Mandate saddened by passing of Mel Corry

Mandate saddened by passing of Mel Corry

Thursday 14 January 2021

Mandate is deeply shocked and saddened to hear of the passing of our brother Mel Corry yesterday afternoon after a short battle with Covid.

Mel had been working for Trademark Belfast as a tutor on Mandate’s education courses since 2013 where our staff and our members had the pleasure of learning from a trade union stalwart.

Members loved his dry wit and twinkle in the eye. Mel was working class. Therefore he acutely felt and understood the struggles met by workers and their families. Through his union work it was obvious he felt a deep affinity with our members and they with him. He was an important part of their struggles and journey through life. His life was a life well lived and he will leave an irreplaceable hole both in our hearts as well as in our trade union movement.

Mel spoke at our 2014 conference in Killarney where this picture was taken. He spoke about the great inequities and social injustices we faced, and continue to face. When we arrived the morning the conference was to start, Mel was already there setting up a stall where he could recommend books to our members and activists to help them on their learning journey. That was Mel. A trade unionist, socialist and educator every minute of every day.

When Mandate became involved in the Right2Water campaign, we immediately made contact with Trademark Belfast and asked them to involve themselves in the campaign. Through Unite the Union they provided educational courses to water activists across the country which gave them a good grounding and understanding about the privatisation agenda that was and is destroying living standards for workers and their families across the island of Ireland.

Understated, knowledgeable, empathetic and communist. He had a vision for a better future and he spent his life searching for it and fighting for it every single day.

All of us in Mandate wish to extend our sincere condolences to Mel’s family, friends, his comrades in Trademark Belfast and all who are impacted by this terrible loss.

Thank you Mel for all your hard work on behalf of our class. You will be sorely missed.

We all are better for having known you. Rest In Power comrade

Retail workers demand early vaccination

Retail workers demand early vaccination

Tuesday 12 January 2021

Mandate Trade Union has written to the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, seeking clarity on the prioritisation of retail workers in the rollout of the vaccination programme.

Gerry Light, Mandate General Secretary, said the HSEs listing of priority groups published on 6th January for vaccination is ambiguous and doesn’t explain where retail workers are in its listing of priorities.

“Retail workers, particularly grocery and pharmacy staff, have kept the country going over the last 12 months and they deserve recognition as essential workers risking their health every day. As such, the Minister needs to confirm that retail workers are in the Key workers in essential jobs who cannot avoid a high risk of exposure to COVID19′ category.”

He added, “Shop workers and pharmacy workers are key to tackling this virus and reducing transmissions. They experience daily interactions with the public and with other key workers, and if they are infected, there is a strong possibility that they could infect others, whether at work, or in the community. It makes perfect sense to vaccinate them as early as possible so that we can keep infections in the community under control and protect both the retail worker and the public.”

Mandate has also written to all major retail employers in Ireland seeking their support for the early vaccination of retail workers.

“Grocery retailers have been buoyed by an increase in sales over the last year with many companies experiencing growth of up to 18 percent on the previous year.  Their workers, who have been on the frontlines since the beginning of the pandemic, have kept the businesses going, at great risk to themselves. We believe all major employers should now do everything possible to ensure their workers can avail of an early vaccination.”

SIPTU says Minister for Health must act now to remove roadblocks to health service recruitment

SIPTU says Minister for Health must act now to remove roadblocks to health service recruitment

Date Released: 08 January 2021

SIPTU representatives have today (Friday, 8th January) urged the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, to immediately intervene and remove any roadblocks to health service recruitment as part of an emergency effort to address the unsustainable staffing crisis that is spreading right across the health service.

SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser, Kevin Figgis, said: “The current stress on our health services is completely unsustainable. Patient numbers are rising while staffing levels are falling. The Minister must act now and make sure recruitment is fast tracked to ensure health workers are supported in this hour of national emergency.” 

“The reality is that health staff shortages are everywhere. They are all across the board in acute settings, mental health services, care in the community and the National Ambulance Service, no area of care hasn’t been severely impacted upon in recent days from Covid-19 infections, symptoms or the challenges health workers are facing attending work due to care commitments. 

“There is a growing, distinct and deep frustration from our members that despite the fanfare, the Government, the Department of Health and the Health Service Executive (HSE) have not moved quick enough to recruit at least some of the 16,000 additional health workers they pledged as part of an additional €4 billion for the health service in Budget 2021.”

He added: “Over recent weeks, and as the spread of the virus has intensified, our members have also been left in the dark over how many health care workers have tested positive for Covid-19. The Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) were producing weekly reports to give health workers and their representatives a fuller understanding of the infection rates in essential health settings but since Wednesday 23rd December there has been unacceptable silence. We would ask that the Minister would also rectify this as a matter of urgency.”


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220 Cuban doctors arrived in Panama on Christmas Eve.

A brigade of 220 Cuban doctors arrived in Panama on Christmas Eve. The Cuban medics will help in the fight against COVID-19 in the Central American country which has one of the highest rates of infection in the region. Socialism at work.

500 Cuban medics also travelled to Mexico in December to treat patients infected by the pandemic there. Since March, 4,000 medics have worked in 40 countries affected by coronavirus. Please sign our Nobel Peace Prize for Cuban Doctors petition here

 

Shopfloor is now out. Read it here.

Mandate’s Newspaper is now out. you can read it here

TULF offers International Solidarity with Bus Drivers of Arriva-Moravia Company & trade unionists of Transport Company of Ostrava City (DPO).

Trade Union Left Forum offers it’s Solidarity & Support to the bus drivers of Arriva-Moravia Company, who went on strike this week December 19, 2020. We consider their demands fully legitimate and right. We agree with their trade unionists’ saying that the employer’s proposals make worse their both working and wage conditions. We fully agree with the fully logical and rightful claim that working hours to increase, moreover, to be coupled with the wage cuts, is totally unacceptable for the employees. We consider unacceptable, too, the Arriva-Moravia Company to transfer its economic losses onto its employees’ shoulders by both working hours increasing and wage cuts. The employees have their full and unalienable rights to be provided with fair payments for their work. Any and every wage cuts are unacceptable. With longer working weekly hours, there is a more security risk; that why neither in this case any compromise could be done.
Once again, we are seeing capitalists to blame the weight of external circumstances and their own shoddy economic policies entirely on the shoulders of their employees, even beyond the point of any acceptability, leading to impacts on living standards, personal lives, and personal and public safety. It is full liberalization of the public transport’s sector, with security and other consequences. It is impossible to withdraw from demands of the employers. We stand firmly on the side of Arriva-Moravia drivers, supporting their demands and offering them our solidarity and support.

We also offer our Solidarity & Support to the trade unionists of Transport Company of Ostrava City (DPO) who came into strike emergency on December 21, 2020.
We consider the reasons for the strike alert, namely the company’s failure to meet its agreed commitments, to be fully legitimate, as are the previous demands of trade unionists. As it has done many times before in the transport sector, the OS ČMS now adds its voice to the protest against the conditions under which the drivers work, against they to be overburdened and exposed to the safety risks that arise from such a company policy. We endorse trade unionists’ critical criticisms of working conditions, optimisation and security risks, and we call for unity of trade union action in which we offer our solidarity and support. You can’t give in to employers’ demands at the expense of workers!
Unity is strength!

Student nurses and midwives: “guarded” engagement with independent review

Student nurses and midwives have decided that they will engage with government-proposed, independently verified reviews of their remuneration and conditions.

The reviews – details of which were finalised this morning – were offered by the Minister for Health in response to an ongoing campaign. There are two reviews proposed.

The first review will focus on the immediate short term. It will report back to the Minister for Health in December, for implementation in January.

The second will look at longer-term issues beyond the pandemic. It will be held in January and February, with a view to implementation in the next academic year, starting September 2021.

Feedback from student INMO members was cautiously in favour of “guarded engagement” with the independent reviews. The INMO and students say they will feed into the review and reserve a final judgement until the outcomes are published.

Education expert Professor Tom Collins has been agreed as an independent chair for the first, short-term review.

INMO General Secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha, said:
 
“Student nurses and midwives are doing incredible work on the frontlines during this pandemic. They clearly have overwhelming public support.

“Over 70,000 people have pledged their support to students via a petition. It is clear that the public understand that valuing our student nurses and midwives means fair payments and conditions when working in the frontline during a pandemic.

“Our student members have rightly given a cautious response to the Minister’s proposed reviews. The rapid timeline for implementation is very welcome, but ultimately the reviews’ actual proposals will determine our student members’ response.”

Dying from overwork: Strain on South Korea’s delivery workers gets too much

Nine couriers have died this year as Covid demands and poor protections take their toll

At a logistics depot the size of an aeroplane hangar in southern Seoul, couriers recently held a ritual at the start of another gruelling work day: They stood for a moment of silence to remember more than a dozen fellow couriers who they say died this year from overwork.

“We won’t be surprised here if one of us drops dead, too,” said Choi Ji-na, one of the couriers.

Choi (43) and other delivery workers in South Korea say that they feel lucky to have jobs amid growing unemployment, and that they are proud to play an essential role in keeping the country’s Covid-19 cases down by delivering record numbers of packages to customers who prefer to stay safe at home.

But they are also paying a price. The string of deaths among couriers this year has caused a national uproar, drawing attention to worker protections that are unevenly distributed in a place that once had one of the longest work weeks in the world.

Packages are expected to arrive with “bullet speed”, but the uninsured workers delivering them say that it is becoming impossible to keep up with the demand, and that labour rule changes made by President Moon Jae-in have left them out in the cold.

There have been 15 deaths among couriers so far, including some who died after complaining of unbearable workloads that kept them on the clock from dawn until past midnight. The delivery workers say they’re dying of “gwarosa”, or death by overwork.

“The workload has become just too much,” Choi said. “Since the coronavirus came, going home early enough to have dinner with my children has become a distant dream.”

Least protected

Couriers are some of the hardest-working, least protected workers in South Korea. Between 2015 and 2019, only one to four couriers died per year. This year, nine couriers died in the first half of the year alone, according to data that the Korea Occupational Safety and Health Agency submitted to the lawmaker Yong Hye-in.

When Moon slashed the maximum work week to 52 hours from 68 in 2018 to ensure a “work-life balance” and a “right to rest”, couriers were left out of the deal. As the pandemic rages on and packages pile up, couriers say they are not only facing longer hours but also an ever-present fear that they will succumb to the mounting volume of work.

Couriers check delivery addresses at a distribution centre in Seoul. Photograph: Woohae Cho/The New York Times
Couriers check delivery addresses at a distribution centre in Seoul. Photograph: Woohae Cho/The New York Times

Online orders have surged around the world, and demand for delivered goods in South Korea has grown by 30 per cent, to 3.6 billion parcels this year, according to some estimates. Most deliveries in South Korea are handled by large logistics companies.

Those firms outsource the labour to couriers, who are independent subcontractors working on commission using their own trucks in assigned areas. Since 1997, as e-commerce as boomed and competition has intensified, online shipping costs in the country have dropped by more than half.

Some residents who fear infection have refused to share lifts with delivery workers, forcing them to haul packages up stairs.

Shopping malls and logistics firms now promise even faster deliveries, offering “within-the-day”, “before-dawn” and “bullet-speed” options. But the fees collected by couriers have dropped. Workers now receive between 60 and 80 cents per parcel and have been slapped with penalties when they fail to meet delivery deadlines set by major online shopping retailers.

‘Just too tired’

One courier in Seoul, Kim Dong-hee, returned home at 2am on October 7th. Later that day, he returned to the warehouse to pick up 420 packages. He still had many deliveries to make when he texted a colleague at 4.28am the next day. He said he would be home by 5am but would barely have time to eat and wash up before heading out again.

“I am just too tired,” he wrote.

Four days later, he didn’t show up for work. When colleagues checked his home, they found him dead; police ruled that heart failure was the cause.

Colleagues say he was killed by overwork. He was 36. The day that Kim sent his message, another man in Seoul, Kim Won-jong, collapsed on his delivery route, complaining of chest pain and difficulty breathing before he died.

“I remember how tired he looked late in the evening, his shoulders slumped and his cap pulled low, as if he were semiconscious,” a customer who knew Kim wrote online after his death made news.

It has become common to see weary couriers weaving through apartment compounds in the dead of night, delivering fruit, bottled water, Christmas decorations and other items that many shoppers now prefer to have delivered. Some residents who fear infection have refused to share lifts with delivery workers, forcing them to haul packages up stairs.

Park Ki-Ryeon delivers bags of rice to customers in Seongnam, a city on the outskirts of Seoul. Photograph: Woohae Cho/The New York Times
Park Ki-Ryeon delivers bags of rice to customers in Seongnam, a city on the outskirts of Seoul. Photograph: Woohae Cho/The New York Times

The pandemic has brought profits to couriers and logistics companies like CJ Logistics, Hanjin Shipping and Lotte. But categorised as self-employed, most of the country’s estimated 54,000 “taekbae gisa”, or home-delivery drivers, do not benefit from the labour laws that protect full-time corporate employees. Benefits such as overtime, paid leave and insurance against on-the-job injuries are largely unavailable.

Couriers have been known to injure their ankles or become the subject of police calls made by neighbours who mistake them for burglars.

According to a September survey by the Center for Workers’ Health and Safety, a rights group, couriers work an average of 12 hours a day, six days a week. According to government data submitted to lawmakers, work-related injuries for couriers soared by 43 per cent in the first half of the year.

‘Life with evenings’

Couriers in the United States, Europe and China have gone on strike seeking better protections. In South Korea, they have staged strikes hoping to secure shorter hours and a “life with evenings”.

“We organised and fought back because we had no one to talk to,” said Park Ki-ryeon (36), a courier since 2016.

“We, too would like to keep warm indoors, like the people we serve,” Park said. “But many of us are not well educated and started this work with debts to pay. If we quit, we don’t have an alternative.”

Choi became a delivery worker seven years ago after a divorce made her a single mother of two young children. She has hauled packages weighing up to 25kg apiece up and down stairs. She sometimes has to climb walls to make deliveries, because homeowners are out, with their gates locked, but want the parcels left inside.

Couriers have been known to injure their ankles or become the subject of police calls made by neighbours who mistake them for burglars.

She said she liked the work because she could get home in time for her children to return from school, but the virus changed everything. Choi now delivers up to 370 parcels a day, 30 per cent more than before the pandemic. She starts work at 6.30am and rarely gets home before 10pm.

At the depot, container trucks rumbled in under the pre-dawn sky, bringing cargo from across South Korea. As what seemed like an endless stream of parcels of all shapes and sizes were unloaded, Choi and her colleagues gathered around a conveyor belt to search for packages with addresses in their districts.

The deliveries would stretch well into the night.

Apologies

Some logistics companies have apologised for the recent spate of deaths and promised to provide benefits, like medical check-ups, and add more workers in phases to help shorten work hours and manage the increased volume.

Moon’s government has vowed to introduce a five-day work week and ban night-time deliveries, admitting that his policies have not kept up with the growth of the delivery industry and that “the burden was concentrated in long hours and heavy workloads for couriers”.

After the deaths generated headlines, people also began expressing sympathy for the couriers, leaving drinks and snacks at the door with notes saying, “It’s okay to be late.”

“When strangers pass me on the streets, they say to me, ‘Please don’t die! We need you,’” Park said. But the reforms promised by logistics companies and the government have been too slow to arrive.

When his grandmother died last month, Park said, he had to hire a replacement courier with his own money to deliver the parcels along his route just so he could take a half day off to mourn her.

“We want change,” he said. “We are not working machines.” – New York Times

International. Colombia: Global Education Union condemns threats, harassment, and killings of unionists

The Executive Board of Education International has adopted a resolution condemning the human rights violations in Colombia that have led to thousands of deaths of trade unionists.

The decade-long attacks on human rights and the lives of more than a thousand unionists and social activists were at the core of a resolution adopted today, 9 December, by the Executive Board of Education International, which is meeting for the 56th time.

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The attempts of groups controlling power in Colombia to wipe out social organisation and mobilisation, quell protests, and suppress the right to organise and proclaim the validity of the public education system has led to thousands of casualties, many of them educators who were actively engaged with their unions. Since 1986, more than 1,100 teachers have been assassinated during the armed conflict, according to the Colombian Federation of Educators (FECODE), a member organisation of Education International. According to the Institute for Development and Peace Studies (Indepaz) in Bogota, more than 280 social leaders have been assassinated in Colombia in 2020. 

Ongoing violence 

Despite the signing of a peace agreement in 2016 between the government of Colombia and the guerrillas, violence has been ongoing. The conflict has taken the form of a territorial dispute that has led to the persecution and stigmatisation of activists, without the government taking measures to protect their lives and guarantee their safety and the free exercise of their right to organise and disagree. 

Educators, as well as social leaders, have been assassinated solely for raising their voices to defend their rights and the validity of the public education system. Every time the Executive Committee of Education International’s member organisations in Colombia – FECODE and the Trade Union Association of University Professors (ASPU) – announce a mobilisation for the defence of rights, threats are issued to the lives of the members of their national or regional executive committees. 

Government inaction

According to the Education International Executive Board, the Colombian President, Iván Duque Márquez, has kept a “a complicit silence” in the face of thousands of threats against FECODE and ASPU and the teaching profession. He has done this by removing or denying security measures for union leaders and social leaders, while allowing the party in government to attack the freedom of association and academic freedom that are guaranteed in the Constitution.

International solidarity campaign

A significant campaign of international solidarity has been waged in the face of these threats. More than 60 Education International members have already asked the Colombian authorities to protect union leaders and members. 

Education International has called on its member organisations to strengthen their demands that the Government guarantees human rights and the right of trade unions and of the teaching profession to work freely in Colombia.  

You can access the entire text of the resolution by clicking here.

You can also click here for the LabourStart’s campaign on Colombia.

Unions make significant breakthrough on pay justice claim for Section 39 workers

SIPTU representatives have today (Thursday, 10th December) confirmed that unions have made a significant breakthrough on pay restoration for members in 250 State-funded voluntary health and social service providers. The positive development for workers in these Section 39 employments follows a conciliation conference held under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

SIPTU Divisional Organiser, Adrian Kane, said: “This interim settlement is well overdue but it delivers money into the pockets of our members’ pockets from next month and that is critically important. The issue of parity of treatment with colleagues in the larger section 39 employments hasn’t gone away and when the parties reconvene again at the WRC in 2021, SIPTU representatives will be fighting to ensure that all monies outstanding for our members are paid in full.”

The union negotiating committee is now recommending that planned industrial action by members of SIPTU and Fórsa in Cork and Kerry next week be suspended on foot of an agreement between the group of unions and the HSE for two phases of pay restoration to be implemented next year. 

The first of these payments is due to take effect from 1st January 2021 and will deliver up to €1000 of an annual increase in salary which will be paid that month.  A second instalment, equating to 50% of the outstanding restoration due, will take effect from 31st May 2021 and will be paid in June 2021.   

The parties will convene again at the WRC at the beginning of the second quarter of 2021 to discuss the date of application of the final phase of pay restoration and a union claim for retrospective payments.

Fórsa official, Catherine Keogh, said: “This has been an exceptionally challenging year for these workers. Our one-day strike took place on 14th February, which was just a few weeks before the Covid-19 crisis hit and these are the workers whose professionalism and experience was called upon like never before in response to that crisis. This is a welcome breakthrough, and some good news at the end of a long and very difficult year for them.”

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions is to write to the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, and request that membership of the Dialogue Forum with Voluntary Bodies be increased to include union representatives. The trade unions have argued that this forum can contribute to the resolution of the long-term structural issues in the sector and their inclusion is consistent with the commitments in the Programme for Government to wider and deeper social dialogue.