Collective confusion December 3, 2013Posted by Tomboktu in Collective Bargaining, Employment Rights, Human Rights.
In the Irish Times on Friday morning, Stephen Collins told us
Plans to introduce compulsory collective bargaining for all companies in the State will be announced tonight by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore at the opening of the Labour Party national conference in Killarney.
The ICTU’s legal and legislative officer, Esther Lynch, tweeted on Friday that the “devil will be in the detail” but still felt able to declare “Really welcome announcement on progress towards securing proper respect for human right to collective bargaining”.
In the evening, what Eamon Gilmore actually said must have been a disappointment to her:
Labour agreed in the Programme for Government to reform the current law on employees’ rights to engage in collective bargaining, so as to ensure State compliance with the judgements of the European Court of Human Rights. And I am glad to say that Government will begin the process of legislating for that commitment in the coming weeks.
She would realise that enusring compliance with the European Court of Human Rights will not be a major change. The minister responsible for this change will be Richard Bruton, and he has twice told the Dáil what the gap in the Irish law is.
The ECHR judgment found that under United Kingdom law at the relevant time it was possible for an employer effectively to undermine or frustrate a trade union’s ability to strive for the protection of its members’ interests. Accordingly, the ECHR concluded that, by permitting employers to use financial incentives to induce employees to surrender important trade union rights, the UK had failed in its positive obligation to secure the enjoyment of the rights under the European Convention for the Protection of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms.
He confirmed that in June that year to Fianna Fáil’s Willie O’Dea:
The compliance with the European Court of Human Rights judgment arose out of a judgment in the United Kingdom where, to paraphrase, a court judged that employers were giving priority to people who were not members of a trade union and in certain circumstances were deemed to have been victimising those who opted to join a trade union. The court found that the British law in that case was in contravention of human rights. The issue has arisen to proof our legislation against any similar frailty. This is my understanding of the matter.
Important as that is, it is a long way from what Stephen Collins reported on Friday morning.
I would love to know the story behind the differences between the front-page story in Friday’s Irish Times and the actual speech delivered on Friday night.
Was Collins given a dud briefing on Thursday, or did he misunderstand a reference in his pre-conference briefing to the Strasbourg court’s ruling, or did his report provoke contact between Richard Bruton — the minister responsible for the planned legislation — and Gilmore, leading to a change in the line by the time the speech was delivered on Friday evening? I don’t know which of those three possibilities — Collins spouting garbage, Collins being fed garbage, or Gilmore climbing down — is worst.
Awkward question on trans rights. November 18, 2013Posted by Tomboktu in Gender Issues, Human Rights, Inequality, LGBT Rights.
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The government was asked last week to explain what it is doing to recognise transgendered people’s rights. The UN Human Rights Committee (HRC) included a question on the issue to the State in its list of issues it wants Ireland to explain at the periodoc review next year of Ireland’s obligations under the International Convenant on Civil and Political Rights.
It is now six years since the High Court found that Irish law breaches European human rights standards on the right of a transgender person to obtain a birth certificate in their true gender. That was followed by a government decision to set up an advisory group — consisting of civil servants — to prepare a report, which was published in July 2011. (My post on that is here.)
It took a further two years to produce the Heads of Bill, in July 2013.
The HRC has asked the government to provide “detailed information on the steps taken to issue birth certificates to transgendered persons” (Link to Word document here). The government will have plenty of “outputs” to report to the Human Rights Committee:
- the establishment of the advisory group,
- publication of its report,
- decision of cabinet on the heads of bill,
- publication of heads of bill, and
- discussion of them by the Oireachtas Committee on Education and Social Protection.
It would not surprise me to see the Oireachtas Committee put under some backroom pressure to get a report of its hearings out so that there is another “output” by the time the HRC holds its hearings.
I hope the HRC puts the Irish officials who appear before it under close scrutiny about a new clause it introduced between the publication of a the report of the advisory committee and the publication of the heads of bill. That provision would allow sporting organisations to prohibit trans people from participating in some acivities. Now, there are pros and cons in such a provision, but their introduction into the heads of bill stinks. It has nothing to do with the issuing of a new birth certificate and the processes and requirements for that, and lies well outside the expertise of the Department of Social Protection. It amounts to a change in anti-discrimination law, although is not framed as such. Tellingly, the Department of Social Protection introduced a new proposal to allow discrimination in one area because of a person’s gender identity or the fact that they are transgendered without addressing the need for proposals to prohibit discrimination in other areas. I would not be surprised if it were dropped during the passage of the bill as a “concession” to trans people while leaving the core proposals that are hurtful and demonstrate a lack of any understanding by the drafters of the human cost of what they say should be enacted into law.
The second question that the HRC has asked will provide not so much an opportunity as a need for weasling by the State. The HRC asks “how transgender organizations have been included in such process, including in relation to the Gender Recognition Bill”. No doubt, the government will tell the Human Rights Committee that TENI (Transgender Equality Network Ireland) made a submission to the advisory group which was considered in preparing the final report, and has appeared before the Oireachtas to speak about the issue a number of times. They will probably also refer to the “engagement” with trans organisations by the Minister when she spoke at the Transgender Europe conference in Dublin in 2012.
I expect that the Department’s reply to the HRC will not record that
- the advisory committee did not include a single representative of trans people,
- the report and heads of bill do not comply with European human rights standard and
- the Minister has refused to meet TENI herself.
I hope the officials are called to account on that and squirm while explaining their approach.
* — ** — ** — ** — ** — ** — ** — *
TENI’s submission to the Human Rights Committee sets out in stark terms why action is needed, and needed urgently, and why the Government’s leisurely pace is itself an offence.
(a) Access to services: Formal, legal recognition of one’s identity – by the issuance of an accurate and correct birth certificate – is the gateway for enjoying numerous foundational rights in Ireland. Irish transgender persons who, on the basis of their expressed gender identity, seek to avail of important public services are frequently denied access because the Irish state only recognises the sex and identity assigned to them at birth. In Ireland, obtaining, inter alia, social security, Personal Public Service Numbers and marriage certificates all require the presentation of a birth certificate. The failure of the Irish state to issue new birth certificates to transgender persons means that, in order to access these foundational services, transgender people must present an official document stating that they are somebody other than their true self. Transgender people in Ireland cannot access services on the basis of their self-identified gender, even if they have lived in that gender for the greater part of their life.
The current legal situation creates an impossible and unfair choice for Irish transgender persons: the right to self-determination and dignity, or economic survival. Some transgender individuals ultimately decide to forgo their most basic rights because of the impossibility of presenting in a gender identity not their own. Others choose to access services on the basis of their birth-assigned identity and frequently confront widespread bigotry and discrimination.
(b) Restrictions on travel: The failure of the Irish state to issue new birth certificates restricts the ability of transgender people to travel. In this regard, journeys aboard can be particularly challenging. The 2008 Passports Act gives a transgender person the right to apply for a passport with their correct gender marker. However, the fact that a person’s birth certificate will not match the passport they are requesting means that issuing passports has, despite the existence of a clear legal right, become inconsistent and arbitrary. TENI has worked with people who have had difficulty obtaining a new passport. A transgender male who attempted to access a new passport but was told that not enough time had passed since his transition to apply for a passport with the male gender marker. When the individual tried to reapply with a female gender marker, he was told that he would need to provide “proof of use” of his female gender marker. In addition, many trans people are forced to pay the cost of a ten-year passport in order to obtain a two-year passport.
(c) Discrimination by state and non-state actors: Lack of recognition legitimises discrimination. Examples of prejudice which transgender persons experience from state actors include inappropriate and degrading questions, refusals to respect expressed gender identity and wilful misunderstanding. A transgender woman told TENI how, while attending a community care clinic, a member of staff had insisted upon loudly and publically calling her by her former male name. The individual recalled how “the room was packed and the laughing and comments were unbearable.” One woman received a phone call from Social Welfare querying her change of name and gender. She explained her transition, and the government agent laughed, said ‘You’ll never be a woman!’ and then hung up. (TENI has heard several similar accounts from people across Ireland.) An Irish transgender woman returning from abroad recalled how her letters to update her Irish bank account and Social Welfare with her change of gender and name were ignored: “The Social Welfare Department sent me a tax certificate in my old male name and informed my new employer of the details.”
(d) Detrimental effect on young people: The failure to issue a new birth certificate may have an especially negative impact on transgender youth. Transgender youth are particularly vulnerable to peer bullying. The perpetuation of young transgender persons’ exclusion through the failure to legally recognise their gender identity reinforces the stress and isolation which Irish transgender youth often feel. TENI has documented the story of a young transgender male who is surrounded by supportive family and friends. However, he is currently required to wear a skirt into school each day because his Principal does not recognise his gender identity.
The refusal to issue new birth certificates also creates significant difficulties for transgender students in applying for university in Ireland. Transgender people regularly miss out on college placements, as the Central Applications Office (CAO), the body responsible for assigning university places in Ireland, is unable to cope with transgender identities. One student transitioned and subsequently decided to re-sit his Leaving Certificate Exam (Ireland’s end-of-secondary-level-education national exam). He gained the required grades for his chosen course of study. The grade the student achieved for English in his first examination results should have been carried over and added to his results the second time he sat the exam. However, the CAO noted the discrepancy in name and gender and assumed an error had been made. In such cases, the CAO office dismisses the application without query. The young man missed out on his college place. TENI has heard of several such cases.
The Government’s Draft Heads of Bill for gender recognition excludes people under the age of 18 from applying for the rights contained within. This is in conflict with the recently passed Children’s Referendum, where the Irish people voted to amend Article 42A of the Constitution to read: “The State recognises and affirms the natural and imprescriptible rights of all children and shall, as far as practicable, by its laws protect and vindicate those rights.”
FairPhone June 11, 2013Posted by Tomboktu in Community, Economics, Employment Rights, Environment, Ethics, Human Rights, Technology.
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[WorldByStorm suggested today that I move this up from a comment to a full post. I've uodated it because the time reference in the original is now out of date.]
Last year, I mentioned (in passing) that when I when I first bought a mobile phone, I made a point of buying from a telecoms company that recognises their workers’ union. I did not mention then that I had also done some research to see if I could buy a model that reflected my concerns — where the minerals are from, or union recognition for the people who make the actual phone.
So, I was pleased to see fairphone.com opened their new phone to pre-purchase.
On June 5 they hit their target of 5000 orders in order to go into production, and there are two days left to order one of the first batch.
And at the weekend just gone, they were working on aspects of the design their second phone.
The ethos is summed up in the invitation to the group of designers who participated in that workshop:
FairPhone was created because most people have no idea where the component parts of their mobile phone come from, how they are manufactured, and by whom. Bas: “Mobile phones are part and parcel of a complex economic and political system. We want to make this system visible to everyone. We do that by manufacturing the FairPhone, which unravels that system step by step.”
They recongise that their product is far from perfect — the rights of the workers is not secured through union recognition — but it’s better than any other phone I know of. Worth a look, I would suggest.
Some French Posters against The World Cup in Argentina 1978 April 15, 2013Posted by irishelectionliterature in Human Rights, International Politics.
Some French Posters against The World Cup in Argentina 1978. The first one translates ‘roughly’ as “…..when you applaud the French team , cheers cover the sounds of people being tortured…”
I was 8 going on 9 at the time and wasn’t that aware of the Human Rights issues in Argentina back then. Looking now at the squads of the various teams its striking to see how few players played their trade abroad compared to nowadays.
Strangely I loved that Argentina team that won it, especially Mario Kempes (my sons middle name is ‘Kempes’).
Anyway powerful posters
GCN is 25 years old March 3, 2013Posted by Tomboktu in Community, Gay Community News, Gender Issues, History, Human Rights, Inequality, LGBT Rights, media, Media and Journalism.
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Interview with Jerry Buttimer of Fine Gael… February 23, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, Human Rights, Irish Politics.
…in the Mail conducted by Jason O’Toole. It’s a very interesting interview not least for the fact that Buttimer remains Fine Gael’s only openly gay TD.
O’Toole notes that:
It was a heartbreaking phone call from a distraught mother that made up Jerry Buttimer’s mind. The woman, whose gay son was being taunted over his sexuality, had heard a rumour that the Cork South Central TD was also gay and desperately wanted him to meet with her son and advise him. After talking to the young man, 46-year-old Buttimer made the brave decision to become the first ever Fine Gael TD to publicly come out as being homosexual. ‘The young man was distressed to such an extent that he was on the verge of suicide,’ Buttimer says. ‘He was feeling under pressure, he had no one to talk to. He felt alienated. I told him he was not alone, that he was not the only person to feel under such pressure. I stressed that there was great facilities to help him and that there was a superb network within the gay community to support him on his journey. ‘After being able to talk about it, he has now bounced back and is very positive.’
Ireland breaches European human rights laws on workers rights January 30, 2013Posted by Tomboktu in Employment Rights, Human Rights, Workers Rights.
Ireland has been found to be in breach of eight European requirements on employment rights (pdf here). A total of 11 breaches of the Revised European Social Charter were itemised by the Council of Europe in legal findings published on Tuesday (29 January). The Charter is a sister human rights treaty to the European Convention on Human Rights (pdf).
The findings were made by the European Committee of Social Rights, an independent legal body set up to judge state’s conformity with the Charter.
In addition to finding that Ireland is breaching European human rights law, the Council of Europe watchdog indicates that it doubts that the State is properly implementing its legal duty to strive for full employment, and echoes an OECD report that Ireland’s performance on assisting people with job searches in ineffective. The Committee took note of the OECD’s findings that a quarter of people eligible for help from FÁS were never referred to it and that Irish spending on labour market policies relies on job creation schemes that have been judged to be ineffective. However, the Committee decided to defer coming to a legal finding of compliance or breach until the Government provides more information.
The Employment Equality Act was found to to be incompatible with the human rights standard because the maximum compensation that can be awarded is not sufficiently dissuasive and may not be enough to make good the loss a person suffers. The law was changed in 2011 to raise the amount to €40,000. Only the provisions on gender discrimination, where the upper limit does not apply, are found to meet the standard required.
Most of the shortcomings highlighted in the legal report concern the rights of non-EU workers. Ireland has been found to discriminate illegally against those workers in relation to their access to vocatonal training, their access to vocational guidance, the length of their residency requirements for access to higher education, and their access to further or continuing education.
Fees levied by Ireland for work permits were found to be excessive. At the time the Committee assessed the situation, they ranged from €500 to €2,250 (in the case of a person renewing a permit for five years).
A rule requiring both Irish and non-Irish people to be resident in a local authority area for a year before they are eligible for a maintenance grant for vocational training was also found to be a breach of the European Social Charter.
Ireland was also found that the rights of all newly employed workers — both Irish and non-Irish — is breached because they are not protected under the Unfair Dismissal Acts in their first full year in any employment. “The Committee considers that one year period of exclusion is manifestly unreasonable”, the report says. It also finds that excluding workers who have reached the normal retiring age from the protection of the Unfair Dismissals Act goes beyond what is permitted in European human rights law.
The European Committee of Social Rights also finds that employment rights of army officers is breached. Officers may not seek early termination of their commission unless they repay to the state at least part of the cost of their education and training, and the decision to grant early retirement is left to the discretion of the Minister of Defence. The human rights watchdog find that this could lead to a period of service which would be too long to be compatible with the freedom to choose and leave an occupation.
The Committee found Ireland to be in conformity with six provisions, and deferred reaching a conclusion in the case of six other provisions because the Government had not provided enough information to enable the Committee to assess if the State is meeting its obligations.
The findings were made in the annual reporting procedure under the Revised European Social Charter. A quarter of the 31 articles of the Charter are examined each year, in thematic clusters. The next report will examine Ireland’s situation in relation to health, social security and social protection.
Ireland ratified the Charter thirteen years ago. Unlike the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Social Charter does not provide individual redress, but collective complaints from trade unions, employers’ bodies and European NGOs can be heard by the European Committee of Social Rights.
“I do not have to prove that I am ‘trans enough’ for anyone” December 7, 2012Posted by Tomboktu in Crazed nonsense..., Human Rights, Inequality, Irish Politics, Justice, LGBT Rights.
While the country was getting ready for the budget on Wednesday, elsewhere in the Leinster House complex, an Oireachtas committee took evidence on the experience and legal situation of trans people in Ireland.
All of it is worth watching, but I was particularly moved by the evidence of Darrn matthews, from 8:30 into the film:
Hi. My name is Darrin Matthews. I am a board member of TENI and also run he Cork Peer Trans Support Group.
I am a transgender man.
I had a woman from the Disability Allowance Office ring me and she wanted to know why my name had changed from a female name to a male name, and when I told her it was because I was transgender, she laughed at me and hung up the phone.
When I go out and I get asked for my passport as identification to get in, I sometimes get turned away because my gender marker still says “F” and I have both my birth certificate name and my current name Darrin printed.
Everybody has a right to a private life. I would just like that my right would be recognized. Issuing new birth certificates and can easily do this and prevent embarrassment and harassment and potentially dangerous situations.
My experience of being transgender doesn’t just affect me, it also affects my family. I have an amazingly supportive and loving family. My mother put herself into almost €12,000 worth of debt so she could send me to a private school because I was bullied for 2 years in my state school. My mother took out a loan to send me to a school where I could be called Darrin, not wear a girl’s uniform and be happy and every member of staff and every student called me Darrin instead of derogatory and cruel names.
I have many friends who are straight, gay and transgender. In this day and age if a gay friend of mine come to me and told me they had gotten their official diagnosis of “homosexual”, I would be shocked and appalled. Nineteen years ago homosexuality was decriminalized and people now cannot imagine a time when homosexuality was illegal. Most people don’t know that transgender people must be diagnosed with a psychiatric illness to access treatment in this country because this is such an inconceivable and ridiculous notion and is discriminatory in its nature.
I do not feel that because I was born in the wrong body that that automatically means I have a mental illness. There is still stigmatization attached to having a mental health issue in this country and to force a psychiatric condition onto another human being can have detrimental effects on a person’s self-image and self-esteem.
When a couple applies for a civil partnership, they are not asked for their gay diagnosis to prove their homosexuality. I had to prove to many people I was happier as the man I should have always been, to my mother, my siblings, to my friends. And I had to prove that I had a psychiatric illness. But I should not have to prove anything to a complete stranger and seek their acceptance. I do not have to prove that I am ‘trans enough’ for anyone.
My mother once asked if I was sure, and if I was really sure that being Darrin was what I wanted. When I told her I couldn’t go go back and be happy, she just said to me ‘Well then we can only go forward, my son’.
I always knew transitioning would never be easy but please don’t make it any harder than it already is. All I want is to be treated as an equal. To be treated with respect and dignity as much as a non-transgender person would be. Nothing more and nothing less. Thank you.