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INSIDE: Thanking Jimmy Kelly โ€ข On the job for Bombardier jobs

INSIDE: Ringing the changes at Stormont G New policies needed for new Dรกil Spring/Summer Autumn/Winter 2016 2017 The The magazine magazine for for Unite Unite members members in in Ireland Ireland



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“Young children are beginning to challenge their parents on racism. Racism is one of the greatest evils – if not the greatest evil – in our society and we have to fight it” Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey, speaking at the 2017 launch of Show Racism the Red Card

Unite has been involved with Show Racism the Red Card since the beginning, and this year our union helped launch the third annual Wear Red Day at a packed event in Holborn. The annual event offers a chance for workers and children across offices and schools to ‘wear red’ and send a clear message celebrating diversity, while also raising funds to support SRtRC’s work educating against racism.

beyond the 90 minutes on a Saturday we go into schools and educate,” he said. Wear Red Day in the Republic took place on November 24th, just days after Ireland’s play-off with Denmark which saw racist tweets directed at Ireland defender Cyrus Christie. The tweets attracted widespread condemnation and highlighted the need to redouble our efforts at combating racism on and off the pitch. Ireland Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly is very clear:

“I’m deeply proud my union is so involved with Show Racism the Red Card”, Len McCluskey said, “Although other charities do great work within football, SRtRC takes the message of anti-racism right into the community”.

“Racism is a trade union issue, and that’s why Unite supports SRtRC and other anti-racism initiatives. We need to challenge racism in all areas and at every level, and SRtRC plays a vital role in the work”.

Also speaking at Unite head office, former Republic of Ireland defender Curtis Fleming underlined why he thinks the work SRtRC does is so important. “What separates SRtRC from other charities is that it extends

Unite staff in Dublin showing racism the red card

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Autumn/Winter 2017 The magazine for Unite members in Ireland

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Uniting to show racism the red card

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Special report:

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10 Another Ireland is possible:

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11 Fighting for Schlumberger jobs

20 A Halloween tale:

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21 Interview with new Regional Secretary Jackie Pollock

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23 Our working history: 44,03,1+5+.3'52&42*+03'5

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Dear Member, Jackie Pollock will be taking over as Regional Secretary from January, so this will be my last ‘Letter’ for Unite Works Ireland. Turn to page XXXX to read an interview with Jackie. I have had the privilege of serving our members in Ireland for nearly a decade. During those years workers in both the public and private sectors were forced to pay the price for a recession not of their making – and today, many of those same workers are not sharing equally in the recovery. Whether defending members’ pension entitlements in Waterford Crystal (and in the process obtaining a European court judgement which will benefit every working person in the Republic), or defending jobs in Bombardier – our focus has always been on advancing workers’ interests. People may work in workplaces – but they live in communities. I am very proud that Unite’s ground-breaking Community programme has now been rolled out throughout the Ireland Region, enabling us to support communities in campaigns ranging from #1PillWillKill in Belfast to cardiac care in the South-East. Our members, their families and communities are impacted every day by the political decisions made in Westminster, Dublin and Stormont. That’s why Unite is involved in political campaigning on your behalf – whether struggling against water charges in the Republic or opposing benefit changes in Northern Ireland. But we know that water charges, benefit changes and all the other policy decisions which depress workers’ living standards are merely symptoms of a neo-liberal ideological mindset which has long dominated government thinking in both jurisdictions. Ultimately, we need to change the governments, and change the ideology that informs them. That is why Unite, together with other unions, is working to support the Labour Party in Westminster and to advance the transformative Right2Change policy principles in the Republic. In Northern Ireland, we are continuing to urge all parties to work together for the re-establishment of the Stormont Executive. I know that Jackie Pollock will have the support of every member on the island of Ireland as he works with you to build on our successes, and to overcome the many industrial and political challenges that still remain. In solidarity

Jimmy Kelly

uniteWORKS Ireland No:4 26-34 Antrim Road, Belfast BT15 2AA Tel: 028 90 232381 Fax: 028 90 329904 Magazine enquiries and letters to the editor, by post, phone, or email Distribution enquiries contact your regional office Available digitally

Thankin Unite members, NI RoI staff and friends gathered together in Belfast a few weeks ago to mark the retirement of Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly and thank him for his years of service to Unite, the trade union movement and the working class. Here, General Secretary Len McCluskey pays tribute to his friend and colleague: Nearly a decade ago, outgoing Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly was faced with an unenviable dual challenge: overseeing completion of a merger between two unions with very strong identities, and then building up the Unite brand in Northern Ireland and the Republic. At the same time he had to defend members against the impact of a catastrophic economic downturn which employers were attempting to use to advantage, true to the adage: Never waste a good crisis when you can use it as an opportunity to attack workers’ terms and conditions.

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ing Jimmy Kelly Trade union members are affected by political decisions every day – in their workplaces, at home and in their communities. Those decisions are rarely made in the interests of workers. As a pragmatic socialist, Jimmy found ways to work with all parties in Stormont to advance our members' interests, and in the Republic he has been the driving force behind the ground-breaking Right2Change policy principles which prioritise the public interest over corporate interests.

Jimmy made it clear that Unite would not tolerate workers being asked to pay the price for a crisis not of their making. Unite is a fighting-back union, and working people throughout the island of Ireland knew that Jimmy Kelly would stand shoulderto-shoulder with them as they fought to defend jobs, pensions and their communities against the impact of austerity. They knew it in Waterford where, as one of their own, Jimmy fought a tenacious and successful battle to defend Waterford Crystal pensioners – winning a landmark victory which will benefit other workers in a similar situation. They know it in Belfast, where Jimmy has recently led an industrial and political battle to defend Bombardier jobs against President Trump’s 'America First' protectionism.

Jimmy has left a strong foundation on which to build. Just as Jimmy Kelly faced challenges when he assumed the position of Regional Secretary, his successor Jackie Pollock will have to defend our members against continued austerity, the global race-to-the-bottom and the unique challenges posed by Brexit. It is a task for which he is uniquely fitted.

They know it in communities from Newry to Navan where Jimmy stood with those who refused to accept cuts to vital public services and the imposition of water charges.

I know that Jackie has the full confidence of the Irish Executive and of every Unite member in Ireland as he meets those challenges. As General Secretary, I look forward to working with you all as we continue to build Unite, the fighting back union that delivers for members.

Jimmy Kelly’s trade unionism is firmly rooted in the principles of solidarity, equality and justice. Unite was the first explicitly pro-choice union in Ireland, and Jimmy stood with women throughout the island in their struggle for access to abortion. As an internationalist, he has also stood with trade unionists in Colombia and with the Palestinian people in their struggles against injustice.

Unite general secretary

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October saw the launch of a NI RoI ground-breaking piece of research into Abortion as a Workplace Issue. Based the views of over 3,000 trade union members throughout Ireland â&#x20AC;&#x201C; including many Unite members â&#x20AC;&#x201C; the document examines trade unionistsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; attitudes to abortion and their experiences of it in the workplace.

Abortion as a Workplace Issue is rooted in a quantitative and qualitative survey commissioned by trade unions Unite, Unison, Mandate, CWU and GMB, as well as Alliance for Choice (Northern Ireland) and the Trade Union Campaign to Repeal the 8th Amendment (Republic of Ireland). The research was conducted by Ulster University. 80 per cent of respondents agreed womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s health should be the priority in any reform of the abortion law, while a massive 87 per cent oppose the criminalisation of women who have â&#x20AC;&#x201C; stated they had direct experience of abortion as a workplace issue. Speaking at the launch of the report, Unite Regional Womenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s and Equalities Officer Taryn Trainor recalled that, during an interview with Amnesty International a couple of years ago about trade unionistsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; perspectives on abortion, she realised we didnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t have any empirical evidence: â&#x20AC;&#x153;Thanks to this report, we now have quantitative and qualitative evidence to show that abortion is a workplace issue affecting women workers and their families throughout the island of Ireland.

As trade unions, we ensure that workers facing a range of issues are represented and supported in the workplace. Women facing a crisis pregnancy and all the healthcare issues involved deserve the same representation and support â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and this report, based on responses from over 3,000 union members, tells us whyâ&#x20AC;?. Dr Fiona Bloomer of Ulster University was lead researcher on the project, and pointed out that this is the first study to consider the specific matter of abortion as a workplace issue in the English speaking world and added:

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!,-A-A '-( @=<8@A?9 @> %'&#2A&?=75A!?A$:6+>@ %&?=7?;@A?=7A-)A$?6/?<1=A;: @/@?9A;3@A<13;3#2A==@A*/@@7 %)=<8:=#2A*;@@A,<;/?;><4 A%$)# ?=7A-?>5=A->?<=:>A%)=<;@# â&#x20AC;&#x153;Not only does Abortion as a Workplace Issue quantify support among trade union members for legal reform, but it also provides a valuable insight into the perspectives of those with direct experience of abortion as a workplace issueâ&#x20AC;?. The report can be downloaded from the Unite website: https://unitetheunionireland.files.wordp

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Defending our own As a member, your Unite NI RoI rep is often your first line of defence against unjust treatment by your employer. Bosses fear effective union reps and activists, who can be subjected to a range of retaliatory measures from outright dismissal and blacklisting to attempted intimidation and victimisation.

But, true to the trade union principle that ‘an injury to one is an injury to all’, Unite will always defend our own. Sometimes, as in two recent attempts at blacklisting in the ROI construction sector, all it takes is a visit from a Unite official coupled with a bit of gentle persuasion for the threat of blacklisting to be lifted and our activists to be reemployed. But sometimes it takes the threat of strike action. This was the case

recently at Swissport, which provides baggage handling services at Belfast City Airport, when Unite reps were targeted as a result of their union activities. Severe disruption to flights was avoided only by a last minute climb down by bosses agreeing an external audit of the poor industrial relations at the airport – a result that has strengthened Unite’s representation onsite. Commenting on the Swissport case, Unite Regional Officer George Brash pointed out that the right to collective organisation and active membership of a trade union is a fundamental human right and warned: “Our union will not sit back and watch as our activists are targeted for their trade union activities. In our unity, there is strength!”


uniteWORKS September/October 2013 uniteWORKS Autumn/Winter 2017

Tom Fitzgerald is Regional Officer for Construction in the Republic and came to the defence of activists who were being victimised after the recent crane dispute:

“The construction sector has always been vulnerable to blacklisting, so it’s something we’re always on the lookout for during and after any dispute. The most recent attempts involved construction sites in Wexford and Cork and were clearly linked to our members’ activities during the recent crane dispute. These cases were quickly resolved once Unite pointed out that the employers would pay a heavy price for any attempt to victimise our members for exercising their democratic right to collective organisation”. Your Unite reps and activists have your back. And Unite has their back.

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Background Unite members have been fighting back against a threat to 4,000 Bombardier jobs and a further 20,000 jobs which depend on the aerospace giant. Workers at the company’s five plants across Northern Ireland find themselves caught in a mounting trade war reflecting the rising tide of economic protectionism under the Trump administration. The workforce faces being collateral damage since the US Department of Commerce ruled on two spurious claims brought by Boeing and decided that Bombardier had used inappropriate state aid to win a major Delta Airlines contract, recommending the imposition of two different import tariffs totalling 300 per cent . This would effectively quadruple the US cost of Bombardier’s C Series aircraft, putting thousands of Unite members’ jobs at risk. Astonishingly, the tariffs imposed by the Commerce Department were more than double what Boeing had originally sought. Boeing’s pre-emptive strike Essentially, the US Government seized on Boeing’s spurious claims to advance President Trump’s ‘America First’ policy and close the lucrative US airlines market to competitors who might one day threaten Boeing’s pre-eminence.

Yet Boeing hadn’t even competed for the Delta airlines deal: in fact, the Chicago based giant doesn’t even produce a plane equivalent in size to either the C100 or C300. This had nothing to do with the Delta deal – rather it was a pre-emptive strike, since Boeing feared that Bombardier might one day increase the number of seats on its newly designed aircraft and challenge the iconic Boeing 737. While Bombardier workers stand in close solidarity with the Boeing workforce, there’s no reason for their corporate management to bring forward this baseless case. Not only did they not compete for the Delta deal, but every aircraft maker (including Boeing) sells new planes below cost price. Indeed, the entire aerospace sector is dependent on public funding – whether through grants, tax rebates or simply multibillion pound defence contracts. Trump’s protectionist antics Tump’s protectionist antics pose a significant threat to Northern Ireland’s economy and jobs. One-quarter of Bombardier’s Northern Ireland workforce currently works on the C Series, but that was set to rise to 60 per cent within five years. Any threat to the C Series threatens the economies of scale that keep the five Bombardier sites open – and that is a threat to all four thousand Bombardier jobs. The US authorities also know that Bombardier has ploughed $5 billion into

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its C Series project, leaving them highly exposed to order delays. The $1 billion equity purchase at the centre of Boeing’s case was necessary to keep Bombardier afloat pending orders. If Bombardier fails and goes into administration, the only jobs protected under Canadian law are those in Canada meaning workers in Northern Ireland risk being the easy option in any redundancy situation. Airbus: hope is not enough Unite has extended a cautious welcome to the acquisition of a majority stake in the C Series programme by Boeing’s European rival Airbus, but we do not regard it as the panacea others have heralded. Although Unite’s negotiators have sought and received assurances in relation to existing employment and supplier jobs in Northern Ireland, we know there is still a major job of work to be done. While it may open the door to new markets and additional sales capacity, the Airbus deal offers some hope but no guarantees for the workforce. Our main objective remains to either convince the US authorities to drop the tariffs, or to force Boeing to drop their case. In the absence of a functioning Executive it has fallen to Unite and our Bombardier workforce reps to lead the campaign. Workers leading the fight We have demanded that the UK government use their £4.6 billion in contracts with Boeing as leverage to force them to drop their claims. Last month,

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JOBS & COM, w. u

Assistant General Secretary Steve Turner joined reps in Westminster to directly lobby the relevant Ministers as well as the leadership of the Labour party and other parliamentary groups.

Our reps have conducted a vibrant, onthe-ground campaign to ensure all local authorities pass motions demanding action from the UK prime minister and EU Trade Commissioner.

Unite has also been to the fore in successfully lobbying British and Irish MEPs to demand that the EU Trade Commissioner escalate the judgement to the World Trade Organisation.

Unite goes to Washington Our efforts have even extended to Washington, where we are using all available avenues to lobby the US administration directly and indirectly, demanding that they take particular cognisance of the potential impact of massive job losses on Northern Irelandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s economy and the ongoing peace process. A delegation of reps will be heading to

To support our campaign, we have launched an online petition demanding that the UK government use its leverage to defend jobs and skills at Bombardier.

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Washington in mid-December ahead of the crucial US International Trade Commission decision which could copperfasten the proposed 300 per cent tariffs. A campaign we must win We must win the campaign to defend Bombardier jobs and skills. Only when the C Series tariffs are removed and orders for the new aircraft roll in can we consider the job done. Sign the #backBombardierjobs petition online at: petitions/202496

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Another Ireland is possible

Professor Cecile Wright of Momentum

On November 4th over 500 RoI people attended the Another Ireland Is Possible conference hosted in Dublin by the Right2Change Trade Unions, including Unite, to hear speakers from Momentum, 15M in Catalunya, and the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;People for Bernie Sandersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; campaign join experts, analysts and commentators to discuss the Right2Change policy platform. The Conference heard that deprivation and inequality have worsened during the past two years. This is reflected in the housing emergency and exacerbated by our mediaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s failure to provide balanced coverage of social and economic issues.

Opening the event, I noted that this was a landmark Conference for the Trade Union hosts: â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;The question for every one of us, is whether we can break a cycle of often bitter division and fractiousness on the left to build the people led movement that can create a better and fairer Irelandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;? Most of the audience were trade unionists; they were joined by

community activists and representatives of various political parties and independents. While those attending clearly appreciated the acute need for real and meaningful change if the working class are not to suffer further the excesses of neoliberal greed, there was little enough evidence from the political contributors that an agreed progressive left alliance could emerge to provide an alternative to Fine Gaelâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s and Fianna Failâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s conservatism. Let us not forget that, during the water charges campaign, it was the size and power of a mass citizen-led movement that delivered the political unity necessary for victory. The question â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;does Irelandâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s water movement have within it the seeds of a bigger movement that can change all of our lives and those of future generations for the better?â&#x20AC;&#x2122;, is as relevant as it has been for some time. Participants agreed to further explore the possible creation of a media cooperative and assess whether the necessary public support to develop and

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fund such an initiative exists. Dr Stephen Baker from Ulster University gave a superb presentation on how the media is acquired and owned by those using that ownership to pursue their own strategic interests. As an example, he described how climate change denier Rupert Murdoch, who has massive fossil fuel investments, has used â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Foxâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; to acquire National Geographic. Steve asked whether National Geographic will be able to survive, let alone continue advocating and educating on climate change. Jo Bird, an expert in co-operatives, told the Conference how this this can work in media. An assessment of the public appetite for funding this initiative will soon be launched. For Unite, this important Conference was key to further developing our agreed Right2Change policy platform into a movement enabling our union is to grow its industrial and political influence on behalf of members, their families and communities.

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for Schlumberger jobs Over two hundred workers are NI employed by Schlumberger at Newtownabbey just outside Belfast. At the end of October, the companyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s corporate management initiated a ninetyday consultation on proposals which would see all production onsite cease by the end of the second quarter of 2018 with all jobs going. Unite has recognition rights at Schlumberger and called a mass meeting of the workforce in response to the announcement. Members unanimously agreed that the priority must be to save jobs rather than simply negotiate optimised redundancy deals. Schlumberger supplies equipment and machinery for the oil and gas industry, and the closure proposal comes at a time when sector is showing distinct signs of recovery. Although Schlumberger are claiming that the proposed closure is due to surplus capacity, they have just reported a surge in profits, with net income of $545 million in the last quarter alone. But instead of investing their surplus and behaving responsibly to the workers who helped generate their profits, they have chosen to prioritise the buy-back of their own shares to benefit shareholders. In 2013 they commenced a six-year long $10 billion share buy-back scheme with earnings per share spiralling from $0.25 to $0.42 in the last year alone. Once again, shareholder value trumps workersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; interests. Unite reps and officers have engaged with key stakeholders as well as Schlumbergerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s customers, political leaders and even the

exp x ress our concern xp US Consul-General to express about the companyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s failure to live up to its responsibilities towards workers. We are actively exploring avenues that might allow the jobs to be saved, but the lack of a functioning Executive means there is little apparent impetus coming from our economic development agencies. Unfortunately, all the signs are that Schlumberger is looking to maximise profits at workersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; expense, but Unite will not relent in our efforts to ensure that these jobs are not offshored either to low cost Mexico or China or to Houston, Texas. Our members in Schlumberger are not only paying the price for Trumpâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s

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!<8;@=<=1(A'@=@>?9A6@@;<=1A:"A)=<;@ 6@6+@>8A<=A*43906+@>1@> â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;America Firstâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; doctrine. Their plight also highlights the fact that, in the absence of additional redundancy protections, Northern Ireland workers are the easiest to fire. The union has requested a delay in the proposed closure to allow more time to find alternative owners or customers to sustain employment. We have also asked the company to facilitate an independent assessment not only of the rationale behind managementâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s decision to close the plant, but also of the potential for avoiding the threatened large-scale redundancies.

Where am I from

14-year-old Anesu Mtowa is the daughter of a Unite activist; she attends Portadown College and is a trustee on the Executive Committee for the Northern Ireland Youth Forum. Anesu penned this powerful poem to mark Black History Month in October.

I am from the children of the Soweto uprising, The Selma to Montgomery march, h, The Rwandan Genocide.

I am a from the truth that will never be told. I am from the voices that have been silenced by history, I am from the voices that refused to be silent. Rosa Parks, Nina Simone, Martin Luther King jr. Dr Nelson Mandela. D ela.

I am from the textbooks, that have been pushed behind the bookshelf. I am from the pages that were ripped out, and burned.

I am from mother nature’s womb. I was cradled in her arms until she planted me here, let me grow. And then sent you to ask, ‘Where are you really from?’

I am from a million places. Spin a globe, and you’ll find me there. Like the last leaf on a tree, I will flow to where ever I am taken. And will seed.

And he asked me, ‘No, where are you really from?’ om? I smile. I smile the smile of a thousand children. Who have all stood in this same spot, And have all been asked, ‘Where are you really from?’ ?’ I answer,

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By A. K. Mtowa

Would you like me to repeat the answer?

R Unite_Union_Ire






? So you ask, ‘Where are you really from?’

I am from the same cloth as Scientists, Presidents, Entrepreneurs, Inventors. I am the future generations, that can achieve anything. But will still have their hair touched without permission. Will still be called the N-Word, or a foreigner, or will be told to go back home even though that’s where they are.

I am from my mother’s tears, the sweat on her brow. I am from her blood. I am from the soil she left behind.

I am from the children fed by thee black panthers, panthers and the children set free by Harriet Tubman, and the children whos grandparents were saved by Obama.

Soweto uprising, The Selma to Montgomery march, The Rwandan Genocide.

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The Republic’s construction sector RoI has grown for 50 successive months. The good times are back for construction companies, with profits per employee in the sector having more than doubled since 2012. Unite is working to ensure that workers share in that recovery.

The new Sectoral Employment Order (SEO) for the construction sector was signed into law in October and outlines minimum pay, pension and sick pay entitlements for craftsmen, construction operatives and apprentices. It builds on the terms and conditions enshrined in the Construction REA, which include

travel time, country money, guaranteed week and annual leave.

The new SEO is welcome, but it’s not enough. If construction jobs are to be good jobs, particular skills, responsibilities and experience need to be recognised. That’s why – notwithstanding the gains which we have already achieved – we are continuing our campaign for a sectoral agreement governing the terms and conditions of crane operators. But even where pay rates and conditions are enshrined in law, Unite’s experience

is that some rogue employers will ignore them in an attempt to undercut decent companies. And that kind of race to the bottom is not just bad for the workers affected – it’s bad for the construction sector as a whole.

Securing sectoral agreements and orders is important – but it’s just one part of the equation. Those agreements need to be defended and built on, and that means organising in the workplace. It means building our union, and our movement, into a force that cannot be ignored.

Safety matters: Unite crane operators protesting outside the Health & Safety Authority

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Northern Ireland needs functioning Executive to meet challenges At the beginning of November, NI talks to re-establish the Northern Ireland Executive stalled and Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire MP, was forced to introduce an emergency budget in the absence of locally-devolved institutions. This situation is of concern to workingclass people throughout Northern Ireland. Given the challenges facing public services, the economy and society generally, the lack of a functioning Executive leaves us largely rudderless at a time of deep challenges. The strain on public services has been exacerbated by almost ten years of austerity budgets with freezes imposed to public sector pay. Inflation and increased demand are combining to increase pressures. This is particularly evident in the health service where over 250,000 people are now on hospital waiting lists, while unprecedented numbers of patients languish in wards due to the absence of care packages. At the same time, private

providers report an 18 per cent increase in those forced to pay for essential medical procedures. The picture is similar in education, roads maintenance and public transport, which are in crisis due to inadequate budgets coupled with the lack of progressive reforms have. The duplication of services in a divided society imposes even greater costs, and there is a worrying rise in sectarian and racist hate-crimes. Meanwhile, those reliant on social welfare are suffering from the outgoing Executive’s agreement to allow the Tory government to implement ‘welfare reform’ and roll out Universal Credit in Northern Ireland. The assault on our industries continues, and Unite has been forced almost singlehandedly to defend jobs in Bombardier and Schlumberger, with our union reps forcing the issue onto the agenda at Westminster, Washington and councils across the region.

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The failure to form a functioning Executive has meant the absence of a Northern Ireland voice from the Brexit negotiations – negotiations which will have a long-term impact on communities and the economy. Again, it is only thanks to Unite’s ability to intervene in Westminster that our concerns have been ventilated regarding the imposition of hard borders, north-south or east-west. Sinn Fein and the DUP must be reminded that those who voted for them did so in the expectation that they would form a government to address the challenges we face. Their continued failure to agree abandons us to a Tory party who are completely unaccountable to the Northern Ireland electorate. In the absence of effective political representation, it is more important than ever for working people to be members of a fighting union such as Unite, representing all communities and putting workers’ interests first.


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A Brexit and



a border?

A ‘no deal’ Brexit would NI RoI threaten serious economic consequences for jobs and the economies of both the UK and Ireland, as well as damaging the EU itself. Principally, it would mean WTOmandated duties being levied on imports from both the EU and those non-EU countries with which trade agreements have been agreed through the customs union. The outcome would be border controls causing extended delays at ports, and accompanied by a very hard border on the island of Ireland with the potential to undermine the progress made through the peace process.

This is no longer an outlandish prospect given the negotiating stance adopted recently by a weak Tory government in hock to its own hard right. As justification, they claim to believe that that the UK could ‘tough out’ the shortterm chaos as a price worth paying for the freedom to negotiate free trade agreements with other, faster growing, parts of the world.

The truth is, however, that such free trade agreements would scarcely compensate for the economic damage to the UK economy arising from a cliff-edge Brexit. In fact, the likely dislocation would prevent the economy fully exploiting future growth opportunities.

Recent statements by International Trade Secretary Liam Fox suggest that any trade deals with the Trump administration will be predicated on even greater market liberalisation. This could open the NHS to US corporate vultures while putting pressure on environmental standards and labour rights. The Tories’ priorities appear simply: to enable to the UK financial sector to avoid even the minimum legal constraints imposed by the EU over their industrialscale tax avoidance. Their aspirations for the real economy was exposed by the words of leading rightwing economist, Professor Minford, who called for the UK to allow its automotive sector to be ‘run-down’ and for the

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privatisation of the health sector. They hold working people in contempt.

The consequences for the economies of Northern Ireland and the Republic from a ‘no deal’ Brexit would be even serious; leaving the customs union means a hard border is unavoidabe. Whether that border runs north-south, or east-west, it will threaten workers’ livelihoods and result in price hikes on the high street as the movement of goods and services becomes more costly and difficult. Even if done gradually over an extended period, constraining trade will mean unavoidable economic dislocation, mounting costs and job losses. The Tory right wing media keeps telling us that ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ but the truth is a ‘no-deal’ Brexit would be the worst possible outcome for workers. Stay updated: go to

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Joe Roche – activist to the end Unite members were saddened to hear of the death of union stalwart Joe Roche in September. An engineer, Joe spent most of his working life in the Hibernian, and was vociferous in seeking the best possible practices regarding employment conditions and health and safety standards for all his members. His deep voice and laser blue eyes were a familiar presence at many heated debates. Joe Roche served on many committees. As well as serving on the Hibernian Branch Committee, he was a

member of the Irish Executive during the lifetime of ASTMS, MSF, Amicus and finally Unite, arriving at most of these meeting on his bike right up into his seventies! In his eighties, Joe was chairing the Unite Retired Member Branch, attending meeting throughout the island. He encouraged members to be aware and be proactive on a range of current issues from TTIP and water charges. Joe Roche was loved and respected within Unite and the wider trade union movement.

Stephen Cullen: Teaching Solidarity Unite English Language Teachers were saddened to hear of the sudden death of union stalwart Stephen Cullen. As a member of Unite’s ELT branch committee, Stephen Cullen was instrumental in organising teachers to fight to better terms and conditions. Just last month, he joined fellow ELTs protesting against bogus selfemployment outside the Dublin College of Advanced Studies. Stephen was no stranger to union activism, having spent many years in the INTO before retiring and starting a new career teaching English. He fought for the rights of teachers not only in his own school, The English Studio, but across the sector. Stephen Cullen was a gifted teacher and a committed trade unionist. The best tribute we can pay him is to continue fighting to ensure that ELT jobs are decent jobs. Solidarity – the bedrock values of the trade union movement.

17 uniteWORKS Autumn/Winter 2017

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Unite spearheads successful campaign against health cuts On October 11th the NI Department of Health announced that it had found £40 million in loose change ‘behind the sofa’, thus averting threatened cuts of £70 million to funding for Northern Ireland’s regional health trusts. The sudden discovery followed a campaign by service users, communities and trade unionists united in opposition to the ‘emergency budget’ reductions - cuts largely due to the failure of Stormont politicians to re-establish a functioning Executive. Unite was at the forefront of that campaign. There was mass opposition to the cuts in places such as Enniskillen, where a neonatal Uniting against the cuts unit and a geriatric ward were millio ‘discovered’ Although the £40 million threatened with closure on foot of the by the Department to defuse opposition cuts. Unite activists and the unionwill protect frontline services from the backed Fermanagh Save our Services proposed cuts, it is likely to increase campaign mobilised nearly a thousand staffing pressures. In the words of people to attend a local consultation Aneurin Bevan said when he established event. our NHS, it will only last as long as there are those willing to fight for it. Unite Regional Industrial Officer for Health, Kevin McAdam, welcomed the Our union is up for that fight, and Kevin Department’s climb-down but was congratulated the Unite activists and the scathing of the rationale for the proposed broader community who mobilised to cuts in the first place: defend our services: “The proposed cuts were necessitated by a “They have shown that there is a genuine spurious budget reduction. Their impact desire to safeguard local NHS services and and consequences were completely that moves to strengthen the grip of untenable from a medical perspective and private medicine and private interests would have had a devastating impact on corroding our public services will be the most vulnerable.

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resisted at every step”. Unite is calling for a bottom-up process of progressive reform focused on frontline services and those who deliver them. Kevin McAdam is clear: “It is high time that the HSC and the Health Trusts initiated a grown-up dialogue with trade unions, communities and service user groups about reshaping our public health system. Progressive reform must be built on genuine partnership and meaningful participation by service users and staff representative bodies”. We’ll be keeping readers updated on Unite’s campaign to protect our health services and those who deliver them.

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Nightmare on Capita Street Outsourcing giant Capita NI RoI employs 73,000 people across three continents, and last year made an operating profit of over £500 million. Those are eye-watering figures – especially if you’re a Capita employee. One way to maximise profits is to squeeze workers.

weeks per year of service, rather than the statutory two-week minimum. The court also took a dim view of the redundancy procedures followed by Capita. That was in September, and since then Capita has not only refused to implement the recommendation, but also expressed contempt for the Labour Court, Unite and the workers concerned.

Earlier this year, Capita decided to close their defined benefit pension scheme, with staff set to lose up to 70 per cent of their retirement income. In response, Unite members from Belfast to Birmingham took to the picket lines in pursuit of decent pensions, and their fight continues.

Capita recently dismissed the workers’ appeal against redundancy in a letter which Regional Officer Bernard Daly dubbed “both shocking and illuminating”:

Thanks to collective bargaining legislation in Britain and Northern Ireland, Capita has to recognise Unite – but the situation is very different in the Republic, where Unite represents members working for Capita subsidiary AMT-Sybex.

“Although our members were employed by AMT-Sybex, all our dealings have been with Capita – and they’ve made no bones about how they regard Ireland’s industrial relations machinery, describing the Labour Court recommendation as ‘inappropriate’ and ‘out of line with company policy’.

Following the company’s announcement of redundancies, Unite secured a Labour Court recommendation that members receive enhanced redundancy of five-and-a-half

19 uniteWORKS Autumn/Winter 2017

Their behaviour towards our members in Dublin has been both shocking and illuminating”. Regional Officer Kevin McAdam represents Capita workers in Belfast and agrees with Daly’s assessment: “Given the lack of fit-for-purpose collective bargaining legislation in the Republic, Capita is able to show its true colours in Dublin. Unite members fighting for decent pensions in Belfast and elsewhere stand in solidarity with our colleagues in Dublin who’ve been treated with contempt by the company. Capita is treating workers as nothing more than profit generators”. As we go to print, Unite members in Belfast are still fighting for decent pensions, while members in Dublin are engaging in a range of actions to secure implementation of the Labour Court recommendation.

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?0=;@7A+5A;3@A6:;3@>3::7A/@=?9;5( ;<6@A;:A?90@A6066<@8 Halloween is the season for NI hauntings – and this year it brought angry mummies onto the streets of Belfast to send a simple message: working women are haunted by the motherhood penalty. The ‘March of the Mummies’ campaign was organised by an international pressure group with the unambiguous name ‘Pregnant then screwed’, and highlighted the disadvantages faced by mothers in the workplace. Regional Equalities and Women’s Officer Taryn Trainor was at the rally and outlined some of the issues haunting working mothers: “Statistics produced by the Northern Ireland Equality

Commission show that half of mothers felt their career opportunities were worse than before their pregnancy, while over a third felt that had been disadvantaged at work as a result of their pregnancy or taking maternity leave. Almost one in ten had been made redundant as a result of their pregnancy. At the same time, many women find it difficult to access flexible working or other supports”.

Trainor believes that a cultural shift is needed in how we support working women and families: “We need to show that we respect the work that parents do –and we need to convince policymakers that a parent-friendly approach will yield both social and economic dividends”.

The campaign’s demands include increasing the time limit within which a tribunal claim can be made, requiring companies to report on the number of flexible working requests granted, giving both parents access to paid parental leave at 90% of salary and giving the self-

No woman should be haunted by the spectre of career stagnation or redundancy as a result of pregnancy, and Unite will continue working with other unions and civil society organisations to ensure, as Trainor puts it, that “mummies are valued, inside and outside the workplace”.

20 uniteWORKS Autumn/Winter 2017

employed access to statutory shared parental pay.

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We interview the new Regional Secretary


As he prepares to take NI RoI over as Ireland Regional Secretary, Jackie Pollock spoke to Unite Works Ireland about what drives him – and his hopes for the future of Unite in Ireland. HOW DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED IN THE TRADE UNION MOVEMENT?

I was fifteen when I started as an apprentice plumber, and my parents impressed on me the importance of joining a union – so I joined the EEPTU, one of Unite’s legacy unions. While working in Harland & Wolf, I became involved in the campaign to save our shipyards from Margaret Thatcher’s onslaught. I’ve been an activist ever since, and was elected a shop steward in 1980. WHAT ARE THE MAIN CHANGES YOU’VE SEEN OVER THE PAST TEN YEARS? Thanks to the merger between the T&G and Amicus, as well as UCATT, Unite is now the leading trade union in Britain and Ireland. But it was not an easy process, and we were lucky to have outgoing Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly to guide us. I am determined to continue his work in building a united and cohesive union across this island. Unite brings together workers from every sector, public and private. That makes us unique, and it makes us powerful. With 1.4 million members across Britain and Ireland, Unite has the resources needed to deliver for our members in the twentyfirst century.



Low pay, the explosion of zero hour and precarious working, and the threat to jobs from offshoring and robotics are just some of the challenges facing workers in Ireland, north and south. These challenges are compounded by Brexit, and Unite is determined to defend workers’ interests in that process.

The challenge facing all of us is to make our union even better. We must redouble our efforts to grow Unite in order to confront accelerating structural changes as well as continued threats to our manufacturing sector.

Business-as-usual is not an option. I never forget that our members pay my wages, and the wages of everyone lucky enough to work for Unite. It is our privilege to deliver for them. We must get the basics right in every workplace: securing better pay, terms and conditions, and defending job security. But we must also ensure the implementation of our broader progressive social and economic vision.

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Our goal for 2018 is to grow our membership by five per cent in net terms. It’s an ambitious target and will require root and branch transformation, reaching out to unorganised workforces and a new generation unused to trade unionism. We must also re-energise branches and provide greater support for our workplace reps. My focus is on ensuring we deliver for members and working people. I want Unite to be the biggest, strongest and fastest growing, fighting union in Ireland, north and south.

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Pulling pints for workers

         Solidarity comes in many NI RoI guises. Septemberâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Electric Picnic festival saw Unite Community members pulling pints in aid of crane operators striking to secure wage rates reflecting their levels of skill and responsibility at a time when the Republicâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s construction sector is booming.

The ten Unite Community â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;volunteersâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; with the Workers Beer Company were among 400 activists at Electric Picnic who raised over â&#x201A;Ź80,000 for causes as diverse as the Anti-Racism Network, the Abortion Rights Campaign and the Irish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign â&#x20AC;&#x201C; to name but a few. Volunteers from a range of organised groups, including trade unions, work at WBC festival bars to raise funds for the

worked by the volunteers â&#x20AC;&#x201C; payments which help fund the groupsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; activities, as well as mobilising supporters. The Workers Beer Company is owned by Battersea and Wandsworth Trades Union Council, and has helped raise many million over the past three decades. Their motto is â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Thirst among Equalsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;, and trade union branches, political parties, community groups, charities and campaigning organisations can apply to become approved server groups.

)=<;@A4>?=@A:/@>?;:>8 labour movement and grassroots campaigns. After each event, WBC donates a set amount of money to the relevant organisation for each hour

Applications are considered by a committee in the UK or Ireland. Although server groups change as the political landscape evolves, the WBC has always had a solid base of trade unionists at the heart of every event. I believe that Unite in the Community throughout these islands should take advantage of the opportunity presented

22 uniteWORKS Autumn/Winter 2017

";@>A?A3?>7A7?5A/099<=1A/<=;8 ":>A:> @>8(A!,-A-A '-( $:==:>A&?1<==@882A<? ,>@8@=+:>12A?;?9<@A,:>7@A?=7 &?> A3?= by the WBC not only to raise funds for the union but â&#x20AC;&#x201C; more importantly â&#x20AC;&#x201C; to build solidarity and comradeship among Unite Community members. Working side by side with comrades from all the other regions will allow real and lasting friendships to be built â&#x20AC;&#x201C; friendships rooted in a common purpose. Festivals covered by the WBC last year included Slane, Malahide Castle, Glastonbury, Kilmainham, Finsbury Park, Trinity College, Latitude, Longitude, Tolpuddle, Brit School 25th Anniversary, Punchestown and Electric Picnic. For further information contact

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Hungry for Change: The Politics of Food Eating your dinner can be a revolutionary act: the need for land, and the ability to grow and procure food, has often been at the heart of social upheavals. A class-based interrogation of history â&#x20AC;&#x201C; of the plebeian and patriarch â&#x20AC;&#x201C; can help us shape our arguments as we continue building the trade union movement. There is a thread linking many key historical events: food and the lack of it â&#x20AC;&#x201C; for NI example RoI due to a series of failed harvests â&#x20AC;&#x201C; have often precipitated power shifts. Too often, an academic analysis of revolutionary change can ignore the smaller details that led to the â&#x20AC;&#x153;final pushâ&#x20AC;? for power The trade union movement started to emerge at a time when hunger and fear of the workhouse were a reality for many, with land enclosures and the Highland clearance, underpinned by legislation and draconian penalties, leading to destitution among landless labourers.

The Tolpuddle Martyrs â&#x20AC;&#x201C; the first trade unionists - organised after grain harvests failed in the early 1830s, leading to pay cuts and exacerbating the plight of the rural poor. These development coincided with a growth in dissenting Methodism, with a biblically-rooted social justice narrative taking root in rural areas: one of the Tolpuddle Martyrs was George Loveless, a farmworker and lay Methodist preacher. From Dorset, the men we now know as the Tolpuddle Martyrs were convicted of swearing a secret oath as members of the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers. On 18 March 1834, the six men were sentenced to be transported to Australia. Let us remember that workers first organised not in industrial towns but in rural communities where spikes in food prices met pay cuts. In Ireland, the potato famine and its aftermath laid the conditions for political rebellion, while

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the slogan of the Russian revolution was â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;bread, land and freedomâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;. More recently, the Arab Spring was ignited by an argument over the price of bread in a Tunisian marketplace. History tells us that social change never comes about on full stomachs â&#x20AC;&#x201C; a lesson that bears repeating against the background of climate change and Brexit, both of which may impact on food production and access, and on the conditions of those who produce our food. Unlike in the 1830s, however, trade unions must be centrally involved in todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s the debates surrounding food production and security. The coming crises may offer an opportunity to explore new models of democratic control over food production, including the development of community cooperative farms and similar models. Food is a political issue â&#x20AC;&#x201C; and a trade union issue

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JUSTICE SECURED Unite Legal Services has notched up another win. Unite member Greg Y had worked for his employer as a stone mason for three decades when he began experiencing pain and tenderness in his right elbow and wrist. The condition arose after several years of working with vibrating tools. Numerous complaints to his employer were of no avail: no action was taken to remedy his condition or restrict his duties. By 2011, Greg had developed right-sided tennis elbow and was under medical care. His condition deteriorated and he was eventually placed on restricted duties, before retiring on medical grounds in 2014. He did not return to employment. Unite instructed Donnelly & Kinder to bring a case for negligence and breach of statutory duty in causing the plaintiff to suffer injury, namely tennis elbow, as well as for special damages and loss of earnings following his untimely retirement â&#x20AC;&#x201C; a retirement which was directly related to his medical condition. At the same time, he suffered a real disadvantage on the open labour market, never having worked as anything but a stone mason. He took great pride in his trade and the work he undertook, and it was argued that he would not garner the same enjoyment from another role. While counsel estimated that his injury was worth in the region of ÂŁ20,000, a more substantial sum was sought to reflect his early retirement and the genuine disadvantage he faced when seeking alternative work. The case was settled out of court in Gregâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s favour: he received the sum of ÂŁ175,000 in full and final settlement. This case highlights the importance of looking beyond the injury itself to its impact on current employment and future prospects. It is vital that any claim not only reflects the injury, but also focuses on lost earnings and disadvantage on the open labour market in order to ensure that plaintiffs like Greg Y receive proper compensation. Once again, Unite Legal Services have secured justice.

Unite members living in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland â&#x20AC;Ś. Can use the services of Uniteâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s legal experts in personal injuries, serious injuries, road traffic accidents and more. These experts are based in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland and are ready to support you. For a referral please contact your local Unite office.


Free legal helplines: Members can access free preliminary legal advice on any non-work related legal matter, including matters relating to accidents at work/outside of work, criminal, family, matrimonial, consumer, conveyancing and other propertyrelated matters.

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Unite Works Ireland AW 2017  
Unite Works Ireland AW 2017  

Unite Works Ireland - the magazine for Unite members in Ireland