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Women employees ‘accepting’ less remuneration than men for the same roles? April 15, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Feminism, Gender Issues, Workers Rights.
4 comments

Ignore the fluff in much of this report and check this out, from the Irish Times, in relation to a Employment Market Monitor from CPl.

The survey also found that 40 per cent of employers said that women generally accept less remuneration than men for equal roles, particularly in the tech sector, while the monitor points to a strong first quarter for job listings, with the level of jobs posted in the science, engineering & supply chain segment showing the strongest growth since early 2013.

What, one wonders, is the definition of ‘accept’ used in that statement?

Employment Tribunal costs in the UK: Removing agency from workers… March 18, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Workers Rights.
1 comment so far

For a taste of how the implementation of systems can constrain supposedly progressive options, look no further than this example from UK’s Socialist Unity where Andy Newman writes about how the Employment Tribunal there has new fees.

Charging £250 to issue a claim and between £960 and £1,060 for a hearing has priced workers out of tribunals since 29th July last year.

It’s not difficult to imagine the chill factor that has on workers who seek to go through the mechanism of the ET. Indeed we don’t even have to imagine it for the figures on the October to December 2013 period are already in.

New figures from the government show that for employment tribunals the number of claims received in October to December 2013 was 9,801 – 79% fewer than in the same period of 2012, and 75% fewer than last quarter. Justice Minister Shailesh Vara claims that this sudden and dramatic fall is due to “long term trends”

How those on low and very low wages (or indeed many on quite reasonable wages) or short or fixed term contracts are meant to contest a system which incorporates such costs is almost impossible to understand. I’ve seen first hand the barriers that faced workers in some employments even attempting to see that national wage agreements and other agreements were implemented, saw how difficult it was for them to unionise, saw the psychological and other hurdles that had to be overcome in order to do so. And this throws another – and very material – barrier across their path.

As Andy Newman reports the GMB spokesperson saying the idea that’s some sort of structural decline is laughable. But this offers a perfect example of how progressive legislation fought and won for across years can be rolled back in the blink of an eye. Some interesting points raised in comments below the original piece on SU, not least that this offers a ‘green light’ to employers that the broader context has changed in their favour.

And another point reiterated is that, as ever, part of the answer to this is that people unionise so that their rights can be supported and vindicated as best as is possible given these constraints.

A brave new world of working… March 12, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Workers Rights.
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is the thought that comes to mind reading this. But as anyone following this last year will know approaches to workers in parts of IT are… telling.

Would you want to set up FairPhone? January 14, 2014

Posted by Tomboktu in Choice, Community, Employment Rights, Environment, Ethics, FairPhone, Human Rights, Technology, Workers Rights.
5 comments

Who in their right mind would want to set up FairPhone? Obviously you can check out their site to find out who actually did set it up as a Dutch social enterprise, but would you want to?

Park, for a moment, the ‘fair’ bit and think about what is involved setting up a company to make a new smartphone. Smartphones are complex products, with chips, capacitors, resistors, glass, sensors, casings, displays, batteries, cameras, speakers, antennae, sockets and other bits and pieces that I don’t know about. And you’d need software. You would also need to design all of this, or get people to do that for you, and to set up or find a factory to make it.

If you did do it, you would be going into a market with big brands like Samsung, iPhone, Sony, Nokia, HTC, and so on, so you would need a pretty strong selling point to attract customers from the products offered by those heavy-hitters.
(more…)

And talking about the Dáil… July 17, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Feminism, Irish Politics, Workers Rights.
1 comment so far

Martha Kearns has a pretty good piece in the SBP on the dispiriting and dismal scenes involving Fine Gael TD Tom Barry last week. Until the point where it isn’t.

But let’s note the good stuff first.

I don’t think anyone would disagree with the fact that there was no malice intended. But what the actions – which quickly spread across the internet in the form of a 14-second-long video clip – showed were disrespect, misogyny, inappropriateness, childishness. – and, of course, a total lack of awareness of how to properly behave in a workplace, let alone in the country’s chamber of political power.

And she continues:

If any other woman was subjected to this level of mishandling while she was trying to carry out her work, sanctions would already have been taken against the man involved. And she would have a case filed with the Equality Tribunal before she left the office that day.

I’m a bit less sanguine than she that ‘any other woman’ would be able to get to the ET, perhaps most or many, but I would think, and this is drawn from my own experience, that some workplaces are deeply misogynistic and sexist to the point where people are too intimidated to complain. Still, not difficult to believe that she is correct in relation to the following, that because of the context it was smoothed over…

But this is politics. To be more specific, this is Irish politics. Sure, it’s all a bit of a laugh and why don’t ye wimmin just calm down and see the funny side of it.

And:

Whatever the intentions behind Barry’s behaviour, it raises further questions about the establishment’s ongoing plan to attract women into the political arena. Out of the 166 Dáil seats, just 25 (or 15 per cent) are held by women. This is behind the world average of 19.5 per cent and the European Union average of 24 per cent. Ireland lies in 76th position in a world table of women’s political representation in parliament.
And also she continues that the structural aspects are such that they are deeply problematic for any woman with a young family lot thinking of having children. Of course this is true of a broader swathe of the working environment too, and it is indicative of just how working lives are, of necessity, fitted around commercial and work demands and to the detriment of personal and familial issues.

As it happens Gerry Adams was one of the few to bring that up in the actual debate, particularly when it came to the absurdity of the late night/early morning sitting. Because, of course, it wasn’t just the TDs but the workers in the Oireachtas, many of who found themselves forced to remain there because the representatives couldn’t organise their time more efficiently and more appropriately. Something to consider in light of all the rhetoric about that sitting.

Still, got to admit that for all that it is good to see the ‘m’ word in use, I found the following a bit irritating:

The latest antics in the Dáil are hardly going to have young, professional women banging down the doors at Leinster House.

Professional women? Surely any women?

Meanwhile, speaking of class… back in the UK, and no doubt appearing here soon… July 12, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, Workers Rights.
7 comments

A number of deeply thought-provoking pieces by Will Hutton in the Observer these last few weekends. He notes in passing that the current crisis has meant for the UK that…

By 2018, 10 years after the financial crisis began, our GDP will be, cumulatively, 16% lower than it would have been had the crisis not broken. Only war has provoked such a discontinuity in our growth performance in modern times. This is imposing incredible and growing hardship on everybody, except for a few. Average incomes have fallen by 7% from their peak. You can see the effects in any high street. It’s a world where good jobs are scarce, half a million rely on food banks, zero-hour contracts mushroom and the future is dark.

A single sentence, and it covers so much. Food banks. Zero-hour contracts. Unemployment. A close relative of mine is on one in the UK. Listening to the way in which it is used to atomise workers is something else. Understanding the demoralisation and fear of workers in the face of such measures and the very immediate background of large scale unemployment goes more than some way to understand the limited nature of resistance to them.

And as CMK noted on the CLR recently, this is the future, slowly, piecemeal, such measures expand as the crisis continues and as the orthodoxy seeks ever more to consolidate whatever the nature of the outcomes in the broader socio-economic context. This again is why the pleas that ‘austerity’ etcetera is value neutral, from Dan O’Brien and others are so unconvincing. There are political formations structured precisely to ensure the delivery of a more ‘flexible’ work force and environment, for which read a diminution of workers rights and terms and conditions. And as with the recent set back in relation to JLC’s, REA’s et al, this is a process which continues apace.

Still Hutton does a further service in his piece by noting the following the weekend before last. Talking about the latest changes in welfare provision in the UK he notes:

There will now be a seven-day wait for the jobseeker’s allowance. “Those first few days should be spent looking for work, not looking to sign on,” he intoned. “We’re doing these things because we know they help people stay off benefits and help those on benefits get into work faster.” Help? Really? On first hearing, this was the socially concerned chancellor, trying to change lives for the better, complete with “reforms” to an obviously indulgent system that demands too little effort from the newly unemployed to find work, and subsidises laziness. What motivated him, we were to understand, was his zeal for “fundamental fairness” – protecting the taxpayer, controlling spending and ensuring that only the most deserving claimants received their benefits.

But as Hutton says:

Osborne has taken the Orwellian misuse of language to new levels. Losing a job is traumatising: you don’t skip down to the jobcentre with a song in your heart, delighted at the prospect of doubling your income from the munificent state. It is financially terrifying, psychologically mortifying and you know that support is minimal and extraordinarily hard to get. You are now not wanted; you are now excluded from the work milieu that offers purpose and structure in your life, along with the company of others. Worse, the crucial income to feed yourself and your family and pay the bills has disappeared. Of course you want to find a job as fast as you can. The sooner the whole experience is behind you the better. Ask anyone newly unemployed what they want and the answer is always: a job.

This is something that is under considered to a remarkable degree in the public debates about welfare. Consider our own situation during the 2000s where we had, using the economic definition, close enough to ‘full employment’. And now, of course we have nothing at all like it. In other words the overwhelming majority of those willing to work worked when work was available.

And that’s the key. When work is available. When it isn’t, quite naturally one has unemployment figures, as we do tipping 13 percent. Moreover there is demonstrably a willingness to work.

And the other aspect of this is that unemployment if a dismal place to be. I’ve mentioned before that I was made redundant in 2004 and signed on for a period of time. It wasn’t the first time, but it was in a way psychologically… well yes, as Hutton says, mortifying, particularly because it was in a boom. And his point about networks suddenly being cut away is well made.

Hutton points to a new brutality in British politics but it is of course more widespread. And as he also notes, there’s a remarkable amnesia, particularly in the British context:

But in Osborneland, your first instinct is to flop into dependency – permanent dependency if you can get it – supported by a state only too ready to indulge your mendacity. It is as though 20 years of ever-tougher reforms of the job search and benefit administration system never happened.

But consider all that in relation to his earlier thoughts about zero-hour contracts, food banks and unemployment, and one can see that this is a broad based, systemic assault on the conditions of those both in and out of work.

And a final thought in this regard. Where are we, in Ireland? Well from his piece two weekends ago Hutton writes:

…on Wednesday, George Osborne will proudly tell Parliament that the government has found the spending cuts to keep the country on course for the biggest shrinkage of the state ever overseen by any large industrialised country over eight years. Indeed, as debate rages worldwide over the rights and wrongs of austerity in the wake of the financial crisis, the IMF’s Fiscal Adjustment in an Uncertain World (April 2013, Methodological Appendix, Table 3) shows that only three other countries – Iceland, Ireland and Greece – are mounting public spending cuts that are proportionately larger over the same period. No large country in the eurozone is being asked to deliver spending austerity on this scale.

Hutton argues:

…on top, inflation of 3% or 4% would not be the end of the world. No sane policy-maker would make deficit reduction the sole aim of economic policy, or indiscriminate spending cuts the chief means of achieving it, whatever the economic conditions – more so given the soundness of the overall fiscal position. This is insanity.

Excise the ‘soundness of overall fiscal position’ (which is a reference to the UK) and the import of that paragraph remains. Yet that is precisely the aim of economic policy in this state. That truly is insanity.

Work life balance… sort of… May 19, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Workers Rights.
10 comments

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.

Entertainingly:

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?

It’d make you sick… February 12, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Social Policy, Workers Rights.
16 comments

From Slate, a map of states internationally that don’t require paid sick leave (this is on foot of extended sickness, not a few days – though the article doesn’t clarify that).

Amazing in its own way.

Reading the comments below the piece is kind of grim when one reads about people with one weeks vacation per annum, no holiday days and no sick days.

Or how about ‘paid maternity leave’… As one commentor noted for ‘none at all’, Swaziland, Papau New Guinea, Liberia and the USof A.

Put aside, for a second, the human misery involved. The obvious economic issue to me would be the problem of people arriving to work too ill to complete their tasks and infecting those around them.

Depressing and an indication of just how little a society will do in regard of basic workers rights when there’s no pressure to do anything. We discuss the end of the left a fair old bit for obvious reasons, but without sustained pressure rights can be overlooked, dismissed or removed. Or never exist in the first place.

Ireland breaches European human rights laws on workers rights January 30, 2013

Posted by Tomboktu in Employment Rights, Human Rights, Workers Rights.
10 comments

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 reminder of social democracy’s ambitions in times gone by. January 9, 2013

Posted by Tomboktu in British Labour Party, Capitalism, Social Democracy, Workers Rights.
6 comments

Earlier this week I started reading Capitalism Unleashed: Finance, Globalization and Welfare by Andrew Glyn (Oxford University Press, 2006). I’m not in far enough to offer any thoughts on the book as a whole, but there is a passage at the end of Chapter 1 that shows just how limited the ambition of current social democratic parties is.

On top of the seemingly inexorable rise in government spending came proposals from the Labour movement to restrict the prerogatives of capital within its own sphere — private business. A range of plans emerged in the later 1960s and 1970s going well beyond the customary collective bargaining issues of jobs and working conditions. To give a flavour of what was involved a brief discussion follows of German co-determination, Swedish wage-earner funds, the British Labour Party’s ideas for planning agreements and finally the French Socialist government’s plans for extensive nationalization in the early 1980s.

In Germany workers had achieved a system of co-determination in the early 1950s with equal representation of employees and shareholders on boards of iron and steel companies. They secured lesser representation within other companies but had the right to appoint the labour director responsible for personnel affairs. In the 1970s there was strong pressure to increase co-determination rights, which resulted in an extension to cover employment contracts and training, and in 1976 the proportion of worker representatives was increased from one-third to a half for larger companies (though with a shareholder-appointed chair having a casting vote). These extensions were strongly resisted by employers, politically and in the courts. German co-determination may have had fairly modest effects on managerial freedom, but a comment in 1984 by a prominent American economist, Armen Alchian, shows how it was viewed by advocates of shareholder sovereignty: ‘The campaign for … codetermination on boards of directors appears to be attempts to control the wealth of shareholders’ specialised assets … a wealth confiscation scheme’. (more…)

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