Mandate Trade Union calls for urgent establishment of retail task force following 480 more job losses in Carphone Warehouse

Wednesday 21 April 2021

Mandate General Secretary Gerry Light has called on the Minister for Enterprise, Trade & Employment, Leo Varadkar, to establish a task force looking into the future of retail in Ireland as a matter of urgency following today’s announcement that almost 500 jobs have been lost in Carphone Warehouse.

Mr Light said the government needs to understand that while they’re procrastinating hundreds of jobs are being lost.

“Today there are hundreds of Carphone Warehouse workers wondering how they’re going to pay their bills. Those workers join the long list of workers who have lost their jobs in the last year including Debenhams and Arcadia workers, and yet we have seen very little action in terms of legislation from government,” said Mr Light.

He reiterated the call for the Duffy/Cahill recommendations to be implemented as soon as possible to protect workers in these scenarios.

“Only this week we wrote to Minister Troy and Minister English in relation to the legislation that is desperately needed to protect workers in these situations. We need the two Ministers to put forward their proposals and build on the recommendations contained in Duffy/Cahill before we see more job losses.”

Mr Light said all Mandate members and the wider trade union movement expressed its sympathies with the Carphone Warehouse workers at this difficult time.

Bank of Ireland and KBC need to confirm staff will transfer with the work says FSU.

Issued : 16 April 2021

KBC2

No excuse for not establishing a banking forum.

John O’Connell, General Secretary of the Financial Services Union (FSU) has called on Bank of Ireland (BOI) and KBC to publish the memorandum of understanding and to confirm that transfer of understanding legislation (TUPE) will apply to any possible sale of KBC to BOI.

“The announcement this morning that KBC and BOI have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding is a deeply worrying development for staff, customers and communities. The FSU are calling for immediate clarification from BOI and KBC that transfer of understanding legislation will apply to any deal that may be done and that staff will follow the work. Both Banks need to confirm that this is enshrined in the memorandum of understanding.

It is not good enough that once again staff are the last people to be informed about the future of their jobs. This is not the way that change should be managed.  The FSU will be writing to both BOI and KBC to express our dismay at the lack of consultation and to request an urgent meeting to discuss the protection of jobs, the timeframe expected for completion of the discussions and the effects this announcement will have on staff and customers.

The FSU again call for an inclusive debate on the future of Banking in Ireland involving all stakeholders.

It is time for the Minister and the Central Bank to act and establish a banking forum where the voices of all relevant stakeholders can be heard” concluded Mr O’Connell.

ENDS

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS BOOKLET

SIPTU seek firm commitment from Minister to stop the sale of community job activation services

Date Released: 15 April 2021

SIPTU representatives have today (Thursday, 15th April) written to the Minister of State with responsibility for Social Inclusion in the Department of Social Protection, Joe O’Brien, seeking a firm commitment to support the campaign to halt government plans to privatise community job activation services.

SIPTU Sector Organiser, Jane Boushell, said: “The Minister’s contribution to the Social Inclusion Forum this week, his proposal for a solidarity tax and his many public statements about creating greater inclusion in communities by reducing the consistent poverty rate to 2% or less by 2025 are very much welcomed by SIPTU members.

“However, we believe the actions taken by the Minister’s colleagues in government are not consistent with his fine words and plans. The reality is that the Department of Social Protection is currently tendering for the design and commission of a low cost model for delivering community job activation services. This plan would fundamentally alter how these essential services are provided and facilitate a race to the bottom by rewarding the cheapest bidder.”

She added: “The current model has served communities and jobseekers extremely well since its inception in 1995. We believe a change to this model will not improve service levels and do little to enhance overall governance or inclusion. Our members working in these services have a long and proud tradition of building relationships with local employers and tailoring operations to local circumstances and people. We are asking the Minister to listen to the concerns of our members, to reach out to his government colleagues and support our campaign by doing all he can to stop the fire-sale of these essential local community services.”

 

Let’s win our rights as workers

Let’s win our rights as workers together

On March 30th the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Leo Varadkar, announced, as he does like to, the setting up of a High-level Working Group under the auspices of the Labour Employer Economic Forum (LEEF) to review collective bargaining and the industrial relations landscape in Ireland. This review body will be chaired by Professor Michael Doherty, of Maynooth University. For those interested Michael delivered an education meeting for the TULF on a critical assessment of ‘social partnership’ during the summer of 2020. A podcast version can be heard here .

What is it the review?

Obviously, this review has been instigated by a right-wing Government and a Minister, in particular,  who is no friend of the working class. The review group will have ICTU involved but will, of course, also have our friends in IBEC. It is clear that Fine Gael will have an agenda to limit and control any developments in the collective organisation of workers. One might suggest, with an EU Directive potentially on the horizon, and also the prevalence of low-pay which impacts consumption and taxation, the Government may be looking to get ahead of developments in order to make only small and limited adjustments. Quite clearly the language of the Minister in launching the review notes the positives of the ‘voluntarist’ system, and so, in some ways predicts a potential outcome already.  The voluntarist system is of course a veto system where employers can, and now more often than not do, just say no and refuse to recognise and collectively bargain with workers unions. Indeed, some employers even go as far as to victimise and penalise workers who merely seek legal entitlements around information and consultation not even trade union recognition.

What do we need to strengthen workers and organised labour?

However, this still represents an opportunity for unions and workers to raise the profile of union recognition and collective bargaining and make demands that will strengthen organised labour in Ireland. And that is what is important in our demands. We need changes to laws and institutions that strengthen the ability of workers to organise collectively and take collective action. We reforms that will help alter the balance of power between labour and capital that will then provide for greater change in the future.

We need to put forward clear demands for the right to organise workers and this means the right to have access to workers in their workplace of work to talk about workplace issues and discuss unionisation. We need legal facilities time for union reps to organise their co-workers. We need, as TULF has championed, changes to strike laws to make strike action easier, quicker, more efficient and change the type of strikes (like solidarity, political, one individuals) that are protected.

The TULF in its Workers Charter has previously called for and we know resurrect this demand:

A Trade Union Bill, in the Republic of Ireland and in Northern Ireland, to provide for union recognition, collective bargaining rights, representation on company boards, right to access for union organisers, strong anti-victimisation penalties, solidarity and secondary picketing, and repeal and replacement of the 1990 ROI act and the UK Trade Union Act 2016 where it impacts workers in Northern Ireland

These are the changes that will fundamentally strengthen the industrial position of our class at the point of production, in the workplace. It is from here that we can then build a stronger class and politically champion a free, united, independent and socialist Ireland.

In a more recent article published by Frank Keoghan, published on the TULF website, he echoed these demands:

Trade union officials must have guaranteed access to workplaces and union representatives should have the time and facilities to carry out their duties. Governments must also act firmly to protect trade unionists from discrimination, dismissal and blacklisting. Employers should be prevented from interfering in trade unions’ internal affairs, offering bribes or incentives to non-unionised staff or intimidating workers to stop them joining a union.

What won’t be sufficient?

A review such as this, also presents dangers which we need to be conscious of learning the lessons from ‘social partnership’ years, which we do NOT want to return to. We need to be wary of any changes or processes which centralise control and negotiations away from workers and the workplace. Sectoral or national bargaining without strong workplace structures and unions will actually damage and weaken the trade union movement further and prevent union renewal and growth. We do not want mere wage-setting mechanisms, arbitration of disputes or greater powers of the Labour Court to decide conditions removed from workers. These have the potential to hollow out trade unions even further. The changes we want need to revitalise trade unions in the workplace and empower workers themselves.

Let’s win these rights as workers

Frank Keoghans article went on to emphasise that as workers we must win these demands, wherever they might ultimately be formalised or legislated for:

These struggles are best carried out at national level with international solidarity through union structures such as the global union IndustriALL or the Global Power Trade Union, when appropriate. But in the end, it is down to workers themselves organised in their unions to achieve these objectives. Neither the EU nor our government will deliver.

And that is why we are now calling on ICTU to open-up a consultation process with activists, with organisers in the private sector, with the TULF and campaign groups of grassroots members to win these rights here in Ireland by workers themselves.

We need to take the opportunity of the review to start a campaign for the right of workers to organise and collectively bargain with their employers. And, if a change to the Constitution is needed to legislate for any of this, well then, bring it on and lets mobilise to win it. Workers want change, want power and a voice at work, and want to unionise so let them and support them.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS BOOKLET

 

International News: USB fights with Alitalia workers

Alitalia 11.000 workers are fighting on these days to save their jobs and their family against the landing of the company caused by the final exploitation of the italian market wanted by UE commission and supported by actual italian government.

Alitalia,  main italian airline company with 74 years history, after the privatisation happened in 2008, has been destroyed by bad management and lack of public control. Finally, 4 years ago, the workers unite defeated the last proposal of salary and jobs cuts and Alitalia and sent away private owners (etihad company) and Alitalia went in controlled administration ruled by the state.

After 4 years, durign the worst crisi of world air transportation caused by Covid 19 pandemic, the UE commission is blocking the italian goverment effort to restore Alitalia, as all other european state has regularly done in this period, together with the announced plane for a new public air company to take off.

This situation is putting in danger thousands of jobs and confirm, if necessary, the UE attitude against public investment and his willing to protect economy  position in the continental air market at the expenses of italian workers interests.

The italian government is showing to the workes subjection to UE willing and is actually trying to negotiate a bad agreement that will drive to dismissal and the partition of the company.

Alitalia employee will keep fighting and won’t give up facing the bad UE politics and the weakness of our government.

USB once again strongly demands that the government stop the crazy negotiations with the European Union. A new path must be taken, starting from the protection of employment and a strategic asset for the whole of Italy.

In this struggle, international support will be very apprecciated.

USB

 

 

SIPTU members win significant Workplace Relations Commission case over unpaid wages

Date Released: 06 April 2021

A major manufacturing company based in county Limerick has been found to have made unlawful deductions from the pay of some of its workers by the Workplace Relations Commission. The case, involving 48 SIPTU members, arose following a cut in wages for workers put on short-time working by the company in 2019.

At the hearing, SIPTU representatives successfully argued under Section 5 of the Payment of Wages Act 1991 that the workers were entitled to be paid for the period they were on short-time because they had not consented to, nor was there a term and condition in the workers contracts of employment, providing for unpaid short-time.  Despite arguments from management that the unpaid wages being sought were not “properly payable” and that the company had an implied right to place workers on unpaid short-time due to a practice established during the economic crash in 2008, a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudicator found in favour of the workers.

The WRC Adjudicator said: “The obvious purpose behind the provisions of section 5 is to prevent an employer from reducing wages, otherwise payable, without the authority of a statute or a contractual term express or implied within the employee’s contract. There is nothing to suggest that the affected employees had agreed to an open-ended commitment to accept shorter-hours and lesser wages whenever the Respondent chose unilaterally to introduce short-time working.”

The WRC Adjudicator continued: “Where a deduction is made in an employee’s salary it is incumbent on the employer making the deduction to identify the statutory or contractual provision under which that deduction is authorised.”

SIPTU Organiser, Joe Kelly, said: “Clearly, the decision to cut the hours and pay of our members was made by management in 2019 without any prior consultation with union representatives. The majority of SIPTU members impacted by this decision had long service and contracts guaranteeing them a full working week of 39 hours. They felt they were treated with total disregard by management, forced into financial hardship and pressed the union to take the matter further. We now hope that upon receiving this WRC decision that management will accept it as a fair and reasonable outcome and honour the agreed terms of our members contracts across the board. SIPTU representatives expect this WRC ruling to act as a deterrent to any other employers considering a similar course of action.”

SIPTU Worker’s Rights Centre Advocate, Deirdre Canty said: “SIPTU’s Workers Rights Centre has taken numerous claims for our individual membership. However, we also work very closely with the union’s industrial staff to protect the rights of our collective membership regarding workplace legislation. This outcome demonstrates the success what can be achieved for our members by various divisions and departments working together. This is a very significant win for our members and has the potential for a much broader impact across the industry and employment rights in general.”

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS BOOKLET

MANDATE TRADE UNION CRITICISES CHANGES TO THE VACCINATION ROLL OUT PLAN

Wednesday 31 March 2021

Mandate Trade Union today expressed strong criticism of yesterday’s government announcement to scrap the previous vaccine roll-out plans in order to follow an aged-based model similar to the UK.

Mandate General Secretary, Gerry Light, said “The sudden shift from prioritising job categories, including essential workers who have kept society functioning, over now to an age-based roll-out is a serious slap in the face for the many thousands of our members who have continued to serve the public. Those essential retail workers who have bravely attended work and who have been on the frontline continuing to work in public facing jobs since the very start of this pandemic for over a year now will be angry and disappointed at this decision by the government”.

Light continued “Any past recognition by the government of the vital work carried out by our members, who have effectively kept the nation fed and safe, must now regrettably be measured in the context of yesterday’s decision on vaccine roll-out. Yet again, essential front-line workers have been served up more empty promises and empty platitudes from a government who have mishandled this pandemic from day 1. Our members leave home every day with the uncertainty of not knowing whether they will return having picked up this potentially deadly virus. Unfortunately, in the vast majority of cases they face this extremely high risk to their health and safety for limited financial reward and to what they see clearly as little or no recognition from this government.”

Mr Light concluded by saying “Mandate strongly calls on the government to urgently rethink their strategy for the delivery of the vaccination programme. We also call on those retail employers whose retail businesses remain open to let their voice be publicly heard on this important issue. The priority vaccination of retail workers is not only the right thing to do, it is absolutely necessary to ensure the long term safety of retail workers, retail customers and society in general as well as the long term viability and future sustainability of the Irish retail sector.”

The EU didn’t bring social changes. Workers Did

From the People’s Movement Newsletter.

Social change is home-grown – not a gift from the EU.

There is a general view that all social change has come from the European Union. It is a view that has been promulgated during the various referendums, particularly by certain trade unions and women’s groups and is often cited by our legislators when in a difficult spot concerning the EU. It has served to keep the majority of these key social actors in the unquestioning pro-EU camp – though this is slowly changing as the true nature of the EU Commission in particular as the caretaker for corporate interests emerges and the promise of a Social Europe is well and truly buried.

We are also beginning to realise that most social change has not in fact come from Brussels, but is largely home-grown.

On the issue of workers’ rights, many workers used to refer to their “EEC days” when referring to the fourth week of annual leave? However, if we examine the issue we note that workers had three weeks of annual leave as a result of Irish legislation introduced in 1973.

An additional two days were added as a result of the first “national understanding” between unions, employers and Government in an agreement of 1979–80. A further two days were added in the Second National Understanding, 1980–81; and most unions added the twentieth day over a number of years when free collective bargaining prevailed from 1981 to 87.

As for public holidays, we can thank communist influence in the Irish trade union movement for May Day and the Church for St Patrick’s Day, Easter Monday, June Monday (formerly Whitsun), Christmas, and St Stephen’s Day. We have had the August holiday for as long as anyone can remember; and the October holiday came about when the late Michael O’Leary was Minister for Labour in the 1970s and gave this holiday as a substitute for May Day when he bowed to employers’ pressure not to grant the “Red” holiday on 1 May.

While we all know that women still get paid less than men, we are told that equal pay for women come from Europe! It did—but not because of some act of philanthropy on the part of Brussels. The idea of equal pay for equal work was introduced by the French Left government of Léon Blum in the 1930s. It stayed on the statute books in France throughout the Nazi occupation and continued up to the time of signing the Treaty of Rome in 1956. Below, you can see the Eurostat figures for 2012, expressed in percentage differences – that’s after the EU being in existence for 60 years. One would have to question their commitment!

At that time French business insisted that the other five—Italy, West Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg—adopt equal-pay laws so that they would not be at a competitive disadvantage in the newly formed common market. So, at long last, something worth – while came from Europe—as a result of French left agitation in the thirties. Advances gained in equal pay were achieved by intense struggle by previous generations of workers and were not handed down by some benign EU Commission.

But what about the roads we have as a result of all the money that we got from Europe over the years? Shure you can get from Cork to Dublin in two hours! It’s true that Euro loot did largely build the new roads. However, the most basic rule of economics tells us that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Ireland, with 25 per cent of the European Union’s fisheries, gets around 3 per cent of the entire catch. According to the south-western fisheries organisations, we lose €1½ billion worth of fish to our EU “partners” each year. It seems that those roads are paved with mackerel!

Perhaps the biggest success resulting from EU membership is the degree of foreign direct investment in Ireland. American companies in particular use the country as a base from which to export its products, tax-free, into the huge European market.

This was particularly attractive while corporation taxes in Ireland on manufactured products remained low—between 10 and 12½ per cent with an effective rate of 2% – and even this ‘advantage’ is now under threat from the Commission. And of course, these firms can move at any time and while to that extent, they may be said to provide precarious employment, in many cases, they also develop anti – union practices which further discredit unions and weaken them and social cohesiveness even further. 

On the question of social issues, divorce was legalised after two referendums. The Irish people alone made this decision.

The availability of contraception came from various radical groups of Irish people who broke the law unless common sense prevailed and the right to information and travel came about only when reluctant governments were forced to act on the X case.

Finally, it must not be forgotten that the austerity policies of the EU and its central bank, the ECB have largely been responsible for Irish children and working-age adults being more at risk of poverty or social exclusion than any other children in Western Europe, according to EU data.

Trade Union Rights Not Protected Under EU Law

Trade union rights are not protected under EU law.

The best way to secure fair wages is through collective bargaining by trade unions and the right to join a trade union and to bargain collectively is recognised as a fundamental human right by numerous European and international charters and conventions. And yet union-busting is on the rise in EU.

Collective bargaining must be the prerogative of genuine, democratic trade unions, and not arbitrary groups often set up to undermine union strength and impose unacceptable conditions.

The “obligation” on the EU and its member states is clear. The legally binding Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU (article 12) establishes ‘the right of everyone to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his or her interests’. Several International Labour Organization (ILO) conventions reinforce the right to negotiate on behalf of workers, including the Collective Bargaining Convention (1981). Principle 8 of the European Pillar of Social Rights further encourages the social partners ‘to negotiate and conclude collective agreements in matters relevant to them, while respecting their autonomy and the right to collective action’.

The International Trade Union Confederation’s Global Rights Index 2020 revealed that 38 per cent of European countries excluded workers from the right to join or set up a union, 56 per cent failed to uphold the right to collective bargaining and no fewer than 72 per cent violated the right to strike. Many employers are refusing to enter talks or are choosing to bypass legitimate trade unions in favour of non-union and non-representative ‘sweetheart’ organisations or ‘house associations’. Workers were arrested and detained in 26% of countries in Europe while 72% of countries violated the right to strike.

There is growing evidence of anti-union activities by well-known companies. In Ireland, the bookmaker Paddy Power and retailer Dunne’s Stores have used Gardai to expel trade union representatives from their premises. In Latvia, legislation allows employers to set up ‘yellow’ unions, to prevent legitimate trade unions from reaching collective agreements.

In France, mass, peaceful demonstrations against pension reform were violently repressed by the police. Commonly, ending the automatic ‘check-off’ payment of union dues from wages has had a severe impact on union finances.

Amazon has subjected employees to surveillance in a number of EU countries, including Spain, Austria and Czechia, using ‘professional’ union-busters and private detectives to spy on trade union activities. Indeed, union-busting is now big business—and forms part of the business model of major companies such as Ryanair.

Trade unionists are still arrested and prosecuted for carrying out their duties, for instance in Belgium. And now some member states have adopted so-called emergency procedures in response to Covid-19, seriously limiting trade union rights such as holding demonstrations. In Hungary, a new law, introduced without consultation, prohibits collective bargaining, outlaws strikes and terminates all existing agreements in the healthcare sector.

More action to promote collective bargaining is needed, ensuring that it covers all working conditions and not just wage-setting. Trade union officials must have guaranteed access to workplaces and union representatives should have the time and facilities to carry out their duties.

EU competition law can prevent non-standard and self-employed workers from organising together in a trade union and concluding collective agreements. Economic freedoms and competition rules in the EU can also  be a means of circumventing workers’ protection. Collective agreements should not be made subject to competition rules—something the EU Commission seems actively to be considering in its recently published inception analysis.

Freedom of association and the right to act collectively are fundamental human rights and must be defended—not just by trade unions but by national governments too. More action at national level to promote collective bargaining is needed, ensuring that it covers all working conditions and not just wage-setting. Significantly, only 29 percent of respondents have heard, read or seen anything about the European Pillar of Social Rights, and most of them said they “don’t really know what it is,” according to the latest Eurobarometer. But the lack of awareness comes alongside citizens’ understanding of who actually has the power to do something about these issues: 76 percent of those who said they had heard about the social pillar reckoned making it a reality depends on Member State actions. The neo-liberal EU where competition policy is paramount cannot be depended upon to deliver.

Trade union officials must have guaranteed access to workplaces and union representatives should have the time and facilities to carry out their duties. Governments must also act firmly to protect trade unionists from discrimination, dismissal and blacklisting. Employers should be prevented from interfering in trade unions’ internal affairs, offering bribes or incentives to non-unionised staff or intimidating workers to stop them joining a union.

Public-procurement law must be strengthened to ensure that only companies which respect workers’ rights to bargain collectively and have implemented agreements can gain access to public contracts, grants and funding.

These struggles are best carried out at national level with international solidarity through union structures such as the global union IndustriALL or the Global Power Trade Union, when appropriate. But in the end, it is down to workers themselves organised in their unions to achieve these objectives. Neither the EU nor our government will deliver.

International News: Uber Gives in

Trade Unions hailed as the ” end of the road for bogus self employment. Read more here.