obligations under the staff manual”.

‘Avenues of appeal’

Because the decision to issue a written warning was taken by the Store Manager, the Court found this meant that any “avenue of appeal” through the appeals officer – who was himself subordinate to the Store Manager – was “inadequate”. This also amounted to a denial of fair procedure. Evidence presented to the appeals officer was not given to Ms Povey for “comment or observation”. In the event, the appeals officer upheld the original sanction which because there was no time limit attached to it meant that it would remain on the employee’s record indefinitely. This, the Court found, was “disproportinate and unfair”. It concluded: “Taking these matters into account the Court recommends that the written warning be rescinded, that the procedures be reviewed and that systems be put in place to ensure that all staff are treated fairly and proportionately in the management of disciplinary matters.”

Mandate backing for SF’s employment bill

mandate has given its full backing to the Protection of Employees Bill 2012. the bill, launched by sinn féin at leinster House on may 1st, hopes to address the increasing difficulty workers face in securing their entitlements after being made redundant. throwing the union’s full weight behind the bill, general secretary John douglas said: “this is very much welcomed by mandate, as recently unemployed workers are finding it harder and harder to get the benefits that they are entitled too.” He claimed the intent of the bill was to enhance workers’ rights as well as to speed up claims – and was especially important in the light of recent events. mr douglas added: “lately we have seen former workers being denied their rights after being made redundant, worrying cases such as Vita cortex, Game and la senza are becoming all too common. “the Government needs to protect workers and this bill is a step in the right direction.” 10


Vote No to the Fiscal treaty, members urged

General secretary John Douglas, slamming ‘failed policies and ideologies’, called on Mandate members to vote No on March 31st

MANDATE has called on its 45,000 members to vote No to the Fiscal Treaty. General secretary John Douglas told delegates gathered for the union’s Biennial Delegate Conference in Wexford that Mandate would make no apology for campaigning for a No vote on May 31st. He said: “The Fiscal Treaty, if passed, will not create one job; on the contrary it will legally lock down Irish economic activity at its current levels, and may even shrink domestic demand further – leading to mass unemployment, decades of emigration and sow the seeds for future social conflict. “We strongly urge all our members not only to vote no to the treaty, but to get involved in their local ‘No’campaign.” Mr Douglas claimed the austerity policies being pursued by the current government as part of the Troika bailout agreement were choking the life out of the Irish economy – particularly the domestic economy. He told conference: “There are over 400,000 Irish workers without jobs, 50,000 are leaving the country each year, tens of thousands of families are being crushed under the burden of unsustainable mortgages and living in fear of eviction. “Living standards, welfare and services are being slashed, the government is introducing a raft of re-

gressive charges and taxes, a recent Irish League of Credit Unions report showed that 50% of those surveyed had less than €100 left to spend at the end of the month after paying all bills – what sort of an existence is this?” Mr Douglas reminded delegates that the imposition of austerity measures had resulted in 25 million workers being thrown on the dole across Europe – 5.5 million of whom were aged under 25.


He said: “This is a scandal, a human waste of mega proportions – but still, our government at the behest of our European banking masters continues with these failed policies and ideologies, condemning future generations of Irish citizens to a mere existence on the margins of society. “This treaty has nothing to do with ‘good housekeeping’ or ‘managing the household budget’; it is about copperfastening into an internationally legally binding agreement, decades of austerity, social exclusion, mass long term unemployment and emigration – and a continuation of attacks on workers’ rights and the welfare system. “It is not about what is good for Irish citizens, or the citizens of Europe, it is a treaty of the Right for the Right!” Mr Douglas explained to dele-

gates that voting no in itself was not a solution – but was the start of one. He said: “We demand that this government embarks on an investment strategy for growth and for jobs, that this government puts the needs of its own citizens above the needs of the banks’ balance sheets. “This government needs to move quickly on the issue of personal debt forgiveness and, in particular, the unsustainable levels of mortgage repayments which are sucking the life blood out of consumer spending. “Unfortunately, at this point in time this government seems intent on washing clean bank balance sheets by removing tracker mortgages while at the same time keeping their foot on the throats of hard-pressed mortgage holders. “Since the start of this crisis, the trade union movement has advocated that while we must manage our budgets, economic growth is key – economic growth to turn our domestic economy around. “The trade union think-tank, the Nevin Economic Research Institute has identified funding sources of up to €15 billion for investment in vital infrastructure and services. “This level of investment would clearly improve our national infrastructure, boost demand by creating much needed economic activity and jobs.” SHOPFLOOR

y May 2012


How the recession has boosted ranks of the Precariat

‘Workforce under extraordinary levels of stress’:Welfare expert Camille Loftus outlining the findings of a major new report, commissioned by Mandate, on the impact the recession has had on low paid workers Picture:John Chaney

Policy expert camille loftus gave delegates a preview of the key findings of a significant new research paper commissioned by mandate. the report, Decent Work? The Impact of the Recession on Low Paid Workers, is being launched later this month. ms loftus outlined how fewer and fewer employees can rely on decent pay and social protection in the ireland of today.

May 2012


this is particularly true of the retail sector where two-thirds of mandate members described themselves to researchers as part-time workers. she spoke of how an increasing percentage of the working population had become part of what she dubbed “the Precariat” – i.e. workers who rely on risky, uncertain and precarious employment. they were the “outsiders”, she added,

who were low-paid, had temporary contracts and had little or no security. these workers were also highly flexible and were expected by employers to be nearly constantly available for work – despite working fewer hours. ms loftus noted that, in contrast, the “insiders” were those employees who worked full-time, had pensions, proper leave and steady hours.

all this was taking place against a backdrop where social protection was being “chipped away”. low paid workers had to deal with falls in pay, loss of working hours and tax rises. the research findings, she said, painted a picture of a “workforce under an extraordinary level of stress”.

Larkin and Connolly ‘are turning in their graves...’

SOME delegates recalled a number of Ireland’s inspirational national heroes in their contributions to the conference. Dublin South delegate Anthony Ryan lashed the government for “oppressing working class people”. Speaking on Motion 18 [Austerity is Not Working], he said working people had been left to “foot the bill for property developers and greedy bankers”. He told delegates: “Unfair taxes, cutting health services and education... it’s a joke and the bigger joke is… we’re allowing them to do it! “We have 45,000 members, why can’t we all stand up and unite against austerity?” Mr Ryan said the union needed a more “proactive approach”, to campaign more and recruit more.

He added: It’s a cheek to call ourselves a Free State because it’s not really a democracy any more. “Larkin and Connolly would be turning in their graves at how this society has turned out.” Delegate David Beattie, of Ballina Local Council, speaking on Motion 32 about the crisis in rural Ireland, invoked the spirit of Land League founder Michael Davitt. He told delegates that the Land League had been founded in 1879 in Co Mayo with the slogan, ‘The land of Ireland for the people of Ireland’. Mr Beattie said: “Davitt believed that if people stood together there was nothing they could not achieve. “That lesson is as vital and as important today as it was 130 years ago.”



Solidarity is what we’re about PERSEVERANCE in difficult times is the key to success, national co-ordinator Brian Forbes told delegates as he spoke on the principal theme of the conference, Decent Work = Better Future. Pointing out Wake Up & Take Action had been the theme of the last conference in Galway, he outlined how the union had since then been at the forefront in taking “direct action” against “employer attacks on workers” and the “pick-pocketing” of the least well-off in a range of austerity measures implemented by both this and previous governments. Since the last BDC, Mandate had helped set up a number of campaigning groups – The Poor Can’t Pay, The Coalition to Protect the Low Paid – and had also launched a “day of shame” on the day legislation was enacted in the Dail attacking the lowest paid. He said that Mandate had “argued vociferously and with determination” that these right-wing policies were bad for everyone, especially, he quipped, “from the perspective of an elected TD, bad for their future in politics”. In the end, “worker power, worker pressure and worker determination” had forced a complete reversal. Mandate’s campaigns, he noted, were not based on “political alliances or allegiances”. However, he spoke of the necessity for unions to forge links with “social solidarity groups and campaigners for a fairer society”. Pointing out that it was the 100th anniversary of Gothic horror writer Bram Stoker’s death, he likened the Troika to “three Draculas arriving from their castles in Europe” to decide that the patient – in this case Ireland – could only be cured by “the removal of a sufficient quantity of blood”. He told delegates: “When this treatment doesn’t work, they repeat it over and over again. Medical science has moved on. Economics, it

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MARCH 2012

nt e Occupy moveme r 12. rs of the worldwid on Novembe of Irish supporte streets of Dublin back teeth take to the sick to their gement Ordinary citizensand political mismanarance to the seat of Rememb corporate greed the Garden Dame Street. at marched from finance sector of Ireland’s

are without work

76,000 inemigrated last year


Same old, same old: The Coalition Government’s much publicised jobs plan well short of what falls is needed

Syour HOPFLOOR newspaper THE Government must act in best interests of its citizens an the not on behalf of the bankers a d speculators who have wreake nd d havoc on this society. Mandate general secretary Jo Douglas made the call as min hn isters launched an Action Plan for Jobs last month.

He described the initiative – which aims to create 100,000  jobs by 2016 – as “delusional” . “They plan to do this within  existing, significantly reduce budgets while lining up at le d two more austerity budgets.”ast This would, Mr Douglas warn further drive down domestic ed,  


We need REAL stimulus

demand, increase unemploym and perpetuate “an ever shri ent nking economy”. “While Ireland burns on its bo nfire of debt, the Government launches a jobs initiative that i

significantly lacking in imaginas  and with little or no new innov tion ideas.  It’s the same old same o ative ld – to coin a phrase.” Mr Douglas reiterated Manda view that job creation and grow te’s remained the “vital medicines th ” that

would nurse Ireland back to  economic recovery. He said: “W e

now have close to half a millio people on the dole with many n 

families barely scrapping by t maintain dignity and self-respo ect. “This is happening while our  political masters continue to f more good money after bad ineed black hole of failed banks here to the Ireland and also to greedy bon in holders who gambled and lost dstill get paid by Irish workers a yet nd


and gambling bondholders” to directed instead to invest in pe be This would create “a real and  ople. effective jobs stimulus package society.” Against this backdrop ”. Mr Douglas added: “Emigration 76,000 people had emigrated  , now sadly once more in vogue  is last year alone in search of a b in the our young people desperate to for etter future.  work but not desperate enoug  find A total of 1,640 companies hav work as free labour for profita h to been declared bankrupt and t e multinationals for what amou ble sands more businesses are in hounts to slave labour wages on governm straits.  Mr Douglas said: “Longdire initiatives such as the JobBridg ent e unemployment has increased  term  scheme. 14.5% to nearly 200,000 peop by “What a legacy they are buildi and that simply is a national dile – Our legacy will be to fight back ng. s by grace.” He called for funds tha organising and campaigning. I being used to prop up “failed bt were tolerate this, then our childrenf we  will anks be next!” 

would appear, has not…” Ireland’s national sovereignty and identity was, Mr Forbes warned, being sacrificed “on the altar of austerity” at the behest of the Troika, who he dubbed “our new political masters”. He told conference how the union had now boosted its organising ability through the setting up of a Strategic Organising Department. “Organising in retail is a tough job. Finding dedicated and passionate organisers to do that tough job is in itself a tough job. “We know there are thousands more talented and dedicated retail workers out there. Some already connected to Mandate and some who may not yet have had the opportunity to engage with us.” Describing this as an “untapped resource”, he spoke about the “new and exciting” Step Up development programme to be launched shortly. “This programme will afford individuals displaying an aptitude for organising the opportunity to leave the shop floor for a specified period of time and sample life as a member organiser. “They will work alongside our current organisers and learn firsthand the skills of organising.” Mr Forbes said Mandate was a union dedicated to “giving power to workers and to building effective and sustainable workplace structures”. “Each of you here today plays a vital and important role in helping us to re-shape our approach to union organising and union density.” He added: “Building worker power and creating space for a new and exciting type of trade unionism not based on what the union can do for the workers but based on what workers can do for workers as the workplace face of the union.” Mr Forbes assured delegates that their work as union activists was vitally important in making a “real dif-

ference to people’s lives”. He said: “These are terrible times, beyond the life experience of anyone in this room. But still we must persevere as we are all that stands between the workers of this country and the continuing race to the bottom. You are leaders in your workplaces – you might have chosen a better time to be in that position – but in it we are and we must never give up. “Decent Work must become one of a number of future core values of this great country. And these core values can be summed up in one

word – solidarity! Solidarity is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all. “Solidarity is what you do as trade unionists every day. “Every time you try to protect a person from unfair treatment, every time you try to save a job, every time you insist on a member’s entitlement to proper pay and conditions, every time you expose exploitation of a vulnerable person – that’s solidarity in action.”

Brian Forbes: ‘That’s solidarity in action...’ Delegates were visibly moved by speeches delivered in support of Motion 15, calling on the incoming NEC to lobby the government to increase funding to organisations dealing with suicide prevention. Conference heard how Ireland has one of the highest suicide rates in the world

Forging new model of ‘unfair and unjust’ Allowance cut sums global labour relations up all that is

unions have to deal with the globalisation of capital by aiming to grow worker and union power across the world, alke boessiger, Head of uni commerce, told delegates. she said as part of that effort uni was working with affiliated unions, including mandate, to “create a new model of global labour relations” that “applies global values locally”. ms boessiger said uni commerce was focussing on leading multinational retailers that were “setting the standards” for the rest of industry.

Pictures: Paula Geraghty

‘We have Global agreements with carrefour, H&m and Zara in which the companies commit to working with uni and our affiliated unions everywhere to develop constructive labour relations and which guarantee workers the right to be a union member and bargain collectively.” she also took the opportunity of announcing the first ever collective agreement in the retail sector in colombia with carrefour, adding: “i hope that other companies will follow this example which opens a new chapter in the world of labour relations in the country.”

MICHAEL Moroney, speaking on Motion 28, calling on the incoming NEC to lobby the government to reverse the cuts in fuel allowances and charges on medical cards for OAPs, said pensioners had already paid their dues through their working life. He told delegates: “Introducing stealth taxes on someone on a pension is unfair and unjust.”

Motion voted down MOTION 23, put forward by Artane Local Council, calling on NEC to condemn the tax status of religious organisations following the Cloyne Report conference, was defeated after a card vote. Speaking for the motion, delegate Martin Lynch told conference: “Every organisation, whether religious or not, should pay the same as we do.” Another delegate speaking against, said it could target religiously-based charities such as St Vincent de Paul.

wrong today

dublin south West lc member marie Garland speaking on motion 29, attacking the cut in child allowance for third and subsequent children made in budget 2011, said the move “summed up all that is wrong with the ireland of today”. she hit out at the government, including its labour Party component, for cutting the benefit to larger families which paying out massive sums to the banks. ms Garland said: “this has to stop. We are bleeding the country and its people dry. this cut to the most vulnerable in our society must be reversed. “the government should instead increase taxes on those who can afford it.” SHOPFLOOR

y May 2012



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Co ure SpeCIaL pICt

PHOTOGRAPHERS John Chaney & Paula Geraghty

t N e M e L p p u S r I N e V u o S 8 page


VOICES Jackie Madden

Speakers June Byrne, Boots, Dublin North Division, and, below, Yvonne Kavanagh, Tesco Ballybrack, Dublin South and Wicklow Division

I sense the Irish are fighting back THE Irish people have had enough and the Household Charge is one unjustified and unjustifiable levy too far, Jackie Madden told Shopfloor. Jackie, a shop steward with M&S in Athlone, joined the local branch of the campaign against household and water charges earlier this year. She became involved after hearing Claire Daly and Ming Flanagan speak on the issue at a meeting in Moate, Co Westmeath, in February. Jackie said: “It’s not the €100 itself, it’s the principle behind the levy. I have no problem paying €100 if I am given something in return. But there is no bill. I don’t pay anything if I don’t get a bill and the people who have paid have not received a receipt. “Personally, I think that this payment is a means of creating a database for the government. I downloaded the form and at the end you have to declare that your home is eligible for the Household Charge.” She is particularly angry at the government’s “bullying” approach and the way the charge has been presented in the media. “My mother who is a pensioner has to pay it. The majority of old people have already paid it because of media coverage and threatening tactics by the government that the amount could be taken from their pensions. They are bullying the most vulnerable in society. “That angered me and I remember someone calling Enda Kenny a ‘submissive poodle’ to Europe. I feel this government is bowing and scraping to our European masters and that the working people of Ireland have no say. “The Fiscal Treaty is next on the list and taken together it all creates a democratic deficit and threatens the sovereignty of our nation. But I firmly believe that there is a momentum gathering and that people have had enough.” Jackie also senses a mood change in the country. “I think there is something uplifting going on, the Irish are fighting back and the tide is turning. And this time we all have to stick together. We voted on the Lisbon Treaty and we voted no – and what happened? We had to vote again because it didn’t suit those in power. “Will the same happen with the Fiscal Treaty? Just a thought…” 14

All smiles at the Skillnet stand

Noel Dunphy, NEC and Licensed Trade Division

Mandate president Joan Gaffney

John Mulpetre has spent two years on strike at Connolly Shoes


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Voting rights... Mandateâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s commitment to democracy in action, left, while while Joe Guinan, a national official with the CWU, and Mandate divisional organiser Dave Moran, above, sit it out at the back of the hall...

May 2012



Delegate Sharon Tighe from Carlow

Owen Roberts, Killarney Local Council



VOICES Joe Quinn

Hoping to build activism in union JOE Quinn, who has been a Mandate member for 14 years, describes organising and recruiting as something of a “pet issue” for him. “It really is a new concept in Ireland,” he told Shopfloor, “but it is vital for us. There are hundreds of thousands of workers out there who are not unionised. It is so important that we try and organise these people.” Though acknowledging that membership is the “life blood” of any union he describes the process of recruiting new members as “painstaking” and “extremely difficult”. However, Joe is heartened that Mandate – now with a National Co-ordinator, team leader and four full-time organisers dedicated to the issue – understands its importance. “The building up of a dedicated team will, I hope, mark a sea change in the way we do business. There are roughly 200,000 workers in the sector and we have 45,000, there’s a huge scope to grow. If we don’t recruit new members, we are – to use unparliamentary language – completely f***ed.” Joe, who works at Tesco’s in Bray, is particularly enthusiastic about the union’s Step Up programme, which will give activists the chance to leave the shop floor and work the organising team for a period of time. He said: “We will be launching it in three months time – it is in the embryonic stages at the moment. Step Up reps will be trained by the organisers to ‘organise, recruit and campaign’. “They will be monitored with a view to get them more training with the hope that eventually they may take up a full-time role.” Joe hopes the initiative will help to “build activism” within the union. “The simple idea is to recruit more members and by recruiting more members, it will mean there will be more full-time organisers.” He adds: “Trying to grow the union is not just about subs – it’s about making people more aware and more active. “At the end of the day, the union does not belong to any one person, it belongs to every member.” 16

Conference stalwart Gerry Battles – AKA Stone Cold Steve Austin – checks which motion is up next

Cyril Malone and Michael Manley, above, and delegate Mandy La Combre, right


y May 2012


VOICES Sandra Stapleton

govt fright tactics won’t work on me

Mandate general secretary John Douglas with MRCI director Siobhan O’Donoghue

Liam Berney, above, of Irish Congress of Trade Unions, addresses conference. General secretary John Douglas speaks to Dublin delegate Anthony Ryan, below, during a break in proceedings

Liam O’Meara and Sean Bowe above give thumbs up to another successful conference while Emer Woods, left, brought along a mascot for luck

May 2012


SANDRA Stapleton, who was a shop steward at Boots’ Liffey Valley store for 11 years before taking voluntary severance last year, is particularly proud of her role as a Union Learning Representative. She told Shopfloor: “A ULR encourages members to take up education and training courses. Mandate has a wonderful training centre and in partnership with Trade Union Skillnet, they offer FETAC certified courses.” Sandra adds: “There is nothing employers like less than an educated union member who knows their rights." Reflecting on her years as a shop steward, she feels the role offered her a means of "fighting back" against management and spurred her on to become involved in other campaigns. "I was also involved in the fight to reverse the minimum wage cut which was a hugely successful campaign where we went to the Sinn Fein election manifesto launch and got SF members to sign pledges to reverse the cut – between different groups campaigning we were victorious! “What I like about Mandate is that the union throws a spotlight on social injustice. We need people to be more engaged, more active and socially aware." Sandra also fully backs the union’s stance on the Fiscal Treaty. She said: "The consequences of signing up to this treaty won’t just be felt by the people during this government’s time but the next government and the one following that and so on. “People need to be strong and make the right decision for Ireland for generations to come. Austerity is not working, with income tax, household tax – which I will not be paying! – water charges... where will it end? “The real criminals – the bankers – will never be brought to justice, and we are expected to cover their gambling debts for the foreseeable future. “The government are trying to frighten people into voting Yes, but I certainly won’t be frightened by them. “I need to make a stand for my children and grandchildren or we will not have any say in the way OUR country is run for a very long time, I am very proud to be a member of a union with a backbone, who are encouraging members to VOTE NO!” 17


VOICES John O’Donnell

this union has changed my life JOHN O’Donnell – who works at the M&S store in Douglas, Co Cork, freely admits that being a Mandate shop steward has changed his life. “It’s brilliant – I love it!” he told Shopfloor, “It’s a fact that you now have a voice and you can make a real feeling of empowerment. “My involvement with the union has meant that I have grown in confidence personally. The training I have received from the union has been instrumental in this.” “I was bullied at school and it knocked my sense of self and it was a revelation to involve myself in the union and to meet genuinely supportive people. “The support is unbelievable. You get support wherever you turn. I feel like the union is like an extended family with all the blessings that this brings. “I love to tell people the benefits of being in a union. Yes, at times the job can be thankless but the pros outweigh the cons by 100%.” John, who has also chaired the Cork Local Council for the past two years, values the way this forum allows him to share information and with workers from other retailers. He said: “The best part is that no matter what retailer a member works for, nine out of 10 times, we are dealing with the same sort of issues. To have that chain of support is great and we might all have issues that are similar, even though the specific grievances are not the same. We can share advice and offer solidarity.” Because of the training he has received from Mandate, he describes his dealings with management as on the whole “fine”. “I try and deal with issues that occur here and now. If an issue is escalated, it can cause as much grief for them [management] as for us. It usually really is better to settle problems locally rather than they escalate matters. John, who spoke at the Wexford conference on the issue, has called for a sub committee to be formed to look into how the NEC election process is held. He said: “At the moment, as it stands, people like me who don’t have a national profile are finding it difficult to get elected. I would prefer to see it return to the way it was before. I feel it was fairer and more equitable before.” 18

Speakers Anthony Ryan, above, and Anne Keating, below, Tesco Sandymount, both of Dublin South and Wicklow Division, at the podium

Margie O’Rourke with Aileen Morrissey, Mandate’s national co-ordinator for training are all smiles at conference while, below, Mandate treasurer Liam O’Meara and general secretary John Douglas are in more pensive form

Gerry Battles, from Limerick, with Anthony ‘Jacksie’ Meaney, Lord Mayor of Castlebar

Mandate organiser Inga Sperlina


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VOICES Kevin Kelly

Charge is simple fix for the banks

All together now... Mandate’s newly elected National Executive Committee

Dublin North West delegates, above, with Fiona Dunne, right, at the Youth Connect desk

KEVIN Kelly has a long memory and knows all about unfair taxes. He grew up in Scotland during the Thatcher years and remembers well the Tories attempt to test the infamous poll tax on the Scottish people before they rolled it out across the rest of the UK. He told Shopfloor: “When it first came in, you paid for every working person living in the house. I had four brothers and five were working so we asked to pay five times more than a well-off woman who lived in a 400-year-old stone-built house down the road.” Kevin points out that in the UK “you get something in return for paying the rates” such the funding of local services. He added: “I live out in the country, in a place called Druminawonagh that is two miles outside of Westport. What will I get for paying the Household Charge? No local amenities, no bin collection, no roads gritted in the winter…” Kevin, who moved to Co Mayo 12 years ago, added: “The way they are raising the money is just a simple fix for the banks. They should scrap this charge and come up with something that is easier to implement and is fairer.“

Delegates from Southern Division at conference, above, Sandra Browne, right

Tom Coughlin, Mary Finnerty and Michael O’Connor from Limerick. Mary works in Argos and Tom and Michael in Brown Thomas. Gerry Thornhill, right, deep in thought May 2012



Bob Ramsey gives national co-ordinator Brian Forbes a few tips on how to speak with a Geordie accent



Kathy McQuillan â&#x20AC;&#x201C; spreading the good word!

Brendan Gibbons, of Ballina Local Council, addresses conference

Overview... Standing Orders Committee from left, Ciaran Campbell, Peter Rooke, Mary Larkin and Owen Roberts 20

Lorraine McLoughlin, of Carlow Local Council, left, and Paula Earley, of Dungarvan Local Council, above


y May 2012


an economy based on jobs and growth not blanket austerity by patrick Nulty tD

Picture: Labour Party

IN POLITICS the ideas and policies you campaign for should be evidence-based; but they should also draw on your own experiences in life. I joined Mandate 10 years ago while working in the warehouse at Argos in Blanchardstown. There weren’t many union members working in my shop but I recognised the importance of workers being organised to protect our rights. While the Denis O’Briens and Tony O’Reillys of our society may have greater wealth, they do not have greater power because when citizens organise and act collectively to demand their rights in the workplace or at the ballot box, we can change our society. Despite the economic crisis there are clear choices to be made about how Ireland meets its international targets. The mantra of Fianna Fail, Fine Gael and IBEC is that the burden of austerity must fall dispropor-

May 2012


tionately on PAYE workers, carers and those of us in our community who are unemployed. This is both socially and economically flawed. Ireland could raise more than €1bn this year by introducing the following measures: • A wealth tax based on the French model – €500m,

• Extend the Universal Social Charge to Capital Gains and inheritance – €200m, and • Abolish tax reliefs on non-residential property – €450m These measures were not implemented in Budget 2012. Instead health and education spending was slashed. Sadly, unfair taxation such

as the Household Charge was introduced instead. This is the wrong approach and it is time the rich paid their fair share. I opposed the Labour Party entering coalition with Fine Gael. However, there are some potential gains for workers within the Programme for Government if we can put enough pressure on the Cabinet to implement them. In particular there is a commitment to legislate for a right to collective bargaining for workers. If introduced, this would represent a significant step forward for workers in Ireland and would make it easier to organise unions in workplaces. This, in turn, would strengthen our ability to protect pay and conditions. We now need to launch a massive campaign of pressure on Labour ministers to deliver this commitment. I have already raised this matter directly with the Taoiseach and we must make clear that nothing

short of full collective bargaining rights will be good enough. If our economy is to recover, we cannot continue to strangle domestic spending in the economy. Mandate members working in retail know this more than most. An economic stimulus plan using the €4.5bn left in the National Pension Reserve Fund to create jobs in childcare, to roll out a world-class broadband network and to fix our water network would create jobs and stimulate growth in our economy. I voted against last year’s budget because I know a better, fairer way is possible. The notion that there is no alternative is the Margaret Thatcher approach. We know different. Communities and families across Ireland are faced with rising costs for fuel, unfair flat taxes and reduced health services. The campaign for a fair Budget 2013 starts now… Patrick Nulty is TD for Dublin West



austerity or jobs and growth, you choose... ON MAY 31st we have a choice to make. Do we support austerity or do we support investment in jobs and growth. Supporters of the Treaty say that it will help stabilise the euro and assist a return to growth. This is not true. The Treaty seeks to impose draconian limits on government’s fiscal and budgetary policy. The consequence of this will be to force even greater levels of fiscal consolidation on the Irish and eurozone economies. This will be bad for jobs, bad for small and medium-sized businesses and bad for public services. Mandate along with the CPSU, Unite and the TEEU have taken the right stand in opposing this Treaty. Unemployment in the eurozone is at an all-time high. The economies of the eurozone are back in recession. Domestic demand is in decline. Ireland and the eurozone desperately need investment in jobs and growth. The Austerity Treaty will do the very opposite. It will limit the ability of governments to take the kinds of measures that are required to get people back to work. Of course this shouldn’t surprise us. The Austerity Treaty was written by the same people who have been imposing austerity on Ireland and the European Union for the last four years. It is a right wing, anti-jobs and anti-growth Treaty. Knowing that they would have a difficulty selling this Treaty on its own merits the Yes campaign has been dominated by negative messages. Fine Gael and Labour are trying to bully and scare people into supporting a bad Treaty. They are arguing that a No vote will result in the State being denied

by eoin Ó broin

Director of Sinn Féin’s referendum campaign access to emergency funding in the future. This argument is false. Nobody should be in any doubt; if Ireland needs further emergency funding the European Union will provide that finance. The Government has even gone so far as to say that a No vote will make this year’s budget “dramatically more difficult”. This is untrue.

The Government and the Troika have already agreed the targets for the next three budgets. The Government is committed to €8.6 billion in adjustments between 2012 and 2015. The outcome of the referendum will not affect any of this. The Government needs to stop the scaremongering. The electorate deserves a sensible debate on the

economics and the politics of this Treaty. The most important question that the Government must answer is how they will pay for the cost of a Yes vote. At the centre of this Treaty is the so-called “balanced budget rule”. If passed, the State will have to reach a structural deficit of 0.5% after we exit the current Troika austerity programme in 2015. According to the Department of Finance’s own Spring Forecast published in April, the structural deficit in 2015 will be 3.5%. The gap between this figure and the new 0.5% rule is equivalent to approximately €6 billion. The Government has a responsibility to explain to the voters where they will get this money. Is it their intention to further increase the tax burden on low and middle-income families? Is it their intention to cut even more funding from front-line education, health and community services? Sinn Féin agrees with


page 27

Mandate action plan for Dunnes THE Dunnes sub-group, involving a number of Mandate officials, has agreed an action programme to be rolled out over the next year. It is hoped the initative will ensure “uniformity and consistency of approach”, increase activism and strengthen the union’s organisational base across the chain. Divisional organiser Ciaran Campbell told 22

Shopfloor: “The initial phase will be to deliver a centrally planned training strategy on a more streamlined and localised basis. “We hope to identify key personnel and activists who can then be trained up to ensure a more consistent and uniform approach when dealing with local management.” Mr Campbell, right, also said the sub-group

deficit reduction. We have repeatedly set out proposals that would reduce the deficit in a fair way without further damaging the domestic economy. The Government’s policies of austerity are not working. The Austerity Treaty will further hamper economic and financial recovery. The reckless economic policies of Fianna Fail and their counterparts across the EU caused the economic crisis. Despite promising change Fine Gael and Labour have continued with the same failed policies of their predecessors. For four years they have been heaping the cost of this crisis on ordinary people in the form of tax hikes and public spending cuts. The Austerity Treaty is just the latest instalment of a policy that seeks to make low and middle-income earners pay the cost of the mistakes of bankers, developers and politicians. Unemployment remains unacceptably high. Emigration continues to rise. Vital front-line health, education and community services are being decimated. The Household Charge, septic tank charges and water charges are forcing hard-pressed families into every further financial hardship On May 31st you have a choice to make. If you are opposed to the Government’s austerity policy, then you must oppose the Austerity Treaty. Rejecting the Treaty will give future governments greater ability to invest in jobs and growth. It will also send a powerful signal to this Government that the people reject their failed policies and demand a change of direction. On May 31st, vote for jobs and growth – reject the Austerity Treaty.

had met with Dunnes activists at the recent BDC in Wexford. He added: “It was clear that many of them were frustrated at the current industrial relation environment between Mandate and their employer and were forthright about how they thought this should be addressed.” The sub-group is to meet again shortly to “drive the programme forward”.

tesco sick pay deal done SHOPFLOOR

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Joy as jailed researcher Liliany is released

by John o’brien

COLOMBIAN researcher Liliany Obando has been released following an international campaign to gain her freedom. Liliany was arrested in August 2008 and was put in a jail in Bógota awaiting trial – her only “crime” was to uncover evidence of murder and intimidation against Colombian trade unionists and human rights defenders. Evidence she collated had pointed to collusion by the Colombian government of the time and she later planned to publish her findings in an academic study. Justice for Colombia (Ireland) announced at a special public meeting to mark Colombian activist Rosalba Toro’s visit to Ireland last December, that it would take on the case of Liliany Obando. Requests were made for supporters to send Christmas cards to Liliany. Later, JFC Ireland member Marie Barry made contact directly with Liliany’s supporters in Colombia. We heard that she really appreciated the number of cards and good wishes that got through, despite the efforts of the prison authorities to withhold post from her. Little did we think then that a few short months later Liliany would be free from prison. On March 1st, 2012, after more than three-and-a-half years in detention, Justice for Colombia Ireland was delighted to get word of her release. Unfortunately, the charges against Liliany Obando have not been dropped and while she not in prison, she is now herself a potential target of the very paramilitary groups she threatened to expose in 2008. While early March brought welcome news, Colombia is still a very dangerous place if you choose to stand up for the rights of the oppressed. MOVICE – the national movement for the victims of displacement in Colombia – denounced the assassination on March 23rd of Manuel Ruiz, a land rights leader and claimant. Mr Ruiz was detained by paramilitaries as he took a bus home along with his 15-year-old son, Samir, in Curvarado in the Choco region. Their bodies were recovered later and displayed signs of torture. Mr Ruiz had been a victim of constant threats from landholders who now own land claimed by victims of displacement. Much of this land has since been given over to the production of palm oil. Since 2005 more than 66 land rights activists have been killed in Colombia – nearly half of them in 2010 and 2011. According to MOVICE, so far this year the number of threats against land rights organisers has risen “alarmingly.” MOVICE reports that despite various social organisations reporting the threat Mr Ruiz was under, no protection was given by the state. The group points out that paramilitary groups are active in more than 400 municipalities across the country and despite the vaunted Land and Victims Law, the state has yet to conMay 2012


front or dismantle them. MOVICE claims the killing of Manuel Ruiz and his son was “part of a systematic and generalised policy against land claimants and victims”. It was also revealed on 18th April that Herman Henry Diaz, a leading activist with the trade union FENSUAGRO, is believed to have been forcibly disappeared. Mr Diaz had led efforts to organise a delegation of 200 activists from Villa Guamez municipality in Putumayo department, who were travelling to take part in the Patriotic March events on 20th, 21st and 22nd April

in the capital Bogota. According to human rights organisations, Mr Diaz was last seen in Puerto Vega area at 3.30pm on 18th April. He last made contact with his partner, telling her he was in the region. The area is heavily militarised sparking concern that he may have been held by the military. The Patriotic March – a coalition of trade unions, student, indigenous and other social organisations – has been wrongly accused of being linked to the FARC, an accusation which often ends in activists being imprisoned or murdered. Mr Diaz had also helped to organise a human rights hearing in

February, attended by a JFC delegation. Colombia is still the most dangerous country in the world to be a trade unionist – seven union activists have been assassinated so far this year – it is an international trade union issue and we need your help. JFC (Ireland) is a campaign network for ICTU Global Solidarity Committee. Please send your email address to to get involved. You can also see us on Twitter and Facebook or check out our site at justiceforcolombia/

Liliany Obando following her release

launcH of maJor neW rePort from mandate trade union... ireland's labour market crisis will not be solved with a ‘more jobs at any cost’ strategy – such an approach can only create more problems than it solves and will only serve to increase the number of working poor...

John O’Brien is Secretary of JFC (Ireland) and full-time union official with INTO.



may 24th 12 noon – 2pm buswells Kildare street dublin 23

bLoW tHe WHIStLe oN tHe baD boSSeS

to JoIN 10 MaNDate




1. an organising and campaigning union:

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

2. Modern and effective training:

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

3. Campaigning for success:

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

4. protection at work:

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

5. Safety at work:

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

6. better pay:

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

7. Legal protection:

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

8. Mandatory pensions:

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

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

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

10. You’re less likely to be sacked:

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

together we’re stronger

JoIN MaNDate traDe uNIoN oNLINe at


What strikes a chord with me... you have your fourth album coming out shortly, is it as overtly political as previous albums? Absolutely, I believe that too many artists avoid politics in their bid to appeal to a wider audience in the hope that they will gain popularity by 'playing it safe' with mundane love songs etc. The people need to know exactly what is going on around them. There are way too many meaningless songs being aired in today's world and not enough songs of historical, cultural or social significance. What inspires you to write original songs? I suppose there are various things that inspire me to write original songs, but the behaviour of people would be right up there at the top. When I say this, I mean the behaviour of people towards other people, the injustices that go on in the world on a day to day basis for example, people exploiting people, people who brutalise others, greedy people, power-hungry people etc. These would be some of the main things that inspire me to write original songs. Becoming bored with covering songs would be another reason! some of your songs are extremely moving and tragic, like Rachel Corrie, is it difficult to write songs with that kind of content? I wrote Rachel Corrie in a matter of minutes and, yes, writing such songs can be difficult, but I find singing them to be much more difficult than

Music is such a powerful medium... it unites people in struggle

writing them. At the end of the day, I feel people need to know about the injustices that occur in the world. There's no point in burying our heads in the sand and thinking everything is OK in the world, when in reality, it's everything but... do you think music has a role to play in struggle? Yes, music has played a role in many struggles around the world and continues to do so. We only have to look at places like Ireland, Palestine or South Africa for example to see how music was used to expose the injustices inflicted upon them by their aggressors. Music has proved to be a very powerful medium that has united the people in struggle and some songs have given people hope during the darkest days of struggle. Who are your musical influences? I have many musical influences – but Woody Guthrie, Ewan MacColl, Dick Gaughan, Christy Moore, and Shane MacGowan would be the main players.

do you see yourself in the genre of political folk singers like Pete seeger and Woody Guthrie? I suppose I would be in a similar genre to Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, but I would see their genre as more aligned to folk blues, as opposed to the contemporary style I use. What age did you start recording or gigging at? My first gig was when I was 15, at a talent show in a small village in County Antrim. I began recording when I was 18 years old, when I went to live in London. What made you take up music? I've always loved music – I've done other things, like construction, factory work etc, but music has brought me to many different places and I have met so many people as a result of playing music and singing songs. you play around europe a lot? is this part of the travelling folk singer vibe? Interest varies from country to country, but in general there is a great vibe for folk singers across Europe. Where is the best reaction you’ve had from an audience? It's hard to say where the best audience reaction has been, I've had great reactions in various places, each one great in their own right. Interview by Gareth Murphy. Gareth is an organiser with IBOA The Finance Union SHOPFLOOR

y May 2012


Questions for voters AT THE end of May voters will be asked to decide on the Fiscal Treaty. Before discussing the main issues, however, it is helpful to give the referendum a wider context. For throughout Europe there is a growing chorus of opposition to austerity policies in general – policies which the Fiscal Treaty will copperfasten into law. Unfortunately, the Irish media doesn’t give much attention to what happens throughout Europe, even though the Fiscal Treaty and austerity policies impact on all EU countries. For instance, in Prague the biggest demonstrations since the fall of communism have been held, protesting against the Czech government’s planned spending cuts. In Romania, the centre-right government actually fell following demonstrations over austerity measures there. In Slovenia, trade unionists staged a nation-wide, one-day stoppage against planned spending cuts while in Italy trade unions are preparing for demonstrations and strikes throughout the country. In Portugal, workers and soldiers joined together in protest against austerity policies which was highly significant as it was the Portuguese army that led the overthrow of the fascist government in the 1970s. In Spain and Greece, demonstrations and strikes take place daily while in France the people are preparing to elect a Socialist Presidential candidate who has declared he will renegotiate the Fiscal Treaty. So the debates we are having here are part of a wider European debate – a debate where trade unions are taking the lead against austerity. The European Trade Union Confederation is opposing the Treaty on the grounds that it will lead to lower growth, more unemployment and lower living standards for workers throughout the EU. They are absolutely correct. The Fiscal Treaty will mean more austerity – over and above what the Government has already planned. Spending cuts and tax increases on low and average income earners will be spread out beyond 2015. Don’t forget, next year the Government intends to cut public services and social welfare by an even greater amount than they did this year – more cuts in health services, education and family income supports – while adding on water charges and a household charge/property tax. The Fiscal Treaty will only make this situation worse. There are few economists – both here and throughout Europe – who believe that the actual contents of

May 2012


Picture: CMKOS

by Michael taft

with domestic demand – the main driver in the retail and hospitality sectors – falling at the fastest rate since 2009. The Government refuses to tell people how much the Fiscal Treaty will cost, instead hiding behind promises and rhetoric. The Government claims we don’t need a second bail-out (they even called it “ludicrous”). Yet, they claim we need to pass the Fiscal Treaty in case we need a second bail-out. This is despite the fact that all EU leaders have guaranteed that Ireland would get such funding regardless of the Fiscal Treaty. Workers should be assured – Ireland will continue to get loans from the EU even if we vote No. This will come from the same source as we get our current funding – the EFSF.

The debates we’re having here are part of a wider European debate – a debate where trade unions are taking the lead against austerity

More than 50,000 trade unionists took to the streets of Prague last year over government austerity measures

the Fiscal Treaty will solve the crisis we’re in. That’s because the crisis started and continues from the financial sector. Simply put, markets don’t believe European banks are solvent. It’s not just Irish banks that are reliant upon state payments and the ECB – this is

the case throughout Europe. And because of the financial crisis, banks are not lending, companies are not investing, states are cutting back, confidence is plummeting and growth rates in the eurozone are already some of the lowest in the world. Again, the Fiscal Treaty will only

make this situation worse. The Government refuses to engage openly and honestly in this debate – to the point that they are in denial. They claim the Irish economy is recovering, that it is back in growth. Yet, according to the CSO, Ireland returned to recession late last year,

We can apply for additional funding up to the middle of next year, regardless of the Fiscal Treaty. The Government doesn’t want people to know this. Ultimately, in determining how we should vote we should ask ourselves this – Have austerity policies, which started back in 2009, brought economic recovery and stabilised our public finances? Have they helped create jobs and maintain living standards? If the answer is yes, then we can vote for the Treaty without any qualms. However, if people believe – as trade unions like Mandate, Unite, the TEEU, the CPSU and the European Trade Union Confederation believe – that austerity has made things worse, has led to job losses, lower living standards, while failing to repair our public finances – then we have to ask – Will more of the same only make things worse? If so, it is desirable and even necessary to vote against the Fiscal Treaty. Michael Taft is a Unite research officer 25


great Depression lessons lost by Siobhan o’Donoghue HISTORY points out that there is a limit to the degree of income inequality that is sustainable in society. For example, gross levels of income inequality is believed to have been one of the causes of America’s Great Depression in the 1920s and there are many reasons to believe that inequality is a contributory factor to the situation we now find ourselves in nationally and globally. The HEAP (Hierarchy of Earnings, Attributes and Privilege Analysis) published in 2009 drew the conclusions that Ireland did not use the benefits of our economic boom to reduce levels of inequality. On the contrary, the distance between those at the top and those at the bottom actually widened. At a global level the combined wealth of the world’s richest 1,000 people is almost twice as much as the world’s poorest 2.5 billon people. Banks, companies and even some individuals are now worth more than entire countries. The growth of an unaccountable global financial oligarchy that operates freely outside the remit and control of national governments has most definitely contributed to the creation of an unstable economic system, nationally and globally.

The concentration of financial capital, the rise in speculative trading and risk passing have all served to weaken and undermine economic development. In reality we know that non-productive growth was a dominant feature of the economy over the past 10 years and productive investment such as education, childcare, health, green energy, IT infrastructure neglected. According to New Market Theory, as long as wages and prices are ‘flexible’ enough, growth and full employment follow. In fact, according to this theory, the recession should never have happened. Capitalism has well and truly failed. Rather than strengthening our economic base and supporting the creation of sustainable jobs the model of development pursued is capitalism enabled the wholesale transfer of wealth from the public to private sphere and the distribution of wealth upwards at a rate never before seen. Along with the obscene rise in incomes of those at the top, a ‘casinotype’ consumer culture grew, where the price of something was secondary to the desire to own and accumulate. Owning a second house or an apartment or two was considered the social norm. A norm that is now causing untold devestation. For the majority of people the

Franklin D Roosevelt: ‘...cannot merely take but give as well...’

massive expansion in consumption was funded largely by borrowings and access to easy credit. As Mandate members know only too well, wage levels for many did not keep up with living standards of the past decade. We now have the highest levels of personal debt in any Western country. The ‘you get what you deserve and deserve what you get’ mentality accelerated over the past decade resulting in a highly segregated and divided Ireland. Private education, private health care, designer cars, gated homes became the benchmarks of social progress

Union Representatives Advanced Course The Union Representative Advanced Training Course is for shop stewards/union representatives who have completed the introductory course or who have relevant experience. Course content: • Understanding Mandate’s structures. • Overview of Mandate’s rules. • Industrial Relations institutions and mechanisms. • Mandate’s Organising Model. • Negotiations and Collective Bargaining. • Understanding Equality and Diversity. • Developing induction presentation skills. • Introduction to Employment Law. • Identifying issues and using procedures. Certification and Progression: Members who successfully complete this training course will obtain a Mandate certificate. They may progress to the FETAC level 5 Certificate in Trade Union studies or other relevant training courses offered by Mandate. If you are interested in this course, please contact your Mandate official or Mandate's Training Centre at 01-8369699. Email:


The World Wealth Report shows we’re not all in the financial doldrums. Ireland had 19,000 ‘High Net Worth Individuals’ in 2010, up 5% on 2009. Budget 2012 actually increased the incomes of some people at the high end of the income spectrum. It doesn’t take a genius to see how destabilising the effect of such extremes is likely to have on a society where many are struggling to survive. It is also interesting to note that last year’s budget widened income inequality, a reversal of the trend in the previous four budgets. The redistribution of wealth upwards has been enabled by a political and legislative process that allowed many dubious and unethical economic and political actors to operate (just about) within the rule of the law over decades. The systematic non-enforcement of legislation, the under regulation and deregulation of the financial system, the labour market, planning and development rules became the norm. Controversies in relation to politicians’ expenses and bankers’ bonuses highlighted very effectively the tensions between unethical practices and legality. A central feature of inequality within society is the way power is acquired and used.


Research conducted by Transparency International shows that more than eight out of 10 people believed the Government was ineffective in tackling abuse of power. The survey also highlighted the belief that there is a strong link between corruption, the failure to hold anyone to account for wrong-doing and a refusal to accept responsibility for what has gone on. Franklin D Roosevelt in his inaugural speech of 1933 spoke about the New Deal and the importance of social values combined with decisive action. He said: “We now realize as we have never realized before our interdependence on each other; that we cannot merely take but we must give as well; that if we are to go forward, we must move as a trained and loyal army willing to sacrifice for the good of a common discipline, because without such discipline no progress can be made, no leadership becomes effective.” It’s a good time to remind ourselves that the advancement of human society has largely been achieved through citizen-based actions and it is this starting point that will be at the heart of rebuilding our democracy. Siobhan O’Donoghue is Director of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland

Compo for sales reps in ruling mandate has successfully represented five robert roberts workers at the rights commisioners service over the withholding of increments due to them since 2009. the sales reps had up to then always received an incremental pay rise each april until the maximum point of the pay scale was reached. the withdrawal of the increments had not been negotiated with the workers’ then union, the sales marketing & administrative union of ireland – which has since merged with mandate. a number of meetings took place between management and mandate but the issue was not resolved locally. in feb-

ruary, mandate referred the matter to the rights commissioners service. the union argued that the withholding of the increments was an illegal deduction under the Payment of Wages Act 1991. on 24th april, rights commissioner Gaye cunningham found in favour of the reps, awarding them varying amounts of compensation up to €1,289. divisional organiser dave moran told Shopfloor: “this case reaffirms our stance that employers cannot unilaterally withhold increments contractually due to workers without agreement.”

DWag stages week of action THE Domestic Workers Action Group marked International Labour Day on May 1st with a week of activities. These included a multi-media exhibition – highlighting the reality of life for Ireland’s 10,000 domestic workers – and a barn-storming ‘Soul Workers Session’ concert at the Sugar Club in Dublin. The isolation and invisibility of domestic workers – many of whom live in their employers’ homes – creates a fertile ground for exploitation. It is a sector that has high levels of exploitation and forced labour.

Migrant domestic worker Mariaam Bhatti told Shopfloor: “We are people, not machines; we need breaks and proper pay. “Many women in our group have suffered physical, emotional and psychological abuse on a daily basis at the hands of their employers. “If the Government is serious about protecting domestic workers, they need to ratify the ILO Convention on Decent Work for Domestic Workers. “This sends out a strong message to unscrupulous employers that exploitation of domestic workers will not be tolerated.” SHOPFLOOR

y May 2012




Facing up to agreement reached on the addicts tesco sick pay scheme of austerity by anne Casey

TULF Secretary SOME argue that it is a bold call from the unions to call for a ‘No’ vote in the referendum on the European Fiscal Treaty. But even those who pay scant attention to the economy know that the Government’s austerity measures are having a brutal effect on Irish citizens. In fact, the only logical solution is for all unions to adopt the same position and recommend a ‘No’ vote to their members. Ministers are misleading in arguing for a ‘Yes’ vote. They spin favorites such as “we’re turning the corner”, “we’re beginning to emerge”, and “there is no other way”. There is a grave failure by Government to outline honestly the impact the Fiscal Treaty will have on Ireland. They won’t do this because the truth is that the Treaty will involve further austerity cuts and further taxes in the guise of “charges”. The extraordinary sequence of events that is the global crisis – and in particular its European aspect – is becoming ever more complex. The insistence on an expanding austerity programme is tangled up in a web of popular discontent and political manoeuvring, without in any way showing people there is an exit. In the immediate future all eyes are on the ability of eurozone leaders to get approval for their Austerity Treaty. They have their work cut out. The recent presidential election in France means the end of the ‘Merkozy’ alliance (involving both Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel) in its current form at least. French workers and trades unionists have responded to the Socialists’ call for a renegotiation of the Austerity Treaty. And, anyway, the thieves are falling out among themselves, as the IMF criticises the global impact of the EU programme. But there is also a fragmented response to austerity that is cannibalised by the ultra-nationalists and the far right. The shock vote the National Front received in France is based on that party’s populist call for economic protectionism and withdrawal from the euro as well as its vile racism. This new right is a growing force across Europe – and

May 2012


it aims to capture working class discontent. In this circumstance, the decision, first by Mandate, followed by Unite and the TEEU, to advocate rejection of the Austerity Treaty is of major importance. It is vital that the leadership of the ‘No’ vote is in the hands of those with a clear view of workers’ interests. We will gain little in beating the Government on this issue if, in the process, we find our voice swallowed up in an incoherent populist campaign that lets our own rightwing off the leash. These unions stand out in clear distinction from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. The ICTU is caught between fear of offending a government it wants to influence – especially the Labour component which got such an endorsement from Begg at its conference – and

It is vital the leadership of ‘No’ vote is in hands of those with clear view of workers’ interests

fear of the consequences for the Croke Park deal of any further shocks to the country’s finances. This is why the ICTU seems to argue that it is all right for other movements to oppose the Austerity Treaty (the European Confederation of Trade Unions argues for its rejection), but that we in Ireland have “a gun to our heads” – precisely because we have already accepted the chains of the bankers’ bailout. The public sector unions’ leadership need to heed the broader picture. Sectionalism will not win the day. The only way forward is to unite public and private sector members in a fight for a more just society. The left in the unions has a real job to do – and it goes well beyond criticising the feeble position of the ICTU. It can help to build unity around rejection of the Austerity Treaty by arguing for – and developing – an alternative that shows a long term solution through taking control of the economy for the good of the people and not of the capitalists. Yes – that’s socialism all right!

A DOCUMENT clarifying the operation of the Tesco Ireland sick pay scheme has been agreed between the company and Mandate. It came from a series of local meetings and followed a conciliation conference held at the Labour Relations Commission in November last year. Members are to receive details of the process along with sample pay slips that set out how sick pay and social welfare deductions will be

recorded under the new arrangements. Divisional organiser Brendan O’Hanlon said: “The clarified arrangements should bring to an end almost four years of dispute between the company and the union over the matter and will ensure no further illegal deductions will be made from members’ wages at a time when they can ill afford it. “This has been a very difficult issue

to address given both the various different schemes in existence and members’ various social welfare entitlements. “As part of the arrangement, Tesco Ireland has agreed to pay all outstanding successful third-party cases taken under the Payment of Wages Act 1991 which, in almost all instances, had been appealed by the company to the Employment Appeals Tribunal.”

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Connecting with future activists by Fiona Dunne

Project Manager YouthConnect FOR some it starts as early as 15, for others they may wait until 17, or if they are lucky after their secondlevel education finishes, but whatever age young people start work, it is important that it is a positive experience and they are equipped with the skills and knowledge to participate effectively in the workplace. Currently the economy is not in good shape, and unfortunately may not be for many years to come, but despite this very many of our young students are finding work in parttime, casual and seasonal employment, during and after term. And while this should be a positive time for them, providing those first golden opportunities of experience in the workplace, we need to ensure that the jobs they are finding are not exploitative, harmful and detrimental to their health and education. This is one of the reasons that the YouthConnect programme exists, to raise awareness among young people of their working rights, but most importantly we are also there to listen to them about what they experience in the workplace. It’s not enough to assume we know what goes on, we need to speak with students and young people and really take note of what the workplace is like for them. The classes we deliver are as interactive as possible to encourage students to share with us their accounts of working and, indeed, we have learned that there is a diverse range of experiences within the student cohort – some positive and, sadly, some not so positive. It is in the context of those lessthan-satisfactory situations that we talk through the options students can take to resolve these negative experiences, highlighting the importance of joining a union for its strength and support. There is much work to be done in terms of students’ understanding and the fears they carry into the workplace. During the discussions in many of the classes we have delivered, students simply believe that looking for any of their entitlements from employers will lead to “being fired on the spot”. There is an attitude of “taking what you can get” and many feel lucky that they can get the opportunity to earn some money while gaining experience, especially in the current climate. A lot of students have told us that they don’t feel they could approach an employer if they weren’t paid correctly or weren’t getting other entitlements. These are fears and attitudes that must be dealt with now before these young people enter the workplace on a more permanent basis because we all know that these attitudes are not 28

ICTU assistant general secretary Sally Anne Kinahan, Anglea Sheehan, IMPACT, YouthConnect programme manager Fiona Dunnes with, front from left, YouthConnect champions David O’Driscoll, Rachel Kiernan, DaraAnn O’Malley and Laura Dooley. Below: Students from Holy Rosary College, Mountbellew, Galway, who attended a class on trade unions and workplace rights

just the preserve of the young – but, hopefully, by educating them to the realities of the workplace, we can help change those attitudes positively. Worryingly, there is also another issue which comes up time and again and it is in relation to working hours. It is hard to believe that although protective legislation has been in place since 1996 for young people, many today are working above and beyond the maximum hours allowed according to their age. Is this just an oversight, lack of education or pure exploitation? We all know why employment leg-

islation is in place, and surely we also know the benefits of young students being given the time and opportunity to remain in education and concentrate on their studies. However, time and again we are speaking with students who are working beyond 1am and 2am, even on school nights! It is important that these practices are not allowed to continue and while it may be difficult to convince a 15 or 16 year old to forego their earnings, it will be impossible with the support of the rest of society. It is, therefore, very important that YouthConnect continues to visit

schools and that this programme becomes a more permanent fixture within the school environment. So far we have had great success and a great welcome, starting with the teaching unions right through to school principals, teachers, students and teaching associations. We have visited more than 170 different schools during the 2011/2012 academic year, with many schools asking us back to deliver lessons to other classes and other years. Our programme has also been extremely lucky with the calibre of champions we have managed to attract to work with us during the

year. Although, sadly, we lost some of our early recruits to the school system but – hopefully – they will be in a position to invite us out to their new schools shortly. All our champions are dedicated to educating students about their rights, are hugely committed to the programme and are continuously developing new activities, presentations and lessons for students. They have managed to harness students’ enthusiasm and encourage them to talk to us about their experiences and aspirations for their future working lives. They also share our enthusiasm to ensure students are empowered in the workplace. As Kenneth, one of our champions, said: “YouthConnect is a little piece of something big, helping students unite together to build a better education system, helping young workers to unite together to create fair and decent working conditions both here in Ireland and around the world.” DaraAnn O’Malley, a student officer with INMO, believes that this programme is not only educational for students but also for young workers within the trade union movement. She said: “The YouthConnect programme facilitates young trade union activists, like myself, to talk to secondary school students and empower them with the knowledge of their basic worker rights, how trade unions operate in the workplace and the importance of collective campaigning on social and human rights issues.” David O’Driscoll, who is schools liaison officer with YouthConnect , believes that we need to connect with students to understand their world better. He said: “The YouthConnect programme has allowed me to gain greater insight into the challenges facing young workers today. It has helped to educate and empower students with the knowledge that they too have basic worker rights, which are vital in ensuring decent working conditions.” We can’t overstate the importance of educating and empowering students in preparing them for the workplace. They are the workers, trade union leaders, employers, academics, members and politicians of tomorrow, as well as parents of future generations. It is important that they get the whole picture of the world, understand that there are many ways to view the world and that there are always alternatives if they wish to find them. It is about ensuring that they get the best possible information with which they will be better informed to make better decisions. SHOPFLOOR

y May 2012

Picture Left Party

Left Party president Jonas Sjöstedt fully backs Mandate’s No vote stance

a victory for No vote in Ireland will be a victory for us in Sweden too THE IRISH Republic has the only electorate in the EU that has a right to vote on the Fiscal Treaty, a leading Swedish politician has reminded voters here. Left Party president Jonas Sjöstedt met with Mandate officials at the Dail on 26th April. He made the comments in a subsequent letter addressed to general secretary John Douglas and national co-ordinator Brian Forbes. Mr Sjöstedt wrote: “In this struggle the Irish referendum plays an important role. Thanks to your constitution you are the only people in Europe that have the right to vote on the austerity treaty. “A victory in Ireland for the No side will also be our victory in Sweden. Our country – which is not even a member of the euro zone – has joined the austerity pact after a decision [taken] by the Swedish right-wing government.” Expressing “total solidarity” with Mandate’s decision to cam-

paign for a No vote, he pointed out that it was the move to deregulate markets by neoliberal politicians that had “paved the way” for “ruthless bankers and speculators” in the first place. “They caused the financial crisis in Europe. But while their profits remained private during the good years, their enormous losses and debts in the crisis are made public.” Mr Sjöstedt claimed that the European Union had made a choice “to support the banks and the rich”. He wrote: “The austerity treaty is only one example, among others, that the main EU institutions are not on the side of workers and the majority of people. “Therefore it is of utmost importance that the trade union movement, progressive parties and organisations all around Europe unite in a common struggle to } oppose the neoliberal strategy and the austerity treaty of the European Union.”



remember the lies of Lisbon... THROUGHOUT May the People’s Movement will be campaigning for a No vote in the forthcoming referendum. You will be asked to vote on 31st May on the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance in the Economic and Monetary Union – what we are calling the Permanent Austerity Treaty. The Government will also be quietly pushing through the Dail its sister piece of legislation Treaty on the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). The ESM Treaty will set up a board of governors to oversee the “bailout fund”. Our Government will have to submit to it, meaning that all future Irish budgets will be subject to their supervision and determination. It is designed to give greater powers to un-elected bankers over democratic governments over your life and will be above and beyond the law. Its members can’t be brought to court and papers or any documents can’t be made public or intercepted. The Irish government will have to borrow €11 billion and give it to ESM. The board of governors can demand more money if required and governments have seven days to comply – no ifs or buts. So no matter whom you vote for, this small group of unelected bankers will decide everything. You will not get to vote on this treaty. The Permanent Austerity Treaty, if passed, will copperfasten austerity and make it the main obligation of government above all else – that is, to pay what they call the “national debt” for generations to come. It will put the Irish people in a straitjacket that means we must pay back every cent of the debt imposed upon us and our families by the pre-

vious FF government. This policy has been continued by the current government in co-operation with the EU and the European Central Bank. Irish workers are and will be sacrificed to keep German and French banks afloat. These two treaties can't be separated from the mis-named "sovereign debt crisis" now being imposed on the people of the peripheral countries of the EU. We will pay with growing poverty, mass unemployment and mass emigration. The People's Movement has for more than a decade been campaigning against all measures that prioritise and strengthen the powers of the EU over democracy at national level – i.e. the Dail. It is hard enough to get the politicians in the Dail to do what we ask, it will be a million times harder getting the EU to respect workers’ rights.

Popular sovereignty

We campaign to defend and enhance popular sovereignty, democracy and social justice in Ireland. Members of the People’s Movement work within the trade union movement to highlight the growing imposition of rules and laws from the EU that give greater rights to employers and undermine workers’ rights, terms and conditions. We have produced material about the Laval Judgement, a ruling delivered by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) that undermined Swedish workers’ wages allowing contractors to employ contractor workers from abroad paying country-of-origin wages. Later ECJ judgements have further undermined workers’ rights. Remember back to the Lisbon Treaty? Voted Yes for Jobs? Voted Yes

to keep our influence at the heart of Europe? Those were lies then and still are. Now we have 450,000 people unemployed, and a thousand leaving the country each week. The EU telling us that we must do as we are told. German politicians have greater say and influence on our budget than we do. That German and French banks are more important than our people, our families and and our communities. Cancellation of the debt is the central question – not just austerity. The same politicians made false claims and promises during the Lisbon Treaty, they will again spin more yarns and attempt to pull the wool over people’s eyes, frightening people that the end of the world is nigh if they vote No. These are the same politicians who are cutting services, wages, pensions and social welfare. Before you vote, take a moment to think about the €41,000 debt that the EU and our Government are forcing upon you and every woman, man, child and pensioner in order to pay foreign EU bankers. The People’s Movement/Gluaiseacht an Phobail is saying to workers, it’s in your interests to vote No. The People’s Movement exposed the Yes campaign lies on Lisbon Treaty, we are right on this Permanent Austerity Treaty as well. Get involved in our campaign. We are non party-affiliated organisation. Our campaign office is at 5 Cavendish Row, Dublin 1 – just a few door down from Mandate offices. You can pick up leaflets and posters from there. Visit our website for further information about why you should vote no at or phone 087 2308330.




APRIL 2012

Picture: CC WEF

Hands up if you hate welfare reform...


Picture: Kevin Cooper/Photoline






Picture: Labour Party





traDe uNIoN NeWS NortH aND SoutH

produced in association with the Irish Congress of trade unions May 2012



MEPs vote to approve the European Stability Mechanism at the European Parliament in Brussels last year Picture: European Parliament



Free online learning just a click away Picture: John Chaney

by Joan butler

NALA Tutor Co-ordinator DELEGATES attending the recent Mandate conference in Wexford showed great interest in the National Adult Literacy Agency’s website The site fits in with Mandate’s training strategy to provide highquality, learner-focused training and learning that is accessible to learners in a manner that meets their needs. (There is also a link on Mandate website to was initially set up as a learning tool for adults who wanted to develop their literacy, numeracy and ITC skills working independently. However, the site has changed substantially over the past four years to reflect the demands of its users and it now offers a greater range of awards. One of the most attractive features of the site is that it offers free certification at Levels 2 and 3 on the National Framework of Qualifications. Since the site was set up, almost

Joan Butler found great interest among Mandate delegates about the online courses

22,000 people have used it. A total of 1,062 learners have received 4,779 minor awards and 443 major awards at Level 2. Level 3 was made available in late 2010 and, since then, 255 learners have received 754 minor awards and 58 major awards. The


site is very popular as a learning tool where users can develop and practise their skills on the site: • At Level 2, you can get a major award in General Learning; • At Level 3, you can get a major

award in Employability, ICT and General Learning. The work is completed mostly online. However, if required, free tutor support is available by telephone or online. To achieve accreditation , as well as the online learning, you may also need to complete some portfolio work with a tutor. The programme can be completed at your own pace and in the privacy of your own home, local library or workplace and can be completed in addition to other learning programmes you may be doing. Recognising prior learning At the conference, it was clear that there was great interest in the site as a way of achieving accreditation based on prior learning. Users, who already have the skills and knowledge to get an award, can have their skills recognised through the website. This means you won’t have to do the whole programme – you just do an initial assessment and once you pass this, you can do the final assessment to get your award.

What can you learn? Based on the new FETAC Level 3 awards, you can learn and or achieve accreditation in: Maths, Application of Number, Functional Maths, Communications, Personal & Interpersonal Skills, Personal Effectiveness, Computer Literacy, Digital Media, Internet Skills, Career Preparation, Health & Safety Awareness, and Managing Personal Finances How to get started? Log on to or alternatively ring our Freephone team at 1800 20 20 65.

NALA is an independent charity committed to making sure people with literacy and numeracy difficulties can fully take part in society and have access to learning opportunities that meet their needs. According to the last international survey (OECD), one in four – that is, about half a million – Irish adults have problems reading and writing. OECD International Adult Literacy Report can be found at catalog/international-adult-literacysurvey-results-ireland

this is a democratic crisis too Picture: COF

THE opening sentence to the Programme for Government (2011) declares that, “on 25th February a democratic revolution took place in Ireland”. This dramatic preamble goes on to commit that, “Our aim, when our legislative and constitutional changes are implemented, is that Ireland will be a transformed country”. A high-octane administration determined to achieve real change seemed to be on offer. The Government recently published their proposals for the Convention on the Constitution. The Convention will first be asked to report on reducing the presidential term of office to five years and reducing the voting age to 17. This is hardly reflective of a democratic revolution and offers little evidence of any capacity or commitment to transform our society or its democratic institutions. Currently we are being asked to vote on the EU Fiscal Compact Treaty. This is a Treaty that

by Niall Crowley was not subject to normal democratic scrutiny. The European Parliament was sidelined and even expressed doubts about its necessity. National Parliaments played no role. Its provisions prioritise centralisation and technocratic controls over any focus on governance and democratic oversight. Democracy is a hidden and apparently unlamented casualty in this

process. Local government has forever been the poor relation in Irish democracy. One key reason for its weakness has been its inability to raise local financing. There are many reasons for the widespread refusal to pay the Household Charge. However, this tax was not presented as the basis for local government reform and its rejection suggests little trust in local government as an institution that should be empowered. We don’t have a democracy or democratic institutions that are capable of imagining and developing new models of economy or governance or that are in any way open to real participation by citizens in creating their own future. This should be one of the big current issues and yet it merits little attention. Political failure and the inadequacy of our democratic institutions were a causal factor in the economic crisis. It was a number of political decisions that unleashed the banks from ade-

quate regulatory control, gave the tax breaks and incentives that enriched the developers, and allowed a predominance to the “market”. The same institutions and the same decision-making processes cannot now get us out of the crisis. They cannot escape the limits of their lack of competence, their relationship with the economic elite, and their disinterest in equality and environmental sustainability. So we get austerity and futile attempts to bring us back to where we were. Nothing changes except the rhetoric and the promises. Change in our democracy and change in our democratic institutions is a pre-requisite to getting out of economic crisis and moving away from austerity. A democratic revolution is indeed required and should be focused on transforming our democratic institutions at EU, national and local level. The inaugural meeting of Claiming

Our Future identified the need to prioritise a focus on democracy. This focus was seen as requiring a combination of representative and participative forms of democracy, and democratic institutions that reflected accountability, equality and capacity. A national discussion on the theme Reinventing our Democracy is now being organised by Claiming Our Future in Croke Park on May 26th. Participants will debate the issues that undermine our democratic institutions and their capacity to advance change. International ideas will be offered as a starting point from which to explore alternatives. Participants will discuss the demands for transformation in our democracy that we should now bring forward. Register now at www.claiming and participate in defining a future where citizens have a real say and where democracy can achieve real change.

Minimum living standards calculator launched

A NEW online living standards ready reckoner which number-crunches the minimum income required to live a dignified life for a range of family and household situations has been launched. The Minimum Living Standard calculator works by the user inputting basic information about their circumstances – whether they reside in the city or country, live in rented accommodation or own their own property, the number of working adults per household, chil30

dren’s ages etc – and is based on needs not wants. It is a joint initiative between the Money Advice and Budgeting Service (MABS) and the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice (VPSJ) and follows on from a year-long project carried out by researchers from Trinity College’s Policy Institute last year. Emphasising that the calculator is “for we the people, not they the poor”, VPSJ director Dr

Bernadette MacMahon said its calculations take into account the need for a social life, entertainment, reading materials and transport, as well a nutritious diet, heat and clothes. Policy Institute researchers were able to set out the cost of a minimum standard of living for individuals and households across the entire life cycle – from childhood to old age. Speaking at the launch of the research in February, Dr MacMahon said: “Failure to

ground the national minimum wage and social welfare transfers in a tangible measure of adequacy, such as defined in this research, means that poverty and social exclusion will continue to be a reality in Ireland.” The UN has defined a minimum essential standard of living as one that meets a person’s physical, psychological, spiritual and social needs. Check out or SHOPFLOOR

y May 2012



they rob you with a fountain pen by eugene McCartan

project to develop an equality toolkit Mandate members from Galway, with Mandate official John Carty, back row far right, after their recent successful completion of an IT course

MANDATE is working with two other trade unions – CWU and IBOA – to deliver a project on mainstreaming equality in our unions and in the various sectors we represent. We are confident that this will be very beneficial for shop stewards and members and will enhance their ability to deal with workplace issues and achieve a more equal workplace. There are a number of strands to the project including the design and delivery of equality training and the production of an equality toolkit for trade union officials and representatives. The project is supported by the Equality Mainstreaming Unit which is jointly funded by the European Social Fund 2007-2013 and the Equality Authority. It aims to develop a strategic approach to mainstreaming equality within union structures. The promo-

tion of equality is a key objective of Mandate. The toolkit includes the development of a training manual in modular format, which will allow flexibility in both the training delivery and in relation to the particular equality subject matter. The toolkit will also consist of an equality policy that can be adapted by other unions and an Equality Representative handbook. The handbook will be based on raising equality awareness for trade unions and will take the format of a representative guide on equality issues. The full toolkit will be made available to the relevant representatives within each union and can also be downloaded from each union’s website. Equality mainstreaming focuses primarily on how to integrate work on equality into union structures.

The project team has identified a number of ways in which this can be done primarily through training, through use of its websites and through other forms of publicity. A three-day training programme for union equality representatives and officials from Mandate, CWU and IBOA has taken place. It focussed on attitudes to equality, legislation, case studies and a strategy for mainstreaming. At the end of the project, we will have an information section on equality issues on the union websites and will have delivered a number of briefing sessions to each partner union. We will also include a module on training in Mandate’s Union Representative training courses. All materials will be made available to Mandate officials and shop stewards.

trade union Skillnet offers range of courses tHe newly-formed trade union skillnet came about from the merger of union learning skillnet and Women at Work skillnet. both of these existing networks had operated separately and successfully over a number of years. but it was agreed that the way forward was to combine resources and forge both into one network. the trade union skillnet has secured funding for 2012. it is being resourced by member companies and the training networks Programme. an initiative of skillnets ltd, the training networks Programme is funded May 2012


by national training fund through the department of education and skills. the steering Group of the trade union skillnet will consist of one representative each from mandate, ictu, cWu, iboa, inmo, siPtu and teeu the trade union skillnet has identified several training modules of benefit to union members. these include trade union studies, employment law, communication skills, Health and safety, Public speaking, industrial relations and information technology skills.

Repudiate The Debt Campaign SOMETIMES living in this country can feel like being in some Alice in Wonderland world where words spoken by politicians mean something completely different from what the rest of us mere mortals believe them to mean. Take our beleaguered Minister for Finance Michael Noonan, who described emigration as a “free choice of lifestyle” and played down the impact the country’s unemployment rate had on people moving abroad. He pointed out: “It’s a small island. A lot of people want to get off the island.” So what the rest of us put down to lack of decent jobs, poor wages and no opportunities, our Minister Noonan puts down a thousand people leaving our shores every week to be a problem of too many people, not enough space. In all the debates about the need for “balanced budgets”, “living within our means” etc, the political elites, the national newspapers and broadcasters are trying desperately not mention the impact of the socialised corporate debt dumped on our backs. We are lauded for taking the medicine without flinching, and, in fact, all other workers across the EU should follow our example. Any possible hint of people getting stroppy and we have spokespeople rolling in to chastise us and beat us back into line. Thankfully, the workers of Greece, Spain, Portugal and Italy have paid little, if any, attention to the ramblings of their governments or the EU and have been engaged in widespread industrial action including a growing number of general strikes and widespread civil disobedience. This government has already this year handed over billions in debt repayments for a debt that is not ours. Every euro sent out of the country to pay this debt is a euro out of your pocket. A euro less to spend in a shop, a euro less spent on health, education or pensions. Our government and unfortunately some trade union leaders – Mandate not included – appear to believe that democracy and sovereignty can be traded as some sort of bargaining chips for relief on the debt burden. Democracy and sovereignty are

not negotiation chips to be given away for some crumbs of relief. We can stand up for ourselves and reject this imposed debt, and demand a better health services, better schools and jobs for the unemployed. We can demand that our children do not have to leave these shores and insist that we want them to live near us as we get on in years. Democracy and sovereignty are the very tools we need to solve the deep economic, social and moral crises that our country is mired in. All the talk around the forthcoming treaties is all just waffle and spin to get you accept the tightening the chains of debt around our necks. They tell us we might need an-

Pretty Boy Floyd: Nickel and dime stuff compared to robber barons of today...

other bailout so the treaties are an insurance policy. The problem is we can't afford the price of the first bailout as it is, never mind a second or a third... All that means we borrow more money of the people whom we already owe a mountain of debt to already and give it back to them at high interest. It all makes your bog standard street money-lender look reasonable. As Woodie Guthrie put it in his song, Pretty Boy Floyd, ‘I've seen lots of funny men, Some will rob you with a six-gun, And some with a fountain pen.’ Repudiate the debt and allow our people and our country to breathe again. Iceland did it, why can’t we? Visit or email 31

Mandate Trade Union Shop Floor May 2012  
Mandate Trade Union Shop Floor May 2012  

Fiscal Treaty Referendum: For a better future vote no!