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MAY 2013

‘The struggle continues – you must fight for a better future for you and you family – get angry, get active and win’ John Douglas - PAGE 3


Picture: images of money (CC BY 2.0)

‘WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER...’ THE NUMBER of billionaires in Ireland has more than DOUBLED over the past year. According to the recently published Ireland’s Rich List, we have NINE stupendously wealthy individuals who have more than one thou‐ sand million euro in assets. Last year, Ireland only boasted four in this most

exclusive jet‐set category, so it appears we DO have growth in the economy... in the number of billionaires. For the rest of us, of course, it’s a different story. Mandate National Coordi‐ nator Brian Forbes, writing in this issue of Shopfloor, said: “We’re being sold a blatant lie. We are certainly not all in it together, as

evidenced by the increasing vast wealth at the top echelons of Irish society set against the increasing num‐ bers of people in massive debt and in dire poverty. “Added to this number are the tens of thousands of people now labelled as working poor and who are becoming increasingly marginalised within society.”

That’s rich! So there IS growth in the Irish economy - PAGE 5


Penneys wages claim goes to Labour Court Mandate striker shoots and scores SOCCER pundit Eamon Dunphy may have displayed some deft on-the-ball skills when he played midfield for Millwall as a young man, but he was badly wrongfooted when he tried to tackle our own National Coordinator Brian Forbes in a recent debate. Brian, who always plays in an outside left position, was sharing a discussion panel with SIPTU communications chief Frank Connolly and Dr Conor McCabe, at the 1913-2013 A Century of Struggle conference organised by Sinn Fein in March. Dunphy, who chaired the Liberty Hall event, was going on and on about how difficult his

FOLLOWING the failure of many months of direct negotiations with Penneys management – including four conciliation conferences at the Labour Relations Commission – Mandate’s claim for a pay increase and arrangements to protect estab‐ lished weekly earnings has now been referred to a full hearing of the Labour Court on June 4. Mandate Assistant General Secre‐ tary Gerry Light told Shopfloor that

this had caused “significant disap‐ pointment” among employees at the retailer. He said: “Our members clearly are at a loss as to why their employer is treating them in such a manner – considering the clear ability of the business to afford the union’s claim.” Mr Light pointed out that the disappointment felt by members had subsequently turned to “anger and frustration” after it was re‐

vealed management grades at the firm had been awarded a 2% pay increase from September last year. He added: “Coupled with the fact that Primark workers in Northern Ireland were paid a 2.5% pay in‐ crease last year, these revelations only served to double the commit‐ ment of the union to deliver a deal for our members. And a deal which does not see cost off‐setting meas‐ ures conceded in return.”

son and daughter were finding working within the private sector. Brian takes up the story: “He asked me, ‘So you're the big union man in the private sector – tell me what they should do?’ “After due consideration, I responded, ‘Are they in a union, Eamon?’ “‘Of course not’, he replied. “So I said, ‘Then get them to join a bloody union, Eamo, they can't make a difference on their own. Simples." Brian added: “There was a big cheer from audience and he sat back, I think suitably chastened.” Strabane 1, Millwall 0

No progress in Argos talks MANDATE representatives have held a number of meetings with Argos management in recent months to discuss issues linked to terms and conditions of employment. It followed a national shop stewards meeting on February 27 at which a number of priorities were set out for the talks. Industrial Officer Dave Miskell, while confirming to Shopfloor that

no progress had been made to date, added: “Over the coming weeks it is hoped the negotiating committee will be communicating with stores setting out a detailed update of the talks. “Members should ensure that the union is aware of their correct contact details so we can inform them in a timely manner about the outcome of the discussions.”

Could you write for Shopfloor? Do you have a perspective on the Irish political, social or economic environment that you'd like to share with your fellow members in Mandate Trade Union? Do you have a good news story about how being a union member has benefited you and your colleagues in the workplace. Have you a story about how you or your family are coping in the current recession. Whatever it is, we'd like to hear from you. Please contact Shopfloor at or post your article to Shopfloor, Mandate Trade Union,9 Cavendish Row, Dublin 1 2

Profit hike for Penneys parent firm ASSOCIATED British Foods, the parent company of Penneys and Primark, has announced a 20% increase in half-year profits due to the successful performance of the retail company across the UK and Ireland. It is understood a 55% jump in Penneys and Primark's operating profit in the six months (up to March 2) drove a 20% increase in AB Foods' group total to £496m (€582m). This was well above analysts' average forecast of £485m. Group chief George Weston was upbeat at the news, describing the performance as “clearly

extraordinary”. Penneys and Primark’s performance and a 29% rise in profit from the group's grocery division, more than offset a 5% fall in its sugar business. Shares in the group, 55% of which are owned by the Weston family, have risen 51% over the last year. Group revenue was up 10% to £6.33 billion (€7.43 billion), underlying earnings per share (EPS) rose 22% to 41.9 pence and an interim dividend of 9.35 pence, up 10%, is being paid. SHOPFLOOR

y May 2013

John Douglas

General Secretary Mandate Trade Union


1913 to 2013: the struggle continues...

ONE hundred years ago in August 1913 the employers of Dublin led by William Martin Murphy, the owner of the Tramways Company and the Irish Independ ent newspaper set out to destroy the fledgling union of Big Jim Larkin, the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, which was attempting to organise and mobilise workers on the docks, coal yards and the transport system. What ensued is referred to as the Great 1913 Dublin Lockout, when employers supported by the establishment (Church and State) locked out more than 20,000 workers from August 1913. These workers were locked out because they refused to sign pledges to leave the union. The workers and their families were brutalised by employers, blacklisted, starved and baton-charged by police in O’Connell Street, Dublin. Two strikers were killed as a result of the baton charge, referred to as Bloody Sunday (not the last such Sunday this country would witness). James Plunkett in his novel Strumpet City graphically describes the poverty and brutalisation of the workers and their families at the time. Eventually after six months the strikers were starved and beaten back to work. But Murphy and the other employers might have won the battle, but they did not win the war. They did not succeed in destroying the union and working class resistance – the trade union movement continued to grow and win better pay and conditions for workers from the employers and government. This very same struggle continues to this very day, the battle between labour and capital – the struggle of workers to achieve a decent living wage for a fair working week. Today’s William Martin Murphy employers are still trying to destroy workers’ power and worker solidarity. They are opposed to workers securing the right to join and be represented by trade unions, they still intimidate workers and harass unions and organising drives. The modern day William Martin Murphy is today’s anti-union employer – such as Aldi, Lidl, IKEA RyanAir etc – supported by a so-called “free” press such as the Irish Independent and “independent” radio stations owned by the elite and powerful whose interest is to have weak worker power and weak trade unions. Add to this a right-of-centre government party which panders to their tune of flexibility and competitiveness and a low-wage economy. Picture: Qamrul Anam Coordinator, Textile & RMG, IBC

‘Race to bottom’ ultimately behind Bangladesh factory collapse horror MANDATE has added its voice to the global chorus of condemnation following the horrific factory collapse in Bangladesh that killed hundreds of garment workers and injured thousands more. More than 2,500 workers were employed in five garment factories at the eight-storey Rana Plaza in Savar, a town 30km from the capital Dhaka. At 9am on April 24, the building collapsed crushing and trapping thousands of employees,

most of them women. Days before, large structural cracks had appeared in supporting pillars throughout the building but business at the factories continued as normal. According to industriALL Global union, several wellknown western brands were believed to have been produced at the factories. IndustriALL Global Union General Secretary Jyrki Raina said: “This terrible tragedy highlights the urgency of put-

ting a stop to the race to the bottom in supplying cheap means of production to international brands, a race in which hundreds of workers have lost their lives.” National Coordinator Brian Forbes told Shopfloor: “Cheap clothes for western shoppers often comes at an unacceptable price being paid by workers in developing countries forced to work for poverty wages in extremely dangerous working conditions.”

May 2013


a new set of proposals to members at the department store chain. Meanwhile, management have also indicated their desire to start negotiations over the restructuring of the established defined benefit pension arrangements. Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light told

One hundred years on we are still fighting for the right for workers to be fully represented by unions and the employers are just as vicious and as hostile as they were back then. More than 400,000 unemployed workers in 2013 are locked out of the economy and locked out of providing a decent income for their families because of the reckless actions of a golden circle of senior bankers, speculators and politicians. The income of those in employment is being robbed to pay banking debts which are not theirs and social services are being curtailed to the most vulnerable in our society. The only credible red line against these actions is organ ised labour and social solidarity. Like William Martin Murphy, today’s elite – employers and government – know that they must destroy workers’ resistance and workers’ solidarity. That is why unions, union members and their fight back are being demonised in the press and on the airwaves. That is why they seek to divide and conquer – public sector workers against private sector workers, Irish workers against foreign workers, workers against welfare recipients, teachers against nurses etc. They must not succeed; we must unite and say enough is enough. We demand only what is right and just  decent jobs and decent income for all. The struggle continues  you must take your place and fight for a better future for you and your family  GET ANGRY, GET ACTIVE AND WIN.

New proposals to go before staff at Brown Thomas NEGOTIATIONS have restarted with management at Brown Thomas fol‐ lowing the rejection of a set of pro‐ posals previously brokered at the Labour Relations Commission. A further conciliation conference at the LRC took place on April 16 after which it was agreed to present

Be in no doubt that the war which begun in 1913 still rages today. It may not be in the form of baton charges on O’Connell Street, but behind the closed doors of government, the legal system and the intimidation of workers by wellresourced employers and consultants.

Shopfloor: “Obviously discussions regarding this matter will have to be commenced as a matter of urgency. “However, they will take place to‐ tally separately to the new ballot re‐ garding our pay claim which is the subject of the latest LRC proposal.”

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 3


Reform proposals could mean big losses for low-paid workers

Is Govt planning a devastating cut in income for low-paid workers? By Camille Loftus THE first report of the Advisory Group appointed by Minister Joan Burton to proposed changes in the tax and social welfare codes was published recently. It covers the issue of child income supports. The Advisory Group focused on two different reforms: a) taxing Child Benefit, or b) restructuring child income supports into two ‘tiers’. A first ‘tier’ would be paid to everyone regardless of income, and a second tier would be means‐ tested. Higher earners would receive only the universal ‘first tier’ – as is the case with Child Benefit – although it would be paid at a lower rate. Families with incomes below €25,000 a year would receive the full rate of second tier payment, after this it would be gradually with‐ drawn as income rises. It was the ‘two‐tier’ income support model that the Group recommended. There are some important strengths in this model. Paying less support to higher earners seems fair: with resources as scarce as they are, it is important that they are di‐ rected to those who need them most. The Group also recommends that a universal support for all children be retained, in recognition of the state’s commitment to supporting all children. However, there is a

catch, and it’s a big one for low paid workers. These two tiers would re‐ place supports currently available including Child Benefit and the addi‐ tional child allowances for social welfare recipients. But crucially, the ‘two‐tier’ model would also replace Family Income Supplement (FIS) – the top up payment for families in low paid employment. And that has very significant implications for low paid working families. Crucially, although FIS is means tested, it provides more support to families who are working than those who are not. For many, it’s vital in stretching inadequate wages to meet their family’s needs. Replacing FIS

with a two‐tier child income support means that by far the greatest losses would be faced by low‐paid workers entitled to FIS. To get a sense of the scale of these losses, the table below compares net incomes for a household with a cou‐ ple and two young children, and gives examples of the impact this re‐ form would have on families at dif‐ ferent earning levels. It is clear that the lowest paid workers would face the biggest losses: l A part‐time worker, earning €200, stands to lose over €180 in in‐ come supports each week; l A full‐time minimum wage worker, earning €350 a week, would

lose just short of €100 a week. l Where the family is just over the threshold at which the second tier payment starts to be reduced – earning €500 a week – they would see their income fall by €27 per week. l In contrast, a high‐earning fam‐ ily, who would not have any entitle‐ ment at all to the second tier payment, would face losses of only €12 per week. In other words, a family relying on a full‐time minimum wage, plus FIS, would lose over EIGHT times more in cash income supports than a fam‐ ily at the top of the earning scale. (See table below)

FIS is far from a perfect solution to the difficult problem of low wages. But it is a vital lifeline to many low paid families – and could be for many more. The ESRI has estimated that poverty could be reduced by three percentage points if everyone who was entitled to FIS actually received it. That’s a much more impressive impact on poverty than the reduc‐ tion of 0.2 percentage points that the Advisory Group’s proposals would achieve. We need to do much more to sup‐ port low‐paid working families. One way of doing this would be to intro‐ duce a new benefit for people in work, which could be delivered via the tax system, to boost the value of workers’ take‐home pay. The Advisory Group is currently supposed to be considering this area. But this work won’t be com‐ pleted before the next budget, when reforms to child income supports could be introduced. And it is low‐paid workers who would pay the considerable cost of that delay – and indeed the risk that no alternative would be found. That’s far too big of a risk to take. If these proposals are to be imple‐ mented, FIS must be retained until a better support for working families struggling on low pay is signed, sealed and delivered.

‘FIS is far from a perfect solution to the difficult problem of low wages... but it is a vital lifeline to many low paid families – and could be for many more...’

Am I eligible for FIS? It’s estimated that as few as four in 10 people who are eligible for FIS actually claim it. If you’re in low-paid work, it’s worth checking if you might be entitled. If: l You (or you and your partner combined) work for at least 19 hours a week (or 38 hours over a fortnight); and l You have at least one child

under 18 – or aged 18-22 if they are in full-time education; and l Your total after tax income is below the thresholds set by the DSP.

You can get an information leaflet for FIS at Text “Form FIS” followed by your name and address to 51909 to get an application form. Standard text rates apply. Picture: images of money (CC BY 2.0) 4


y May 2013

FROM WHERE I STAND... By Brian Forbes Mandate National Coordinator WITH the demise of the Celtic Tiger and the onslaught of austerity budget after austerity budget, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Ireland would have fewer billionaires over the past number of years. You’d also be forgiven for assum‐ ing that the austerity policies imple‐ mented by Fine Gael and Labour Lite would have a similar if not more profound impact on the mega‐ wealthy as it has on those struggling on low and middle incomes. Wrong! The recently‐released Ireland’s Rich List shows that the number of billionaires has more than doubled over the past year – we have nine today, up from just four 12 months ago. As tens of thousands of house‐ holds struggle to survive the in‐ creasingly‐draconian austerity cuts imposed by our government and their Troika buddies, it seems in‐ credible that those at the very top of the wealth pile are coining it in as our society slowly crumbles under the weight of austerity. Retail magnet Hillary Weston, who has Brown Thomas in her mas‐ sive portfolio, heads up the Rich List with a wealth of €7.8bn. Denis O’Brien comes in as a com‐ paratively poor second. The mobile phone and media bigwig – who con‐ trols a lot of what we read and hear – has a modest €3.9bn, but, of course, we’re still talking telephone numbers… He is followed by investor John Dorrance at €1.85bn, financier Der‐ mot Desmond at €1.5bn and Paul Coulson – big in manufacturing and investment – who has a cool €1.1bn. Whatever the personal circum‐ stances of these incredibly rich peo‐ ple who probably couldn’t spend this amount of money in their own lifetime, it all seems hugely at odds with the notion that “we are all in this together”. This nonsensical rhetoric is pure fantasy but is regularly bleated out by government ministers and spin doctors intent on convincing us all that austerity is necessary and that we all must shoulder the economic burden and get Ireland back work‐ ing again. Utter codswallop! We are being sold a blatant lie. We are certainly not all in it together, as evidenced by the increasing vast wealth at the top echelons of Irish society set against the increasing numbers of people in massive debt and in dire poverty. Added to this number are the tens of thousands of people now labelled as working poor and who are becoming increas‐ ingly marginalised within society. “End austerity now,” was the laud‐ able call from Social Welfare Minis‐ ter Joan Burton in a speech delivered at a recent St Vincent de Paul conference. But this attempt at distancing herself from decisions she took while in government just doesn’t wash. A week may be a long time in poli‐ tics but surely we can’t forget her decision to slash social welfare pay‐ ments – a move that impacted heav‐ ily on low and middle‐income families. Decisions such as this helped cre‐ ate an even more unequal society than the one inherited by this gov‐ May 2013




That’s rich! So there IS growth in the economy

...the number of billionaires

ernment. Real wealth has not been tackled in Ireland as it doesn’t suit the conservatives running our coun‐ try and the elite they represent and protect. The time to end austerity was 26 months ago when Minister Burton and her Labour colleagues entered the unholy alliance with Fine Gael. This was not a ‘National Govern‐ ment’ as was claimed at the time but an attempt at restructuring the same old failed system of govern‐ ment and of capitalism that put us in this mess in the first place. If Minister Burton sincerely be‐ lieves what she said at the SVP con‐ ference – that “ordinary people everywhere have shouldered too much of the burden” – then perhaps she should do the honourable thing and reverse the swathing benefit

‘We are being sold a blatant lie... we are certainly not all in it together’

Picture: images of money (CC BY 2.0)

Joan Burton, left, and, above, Denis O’Brien

cuts she implemented as Minister. In so doing she would give people back a reasonable level of income rather than just bland expressions of sorrow. Austerity is working fine for peo‐ ple like Hillary Weston and Denis O’Brien as they get richer and richer but it’s crippling the families and people that Minister Burton was elected to serve and protect. Surely it is time to get priorities right and cut the rhetoric. Words alone won’t put food on the table or clothe our children. What is re‐ quired is real action and leadership. Austerity isn’t working, has never worked and will never work yet it has taken Minister Burton 26 months for the penny to drop. Fine Gael are the real purveyors of misery policies in this country but the Labour Party has been out‐ma‐ noeuvred and out‐smarted and will pay the ultimate electoral price, re‐ gardless of attempts at distancing themselves from the policies they helped implement. Ireland’s super‐rich must be laughing all the way to the bank and Fine Gael must be laughing all the way to the ballot box!

Athlone B&Q store saved from closure as Mandate team meet with Examiner A MANDATE delegation has met with the Examiner appointed to oversee B&Q’s Irish business on March 4. At the meeting, the Examiner undertook to keep the union fully briefed of developments as they occurred. On April 10, the High Court extended the Examiner’s involvement until May 9 – this will effectively end the Examiner’s active involvement in the matter. In another development, it emerged that Athlone B&Q – one of outlets originally earmarked for closure – will now remain open. Assistant General Secretary Gerry Light said: “Obviously this news is a welcome development for the workers in Athlone and their families. “As a result of the uncertainty surrounding the future of the business here in Ireland, we have experienced a significant increase in union membership.” Mr Light also signalled to management that a growing membership base “would not accept in future current practice of not recognising the union for collective bargaining purposes”. He added: “One of the main objectives following the departure of the Examiner from the business will be to robustly challenge management on this issue to ensure that they afford to the workforce who are members of the union the basic human right to be represented by a union of their choice.”

Why I’m in Mandate... ‘As a unionised workforce we can ensure staff are treated fairly and are aware of their rights’ Martha Coffey, Penneys, Killarney 5



Ireland prey to forces unleashed in the crisis Spare us your judgement I’m proud of the work I do...

Shopworker Sandra (not her real name) on why she is proud to work in the retail sector

Can you outline for us very briefly the main thesis of your recent book, Ireland in the World Order: A History of Uneven Development? Ireland in the World Order at‐ tempted a historical materialist analysis of Ireland’s social and politi‐ cal development from the medieval to the modern era, in order to explain why Ireland differed so radically from other parts of the ‘United King‐ dom’. It argued that the socio‐economic structure of the Gaelic order made it difficult for the English state to integrate the Gaelic elite into an ex‐ panded ruling class. Religious change accentuated these difficulties and en‐ couraged the English state to adopt a strategy of full‐scale conquest. This conquest had long‐term social and economic consequences, result‐ ing in a social order that was premised upon maximising surplus extraction from the peasantry and which inhibited capital accumulation in the countryside. Instead of developing along lines similar to England or Scotland in the 19th century, Ireland came to display the typical characteristics of what has come to be known as ‘underde‐ velopment’. This context of underdevelopment ensured that social resistance in Ire‐ land was closely linked to a striving for national independence. The last couple of chapters explore the relationship between this histori‐ cal background and Ireland’s social and economic development in the 20th and 21st centuries. It argued that the Irish capitalist class had been shaped by this struc‐ tural underdevelopment and showed no inclination to develop an inde‐ pendent industrial base. From the 1960s onwards it sought to insert Ireland into transnational networks – above all by making it a conduit for US capital investment ori‐ entated towards the European mar‐ ket. Some of this was manufacturing in‐ dustry that created real employment but much of it was fraudulent, with the Irish state becoming complicit with tax evasion on a massive scale. While the country significantly in‐ creased its average standard of living, it also made itself deeply dependent upon foreign capital. Most of the left and the labour movement assumed

In extracts from an interview that first appeared in radical economics website, Dr Maurice Coakley, of Griffith College Dublin, looks at why the Irish economy was so susceptible to the 2007/08 crash and looks at broader questions of the crisis in capitalism within the global system & Ireland’s place in it

that this dependence on foreign capital was not a problem, and were wholly unprepared for the collapse occasioned by the 2007/8 financial crash. At a more general level the book argues that uneven development is intrinsic to the capitalist system. This is not just a matter of the laws of the capitalism system working them‐ selves out unevenly – though there is an element of that – but also that patterns of development are heavily shaped by politics. Global capitalism is a hierarchal system, and states play a central role in moulding that hierarchy.

How do you see the current crisis as fitting into this thesis? The failure of the Irish state to pursue a course of independent economic development has made the Irish economy exceptionally vulnerable in the event of crisis. The Irish state found itself with very limited leverage to negotiate with the institutions of global and regional governance. To make matters worse the politi‐ cal elite has become closely inter‐ woven with a rentier/financial oligarchy whose interests are very removed from any development proj‐ ect, or from the needs of the wider population. The crisis also showed that behind all the rhetoric of equality and solidarity between European nations, the European Union retains a hierar‐ chy of nation‐states and any spirit of mutual solidarity between these na‐ tions is shallow. If Ireland desires more economic control what policies should it pursue? The crucial arena for establishing a modicum of self‐determination is the financial one. The debt burden

imposed upon the population is not only immoral, it is also impractical. It effectively condemns the state to extended stagnation, which will be accompanied by a gradual but accumulative reduction in social spending and social rights. Beyond that there is a pressing need to for the Irish state to establish democratic control over the whole financial system. Formal nationalisa‐ tion of the banks is not enough. The AIB, for example, is already state‐owned but continues to operate as a private bank servicing its own executives. The state doesn’t want to control the private banks because that would bring them under public scrutiny and it would encourage popular demands that national savings be used to im‐ prove the material and social infra‐ structure, and not just to enrich the elite and their hangers‐on. Capital control would be needed to make this effective. These measures would probably be inconsistent with membership of a single currency as it is presently constituted. This programme is fairly modest but it would face massive opposition from the whole of the Irish elite and from the European Union (at least as it is presently operates). Given the weakness of left‐wing politics in Ireland, it might seem that we face a near impossible task. However, the destructiveness of the austerity programmes and the increasingly self‐defeating character of European Union policies ensure that Ireland would be very unlikely to be alone in its battles to protect its society against the demands of Brussels.

WHEN I am asked what I do for a living, I often feel I have to validate my choice of job. I am currently employed in retail and have spent most of my adult life working in this sector. I am 25 years old, have a psychology degree and have work experience in several areas as I have worked since I was 16. On completing my degree I did some travelling as well as some work that was slightly related to my course. However, this type of work was temporary and not to my liking so when I returned home I sought work in retail. Over and over I endure comments such as, “You’ll not stay at that will you?” and “What else could you do?” from well-meaning relatives and friends. Many of these people do not understand the current devaluation of all types of degrees and that being educated doesn’t exempt you from working in a lowly-paid job. I’m sick of these sanctimonious comments and the pressure to pick a more traditional public service job such as teaching. I admire teachers but I know this is not for me.

My job may not be highly paid or require special skills but that does not mean I lower myself to do it. It is my choice to work in this area, I am grateful for my work and I wish others would respect my choice. Not only has my choice of work been sneered at but also my choice to work. In the past people have criticised my work ethic and told me to “go on the social” instead of working two part-time jobs, both in retail. I am bored of these attitudes that surround working in retail and I’m sure the comments resonate with many fellow retail workers. I am proud of what I do. I work hard. Working in retail is nothing to be ashamed of. Retail employees work hours that a lot of other people would not even consider, i.e. threehour shifts and working on holidays and bank holidays. Christmas is a foreign concept as most of us work Christmas Eve and St Stephen’s Day. Please spare us your judgement and condescension, we don’t need it.

Check out the full interview at

JAMES Petras, a leading expert on the politics of South America, is to give this year’s James Connolly Memorial Lecture at the New Theatre, Temple Bar, on Saturday, May 11. He will be speaking on the global assault on workers’ rights and conditions with especial reference to the experience of workers in Latin America, who have suffered decades of “austerity” to 6

pay off debts that did not belong to them. Prof Petas, left, who has written more than 60 books, will also touch on how progressive changes are affecting the lives of tens of millions of working people in Latin America, and what lessons can be drawn from this. Lecture begins at 2pm; The New Theatre, 43 East Essex Street, Temple Bar, Dublin.

Picture: tjmwatson (CC BY 2.0)

Austerity, latino-style...

What does working in retail or being a member of Mandate mean to you? Email Shopfloor at and let us know in under 350 words SHOPFLOOR

y May 2013


Mandate launches bar survey

MANDATE has launched a survey of all workers in the bar industry. The union wants to hear from members and non-members about their living standards and conditions of employment. Commenting on the survey, Jonathan Hogan, Industrial Officer for Mandate, told Shopfloor: “We know that many workers in the industry have suffered cuts to their terms and conditions of employment. This includes pay

cuts, cuts to hours and cuts to other entitlements. “Employers and their representatives have attacked JLCs and other legislation that provides decent employment for bar workers. “The only way to resist these attacks is by joining Mandate and campaigning for protection of existing terms and seeking to improve on them,” he added. “This survey, which only takes 10 minutes,

will help us understand what is happening in the industry and how we can improve the working lives of our members.” If you are a bar worker or if you know one, please direct them to the following website If you would like a survey posted to you, please email or call the union at 01 874 6321.

Tesco profits strong as Irish sales increase TESCO has increased sales in Ireland by 1.9% to €3.15 billion in the year to February 24, this year. This com‐ pares with €3.09 billion in sales in the previous year. Chief Executive Tony Keohane said the company was “pleased” to have recorded a year of growth “in what continues to be a very chal‐

lenging market here in Ireland.” Meanwhile, the parent company has announced profits of £1.96 bil‐ lion (€2.28 billion) in the year to February 13 despite announcing it will exit the loss‐making business in the US, taking a £1 billion write‐off. The company also announced a £804 million write‐down in prop‐

erty values in Britain and a half a billion pound write‐down on its business in Poland, Czech Republic and Turkey. During the past year Tesco Ireland have opened five new stores (one Metro and four Express outlets) cre‐ ating a total of 94 new jobs. Online grocery shopping also grew by 16%.

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May 2013




Building a future that works WE have lost some 360,000 jobs since the onset of the crisis in 2008. A good proportion of those losses are directly attributable to the com‐ plete collapse of domestic demand in the economy, which has fallen continuously for five years and is now down by 26%. It will almost certainly fall further. A drop of this magnitude and duration is virtually unheard of in post‐war Europe. Yet, every day our print and broadcast media hum with chatter about green shoots. Detecting their presence in our scorched earth economy keeps many an 'analyst' gainfully em‐ ployed. Domestic demand is not an ab‐ stract theoretical construct, but a tangible, concrete indicator of the health of an economy and the well‐ being of its citizens. It is people shopping for food, gro‐ ceries, clothes and perhaps the odd luxury. It represents people stopping for a coffee or a quick lunch, maybe even celebrating a family occasion with a night out. It represents people using local services and tradespeople to carry out repairs and improvementsto their homes. But as people cut and reduce their spending in response to ongoing austerity, demand contracts and jobs are lost. In short, the current ill‐health of our economy and soci‐ ety is neatly encapsulated in that one statistic. Quite clearly, the 360,000 people who have lost their jobs in this time‐ frame have been the hardest hit by the current crisis. But those at work have also suf‐ fered. Across both public and pri‐ vate sectors we have seen the growth of what is termed 'precari‐

ICTU’s Macdara Doyle argues precarious and low-paid work offers no foundation for the future. Instead, decent work is crucial in building a secure economic future

ous work'. While this unwelcome trend has been apparent for some years, and Ireland is not unique in this regard, it has undoubtedly been exacerbated by the current crisis. Precarious work is defined as work which is highly insecure, badly paid and incapable of supporting a household or family. A recent study by Mandate found a high incidence of precarious work within the country's retail sector. It

‘Domestic demand is not an obstract theoretical indicator of the health of an economy and the wellbeing of its citizens’ noted: "These workers are trapped in jobs that don't allow them to earn a living wage, but at the same time deny them the opportunity to work a second job or qualify for so‐ cial welfare supports." Thus, while men have been worst affected by the unemploy‐ ment crisis, among those who have remained in employment, women have been hit hardest by the recession. Women tend to be over‐repre‐ sented in the ranks of the precari‐ ous workforce. As a result, they have been hardest hit by this col‐

lapse of domestic demand, accord‐ ing to research carried out by Dr Micheal Collins of the Nevin Eco‐ nomic Research Institute. Dr Collins, who spoke at the re‐ cent annual Congress Women's Sem‐ inar, told delegates: "Reduced demand in sectors of the economy where female participation is higher, particularly retail and catering, has impacted on the numbers of women at work, the number of hours avail‐ able for them to work and, conse‐ quently, on the income of their households." He said that high concentrations of women in low‐paid and precari‐ ous employment contributed to gen‐ der inequality and the continued gender pay gap, estimated at any‐ thing up to a 14% differential. Interestingly, the gap widens when women have children, which speaks volumes about Ireland's poor childcare provision and the support afforded to working families. In this context, the case for the provision of decent work becomes all the more compelling. Decent work is defined as work carried out in conditions of "free‐ dom, equity, security and human dignity." As the International Labour Or‐ ganisation points out, the issue fac‐ ing modern society is "not just the creation of jobs, but also the cre‐ ation of jobs of acceptable quality." If Ireland hopes to construct a sustainable economic model on which to base future development, then decent work must be at its core. Cheap, precarious and low‐paid work does not provide a secure foundation for future generations Macdara Doyle is Communications Officer for ICTU

Danger of the ‘job at any cost’ approach By Aideen Carberry

Mandate Organiser

ONE of the biggest global trends in recent years has been in the rise of precarious employment. In an economy that is obsessed by ‘jobs at any cost’, people welcome the announcement of jobs being created, understandably. However, the part‐ time, fixed‐term, flexible contracts, once thought to have been a tempo‐ rary measure conceived of by em‐ ployers to deal with the economic slowdown, have now become entrenched in our labour markets. Employers are using every avail‐ able opportunity to make these types of contracts the norm. Few questions are being asked as to the quality of these jobs as they come on the market. Are they the types of employment that people can live independently on? Are they enough to sustain a decent quality of life? 8

Are they the types of employment that one could build a future on? Are they jobs that offer career advance‐ ment and the opportunity to develop as an individual? The reality is that many of these jobs are none of the above. They are just enough to keep someone off the Live Register, yet too little to give an individual the means to live an inde‐ pendent life. Flexible work affects collective bar‐ gaining rights. As the ILO symposium on Policies and Regulations to Combat Precarious Work, 2011 stated, “while more countries formally guarantee core labour rights, fewer workers can exercise these rights due to the rise in precarious work.” There is a link between precarious work and the erosion of workers’ rights. This is particularly true of young people. The number of underem‐ ployed 15 to 24 year olds in the OECD countries is at its highest since the organisation started collecting

data. The current climate means young people are coming to expect less and less from their employment. They are entering the workforce after college or school with the impression that they should be glad to find themselves in these types of employments. Their generation’s mantra ‘A job is a job’ is affecting their will and desire to organise in their workplace. They dare not claim the hard‐fought‐for labour rights generations before them have secured. The beginning of one’s working life tends to be the most formative. A young person who finds it difficult to find work at the beginning of their career suffer from what is known as a ‘wage scar’, meaning they are likely to earn less than their peers who find work immediately after school or college for a large part of their career. Studies from the UK and America show that this can persist into mid‐ dle age. In the US, studies have

shown that employers seeking new recruits for quality jobs generally preferred fresh graduates (of school or university) over the unemployed or underemployed, leaving a cohort of people with declining long‐term job and wage prospects: “youth left behind”, in the words of a recent OECD report. Japan's “lost decade” workers make up a disproportionate share of depression and stress cases reported by employers. Suggestions to solve the crisis in youth unemployment and underem‐ ployment are few and far between. Jobsbridge, while it may have been well intentioned, has led to abuses for interns. It also ignores the fact that intern‐ ships and further education are useless if there is no stimulus pack‐ age to create jobs. There is little point in driving down the economy with austerity measures on one hand, and attempt‐

ing to educate young people for jobs that don’t exist on the other. There is also the fact that intern‐ ships may not be a necessary part of preparing a young worker for the workplace for some types of employ‐ ments; and they have replaced train‐ ing that could be completed while the worker is in employment. It is up to all of us, as union activists, to be keenly aware of the types of employments our friends and family take up; and how it affects their lives. And, more importantly, it should be up to each of us to educate younger workers that they should not be taken in by the prospect of a job at any cost. Our young workers need to start expecting more for themselves and their peers. Only then can they begin to organise and campaign to main‐ tain the workplace rights past gener‐ ations fought for. SHOPFLOOR

y May 2013


Union Representatives Introductory Course N UNIO P E R

Brian Forbes: ‘austerity is doing exactly what it was designed to do’

Partnership ‘neutered’ our ability to organise “1913 was all about union recogni‐ tion, 2013 is still all about union recognition,” Mandate National Co‐ ordinator Brian Forbes has claimed. He made the comments in a wide‐ ranging speech to Sinn Fein dele‐ gates gathered in Castlebar for the party’s recent Ard Fheis. Questioning what many years of social partnership had achieved for workers, Mr Forbes said it had only benefitted some but left “many more behind economically and socially”. The strategy had also effectively “neutered” trade unions’ ability to “agitate, educate and organise” in workplaces. “It had”, he added, “provided a comfortable environment for capital and the bosses to grow and prosper off the backs of labour without fear of retribution.” It had been a partnership “built on dishonesty” and a divorce was “in‐ evitable”. “All we need now is for the union movement to realise there will be no reconciliation or second coming.” Addressing delegates on April 13, a few days after Margaret Thatcher’s death, Mr Forbes spoke about how she had influenced his own political development and that of many of his peers “in opposition to her brand of misery”. “She rallied us against the excesses of greed and the markets, the trans‐ fer of wealth from the people to the rich, individualism and the anti‐ union, anti‐worker legislation that still exists today including here in Ire‐ May 2013


land. She unwittingly as Johnny Cash would say, ‘Put the gravel in our guts and the spit in our eyes’.” Brian Forbes also wondered why the Left kept using the slogan ‘Auster‐ ity isn’t working’ when “it bloody well is working” ... for the ruling class. “It’s doing exactly what it says on the tin and exactly what it was de‐ signed to do.” This involved the weakening of so‐ cial security provision, slashing pub‐ lic sector wages, raising the age of retirement, selling off public assets and loading further tax burdens on workers. “Austerity is working fine,” he pointed out, “it’s just not working for us.” Against a backdrop of high unem‐ ployment, wage stagnation and in‐ creased short‐term contracts, Government seemed intent, he sug‐ gested, on “making our country more attractive to monopoly capital”. “They are attempting to make per‐ manent full‐time work a thing of the past to be replaced by a precarious fully flexible workforce, where the working week can be whatever the employer needs it to be.” Mr Forbes also took the opportu‐ nity to call on delegates to back Mandate’s Fair Shop campaign. He said: “On behalf of workers in Fair Shops, who are better off by being in a union, we’d urge you all and your families to support those workers and Fair Shops by spending your money where workers count.”

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:

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Please call us Now on 0818 44444 4444449 or go to http : // /retail-chains /M nd te /tr e in u n e / Subject to under writing and acceptance criteria. Terms and conditions apply. MANDATE Travel Insurance is administered by Blue Insurances Limited. Blue Insurances Limited are regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland.



Spoofing & spin continues Repudiate The Debt Campaign IT APPEARS the EU big nobs and their poodles in the Irish govern‐ ment are locked into permanent meetings as they stagger from one crisis to another. The poor devils must be ex‐ hausted from drinking all that Champagne, scoffing rich food and having to sleep in swanky hotels. Since the last issue of Shopfloor, the debt crisis has been ratcheted up another couple of notches. The poor people of Cyprus have had their savings chopped. The bosses’ media, the likes of Irish Independent, Irish Times, Daily Mirror and RTE, rolled out the message that the “haircut” for depositors would mainly hit dirty money from Russia. Sure that was great – at last some of the big boys would take a hit. The two main Cypriot banks, Laïkí Trápeza (People’s Bank) and Bank of Cyprus – which were closed to ordinary Cypriots and local businesses – left their branches in London open through‐ out the two‐week crisis, with no limits on withdrawals. The Bank of Cyprus, which owns 80% of Russian‐based Uniastrum Bank, placed no restrictions on withdrawals in Russia. So the likelihood that any Russ‐ ian money was caught is pretty slim. And, as we know from our own wealthy elites, dirty money is always on the move, to be put into a washing‐machine bank somewhere and flushed through the system. Then it comes out the other side as clean as a whistle, ready to buy up mansions in expensive parts of London, Paris, or New York, or even to buy up football teams as ego tro‐ phies. By using the Russian bogeyman they have established that working people’s savings are now fair game and will be taken and used for bail‐ ing out the failing euro and the big

IKEA (CC BY 2.0)

By Eugene McCartan

finance companies of Europe, if needs must. Permanent debt is our future. The EU big shots arrived into Dublin on April 12 and 13 and offered their poodles in the Irish Troika – Fine Gael, the Labour Party, and Fianna Fáil – a deal on “our” debt. What did our gallant Irish heroes get? They got another seven years to pay the debt. Everyone knows that the longer you take to pay off a debt, the more you pay in the long run. So the real beneficiaries of this deal have been the big financiers (debt is now a very profitable com‐ modity), while quietly they have put the National Lottery up for privatisa‐ tion as well as An Bord Gáis. These are the first companies to

be sold as part of the Government’s selling off of the people’s wealth to big foreign monopolies to pay a debt that does not belong to the Irish people. While we got a seven‐year exten‐ sion, the Portuguese Supreme Court threw out elements of the austerity programme imposed on Portugal by the ECB, EU, and IMF. The Portuguese government will have to re‐jig its plans to meet its deficit‐reduction targets. Those measures will then have to be assessed by the so‐called Troika of creditors – the European Central Bank, European Commission and In‐ ternational Monetary Fund – to see whether they can plug the gaps.

The Cypriot people were offered €18 billion in loans, but they would have to come up with €13 billion in cuts. The rescue loans will further increase Cyprus’s debt, which will reach a peak at 126% of GDP in 2015. (Most economists agree that a debt of between 60% to 80% is unsustainable and unpayable) Cyprus’s debt is one of Europe’s highest debt burdens, raising serious questions about that country’s abil‐ ity to pay off any of it. What the EU, ECB, IMF and all the main political parties are offering Irish workers is a lifetime of debt slavery, permanent cuts in wages and services, and further growth in precarious employment.

Workers will have few if any rights and bosses will be able to hire and fire at will. The repudiation of this odious debt is the only true way to honour the women and men of 1913. One is reminded of the poem For What Died the Sons of Róisín? so beautifully recited by Luke Kelly ( To whom do we owe our allegiance today?/ To those brave men who fought and died that Róisín live again with pride/ Her sons at home to work and sing / Her youth to dance and make her valleys ring? / Or the faceless men who, for mark and dollar,/ Betray her to the highest bidder?


Second store plan fails to win over council IKEA Ireland is seeking to build a second store in Dublin which the Swedish-based multinational claims will create at least 400 jobs. The retailer wants to site the new store off the M50 motorway at Cherrywood in the south of the city. IKEA has been in talks with the County Council since 2010 but the firm’s plea to be allowed to build has fallen on deaf ears to date. 10

IKEA – which is an anti-union company in the Republic – also has a store in Belfast which is covered by a recognition agreement with Usdaw, Mandate’s sister union in the UK. Lawyers acting on behalf of the multinational have been attending oral hearings recently at An Bord Pleonala in an bid to overturn Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council’s decision to ban large-scale stores. A decision from these hear-

ings is imminent. The council already has its major 30-year redevelopment plan for the area in place which will include provision for six new schools, community centres, more than 8,000 new homes, three new villages and a new town centre. Unfortunately – for IKEA – the multinational does not fit into the exciting new plans being developed by the council. The zoning plan strategically

developed by the county council excludes provision for retail warehousing which is currently killing off any hope for IKEA to locate there. Mandate National Coordinator Brian Forbes told Shopfloor: “IKEA's apparent desperation to be situated in an area with a booming population, good road network and access to decent public transport has to date fallen on deaf ears with the original deci-

sion to reject the application standing. To add to IKEA’s frustrations, local councillors passed a motion to prepare a study into the proposal last June yet it remains to be completed. “It seems that getting changes to planning decisions is proving as tiresome, time consuming and irritating for IKEA as our attempts to get IKEA to recognise Mandate in Ireland since 2009 have become. What a shame!” SHOPFLOOR

y May 2013


THERE is no doubt that our health‐ care system is in need of urgent re‐ form. A two‐tier system of health apartheid and inequality persists. Access to healthcare is a funda‐ mental right. It is deeply unfair that while some people who can afford private health insurance get the care they need in a timely fashion, others wait months and sometimes years for the same vital treatment. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Ireland is in fact sur‐ rounded by countries such as the UK and France where access to timely healthcare is universal. The Government’s healthcare reform plan is deeply flawed. It is based on Fine Gael’s “Dutch” model of compulsory privatised health in‐ surance. It is worth examining what happened in the Netherlands when this model was introduced. Healthcare costs have increased sharply in the Netherlands since the introduction of compulsory private health insurance. According to the OECD total ex‐ penditure on health as a percentage of GDP rose in the Netherlands from 9.8% of GDP in 2005 just be‐ fore this model was introduced to 12% of GDP by 2010. The Netherlands now spends more on healthcare than any other country in the world except the US which also relies on the costly pri‐

Picture: Labour Party

Govt’s private healthcare plan is the wrong approach By Patrick Nulty TD Country

% of GDP spent Total expenditure Model on healthcare 2010 on healthcare 2010




Private Health Insurance

Netherlands 12%


Compulsory Private Health Insurance




Universal Access National Health Service




Universal Access National Health Service




Universal Access National Health Service




Private Health Insurance + national health service with waiting lists

vate sector. So why have costs risen so dramatically in the Netherlands? The introduction of compulsory health insurance provided by com‐ peting private insurance companies

has led to an incredible level of bu‐ reaucracy within the Dutch system. Every healthcare provider had to es‐ tablish an individual contract with each insurance company for the pro‐

vision of each medical procedure and consultation. This resulted in some 30,000 sepa‐ rate Diagnostic Treatment Combina‐ tions been established. Each of these 30,000 combinations needed to be administered and regulated. Instead of driving down costs this resulted in a sharp price escalation and the Dutch government had to intervene to reduce the number of service level agreements. In addition to in‐ creased bureaucracy, administration and regulation a margin of profit needs to be factored into health insurance policies under a privatised system. This further increases costs. As costs escalated under this model, a number of med‐ ical treatments and procedures were de‐listed which left sections of the population reduced medical cover. At the same time, wealthier people could purchase more extensive cover and in this way a two‐tier system re‐emerged. There is an alternative based on models which allow universal access healthcare in a timely and cost effi‐ cient manner. For example, the UK was able to provide universal access to health for all its population through the Na‐

tional Health Service at a cost of 9.6% of GDP in 2010. Sweden pro‐ vided universal healthcare at a cost of 9.6% of their GDP in the same year. Ireland spent 9.2% of our GDP on healthcare but came nowhere near delivering the same access, not least because of our expenditure on more costly for‐profit healthcare. The US, which has the worst level of access to health‐ care among devel‐ oped countries and the greatest reliance on the private sec‐ tor and private in‐ surance, spent an incredible 17.6% of their GDP on healthcare in 2010. As the table (left) shows what is important is not how much is spent on health – rather how healthcare is delivered. Reliance on private companies increases costs and restricts access. The most efficient delivery of healthcare is based on a not‐for‐ profit model. This costs less and provides access to everyone. The Government has a clear choice. They can pursue the costly for‐profit private health insurance model or they can instead utilise resources more efficiently through a social insurance model.


‘Top o’ the mornin’ March 17 salute from US workers... UNITED Food & Commercial Workers Local 5 in California celebrated this year’s St Patrick’s Day by sending an across the miles message of solidarity to Irish workers, particularly those working in retail. UFCW Local 5’s communications director Mike Henneberry said his union was committed to working collectively with “our brothers and sisters overseas”. He said: “We know that the only answer to global corporate power is global unionism. “A leafleting on behalf of workers’ struggles half a world away resonates immediately in the corporate suites – but more importantly – on the shop floor.” Mike added: “We are particularly proud of our relationship with Irish unions, specifically Mandate. Let's keep marching forward together!” Mandate National Co-ordinator Brian Forbes in thanking UFCW for their support and St Paddy’s Day greetings said: “We hear you, Mike, and – in terms of solidarity – right back at you!” May 2013




A system that When the costs the Earth workers DECENT work. It is not much to ask for! It is noticeably absent in Ireland with an unemployment rate of 14.7%. It gets worse for young people with an unemploy‐ ment rate of 30.9%. International Labour Organisa‐ tion (ILO) data shows that the ab‐ sence of decent work is worldwide. 1.52 billion people are in vulnerable employment and 456 million workers earn below $1.25 a day. Decent work, for the ILO, in‐ volves opportunities for work that: is productive and delivers a fair income; provides security in the workplace and social protec‐ tion for families; offers prospects for personal development and so‐ cial integration; ensures freedom for people to express their con‐ cerns and participate in decisions that affect them; and promotes equality of opportunity and equal treatment for all women and men. The ILO decent work agenda has four objectives – creating jobs, guaranteeing rights at work, extending social protection, and promoting social dialogue. Claiming Our Future is pushing for decent work to be identified as a global goal. This was one focus for debate in a Claiming Our Fu‐ ture event organised with Dochas and the Wheel on Setting Goals for a Better Ireland in a Just World. Global goals are, of course, pointless unless they go beyond our immediate crises and address a long‐term future. Global goals that respond to the environmental crisis have eluded the interna‐ tional community. Sustainable development was, inevitably, a focus for debate at the event. The goal debated was simple and urgent – to achieve an ecological footprint equal to, or smaller than, one planet. An ecological footprint is the amount of biologically productive land and sea area that is neces‐ sary to provide the resources that

By Niall Crowley a human population consumes and to assimilate associated waste. It is currently estimated that we use the equivalent of 1.5 planets to produce the resources we use and to absorb the waste we create. It takes the earth one year and six months to regenerate what we use in a year. It’s getting worse. We are betraying future generations. This concern with global goals was stimulated by a United Nations process to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that ex‐ pire in 2015. The MDGs focus on eradicating ex‐ treme poverty and hunger, achieving universal primary education, pro‐ moting gender equality, reducing child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/AIDS and malaria, ensuring environmental sus‐ tainability, and increasing overseas development aid. They were never seen as being relevant to Ireland. They have been criticised for failing to challenge inequality within and between coun‐ tries and for leaving the economic arena to the private sector. The European Commission is pro‐ posing that the goals to replace the MDGs should be universal and rele‐ vant to rich and poor countries alike. Decisions will be taken on the EU position during the Irish presidency. Civil society is seeking to influence the goals to be agreed at EU level. We need universal goals that would make an impact on the in‐ equalities and unsustainabilities as‐

sociated with current strategies for development in Ireland and across the EU. Decent work and sustainable development would be a good start. Another focus for debate at the event was the nature of our democracy. There will inevitably and use‐ fully be a focus on good gover‐ nance that is about accountability and transparency in any new goals. However, new goals will need to promote a democracy that em‐ powers those who currently have no influence. It is only in this way that other goals in pursuit of so‐ cial change will be achieved. The democracy goal needs to secure a decentralisation of power with decisions being taken closer to the people. Civil society should be empowered and supported to promote the interests of those ex‐ periencing poverty and inequality. Deliberative spaces have to be established so that those affected by decisions can debate the issues involved and influence any deci‐ sions made. Representative democracy needs to be more diverse involv‐ ing people from all groups in society. This is an agenda for a better Ireland. It could be the agenda for a just world. We need to ensure that those involved in deciding fu‐ ture global goals know that these issues can no longer be ignored.

FACING FACTS ‘It is currently estimated that we use the equivalent of 1.5 planets to produce the resources we use and to absorb the waste we create’ 12

take over... the buyout option for struggling businesses

By Stephen Nolan and Eleonore Perrin Massebieaux A WORKERS cooperative distin‐ guishes itself from the traditional business model as it privileges the sovereignty of labour and represents the purest and most democratic form of cooperation. In this form of enterprise, workers own all or the majority of the shares and the organisation adheres to the principle of “one worker, one vote”. In the context of a worldwide eco‐ nomic and financial crisis, coopera‐ tives can offer alternative economic and social structures that are sustain‐ able and democratic.

Distributing profits Cooperatives have several advan‐ tages that enable them to overcome the difficulties faced by their pri‐ vately‐owned counterparts. They re‐ munerate labour fairly and emphasise training, research and innovation in‐ stead of distributing profits dispro‐ portionately to shareholders. Moreover, they allow for more flex‐ ibility when confronted by economic crises by “adjusting wages, avoiding redundancy, redistributing work and using innovative systems”. Cooperative forms of ownership can also offer an alternative to busi‐ ness collapse and closure. Set against the failure of the global financial system and the great reces‐

sion, some have opted for an alterna‐ tive and sustainable solution; that of transforming companies into worker cooperatives through worker buyouts (WBO). There are a number of reasons that can lead to worker buyouts and the establishment of worker cooperatives including: l Union‐led buyouts, l Succession option for a retiring owner, l Divestment of a business division from large corporation, l Revival and transferral of an enterprise which has been placed in receivership, and l The addition of “partners” to operate a functioning business. Effective successions, rescuing businesses and union‐led buyouts are important for the economy, for the owners, the employees, customers, trade unions, suppliers, lenders and the local communities that need the goods, services and employment that they provide. Studies in places as diverse as Aus‐ tralia, Canada and France, have demonstrated that well over 50% of Small and Medium Enterprises will face the challenge of succession in the next 10 years. At the same time, the overall per‐ centage of employees working for SMEs is growing. In Canada, succes‐ sions involving leveraged employee buyouts, supported by key managers, SHOPFLOOR

y May 2013

Gerry Light

Assistant General Secretary Mandate Trade Union


It’s the great profit cover-up

Picture: Co-operatives UK

Picture: avlyxz (CC BY-SA 2.0)

AT A recent public hearing of the Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, representatives of another major international retailer with an Irish wing to their business when challenged, refused to reveal the level of profits generated here. On this occasion it was a senior management team from the supermar‐ ket group Aldi who adopted a vow of silence, relying on the predictable but stock defence – the claim that to reveal their profits would in some way be a detrimental breach of their commercial confidentiality. Aldi are not alone in adopting such a dismissive and secretive ap‐ proach to their business affairs. Many of their competitors – such as Tesco, Penneys, Lidl, B&Q and Dunnes, to name but a few – also believe that the general public and, more importantly, their respective work‐ forces do not have an entitlement to this type of financial detail. At a time when there is an increasing demand in Irish society for openness, transparency and accountability across both the public and private sector, the question must be asked, why do these major retailers continue to behave in such a fashion and, crucially, should they be allowed to continue to act like this in the future? After years of sustained economic recession and a consequential decline in sales, many of these major retailers are still achieving significant profits. In fact, in the case of Aldi, they have recently announced ambitious expansion plans for the Irish market. Clearly, there are still ample margins and profits to be made. One can only speculate with some degree of wonder about the massive returns made during the boom years. Another one of the obvious benefits in not publishing accounts for their Irish business is that many companies can also conveniently conceal the precise amount of Corporation Tax they pay on their profits. The reality is that many actually end up paying an effective rate that is considerably lower than the standard level of 12.5% – if only their employees had the same option open to them.

succeed in about 80% of the cases. Non‐existent in Ireland and rare in Britain, the practice of WBOs is par‐ ticularly prevalent in France where worker cooperatives first challenged the dominance of private ownership. In France, there are 2,046 worker cooperatives, representing 42,244 employees, 22,228 members and a turnover of €3.7 billion. Of these 77% were created from scratch and 23% arose from transfor‐ mations of already existing busi‐ nesses, representing more than 700 takeovers during the period. In France, worker buyouts are pro‐ moted as viable alternatives to clo‐ sure or re‐sale to another private owner and – crucially – a range of in‐ centives and support structures exist to allow conversion to happen. In France they refer to this inter‐ section of the legislative and infra‐ structural support as “the network effect” and this is probably the key reason for any successful takeover as a cooperative. The main actors in this cooperative network are the General Confedera‐ tion of Worker Cooperatives, the French government and the trade union movement. The major French trade unions, the General Confederation of Labour (CGT) and the French Democratic Confederation of Labour (CFDT) have an active and supportive approach to worker cooperatives. May 2013


Unlike Ireland and Britain, it is not uncommon to find workers partici‐ pating in a buyout who are active members of their union. It is often the case indeed that the union plays a significant leadership role in the conversion process. Significantly trade unions have ac‐ cess to their own consultancy agen‐ cies at a sectoral level that aid in providing a forensic analysis of the feasibility of a conversion to a coop‐ erative. They are also given an important role in lobbying with public authori‐ ties in the conversion process, recog‐ nising that maintaining employment through WBOs is good for society and that all social partners have a role to play.

Compulsory liquidation In the case of Sea France, a French ferry company put into compulsory liquidation in January 2012, the workers decided to set up a coopera‐ tive. However, the unions initially ar‐ gued against it, favouring either state subsidy or a private business takeover. This can be explained by the trade unions’ tendency to rely on the state as the rightful protector of workers’ livelihoods and a reluctance to en‐ courage workers to risk their own capital (often from redundancy pay‐ ments). Nonetheless in 2012, follow‐

ing SeaFrance going into receivership a tribunal awarded the assets to Eu‐ rotunnel on the condition the com‐ pany operated under the French flag and leased the ships to a newly‐es‐ tablished workers' co‐operative, restoring 560 jobs as a result. It makes sense that worker buy‐ outs are part of the business develop‐ ment landscape. Relatively small infrastructure and capacity building investments can protect and create sustainable jobs that are rooted in the local area and help ensure longer‐ term economic security and social stability. The alternative vision is of a ‘com‐ petitive region’ with a ‘frictionless en‐ vironment’ characterised by low wages, insecurity, low skill levels, zero hour contracts and a hire‐and‐ fire culture. This approach will not create jobs or re‐distribute wealth, it will not make the country more equal nor will it foster a better place to live and raise children. It is a dangerous race to the bottom based upon flawed and failed economic arguments. An economy is not just about cre‐ ating employment, it is about creat‐ ing good employment, it is about democracy, sustainability and social stability. Worker cooperatives are part of that vision.

Unacceptable behaviour The demise of the social partnership model has introduced once again the need for collective bargaining with individual employers. Many of them seek to impose stringent conditions and restrictions on the established terms and conditions of employment of their employees. It is totally unacceptable that they choose to adopt such an approach while, at the same time, continuing to hide behind a veil of secrecy when it comes to their profits. In the face of such belligerence, Mandate will make it more difficult for those employers who adopt such an ap‐ proach in negotiations. This union will not countenance any erosion of our members’ entitlements without proper justification and full revelation of the pertinent facts. The call for these employers to be more open in this area is entirely in keeping with a motion passed at the BDC in Galway in 2010.

Stephen Nolan is a co-director of Trademark. Trademark is a social justice co-operative established in 2001 and dedicated to tackling sectarianism and inequality. 13



Trade Winds are blowing The proposed free trade agreement between Europe and the US provides an opportunity to break out of austerity and create jobs, but only, Michael Bride argues, if we trade up & not down IT CAN be cogently stated that – per‐ haps with the exception of Greece – no country in the world has been hit as hard in economic terms as Ireland in recent years. I never fully understood the wis‐ dom behind the phrase, “if the dis‐ ease doesn’t kill you, the medicine will” until I witnessed the effect of austerity on the economy and the people of Ireland. That which is supposed to make us better, appears to be worsening the situation. Of course, Ireland’s property bust and banking meltdown happened in the context of a wider European and US crisis, one in which the decades of reckless trading and the boundless pursuit of profits at all costs in the banking sector has finally caught up with the rest of us in the real econ‐ omy. European governments and the EU itself have been rightly criticised for their response to the crisis, but next to the US government, they almost appear to merit commendation. Congressional gridlock in the US has led to a “sequester” – a pretty‐ sounding word to describe the inele‐ gant process of budget cuts and government layoffs – which has again stalled the nascent trend of employ‐ ment growth that had begun to take hold. What is the solution to break out of a crisis that has engulfed much of the northern hemisphere since 2008? If even the IMF is now second guessing the policies of austerity, what is left to consider? There are essentially two ways to reduce a deficit – cut government expenditure or grow its revenue. In this regard, it seems beyond ob‐ vious that employment growth is the key. More employment means more tax revenue, direct and indirect, for the government while at the same time reducing the outgoings paid in unemployment assistance. To paraphrase a young Bill Clinton, “It’s jobs, stupid”. Into the midst of this debate comes a call for an EU‐US Free Trade Agree‐ ment. The theory goes that the rising economic tide which would be likely brought about by such an agreement would lift all boats. In the past, concerns surrounding the Common Agricultural Policy and the strength of the EU farm lobby had always stalled talks on such an agree‐ ment, but proponents of the deal seem to take on board the advice of a former Obama Chief of Staff who once famously said, “You never want 14

Picture: European Parliament (CC BY 2.0)

a serious crisis to go to waste” as they cite the global financial crisis as the newest reason why this agree‐ ment should proceed. If an agreement does materialise, with some predicting this could hap‐ pen in as little as two years, tariffs would go down and economic activ‐ ity would be jolted, or so might say economists. Given Ireland’s close links to the US, this may indeed prove to be a welcome development. When people think of the US, they perhaps think of big cars, big houses

and the richest country on earth. However, it is often forgotten that the dispersal of this wealth is such that the gulf between the top 10% – or even the top 1% – and the rest of society is enormous. As an Irishman who has spent the past seven years in the United States, it is my view that the landscape that should represent workers’ rights in the US is a barren wasteland. For instance, workers are generally referred to as “at will” employees, meaning that they receive no con‐

tract of employment, have almost no rights to claim unfair dismissal, no right to redundancy pay, just to name a few. Just to put this in context, this liter‐ ally means that someone can work for a company for 20 years, after which the boss could come in and thank them for their years of dedica‐ tion as they are simultaneously informed that their time with the company is done. And there is practically nothing that the employee can do about it. The only workers who can boast a more secure tenure of employment are those who are covered by a union collective bargaining agreement. It is no surprise that some of the best paid superstars in the US – from Hollywood actors to NBA profes‐ sional basketball players – are all in a union. But thanks to the formidable efforts of the right‐wing in America, less than 7% of the private sector workforce is unionised, meaning that most are vulnerable in the manner outlined above. I am not attempting to argue that either Ireland or Europe represent a Utopian paradise for workers, but I do believe that the rights of US work‐ ers are vastly inferior, relatively speaking. Why does this matter? Given the relative inequity between the US and EU frameworks for workers’ rights and representation, US employers can be more “flexible” in regard to how they utilise labour and its asso‐ ciated costs. This could conceivably be consid‐ ered to give the US a “comparative advantage” in labour costs when compared to the EU, to which there are two possible solutions if the EU is to level the playing field on this mat‐ ter – either reduce protections for EU workers, or increase them for US workers. Therefore, if there is an EU‐US Free Trade Agreement, there must be an enforceable chapter dealing with labour rights, and an Irish govern‐ ment – particularly a coalition with the Labour Party as a minority part‐ ner – must support the inclusion of such a chapter. The case for freer trade and growth may be there, but only if workers benefit. Without specific provisions in such an agreement to boost workers’ rights, any spur to international trade will merely emerge as but the newest reason why we must work longer and harder, but for less. Austerity has not worked. It is time for something different. Euro‐ pean people and trade unions should hold their governments’ feet to the fire as this agreement is forged. It represents a risk, but also an opportunity, and governments must be told that people have suffered too much for too long for such an opportunity to be spurned. Michael T. Bride is Deputy Organizing Director for Global Strategies at UFCW International Union

NEC member & event coordinator Anthony ‘Jacksie’ Meaney at Castlebar meeting

Big Mandate presence at Castlebar TUC meeting IT WAS standing room only at the AGM of the Castlebar Trades Union Council on April 16. Mandate General Secretary John Douglas, who was guest speaker at the event, spoke about how impor‐ tant workers’ unity was in combat‐ ing inequality, responding to attacks on workers’ pay and hard‐earned terms and conditions, and in oppos‐ ing the Troika‐led austerity policies being pursued by the Government. He stressed how much public and private sector workers had in com‐ mon and slammed the media’s orchestrated campaign to drive a wedge between these groups of workers. But Mr Douglas also reminded the audience that it was up to workers themselves “to stand up and be counted”. He said Trade Union Councils had an active role and responsibility in organising workers for future strug‐ gles, adding that he hoped that Castlebar Trades Union Council would be “to the fore in this” in Mayo. John Douglas’ speech was well received by those who attended the AGM, many of whom had travelled considerable distances to attend. There were also many Man‐ date members present in the audi‐ ence. Brian Forbes, Mandate’s National Official for Organising, Campaigning and Recruitment, also made a short presentation on the union’s Fair Shop campaign, flagging up the vast differences between leading Irish retailers in how they treat their staff and engage with Mandate. The campaign, which gives Irish workers and trade unionists the opportunity to make conscious deci‐ sions about where they shop, was warmly received by the meeting. Castlebar Trades Union Council’s incoming Executive also endorsed the sentiments behind speeches made by the Mandate officials. And the large Mandate presence was also noted. A Mandate source told Shopfloor: “Special mention should go to An‐ thony Meaney from Tesco in Castle‐ bar for organising the opportunity for Mandate to make a presentation as well as the huge Mandate turnout on the night. It was a good show all round.” SHOPFLOOR

y May 2013



Post-war consensus is now Dublin Lockout over, it’s time for a change ... unlocking its

By Ed Teller

Accumulation of wealth at one pole is, therefore, at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole… K. Marx, Capital Vol 1 WHILE this is an obvious truth for billions on this planet who live at starvation levels while their ruling elite live in lavish palaces and man‐ sions, us workers in the West have been somewhat sheltered from this by a compromise between capital and labour – often called social democracy – to rebuild Europe after the Second World War. This compromise facilitated the rebuilding of capitalism in Europe and served as a bulwark against the threat of socialism and the existence of the Soviet Union. Backed by a strong trade union movement and the ideological ac‐ ceptance of Keynesian economics, this compromise between labour and capital brought benefits, such as decent wages, job security, pensions, overtime, holidays, sick pay and

much more, to workers in the West. However, rarely spoken about in the West is the dominance and expropriation of wealth and re‐ sources from ‘developing’ countries back to monopoly centres that enabled this compromise. This is usually ignored as an incon‐ venient truth by those who back a compromise between labour and capital.

Monopoly yields superprofits, i.e. a surplus of profits over and above the capitalists’ profits that are normal and customary all over the world. The capitalists can devote a part of these superprofits to bribe their own workers, to create something like an alliance … between the workers of a given nation and their capitalists… V.I. Lenin, 1916 THE world has changed since Lenin wrote those words in 1916. This compromise became even more strategically important to capital after the Second World War as a necessary part of reconstruction. However, it has become less im‐

portant since its completion and has become unnecessary since produc‐ tion has become so internationalised and shifted from the west to the east. Keeping workers ‘onside’ in the west is far less strategically impor‐ tant now and, consequently, the leverage of the trade union move‐ ment has significantly declined. This presents a major challenge to the movement. We can either hanker after a return to ‘partnership’ and ac‐ cept that capitalism will continue to drive down wages in the west and dismantle all of what was achieved during the social democratic period or we can fight to create a system where workers own and control pro‐ duction and need, not profit, is the driving force of the system – a system called socialism. If we do not start espousing an alternative system to members and society more generally, we will merely ‘manage’ the downward restructuring of the economy and watch as workers resign and refuse to join the movement. We will manage the dismantle‐ ment of our movement. The choice, I believe, is that stark.


A serious social problem that should be abolished By Thomas Pringle Independent TD, Donegal South West IT’S been described as one of the oldest professions in history, an industry that can’t – and some say shouldn’t – be abolished. Everyone these days has an opinion on prostitution, the overall sex industry and its place in society. For me it’s simple – anything that contributes to gender inequality and allows for the purchase of one human being for the gratification of another is not only unacceptable, it is fundamentally and morally wrong. Ireland’s current approach to the regulation of prostitution is partial criminalisation, whereby the sale or purchase of sexual services in Ire‐ land is currently not criminalised, provided it’s conducted out of public eye and with some activities associ‐ ated with prostitution, such as pimping, being a crime. I strongly believe that prostitution is incompatible with contemporary values and that it is a serious social problem, which can and should be abolished. May 2013


In reality, very few women choose to willingly engage in prostitution, with most who are involved having very few real choices. This issue must be addressed – we must decriminalise the victims in this trade and give them the option of rehabilitation. It is for these reasons that I cre‐ ated my Private Members’ Bill, The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) (Amendment) Bill 2013, in line with Swedish legislation debated in the Dáil on Friday, May 3. This Bill sets out a number of offences for the purchase of sexual services that are initially intended to act as a deterrent and lead to serious consequences for repeat offenders. One in four sex buyers in Ireland (24%) have come across women and girls who appeared trafficked, controlled or under‐age, according to a major survey on prostitution published recently by the Immigrant Council of Ireland. The findings showed that fear of a criminal record, jail time or name in a local newspaper as having been selected as effective deterrents by

the sex buyers, and are only sur‐ passed by fear of contracting dis‐ ease. And the facts don’t lie – in Sweden, a high level inquiry headed up by a Supreme Court judge in 2010 showed that since the intro‐ duction of the ban, street prostitu‐ tion has halved. In 1995, the estimated total of women in prostitution was 2,500 to 3,000, with 650 of those on the streets. In 2008, there were 350 adver‐ tised prostitutes on the internet and 300 on the street. I find the use of the term ‘volun‐ tary prostitution’ and the myth of ‘choice’ when entering this industry to be counterproductive to this debate. No one chooses to enter this in‐ dustry. While not everyone is forced into it by pimps and traffickers, limited life choices have a big part to play and are something that needs to be addressed. Sweden passed a similar law in 1999. I believe now is Ireland’s time to follow in their footsteps.

hidden history By Mary Muldowney 1913 Alternative Visions Oral History Group THE 1913 Alternative Visions Oral History Group is taking an innovative path to commemorating the 1913 Dublin Lockout. They are working together to col‐ lect the post‐memory of the Lockout through the stories that have been passed down through the families and communities of people who were involved in one of the key events of Irish labour history by doing oral his‐ tory interviews for a publication entitled The Legacy of the Lockout. The group’s members are all trade union activists, either current or re‐ tired. So far their interviewees in‐ clude a member of Jim Larkin’s family; descendants of Michael Mallin; a relative of IWWU founding member and activist Rosie Hackett and a relative of James Nolan, who was beaten to death by a policeman during the Lockout. There are others whose own activism was inspired by the impact of the Lockout on their families. Some of the themes that have already emerged from the interviews include: l The role of individual activists in the Lockout, including some of the protagonists, who are remembered by their families, l Divisions in families and com‐ munities, particularly related to the role of strike breakers, l The role of women – in union activity and in supporting their fami‐ lies and communities through the hardship of the Lockout, l The influence of the Lockout on politicising individuals and groups and to what extent memories of the Lockout affect present day trade union activism, and l The evolution from labour activism to involvement in militant nationalism and the struggle for independence. The families and communities that were most directly affected by the ex‐ perience often remember the trauma as if they had participated them‐ selves. If you have memories and stories that you would like to share, please contact Mary Muldowney (T: 087 798 8330; E: or Ida Milne (T: 087 220 7994, E: milnem to arrange an interview. Perhaps you might have photos, letters or other memorabilia that you would be willing to let us photo‐ graph? If you are interested in getting involved, we will arrange to meet you.

UNA: ‘So there was a fife and drum band in the hall in Emmet Road and Michael [Mallin] used to practice there with the fife and drum band but he also became interested in, you know, militarism and James Connolly.’ SEAMUS: ‘My father came out and walked, picketed the Grand Canal Company in the company of others but as he told me the sad part about it was that as time went on those who had wives and children, they went back to work. They went back in dribs and drabs. He said, ‘I didn’t go back, I stayed out till the very end’ and then Jim Larkin said to him, ‘Look, we’re not going any further with this, you might as well go back to work’. So very reluctantly he went back to work except he didn’t go back to work because when he went there the gates were closed on him.’ MICK: I worked carrying coal, including 10 pound bags of coal to the tops of houses for people, for one supplier… But you’d meet old timers that worked in other coalyards, out of Donnelly’s or Doherty’s or Tedcastle’s. And there was an awful stigma there, with those workers – old time workers – connected with the place I worked. You’d wave to the guys to say ‘hello’, because they were coalies as well, fellow workers. But they wouldn’t look at you, they’d just turn their heads and make a face maybe, the old timers would… Well, I asked a few of the people about it in the coalyard and they said that’s the stigma from 1913. Because the supplier I worked for broke the rules… they had a bad name for scab labour.’ 15



Women are paying for the recession By Stephanie Lord GENDER is not often spoken about in the context of the recession, and yet it is women who are the first port‐of‐call when it comes to mak‐ ing cutbacks – whether those cut‐ backs are in social welfare payments mainly received by women or to services that mainly women are dependent on. Women are far less likely to be in the labour force, and when they are their income is on average 73% of men’s income. There appears to be a pervading myth in some circles that only those traditionally ‘male’ dominated sec‐ tors such as construction and manu‐ facturing have suffered extensive job losses, however, the hospitality and retail sectors – which are female‐ dominated industries – have been equally decimated and women’s un‐ employment is now growing at a far faster rate than that of men. When the recession began, women were already at a disadvan‐ tage. They tend to be the ones in ‘flexible’ (read ‘precarious’) part‐ time employment. Flexibility can occasionally be convenient as it enables women to balance their work around their care responsibilities – women are almost 25 times more likely to look after the home or engage in care work than men – but the corollary of this is that when cutbacks are being made in the workplace, it is the women in those positions who will suffer due to cuts in hours or shifts. It is women on low pay and on so‐ cial welfare that have borne the harsh brunt of budget cuts. The taxation of child benefit in the absence of the introduction of a comprehensive childcare structure will leave many women wondering if they can afford to continue to work and will eventually push many out of the labour market. Gender‐proofing is absent from government policy and it would be entirely fair to characterise this and previous government’s approach to budgeting as ‘anti‐woman’. Refuges as well as domestic and sexual violence services are operat‐ ing in an environment where there are increasing demands for services and yet decreasing funds available for them to provide these frontline services which have always been drastically underfunded. According to Safe Ireland who collate domestic violence statistics, there were 3,236 occasions in 2010, where victims of domestic violence couldn’t access a refuge place either because the refuge was full or there was no refuge in their area – a 38% increase on the previous year. Last year, Dr Sam Coulter Smith, the Master of the Rotunda Hospital, said that was only a matter of time before a lack of resources con‐ tributes directly to the death of a pregnant woman as resource issues and the maternity hospital's work‐ load were already posing a potential risk to the lives of pregnant women. 16

According to the IMF’s own aus‐ terity calculations, every €100 in cutbacks in public spending would cost up to €150 in lost growth and unemployment but these cutbacks are life and death issues for women. Cuts to public services hit women the hardest. Where there are cut‐ backs to justice and policing serv‐ ices, it may mean fewer successful investigations and prosecutions of those who are perpetrators of domestic and sexual violence. Job cuts and public sector pay freezes disproportionately impact on women and risk widening the pay gap. Cuts to carer’s support increase the burden on mainly female unpaid carers. Cuts to child benefit and taxes on maternity benefit directly attack women. When quizzed last Decem‐ ber by journalists about cuts to the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Allowance, Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton simply suggested that already cash‐ strapped parents could shop around as there was “very good value in shops in relation to clothing and footwear.” Recent changes to the One Parent Family Payment mean that from 2015 all unemployed lone parents with children over seven years of age will be switched from OFP to Jobseekers payment, which will increase the numbers on the live register without actually saving any public money. The goal of this is clear. It is about the state saying that child‐rearing is not real work and thus you should be in paid employment. It is an activation policy that trade unions and the National Women’s Council have warned will lock women in a triple burden of care, domestic work and precarious employment. But this – like activation pro‐ grammes elsewhere – aims to restructure in both a moral and physical sense, the lives of poor women rather than empower poor women to strive. Working class women, poor women, and lone parents in particu‐ lar, are characterised by the state as being people who make bad deci‐ sions, and exist without values. The right‐wing media pundits of this world will have us believe they are selfish and parasitic – rearing children in their own rough image and that the men of the Government are there to put manners on them by getting them to “pull their socks up.” In the eyes of the establishment, they are to blame for the inequali‐ ties they face rather than a class system that is structurally unfair and continually reproduces inequalities. They are makers of their own mis‐ fortune who the State does not value enough to help. Women did not cause the recession, but we are certainly paying for it. This article originally appeared in Look Left magazine

Gerry Butler: loves getting involved

Retail workers Step Up to the plate Mandate launched the Step Up programme in January which involved three Mandate members becoming member organisers. After three months in the field, getting a behind-the-scenes view of how Mandate operates, these are their stories...

Gerry Butler – Tesco I’VE been active in Mandate for the past three years as an assistant shop steward in Tesco. I joined the Step Up programme three months ago with Sandra and John and the expe‐ rience has been great. It was absolutely a worthwhile ex‐ perience and without a shadow of a doubt it’s been exciting, challenging, fun and different at the same time. For me, it’s been great seeing how the organisation works and how we can bring that back to the job. It’s very much under‐appreciated from a lot of members and I could see those differences. The biggest thing for me is hear‐ ing the stories of the workers and sharing their experiences. I also en‐ joyed the ‘tackles’ and meeting and greeting the workers and getting out there and organising them. When it came to meetings, many of them began in a hostile environ‐ ment but by the end it was calm and we were more organised to do something about the issues raised. One of the things I’ll take out of my time as a member organiser is learning about how to deal with issues. Like what issues need to go back to the employer, and the manner

that they need to go back. I understand the importance of getting more organised in my work‐ place so I get everything out that I need to get out, from a communica‐ tions perspective and a witness perspective. I’ll pay attention to the concerns coming back in so that people are genuinely being listened to, rather than it being a tick box exercise and that these issues are handled in a collective manner. For me it’s certainly all about being collective. I’d like to get more involved in our Division and I’ve contacted my Divisional Organiser to let them know I’m available. I only work four days a week so I plan on helping out whenever I can in my spare time. I wouldn’t like to lose what I’ve learned over the past few months including collective listening, good communication, doing the tackles. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time as a member organiser and there’s definitely been a lot of learning involved from both sides. When I go back to work I’ll defi‐ nitely be more collective, listening for the right things and getting involved in my local council will

John Callan: ‘boosted my confidence’

certainly be a big thing for me. It’s certainly made me a better per‐ son. I personally think this is a very worthwhile initiative and a great investment in members and I’d absolutely recommend it to any member considering taking part.

‘When it came to meetings, many of them began in a hostile environment but by the end it was calm and we were more organised to do something about the issues raised’ SHOPFLOOR

y May 2013

Sandra Stapleton: ‘learning how to listen was big deal for me’

John Callan – Penneys, Dundalk I ENJOYED every minute of my expe‐ rience as a Mandate member organ‐ iser. I’ve been involved in Mandate since 1992 and I’ve been branch chairperson and shop steward in Dundalk since 2001. It was a very rewarding experi‐ ence. I would have been active within the union anyway, giving out Shopfloor, putting posters on the no‐ tice board and giving out leaflets. I learnt new skills like sending out structured emails and other IT skills. It’s boosted my confidence a bit and one of the things we were doing was tackles – which is meeting workers outside of their workplaces. When I first heard that, I thought, this isn’t something I’m going to be May 2013


able to do, but now I want to get out and do them because I really enjoyed it. What I enjoyed most was meeting workers and getting out there. I’d like to do that a bit more of that instead of sitting in the office. Most workers I met were from Dunnes Stores and obviously they worked in a different environment to the one I work in at Penneys. A lot of them had fear, a lot had other con‐ cerns, but also, when they heard our message, we left them with a bit of hope. The experience gave me more strength. One of the things I learnt from this experience was that I am a human being and I am an adult and

that’s something I sometimes don’t get treated as in my working life. It’s given me the courage to go back and stand up for myself and that confidence to go forward with Mandate. I’ll also do my best to help other workers. I had a meeting last week with Dunnes workers and 32 people turned up. I told them I worked in Penneys and told them to call me any time and I’ll do whatever I can to help them. My plans for the future are that I’ll continue to stay as involved with Mandate in my local area or outside if needed. If any campaigns are launched, I’ll do my best to help out. I’m committed to growing the union outside of my own workplace and trying to get more activists involved. I don’t think people realise what goes on behind the scenes in the offices of our union. Some people are sceptical. I myself was sceptical for a while but when you see the hard work and the commitment of the officials and the backroom staff, the admin staff, we are working in the right direction. Hopefully, we’ll continue to grow. The Step Up programme is a very worthwhile project and a great investment in the members. I’d definitely recommend the Step Up programme to any member out there.

‘It’s given me the courage to go back and stand up for myself and that confidence to go forward with Mandate’

Sandra Stapleton – Ex Boots, Liffey Valley I’VE BEEN a member of Mandate for the last 13 years having worked in Boots for 11 of those years. I was active within Mandate for the past seven of those years, including being very active around the campaign to protect the minimum wage a couple of years ago, which was a big success for me. So I was delighted to be offered the chance to take part in the Step Up programme. After three months involved in the programme, I can say it was ab‐ solutely worthwhile. Just getting out there and seeing what you’re capable of. Meeting the members and finding out what their issues were and telling them that you’ve been there, working in a shop and being an activist. I felt they could relate to me be‐ cause of that rather than somebody coming in who had no idea about rosters and their effect on you. They definitely warmed to me because I was a retail worker too. I learned how to listen more than I speak, which is a big deal for me. You learn to take in and remember small details that workers tell you because it is sometimes the small things that matter most. I enjoyed seeing how the union works. Seeing how campaigns were conceived and developed and how we got to the end part. I normally just turn up when the cameras are there and all the hard work has been done but it was great to be at the centre of all that.

I really enjoyed meeting mem‐ bers and explaining to them what Mandate is going to do, particularly in Dunnes. I met a lot of Dunnes workers and a lot of Boots workers, because I’m an ex‐employee so I really re‐ lated to them. We also met a lot of Argos workers and found that whatever the company, the prob‐ lems were all the same. The biggest issue was how peo‐ ple were spoken to. So we ex‐ plained how the workers could change that situation around. Workers just want respect and want to know their basic rights. Many workers were afraid of how their boss would react if they joined Mandate but we were able to tell them they can join confiden‐ tially. That’s not great for raising the profile of Mandate but once the workers in that store are all in the union and ready to go and let man‐ agement know, then we’ll be there to support them. I’m always willing to go back and help the Mandate organisers in the future. It’s like handing over your baby. I met some very nice people and some great contacts so I’ve told them they can call me any time. I liked the experience of being an organiser. I would have done it in my old job anyway, asking workers to join and finding out what their problems were. I definitely learnt a lot. I’d highly recommend Step Up to other members. I’ve spoken to a few who would be great at it. Now some parts of it are very difficult including tacking workers outside of their store and trying to start conversations with them but you do get used to it. I was very hesitant at the start wondering whether I could do it but after the training, it really worked, it really went in and we learnt the skills and used it. It was good to work as a team with John and Ger and we each have different skills so it was good to learn from each other. I think the workers in Dunnes and other stores are really, really happy that the union is there for them and doing good work trying to make it easier for them going into work. One woman was on 25 hours a week and they cut the hours down to 15, and she’s a single mother so it’s particularly difficult.

‘I was very hesitant at the start wondering whether I could do it but after the training, it really worked, it really went in and we learnt the skills and used it’ 17


How Mandate helped me achieve my goal

It’s a great resource for our members By Dermot Fay National Executive Council Member I HAVE recently completed two train‐ ing courses at the Mandate Training Centre. The first was Personal Develop‐ ment and Communications delivered by the tutor, Michelle Thomas. The second was an IT beginners course delivered by Mary Skipton. Both were excellent, delivered by support‐ ive tutors and free of charge to me as a Mandate member. The Communications course cov‐ ered a wide range of interesting top‐ ics. It built on what I had already learned from my day‐to‐day experi‐ ence and in my dealings at work. The IT course gave me confidence when using my computer. I received a Fetac certificate for these courses. Mandate recognises that these courses are beneficial to members and helps them gain the skills needed in the workplace as well as for their own personal development. Mandate members are availing of these courses and they are so com‐ mitted that they overcome obstacles so they can attend each week with some travelling long distances. It was a pleasure to witness how our confidence continued to build while learning in this adult educational en‐ vironment. This is a resource for our members and credit is due to our National Ex‐ ecutive Council for providing this training. As a Mandate member, don't lose out on attending these courses when the opportunity is there. Information for Mandate courses can be found on and also in Shopfloor. At various times throughout the year, course de‐ tails are sent to your shop steward. Mandate courses are worthwhile – so avail of them. They are yours for the taking!

By Eimear Brogan-Morris

Well-deserved: Eimear Brogan-Morris on her graduation day

National Executive Council Member TRADE union involvement in learning has a long history and significant progress has been made in Mandate over the last decade. Mandate has long pioneered workers’ educa‐ tion and this involvement has been particularly evident with the setting up of a dedicated training centre. The union’s training and learning ethos is learner‐focused, and through its organising and training centre, it aims to support and enable learners to realise their full potential. Mandate is now involved in providing learn‐ ing opportunities that are much broader than simply work‐based or work‐related training, (although these are also still included). For example, Mandate Training Centre offers basic skills training in literacy, numeracy and language courses as well as computer and com‐ munication skills. It also offers union represen‐ tative training for all shop stewards. These developments give us a unique oppor‐ tunity to regenerate the union by involving members or potential members who otherwise may have been reluctant or lacking in confi‐ dence to become active in the union. Many members, myself included, have embraced learning opportunities provided through the Mandate Training Centre and – through encouragement from tutors, officials and national training coordinator – have gone on to develop ‘life skills’ which are not neces‐ sarily just job‐related. My first tentative steps back into education began in the late 1990s on a Mandate training course for shop stewards. After this, I was hun‐ gry for more and I completed many more Mandate and other trade union courses over the next few years. Having completed two Fetac‐accredited courses through Mandate, I felt the time was ready for me to take on a bigger challenge. Through encouragement from my union offi‐ cial at the time and other officials who had com‐ pleted the course in September 2008, I enrolled in UCD to study a Bachelor of Business Studies course. One of the biggest fears I faced in re‐ turning as a mature student was my ability to

do assessed work compared to my younger counterparts. This was because I had been outside formal education for a long time. Officials told me that I had probably been using these skills in the world of work and sim‐ ply anyway without realising it. Also, once I got back in the classroom I would be surprised at how much I would remember from my earlier years in education. How right they were. By returning to education as an adult I found it has given me the opportunity to develop both socially and personally. Mature students in the course of their study learn how to adapt to changing circumstances and develop important social skills which are needed later in the work‐ place and society. For many mature students, the opportunity to attain a third‐level qualification is one that was not available to them at an earlier age. Therefore, returning to study often fulfils a long‐term ambition. For me personally return‐ ing to third‐level study was taken simply as a personal challenge. Last year, I graduated from UCD with an honours degree in business stud‐ ies. I had seen it as an opportunity to invest in my future, to learn something new, and to build on the educational development Mandate had al‐ ready afforded me. I would encourage any member considering attending one of the many courses available at Mandate Training Centre to do so, as you never know where it may lead. Education has a great social importance espe‐ cially in modern, complex, industrialised soci‐ eties. Building learning societies and creating open learning communities is only possible with the triumph of learning and there are many ways of learning, knowing and producing knowledge. I would like to thank personally Mandate offi‐ cials Michael Meegan, Jonathan Hogan, Willie Hamilton, Brendan O’Hanlon and National Co‐ ordinator for Training Aileen Morrissey who have supported, guided and encouraged me to achieve my goal. Also a big thank you to General Secretary John Douglas and the National Executive Coun‐ cil for their continued initiatives and invest‐ ment in growing and developing the union’s educational programmes.

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

Communication Skills/ Personal Development and Effectiveness

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


Perhaps you’d like to brush up on your everyday maths, including home budgets, tax and weights/measures.

Communication through Computers

Name Address

This course is ideal for adults just learning about computers and confidence for communicating online.

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

Workplace Location Phone

Courses are free and open to members who have not achieved Leaving Certificate or who have an out of date Leaving Certificate. You can also achieve a FETAC Level 3 Award. Skills for Work is funded by the Department of Education & Skills 18


y May 2013


It’s training made easy with Mandate By Lorraine Malone Shop Steward, Arnotts IT WAS a Monday morning and I was heading for Mandate Training Centre on Distillery Road. I was having doubts about giving up five days of my holidays to participate and com‐ plete the Train the Trainer course which was being run by Mandate. After arriving early I was greeted by Marjorie O’Rourke who is the ad‐ ministrator at the centre. I had al‐ ready been there twice before doing an introduction and advanced shop stewards course which I enjoyed. The morning started with tea and coffee and all the students intro‐ duced themselves to each other. We then met Margaret Nolan, our course tutor. We were immediately put at ease about the course and its content. Margaret assured us that we would be taken through the course step by step and any help we needed she would be available for us. Aileen Morrissey, the National Co‐ Ordinator of Training, also called in to give us encouragement and assur‐ ance that other students before us had passed the course with ease. We looked at the agenda for the next five days which included a pres‐ entation to our fellow students. Of course we all started to worry a little but, as ever, Margaret was there encouraging us and telling us we could do it. It was hard work at times but we had some fun as well and all 11 of us enjoyed the challenge. We were eager to get our presenta‐ tions right. There was excitement in the air on Thursday and we put into practice all we had learned on the course, i.e. how to put together a training session and deliver it with confidence. We all stepped up and made our presentations. Afterwards there were assess‐ ments and evaluations and we all learned something new about our‐ selves. We realised that if you put the work into a course you reap the re‐ wards. We all felt the knowledge and skills will help us in our personal and everyday working lives. Looking back now it was a great experience and worthy of my five days holidays. I enjoyed the comradeship and support I received from my fellow students and tutor. We all learned a lot from each other. I would encourage other peo‐ ple to do this or other courses in the Mandate Training Centre. The courses are free of charge to mem‐ bers. All are Mandate‐certified courses and some, such as the Train the Trainer course, provide members with the opportunity to attain Fetac certification. May 2013



Setting out the best way to tackle debt problem... THE publication last year of guide‐ lines in relation to personal insol‐ vency has at least two positive features: l Consideration of a living income is very much under debate and this is to be welcome, and l Some individuals and house‐ holds in situations of mortgage or other debt distress are likely to move towards greater certainty in relation to what happens next. It is to be hoped that those in mort‐ gage distress will retain their homes (although this will depend ultimately on the banks who have a final say over any individual arrangement). What is not clear at this point is how exactly the new proposed arrangements will work, how many households will be involved and the extent to which this approach will be effective in addressing the huge over‐ hang of personal debt arising from the economic meltdown of recent years. Stepping back from the details of the new arrangement, the question must be asked – to what extent are institutions and individuals which were culpable in helping to bring about the current personal debt crisis sharing the burden of debt re‐structuring? Many of the problems stemming from debt overhang at the household level (and public finances) mirror problems that originated in the financial system. Unfortunately, the “rules of capital‐ ism” did not apply to many senior creditors with loans to financial insti‐ tutions in Ireland. This has had a major distorting effect on bank balance sheets and, ultimately, public and households balance sheets. This is not the whole story but it is a vital part of it. The degree of monitoring and scrutiny is now to be applied to a large number of households in dis‐ tress. With indicative guildelines on spending at the household level, is it likely that many cases of approved fi‐ nancial outlay will place households in the broad €1,000 to €1,800 monthly spending range. This is not necessarily poverty level income levels (a lot depends on household composition and circum‐ stances) but it is certainly not anywhere near an average level of spending for, say, a household of four persons, of whom two are children. Budgeting will be extremely tight. Households will need to take great care to avoid unforeseen accidents and breakdowns, whether a broken tooth, a car that is too expensive to fix and get back on the road or med‐

Picture: images of money (CC BY 2.0)

By Tom Healy ical expenses for a child. The guidelines are not meant to be overly restrictive or 'prescriptive'.

That is limited comfort for house‐ holds already struggling to make ends meet as real wages continue to

fall in most sectors and charges and taxes increase. The best way to tackle the debt problem is as follows: l Negotiated and realistic debt write‐downs coupled with levies on wealth and profits especially when banks start making profits in the future (which is after all the plan so that they can be sold off to the high‐ est bidder). l Measures to stimulate domestic demand and income (or at least de‐ clare a truce in the on‐going fiscally‐ driven war on domestic demand). Tom Healy is Director of the Nevin Economic Research Institute

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Aldi pair keep mum over retail profits By Brian Forbes Mandate National Coordinator THE Oireachtas Committee on Agri‐ culture, Food and the Marine recently heard two spokespersons for Aldi Ireland refuse point blank to reveal figures relating to the company’s profit margins in Ireland. Despite several requests for this information by TDs on the commit‐ tee, the pair declared the data was too commercially sensitive to reveal. They further stated that competi‐ tors did not reveal their profits either. However, those profits are believed to be consistent with that of other Aldi operations around the world... where presumably they are obliged to declare the profit margins. Multinationals refusing to declare their profits in Ireland at a hearing of the Oireachtas is not new but is symptomatic of a broken system in Ireland that always seems to benefit

Thomas Pringle: quizzed Aldi over unions

the interests of big business over those of workers and of wider soci‐ ety. Why shouldn’t we know exactly how much profit is being made by Aldi and their competitors off the backs of Irish consumers? What is so secret about profits that are “commercially sensitive” – or is that a secret as well?

Aldi has a 6.2% share of the Irish grocery market, a huge increase of almost a third in the past year but still slightly behind fellow discounter Lidl which has 6.4% of the market. Aldi also recently announced the opening of 20 new stores with the creation of 300 new jobs. At the Oireachtas hearing it was left to Independent TD Thomas Pringle to challenge Aldi about their relationship with trade unions. The Aldi spokespersons responded by claiming the retailer did not discourage employees from joining a union and that it was entirely their own choice whether they wished to join. Mandate will very soon test Aldi on their word and we shall see exactly what measures they will put in place to ensure their employees get the opportunity to join a union in the workplace. Watch this space!

‘What is so secret about profits that are ‘commercially sensitive’ – or is that a secret too?’



y May 2013



Learn English with Feedback Mandate for FREE! I like the English course because it helps me to speak better. Nioletta Jasinska I like the English course because I need more experience to use the language in my work. Miroslaw Zyskowski I like the English course because we have a great teacher. Mindaligas Jonaitis I like the course because I want to speak more English. Mandate members who recently took the newly-launched English language course

MANDATE has recently launched English courses for speakers of Eng‐ lish as a second language. The course is helping members who while speaking some English have never had the opportunity for formal training. In the course you will learn the basic grammatical rules of the lan‐ guage and improve your vocabulary. You will have the opportunity to correct those mistakes your work‐ mates are too polite to tell you about! Improved language ability can add to your confidence and improve your quality of life here in Ireland.

As a second part to the course you will learn something about your union, the Irish trade union move‐ ment and some Irish culture and history. Classes are based around speaking and are, above all, friendly and fun. If you wish to take part in an English course, or indeed if you know any other Mandate members inter‐ ested, please contact Mandate’s Training Centre at 01‐8369699. The tutor delivering this course for Mandate is Henry Silke, School of Communications, Dublin City Univer‐ sity.

Bogdom Zystowski I need to learn English because I want to speak with people, my Irish friends, my workmates and I don't want to be embarrassed to speak any more. Rasa I like this course because I want to learn English. I like to meet new people and have fun. Zbigniew Ilwiatkowski I like this course because my English will be better and I like to come here because my teacher and team are funny and friendly. Malwina Skula

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Dunnes action plan rolled out By Ciaran Campbell Mandate Divisional Organiser THE Dunnes Stores Strategic Action Plan, agreed at a national shop stew‐ ards meeting on February 26, is now being rolled out at meetings across the divisions. Initial feedback is that these meet‐ ings are well‐attended and that the plan is being well received, providing both a welcome uplift for activists as well as raising awareness of the importance of organising among Mandate members at Dunnes. A key part of the plan will be to get senior management at Dunnes to engage meaningfully with the union and to remind them of their obliga‐ tions to do so under the terms of the 1996 national agreement. While the plan is very much still in its early stages of roll‐out, there has been a clear increase in the number of members volunteering to take on activist‐type responsibilities within their workplaces. These new activists will be trained locally by officials. This increased activism is vital if members at Dunnes are to be suc‐ cessful in securing positive changes in the workplace. A National Committee of Dunnes activists was elected at the February 26 meeting and it is hoped this group will meet in the near future to review the roll‐out of the national strategy,

how best it can be driven on and, importantly, replying to a manage‐ ment response to recent representa‐ tions made by the union. These included: l Protection of established and acceptable weekly hours/earnings, l The abolition of compulsory split days, l The establishment of acceptable weekly minimum hours, l The abolition of roll‐over contracts, l Protection of established and acceptable patterns of weekly/daily hours, and l Standardisation of pay scales/rates. From an industrial relations perspective, Mandate fully intends to make the next 12 months a very busy and rewarding period for our mem‐ bers in Dunnes. We have not only targeted this as one of our main priorities but we are also committing significant resources in our efforts to ensure positive re‐ sults. Together we are more likely to suc‐ ceed if we have the genuine support and active participation of as many union members as possible. Obviously greater activism and numbers of members will help us to convince this employer and its man‐ agement that we speak with a strong, unified and determined voice.

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Yo ou can save lots of money today with the help of the iConnect Card for o only o €13. Check out our range of discounts online with more being added all the time! May 2013 y SHOPFLOOR

To have good public services a state must invest in them Conor McCabe


Win one of 5 copies of the new publication Irish Left Review by answering this very simple question: How many editions of the Irish Left Review have been published to date? Send your answers by email to or post them to: Shopfloor, Mandate Trade Union, 9 Cavendish Row, Dublin 1 Please include your name, address, employer and mobile phone number with your entry This competition is open to all Mandate Trade Union members and the closing date for entries is Friday, June 14, 2013 21



Middle Ireland can’t take much more... By John Douglas



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 22

Mandate General Secretary MOST households across Ireland will have now received notification about the total amount of income the new Local Property Tax (LPT) will take from their pockets. Mandate is rightly concerned about the impact this tax will have on consumer spending and jobs in the Irish domestic economy – in par‐ ticular the struggling retail sector. After five austerity budgets the domestic economy has shrunk by more than 25%, retail sales by vol‐ ume continued its decline in January and tens of thousands of retail work‐ ers have had their hours/incomes reduced or lost their jobs. Why? Because consumers don’t have enough money to spend in their local shops. A recent survey by the Irish League of Credit Unions estimates that 1.8 million people have less than €100 per month to spend after paying essential bills. The Irish Cen‐ tral Bank says almost 95,000 mort‐ gages across the country are in arrears and the Central Bank gover‐ nor, Patrick Honohan, is stating pub‐ licly that household financial distress is at “unprecedented levels.” The property tax will come into effect in July and with the average house price across the country com‐ ing to €151,000, it will take €315 per year from the spending power of the average household. In parts of Dublin, the average house value is €333,828, meaning it will reduce the average household spending in areas of the capital by €585 per year. To put this in context, earlier this year, the Central Statistics Office released the Survey on Income and Living Conditions (SILC) report for 2011 and it showed that disposable income has reduced from a high in 2008 of €24,380 per individual to €21,440 in 2011, almost a €3,000 or 12% decline. During the same period, employ‐ ment in the retail and wholesale sector was down by approximately 40,300 (CSO). This, coincidently, is a 12.8% reduction in jobs and shows a clear link between disposable in‐ come reductions and job losses in the local economy. Bear in mind that these figures do not take account of the loss of hours that many workers have experi‐ enced in the domestic economy – particularly the retail sector – with the effective result being a cut in spending power. This is something many compa‐ nies have pursued vigorously and Mandate has highlighted through their Decent Work? The Impact of the Recession on Low-paid Workers doc‐ ument. The retail sector employs approxi‐ mately 250,000 workers and is vi‐

Equivilised disposable income per individual 2007-2011

Unemployment in wholesale & retail trade, repair for motor vehciles and motorcycles 2007-2011

tally important when it comes to employment, particularly for women and young workers. In the past it was the secondary income for most families, but now it is the primary source of income for thousands of families throughout the country. The recent job loss announce‐ ments and closures at B&Q, HMV, La Senza, Monsoon, Superquinn to name but a few are just the tip of the iceberg. The reality in retail is that the whole sector is in crisis, with most companies, large and small, hanging on the edge of survival. The failure of the property tax to factor in the ability of households to pay is something Mandate is very concerned about. It seems absurd that those living on the minimum wage or on social welfare, or those who are already struggling to pay crippling bank debts and bills, should have to pay this tax when the vast majority of

their income is already spent in the local economy helping to protect domestic jobs. Offering citizens the facility to defer payment of the property tax for three years fails to grasp the severity of the problem, which is that “middle Ireland”, the largest group of consumers, cannot afford to pay either now or in three years time. And those who do manage to pay will do so from already meagre dis‐ posable incomes, which in turn will lead to a further reduction in con‐ sumer spending, more job losses, more people on welfare and the downward cycle continues. In March, Mandate wrote to all members of the Oireachtas pressing them to defer the introduction of the property tax in July 2013. We also called on the Government to consider other revenue‐raising measures that would do less dam‐ age to the domestic economy and already hard‐pressed citizens. To say that “there is no alterna‐ tive” (TINA) is to attempt to deceive the Irish public. There are plenty of other ways to raise this type of rev‐ enue through a fairer taxation sys‐ tem and there are plenty of individuals and businesses that can absorb the cost of that increased taxation without impacting on jobs and the domestic economy SHOPFLOOR

y May 2013


ANALYSIS By Dr Conor McCabe ON APRIL 8 this year a report was published which showed that the proposed Croke Park 2 agreement would actively discriminate against women. “This is because women shoul‐ der the bulk of caring responsibili‐ ties in the home,” it said, “whether of children or of friends or of family members with long‐term illness, health problems or a disability.” It was produced by the Alliance of Unions for a No Vote to Croke Park 2 and was, unfortunately, an all‐too‐rare acknowledgement that in our society many working women have at least two jobs – one that starts when they clock in, the other when they get home. The indifference the State feels towards care and the household can be seen in the fact that unless it involves paid employment, it is not measured as work. In fact, unwaged socially neces‐ sary activities such as child rearing and household maintenance are treated as “economically inactive” by the Central Statistics Office. They do not figure in the reports on GDP and GNP – reports which are used to measure the economic and social health or otherwise of the Irish state. This is not just a technical point. When economists talks about women entering the workforce, what they mean is women moving into paid employment. However, when women begin waged work, the responsibilities associated with care and the household – responsibilities which in our society are still seen as mainly the responsibilities of women – do not magically disap‐ pear. Children still need to be reared, elderly parents still need to be looked after, as do sick and dis‐ abled relatives and family mem‐ bers. This point was raised in a report written by Ursula Barry and Pauline Conroy for the independ‐ ent think‐tank, TASC. They said that state support services in Ireland rely upon the expectation that “women in the family [will] deliver care and sup‐ port across a range of social needs.” “Not surprisingly,” they add, “this has generated considerable ambi‐ guity in public policy in terms of whether women should be in the labour market earning individual wages or staying at home and working occasionally or part‐time while caring for children and per‐ sons who are long‐term frail or with disabilities.” The nature of caring in Ireland as gendered – caring as “women’s work” – was raised by Kathleen Lynch and Maureen Lyons in 2008 when they showed “women are al‐ most five times as likely to work long care hours than is the case for


UNI keep tabs on Troika UNI Europa is keeping a keen eye on austerity-mongers across Europe. It recently launched an online watchdog, Troika Watch, devoted to exposing the shortcomings of EC/ECB/IMF policies. A Facebook page is acting as the hub of the campaign by disseminating information out to UNI Europe’s network and the public.


A spokesperson told Shopfloor: “The message is simple – austerity and the Troika are not working. Troika leaders must think again about the damage their policies are doing and change course for growth and jobs.” The Facebook page already has more than 3,000 likes. Check out more information at...

Irish shoppers going Deutsch! IRISH consumers are shopping at German discount stores in greater numbers than ever, research pub‐ lished by Kantar Worldpanel has revealed. Aldi has increased its market

Caring for elderly, disabled and sick relatives... women shoulder the bulk of such responsibilities – a fact the Government seems utterly indifferent to...

Picture: Horia Varlan (CC BY 2.0)

Who cares? ...Certainly not the Govt men.” After five years of bank bailouts and supports to the State’s tax‐avoiding financial sector, it is hard not to conclude that the role the Irish state sees for itself is to support institutions not people. This has always been the case, even if it were not so clear to see. “To have good public services, in‐ cluding caring services,” write Lynch and Lyons, “a state must invest in them. However, Ireland has one of the lowest rates of social expenditure in the EU.” The Irish state is fourth lowest in the EU in terms of investment in so‐ cial protection, education and health.

It is able to spend so little, and yet still maintain itself as a state, be‐ cause women essentially do that work for free. Despite all of this, once the reces‐ sion hit in 2008, the first cuts im‐ posed by the Government related to state supports for women and carers. And they have continued to slash supports ever since. And because these issues affect women in unpaid, part‐time and full‐time work, these are not just political issues, they are trade union issues as well.

share by just under 31% while Lidl has grown its share by nearly 6%. This brings the combined share of the market for both German discounters to their highest ever level of 12.6%.

Commentary on Irish Political Economy by UNITE research officer Michael Taft

Notes on the Front

Health & Safety FETAC Level 5 This course is aimed at Health and Safety representatives Topic covered on course: • Health and Safety Legislation • Role of Health and Safety Representative • Safety statements • Role of Health & Safety Authority • Occupational health

• Identification of hazards and risk assessment • Accident investigation • Fire safety • Effective communications • Health and safety promotion

Dr Conor McCabe, Equality Studies Centre, UCD School of Social Justice.

‘When women begin waged work, the responsibilities associated with care and the household – responsibilities which in our society are still seen as mainly the responsibilities of women – do not disappear. Children still need to be reared, elderly parents still need to be looked after as do sick and disabled relatives...’ May 2013



Saf e firs ty t wor at k!

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: 23

ANALYSIS DURING the property boom most people did not buy houses for specu‐ lative purposes. They bought houses to live in. But prices were rising at an in‐ credible rate so people had two op‐ tions: they took out large loans or they bought a house a long way from work which meant long commutes and less time at home. People adapted but they paid a price. When the property market busted, people were forced to pay another price. Mortgages that were just about manageable before the crisis were now sinking people – if they lost their jobs or found their incomes cut. Arrears and negative equity mounted. Now people are being asked to pay one more price. If they can’t afford their home, they can submit themselves to the new insolvency process. But if they do, they will be forced on to a living standard well below the minimum income standard for an extended period. Working people, whose only ‘crime’ was to buy a house, are now being asked to pay for that crime two and three‐fold. According to expert commenta‐ tors, they “over‐extended” them‐ selves, they “lived beyond their means” and now they must pay their “debts”. The actual crime is forgotten about – namely, the crime of driving this country into a disastrous prop‐ erty boom‐bust. It wasn’t just the banks and finan‐ cial institutions, the Government, the property speculators and build‐ ing tycoons. There were a number of interests who benefitted from the

Making those that created the crisis pay for the crisis By Michael Taft property boom: investment funds, stockbrokers, media interests (a lot of money in those property ads), real estate agencies – and the vari‐ ous individuals who took bonuses, capital gains and dividends. These were all part of the golden circle that drove the economy to ruin. And, yet, it is workers and their families who are left to live in the rubble – and pay the price. Let’s look at this issue in its proper perspective. During the

boom period – between 1995 and 2007 – average wage growth and the cost of building a house rose at the same pace. However, house prices grew at two‐and‐a‐half times the pace of both wages and house‐building costs. The gap between the two can be called the ‘speculative price’. People were forced to pay this price due to the political and eco‐ nomic policies being pursued, cheered on by the golden circle.

‘There is something perverse in outsourcing the resolution of a problem to the same institutions that created the problem in the first place’

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

• • • • •

that would be directly accountable to the Dail – to start the process. But this would only be the start. We could consider establishing a special purpose vehicle to raise bil‐ lions on the market (if NAMA can do it for property speculators, why can’t it be done for workers’ debts?). Whether this is counted as gov‐ ernment debt or “off‐balance sheet” debt is immaterial; the state could levy the banks to pay the interest on the loans. Banks already pay more than €1 billion in fees for the bank guarantee but this is shortly going to be ended. If we continued the fees, then this would go to service the debt of the agency that would be able to write off substantial amounts of debt. This would entail no extra cost to the state. To ensure that this provides spe‐ cial benefit to low/average income earners, there could be an upper threshold on the write‐down; or the taxation could be used to claw back gains to higher income groups that don’t need the write‐down. This programme would result in substantial savings to households – savings that would help get people out of arrears, increase consumer spending (and, so, kick‐start growth) and raise living standards. Such a programme for mortgage debt write‐downs should become a priority for the trade union move‐ ment. Whatever the final details or the actual operation of such a pro‐ gramme (the above is just a pro‐ posal to start that debate) the principle should be clear – people did not create the debt crisis and they shouldn’t be forced to pay. Michael Taft is a Research Officer for UNITE the Union


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

Tribunal awards €7k over Tesco dismissal

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:

We can’t be content in rebuilding the old system Anne Casey



Therefore, the resulting debt that people are being burdened with is a political and economic issue. That’s the first thing. Second, the Government (i.e. the taxpayers) have already handed over nearly €6 billion to the banks to solve the mortgage debt problem. Rather than solve the problem, they have been hoarding the cash to bolster their balance sheets. There is something perverse in outsourcing the resolution of a problem to the same institutions that created the problem in the first place. Third, there is a commentary that suggests that people “went crazy” and borrowed, borrowed, borrowed prior to the crash. The fact is that mortgages that people took out were very modest. The Irish Bank‐ ing Federation’s database shows that in the latter portion of the prop‐ erty boom, the average mortgage for first‐time buyers was between €200,000 and €230,000. This hardly constitutes ‘partying’ on credit. These are the three things we should remember: that household debt is a political and economic issue; most people took out modest loans; and we have already handed over billions to the banks to resolve a problem they helped created. What would an alternative ap‐ proach look like – one which re‐ moves the burden from working people and frees up spending in the economy? It would be based on the principle that mortgage debt should be writ‐ ten down and that banks should finance this. A start could be made by taking back the nearly €6 billion and charge a public agency – one

THE Employment Appeals Tribunal has directed Tesco to pay €7,000 to a member dismissed from the retailer’s Douglas store in 2010 over an alleged breach of its customer care policy. Deogratias Al Munza at first appealed the dismissal through agreed Mandate/Tesco procedures. But despite several requests through his union official, Lorraine O’Brien, the firm failed to provide Mr Al Munza with an appeal. The union then referred the dismissal to a Rights Commissioner. The Rights Commissioner found Mr Al Munza had been unfairly dismissed and awarded him compensation. However, Tesco subse-

quently appealed this decision to the EAT. The Tribunal, which heard the case over two days in September and November 2012, found Tesco had “failed to adhere to its own procedures in failing to grant the employee an appeal”. The Tribunal went on to state that Mr Al Munza had been unfairly dismissed. Mandate Division Organiser Lorraine O’Brien told Shopfloor: “This case has gone on unnecessarily for two-and-a-half years. “The company acted totally unreasonably by denying Mr Al Munza his right to appeal and by failing to apply the principles of fairness and natural justice to which he is entitled.” SHOPFLOOR

y May 2013

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Labour in Government? Yes, it is worth it WHEN Labour entered government in March 2011, we knew that we would face serious challenges, but we also knew that we could not turn our back on the people of Ireland who gave us the job of fixing this country. People won’t forget the extent of the chaos that Labour inherited when we went into government, compared to the political and finan‐ cial stability that exists today. In February 2011 Ireland was in economic free fall. Thanks to Fianna Fail and the mess they had made of the economy, we were excluded from international markets and had only five months’ worth of money to fund the State. Catastrophic failure had led to the first foreign intervention into our country since independence. So bad had they been, they were left with no choice. In the end, the Government called time on their messing. Their current leader – in charge at Foreign Affairs at the time – had presided over a period in which Ire‐ land became a byword for incompe‐ tence and ineptitude across Europe. In two years we have turned that situation around. The threat to the vi‐ ability of our state has diminished to the point that people are prepared to lend to us again. Stopping things de‐ teriorating was always going to be the first step on the road to recovery. Our promise then was to use our position in government not for nar‐ row political interest, but to put the country first and fix our broken econ‐ omy. In short, Labour has brought Ire‐ land from that state of chaos to one of stability. We have renegotiated the bad deals done by Fianna Fail, restructur‐ ing our loans and saving billions on repayments. We have closed down Anglo‐Irish Bank once and for all. Ireland is now – alone of the

By Gerald Nash TD bailout countries – in experiencing growth, and along with Germany is the only EU country whose economy is, albeit modestly, expanding. Having lost 250,000 jobs between 2008‐2011, we are now seeing signs of improvement in employment. As a party, Labour is having a huge influence on the policies the Govern‐ ment is implementing to restore our economy while also ensuring the best possible provision of public services. Anybody who cared to examine the changes in the tax/spend adjustment at the last Budget could believe that. Changes then allowed us to commit extra resources to both health and education and prevent further cuts. Labour successfully resisted calls to cut basic social welfare rates. I know we were right to do so. Thereby we have constructed a base‐ line of decency under the economy

below which no‐one will be allowed fall. Similarly in regard to reversing the cut in the minimum wage introduced by Fianna Fail and resisting, to the greatest possible extent, any pro‐ posal to reduce public sector pay and numbers, Labour has protected low and middle‐wage earners. Through all this we are rebalanc‐ ing taxation towards assets and high earnings, while ensuring 330,000 of the lowest paid workers no longer pay tax. We are also reforming all sectors of our society and public life. For retail workers, we have reintroduced the JLC system so critical to workers in the sector represented by Mandate. I am also proud of other issues that Labour is progressing. Same sex marriage will inevitably be introduced in this country. It is the subject of debate and discussion

‘We have constructed a baseline of decency under the economy below which no-one will be allowed fall’

Motor Insurance

across the western world. It was overwhelmingly endorsed by the Constitutional Convention. The downgrading of the issue by the leader of Fianna Fail resonates with that party’s resistance to each and every item of the liberal agenda over the last 30 years from contra‐ ception to divorce. These issues were progressed be‐ cause Labour was prepared to cam‐ paign on them. Who believes that there would be legislation on the X Case were Labour not in govern‐ ment? I’m told now that people don’t care about the issue. That’s not what I re‐ call greeted the tragic death of a young woman in an Irish hospital a mere few months ago. The simple question is could Labour have achieved these things from outside government? The answer is simply no. Having created this stability, the challenge now is to focus on the is‐ sues that are still hurting people such as getting more people back to work and dealing with the personal debt crisis. To get to this point we have had to take tough decisions and, yes, we have made some mistakes. But as we face into the future we can do so knowing we have had the courage to stick to the task and a vi‐ sion to shape the post‐crisis Ireland. It is worth it. Working people and those who are without work need Labour in government. Gerald Nash is a Labour TD for Louth & East Meath. He is Vice-Chair of the Parliamentary Labour Party and an active trade unionist who is also Chair of Labour's Policy Committee.

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Join Mandate ... here’s why Cyril Malone Village Inn Finglas

‘You have a right to join a union is what I tell non-union workers’ Anita Maxwell Tesco, Crumlin

Karen Wall speaks at the UNI Europa conference about the terrible impact austerity policies are having on Irish workers

EU trade unionists hear of heavy price paid by Irish workers MANDATE official Karen Wall re‐ cently gave a gathering of European trade unionists an insight into the terrible price being paid by Irish workers as a result of austerity poli‐ cies being pursued by successive governments. She told delegates to an anti‐aus‐ terity conference organised by UNI‐ Europa on March 7 in Portugal that the “mantra of austerity” had caused “untold hardship” to millions of peo‐ ple and was obviously failing. Austerity policies in Ireland meant that “literally tens of thou‐ sands” of people were now in dan‐ ger of losing their homes. Added to that, Ireland was also experiencing “mass unemployment, mass poverty and the mass emigra‐ tion of young people”. And women were, she pointed out, being particularly impacted by the recession. “Cuts in welfare, threats to wage‐ setting agreements for low‐paid workers and the rolling back of pub‐ lic services are all having a severe 26

impact on everyone but dispropor‐ tionally worse on women in Ireland and throughout Europe,” Ms Wall told delegates. She also outlined why successive Irish administrations were imple‐ menting such regressive policies on their own people and explained how at the time of the 2008 crash the Government had made the “fatal mistake” of socialising the debt “under extreme pressure from the EU and ECB”. Now Ireland as a result was shoul‐ dering the largest bank debt burden in the EU. Ms Wall said: “The cost of saving the European banking system in Ire‐ land is €9,000 for every single man, woman and child across the country. That’s approximately 50 times the average of the rest of the EU which is €192 per person. “Ireland makes up 1% of the EU’s population with only 4.5 million people, but over the next 40 to 50 years, our people will pay back 42% of the entire European banking

debt.” She pointed out that between 2008 and 2010 Irish people lost 12% of their disposable income with a subsequent impact on jobs. Ms Wall said the labour move‐ ment in Ireland and across the EU had to adopt a more radical re‐ sponse to austerity and insisted that there was “no other way forward”. And Mandate had, she added, been “leading the charge” in Ireland. “Some 70% of our members will have received a pay increase by Sep‐ tember of this year. What this means is that tens of millions of euro is now in the pockets of retail workers as opposed to multinational busi‐ nesses and their shareholders. This extra spending will help to lift em‐ ployment and grow our domestic economy.” Praising the resistance to the cuts being shown by Greek workers, Ms Wall concluded: “It is a necessary struggle to regain control over na‐ tional economic and political sover‐ eignty in order to begin to build a new tomorrow for our countries.”

‘In our last round of negotiations I was most excited about getting our back pay back-dated’ Deirdre Murphy Supervalue, Enniscorthy

‘Non union workers should understand you can’t change a problem without the necessary support’ SHOPFLOOR

y May 2013


Why Hugo Chavez was a ‘Renaissance President’


Beware the class war from above By Anne Casey

A LEADING expert on Latin American politics has described the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez as the “renaissance president of the 21st century” and claimed that the former soldier, who died in March, had “made significant contributions to the advancement of humanity”. Professor James Petras, who is delivering the James Connolly Memorial Lecture at the New Theatre, Temple Bar, in Dublin on May 11, hailed Hugo Chavez’s achievements while in office – not least in successful anti-poverty legislation and in securing universal free public and health coverage for Venezuelans. Describing Chavez’s legacy as “multi-faceted”, he had demonstrated how a small country could defend itself against imperialism while still maintaining “democratic principles and advanced social programmes”. “His pursuit of regional integration and promotion of ethical standards in the governance of a nation – provide examples profoundly relevant in a capitalist world awash in corrupt politicians slashing living standards while enriching the plutocrats,” added Prof Petras. He continued: “Chavez’s rejection of the Bush-Obama doctrine of using ‘state terror to fight terror’, his affirmation that the roots of violence are social injustice, economic pillage and political oppression and his belief that resolving these underlying issues is the road to peace, stands as the ethical-political guide for humanity’s survival. “Faced with a violent world of imperial counter-revolution, and resolved to stand with the oppressed of the world, Hugo Chavez enters world history as a complete political leader, with the stature of the most humane and multi-faceted leader of our epoch: the renaissance figure for the 21st century.”

Picture: Mike Gonzalez (CC BY-SA 2.0) May 2013


Secretary, Trade Union Left Forum THE results are in – Croke Park 2 has been rejected. From a left perspective this is a welcome result, but it does leave the trade union movement with challenges. It is a time for reflection, questions, and – most importantly – a great deal of analysis. Union members have spoken and whatever the media might say about the many reasons for workers reject‐ ing the deal, it is clear that union members voted against austerity measures. These austerity measures are having a detrimental effect on trade unionists, their families and their communities. This is having a catastrophic effect on how society is evolving. We are changing as a nation. And this is being done without dialogue taking place at any level about what kind of society we want to evolve into and what kind of a society we want for our children. Government actions and policies are wreaking economic and social havoc on communities. But the rich will continue to thrive; their lives will not be interfered with in any notice‐ able way, while once again trade union members and their families struggle. A useful starting point in any left analysis is to recognise that class struggle is not just about actions taken by workers for their class in‐ terest, but that class struggle is (very effectively) organised and directed by the ruling classes, representing their own interests. And this being done by the Govern‐ ment who have a keen interest in maintaining this class struggle. The ruling classes have launched the most far‐reaching assault on working people in recent history and have reversed decades of wage and employment gains. The entire panoply of neo‐liberal policies – from so‐called ‘austerity measures’ to mass firings of employ‐ ees and massive transfers of wealth to creditors – are designed to en‐ hance the power, wealth and primacy of capital at the expense of labour. To paraphrase Marx, class struggle from above is the motor force to reverse history – to seize and destroy the advances secured by workers from previous class struggles from below.

If this class struggle by the ruling class continues to dominate, what kind of a society will we be left with? What will the long‐term impact be on our services, hospitals, and schools? Who is planning for the health and wellbeing of our aging population? This is the political debate that no‐one is having. Now you might say these are broader questions. However, as so‐ cialists, such questions must form part of our analysis; it is the Left’s job to lead on the broader questions. An interesting observation is that the ruling class’s insistence on aus‐ terity is beginning to crack. A section of the capitalist class and their ideologues worry that they will not be able to influence the condi‐ tions for profit and growth. This has allowed the most scepti‐ cal elements of Labour within the coalition to raise their heads above the parapet. This will provide a use‐ ful opportunity to open discussions over economic strategy. But presently this split is only a quarrel among capitalists about how to protect and pursue their own in‐ terests. We cannot simply attach our‐ selves to one wing of that capitalist argument. We must develop an argument for a socialist solution to the huge range of problems facing working people. We cannot simply attack deficiencies in others – we must develop our own path. Firstly, we must reject, of course, the coming chorus of complaint that unions have put sectional needs be‐ fore the needs of the country, and that unions must now propose them‐ selves how to save €300 million this year. We know that the Croke Park 2 package proved divisive, and the unions – pro or anti – need to ad‐ dress those divisions. As for the €300 million – neither the savings nor the purpose of the savings are acceptable. Secondly, we must recognise that in a crisis of this depth we cannot protect all workers from the whole gamut of hardship they face. Even if a Left government were to take power tomorrow, it would be beyond our resources. But we must concentrate our attention more ur‐ gently on working class priorities for recovery – that is, we cannot be con‐ tent to re‐build the old system, and only then advance our class interests.

The purpose of the Trade Union Left Forum is to encourage and initiate serious examination and debate from a Left/class perspective of the major questions facing the labour movement in Ireland. The topic for discussion at our May meeting is the Political Economy of the Croke Park Agreement. Colin Whitston of the National College of Ireland is our guest speaker. The next meeting of the Forum will take place on May 9 at TEEU Head Office, 6pm-8pm. 27

INTERNATIONAL REPORT WHEN I visited the West Bank of Palestine and Israel as part of the 2007 Congress delegation, I was so appalled at the constant violation of the human rights of the Palestinian people that I vowed to do what little I could to highlight their cause. After my failed attempt on the MV Saoirse in 2011, I finally got to Gaza in January 2013, travelling across the Sinai Desert and entering from Egypt through the Raffa Crossing. Gazan Palestinians have major problems obtaining permission to visit families in the West Bank, or attend hospitals, and students cannot attend universities as the border crossings can close for days on end, and most are denied permits. In effect there is a wedge between the two parts of Palestine and the whole population of Gaza is collec‐ tively punished by the Israeli denial of the right to free passage and to import many essential goods. Of course I was prepared for a land‐ scape scarred by war, but what I saw was so much more than that. It’s only when you travel to troubled areas that you realise that life goes on apace, and Gaza is full of colour and life, despite the many hardships visited on it by the Israeli siege. Our hotel was near a sandy beach, and it was easy to imagine a healthy tourist industry if only there was peace. The land is also fertile, and if there was trade, there would be a thriving economy, instead of one supported largely by relief agencies. While there, we visited a gem of a Greek Orthodox Church, a stunning museum, and a bustling, though run‐

The pride of Gaza Despite being denied the most basic of rights Mags O’Brien,who visited Gaza recently, was impressed by the resilence if its people

down, market, a reminder that Pales‐ tine was a prosperous and diverse so‐ ciety before the 1917 British Occupation and its aftermath. The purpose of our visit was to meet civil society groups and attempt to link them with similar ones in Ire‐ land. I had a particular interest in visiting hospitals and speaking to paramedics, and was aided in doing so by Dr Mo‐ hammed Maqua of UNRWA who

spoke at the 2012 SIPTU Health Divi‐ sion Conference. It was immediately apparent that one of the problems fac‐ ing hospitals was power outages. Due to a shortage of electricity there can be many power cuts every day. Medics had to ensure that pa‐ tients on dialysis, life support and other essential machines were pro‐ tected, and vital equipment was often destroyed due to the outages. A major problem, apart from the

obvious financial one, is getting re‐ placements because of the siege. Equipment is often unusable for months on end. On my visit to Al Quds hospital, I was told that it was bombed in the 2009 Israeli incursion, and in‐ tensive care patients had to be trun‐ dled on beds up the street to safety. It took the intervention of the French government to persuade Israel to allow in the necessary materials to rebuild the hospital.

Bashar Ahmed Murad, Director of Emergency Medical Services for the Red Crescent Society, told us that lives could have been saved during “Opera‐ tion Cast Lead” [2008‐2009 attack on Gaza] if they had been given medical care by the Israelis, and that the IDF would not allow Palestinian medical services in. He said: "When they were finally al‐ lowed to enter on January 7, Israeli forces only gave them a three‐hour ‘lull’ to work and prohibited ambu‐ lances into the area. They forced them to leave ambulances two kilometers away and enter the area on foot.” Paramedics had to pile the wounded on donkey carts and med‐ ical workers pulled the carts to help the most people possible in the short time they were given. I asked him about post‐traumatic stress for paramedics and he told me that understandably it was an issue, but that it was also common for the population of Gaza, who lived with the constant threat of shelling and incur‐ sions. I met some wonderful people in Gaza, not least the paramedics, medics and relief workers, I was struck by the samoud or steadfastness of the people but was incredibly sad leaving there, seeing a terribly beautiful but dam‐ aged region, needlessly scarred, and a population denied the most basic of human rights, to live in peace. Congress supports the Boycott, Di‐ vestment and Sanction of Israel, until it ends its apartheid treatment of the people of Palestine. Please join in spreading the word to ensure that it is sucessful. Mags O’Brien is a tutor at SIPTU College


The Grennell’s drapery blaze tragedy ON July 24, 1905 James Skelly of York Street, Dublin, wrote to the daily pa‐ pers to thank the Irish Drapers’ Assis‐ tants’ Association (IDAA) for their “prompt and generous help given me and my family in our hour of trial; also for showing their respect to the remains of my poor child by giving her a public funeral.” Only days earlier his “poor child”, Mary, had died of burns in the Meath hospital, on July 20, aged 20 years old. She was one of three young women who died following a blaze at their workplace in Lower Camden Street early on July 19. The others who died were Brigid McGuinness, 19, from Castlecomer and 18‐year‐old Sligo native Kate Flanagan, a relation of Grocers and Vintners’ Assistants Association chairman James Hever. All three were draper’s assistants. Their deaths and injuries to at least five others underlined in the most tragic way, the perils of the “living‐in system” which made drapery stores among the most dangerous work‐ places for young women and men working in retail. From its earliest days, the IDAA – Mandate’s foundation union – op‐ posed the living‐in system, widely practised throughout the country by 28

Therese Moriarty looks back at the 1905 Camden Street fire horror that claimed the lives of three young draper’s assistants and how it exposed the ‘slavish and degrading’ living-in system all sizeable clothing stores, where young apprentices to the trade lived over the shop. They were crammed into small rooms among the inflam‐ mable display rooms and stores of clothing and cloth. IDAA Secretary Michael O’Lehane needed no lessons in how unhealthy such a style of living it was. He had contracted typhoid himself while serving his time in Limerick. So when the news of the Camden Street fire broke on July 19, the IDAA Dublin branch called an emergency meeting that evening at their rooms in Henry Street. The fire had taken hold at about 1.30am on that Wednesday morning when the 23 women and men on the premises of 30‐35, Lower Camden Street were woken by a bright blaze in the upstairs rooms of Grennell’s drapery. While the owner, Aidan Grennell and his wife, and their two servants were able to make their way down a staircase, the 17 young women and two male apprentices were forced to jump from the windows, escaping on to sheds or walls, helped down to the yard or on to the street by neigh‐

IDAA chief Michael O’Lehane

bours. Newspapers described the sight of young men and women – many with serious injuries or frac‐ tures – and, even if safe, ill‐clad for the night on the street, as “heart‐ rending”. Neighbours gave shelter in their homes to the shocked but unin‐ jured survivors. Eight women were taken to the Meath hospital. Eileen Brosnan and Maggie Buggy had injured backs, Maggie Drum had fractured her arm, Mary Donovan had a sprained ankle and Kate Mullen had only superficial burns. Maggie Phelan, who had been badly burned, began to make a recovery. All six had made a lucky escape. The buildings had

burned to a shell in three‐quarters of an hour. The following morning the body of Kate Flanagan was found among the ruins and later that same day, the deaths of Brigid McGuinness and Mary Skelly were announced. By then the IDAA Dublin branch had set up the Camden Street Fire Fund with contributions from their members for the immediate needs of the workers. Now it would also pro‐ vide for funeral expenses as well. IDAA members took up collections throughout the city’s drapery stores. They linked their fund to a campaign to end “living‐in”. At least one employer responded wholeheartedly to this approach. Robert Wallace of Arnotts thanked the union for the “opportunity of as‐ sociating myself with such a desirable object” along with a donation of five guineas. The inquests heard about the “re‐ grettable, reckless and negligent lock‐ ing up of these young ladies without leaving them any possible means of escaping in case of fire” as well as rec‐ ommendations for better safety measures for draperies and city fire alarms. Mary Skelly’s funeral – the

only one held in Dublin – was re‐ ported in the national dailies. Some 500 union members accompanied the coffin as pall bearers in the walk across the city from the Meath hospi‐ tal to Glasnevin cemetery. Dublin and national IDAA officials joined Mary Skelly’s family at the graveside along with a number of city aldermen and councillors. The tragic deaths of the three young women in the Camden Street fire touched a public nerve. The Round Room at the Rotunda was packed on July 26 to hear PT Daly de‐ nounce the living‐in system, to which “these young ladies were a holocaust offered up...” Support for abolition came from Dublin’s Lord Mayor, and a demand for much stricter regulation of drap‐ ery stores. Priests and politicians added their voices as the hall voted for the IDAA’s call for abolition. Among all the public recommenda‐ tions for the city fire services and equipment, or workshop regulation, the IDAA maintained its call for the abolition of the living‐in system. For it was – as IDAA President O’Sullivan reminded his 1905 audi‐ ences – not only “a menace to life and health” but “in addition is both slavish and degrading”. SHOPFLOOR

y May 2013

Shopping Croke 2 vote opens choices door for alternative that count real trade union collective bargain‐ ing led by members. What Ireland needs now as a country is for working people to stand together collectively. You can help by making the simple decision to support retailers that engage in collective bargaining with their staff. It makes sense from an ethical, economical and workers’ rights per‐ spective and says a lot about what type of society we want to be. I personally make a decision to shop in a Fair Shop because I want workers to be respected and have access to their fundamental human right to be in a trade union and be represented by that union. If you support that ideal too, start‐

EVERY week we all make a decision at least once about where we’re going to spend our hard‐earned cash. Where will we buy our groceries, our clothes, our shoes, our toiletries, or – for some – our makeup? That decision, for most of us, takes very little consideration. Some of us choose a place where there’s a comfortable shopping ex‐ perience, or somewhere where the customer service is exceptional, or sometimes it’s as simple as what’s conveniently close by. Increasingly though, following several years of austerity measures resulting in a loss of income for many households, it has become tempting for some of us to shop in discount stores in order to get ‘value for money.’ However, at times like this, it is even more important that we pay particular attention to which retail‐ ers we support as consumers. In a country where trade unions have no collective bargaining rights, it is imperative that we support re‐ tailers who voluntarily respect their own workforce by entering into agreements with their staff. Retailers such as Tesco, Boots, Su‐ perquinn, Penneys, Marks & Spencers, to name a few, allow their workers to have a say in how the workplace is run and what terms and conditions of employment the staff enjoy. If a company announces record profits, sometimes for three or four years in a row, the workers can argue for a fairer share of those profits through the collective bar‐ gaining process. Over the past year or so, Mandate members have negotiated several collective agree‐ ments with retailers that will see several millions of euro in the hands of workers instead of going to already‐wealthy share‐ holders here or abroad. ing from today, make a This extra cash in the commitment that hands of these workers You can go you’ll spend your will not only help them to directly to money where workers pay their bills, it will help count. by scanning this to boost the local econ‐ Go to www.faircode with your omy and create jobs. to find out smart phone Workers with collective your closest shops bargaining rights can ne‐ now. Here are some of gotiate grievance and disciplinary the Fair Shops we’ve identified so procedures which are strictly ad‐ far: Argos, Arnotts, Boots, Brown hered to, ensuring all workers are Thomas, Caulfield’s Supervalu, treated equally and that the boss Clerys, Debenhams, Heaton's, Hick‐ doesn’t target those who he/she eys, Marks and Spencer, Penneys, takes an arbitrary disliking to. Pettit's Supervalu, Shaws, Shoe Some retailers say they allow a Zone, Superquinn and Tesco Ire‐ level of ‘engagement’ with their land – and many more will be an‐ staff, but that is no substitute for nounced in future. May 2013


Picture:pedrosimoes7(CC BY 2.0)

By David Gibney


THE recent rejection of the Croke Park agreement by the majority of the key public sector unions, and indeed, by the majority of public sector workers, is one of the most significant events in recent Irish industrial history. It is the first time in living mem‐ ory that a partnership deal of this kind has been rejected in a vote by the membership, and this has happened despite the two largest unions in the sector recommend‐ ing a Yes vote, and third, the INTO, not making any recommendation. The media reaction was a com‐ bination, of surprise, horror, and dismay, and the Government’s reaction was not much less measured. How dare these ungrateful workers refuse to play ball? They are endangering national recov‐ ery, they are not being realistic! The rejection of this deal repre‐ sents huge challenges for the union movement. The mainstream media has clearly shown itself to have bought in wholesale to the right‐ wing narrative of cuts to public expenditure and austerity, and will use this vote as an excuse for continued union bashing and to attempt to turn the public against the trade union movement, which will likely be presented by the media as inflexible and unrealis‐ tic. There is also a vocal lobby among business groups – such as ISME, Chambers Ireland and IBEC – who have continuously attempted to argue for cutbacks to public expenditure as an alternative to progressive increases in taxation. It highlights the fact that this pay deal is not simply a public sector matter, but part of a wider race to the bottom. And indeed, there are many within government, particularly within Fine Gael, who will relish an opportunity for a confronta‐ tion with the trade union movement. There is a need for all unions to be steadfast and well organised to face off any such threats. There is a need for unions to work together, and to politicise their members, as it is possible that there will be a substantial increase in industrial action and confrontation. We must, as a movement, be up to these challenges, whether they present themselves in the public sector or in the private sector. However, we should also note that there are also enormous opportunities. There is an opportunity to im‐ prove, broadly, the unity of the trade union movement, and – at

By David Cullinane least – to improve its unity of pur‐ pose. The vote against Croke Park 2 was, first and foremost, a vote against austerity. Given that this was following months of scaremongering and bullying of public sector workers by the media, this is very encour‐ aging. These workers, despite these threats, sent out a message that was loud and clear – we have had enough, we cannot take anymore, it is time for those at the top to carry their fair share. This is a message that I believe the whole trade union movement can unite around. It was notable on Primetime, screened on the Monday following the rejection of the deal, that both union leaders on the panel, INMO’s Liam Doran and Eoin Ron‐ ayne of the CPSU, both specifically referenced the need for a wealth tax. This is a proposal that we in Sinn Féin, have long argued for, and which many in ICTU and SIPTU have also supported. Likewise there is increasing support for a third rate of tax of 48% on incomes above €100,000. Mandate has shown substantial leadership in adopting an ap‐ proach which goes beyond simply representing their members, but in representing their interests in

e k o r C k Par


Picture Ell Brown (CC BY- 2.0)


society, and in opposing austerity. In particular, their opposition to the austerity treaty, and to the family home tax stood in contrast to many of the larger unions at the time, though there were others, such as Unite, who took a similar line. However, we are now seeing more and more unions arguing that austerity isn’t working, particularly since this deal. Trade unions can, if they seize the opportunity, help to change the economic discussion. Everyone accepts that we need to close the deficit, as Brendan Howlin said, the arithmetic hasn’t changed – but that doesn’t mean that we have to accept the Gov‐ ernment’s approach of cuts to public pay, and a tax on family homes which takes no account of income. The deficit can be reduced, but not in the iniquitous and unfair way in which the Government is attempting. Strong exports are masking the fact that economic activity in the domestic market, in the ‘real economy’ is feeble, and that aus‐ terity is crippling the high street because people don’t have money to spend. Ultimately recovery will not come from cuts to services, pay or welfare, but from investment and stimulus With the opportunities cur‐ rently being presented, we can construct a broad coalition of trade unions, civil society organi‐ sations, progressive political par‐ ties and community groups in opposition to austerity, in favour of ensuring that those who are able to contribute most pay their fair way, and in favour of invest‐ ment to create sustainable, decent work. Since the economic collapse, progressives have been on the back foot, as the media and the establishment attempted to convince the public that there was no other way, and that we must all ‘tighten our belts’. We have now been presented with an excellent opportunity to unite all progressive forces behind an alternative, and it is essential that we grasp that opportunity. David Cullinane is Sinn Fein spokesperson on Workers’ Rights




Agrarian reform seen as key to settlement By John O’Brien

National Garment Workers Federation members demanding action over the Tazreen Fashion fire deaths in a Dhaka protest earlier this year Picture: NGFW

Major retailers to contribute to Tazreen factory fire deaths fund THREE major European retailers have agreed to contribute to a compensation plan for victims of the Tazreen Fashions factory fire. A total of 112 Bangladeshi textile workers were killed and 120 others injured in last November’s blaze tragedy. A special meeting, hosted by IndustriALL Global Union, was held in Geneva on April 15 to discuss details of a $5.7m compensation package. The Clean Clothes Campaign and the Workers Rights Consortium attended the meeting along with a leading Bangladeshi trade unionist and representatives from three major European retailers, C&A (Netherlands), KiK (Germany) and El Corte Inglés (Spain). These firms agreed to make substantial contributions to the compensation plan. Italian clothing brand Piazza Italia was not at the meeting but has agreed to take part in the package. However, major US corporations Walmart – claimed to be a large purchaser from Tazreen Fashions – Sears/Kmart and Disney were not at the meeting and have not contributed to the compensation fund. IndustriALL General Secretary Jyrki Raian said: "We have agreed on confirming the concrete amounts that each of these brands will contribute by the end of this month. The families and 30

the injured have already waited far too long." Other firms that sourced from Tazreen and failed to attend include Hong Kongbased trader Li & Fung, Teddy Smith (France), Edinburgh Woolen Mills (UK), Dickies (US) and Karl Rieker (Germany). Li & Fung has, however, agreed to contribute to the compensation plan. The compensation plan, developed by IndustriALL and its affiliates in Bangladesh and supported by international labour rights groups, is based on the compensation formula used in other recent fires. These include the December 2010 fire at That’s It Sportswear, a factory producing for Gap and other US brands, and the January 2013 blaze at Smart Export Garments that produced clothes for Inditex and others. Details of compensation plan will be worked out at a meeting in Dhaka, Bangladesh, later this year. Ineke Zeldenrust, of the Clean Clothes Campaign, said: "We once again call upon Walmart and the other major companies sourcing from Tazreen to aid the families of the dead and the injured workers. “Their refusal to do indicates a shocking lack of concern for the rights and wellbeing of the workers who make their clothes and who, in this case, were injured or killed in the process.”

DIALOGUE at the sixth cycle of his‐ toric peace talks between the govern‐ ment of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and guerrilla group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) is to focus on the issue of land. The talks, with Cuba and Norway acting as guarantors and Venezuela and Chile as "companions", resumed in late January at Havana's Interna‐ tional Conference Center, with the first of a six‐item agenda agreed by both parties. However, negotiators for both par‐ ties have confirmed that yet again the continuation of peace talks have been postponed, amid rumours of tensions within FARC. The peace talks restarted on April 22, and not on April 17, as previously agreed. Official reasons for the post‐ ponement included a hectic schedule and reunions with various interna‐ tional institutions. The warring parties are expected to reach a written agreement on comprehensive agrarian reform, the first and perhaps most controversial point of the negotiation agenda. In early April, the negotiators failed to reach an agreement on the subject, citing "differences" which prompted both sides to "work sepa‐ rately" to resolve the issues. The latest text presented by the

FARC negotiator Jesus Santrich on the land issue, seeks to include guar‐ antees on the rights for the land and territories of indigenous and black communities, and other settlements, through real recognition and funding, and immediate resolution of their territorial aspirations. Yet as the talks struggle on in Ha‐ vana, in Colombia, the violence con‐ tinues. "The rules of the game are very clear", President Santos was quoted number of weeks ago, "There is no ceasefire of any kind, neither military nor judicial, nor even verbal. These are the conditions that we set from the beginning." Government actions were stepped up when the FARC temporary cease‐ fire ended on January 20, including heavy bombing raids on FARC posi‐ tions. For their part. the guerrillas em‐ barked on increased series of attacks on military targets, resumed the tak‐ ing of military hostages and blew up oil and energy infrastructure in a bid to force the government to suspend hostilities. Meanwhile, civil society organisers continue to suffer at the hands of the right‐wing paramilitaries. Elver Cordero Oviedo, a prominent victims' rights leader and peace ac‐ tivist, was shot and killed by two pro‐ fessional hitmen as he made his way

to the nationally‐organised March for Peace in the town of Valencia, in the Caribbean department of Córdoba. Elver was the president of the Re‐ gional Committee for the Displaced, a member of the local Committee for Victims in Valencia, and a key organ‐ iser for the hugely significant peace march that took place on April 9 to give support to a negotiated solution to the armed conflict. Meanwhile, JFC campaigner Marie Barry, a member of SIPTU, comment‐ ing on the JFC Facebook site, spoke about the “trojan work” being done by Gloria Amparo Suarez of the Women Against Violence (OFP) or‐ ganisation in Colombia. Ms Suarez recently visited Ireland, and spoke at a number of engage‐ ments both north and south of the border. Ms Barry wrote: "Gloria told us of the fear she and her colleagues go through every hour of the day and of the constant death threats to young people and of the personal threat which she received on February 11 when a right‐wing paramilitary group knocked on her door, with photos of her two teenage sons and told her they would kill them if she did not stop participating in this movement.” JFC (Ireland) is a campaign network for ICTU Global Solidarity committee. For further information contact


Jobs fear over self-service checkouts A Chara, Please take note every time you use a self‐service checkout at your local supermarket, it has a direct impact on the staffing levels at these stores. Automatic self‐service checkouts will hopefully never fully replace the human interaction at a checkout that many customers love. However, they do impact on the number of staff employed in a store which, in turn, creates less employment and a

subsequent drain on the taxpayer through the social welfare system which hurts society. In a recent UK survey by Fatcheese it was found that 48% of people asked thought self‐service checkouts were a nightmare, 46% said that items wouldn’t scan properly and 12% said they always had to seek help. You may be one of those customers who enjoys the speed of a self‐service checkout but please

remember that if you take an extra five minutes and use the aisle of one of our friendly retail assistants you very well may be saving a job in the process. You can help keep our hard‐work‐ ing retail employees in a job and off the dole by refusing self‐service checkouts. We all win in that scenario! Dermot Fay National Executive member

Jobs threat? Self-service checkout point

Picture: jaygooby (CC BY 2.0) SHOPFLOOR

y May 2013




Course Duration

Course Location

Union Representative Fetac 5 Advanced

May 13,14,15

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Advanced Senior

May 13, 14, 15

3 days

OTC Dublin

Health and Safety Elected Representatives Fetac 5

May 20, 21, 22, 23, 24

5 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Introductory

May 27,28, 29

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Introductory

June 10, 11, 12

3 days


Union Representative Introductory

June 17, 18, 19

3 days

OTC Dublin

Equality and Integration

July 10

1 day

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Fetac 5 Advanced

September 9, 10, 11

3 days


Union Representative Advanced Senior

September 9, 10, 11

3 days


Union Representative Advanced Tesco Specific

September 16, 17, 18

3 days

OTC Dublin

Union Representative Advanced Senior

October 7, 8, 9

3 days


Union Representative Advanced Senior

November 4, 5, 6

3 days


Union Representative Introductory

November 11, 12, 13

3 days

OTC Dublin

Superquinn sales boost welcomed by Mandate SUPERQUINN has come out on top on sales as the supermarket industry begins to recover. The latest report from Kantar Worldpanel reveals that Superquinn increased its sales by 1.9% during the first three months of 2013. This compares with 1.5% for the wider grocery market year on year. Mandate National Co-ordinator Brian Forbes claimed this was good news for Mandate members in Superquinn. He said: “Mandate is delighted that Superquinn is beginning to grow again, albeit at a slow rate. “During the past five years the company has seen its fair share of turbulence but the workers have really put their shoulder to the wheel and it’s beginning to pay dividends now. “What makes this extra special is that Superquinn is a Fair Shop. We’d like to think that the Fair Shop campaign has helped drive some of those customers back to Superquinn and will continue to help the company to grow in the future.”

*OTC = Mandate Organising and Training Centre / Venue dates and times may vary.


Remembering the other dispute in 1913 By Ciaran Campbell Mandate Divisional Organiser THIS decade will see a number of centenary celebrations each of vary‐ ing importance to those habouring their own specific historical interests. The marking of the 1913 Dublin Lockout should, of course, be centre stage for the Irish trade union move‐ ment. Irish rebel songs – rousing or oth‐ erwise – typically celebrate and glo‐ rify defeats inflicted by the historic arch‐enemy – and the 2013 Lockout celebrations have a similar feel. True, one can argue progress was made after the Lockout as Ireland and Dublin was never to return to the May 2013


horrific society that existed in pre‐ war years. 1913 was a battle be‐ tween organised labour and capital but let’s face it, the employers won the day! However, this was not so in a simi‐ lar dispute that was staged in Sligo some six months before the Lockout. There, unionised seamen working in the town port demanded extra money for the handling of cattle off and on the freighter SS Sligo. That dispute began in March 1913 and involved members of the Na‐ tional Union of Sailors and Firemen (NUSF). The NUSF had close links to Jim Larkin’s ITGWU which had unionised the port’s dockers, against their em‐

ployer the Sligo Steam Navigation Company. When the employer decided not to entertain the NUSF’s pay claim, its members went on strike and, with the fraternal support of the dockers, the cattle were left on board SS Sligo causing significant loss to the employer and embittering relations between the two parties. As the dispute continued, the employer decided to use ‘scab’ labour by manning the ship with port steve‐ dores that belonged to a number of local families. When the strike‐breakers turned up for work on March 10, 1913, there was a violent struggle between them and picketing members of the ITGWU. This led to one of the strik‐

ers, Patrick Dunbar, being beaten to death. While the dispute was initially based on a pay claim, it fast became a struggle for union recognition. During the 56‐day stoppage, there were a number of unsuccessful attempts at finding a resolution. But only when it became very clear that the workers’ struggle was im‐ pacting on trade in the town was the matter resolved. This was because of widespread civil disturbance, the workers’ boy‐ cott of local businesses sympathetic to the employer and the substantial cost to the ratepayer of a continued military presence to act as a buffer between the ‘warring’ factions in the town. Unlike the Dublin Lockout the

unions involved in this dispute received a number of concessions – not least of which was that the docks would not be operated by so‐called ‘free labour’. There certainly was a cost to be paid by the workers – not only in terms of Patrick Dunbar’s brutal death. Local judges imposed fines and prison terms on many of the workers involved in the stoppage. A timely reminder to us all that despite the events of the 1913 Dublin Lockout – which should never be forgotten – there were other rela‐ tively similar disputes that clearly were successful. Now if only someone could come with a song about this dispute! 31

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Shopfloor May 2013  

Mandate Trade Union Publication

Shopfloor May 2013  

Mandate Trade Union Publication