• Jesse’s 50 years of struggle 8/9 • Fine Gael gets sums wrong 6 • Ross hedges his bets 12
CAREFUL WHAT YOU VOTE FOR Vol. 10 No.2
February 2011 ISSN 0791-458X
ELECTION 2011 O’Connor: ‘Key moment in our history’
WORKING people should support those parties that will protect incomes and public services and generate jobs and economic recovery, SIPTU General President, Jack O’Connor, has said. The election on Friday, 25th February provides a choice between continued austerity for workers, their families and those who depend on public services and the prospect of economic growth and recovery, he said. “We are facing a key moment in our country’s history. If we make the wrong choice, we could face years of high unemployment, emigration, increased inequality and poverty.” “A balanced government which protects the interests of working people as well as the business community and other sectors of society is the only political option that can help recovery,” he said. A single party government of the Right will only continue to
divide the country between public and private sector workers, and urban and rural communities when unity is essential to get us out of the crisis, Jack O’Connor said. He advocated that voters should support the Labour Party and continue their preferences for parties supporting the principles of social solidarity. “With just days to go to the election, it is clear the political and financial establishment favours a Fine Gael majority government or a minority one supported by right-wing independents with the complete exclusion of Labour and other left-minded parties,” Jack O’Connor said. “However, a balanced government with a strong Labour input will help to protect and create jobs, social welfare levels and public services. During the last Labour-Fine Gael coalition 1,000 jobs were being created each week,
university fees were abolished and child benefit was increased to its highest ever level.” “Now 1,000 young people are leaving the country each week and yet more austerity instead of a strategy for investment, jobs and growth is being proposed by the right-wing parties. “Fine Gael is planning an assault on the low paid, on those who work in and depend on public services, and wants to sell off precious state assets.” “We have seen what austerity policies have done to the country over the past three years. They have meant hundreds of thousands losing their jobs, mass emigration, cuts in pay and living standards and the prospect of many thousands losing their homes. “In this election people should be very wary of electing people that are promising more of the same.”
MINIMUM WAGE HOTEL BATTLE PAGE 2
LABOUR’S MORTGAGE VOW THE Labour Party has said that no repossessions should be permitted for at least two years where a person makes a genuine attempt to pay their mortgage on a home of modest size.
HOTEL WORKERS TAKE MINIMUM WAGE STAND
Employees taken off work roster over refusal to sign contracts that cut their pay
‘Incredible courage’: On the picket line outside Davenport Hotel, Dublin. SIPTU has warned that other bosses are keeping a close eye on the outcome of the dispute
By PADRAIG YEATES
THE battle to defend the minimum wage has begun. Five SIPTU women members at the Davenport Hotel in Dublin mounted pickets last Thursday (17th Feb) after being taken off the roster for refusing to sign new contracts reducing their national minimum wage rate by almost €1 an hour. When the legislation was being passed, Finance Minister Brian Lenihan gave assurances that existing employees of companies on €8.65 an hour could not have the rate reduced without their consent. However, the workers concerned – all women from Eastern Europe – have been brought into three meetings over the past three weeks and repeatedly told they must sign the new contracts, of which they were given no copies in English or in their own languages, or face being taken off the roster. The women, four from Lithuania and one from Poland, have worked at the Davenport Hotel for between four and six years as accommodation staff, cleaning rooms and corridors and changing linen. They refused to sign the new contracts agreeing to their wages being cut for the last time on 1st February, when the new legislation came into force and have since been removed from the payroll.
series of meetings where they were told they must agree to accept a reduction in pay from €8.65 an hour to €7.79 to ‘support the Government’. If they refused to do so they would be taken off the roster. “The other workers, the vast majority of whom are migrant workers, signed the new contracts. Like the five women, they were not given translations of the document or copies. “I think it showed incredible courage by these women to take the stand they did. “As far as I am aware, this is the first occasion on which the new law has been tested in the industrial relations arena.” Patricia King warned the “stakes are very high” on the issue and that every employer in the low wage economy would be keeping a close eye on the dispute. She On Thursday, 9th December, 2010 during the Dáil Debate on Financial Emergency Measures in the Public added: “If these Interest (No. 2) Bill 2010: Second Stage, Brian Lenihan said: workers “I want to challenge the idea that persons already employed on the minimum wage will see their are effecincome drop automatically. Anyone already working under a contract of employment that sets tively wages at or above the national minimum wage is entitled to continue to be paid those wages unless locked out of their otherwise agreed between both the employer and the employee concerned.” SIPTU served strike notice on the hotel on 9th February over the move which the union regards as an effective lockout. Grazyma Liemen, from Poland, said: “It was a very big shock being told our wages were being cut. It is really hard work and after I pay rent, childcare and food, there is nothing left.” Like the other women, she was nervous going on strike, but two years ago two of her colleagues – Regina Balciuniene and Jolita Nalusiene – joined SIPTU and won a case at the Labour Court after their hours were cut and that gave them more confidence to stand up for their rights. Although the current dispute involves only five people, it has implications for more than 300,000 workers affected by the new National Minimum Wage legislation and related rates of pay in the hotels, contract cleaning, security and other low pay sectors. SIPTU Vice President Patricia King said: “These workers were brought to a
Picture: Tommy Clancy
jobs and penalised for seeking to defend their right to the €8.65 rate, it will signal a new race to the bottom.” SIPTU Sectoral Organiser Pat Ward said: “This is bad for workers, bad for decent employers, including many hoteliers who treat their workers decently and negotiate change with us, as well as for the wider society because it will suck even more money out of the economy and reduce living standards across the board. “It means that the assurances given by Brian Lenihan last November that existing employees would not be forced to sign new low pay contracts were meaningless, as SIPTU and other unions predicted at the time. “If Fine Gael is elected on its own in this election, it is threatening even more draconian measures to undermine minimum rates of pay set by Employment Regulation Orders in other low paid industries.” The Davenport Hotel is part of the O’Callaghan Hotel Group owned by Persian Properties and property developer Noel O’Callaghan, who has been a regular contributor to the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael war chests over the years.It owns three other hotels in Dublin, the Alexander Hotel, the Mont Clare and O’Callaghan Stephen’s Green. The Group received huge tax subsidies from Fianna Fáil led Governments writing off virtually all capital costs against tax.It also has hotels in Gibraltar and the US. More broken promises: Brian Lenihan
It’s a civil write, Jesse!
The pen is mightier... Rev. Jesse Jackson signs Coaltion pledge while SIPTU General President Jack O’Connor and SIPTU Organisers Ethel Buckley, Paul Gavan and Gerry Flanagan (right) look on
REVEREND Jesse Jackson has signed a pledge on behalf of the Coalition to Protect the Lowest Paid – a group representing a range of trade unions and civil society organisations. The veteran civil rights activist, who was in Dublin on a speaking engagement last week, also met with a delegation of contract cleaning workers. The campaign – endorsed by Rev. Jackson – calls on all election candidates, regardless of political affiliation, to sign the pledge committing them to reverse the cut to the minimum wage and protect the existing
Employment Regulation Orders (ERO’s) currently under review. The ERO’s set rates for a range of low paid employment sectors such as contract cleaning, retail, security, hairdressing, hotels and restaurants. He asked all voters to cast their election ballot based on passion rather than anger, and challenged voters to embrace “the courage of collectivism”. Speaking before a public interview with RTE presenter Myles Dungan at Liberty Hall on 14th February, the Rev. Jackson said: “If you stand alone, you stand in
fear.” He encouraged the electorate to “vote for your hopes, not your fears!” The Coalition, members of which include SIPTU, Mandate and Unite trade unions along with civil society organisations such as the National Women’s Council of Ireland, the Poor Can’t Pay, the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland, and the Community Platform, has written to more than 500 candidates standing in the general election asking them to sign the same pledge. They have also promised to name and shame those candidates who refuse to support the campaign.
Banks and developers ditch Micheál for Enda
Make the pledge or take the plunge page 10 Jesse Jackson in Liberty Hall page 8
FINE Gael has attracted financial support from some of the country’s Nama controlled property developers, including Treasury Holdings. A war chest of some €3 million has been raised from a series of golf classics involving the construction company, CRH, EBS building society and tax exile and financier JP McManus. The golfing fundraisers at the luxury K Club in Kildare in Adare, Co Limerick, and at the Moor Park Golf Club in London have each raised up to €60,000. Corporate donors do not have to reveal their contributions if they are kept under €5,078, while personal donations under €634 do not have to be disclosed to the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO).
Stable mates: JP McManus & Enda Kenny Pictures: Photocall
Neither Fine Gael nor Fianna Fáil declared any donations for 2009 even though local elections and a by-election took place during the year. According to the Irish Mail on Sunday (6th February) Fine Gael has refused to confirm how much it has raised in its
pre-election fundraising activities. SIPO has called for a change to the current legislation which it states is not achieving promised transparency and openness in political funding. “It should be possible for each citizen to have a clear picture of election spending by each candidate and party and also a clear indication of the sources for such funding,” SIPO said in a recent report. Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, recently told RTE radio that many of its former donors appear to have deserted to the Fine Gael camp. Former Fine Gael leader Michael Noonan banned corporate donations in 2001, arguing that such gifts always come ‘with an expectation of something Micheál Martin: Losing grip on corporate donors in return.’
Picture: Tommy Clancy
Student nurses voice rage at placement year pay cut War paint: SIPTU Health Division nurses – angered at the move to phase out placement pay – at last week’s rally to the Department of Health offices in Dublin
MORE than 3,000 nurses and midwives took to the streets of Dublin last Wednesday (16th February) to show their anger at the decision by the Department of Health to phase out pay for pre-registered students working on their rostered placement. This move is to be the subject of a review announced by the Minister for Health and Children and Education and Skills, Mary Coughlan, but no commitment has been given to reverse it. Chanting “No Pay No Way”, the students – supported by many of their qualified colleagues – marched down O’Connell Street to a rally outside the Department of Health offices in Hawkins House. The rally was addressed by union officials, student nurse representatives and a speaker from the Union of Students in Ireland (USI). SIPTU Nursing Official, Louise O'Reilly, praised the crowd for their
Brave Nurses: SIPTU’s Louise O’Reilly addresses the crowd flanked by INMO General Secretary Liam Doran
Pictures: Paula Geraghty
politicians who refused to pledge to reverse the move would be punished by nurses and midwives at the polls. In his address, INMO General Secretary Liam Doran claimed what he described as the nursing family potentially extended to 200,000 voters and predicted that this would influence the outcome of the election. He congratulated the crowd for the massive turn-out and led cheers for the representatives who handed in a letter of protest to the Department of Health. Addressing the protest, USI President Gary Redmond pledged the support of the wider student population for the campaign and pointed out this was an issue for all students and not only student nurses. A message of support and solidarity from the ICTU Women’s Committee was read out to loud applause.
Labour and Fine Gael commitments
WILL a Fine Gael or Fine Gael/Labour Government make any difference to the type of health system we have? The answer quite simply is yes. Is there any difference between what will emerge from a Fine Gael single party government (possibly with some right-wing independents) or a Fine Gael/Labour coalition? The answer to this question is also yes. For the first time in the history of the State, all political parties, except for Fianna Fáil, are campaigning for a one-tiered, universal health system where access is based solely on medical need not ability to pay. Sinn Fein, the United Left Alliance and other left/health independents are campaigning for a NHS-style, tax-based, universal public health system. The Greens, who previously supported a universal health insurance model, have dropped any mention of an insurancebased system in their current manifesto. Fianna Fáil remains committed to maintaining the status quo. On 7th February, their health spokesperson, Barry Andrews, said: “We think the current mix of public and private health serves the
bravery. She told them: “The people who took the decision to introduce slave labour into our health service are hiding behind a now discredited government. They are
cowards and you today have shown that you are brave and you are prepared to fight.” Louise O’Reilly reminded the crowd that
By SARA BURKE
country well.” Fianna Fáil is alone in this position – of continuing the unequal, two-tiered, apartheid nature of Irish health care. Both Fine Gael and Labour are proposing universal health insurance models whereby every citizen would be covered and entitled to the same package of care, without any discrimination based on ability to pay. Despite the title, both models are actually a combination of tax and insurance contributions. Fine Gael launched its ‘FairCare’ policy in April 2009. FairCare proposed a compulsory private health insurance system with competing profitable insurance companies covering all citizens. In Labour’s ‘Fair Health Care’ proposals published two weeks ago, there would be a public primary care insurance plan to cover the whole population and two public hospital insurance companies which would compete with private insurers to cover hospital care. Fine Gael’s health policy relies on the
market driving down costs. While this is true in theory, it is not the experience in practice – with the US being the ‘best’ example of how private, competing insurers have driven up healthcare costs – not down. Fine Gael’s proposals draw heavily on the Dutch system, which has highly regulated competition, took 16 years to introduce and provides care for 16 million people with multiple insurers in the market. How that model could apply here, given the systemic differences and our track record on regulation in Ireland, is hard to tell. Under both proposals, those who currently have medical cards insurance cover will be paid for by the State and those who can afford to pay for insurance privately will continue to do so (but will get more for it). Under Fine Gael, the middle group, made up of low-income workers, will pay €200 €300 per year, per person for coverage. Under Labour, this middle group will not pay
any more as their coverage will be funded by progressive taxes paid by those on higher income. However, neither party gives exact breakdowns as to how much total coverage will cost each person or the State. Fine Gael does not give a detailed, costed, timetabled breakdown of their plan whereas Labour’s document has more than 90 pages of detail on these matters. Labour plans to introduce GP care without charge for all by 2014 and universal hospital coverage by 2016. Fine Gael does not plan to introduce free GP care until 2016 and health insurance for all on a phased basis in the years that follow. There is a difference in how this additional coverage across the population will be funded. Fine Gael says that “maximising what we have”, “money follows the patient” and savings from “economies of scale and redundancies” will fund it. Labour acknowledges that covering the whole population for GP care without charge will cost €389 million and the party outlines specific areas where such savings will be made to fund this.
They want me to work for nothing HEALTH
Michael Farrell is 38 years old and a fourth year pre-registration student nurse who is on rostered placement. Michael completed a media degree and as part of this he came into contact with vulnerable members of society. This contact led to his interest in psychiatric nursing. Liberty interviewed him to get his views on the recent decision by the Department of Health to phase out the payment for pre-registered nurses who are on work placement (the outgoing Government has said it intends to review this decision):
What do you think about the decision of the Department of Health to slash the pay of pre-registration nurses and midwives?
I think it's downright disgusting and shows a lack of respect for people and ultimately patients because they are the people who will be affected by this decision.
Some people have claimed that you’re not really workers but students – what would you say to that?
When you start nursing it consists of theory at university and then putting that theory into practice on the wards. When you're in first year as a student nurse, on the wards, you're at assisted level. In second and third years, you're at supervised level (on the wards) and for the first six weeks of fourth year you're also at supervised level. You do final exams at Christmas and then in January you start work on the wards as a fourth year nurse at independent level for nine straight months. We are finished attending lectures at university and have no more exams to do. We do, however, have to submit a research proposal and one other assignment throughout this final nine months on the wards, which contribute considerably to our overall degree, and, as such, make the final year very demanding when you have to balance your full-time job status on the ward alongside the final academic assignments.
We are counted in the numbers in the clinical environment, wherever that may be. To say we are students and not workers is an insult because it almost implies we don't make any difference in the clinical environment.
I would ask a staff nurse would they manage without the fourth year internship nurses and see what they say... You’re in fourth year now – how would you be able to manage if your pay was gone? Couldn’t you just get another job?
I wouldn't be able to manage. I pay tuition fees which amount to approximately €7,000 per year because I already have a degree as well as rent and utilities etc. For my first three years of nursing, I was able to make up the shortfall by working as a healthcare assistant during the week and at weekends and all summer. It was hard going but you got there and you knew that when you got into fourth year internship, you would start getting paid which would offset the pressure. If I wasn't getting paid now (but working the 75 hour fortnight for nothing), I would still somehow have to find time to complete my academic work and continue with my part-time job as a health care assistant. Clearly, this couldn't be sustained. In fact, I think it would probably be illegal. It would no doubt impact on my own health and obviously the care of patients.
These include paying medical consultants less, fewer administrators in the system and getting better value for state payment of drugs. Labour also recognises that there needs to be more staff and facilities to provide universal GP care without charge and has built this into its costings. Fine Gael accepts the needs for more GPs but does not detail how they will be paid for. In relation to buildings, Fine Gael says: “We are confident that the capital costs of the programme can be largely borne by the private sector if appropriate long-term contracts are put in place.” Both parties are proposing a greater focus on primary care and chronic diseases, quicker access to diagnosis and treatment and more accountability and responsibility for the minister and Department of Health. In both plans, hospitals will be run by local hospital trusts and will be expected to compete to provide care with private, often profitable, hospitals. Labour is not planning to abolish to HSE but envisages its role evolving significantly
I applied as a mature student and had financial responsibilities coming into this profession. However, I know many of my colleagues have far greater financial pressures than I do, so I can't imagine what it would be like for them if they weren't getting paid – what, with families and mortgages etc.
Are you angry at the decision to phase out pay for nurses and midwives?
I'm very angry, especially the sneaky way it was introduced with no consultation at all. They pick on the nurses. Prison officers and gardai haven't had any such cut – and rightly so. Why are we any different?
What would you urge your classmates to say to politicians when they call looking for votes?
I would urge all my classmates to find out what the stance of the politicians is towards the phase-out of pay for us and to see what their stance is about keeping it the way it was. I would also suggest that we have lots of friends and family whose vote will be influenced by the stance politicians take on this.
The phrase “slave labour” has been used to describe this decision – is that extreme?
I don't think it's extreme at all. Basically what the government wants to do is have nurses working fulltime for nine months for no pay. That means they wouldn't even be getting the minimum wage.
Well, I can only speak for myself and say that I wouldn't enter it here. I think I would apply to do nursing in the UK instead – after all, a lot of Irish nurses
I mean if someone is doing a job in this country and they're not getting the minimum wage, we call it exploitation. It's sanctioned exploitation for nine months to apparently save a pittance!
If you were thinking about nursing how would the decision made by the Department to phase out pay for pre-registration nurses and midwives affect your decision to enter the profession?
I would say to people who suggest we are not workers and are really students that we are full-time workers who happen to be students. As a fourth year nurse at independent level, you take responsibility for a group of clients, whether on the ward or in the community.
are getting jobs in the UK once they qualify here because there isn't the work for them due to the embargo.
over time. Fine Gael is committed to abolishing the HSE. It wants a reduction of 8,000 HSE staff through voluntary redundancies and normal retirement but what happens to the remaining 102,000 HSE staff is not clear. However, the gap between Labour’s and Fine Gael’s health policies seems to be closing. The Fine Gael manifesto, launched on 15th February, reveals a noteworthy new development – it (like Labour) is now opposed to the privatisation of the VHI. Fine Gael now sees the VHI as providing a “public option”, which will compete with private health insurance companies (a very different proposal to the initial plan). This is a clear indication that Fine Gael is taking a step back from a totally “free market” approach to health care. However, it’s very hard to tell if that is just electioneering optics as Fine Gael has yet to publish any more detail than it released in April 2009.
Sara Burke is a journalist, broadcaster and a health policy analyst currently doing a PhD in health policy in TCD.
HEALTH REPORT: Fine Ga el
AS election 2011 looms ever closer, the Agreement could well be public and health workers ignored in the have become ma nner in which the party inte ever more confused about nds to introthe future of duce redundancies and oth healthcare provision und er measures. er a new Fine Gael has stated that Government, writes PAUL each citizen BELL. will be expected to pay an Fine Gael’s Dr James Reilly, annual health who has publicly declared his intentio care premium for access n to be the next to universal Minister for Health and Chi hea lthcare. This is in contra ldren, has outst with what lined his party’s vision of actually happens in Hollan making 8,000 d where the people redundant from the level of health insurance health services pre miu m is based and abolishing the HSE. on income. The party plans to introdu Fine Gael is promising the ce a Dutch-type se changes health model which is ma and committing to lower naged and suptaxes at the same ported by competing insura time. nce companies. It will maintain the staff recruitment Health workers, their fam ilies and the embargo and is likely to resist modifying general public – many of whom have been the disgraceful position ado pted by the forced to abandon their hea Department of Health and lth insurance Department of thr ough government inactio Finance not to pay studen n and high pret nurses for their miums – should demand work in caring for patien a clear unambiguts. ous policy document demons For SIPTU members worki trating how ng in the health the Irish health service will be ma service there little comfor naged t in the Fine Gael and funded for the benefit position, as it seems tha of all citizens. t the Croke Park Paul Bell is Acting Head of SIPTU’s Health Division
FINE GAEL GETS SUMS WRONG 6
FINE Gael has set out its strategy of taking €9.8bn, or almost 6% of GDP, out of the Irish economy, over the next three years – on top of the €20bn that has already been extracted by the outgoing government. The party expects to meet the 3% deficit target by 2014 and generate a surplus of revenues over day-to-day government spending by 2016. Unfortunately for it, there is little or no prospect of ever meeting such targets under this strategy as it fails to factor in the major deflationary impact that cuts of this size will have. Unfortunately for working people, the error will mean that cuts – more savage than those envisaged in the party’s manifesto – will have to be implemented if it is to chase down its self-imposed deadline of 2014. Fine Gael’s mistake stems from its use of the ESRI’s recovery scenarios set out by the Institute in July 2010. Under the low growth scenario, the ESRI estimates an average growth rate of 3.2% between 2011 and 2015 on the basis of a €7.4bn austerity package between 2011
By MARIE SHERLOCK
prospect of ever achieving average growth rates of 3.2%. Already, the IMF has suggested under the current FF/Green plan that would see €9.8bn taken out the economy over the next three years, that Ireland simply cannot meet the 2015 deficit target of 3% GDP that was set down by the EU Council of Ministers. The IMF also says that additional austerity measures should not be imposed as this would further deepen the deflation already existing in the domestic economy. But heedless to these warnings, the conservative parties remain intent on sticking to their reckless plans based on unrealisable projections. If FG get its way, once again ordinary people will be made pay for the misguided and reckless mistakes of the country’s political leaders.
Party’s error on use of ESRI data revealed
and 2014. We now know that the total adjustment has doubled to €15bn between 2011 and 2014. €6bn has been implemented already in 2011 with €6.4bn in spending cuts and €2.4bn in tax increases to be introduced under the FG plan between 2012-2014. Put simply, while under the ESRI estimates approximately €4.5bn was to be taken out of the economy between 2011 and 2014, that sum under the FG proposals has now mushroomed to €9.8bn – a difference of €5.3bn. As a result of this large increase in its austerity package, there is little or no
Marie Sherlock is a SIPTU economist
Jobs lost at Heiton Buckley By ANDREW McGUINNESS
A NUMBER of jobs have been lost at Heiton Buckley after the company announced it had ceased trading at its Dock Road site in Limerick. It also confirmed it was closing its branch in Bray, Co Wicklow. Five jobs were lost in Limerick. Three positions will remain there as the company will run the site as a storage facility as well as managing the transfer of accounts to another Heiton Buckley location in Limerick. There will be a number of job losses at the Bray branch. The firm informed SIPTU it was no longer sustainable to have multiple building providers at the same location given the current economic downturn in the sector. Heiton Buckley is part of the Grafton Group which also owns the Chadwick’s chain. The company said it is seeking to transfer some staff to their Chadwick’s branch in Bray and other locations if it gets interest in an early retirement scheme. The company has also agreed to pay the previously negotiated enhanced redundancy terms.
Andrew McGuiness is a SIPTU Organiser
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said: “We are advised that a number of productive meetings have taken place between the HSE and management which have substantially removed the threat to the Swords ambulance service. “The improving relationship between the HSE and DFB management creates the opportunity for this matter to be satisfactorily resolved in a matter of weeks.”
He added: “This follows proposals from the two unions to the DFB management which can ensure the survival of the service. “The proposals presented by the unions have, in our view, created a situation where both the ambulance and the call services will be retained by the DFB and will allow constructive discussions to take place on remaining issues.”
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JESSE REFLECTS ON 50 YEARS FIGHTING FOR HUMAN RIGHTS Liberty
By FRANK CONNOLLY
VETERAN civil rights activist Jesse Jackson enthralled a packed Liberty Hall on Monday (14th February) with his recollections of more than 50 years of struggle against discrimination, racism and economic injustice in the US. In a recorded interview with journalist, Myles Dungan, due to be broadcast on the RTE History programme in early March, Jackson recounted how he encountered racial segregation from his childhood days in South Carolina. Born in 1941, he recalled how in his home town of Greenville there were no black firefighters or police and how his first protest led to his jailing in his late teens after he and some friends sought to enter the whites-only town library. He attended a segregated high school and won a football scholarship to the integrated University of Illinois. He went on to study at a Baptist college. On grad-
Jackson enthralls Liberty Hall audience
uation Rev Jesse Jackson joined with his fellow Baptist minister, Dr Martin Luther King, for the famous protests against segregation in Alabama, Mississipi, and other southern states in the early 1960’s. In 1965, he participated in the famous Selma to Montgomery civil rights marches and later the massive march on Washington which contributed to the collapse of the system where blacks were denied equal access to public buildings, schools, and transport and were victims of a wide range of other discrimination across the US. He was with Dr King when the civil rights leader was assassinated on 4th April, 1968, in Memphis, Tennessee, the day after his famous “I have been to the
mountaintop” speech. This was at a time when King and the activists around him were beginning to campaign against the Vietnam War. Jesse Jackson told the audience in Liberty Hall that it was this decision that intensified establishment opposition to their movement. Although attracted by the discipline of Malcolm X and other militant black movement fighters, he said that non-violent resistance had proven to be far more successful in the US, as it had been decades earlier in India and, in more recent weeks, in Egypt. In the 1980’s, Jackson campaigned twice to be Democratic Party candidate for the presidency and, although defeated
on both occasions, managed to mobilise for the first time a Rainbow coalition of progressive and radical forces which, he believes, laid the basis for the Clinton victories in the 1990’s and Obama’s stunning campaign success in 2008. Although unhappy with some of the failures of the current administration to tackle health care, poverty and economic injustice, he credits Obama with introducing a stimulus package which helped to save hundreds of thousands of jobs in a recession created by the previous Bush Government and its alliance with reckless and greedy bankers. But Jackson was most passionate in his view that it is the movement outside mainstream politics that affects political change, citing a meeting between FD Roosevelt and progressive human rights and labour leaders many decades ago when the then-president listened to their demands and then told them:“I agree with you. Now go out there and make me do it.”
Before the Liberty Hall event, Rev Jackson attended the launch of the Equality and Rights Alliance conference in Dublin Castle. 11-year-old Amber Redmond, centre, and other pupils from the choir of Scoil Oilibheir, Blanchardstown, surround the world-famous civil rights activist – they obviously liked what he had to say... Picture: Mark Stedman/Photocall Ireland
Pictures: Tommy Clancy
Scott Millar to join SIPTU communications team FEBRUARY 2011
Scott Millar has been appointed to the position of journalist with the SIPTU Communications Department. Scott has over nine years experience working as a journalist in national newspapers including the Irish Examiner, Sunday Times, Daily Mail and Sunday Mirror. After gradating from UCD in the late 1990’s he worked in a variety of sectors, including construction and healthcare, before receiving an MA in journalism from Dublin City University. Scott is also the co-author of The Lost Revolution: The story of the Official IRA and Workers' Party published by Penguin in 2009.
SIPTU to resubmit application for Liberty Hall project SIPTU has withdrawn its planning application for the redevelopment of Liberty Hall. However, the union has made it clear that it will be reapplying for planning permission within three months.
He said that the most important He pointed out that collective action changes, such as the end of slavery, the and working in a coalition with other vote for women, de-segregation and forces was more effective than being isolabour rights were lated. forced on governJackson expressed forcements and politifully his view that “the cians from the presbudget is a moral docusure generated by ment” in that it made popular movements. choices which have beneJackson added fitted the lives of those that he was struck at already at the top of socihow the issues raised ety at the expense of by Irish activists, those at the bottom. including the camCommenting on the paign against the cut forthcoming election in Ireland, he told the audiin the minimum ence to focus on what wage, the fight you want “with passion against home reposand not anger.” sessions, and against l ra Jackson added: the squalor in which ne Ge U’s PT SI Greeting: Jesse & “Make wise choices. If many of those in the n lyn O’F Secretary Joe you don’t vote you lose your right to Traveller community criticise.” are forced to live, resonated with the concerns of those fighting poverty and Frank Connolly is SIPTU Head of Communications and Editor of Liberty economic injustice in the US.
SIPTU General Secretary, Joe O’Flynn, stated; “We have decided to withdraw the current planning application due to detailed design issues. While the union, its professional advisors and Dublin City Council officials have worked hard to
resolve these outstanding issues time simply ran out on us. After detailed consideration SIPTU has withdrawn the application to allow more time to resolve these matters and we intend to re-apply for planning permission within three months.” Joe O’Flynn said that SIPTU remains fully committed to proceeding with this major project for the union and the city of Dublin as the current building is no longer fit for purpose.
Labour in government
will address the fact that some unscrupulous employers have sought to undermine the right to collective bargaining. Labour will introduce legislation to strengthen the rights of workers to engage in collective bargaining, as enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The legislation will also make it illegal to discriminate in any way against an employee because they are a member of a trade union or involved in trade union activitiy.
(See pages 22-26)
Gaza art shipment
Honorary member: SIPTU Vice President Patricia King pins a specially commissioned centenary union badge to Jesse’s lapel
IRISH Art For Gaza is hoping a new arts initiative will help fund an Irish ship taking supplies to the under-siege Gaza strip later in the year. Four top Irish artists – Felim Egan, Robert Ballagh, Pat Harris and Guggi – have each contributed a unique set of 100 personally-signed and numbered prints to the project. Each one is produced from top-grade archival paper and inks. The artists are covering the production costs themselves so every cent is going to the worthy cause. Several Irish people were on the boats hijacked last May in international waters and taken into custody in Israel. This year more Irish activists will set sail on an Irish ship to bring aid supplies and much-needed solidarity to Palestinians – innocent people who
continue to suffer in what is effectively a giant prison camp in the Gaza strip. Check out the four stunning prints at www.irishart4gaza.com. For further information, phone Irish Art for Gaza at 086 2474951.
MAKE THE PLEDGE OR TAKE THE PLUNGE! 10
A NEW coalition of trade unions and civil society organisations has made a significant intervention in the general election campaign. The Coalition to Protect the Lowest Paid has written to all candidates standing in the election asking them to sign a pledge to reverse the cut to the minimum wage and to protect Employment Regulation Orders (EROs) which are currently under review. The latter regulations set rates for a range of employment sectors such as contract cleaning, retail, security, hairdressing, hotels and restaurants. The coalition, members of which include SIPTU, Mandate and Unite trade unions alongside civil society organisations – such as the National Women’s Council of Ireland, the Poor Can’t Pay, the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland and the Community Platform – has already made a major impact on the issue of protecting low-paid workers with a Day of Shame protest outside the Dáil on 1st February, complete with an appearance by Big Jim Larkin (played by actor Jer O’Leary). Let us know Now they have written to more than 500 election canTaking the pledge: Dublin Central hopefuls, from left, Joe Costello, the responses didates requesting a Maureen O’Sullivan and Mary Lou McDonald you get either response on these key the pledge card and will be named and shamed. through Facebook Martin Brennan, a contract cleaner workissues for low paid workers. activists are now ing at Our Lady’s Hospital in Crumlin, All responses – whether set to focus on the page Fair Deal spoke at the Dáil protest and asked the positive or negative – will be remaining candifor Cleaners highlighted to the general dates standing in the question that all low paid workers want an or email us at answer to: “How will driving me and my public through press releases, constituency. family into poverty help the economy?” internet postings and a number At national level, firstname.lastname@example.org Hotel worker Bernie Casey was very clear of direct actions in key conattention will now turn to where the conservative parties about the position of ERO workers. stituencies. stand on this issue. She said: “We will ensure there will be A delegation of contract cleaners working no hiding place for politicians who will not It is already clear that Fianna Fáil and at Dublin Bus successfully lobbied Sinn sign our pledge. We will name and shame the Greens, which have authorised both Féin at its campaign launch, ensuring all all politicians who refuse to support low the cut to the minimum wage and the 41 party candidates signed the pledge. paid workers.” review of ERO rates will find it difficult to A large number of Labour Party candiSIPTU members can help the campaign support this campaign, while Fine Gael dates have also signed the pledge, as have candidates from the Workers Party and by raising the issue of the pledge in their have been ambivalent with regard to these New Left Alliance. local constituency, particularly if a issues. Already Dublin Central has been a particprospective TD should call to your door. Workers from the contract cleaning ular focus of the campaign because of the Cut out the pledge from this page and industry along with SIPTU representatives large number of contract cleaners living ask him/her to sign it. will be visiting candidates in key Dublin and working in the constituency. If they don’t sign the pledge, let them constituencies and asking them to sign the To date, candidates Joe Costello know they can expect to take the plunge pledge to protect low paid workers. They make no apologies for declaring (Labour), Mary Lou McDonald (SF) and on election day. that candidates who do not sign the pledge Maureen O’Sullivan (Ind) have all signed
Cut out and keep... in case they call
Fuel Poverty being stoked by energy market competition 14 2
FEBRUARY FEBRUARY 2011 2011
By PADRAIG YEATES
FUEL Poverty is growing as the price of fossil fuels soars, a special conference in Dublin Castle has been told. A total of 13,000 domestic customers were disconnected by energy companies in the Republic last year – compared with fewer than 10,000 in 2009. Delegates at the Energy Action conference on 7th and 8th February, sponsored by the ESB, were told this figure would have been higher but for the moratorium on disconnections introduced by the Government last December. Another 200,000 electricity and gas customers entered planning agreements to meet their bills in 2010. However, a moratorium is no more than a stay of execution – and, for some, not even that. Professor Christine Liddell of the University of Ulster told the conference that “excess” deaths from cold-related illnesses were being underestimated by about 25% in Northern Ireland. Dr Emer Begley, Social Inclusion and Policy Officer at Age Action Ireland, expressed similar concerns over mortality figures in the Republic and claimed Ireland probably had the highest “excess” death rate from cold-related illness in Europe. Brenda Boardman, Emeritus Fellow of Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute, underlined how our present energy market structures are not sustainable. She told delegates a lifetime of study had convinced her that liberalising energy markets led to increased fuel poverty. Low income households were often restricted in choice and reluctant to switch suppliers because they lacked the information to make informed decisions. This was especially true of the old, who “end up subsidising those who do switch
Heated debate: Delegates at conference heard of surge in Fuel Poverty in Ireland
by continuing to pay the higher tariffs”. Brenda Boardman said “older people don’t self-refer themselves to agencies that can help and they fail to take up benefits they are entitled to” while various grants and subsidy schemes were taken up by better-off households that did not need them. She claimed “weasel words” such as “vulnerable” were used to define households and encouraged a situation where governments introduced initiatives on the basis of their vote pulling power rather than their ability to target those most in need. Duncan Stewart, in another powerful
contribution, criticised Irish political parties’ approach to fuel poverty and singled out the Labour Party’s policy as the only one that came close to addressing the problem. Irish Times Environment Editor Frank McDonald condemned the lack of a national housing audit, which he claimed was a vital preliminary step towards tackling the problem. Jenny Livingstone, who is Energy Services Manager with NIE Energy, told the conference that while a third of households are experiencing fuel poverty in Northern Ireland, no customers had been disconnected for 10 years.
This was due to the introduction of Pay As You Go meters, which were popular across all socio-economic groups. Delegates were told that customers using meters reduced their energy consumption by an average of four per cent and found it easier to budget. Many delegates from community-based organisations felt that the ESB had the best approach to customers in debt and that the bringing in of competition had seen a jump in “debt-hopping” by desperate consumers. This had resulted in an insurmountable burden of debt for many.
‘Perserverance’ works at AES SIPTU sources have claimed old-fashioned “perserverance” – and an effective membership drive – have been particularly effective at organising Bord na Móna subsidiary Advanced Environment Solutions (AES). In little over 18 months, SIPTU has seen membership rise to 62% of the workforce. During that time, Energy Sector Organiser Greg Ennis and SIPTU Organiser Pat McCabe played key organising roles at AES, a firm that specialises in waste recycling. According to Greg Ennis, they used “perseverance” and an
increasing membership – “resulting in significant density” – before they approached management at AES to seek formal recognition. An official meeting between management and SIPTU officials then followed. An agreement was reached that membership contributions could be deducted at source. The right to represent individual members was also conceded. However, management refused to move on collective bargaining rights. Greg Ennis said: “Despite this, we continued to build density at various
AES facilities while still referring our claim for a collective bargaining procedural agreement to the Labour Relations Commission in March 2010.” The semi-State firm refused to attend the LRC to find a resolution and the union referred to matter to the Labour Court under Section 20 (1) of the Industrial Relations Act 1969. In July 2010, the Court recommended that “the company should recognise SIPTU for all industrial relations purposes including collective bargaining on the terms and conditions of
employment of its members.” The Court called on the parties “to meet at an early date for the purpose of concluding a procedural agreement for same.” AES finally accepted the Labour Court recommendation and a comprehensive procedural agreement was reached in November 2010. Currently, SIPTU Industrial Organiser Oliver McDonagh is making good use of the deal to improve conditions of work at AES particularly in relation to pay rate standardisation, sick
pay, unsocial hours payments, meal allowances and pensions. A union source added: “Efforts are continuing to conclude the complete organisation of AES.” Founded in 2001, AES specialises in waste management, skip hire and recycling services at various locations, including facilities at Drehid, Co Kildare, Rosslare, Co Wexford and Nenagh, Co Tipperary.
Workers to blame for economic crisis says Fine Gael
Photo: Photocall Ireland
SO Fine Gael believes that workers are as responsible as bankers, bond holders and property developers for the economic and financial crisis. It says so on the party’s website. “Unlike the other parties, Fine Gael will take on the big vested interests that have contributed to the current crisis – the bankers, the bondholders, the developers and the unions. And we will aggressively cut the waste in our public service to keep all taxes as low as possible.” The party which hopes to form the next Government has already made up its mind to scapegoat ordinary workers and those who depend on public services to meet its seriously unreal budget targets. By blaming workers and their unions for the crisis Fine Gael has signaled that they will be fair game for the massive privatisation and outsourcing
that the party is planning across the public service and the inevitable job losses across the wider economy that will result from its austerity programme. Despite a letter of complaint by Congress general secretary, David Begg, the party has kept the offensive remarks, attributed to finance spokesperson, Michael Noonan, on its site. In his reply, Michael Noonan stated he had been informed by the Director of Elections about the letter and that Fine Gael would contact him “directly on behalf of Enda and myself to explain the position.” “If we are fortunate enough to be in Government I look forward to a continued good working relationship with you,” he added in his letter of 8th February. With friends like that, who needs enemies?
ROSS HEDGES HIS BETS IN PUBLIC AND BUSINESS LIFE
Michael Noonan: Workers as much to blame as banks for crisis
SENATOR Shane Ross is one of those independent candidates Fine Gael hopes could help it into Government without having to rely on the Labour Party. The senator is also Business Editor at the Sunday Independent newspaper and specialises in attacking public sector workers and unions when he is not doing the real work of probing bad practices in banking and business. For many years he has worked out of his offices in the Oireachtas since becoming senator for Trinity College, Dublin. He is a former employee of Dublin stockbrokers Dillon & Waldron, which at the time was owned and run by the Murphy family of William Martin Murphy fame. He left the company when it was taken over by financier, Dermot Desmond. He has also maintained an active business life serving as nonexecutive chairman of SVM Global Fund and a non-executive director of both New Russia Fund and Baring Hedge Select Fund. Last year, he denied having a conflict of interest over another hedge fund he chaired before it went into voluntary liquidation. He told the Sunday Times he was unaware SVM Saltire Fund plc – of which he was non-executive chairman – held short positions in Irish bank shares at a time when he was publicly advocating against a ban on short-selling. Asked by the newspaper whether his position as Saltire’s €15,000-a-year chairman represented a conflict, he replied: “I had no input into the man-
Earning a crust or two...
ROSS earns more than €70,000 a year from his seat in the Seanad – and at least the same again working as a journalist. He also earns significant amounts from his business activities.
One to watch: Senator Shane Ross hopes to take a seat in Dublin South
agement of the fund. I didn’t even know it had any shorts. I’ve always been in favour of short-selling.” The practice whereby traders sold borrowed shares and bought them back at a profit when the price dropped was outlawed on 18th September, 2008, by the former financial regulator, Patrick Neary. About $3 trillion had been wiped from stocks globally that week and the practice of shortselling was being widely blamed. The prohibition applies to short-selling of stock in Bank of Ireland, Allied Irish Banks (AIB), Irish Life & Permanent and Anglo Irish Bank. The week the ban came in, Ross – a member of the Oireachtas committee on eco-
nomic and regulatory affairs – wrote: “I have news for poor Paddy the regulator: short-sellers are good guys.” The Saltire Fund held short positions on Bank of Ireland and AIB shares before the ban was introduced and continued to hold Bank of Ireland short positions 14 months later, in November 2009. The rules of the ban do not preclude the continuance of existing short positions. “If you think I’m conflicted, I should tell you I’m a shareholder in Bank of Ireland and have been for a very, very long time,” Ross said when asked about the matter last summer. The Saltire Fund was listed on the Irish Stock Exchange and managed by SVM Asset Management Ltd, based in
Picture: Photocall Ireland
Edinburgh. The fund was placed in voluntary liquidation in June 2010 (with a balance in the bank of €3.4 million available for redemptions) after recording a 26.3% drop in returns for the previous 12 months, compared with 19.7% growth in 2008. The other director of the fund was David Shubotham, the Switzerland-based Irish stockbroker and for many years an investor in Ireland’s bubbling property market. Ross is chairman of SVM Global Fund, Edinburgh, which has both retail and institutional clients. It puts an emphasis on investing in emerging countries as it believes the developed economies have taken on too much debt, according to its lat-
est annual report. SVM describes itself as a “multi-strategy fund of funds” that provides access to an international portfolio and to specialist funds including hedge and private equity funds. Ross receives a fee of £22,500 (€26,700) a year for his work and is also a shareholder. Ross is a director of two funds managed by Barings Bank in London. The Baring Hedge Select Fund is a $142 million Cayman Islands company listed on the Irish Stock Exchange. It aims for consistent returns and minimal volatility. He is also a director of the Baring Russia Fund – a $242 million Luxembourg-registered fund that concentrates on investing in Russian equities. One of its bigger investments is in the huge Russian energy company, Gazprom.In his declaration of members’ interests, Ross gives a London address for the two Baring funds. He recently told The Irish Times that he did so because they were managed from London, and pointed out that formerly he cited them as being resident in Luxembourg and the Cayman Islands. Ross has shares in Independent News & Media, the Bank of Ireland and National Toll Roads, according to the 2009 Oireachtas register of members’ interests. Standing in the Dublin South constituency he is one of a number of right wing economists running for election.
BIG NAME SIGNS UP FOR HOTEL SCHEME NEWS
Whites Hotel in Wexford
ONE of the great trade union success stories of recent times is the continued growth of the Fair Hotels Campaign and its website www.fairhotels.ie The site has seen a 20% increase in registered hotels and this trend continued last week with one of the biggest names in the industry – Whites of Wexford – signing up to the campaign. Whites of Wexford is one of the leading 4-star hotels in the country offering luxury accommodation in Wexford Town. Trade unions that require largescale conference facilities now have a quality addition to the Fair Hotels menu to choose from – this time in the sunny south east. The hotel offers facilities that can accommodate up to 1,000 people in a theatre-style setting,
and also boasts some of the finest leisure and spa facilities in the country, including their cryotherapy clinic, as used by the Irish rugby team. SIPTU Sector Organiser Pat Ward spoke of his delight at the hotel’s decision to sign the Fair Hotels Access and Neutrality Agreement. He said: “I want to welcome Whites of Wexford signing up. It bodes well for the future of the workforce, of the hotel, and of the region. The hotel boasts first-class facilities with a workforce to match.” The agreement provides for recognition of SIPTU for collective
bargaining as well as a commitment to remain neutral in the face of union organising. There is also provision for access to staff on paid time for organisers from the union’s Strategic Organising Department. SIPTU’s Fair Hotel Organiser Kevin Glackin was keen to stress the influence of the MANDATE in brokering the deal. Responding to this, MANDATE General Secretary John Douglas said he was “delighted” to work in solidarity with SIPTU in support of hotel workers. He added: “I would call to all trade unions to continue to work together and use the leverage of our combined purchasing power to support existing Fair Hotels and encourage others to join the Fair Hotels Campaign.”
John Douglas: Solidarity in action
Historic Wynn for Fair Hotels!
THE Fair Hotels Campaign got off to a flying start to the year by another star signing to its ranks – the historic Wynn’s Hotel, situated on Lower Abbey Street, Dublin. Wynn’s, with a history stretching back to 1845, joins a growing list of reputable hotels throughout the country that have committed to the principles of union recognition and fairness at work. Hotel management signed the Fair Hotels Agreement on 23rd December 2010. The agreement provides for recognition of SIPTU for collective bargaining as well as a commitment to remain neutral in the face of union organising. There is also provision for access to staff on paid time for SIPTU Organiser Kevin Glackin from the union’s Strategic Organising Department. Outlining the next steps in the process, he said: “We will now have conversations with all the workers, helping them realise that being organised and acting collectively as union members is the most effective way of having power in their workplace. “By forming an in-house committee and receiving the appropriate training from the Organising Department, these workers will be able to deal with issues locally and influence the decision making process in their hotel.” Highlighting the assistance received from the IMPACT trade union over the campaign, Kevin Glackin added: “I wish to take the opportunity to acknowledge the role of Margaret Coughlan, Vice President of IMPACT, in helping to broker the agreement between SIPTU and the hotel." Reacting to the news, Wynn’s Hotel Night Porter Willy Redmond said: “I am delighted
Pat Ward: Bodes well for the future
that Wynn’s have joined the Fair Hotels’ campaign and will recognise SIPTU for bargaining purposes. “This will give us the chance to have a real voice in the workplace. We also look forward to the trade union business that will now be coming our way.” Situated yards from O’Connell Street in Dublin, the hotel had been missing out on custom from trade unions in recent years, but this is set to change for 2011. Wynn’s Hotel will be now be listed on the union’s Fair Hotels booking website www.fairhotels.ie. The site continues to go from strength to strength offering great deals across some of the best hotels in the country. Welcoming the decision by Wynn’s to join the campaign, Sector Organiser Ethel Buckley said: “The Fair Hotels strategy of encouraging consumers to make an informed choice and choose hotels that treat staff fairly is now paying dividends for workers in the industry. “Since we adopted this strategy in the summer of 2009, nine additional hotels have agreed to recognise the union for collective bargaining. This represents a 20% increase in the number of hotels which recognise their staffs’ right to be represented by the union. “Every hotel that signs on for the campaign is good for hotel workers but the addition of Wynn’s in particular will be welcomed by campaign supporters. “Wynn’s has long been a hotel of choice for trade unionists and other progressive groups for meetings and overnights. We are delighted to be in a position to promote Wynn’s Hotel as a Fair Hotel.”
Wynn’s Hotel in Dublin
Migrant Rights Centre Ireland is a national organisation working to promote justice, empowerment and equality for migrant workers and their families. For more information on our work & campaigns visit our new website: www.mrci.ie
50 years of struggle for ILO recognition By AOIFE SMITH
DOMESTIC worker organisations and trade unions have been battling to get domestic work on to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) agenda for the last 50 years. In 2008, the battle finally paid off and at present the negotiation process is well underway. But many challenges lie ahead in the coming months before domestic workers can claim victory and have their employment rights recognised and protected by legally-binding international standards. Despite providing essential roles in society by enabling others to work outside the family home, the valuable work of childminders, cleaners and carers of the elderly is undervalued and underpaid. Getting domestic work recognised as work is one of the major struggles of domestic workers’ movements, globally. In some countries, domestic work is completely excluded from the protection of labour laws. Millions of women and girls around the world are domestic workers. They are recognised as some of the most abused and exploited workers. Isolated behind closed doors, many “invisible workers” suffer abuse at the hands of their employers. Wage exploitation, long working hours, forced labour, sex-
ual, physical and psychological abuse and harassment are all common. The domestic work sector needs specific legislation to protect this historically neglected group. The Domestic Workers Action Group (DWAG), supported by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, has been campaigning for the rights and dignity of domestic workers in Ireland since 2004. DWAG and ICTU are mobilising support for a strong rights-based ILO Convention. DWAG is campaigning together with domestic worker organisations internationally to ensure that domestic workers’ voices are being fairly represented in the process to ensure the final instrument protects the rights of all domestic workers, regardless of their immigration status or whether they are employed by a diplomat – two contentious issues in current discussions. The reality is migrant women make up a significant proportion of domestic workers globally and any discussions will have to consider their situations. DWAG believes that a person’s immigration status should never be allowed to be used to deny a worker their rights – this is a morally indefensible argument. The campaigning will come to a head in Geneva in June 2011, when the standard will be discussed and finalised, hopefully taking the form of an international convention supplemented by a set of recommendations.
Our task now is to negotiate and convince the Government to commit to supporting a convention that is both effective and ratifiable. This campaign for the rights and recognition of domestic workers needs to be made visible. In the build up to June, we need to strengthen alliances, as lobbying the Government into responding positively is a priority. The collaboration between trade unions and NGOs with regard to domestic workers is a model of how, with common vision, workers’ organisations can be strengthened and contribute towards building a dynamic labour movement. We invite the trade union movement to join us in a global campaign for decent work and rights for domestic workers by organising and supporting our actions to put pressure on the government to vote for a meaningful rights-based ILO Convention. 8th March – the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day – is marked across the globe as a “Global Call to Action” for this campaign. Worldwide, trade unions and domestic workers’ organisations will use this opportunity to raise awareness for rights and dignity for domestic workers in calling for a convention. Aoife Smith is DWAG co-ordinator with MRCI.
For more info on this campaign visit www.domesticworkerrights.org / www.mrci.ie/Domestic-Workers/ or email email@example.com
(01) 889 7070 / firstname.lastname@example.org / 55 Parnell Square West, Dublin 1
MIGRANT DOMESTIC WORKERS IN IRELAND
THE FACTS • 40% of domestic workers surveyed do not have an employment contract. • 38% are paid under the minimum wage (with severe cases as low as €2 per hour.) • 42% do not receive payslips. • Two thirds of those surveyed experienced exploitation as a domestic worker in Ireland. • 30% work Sundays and Bank holidays without extra pay or a day off. • 44% raised a complaint with their employer about their unfair treatment and long working hours but their concern was ignored and nothing changed. (Results taken from a 2010 DWAG survey)
OPINION & COMMENT
CATASTROPHE CAN STILL BE AVOIDED February 2011
THIS general election will almost certainly decide the and top business professionals who have always constifuture for many years to come. It is now clear from all tuted Fine Gael’s core vote. Balanced Government can the opinion polls that there are only three possible out- work. The last time we had such an administration was during the period between 1992 and 1997. It saw the comes: a Fine Gael majority Government, a minority abolition of third-level education fees, Fine Gael Government depending on the highest increase in child benefit in a few right-wing independents, or a the history of the State, the generation Labour/Fine Gael Government. of 1,000 new jobs per week between The first two would be decidedly 1994 and 1997 (without creating a bad for working people and their bubble). families. Fine Gael, without the After accomplishing it, all the public moderating effect of Labour, would finances were handed over in pristine go about wage cutting, and the privatisation and the dismantlement of condition by the only Labour Party public services on an unprecedentMinister for Finance the country has ed scale. ever had – Ruairi Quinn. Tragically the It would be worse for working peoPDs and Fianna Fáil went on to ruin it. The outgoing administration has ple and their families than anything divided the country, between public envisaged in its manifesto because and private, rural and urban. their sums are out by €5bn. This The first thing that must be done is would mean even more savage tax to heal these divisions. Then the and cutting measures. whole of our society must be mobilised This catastrophe can still be to tackle the enormous problems left avoided. The only way of doing so now is by voting for Labour Party SIPTU General President by Fianna Fáil and the PDs. Of the three alternatives that remain candidates first and continuing and President of Congress available, (based on the opinion polls), preference votes down the ballot this can only be achieved by a balanced Government paper to all other candidates representing parties that are committed to social solidarity. reflecting the interests of working people as well as the This would result in Fine Gael having to deal with business community and other sectors. We can still make it happen by voting Labour and Labour to obtain a majority of the seats in the Dáil. then continuing our preferences right down the line to Labour in Government will not be able to create the other parties that are committed to the principles Utopia. However, at very least it would mean parity of of social solidarity. The future is in our hands. esteem for working people with the rancher farmers
By JACK O’CONNOR
Liberty is published by the Services, Industrial, Professional & Technical Union, LIberty Hall, Dublin 1 SIPTU General President, Jack O’Connor • Vice President, Patricia King • General Secretary, Joe O’Flynn Production: SIPTU Communications Department, Liberty Hall, Dublin 1 • Tel: 01 8588217 • Email: email@example.com SIPTU Head of Communications, Frank Connolly • Design: Sonia Slevin (SIPTU) & Joe Mitchell (Brazier Media) • Publications Assistant, Deirdre Price • Administrative Assistant, Karen Hackett Produced, designed, edited and printed by trade union labour • Printed and distributed by The Irish Times, City West, Dublin.
OPINION & COMMENT
Change is in your hands, now go and vote for it...
Courtesy of Martyn Turner and The Irish Times.
By SUSAN O’KEEFFE
SO WE want change – the magic sixletter word that will erase the past and enhance the future. Political parties would give their right arm to have the kind of profile that this word has at the moment but as we know only too well, profile is no replacement for concrete reality. But what do we want when we say that word? What do we mean? The truth is we want everything to change – back to the way it was when we had money in our pockets and our young people had jobs. Wishing for
the past is safe because the devil you know is certainly more attractive than wishing for the kind of change we need now, even though we know we need it. But when people talk on the doors and in the pubs, a hint of what kind of change we want emerges. The first is that we all would like the chance to see the architects of our downfall be made accountable for the damage that has been inflicted on every family in this country. This subject makes people apoplectic but, of course, tighter laws and greater powers of financial investigation are required to bring that result. We see politicians and business people in the US and the UK pay the price for their actions by going to jail. So far, the mountain of debt and destruction has not dragged one single person into court in this country, never mind prison. This must change. The nation’s debt is the second area where voters show
their anger and their desire for a change. They don’t talk about it in economic terms. Rather, people shake their heads and say “nothing can be done” or “the country is ruined” or “we’ve been sold out”. What they really mean is they feel their own lives have been torn apart, that their children and grandchildren are leaving, their houses are worth nothing and their pay cheques don’t meet the bills. People know too that the money they are giving up isn’t even going to good purpose. The kind of change required to tackle this problem is on a scale we have never experienced. The country is in new territory and negotiating a path through it will require skill, tenacity and a new honesty. It must be said that, since the debt mountain is still growing, the outcome cannot be predicted but it is clear that the current deal will not hold once the new debt reality emerges. Tight robust regulation of the financial sector must be the change for the future.
Events of the past four years have revealed the great gap between ruler and ruled
Banks are not gambling organisations and their systemic importance to our economy must be recognised with enforceable rules and laws. The state of politics itself is the third most common call for change on the doors. Events during the past four years have revealed the ruler and the ruled and the great gap between the two. Voters have been betrayed by this Government and are demanding change to the way Government carries out its business – from pay and pensions, through electoral reform to vouched expenses and full accountability. There is no going back now. The change will be hard and slow and it must be more than skin deep. We need to want a society where jobs are won because of what you know, not who you know. We need to know that planning laws cannot be twisted by brown envelopes. We need to reject the culture of quiet phone calls to the gardai or the heads of government departments to drop investigations or complaints. And, above all, we need honest, decent people to stand up and drive this change.
Susan O’Keeffe is a journalist and the Labour Party candidate for Sligo/North Leitrim
The diary of a Southside Senator Tuesday
Friday I have become a member of the Twiterrati. (Ed: But you were always a twit). From the Cayman Islands to Carrickmines, I can tweet to my heart’s content. It means that not one thought shall go unpublished. My loyal followers in Talbot Towers will know my every move. Anguish says he should have thought of it years ago. How they chuckle when I tweet about my experience on the doorstep. One apparently charming voter came to the door carrying my book, ‘Wasters’. He wanted his money back. I knew by the look of him he was voting for Labour so I did not waste time arguing with someone whose taste in books and politicians is so dodgy.
Saturday My policy on cronyism is going down a storm. As I said: “Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael are mirror images based on families, not political argument.” The problem with tweeting is that they can tweet back. One twit had the temerity to tweet: “Ross, you are the son of a senator, John N Ross. You can’t talk about dynasties. And you were elected to serve the rotten borough of Trinity College”. How dare anyone suggest that there is a comparison between the Cowens, Coughlans, Lenihans and Kennys and the blue-blooded Ross dynasty. Trinity is a class apart.
Sunday Imagine my surprise. I picked up a copy of the Fine Gael manifesto in Centra – bright, glossy and very similar to my own sensible approach to the public sector. When I got home I discovered it was in fact the Sindo! They must have got the idea from the Mail’s stunt of imitating the Sunday Tribune. Last time out, the Sindo sided with Bertie but Kenny’s the man this time round. Pity about the Tribune but Anto had to pull the plug. You have to hand it to the boys – timing is everything. Not one candidate will take on a powerful media group during an election campaign.
The big debate. Enda is hiding in Leitrim. Martin keeps going on about his old man being a champion but he himself is more of a shadow boxer. He certainly packed no punch at the cabinet table and now it seems MM was a closet revolutionary. Gilmore is very restrained – I think he’s afraid that if he raises his voice, Browne will accuse him of doing a Burton!
Wednesday To the studios of Prime Time where the focus is on the economy. The scene is set by an interview with Brian Lucey from Trinity (where else?). I’m on the panel and I am from Trinity (where else?). By a coincidence Constantin Gurdgiev is on the panel. And you guessed it – Gurdgiev lectures in Trinity. That is not all we have in common. Constantin and Brian are both supporting Paul Sommerville who is standing in Dublin South East. With any luck Sommerville and Ross could hold the country to ransom – sorry, hold the balance of power. It was a compelling debate and while we might differ a bit on small issues, we really are ideological bedfellows. Prime Time forgot to mention that the two amigos are actually supporting a candidate, which is just as well. Balance and objectivity can go too far.
Thursday The Irish Times just announced a new platform in the Saturday magazine for a South side pain in the arse with pretensions. My supporters were thrilled until I pointed out that Ross is the first name of a guy called O’Carroll Kelly, who can be genuinely funny and does not actually think public servants are the lowest form of human life.
Friday I have helped shape the agenda. Kenny and Bruton are turning on the public service and on the unions. The opinion polls show that Kenny could form a single party government, with a little help from his friends. The quangos are going to be abolished. Yipee!
The Irish Times has been doing some digging. Why do they insist on revealing that I am non-executive chairman of SVM Global Fund, Edinburgh? It’s my business that I earn €26,700 a year for this invaluable work. This guy Keena also tells readers that I am a director of two Cayman Island based funds managed by Barings Bank in London. Surely it’s to my credit that I can undertake this unselfish missionary work while serving as a parliamentarian and a business editor. I must admit it is a chore keeping so many balls in the air but the returns are worth it.
Congress is asking difficult questions about accountability and transparency. They say that if we get rid of independent watchdogs and enforcement agencies, employment laws will be breached, health and safety regulations ignored and workers will suffer. Naked self-interest, that’s what this stuff is all about. All they care about is the workers. Do they not know we have an economy to restore?
A great way for kids to learn about the 1913 Dublin Lock-out The historical events of the Dublin 1913 Lockout vividly portrayed through the lives of two young friends… Liam and Nora form an unlikely friendship when he lends her a helping hand during a music competition. When Jim Larkin takes on the might of the employers in 1913, resulting in strikes, riots and lockouts, Liam and Nora's friendship is challenged and their loyalties torn. Caught up in events that they don't fully understand, the two come face-to-face with hardship and danger, but also find humour and generosity as they set out on an adventure that may make or break their friendship, but will definitely change their lives forever.
Across the Divide by Brian Gallagher,
published by The O’Brien Press. Available from all good bookshops priced €7.99
OPINION & COMMENT
EVERYONE I meet seems to be thinking of the coming election mainly as a means of giving Fianna Fáil a bloody nose. All well and good, but that’s going to happen anyway. We need to think past the politics of revenge and ask a much harder question: what kind of government is likeliest to improve the living conditions of ordinary people, create jobs and restore hope to a shattered nation. All of the polls seems to point to a Fine Gael-led government, most likely in coalition with Labour — though there is a chance that if enough right-wing independents are elected and the numbers add up then FG would attempt to form a government with the help of those independents. It seems to me clear that this will land the country in a worse mess than we’re in at present. It is an iron law of politics that right-wing governments are addicted to the proposition that the poor must pay. FG has made it clear that there will be no wealth tax – this speaks for itself. There will be a move away from universal health care paid for from revenues to a system of purchased health insurance. Ask yourself, is €500 a year for health insurance the same thing
By THEO DORGAN
Enda the road: Fine Gael governing with the help of right-wing independents will land us in a worse mess
for a bus driver as it is for a barrister? FG says that local authorities, under the guise of being empowered, will be funded from property taxes and charges for utilities such as water. Ask yourself, if a bank manager and a hospital porter are each paying the same amount for water, who can least afford it? And so on. Taxes on goods and services always hit the poor and the unemployed hardest of all. Even on their published proposals, then, FG are making it clear that it is not in the best interests of working people to vote for them. So what about their job creation programme? Everything I have read suggests to me that in government FG will have a double perspective on this – any efforts they make to create jobs will be linked to a determined attempt to drive down wages, in the private sector as well as in the public sector. More, I firmly believe they will bow to EU pressure to cancel all existing agreements on rates for the job, and put employees at the mercy of employers whose offer will be: your job at lower pay or the dole?
Right-wing governments are addicted to the proposition that the poor must pay
So, nobody in their right mind will vote for FF this time out, and only turkeys who can’t wait for Christmas will vote FG. There is a real hunger for change in the country, and there will be, I suspect, a big vote for independents this time out — but we need to take a long cool look at these independents, and vote only for those who will not support a FG government. Sinn Féin? FG will never bring SF into government, so if you believe that FG will be the principal partner in the coming government, you have to ask yourself if a vote for SF is, in the narrow sense, a wasted vote — though a strong SF contingent in the Dáil will at the very least act as some kind of thorn in the side of a right-wing government. The best hope, it seems to me, of tempering the worst excesses of a government led by FG is to force them into coalition with the strongest possible Labour representation. To keep Labour honest, it seems to me prudent to vote
Theo Dorgan is a writer and poet Courtesy: The Irish Times Nov. 2010
for SF, ULA and left independents in places where they also have a good chance of being elected. In any case, I see this as an interim election. We are in the middle of a great debate about the need for radical change in how we imagine and how we manage our battered Republic. The most urgent political task facing us now is to keep this debate alive through the change of regime.
Picture: PhotoCall Ireland
Fine Gael ruling the roost will make turkeys of us all
Vote for those with progressive agendas OPINIONNEWS & COMMENT
HAVE you noticed how few women candidates are calling to your door? Every street lamppost is overburdened with politicians’ posters. There are very few women’s faces looking out for our number one. Ireland already stands 23rd out of 27 European countries in terms of the representation of women in Parliament. Only 13% of current TDs are women. It’s going to get worse. A mere 16% of the candidates in the current election are women. The homogeneity of our political representation is a problem. It is not just, it is not democratic and it is not effective. Claiming Our Future has launched a petition calling for action to ensure this cannot happen again. Sign up to the petition on www.claimingourfuture.ie so we can present a strong demand to the incoming Government for immediate action to legislate that full public funding under the Electoral Act is only available to parties which select no more than two-thirds of their candidates from one gender. The five party leaders debated their priorities on RTE on 14th February for an hour-and-a-half. Women were mentioned once (Green Party). Equality was mentioned once (Sinn Fein) and fairness got mentioned once (Labour Party). People on lower incomes also got one mention (Sinn Fein). None of these references were substantive – all were in passing. Environmental sustainability fared worse with passing mention only made by the Green Party. Participation and participative forms of democracy did not even get a mention. This debate further underscored a disenfranchisement of those parts of civil society advocating a more equal, environmen-
Picture: Conor Healy Photography
and parties that will take steps to advance equality, participation and environmental sustainability. However, action over a longer term outside of politics to build the demand for these values is going to be crucial. We need a strong and effective civil society force, involving trade unionists, environmental activists and community activists among others, to inform this demand and to provide a framework to demonstrate the support for equality, environmental sustainability and participation in decision making. Claiming Our Future is working to develop this civil society force through deliberative assemblies and campaigns. The first focus will be income equality with an assembly on this topic being planned in Galway for April. Initiatives are envisaged on public sector renewal for efficiency, integration and equality, political reform to embrace representative and participative democracy and establishing a new model of development for economic security and environmental and social sustainability.
It is important to vote for candidates and parties that will take steps to advance equality, participation and environmental sustainability
By NIALL CROWLEY
tally sustainable and participative Ireland. This is why Claiming Our Future recalled the Back Lane Parliament on 9th February. In 1792, it was called to demand an end to the disenfranchisement of Catholics. In 2011, it was called to demand an end to this disenfranchisement of civil society. This is why local activists are organising meetings around the country under the banner of Claiming Our Future to ask the candidates in their areas what they have
to offer in terms of equality, environmental sustainability and participation. Our votes do count and politics is key to defining a different future. Claiming Our Future has prepared and disseminated notes to assist a questioning of the canvassers and candidates calling to our doors (available on www.claimingourfuture.ie). A poster of the policy priorities identified at the Claiming Our Future assembly held late last year is also available. It is important to vote for candidates
Dependent on kindness of strangers
THE traditional Irish belief in the healing power of time and the ‘Goodness of God’ is being severely strained by the present debt crisis. Rather than getting better, the problem of the banks is daily becoming more acute and more intractable while the word ‘bailout’ is quickly losing any real meaning for the domestic economy. Foolish predictions that two years of political manoeuvring has moderated the impact has absolutely no credibility on the electoral doorsteps and the economy, already in the worst place it has been in living memory, lurches deeper into the gloom. As the the Election 2011 campaign is proceeding into its final phase, the economic data becoming available offers little hope of any political fix. Politicians, never anxious to dwell for too long on the pessimistic side, are nevertheless confronted by a number of economic commentaries forecasting slower than expected economic growth, deteriorating prospects and significantly, in the case of Goodbody Stockbrokers, a prediction that the current IMF/EU bailout is
By MARTIN FITZPATRICK
something the country cannot afford. This, in turn, has led to a chorus of voices, not just from the extreme ends of the political spectrum, crying out for a default on the banking rescue debt which now also happens to be State debt. This is a worrying clamour because even the smartest commentators cannot agree precisely where a default will take the economy. No one seems sure, (or in the electoral climate, is prepared to admit) what would happen to the cost of future borrowings if the Government began to “burn the banks”. Nor is there any confidence about how long the State would be saddled with that increased costs burden. If, as some suggest, it would go into generations, the price would be a heavy one. It is also not possible to say what impact such an extreme decision would have on the value of private assets in the medium term.
The international model provided by defaulters of the past is not an especially propitious one. The only certainty is that the default is likely to bring a mixed bag of troubles, which is not what the electorate currently craves. Compared to any other recessions in living memory, the present one is already marked by its length, its breadth and the fact that the heaping of large dollops of austerity on all sectors of society is not making things even remotely better. The feeling that the crisis is creeping up on the public and is relentlessly biting at the heels of the tax payer, has been reinforced by the disappearance of many tens of billion of euro in deposits from the Irish banks starting at the end of last summer and becoming a flood in October. This, at a stroke, made the banks insolvent and illiquid. So protected were the banks by Government guarantees that the country is
Niall Crowley is former Chief Executive of the Equality Authority
now also broke and cashless and in every sense dependent on the kindness of strangers. This painful experience has helped the electorate, perhaps for the first time, come into an election fully equipped with the necessary information to challenge candidates, and for this reason the political discourse has been more measured. There have been no reassurances that “things will be grand.” Clearly they won’t. It seems clear that the first item on any new agenda will be to ease the terms of the so-called bailout. This will be so much harder to achieve than it would have been in the past. Our European partners, in spite of Enda Kenny’s fizzy water tête-à-tête with Angela Merkel on St Valentine’s day, are likely to be more interested in playing hardball than ‘footsie.’ Emboldened conservatives are using the ‘austerity’ word again. Brace yourself.
Martin Fitzpatrick is a former business correspondent witht the Sunday Independent
STATE SECTOR PRIVATISATION – 20 Liberty FEBRUARY 2011
The party is committed to state enterprise and it will use the commercial State companies as a key part of the recovery. It will oppose the privatisation of these companies.
Fine Gael is committed to expanding some State utilities (possibly with private involvement) but it does support full or partial privatisation of these companies.
Stimulating the economy
Investment in State companies...
The party’s proposed Strategic Investment Bank would play a key role in stimulating economic activity. It would:
“Under Fine Gael’s NewERA plan, streamlined and restructured semi-State companies will invest an additional €7 billion, over and above current plans, over the next four years in ‘next generation’ infrastructures in energy, broadband, forestry and water.”
“Be a key lender to small and medium sized businesses as well as innovative firms. It would also work closely with the Enterprise Agencies to facilitate high-potential firms.” “It would… support investment in large infrastructure and infrastructure-related projects.”
...financed by privatisation
“Over time, we… propose to finance the investment programme from the sale of certain State assets. We will only sell State assets, however, if the sale coheres with the following principles: “The asset is not a monopoly or of strategic importance to the State. We will not repeat the mistake of Eircom by selling off a strategic asset which is a natural monopoly. As a result, we would retain ESB Networks and Eirgrid (which we will merge) and the national electricity grid in majority state ownership along with Bord Gais Networks, Coillte and Bord na Mona.”
Job creation Labour is proposing to establish a Jobs Fund of €500m to grow employment and skills training. It also proposes a “greater emphasis” on the contribution of indigenous firms to economic growth.
The Fine Gael manifesto says a “trade sale” of Bord Gais Energy, ESB Power Generation and ESB Supply could raise €4bn, quoting an estimate from Davy Stockbrokers (would Davy handle the sales?). Even if the amount raised matched that figure, it would be a once off sum that the State would receive in return for a loss of strategic control over key areas of the economy.
It sees clear potential for job creation in the energy sector: “Labour believes that the right energy policies could deliver 80,000 jobs in various sectors. For example, a National Retrofit Programme of the estimated 1.2 million homes in need of improving their energy efficiency has the potential to employ up to 30,000 construction workers.” Equally, a focus on innovation and research would involve merging existing bodies into:
The manifesto explicitly states that Fine Gael “sees no impediment to selling”: • • • •
Bord Gais Energy ESB Power Generation (excluding the hydro plants) The ESB Customer Supply Companies RTE NL (the network that transmits and distributes RTE output - TV and Radio)
“the Innovation Strategy Agency (ISA)... whose role will be to stimulate technology-enabled innovation in the areas which offer the greatest scope for boosting growth and productivity.” The ISA would see the creation of Technology Research Centres that would be “located in appropriate higher-education institutions”. The party advocates... “a new industrial policy that will promote and support a number of strategic sectors of the economy, including, but not confined to the following: cleantech, creative industries, education, internet services/ cloud–computing, food, tourism, retail sector.”
Non-Commercial Semi State Bodies (NCSSBs)
Privatising public transport Fine Gael takes a similar attitude to public transport networks. The manifesto explicitly states: Delivery of transport services will be opened up by:
The Labour manifesto pledges a “spending and waste” audit of the sector: “….each body being required to justify its continued existence outside of its parent department. Remaining NCSSBs will be required to be properly accountable to the Oireachtas. Labour is proposing a series of amalgamations of NCSSBs that will both save money and achieve greater policy coherence. These include utilities regulation, equality, tourism, industrial development, broadcasting and housing policy.”
Labour is unambiguously supportive of State companies and states explicitly that it will oppose privatisation. It also states that it will utilise these major companies in a drive to bring Ireland out of the deep recession.
• Mandating the National Transport Regulator to open up bus routes in Dublin and elsewhere to competitive tendering from alternative providers; • Opening up the use of publicly owned bus stations to facilitate competition and user choice; and • Commissioning an examination of the feasibility and benefits of terminal competition at Dublin Airport as recommended by ESRI.
Local Authority Waste Services
The party is also explicit with regard to these key services: “And also making all local authority waste services contestable, and consistent with a National Strategy”
HOW MAIN PARTIES LINE UP... ELECTION 2011
Privatisation in the public services
The party manifesto also sees potential in the public sector and sees the “the opportunity for private tender to deliver back-office activities within the public service.” It continues: “In each of the areas where Fine Gael develops, under Reinventing Government, consolidated Public Service delivery, a private sector bid will be developed for some of the service.”
The Fianna Fáil manifesto is poor on detail with regard to the future of State companies. In the past, under Sean Lemass, the party built up this key indigenous commercial sector and saw it playing a major role in the Irish economy. However, since its ideological ‘capture’ by the Progressive Democrats in the 1990s, that attitude has changed dramatically. In addition, the terms of reference for the McCarthy group betray a clear preference for further privatisation of State assets and it can only be assumed that Fianna Fáil would maintain that stance, if in government.
Plans for other State bodies
Fine Gael will appoint a committee to examine the cost base of the semi-States and to recommend ways to reduce costs and improve efficiencies in each company. The manifesto also says that a Fine Gael Government would merge the Competition Authority, the National Consumer Agency (NCA), the Communications Regulator (ComReg), the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) and the Commission for Energy Regulation (CER) into a powerful new Competition and Utilities Commission.
While Fine Gael will invest in utility networks under its NewERA holding company – specifically in the areas of water, broadband and energy – the party plans the privatisation of state assets, including key State companies. Indeed, party policy demands a large amount of money from privatisation in order to keep direct taxation “low” for high earners or to pay off national debt and the bank bailout.
While it has published few specifics on the role of the commercial State sector, in general the party has been supportive of these important indigenous companies. Sinn Fein advocates the transfer of €7billion from the National Pension Reserve Fund (NPRF) for a state-wide investment programme (stimulus). The manifesto makes reference to growing the Agri-Food Sector and improving communications infrastructure: “Augment the current National Broadband Scheme to provide a fibre-optic island-wide network. Fast-track the €435 million spend so that it is delivered beginning in 2011 instead of 2013.” The manifesto also says that: “Sinn Féin would reverse cuts to public services and social welfare introduced in Budget 2011.”
Sinn Féin is also thin on detail on state companies for Election 2011. However, in general the party has been supportive of the sector.
Once committed to state enterprise, Fianna Fail has actually carried out the privatisation of many of State companies and in Government it would be likely to privatise more. This is clear from the loaded terms of reference it set for the Review Group on State Assets. The group – chaired by Colm McCarthy – is expected to report soon. Those terms are worth quoting in full: “To consider the potential for asset disposals in the public sector, including commercial State bodies, in view of the indebtedness of the State. “To draw up a list of possible asset disposals. “To assess how the use and disposition of such assets can best help restore growth and contribute to national investment priorities. “To review where appropriate, relevant investment and financing plans, commercial practices and regulatory requirements affecting the use of such assets in the national interest.”
While the Green Party is supportive of the public transport sector – which contains a number of State companies, the party supported the loaded terms of reference set for the Review Group on State Assets. It seems to favour ‘competition’ rather than public control of key commercial assets. The party has a comprehensive policy on Energy, which includes transport. This focuses on alternative energy production and use and would have major implications for the ESB and Bord Gais, although there are few specifics spelt out.
They are no less than a charter for privatisation. Over the years Fianna Fáil policy has undertaken a huge programme of privatisation: in Government the party has sold off Eircom, Irish Ferries, Irish Sugar, Irish Life, Irish Steel, B&I, INPC, ACC/ICC and Aer Lingus. But it was the Fianna Fáil/ PD privatisation of Eircom that was the real failure. That sorry tale of asset stripping and value destruction is outlined in Learning from the Eircom Debacle, published by Congress, and available at: http://www.ictu.ie/publications/fulllist/learning-from-the-eircom-debacle
The Green Party’s strong pro-public transport bias would thus be supportive of many State companies. For example, it proposes to: “Extend the proposed orbital Metro eastwards from Ballymun to Baldoyle to serve this rapidly developing northern fringe area of the city; Extend the city centre Metro south from St Stephen’s Green to connect at Beechwood station from which point the Luas and Metro trams would share Luas Line B; Extend the Metro south from Cherrywood to follow a direct route to Bray...” etc. The party appears to opt for “small co-operative forestry enterprises” that would perhaps challenge Coillte “as part of a decentralised state system”.
The Green Party manifesto contains few specifics on plans for State companies. Nonetheless, the policies pursued by the party while in Government – light touch regulation, low personal and corporate taxation, the disastrous bank guarantee – caused enormous harm.
22 Liberty FEBRUARY 2011
The following questionnaire was sent only to those political parties that are seeking to participate in the formation of a Government. 1. What are your Party’s proposals to generate investment for job creation? Labour is advancing a comprehensive package of measures to promote employment, including Labour’s proposal for a Strategic Investment Bank that would initially act as a vehicle to invest €2.8 billion from the pension reserve fund. We would then invest a further €2billion to capitalise the bank, which would drive investment in the Irish economy on an on-going basis. Our economic plan also includes a €500m Jobs Fund to support initiatives to get unemployed people back to work, education and training.
8. What is your Party’s attitude to selling off commercial semi-state companies? Labour is opposed to selling off commercial semi-state companies and state assets. Labour believes that the state companies have a significant role to play in economic recovery, since they can leverage resources to develop new enterprises and expand existing ones, thereby increasing employment. Labour recognises the strategic importance of utilities, such as power generation, airports, sea ports, etc., in an island country, and does not favour relinquishing control of them. Labour is utterly opposed to the proposal to sell Coillte.
2. Did your Party agree with the imposition of a €6bn adjustment in Budget 2011? No. Labour argued that the €6billion frontloaded adjustment was too great a risk to jobs and growth.
9. Will your Party commit to maintain the Registered Employment Agreement system and the Employment Regulation Order mechanism? Labour has consistently opposed efforts to resolve the economic crisis at the expense of vulnerable workers. Labour is in favour of improving the efficiency and responsiveness of the system. However, the Party will strongly oppose efforts to dismantle it or render it useless from the point of view of employment protection. Good employers should have nothing to fear from the maintenance of a level playing field. In particular, Labour will ensure that the Joint Labour Committees are independently chaired and that the chairperson will retain a casing vote.
3. Did your Party go along with the inclusion of Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society in the Bank credit guarantee of September 2008? No, Labour was the only party in the Dáil to vote against the blanket guarantee for the Banks. 4. Does your Party believe the burden of economic adjustment is being fairly distributed, or should the wealthy contribute more? Labour has proposed a fair and balanced approach to the necessary economic adjustment, calling for an extension to the time limit for adjustment, a better balance between cuts and revenue raising, and reform to ensure fair taxation. Labour has made a clear commitment that no-one with a single income of less than €100,000 will pay more income tax. 5. What specific commitments and reassurances is your Party prepared to offer PAYE workers in the matter of personal taxation? Labour has long argued for a fair and balanced tax structure in Ireland. Labour does not support further impositions of income tax on people on middle and modest incomes in the period 2012-2014 and propose that no increase in income tax will be imposed on people earning less than €100,000. 6. Will your Party honour the terms of the Croke Park Agreement? Yes. 7. What is your Party’s position on further privatisation and/or outsourcing of the Health Service? Labour is committed to retaining the not-for-profit ethos in the Health Service and our plan for Universal Health Insurance has been developed on this basis. Labour is committed to developing a health service based on stronger primary care and an end to the two-tier system.
10. Will your Party commit to legislate to provide workers with an entitlement to participate in collective bargaining and for recognition of a trade union, if they opt to be represented by one? Labour in Government will address the fact that some unscrupulous employers have sought to undermine the right to collective bargaining. Labour will introduce legislation to strengthen the rights of workers to engage in collective bargaining, as enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The legislation will also make it illegal to discriminate in any way against an employee because they are a member of a trade union or involved in trade union activity.
1. What are your Party’s proposals to generate investment for job creation? In Government, the Green Party facilitated the creation of over 20,000 Green sector jobs. We will continue to invest in the Green Sector which has the potential to generate up to 100,000 jobs. The Green Party is the only party that has a proven track record in creating jobs in the Green Economy. We are just getting started and have a lot more to do. Green jobs include a range of green businesses such as organic farming, energy efficient construction, electric cars, biofuels, manufacturing, servicing, water management, renewable energy. For example, by drawing an additional €500 million from the National Pension Reserve Fund, we intend to scale up the National Retrofit Programme so that we double that figure to 100,000 premises retrofitted every year. 2. Did your Party agree with the imposition of a €6bn adjustment in Budget 2011? Budgetary adjustments over the past numbers of years have been painful and caused a drop in living standards for many people. However, we made a commitment to our European partners and the IMF that we will save a further €9bn over the next three years. There can be no avoiding this or deviating from this plan.The Green Party believes that the €15bn adjustment over the four year period should be based on a 2:1 relationship between reductions of expenditure and increases in revenue. Insodoing, we will avoid making any further cuts to basic social welfare rates. 3. Did your Party go along with the inclusion of Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society in the Bank credit guarantee of September 2008? The Green Party was a party of Government when the Bank Guarantee was put in place in 2008. The decision was taken based on the best information available to us at the time. This included an assessment that Anglo Irish Bank was of systemic important to the wider Irish banking system and its collapse could have fatally damaged other banks. 4. Does your Party believe the burden of economic adjustment is being fairly distributed, or should the wealthy contribute more? The Green Party believes that the underlying principles of the four-year adjustment should be that it: Supports economic growth and jobs; Is fair; Broadens the tax base and ensures it is more sustainable and Promotes the move towards a low carbon economy. The Green Party proposes to take just €800m from the social welfare budget over three years. Keeping social welfare cuts to a minimum will allow us to retain rates at their current levels. 5. What specific commitments and reassurances is your Party prepared to offer PAYE workers in the matter of personal taxation? Budgets 2009 to 2011 saw rises in income taxes which were aimed at bringing more people into the tax net. By 2010, 45% of earners were not paying any income tax. This was not sustainable and was completely out of step with the taxation systems of our European partners and competitors. With the introduction of the Income levy and now the Universal Social Charge, our income tax system has been brought back to a more sustainable level. However, it is also important to remember that those on higher incomes also saw their taxes rise. In Government, the Green Party prioritised the abolition of the PRSI ceiling, which had previously benefited higher earners. The highest marginal rate now stands at 55%.
FEBRUARY FEBRUARY 2011 2011
6. Will your Party honour the terms of the Croke Park Agreement? The Croke Park agreement provides a framework to deliver further efficiencies in a co-ordinated and co-operative manner. The Green Party believes that the Croke Park agreement must deliver its promised savings of over €1.2bn, as laid out in the four year plan. If these savings and efficiencies are not found then Croke Park will have to be re-examined. The best way of ensuring that these savings are made and that the public service delivers for the citizen is through co-operation and partnership with those who deliver the services. 7. What is your Party’s position on further privatisation and/or outsourcing of the Health Service? The Green Party is advocating a single tier universal public health care system that is accessible to all. The Green Party believes that health care services are a human right. This means that everyone, rich or poor, young or old should have equivalent access to a decent public health service. Health care should depend on what we need, not on what insurance we have, how much we earn, who we know or where we live. 8. What is your Party’s attitude to selling off commercial semistate companies? The Green Party is strongly opposed to a fire sale approach to the sale of state assets. A number of our semi state companies including the ESB, Bord Gáis, Bord na Móna and EirGrid are strategically crucial to the implementation of the Green’s vision of Ireland as a net energy exporter. In addition they are healthy, vibrant companies that are raising debt independently and offering high-value employment to thousands of people. We believe it makes neither economic nor strategic sense to selling off these companies. Given the economic situation and the severe pressures on the public finances, however, full consideration must be given to making the best use of state assets. Where a state asset is not making a vital contribution to the implementation of Government policy and has the potential to achieve a reasonable return for the Exchequer, we support the selling of such assets. The RTE transmission network is one example of such an asset. 9. Will your Party commit to maintain the Registered Employment Agreement system and the Employment Regulation Order mechanism? The Green Party supports the current Registered Employment Agreement system. 10. Will your Party commit to legislate to provide workers with an entitlement to participate in collective bargaining and for recognition of a trade union, if they opt to be represented by one? The Green Party is supportive of the principle of collective bargaining. Where clear barriers to collective bargaining exist we would examine the possibility of legislating to remove those barriers.
N O I T C E L E
24 Liberty FEBRUARY 2011
1. What are your Party’s proposals to generate investment for job creation? The big crisis in the state is unemployment. The only way out of this recession is to create jobs. Instead of putting money from the National Pension Reserve fund into insolvent banks we would invest €7 billion in jobs. There are many examples of what we would do. Not only would we invest in vital infrastructure - roads, schools, broadband, we would support enterprise. There are more than 200,000 small and medium businesses in existence. If they were helped to retain one job or create one new job it would make a huge difference.
6. Will your Party honour the terms of the Croke Park Agreement? Sinn Féin do not believe in further pay cuts for the vast majority of public sector workers. Our policy would see frontline public services protected and in areas such as health and education where there is a shortage of staff due to the embargo, we believe additional staff are required. However, there are other areas, which are top heavy with bureaucracy and salaries are too high. Sinn Féin would cap the maximum salary of public servants at €100,000. We would cut Ministers salaries by 40% and TDs salaries by 20%.
2. Did your Party agree with the imposition of a €6bn adjustment in Budget 2011? No. Sinn Féin opposed the budget and refused to facilitate the passing of the budget. The budget was deflationary and placed the burden on the low and middle income families through measures such as the Universal Social Charge.
7. What is your Party’s position on further privatisation and/or outsourcing of the Health Service? Sinn Féin supports a public health system. Healthcare must be available when and where you need it. It cannot be driven by private profit. We would not allow any public money to be used to subsidise private healthcare. We need to lift the embargo in frontline services. Outsourcing simply doesn’t work.
3. Did your Party go along with the inclusion of Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society in the Bank credit guarantee of September 2008? No. When the specific terms and conditions of the Blanket Bank Guarantee were placed before the Dáil on the 17 October SF opposed it. 4. Does your Party believe the burden of economic adjustment is being fairly distributed, or should the wealthy contribute more? Sinn Féin do not believe the burden of economic adjustment should be borne by low and middle income families. We believe that those who can pay more should pay more. 5. What specific commitments and reassurances is your Party prepared to offer PAYE workers in the matter of personal taxation? We would not increase income tax for anyone earning under €100,000. We would introduce a 48% rate of income tax for individuals earning over €100,000. This would allow for the abolition of the Universal Social Charge.
8. What is your Party’s attitude to selling off commercial semi-state companies? Sinn Féin is opposed to the selling off of commercial semistate companies. We should not sell off the family silver at the behest of the IMF or anyone else. 9. Will your Party commit to maintain the Registered Employment Agreement system and the Employment Regulation Order mechanism? Yes. Sinn Féin will oppose the agenda at the heart of the Governments Four Year Plan and the EU/IMF Bailout to drive down workers wages and terms and conditions with attacks on the minimum wage and Registered Employment Agreements. 10. Will your Party commit to legislate to provide workers with an entitlement to participate in collective bargaining and for recognition of a trade union, if they opt to be represented by one? Yes. In June 2008 Sinn Féin published a bill to provide for the right to collective bargaining and mandatory trade union recognition.
1. What are your Party’s proposals to generate investment for job creation? We have set up a €500 million Innovation Fund which will support enterprise development and job creation by drawing top venture capitalists to Ireland. We will invest €35bn in infrastructure over the next few years. This will create 30,000 jobs in construction alone. Metro North has been given priority as a major labour intensive capital project. This will create 6,000 direct and indirect jobs during the construction phase. It also has the potential to create and sustain 37,000 jobs. Over €1billion will be spent on housing and water services, which will create and sustain employment of somewhere in the region of 10,000 jobs. 2. Did your party agree with the imposition of a €6 billion adjustment in Budget 2011? Yes. In order to reduce our deficit to 3% by 2014 we need to make adjustments of €15 billion over three years. This is a very significant challenge but we believe that frontloading the adjustment this year is the best way to return this country to growth. If we postpone it even bigger adjustments will be required at a later date. 3. Did your party go along with the inclusion of Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society in the Bank credit guarantee of September 2008? Yes. If we had not introduced the bank guarantee in September 2008 the banks would have run out of money within days. Should we have allowed a situation where people could not access their salaries, their savings and let the pass machines literally stop working overnight? Massive job losses would have followed as cash is the lifeblood of the economy. We had no option but to include Anglo Irish Bank and INBS in the bank guarantee given they had a balance sheet approximately half the size of the Irish economy. 4. Does your party believe the burden of economic adjustment is being fairly distributed, or should the wealthy contribute more? We believe that the burden of economic adjustment has been distributed evenly. We believe that those who earn most must pay most. Unfortunately no group can be sheltered. This view has been confirmed in a report by the ESRI which examined the tax and welfare changes in Budget 2011 and their combined effects in the Budgets from 2009 to 2011. They acknowledged that the combined effect of the budgetary responses has been strongly progressive. The policy changes have reduced top incomes by close to 10%, and middle incomes by about 5%. 5. What specific commitments and reassurance is your Party prepared to offer PAYE workers in the matter of personal taxation? We believe the majority of the changes in this area have already taken place over the last couple of years. As outlined in the national recovery plan we will reduce the tax credits and the bands by 16.5% between 2011 and 2014 bringing income tax back to 2006 levels.
6. Will your Party honour the Croke Park Agreement? Yes. It is vital that the Croke Park Agreement is fully implemented. The reforms under the Croke Park Agreement are essential to help meet the unprecedented challenges currently facing Ireland and its public services. 7. What is your Party’s position on further privatisation and/or outsourcing of the Health Service? We are against further privatisation, we believe in providing an essential public health service for all. Co location is no longer acceptable .However contracts already entered into will be honoured. 8. What is your Party’s attitude to selling off commercial state assets? Fianna Fáil in Government established a Review Group on State Assets and Liabilities last year to examine and provide advice on the proper stewardship of state assets and on opportunities for the better use of those assets. The Group, which is headed up by UCD economist Colm McCarthy, will report shortly. We are against large scale or “fire sale” of state assets. 9. Will your Party commit to maintain the Registered Employment Agreement system and the Employment Regulation Order? We are committed to reviewing the Registered Employment Agreements (REAs) and Employment Regulation Orders to eliminate anomalies. 10. Will your Party commit to legislate to provide workers with an entitlement to participate in collective bargaining and for recognition of a trade union if they opt to be represented by one? We are committed to introducing legislation in relation to collective bargaining.
N O I T C E EL
26 Liberty FEBRUARY 2011
1. What are your Party’s proposals to generate investment for job creation? Fine Gael has a clear credible jobs plan which will create 25,000 jobs every year over the next four years by focusing on spending cuts rather than job-destroying tax increases. We will invest in our future through our New ERA plan to pump €7 billion in green infrastructure. The policy is based around a number of prinicpals: Competitiveness: no direct tax hikes on jobs or enterprise; no income tax hikes, including PRSI and USC; employment law will be consolidated; consider a single business tax for micro businesses; simplify tax registration for start-ups; maintain the 12.5% corporation tax rate, cut the Jobs Tax (employers’ PRSI) for the lower paid; cut VAT in labour-intensive sectors of the economy like construction, hospitality, hairdressing, and newspapers. 2. Did your Party agree with the imposition of a €6bn adjustment in Budget 2011? Fine Gael agrees with the target of a fiscal adjustment of €15 billion between 2011 and 2014. Frontloading €6 billion of the adjustment in Budget 2011 was necessary to prevent further deterioration of public finances. Fine Gael is committed to delivering €9 billion in deficit reduction measures by 2014. The IMF, Department of Finance and the ESRI support our view that this plan will bring borrowing to under 3% of GDP by 2014. The European Commission now believes that getting the deficit to under 3% of GDP will take longer, but supports our view that €9 billion in savings is still the right target to pursue by 2014 – not the €6 billion in savings proposed by other parties which will further undermine confidence in Ireland’s ability to repay its debts. 3. Did your Party go along with the inclusion of Anglo Irish Bank and Irish Nationwide Building Society in the Bank credit guarantee of September 2008? The Bank guarantee was presented to Fine Gael as an option to ensure the stability of the banking system that was suffering a liquidity crisis and not an insolvency crisis that it turned out to be. Nationalisation of the banking sector as proposed by the Labour Party at the time would not have made any difference on the eventual outcome as the taxpayer would have still taken on board the billions in bank losses. Fine Gael agrees with the Central Bank Governor who has criticised the guarantee for being too broad. Fine Gael has outlined its extensive plans to restructure the banking system and for additional burden sharing of the banking losses with those who gambled on the banks. 4. Does your Party believe the burden of economic adjustment is being fairly distributed, or should the wealthy contribute more? We believe that the vulnerable should be protected more. That’s why we opposed the inclusion of carers, disabled and the blind in support cuts. We will make sure they are excluded from future adjustments. In addition the poorest families would also have their child benefit protected. We believe that we cannot tax our way back to recovery and that future tax increases will damage economic recovery and job creation. As with other parties we are committed to closing down tax reliefs for the wealthy and introduce new residency rules for tax exiles. 5. What specific commitments and reassurances is your Party prepared to offer PAYE workers in the matter of personal taxation? Following the massive income tax hikes of recent years, as well as the introduction of the Universal Social Charge, Ireland is no longer a low tax country when it comes to income tax. That is why Fine Gael opposes proposals to raise either the standard
20% or the top 41% rate of income tax, or the further reductions to tax credits and bands proposed in the Government’s 4-year plan. 6. Will your party honour the terms of the Croke Park Agreement? Pending a built-in review of its implementation, Fine Gael remains committed to honouring the pay elements of the Croke Park Agreement. Fine Gael has always indicated its commitment to go beyond the Croke Park Agreement in terms of the reform agenda needed to get Ireland working again. The planned reduction in public sector numbers will be achieved through voluntary mechanisms. 7. What is your Party’s position on further privatisation and/or outsourcing of the Health Service? FG has no plans to privatise the health service. Fine Gael’s plan is to introduce Universal Health Insurance and hospitals will remain in public ownership. 8. What is your Party’s attitude to selling off commercial semi-state companies? As we fix the deficit in a way that restores confidence, a Fine Gael government will use the remaining funds in the NPRF, sell non-strategic state assets and restructure the commercial semistate sector in order to finance €7 billion in extra investment in water services, telecommunications and energy. This will support demand and employment in the short-term, and provide the basis for sustainable, export-led jobs and growth for the next generation. We will merge ESB Networks and Eirgrid into SmartGrid, tasked with upgrading the national electricity grid to help meet national renewable energy and climate change targets. This will be financed in part by the disposal of non-strategic state assets, such ESB PowerGen, Bord Gais Energy (not the network) and ESB Customer Supply and ESB International. We will merge Coillte and Bord na Mona into a new single renewable energy leader, Bio Energy and Forestry Ireland. We will merge State-owned telecoms assets (spread between ESB, MANs, CIE, Bord Gáis, National Roads Authority and Waterways Ireland) into “Broadband 21” to work with private sector providers to accelerate the build-out of a next-generation broadband network across the entire country. 9. Will your Party commit to maintain the Registered Employment Agreement System and the Employment Regulation Order mechanism? To protect jobs, we will review and renegotiate the Employment Regulation Orders (ERO’S) imposed on the hotel, restaurant, security, agricultural, retail and other sectors under the Joint Labour Committee system within six months. We will also allow employers and workers in ERO sectors to negotiate enterpriselevel collective agreements with their own staff which will make them exempt from the ERO. All existing employment law will be consolidated into a Single Employment Act to ease compliance for employers. 10. Will your Party commit to legislate to provide workers with an entitlement to participate in collective bargaining and for recognition of a trade union, if they opt to be represented by one? The issue of collective bargaining will be a matter for negotiation between the next Government, employers and trade unions.
Independent trade unions had key role in toppling Mubarak Toppled: ex-President Murbarak
A WAVE of strikes has deepened the political crisis for the new military regime in Egypt as workers demand pay increases to compensate for escalating food and commodity prices. A late concession by nowresigned President Mubarak to public sector work-
By PADRAIG YEATES
ers has not prevented hundreds of thousands of transport, bank and tourism employees joining with workers from the strategic steel, oil and gas industries over the past 10 days. A key demand of anti-government negotiators is the recognition of trade unions and the right of workers to engage in collective bargaining. While the international media has predictably focused on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook as revolutionary means of mobilising popular opposition to Mubarak’s regime, a key role has been played by
the independent trade union movement. As far back as 2004 ,workers began breaking away from the government-controlled Egyptian Trade Union Federation (ETUF) and began organising strikes for better pay and conditions. More than 1,900 strikes involving 1.7 million workers took place between then and the end of last year. On 30th January, the protests escalated with independent unions calling the first in a series of general strikes. On 2nd February, millions of workers – many of them unorganised and employed in anti-union plants and on temporary contracts – joined in. One of the factors that mobilised them will strike a chord in Ireland, as it did in Tunisia; it was media leaks about the obscene amount of wealth accumulated by the ruling elite while the economy slumped and the vast majority of young workers languished on the dole. It is estimated the Mubarak family alone has amassed an estimated $70 billion, while 40% of Egypt’s population of 80 million lives on $2 a day. When the Mubarak regime disrupted the internet to prevent the use of social networking by opponents, the trade union movement was able to maintain contact with members using ‘old’ technology such as phones, faxes, ‘snail mail’ and personal contact through branch networks. It also kept the International Trade Union Confederation and its affiliates informed on developments.
One of the first signs of Mubarak’s weakening grip on power was the recognition of the independent trade union movement last year. It was a reluctant admission of the movement’s ineluctable rise – the first time this had happened in more than half a century. The loosening of controls was due in part to pressure on the regime by the international labour movement as well as the lobbying of their own governments by individual affiliates. As in Tunisia, the role of the trade union movement in a postMubarak Egypt will be crucial. It has a degree of organisation and a track record of opposing the old regime unmatched by any other organisation, except possibly the Muslim Brotherhood. Whether the trade union movement can overcome religious tensions to maintain working class unity will be one of its biggest tests. Again this will strike a chord with our experiences in Ireland. It remains to be seen if the emergence of strong trade union movements in Egypt and Tunisia will have the same impact across the Arab world as the rise of Solidarnosc had in Eastern Europe. If unions are no substitute for political parties, their emergence has traditionally been an essential stepping stone to democracy in every modern revolution. While the course of events in Egypt is uncertain, the role of the unions will provide a litmus test of how far the interests of ordinary working people are advanced as the crisis evolves.
Lessons from the Eircom debacle
Privatisation Learning from the Eircom debacle
28 Liberty FEBRUARY 2011
A vote for Labour is vote for real change
Election 2011 must surely cause us all now to think of what each of us might do to really influence this poll outcome for a much fairer advancement for workers, their families and society as a whole. As union members we strive to achieve greater fairness and equality for our members and society at large – and this needs to be connected with how we think and act politically. For almost ten decades, the two main political parties here have been repeatedly given the largest mandate to govern, manage our economy, distribute our wealth and resources – and haven’t they done so in a most unfair and unequal way? It is hard to believe, for example, that after almost 90 years of the history of
Vote Labour: No other way
our State, these two parties have continually denied workers a right to an entitlement to collective representation and bargaining. Election 2011 gives workers, their families and young first-time voters a unique opportunity to cast
a vote that will give a real chance for change to a fairer and more equal society. The Labour Party, and those candidates who favour social solidarity, should therefore be our target for our votes. I am most respectfully suggesting that we act significantly to influence the outcome of the poll by advocating first preference votes for the Labour Party at every opportunity. A strong Labour presence is vital to achieve a political balance and a Programme for Government with a difference. Each of us has less than a week to work for this common goal and every one of us needs to try. Trusting on your solidarity at this time. Christy McQuillan SIPTU Divisional Organiser
Cast ye not the first stone, Micheál A chara, As I listened to Mr Martin attacking Sinn Fein re: corruption, I wondered had he heard of the adage: “People in glass houses should . . . do naughty things in the basement”. The sheer effrontery of the party that gave us such selfless, frugal examples as Ray Burke, Liam Lawlor, the Flynns, Ivor Callelly, CJ Haughey and B Ahern, not to mention their close association with the likes of
Fitzy, Fingers, Dunner, O’Callaghan, et al via the Galway Tent and plush golf courses, attacking others for corruption is breath-taking. Are they trying to eradicate the memory of the last 14 years or is it because the contest for the last seat in many areas is between Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin?
Doorstep concerns in Dublin South East
Having canvassed in Dublin South East for the last six weeks, the following items seem to centre on whether voters in this leafy suburb will cast their vote for either Fine Gael or the Labour Party (most voters have nothing good to say about Fianna Fáil and the Green Party and Sinn Féin candidates were very late entries into the field). Fine Gael 1. Will devastate public services by insisting that 30,000 redundancies are carried out at a cost of €1billion. 2. Fine Gael is committed to a privatised, profit-driven health care which will drive up costs by 10% as in the Netherlands. 3. FG is committed to introducing a graduate tax – graduates paying back one third (up to €17k) of costs on graduation, irrespective of income level. 4. FG will privatise state assets and
Is mise, Dr Sean Marlow
services such as Bord Gais Energy, ESB Power Generation and customer supply companies. Labour 1. Labour has so far released 10 policy documents during the election campaign – FG allege Labour have no policies. 2. FG allege Labour will be run by the unions. Only 4% of the Labour Party’s funding comes from trade unions. There are no General Officers of SIPTU on Labour’s Executive Board. 3. Labour has advocated a spend of €500 million which will be targeted at high density employment sectors. 4. Labour will reverse the minimum wage cut and will rebalance the Universal Social Charge to make it fairer on low and middle income families. Fraternally yours, Dr Jack McGinley Pearse Street, Dublin 2
Write to The Editor, Liberty, SIPTU Liberty Hall, Dublin 1 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
26 Liberty FEBRUARY 2011
..KNOW YOUR RIGHTS...KNOW YOUR RIGHTS... By Michael Halpenny
injury benefit or leave • Terms or conditions relating to pensions and pension schemes • Notice to be given on termination of employment or the method by which it will be determined •Reference to any Collective Agreement affecting the employment contract
DOES YOUR EMPLOYER HAVE TO INFORM YOU ABOUT YOUR TERMS OF EMPLOYMENT? YES - The European Union, by Directive, requires all Member States to bring in a law to do this, and so the Terms of Employment Information Act 1994-201 was brought in to oblige all employers to provide a written statement to their employees, setting out the particulars of their terms of employment. (Note: this is not to be confused with the contract of employment itself).
Note: If you work outside the State, then your employer must include in the written statement details of the period of employment outside the state, the currency you will be paid in, any other benefits you will be entitled to and any terms relating to your repatriation home. You have to get these before you leave.
WHO IS COVERED BY THE ACT? You have to be an employee with at least one month’s service with your employer. This includes employees of the State, apprentices and also agency workers. If you are an agency worker, then it’s the party who actually pays you who is responsible for providing the written statement.
WHAT CAN YOU DO IF YOU DO NOT GET WHAT YOU ARE ENTITLED TO? If your employer does not give you your written statement, or there is a problem with what they have included or excluded, you can make a complaint to a Rights Commissioner at any time during your employment, or within six months of leaving. The Rights Commissioner can uphold your complaint or not. They can confirm the particulars in the statement, alter or add to it, order a statement to be drawn up by the employer and they have the power to order the employer to pay you up to four weeks remuneration as compensation. If you (or your employer) are not satisfied with a Rights Commissioner’s recommendation, then you can appeal it to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT) within six weeks of the Rights Commissioner communicating the recommendation. There are also enforcement procedures available.
N O I T A M R O F N I T N E EMPLOYM
WHAT ARE YOU ENTITLED TO? If you entered a contract of employment (written or otherwise) after the 16th May 1994, then your employer must give you a written statement of your terms of employment, signed by them, within two months of commencing employment with them. If you entered a contract of employment prior to that date, then they must give you the written statement within two months of you requesting it. Either way, they must also notify you of any changes in the particulars given in the statement, and do so within one month of any such changes coming into effect.
WHAT MUST BE IN THE STATEMENT? The law requires the employer to detail the following particulars to you:• Full name of the employer & employee • Address of the employer in the State, or, where appropriate, the principal place of business, or the address registered with the Companies Registration Office • Place of work, or where there is no main place of work, a statement indicating that you are required or permitted to work at various places. • Job title or nature of work
• Date you commenced employment •If your contract is temporary, the expected duration of the employment • If your contract is for a fixed term the date on which the contract expires • The rate of remuneration or the method of calculating it • The pay reference period for calculating the hourly rate of pay for the National Minimum Wage • Whether remuneration is weekly, monthly or otherwise • Hours of work-including overtime • Terms or conditions of paid leave (other than sick pay) • Terms or conditions of any sickness or
Michael Halpenny is Head of SIPTU Legal Rights Unit
OBITUARY: Tadhg Philpott
Lifetime of dedication and commitment Tadhg Philpott: ‘An invaluable contribution’ to trade unionism & older people
IN the passing of Tadhg Philpott this country has lost a great trade unionist and advocate for older people. In February 1959, Tadhg went to work for the members of the ITGWU in Cork as an Assistant Branch Secretary in the Cork No. 2 Branch moving in 1965 to Cork No. 4 where he became Branch Secretary in April 1973. Tadhg was also a prominent member of the Union's Cork District Council of which he became Secretary in 1980. He was also an elected member of Cork Council of Trade Unions to which he was elected President in 1984-85. Tadhg was also very active in Cork politics and was elected to represent the Labour Party as a Councillor from 1967 to 1974. In 1995, after a meeting with Jim Quinn and Ross Connolly he set about organising SIPTU retired members in the
south west. He was secretary of southwest Regional Committee from then until early 2010, also representing that region on the national committee and as its Vice Chair. Tadhg was involved with the Irish Senior Citizens Parliament from the start of that organisation and was instrumental in setting up the Cork division of which he was Secretary. Along with all these activities swimming was one of Tadhg's other great passions, representing his country abroad in overage competitions and also giving of his time to teach non-swimmers. Tadhg was honoured as a life saver after going into the river Lee in Cork to save a person from drowning. Giving the oration at his recent funeral in Cork, SIPTU General Secretary, Joe O’Flynn, praised Tadgh for his life time of commitment to the trade union and
Labour movement. “He made an invaluable contribution over an extended period to improve the pay and conditions of workers throughout the city of Cork but particularly those of hotel, catering and health care workers. “It was remarkable that he spent so much time in retirement representing the interests of workers and their families, in this case senior citizens, as he did during his working life. “He contributed much to improve their quality of life in health care, elder care pensions, transport and other amenities helping senior citizens obtain a better and more decent quality of life. “His family can be justifiably proud of Tadhg for his dedication and commitment to improving the lives of workers over his entire lifetime,” Joe O’ Flynn said.
30 Liberty FEBRUARY 2011
Courage and contradictions
James Everett: Trade Unionist to Government Minister 1917-1951 by John Kenna
JOHN Kenna’s biography of James Everett is one of a growing number of local studies that are filling in the gaps of the grand narrative on the formation and development of the modern Irish nation state. Everett dominated working class politics in Wicklow from the time of his emergence as a founder of the Agricultural and General Workers Union (AGWU) in 1917 until the mid-1960s. He was also leader of the briefly-lived National Labour Party and Minister for Posts and Telegraphs in the first Inter-Party Government of 194851. Although Everett presided over an impressive expansion of the post office network and telephone connections, he is principally remembered for his role in the Battle of Baltinglass. He found himself at the centre of local controversy when the franchise to run the post office was awarded to the son of a close friend rather than the niece of the previous holder who had helped her aunt run the post office for many years. Nor was his reputation enhanced by his support for the Catholic hierarchy in their confrontation with Noel Browne over the Mother and Child Scheme.
Both controversies epitomised the parish pump, clerical dominated politics of the era. Kenna shows there was more substance to Everett. His deep religious faith coloured his politics, but also sustained him through the difficult and dangerous years from 1917 to 1922, when he was active in the Irish Volunteers, served on republican courts and collected taxes for the rebel administration at considerable personal risk, as well as organising workers. Men like Everett built the modern Irish state. During these years, he brought the AGWU into the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, helping transform it from an organisation largely based in Dublin, Cork and other port cities into a movement that spread to every parish in the country. Like his mentor for many years, ITGWU General Treasurer William O’Brien, he was close to Fianna Fáil and was instrumental in persuading de Valera to lead his party into the Dáil. These and many other valuable details of Everett’s life are recounted by Kenna, who presents his subject warts and all.
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Succession race hots up for GAA’s top post SPORT RIGHTS
By SEAN POTTS
THE race for one of the most powerful positions in Irish sport will intensify over the next eight weeks as two candidates bid to become the president elect of the GAA at the annual Congress in Mullingar. The GAA may be administered at the top by a permanent secretariat but there is no doubting the significant influence exerted by the president over the Association during his three-year tenure. In April, either Liam O’Neill, from Laois, or Tom Daly, from Donegal, will assume the mantle of president-elect, eventually replacing the current incumbent Christy Cooney in April 2012. However, the influence of the new man will be felt immediately as he lays the groundwork for his reign, working closely with both Cooney and Director General Paraic Duffy to prepare for office. The election will also mark the beginning of the end of a historic presidential term which saw the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) emerge from the campaigning margins to take its place within the GAA’s official family with its longterm future and aims supported by a five-year agreement. While Duffy’s inclusive pragmatism and excellent leadership qualities underpinned improving relations between the GPA and Croke Park, the presidency of Cooney will be forever linked with this giant leap forward for the hurlers and footballers who inhabit Gaelic games’ top stage. Unlike other sports organisations, the GAA president is far from just a titular head cutting ribbons, controlling as he does the GAA’s policy-making committees and playing a central role in the powerful management committee. Having journeyed through the extensive administrative ranks of the GAA at club, county and provincial level, the president is traditionally viewed as a “constant”, a torch-bearer for the vast body of voluntary members at grass roots level. However, since the rapid commercialisation of the GAA over the past 20 years, the president has had to embrace the expanding executive demands of the position, and do so in tandem with the
Succession: Current president Christy Cooney, above, with Liam O’Neill (below left) & Tom Daly (below right) Pictures: Sportsfile
in-situ Director General. Multi-million euro contracts are negotiated on the GAA’s behalf, strategic plans are formulated while at the same time, concerns and demands of the small club, the county board and the provincial council have to be listened to and acted upon. The success of the GAA in constructing its magnificent headquarters at Croke Park as well as developing its infrastructure nationally has been one of the most positive legacies of the boom years in Ireland. The influence of various presidents throughout this period of rapid development and change has been equally significant, from the role played by Peter Quinn in initiating the project to redevelop Croke Park along with former Director General Liam Mulvihill to Seán Kelly’s leading part in opening the stadium temporarily to soccer and rugby.
While the GAA was embracing the infrastructure and status of a powerful modern sports organisation, the emergence of an active, organised players’ body in 1999 posed a new challenge for political hierarchy of the Association. Administrative success in the GAA is quite often measured in bricks and mortar, or indeed in a good sod or an allweather pitch. Investing in “human” capital was a whole new ball game. So when the GPA first came to public attention in early 2000, the reaction of the GAA presidents was suitably suspicious. In fact, it would be fair to say that the president was viewed as a bulwark as the young GPA became increasingly linked with a sense of an impending push for professionalism. However, as the GPA began to crystallise its vision for the future, one which protected the amateur ethos while supporting players off the
EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT SUPPORT SCHEME MEMBERS IN FURTHER EDUCATION The scheme will offer up to ten awards each year. SECOND-LEVEL AWARDS FOR MEMBERS AND FOR MEMBERS’ CHILDREN Up to thirty awards will be made each year to second-level students to cover the senior cycle (the two years up to the Leaving Certificate).
GAELTACHT AWARDS FOR MEMBERS’ CHILDREN Up to twenty-five awards will be made each year for the children of members to cover the cost of their participation (accommodation and tuition fees) in a Gaeltacht course under the scheme operated jointly by SIPTU and Gael Linn.
field through development and welfare programmes, the need for proper engagement with Croke Park became critical. And pivotal to the potential for any deal was the president. Talks with Croke Park began early in the GPA’s development but Kelly was the first president to acknowledge the GPA as the de facto players’ representative body. Another major advance in relations took place when the GAA, under the stewardship of Nickey Brennan, endorsed the Government Funding Scheme for inter-county players. Negotiations on formal recognition continued apace under Brennan but despite the good relations, a deal had still not been struck by the end of his tenure in April 2009. The GPA was now facing its fifth presidential term. Many believed the period in office was perhaps too short and the role simply too political for any one incumbent to really embrace the players’ body. And sceptics doubted whether things would be any different under Cooney. However, bringing significant boardroom experience and strategic vision to the table, the Cork man oversaw the signing of an interim agreement with the GPA just seven months after taking office. The interim arrangement was significant for the GPA as it recognised the contribution of the inter-county player to the GAA’s commercial success and the need to support and fund a development programme as well as the GPA itself. Cooney and Duffy also articulated the mutual benefits of a partnership in terms of games promotion, dispute resolution and commercial opportunities. The following April the GPA was officially recognised by GAA Congress while negotiations on a comprehensive longterm agreement took place throughout 2010, culminating in the five-year deal ratified on 12th February last. From next April, the focus on Christy Cooney will begin to fade slowly as people look to the new regime. But for the men who grace Croke Park with such distinction annually, the presidency of the Youghal man will never be forgotten. Sean Potts is GPA Head of Communications
A member, applying on his/her own behalf or on behalf of his/her child/children, must have at least one year’s membership of the Union and be in benefit when both the application and the payments are made. Application forms and further information available from your Sector Organiser. Closing date for receipt of completed applications is 30th September, 2011 (for awards 2011/2012).
MembersMEMBERSHIP call your Membership INFORMATION & Information & Support Centre SUPPORT CENTRE (MISC) for all your enquiries or concerns: MEMBERSHIP INFORMATION & SUPPORT CENTRE (MISC)
8.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m., Monday - Friday
8.30 a.m. to 5.30 p.m., Monday - Friday