Community Calls for Stormont to Deliver Bill of Rights

New Assembly Committee Expected to be set up on Monday

Community organisations, charities, trade unions and academics have written to the First and deputy First Minister and other party leaders urging them to ensure that a new Committee established under the New Decade, New Approach (NDNA) agreement is the final stage of agreeing a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.

It is expected that the Assembly will set up the Committee on Monday and the community groups want party leaders to guarantee it will deliver the long-awaited Bill of Rights, originally promised in the Belfast / Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

One of the signatories to the letter, Kevin Hanratty, Director of the Human Rights Consortium stated:

“We are delighted that provision has been made for a Bill of Rights as part of the New Decade, New Approachagreement. “The deal is an attempt to restore devolution and ensure the stability of the Stormont institutions. The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement provided that ‘There will be safeguards to ensure that all sections of the community can participate and work together successfully in the operation of these institutions and that all sections of the community are protected.’ One of those provisions was a Bill of Rights. Its absence to date means we have never actually seen the Stormont institutions operate to their full potential. “The absence of a rights framework contributed to the problems and instability of the last Assembly. We want to avoid that in the future. Establishing a Bill of Rights will benefit everyone and bring much-needed coherence to the way in which business is conducted at Stormont. We urge all the parties to get behind this new process to develop the best possible protections for local people.”

The Ad-Hoc Committee is expected to be established through an Assembly motion on Monday 24th February with a Chair, Vice Chair and Committee representatives to be appointed shortly afterwards.

The letter from civil society has called for the Terms of Reference for the Committee to be based on principles that commit all parties to declaring their support for a Bill of Rights, ensuring full compliance with the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement by guaranteeing that the Bill of Rights incorporates and supplements the European Convention on Human Rights, and provides for the incorporation of international human rights standards.

Another signatory to the letter, Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland director of Amnesty International, said:

Letter to FMdFM and Local Party Leaders

Dear First and deputy First Minister,

Under the terms of New Decade, New Deal (NDNA) we note that the Ad-Hoc Committee on a Bill of Rights is to agree terms of reference and a timetable within 30 working days of the restoration of devolution. Given that timeframe, we understand that the Committee, its terms of reference and timetable are due to be established within the next few days.

We welcome the renewed process to deliver this widely supported but unimplemented element of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. There is extensive community support, and an expectation that this process will now be the final step in delivering this long outstanding commitment. We therefore welcome and look forward to its establishment.

In order to help you and colleagues within other political parties frame the discussions that lie ahead we have drawn together what we believe are essential elements of the Terms of Reference for the new Committee.

Proposed Principles for Ad-Hoc Committee on a Bill of Rights Terms of Reference

All parties represented on the Committee should:

  1. Declare their support for the achievement of an enforceable and inclusive Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.
  2. Indicate that they are committed to working towards an agreed outcome in the form of a draft Bill of Rights.
  3. Ensure full compliance with the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement by guaranteeing that the Bill of Rights incorporates and supplements the European Convention on Human Rights/Human Rights Act 1998, draws on international instruments and experience, provides for the incorporation of international human rights standards and reflects the principles of mutual respect and parity of esteem.
  4. Confirm that the work of the Committee will be open and transparent, draw on existing expertise and will be open to engagement with wider Northern Ireland society.
  5. Support an open and transparent appointment process for the five experts who will support the work of the Committee.
  6. Ensure that there is a fixed timeframe and deadline for the Committee’s work and that parties are committed to reaching an agreement by that deadline.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it represents some of the key principles within which it would be helpful for the Committee to operate if it is to finally deliver an effective Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland.

We wish you and your colleagues well in this vital work. A Bill of Rights will, at long last, provide for a rights-based system of governance and decision making. We would be grateful for the opportunity to meet with you to further discuss how we can assist with this initiative at your earliest convenience.

Sincerely,

Kevin Hanratty, Director, Human Rights Consortium

Patrick Corrigan, Head of Nations and Regions, Amnesty International UK

Paddy Kelly, Director, Children’s Law Centre

Dr Anne Smith, Senior Lecturer, School of Law/Transitional Justice, Ulster University

Brian Gormally, Director, Committee on the Administration of Justice (CAJ)

Colin Harvey, Professor of Human Rights Law, School of Law, Queens University Belfast

Rory O’Connell, Professor of Human Rights and Constitutional Law, School of Law/Transitional Justice, Ulster University

Dr Esther McGuinness, Senior Lecturer in Law; Co-Director, Ulster University Law Clinic

Patrick Monteague, Chairperson, Focus: The Identity Trust

Andrew McCracken, Chief Executive, Community Foundation for Northern Ireland

Ciaran Moynagh, Director, Phoenix Law Human Rights Lawyers

Alison Millar, General Secretary, NIPSA

Roisin McLaughlin, Co-ordinator, North West Community Network

Danielle Roberts, Policy Officer, Here NI

Loraine Griffin, Manager, Community Organisations of South Tyrone & Areas (COSTA)

Ellen Finlay, Policy Officer, Children in Northern Ireland

Owen Reidy, Assistant General Secretary, Irish Congress of Trade Unions Northern Ireland

Taryn Trainor, Regional Women’s & Equalities Officer, UNITE

Rachel Powell, Women’s Sector Lobbyist, Women’s Resource and Development Agency

Anne McVicker, Director, Women’s Resource and Development Agency

Aoife Nolan, Professor of International Human Rights Law, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Nottingham

Patricia Bray, Coordinator, North West Forum of People with Disabilities

Paddy Mooney, Director, Include Youth

Sara McCracken, CEO, Angel Eyes NI

Boyd Sleator, Northern Ireland Humanists Coordinator, Humanists UK

Steve Williamson, Director, Cara-Friend

Patricia McKeown, Regional Secretary, UNISON

James Orr, Director, Friends of the Earth

Paschal McKeown, Charity Director, Age NI

Jonna Monaghan, Project Coordinator, Northern Ireland Women’s European Platform

Dessie Donnelly, Director, Participation and Practice of Rights Project

John O’Doherty, Director, The Rainbow Project

Anne Moore, Policy, Advocacy and Campaigns (PAC) Manager, Save the Children

Jim O’Neill, Programme Manager, Community Dialogue

Glenn J. Bradley, Chair Northern Ireland Business and Human Rights Forum

Robert Murtagh, President, NUS-USI

Know Your Rights- Being in a Union is important for you: Join a Union Today

Cleaning staff striking at University Hospital Waterford

Cleaning staff at University Hospital Waterford are taking to the picket lines this morning.

Around 125 members of the Unite trade union are striking in a row over changes to their working conditions without consultation.

Momentum Support took over the cleaning contract at the hospital from ISS last September.

Commenting on today’s strike action, Unite Regional Officer Tony Kelly accused Momentum of seeking to impose changes to working conditions without consultation:

“Our members have suddenly found themselves assigned to different work areas and tasks without either consultation or explanation, contrary to long-standing practice at the hospital. They have been forcibly moved to different areas because they refused to take up duties that are specific to other employees and are paid at a higher rate and attract different allowances. These duties include the emptying and collection of bins, currently carried out by male staff due to physical requirements and paid at a higher rate in accordance with agreements between Unite and the former service provider.

“This is having a negative impact on the quality of the service provided. At the same time, our members are concerned that new entrants, employed at lower terms and conditions, are being exploited to undermine existing agreements. While workers who transferred from ISS receive a €1.49/hour supplement, or site allowance, over the ERO rate, new entrants do not receive this supplement which may be worth up to €50 per week – a significant amount for low-paid workers earning just above the Minimum Wage. This new pay structure has the potential not only to create divisions between workers doing the same job but also to drive down workers’ pay in the medium term”.

Unite has also raised concerns about health and safety breaches and a lack of training in the handling of extremely aggressive and hazardous cleaning solutions, which has resulted in a number of members receiving burns even after Unite raised this issue with management.

Mr Kelly also highlighted the fact that long-standing members of staff in receipt of the agreed site allowance have also been excluded from working in certain areas of the hospital, such as the new Dunmore Wing because the company’s tender was based only on the minimum ERO rates: “This is another example of Momentum discriminating against former ISS workers and sets a very worrying precedent.

“Unite members working at UHW are aware of how critically important their work is to the smooth running of the hospital, and we have done everything in our power to resolve this dispute but we have now been left with no option but to take action.

“Our members are committed to the work they do to ensure that UHW provides a clean and safe environment for hospital patients and staff. We are calling on Momentum to clean up its act and ensure that all its workers providing cleaning services in the hospital are treated equally and with respect.”

NCBI and Delta Care workers strike for pay restoration

Fórsa members employed by the National Council of the Blind in Ireland (MCBI) and Delta services CLG in Carlow are taking part on a one-day strike today (Friday 21st February) marking the latest phase of the union’s campaign for pay justice in independent organisations that rely on State funding to deliver vital health and care services.

Both employments are ‘Section 39’ agencies, under which community and voluntary sector organisations are funded to deliver care and other services by the HSE. Members of SIPTU in other Section 39 agencies are also on strike today (Friday). While these workers are not public servants, their pay was cut in line with public service pay cuts applied during the economic crisis.

WRC agreement reached in 2018 made provision for pay restoration for workers in the sector. Unions continued their campaign for pay restoration because of implementation delays in a number of smaller Section 39 employments.

Fórsa’s General Secretary Kevin Callinan said: “Section 39 workers were forced to organise and to threaten action to get a hearing, and while we made progress, the government failed to deliver what was required to complete the agreed pay restoration process. That’s not good enough.

“There’s no excuse for leaving workers providing these vital care services behind. A state that fails to treat the workers providing those key services fairly is an unjust state,” he said.

Fórsa official Catherine Keogh said every stage of pay restoration for workers in the Section 39 agencies has been hard fought. “It has been a test of endurance for people who deliver vital health services in the community, for whom other work opportunities means we’re now witnessing much higher staff turnover in employments providing vital care services.

“The failure to complete the pay restoration process is putting the sustainability of these services at risk, which would place the burden of service delivery back on HSE. The incoming government, however that is eventually composed, must recognise that resolving issues like these would be beneficial for service users. It’s another piece of unfinished business left behind by the last government,” she said.

SECTION 39 Case study

Name: Jacintha Hayden, social care worker and Fórsa union representative
Employer: Delta Care (Carlow)

Jacintha has worked for six years as a social care worker with Delta services CLG, which provides day and residential care to adults with physical and intellectual disabilities.

“I’m taking part in today’s work stoppage because we’ve been left with no other choice really. We’re fighting for pay justice.

“Agencies like ours seem to be the poor relation when it comes to pay restoration. There’s been pay restoration in the public sector and the larger Section 39 agencies have had pay restored but only after they fought for it.

“Now we’re having to fight for it too. It shouldn’t have come to this, our pay should have been restored in line with the other organisations.

“We work hard. We provide a valuable service. We should be paid accordingly. The delay has led to this strike action which has unanimous support among the staff.

“They feel very strongly about this and our union membership has increased as a result. They recognise that we’ve fallen behind where we should be in terms of pay and that it’s time to take a stand.

“We just want a fair day’s wage for the work we do, and that’s not happening right now. The HSE need to step up and resolve this by restoring the pay cut imposed during the economic crisis. Things have moved on. There’s no excuse for leaving workers like us behind.”

International News: Greek National Strike

Greece National Strike on February 18

TULF offers its International Solidarity with our comrades in Greece today who demostrated in over sixty cities throughout Greece. Watch Our comrades in action today

 

Demonstrations In More Than 60 Cities

Hundreds of trade unions of Greece, Federations and Regional Trade Unions have responded to the call of PAME for a National Strike On 18 February against the antiworkers bill of the Greek Government on Social Security and Pensions.

In contrast the General Confederation of Greece (GSEE), member of ETUC, is acting as strikebreaker and denied participation to the strike.

The struggle of the workers of Greece has the support and solidarity from workers from all over the world, with messages, photos and videos of solidarity sent to PAME in support of the Strike of February 18.

Video from Marseilles, France, UD CGT 19: https://youtu.be/rMRUlLIrWSI

PAME has announced demonstrations in the following cities all over Greece for the day of the strike.

Last ditch talks to avert strike action at Allied Bakeries break down after pathetic management pay offer rejected by workers

Last ditch talks to avert strike action at Allied Bakeries break down after pathetic management pay offer rejected by workers

Allied Bakeries logoAll-out strike action by workforce confirmed to commence at Allied Bakeries in Belfast from 6am on Sunday [February 16th]

Strike action will cripple production and supply of pancakes across UK ahead of Pancake Tuesday

Sean McKeever, Regional Officer blasted as ‘pathetic’ the offer made by Allied Bakeries’ negotiators after direct pay talks broke down and confirmed that his members were now preparing for an all-out strike for a fair pay increase to commence from 6 am this Sunday [February 16th].

“Unite made ourselves available to Allied Bakeries and sought to engage positively in last ditch pay talks called at the request of management. Unfortunately the company did not appear to be serious when it came to addressing their workers’ demands and offered a pathetic pay offer which the shop stewards rejected as unacceptable. The meeting was a very short one.

“The other major competitor in the bread making sector in Northern Ireland, Hovis recently made their workforce a much improved pay offer which has been accepted. There’s no reason Allied Bakeries can’t deliver a similar uplift to their workers.

“Our shop stewards are now collecting flags and placards for the all-out strike action which is now set to commence from 6 am on Sunday [February 16th]; they are resolutely determined to win a fair pay increase.

“The strike action is set to coincide with the ramp-up production of pancakes at the Castlereagh Road site. Management bears full responsibility for what will be a hugely disruptive strike action coming in the key production period for the UK the fortnight before Pancake Tuesday.

“While we are now preparing in earnest for an all-out fight to secure fair pay, we remain open to engagement in advance of pickets going up. It is still not too late to avert an entirely avoidable strike action”, Mr McKeever concluded.

Pension’s Lie and Dammed Lies

Very interesting and informative article from the Socialist Voice

The establishment keep repeating the mantra that in twenty years’ time there will be far fewer people working than there are now, and more people in retirement. This has now become the accepted narrative of the mainstream media. And it is a lie.

This lie has been repeated so often it has now become fact and the common belief. But quite the opposite is true: the work force in the Republic today is in excess of 2.3 million, which is substantially higher than thirty years ago, when in the 1980s there were fewer than 1 million people working.

In 2028 the Irish state will have the highest retirement age in Europe, at 68. At 66 today we are two years higher than the EU average. We have almost 30 per cent fewer older people than the EU average.

According to the most recent EU statistics, the average proportion of people over the age of 65 is 19 per cent, with the highest in Italy, at 22 per cent, and the lowest in Ireland, at 13 per cent. So there is no “pensions time bomb.”

This pension theft is a direct transfer of wealth from the ordinary citizens to the business class, who are more than willing to sell private pensions to workers at extortionate rates, with absolutely no guarantee of return.

This is classic neo-liberal tactics, perfected by Fine Gael’s Leo Liberals to convince workers of the urgent need to finance their own pensions and to remove this obligation from the state.

The increase of the pension age to 68 is the largest cut ever in the social safety net. It is the equivalent of a cut of €39,000 per worker, i.e. state pension = €13,000 p.a. × 3 years.

If you work until you are 68 and live until you are 83, this cut is equivalent to a cut in pension of 20 per cent, i.e. €2,600 p.a. for 15 years = €39,000; higher if you die earlier. This is pension theft by the state.

Your pension is paid for over your full working life. It is deferred pay that you have paid for over years of contributions. It is the least you can expect when you reach 65.

Of course politicians can retire at 50, while workers are thrown under the bus.

All trade unions and the ICTU have a policy of returning to the pension age of 65. SIPTU intervened in the election campaign to stop the pension age being increased to 67 in 2021, which has forced politicians to react, eager to outdo each other on the hustings and to win votes.

Fine Gael would be ideologically opposed to reversing this policy, but the gombeenmen of Fianna Fáil might be willing to compromise and grant the change in order to gain office. If they are forced to make this compromise in order to win the election they will do so in the full knowledge that they will take this money away from workers by some other method, a tax increase or cut.

Make no mistake about it: they will protect their paymasters, the bankers, builders, and speculators, as they always do. There is no crisis Fianna Fáil cannot solve so long as they can transfer the burden onto the working class and continue the transfer of wealth from ordinary working families to the richest in society.

Of course they are not unique in doing this in Dáil Éireann: the Labour Party, the Green Party and Fine Gael are more than capable of it. Fianna Fáil, on the other hand, are experts at concealing it by convincing citizens that it is their own fault, that Fianna Fáil are their protectors and can be depended on to solve all the people’s problems.

We all partied”—Brian Lenihan
We are living way beyond our means”—Charlie Haughey
We will not stand idly by”—Jack Lynch
It took Ireland thirty years to become an overnight success”—Bertie Ahern

Vote for Radical Change!

With a week to go before Ireland goes to the poll booths, Mandate is delivering a stark election warning to all voters. Successive Fine Gael and Fine Fail led governments have created an unprecedented  housing crisis, a health care crisis and instilled widespread fear regarding pension age increases and continuing threats to reintroduce water charges and deny the people a referendum on public ownership of our water.

Check out Mandate’s General Election 2020 fact sheet on why you should vote for change in General Election 2020. Mandate has focussed on four key issues for our members: Housing; Health; Pension Age Increases and Water Ownership in Public Hands. We’ve inserted four handy questions on these important issues at the foot of each section which you may wish to highlight with canvassers on your doorstep. You’ll have many more issues of importance to raise with politicians on the canvas trail but one thing is vital – Vote for Radical Change!  

Take the profit motivation out of children’s welfare

The Trade Union Left Forum (TULF) supports the protests by childcare workers today, who struggle on minuscule wages doing what is an essential public service. This is against the backdrop of disgraceful practices from employers within the sector, who value profits over the welfare of children and their staff. 

Currently, more than 60% of educators earn less than the Living Wage of €12.30 per hour and parents are paying some of the highest fees in Europe. Due to low pay and poor working conditions, the average staff turnover is 23% per year.

The company that owns Giraffe Childcare, one of Ireland's largest chains, posted operating profits of €6.2m in 2017, while paying their workers minimum wage. It's clear that the childcare system in this country is fundamentally structured to suit the owners who supply childcare, producing huge profits for business owners while workers and parents pick up the tab. 
The TULF supports all efforts of childcare workers to organise and get proper recognition for the vital work that they do. The only solution to end the exploitation of staff, children and parents by these profiteering companies, is the provision of community or municipally provided child care, funded by the state. Take the profit motivation out of children's welfare.
 

‘We’ve been patient for long enough’ – Watch TUI members discuss their experiences of pay discrimination

Enough is Enough. Why we are taking strike action ?