Hungry Bellies: Exploring inequality and deprivation in Ireland

In this paper we provide detailed evidence of the growing economic inequality in Ireland (South) in 2021. We do so firstly to vindicate the work of all those volunteers, modern day heroes, who assist our most vulnerable people and families on a daily basis. The research data we present is elevated above mere academic commentary by Six sections detailing the current lived experiences of experts in the field from Penny Dinners (Cork), the Muslim Sisters of Eire, Inner City Helping Homeless, the Traveller Visibility Group, SPARK (Single Parents for the Right’s of Kids) and Ber Grogan’s amazing ‘Basket Brigade’.

But we also do so to address a growing false narrative that Irish inequality is falling. It is not. Such a dangerous narrative runs the real risk of allowing policy makers to pass the cost of the current pandemic onto those who can least afford it, as happened after the financial crash of 2008. Hubris is the enemy of fair and judicious policy making and, much as some would like to, you ‘can’t just intellectualise away inequality, poverty, deprivation and discrimination.’

Unite has argued through the pandemic that a fairer better Ireland can be created out of this darkness. Given the suffering of far too many it is essential that this is the case. But for it to happen we must begin with a full and fair presentation of the problem and the data.

Enjoy the paper.

Thursday February 25th

Hungry Bellies: New report debunks myth of falling economic inequality 

Unite warns against ‘using wrong tools to ask wrong questions to come up with wrong answers’

In a new report, Hungry Bellies are not Equal to Full Bellies, published today (Thursday), trade union Unite presents evidence to counter claims that inequality in Ireland is falling, and instead shows that economic inequality is unacceptably high and growing. An online event will be held at pm on Monday 1 March to discuss the findings in the paper and the lived experiences of those facing inequality, deprivation and discrimination.  The event will be hosted by Vincent Browne and participants will include Professor Kathleen Lynch, Louise Bayliss of SPARK, Ber Grogan of the Basket Brigade and a representative of Inner City Helping Homeless.  The event will be broadcast live on Unite’s Facebook page.

Key indicators of Ireland’s high levels of economic inequality include, but are not limited to:

  • Figures in 2019 – the most recent year for which data is available – showed an increase in the proportion of our population experiencing three or more types of deprivation
  • Median rents are at between 48% and 68% of the media wage
  • Over a third of those living in rental accommodation experience deprivation
  • In 2019, well before Covid struck, nearly a million people, or one in five of the population, were on waiting lists to see a consultant
  • Ireland has the highest level of inequality in earned income before tax in the EU28
  • Ireland lacks the robust collective bargaining provision needed to effectively address earnings inequality

Commenting on the findings in the report, Unite Senior Officer Brendan Ogle said:

“Myth-making is a bad Irish habit.  This was evident prior to the financial crash when commentators talked up the Irish economy even as the underlying problems became ever clearer.  Over a decade on, commentators are again feeding us myths, this time claiming that inequality in Ireland is falling.  This paper shows that such commentators are using the wrong tools to ask the wrong questions to come up with the wrong answers – answers which contradict not only the facts but also the lived experiences of people struggling to cope with inequality and deprivation, and those charities and volunteers working on the frontline to mitigate the impacts.  The report published today includes powerful testimonies from these frontline heroes.

“We can only address economic equality once we honestly recognise the extent of the problem in Irish society.  We can then start focusing on the remedies, from public housing to a universally accessible public health care system and measures to improve the lives of workers, their families and communities.”, Mr Ogle concluded.


Notes for editors:

Hungry Bellies are not Equal to Full Bellies: Exploring Inequality and Deprivation in Ireland is available for download here.

A webinar exploring the issues raised in the paper will be held on Monday 1 March at 8 pm.  The event will be hosted by Vincent Browne and will be broadcast live on Unite’s Facebook page.


For further information contact Unite ROI Senior Officer Brendan Ogle (Tel. 086-7778231) or Strategic Research, Community Development and Communications Support Rhona McCord (Tel. 086-1454274)

The WFTU on the forthcoming attack on Rafah – Palestine

National campaign to promote the benefits of trade union membership

The trade union movement has come together to create a national public

relations campaign to promote the benefits of trade union membership.


The publicity campaign is aimed at raising awareness of trade unions particularly among young workers.

The campaign launched formally on Valentine’s Day with the announcement of Union Week. which will take place between 29th April and 6th May 2024.

Union Week will involve a week of activity highlighting the work and achievements of trade unions.

It will be an opportunity to showcase the positive impact that trade unions have on workers’ lives and on broader society as well as to promote our contribution to the arts and culture.

The campaign is already up and running with advertisements on TV and regional radio stations, in bus shelters and on commuter public transport as well as on social media platforms such as Instagram, X, LinkedIn and Facebook. Videos on social media will feature members of various trade unions telling the story about why unions are vital for everyone at work and encouraging people who aren’t yet in a union to join.

Four SIPTU members are featured in the initial round of advertising: Martha Buckley, a health care assistant, and Siobhán Spillane a brewery worker from Cork; Victoria Nikitina, a contract cleaner from Limerick and Suzanne Armstrong, a bus driver from Dublin. We are most appreciative for their involvement in this high-profile national campaign and the great job they have done of positively promoting their union

Strike action on Translink bus and rail services today in absence of pay offer

Joint Transport Union press release

Bus and rail workers to conduct sixth one-day strike action on 1 February 

A further three strike dates in February are planned in campaign to secure a cost-of-living pay increase

More than 3,000 workers at Translink are to commence a further 24-hour stoppage tomorrow (Thursday 1 February) in the cost of living pay dispute. Members of the transport unions, Unite, GMB and SIPTU, will begin their sixth one day strike on a staggered basis from midnight. The strike will bring all bus and rail services across the  Six Counties to a standstill.

The strikes are a result of Translink failing to make any form of a pay offer to its workers. Funding for public transport services has been constrained with no money for a cost of living pay increase being made available as a result of the punitive budget imposed by secretary of state Chris Heaton-Harris.

Despite recent political developments, no improved pay offer has been made to the public transport unions. There is no clarity on the timing of such an offer or even a timeframe for negotiations.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said, “Bus and Rail workers rightfully expect a pay increase that protects them from the worst inflationary surge in generations. Instead in a complete abdication of responsibility to its workers, Translink has failed to make any offer.

“As a result public transport workers have no alternative but to continue with planned strike action. They have the full support of Unite in their fight to win respect and a cost of living pay increase.”

GMB regional organiser Peter Macklin said: “Regardless of the latest developments at Stormont, our members are still facing the prospect of a zero per cent offer made last year being imposed. A few years ago, these workers were being hailed as frontline heroes. They deserve better and they are ready and willing to strike to secure it. 

“At any point, if a meaningful pay offer is received then that is something our members will consider and respond to appropriately but in the absence of any movement, we have no alternative but to proceed with the planned action.”

SIPTU regional organiser Niall McNally said: “In the aftermath of the 18 January one day public sector strike, secretary of state Chris Heaton-Harris said he would move to address the pressures on the public sector finances but as yet that has not translated into any offer for workers.

“We are hearing a lot of promises but so far we have no pay offer or even a timeline for a pay offer. Without that the unions will proceed with our agreed plans for further and escalated strike action in this dispute.”



Statement by the Council of Global Unions (CGU), 22 January 2024

The Council of Global Unions expressed unwavering support and solidarity with the unionists, civil and human rights defenders, and the people of Argentina struggling to defend democracy in the face of repressive measures proposed by the new Javier Milei administration. We fully support the Argentine 24 January general strike and call on affiliates to participate in solidarity actions in their countries.

The new president of Argentina has put forward a raft of draconian, anti-democratic legislation that threatens decades of progress and hard-fought social protections. Trade unions around the word are particularly concerned about the Protocol for Social and Trade Union Mobilizations, which sets extremely restrictive rules; the DNU Decree (Decreto de Necesidad y Urgencia), which aims to eliminate more than three hundred laws; and the controversial draft “ley ómnibus”, which would provide sweeping powers to the administration to implement measures detrimental to citizens, workers and unionists.

Argentina’s trade unions have played — and continue to play — a vital role championing human and trade union rights and the advancement of civic values in Argentina. The Global Union Federations and the ITUC stand firmly behind the CGT, CTA-T, CTA-A, and ITUC/CSA in their ongoing struggle to make Argentina more just. 

That is why ITUC/TUCA-CSA and GUFs and ITUC affiliates worldwide support the call for a General Strike and demonstrations issued for 24 January 2024, in Argentina, despite the threats expressed by the authorities and the limitations to the right to strike combined with prison sentences and economic sanctions.

We request that the Argentine government stop issuing legislation proposals unilaterally, but start negotiating with unions on ways to deal with labour issues.

We also stand with local actions supporting Argentine unions worldwide to actively oppose these regressive policies that threaten the foundations of a democracy.

We cannot allow democratic backsliding in Argentina. We must act now.


Why did 150,000 public sector workers go on strike in the North

Official figures show that between April 2022 and April 2023, real pay (adjusted for inflation) in the public sector fell by 7.2%. That decline came on the heels of real pay falling by more than 4% between April 2021 and April 2022, and two decades of no growth in public sector real pay. While there is much talk about an “Irish Sea border” because of post-Brexit trade arrangements, a sea border of sorts already exists when it comes to public sector earnings. Differences in public sector pay between the North and the UK are substantial and even greater over the border in the rest of the country. Newly qualified teachers in Britain make about £30,000, while in the North they start on £24,000 in the south they start on £33,375. A newly qualified doctor in the North earns a base salary of £26,000 per year.
In England the starting rate is over £32,000

In Scotland it is £31,000.

However South of the border a newly qualified doctor starts off at £52,986.53 per year in the HSE twice that of a doctor in the North
There were calls for Pay parity with “The rest of the UK” People and unions need to decolonise their minds forget about Britain and turn their attention to building a united Ireland as envisaged in the 1916 Revolution.
Onwards to the Workers’ Republic
“The Irish people will only be free, when they own everything from the plough to the stars.”
May be an image of map and text that says 'Teacher's Starting Salary Scotland £32,217 £24.137 Nhof Ireland £33,735 Ireland £30,000 England Wales £30,742 TULF'

Solidarity with the 175,000 workers on strike in the north today for an inflation linked cost of living pay increase

TULF stands in solidarity with the 15 trade unions representing 170,000 workers taking part in the Generalised Day of Strike Action across the 6 counties.
The co-ordinated day of strikes is the most significant, militant action by the organised working class in the north for a generation.
We call on the British Secretary of State for the 6 counties to immediately accede to the demands of the public sector unions. Over the past year the strike actions in pursuit of the unions’ demands have had unprecedented support from union members and the general public. Unfortunately, even though he has admitted that he has the funds to settle the dispute, the British Secretary of State is refusing to do so until the DUP agrees to restore the Executive.
His refusal to settle the dispute exposes the lack of democracy which exists within the 6 counties.

Westminster is in control of the purse-strings and even if the Executive was functioning, it could only administer the funds provided by Westminster. The absence of the Executive merely removes the veneer of democratic control by the Assembly.

The Generalised Day of Action, called by the ICTU, shows the power of the organised working class. This power must be used to push for a better society in which the interests of the working class are central. Central to any such campaign must be demands for an all-Ireland health system free at the point of use, an all-Ireland housing policy and all-Ireland industrial and environmental plans.
This is not a cost-of-living crisis it’s the price of capitalism crisis.

Initial public sector pay offer lacks credibility

The officers of the Public Services Committee (PSC) of the Irish Congress of trade Unions (ICTU) met with affiliate and non-affiliated unions and associations this morning to provide an update on the public sector pay talks, which adjourned at 3am this morning.

Unions expressed concern that the Government’s initial pay offering last night illustrated its lack of preparedness to complete a sustainable and robust multi-year pay deal, and further undermined perceptions of the Government’s approach to the process of securing a new agreement.

Speaking after the meeting, PSC chair and Fórsa general secretary Kevin Callinan said, in failing to meet the basic test of dealing with the cumulative gap between wages and inflation – amounting to almost 19% over the last three years – the initial pay offer of seven per cent, with 1.5% payable in March this year, would equally fail any test of credibility in a ballot of union members.

He added: “The Government has effectively undermined its own approach to negotiating a multi-year public sector pay agreement in a number of ways.

“In contrast to its recent measures to address the cost-of-living challenge on the National Minimum Wage and social protection payments, where it has demonstrated a real pragmatism, its approach to completing a public sector pay agreement lacks credibility,” he said.

John King of Siptu added: “The initial offering – which would have put little more (before deductions) than an average of just €5 per week in the wages of low-income public sector workers, and €10 per week in the wages of those on middle-incomes in the first year – failed the basic test of creating a robust agreement in the face of a continuing cost-of-living crisis.”

Phil Ní Sheaghdha of the INMO added: “The tabling of that pay offer followed months of delay before the process of negotiations got underway last year, painfully slow progress over the course of 11 meetings in November and December, consequently allowing the previous agreement to lapse at the end of 2023.

“All of these factors really undermine the credibility of the Government’s approach to doing a deal and, as we adjourned this morning, a significant gap on pay measures between both sides remains,” she said.

John Boyle of the INTO said: “We remain focused on returning to the negotiations to ensure we can complete a deal that is robust enough to endure the 30-month period envisaged,” he said.

The PSC unions also finalised the wording of a ballot for industrial action, with unions poised to commence a ballot should it become necessary in the coming days.


Update Fair Employment Bill 2022

#Solidarity with Independent Councillor Cieran Perry for proposing the motion and with Dublin City Council who last night voted in favour of supporting replacing the anti-worker 1990 Industrial Relations Act with the Fair Employment Bill 2022 (2)

The 1990 act was introduced as a control mechanism on trade unions. The act introduced many changes to the accepted norms of industrial relations up to that time. It banned support strikes, solidarity action, political strikes, sit-ins and immediate action. It isolated individual workers and introduced 7 day notice. It puts many conditions and restrictions around balloting for industrial action so much so that you would need a barrister in one hand and a ballot box in the other to take strike action today. It ended Union autonomy and transferred what were always Union decision to the judiciary.

At the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) biennial delegate conference in 2021 the following motion proposed by the Dublin Council of Trade Unions (DCTU) and amended by Connect Trade Union was unanimously passed and is now ICTU policy

“Conference recognises that the restrictions on trade union action in the 1990 Industrial Relations Act need to be opposed, and that the act should be reformed to restore rights which trade unions had before 1990. Conference mandates the executive to seek an alternative legislative regime which would allow trade union and industrial action for workers, for issues that concern workers across society and, across employers, and for effective solidarity to workers in dispute”

The Trade Union Left Forum have drafted a bill for that alternative legislative regime as per the DCTU motion which replaces rights lost by workers as a result of the 1990 act.

The bill is called the Fair Employment Bill 2022.

Now we need to progress the Fair Employment Bill as drafted by the Trade Union Left Forum

This is a very necessary piece of legislation that will create a level playing field between workers and employers.

“With all their faults, trade unions have done more for humanity than any other organisation of people that ever existed. They have done more for decency, for honesty, for education, for the betterment of the race, for the developing of character in people, than any other association of people.” — Clarence Darrow.

Public transport funding needed to ensure cost of living pay increase for workforce

Workers from Unite, GMB and SIPTU will take 24-hour strike action commencing from 00.01am Friday [1 December] in pursuit of a cost of living pay increase. 

The strike action will affect bus and rail services across Northern Ireland and the action by members of all three public transport unions is likely to mean that no services will operate throughout the day. The strike is the first to occur on bus and rail since 2015. 

The industrial action follows coordinated strike ballots held by the three unions which returned overwhelming support for industrial action. Bus workers in Unite voted 96.5 per cent for strike, Translink workers in GMB voted 95.6 per cent for strike and in SIPTU by 93.1 per cent.  The ballots were conducted after workers rejected a pay freeze– equivalent to a 11 per cent real-terms pay cut once (RPI) inflation is taken into account.  

A meeting between the unions and the permanent secretary of the department for infrastructure confirmed the primary problem is the austerity budget imposed by secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris. 

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “To attempt to impose a pay freeze is sickening in what is the worst cost of living crisis for workers in decades. “In taking strike action, our members can be confident of the full and continuing support of Unite.