ICTU submission on Auto-enrolment

ICTU submission on Auto-enrolment

Union says employers need to make customers aware of importance of respect and Government needs to strengthen laws

The Mandate Trade Union has called on members of the public to respect retail workers during the busy and intense Christmas shopping season. The call coincides with UNI Global Union’s international day of action which seeks to raise awareness about the importance of combatting violence and harassment across the retail sector.

Mandate General Secretary, Gerry Light, said that this is an extremely important issue for those working in the various precarious employments across the retail sector.

“The last two years have been extremely difficult for everybody but particularly for retail frontline workers, who continuously served their communities throughout the pandemic and prior to the rollout of a vaccination. The recognition of this fact alone should be the key motivating factor for customers to ensure that retail workers and the environment within which they work is free from violence and harassment. Dignity and respect must transcend across all workplaces, across all people and sections of society.

“Unfortunately, evidence from across the globe seems to indicate that this type of unacceptable behaviour towards retail workers is on the rise resulting in some cases with workers tragically losing their lives. Evidence also supports the reality that women are more likely to be subjected to unacceptable behaviour.”

Gerry Light called on all employers to implement a zero-tolerance approach to safeguarding the safety, health and welfare of all workers.

“Employers cannot remain silent on this issue and Mandate is calling on employers to generate greater customer awareness around this critically important matter and in this regard our members would welcome in-store point-of-sale signage that sends out this clear message.

“As part of our ongoing campaign ‘Respect for Retail Workers’ campaign Mandate is further calling on the Government to review and introduce – as necessary – stronger legislation which outlaws the abuse of workers and prohibits violence in the workplace. Examples of such robust legislation hve already been introduced in other countries like Scotland, Sweden and Australia.” 

Mr Light concluded by saying that respect for retail workers is not just for Christmas – it should be maintained throughout the year – but this time of year does allow for a heightening of awareness around the issue and for a renewed call to customers to show retail workers the same level of support, solidarity, and respect that they unselfishly displayed particularly during the Covid crisis. Whilst recognising that most customers act in a responsible and respectful way, one case of abuse is one too many, Gerry Light said.

‘Keep Water Public’ campaign seeks referendum date

‘Keep Water Public’ campaign seeks referendum date

Fósa is one of the unions that has formed the coalition behind the ‘Keep Water Public’ campaign. Launched at the end of October, the campaign calls on the Government to confirm a date for a constitutional referendum on the public ownership of water services. The campaign is supported by Fórsa, SIPTU, Unite, Connect and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

Speaking at the campaign launch, ICTU president and Fórsa general secretary, Kevin Callinan, said the campaign to name the date for a referendum represented a shared commitment by trade unions to ensure the future of public ownership of water services: “It’s time now to end any lingering uncertainty about the future of water services in Ireland. A referendum would give people the opportunity to have their say, in addition to providing us all with a unique opportunity to safeguard public ownership of water for future generations.

“In that sense, there should be no further hesitation, and we are urging the Government now to name the date. In doing so, it would be taking a welcome and positive step,” he said.

Public ownership of water services ensures safe and sustainable access to water for everyone.


Assistant general secretary Catherine Keogh, who has been working closely with Fórsa members in local authorities providing water services, has said the feeling among members is very strong: “They want the Government to name the date for a referendum, to clearly indicate when we can expect to cast a vote to protect the future of our water services. That feeling is universal, so I expect we’ll see strong support for this campaign,” she said.

Fórsa’s head of Local Government Richy Carrothers said the unions had come together to maximise participation in the campaign by union members: “Privatised water services result in higher costs and poorer services for the public. Public ownership of water services ensures safe and sustainable access to water for everyone.

“A referendum would help protect Irish water services from any future attempt at privatisation, providing a constitutional guarantee of public ownership. Opinion polls show that a huge majority of the Irish public want a referendum to ensure water services can never be privatised.

“We’re inviting all union branches and members to take part in this campaign by signing the petition and talking to their local political representatives about naming a date for this important referendum.

“This is the kind of grassroots campaign that unions excel at, and I’m confident that Fórsa members will seize the opportunity to get this message across to the Government parties,” he said.

You can sign the petition here and Fórsa members are encouraged to circulate the link among work colleagues, friends and family to seek their support for the campaign.

There’s never been a better time to join a union, and it’s never been easier. Join Fórsa today.

New General Secretary of ICTU is Owen Reidy

Ireland’s High Living Costs

From the well-known blog : Notesonthefront.blog

Ireland’s High Living Costs

We all know that Ireland has a high level of living costs – second highest in the EU

Living Costs 1

Irish prices (living costs) are 40 percent above the EU average.  However, comparison with the EU average can be misleading.  High-income countries invariably have higher living costs.  In the graph above all countries in our peer group exceed the EU average.    So the better comparison is with other high-income countries and not the EU base-line.  Nonetheless, bar Denmark, we are well above price levels in those countries – even high-cost Sweden.

While there is an acknowledgement that Ireland is a high-cost country, there is less discussion over where those costs lie.

Living Costs 2

No one would be surprised that alcohol and tobacco are more than twice the price of EU levels, given our high excise levels.  Nor would many be surprised that housing and energy are nearly 90 percent higher than the EU average.  Health follows third.  At the other end, clothing and footwear, and household furnishings are at the EU average. 

While this tells us where particular categories stand in relation to the EU average, it doesn’t tell us what are the biggest contributors to Ireland’s high living costs.  For instance, communication prices – which includes both telecommunications goods and services, along with postal services – are 46 percent higher than the EU average.  But we only spend 3.4 percent of our income on communications.  So even if we were to reduce these prices to our peer group level, it wouldn’t make a significant impact on our overall living costs. 

So what are the biggest contributors to our high living costs?

Living Costs 3

Unsurprisingly, housing and energy leads the table.  Nearly a quarter of our living costs in excess of the EU average is due to this category.  Next up is alcohol & tobacco, hotels & restaurants, miscellaneous goods & services and health.  These five categories account for nearly 75 percent of our excess costs.  It is within these categories that we need to make progress if we are to lower living costs. 

It wasn’t always like this – not to this degree.  Back in 1995 Irish prices were actually below the EU average.

Living Costs 5

Price rose quickly during the frist phase of the celtic tiger economy, rising to nearly 30 percent above the EU average by 2002.  It stayed at that level until a price drop following the financial crash.  But once the economy started to recover, so did prices.

There are other ways to measure the impact of high prices; in particular, from a life-cycle perspective.  For instance, young people will spend more on recreation and rents; those in their 30s and 40s will spend more on children (childcare, clothes, education-related costs); those in their 50s and 60s are likely to spend more on prescription medicine.  Capturing a life-cycle approach, combined with disposable income, would add to our understanding of the impact of living costs on households.

So why are prices high?  There are a number of potential contributory factors.  But let’s first rule out two commonly cited factors:  taxes on consumption and wages.

Living Costs 4

Our high prices can’t be put down to indirect taxation (VAT, Excise) as Ireland is below most of our peer group.  Similarly with wages – Ireland is at the bottom of the table in the market (i.e. private sector) economy.

So what might be the contributing factors?

  • Periphery costs?  Given that we need to import – by sea or air – a number of our inputs or final products, this extra travel cost could add to prices.  However, we import most of our clothing and footwear – yet these prices are well below other high-income countries.
  • Lack of competition?  This is the go-to explanation for many as ‘competition’ is viewed as a panacea for consumer prices and choice.  However, the restaurant sector is highly competitive (i.e. lots of enterprises) but prices remain high.  Non-alcoholic drinks are 39 percent higher than the EU average.  Can this be explained by lack of competition? 
  • Lack of scale?  Economies of scale can reduce prices but our small domestic market can be a barrier to achieving this scale – hence, imports.  Are there some items higher priced because of market size or structural features?
  • Lack of social spending?  Childcare fees are ultra-high, due to lack of state investment.  Ditto with GP services.  Public transport fees in Dublin are higher than in other European capitals.  How much of our high prices are due to Irish people having to pay on the private market what others throughout Europe consume through social markets – for free or at below-market rates?
  • High Profits?  Are prices high because Irish business extracts higher profits?  In the domestic market sector Irish firms have a lower profit margin than most of their EU peer group countries – which is consistent with a poor performing domestic sector.  There might be exceptions in certain sectors.

We need to establish the reasons for our high prices.  We used to have a National Prices Commission.  This body monitored and regulated prices in the economy.  Businesses in many sectors would have to apply to the Commission in order to raise prices.  In this Parliamentary Question from 1978 we find the Commission giving price increase permission to products ranging from tinned strawberries to coal, cemetery charges, bread, confectionary, GP fees, energy, cheese and more.

I’m not suggesting going back to that regime.  It wouldn’t be possible (though we shouldn’t rule out temporary controls in key areas such as energy).  However, a new Prices Commission could be established to investigate the extent of high prices on key goods and services – especially in comparison with other European countries – the reasons for these high prices and what steps could be taken to lower prices would be extremely helpful in the debate.   There may be market reasons outside the control of the state.  But there may be a number of steps a government could take to tackle our high costs.  A new Price Commission could not only inform the debate, it could politicise prices and bring new light to old practices. 

Most of all, we shouldn’t be fatalistic about our high living costs.  On the other side of our inflation crisis we can intervene in a number of ways – provision of public services, taxation, import substitution, removal of barriers to competition, etc.  There is a way to bring prices under some sort of control.

It’s called politics.

Publication of the Final Report of the LEEF High-Level Working Group on Collective Bargaining

Publication of the Final Report of the LEEF High-Level Working Group on Collective Bargaining

The Taoiseach, Micheál Martin TD and the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Leo Varadkar TD have today announced the publication of the Final Report of the LEEF High-Level Working Group on Collective Bargaining. The High-Level Working Group was formed in March 2021 to review the collective bargaining landscape in Ireland and to make recommendations for improvement.


See conclusions from Page 27:


7. Conclusions
The Group considers this report to contain a package of recommendations, which, if implemented in
full, will improve the functioning of collective bargaining, and will improve the industrial relations
landscape in Ireland. The recommendations will also ensure Ireland is well placed to fulfil upcoming
EU law obligations, in a meaningful way, and in the context of a genuine tripartite approach, which
respects the autonomy of the social partners.

The Group recommends that the implementation of the recommendations contained in this report
by subject to formal, and ongoing, review. The Labour Employer Economic Forum (LEEF) will
continue to provide a structure for tripartite dialogue, between Government, Employers, Trade
Unions, on economic and employment issues as they affect labour relations. In this context, the
Group recommends that the LEEF should oversee implementation of the recommendations
contained in this report, including formal review of their impact. It should also provide a forum for
tripartite consideration of related workplace issues, including, aspects of the proposed EU Directive
not addressed by the Group in this report

The bargaining power of workers has declined strongly in the Euro zone since the 1980s

The bargaining power of workers has declined strongly in the Euro zone since the 1980s Wage share & trade union density have fallen & profit share has increased The fall in Union density Is inextricably linked to falling wage share & rising profits





Strike action begins in care services

One day strike action today by Fórsa members at St. Josephs Foundation in Charleville, Co. Cork

Unions step up action for improved funding and pay in State funded agencies

Fórsa trade union members at St. Josephs Foundation in Charleville, Co. Cork are taking strike action today as a series of three consecutive one-day strike actions commences today (Wednesday) in community and voluntary sector agencies.

St. Joseph’s Foundation provides a range of services and supports for people with disabilities, and is the lead agency for the two North Cork Children disability Network (CDN) teams.

The strike action today forms part of the ICTU-led Valuing Care, Valuing Community campaign.

The campaign aims to achieve improved terms and conditions of employment for health and social care professionals and other staff employed in agencies funded by the HSE and other State bodies, where staff are employed on lower pay and lesser conditions than equivalent grades in the HSE and other agencies.


CWU Workers on Strike


Over 150,000 strike on historic day for our union – region by region

Members in Royal Mail, BT, Openreach and Parcelforce walk out right across the country in the CWU’s biggest ever action…

Delivery, processing, network and engineering services, distribution, vehicle repair, plant maintenance and admin at two of the UK’s largest companies were hugely impacted in every corner of the country today as pickets were deployed from the early hours of the morning until late in the evening. Strikers were in good humour and high spirits, as well as disciplined and determined, united in standing up and standing together in the fight for a fair deal on pay.
Our general secretary Dave Ward staunchly defended our members, praising them for their public service, insisting that the strike action was absolutely necessary and had been effectively forced on the union by stubborn and arrogant leaderships in both Royal Mail Group and BT Group and vowed that the CWU would continue the fight and would prevail.
“Today was an historic day for the CWU – the first time we’ve ever taken simultaneous strike action virtually right across our membership. And our members have responded magnificently in every city, town and village of the UK.
“Now the ball is in the employers’ court. They need to respond positively and make real efforts to settle these disputes. We have further action planned for next week in Royal Mail and our industrial executive on the telecoms & financial services side of the union will be meeting to discuss their next steps with BT Group.
“If the employers continue in their stubborn stance, the only outcome will be further action in both companies and let them be in no doubt as to the determination and unity of purpose of this union and our members.
“Once again to our members a massive thank you, huge admiration and respect – you deserve better and we will keep up the fight.”
CWU deputy general secretary postal Terry Pullinger said that it was “the honour of my life to represent these people today,” and our deputy general secretary telecoms & financial service Andy Kerr insisted: “Our members want a pay rise and want it now” on the day that workers across these two companies took strike action on the same day for the first time ever.

Six Counties
Both Andy and Terry addressed a lively rally outside Belfast’s City Hall, Terry saying that the key worker heroes were now being “treated like zeroes by their employers,” and reminding the audience of how Royal Mail workers had turned around the company’s fortunes over recent years through their hard work and adaptability to change, but were now being told that the company could not afford a fair pay rise – although, he pointed out: “Over £700 million since July 2021 has been given to shareholders and senior managers have given themselves massive pay rises.
“They’ve had their heads in the trough,” he said and went onto criticise the business for “walking away from” the Pathway to Change agreement that was “just over a year old” and described the current dispute as being “about honour and integrity against people who’ve got none.”
In his speech to the rally, Andy Kerr made similar criticisms of the BT Group leadership and refuted senior management claims of not being able to afford a fair pay deal.
“This company cannot tell me they can’t afford a pay rise,” he insisted, adding: “This company made £1.3 billion profit last year. But they’re ‘skint’? This company can afford to give £761m to their shareholders. But they’re ‘skint’?

Andy talked of how he had been involved in the action the last time that BT workers went on strike back in 1987 and challenged the company’s bosses to a public debate on the question of affordability. “If they want that debate, then bring it on,” he said and suggested: “If they gave just 10 per cent of that £761m dividend to the workers, this dispute would be over tomorrow morning.”
Speaking to CWU News afterwards, Northern Ireland CWU secretary Erin Massey said: “It was fantastic to get Andy and Terry here to Belfast today and there were hundreds who turned up – mostly our members, but also other workers and the general public. We reckon there were around 300 or so and there were other speakers too, from NIPSA, Unite and the Belfast Trade Union Council. There was so much support and solidarity.”
The strike call had been strongly supported everywhere, Erin continued, explaining that she had visited the mail centre in the morning and had also received positive reports from picket lines all over Northern Ireland.
“It’s been a great day today and our members have responded superbly – and the weather’s stayed nice as well.”



The Judiciary are no friends of the working Class- Court action from three security companies blocks planned pay rise for guards


The High Court has blocked the Minister of State for Employment, Damien English, from introducing pay increases for 16,000 workers in the security industry from next Monday.

Barrister Eoin O’Shea told Ms Justice Nuala Butler that the Minister had signalled by way of a press release on 3 August his intention to commence an Employment Regulation Order to increase pay for security guards.

Mr O’Shea, who appeared with Tom Casey Solicitors for three security companies, was granted leave on behalf of Top Security, Morbury and Las Security to challenge by way of judicial review the minister’s decision and the proposals of the Labour Court.

Ms Butler said the court had been satisfied from the evidence to grant leave and order a stay restraining the minister from signing any proposed new employment regulation order providing a new minimum rate of pay of €12.50 an hour and an increased minimum of €12.90 per hour from 1 February next.

Mr O’Shea said the applicants were companies involved in the provision of security and guarding services in the Irish market which involved the provision of security staff for Irish clients including round-the-clock manned services.

He said the number of companies engaged in the provision of static guards services was in decline, having fallen from 214 companies in 2014 to 184 companies in 2020.

Instead, clients were turning to non-static technology solution companies which had more than doubled to over 1,000 in the same period.

Ms Butler heard the Industrial Relations Amendment Act provided for the establishment of Joint Labour Committees to provide machinery for submitting proposals to the Labour Court for the adoption by the minister of an Employment Regulation Order.

Mr O’Shea told the court that such committees were composed of union representatives and, on the employer side in this case, mainly members from the larger security firms to promote harmonious relations between workers and employers and to avoid industrial unrest.

He said the Joint Labour Committee, when it had formulated proposals for a regulation order, was bound to publish notice of that order and seek written representations within 21 days of its publication.

He said his clients had twice asked for a copy of the Labour Court’s recommendations to the minister but had not received any prior to the ministerial press release.

He told the court that the Industrial Relations Amendment Act provided that an employer who did not pay the minimum rates as laid out in an Employment Regulation Order or apply other employment conditions, such as for holidays and overtime, was guilty of a criminal offence.

Mr O’Shea said the three applicant companies considered that the Joint Labour Committee process supported the interests of the big rather than the smaller employer, produced an anti-competitive outcome and tended to reduce employment in the industry by encouraging clients to turn to cheaper technology solutions and fewer static guards.

Ms Butler, granting the injunction and staying the introduction of the new regulations, adjourned the judicial review proceedings until early November.

Fair Employment Bill 2022 Launch