NIPSA NEWS THE NEWSPAPER OF THE LEADING PUBLIC SERVICE TRADE UNION
Protests held over threat to abolish Housing Executive – See page 3 Coleraine DVA demo attracted a huge crowd of workers and supporters
Call for decent work for women – See pages 4/5
Outsourcing threat at leisure centres – See page 6
MARCH/APRIL 2014 Tel: 028 90661831 www.nipsa.org.uk
Poverty bombshell in Northern Ireland – See pages 8/9
Privatising your NHS – NIPSA’s new research – See page 10
Members to be consulted over 1% pay offer
NIPSA has slammed as “appalling” the 1% offer for most pay points tabled by National Joint Council Employers’ Side in response to the Trade Union Side’s £1 per hour pay claim. Employers’ Side has also offered a slightly higher increase of between £175 £580 for the lowest paid. Deputy General Secretary Alison Millar told NIPSA News: “This is appalling treatment of many local government workers, including leisure staff, DVA workers and their supporters have taken their camforce DVA workers to travel to Belfast, work should be brought to refuse collectors, school support paign to the streets of Coleraine in a march and rally only a County Hall. staff, library week after Transport Minister Stephen Hammond anICTU Assistant General Secretary Peter Bunting also spoke. staff, housing nounced he would close all local vehicle licensing offices He queried what the Secretary of State had done to defend the staff whose pay thereby centralising all functions at DVLA Headquarters in jobs and was loudly cheered when he called on her to resign. has fallen by Swansea. In a closing speech to the rally, NIPSA Official Ryan McKinney over 18% in the The anger at the March 13 decision to proceed was clear as told the crowd: “Stephen Hammond might have said the jobs past four years.” marchers carrying NIPSA flags and placards marched over the have got to go – but the people of Coleraine say no!” She added: Bann into the town centre. NIPSA News understands the campaign is now likely to be es- “Currently inflaNIPSA representative Clare Wilson, who has worked for the calated with further protests being planned in the near future with tion is running at DVA at County Hall for 28 years, spoke at the rally. the aim of securing work for staff based in local offices. more than 2% so She told protestors: “Last Thursday was the worst day of my The union has pointed out that the DVA in Northern Ireland is in effect the offer career and I think that probably goes for most of the staff. We essentially “under contract” to deliver services on behalf of the means that – yet were upset and angry, we thought that we would have been lisagain – NJC DVLA in Great Britain. tened to, that the Government would listen to the people. NIPSA claims there has been a clear political agenda, coming workers are “We know better than anyone that centralisation will be a disbeing offered a aster for the public and the motor trade. We went to London with from Westminster, to remove these jobs. pay cut.” Union sources claim local DOE officials and the local DOE 40,000 signatures. We met the Transport Minister, local MPs and NIPSA is in Minister have experienced a “brush-off” when it comes to making MLAs supported us and after that, all we got was a statement talks with the a case for the service to be retained in Northern Ireland. saying that Stephen Hammond had listened carefully. other NJC trade However, despite this, a campaign led by NIPSA and including “He must have had his hands over his eyes and his fingers in unions about a politicians, business leaders as well as the local community, his ears to completely ignore what was said.” co-ordinated reOther speakers included Coleraine Mayor David Harding, John held-up the decision for two years. sponse. Dallat MLA and Gregory Campbell MP who said that rather than Continued on page 3
DVA WORKERS RALLY AGAINST SHUTDOWN
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Page 2 NIPSA NEWS
Osborne’s ‘budget beanfeast’ meaningless for most workers
LAST month the Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI), an economic intelligence think-tank set up by the trade union movement and supported by NIPSA, launched its report on pay levels in the Northern Ireland economy. The facts are startling – with 25% of the workforce (169,000) earning less than the living wage, 17% (115,00 workers) officially classified as low paid, and 9% (61,000) on the minimum wage. Those worst affected include young people, women and parttime workers. Low pay is most prevalent in the accommodation, goods, retail and residential and social care sectors. The same day as NERI issued its findings, research by the Joseph
Rowntree Trust showed that between 2006/7 and 2011/2012, the average income in Northern Ireland fell by 10% against a fall of 7% in the UK. Not long before these reports were issued, Chancellor George Osborne announced his fourth budget amid a fanfare of praise about the new savings levels, a maximum of £15,000 per annum non-taxable. Richard Murphy, the tax justice campaigner, pointed out the meaninglessness of these new limits to the vast majority of citizens when he reminded us that median earnings in the UK are £26,500. The situation is even more stark in Northern Ireland where 57% of workers earn less than
Govt slammed over ‘appalling’ treatment of health workers
NIPSA has slammed the Coalition Government for its “appalling” treatment of health service workers after it was announced that a cost-of-living increase of 1% would not be paid to staff who were to receive an increment rise. The union claimed the March 13 announcement sent out a negative message to staff and effectively meant that only those on maximum of their pay scale would receive the 1% pay increase. Deputy General Secretary Alison Millar told NIPSA News: “This is an appalling way to treat health service workers who are delivering front-line and back office functions to keep our health service working at a time of crisis. “Every day there is a new story of how the sick and vulnerable are being left with needs that have not been met whether that be in A&E, in residential care, social care, etc. “This is not due to a lack of
care or professionalism on the part of staff working under immense stress – there is simply not enough resources. “Despite this, week in week out tens of thousands of pounds are being handed over to the for-profit private sector to deliver our care. “If these resources were spent in the health service. then this would be a better and more efficient way of delivering our health and social care service.” NIPSA is lobbying the Health Minister and Finance Minister to ensure that – as pay is a Devolved matter – the 1% cost-of-living increase recommended by the Pay Review Body is paid to all staff, whether or not they are to receive an increment. NIPSA is also in talks with other health service unions about how to respond if the Assembly seeks to deny tens of thousands of health service workers their cost-ofliving increase.
NIPSA Harkin House, 54 Wellington Park, Belfast BT9 6DP, Tel: 028 90661831 Fax 028 90665847 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org Editorial contact details: Bob Miller email: email@example.com Correspondence should be sent to the above address. Unless otherwise stated, the views contained in NIPSA NEWS do not necessarily reflect the policy of trade union NIPSA.
£20,000 a year. How meaningless is this new, much-vaunted £15,000 savings level if you earn less than £20,000 a year? This is the reality of wage levels in Northern Ireland and it against this context that we must view the so-called welfare reform plans. The cuts in benefits arising from welfare reform, if implemented by the Northern Ireland Assembly, will lower even further the incomes that low paid workers currently receive. The “welfare reforms” – as numerous reports have already demonstrated – will have a differentially harsher impact on low paid workers as well as those unfortunate to have lost their jobs and those suffering ill health. It will
also result in untold damage being done to the Northern Ireland economy. The campaign for a living wage in Northern Ireland is beginning to take shape but a living wage cannot be reduced purely to a decent hourly rate of pay. If you are on a zero hour contract or are underemployed due to the availability of part-time work, it is likely you will not secure an acceptable income for your family even at a decent hourly rate. Public bodies procuring services from the private sector must ensure that firms stipulate that they will guarantee their workers a sufficient number of hours at an acceptable hourly rate to enable them to have a decent life.
Alongside this the threats to the social security benefits for the low paid, the unemployed and the sick if welfare reform is implemented should be withdrawn. It is hypocritical for politicians to support the living wage campaign while at the same time supporting welfare reform changes. The benefit of having organisations such as NERI and the Joseph Rowntree Trust cannot be underestimated as their professional research exposes the real facts of the Government’s social and economic policies as well as the reality of life for ordinary working class families.
Brian Campfield, General Secretary
Chancellor Osborne carries on with sustained attack on public services
DESPITE the messages portrayed by the Chancellor there is little in the March budget for NIPSA members and wider society in Northern Ireland. Brian Campfield, General Secretary stated: “The March Budget announcements show that Treasury policies are entirely focused on the Conservative/Lib Democrat’s electoral needs for 2015 with no concern whatsoever for the economic damage their austerity inflicts on ordinary families. “This is also exemplified by the disgraceful and callous abandonment of DVA workers in Coleraine. The announcement regarding Northern Ireland’s first Enterprise Zone in the Coleraine area appears to try and appease the workers in DVA – this does not wash with more than 300 NIPSA members who are devastated by the loss of these jobs. “Certainly experience from the 24 en-
terprise zones already created across the UK does not demonstrate that there will be many jobs resulting.” He added: “In the real world: of in-work poverty, frozen or cut wages and the economic insecurity of “zero hours” contracts, people worry about rising food, fuel and energy prices and see the spine of a society – its public services and social security system being weakened. “This negligence is further compounded by Devolved Ministers presiding over the destruction of our social housing by threatening the Housing Executive and complacently neglecting our over-stretched Health Service. “The budget does nothing to reverse the attack on all of us – specifically on pay, pensions and public services, and makes it all the more essential that we work together to strengthen our public service defence campaign.”
Budget changes – no impact on public service pensions
FOLLOWING the Budget on March 19, most of the media discussion centred on Chancellor George Osborne’s announcement in respect of pensions reform. In particular, the hype was about individuals having
control of their pension funds and no longer needing to buy a pension annuity. However, for members of public service pension schemes, the announcement was meaningless, as pensions will continue to be
based on defined benefits producing a final salary/career average pension. The Budget announcement relates only to personal pensions or pensions in a defined contribution scheme.
Protests held over HE abolition threat
NIPSA members working at the Housing Executive staged a well-attended lunchtime protest outside Adelaide St offices in Belfast on February 26 as part of the union’s continuing campaign to retain the Executive as one body delivering both strategic and landlord functions within the public sector. A member, who attended the event, told NIPSA News: “I believe we as members must demonstrate our support for the retention of the Housing Executive within the public sector. “If the Minister gets his way, the tenants who we serve will see their rents increase, may not get the same service and the economies of scale of a large organisation will be lost. “I feel strongly that NIPSA must continue
to put pressure on our political representatives to ensure the Housing Executive is retained.” The February 26 protest follows a series of lunchtime protests that have been held outside Richmond Chambers in Derry. In addition the first in what will be a monthly meeting of tenants was held in Ballymagroarty on February 19. Local NIPSA representative Brendan Harley and NIPSA Deputy General Secretary Alison Millar addressed the gathering. A source said: “It was clear from that meeting that everyone supported the right for tenants to demand and have a vote whatever the future of social housing holds.” A further protest was also be held in Ballymena Town Centre (Bandstand) on Wednesday, March 26.
DVA WORKERS RALLY AGAINST SHUTDOWN
Continued from page 1
Page 3 NIPSA NEWS
An important part of the campaign has involved highlighting the exceptionally devastating impact that the loss of jobs would have on the local economy, particularly in Coleraine. The decision to close all offices has led to widespread condemnation given that the Government were well aware it would devastate Coleraine. According to NIPSA, the figures speak for themselves: n In GVA terms, the loss of the vehicle licensing jobs will be equivalent to the withdrawal of more than £22m a year from the local economy. All sectors of the economy would be impacted by this multiplier effect, most notably wholesale and retail, accommodation and food services, entertainment and recreation. n This is certainly the weakest the Northern Ireland economy has been since at least the mid-1990s. Despite a fall in unemployment recently, the Oxford Economics’ baseline forecast suggests that employment levels will not return to 2008 peaks until beyond 2025, leaving at least 17 years with below-peak employment levels. n In the worst case scenario, assuming lower-than-expected redeployment of staff displaced by the centralisation of vehicle licensing jobs in Swansea, Oxford Economics estimate that, including the impact of the multiplier effect, up to 420 people could be added to the unemployment register as a result of DVLA’s proposals. This would cost between £1.2m and £2.5m a year in job seekers allowance payments and a further £3.6m in lost tax revenue. In total, this would have a net negative impact of £5.5m fiscally to HM Treasury. In whole-of-government terms, this offsets the savings of £12m claimed by DVLA to be the savings to them through centralisation of vehicle licensing work in Swansea. n The claimant count in Northern Ireland has increased to 7.1%, with nearly 65,000 people now claiming unemployment-related benefits. This is the second highest figure in the UK, just behind that for the North East. Since 2009, the gap between the Northern Ireland figure and the figure for the UK as a whole has been widening sharply. n Northern Ireland has 310,000 people currently classi-
ESA – Is it a final farewell this time?
NIPSA members across the Education sector have been at this point (or something similar to it) many times over the last fied as economically inactive. At 26.7%, this is the highseven or eight est rate of any region in the UK. years. n In 2012, there were around 3,000 redundancies in However, this Northern Ireland, an increase of more than 50% on the time it would apprevious year. To put that in context, the number of staff pear that there is involved in vehicle licensing represents around 10% of general acceptance that annual total. that for those who saw this concept as visionary, the dream is finally The decision by the Coalition Government to withdraw over. more than 300 vehicle licensing jobs will have serious Although for a consequences for Coleraine in particular, where almost time it walked like a 80% of the jobs are located. Coleraine is a small town, duck and even alwith a population of around 24,000, so the loss of jobs most quacked like on the scale envisaged will have a major impact on its a duck, it no longer economy and on its people. By contrast, the 2011 cenhas lift in it – it is sus put the population of Swansea at 239,000. now what is comn DVA is one of only seven employers in the area that monly referred to employ more than 50 people. as a dead duck! n The public administration is highly concentrated in ColAssistant Secreeraine, where 16% of employment is in the public sector. tary for the EducaThe loss of vehicle licensing jobs would add significantly tion sector, Paddy to the challenges that the area has to face at a time Mackel, told NIPSA when the economic outlook is subdued. News: “There is a n Job losses as a result of the closure of vehicle licens- growing realisation ing offices in Great Britain range from eight to 85, with an within the sector that the focus average of 30. Coleraine would lose 235 jobs. The loss any job is of concern to a trade union but in Great Britain needs to shift now to the boundary the impact was is mostly under 0.01% of local employchanges which ment and is nowhere greater that 0.07%. The loss in Boards are now reColeraine would be 1.25% – which is 18 times greater quired to implement than for any single location across the water. as a result of Local n Coleraine has suffered a 9.2% decline in employee Government Counjobs between 2007 and 2011, equating to 2,096 jobs. cil changes from n A high level of redundancies has been experienced April 1, 2015. over the last 10 years. There have been 3,000 redun“While ESA may dancies confirmed to the Jobs and Benefits Office. The remain aspirational, vast majority of these have been in the closure of tradithe boundary tional manufacturing companies in Coleraine and the surrounding region (Farm Fed Chickens: 370 job losses; changes will definitely go ahead Seagate Technologies: 923 job losses).
Impact on Coleraine
from April 1 next year and, as such, shift the focus now needs to shift completely to prepare for this inevitability. “The unions have sought a meeting with the DE Permanent Secretary to discuss the ramifications and impact on our members.” While it is not exactly clear what changes will be made to each Board – including how many Boards there will be next year – it is clear that the Department can no longer afford the luxury of limping along hoping for political agreement on ESA when the concentration needs to be on what issues need to be dealt with in advance of local government moving to 11 “super” councils next April. Paddy Mackel added: “There won’t be too many tears shed by NIPSA members with the demise of ESA, given the draft legislation as written and the potential for chaos in respect of employer status. It’s now time to move on.”
NICS management agree to promotion list changes Page 4 NIPSA NEWS
NORTHERN Ireland Civil Service Management Side have agreed to amend existing provisions relating to promotions. The move followed representations from Trade Union Side over unacceptable delays in clearing EOI lists The new provisions mean lists ceased to be valid on the day on which the first Department published its first list from a new competition (as opposed to previous policy
where the findings of a previous list ceased to be valid on the day on which a new promotion board was advertised). This meant that, rather than no appointments being made while a new competition was being run – a process, which typically took several months – successful candidates could continue to be placed from a list while a new competition was running up to the point where the first list was published.
reasons to join NIPSA
Why should you join NIPSA?
NIPSA offers a wide range of services to its members. As a NIPSA member you will enjoy a great range of benefits, including: 1. Personal Representation: Access to advice, information and personal representation. Whether you are experiencing difficulties at work in a grievance or disciplinary matter, feel overloaded, or believe you are being discriminated against, we are there to help you. 2. Collective Negotiation: NIPSA is viewed across the public sector as a formidable negotiator for improved pay and conditions. 3. Job Security: NIPSA campaigns for permanent contracts, career progression, adequate staffing and resources.
4. Professional Support: NIPSA provides you with a forum to raise professional issues, voice your concerns and influence decisions that affect your job.
5. Health and Safety Protection: NIPSA promotes good health and safety practices in your workplace.
6. Legal Advice and Assistance: Free legal assistance – NIPSA members won around £1m in compensation last year alone.
7. Other Membership Services: Membership Plus, latest discounts and offers. 8. Financial Services.
If you wish to become a member of NIPSA complete the application form or if you would like further information about becoming a member then please contact us:
Apply online: https://www.nipsa.org.uk/AboutNIPSA/Join-US/Apply-Online-%281%29 Or email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
CALL FOR ICTU’S W www.nipsa.org.uk
ABOUT 200 trade union delegates from across Ireland North and South gathered for the Congress Biennial Women’s Conference on March 6 and 7 in Wexford. A total of 21 motions were debated and delegates also heard from a number of guest speakers over the two days. In his opening address, ICTU President John Douglas noted that women now make up the majority of trade union members and pointed out that delegates at the conference represented nearly 400,000 working women across Ireland. He described this number of women organising for decent work as “a very considerable resource for the movement” whose participation “we need to improve if we are to fully realise our potential for change in our workplaces and wider society”. ICTU Assistant General Secretary Sally Anne Kinahan gave a brief presentation on the labour market flagging up how “greater income inequality, high levels of insecure work and the emergence of a ‘two-tier’ workforce” posed a serious problem for women workers. Ms Kinahan said: “The crisis – from which we have not fully emerged – saw a concerted attempt to worsen working conditions and create a labour market characterised by badly paid, insecure work. “The only way to combat this was to make decent work – good pay and good jobs – a key ambition for post-Troika Ireland. The growth of insecure work affects women most severely, particularly younger women, migrant women, women with lower skills and women with children.” Following Ms Kinahan’s presentation, five women gave personal testimonies about their experiences of the labour market. Pamela Dooley, of UNISON, introducing a section on Women and Trade Unions, outlined some of the results of ICTU’s 2013 Equality Audit. This audit revealed that while women had for some years represented more than 50% of trade union members, the figures confirmed a significant gap between the number of women and men in key leadership positions within trade unions. In her contribution, Scottish TUC Assistant Secretary Ann Henderson spoke about the importance of investing in childcare after which a motion calling for universal childcare was unanimously endorsed.
Belfast rallies for
By Lynda Walker
SEVERAL hundred people marked International Women’s Day by marching through Belfast city centre on Saturday, March 8, in a show of solidarity to the women of the world. Among the marchers were women from Ballybeen, Shankill Road, Falls Road, Causeway Coast, Women’s Aid, Youth Action, Belfast Trades Council, NIPSA, UNISON, UNITE and SIPTU. Speakers underlined their commitment to fighting sexism, violence and exploitation. Reclaim the Agenda’s Kellie O’Dowd chaired the rally which had gathered outside City Hall. She greeted marchers and wished them a “Happy International Women’s Day.” She told the crowd: “Today we stand on the shoulders of giants – those women who have come before us, and fought for our rights.
“From the Suffragettes who were jailed 100 years ago for our right to vote; the giants who 40 years ago established the Northern Ireland Women’s Rights Movement; the giants who 30 years ago were leaders of the Miners Strike, and to all the women – the giants who continue to fight for a better and a fairer world for all.” Ms O’Dowd said Reclaim the Agenda was a collective of women’s sector representatives, grassroots feminists and trade union activists who sought to encourage and promote women’s activism “through education, campaigning and celebration” and “to create a fairer society”. She outlined Reclaim the Agenda’s key demands as: n A life free from poverty, from discrimination, from domestic and sexual violence and abuse n To have healthcare services and childcare provision “that meet our needs”, and n To live in a world where women
DECENT WORK AT OMEN CONFERENCE www.nipsa.org.uk
NIPSA delegation to the ICTU Women’s conference. Picture: Kevin Cooper (Photoline)
Speaking to the motion, NIPSA’s Margaret Loughran told delegates: “Universal childcare would not only ease the financial burden for low paid families but the provision of affordable, quality childcare would be an investment in a future workforce and in economic growth.” In her address, Grainne Healey, of Marriage Equality, urged the trade union movement to become strong advocates in favour of equality in the forthcoming referendum in the Republic. A motion on the issue was then debated and passed unanimously. Speaking to the motion, NIPSA Assistant Secretary Geraldine Alexander said: “Marriage equality is an issue of international importance. It has been legalised in 16 countries, with France, Scotland, England and Wales passing legislation last year. “This motion recognises the significance of the determination made by the Irish Constitutional Convention that samesex marriage be put to a referendum, allowing the people of Ireland to amend the constitution to provide for the recognition of same-sex marriages.
“Northern Ireland may soon be the only place in these islands where same-sex marriage is not recognised, creating an inequality within the United Kingdom and the island of Ireland that is totally unacceptable.” “The consequences for young people coming to terms with their sexuality or gender identity in hostile homes or schools, and for LGBT workers in homophobic workplaces, are serious,” she warned. “In the most extreme cases, this prejudice converts into hate crime of which Trans people in particular have been disproportionately victims. Creating equal marriage rights for LGBT people will help challenge these attitudes about what is ‘normal’.” Ms Alexander added: “Equal marriage is one of the defining civil rights issues of our time and that it is important for public representatives in Northern Ireland to stand up and defend equality for their LGBT constituents.” NIPSA’s motion on the impact of the Government’s austerity measures on women and calling for gender-responsive budgeting was also carried unanimously. Formally proposing the NIPSA motion, Tina Creaney, told delegates: “This recession and the ensuing austerity has devastated lives and families – attacking the weak, elderly and mostly women in our society. “According to Oxfam Ireland, we are facing hardships our grandparents faced. Northern Ireland alone will have £4 billion in cuts delivered – the worst since World War Two. “Island-wide they have attacked and slashed public sector jobs, public healthcare and services, child benefits and family-related benefits, funding for public gender equality institutions, pensions, pay and access to affordable childcare “We need to draft pre-budget submissions to our governments so we can influence policy. We need to ensure every single draft budget and taxation proposal is gender impact assessed. “We need to mobilise our MLAs to address gender imbalances to strengthen women’s rights and gender equality in society.” Ms Creaney added: “101 years after women were imprisoned for our right to live in an equally democratic society – democracy is not just the right to vote, it is the right to live in dignity.”
International Women’s Day are equally represented as decision makers. Ms O’Dowd also sent messages of solidarity to imprisoned peace activist Margaretta Darcy as well as to the women of Syria, the Ukraine, Afghanistan, and Iraq and “all those who suffer as a result of war and poverty and who are denied access decent education, healthcare and work”. She continued: “This year’s theme for International Women’s Day is Herstory – reclaiming the stories of women that have been written out of history. “For the first time a motion was put to Belfast City Council through the Women’s Steering Group and was passed unanimously to celebrate and recognise International Women’s Day annually, and the City Hall will be lit up in purple to mark this important event. “We would like to thank those brave women in the council for their motivation, recognition and their solidarity.”
Alliance Party MLA Anna Lo also spoke at the event and underlined the need to oppose racism. Eileen Weir, from the Shankill Women's Centre, gave her 100% support to Anna Lo who had been barracked during her contribution by racist comments from a small number of people who stood with Unions flags, as they do every Saturday, outside the City Hall. She said that while it was everyone’s right to protest, the flag protestors did not have to jeer and disrupt the International Women’s Day event. Those at the rally were understandably annoyed that police did not move the flag protesters who it appeared may also have been responsible for sabotaging the sound system. Even so the organisers want to remember the rally for its diversity of age, faith, and ethnicity and colour in every way. The march and rally was just one of events held on IWD.
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OUTSOURCING THREAT Page 6 NIPSA NEWS
Council agrees to fund research into in-house Leisure Services model AGAINST a background of trade union pressure Belfast councillors have voted to make £10,000 available to look at an in-house bid for Leisure Services at the council. NIPSA along with UNITE and a number of other unions held a series of recent protests outside the City Hall in an attempt to stop the council opting for a Non-Profit Distribution Organisation – a Leisure Trust model – for Belfast City Leisure Services. Unions fully support a transformed in-house option where staff remain as council employees and democratic control of the council leisure facilities stays with the council. They arranged for policy research body Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) to hold a seminar in Belfast to examine the implications of the council proposal. All councillors were invited. APSE made a detailed presentation, copies of which were sent to all council representatives. The presentation highlighted a number of issues of concern with the Trust model. Local representatives also looked at figures that had been presented to the council and found these to be roughly £1 million short of the £2 million as set out in the original Deloitte report which backed the Trust model. NIPSA and other unions made representations at a recent meeting of the council, calling on councillors to take note of the information supplied by the unions. Councillors were urged to opt for an in-house solution and provide the necessary resources to create a transformed in-house model. The council made a decision on
the preferred option in principle for an NPDO (non-profit distribution organisation) however it also agreed to provide some Human Resources assistance and £10,000 for a transformed in-house solution to be drawn up. The £10,000 allotted to examine the in-house option is small in comparison to the resources already committed to developing the NPDO model. However, the council also agreed that work should continue on the NPDO model, giving only six weeks to carry out this significant piece of work. APSE has been engaged to work on this in-house solution with Leisure Services staff agreeing to assist. NIPSA held meetings at a number of leisure centres in the council area, advising members of the progress of the campaign. The union also took on board the views of members about the possibility of industrial action. It was evident from the show of hands that NIPSA members were prepared to take action to remain in Belfast City Council and protect their jobs and Leisure Services for the people of Belfast. NIPSA is currently co-ordinating the ballot with the other unions. NIPSA will also be holding meetings with user groups to inform them of its reasons for opposing a Trust model and to underline why it is important to keep Leisure Services within the council. The union has also supplied its members and members of the public with copies of research carried out by the European Service Strategy Unit (ESSU). This research explains what a Trust model is and
outlines what the problems with it are. An overview of this research is set out below. The full document can be accessed online at http://bit.ly/1dfbpWN A Leisure Trust means: n Leisure Services are outsourced to a separate organisation/company. The council would retain ownership of the facilities, which it leases to the Trust. n Savings would come from VAT savings. However, in order to get the VAT savings the council cannot have any influence over the Trust. The VAT is also off-set by the setup costs. However, the council would also still provide funding to the Trust for a period of time. n Direct democratic control of the service would cease as elected member representation is reduced to 20% of the board. Trusts are required to operate as stand-alone organisations, independent of the democratic structure of the council. Company law also requires them to put the interests of the Trust over
On March 19, the Local Government Reform Joint Forum (LGRJF) met and agreed to issue a number of policy documents for comment. These include: • Draft Local Government Staff Transfer Scheme; • Draft procedure for filling posts in the new Councils; and • Updated workplan. The Forum also agreed that a protocol be issued to set down
the arrangements for putting in place a limited number of agreed posts that need to be filled over the next number of months. The posts include Senior HR and Finance posts, member’s service posts and PA posts to the new chief executives designate. It was also agreed to convene urgent round table discussions on a staff/councillor protocol to be annexed to both the council-
the council and they are also bound by commercial confidentiality. nTrusts generally cease to use council services after a year and become responsible for their own procurement and contracting, corporate and other services. Trusts initially have no reserves or assets and, as such, are dependent on public sector income and public sector constraints. Leisure Trusts do not guarantee more community participation. The Audit Commission criticised some Leisure Trusts for their lack of formal consultation with users and sports clubs in Bristol, Merton and Stockport. Leisure staff would transfer to the Trust under TUPE. However, in reference to correspondence from Belfast City Council management, it is clear that moving to a Leisure Trust would mean changes to terms and conditions of employment. A further decision will be taken by the council at the end of April.
Pace of local government RPA intensifies WITH the appointments of chief executives designate for the 11 new Councils as well as proposals issued on the role of Shadow Councils, the pace to introduce the necessary protections for staff has shifted up a number of gears. In addition, the Assembly is fasttracking the passage of the local government Bill so that it is enacted before the council elections to be held on May 22.
lors’ statutory code of conduct and a revised staff code of conduct. The protocol would deal with complaints between staff and councillors and vice versa. At the Forum meeting, the Trade Union Side again made it clear that the local government Staff Severance Scheme can only be applied from April 1, 2015, as there is no loss of any posts due to RPA before that date.
Details released about new childcare scheme
THE Treasury has now issued its response to a consultation on proposals for its new Tax-Free Childcare scheme. The scheme, scheduled to start in autumn 2015, will offer working families 20% support towards qualifying childcare costs and will be operated online. It is proposed the scheme will be introduced for children under 12 within the first year of its operation, with further details of the precise rollout of the scheme to follow. The Government is also increasing the annual cap of support £2,000 for each child (20% support on childcare costs up to £10,000). The scheme will operate with the following measures: n Online accounts (with assisted approaches for those who cannot access the internet); n Apart from parents, others such as employers and family members can pay into accounts; n Balances can be built up, to cover, for example, use in summer holidays; n Parents can withdraw money, with their contributions returned to them, and Government top-ups returned to the Government; n Parents will not pay fees; and n Those temporarily absent from the workplace – e.g. during paid statutory maternity, paternity and adoption leave – and couples where one member is in work and the other in receipt of Carer’s Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance – will be eligible. The proposals, which come from Westminster rather than the Northern Ireland Assembly, will inevitably supercede the current Salary Sacrifice Scheme in Northern Ireland Civil Service (through the non-profit charity Employers for Childcare) which Trade Union Side has supported and endorsed. Trade Union Side has made it clear that careful consideration will need to be given to the implication for Northern Ireland civil servants. Management Side have also accepted that the full details of the scheme should analysed properly before it is implemented.
NI Water pay and pensions update
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IN December last year, Trade Union Side lodged a pay claim covering 2013/14 for Level 4-7 staff at NI Water. As no claim could be submitted while staff were waiting for a resolution to the 2012/13 pay settlement, NI Water employees have once again found themselves lagging behind other public sector pay settlements. Two pay meetings have now taken place at which NIPSA outlined in more detail what the claim was intended to achieve. A second meeting was also held at which Management Side set out their views over public pay restraint and the pay approval process. It is understood further discussions are planned, but a source admitted: “It’s a frustrating process because NI Water cannot reach a final settlement without DRD and DFP approval. “This means that the union needs to consult with staff before that approval is sought. It is frustrating but we hope to be in a position to arrange pay meetings in several locations, including outside of Belfast, in the near future.” Recently, Trade Union Side also met with management to discuss how wider public sector pension changes could impact on current pension arrangements for NI Water
staff. NIPSA News has in recent issues given extensive coverage to the union’s continuing efforts to block the worst elements of the Public Sector Pensions Bill. But NIPSA HQ Official Ryan McKinney warned now that the Bill is to receive Royal Assent, pressure would be put on NI Water to examine the ‘NIW Care Scheme’. He told NIPSA News: “It is very early stages but we have sat down with NI Water to discuss a process of reviewing the current scheme. “All the NI Water trade unions are working together on this and are determined to protect the scheme and get the best result for members in the long run.” NIPSA News will keep a watching brief over the next 12 months as matters progress.
The importance of making a will UNION solicitors McCartan Turkington Breen are currently offering a free wills service for standard wills for NIPSA members. Here are the answers to some of the most common questions we receive about making wills. Why should I make a will?
1. To ensure your assets will be distributed according to your wishes, 2. To appoint guardians for minor children or dependants, 3. To appoint a trusted person to act as the executor of your estate, 4. To make your wishes known in respect of your funeral, and 5. To save time, trouble and expense for your family. What happens if I don’t make a will?
If you die without leaving a will, you die “intestate”. Your estate will pass to be administered according to Intestacy rules set out in the Administration of Estates Act (Northern Ireland) 1955. Your spouse does not automatically receive the entirety of your estate and someone may benefit from your estate who you would not have wanted to. This is particularly important in the following situations:
1. Co-habitees – Your surviving partner is at risk if you have not left spe-
Chancery House, 88 Victoria Street, Belfast BT1 3GN Tel: 028 9032 9801 www.mtb-law.co.uk
cific instructions in your will. They will be left with nothing. Their only redress is to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. This is complex and expensive. 2. Children of re-married couples – Your children from a previous marriage may not benefit as you would have wished unless specifically dealt with in a Will. It is important to review your will regularly and especially after a major life event such as getting married, getting divorced or having children. Do I need a solicitor to prepare my will?
It is advisable to seek legal advice when making your will. It is a formal legal document that must be prepared and executed in a particular way in order to maintain its legal en-
By Lauren McShane
forceability. If it is not prepared correctly its validity could be challenged and its contents overturned. Here are a few of the reasons why the validity of a will may be challenged: n Fraud, n Duress or undue influence, n Lack of Testamentary capacity, n Lack of mental capacity, n Ambiguity, n Legal formalities not adhered to, n Clerical error, and n Misunderstanding of the Testators wishes. What should my will contain?
Typical clauses in a Will are as follows: 1. Revocation of any previous will, 2. Funeral wishes, 3. Appointment of Executors and Trustees, 4. Appointment of Guardians for mi-
nors, 5. Specific gifts of property or money to beneficiaries, 6. Division of the rest of your assets, and 7. A “catch all” residue clause. A will may also be a useful tool for Tax Planning. The impact of Inheritance Tax on the beneficiaries named in the will is often considered in conjunction with making the will and if your estate is one which will be effected by the Inheritance Tax provisions, it is advisable to obtain specialist financial and tax planning advice. How do I go about making a will?
You should complete a wills questionnaire and instructions form (which you can obtain by emailing us (email@example.com) or from your NIPSA representative) and return it to our office (McCartan Turkington Breen, Solicitors, Chancery House, 88 Victoria Street, Belfast BT1 3GN). We will contact you to discuss the matter and ask for any further information we require. We will then send you out a draft will to review. You can telephone us to discuss the draft and if it is in order you will come in to our office to sign the original. We try to keep the process as simple and efficient as possible.
NIPSA to liaise with other unions over FE sector I.R. review
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NIPSA’s Further Education Panel met to consider a series of recommendations in a recently-published review into the industrial relations framework within the sector. A total of 17 recommendations were contained in the report and it is understood that NIPSA will liaise with other unions through the ICTU Education Trade Union Group before a formal response is drafted. Assistant Secretary Paddy Mackel, who has responsibility for the FE sector, pointed out that while members were willing to engage with employers on the key recommendations, they would not accept any diminution in current arrangements. He told NIPSA News: “While there may be some merit for example in considering joint issues with management and unions representing lecturing staff, it would be silly to only have a single bargaining table. “Our members would also be extremely wary about agreeing ‘plant bargaining’ arrangements for individual colleges which could result in different terms and conditions or policies for members. “In addition there is a bizarre reference in the Review to doing away with the ‘power of veto’. While it isn’t exactly clear what is meant by this phrase, Trade Union Side will be making it clear in our response that the union always retains the right to register disagreement with employers and ballot for industrial action if necessary. There will be no removal of that right.” NIPSA is to work with other unions in developing a joint response if at all possible on the maximum number of the 17 recommendations. However, it is understood the issue of recognition rights within the sector is not likely to have an agreed position as NIPSA will not agree to opening membership up to other unions who are not currently members of the Non-Teaching Staff Negotiating Committee.
Quarter of North' earn enough for www.nipsa.org.uk
POVERTY B ONE-in-four workers in Northern Ireland do not earn enough for a decent standard of living, an economic think-tank has warned. The North has significantly higher levels of low pay than in any other UK region, according to the trade union-supported Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI). Upper Bann, North Antrim, East Derry, Newry and Armagh were highlighted as
being the main regions for low wages. Accommodation, food, retail, residential and social care are the sectors worst affected. The claims were contained in NERI's latest quarterly economic commentary, which also forecast growth this year in the Republic of 1.6pc, rising to 2.1pc next year. This is more conservative than the esti-
The poorest families in Northern Ireland have suffered a dramatic fall in their income following the economic downturn, deteriorating at a markedly worse rate than the rest of UK, new research has found. The report, written by the New Policy Institute (NPI) for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), reveals the latest data showing the extent and nature of poverty in Northern Ireland. Its headline finding is a pronounced fall in income for families across the social spectrum, with the poorest seeing the largest falls. After inflation, incomes for the poorest fifth fell by 16% (£39 a week lower) - compared to 5% in the rest of the UK on average – between 2006/07 and 2011/12 (the latest available data). Average households saw their incomes fall by 9% over the same period. The report authors say the decline is due to rising unemployment and a greater share of workers working part time. Household incomes, poverty rates and the labour market have all worsened in Northern Ireland in the last five years - in each case, this deterioration has been greater than in Great Britain (GB). Overall, almost 400,000 people live in poverty in Northern Ireland. The report also found that over the last five years:
mate from the De 2pc growth this y It comes just we showed that the e gross domestic p in 2013 as the effe maceutical paten Unemployment cline to 11.5pc thi
n Poverty has risen for working age adults and children but fallen for pensioners. The number of adults under 30 in poverty rose by 50% in five years. n The proportion of unemployed working age people ha almost doubled to reach 6%. n The number working part-time but wanting full-time work has reached 51,000, or 4.4% of the working-age population, compared to 3.5% with the rest of GB. n There are now 27,000 more part-time workers than in 2007 and 3,000 fewer full-time workers.
SAM McAughtry, who died in March aged 91 after a long illness, was a really remarkable man – a writer and a political activist who had learned both trades in the hard school of life, a seafarer at heart who had survived many a stormy passage to reach serene old age as a dispenser of wit and wisdom, an advocate of civility and decency in public discourse, and a charitable concern for the underdog and the casualties of society. Belfast-born and bred, he was a citizen of the world, a fine writer, a critic of wit and discrimination, a delightful companion, a raconteur with charm and style and a wry, self-deprecating humour. Sam was born in 1923 at Hillman Street in north Belfast and it was that area, Tigers Bay, York Street and the adjoining Docks and Sailortown which was to provide him with a cultural and imaginative hinterland for the rest of his life – along with an endless fund of stories. There he was to learn the facts of life, and of living, the hard way in the hungry Thirties. One of a family of 10, the son of a merchant seaman who was often away from home (which made his homecoming, bearing trinkets and small presents, so memorable to the little boy), he left school at 14 and became a riveter.
So ended his formal schooling and remarkably effective educat When war came he volunteere ing Officer. Demobbed, like so m he found few openings on civvy labouring on building sites, he re joined the Ministry of Agriculture vant. Immersion in the Civil Service fluence of the inimitable Brenda graduate), led to writing in the tr paper columns and local radio, a politics with the Northern Ireland Thus began the public life of S and political activist, and a succ which opened the door on the fo and into that hinterland of inter-w Alec walked his lion cubs, and w through the eyes of the men wh the ships, was altogether more b
's workers 'don't decent living' www.nipsa.org.uk
epartment of Finance of year. eeks after official figures economy, as measured by product, shrank by 0.3pc ects of the so-called pharnt cliff dented exports. here is expected to deis year, and fall further to
10.9pc in 2015. The deficit, as a percentage of GDP, will fall to 2.5pc next year, well within the Government's target. The commentary, which was launched in Belfast, found that more than a quarter of workers, or just under 169,000, earned below the living wage in Northern Ireland. Other key findings include: n 17pc of workers are defined as low paid
n The number of households where the main breadwinner is working part-time rose 30 per cent. Julia Unwin, Chief Executive of JRF, said: “This report reveals a series of worrying trends for Northern Ireland, with declining incomes and job prospects leading to rising poverty. These findings are a wakeup call for governments in Stormont and Westminster: we need a comprehensive strategy to reduce poverty for people in Northern Ireland. This means tackling the underlying causes of poverty, such as the number and quality of jobs on offer.” With welfare reform changes on the horizon, the report also found: n The under-occupation penalty – the so-called bedroom tax – will have a much greater impact in NI than GB, affecting 53 per cent of claimants compared with 23 per cent in the rest of GB. n The move from Disability Living Allowance (DLA) to the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) will also have particular significance for NI, with almost twice the proportion claiming DLA compared with the rest of GB. n Around a quarter of those reassessed for PIP are expected to lose their entitlement altogether, with a further third receiving a lower entitlement. Tom MacInnes, Research Director at NPI and co-author of the report, said: “The recession and its aftermath hit
because they earn two-thirds of the median hourly wage or less. n 9pc or just over 61,000 earn at or below the minimum wage. * 8pc of male workers earn the minimum wage of £6.31 (€7.56) or below compared with 9pc of female workers. However, only 22pc of male workers earn below the living wage, compared with 29pc of women.
Northern Ireland harder than the rest of the UK. In particular, the rise in unemployment and part time work has hurt family incomes across the board, but the poorest have fared worst. “Possibly most worrying is the big rise in poverty among the under 30s. “With welfare reform on the horizon, already diminished incomes may decline even further. Reforms that cut the incomes of those supported by benefits or that require more people to actively seek work – without improvements in the quality of jobs on offer – are likely to exacerbate problems further.”
s poor by charm and with eloquence
g and began a long, varied tion. ed for the RAF, rising to Flymany of his contemporaries, street and, after a spell eturned to Belfast and e as a temporary civil ser-
e trade union, under the inan Harkin (also a shipyard rade union magazine, newsand he became involved in d Labour Party. Sam McAughtry as journalist cession of delightful books ormation of the public man war Belfast, where Buck where the docklands, seen ho built, manned and loaded brutal than that projected by
the shipowners and the Harbour Commissioners in their Venetian palazzo. It was filled, too, with pubs and betting shops, with craic and camaraderie and, at times, enmity and hostility as sectarian passions ebbed and flowed. The summit of Sam's political career was his membership of the Irish Senate in 1996. Unlike the other northerners who got there as Taoiseach nominees, Sam had the greater distinction (and democratic legitimacy) of membership by election on the industrial and commercial panel. His maiden speech in the Senate could still serve as a manifesto for any decent political party. He declared himself to be a hybrid unionist, happy to live in the United Kingdom, but happier to be Irish. His vision was for an island of five million Irish people, living in two jurisdictions, but with institutions established to emphasise their Irishness. Who says he didn't hear Ireland's Call? His other great act of demonstration politics was in organ-
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NICS staff transfers under RPA discussed
RECENTLY Trade Union Side received documentation relating to Review of Public Administration (RPA) developments in the Northern Ireland Civil Service (NICS).
These draft documents covered arrangements for the transfer of NICS staff to Local Government as well as staffing implications for RPA-affected areas. TUS subsequently met with management to discuss these and other RPA-linked issues, including Department updates, and flagged up concerns over a number of matters. These included proposals to replace the temporary transfer arrangements that had been successfully used for other civil servants transferring out of the NICS in favour of new TUPE-type arrangements. It is understood pension arrangements are not affected apart from those members of staff who opted to resign and join Local Government through an open competition. Management agreed to consider the various points raised by TUS.
ising the Peace Train, chartered and filled with interesting fellow travellers to assert their right of passage on the railway to Dublin and to protest the interruption of service by Provo bombs and bomb scares. Sam was acutely aware of the irony of an organisation which professed to be fighting to unite Ireland spending so much time and effort to ensure that it remained divided. It is for his books that he would wish to be remembered – for he was a fine writer. The Sinking Of The Kenbane Head is a minor classic of the sea and of Belfast life. It is a personal narrative which recaptures the people, the sounds and the smells of his childhood and, more importantly, it is a moving and appropriate hymn to the brave men who faced the perils of the sea and of modern warfare. Sam was a wonderful storyteller with a rich voice that resonated on radio – raised always in the cause of decency, fairness, respect and human rights, a voice for the poor and the oppressed. Death should not silence it – nor will it do so.
TRANSFORMING YOUR CARE – PRIVATISING YOUR HEALTH SERVICE
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TRANSFORMING Your Care (TYC) arrived in 2011 proclaiming a healthcare vision that would “put the patient first” and promising money to make the shift to “transformed” care easier. Since then with regularly reported crises and forecast “transitional” monies undelivered, this rhetoric is looking increasingly hollow. Indeed when the gap between the spin and reality of TYC is exposed the public fallout is dramatic. This was shown in May 2013 with the threatened closure of statutory (public sector) residential care homes for the elderly. What this debacle most clearly revealed was that, where feasible, TYC makes the withdrawal of public sector provision the default position, with the policy stating “there would need to be clear and specific reasons for the statutory sector to remain in this field”. This means that under TYC: admissions to such homes are limited and, as soon as possible, the homes’ deliberately reduced population is defined as “unsustainable”. For PR reasons the public sector homes may not close immediately but they will not “outlive” the last residents in them for long. Simultaneously both admissions to private sector homes and funding of this sector (£53 million in 2012/3 alone) are on the rise. Where need exists, therefore, TYC wants it to be met by privatisation. Such an approach is not limited to this sector. In domiciliary care the private sector is also an increasingly dominant player, benefitting from the revenue streams created by TYC’s fragmentation of service. As a consequence we see revised criteria diminishing the importance of social care needs and patient dignity undermined by the enforcement of punitively time-limited homecare visits. This leaves Northern Ireland as the UK region with the highest number of homecare visits lasting less than 30 minutes. Worse still, the Health Trusts suggest this time could be reduced to
eight minutes. In addition, while TYC idealises “care in the home”, the “personalisation” agenda is not about “empowerment”, it is a phased withdrawal from universal provision – the antithesis of holistic healthcare. It also introduces the ethical minefield of “cash for care” into already difficult family circumstances. In the last three years the Belfast Trust has paid out £130 million to the private sector as it and all other Trusts admit to using this sector to meet Ministerial waiting time targets. The worse the situation in the NHS gets, the more companies that thrive on the NHS not meeting its targets profit. This creates a situation where consultants on NHS contracts who also work for such companies can cancel their NHS appointments (thus lengthening waiting lists) while making themselves available to do this work privately. So health policy surrenders supply to those who profit from the limitation of supply. Is it any wonder a surgeon is six times more likely to cancel an appointment if they are working for us directly, rather than doing this work ‘for the NHS’ in a private capacity? What part of conflict of interest does the Health Minister not get? We predicted what would happen elsewhere in the system if A&Es closed completely or restricted their opening hours or what the consequences of a 20% cut in hospital beds over the last five years would be. We have also consistently highlighted the destructive effect staff shortages are having. While any major policy change takes time to work, it is clear that far from TYC’s core changes advertising its merits, they are indictments of it. This is because, behind its visionary rhetoric, it is rooted in cuts and privatisation. The “major incident” at the RVH and the necessity of three “escalation” plans being put in place at A&E departments in the first nine weeks of 2014 point to the strategic failure of current health policy.
This is also a political failure, raising huge questions about the lack of accountability and scrutiny at Stormont that has allowed matters to drift to this crisis point. We accept a need for “transformed”, modernised care – but it must be built on a progressive foundation. It requires truly representative and democratic participation in the planning and decision making processes within health and social care. It must not depart from the NHS’s founding principles and must end taxpayers’ debilitating subsidy of
the private sector, the demands of which are indulged (PFI debt, NHS patients sent to private clinics to be treated by ‘NHS’ staff, etc) before our healthcare needs are met. In 2013, a majority in the Assembly voted against privatisation of the Health Service, so MLAs have two choices – let them now honour their motion or come clean and tell voters in all of their future manifestos that they wish to privatise the NHS. A NIPSA Policy and Research report on Transforming Your Care is available at http://www.nipsa.org.uk
Terminally ill ‘face 6-month benefit wait’
TERMINAL illness sufferers are among sick and disabled people cut off from benefits for over six months after facing cruel assessments from incompetent privateers, senior MPs have revealed. A damning new report published by Parliament's work and pensions select committee shames Atos and Capita for the delays. It blames basic errors, like appointments being cancelled without notice, for the growing backlog. Labour MP and committee chair Dame Anne Begg condemned their record as "completely unacceptable." The crisis comes after the ConDem government ditched the Dis-
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Privateers shamed over assessment delays
It also accuses the Department of Work and Pensions of misusing statistics to smear disabled people - ascording to the report. ability Living Allowance for its new sisting the attacks on claimants in Ms Begg said: "Many disabled or Personal Independence Payment the right-wing Tory media. sick people face waits of six months (PIP). Public and Commercial Services Hundreds of thousands of sick and or more for a decision on their PIP union general secretary Mark Serdisabled people are having to apply eligibility. wotka said that amounted to "one of "Even those with terminal illnesses the biggest scandals of recent years for the new PIP and are subjected to face-to-face "assessments" by Atos are having to wait far longer than and has fuelled the sickening vilificawas anticipated. and Capita. tion of people who rely on benefits." "This not only leaves people facing But the companies are proving so He added: "Atos and Capita have incompetent that applicants are hav- financial difficulties whilst they await proved themselves incapable of proa decision, but causes severe stress viding a proper service that treats ing to wait six months - and even and uncertainty. It is completely un- sick and disabled people with the relonger - for assessments to be caracceptable." ried out. spect they deserve, and DWP needs The report calls for penalty Even terminally-ill people who to bring this work back in-house and clauses in the company's contracts have no chance of working again invest in the resources needed to run it effectively." to be invoked. are being subjected to delays, ac-
Future of NHS could see you Facebook your GP ParkinsonNet is a website which links sufferers of the disease in the Netherlands with specialist doctors and nurses and is being hailed as a trailblazer for the era of telehealth
IMAGINE if your doctor was as easy to contact as your Facebook friends - and you could Skype them whenever you liked to talk about your health concerns. For anyone waiting to see their GP in today's cash-strapped NHS, and with doctors already working at full tilt to provide the universal healthcare we all depend upon, it seems like the realm of science fiction. But telehealth, bringing care into the patient's home, is now one of the buzzwords of the modern NHS. In a population where more and more people, often the elderly, have longterm health problems such as heart disease, obesity, breathing problems or diabetes, the greater part of a doctor's work can be done in the home, advocates of telehealth say. In the internet age, the best way to do that, is to have a doctor on a computer, signed in to a network of patients in the same way we are connected to our Facebook friends and Twitter followers. In the British Medical Journal, researchers from the Netherlands have reported on the success of a scheme which is being hailed as a trailblazer for the era of telehealth. ParkinsonNet is a dedicated website which links Dutch Parkinson's disease sufferers with doctors and nurses who specialise in their dis-
ease. It acts, in effect, like Facebook for Parkinson's patients. The professionals communicate and collaborate on the website, where patients can also find information about treatment, about the professionals themselves and what they do and can also, if they want, request an athome consultation via video link in their homes. Since it was introduced in 2004, ParkinsonNet has expanded into 66 regional networks and links nearly 3,000 professionals from 15 different disciplines to Parkinson's patients all over the Netherlands. Evidence presented by the researchers, from the Radboud University Medical Centre, suggests that the website “empowers patients, improves the quality of care, shifts care away from institutions and into the community and lowers healthcare costs.” Patients also appreciated being linked to genuine experts on their condition, rather than having to visit generalists and endure referrals and lengthy waits to see a specialist. The researchers concluded that the model could be used just as successfully by patients with other longterm conditions like diabetes and breathing problems. But it's the cost benefits which may be of most interest to NHS
bosses. The health service in England is under intense financial pressure and facing a £30bn funding gap by 2030 and its managers. The NHS in Scotland and Wales are also eager to save money. A patient with a long-term problem coming to a hospital for something routine is a waste of time for them and a waste of money for the hospital - so the more that can be done in the home, the better, experts say. The Dutch researchers estimated that ParkinsonNet has saved up to 20m euros: a small amount in the context of the NHS' budget, which exceeds £100bn. However, Parkinson's is just one of the less common long-term conditions. If the millions of patients who suffered from diabetes, had a heart condition, or breathing problem could be cared for in the same way the savings could be, in theory, enormous. Dr Martin McShane, NHS England director for long-term conditions told The Independent that the NHS in England was developing similar models of care for more conditions and called ParkinsonNet “a very clear signal of the potential” of telehealth. England already has an online psychological therapy service operating in some parts of the country. “I think this is a really exciting
time,” he said. “The problem is we're almost being out-paced by mobile technology. There are also questions about how we ensure the right governance of these schemes clear quality standards need to be maintained… But do we want to move to a National Health Service rather than a national hospital service? The answer is yes.” In Scotland, a dedicated Centre for Telehealth and Telecare has been set up, with “patient-centred, at home care” a key part of the country's plans to “transform” the NHS by 2020. The country is beginning to move beyond “pilots” to “large scale” uses of remote consultations with doctors and therapists, he said. “It's not about replacing face to face care with technology,” said Professor George Crooks, medical director of NHS 24, who has overall responsibility for the project. “Technology can make face-to-face care more accessible: such as accessing specialist opinion remotely from remote rural or island communities. ”We will use it but only where it is safe, effective and, most importantly, appropriate to do so…but people use technology to run their day-today life - and they now expect to be able to use their tablet, smartphone or computer as a way to access their health and care services.”
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NIPSA/PCS ULR conference held in Belfast NIPSA/PCS Annual ULR Conference took place on March 7 in Belfast. This well-attended event marked the last time ULRs from both unions met together under the auspices of the joint NIPSA/PCS Union Learning project. The current funding stream for the project ends on March 31. Both unions are awaiting confirmation from the DEL through NIC-ICTU about whether funding will continue to support the Union Learning initiative. The conference, held at the Wellington Park Hotel, opened with NIPSA Union Learning Project Manager Roisin Graham outlining the many firsts initiated by the project which began in 2008. ‘Looking Back to go Forward’ was the theme for the first part of the conference. Ms Graham spoke about how well both unions had worked together to make the project such a great success. Delegates were told about how along with her counterpart, Brian Magee, the project had flourished and its benefits had been demonstrated to both employers and employees. Ms Graham also paid tribute to all those involved at the onset of the project, in particular former NIPSA General Secretary John Corey,
Dave Cliff from PCS, Mary Leacock, ICTU Assistant General Secretary Peter Bunting and PCS Union Learning project co-ordinator Brian Magee. She also paid tribute to a number of people for their continuing support for the Union Learning initiative, including current General Secretary Brian Campfield, Deputy General Secretary Alison Millar and Karen Foster of PCS. Ms Graham also thanked ULRs for their hard work as well as Kieran Bannon for his role in securing the first Union Learning agreement in the NICS. In her address to conference, Alison Millar highlighted the many ongoing campaigns involving NIPSA and supported by PCS. She also thanked the ULRs for their work and for their input into these campaigns. In her contribution, Karen Foster, of the PCS, spoke from a Scottish perspective about how Scottish Independence would have a knock-on impact in Northern Ireland. ICTU Assistant General Secretary Peter Bunting spoke in glowing terms about unions educating their members and expressed hope about the future development of a Trade Union College. Following the speeches, the ULRs were presented with certificates for completing their
training to Stage 1 or Stage 2. NIPSA ULR of the Year certificates were awarded to Mark McAllister (DARD) and Dympna Drumm (DARD) while Lynn Clarke (DARD) received a NIPSA Learner of the Year certificate. Sheena Brazier was PCS ULR of the Year while Ian Rice was awarded PCS Learner of the Year. To mark the end of the NIPSA/PCS project collaboration, certificates were also awarded to Alison Millar and Roisin Graham from NIPSA as well as Karen Foster and Brian Magee from PCS. The conference’s afternoon session was themed around World Book Day (held every year on March 6 – an international day for the promotion of reading). As it is also a government initiative to promote reading, ULRs were encouraged to promote it through the ‘Six Book Challenge’ as well as ‘Bring a Book, Take a Book’ and ‘Quick Reads’. The project supplied another bundle of new Quick Read titles for the ULRs to use in their role. Libraries NI also had an opportunity to promote their services and to make ULRs aware of new services available library users. It was underlined to delegates that Libraries NI now offered free WIFI.
Civil servants win test case on pay progression
CIVIL servants have won an important test case in the Employment Appeal Tribunal, preventing the government reneging on contractual commitments to pay progression. Pay progression was introduced in 2008 following an equal pay audit, as part of a two-year pay deal. However, when the civil service pay freeze was announced in 2010, the Cabinet Office argued that its pay progression commitment was similarly limited to two years. The EAT disagreed. In a judgment that
underlines the important contribution of lay tribunal members to industrial disputes, the EAT confirmed that “just as in the commercial context, regard must be had to business common sense, so in the context of employment relations, regard must be had to ... industrial common sense”. (Cabinet Office v Beavan & Others UKEAT/0262/13/BA). The case illustrates an important rule about interpreting agreements — that a court will tend to assume that if an employer really wanted to
limit a contractual right, you would have expected them to say so clearly at the time.Silence on their part is a powerful argument that this was not what was intended.The case is also interesting because the parties acknowledge that “strictly speaking”, the pay deal, although incorporated into individual contract terms, did not have the status of a “collective agreement”, because the deal was imposed on the union and accepted through conduct. Collective agreements have a precise
statutory definition. What is — and is not — a collective agreement will become increasingly important now that changes to TUPE have reduced the protection given on a transfer to contract terms “incorporated from a collective agreement”. www.pcs.org.uk/en/news_and_event s/pcs_comment/index.cfm/major-victory-on-pay-progression www.bailii.org/uk/cases/UKEAT/201 3/0262_13_1312.html
Radical Protestants – from the Spanish Civil War to the 1960s www.nipsa.org.uk
THE roots of a strong Labour culture in Belfast really began with William Walker. He was never elected to a national parliament and died in 1918 before the establishment of Northern Ireland, but as Secretary of the Belfast Trades Council and a member of both the Belfast Corporation and the Executive of the British Labour Party, his socialist thought left a profound mark. It was said that the Northern Ireland Labour Party – founded in 1924 – took its cue from Walker in aspiring to unite Protestant and Catholic workers on bread-and-butter issues, what Walker himself termed ‘municipal socialism’. However, the national question was to continually hamper the NILP and successive Unionist administrations found practical ways to disadvantage their opposition, in 1928 abolishing the Proportional Representation voting system for general elections and keeping the salaries of MPs deliberately low so as to deter those from less affluent backgrounds from pursuing political careers. A key individual who bridges the Labour movement in Northern Ireland to the Spanish Civil War was Harry Midgley. By 1920, at a time of serious unemployment and short-time working in linen and engineering, Midgley represented unemployed ex-servicemen at City Hall – he had served on the Western Front – and was initially described by civil servants like Patrick Shea as a “vociferous radical, the most compelling and uncompromising home-grown advocate of socialism”. Midgley drew support from both communities in his election to the Dock constituency in 1933, though his support for the Republican government in Spain and the ensuing confrontation with the Catholic Church (as well as a fairly ignoble campaign by the Irish News) would cost him the Stormont seat. It may be argued that Midgley’s political trajectory – ending up espousing a kind of intransigent Protestantism under a Unionist Party banner – was a direct result of the obnoxious, sometimes physical attacks he was subject to for supporting the democraticallyelected government of Spain. Midgley recovered, however, to win the previously safe Unionist
seat of Willowfield in a December 1941 by-election and during the Second World War joined Basil Brooke’s Northern Irish cabinet, the first time a non-Unionist had served in the government. He became Minister of Labour and would team up with the formidable former shipyard worker William Grant – one of the few Unionist Party representatives to command Protestant working class allegiance – to force through the bill which established a Northern Ireland Housing Trust. Both men were working class leaders devoted to improving the province’s social services and making sure Northern Ireland would follow the United Kingdom’s lead in introducing welfare legislation in the post-war period. Present alongside Midgley agitating on behalf of the Second Spanish Republic was the Communist Party’s Betty Sinclair. An Ardoyneborn Protestant, she had been conspicuous in the Outdoor Relief protests of October 1932 – one of the few instances when those bread-and-butter issues the old NILP always talked about managed to overwhelm Northern Ireland’s tribal divisions. In the general election of 1945 Sinclair polled more than 4,000 votes in Cromac, South Belfast – an impressive yield for a Communist candidate – and would later travel to the Soviet Union and Czechoslovakia. She spent almost 30 years as secretary of the Belfast
Trades Council before tragically losing her life in a house fire in 1981. Another prominent figure to emerge in the post-war years was David Bleakley, who won the Belfast Victoria seat for the NILP in 1958. Bleakley’s time at Stormont was characterised by a sustained commitment to highlighting everyday economic and social concerns, his interventions almost always relating to transport, maintaining full employment in shipbuilding, and general job creation – all of which would unfortunately mark him out as largely irrelevant when the Troubles erupted at the end of the 1960s. The NILP vote – at 26% in 1962 (roughly what Ulster’s second largest party, Sinn Féin, receives today) – all but collapsed by the start of the following decade, when the Protestant radicals became fiercer and more fundamentalist, though Bleakley won election to both the 1973 Sunningdale Assembly and the Constitutional Convention two years later. He continued to campaign on socio-economic matters and organised for dilapidated parts of East Belfast to receive more trees and greenery, so as to try and raise people’s spirits. Bleakley had worked in the shipyard engine shop with a tenacious shipyard painter named Sam Thompson, whose debut radio play The Long Back Street featured a voice at the back of the crowd
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heckling, in response to a Unionist whipping up a mob with talk of ‘Popish plots’ and the siege of Derry: “You can’t ate Derry’s walls when you’re hungry.” Thompson’s best known play Over the Bridge struck a powerful blow against theatrical censorship and was considered part of the momentum to dislodge Brooke as leader of the Unionist Party. He would even go on to stand as an NILP candidate in the spectacularly unsuitable, overwhelmingly rural seat of South Down in the 1964 Westminster election, where he was harangued by new Prime Minister Terence O’Neill himself. The Undefeated – the title of a book by Martha Gellhorn on the ‘Maquis’ resistance fighters, who retreated to the mountains and continued the fight against Fascism at the end of the Civil War – were also those who wrote, painted, filmed and defined the conflict, as well as Spain itself, beyond General Franco. In 1939 the Spanish Civil War was lost militarily, but – as with the seven remarkable volunteers from the Shankill area who lost their lives in the Spanish dust and commemorated on February 1, 2014 – the values they fought for ultimately prevailed. This is an abridged version of Connal Parr’s lecture at the International Brigade Commemoration Committee event at the Shankill Library.
Organise to protect services, jobs, pay and pensions YOU HAVE A ROLE TO PLAY...SUPPORT YOUR UNION AND YOUR COLLEAGUES
HELD TO RANSOM European and world affairs
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Transnational corporations have won shocking powers to sue sovereign states, writes John Hilary, and they are not shy of using them In May 2011, the German government announced that it would terminate the country’s nuclear power programme in 2022. The decision was in response to the mass protests that burst onto German streets following the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster in Japan, and reflected the deep opposition to nuclear power that has existed within German society for decades. Legislation to phase out nuclear power passed through parliament with an overwhelming majority. Shortly afterwards, the Swedish energy company Vattenfall announced it was suing the German government for a staggering €3.7 billion in ‘compensation’ for losses arising from the nuclear phase-out. The company had already been successful in a previous suit against the German government over environmental regulations for the River Elbe, which Vattenfall argued made its proposed coal-fired power station there unviable. That case was settled in 2011 with Vattenfall being granted a new permit to construct the power station under less demanding environmental conditions. At the same time, on the other side of the world, the government of Australia was introducing a new law to combat the social costs of smoking, including the requirement that all cigarettes must be sold in plain packaging from December 2012 onwards. Even before the new measures had come into effect, US tobacco giant Philip Morris announced that it was suing the Australian government for billions in damages and seeking to have the legislation repealed. Philip Morris had also brought a case against the government of Uruguay for measures designed to reduce smoking in that country, where graphic health warnings must now cover 80 per cent of all cigarette packaging. Both countries are fighting the cases on public health grounds.
affect their bottom line. This provision for investor-state dispute settlement is unprecedented in that it elevates transnational capital for the first time to a legal status equivalent to that of the nation state. The arbitration tribunals themselves are no more than kangaroo courts. Arbitrators are not tenured judges with public authority, as in domestic judicial systems, but a small clique of corporate lawyers who are appointed on an ad hoc basis and who have a vested interest in ruling in favour of business. The tribunals sit in secret, and the arbitrators have been found guilty of so many misapplications of the law that even those who support the idea of the tribunals admit they have lost any credibility.
The backlash begins
The past 30 years have witnessed a proliferation of investment agreements through which capital can hold social and environmental policy to ransom in even the strongest states. Chief among these are the bilateral investment treaties (BITs) that enshrine the rights of transnational corporations in foreign markets. The first BIT was signed in 1959 between Pakistan and Germany, but it was during the 1990s and 2000s that their numbers increased most dramatically. There are now more than 3,200 international investment agreements in force worldwide, the overwhelming majority of which are BITs. BITs have established a host of new powers for transnational corporations, such as the right to enter new markets and repatriate profits at will. Most of all, BITs grant foreign companies the right to bypass domestic courts and sue host states before international arbitration tribunals over public policy decisions that might ‘unfairly’
filing its claim, as it was required to do, yet the tribunal ruled that the case should go ahead regardless. The Canadian government settled the claim by paying out $13 million to Ethyl and revoking the ban on MMT. Such precedents opened the floodgates to a mass of other cases brought under individual country BITs. No state has been worse hit than Argentina, which has been targeted by dozens of European and US corporations over the years. One of the most infamous cases concerned the 30-year water concession for Tucumán province, granted in 1995 to the Argentinian subsidiary of French transnational Vivendi. The privatisation led to a doubling of water tariffs almost overnight, but the company failed to maintain the level of investment required under the concession. When the water in Tucumán ‘turned brown’, eight out of ten households stopped paying their bills altogether. Yet an arbitration tribunal still awarded Vivendi $105 million for having its contract terminated. Even those damages pale into insignificance next to the $1.77 billion (plus interest) awarded to Occidental Petroleum against the government of Ecuador in 2012, the most extensive damages to date. The arbitration tribunal confirmed that the oil giant had broken Ecuadorian law in selling off part of its interests without ministerial approval, but rejected Ecuador’s argument that it was justified in terminating the company’s contract. By contrast, a separate tribunal threw out the claim by Ecuador for $19 billion in damages against Chevron for its contamination of the Amazonian rainforest over a period of two decades.
A public statement issued in 2010 by more than 50 law professors and other academics called for the system to be abolished and the right to adjudicate returned to domestic courts.
The threat of investor-state dispute settlement first came to public attention with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between Canada, Mexico and the USA. The earliest case was brought in 1997 by US company Ethyl Corporation against the Canadian government, which had introduced a ban on the fuel additive MMT on public health grounds. The government argued that Ethyl had not waited six months from the passing of the legislation before
The threat to democracy posed by this growth in corporate power has generated its own backlash, with several countries now seeking to abandon investor-state dispute settlement altogether. Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela have withdrawn from the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), while countries such as Brazil and Mexico refuse to sign up to it. South Africa has unilaterally terminated its BITs with several European countries, while India has put all negotiations on hold while it conducts its own internal policy review. The UK has not yet suffered a challenge to public policy arising out of its many BITs. Yet under the new Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership US corporations will win the right to challenge European states directly before international arbitration tribunals for the first time. Reports suggest they have every intention of doing so. You have been warned. John Hilary’s recent book The Poverty of Capitalism includes fuller details on BITs and the threat of investor-state dispute settlement
Primark to pay £6m more to victims of Raza Plaza factory
Primark is to pay out a further $10m (£6m) in compensation to victims of the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh weeks before the anniversary of the disaster in which more than 1,100 garment workers lost their lives. The British retailer has agreed to pay $9m to the 581 workers, or their families, from New Wave Bottoms, Primark's supplier, which was based on the second floor of the building in Dhaka. A further $1m will go into a communal compensation pot to be shared among all the 3,600 workers who suffered when the eight-floor Rana Plaza complex collapsed in April last year. Both payments should be made under the auspices of a compensation scheme backed by UN agency the International Labour Organisation (ILO), under a deal agreed over the weekend. Campaigners hope Primark's payment will help persuade other retailers linked to the Rana Plaza building to pay up. The latest round of payouts will bring Primark's total compensation bill to $12m after it paid out $2m in short-term support for all workers within the Rana Plaza building, including those working for other brands. Primark's desire to make its payments as soon as possible is being weighed against the ILO's battle to ensure that compensation to all those affected by the disaster comes via the communal process so that no victims are short-changed.
German union membership remains stable
FOR the third year running, unions in the German DGB, the EU’s largest union confederation have held their membership broadly stable at 6.1 million members. Membership declined from a peak of 11.8 million in 1991 shortly after reunification to 6.2 million in 2010. However, since then, the position has stabilised. Latest figures for 2013 show membership at 6,143,000 compared with 6,151,000 in 2012 and 6,156,000 in 2011. But the position is less positive where union density — the proportion of employees who are union members — is concerned. There are no official figures for union density. However, while DGB union membership was broadly stable, the number of employees increased by 3.2% between 2010 and 2013 to 37.7 million, meaning that union density fell.
European and world affairs
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Qatar’s bloody disgrace It's time to call the 2022 World Cup in Qatar by its proper name: A humanitarian crisis
The latest and most compelling evidence to date arrived in a special report, delicately titled the "Case Against Qatar," issued by the International Trade Union Commission. The report delivers a litany of shocks, including this staggering estimate: Some 4,000 migrant construction workers will die in service to the 2022 Cup before it even begins. That's actually a conservative estimate. About 1,200 workers have died since 2010, when Qatar was first awarded the tournament. Construction is only just beginning to ramp up. The ten or so stadiums that remain to be built are but a small fraction of the World Cup projects on the books. There will be a new airport, subway lines, roads, 100-plus hotels and so much more. As the opening kickoff approaches, hundreds of thousands of additional migrant workers - who already make up more than half the country's population of 2 million - will flood into Qatar. They can look forward to sharing a single room with eleven other workers - along with a single toilet - in labour camps run by slumlords and patrolled by security guards. Leaving the country is not an option; employers confiscate workers' passports. Maybe if you're lucky, after several years of service your company manager will allow you to go home for a few days to visit your loved ones; that is, if you leave a deposit of a few hundred dollars to ensure your return to work. But let's get back to the report and those 4,000 or so anticipated fatalities: "Whether the cause of death is labeled a work accident, heart attack (brought on by life-threatening effects of heat stress) or diseases from squalid living conditions, the root cause is the same - working conditions." Needless to say, Qatar has gone way beyond the palmgreasing and forced relocation of the poor that often accompany the preparations for grand international sporting events. In the course of Brazil's 2014 World Cup construction boom, a crude and slapdash affair, a total of seven workers have died. The 2010 World Cup in South Africa pro-
duced a death toll of two. Here's a more useful point of comparison, captured in a provocative headline on the website Deadspin: "Report: Qatar's World Cup Expected to Take More Lives than 9/11" (http://deadspin.com/report-qatars-world-cup-expected-to-take-more-lives-t-155 0257688). As a general rule, FIFA deflects responsibility for the behaviour of its host countries. We're just a football organisation, not a lawmaking body, FIFA likes to say. It has called the situation in Qatar a "complex matter." Given Qatar's callous disregard of so many lives, comparing the country's behaviour to an act of
Qatari labour camps under scrutiny as more than1,200 deaths recorded so far in building World Cup football venues.
terrorism may not be entirely over the top. And however FIFA tries to spin this, the organisation is complicit. At what point will it draw the line? Are 2,000 dead too many? Will FIFA take action when the toll of apparently disposable migrant workers surpasses 3,000? The International Trade Union Commission's estimate of the dead represents a massive moral failure. Allowing it to be realised would be criminal. You can dowload the ITUC speical report here: http://www.ituccsi.org/IMG/pdf/the_case_again st_qatar_en_web170314.pdf
Pay cuts were Danes to get more unconstitutional European and world affairs
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parental leave and new training rights
DANISH unions have signed three key deals with the employers which provide for limited pay increases, but deliver significant conditions improvements over the next three years. The first agreement covering the 240,000 employees in 6,000 companies in the manufacturing sector was signed by the CO-Industri union group and the employers on 9 February. Other than small increases in the lowest basic rate, something that affects a tiny percentage of employees, the agreement, which came into effect on March 1, does not deal with pay, which is to be negotiated at local level. The key improvements from a union point of view are new rights to training, longer parental leave and more information about the use of temporary workers. The main training improvements are the reduction from nine months to six months in the service necessary for employees to gain access to up to two weeks of training that they themselves can choose and which is supported by the employers’ own training fund. There are also new rights to one week’s paid training for an employee facing dismissal and access to Danish language courses for non-Danes. Paid parental leave is increased from 11 to 13 weeks, of which five must be taken by the father and five by the mother, with the other three available to either parent. This is paid at normal pay rates up to a set ceiling, which is in-
creased by 3.6% to 145 DKK (€19.45 or £16.00) an hour. The employer’s pension contribution during maternity is also being increased. Employers are also required to provide local employee representatives, normally from the unions, with more information on the use of temporary workers. The unions’ hope is that this will make it less likely that temporary workers are abused. From the point of view of the employers, the duration of the deal — the first three-year deal since 2007 — is one of its key positive points. Karsten Dybvad, head of the employers’ organisation DI, said that this would give businesses “a stable and familiar framework a longer period of time … and make it possible for businesses and their employees to create new prosperity in Denmark”. The manufacturing settlement was quickly followed by separate agreements covering 110,000 employees in the retail sector and 60,000 hotel and catering workers. Both are for three years, and increase basic pay by 4.95 DKK (€0.66, £0.54) an hour. Both agreements also include new provisions on training and, in the case of the retail settlement, contains provisions which the unions hope will limit the growing use of part-time working. Companies are now required to look at giving more hours to existing employees before taking on new part-timers.
Sell-offs provoke Cyprus strike action
UNIONS in Cyprus, bailed out last year after a banking crisis, have taken strike action against government privatisation plans. Under the terms of the bailout agreement with the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund, the Cypriot government is committed to raising €1.4 billion (£1.15 billion) through sales of publicly owned com-
panies by 2018. It plans to sell stakes in the state-owned CyTA telecommunications company and in the docks by the end of 2015 as well as the electricity company, ECA, by the end of 2017. Unions oppose the plans, arguing that they have not been consulted and that workers’ terms and conditions will suffer.
WHIILE the Greek government maintains its public sector job cuts programme, a court has ruled that some earlier cuts in public sector pay were unconstitutional. Last month, the government introduced legislation abolishing 23 separate public sector organisations, many of whose employees will be transferred to the so-called mobility scheme — placed on reduced pay for eight months before being reassigned or dismissed. With a target of 15,000 civil service dismissals in 2013-14, agreed as part of the bailout package, it seems very likely that most of those working in these abolished organisations will lose their jobs. There are also plans to place some 10,000 health care staff into the mobility scheme. Meanwhile, around 1,700 school guards and 300 municipal police staff, who have been in the mobility scheme since last summer, are set to be dismissed later this month when their eight-month
holding period runs out. The fresh onslaught on public sector jobs comes as the government has run into trouble over earlier cuts in public sector pay. A court case has concluded that a 2012 decision to cut the wages of military and emergency service personnel by around 12% was unconstitutional, and that their lost pay should therefore be reinstated. The full details of the judgement have not yet been published. However, military and emergency service staff are among a number of public servants employed under so-called special regimes and it remains to be seen whether the 12% pay cuts imposed on other special regime staff, such as doctors and university staff, will also be held to be unconstitutional. If so, the total cost of reinstating the lost pay could reach €1 billion. But although judgements are still pending, the government seems determined to press ahead with its austerity programme.
Published on Apr 24, 2014