INSIDE: Winning for members • Defending communities • Red-carding racism
INSIDE: Ringing the changes at Stormont G New policies needed for new Dáil Spring/Summer Spring 2016 2017 The The magazine magazine for for Unite Unite members members in in Ireland Ireland
DRIVER, LIFESAVER, UNITE MEMBER See page 11
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HEADER Goeshere Spring 2017 The magazine for Unite members in Ireland
12 Benefit sanctions
Communities uniting against benefit sanctions
Acting general secretary Gail Cartmail and Jimmy Kelly write
Making it work for workers
Defending patients and workers’ rights
14 Retired but not retiring
Unite’s RoI retired members committee fight for fair deal
Looking at a manufacturing strategy for NI
15 Public sector update
Unite for manufacturing
Orgainising English language teachers
Showing racism the red card 20th anniversary of the campagin
17 Pride in Newry
Damien McShane receives award
18 Book review
Mark Metcalf reviews ‘From Bended Knee to New Republic’
20 School bus support
Unite’s campaign to maintain free school transport
21 Ballymena job fair
Jimmy Kelly regional secretary opens job fair
Issues around youth services
10 Housing campaign
Looking at the issues surrounding homelessness
22 Justice for Central Bank builders Unite members fight and win what they were owed
11 Member’s award
Ronan Ward, a Unite member, hailed hero
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Stronger together in Unite The story from Ballymena to Bandon is the same: employers are trying to roll back pension entitlements, degrade terms and conditions, and convert good jobs into precarious work. Meanwhile, our public services are under threat, and governments in Westminster, Stormont and Dublin are ﬁnding new ways to make workers pay for a crisis not of our making.
Unite and the trade union movement have always been at the forefront of the battle for equality at work and in society as a whole. That battle can take different forms – from the fight for equal pay and flexible working to tackling racism, sexism and homophobia. Equality is one of the threads running through this issue of Unite Works Ireland, linking narratives which on the surface may seem very different. I was struck in particular by two stories.
North and South, Brexit is the latest excuse being advanced by employers anxious to engage in a race-to-the bottom. The economy is changing. Continued offshoring and the growth of robotics could eat into decent work. Good jobs – jobs which not only provide workers with decent terms and conditions and secure pensions, but also inject good wage packets into local communities – may be lost or converted into low-paying, parttime or low-hours jobs. And while new jobs are being created, we are in danger of building a new pyramid: a few good jobs at the top, too many precarious jobs at the bottom and a shrinking middle under pressure.
On page [XXX] we read about the campaign being waged by Unite in the Community to defend free school transport in Northern Ireland. Reported moves by the Education Authority to impose charges of between £50 and £200 per child amount to a regressive tax on education – ironically, exactly 70 years after the introduction of free secondary education. Those hit first and hardest will be low-income rural families already reeling from a series of austerity cuts. At the other end of the age spectrum, page [XXX] carries a report on our retired members in the Republic lobbying to overturn the decision to raise the state pension age to 68 while changing the eligibility criteria so as to penalise those workers who take time out from the workforce. While all workers will be impacted by these changes to some degree, those impacted hardest will be low-income workers, precarious workers and women.
Despite rising employment rates, the average rate of pay for a fulltime worker in Northern Ireland fell by 5.5 per cent in the last twelve months as we lost some of our better paying jobs - and that’s before inﬂation. In the Republic, Unite has shown wages lagging well below our European peer group.
The island of Ireland needs a pay rise.
These challenges can only be met by workers acting collectively. They can only be met by organising in a trade union – a ﬁghting back union.
Policy is about choices. For too long, the choices made on both sides of the border have spared those at the top of the privilege pyramid while hitting ordinary working people. Behind the fig leaf of austerity, wages have been cut, terms and conditions eroded, and our public services squeezed. While a recovery is slowly taking hold in the Republic, that recovery is not being reflected in many people’s living standards. And Northern Ireland remains mired in recession, with areas such as Ballymena haemorrhaging manufacturing jobs – our members’ jobs.
Over recent months, Unite has redoubled our efforts to put in place the backend infrastructure needed to expand in the future and serve our members even more effectively.
While we work at the coalface defending members’ terms and conditions, Unite is also ensuring that workers’ voices are heard in the wider policy debate. Last month, we launched our strategy for manufacturing in Northern Ireland and we have published a comprehensive assessment of the impact of Brexit on the economies of both the Republic and Northern Ireland. We have issued speciﬁc recommendations to ensure Brexit on Our Terms, and we will continue lobbying for those recommendations to be reﬂected in policy.
Throughout the island of Ireland, Unite has been to the forefront making the case for investment in jobs, services and infrastructure. And we’ve been making the case for a sustainable jobs-led and wage-led recovery rather than one fuelled by property and credit – a recovery for the few. Unite will continue fighting by your side to ensure that our members get the recovery they deserve – an equal recovery.
Gail Cartmail, acting general secretary
In order to continue defending workers, we must continue growing our union north and south. We must continue spreading the message that we are stronger together – together in Unite.
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 email@example.com Distribution enquiries contact your regional office Available digitally
Jimmy Kelly, regional secretary
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Have a heart for Waterford Unite members defending patients and workers’ rights
The Republic’s health service is RoI on life support – and Unite members are on the front line defending the interests of patients and healthcare workers alike. Patients’ and workers’ rights are two sides of the same coin, and nowhere is this more apparent than in Waterford, where overstretched paramedics recently joined forces with Unite in the Community to demand 24/7 cardiac care for the South-East.
Former Waterford Glass worker Tommy Hog an is Secretary of the Waterford Community branch and takes up the story:
“As things stand, the cardiac unit at Waterford University Hospital closes at 5pm each day and on weekends – despite the fact that 800 patients face a wait of up to 18 months for cardiac procedures
such as stents, and may even have to be transferred elsewhere. Unite in the Community is part of the campaign for a second catheterisation lab so that local people can access essential cardiac care around the clock”.
Transferring patients to Cork or Dublin places extra stress on vulnerable patients who may have to travel for up to two hours to access crucial services – and also puts additional pressure on an already overstretched ambulance service. Clive O’Regan is a Waterford paramedic and Unite rep:
“Unite has been warning for over a year that the ambulance service is at crisis point, and this became apparent during the winter flu season when Dungarvanbased crews were being delayed for up to three-and-a-half hours during shift
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and three hours after shift. Our ambulance service is stretched to breaking point, yet the lack of 24/7 cardiac care in Waterford and the southeast means that ambulances are being used to transfer patients to Cork or Dublin for procedures such as stents. This means that an ambulance may not be available to deal with an emergency closer to base – and that, in turn, puts patients at risk while increasing the strain on our members”.
In January Hogan and O’Regan were among the thousands who thronged the streets of Waterford to demand a second cath lab in the city. That campaign is not going away – and neither is Unite’s demand that the ambulance service be resourced and managed in such a way that the highest standards of patient care and safety are maintained!
Unite for manufa
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E C N E R E F N O C T R O P E R
BY JACKIE POLLACK, DEPUTY REGIONAL SECRETARY
Unite has led the way in NI demanding a strategic approach to manufacturing in Northern Ireland. On January 30, Unite organised a major conference focusing on the actions needed as part of such a strategy.
Rather than targeting the conference at the ‘great and the good’, it was aimed at the people who matter: leading shop stewards and reps from across the high-value added industrial manufacturing sector.
Regional chair Liam Gallagher gave an opening address and chaired the afternoon panel discussion. Those present hears a detailed presentation by deputy regional secretary Jackie Pollock outlining measures which both Unite and Manufacturing NI agree should be part of a manufacturing strategy. Go to: https://unitetheunionireland.files.wordpr ess.com/2017/02/unite-presentation.pdf to read Jackie’s presentation.
Representing employers, Stephen Kelly of Manufacturing NI gave an overview of the sector followed by a presentation on Northern Ireland’s widening productivity gap by NERI’s Lisa Wilson. A political perspective was given by Dave Anderson, Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who outlined Labour’s industrial policy.
The conference took place under the shadow of Brexit (see pp. XX for Unite’s analysis), and Assistant General Secretary Howard Beckett outlined the threat posed by Brexit for the union’s manufacturing
LEFT TO RIGHT: Regional secretary Jimmy Kelly, deputy regional secretary Jackie Pollock, Dr Lisa Wilson (NERI), IEC chair Liam Gallagher, Dave Anderson MP (Shadow Secretary of State for NI), Stephen Kelly (CEO, Manufacturing NI) base and explained Unite faces a multifaceted challenge in responding.In addition to defending workers’ rights, we need to devise strategies to protect workers in vulnerable industries.
The afternoon session focussed on a panel discussion to which the five main parties were invited. Sinn Fein, the UUP and SDLP attended on the day, while Alliance sent apologies. Joining them on the panel were Michael Ryan, VicePresident of Bombardier, and Unite RCO, Davy Thompson. Unite shop stewards and reps had a chance to grill the panel on the appropriate response to the manufacturing crisis, and to assess their commitment to an industrial strategy to respond to the challenges and opportunities facing the sector. The day concluded with a presentation by regional secretary Jimmy Kelly, who
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offered a sharp critique of the ‘Industrial Strategy’ consultation document published only days earlier by Minister Simon Hamilton. Jimmy pointed out that – despite being called an ‘Industrial Strategy – the Minister’s paper lacks focus, including the entire economy in its remit including Financial Services. It makes no serious proposals in regard to closing the productivity gap, and provides no specific commitments or actions on issues like skills, infrastructure, energy costs or supply-chain development.
Unite will continue our campaign for a real and meaningful approach to growing the Industrial Manufacturing sector. Although we will engage constructively with the consultation document, this will need substantial improvement if it is to meet the real needs of the sector and our members.
Racism is real, it’s rising NI RoI and it’s affects working people throughout the island of Ireland.
Show Racism the Red Card was established in in 1996 to educate against racism using the star power of footballers, and last year celebrated its 20th birthday. Speaking at one of the anniversary events, the union’s general secretary L en McClu skey said: “Football is a fabulous medium to tackle racism that millions and millions of our people enjoy, in particular the kids. You’ve got to see some of the sessions that Show Racism the Red Card does with hundreds of kids in
classrooms or football clubs, splitting them into workshops, talking about the issues of racism and listening to what the kids say,” he noted.
“It’s absolutely staggering when you hear kids say, ‘Well, I’ve heard my dad say that word.’ And it’s amazing that the kids themselves then feel empowered to go home and challenge their own parents”. That sums up what SRtRC is all about.
Twenty years after its establishment, the organisation mounts high profile education campaigns throughout Britain and Ireland.
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Explaining why Unite became a ‘Gold Level’ sponsor of SRtRC, McCluskey points out that “the need for anti-racism work has never been greater”, and this is borne out by data from across Ireland.
In Northern Ireland, PSNI figures show that 1,133 racist incidents were reported in the twelve months to August. In the Republic, the latest Garda figures show that hate crimes are being reported at a rate of almost one every day – and that is probably not a true reflection of the situation since many victims are reluctant to report incidents.
SRtRC has a presence in Northern Ireland through its partnership with the Irish FA, and is also active in the Republic.
In addition to school visits, workshops with trainee teachers and work with grassroots clubs, SRtRC organises ‘Wear Red Day’ against racism each November involving schools and workplaces, as well as an annual creative competition for schools and youth services.
Racism is a trade union issue, and that’s why Unite sponsors SRtRC and other anti-racism initiatives. We need to challenge racism in all areas and at every level – and that work starts with education.
To find out more go to www.srtrc.org or www.redcard.ie.
FUNDING OUR FUTURE Assembly parties must commit to longNI term Youth Service funding.
The future of Northern Ireland’s Youth Services sector has been cast in doubt after the Education Authority issues protective notice letters to some staff. Unite’s Taryn Trainor is not only the union’s regional equality officer, but also represents workers in the sector. She outlined her concerns to Works:
“Youth Services provide vital outreach to young people, especially those at risk of social exclusion. Yet workers across the sector recently received protective notice letters warning that their jobs were at risk due to the lack of funding certainty. “It is simply unacceptable that workers and service users are in an annual limbo as funding decisions come up for renewal.
“Our youth is our future, and Unite is calling on all Assembly parties to commit themselves to long-term funding of these crucial services”, Trainor concluded.
MABS: Vital service under threat
For nearly 25 years, the Money Advice and Budgeting Service has provided vital advice and support to people coping with problem debt issues. Now Unite, which represents the majority of staff working for MABS, has expressed fears for the future of the service following proposals to restructure MABS into eight new regions, removing the current autonomy enjoyed by 51 local MABS services.
Unite regional officer Ed Thompson explained why members and communities are concerned:
“Unite has yet to be consulted on any of the proposed changes. Last month, Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar stated that there would be no job losses, changes to terms and conditions of serving staff or service closures during the lifetime of the restructuring programme. But that begs the obvious
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question: what will happen once restructuring is complete?”
Unite is calling on the Citizens Information Board, which funds the service, to engage meaningfully with the union - not only to safeguard the terms and conditions of our members, but also to safeguard future delivery of this vital service in our local communities throughout the Republic.
BY RORY HEARNE
ousing people The Christmas occupation of Apollo House by the Home Sweet Home campaign focused unprecedented media, public and political attention on the homelessness and housing crisis, achieving real change for those involved as well as an improvement in Dublin’s emergency accommodation provision. The broad-based campaign included artists, homeless and housing activists, and trade unionists such as Unite’s Brendan Ogle, and highlighted strong public support for action: thousands volunteered to help in Apollo, and thousands more donated to the campaign.
The occupation of Apollo House, and the conversion of the NAMA building into emergency accommodation, came against the backdrop of a housing crisis which has spiralled out of control. Last year, rents rose faster than ever before. In July 2014, there were 271 homeless families in Dublin with 585 children; today, there are 1028 homeless families with 2096 children in emergency accommodation.
Homelessness is just the tip of the iceberg. Hundreds of thousands of people, especially in the private rented sector, face skyrocketing rents and a lack of security, since landlords can evict them in order to sell the property or use it for ‘family use’. Members of ‘Generation Rent’ are often stuck in substandard, insecure and unaffordable rental accommodation, unable to save for a mortgage deposit.
A mortgage is no panacea: there are 80,000 households in mortgage
arrears, with 35,000 facing possible repossession. 90,000 households are on social housing waiting lists, while thousands more are in overcrowded accommodation, ‘couch-surﬁng’, or even sleeping in cars and tents.
As Unite Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly put it over Christmas, “The numbers of homeless on our streets have surged due to the failure of successive governments to build enough social housing but our political leaders continue to stand idly-by”.
The housing crisis is often portrayed as a natural disaster taking politicians and government by surprise, but is actually a result of the ‘commodiﬁcation’ and ‘ﬁnancialisation’ of housing. In the 1950s, 1960s and 70s local authorities built thousands of homes annually and provided low cost mortgages. But the ‘neoliberal’ Thatcherite privatisation agenda saw provision of housing and mortgages largely handed over to the private sector in the 1980s.
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This agenda culminated during the Fine Gael-Labour government when just 75 local authority houses were built in 2015. The current government’s Rebuilding Ireland housing plan will only make matters worse, relying on Public Private Partnerships and vulture fund investors while continuing to treat housing as a wealth-accumulating asset rather than a social need.
There are alternative solutions, like a semi-state affordable housing provider to provide tens of thousands of affordable rental homes nationally. NAMA could be directed to provide social housing, rather than selling its assets to vultures and REITs. The USC could be used to fund social housing. We need a national housing movement to mobilise the public around such ideas and force the government to deliver our human right to a home.
Dr Rory Hear ne is a policy analyst, academic and social justice campaigner.
Driver, lifesaver, Unite member FEATURE: Member presentation
Regional chair Liam Gallagher and regional officer Gareth Scott are pictured with Ronan Ward after presenting him with a hotel voucher in recognition of his actions. Ronan Ward has been a Translink driver for ten years and a union member for the same length of time. The early morning drive from Derry/Londonderry to Dublin is usually uneventful, but that was to change a few weeks ago as Ward explains:
“We were driving along when I saw a clearly distressed man climbing onto the bridge at Strabane.
“Instinct took over, and I pulled over, got out and sprinted over. He was already over the railings and I was holding onto him, telling him we were driving to Dublin and asking did he want to come along? Other passers-by were also helping hold onto him, but
he was clearly distressed and told me how depressed he was. At one point I thought we wouldn’t be able to hold him, but fortunately he was brought to safety with the help of the PSNI.
“When I returned to the bus I was shaking like a leaf, and it really hit me on the return journey past the same spot. This man’s life was in danger and it was up to all of us to help save him. I was just thankful when I phoned the PSNI the next day that they told me he was safely back with his family”.
Passengers hailed Ward a hero, and Translink commended him for his actions. Like all Translink drivers, Ward is a member of Unite and the union’s
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regional chair, L iam G allag he r, congratulated him on his quick thinking and humanity that January Saturday:
“Ronan Ward did not drive by when he saw someone in trouble: he stopped, provided what assistance he could, and then continued with his job serving the public. That’s what public sector workers do. And while the circumstances of their work may not be as dramatic as those which confronted Ronan Ward, our members have to do battle every day with cutbacks and threats to their terms and conditions while continuing to provide the best service possible. They’re all everyday heroes”.
STOP STO HEADER Goeshere
t ﬁ e Ben ns o i t c San
Communities uniting against benefit sanctions Until recently, working people in NI Northern Ireland had largely escaped the full brunt of Tory ‘welfare reform’ – but the ‘Fresh Start’ has changed all that. Despite the mitigation measures included in that agreement, the most vulnerable are now being hit by a range of punishing changes under the guise of ‘beneﬁts reform’.
Throughout Unite, Community branches have led campaigns to expose the devastating consequences of socalled beneﬁts reform. Central to the new measures is a brutal sanctions regime which can see claimants being stripped of their beneﬁts for little or no reason: even minor infringements of the application process can have devastating consequences, and some claimants could lose beneﬁts for up to three years.
Among the new measures are stringent tests for Disability payments and Carers’ Allowances; severe cuts to Universal Credit payments and a twelve month ceiling on contribution-based rates of
Employment & Support Allowance. In addition, the move from the Disability Living Allowance to Personal Independence Payments is designed to cut costs and will end up cutting the living standards of the most vulnerable..
Albert Hewitt is the Ireland Region’s Community Coordinator and he told Works about Unite’s campaign against Beneﬁts Sanctions in Northern Ireland: “Unite helped promote Ken Loach’s recent ﬁlm ‘I, Daniel Blake’ which shows the reality of sanctions. Unfortunately, the Fresh Start Agreement means that Loach’s depiction will become reality many vulnerable people in working-class communities across Northern Ireland.
“The Executive parties claim to have diluted the Tory-inspired ‘beneﬁts reform’, but the reality of the new sanctions regime is that many people have been completely stripped of their beneﬁts. What protections there are for those who are sick or unemployed only
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apply to those already in the system, while new applicants are exposed to the full impact of the new regime. “The mitigating measures incorporated in Fresh Start are proving ineffective in safeguarding those in greatest need”.
In fact, Hewitt pointed out, the measures are proving counter-productive:
“There’s a genuine fear among beneﬁt claimants taking up short-term employment could mean losing the few protections people have under the current deal. This new regime is ill-considered in its design and brutal in its impact. “There is growing anger and despair among those living in deprived communities”, Hewitt said.
Unite in the Community branches participated in union-wide protests Beneﬁts Sanctions and the end of March, and further steps in the campaign will be announced shortly..
BY XXXXX, XXXXXXX
MAKING WORK FOR WORKERS NI RoI The decision by the UK to leave the European Union will have a profound impact on the Ireland region as a whole. As Britain and Ireland’s larg est trade union, it is vital that Unite’s voice helps shape the outcome of this ongoing process.
We need to address legitimate concerns while protecting our economy and workers’ livelihoods. That is why Unite seeks the restoration of collective bargaining and a real role for unions in safeguarding terms and conditions. We need to ensure a ‘rate for the job, not a race to the bottom’.
Nowhere is more exposed to the Brexit fallout than the island of Ireland. Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK with an EU land border, while the impact on the Republic will also be severe given the extent of trade and social interconnections between the peoples of these islands.
Our priority in both the UK and Ireland is to ensure that Brexit happens on our terms. That means safeguarding jobs and employment rights; retaining existing freedoms relating to the movement of labour; retaining tariff-free trade across borders; and ensuring continued investment.
Unite campaigned ag ainst leaving the EU as we considered this would worsen the position of workers and open the door to a neoliberal raceto-the-bottom. Nothing that has occurred since the referendum has made us rethink that analysis, but we are not among those arguing for a second referendum.
It also means ensuring that we have a seat at the table on behalf of our 1.4 million members. The interests of working people must be central to the coming Brexit neg otiations. Unite in the Ireland Region has produced one of the most in-depth analyses of the potential impact of Brexit on the economies of both parts of this island. In particular, the document highlighted the significant threats and opportunities raised by Brexit to the agri-food sector, financial services and universities in both jurisdictions.
We recognise that many working-class people voted to leave for a variety of reasons. In many cases, they were rejecting the g overnment’s austerity policies and voicing ang er at successive g over nments’ failure to address the disastrous impacts of de-industrialisation on entire regions.
Unite will now be bringing our priorities to politicians in Belfast, Dublin and London. We will resist those who see Brexit as an opportunity to pursue lower taxes, reduced wages and further attacks on public services. Instead, Brexit must be made to work for working people.
While Unite recog nise s that many working people don’t feel they have benefited from free movement, we also know that workers will pay the price if the UK loses access to the single market.
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Retired but not retiring
Pictured following the meeting are (from left) Dave Griffin, regional officer Colm Quinlan, Minister for Social Protection Leo Varadkar TD, Mary Crotty, Fergus Farrell and Bernard Daly Our retired members have no RoI intention of retiring from the fray! Just before Christmas, the Retired Members Committee in the epublic met with Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar to press Unite’s case for the reversal of recent pension changes which could have a detrimental impact on many members currently still in active employment.
The delegation included Bernard Daly, a long-time Unite activist, member of the Irish Executive and former chair of the Certus Ireland Board of Pension Trustees. Daly told Works of four main areas of concern: the increase in the state pension age, the withdrawal of so-called ‘non-core’ beneﬁts, changes in eligibility
requirements for the state pension, and the levy on occupational pension schemes.
“Thanks to the hard work of the trade union movement over decades, many of us have been able to retire with decent and secure pensions. But those beneﬁts are now under attack from all sides. In terms of occupational pensions, Deﬁned Beneﬁt schemes are being replaced by Deﬁned Contribution schemes where workers bear all the risk. And when it comes to the State Pension, the move to push out the retirement age to 68 effectively means workers are being robbed of three years’ pension – or a staggering €36,000. To make matters worse, many occupational pensions are
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based on an assumption that workers will also draw down the state pension – so a worker retiring at 65 may ﬁnd themselves living on an inadequate income until the state pension kicks in three years later”.
Unite also raised the change in eligibility requirements which will penalise those taking time out from the workforce, with women workers in particular set to lose up to €1,500 annually.
“Pensions represent a social contract – between the workers and the state, and between different generations. By moving the goalposts, recent governments have broken that social contract, and Unite will continue lobbying for the changes to be reversed”, Daly stressed.
BY RICHIE BROWNE, REGIONAL CO-ORDINATING OFFICER
PUBLIC SECTOR At the insistence of Unite and RoI other public sector unions, talks on a successor to the Lansdowne Road Agreement are set to start immediately following the initial report of the Public Sector Pay Commission.
Ahead of that engagement, following talks between the Congress Public Services Committee and the Government, it was agreed that the €1000 pay restoration tranche originally scheduled for September 2017 would be brought forward to April in recognition of the anomaly which arose when the Labour Court made a recommendation in respect of the Garda Associations. This €1000 restoration will apply to Unite public sector members earning annualised salaries up to €65,000.
Untie has inputted into the two submissions made by Congress to the Public Sector Pay Commission and, along with other public sector unions, will continue making the case for accelerated pay restoration in light of improved economic circumstances.
Since 2009, public sector workers have not only had to make do with less in their pay packets – they have also had to continue providing the services we all rely on with fewer resources.
Unite has consistently made the case for unwinding the FEMPI cuts, including the so-called ‘Croke Park Hours’. However, we need to go further and negotiate pay increases for public sector workers in line with our international comparators who have enjoyed continuous pay increases from
2010 to the present – not to mention unionised private sector workers whose wages rose between 2010 and 2016.
We also need to ensure that the State commits to, and implements, the fundamental principle of ‘equal pay for equal work’.
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Public sector workers were at the coalface of the recession and must share in the fruits of our recovery. Leaflet issued by Unite ahead of the 2016 General Election
You didn’t know we organised...English language teachers The TEFL (Teaching English RoI as a Foreign Language) sector is booming in the Republic. In 2015, there was a 10 per cent increase in the number of ELT students, and last year Education Minister Richard Br uton launched a plan to grow the value of the sector by 33 per cent to €2.1 billion by 2020.
Business is good and set to get better – but the boom is not being felt by teachers. Exploitation is rife, with many teachers being employed on fixed-term or low hours contracts and others forced into bogus self-employment. ELT teachers are often not paid for ‘noncontact’ hours spent preparing for lessons, marking exercise or carrying out administrative tasks. Migrant workers in the sector also face discrimination in terms of pay and conditions. The ELT sector is characterised by precarious work and poor conditions.
Unite aims to change that and ensure that ELT jobs are decent jobs. Dublinbased regional organiser Roy Hassey takes up the story:
“There are over a thousand English Language Teachers in Ireland. Far too many are on fixed-term contracts, and some have no contract at all. There is a growing incidence of bogus self-employment, and there are massive pay discrepancies with some teachers earning as little as €13 per hour – only slightly above the Living Wage. In addition to not being paid for non-contact hours, many teachers have no entitlement to sick pay or holiday pay.
“The sector is under-regulated and such regulations as exist are under-resourced and toothless. That’s why, in the past, criminal elements were able to set up schools purely to defraud students.
Hassey argues that an exploitative and under-regulated sector is not only bad for workers – it is also bad for students and for the wider economy: “The growth figures highlight the huge potential for this sector, but the kind of rogue operations we’ve seen in recent years could mean that potential students look elsewhere”, he warns. “In addition, poor conditions and precarious work inevitably mean a high turnover of teachers – and that, in turn, results in a poor experience for students.
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But things are hopefully about to change, as Hassey explains.
“Since last year, Unite has been working with the ELT advocacy group to organise the sector with the longterm goal of a Sectoral Employment Order governing the terms and conditions of English Language Teachers. Unite now has over 60 members working in 18 schools, and we’re working to grow density so that we can improve conditions right across the sector. Earlier this month we published a Ten Point Charter for English Language Teachers, and our task now is to grow Unite membership in the sector so we can apply for a Sectoral Employment Order”.
NEWS IN BRIEF
Unite represents support and service staff in Trinity College Dublin, and has voiced disappointment at the renowned university’s decision to unilaterally halt future promotions for support and service staff, while also employing future staff on five-year instead of permanent contracts.
Unite regional officer Brendan Byrne takes up the story: “Last month, Unite and Siptu organised a general meeting, and members were extremely angry with college management. We will be working to overturn this
decision and to ensure that all decisions about future terms and conditions are made in full consultation with the workers and their representatives.
PRIDE IN NEWRy, PRIDE IN UNITE NI
The first ever Pride in Newry awards were held a few weeks ago to mark five years of the Newry Pride Festival. Unite is a longtime supporter of Pride, and we were delighted to receive a special award acknowledging our support, along with Nipsa and Unison. Pictured receiving Unite’s award is Unite Community activist Damien McShane (picture inset), who chaired last year’s Newry Pride Committee.
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“Trinity College clearly needs tutoring in industrial relations. This unilateral management diktat indicates a worrying lack of respect for the College’s non-academic staff. It seems that TCD is intent on further widening the gulf between academic staff on the one hand, and support and service staff on the other. Trinity clearly needs education – and Unite will be happy to provide the industrial relations tutorials which TCD management clearly needs”, Byrne concluded.
From Bend to a New Reviewed by Mark Metcalf This readable and informative book by Unite political officer Brendan Ogle offers an insider view of the Right2Water and Right2Change campaigns, which proved to be massive successes thanks to a unique blend of community, trade union and political activism. Ogle played a major role in these campaigns, and here he explains
to pay privately for their water, rather than to continue paying collectively through taxation.
Ogle shows how the supply of water is being privatised around the world, including the UK where water companies have upped prices, are reaping massive profits and yet pay hardly any tax while putting little investment into water infrastructure.
The Republic has largely been dominated politically by centrist parties such as Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, while trade unionists and (some) socialists longing for a better future have tended to look towards the Irish Labour Party.
how they have changed the face of politics in Ireland, hopefully for good.
The Right2Water campaign began after the painful journey, backed by the EU, towards water privatisation started when Irish Water started installing water meters. The Irish Government created this company in 2013 with the aim of getting Irish citizens
In this context, Ogle deconstructs the Irish Labour Party, showing how its politics reflect New Labour whereby neoliberalism and globalisation is good even if it wrecks working-class communities. Thus Irish Labour, with 37 seats, was content to enter a coalition government with Fine Gael in 2011. The party did its best to undermine Right2Water and lost heavily at the 2016 General Election, returning with just seven seats. With virtually all of the mainstream media either hostile to or uninterested in the growing numbers of
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people getting involved in the Right2Water campaign, Ogle highlights the potential of social media in reaching out to and including all sections of the community.
Once large scale mobilisations meant they could no longer ignore what was happening, the Irish establishment and mainstream politicians attempted to portray the growing movement as a threat to the State â€“ despite the fact that the protests were, with some small exceptions, peaceful.
Ogle bemoans the lack of an impartial and informed media in Ireland together with the lack of a functioning democracy, including the ability to recall TDs when they fail to carry out election promises.
The book shows how Unite, in particular, and some sections of the trade union movement have been at the forefront of the fight against water privatisation. Thanks to political economy courses provided by Unite in conjunction with Trademark Belfast for non-aligned community activists, the water protest movement has been given access to information enabling them to understand the political and economic agenda behind water privatisation.
In 2015, the Right2Water campaign undertook a period of reflection and analysis leading to the development of a more ambitious platform: Right2Change. Ten policies were agreed after extensive debate involving
ded Knee Republic political parties, trade unions and community activists. They are: a right to water, jobs, housing, health, education, democratic reform, debt justice, equality, a sustainable environment and a fair economy.
saddled with 41 per cent of its banking debate — must inevitably make an Irish exit from the EU more likely in the future. Ogle questions ‘whether the relationship that Ireland has with the EU as currently structured can be sustained.’
To prove the ten points are also affordable, Right2Change provided a rigorous, detailed economic explanation of where funds can be found in a country where major multinational companies such as Apple pay a fraction of their huge profits in tax.
Right2Change then sought to get political parties to agree to back these policies at the 2016 February General Election. In constituencies where candidates refused, attempts were made to get community activists who did back the policies to run. 106 election candidates endorsed Right2Change. None were from the Labour Party.
Almost 100 of the 158 seats were won by candidates campaigning on an antiwater charges platform. For the first time ever in modern Irish politics, a majority Government could not be formed. The outgoing government’s taxation-cutting platform was rejected by voters more concerned with the state of essential public services.
Fine Gael is now the senior partner in a coalition government supported by Fianna Fail.
Right2Water made a lengthy submission to the Water Commission calling for water meters to be scrapped and water to again become paid for through general taxation, while also highlighting how water charges infringe human rights. Towards the end of 2016, the Commission reported and vindicated what Right2Water had been saying, concluding that water should be funded through general taxation which is the most socially equitable, economically beneficial and environmentally sound.
Water charges were until the end of 2016 and the government has set up a hand-picked ‘independent commission,’ precluded from assessing the social impact in relation to how Ireland provides water to its citizens. Yet even this was insufficient for the European Commission as just four days after the UK voted to leave the EU a spokesman for the Commission confirmed that Ireland would be fined if domestic water charges were not reinstated. Such an ill-judged and ludicrous statement — in a country that has 1 per cent of the EU’s population and has been
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Separately, Independents4Change TD Joan Collins put forward a bill calling for a referendum enshrining public ownership of water in the constitution: following grassroots pressure from Right2Water, the Bill was not opposed and is proceeding to Committee stage.
Meanwhile Ogle isn't sitting back waiting. He ends his book asking ‘So Where Will Our Progressive Government Come From?’ Watch this space for further developments.
This is an edited version of a review originally published in the ‘Book of the Month’ series at Unite Education.
CAMPAIGN: Public transport
UNITE DRIVING SCHOOL BUS SUPPORT Unite in the Community is building a campaign to maintain free school transport. The move follows reports that the Education Authority is considering imposing charges of between £50 and £200 per child from September in the wake of swingeing budgetary cuts. Unite represents the overwhelming majority of bus drivers employed both by the Education Authority and Translink who are fearful for the impact of this charge. Ciaran McCallion, regional organiser for Education Authority drivers told Works about the union’s building campaign on the issue.
“Drivers are hugely concerned about this proposal. The imposition of a flat rate charge like this will disproportionately
impact low income families and amounts to a stealth tax on rural communities who are dependent on school transport services. There are particular fears among Translink drivers that this charge will incentivise a move away from the buses to private transport which will only further erode the viability of rural and barely profitable services. Reps from across both Education Authority and Translink buses and trains are coordinating the mass distribution of information leaflets on the issue.”
Albert Hewitt is regional coordinator of Unite in the Community and works with some of the communities who will be most affected by this proposal. He told us that Unite Community will be
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working to ensure that free public school transport becomes an issue in the forthcoming Assembly elections, “Our Community branches are committed to work with all stakeholders – including drivers and parents – to defeat this proposal. We have launched an online petition to raise awareness and show the politicians the extent of anger over this poll tax type proposal.
Hewitt added: “There seem to be hundreds of millions of pounds available to cut corporation tax, subsidise wood burners and fund unnecessary voluntary exit schemes – yet we’re told there’s no money for our school, hospitals and buses. It’s time for a different agenda at Stormont – a people’s agenda!”
Just the job in
BY CLARE CAULFIELD, UNITE REGIONAL LEARNING ORGANISER
Ballymena JOBS FOCUS
Unite activists drive local jobs fair The Ballymena Area Activist Committee was determined to build on last year’s successful Rally For a Future by delivering something positive for the local community and workers in the area: a union-led Jobs Fair. Their first port of call was the Unite’s Union Learning team, which drove the upskilling/reskilling of workers impacted by the JTI (Gallahers) and Michelin closures.
Learn with Unite were delighted to come on board, and the AAC then approached local politicians, asking them to encourage businesses to take part in a union-led Jobs Fair. Employers quickly signed up for the initiative, and following negotiations it was decided to organise the jobs fair jointly with the Mid & East Antrim Council.
to advertise their own activities. Such was the demand that businesses had to be turned away due to space constraints at the Braid Centre, Ballymena’s town hall. The Jobs Fair was opened by regional secretary Jimmy Kelly, and Unite also had a stall offering information on our member services, community membership and employability support provision.
Contact details for each of the more than 500 participants at the jobs fair were recorded and they will be followed up to see how much impact the Jobs Fair has had on their career progression.
The event was also sponsored by the Department for Communities and proved to be a huge success, attracting 36 major local employers along with a range of statutory organisations eager
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Clare Caulfield is Unite’s regional learning organiser, and she hopes the Ballymena Jobs Fair will be a model for similar events across Northern Ireland:
“We’ve learned so much from hosting this event, so there’s little to stop us now organising other Jobs Fairs in towns across Northern Ireland. This sort of event shows that Unite is not just about representing members in the workplace but about providing a wider range of support services. There are jobs out there and our members’ skills are exceptional and varied so we need to ensure that our job searchers know the current buzz words and how to transfer their skills into new roles. The Unite Union Learning department are experts in this and available to all our members for advice and support at any time".
€150,000 FOR CENTRAL BANK BUILDERS
‘Bank of solidarity’ pays out for workers
Workers standing shoulder-toshoulder: that’s what unions are all about - and what rogue employers fear most.
A red flag goes up whenever union organisers hear of sub-contracting layers, so Unite has been keeping a close eye on the massive €140 million Central Bank project in the Docklands where nine subcontractors were working to the main mechanical and electrical contractor Winthrop
Engineering. Unite construction organiser Rob Kelly takes up the story:
“Last year, a Unite member tipped us off that lads were being paid below the agreed rate while also not being paid for hours worked. “Most of the sub-contractors were on the level, and a little Unite persuasion did the business with a couple of the others, who paid up and backdated as appropriate.
“But that still left one sub-contractor, Robb Mechanical Services, which was not paying the proper rate, paying a flat rate for overtime, under-booking hours, and failing to pay holiday pay. It was clear to Unite that that Robb Mechanical were short-changing their workers, who came from both the Republic and Northern Ireland and also included a group of Polish workers. When we took a look at the figures, it turned out that every single worker employed by Robb had been paid incorrectly”.
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Despite being caught out, Robb Mechanical wasn’t about to pay up without a fight – and even went to the trouble of doctoring pay slips: “Our members were stunned to receive pay slips which bore no relation to their actual pay packet”, Kelly recalls, “We took a look at the payslips and they had clearly been, well, enhanced.”
When the various under-payments were totted up, the total shortfall came to a staggering €150,000 between 24 workers – and Unite promptly went into battle to secure what was owåed.
“It took a while but, with the cooperation of the main contractor, Winthrop, we recouped almost everything that the workers were owed. Even better, a number of our members have now secured direct employment with Winthrop – and around 30 new members have joined Unite.
“This win was down to workers themselves standing shoulder-to-shoulder and working with Unite to claim what was owed to them. Once again, the ‘bank of solidarity’ paid out for workers.
“Rogue operators like Robb Mechanical don’t just do down their workers – they do down the whole construction sector and undermine the decent employers who pay by the rules. Unite will continue working to ensure that construction jobs are decent jobs”, Rob Kelly concluded.
YOUR union, YOUR say! By the time members receive this copy of Works, nominations will have closed for the General Secretary and Executive Council elections. Your union is run by you, so make sure you have your say! Ballot papers will be dispatched on March 27th, and voting will close at 5pm on April 19th. If you have not received a ballot paper by April 7th, you have until April 13th to request a replacement ballot paper. Contact 0800 783 3856 (NI) or 0818 333 155 (ROI). You can check that we have your correct address, and if necessary update it, by visiting the main Unite website (www.unitetheunion.org) and clicking on the blue button at the top right.
Voting eligibility Election for General secretary All members who joined before January 1st 2017 can vote in the General Secretary Election, including Community members and those paying ‘Retired Members Plus’
Election for Executive Council Retired and Community members are not eligible to vote in the Executive Council election. All other members who joined before January 1st 2017 are eligible to vote.
Fourth Irish Policy Conference The Fourth Irish Policy Conference will take place on May 23rd and 24th in the Europa Hotel, Belfast. In addition to deciding union policy for the next two years, conference enables delegates from different sectors and localities to meet, exchange experiences and learn about each other’s workplace struggles and successes.
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Accommodation for delegates has been booked in the Europa Hotel and Jury’s Hotel from Monday 22 May to Wednesday 24 May. The closing date for motions was 24 February. Emergency motions should be sent to Richie Browne (Secretary to the Standing Order Committee) at Unite House, 55/56 Middle Abbey Street, Dublin 1 D01 200X before conference, or submitted to him in the Standing Orders office at the Europa Hotel during Conference.
in the IRELAND
All the courses I have done have been brilliant, with excellent tutors. They have enabled me to go back to work with great knowledge and the confidence to support our members.
Amazing! Some of the best training I have ever undertaken and I would love to do more.
Workplace Reps Intro Certificate Modules 1 - 4
Each day I felt when I left that I was more confident and could do my job better as a Rep
Union Learning Reps Stages 1 & 2
Branch Sec/ Branch Officialâ€™s Courses
Health & Safety Reps Certificate
Pensions Stages 1 & 2
Equality & Diversity
As a first-time Unite Rep the training gave me the confidence to return to work and perform any task to help our members.
National Courses Apart from the knowledge gained, my training has furthered my understanding of a world outside of my own, the origins of the Trade Union Movement and its direction for the future. Olive Buckley
Uniteâ€™s education courses have given me the knowledge and skills I need to represent my members. Through them I have gained courage, self-esteem, comradeship, political awareness and last, but not least, a great education. Carol Beckford
Text to go here all about the courses and dates etc and so on and so on....