International. Colombia: Global Education Union condemns threats, harassment, and killings of unionists

The Executive Board of Education International has adopted a resolution condemning the human rights violations in Colombia that have led to thousands of deaths of trade unionists.

The decade-long attacks on human rights and the lives of more than a thousand unionists and social activists were at the core of a resolution adopted today, 9 December, by the Executive Board of Education International, which is meeting for the 56th time.

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The attempts of groups controlling power in Colombia to wipe out social organisation and mobilisation, quell protests, and suppress the right to organise and proclaim the validity of the public education system has led to thousands of casualties, many of them educators who were actively engaged with their unions. Since 1986, more than 1,100 teachers have been assassinated during the armed conflict, according to the Colombian Federation of Educators (FECODE), a member organisation of Education International. According to the Institute for Development and Peace Studies (Indepaz) in Bogota, more than 280 social leaders have been assassinated in Colombia in 2020. 

Ongoing violence 

Despite the signing of a peace agreement in 2016 between the government of Colombia and the guerrillas, violence has been ongoing. The conflict has taken the form of a territorial dispute that has led to the persecution and stigmatisation of activists, without the government taking measures to protect their lives and guarantee their safety and the free exercise of their right to organise and disagree. 

Educators, as well as social leaders, have been assassinated solely for raising their voices to defend their rights and the validity of the public education system. Every time the Executive Committee of Education International’s member organisations in Colombia – FECODE and the Trade Union Association of University Professors (ASPU) – announce a mobilisation for the defence of rights, threats are issued to the lives of the members of their national or regional executive committees. 

Government inaction

According to the Education International Executive Board, the Colombian President, Iván Duque Márquez, has kept a “a complicit silence” in the face of thousands of threats against FECODE and ASPU and the teaching profession. He has done this by removing or denying security measures for union leaders and social leaders, while allowing the party in government to attack the freedom of association and academic freedom that are guaranteed in the Constitution.

International solidarity campaign

A significant campaign of international solidarity has been waged in the face of these threats. More than 60 Education International members have already asked the Colombian authorities to protect union leaders and members. 

Education International has called on its member organisations to strengthen their demands that the Government guarantees human rights and the right of trade unions and of the teaching profession to work freely in Colombia.  

You can access the entire text of the resolution by clicking here.

You can also click here for the LabourStart’s campaign on Colombia.

Unions make significant breakthrough on pay justice claim for Section 39 workers

SIPTU representatives have today (Thursday, 10th December) confirmed that unions have made a significant breakthrough on pay restoration for members in 250 State-funded voluntary health and social service providers. The positive development for workers in these Section 39 employments follows a conciliation conference held under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC).

SIPTU Divisional Organiser, Adrian Kane, said: “This interim settlement is well overdue but it delivers money into the pockets of our members’ pockets from next month and that is critically important. The issue of parity of treatment with colleagues in the larger section 39 employments hasn’t gone away and when the parties reconvene again at the WRC in 2021, SIPTU representatives will be fighting to ensure that all monies outstanding for our members are paid in full.”

The union negotiating committee is now recommending that planned industrial action by members of SIPTU and Fórsa in Cork and Kerry next week be suspended on foot of an agreement between the group of unions and the HSE for two phases of pay restoration to be implemented next year. 

The first of these payments is due to take effect from 1st January 2021 and will deliver up to €1000 of an annual increase in salary which will be paid that month.  A second instalment, equating to 50% of the outstanding restoration due, will take effect from 31st May 2021 and will be paid in June 2021.   

The parties will convene again at the WRC at the beginning of the second quarter of 2021 to discuss the date of application of the final phase of pay restoration and a union claim for retrospective payments.

Fórsa official, Catherine Keogh, said: “This has been an exceptionally challenging year for these workers. Our one-day strike took place on 14th February, which was just a few weeks before the Covid-19 crisis hit and these are the workers whose professionalism and experience was called upon like never before in response to that crisis. This is a welcome breakthrough, and some good news at the end of a long and very difficult year for them.”

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions is to write to the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly, and request that membership of the Dialogue Forum with Voluntary Bodies be increased to include union representatives. The trade unions have argued that this forum can contribute to the resolution of the long-term structural issues in the sector and their inclusion is consistent with the commitments in the Programme for Government to wider and deeper social dialogue.

Survey suggests 82% of people consider housing to be a ‘human right’

Housing in Ireland needs to be viewed as a right and not a commodity, according to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

A national survey carried out by the IHREC suggested that 82% of people in Ireland consider housing to be a basic human right.

The survey was carried out to mark Human Rights Day which is celebrated on 10 December annually.

On this day in 1948, the UN adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The declaration consists of 30 articles detailing an individual’s “basic rights and fundamental freedoms” and is considered a foundational text in the history of human and civil rights.

The theme of Human Rights Day 2020 is “Recover Better”.

It is focused on ensuring that recovery from Covid-19 focuses on combating inequality and advancing human rights.

A survey by Amárach on behalf of the IHREC sought the views of 1,200 people on human rights.

Asked if they believe human rights are important for creating a fairer society, the study reported almost 100% agreement from respondents.

Almost eight out of ten (79%) support Ireland’s equality law changing to allow protection to people against discrimination due to status such as family background, home address, educational background or economic situation.

When asked about housing, 82% of those surveyed considered it to be a basic human right, which is the same figure as a 2018 poll that posed the same question.

Almost two thirds (64%) of people believe that the right to housing should be enshrined in the Constitution while 24% were against that proposal.

The IHREC Chief Commissioner said the survey showed that people are consistently looking at housing and accommodation as an area where a rights-based approach should be taken by the State.

Sinéad Gibney said Ireland needs to regard housing as a right and not a commodity.

“Housing represents more than just the costs of bricks and mortar, it’s where our children grow, where our families gather, and where generations should feel safe and secure,” she commented.

Financial Services Union calls on Minister Donohoe to raise Ulster Bank vulture fund issue with UK chancellor

Financial Services Union calls on Minister Donohoe to raise Ulster Bank vulture fund issue with UK chancellor

Issued : 4 December 2020

Call receives support from figures across the political spectrum

The time has come for Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe to raise concerns about the potential sale of the Ulster Bank loan book to a vulture fund with the UK chancellor. That’s according to general secretary of the Financial Services Union, John O’Connell.

Speculation on the future of Ulster Bank has led to media reports that NatWest, parent company of Ulster Bank, is in discussion with Cerberus to buy its loan book, which is estimated at €20.5 billion euro.

Commenting, Mr O’Connell said:  “This speculation has been running on for a couple of months  and a clear statement of intent from the Minister for Finance is required, stating that he is willing to contact the chancellor and outline the Government’s opposition to any vulture fund buying any part of Ulster Bank.

“The UK government has a considerable ownership stake in the bank and the Irish Government should be using every lever at its disposal to ensure that jobs are protected, branches remain open, and there is sufficient competition in the market place.

“I ask the Minister for Finance to contact his counterpart in the UK government and to outline in clear terms the Irish Government’s opposition to NatWest selling any part of the Ulster Bank loan book to a vulture fund.  NatWest needs to end the speculation and commit to the future of Ulster Bank.”

The FSU has received support from across the political spectrum for this call, including from Pearse Doherty TD (SF); Ged Nash TD (Lab); Catherine Murphy TD (Social Democrats) Richard Boyd Barrett TD (Solidarity / PBP); Sean Canney TD (Ind), and Joan Collins TD (Independents 4 Change), as well as from Government TDs Brendan Smith TD (FF) and Neasa Hourigan TD (Green Party).

Campaigner David Hall, chief executive of the Irish Mortgage Holders Organisation, is also supporting the call.

Commenting, he said: “I wholeheartedly support the FSU’s call on the Minister to intervene to prevent any sale of Ulster Bank’s loan book to a vulture fund. These funds do not care about people, so it is vital for mortgage-holders, for communities and for the economy that Ulster Bank’s loan book is not sold to a vulture fund.”

ENDS

Contact: Brian McDowell, Head of Communications and Public Affairs, FSU. Tel: 087-9161225. Email: brian.mcdowell@fsunion.org.

Notes to editors:

  • John O’Connell and David Hall are available for interview, on request.
  • About the Save our Ulster Bank campaign: As part of its campaign, the FSU has also led the creation of a broad coalition of interested groups covering business, farming and communities, calling on NatWest to commit to the future of Ulster Bank in the Republic of Ireland and to bring an end to doubt and speculation for staff and customers of the bank. To date, signatories include the Irish Congress of Trade Unions; the Irish Farmers’ Association; Mandate Trade Union; Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, and Unite the Union, as well as a range of politicians. Visit the FSU website for further details.

 

About FSU: The FSU is Ireland’s leading union across banking and finance. We represent thousands of staff across the main retail banks, and we have members in more than 70 companies across the finance and fintech sectors. Our members are spread across the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Great Britain. We are headquartered in Dublin and we also have a presence in Belfast. We are members of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and UNI Global finance union.

 

CSO data underlines case for stimulus measures

Fórsa said new CSO figures published today (Friday) demonstrate the need for Government to continue to stimulate the economy through income supports, business supports and investment in  public services and infrastructure. The CSO data  shows that domestic demand soared when Covid-19 restrictions were eased in the third quarter of 2020.

The country’s biggest public service union said the figures underlined the need for Government to reject austerity in its approach to public finances, and instead give people – particularly those on low incomes – the hope and confidence that will help the economy bounce back when the Covid situation stabilises.

These figures are further, encouraging evidence of the need for Government to reject an austerity approach to public finances, which would sap confidence from our economic biosphere.

 

The union’s general secretary Kevin Callinan said: “These figures are further, encouraging evidence of the need for Government to reject an austerity approach to public finances, which would sap confidence from our economic biosphere.

“If we give people hope, we will also give them confidence to spend and participate in the economy and in their communities. This is the lifeblood that can quickly rejuvenate businesses – be they large, medium or small. And it’s the route to rapid employment, economic and fiscal recovery, which must be grasped in all sectors of the economy – public, private and community.”

Fórsa is currently involved, with other unions, in talks on a successor to the PSSA public service agreement, which expires at the end of the year. Speaking at the union’s conference last month (19th November), Mr Callinan acknowledged that any successor to the PSSA would have to be realistic in the context of a challenging economic and fiscal situation, but said this didn’t mean ruling out pay improvements over the lifetime of a deal.

All the economic projections point to a rapid economic and fiscal bounce-back once the Covid situation stabilises, and we have cause to hope that will start to happen in the coming months.

 

“All the economic projections point to a rapid economic and fiscal bounce-back once the Covid situation stabilises, and we have cause to hope that will start to happen in the coming months,” he said.

The CSO figures for the July-September 2020 period, during which Covid restrictions were eased considerably, showed:

  • Personal spending on goods and services grew by over 21%
  • Underlying domestic activity increased by almost 19%
  • The distribution, transport, hotel and restaurants sector saw grew by 47%
  • Exports of goods and services increased by almost 6%.

International News: WFTU solidarity statement with the farmers’ struggle in India

Public Health Doctors confirm plans for 3-days of strike action in January

Public Health Doctors confirm plans for 3-days of strike action in January

Disappointment at “no meaningful engagement” from Dept of Health for 5 months

Monday 30th November 2020.  The Public Health Committee of the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) met today to consider the overwhelming (94%) vote by Public Health doctors in favour of industrial  action in their fight for parity of esteem with other parts of the health service.  Currently regardless of qualifications, no public health specialist is recognised as a consultant despite meeting the same criteria as all other consultants appointed in the health service. 

The Committee decided to serve notice of Industrial Action on the HSE and the Department of Health saying that if there is no resolution to the issue the following action will commence:

Thursday 14th January:         

One Day strike by Specialists in Public Health Medicine and SpRs in Public Health Medicine

Thursday 21st and Friday 22nd January:

Two Day strike by Specialists in Public Health Medicine and SpRs in Public Health Medicine

The Committee will consider further escalation of the action if matters remain unresolved.

Dr. Ina Kelly, Chair of the Public Health Committee of the IMO said: “as a doctor who has committed my career to public health and the improvement of health outcomes for the population I am deeply distressed that it has come to this.  It really is time for Government to step up to the plate and recognise their own ethical obligations and to honour agreements”.

Deep disappointment at lack of engagement and misleading comments by Government

The Committee expressed deep disappointment at the lack of concern which the Government has displayed about this issue and criticised the misleading commentary on the issue from Government. 

The Public Health Committee specifically state this is not simply about a pay claim but about recognising the importance of consultants leading multi disciplinary teams in a fully resourced public health service for Ireland.  While much focus has been on public health medicine as a result of COVID there are many important population health issues that are crucial for the country.  COVID has exposed the fragility of our public health departments. 

No meaningful engagement with Dept of Health in 5 months

Dr. Ina Kelly said;  “This weekend the Government attempted to confuse the issue.  We want to be clear we have had no meaningful engagement with the Department of Health in the last five months, no business plan has been discussed with us, no new contract has been agreed.  In fact, we are in a worse situation today than we were a year ago. During previous discussions in 2019 it was agreed between the Department and the IMO that the contract to be offered would be the current public only consultant contract.  Talk of Slaintecare Contracts is disingenuous in the extreme considering such contracts do not exist and need to be agreed with the wider consultant body.  We are not looking for anything more than the current contractual terms which are being offered to any consultant being recruited.  It is all the more disappointing that we, as a specialty,  have gone above and beyond in terms of taking on additional duties, working onerous hours and doing everything possible within our very limited resources to manage the pandemic.”

Call on Government to honour commitments

Dr. Kelly queried the lack of urgency in the Department of Health on the issue. “The Minister and other Government representatives have called on us not to take industrial action during a pandemic – we call on them to take positive action on an issue which has a simple solution;  honour Government commitments and implement the recommendations of the Crowe Howarth report which were supposed to be implemented in July 2020 following many years of no progress”.

 

Mandate calls on employers to abide by Covid19 regulations and for consumers to respect shop workers this Christmas

Friday 27 November 2020

Mandate Trade Union, representing almost 30,000 workers in the retail sector, has called on all employers to strictly adhere to Covid19 protocols as the retail sector reopens in the run up to Christmas. The Union has also called on consumers to respect retail workers following an increase in abusive behaviour.

Gerry Light, Mandate General Secretary, said the health and safety of workers should always be paramount.

“The current Covid regulations must be strictly adhered to if we are to reduce transmission of this deadly disease and ensure we don’t go into a third lockdown – which would obviously be bad for employers, workers and the economy.

“But crucially, we need to protect the health and wellbeing of retail workers and their families and that includes affording them dignity and respect at work,” said Light.

He added, “We have received numerous complaints from retail workers who have been verbally abused or threatened by customers after they were requested to wear masks or to socially distance. Abuse is never part of the job, and in these difficult times, it’s essential that we recognise the efforts of our frontline workers and we all protect them from abusive behaviour.”

Mandate is calling on employers, consumers and the government to ensure the health and safety of workers is paramount.

All employers should:

  • Ensure shops are not overcrowded by managing queuing systems and controlling numbers inside and outside of stores
  • Investigate whether to extend opening times to spread the customer base, while also allowing designated times for vulnerable customers.
  • Allow workers the voluntary option of working beyond their agreed hours and times and adequately rewarding them for this.
  • Strictly adhere to the wearing of face coverings and manage social distancing, using qualified staff to police these policies.
  • Make regular announcements on intercoms about social distancing and other health and safety measures.
  • Ensure an adequate supply of hand sanitizer is available at all times.
  • Adopt a zero tolerance approach from customers towards staff and remove abusive customers from the premises while providing supports for workers.

Mandate is calling on the government to:

  • Provide clarity around the enforcement of fines for the refusal to adhere to Covid regulations.

Mandate is calling on consumers to:

  • Adhere to social distancing guidelines
  • Use hand sanitizer and wash your hands regularly.
  • Be patient with retail staff and other customers and under no circumstances verbally abuse, threaten or assault shop workers.

Mr Light stated: “Christmas is always a busy and very stressful period for everyone, but particularly shop workers, and this year will be more difficult than most. We’re asking people to be mindful of the pressures facing shop workers and remember that workers requesting that customers abide by health and safety policies do so at the behest of their employer and government regulations.”

He concluded: “If we are genuine about our appreciation for the ‘essential work’ of retail staff, then we must all play our part over the coming weeks and months. Respect retail workers, and remember that respect is not just for Christmas.”

Mandate delegation meet Taoiseach in effort to resolve Debenhams dispute

Thursday 19 November 2020

A Mandate Trade Union delegation comprising of Gerry Light, Mandate General Secretary and three ex-Debenhams shop stewards, Jane Crowe (Henry St, Dublin), Valarie Conlon (Patrick Street, Cork) and Michelle Gavin (Waterford), met this morning with An Taoiseach Micheál Martin and a team of senior officials from his department in an effort to find a solution to the protracted Debenhams dispute.

More than 1,000 workers lost their jobs in April of this year as the company entered liquidation. Since then, the workers have been on strike for 224 days.

Mandate General Secretary Gerry Light said: “We used the opportunity to once again urge An Taoiseach to use his office to create the circumstances which would bring an end to the current dispute.”

In a briefing to Debenhams members on the outcome of the meeting, Light explained, “He  (An Taoiseach) said, notwithstanding current statutory constraints, he and his team were continuing to explore how this might be done and they were in the process of identifying a suitable individual or body who might be able assist the parties in arriving at a mutually acceptable resolution.”

He added, “Importantly the Taoiseach committed to meet again with the union delegation early next week in order to update us further.”

Hygiene Baseline. Pre Covid-19 Global Snapshot

Two out of five people in the world do not have a hand washing facility with soap and water on premises.  Almost half of the schools in the world do not have handwashing facilities with soap and water available to students.  We do not know the proportion of health care facilities in the world that have functional hand hygiene facilities with soap and water or hand sanitizer.

 

▪ Frequent and proper hand hygiene is one of the most important measures that can be used to prevent infection with the COVID-19 virus
▪ There are two main routes of transmission of the COVID-19 virus: respiratory and poor hygiene
▪ The COVID-19 virus has not been detected in drinking-water supplies, and based on current evidence, the risk to water supplies is low
▪ Currently, there is no evidence about the survival of the COVID-19 virus in drinking-water or sewage
▪ Conventional, centralized water treatment methods that use filtration and disinfection should inactivate the COVID-19 virus
Source: Water, sanitation, hygiene, and waste management for the COVID-19 virus – Interim Guidance 23 April 2020, WHO and UNICEF