Strike action at ABP Meats, Lurganset to bring production lines to a standstill on Monday 4th Nov

Latest update from ICTU Website.

Strike action at ABP Meats, Lurgan set to bring production lines to a standstill on Monday [November 4th]

 

 

First twenty-four hour strike at meat packing factory to commence midnight Monday [November 4th]

Overwhelming support for industrial action driven by workers’ concerns over impact on childcare responsibilities

Unite Regional Officer Brian Hewitt explained the background to a planned strike action by his members working in the Lurgan plant of Larry Goodman-owned, Anglo Beef Processing (NI).

“Management in ABP meats in Lurgan have adopted an extremely antagonistic and aggressive approach to their workforce. Workers have been left with no alternative but to take strike action to defend themselves and their families.

“The first twenty-four hour strike action will commence from midnight on Monday [November 4th] with pickets formed from six am at the gates to the company’s Lurgan plant. The strike action follows an overwhelming 93.1 percent vote of workers for action in an independently conducted industrial ballot. 

“Bosses have attempted to push a change to the start times on the workforce and have offered them a measly two percent pay increase in return. The pay increase itself is an insult to the workers. Not only is it significantly below the current rate of inflation – at a time when the ABP meat group are reported in the press to have declared €170 million in profits for 2018 – but it is tied to plans to early start times for shifts.  

“Parents who work shifts – some of whom earn little more than the bare, legal minimum – are already struggling to secure appropriate care cover for their children in the hours before school. Management plans will only further increase the hardship on working parents through the difficulties and costs involved securing childcare cover.

“Far from recognise the difficulties caused by their plans for those with care responsibilities, ABP meats have adopted an extremely high-handed approach to their employees and to our union. 

In the mouth of Christmas, workers will be forced to stand long hours on picket lines in the cold, striking to defend their ability to provide care for their children in the mornings. Responsibility for this disgraceful situation falls squarely in the lap of ABP bosses. We call on them to step back, see sense and engage with the union in good faith to negotiate terms agreeable to their workforce”, Mr Hewitt concluded.

Unions to mark 35th anniversary of the Dunnes Stores Anti-Apartheid Strike

From the Trade Unon Mandate website

 

Unions to mark 35th anniversary of the Dunnes Stores Anti-Apartheid Strike

Friday 25 October 2019

CELEBRATION TO TAKE PLACE IN LIBERTY HALL ON FRIDAY, 1ST NOVEMBER AND SATURDAY, 2ND NOVEMBER

Mandate Trade Union is to co-host a celebration of the 35th anniversary of Dunnes Stores Anti-Apartheid Strike in Liberty Hall on Friday, 1st and Saturday, 2nd November 2019.

The event “The most dangerous shop workers in the world” is sponsored by the Communications Workers’ Union, the Financial Services Union, SIPTU and Unite the Union, and will involve a weekend of theatre, music, spoken word and panel discussions. All proceeds from ticket sales go to MASI – the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland.

In 1984, Mary Manning, a young Dunnes Stores worker, followed a Union directive and refused to handle goods from apartheid South Africa. This lead to one of the most protracted industrial disputes in Irish history lasting two years and nine months.

The determination of the 11 striking workers led to the Irish government’s ban on importing produce from South Africa and is credited with contributing to the end of the apartheid regime.

Nelson Mandela who visited the workers in Dublin after his release in 1990 said the actions of the Dublin retail workers helped keep him going through some of his most difficult days in prison:

“Young workers who refused to handle the fruits of apartheid 21 years ago in Dublin provided inspiration to millions of South Africans that ordinary people far away from the crucible of apartheid cared for our freedom,” said Mandela in 2008.

The strike was also supported by Nobel prize winners including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Irish poet Seamus Heaney who joined the workers on the picket line.

Karen Gearon, shop steward during the strike, said:

“Ireland in the 1980s had an undercurrent of racism so it wasn’t popular to stand up for the rights of black South Africans who lived thousands of miles away. Unfortunately we are now witnessing another increase in racism so this event is happening at a very appropriate time.”

She added, “We were victimised by our employer and ridiculed by our former work colleagues. The Gardai and the special branch would harrass us, while the Catholic Church and many media outlets condemned us for our stance. But we stood our ground and ultimately our action was successful,” she said.

“What brought about our victory was our collectivism and our solidarity and if there’s one thing we’d hope young workers today can learn from us, it’s that if you stand together and remain strong you can achieve anything.”

Mandate Trade Union General Secretary John Douglas said:

“The Dunnes Stores anti-aparthied strikers stood on the right side of history. They helped change the world for the better. Their principled stance and their solid determination is something we should all take inspiration from.”

He continued, “Mandate delighted to be hosting this celebration because we believe tackling racism is a trade union issue. Workers throughout the world, whether in Great Britain, India, Nigeria or South Africa have far more in common with each other than with the class that oppresses them and our solidarity with each other should not be based on nationality or skin colour.”

The Dunnes Stores Anti-Apartheid strikers included Mary Manning, Karen Gearon (shop steward), Cathryn O’Reilly, Theresa Mooney, Vonnie Munroe, Sandra Griffin, Alma Russell, Michelle Gavin, Liz Deasy, Tommy Davis and Brendan Barron. The lead official for the strike was the late Brendan Archbold who coined the phrase “the most dangerous shop workers in the world” following the deportation of the workers from South Africa by armed guard in the 1980s.

EVENT

On Friday 1st November at 6pm the event will be opened by ICTU General Secretary Patricia King, followed by a reading of the play Strike, written by Tracy Ryan. This will be followed by music and spoken word by articsts such as John Francis Flynn,  Farah Elle, Natayla O’Flaherty and Yankari.
On Saturday 2nd November there will be four panels:

  • Back to the future: discussing the political context of 1980s Ireland and South Africa today;
  • Boycott: The power of the boycott movement throughout history,
  • Linking struggles: the importance of solidarity between movements and campaigns; and
  • A conversation with the Dunnes Stores Anti-Apartheid Strikers: hosted by the Echo Chambers podcast.

Some of the artists and speakers include: John Douglas (Mandate Trade Union), Bernadette McAliskeyLucky Khambule (MASI), YankariFarah ElleNatalya O’FlahertyBulelani MfacoTommy McKearney (Hunger Striker), Christabel Gurney (Anti-Apartheid Movement), Betty PurcellFatin Al-Tamimi (Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign ), Margaret Ward (Historian), Brendan Ogle (Unite)Kitty Holland (Irish Times), Nicole Lam (MERJ), Gethin Roberts (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners), Sinead Kennedy (Coalition to Repeal the 8th), Frank Connolly (SIPTU).

All proceeds from ticket sales will go to MASI – the Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland.

SIPTU members in GoSafe to begin 72-hour work stoppage on Saturday

As reported on the SIPTU website

 

A 72-hour work stoppage by SIPTU members working for the national speed camera van operator GoSafe will begin at 9.00 a.m. on 26th October, in a dispute related to working conditions and union recognition at the company.

SIPTU Organiser, Brendan Carr, said: “The company has today (Thursday, 24th October) announced its intention to attempt to impose new rosters without negotiation or input from the workers or their union representatives. A claim by the company that workers will be balloted on its proposals does not involve SIPTU in any manner and our members will not be engaging with this process.

“Our members want the management of GoSafe to adhere to a Labour Court recommendation stating that the company should recognise SIPTU as the representative of its employees who are members and negotiate with their union to resolve their legitimate concerns about conditions. To date, the Labour Court recommendation has been completely ignored by management.

“These workers have attempted to address these problems through the State industrial relations mechanisms. This dispute highlights the unacceptable practice of government departments and agencies issuing contracts for state services to companies which refuse to engage with the industrial relations bodies of the State.

“In this case, the former Minister for Justice, Frances Fitzgerald and the Garda, which is also responsible for road safety, agreed this contract with a company which imposes inhumane working conditions on its employees. The department and the Garda are also in breach of the Public Service Agreement in relation to the outsourcing of work to companies which do not adhere to the State’s industrial relation procedures. The Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan, has said that he cannot intervene in the current dispute, despite the fact that his department authorised the contract with GoSafe and he is ultimately responsible for road safety.”

He added: “The Public Service Agreement contains the principles and processes agreed between management and unions in respect of outsourcing arrangements in the public service. Public contracts contain a specific reference to a commitment by any company which tenders to comply with all statutory terms and conditions relating to the employment of people in Ireland. In light of the failure of GoSafe to adhere to these clear stipulations in relation to public contracts, our members are calling for the contract to be removed from the company with immediate effect.”

Disgusting Mental and Physical Abuse of Workers in the Hospitality Sector

A public meeting was held in Wynn’s Hotel Wed 16th Oct under the banner of Unite in the Community against Low Pay in the Hospitality Sector. Speakers include Joan Collins TD, Senator Paul Gavan, Martin Mahony (Mandate), Cieran Perry (CALP) and Julia Marciniak (Unite).  There was a packed attendance. Julia outlined her treatment while working in the Ivy Restaurant and express some disappointment about the lack of hospitality workers at the meeting. Unfortunately as was pointed out, workers in this sector are under huge pressure from their bosses and taking the time or even been seen at meetings like this are very disadvantage to their employment prospectus. Cieran Perry give an outline of how CALP was formed. Joan Collins pointed that this is a five billion euro sector and the high percentage of workers are living in poverty and its mainly young women employed in the business. 

Martin Mahony also give some facts regarding the various contracts that workers work under in this sector and Paul Galvin outlined the rage of abuses that workers work under all the way up to physical abuse with this sector and  spoke about the difficulties in bringing legislation into the Dáil. One of the two very important issues raised at the meeting was the Abolishing the 1990 Industrial Relation Act and that in future meetings could be arranged under the banner of the Dublin Council of Trade Unions( One rep from DCTU was at the meeting). The Chairperson Brendan Ogle said he would write to the Unions again to ensure that this will happen. In was mentioned that an Irish Times reporter was going to produce a serious article on the conditions on how workers were being treated in this sector. The article appeared in the Irish Times on Saturday 26th October. It was damming and the comments from the the Minister for Employment Regina Doherty who stated on National Public Radio that ” that employers in the hospitality sector, in the main treated their staff the way one would like member’s of one’s family to be treated” . This summed the breath of empathy the Minister thinks of workers mainly women workers in this area.

 

Public Meeting: Feminist Economics & the Politics of Social Reproduction.

A public meeting was held in Dublin on Saturday 19th in the Connect Union offices. There was a surprisingly good turn out considering the day that it was, ie Rugby match and the rotten weather.  The talk given by Dr. Conor McCabe on Feminist Economics & the Politics of Social Reproduction.  Conor give a very informative talk and the way he opened the meeting at certain intervals was a good idea, which brought the meeting to a more human level. The meeting was chaired by Jimmy Doran a well known Trade Union activist  who kept the focus tight and ensured that the meeting  was conducted in a orderly fashion, with no long winded points from the floor. It finished in good time and there were people from the floor who volunteered to engage in a more active level with the forum.  Below are the slides from the talk
 
 
 

The intersection of industrial and political struggles in the Russian Revolution

The preamble or prehistory to the Russian Revolution can be traced back to the late nineteenth century, when the vast empire began to undergo radical changes that outstripped Tsarism’s capacity or inclination to adapt accordingly. The three decades prior to the war saw Russia experience significant economic growth as a result of breakneck industrialisation, increased foreign investment, the emergence of a modern banking system and the promotion of a small indigenous enterprise sector. National income grew rapidly in these years, yet this growth was distributed unequally between the economic core and periphery as well as along class lines. At the same time, liberal pressures in the direction of constitutional monarchy elicited a combination of reform and repression on the part of the autocracy, generating successive political crises that gradually eroded its power and legitimacy.

It was in this period that the Russian working class grew in numbers and confidence. Despite or perhaps because of the weakness and effective illegality of the organised labour movement, Russia experienced four waves of mass strikes in the lead up to the war – the first in the late 1870s, the second in 1896-97, the third in 1903-06, and a fourth beginning in 1912. Rising workplace militancy and the strength of radical political sentiment confounded orthodox Marxist diagnoses of Russia’s backwardness and pointed to at least two key factors that would ultimately make revolution possible.

Firstly, the government’s large stake in native industry and the protection of foreign investment meant that modest economic demands such as improved wages or working conditions were always likely to turn political, with the authorities quick to use violence in the defence of commercial interests. As Neil Faulkner notes in his popular account of the Revolution, workers learned from experience that ‘economics and politics were inseparable: that when one fought the boss for a living wage, one faced the truncheons and sabres of the Tsarist state.’ These struggles, he argues, ‘turned the more determined of the proletarian militants into political revolutionaries’, creating an important strata of organic intellectuals.

A second key factor was the predominantly peasant composition of the working class, whose experience of dispossession and tradition of violent rebellion against landowners made them more revolutionary than conservatively minded French smallholders, for example. With the abolition of serfdom failing to temper widespread demands for land redistribution, peasant revolts became a common feature of the Russian social landscape by the turn of the century. In addition, the large numbers of young peasants migrating to the towns and burgeoning industrial centres carried with them the radical traditions of their forebears, and bore what Sheila Fitzpatrick describes as ‘the resentments and frustrations that go with dislocation and incomplete assimilation to an unfamiliar environment’.

These undeveloped modern dynamics reacted against the established order in the 1890s, when Russia’s industrial cities were hit by strikes much bigger than those of the late 1870. The strikes were supported by small socialist organisations such as the St. Petersburg League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class, whose founding members included a young V.I. Lenin and his close collaborator Julius Martov, a future leading light of the Mensheviks. This Marxist intelligentsia rooted itself in the urban working class through the establishment of reading circles and study groups, before progressing to political organisation and the calling of strikes. It was here that the foundations were laid for the emergence of Russian social democracy as a mass movement.

And yet, the theoretical Marxist debates taking place at the time – on economism, on conceptions of the revolution, on the role of the party – were only as urgent or relevant as the masses rendered them in practice. For in 1905 the workers once again intervened into history, casting aside established Marxist doctrine and dealing Tsarism a near fatal blow from which it would not recover.

It began at St. Petersburg’s massive Putilov steel works, with the sacking of four of its 12,000 workers at the end of 1904. To the workers’ petition for reinstatement Fr. George Gapon, a popular Orthodox priest with a socialist background, added demands for a wage increase and an eight-hour day. Radicals to the left of him then added further demands resonating beyond sectional interests: for the freedom of assembly and of the press, the separation of church and state, an end to the disastrous Russo-Japanese War, universal suffrage and a Constituent Assembly.

Bloody Sunday, 9 January 1905 in the Russian calendar, saw the Cossacks and police massacre up to 200 demonstrators outside the Winter Palace. What had begun as a popular campaign for liberal reforms was momentarily transformed into a movement of mass strikes, peasant insurrections and military mutinies, climaxing in the autumn with the St. Petersburg Soviet of Workers’ Deputies assuming de facto control of the capital. Panicked and wounded, the regime was able to bolster its chances of survival by ending the war with Japan and pledging the creation of a national parliament, the Duma. However, the nascent worker-peasant alliance continued to pose a threat into 1906, land seizures and soviets being the order of the day. The Mensheviks and Bolsheviks could legitimately boast a place in this movement. But notwithstanding Trotsky’s prominent role in the St. Petersburg Soviet, their respective assessments had been overtaken by events. Indeed there were lessons in this partial defeat for everyone in the revolutionary movement – about human agency, about solidarity and collective action, about the nature of the state, about political organisation, tactics and the need for a ‘concrete analysis of concrete conditions’.

The 1905 Revolution – the great ‘dress rehearsal’ as Lenin called it – ended with bloody repression, anti-Semitic pogroms and the arrest of its suspected architects. National revolts and peasant insurrections were crushed, while the number of strike days in Russia declined sharply from 24 million that year to less than a million by 1908. This was followed by another period of industrial and political unrest lasting from 1912 to 1914. The British journalist Arthur Ransome was on hand to witness how, upon the Tsar’s declaration of war with Germany on 2 August, these revolutionary sentiments quickly gave way to patriotic fervour and jingoistic flag-waving. ‘The strikes of a few days before were forgotten,’ he lamented. ‘War, as so often before and after, had for the moment welded the nation into one, or had seemed to weld it.’

Right across the European socialist movement, internationalists became national patriots overnight. Even most Russian socialists adhered to the ‘defencist’ position of supporting the war effort while at the same time calling for its immediate end. But the war had the overall effect of accentuating the old regime’s anachronisms and weaknesses. In the first place, with the Russo-Japanese War still raw in people’s memories, each major defeat suffered by Russia during the First World War – and there were many – would cause society to turn against the hapless Nicholas II and his government, highlighting their illegitimacy.

Secondly, the economic hardship caused by the war – high inflation coupled with low wages, and food shortages leading to mass starvation – heightened the sense of discontent felt by Russia’s vast population. In these harsh conditions the rapidly expanding industrial workforce grew more militant and strikes more frequent. And while the economic struggles continued, the political strike movement gained new momentum. Stories broke through of mutinies, of small groups of soldiers refusing orders to fire upon demonstrations; increasing numbers joined the burgeoning ranks of the revolution. This new development underscored one unintended but ultimately fatal consequence of the war effort: the coming together of Russia’s disparate and heterogeneous working class on the battlefield as well as on the home front.

The Bolsheviks, by necessity, sharpened their political programme, tactics and methods of organisation, their message becoming more popular with workers as the mood became more militant. But not even they expected revolution to break out when it did. No strikes had been called for International Women’s Day, 23 February 1917. The influential Bolshevik Vyborg Committee based in the heart of Petrograd saw no appetite for strike action. So when 7,000 low paid women workers from the city’s textile mills spilled onto the streets demanding ‘Bread!’, it was a surprise to everyone but the women themselves. For, as Faulkner rightly notes,

The working women of Petrograd were doubly oppressed: ground down in the workplace, by wretched conditions, long hours and low pay; ground down at home by the toil and poverty of everyday existence. Many were on their own, their brothers, husbands and sons conscripted. Many were grey with hunger and exhaustion. Sometimes they would go two or three days without eating. Sometimes they would cross themselves and weep with joy when they managed to buy bread. When a loaf can induce tears, revolution is close.

By the close of International Women’s Day, the striking women had called out tens of thousands of workers from neighbouring engineering factories. Within three days virtually all of Petrograd’s major factories had been shut down. Over 300,000 people were now active in a political strike, the slogan ‘Bread’ crowded out by banners reading ‘Down with the autocracy!’, ‘Down with the war!’ Army regiments mutinied in larger numbers than before, with thousands of soldiers coming over to the revolution. Before long it had spread to Moscow and the provincial cities, leaving the Tsarist regime crippled beyond repair.

According to Lars T. Lih, the prolific scholar of the early Soviet period, the February Revolution set up the ‘fundamental lines of force for the whole year’. The Romanov dynasty that had ruled Russia for centuries had collapsed, giving way to a ‘dual power’ situation in which the soviet – now comprised of worker and soldier delegates – gradually became the ultimate source of sovereign authority. On the surface, this power manifested itself in the Provisional Government’s adoption of key parts of the soviet programme and the loyalty of the armed forces to the soviet. At the same time, new trade unions were formed, with Mensheviks and Bolsheviks taking up leadership positions; and at a grassroots level, workers’ committees drew down economic power by assuming control of their factories.

The struggle between the Provisional Government and the soviet found expression in a series of political crises that occurred between February and October. Membership of the Bolshevik Party increased from just 24,000 to over 350,000 in the same period, as the population grew war weary and economic conditions deteriorated. Strikes and workplace occupations played an important role during the July Days demonstrations, for instance, when most of the 500,000 demonstrators who came out did so under the Bolshevik banner of ‘All power to the soviets!’ General Kornilov’s attempted coup of August likewise failed in large part because of the actions of ordinary workers: railwaymen diverted trains bringing troops into Petrograd, printers halted the distribution of Kornilov’s plans, and soviet activists used their newfound influence on the soldiers to prevent wider bloodshed.

With hindsight, the Bolsheviks gaining control of the Petrograd Soviet at the end of August and the Moscow Soviet a week later would seem to imply an inexorability about the Russian Revolution. The events of 25-26 October, both on the streets and behind the scenes at the Second All-Russian Soviet Congress, were much more chaotic and uncertain than this. Of Lenin, China Miéville has written that, ‘Reality, radical, now stunned him.’ However, the strength of the Bolsheviks’ position was that they had spent a year immersing themselves in the working-class movement, reformulating their tactics to confer with the shifting balance of class forces. When the Revolution came, they were able to hasten the transfer of power to the soviet and guide it towards implementation of a socialist programme.

One hundred years on and we have in many ways come full circle. New fault lines are emerging and becoming increasingly threatening in the existing economic and political order. But with this comes possibilities that haven’t existed in years. Whilst the Russian Revolution cannot be taken as a blueprint, as the only way of building a new society, it nonetheless offers a number of positive lessons for those of us arguing for an alternative.

Firstly, when we look at the history of how successful revolutions are made, we find that it means not merely lecturing at people or sloganeering – the ‘build it and they will come’ approach – but listening to them, learning from them and harnessing their experiential knowledge. It also means being involved in ongoing struggles, campaigns and forms of resistance which are objectively anti-capitalist even if they are not explicitly meant as such. Struggles for universal healthcare, the right to a home, a high quality system of free public education, for a sustainable environment, or against racist and gendered forms of oppression and the logic of privatisation and commodification – each of these, argues the Marxist geographer David Harvey, interrupts the circular flow of capital and represents an attack on the system as a whole. In addition, as the Right2Water campaign aptly demonstrates, participation in these forms of resistance can help trade unions to reconnect with communities and halt the sharp decline they have experienced in the past three decades.

Secondly, while the system and human reality have changed in the past hundred years, the forms of oppression and exploitation they sought to overturn are fundamentally the same. The task of building economic and political power in workplaces and communities remains vitally important, particularly as the institutions of representative democracy are being hollowed out. Already we are seeing workers in Ireland starting to push back against the onslaught that began in 2008, with the number and intensity industrial disputes growing year on year since 2012. But as the Russian Revolution and indeed the missed opportunities of the Irish revolutionary period show, industrial struggle must be complemented with direct political interventions and a political strategy for fulfilling our programme.

Finally, the Russian Revolution shows that we must come armed with a positive vision for a better future and win the battle of ideas, over the course of a generation if necessary. In this regard, the British Labour Party manifesto and the role of Momentum in popularising Corbyn’s simple message underscore the potential that exists for a grassroots-led movement such as Right2Change.

History records few occasions when masses of ordinary people overturned a system and took power. The ability to point to this, to draw inspiration and hope from it, is indispensible to confronting the challenges of the present. At the same time, it is crucial that we learn the harsh lessons of our own history – the missed opportunities of the revolutionary period, the disastrous legacy of social partnership, the historical roots and impact of sectarianism, the paralysing effect of left sectarianism, to name a few. If we can do this while sharing knowledge and experiences with contemporary social movements globally, then we will surely be giving ourselves the best chance of success.

Seán Byers

Trademark

SIPTU’s Big Start Campaign is Winning

SIPTU’s Big Start campaign is winning big for the early years education sector, workers and union. Below is a brief overview of the situation faced by the workers and the aims of this campaign. Also check out http://www.bigstart.ie/ 

The struggle of childcare workers for recognition and decent pay will one of the key battle grounds in the fight for trade union rights in Ireland in the 21st century.

Capitalist economies have always depended on low-paid and under-valued work which is often done by women. Early Years Educators are a perfect example of this; thousands of qualified, dedicated professions who care for and educate the youngest children during the most crucial years of their development.

Despite the universal recognition of the importance of Early Years Education and childcare, people working in the sector are often paid little more than the minimum wage. Many are laid off during the summer months. The root cause of this is Ireland’s lack of proper investment into the sector -the lowest in the OECD.

Last year SIPTU brought together stakeholders in the sector such as Barnardos, the National Childhood Network, ICTU USI and others, and launched the Big Start campaign. The aim is to secure increased state investment to ensure quality, affordable childcare for all children, with decent pay for early years professionals.

The campaign is reaching out to employees in private and community sectors, but also owner-operators of private crèches, who themselves are often struggling to get by due to inadequate state support.

This campaign is also very important to the union movement’s strategic aims of organising workers in non-unionised sectors which are expected to grow in size in the coming decades. The government must recognise that only with decent terms and conditions will young people be attracted into these professions.

Union membership is steadily growing and educators are getting active. Local activist networks have been set up, with SIPTU members lobbying their local politicians and gathering petition signatures from parents. Social media has been a key tool for keeping people engaged.

Ultimately our strategy involves two parts: a political campaign to persuade the government to increase investment in the sector, and an organising drive to increase union density and secure a Sectoral Employment Order for the sector.

Bringing together allied organisations like Barnardos and the National Childhood Network has been a key part of the political campaign, while SIPTU organisers and activists across the country have been talking to the educators themselves and convincing them that through a Union they can change their situation.

Important progress has been made. In July the Dáil unanimously endorsed a Sinn Féin motion calling for recognition, investment and professional pay. Many local councils have passed motions in support, and even the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone has endorsed the unionisation of the sector.

But only Early Years Educators themselves can secure a victory, by recognising their collective power in a union and demanding the recognition they deserve.

 

Sign the Workers Charter

Trade Union Left Forum Friends and Supporters,

Please sign the Workers Charter A Future Worth Fighting For at http://www.tuleftforum.com/workers-charter/

Why have we launched this?

We want to show there is widespread member support across unions for a radical programme of workers rights in Ireland. We want to put pressure on unions and political parties to adopt this programme. While each demand itself is inherently winnable with popular support, achieved together, it would result in a significant shift in the balance of power in Ireland away from big business and toward working people.

What can you do?

Sign the charter and share it. By doing this you are showing public support for the demands in the charter and for a future worth fighting for. Share it with friends and colleagues and ask them to sign and share it too. Look out for further actions and meetings and participate as we develop this campaign.

What are the next steps in the campaign?

First step is to win support for the charter from trade unionists across the country. We will then step up efforts at lobbying unions and political parties. We hope this charter can also inspire activists to put forward motions to conferences and seek democratic support within their own unions for the whole charter or elements of it.

Please sign the charter here http://www.tuleftforum.com/workers-charter/

A future worth fighting for – Workers Charter

 

Dear friends and comrades,

The Trade Union Left Forum is releasing a workers charter, an initiative to organise left trade unionists around a progressive workers rights programme. The charter, A future worth fighting for, emerged from a consultation with activists, supporters and friends throughout 2015 and 2016. Draft TULF Workers Charter

And so on Thursday, October 5th at 6pm, we are hosting a discussion on the draft workers charter in Mandate Trade Union offices. You can check out our FB event https://www.facebook.com/events/1438700992914745 to register. 

Workers deserve a society where our needs come first, before the interests of big business, exploitative employers and the EU/IMF. But this will never be given to us without a fight.

This meeting is a chance for trade union activists to discuss this draft charter and the campaign to communicate this vision to our friends and comrades across the union movement.

Why trade unionists should oppose CETA

The main goal of CETA is to remove regulatory ‘barriers’ which restrict the potential profits to be made by transnational corporations on both sides of the Atlantic. These ‘barriers’ are in reality some of our most prized social standards

CETA also seeks to create new markets by opening up public services and government procurement contracts to competition from transnational corporations, threatening to introduce a further wave of privatisations in key sectors, such as health and education.

Only the rights of corporations are clarified; those of workers are ignored or couched in vague provisions. Not only does CETA not contain a clause saying that respect for human rights is an essential element of the deal, it does not include binding and enforceable measures to ensure ILO core labour standards are respected in its sustainable development chapter. Furthermore, the public procurement provisions do not include explicit obligations to respect labour and environmental standards nor promote the use of social and environmental criteria in public tenders.

CETA will be provisionally applied by the Irish government on September 21st 2017.  This means that all its provisions, except the investor –state dispute mechanism will become effective in Ireland from today.

Below are outlined some of the reasons why all trade unionists should actively oppose this deal.

We’re in uncharted territory with public services

For the first time the EU has negotiated on our behalf, a trade deal with a “negative list” for services. This means that unless EU governments have explicitly excluded specific services, – and ours excluded only a few – all services, including new public services, will be automatically open to competition from foreign- service providers. Jargon-filled mechanisms like “standstill” and “ratchet” clauses lock-in current and further liberalisation, making it very difficult and costly for countries to bring services back into public ownership.

Because public procurement isn’t just about price

Local and national governments use public tenders to fulfil public policy choices. That means companies bidding for public contracts must abide by agreed criteria that may include social, labour or environmental sustainability clauses. CETA’s Procurement Chapter fails to include any watertight clauses that uphold social criteria. Instead contracts can be awarded to the “most beneficial” or “the cheapest offer”.  CETA, along with other deals limits our ability to redefine and enhance the tools we use to achieve important public policy goals.

Public services are exempted from market access, national treatment and performance requirements and the most-favoured-nation provisions of the investment chapter only to the extent that they are ‘carried out neither on a commercial basis nor in competition with one or more economic operators’. This is the phantom public sector carve-out established in the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) agreement.

As there are pockets of private business in most public services, few meet these criteria. Standstill and ratchet clauses freeze current levels of privatisation, making it difficult, and costly, for governments to take privatised services back into public hands.

Because it’s very weak on the environment and worker’s rights;

Crucially, in its sustainable development chapter, CETA does not contain binding and enforceable measures to ensure ILO core labour standards are respected, while the public procurement provisions do not include explicit obligations to respect labour and environmental standards nor promote the use of social and environmental criteria in public tenders. It promotes workers’ access to labour ‘tribunals’ rather than recognising and explicitly accepting EU member states’ workers’ rights.

Unlike the enforceable exclusive rights for investors, CETA includes no binding rules to protect and improve worker’s rights and environmental protection. The Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB) criticised this, calling for “the chapters on workers’ rights, environmental protection and sustainable development to be as enforceable as the rest of the agreement” but the final text doesn’t meet these demands. 

Instead it says: ‘Nothing in the Agreement should prevent the Parties from applying their national laws provided that, in doing so, they do not nullify or impair the benefits accruing from the Agreement.’ So, where does this leave SEOs or collective agreements for example?

But perhaps the most important reason we should be very concerned about CETA is that it is a back door for American corporations to challenge standards and regulations in the EU through their subsidiaries in Canada. All an American agriculture, energy or drug giant would have to do is to challenge EU standards through ISDS using their existing subsidiaries in Canada or set one up in order to do so.

Because of Canada’s abysmal record at the International Labour Organisation (ILO):

  • Of the ILO’s 189 Conventions, Canada has only ratified 34.
  • Canada has only ratified eight of the 31 ILO Conventions developed since 1982.
  • Canada has only now ratified all eight ILO fundamental Conventions. It had been one of only 24 countries in the world that had not ratified Convention No. 98 – Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining (1949), but it did in early July of this year just prior to CETA debates in some EU national parliaments. However, a country may secede from ILO conventions by giving one years’ notice.
  • Since 1982, unions in Canada have filed more complaints to the ILO’s Freedom of Association Committee than the national labour movements of any other country and there have been 86 ILO complaints filed against Canada, the ILO has ruled on 85 of these cases and found that freedom of association principles had been violated in 78 instances.

Because worker’s rights will be compromised by Regulatory Cooperation in CETA.

There will be continual pressure on regulations and standards, as CETA is also a back door for American corporations – who control around 55% of the Canadian economy – to challenge standards and regulations in the EU through their subsidiaries in Canada. All an American agriculture, energy or drug giant would have to do is to challenge European standards through ICS using their subsidiaries in Canada.

Meanwhile, socially desirable or progressive labour legislation which might affect corporative profits would have to be notified to the governing Regulatory Cooperation Council one year in advance and would likely be identified as a ‘barrier to trade’ by the stakeholders – corporations and EU Commission and we would never hear about it.

As regulations covering everything not listed as exempt, from chemicals through to education and public procurement converge, the only remaining means for increasing competitiveness is through reductions in workers terms and conditions. This is likely to involve union de-recognition, a reduction in voluntarism, attacks on collective agreements and a retreat from our accepted right to organise. Furthermore, a country may secede from ILO conventions by giving one years’ notice.

But irrespective of the ILO perspective, there still remains the overriding concern surrounding ISDS – renamed ICS but like Windscale, which was renamed Sellafield, it remains just as toxic! Not only does this dispute settlement system accord transnational companies the right to sue sovereign states before arbitrary tribunals, if their ‘reasonable expectations’ of profits might be jeopardised by some legislative measure, but it directly threatens workers terms and conditions.

This was illustrated forcibly last year when Egypt was sued under a similar deal for attempting to raise the minimum wage. One can only imagine the list of possible measures; maternity leave, minimum annual holidays, extended unfair dismissals legislation, pension legislation- the list goes on.

Because the ICTU has adopted a progressive position on CETA.

The ICTU has adopted a position of ‘outright opposition’ to this deal and calls for a progressive trade agenda, which means not only the inclusion of a social dimension in all trade agreements but also the full preservation and improvement of the right of governments and authorities to regulate the economy in the public interest as they see fit.

CETA is a trade deal for corporate interests and the ICTU reiterates that workers will never accept any trade agreement that doesn’t promote decent jobs and growth while safeguarding labour, consumer, environmental and health and safety standards. Irrespective of your view of the ICTU, this position should be uncritically supported and promulgated by all trade unionists. The struggle against CETA and other such trade deals such as TTIP and TISA, being negotiated ‘on our behalf’ by the EU is only beginning.