Why are the 999 workers striking?

Call centres have deservedly achieved notorious reputations as places where managers seek to exert total control over workers. This often takes the form of bosses micro-managing the daily activities of workers, imposing unrealistic targets on staff in order to boost productivity and subjecting people to harsh disciplinary measures. Low pay, high staff turnover and no union rights are the norm in this sector.

Although they help to save lives on a daily basis, these are the conditions that Ireland’s 999 emergency call operators have been working under since Conduit/BT began delivering the service. The contract for delivering the ECAS was awarded to BT Ireland in 2009 by the Department of Communications and was valued at €55 million. BT then outsourced the work to Conduit Global.

CWU members working in the 999 service recently took two days of strike action in pursuit of a Living Wage and the right to collective union recognition. They were also demanding that managers treat them with a basic level of dignity and respect.

The #999Respect campaign began in late 2014 when 999 operators, employed by Conduit Global/BT, contacted the CWU to get help unionising their workplace. When the campaign began, 999 operators were paid only €10 per hour and were subjected to a harsh and petty regime of management. Workers were routinely suspended and dragged through traumatic disciplinary investigations for the most trivial of issues, creating a culture of fear.

Such was the level of disrespect with which Conduit/BT treated staff, management felt they could get away with introducing the now infamous ‘toilet policy’, which micromanaged how long 999 operators could spend in the bathroom. Staff were told that they faced disciplinary action if they spent more than 19 minutes in the bathroom during the course of a 12-hour shift. They were also ordered to report to management before and after using the toilet and were limited to seven minutes in the bathroom at any one time.

Given the routine and open contempt displayed by their bosses, it is hardly surprising that in January 84% of CWU members in the 999 service voted in favour of strike action. The members’ decision to strike came after 18 months of the CWU trying to engage with Conduit/BT. Every request by the union to meet and discuss the issues was ignored.

In November 2015, CWU members in the ECAS won a 10% pay rise after putting their bosses under intense pressure as a result of their organising campaign. This gave the workers confidence that they have the power to affect change in the workplace even under the auspices of a viciously anti-union employer. However, although the pay rise was welcomed, the 999 workers were still paid less than the Living Wage and we constantly seeing their workmates marched off the call centre floor and unnecessarily suspended. Their call for dignity and respect at work continued to be ignored.

The first strike was held in Navan on 25th February – the day before the general election. In order to protect this vital public service, members decided to only strike in Navan and allow the other two centres in Dublin and Ballyshannon to operate as normal. As a result of the strike action, an on-call allowance was introduced and workers who were suspended were allowed to return to work. However, despite being making a combined profit of around €50 million last year, bosses in Conduit/BT still refused to pay a Living Wage or recognise the CWU.

A second strike took place on 7th April to keep the pressure on the companies. In the days before the strike, Conduit/BT were invited to talks by the Workplace Relations Commission aimed at averting the strike. In a display of gross arrogance and irresponsibility, they refused to attend and the strike went ahead. CWU General Secretary, Steve Fitzpatrick described this as a display of “open contempt for their staff and the Irish State.” He said: “The double standards from BT/Conduit Global are appalling. On one hand, they are happy to reap the huge financial rewards they receive as a result of delivering a state contract. On the other hand, they refuse to respect the authority of this State when it comes to its industrial relations structures and their responsibility to treat their staff properly.”

On the back of the strike action, 999 workers were invited to meet with a cross party group of TDs to recount their stories. The meeting was arranged by Sinn Féin’s Peadar Tóibín and was attended by politicians from Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, AAA-PBP as well as Independents. Following the meeting, Deputy Tóibín said that attendees at the meeting were “shocked at the oppressive nature of the working environment suffered by these workers”.

The CWU is now calling for the government to ensure that any company benefiting from a state contract should be subject to a social clause. This should require them to pay workers at least a Living Wage, honour collective bargaining rights and respect the industrial relations machinery of the state. The mistreatment of workers at the hands of Conduit/BT should not be allowed to happen again.

ICTU President Brian Campfield at the SF Ard Fheis

I wish to thank Sinn Fein for providing the opportunity to address this Ard Fheis on behalf the Irish trade union movement.

It is of course an historic year during which we are commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising and the trade unions, generally, if not universally, take great pride in the role played by James Connolly and the Irish Citizen Army  in the Rising. I say generally because trades unions are also victims of the divisions in our country and in the interests of working class and trade union unity we have had to adopt a nuanced approach to  1916 and related events.

In respect of Connolly’s role in 1916 he was taking a stand against Empire,  he was taking a stand  against  the slaughter of the First World War and  in doing so he was claiming a stake for a Workers’ Republic in Ireland.His vision of a country where  working men and women would be enjoy the fruits of their own labour  hasn’t yet been realised.

Three years before the Rising in 1913 both Connolly and Larkin were pitted in the bitterest of battles  against the Dublin Employers and William Martin Murphy  and his ilk; the representatives of that class of Irishman who would disown and betray the national cause on a colossal scale.

Yet in this Republic  of  today  the employers, the Capitalist Class, take pride of place and their interests trump that of workers, their families and their communities.The modern day William Martin Murphys  are operating a new form of slavery and serfdom, trying to control workers through zero hours contracts, flexible employment contracts and not so well concealed bullying and intimidation and anti- unions policies. Most of these  companies, to  paraphrase   Brookeborough the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland , would  not have a trade unionist about the place and many of them don’t.

Others tolerate unions because they have no choice and at this point I wish to pay tribute of the workers in  Dunne’s Stores  who have refused to be intimidated by one of our own home grown capitalists and to the TESCO workers who are enduring the might of a multi- national giant with a courage  and spirit not unlike  that of the men and women of 1916.

In 2016, and not only in Ireland, there is a grave inequality of wealth and this is primarily the consequence of a gross imbalance of power. This is exemplified starkly in the power of large corporations to sue governments for policy decisions which interfere with their bottom line, profits; the power of companies to shut up shop, transfer their production and devastate communities and families without any consequences.

And the virtually secret negotiations between the European Commission and Canada and the US on  the Canadian and European and the  Trans -Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership will deliver even greater power to corporations through the creation of private secret courts to enable corporations to sue governments. It will also give effect to an extended system of regulatory convergence which will cause immense problems in relations to environmental , food safety and other standards.

In a nut shell CETA and TTIP and the increasing power of corporations equate to the hollowing out of what democracy we have left and our political system and governments will be  further  weakened as the power and influence of the corporations is consolidated. The European Commission and our governments are trading away democracy.We need to build a campaign here in Ireland to oppose these proposed agreements. We need to do it in the interests of democracy and we need to do it in to protect both citizens and workers alike.

Colleagues, in an effort to redress some of these inequalities Congress has developed a 10 point plan for workers. We have communicated this to all political parties in the Republic of Ireland.

We are demanding

  1. Significant improvements to the pay and terms and conditions of employees and the introduction of statutory mechanisms to deliver these objectives
  1. A democratic, accountable high quality education system which is inclusive, affordable and accessible; with a share of public spending of at least 7% of GDP, with proper contracts and tenure for staff and priority for the educationally disadvantaged and those with special educational needs.
  1. A universal single tiered health system, democratically accountable, responsive to the needs of citizens and with a spend of a minimum of 10%of GDP.
  1. An unprecedented programme of investment in affordable and social housing targeted at resolving the housing crisis by 2019, the 100th anniversary of the 1919 Democratic Programme.
  1. The abolition of the current system of water charges and a referendum to enshrine public ownership and control of our water sector.

In addition we have laid out our demands in relation to Youth, Childcare, and the proper resourcing of our important community sector which employs thousands of workers  delivering vital services.

We also demand a new approach to pensions, no increase in pension age and a positive resolution to the problem created by the increase in the pension age to 66, leaving many workers between the devil and the deep blue sea after they are retired at age 65.

We also need to address the systematic removal of trade union representatives from decision making  processes in this state. We need to reinstate  the  Workers’ Voice to counter that of powerful pro- business interests.

In respect of Northern Ireland let me say that we value devolved government because it has enabled us to avoid or mitigate some of the worst of the Westminster Tory policies. We will continue to campaign against all austerity measures irrespective from where they emanate and we will continue to expose the plans to reduce corporation tax as unacceptable. We will continue to fight privatisation of any public services or functions.

Delegates, guests, the Irish trade union movement will work with all parties that are committed to improving the position of working people, we will criticise and campaign against any injustices and we will work towards the fulfilment of Connolly’s aim to establish a Workers Republic in this country, where it is the people who  exercise the power not  the corporations, not the  home grown capitalists and not institutions such as the European Commission.

I will conclude with the words of Jemmy Hope, perhaps the most radical of the United Irishmen. The import of these  words is as true today as they were when he wrote them.

“It was my settled opinion that the condition of the labouring class was the fundamental question at issue between the rulers and the people, and there could be no solid foundation for liberty, till measures were adopted that went to the root of the evil, and were specially directed to the natural right of the people, the deriving  a subsistence rom the soil on which their labour was expended.”

In the modern context, these words will find a resonance with all those workers who are struggling today for a decent wage, for  fair terms and conditions of employment and for their future employment security.

I wish you success for the remainder of this Ard Fheis  and look forward to working with you and all other progressive forces in Irish society, North and South,  to advance the interests of the Irish Working Class.

Go Raibh Maith Agat

What is workers’ education? – Stevie Nolan

Our answer to the question “What is the purpose of workers’ education?” is of course dependent on the broader question of “What is the purpose of trade unions?” Are unions a collective defence of interests aimed at advancing the terms and conditions of members (and only members), or are they a means of challenging capitalism and providing a political vehicle for advancing towards socialism? Is it reform or revolution?

In Ireland the answer has always been fairly clear. We have never seen ourselves as being in a struggle against capital; we rarely even use the language of “capital” and “labour,” and when we do it’s largely symbolic and used with a less-than-convincing clenched fist and a poor rendition of “The International.”

The reformist approach, understood as varieties of social democracy, is in retreat, if not entirely dead. Over the last forty years we have seen the emergence of a new phase in capitalist development that has included a dominant role for finance capital, the defeat of organised labour, deregulation, low taxes, massive and continuous privatisation, and the end of the welfare compromise.

Whether we know it as neo-liberalism, the great risk shift, or the end of history, what we see is the full-spectrum domination of free-market theory. But it’s not enough to have a market economy: what we’re seeing emerge is a free-market society. This is the kind of society where we teach entrepreneurialism to five-year-olds and where universities no longer engage in critical debate and democratic discourse but instead install derivatives trading-rooms in departments of “economic management.”

Read the full paper here http://www.tuleftforum.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Workers-Education-Stevie-Nolan.pdf

Why have the Luas workers rejected the deal?

Let’s hear from the workers themselves as to why they rejected the deal.

Watch this short 2 minute video.

Thanks to Trade Union TV for this.

SIPTU Statement on Luas strike

SIPTU defers Luas strike action on St Patrick’s Day to consider WRC proposals

Date Released: 16 March 2016

SIPTU members working on the Luas light rail network have deferred a work stoppage scheduled for tomorrow (17th March) following talks at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) which have resulted in proposals to resolve the dispute for three out of four grades of workers.

SIPTU Organiser, John Murphy, said: “In talks lasting close to 28 hours with the employer, Transdev, at the WRC, we have made substantial progress. The WRC has produced proposals that it believes are the best achievable in relation to finding a solution to this dispute. On the basis of this progress the workers have decided to defer a work stoppage scheduled to take place tomorrow.”

He added: “Revenue protection officers, revenue protection supervisors and drivers will now consider the proposals in relation to their grade and vote on them in the coming days.

“In relation to the traffic supervisor grade progress has been made and we are hopeful a resolution can be achieved.”

Support the Luas Workers

Reprinted from https://radicalwhispers.wordpress.com/2016/03/14/support-for-the-luas-workers/

Turned a Rant Supporting the Luas Workers into a new blog piece after a little break

I genuinely understand why people are being played on with this case. It is a case of pay increases rather then resisting a firing, or a closure or an eviction or homelessness. It has the sympathy factor washed away. The problem is sympathy, the sort where we go ‘oh dear look at them poor people’, is not actually the best politics or the best basis for solidarity and collective action, it is dis-empowering and hierarchy creating.

What we really want, to start things off, to win basic demands here and now is at least 1) a universal floor, the idea that all people have value by what they do and b) the belief that collective action and groups standing together to fight for decency, proper pay, living or life itself is actually a good thing.

The propaganda is out to get us on this one, so here is the rant and best to all the striking workers on Thursday.

Support the Luas Workers on Paddy’s Day.

Many people earning feck all are trying to be turned against each other on this one. Lots of usual disinformation, 50% increase, nope sorry lads negotiation position for 5 next five years (now at 27%), lots of points focused and comparing the workers to others, and nothing looking at the profit of the company itself, lots trying to blame the workers when they took these measures causer the management wouldn’t negotiation, lots more genuinely snobbery, but they don’t have a degree therefore arn’t important (what decides important, surely a major transport system that gets 10,000s to where they are going is important… how and never,…. a few points to deal with

1) Tabloids are screaming “but you don’t earn that much and these Luas lads are showing you up.”

Yes most of use are earning feck all. What does that have to do with the Luas workers? They didn’t come put you on a job-bridge, cut the dole, hire you on a zero-hour contract or cut your pay. Companies did that, managers did that and governments did that.

Maybe the Luas lads are actually doing a good job or all of us? Fighting for decent wages, like we all should be. Using strikes and withdrawing their labour cause that’s the only thing that works.

2) “If I did that I would be fired”

Yea maybe that’s the problem, maybe no one should be just fired for fighting for the basic right to live and work in dignity. Maybe it shouldn’t be easy to just replace people with someone starving on the breadline. Maybe everyone should have decent work rather then being pitted against each other and maybe the action of the workers is what you should be thinking about. Join a Union, get organised and then they can’t just fire you

3) Luas workers are stupid monkeys just pulling levers.

This should be called for what it is snobbery. It is disheartening because it comes from many people earning feck all and being screwed with themselves, it also comes from genuine snobs who think they are simply worth more then these people.

What decides what is important in society, is a degree the measure of important work? If there were a million more accountants would it be more useful, are defined as more valuable because they have a degree because they wear a suit? Are other things that keep a country running valuable? Cleaners, maintenance, maybe even women who give birth to kids and don’t get paid for it, maybe even people who run vital transport? Is a arms dealer or investment banker more valuable? Are they even damaging?

Maybe we should be looking at value in society at a bit broader, or call it out as based on our bias and prejudice or maybe just maybe above all else all work has value, all labour has value, all efforts of getting up and doing something with your day have some value, as long as they don’t damage the lives of others

…………… Maybe instead of attacking Luas workers, we should stand with them and realised either we are already being kicked too and need something better or that after the Luas workers we will be next.

I know who my enemies are, who cut the wages of my family members, who forced me to emigrate and who chuck families out of homes every day and don’t bat an eye lid…. and they sure aren’t Luas Workers

Respect The Strike

Don’t Cross the Picket

Support your Local Picket

Stand up yourself with your, family, workers, community and everyone suffering along side you.

IMPACT – Childcare workers and childcare provision

Below is an interview we in the Trade Union Left Forum did with Lisa Connell, trade union Organiser with Impact trade union and their efforts to improve childcare provision in Ireland and organise childcare workers. Lisa can be contacted at lconnell@impact.ie 

There are a number of elements to the crisis in child-care provision in Ireland. How do you see it?

Child care has become increasingly popular as a topic discussed in wider society. On the back foot of the general election there was a narrative on what each political party could do in regard to child-care provision. The emphasis which emerged was on a “sustainable” child-care sector which benefited working parents. What the dialogue lacked was any focus on those employed within the sector.

As a wider conversation, some of the concerns and ultimately the crux of the crisis is around the cost of child care and the cost for parents to send their children to a local service versus their take-home earnings. Ultimately, when you further explore the sector, the crucial reason as to the national crisis affecting this sector is as a direct result of under-funding into the sector. When you make a comparative on a European level to funding to early years and education, Ireland is drastically lacking in GDP investment into this sector. Ireland invests 0.2 per cent of GDP while the European average is 0.8 per cent. While there are a number of elements to the crisis, ultimately the drastic underfunding into the sector is the core explanation to those using the services but also to those providing it.

What are conditions like for child-care workers?

There are approximately 30,000 workers providing early childhood care in Ireland, engaged in approximately 5,000 service-providers. The profession is heavily dominated by women. It is a sector that has expanded rapidly over the past few years, with the core reason in this expansion   the huge increase in demand for crèche services due to the changing pattern in the work force over the past twenty years.

Working conditions for those employed in this sector are exceptionally precarious, with rates of pay, seasonal and temporary contracts and lack of job security the major issues for those employed within the sector.

The early-years and education sector employs workers on low wages. The sector average is slightly above the minimum wage, with the average rate of pay throughout the working career averaging out at about €11 per hour. While wages remain low throughout working life, it is a sector with an increasingly qualified work force, with many staff achieving degree-level qualifications, and higher, to work within this sector.

One significant consequence of Government policy and funding in this sector is the requirement by Síolta for workers providing child care to acquire specific qualifications and for employers to engage staff holding such qualifications. While educational requirements continue to increase on an annual basis, rates of pay are not matching this.

This sector continues to see a great number of undergraduates study in this field, in which  they should be able to hold an expectation of a wage that reflects their own investment in training and education. The rates of pay for those who work in early childhood care do not reflect the investment in professionalisation which they put into this field.

Ultimately, the under-funding into this sector and lack of salary scales that match the educational requirement to work within this sector see many of those employed within the early-years sector forcibly migrate into other working professions due to the low wages that are in place.

A significant number of workers are employed on seasonal contracts, which as a result of the very nature of these contracts sees staff employed on a nine-month basis and then having to “sign on” in the Social Welfare office for the remaining three months of the year. Additionally, the free play-school year (ECCE) being offered by the Government accelerates this position, as the free play-school year is offered only on a seasonal basis and is not in place during the summer months. As many owners and private operators are not in receipt of an income during the summer months, the necessity for those employed in the sector means that there is no other option for them but to sign on during this period. This provides great job insecurity for those employed on these kinds of contracts and a highly precarious working culture.

Temporary contracts are also highly utilised within this sector. Much like seasonal contracts, they contain very little security of tenure for those employed on them.

Conditions are exceptionally precarious, with many having to contact their local Social Welfare office in regard to accessing sick-leave entitlements, while standardised contracts and standardised terms and conditions are not consistent throughout the work force. While there is an on-going political conversation around “quality child care,” as long as seasonal and temporary contracts, along with low rates of pay, continue to remain in place, real investment into the sector is not being carried through to those who are providing the services. Greater investment into the sector, directly through funding, is drastically needed in order to address the working conditions experienced at first hand.

What are the demands child-care workers are making?

Child-care workers are seeking the respect and recognition for the roles that they carry out. Those who work within the early-years and education sector carry out some of the most fundamental work with our most vulnerable citizens: children. The care and developmental support that they provide in our children’s education is crucial. However, for those working within this sector their pay and terms and conditions do not reflect the increasing living standards within our society. The demand that early-years professionals are making is for greater investment into those employed within the sector; this encompasses increasing funding to service-provides and greater investment into the industry to allow workers to remain within the profession that they have chosen.

Being organised is a worker’s best chance of winning decent work and conditions. Is there an organising focus to this campaign?

Currently the organising team in IMPACT are holding seventeen regional meetings across the country to reach out to those working with the early-years sector as part of our campaign. These meetings are only the first set in a series of meetings which will take place across the year. There is a strong organising focus to this campaign in looking to articulate the issues and conditions within the work force. We are organising across all the areas within the early years, including community and private settings, and looking for the inclusion of providers and professionals in order to bring through a common perspective which is drastically affecting those employed within the early years.

Weren’t there previous attempts to organise child-care workers that didn’t succeed?

Campaigns have been run in order to start a dialogue within the early-years sector previously. As there are approximately 30,000 people employed within this sector, it is a huge sector to campaign and organise within, which is why it is crucial to run a targeted campaign in looking to organise within this sector. The key in organising is empowering those who work within this sector to collectively organise and to bring a voice back to those who are directly affected by the nature of the working conditions. We would see the regional meetings and a targeted understanding on a collective perspective as the beginning of a successful campaign to organise on behalf of this sector.

What can people do to support and help the campaign?

For those who are working within the sector, to come along to the regional meetings which are being organised by IMPACT to see how we can progressively move and campaign on the issues. For those who are not directly employed within the early years, to begin a dialogue on real investment in this sector, of which the workers are crucial to the actual investment into child care in Ireland.

If successful, how will this make a difference to child-care provision in Ireland?

In recognising the incredible role of those providing these services this would greatly enhance the quality of the service. A real investment into child care would encompass greater funding into this sector and transforming this sector where there is a decent wage for the work being carried out. A greater investment into providers and professionals would result in a stronger investment into child-care provision, which will, as a result, benefit the parents who are struggling with the financial weight of using the service.

For more information on this campaign or to get involved please contact lconnell@impact.ie

Stop · Halt · Arrêtez · Στάση · Stad TTIP

Many trade unions are calling for CETA, the Canadian-European trade agreement, and TTIP, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, to be stopped and scrapped; and here is why.

In summary the concern of ICTU is that TTIP is a manifestation of an aggressive neo-liberalism aimed at so circumscribing the policy space for governments that policies will be separated from economics such that it will not matter what government is elected. It will, in other words, complete the subjugation of society to markets. Moreover, this issue has to be seen in the context of a European integration project which has lost a lot of its legitimacy in the eyes of workers over the last few years of austerity policies.

David Begg, then general secretary of the ICTU, November 2014

The former general secretary of the ICTU summarised well the concerns of many people throughout Europe that TTIP, and the regressive trend of many international trade agreements, including the CETA, will render states, and democratic governments, unable to promote policies that impinge on the more fundamental and better-protected rights of capital. Regardless of who is elected or what people want in a society, these legal agreements will greatly restrict the ability of states to change course or to encompass the needs, aims and aspirations of people if they contradict those of big business and profits.

This led to unions in Ireland adopting positions, individually and collectively through the ICTU. The ICTU conference of affiliate unions in 2015 passed the following motion, making this formal ICTU policy.

Conference therefore resolves that the trade union movement should now call for the TTIP negotiations to be halted and make it clear that workers will never accept any trade agreement that doesn’t promote decent jobs and growth and safeguard labour, consumer, environmental and health and safety standards. Conference calls for continuation of lobbying, campaigning and negotiating on these matters . . .

The TEEU has stated that

the provisions would also attack workers’ rights, erode social standards and environmental regulations and threaten our democratic institutions by asserting the primacy of the interests of business corporations over those of nation states and their people; would dilute food safety rules; undermine regulations on the use of toxic chemicals; rubbish digital privacy laws and strangle developing economies and while being supportive of genuine trade agreements, resolves that the TEEU oppose the ratification and implementation of this agreement at all forums in which it participates; inform the relevant government agencies of our opposition to TTIP; encourage other trade unions to join us in opposition and calls for its scrapping.

The Irish Federation of University Teachers has called support for TTIP misguided; the Irish Medical Organisation has serious concerns about the effect it might have on our health service, as do both Age Action and the Irish Cancer Society. Other Irish unions, including the teachers’ unions, NIPSA, and Unite, have also made statements against TTIP.

On the basis of the ICTU policy position on TTIP, the ICTU has set up a campaign committee comprising a strong cross-section of both public and private-sector unions, which will be actively campaigning against TTIP and raising public awareness of both CETA and TTIP in 2016.

So, clearly the union movement in Ireland has serious concerns about both CETA and TTIP and is calling for the negotiations to be halted, and some for TTIP to be scrapped altogether. What are the main concerns?

Regulatory convergence

Sounds complicated, but basically regulatory convergence means the coming together of regulatory standards between the EU and the United States. Now, as most regulations in the EU are for a higher standard than those in the United States, this can really only mean a lowering of standards in Europe. And far from being merely more “red tape” for business, some of these regulations are our most important protections on workers’ rights, human rights, food safety, car safety, capital/lending ratios, environmental standards, and more.

How will this happen?

Mutual recognition

Firstly, through the mutual recognition and acceptance of each other’s standards. So the United States will be able to export goods into the EU without modification or change. This will lead to the introduction of lower-standard products and services made in lower-cost environments, which will put downward pressure on EU standards.

Harmonisation

Once both standards are in each other’s markets, then it is proposed that these standards should be harmonised to one set. Now, at this point you will have massive lobbying from big business in both the EU and the United States, which have a common cause in reducing the standards to the American or lowest level. Harmonisation will not be upward.

And co-operation

From then on an undemocratic board of both the EU and the United States would monitor all future regulatory proposals on either side of the Atlantic. Not only is this a corporate assault on democracy but it would not increase or strengthen regulations, and so the bar would be set at a low standard, with massive implications for our health and rights and, to be blunt, the future of humanity itself, given the environmental crisis, which  this would only exacerbate.

Investor protections

The ISDS (investor-state dispute settlement) mechanism is a private court, made up of corporate lawyers, who judge on disputes between investors and states over the loss of profits, or even future profits, as a result of state actions. The ISDS in CETA or (if one is included) in TTIP would allow corporations from outside a state to sue that state if its actions negatively affect the corporation’s profits. So, for example, a positive policy on cigarette packaging leaves a state liable to be sued for loss of future profits. This has really happened, and a private ISDS awarded the corporation compensation. This means that change of government can happen so long as it doesn’t change policy! It’s the final hollowing out of democracy.

Removal of the precautionary principle

The precautionary principle exists in the EU. This means that in the EU something needs to be proved safe before it can be introduced to the market. It’s a safeguard against the introduction of anything dangerous. It places our safety before corporate profits. In the United States the opposite situation exists: a product can be released after minimal testing, and to be removed it must be proved dangerous. This means that a dangerous or damaging product can be left available while evidence has to be collected. It puts corporations before people.

Are there benefits?

Some will tell us this is positive for trade, jobs, and growth, and so we should support it. The reality is that there are very few remaining trade barriers between the EU and the United States; and if this was this focus of the treaty they could be dealt with in a much easier, less controversial and less damaging agreement. But the real prize for corporations is not tariffs and taxes but what are known as non-tariff barriers—and these are our rights and protections. This is what TTIP is being designed to get rid of. But even the most positive analysis of the maximum reduction of barriers show only negligible, minuscule growth, while some studies say there will actually be massive job “displacement” in Europe and even a net loss of jobs.

The benefits of TTIP, just like NAFTA, will be to big corporations, at our expense. If TTIP is allowed to continue and passes in the way it is shaping up, then it will be passed at our expense and the expense of democracy and the environment. In this year of the centenary of the 1916 Rising we must not allow the greatest robbery of our sovereignty, freedom and democracy to happen.

Greek workers prepare for Feb 4th General Strike

Occupations, protests and rallies are happening in Greece in build up to a national strike on Feb 4th called by a number of Unions and supported by the class conscious and militant PAME (All Workers Militant Front). PAME have and will continue to organise actions and events in advance of the strike.

A major demonstration took place yesterday in Athens in advance of the strike which has been called against what is known in Greece as the ‘Butcher Bill’ which is a pension and social security reform bill being brought by the SYRIZA Government which unions argue is a plunder of workers pensions. Both public and private sector Unions are opposing SYRIZA’s attack on peoples social security and pensions and it is expected that close to 2 million workers will participate in the strike, the first national strike of 2016.

Many workers see this as an attack on the rights they fought hard to protect, through many militant strikes, from previous Governments and now SYRIZA is going further than previous conservative Governments in its assault on workers.

As well as this strike action, farmers intend to block roads and highways in opposition and even lawyers, doctors and engineers groups have expressed their opposition to these so-called reforms.

Workers in Greece continue to lead the struggle in Europe against austerity and and the transfer of debt onto workers shoulders. The TULF supports these workers and farmers on strike and fighting back.

#savemoorestreet

The Trade Union Left Forum supports the Save Moore Street campaign (#savemoorestreet) and calls on Unions, and union activists, to show support for the campaign and for those seeking to save Moore Street buildings used by the heroes of 1916 from demolition.

While the State has designated numbers 14-17 as a National Monument and plans to restore only the fronts of the buildings as a commemoration to the Rising, we support the campaigners demands to protect number 18, arguably the last HeadQuarters of the 1916 Rising, and the greater site from being rezone and developed as a Shopping centre which will destroy the heritage of the site.

The 1916 Relatives Association have also made public their believe that the Minister, Heather Humphreys, decived them when outlining her Governments plans.

History is important. It provides lessons and inspiration. It teaches and reminds new generations of passed sacrafice and struggle. To surround a historic site like this with crass consumerism is not progress. It is to bury our past and history in the consumerism of short term desire of the day.

The Trade Union Left Forum supports the occupation and encourages activists to attend the protests. Tweet your support at #savemoorestreet and write to your Union asking them to support the campaign.