Work life balance… sort of… May 19, 2013Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Workers Rights.
For an example of how workplaces are changing in the contemporary period there’s no better example than the statistic earlier in the month that 80% of Irish employees access social media at work. Okay, the report by William Fry law firm, is not perhaps quite as scientific as might be hoped for, but purely anecdotal observation of public and private work places suggests that the ubiquity of the mobile is now complete, or almost so.
Can’t say I blame people, work is, in large part for many, tedious. Anything that helps get people through the day is probably no bad thing. It also perhaps, indicates that the discipline of work places is now somewhat different to what it used to be.
I’d love to think that this is a sign of good things more generally, but I’m a little dubious. Perhaps because I see no real efforts societally to democratise working lives, again either in public or private workplaces. Most are run along lines that the most Stalinist command economy would look upon with envy. Autonomy is limited – and increasingly curtailed. Less union membership and unions that seem detached from workplace concerns adds to this.
So while there are changes, and some are better, some unfortunately are worse.
Take the following from the SBP and also reported in the Irish Times:
Irish workers spend an average of 56 minutes per working day on social media sites
More than 80 per cent of Irish employees access social media sites at work, spending an average of 56 minutes per working day on such sites, a new report has found.
Again, this is unsurprising. I asked an IT person in a place I worked about Facebook access and their take was that most people in the place had it on in their browser all day long.
Another employment, and this tallies with data that ‘more than 46 per cent of Irish employers do not have a social media policy in place, leaving them open to internal disputes, abuse and potential litigation’, was very unkeen to impose any sort of internet/social media policy, not least because middle and upper management had discovered the – ahem – joys of the internet and weren’t keen to see access to them curtailed.
Around 40 per cent of companies have imposed bans on employees accessing sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
But, for there is a but…
…as the majority of employees access social media from personal devices, the value of imposing absolute restrictions is limited, the report says.
In a way it’s an example of a brilliant contradiction within capitalism, between the near all pervasive push by social media/internet providers to encompass all our lives all the time, or as much as is humanly possible, and the requirements of individual workplaces – and perhaps the economy as a whole – to operate without interruption.
I’m sceptical in the extreme about Google glasses, but assuming they did catch on I wonder if and how that would be policed in workplaces.
What is the experience of people generally in relation to social media in workplaces?
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.
A Left-friendly email service provider? October 15, 2012Posted by Tomboktu in Capitalism, Community, Ethics, Internet, Other Stuff, Society, Trade Unions, Workers Rights.
My main email account has been with ireland.com since the 1990s. Today they sent an email to say they are closing the service in less than a month (so the domain can be transferred to Tourism Ireland).
I could simpy transfer everything to my back-up gmail account, and may do that simply to ensure that I have the data. However, I was wondering of any readers of CLR know of a Left-friendly email service provider?
So, what would be Left-friendly? My ideal would be one run as a co-op, and I wouldn’t mind paying for that, but I’ve no notion if there are any or if any I might find thrpugh an internet search are secure or reliable. My second preference would be one run by a company that recognises unions. (When I got my first mobile phone, I checked with the CWU to see which providers recognised it and/or other unions. The initial reply gave me a list of companies where the union has members, but I did get an answer the specific question a few days later. I don’t know how often the union gets a query like that.)
Dear Account Holder,
The Irish Times and Tourism Ireland today announced a digital content cooperation agreement to promote Ireland as a tourist destination. The agreement spans a number of areas, including the sale of the ireland.com domain name to Tourism Ireland. Tourism Ireland will use the ireland.com url to attract more web traffic and enhance the promotion of Ireland overseas.
As a result, we wish to inform our @ireland.com email subscribers that the service will be discontinued from November 7th, 2012. From midnight on this date, you will no longer be able to send or receive messages. You will, however, be able to access your account until December 7th for the purpose of transferring any data (i.e. emails, tasks, documents, appointments and/or contacts) currently saved on your account. We are writing to advise you of this change and to ensure the transition to a new service provider is as seamless as possible.
To aid the transition, we have provided a step-by-step guide and FAQs on ireland.com and a helpline has been established to assist wherever possible. The helpline will operate between 8am and 8pm weekdays on telephone 1890 876 666 or 01 685 6999 or email email@example.com .
We would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused to our valued customers.
Head of Online, The Irish Times
Worker directors July 24, 2012Posted by Tomboktu in Business, Ireland, Labour relations, Workers Rights.
One of the disdvantages of using Enlgish as our ‘lingua franca’ in Ireland is that we are not exposed often enough to ideas from outside the English-speaking world. A report published last week by TASC, Good for Business? Worker Participation on Boards (PDF here), is a case in point.
The existence of worker direstors in companies in Ireland — and the rest English-speaking world to which we so often look for policy examples — and the legislation on this issue are so poor that it can easily be forgotten that not only is it normal practice in many other European countries, but actually a legal requirement in some of our fellow EU member states. The poor situation in Ireland means that it is a difficult task to undertake a study of the role and effect of worker directors in Irish companies. The sample of companies is tiny and utterly unrepresentative: in the commercial sector, worker directors exist in only a handful of state-owned companies. (Worker directors also exist in a wider range of non-commerical public bodies, although that terminology is not always used to refer to them. Examples include the vocational education committees, the National Disability Authority, and the Legal Aid Board.)
It is worth setting out some of the legal requirements in those other EU countires. In Germany, depending on the size of the firm, either one-third or half the seats on the board must be worker representatives — worker directors or their nominees; in Sweden, a company with 25 employees must have worker directors; in Austrian PLCs regardless of the size of the firm, workers have a right to a third of the seats on the board. Across the EU 27 and Norway, 12 countries provide for worker directors of some form in private forms. The little-known directives on EU-level companies also provide for worker directors.
The TASC report presents a literature review and data drawn from a focus group with nine worker directors from six companies and thirteen interviews with other people: non-worker directors, company executives, and “independent experts”. We are not told what the basis of this last group’s expertise — or, importantly, the the view that they are independent — is.
In Ireland, we are a long way from the kind of values that are reflected in the 12 other EU countries. Two details from the TASC report show how much of a hill we have to climb.
The first detail is that the five recommendations in the report do not include anything would lead to an extension of the model to be extended outside the public sector. I would have thought that this is the kind of idea that a progressive think tank should be introducing into the debate in Ireland. And the report contains a reference that shows why ding that at this time would be opportune. In discussing the legal roles of comapny directors, TASC uses not the current legislation but propoals from a draft companies bill that is expected to be introduced next year. That bill will be a massive overhaul of the Companies Acts — the draft proposals come in at over 1000 pages. (The scale of what is comming doen the line for the TDs and Senators can be seen in the time the preparation of the bill has taken. The Company Law Reform Group has been working on this for over a decade.) TASC should be calling for that process to be used to strengthen industrial democracy in Ireland.
The second detail is that a majority of the the interviewees in the study — that is, the non-worker directors, the company executives and the “independent experts” — believe that worker directors should not sit on remuneration committees. That mind-set, which sees executives as being in a different market from others — so different that it often looks like they are on a different planet — is one of the key factors that has contributed to the obscene income inequalities we see in Ireland and the rest of the English-speaking world.
“Reports from the coalfront” January 2, 2012Posted by yourcousin in Unions, United States, US Politics, Workers Rights.
This post started as a response to CMK’s question on the Sean Garland thread, but as the response got bigger and bigger I thought that a new post might be more appropriate than a response to a dead thread. On a personal note, I appreciate the support, I am working and doing well.
I do think that the traditional relationship with Labor serving as the foot soldiers for the Democratic Party is fraying. Obviously the Wisconsin protests were huge, but when the Democrats tried to channel that energy, it fizzled for them. The grassroots campaigns in Ohio trying to get a referendum to over turn the anti-union legislation is seems to indicate that support for unions surpasses the support for Dems (obviously). There were calls for a general strike in Wisconsin, but it fizzled as labor leaders were anxious that things “not get out of hand” and promised relief through the Dem’s tactics, which included the recall campaigns and (off hand) a state supreme court election (which Republicans won btw). One of the interesting things is that the Firefighters stopped contributing to the national Dems and said that they would selectively target local/state elections. I believe they just recently reversed that decision within the last month or so.
The Occupy movement was also a catalyst of sorts, at least in the beginning. The sight of hundreds of uniformed pilots marching in protest, was impressive even to my cynical eyes.
Or maybe I just never got over seeing people in uniform stick it to the man. The point there was that these were everyday people venting their rage at the system that controls both political parties. When “normal” people take to the streets, not so much to protest abstract concepts so much as to protest for it means its touching a chord. It is also happening at a time that no one within the established political movement will actually doing anything in support of the marchers other than try to pander for a few votes. I predict that after 2012 you’ll see Dem hopefuls listing their involvement in say a human microphone on their resumes once it is “safe” for them to do so. “Progressive” city councils and mayors coordinated the removal of encampments like the ones in Oakland and Denver. So to me the chances of the occupy movement having an impact in that sphere aside from possibly staying home on election day or being more cynical of the dems is slim for right now. But with the coming of election season Obama is definitely polishing up his populist (and I mean this in the good sense of the word) credentials. So he and the Dems will have to walk a very fine line of trying to motivate folks to vote for him but not ask too many questions about the economic system. But in his favor he’s got the current batch of Republicans to go against so that may help. I mean the House had their run and I think that the debacle with the pay roll tax cut may be the beginning of their decline.
Something else that may work in his favor is people’s sheer desperation. A lot of people are living on the edge of disaster. So while many folks may not be enthusiastic about him like they were two years ago the idea of people who would hang pictures of Ayn Rand in their offices totally running the place is too much to even think about. And that’s pragmatics not “change we can believe in”. My brother is just as militant as me, but since he doesn’t have a union job, no insurance and has an injury from a work accident (third degree burns on the inside of right elbow and arm leaving him with some substantial nerve damage) he is on the very edge of destitution due to so much of his meagre pay check going to pay for medical bills and medication. It’s because of him that I support Obama care. He said flat out that he will vote for Obama because he has no choice. I hope my dad will remember that when polling day comes because I could see him falling for Romney’s bullshit. I don’t thinkthat our story is that unique either.
If I were try to predict where the labor movement is going (something which I’m loathe to do) I would simply highlight two trends. The first is the traditional role of labor as booster of the the Dems, but in a more frenzied fashion and dropping things like the Employee Free Choice Act which might upset the apple cart. I view this kind of like Dev’s “labor must wait”. Or like a popular front action where it’s all hands on deck in defense of basic civil society. And I agree with this branch in as much I think government ought to defend civic society from capital.
The other branch which exists and is growing however slowly with fits and starts is the old school unionism which existed in the shadows until the late seventies. While it might take full advantage labor law it relied upon traditional solidarity and direct action. The thing that I think alot of people don’t understand about this current is that these folks in many facets appear reactionary. A prime example of this is a guy I currently work with. He’s a straight up conservative/reactionary. We almost came to blows over his justification of the Iraq war and Saddam’s WMD being the gassing of the Kurds. I about came out of my seat and folks came out of the trailers due to the yelling. But he is as steadfast a union man as one could want. Once during a wobbled job (ie during an unofficial work stoppage) he happened to show off a new M-14 to a co worker in view of the superintendent. Of course the police were called and came guns drawn but as he hadn’t threatened anyone with it and it isn’t illegal to have a rifle in your trunk he was left alone and the pay dispute was resolved quickly there after. He was also part of a “clearing crew” during an official strike. The “clearing crew” were guys who would wait until work started and any scabs who crossed the line were at work. At this point the “clearing crew” would enter the site with baseball bats and clear the job out. The guy who trained me to do doors and hardware saw his first strike in the army during his tour of Vietnam. He knew of a carpenter’s strike in the mountains where the scabs spent the entire day pinned down by a sniper who promptly wrapped up his sport shooting at the end of shift. It isn’t all violence but these examples told to me by first person participants and witnesses highlights labor’s untold story of declared Republicans and decorated vets (my guy came back from ‘nam with a bronze star which is a whole other story) who are “upstanding Americans” who are also part of the army of labor.
This back story of sorts is simply used to highlight the legacy of direct action up through the Reagan years as a connection the actions which took place in the Pacific Northwest where back in Sept. hundreds of longshoremen stormed a grain terminal, dumped grain on the tracks, cut brake lines and walked off the jobs in other ports after the president of their local was arrested for blocking the tracks during a dispute with the operator of the terminal. They were accused of holding six security guards hostage though it was later revealed that the guards simply hid out for a number of hours in their shack rather than face hundreds of angry longshoremen. Even the police backed down and retreated when called out. The sherriff although largely hostile made a unique comment as to why no arrests were made during and after the terminal storming after which the longshoremen simply returned to their hall unmolested with threats of further action. He pointed out the fact that the longshoremen were members of the local community and that he could understand their anger at their liviehoods being threatened during these difficult economic times and while condemning their actions refused to condemn them. The irony is that while the ILWU (west coast longshoreman’s union) has a known history and reputation for militance and political actions this was a new front and one which was done with absolutely no fanfare or rhetoric, indeed even members who I know personally and who have stayed in my home were extremely tight lipped about the action and others that might happen. I can of course understand because as Jimmy Diamond once told me, “whatever you say, say nothing” (circa 2007).
As I see it as the “respectable” wing of labor continues to lose ground I see more and more workers turning to the more direct approach. Obviously my examples highlight a very specific demographic that is unfortunately a shrinking part of the American workforce. That being said solidarity unionism, direct unionism or whatever you want to call it remains a viable form of resistance to capital, indeed it is, I would argue one of the fundamental pieces of resistance to capital. Far outweighing any Political adventurism that may be put forward. It should also be noted that union bosses vhemently oppose direct unionism and as was the case in Wisconsin rather see their unions destroyed than give up control to “irresponsible” forces. The largest challenge for the labor movement (note the lower case “l” denoting an all encompassing movement rather Organized Labor) is to bridge the chasm from the shrinking demographics of the trade union movement (though as Wisconsin demonstrated can still be impressive) to the growing working poor and private sector who never really thought about the class war until it arrived on their doorstep.
As for mortgages and what not. I’m sure there are groups out there that do help people, but the sad reality is that many, many people stopped viewing their home as a place to live and viewed homes as commodities. Many like my friend took out lines of credit on their homes and second mortgages. Indeed I bought my home as a foreclosure learning only after closing that the house in question was previously owned by my uncle’s girlfriend who took out a second mortgage to pay for heart surgery to repair a defect. The surgery wasn’t successful and she lost the house. I just don’t see any grouping with the political will let alone the knowledge and finances to challenge many of the foreclosures. Also the fact that at best the challenges would be addressing some of the foreclosures for errors, not challenging the idea of throwing people out of their houses due to their inability to pay is another major shortcoming in my eyes. So no, I have no hope of outflanking capital on that front and I foresee the rise and return of the landlord class as a new enemy for the working class to face off against in the foreseeable future.
A chance to push for a Tobin tax (sort of) February 24, 2011Posted by Tomboktu in Capitalism, European Politics, International Finance, Trade Unions, Uncategorized, Workers Rights.
1 comment so far
The suggestion of a tax on financial certain financial transactions (primarily on short-term currency trades) in order to put some “grit” in the system and generate a social benefit from the transaction was proposed by the Nobel prize-winner James Tobin in 1972. More recently, many have suggested that other aspects of the financial industry — the bonuses paid to traders and executives in the banks, for instance.
The EU has taken some action — baby steps, but potentially useful — in bringing some control to the sector and reigning in its madness. Last November, the EU amended the law on capital requirements for banks and on remuneration policies in the sector. Some of the provisions were to be implemented (or, in EU-speak, ‘transposed’) by 1 January of this year, all of the rest by 31 December. There are twenty new characteristics set out for the pay policies of financial institutions in the amending law, and you won’t be surprised to know that none of them would set a leftie’s heart aflutter with excitement. (I do think it interesting that one of the new points required by the directive is the following:
(m) payments related to the early termination of a contract [should] reflect performance achieved over time and are designed in a way that does not reward failure.
I suppose we might see a glimmer of a possibility in the staandards set for remuneration committees that large instiutions are required to establish, if they don’t already have one:
When preparing such decisions [i.e. decisions regarding remuneration], the remuneration committee shall take into account the long-term interests of shareholders, investors and other stakeholders in the credit institution.
A nice start would be to make sure that “other stakeholders” is defined to include customers and non-trading staff.
The next stage of dealing with banks at an EU level is under way. The European Commission is conducting a public consultation on taxation of the financial services sector. The Commission has identified three reasons for “addressing the issue”, as they put it:
Substantial public financing support during the crisis, need for fiscal consolidation and possible under-taxation of the financial sector. Undesirable behaviours for the society as a whole (systemic risks), e.g. excessive risk taking. Uncoordinated patch-work of national measures may:
- create incentives for tax-driven relocation either within the EU or outside the EU and distortion of competition;
- create situations of unrelieved juridical double taxation
The second bullet point has to be of interest to those of us on the Left.
The Commission is being both thorough and focused in its consultation. They are asking that responses deal with 57 questions, and they do ask for each of those you respond to that you provide evidence if you have any.
Questions 10 to 21 deal with the core idea of a Tobin tax (although the Commission’s possibilities are not restricted to the specific type of trading/speculation that James Tobin had proposed be taxed). The level of thinking that is going into this can be gauged by the final question in that set: “What do you think of the effect on small and medium enterprises (SMEs) from broadbased [financial transaction tax]?” Questions 22 to 37 deal with the question of taxes on wages and profits in the sector. And, again, they are thinking of the broader picture. For example, they ask: “Do you think that the tax incidence of the tax will fall of the financial sector, or it will be shifted to the customers?“.
I’ve no doubt that the technical details of the consultation will mean it will pass most of us by, although we can be sure that the industry and the businesses in it will contribute their views. (On that, I wonder will the Department of Finance and the current or new Minister use the golden shares acquired as part of the bailout to make sure any Irish companies the State has rescued do not make submissions reflecting the interests of those who couldn’t run them properly, but the public which is now propping them up).
The consultation does provide us, simply as citizens, to make our views known, and I hope that both citizens and bodies like TASC, unions, the parties of the Left, and the MEPs (both ongoing and soon to be former ) make submissions. Consultations close on 19 April, and all submissions will be made public (along with the identities of those making submissions unless there is a good reason not to reveal that information — see the consultation documents for an explanation of how that operates).
Help me, peoples: collective bargaining rights February 8, 2011Posted by Tomboktu in Economics, Labour relations, Trade Unions, Workers Rights.
Somewhere recently I (think that I) read or heard that the Labour Party will make a law change to guarantee the right to collective bargaining or to union recognition part of any agreement they make for going into government. I cannot find anything on their website on this topic that is related to the current election campaign. (There is a speech Michael D Higgins made in December 2007 when they introduced a Private Members Bill to give effect to this, but that is well outside the scope of this general election.)
Does anybody here know if this is a policy they are due to announce during the campaign, or was it merely wishful thinking on my part?