Unite Update

Dear Member,

On Monday 20 July our members in Premier Periclase had been set take strike action in a dispute arising from the company’s proposal to lay off our members or put them on reduced hours, while transferring work to non-union labour and retaining contractors on site. Earlier this week talks were held at the Workplace Relations Commission, and Regional Officer Willie Quigley spoke to LMFM’s Michael Reade on Wednesday to give an update.  Click here to listen to the interview.  A proposal from the WRC was subsequently received, on foot of which our members voted to defer strike action and participate in a two-week process of engagement.

As workplaces continue re-opening, Unite’s priority has been to ensure that our members in all sectors are safe.  Click here to read our statement on the particular issues facing driving instructors, and here to listen to Regional Officer Jean O’Dowd summarising their concerns. The Irish Times’ addressed the issue in this feature article yesterday.  Unite member and driving instructor Laura Broxson also appeared on Today FM’s Last Word programme to outline the issues.

Opposition to the far-right in all its forms is central to the politics and practice of Unite and the wider trade union movement:  those seeking to sow division and hatred have nothing to offer working people.  At this week’s ICTU Executive Council meeting, Unite raised the issue of the far-right using issues including homophobic abuse to arrange fascistic rallies as happened in Dublin last Saturday. This is just the latest episode in a concerted effort by the far-right to organise here in our communities, and electorally.  It was agreed that Congress would issue a strong statement reaffirming our movement’s opposition to such campaigns of hate, which you can read here. Earlier in the week I wrote a blog post on the issue which you can read here.

As we deal with the social and economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic, and the inevitable attempts to attack workers’ living standards, solidarity has never been more important.  Unite will continue working to build that solidarity, and to oppose any groups attempting to undermine it in order to advance their own agenda of division and intolerance.

As always, I would urge you to engage with and share Unite’s content online to stay up-to-date with what your union is doing and saying; links to our platforms are below.

In solidarity

Brendan Ogle
Senior Officer – Republic of Ireland
Unite the union

Give bar workers a fighting chance for the future

Give bar workers a fighting chance for the future

Thursday 16 July 2020

The bar workers union, Mandate, has today (Thursday, 16th July) called on the Government to give bar workers and bar owners a fighting chance for survival by supporting them in the proposals to be announced in the “July Stimulus Package”.

Referring to Mandate’s Submission to the Dail Covid Committee Concerning the Hospitality Sector, John Douglas, Mandate General Secretary said:

“Bar workers want to return to work when it is safe to do so for them and their customers. The bars which remain closed have been so since St. Patrick’s week and tens of thousands of bar workers have been laid off, the majority on the Pandemic Unemployment Payment.  There is no doubt bar workers and the businesses in which they work have been severely impacted by the health led lockdown restrictions.”

He added, “Mandate Trade Union and our members are concerned for the future employment prospects of Bar Workers, with some reports estimating that in excess of 20,000 bar workers of the 50,000 workers in the sector could lose their jobs, even if restrictions are eased.”

Mr Douglas continued: “As Ireland tries to return to some form of normality, our social interaction is vital and our bars and bar workers play a big role in this, so for the sake of some normality and for the sake of decent jobs in our sector, the Government must prioritise the Bar Sector with a suite of support measures in their ‘July Stimulus Package’.”

Specifically Mandate Trade Union is calling for the following:

  1. An orderly and safe re-opening of all bars when it is deemed safe to do so by the Health Authorities.
  2. A temporary reduction of the VAT Rate on “sales of alcohol” in the bar sector until the end of 2020, at which time it can be reviewed.
  3. An extension of the Temporary Wage Subsidy Scheme until the end of 2020 fo all bar workers who are returned to work by their employers on the same terms and conditions as pertained before the lockdown. Again these measured should be reviewed at the end of 2020, as there can be no doubt that the negative impact of the lockdown and opening restrictions will be felt in the bar sector well into 2021.
  4. An extension of the rent freeze and the ban on evictions as a way of protecting workers.

Mr Douglas concluded: “The bar sector is on its knees and the vast majority of bar owners did the right and responsible thing during this Pandemic.  It is now vital that this Government does the right thing to support bar workers and the business in which they work.”

SIPTU members at Aer Lingus reject management’s pay and job proposals

SIPTU members at Aer Lingus reject management’s pay and job proposals

Date Released: 14 July 2020

SIPTU members at Aer Lingus have voted by 55% to 45% to reject the Covid-19 crisis recovery plan proposed by the airline.

The proposals were put to a ballot of the union’s 1500 members at Dublin, Cork and Shannon airports over recent days.

SIPTU Divisional Organiser, Karan O’Loughlin said:

“This is a very difficult and challenging time for our members in the aviation industry.

“We will now meet with workplace representatives to discuss the outcome of the ballot and to find a way forward that can protect the pay and employment of our members at the airline.”

SIPTU warns of strike action if pay and conditions of construction workers are undermined

SIPTU warns of strike action if pay and conditions of construction workers are undermined

Date Released: 14 July 2020

SIPTU representatives have warned construction companies that its members will conduct strike action if there is any attempt to undermine workers’ agreed wages and conditions in the wake of a High Court decision to strike down parts of the Industrial Relations Amendment Act 2015.

The High Court decision, delivered at the end of June, means that the conditions contained within a Sectoral Employment Order (SEO) for the construction industry are no longer legally enforceable.

In a letter sent to employers across the construction industry, SIPTU Sector Organiser, John Regan, said: “If you fail to continue applying all of the terms of the Construction SEO we will be in dispute with your company and we will act accordingly. We also want to remind you that there cannot be piecemeal application of the SEO. Once you fail to apply the full terms of the agreement it will be null and void in terms of dispute resolution procedures.” 

“This means that in the event of a dispute, SIPTU will not be obliged to refer any dispute to the Workplace Relations Commission. Accordingly, under these circumstances, this union reserves the right to commence industrial/strike action and the serving of seven days-notice as required to any employer who fails to apply any of the current terms and conditions covered by the SEO as this creates a clear trade dispute,” the letter states. 

It says that while awaiting the outcome of an appeal by the Government of the High Court decision or the enactment of new legalisation concerning SEOs “all tendering applications for public or private projects” should “make allowance for the application of the full terms of the SEO.”  

The SEO covers agreed pay rates, overtime premium payments after 39 hours, working hours and Construction Workers’ Pension Scheme payments. 

SIPTU representatives are part of a ICTU delegation which will meet with the Construction Industry Federation on Monday, 20th July, to discuss the continued application of the SEO terms for the sector.

International News: SW Iran sugarcane workers hold 27th day of strike action for wages

Sugarcane workers in southwestern Iran have taken strike action for the past 27 days to demand their unpaid wages.

The workers from the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane Company in Shush say they have not received their wages for two to three months. They are also demanding better work conditions, the return of laid-off workers who were fired for protesting, an extension of their insurance booklets, and the return of the company to the public sector.

Videos have been posted online showing hundreds of workers marching on the street chanting against regime officials. The sugarcane workers started initially took strike action on June 14. Sugarcane workers say that they can barely make ends meet and chant “we are hungry” during their protests. During previous protests, workers even said that they had to “borrow” bread from bakeries.

Two years ago during their last strike action, a number of sugarcane workers were detained, tortured, and persecuted for demanding their rights.

The CEO of the company, Omid Assadbeigi is currently being tried for currency misconduct. During the trial, Assadbeigi said he had bribed the current governor of Khuzestan by giving his wife $200,000.

Khuzestan’s Governor, Gholamreza Shariati has denied the accusation. 

The International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF), a global union federation that represents 10 million workers expressed solidarity with Haft Tappeh sugarcane workers last month.

“As always, the IUF stands in full solidarity with the workers and their union and calls on the government to act immediately to ensure full payment of all wages and social security benefits, proper workplace protective measures and full access to health services for all workers and family members,” the IUF wrote in a June 17 report on its website.

Haft Tappeh Sugarcane company timeline

Founded in 1961, the company made a record production of 100,000 tons of white sugar in 2002.

Haft Tappeh suffered a severe recession during the Ahmadinejad administration in 2006 when the regime’s Supreme Leader Khamenei eliminated the tariffs for sugar imports. The sugarcane workers staged protests the following year.  

In 2012, the company was reconstructed with refurbished equipment aimed at increasing sugar production.

In January 2016 two young men, Mehrdad Rostami and Omid Assadbeigi who owned Zenus and Ariak Ltd. bought the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane complex at around one tenth of the actual price for 218 billion tomans in an auction.

The 24,000 hectare Haft Tappeh Sugarcane complex went into ruin after it was privatized.  

In 2017, workers came out in force to protest the privatization of the company arguing that there were huge amounts of money being embezzled behind the scene.

In 2018, the Haft Tappeh Sugarcane factory CEO Assadbeigi was said to have run off after being charged with currency misconduct. He is currently standing trial.

The workers once again started a strike in November 2018 for 25 days in protest to not receiving four months of their wages and the privatization of the company. The contract for this massive complex has not been made public. It is not clear why the large factory was handed over to two young inexperienced men, who according to workers, did not know the first thing about sugarcane production. 

Unite News update

Dear Member,

With workplaces continuing to re-open, Unite’s focus remains on ensuring members’ safety while protecting terms and conditions that have been hard-won over decades.

Unite members in the Premier Periclase magnesia plant in Louth will be taking strike action from July 20th following the company’s failure to engage meaningfully on issues surrounding a ‘temporary shutdown’.  Click here to read our statement, and here to listen to Regional Officer Willie Quigley’s interview on LMFM outlining the background to the dispute.

Over recent weeks, the construction sector’s focus has been on the implications of the High Court decision to strike down the electrical Sectoral Employment Order.  As I mentioned in last week’s Update, Unite, along with other unions in the ICTU Construction Industry Committee, will shortly be balloting construction members for industrial action if any employer attempts to unilaterally attack terms and conditions.  Meanwhile, following representations by unions, the Government has this week committed to appealing the High Court decision and confirmed that there can be no unilateral diminution in workers’ terms and conditions in the meantime.

Unite’s Executive Council met remotely earlier this week.  It was the first meeting for the Ireland Region’s newly-elected representative Marie Casey, who not only highlighted the specific issues facing our Region but also pointed to the similarities of the challenges facing working people from Land’s End to Dingwall, and from Galway to Grimsby. As Marie wrote following the meeting, “Nowhere has any Government or administration seized the opportunity presented by the emergency to begin to redefine society in a fairer, more equal way. On the contrary, the calls from employers for free money, for public bailouts, without committing to any more support to their workers or representative organisations is common across the board. We must fight for better and we fight better together. So it’s important for Unite members to encourage friends and family to help themselves by joining Unite or, where that isn’t possible, some other appropriate union”.  You can follow Marie on Facebook here.

On a broader note, Unite is concerned at the growth of misinformation which can quickly spread through social media, especially at a time of heightened public concern.  While we are resolutely opposed to the policies likely to the pursued by the new coalition Government, we are equally opposed to the homophobic campaign of vilification being pursued against Green TD Roderic O’Gorman.  You may have seen this on your social media feeds, and I would urge you to read the statement issued by Unite Community.

As always, please make sure to follow Unite’s online platforms to stay updated on what your unions is doing and saying.

In solidarity

Brendan Ogle
Senior Officer – Republic of Ireland
Unite the union

Website: www.unitetheunionireland.org
Blog: www.uniteforarealalternative.blog
Facebook: www.facebook.com/UnitetheUnionROI/
Twitter: www.twitter.com/UniteunionROI
Instagram: www.instagram.com/uniteunionroi

An Post talks continue

Fórsa has sought clarification on a number of issues following a meeting with An Post management on its plans for the future of its GPO headquarters in Dublin.

The company is examining plans to move from the GPO,, O’Connell Street which famously served as the headquarters for the 1916 rising.

An Post has said that the GPO is not fit for purpose, and are proposing to vacate the historical landmark in favour of a new modern premises.

A union sub-group was established early on in the process, to facilitate consultation between the company and representatives from all three unions representing members in the company (Fórsa, AHCPS, CWU). Union officials from the three unions met with An Post senior management last Friday and are awaiting further documentation before talks continue.

Union officials from the three unions met with An Post senior management last Friday and are awaiting further documentation before talks continue.


Fórsa official Denis Keane said that some documentation is expected from the company this week with a view to further engagement.

“We hope to resume negotiations once clarification on a number of items is received but as of now, any decision to relocate would be premature,” said Denis.

A recent staff survey indicated that headquarters staff wish to remain working in the GPO.

Denis said that unions agree that GPO is in need of extension renovation, and while staff may need to be temporarily relocated during construction, they should return to the O’Connell street location.

quote_box color=’#00584c’ textcolor=’#ffffff’ text=’All three unions strongly believe that the GPO remains the best option for both HQ based staff and the company.’]

“All three unions strongly believe that the GPO remains the best option for both HQ based staff and the company,” he said.

Engagement is expected to resume shortly.


Remote work puts spotlight on working time

The anticipated move towards more widespread remote working is an opportunity to look afresh at issues around working time and work-life balance, according to Fórsa. The union is preparing to make a submission to a Government consultation on remote working, which was launched yesterday (9th July 2020).

Fórsa will argue that sectoral agreements on home working should protect workers in specific employments, but that these should be based on principles agreed with unions at a national level.

It also says the consultation should encompass a public conversation on the amount of time we spend at work, and the balance between work and other responsibilities. The union has been campaigning for reductions in working time across all sectors of the economy, and has spearheaded the ‘four-day week’ initiative in Ireland.

Fórsa wants to retain the option for remote working – with adequate safeguards – for staff and organisations that want it.


Official figures show that up to a third of employees were working remotely at the height of the Covid-19 public health crisis. Fórsa wants to retain the option for remote working – with adequate safeguards – for staff and organisations that want it.

But the union insists that emergency measures introduced during a crisis cannot simply continue without the negotiation of formal staff protections.

Fórsa issued guidance to members working from home back in May, and the union is currently drawing up a comprehensive negotiators’ guide in anticipation of sectoral talks on remote working policies.

The union’s advice covers health and safety, employers’ responsibilities, work-life balance, staying connected with the workplace, childcare, mental health, security, data protection and other issues.

The extended period of home working has been a new experience for most workers and their organisations, but it is widely expected to become a more normal part of working life in Ireland and elsewhere.

A recent survey found that only 12% of business leaders believe all their staff will return to work premises once Covid-19 restrictions are eased. Almost a third said they were considering downsizing office space, while 40% predicted an equal mix of staff working in the office and remotely.

Fórsa general secretary Kevin Callinan said the union wanted to maintain the option for home working for those who wanted it. But he said a structured approach with proper safeguards was now required.

“Many workers have established a productive and rewarding remote routine, but it can be a struggle for others whose accommodation or personal circumstances don’t support this way of working.

Many workers have established a productive and rewarding remote routine, but it can be a struggle for others whose accommodation or personal circumstances don’t support this way of working.


“Fórsa wants to preserve the benefits of remote working for staff, their employers and the environment. But we need to ensure that proper safeguards are in place, and that the criteria for determining who works at home include an element of choice and a recognition that some people are just unable to sustain remote working for long periods of time.

“This is also an opportunity to look afresh at issues around working time and work-life balance, and Fórsa wants to ensure that this isn’t lost in the public conversation or in negotiations with employers,” he said.

The union also says remote working shouldn’t harm workers’ career prospects or weaken employment relationships.

The Government consultation is being conducted by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, which says it will produce guidance for employers and employees on foot of the exercise.


Read Fórsa’s remote working guidelines HERE.

Get more on the Government’s consultation HERE.


Shannon Airport Group of Unions rejects company recovery plan

Shannon Airport Group of Unions rejects company recovery plan

Date Released: 07 July 2020

Representatives of the Shannon Airport Group of Unions today (7th July) called for immediate discussions with management following its announcement that the company intends to cut pay by up to 20% until April 2023.

Speaking on behalf of the Group of Unions (SIPTU, Connect and Forsa), SIPTU Sector Organiser Neil McGowan said: “The announcement by management at Shannon Airport that it intends to cut members pay by up to 20% is completely unacceptable and any unilateral pay cuts will be strongly resisted. The lack of consultation with staff and their representatives is appalling and will not assist in reaching an agreeable solution to the difficulties of the airport company.

“The terms of the voluntary redundancy scheme published by Shannon Airport yesterday were not discussed with, and are not acceptable to, the Group of Unions. The Unions will be seeking the same terms regarding voluntary redundancy that are on offer to airport workers in daa.

“We will be demanding the withdrawal of these proposals and that meaningful negotiations commence without delay. We will be consulting our members in the coming days to discuss the best means of defending the interests of Shannon Airport workers.

“The airport is a vital piece of infrastructure and this announcement represents a serious risk to jobs and the wider economy in the mid-west region. The Group of Unions has also questioned the timing of this announcement which was released in advance of the report from the Task Force on Aviation which is expected to make recommendations to Government in the coming days.

“We believe the company should have waited for this report before announcing swingeing pay cuts and staff reductions.”

International: WFTU solidarity statement with the people of Myanmar on the occupational crime

The World Federation of Trade Unions, the oldest and most historic international trade union organization, that represents more than 100 million workers in 130 countries of the five continents, expresses its sincere condolences to the people of Myanmar who is mourning at least 162 miners. The miners “were smothered by a wave of mud” in a landslide in a jade mine in northern provinces of the country.

This terrible “accident” is not just a natural haplessness but is a crime against the tens of miners who died, working to earn the livelihood. As it is proven in the most horrible way, hundreds of workers were exposed to murderous working conditions without any protection measure or any provision for their safety.

Our thoughts are with the families, friends, and colleagues of the worker who were killed and we join our voices with the working class of Myanmar demanding:

– Health and safety measures in all workplace protection of lives and safeguarding of the long term health of the workers.

– Adequate and sufficient leaves for health issues and compensations to the families of the victims.

– Investigation and punishment of the responsible ones for the labor accidents and full reparation of workers or their families.

The Secretariat