Programme for Disability Webinar 9 December 2021 December 08, 2021

The Annual Congress Disability Webinar will focus on workplace issues for people with disabilities and look at the policy context and the government support framework for disabled workers and employers across the island. 

 

See this link for the PDF publication.

The WFTU on the International Day Of Persons with Disabilities, December 3rd 2021

Today more than one billion people, or approximately 15 percent of the world’s population, live with some form of disability, while 80 percent of them live in developing countries.

We can all understand how difficult life for those persons and their families is, since in most cases they cannot find a job, or in heavy cases they cannot even take care of themselves.

In developing countries, 80% to 90% of persons with disabilities of working age are unemployed, whereas in industrialized countries the figure is between 50% and 70%.

Also, globally, a large percentage of those persons are disabled because of an accident, injury, or illness at work.

As far as children are concerned, around 240 million disabled children around the world are 50% more likely to have never attended school than children without disabilities.

The COVID-19 Pandemic further affected the lives of people with special needs and a high number of COVID-19 deaths among disabled people was reported in several countries. In many cases, they had their treatment canceled or delayed.

The United Nations claim to make efforts to promote the rights and well-being of the people with special needs. However, their situation remains difficult due to:

– Lack of strong Public Health Systems adequate to nurse disabled people in a way that all their health needs are covered and proper medical attendance is ensured.

– Lack of adequate public special schools and rehabilitation centers for the education and inclusion of people with special needs in employment and all aspects of life.

– Lack of adequate funding so that they can meet their needs.

– Lack of public and free accommodation centers for the heavily disabled and chronically ill.

– Lack of sufficient health and safety measures at the workplaces.

All the above could and should be priorities of all States and governments, in order to protect the health and life of the most vulnerable ones. However, in the prevailing system of exploitation all the above are a cost that does not find a place in the States’ budget. On the opposite, the idea of individual responsibility of disabled persons and their families to take care of their needs is being systematically promoted so that governments can get rid of their own responsibilities. And off course  in such societies indifference and discriminations against people with special needs  keep existing and even flare up.

The World Federation of Trade Unions calls on workers all over the world to  strengthen our struggle for the protection and improvement of living conditions of the persons with disabilities.

We reiterate our militant demands:

– Prevention of the disabilities

– Access to free, public and high quality health and rehabilitation services for people with disabilities

– Access to education

-Creation of public and adequate accommodation centers

– Creation of the necessary infrastructure for their movement and transportation

– Employment for all persons with disabilities who are able to work

– The states to assure them a dignified life

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Rush to introduce face masks in schools is counterproductive

Fórsa said today that it supports the use of face masks in schools, but said the Government’s rush to implement the practice will make it difficult to achieve.

The union added that its school-based members – special needs assistants (SNAs), school secretaries, and caretakers – should not be asked to exclude students for refusing to wear a mask, as this is the responsibility of school principals and senior teachers.

Fórsa’s head of education, Andy Pike, also welcomed the fact that education department guidelines exempt children with special educational needs from the requirement to wear masks if it would cause difficulties with communication, raise anxiety levels, or cause other problems.

“Fórsa supports the use of face masks as an effective way of addressing the transmission of the virus in our schools. But the way in which the education department has implemented the policy is counterproductive, and will make the effective use of face masks much more difficult to achieve. The measure shouldn’t have been implemented overnight with no time to build consensus or explain the requirements to students, parents and staff,” he said.

Mr Pike added that the union continues to request that the HSE reinstates the contact tracing and testing supports that were withdrawn on 27th September.

Full guidance on face masks/coverings in Primary schools can be accessed HERE.

Climate Change March in Dublin 6th March

Trade Union Activists from across Dublin marched on Saturday last to vent their frustration at the lack of progress by the Dublin Government on Climate change. Speakers It particular, they argued that climate change has not been caused by us as individual humans. Instead they prove that a global system in place since the onset of the industrial revolution, has always placed profit in a marketplace above the needs of those who create the wealth, leading inevitably to climate catastrophe. Something highlighted by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels over one hundred and fifty years ago. For a critical look at  the Climate this blogger recommends a recently new book by John Bellamy Foster called The Return of Nature. Copies for sale in Connolly Bookshop at Essex Street, Dublin. You can visit their website. www.connollybooks.org

 

 

International struggle: The WFTU supports the U.S. workers’ struggles

Sweeping across the United States, a dramatic increase in rank and file Labor struggles, including several high profile economic strikes in various sectors, has charged U.S. class tensions to a degree not seen in many decades.

12,000 carpenters, 10,000 John Deere heavy farm equipment manufacturers, 31,000 Kaiser health care workers, 60,000 Hollywood TV, theater and film production workers, 1,100 Alabama coal miners and 1,400 Kellogg cereal factory workers are among tens of thousands of workers involved this year in strikes against 178 employers, including 12 strikes of 1,000 or more workers for better wages and working conditions.

This is against the pandemic economy backdrop in which 4.3 million workers quit their jobs in August, 2021 alone, intensifying what media are calling “labor shortage.”  Meanwhile, corporations and owners have made record profits.  John Deere profits have increased 61% in recent years and it’s CEO’s salary grew 160% during the pandemic.

Economic stress combined with heightened health risk fears and increasing class consciousness of leveraged collective workers’ power has propelled a growing wave of Labor aggression.  This economic activity comes, as well, on top of 18 months of social insurgency led by national liberation militancy against racism and police terror.  If the U.S. Labor rank and file adopt political dimensions into this activity a new emergence is possible of organized, class oriented Labor struggle against monopoly capitalism.

Workers everywhere should salute these struggles in the United States for increased worker power.  The World Federation of Trade Unions, representing 105 million union workers in 133 countries, as the only international, democratic, class-oriented federation, stands shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with the U.S. workers’ strike wave.

Waiting list plan must include integrated care Forsa

Fórsa has said the HSE’s new acute waiting list action plan, published last week, must focus on the community-led, integrated care plan central to Sláintecare or face failure. The plan aims to reduce projected acute waiting lists by 150,000.

The union has welcomed the initiative, which identifies a number of actions designed to reduce a projected spike in waiting lists toward the end of this year. But it warned that failure to utilise the integrated care model, where service users can access initial treatment in a community setting, will prolong reliance on acute hospitals and drive up waiting lists.

The Sláintecare integrated care plan central was the best way to ensure that acute hospitals don’t become overloaded.

 

The curtailment of non-urgent scheduled care during the pandemic and the cyber-attack on the HSE increased waiting lists, leaving 761,000 waiting for their first outpatient appointment, procedure or surgery.

The HSE projects that over 500,000 more patients will need care between now and the end of the year.

Waiting lists are to be assessed by individual hospital groups and supports are to be put in place to ensure a focus on local waiting list reduction.

The National Treatment Purchase Fund and the HSE will remove duplications, take action to reduce in missed appointments, and ensure better scheduling of patients.

The head of Fórsa’s Health and Welfare Division, Éamonn Donnelly, called on the HSE to ensure put resources in place to implement the plan, and said the Sláintecare integrated care plan central was the best way to ensure that acute hospitals don’t become overloaded.

Health workers know that success depends on utilising community services to divert excessive demand away from acute hospitals.

 

“As we head into winter with a pent-up demand for services, Fórsa recognises the need for a proactive approach. It’s vital, however, that the minister and HSE continue to ensure an approach based on integrated care.

“Over the last 19 months, health staff have worked flat out to meet the extraordinary demands of the pandemic. They are as keen as anyone else to ensure this plan works, and they know that success depends on utilising community services to divert excessive demand away from acute hospitals,” he said.

The integrated care model is designed to achieve maximum waiting times of ten weeks for outpatients, 12 weeks of inpatient day case and ten days for diagnostics.

For the longer term, the health department, HSE and National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) are finalising a multi-annual plan based on a ‘twin track approach of investment and reform’ to be overseen by a ministerial taskforce.

Targets and detailed hospital plans are being developed to bring waiting lists in line with Sláintecare targets. Read the action plan HERE.

Representing over 30,000 health workers including health and social care professionals, clerical, administrative, management and technical staff. We consider it one of the many strengths of the union that our members are central to the delivery the full array of health and welfare services in Ireland. To find out more about the range of grades represented, and where they operate within those services, visit our map “At the heart of Health and Welfare.”

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS BOOKLET

SIPTU warns that raising pension age from 2028 will make it an issue at next election

SIPTU General Secretary, Joe Cunningham, has said that the report of the Pensions Commission has vindicated the union’s campaign against the increase in the state pension age to 67 years from 1st January, 2021.

However, he said that if the Government attempts to legislate for the recommendation by the Commission to increase the state pension age from 2028, it will only ensure that the issue will continue to be a subject of public concern and controversy, in advance of the next election.

“We may not have prevented the increase in the pension age but the campaign by SIPTU and the Stop67 Coalition campaign certainly derailed it. By kicking the can down the road, the Pensions Commission has only ensured that it will continue to be a significant and controversial issue at the next and future elections,” Joe Cunningham said.

“On the issue of sustainability, the Commission did not appear to engage with data from the Department of Social Protection which has suggested that any savings from raising the pension age will be extremely limited. This is confirmed in reports prepared by the Department in recent years. Neither did the report sufficiently recognise the positive impact of even very modest economic growth on pension sustainability,” the SIPTU General Secretary said. 

“The recommendation for legislation that will allow, but not compel, workers to stay in employment until they reach State Pension age and that this should apply to existing, as well as new job contracts, will be welcomed by many workers. However, the Government must act urgently to prevent employers from forcing their employees to retire on age grounds, if it is to protect many thousands of workers facing mandatory retirement.

 “It is also important that the report has recognised that the imposition of a retirement age which is lower than the state pension age should only be possible on a very exceptional basis, including through collective agreements.” 

He added: “Such a legislative measure has been sought by SIPTU in response to the unacceptable situation whereby thousands of workers have been forced to retire, with no access to a state pension. 

“This recommendation must also be acted on by the Government without delay to avoid more workers being discriminated against by their employers and forced to retire on the basis of their age.”

Also read this interesting article:

Fire staff shortages referred to safety authority

Fórsa has raised concerns about ongoing staff shortages in Dublin fire brigade with the Health and Safety Authority (HSA). This came after Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) talks aimed at alleviating staffing problems collapsed last Monday (27th September).

The union highlighted a serious shortage of fire brigade staff – estimated to be 20% – in the WRC talks. It said this was placing both the public and firefighters at risk.

The union presented its concerns to the Health and Safety Authority yesterday, and highlight the unsafe conditions associated with staff shortages in the emergency service.

Dessie Robinson, who heads Fórsa’s two local authority divisions, said the high risk and safety concerns surrounding the issue led the union to report to the HSA.

“The firefighters have made an invaluable contribution during the last year, despite being short-staffed and encountering risk to themselves and their families when they were call-out,” he said.

Fórsa and Siptu, who both represent firefighters, have described the staff shortages as “completely unacceptable.”

“Dublin City Council and the minister must now ensure that Dublin fire brigade’s calls for increased staffing levels, and an improvement to working conditions to enhance recruitment into the service, are heeded as a matter of urgency,” said Dessie.

The understaffing concerns are further amplified in the lead-up to Halloween, when firefighters encounter additional risks and workloads.

Meanwhile, Dublin City Council maintains that management is engaging with the unions through the WRC conciliation process.

Reports suggest six appliances were off the road across Dun Laoghaire, Rathfarnham, North Strand, Phibsboro, and Tara Street stations on Tuesday due to low staff levels. A further seven appliances were without a staff member, and another two operated in the absence of two members of staff.

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Unions call on Taoiseach to save local employment services

Today’s demonstration starts at the Merrion Hotel in Dublin’s Upper Merrion Street at 12 noon and finishes at 1.30pm.

Fórsa and SIPTU members, working in Local Employment Services (LES) and Job Clubs are set to demand an immediate intervention from Taoiseach Michael Martin today (Monday) at a protest outside the Department of the Taoiseach. Unions say the protest will highlight the threat to the livelihoods of their members and the vital services they provide to the community from the imminent threat of privatisation.

The unions have said a Government-imposed tendering process favours for-profit providers over the current community-focussed, not-for-profit service. This means that privatisation, job losses and a diminished employment service is likely unless the Government changes course.

Vital community employment services will be damaged at a time when over 300,000 people are unemployed or on PUP payments.

 

Fórsa official Lynn Coffey said: “Jobs have been lost already and more are on the line if these changes proceed as planned, with the prospect of staff being thrown out of work as early as January. At the very least, pay and working conditions are likely to be greatly diminished. And vital community employment services will be damaged at a time when over 300,000 people are unemployed or on PUP payments.

“We are demanding that the Taoiseach listens to our concerns over jobs and service quality, and works with us to establish a stakeholder forum involving service providers, job-seekers, workers’ representatives, government and academic experts,” she said.

“Jobs are on the line if these changes proceed as planned, with the prospect of staff being thrown out of work as early as January. At the very least, pay and working conditions are likely to be greatly diminished. And vital community employment services will be damaged at a time when over 300,000 people are unemployed or on PUP payments,” she said.

Fórsa says the expertise and experience of local employment staff has been praised by jobseekers, agencies, employers, third-party quality management assessors, independent auditors and policy think-tanks.

 

SIPTU official Adrian Kane, said: “Our action is backed by both unions and employers to highlight the decision by the Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys, to change the tendering process for the provision of these essential local employment services. The reality is that these workers and local development companies have been providing these essential public services for over 25 years very successfully and now after all those years of loyal service have been left with no other option but to take to the streets to fight for their jobs and livelihoods.”

He added: “The calls from SIPTU and Fórsa representatives for an urgent meeting with the Minister have consistently been met with silence. This is not acceptable or sustainable. What is needed now is for the Taoiseach to step in and establish a genuine stakeholder forum to agree a fair way forward. A real plan that all parties, providers and service users can get behind. If this does not happen, this dispute will only escalate further and that will undoubtedly have an impact on these essential community services

School secretaries to strike after Government let-down

Ireland’s school secretaries are to stage a one-day strike on Wednesday 15th September, and will gather in the capital for a national rally on the same day.

Their union Fórsa said pickets would be placed on the Dublin headquarters of the Department of Finance and Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER), which stand accused of blocking implementation of a Government commitment to standardise pay and conditions of school secretaries.

Most of them earn just €12,500 a year, with irregular short-term contracts that force them to sign on during the summer holidays and other school breaks.

Almost a year ago, the Government made an explicit commitment to resolve this issue. But the offer that followed falls far short of that and lacks all credibility.

 

It is almost a year since Tánaiste Leo Varadkar spoke on the matter in Dáil Éireann, and gave a commitment to year end the four-decade system of pay inequality, which has been criticised by parties across the political spectrum.

The dispute was subsequently referred to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) where, last July, the education department offered an increase of just 50 cent an hour, a proposal that Fórsa dismissed as ‘derisory.’

The union’s head of Education, Andy Pike, said the education department’s failure to make the expected proposals to fully standardise pay and conditions for school secretaries and caretakers had let them bitterly disappointed as they face into yet another school year of pay discrimination.

“The department’s offer fails spectacularly to meet the commitment made by the Tánaiste in the Dáil last October, when he said this four-decade pay inequality would be ended once and for all. School secretaries have again been let down by their employers and by the Government.

“They had a reasonable expectation that a solution would be in place by now. They have campaigned and made their case, which has won broad public and political support.

School secretaries have been badly let down, and feel that industrial action is now the only option open to them.

 

“Following Mr Varadkar’s 2020 Dáil statement, school secretaries and caretakers counted the Government among those who backed pay equality in our schools. But that is evidently not the case, School secretaries have been badly let down, and feel that industrial action is now the only option open to them,” he said.

The staff affected are employed by individual school boards of management, and are paid out of the ancillary grant provided to each school. As a result, they earn far less than the minority of school secretaries and caretakers who work in ETB schools and are employed directly on Department of Education pay scales.

Mr Pike said the employer’s offer would still leave the majority earning about €12,000 a year less than their directly-employed colleagues. Aside from pay, the proposals contained no movement on standardisation of leave, sick leave and other conditions of service. Neither did they address access to an occupational pension scheme in a similar way to directly-employed staff.

“Almost a year ago, the Government made an explicit commitment to resolve this issue. But the offer that followed falls far short of that and lacks all credibility.

“It’s totally disheartening for school secretaries who have worked above and beyond during the Covid crisis, which brought additional responsibilities to administer the pandemic response including the provision of PPE and other equipment, distance learning and complex leave and attendance arrangements,” said Mr Pike.

Fórsa is currently balloting school caretakers as they are also disadvantaged by the pay inequality. They will join the 15th September strike if the ballot result backs strike action.

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