INSIDE: Conference Pictures • Living Wage • International Solidarity
INSIDE: Ringing the changes at Stormont G New policies needed for new Dáil Spring/Summer Summer 2016 2017 The The magazine magazine for for Unite Unite members members in in Ireland Ireland
CRANE OPERATORS ORGANISING A LIFT See page 6
A workers’ education
By GreGG Sachno, Unite tUtor
Education has been central NI RoI to the trade union movement for over a century, and has played a key role in developing the political and industrial strategies not only of unions but of political parties and in particular the British Labour Party.
A new rep’s first experience of the union outside the workplace is usually coming into the union office for training, where banners and stories of struggle on the walls convey a sense of being part of our wider movement.
Unite Education provides a wide array of resources and information. At its most basic, it offers information on legal rights and training to develop individual skills and confidence. But our education also offers a political analysis that goes far beyond telling reps ‘here are your rights, now go and get them’.
Workers were both the beneficiaries and the orchestrators of that change. Branch meetings, workplace discussions and public events offered a focal point for debate – all underpinned by the culture of worker self-education.
Regionally and nationally, Unite education is the best there is in the trade union movement, with the same political weight as the class-based education offered in the 1970s by the National Union of Mineworkers – then, along with the TGWU, by far the most politically organised union.
For many people, picking up a pen or speaking in public is a challenge which we
and they have to overcome. The capitalist system we live under discourages workingclass people from thought, preferring automatons who neither argue nor act.
As one of Unite’s longest-serving tutors, my job is not to tell people what to think, but to provide activists with the tools to think for themselves, to understand their political and legal rights, to develop a classbased analysis – and also to get some joy out of simply learning: going out and changing things. Education plays a central role in this union and the wider movement and society. It is the lifeblood of our fighting-back union, and places us at the vanguard of our class.
Instead, Unite Education in Ireland not only equips activists to meet workplace challenges but also empowers them to develop a political critique of economic, social and political conditions. This ‘political economy’ approach argues that workplace issues cannot be separated from political issues, and that activism is underpinned by an understanding of the trade union movement’s historical development.
During the 1970s, for example, crucial advances were made across a range of political fronts: health and safety laws, equality legislation, rights to attend trade union courses. These victories were down to unions working on an industrial level, organising and utilising their industrial leverage, while also articulating the political case for change.
Go to www.unitetheunion.org/growing-our-union/education/ for more information.
uniteWORKS Summer 2017
HEADER Goeshere Summer 2017 The magazine for Unite members in Ireland
A workerâ€™s education
owen reidy writes
By Unite tutor Greg Sachno
15 Deal or no deal
Public sector news
General secretary Len Mccluskey and regional secretary Jimmy Kelly write
16 Campaigners win for Daisy Hill win community news
News africa Day and digging for decency
17 Jimmy Neill 6
Crane operators striking for a lift
18 Saluting Henry Moloney 7
Low pay From poverty pay to a living wage
19 #1PillWillKill 8
Bogus self-employment 20 Fairness is not a foreign language
+ commendation for John nixon
21 Left Thinking from Belfast to inistioge
22 Still uniting against fascism 23 Community Practitioners Practising Solidarity cPhVa
Uniting behind public transport By Jackie Pollock
10 Why solidarity matters From craigavon to colombia
11 Conference season Pictures from the BDc and iPc
3 uniteWORKS Summer 2017
People Power During recent weeks the Republic has witnessed the handover of power to a new Taoiseach, while the UK’s election saw the Tories cling on to power propped up by the DUP.
Grenfell victims pay price for austerity and de-regulation Poverty kills. Austerity kills. And greed kills. In the words of the poet Ben Okri: “In this age of austerity, the poor die for others’ prosperity”.
And, as we go to print, political power in Northern Ireland remains frozen, with both leading Assembly parties refusing to come together to defend the interests of working people, ensure that we have a functioning Executive to invest in our public services and economy, and negotiate the best possible Brexit deal.
At least 80 people died in the fire in London’s Grenfell tower block due to a decision to save money by using sub-standard cladding. Those who died in the Grenfell Tower atrocity were failed by years of local authority cuts, by corporate greed and by callous capitalism. For the sake of a few thousand pounds saved on cladding, so many lives have been lost, including Unite members.
Whether in the Republic, Northern Ireland or the UK, recent political events have done little to redress the balance of power in favour of working people and the communities in which they live.
Grenfell shows what can happen when profit rules and those living and working in poverty are abandoned by the powerful. Kensington, a wealthy Tory-controlled council, symbolises all that is wrong with austerity and with an establishment ruling in the interests of the elite.
However fascinated headline writers may be by power shifts and machinations at the top, working people know that neither the Tories nor Fine Gael have their interests at heart. Leo Varadkar wants to govern on behalf of those ‘who get up early in the morning’, has declared war on social welfare recipients and attacked our right to strike, while Theresa May leads the party which brought in beneﬁt caps and the Trade Union Act – the most anti-worker legislation since Margaret Thatcher.
This was a council holding reserves of £274 million to bribe rich voters, unable or unwilling to protect working class people in their homes and incapable of accepting responsibility for the terrible loss of life. The situation is repeated across these islands. The situation is repeated across these islands. In the Republic, a culture of self-regulation means that up to 40 per cent of Celtic Tiger buildings may potentially pose fire risks. The situation in privately-owned flats and towers in Northern Ireland appears to be similar with growing numbers of buildings flagged as being potential fire-hazards.
Both want to shrink the state, cut (more) ‘red tape’ and further shift the balance of power in favour of employers.
The Grenfell catastrophe must spell the end of the failed policy of austerity, and it must mark a turning point in terms of health and safety. Never again should public or private profiteers be able to play loose and fast with crucial regulations.
The one thread of hope running through recent events was the outstanding performance by a re-invigorated British Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn – a performance which has given hope to the Left on both sides of the Irish Sea.
Five years ago David Cameron boasted that his aim was to ‘kill off the health and safety culture’. And just last month, the Irish Government (unsuccessfully) opposed a parliamentary motion seeking to replace selfregulation with an independent construction regulator.
Rather than power shifts at the top, we need a seismic transfer of power from the elites to the working people we represent, their families and communities.
The Grenfell disaster exposes this agenda: It’s about prioritising profit and greed over people.
Unite is about empowering people – industrially and politically. And every successful battle – whether to save a hospital, or defeat water charges, or defend workers – brings us a step closer to that empowerment.
Our members, and our union, have made a huge financial contribution to the Grenfell fund. Unite has participant status in the public inquiry but we’re demanding that it is open, broad and genuinely independent. And after it reports we must redouble our efforts to ensure that a similar tragedy is never visited on any other community in these islands.
High-level power games only beneﬁt those in power. Redressing the balance of power in favour of working people beneﬁts everyone.
Len McCluskey, general secretary uniteWORKS Ireland No:5 26-34 Antrim Road, Belfast BT15 2AA Tel: 0044 28 90 232381 Fax: 0044 28 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
4 uniteWORKS Summer 2017
By taryn trainor, reGionaL eqUaLitieS oFFiceer
CELEBRATING AFRICA Africa Day has been marked since NI 1958, when it was known as Africa Freedom Day and symbolised “the determination of the people of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation”. Today, Africa Day is celebrated around the world on May 25th and focuses on new challenges such as equal access to work, education and healthcare.
This year, Unite took the opportunity of a Regional BAEM meeting to mark Africa Day and invite people along to hear what Unite and the trade union movement are all about – and how we organise for equality. Some musical entertainment was followed by lunch featuring the flavours of Africa.
Africa Day reminds us that there is strength in our diversity – whether in our union, or in society as a whole.
Why do I celebrate Africa Day? I am an African, my dreams are of Africa, where the grass is brown and the Boabab Trees give life Here it is beautiful Everywhere is green But my soul is there, even my heart was left there I celebrate Africa Day here because I am an African I represent my tribe and my people I hear their voices from afar Xa bethetha, Xa bexhentsa Ndikhumbula imilambo namasimi neeNtaba Ndikhumbula embo If I don't know my past, I will not know where I am going. We celebrate to remind ourselves of who we are To tell our children the stories and poems To let people into our culture To share who we are and our shared experiences. To tell about the beauty of Africa. Nandi Jola (Unite member)
Digging for decency Following the disappointing refusal to grant archaeologists a Sectoral Employment Order late last year, Unite lodged pay claims with three of the leading archaeological consultancies. Rubicon Heritage acknowledged the claim and adjusted their rates accordingly, resulting in a 15% increase for most workers with some benefitting by up to 20%. Unite’s latest wage tracker confirms that other major consultancies have
followed Rubicon’s lead and increased their pay rates to compete.
Matt Seaver chairs Unite’s Archaeological Branch and he says members are still determined to pursue a Sectoral Employment Order, especially in light of the SEO recently recommended for the construction sector: “It’s unfortunate that some of the larger archaeological consultancies failed last year to see the benefits of a sectoral agreement for employers as well as workers. Our members have benefited from the Living Wage commitment given by all employers two years ago as a result of Unite action, and from the individual pay increases secured this
5 uniteWORKS Summer 2017
year. Now, we must continue working to ensure that the entire archaeological sector is governed by a sectoral agreement”.
Unite archaeologists are RoI continuing their fight for decent terms and conditions in the sector.
CRANE OPERATORS STRIKING FOR A LIFT
“When cranes aren’t swinging, RoI sites aren’t working”. That’s the message sent by Unite tower crane operators to construction companies throughout the ROI over the past number of weeks, as members continue their push to ensure that crane operators’ wages reflect the levels of skill and responsibility involved. With around 170 members in the sector, Unite currently organises over 90% of all tower crane operators in the Republic.
Unite Regional Officer for Construction Tom Fitzgerald sums up the background to the dispute: “Cranes are the most visible sign of Ireland’s current building boom, yet the lads in the driver’s cabs are underpaid and undervalued for what they do”.
Following the failure by employers to engage and an overwhelming vote for industrial action, a series of rolling stoppages started at the end of June. A second mandate for industrial action against companies belonging to the
Construction Industry Federation was invoked following a week’s deferral to allow for talks which broke up without conclusion. Barely a crane in Ireland was swinging on July 21st, when members gathered outside CIF headquarters to tell construction bosses “Stop taking the Mickey” – a reference to CIF chief Tom Parlon’s spectacular own goal when he claimed that Irish cranes were ‘Mickey Mouse’ compared to those elsewhere.
“Parlon’s Mickey Mouse comments infuriated our members and were symptomatic of the CIF’s contempt for the workers who bring in the profits”, Tom Fitzgerald notes, pointing out that profits in the construction sector have more than doubled since 2012 while wages remain below 2004 levels in real terms. “The CIF’s own pay proposals would have cut workers’ wages by up to 30%, and even the Sectoral Employment Order eventually recommended by the Labour Court could cut our members’ pay by over 2.5% given
6 uniteWORKS Summer 2017
the planned abolition of the travel allowance”.
Unite tower crane operators remain determined to ensure that the construction sector offers decent jobs paying decent wages, and as we go to print members are preparing for further strike days.
FROM POVERTY PAY TO A LIVING WAGE The Living Wage is just NI RoI that: the minimum hourly necessary for workers and their families to live, rather than merely exist. The Living Wage for the UK and Northern Ireland is set by the Living Wage Foundation, while in the Republic it is calculated by the Living Wage Technical Group, of which Unite is a member.
The Living Wage is £8.45 per hour in Northern Ireland and €11.70 in the Republic. Just barely enough to live on – but better than the minimum wage levels of £7.50 for those 25 and older in Northern Ireland, or €9.25 (recently increased to €9.55) for experienced adult employees in the Republic.
Wage employers. This would commit councils to paying future Living Wage increases – and also means that those bidding for council procurement contracts will also have to pay their workers the Living Wage
Regional Officer Gareth Scott sums up the benefits, pointing out that although relatively few directly-employed council workers are paid less than the Living Wage and the cost associated with the commitment would be meagre, “the impact on those living on poverty pay would be dramatic. Every worker, and their family, deserves a decent standard of living”.
In the Republic, Unite Archaeologists secured a commitment from employers that no archaeologist will be paid less than the Living Wage – and that win has proven an important milestone in their ongoing battle for decent pay and conditions in the sector.
As Jimmy Kelly points out, whether among council workers in Northern Ireland or archaeologists in the Republic, “the Living Wage is not an end in itself. But it is a powerful organising and negotiating tool as we fight to end poverty pay on the island of Ireland”.
The Living Wage is a powerful weapon in the arsenal of trade unionists seeking to raise the floor – and it is a tool constantly used by Unite in both the Republic and Northern Ireland.
In Northern Ireland, initiatives taken by our activists and supported by our officers have led to four of the eleven district councils committing themselves to paying a Living Wage: Belfast City Council, Derry City & Strabane District Council, Mid-Ulster Council and Fermanagh & Omagh District Council. But we are calling on them to go further and become fully-accredited Living
Activists demand that NI local authorities pay a Living Wage
“Raise the Floor!”: Delegates at the Irish Policy Conference demand an end to poverty pay.
7 uniteWORKS Summer 2017
Growing scourge of
By DaVy thoMPSon, reGionaL co-orDinatinG oFFicer
Workers who previously NI RoI would have had full-time jobs and proper working contracts are now being forced to declare themselves as selfemployed. Workers who were previously entitled to at least a bare minimum in terms of hourly pay, workplace pensions, defined holiday entitlements and job security today either have to take responsibility for their own tax returns or sign up to an agency.
Bogus self-employment started off in the black economy, especially on the fringes of the construction sector where subbies outsource work to other subbies with disastrous consequences for pay, health and safety, terms and conditions and the ability of workers to secure union representation. This business model has now moved from the fringes to the mainstream.
Bogus self-employment is rife in both the Republic and in the UK, where scores of payroll administration companies have
been set up to coordinate industrial-scale bogus self-employment.
While billions are spent by both the London and Dublin governments pursuing a few fraudulent benefit claimants, virtually nothing has been done to stamp out bogus self-employment or stamp down on these third party payroll agencies.
To get a sense of what’s happening, consider the leap there has been in the numbers declaring as ‘self-employed’. In Northern Ireland, the number of selfemployed has grown by a staggering 17.5%, or 17,000 workers, over the past two years.
In the Republic, there are over 32,000 own-account workers (self-employed, no employees) in the construction sector – accounting for 27 percent of all ownaccount workers in the market economy. The ICTU estimates that bogus selfemployment costs the state up to €80 million per year in employers’ PRSI alone – and that is just in the construction sector.
The rise in self-employment is not due to blossoming entrepreneurship. In Northern Ireland, it is estimated at least half this surge are bogus self-employed. The likes of Uber and Deliveroo are using new technologies to exploit their workers and gaining mainstream respectability for their ‘innovative business model’ in the process.
The situation across these islands is the same. The response of unions must be resolute. We must find new ways to defend those in precarious work.
We must organise those at the coalface of twenty-first century exploitative working. We must demand legislation and enforcement to put an end to this practice and punish those who use it to avoid paying payroll taxes and to duck out of social insurance contributions, minimum pay laws and workers’ hard-won terms and conditions. Bogus self-employment, as well as zero hour, ‘if and when’ contracts and other precarious work practices, need to befaced down – and that can only be done by workers coming together and organising in a union.
Solidarity means more than standing together in our workplace. It also means taking risks to protect others – and last year members of a Strangford ferry crew took the ultimate risk to save the life of a woman in Portavogie Harbour. They included Unite member John Nixon, who recovered three people from the water and administered first aid until the arrival of first responders. John’s actions were all the more remarkable given that he cannot swim – and his bravery was recognised a couple of weeks ago when the Duke of Kent presented him with a Certificate of Commendation awarded by the Royal Humane Society.
John Nixon and Strangford Ferry skipper and Unite rep Alwyn Milligan.
By JacKie PoLLocK, DePUty reGionaL Secretary
Serving the public
Uniting behind NI public transport High-quality public transport, publicly provided, is critical to our economy and communities – and to those working in the sector.
Unite represents the majority of those employed on Northern Ireland’s buses and rail systems, but all our members and their families are affected by our public transport services. That is why Unite has played an active role in the public transport policy debate – from our involvement in negotiating delivery of the Belfast Rapid Transit project to opposing school bus charges and standing firm against privatisation.
Public transport relies on both public investment and public subsidy – and years of austerity have put both under pressure,
while providing a fig-leaf for creeping privatisation.
That is why Unite has steadfastly opposed moves to allow a private sector operator to provide a Belfast-Derry/L’Derry express route, which we believe would undermine the existing Goldliner/Ulsterbus service on what is one of Northern Ireland’s most revenue-generating routes. Such routes are vital for the integrity of our public transport, since most routes are noneconomical and can only survive through cross-subsidisation.
Unite also argued against allowing private taxies and commercial operators to use the dedicated Belfast Rapid Transit lane – a move which we believe would slow down buses and undermine the entire project.
9 uniteWORKS Summer 2017
While we welcome the decision to earmark part of the £400 million investment fund agreed between the DUP and the Tories for the public transport hub at Belfast’s Great Victoria Street, we will be keeping a close eye on developments to ensure that the promises are actually delivered.
Transport policy has always been contested between those who view public transport as a common good which should be provided as a public service, and those who view it as yet another opportunity for private profiteering.
Unite will continue advocating for a public transport service which is publicly and adequately funded, serves all communities regardless of route profitability, and offers good jobs paying decent wages.
Why solidarity matters Leading Colombian trade unionist Huber Ballesteros received a standing ovation at the recent ICTU conference, six months after ﬁnally being released from prison where he had been held on trumped-up charges since 2013.
On hand to welcome him to Belfast was Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly, a longtime campaigner for human rights in Colombia. In 2013 Jimmy travelled to Catatumbo with a Justice for Colombia delegation to support peasant farmers protesting against government repression, and last year he was on hand to witness the signing of a peace agreement.
Speaking at a fringe meeting on Colombia, Kelly reﬂected on the international challenges facing the trade union movement and drew parallels between the Northern Irish and Colombian peace processes, pointing out that in both instances corporate interests have sought to shape the peace:
“While the Irish trade union movement supported the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, we are engaged in a constant battle to resist the neoliberal turn accompanying this relative peace. This is mirrored by corporate attempts to impose neoliberal terms on the Colombian peace process, for example by expanding ‘free trade’ zones”.
Noting that international solidarity has been key to exposing human rights violations in Colombia, Jimmy Kelly said the same solidarity is critical in the face of increased globalisation, capital mobility and the changing nature of work:
“Over the past thirty years, industrial production has relocated from the West to where labour is cheapest, workers’ protections are non-existent and environmental standards are weak”. Corporate empires such as Samsung and Apple have been built on the misery of
Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly speaking at a JFC fringe meeting at the ICTU BDC]
Huber Ballesteros addressing the ICTU Biennial Delegate Conference with Mariela Kohon of Justice for Colombia
tens of thousands of Chinese workers whose harsh working conditions are in turn enforced by the Chinese government as part of its ‘Made in China’ strategy, while in the garment factories of Cambodia, India and Bangladesh mainly female workers are viewed as expendable and paid starvation wages.
Drawing parallels between the Industrial Revolution in the nineteenth century and today, Kelly said the process creating a new industrial working class in Asia “is just as brutal as the one experienced by English workers over 200 years ago, and the conditions enabling this exploitation
10 uniteWORKS Summer 2017
of the global South have also degraded wages, labour rights and trade union density across the global North”.
Capital mobility is one side of the coin, but labour mobility and the exploitation of migrant workers is another, and Jimmy Kelly concluded by reafﬁrming Unite’s commitment to the rights of all workers, everywhere: “Our union will not allow Brexit to usher in a ‘carnival of reaction’ against migrant workers. Instead, we will continue opposing the race to the bottom advocated by predatory employers and demand that all workers are afforded the same robust protections”.
Conference season Conference season saw delegates gather in Belfast for Uniteâ€™s Fourth Irish Policy Conference in late May followed by the ICTU Biennial Delegate Conference in early July.
e t a g e l e D l a i n Bien onference C 11 uniteWORKS Summer 2017
P h s i Ir e f n o C 12 uniteWORKS Summer 2017
y c i l o P e c n ere 13 uniteWORKS Summer 2017
By owen reiDy
Opinion At the ICTU’s Biennial Delegate Conference in Belfast, trade unions discussed and developed our policy agenda for the next two years. Motions on key issues for Norther Ireland included:
• Building the peace and restoring devolution, • Seeking mitigation from cuts and challenging austerity, • Defending and advancing both trade union and workers’ rights, • Seeking to improve pay for both public and private sector workers … • …. and Brexit.
Regardless of how people voted, we must ensure that no worker pays the price for Brexit. But the reality is that the best deal will be inferior to the current arrangements. And we have enough problems already.
NI remains a low wage economy, with wages lagging behind the rest of the UK and over 4,000 manufacturing jobs lost in recent years: high-quality jobs which are difﬁcult to replace.
Invest NI still market us as a low cost economy where “salary costs are lower than the rest of the UK”.
This is not something to boast about. A vicious circle of low pay, feeding poor jobs, fed by low skills, works for neither our society nor our economy. Austerity has failed even in its own narrow terms.
Unions and trades councils across NI agree that a uniﬁed campaign involving all our movement’s resources is needed to push our agenda of decent work rewarded by proper wages.
The trade union movement is developing a multi-dimensional campaign focused on three key areas:
1. Decent work We are challenging NI’s lack of a ﬁt-forpurpose industrial strategy. 1 in 3 workers in NI is in insecure employment. We must promote strategies for decent work.
2. Investing in public services The block grant has fallen by 10.2% in real terms since 2010, meaning our public servants have had to do more with less, and all of us have suffered a shrinkage in services. The extra £1bn for public services restores the block grant to what it should be, but it is a once off payment.
14 uniteWORKS Summer 2017
3. The 1% public sector pay cap Over the last number of years, this artiﬁcial straightjacket means public servants have seen their pay fall by up to 10%. We believe that public opinion is behind us on this issue.
These three issues affect private and public sector workers alike.
This campaign has to be an ongoing process. We are looking at: • coordinated lobbying of politicians worker testimonials • pledges • rallies, seminars • engaging communities and seeking the support of allies • talking to those who are not our traditional allies • and when appropriate, and crucially where workers can win, industrial action.
If our 24 afﬁliates and 6 associate unions work collectively, collaboratively and cohesively, this campaign can succeed. We need your involvement to win.
Owen Reidy is Assistant General Secretary of the ICTU
PUBLIC SECTOR News
DEAL OR NO DEAL?
Unite public sector reps will be RoI meeting shortly to decide whether to issue a recommendation on the public sector pay deal negotiated at the start of June – and, if so, whether to recommend acceptance or rejection. Balloting will start immediately afterwards, and the result will be known before the ICTU Public Services Committee meeting on 18 September. Pointing out that, by the end of the proposed agreement, workers will have waited 12 years to have their pay restored, Regional Coordinating Ofﬁcer Richie Browne said that any modest advances made during the negotiations were long overdue:
“Unions negotiated hard to achieve modest improvements while protecting previous gains such as the outsourcing protections. Unite is particularly pleased that the pay of lower earners will not only be restored by the end of the agreement, but will also be slightly increased over pre-cuts levels.
“Nevertheless, however, that by the end of this proposed agreement in 2020, most workers will have had to wait 12 years to exit FEMPI and the pension levy - they may ﬁnd themselves paying increased pension contributions while pension beneﬁts remain unchanged”. One area where insufﬁcient progress was made was restoration of the so-called
Croke Park Hours. Although unions secured agreement that members will be able to avail of two ‘windows’ in which they can revert back to their previous hours of working, the proposals provide for pay to be reduced commensurately – reinforcing Unite’s view that the Croke Park hours were all about cost-savings rather than productivity.
“Our members will have the ﬁnal say on whether or not Unite accepts these proposals. Public sector reps will be meeting on August 16th to decide whether or not to issue a recommendation – and whether to be bound by the aggregate vote of Congress”, Richie Browne said
Richie Browne speaking at the Irish Policy Conference
15 uniteWORKS Summer 2017
Campaigners win for Daisy Hill
Unite-sponsored mural on Canal Street In the spring, Southern Health & NI Social Care Trust management twice threatened suspension of A&E cover at Newry’s Daisy Hill Hospital.
Local campaigners had successfully defeated previous proposals to close down a Stroke Unit in the hospital, and they warned that – far from being simply a response to stafﬁng shortages – the threatened A&E suspension was just the latest step in a plan to downgrade the hospital as part of the Department’s longstanding ‘Golden Six’ acute hospital agenda.
Any decision to close Daisy Hill A&E would force patients to travel from as far away as Annalong to the nearest emergency service at Craigavon.
In response, a new ‘Save our Emergency Department’ organised a public meeting to demand continued 24-7 A&E cover at
Daisy Hill. Around 1,000 people attended the meeting at the Canal Court Hotel, followed a few days later by a protest at the Trust Board meeting in Craigavon for which Unite provided free buses.
Around a dozen protesters were allowed to attend the Trust meeting where A&E consultant Donal Dufﬁn alleged that a premium was being paid to junior doctors to work in Craigavon instead of Newry. Dr Dufﬁn also showed that the SHSCT had not advertised for staff for Newry while repeatedly advertising for Craigavon. These claims directly contradicted the Trust’s assertion that the threatened closure was due to insufﬁcient stafﬁng.
The SHSCT chair’s response was to convene a ‘summit’ in early May which was closed to the public. Afterwards the Trust announced that it had secured sufﬁcient NHS support to ‘sustain 24/7 emergency
16 uniteWORKS Summer 2017
services at Daisy Hill’.
Although this U-turn was welcomed, seasoned campaigners warned that a verbal assurance was no substitute for castiron guarantees: an ongoing people power campaign was needed to ensure adequate resources are ring-fenced and the guarantees extended to include the Daisy Hill fracture which is also under threat. In addition, campaigners are demanding a full public response to Dr Dufﬁn’s allegations.
Local activists are determined to keep the pressure on. On 12 May Unite’s Newry Community Branch unveiled a new ‘Hands Off Daisy Hill’ Mural on Canal Street, followed a day later by a large rally for Daisy Hill in the town. Led by Unite community and industrial members, campaigners stand ready to respond if and when any further threats to local hospital provision are made.
By noeL GiBSon, Unite execUtiVe MeMBer
The passing of
a quiet man Unite was greatly saddened to hear NI of the passing of trade union stalwart Jimmy Neill, also affectionately known as Smirnoff.
Ask anyone at Bombardier Belfast did they know Jimmy “Smirnoff ”, and without exception the answer would have been yes. What no-one could have told you was when Jimmy ﬁrst got involved with the union. The answer you’d get was always the same: Smirnoff has always been out there in the ‘Strawberry hut’ – the term used to describe the union ofﬁce
where Jimmy would guard the door, cigarette in hand.
Jimmy served as a shop steward, deputy convenor and convenor over many decades, with Unite and with our legacy unions Amicus, AEEU and AEU. Although a man of few words, Jimmy was constantly there for his members and fellow reps giving advice in his own way. He was by no means political or diplomatic, yet his advice was affectionately and gratefully received by members, reps and management alike.
Over the years, Jimmy sat on various regional and national union committees, from the regional Confederation of Shipbuilding and Engineering Unions and committees, to the national Aerospace & Shipbuilding committee, and ﬁnally the Executive Council. His colleagues all remember Jimmy with deep affection, and since his passing ofﬁcers, staff and members have expressed their sadness at the passing of this quiet man, missed by all.
Remembering Jimmy Neill at the Irish Policy Conference
17 uniteWORKS Summer 2017
Saluting Henry Moloney Not many people get to RoI celebrate retirement twice – but that’s exactly what Unite stalwart Henry Moloney did last month. Having retired from Waterford Crystal in 1987, Henry put in another 30 years of service to the trade union movement and the wider community – but has now decided to ‘retire from activism’ and enjoy a well-earned rest.
Henry’s was 15 when he started working for Waterford Glass in Kilbarry, subsequently moving to the main plant in Waterford – the iconic factory which he once described as a “jewel in Irish industry”. While working there, he was not only active in the union but also spearheaded dialysis and radiotherapy campaigns for Waterford City and County. Henry saw
Waterford Glass as an integral part of the city and its people and, although long retired from the factory, was vocal in the 2009 campaign to prevent its closure. While that campaign was to prove unsuccessful, Henry did not let that deter him from activism: as recently as last March, he was collecting funds for the bus workers.
Henry has represented both Unite and the Waterford Council of Trade unions in a range of campaigns, yet also found time to sit in the Senior Citizens’ Parliament, chair the Disabled People’s Action Group and campaign for a range of medical services in Waterford and the South East.
Around sixty people packed into Waterford’s Grattan Bar in June to
honour Henry, including Unite Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly, SIPTU’s Davy Lane and WCTU President Una Dunphy, who noted that Henry Moloney is “the ﬁnest example of an older generation of hard-working people who paid their taxes and contributed unselﬁshly to their community – people determined to make a society out of a market-driven economy where winners take all!”
Henry is already one of the few holders of Unite’s Gold Medal for distinguished services to our Union, and last month’s event saw Jimmy Kelly present him with a special stamped Jim Larkin commemorative medal. As Jimmy said, our union and our movement are built on the likes of Henry Moloney.
Jimmy Kelly presenting veteran activist Henry Moloney with the Jim Larkin commemorative medal
18 uniteWORKS Summer 2017
Darren Kidd/Press Eye
#1 PILLWILLKILL NI
In 2016, there were over a thousand emergency admissions to Belfast's hospitals due to drug overdoses, while 78 people died. The number of drug-related deaths has doubled over a two year period.
Ecstasy and similar pills have been responsible for many of these tragedies, and now communities are coming together to say – enough! Just “One pill will kill” is the message of a new campaign launched by the North Belfast Burns family following the tragic death of their son. 23-year-old student Jamie Burns collapsed and died after taking an Ecstasy tablet, and his parents are determined to ensure that other families are spared the heartache they suffered following Jamie’s death. Their #1PillWillKill campaign to educate
young people in Northern Ireland about the dangers associated with drugs has attracted cross-community support.
the centre of serious clashes over parades in recent years is now dominated by a mural reaching out to young people to save lives.
As part of the campaign, Unite has sponsored a mural highlighting the dangers of drugs at the Twaddell Avenue interface junction – the site of numerous clashes over parades in recent years.
“Working-class families on both sides of the peace walls suffer equally from pills and drugs. As a trade union with proud roots in the communities living in the streets either side of these peace walls, Unite will continue to make a stand against this scourge”, Hewitt said.
Unite Community co-ordinator Albert Hewitt explains why the union got involved: “Our message is simple: all it takes is one pill to kill. The human toll of these poisons on our young people and their families is truly heart-breaking. “This mural is highly symbolic. Through the bravery of a family dealing with this tragic bereavement in so positive a way, the Twaddell roundabout which has been at
19 uniteWORKS Summer 2017
Speaking at the mural’s unveiling, Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly highlighted the need for workers to “stand together on the issues that really matter whether it’s preventing drug deaths, fighting poverty pay or demanding decent jobs”. Unite will continue supporting our members and communities in confronting the scourge of drugs.
Talk to us, Minister Bruton!”
FAIRNESS IS NOT A FOREIGN LANGUAGE! When is a teacher not a teacher? When they teach English to foreign students – or at least that seems to be the conclusion drawn by Education and Skills Minister Richard Bruton, who has steadfastly refused to meet with English Language Teachers represented by Unite.
Towards the end of June, Unite ELT members decided to take their invitation to talk right to the Minister’s door – or at least to the gate of the Department of Education. Extensive media coverage forced the Minister to issue a statement in which he claimed that, since the relationship between teachers and private education providers is based on a private contract, his Department has no role in regulating teachers’ working conditions.
Essentially, the Minister’s response was
“Nothing to do with me, Gov”.
That is, of course, the default position of right-wing governments when asked to intervene in the market on behalf of workers or consumers. But, rather than taking ‘No’ for an answer, Unite ELT members are keeping on the pressure.
The Government’s Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Amendment) Bill deals with facilities for international learners and is due to be debated in the Dáil in the autumn. It provides for schools to seek an ‘International Education Mark, but as Unite organiser Roy Hassey notes schools would be well advised to strive for a ‘Fair Employment Mark’: “English Language Teaching is booming on the backs of workers, with precarious
20 uniteWORKS Summer 2017
employment conditions rife and some teachers earning as little as €13 per hour”.
A couple of weeks after the rally at the Department of Education, Unite held a briefing for Oireachtas members to outline our concerns and ask that the draft legislation be amended to include minimum terms and conditions for English Language Teachers.
We have asked members of the Oireachtas Education Committee to ensure that public hearings on the legislation are held, and that Unite has an opportunity to outline our concerns to the Committee.
Unite is determined to ensure that the ELT sector offers a quality experience to students – and quality jobs for teachers.
Left thinking from Belfast to Inistioge In the years before World War II, nearly 60,000 people were members of the Left Book Club which met in 1,200 workplace and local groups, forming a key component in the battle against poverty, fascism and impending war.
The Left Book Club was a vehicle for enlightenment, empowerment and collective organisation – and would have been familiar to people like Kilkenny native George Brown who died in the Spanish Civil War and another Brown, the Fermanagh trade unionist commemorated in Unite’s annual Jimmy Brown Memorial Lecture.
Unite used this year’s lecture to establish a Left Book Club in Belfast – the Left Book Club established in these islands since the 1940s. Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly explained the thinking behind the initiative: “The Belfast Left Book Club aims to provide a forum for trade unionists and socialists across the board to engage and discuss progressive traditions and our movement’s legacy. Such discussions are an invaluable part of building a better future for Northern Ireland.”
The first two meetings were addressed by Neil Faulkner, author of ‘A People’s History of the Russian Revolution’, published by Pluto Books in conjunction with the Left Book Club,
and Trademark’s Mel Corry who discussed another Left Book title, Dave Randall’s ‘Sound System: The Political Power of Music’ The next meeting of the Left Book Club is scheduled for Friday September 1st at 1 pm and will focus on Gregor Gall’s political biography of the legendary RMT leader Bob Crow, the latest publication by the Left Book Club.
Unite has been a staunch supporter of the annual George Brown commemoration weekend held in the Kilkenny man’s home town of Inistioge, where activists come together to debate a wide range of topics of relevance to the trade union movement and the wider Left. 2017 marked the 10th year the event has been held, and Unite Political Officer Brendan Ogle gave a wide ranging and timely talk on ‘Poverty in Ireland of the Recovery’.
Waterford Unite activist Tommy Hogan also spoke, examining the experiences of Spanish Civil War combatants from Waterford, while sessions were chaired by Jimmy Kelly and Senior Organiser Davy Kettyles. Fermanagh’s Jimmy Brown and Kilkenny’s George Brown live on in a robust tradition of Left reflection and debate.
21 uniteWORKS Summer 2017
Brendan Ogle speaking at 2017 George Brown commemoration
OUR WORKING HISTORY
STILL UNITING AGAINST FASCISM From the 1930s to the present day, Unite and our legacy unions have been at the forefront of the battle against ultra-nationalism, racism and xenophobia – just some of the ingredients which, mixed together, can give birth to fascism.
Eighty years ago, our legacy unions and many individual members were working to defeat Fascism in Spain and were also engaged in battles closer to home – whether against Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists in London, or Saint Patrick’s Anti-Communist League and the Irish Christian Front in Dublin.
It was a universal struggle, and ongoing emigration meant that young men from Belfast and Dublin could find themselves fighting fascists in London, Liverpool or Manchester.
At the 2017 Irish Policy Conference, to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the battle of Jarama, Unite published a brochure outlining the role played by some of Unite’s legacy unions in Ireland, and individual members, in the struggle for the Spanish republic.
The brochure traces the difficulties encountered by the trade union
movement in maintaining a united front in support of the Spanish Republic in Ireland, North and South but also explains how, despite mistrust manufactured by both political and religious forces, the Irish trade union movement provided vital support to the Spanish Republic and to individual brigadistas following their return.
The rise of fascism in the 1930s taught us the need for active vigilance, and today there is much to be vigilant against: hate crime is on the rise, and perceived national self-interest is being pitted against values of solidarity and internationalism.
In 2017, Unite Community mobilises trade union and community activists in campaigns as diverse as the struggle against homophobic hate crime in Northern Ireland and solidarity with refugees and asylum seekers in the Republic. To download a copy of Unite Against Fascism, go to www.unitetheunionireland.org and click on the ‘Unite History’ tab.
The fight against fascism in all its guises continues. ¡No Pasarán!
22 uniteWORKS Summer 2017
Cover of Unite’s Uniting Against Fascism brochure published at the Irish Policy Conference
When the vile creed of fascism is again raising its ugly head it is vital for the young people of today to learn the lesson taught in Spain – the great lesson of unity […]
We must again say “Never!” to racism and fascism.
No Pasaran! Salud!
Waterford-born Brigadista Peter O’Connor, a member of Unite’s legacy union MSF, speaking at Jarama in 1994
COMMUNITY PRACTITIONERS PRACTISING SOLIDARITY At the end of June, Unite’s NI Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association (CPHVA) held a regional conference in Bellaghy.
The CPHVA enables Unite members in the sector to engage professionally on public health matters with other stakeholders such as Government bodies and voluntary/charitable organisations.
The well-attended event was organised to mark the National Health Visiting and School Nursing weeks, as well as Unite’s ‘Love your Health Visitor’ and ‘Love your School Nurse’ campaigns.
NHS Nurse Manager Janet Taylor, the founding Irish National CPHVA Chair, offered her unique perspective at the event: “There have been many changes over the years, but what doesn’t change is the need for a professional, caring, compassionate and expert service.
Unfortunately, the NHS is under threat and we as a Union need to ﬁght to protect its future as being free at the point of delivery as originally intended.
Now as never before we have to challenge those who seek to promote the private sector over the NHS.”
Janet was clear about the impact of austerity and the one percent pay cap, which she said were having “a devastating effect on our members”, and she highlighted low morale, stressrelated illnesses and resulting staff shortages.
Northern Ireland pay is now two years behind Scotland, with CPHVA members suffering a seventeen percent pay reduction in real terms, and Janet explained the challenges facing Unite and the CPHVA in securing a pay improvement:
“In the past we engaged with Stormont, but without a functioning government attention has now shifted to Westminster, where over a hundred health visitors recently demanded that MPs address our concerns in relation to cuts to services.”
The CPHVA meets quarterly and has a work plan of professional activity
determined by its members, as well as holding an annual national conference where members have an opportunity to plan and set the association’s agenda. CPHVA members receive a monthly professional journal, and this is proving an excellent organising tool. There are also regional professional conferences supported by Unite, such as the one held in Bellaghy in June.
Janet Taylor’s role as CPHVA Chair follows on from her position as one of the lead shop stewards within her NHS Trust, where Unite represents approximately ninety percent of Health Visitors and School Nurses. Trade union solidarity is key, says Janet, pointing out that the CPHVA has an excellent relationship with colleagues from other trade unions, and works collectively to address issues that affect our staff members. It’s all about democracy, Janet concluded: “Unite is very much a member led organisation where healthy debates are welcomed and all views considered in a democratic manner. I would recommend it to anyone!”
Janet Taylor (3rd from left) with the CPHVA team
23 uniteWORKS Summer 2017
Have you had a metal-on-metal hip implant?
Then read on …. Unite Legal Services is urging members with metal-on-metal (MoM) hip implants to visit their GP following a warning that the implants may be toxic. The advice comes from UK health watchdog, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), while a similar warning has been sounded by the Republic’s Health Services Executive which has ordered a review of all patients with MOM hip implants. Growing evidence suggests that the implants can cause soft tissue damage, and all patients are urged to seek medical advice whether or not they are showing symptoms. Unite is advising members who have metalon-metal implants to visit their doctor as soon as possible, given concerns that these implants could be damaging an individual’s body without them even being aware of it. The earlier health problems are detected, the sooner the monitoring and treatment can begin.
The implants were developed in the 1990s as an alternative to a metal ball and plastic socket, but were largely phased out after 2013 following a study which found a high failure rate in a review of 17,000 patients. If any of our members have suffered an injury because of the metal-on-metal hip implants, Unite Legal Services’ medical negligence solicitors, who are experts in product liability claims, can investigate a claim for compensation.
Call Unite Legal Services to obtain comprehensive legal cover for you and your family. Our experienced medical negligence experts can provide a FREE INITIAL ASSESSMENT if you or your family have concerns about a metal-onmetal hip replacement.
Women with implants will need annual check-ups for the rest of their lives, even if they do not have symptoms of muscle damage, because studies show that females are more likely to need corrective surgery. Men with symptoms will need an annual check-up, but those without symptoms will only need testing once every three years.
0800 709 007 – 24 hrs
RoI these hours will be returned as soon as practicable
1800 303 603 (Monday – Friday, 9am – 5.30 pm); calls outside
Published on Sep 26, 2017