Meet the new economic boss… March 5, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics.
add a comment
…same as the old boss.
The EU will confirm that, following the end of its EU-IMF bailout, Ireland is now subject to two review missions a year until 75 per cent of the State’s bailout loans are paid back – a period that could last for decades. The last ESM loan is scheduled to be repaid in 2042.
Allocating resources by lottery? Yeah, that’ll work. March 4, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, The Left.
Genuinely weird podcast ‘Life by lottery’ from 24th of February in the BBC Radio 4 Analysis series [easily accessible online] on the idea put about by some that ‘we should use lotteries’ to ‘solve some of our most difficult political dilemmas’. Not sure about that then. It seems of a piece with the way the current economic crisis has thrown up some deeply strange alternative ‘solutions’.
A more fundamental question is how random chance in relation to birth, position in social class, progress in society and in the context of economic change plays its part in shaping and remaking individuals and collectives. It seems to me that that is often completely overlooked in analyses of our society.
The attached article appears in the current issue of the Bottom Dog which is available in Connolly Books. And a very very welcome return it is for a publication that always was characterised by a serious engagement with left and workers issues. Many thanks to them for letting us run this, and do if you get the chance get an issue.
Here’s the facebook page of the revived TBD https://www.facebook.com/thebottomdog?ref=hl
By Thomas Turner and Daryl D’Art
“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.” George Orwell Animal Farm.
In the 2007 Supreme Court case of ‘Ryanair versus the Labour Court’ the Court adjudged that Ryanair regularly engaged in collective bargaining through its Employee Representation Councils which were deemed to qualify as ‘excepted bodies’. Under section 6(3)(h) of the Trade Union Act 1941 an excepted body is defined as ‘a body all the members of which are employed by the same employer and which carries on negotiations for the fixing of wages or other conditions of employment of its own members’. This clause in the 1941 Act, essentially dormant since the passing of the Act, was central to the Supreme Court judgement. The Supreme Court’s interpretation and elaboration of the term ‘excepted body’ effectively gave legal legitimacy to company or house unions. The Court’s judgement has explicitly clarified the conditions under which an ‘excepted body’ can be established and operate in a company as follows:
• An excepted body can only exist or be established at the behest of the employer
• An excepted body does not require a negotiation licence
• No application or verification procedures exist for the establishment of an excepted body
• An excepted body does not necessarily require the consent or participation of the company’s employees
• Employee withdrawal is of no consequence with regard to the continuing existence of an excepted body
• An excepted body only covers the employees and employer in a single company
• According to the Supreme Court an excepted body can carry on collective bargaining negotiations with its progenitor employer
In effect the excepted body is an indigenous version of company unionism. Disparities of power and employee dependence are endemic features of such organisations. It is little wonder that company or house unions have long been stigmatised as an unfair labour practice. In Canada and the United States employer dominated bodies or house unions have been declared illegal since 1935. Indeed, the International Labour Organisation categorises any worker’s organisation established under the control and domination of the employer as an interference with the right of freedom of association (ILO Convention 98).
Does Ryan air engage in collective bargaining? According to the Supreme Court judgement collective bargaining regularly occurred in the Employee Representative Councils. Yet Article 2 of the ILOs Convention 98 explicitly excludes the notion of employer dominated bodies or company unions being considered as mechanisms for collective bargaining. The ILO claims ‘it is now a well-established principle that the independence of trade unions is a prerequisite to effective collective bargaining’ (ILO 1960). Collective bargaining, according to the ILO cannot begin until employers recognise a union for that purpose. Consequently, whatever individual or collective negotiations might go on within an excepted body these could never be considered as collective bargaining.
However from a recent article in Industrial Relations News (IRN 37-16/10/2013) it appears that many trade union leaders are contemplating solutions to the union recognition impasse that involves a definition of collective bargaining that would grant internal employee bodies a degree of independence by setting down rules for collective bargaining entities (not necessarily trade unions) which grant them a measure of independence that accords with ILO provisions. According to the SIPTU vice president trade unions needed to find a definition of collective bargaining that does not allow for employer dominance of workplace representative bodies. This reasoning implicitly accepts some form of ‘representative bodies’ entitled to carry out collective bargaining. This is confused and unsound thinking. Only independent trade unions can engage in collective bargaining. Any diminution or dilution of this fundamental principle is contrary to the ILO. This is a line that the trade union movement crosses at their peril.
The clause that characterises company unions (excepted bodies) as interfering with the rights of freedom of association is contained in ILO Convention 98 and was formally ratified by the Irish government on the 4th of June 1955. The excepted body clause of the Trade Union Act 1941 is clearly in breach of ILO Convention 98 to which the Irish government is a signatory. The trade union movement must campaign to amend the Trade Union Act 1941 and remove any reference to an ‘excepted body’ to bring Irish law into line with ILO Conventions. Failure to do so will undermine independent trade unions and likely pave the way for company sponsored structures designed to avoid unionisation or more disturbingly replace existing independent trade unions in the workplace.
The polls? Bored now. February 25, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
1 comment so far
Well, channelling Willow Rosenberg, alternate Sunnydale Willow Rosenberg at that, what else can one say? There’s no great variation in poll numbers in the SBP poll from the weekend.
Fine Gael 29% (up 2%), Fianna Fail 22% (down 1%), Sinn Fein 16% (NC), Labour Party 11% (up 2%), Green Party 2%/Independents and Others 20% (down 3%).
While the Sunday Times/B&A poill
Fine Gael 30% (NC), Fianna Fail 19% (down 2%), Sinn Fein 18% (up 3%), Labour Party 9% (down 2%), Green Party 3%/Independents and Others 21% (NC).
Still, let’s see if we can dig down and find some interesting stuff in the small details rather than in the broad brushstrokes (and that – naturally – is hugely open to question).
Pat Leahy takes the positive view:
On those numbers, both parties are on track to lose seats in the local and European elections in May and were there to be a genial election in the enter future, they would probably fall short of a majority in the next Dáil, though not, perhaps by all that much. But three years into the government’s life, with (they hope) the worst of the economic crisis and its attendant austerity behind us, with an economic recovery beginning to assert itself, if you were in Government Buildings and looking to your prospects of forming the next government you’d think: not bad.
Perhaps, perhaps. Adrian Kavanagh offers a rather different view.
He predicts that on the SBP figures we would see:
Fianna Fail 37, Fine Gael 57, Sinn Fein 20, Labour 15, Green Party 1, Independents and Others 28.
And on the ST/B&S figures we would see:
Fianna Fail 33, Fine Gael 63, Sinn Fein 24, Labour 7, Green Party 2, Independents and Others 29.
In the new Dáil with fewer TDs reaslistically the necessary point is 80 or so. As can be seen in neither instance does the FG/LP combination come close. The best they could hope for is that somehow they might claw back recalcitrant former FG and LP TDs. But look at the names and numbers and who is going to make that journey?
Note too the variability in the polling figures. LP on 15 or LP on 7. That’s two very very different LPs that could potentially be returned. Particularly the latter with an SF on say 24. Intriguingly Independents hold up quite well in both instances. As they have so far across the last three years.
Interesting the GP begins to reassert itself. I tend to the view that on the fine detail Kavanagh’s model is probably a little out, and in fairness he makes no claims for it in that respect. But just in terms of trying to think of a constituency where a GP TD is in serious contention. I can’t for the life of me think of one. So, as always caveats abound.
Leahy doesn’t think the GSOC issue or pylons or health insurance controversies have impinged so far. Perhaps not, but there’s plenty of time for them to play out.
And I do agree with Leahy on one issue. Perhaps it’s just me, but I think there’s a sense of ‘normal’ or what passes for normal round these parts, politics beginning to reassert itself. The Shatter controversy seems to me to typify this. To some extent the discussion on marriage equality. And there are other issues. The economic has – in part – been sidelined. Of course the fundamentals remain pretty lousy and the much-vaunted recovery is chimerical at best, but the sense of free-fall, well that’s been replaced by something closer to resignation. That isn’t a small thing. It has effects, albeit some of them will be deeply unpredictable (for example, perhaps this could rebound to FF’s favour).
Indeed Leahy is cautious about the government suggesting, as has been said here too by many, that once a government appears to be losing control then everything is up for grabs. Indeed his last sentence is something to consider:
A government can survive a scandal, as long as it is generally perceived to be in control of things, and to be doing a good job. If that perception dissipates, however – and all sorts of indicators suggest that the government can’t depend on the public’s approval – the numbers may turn ugly – and suddenly.
This government is not loved. Is not much liked. And isn’t doing very much to cement itself in the affections of the public. That, I would think, spells trouble ahead.
Another week February 21, 2014Posted by doctorfive in Economy, Energy consumption.
1 comment so far
…and another trip to a European court for Ireland
For failing to up competitiveness in the electricity market.
The EU electricity Directive to increase competition was introduced in 2011. Ireland could be liable for a fine of €20,000 each day.
“Ireland has failed to take the various steps needed to introduce greater competition to the energy market,” said Peter Power of the EU office in Dublin.
“Greater competition in the energy market means better prices for consumers … the commission wants a separation of the energy production and supply activates from the networks, in order to bring other players into this market.”
Replace energy with water and skip on a few years. And while we’re here.
Must make note of this from Independent Newspapers earlier in the month
In a statement this afternoon, Mr Ogle signalled his intention to step down in the coming days.
The news will come as shock to members of the ESB unions, coming as it does just weeks after Mr Ogle successfully led a campaign to have their main pension scheme reclassified and treated as a defined benefit scheme.
But the campaign is said to have taken its toll on the Co Louth native, who was subject to much adverse media comment over the threat of power cuts in the run up to Christmas.
The reality of cuts… February 19, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
1 comment so far
The SBP this weekend had a truly awful report on how the Department of Social Protection, responsibility of leading self-described social democrat Joan Burton, has…
…has scrapped a scheme which helps people on special diets to pay their food bills.
The €11 million per year scheme was paid to people on social welfare who had been prescribed a special diet as part of their medical treatment. They were entitled to top-up payments of up to Euro 20 a week.
But Burton signed an order to bar any new applications to the diet supplement scheme from February 1. The 6,000 people currently benefiting from the scheme will still receive their payments. But if they come off social welfare and reapply at a later stage, they will not be able to get the payment again.
Who would be likely to use this scheme? Those forced to consume ‘gluten-free diets for people with coeliac disease and liquidised diets for those who were affected by strokes or throat cancer and could not swallow’.
And how did the Department come to the conclusion this was a reasonable way forward?
The diet supplement scheme has been in place since the 1990s and is based on an assumption that a person should not have to spend more than 33 per cent of the lowest weekly social welfare payment – or €62 out of €186 on food. But the INDI review showed that in the case of gluten-free and liquidised diets the cost could be as high as 40 per cent of social welfare payments.
Burton’s Department of Social Protection has justified the special diet scheme’s closure on the grounds that the INDI review found that the ”average costs of the diets across all types of shops was 33 per cent of the lowest social welfare payment.’
Perhaps I’m misinterpreting this, but surely the conclusion it was an ‘average’ figure for costs might have indicated there would be problems with the Department’s approach in all this. No? But remember, another €2.5bn to come in this years Budget.
Independent New Vision? Well, we’ll see. February 18, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
The news that yet another alliance of TDs is about to take off the training wheels and scoot out into the light of day is interesting. The question as to how effective it will be is intriguing. The suggested name…Independent New Vision… is telling. The line-up is…erm… puzzling. And not least the news that Shane Ross is part of it and that Stephen Donnelly appears to be weighing up whether to participate or not, though given how fast the news moves these days perhaps that issue is already sorted one way or another.
Of course all this may well be overstated and I’d hesitantly suggest that it is because consider Ross. Here’s a man who avoided entanglement in the Reform Alliance – despite the clear messages (some might call it love-bombing) from the latter that they regarded him as a like mind.
And frankly that might suggest that this ‘alliance’ – if he does have any connection with it whatsoever and wasn’t merely involved in early informal discussions, is going to emphasise the independent and not be too heavy on the ideology, one way or another. Granted – in relation to the RA, Ross might not have felt comfortable sharing a constituency with the one P. Mathews, though Mathews doesn’t seem likely to pose too much of a problem to anyone else running in there next time out. But that’s not the only issue. Reform has from the off felt a bit flimsy, for all the media stuff supporting it. The personalities aren’t of a type calculated to set the political world on fire, even Creighton comes over as a rather dour character at the best of times. Then there’s the obvious, bizarre, point that the differentiation between RA and FG seems so minimal as to be hardly worth mentioning. Bar abortion, and with the X Legislation kicked to touch, in a sense, for the foreseeable future, albeit with issues pertaining it to reprise over the next while, it hardly seems like an issue likely to motivate. Perhaps that penny dropped at the RDS gig.
But then Ross has been a specialist in positioning himself as somewhat to one side of Fine Gael and even the right, while obviously enough being a part of the right. And here we must consider the curious weight of the term ‘independent’ at this particular point in time. With polls indicating up to 1 in 5, perhaps even 1 in 4, voters are willing to vote for Independents that’s a lot of support to be mined out there. No wonder that the newer ‘alliance’ is talking about using ‘Independent’ in its title. From their perspective they’d be crazy not to, though the proof of the pudding will be if they actually badge their election literature with same. And by the by, note the ambition to run 30 to 40 candidates at the locals. If they too are badged as part of this alliance their fate will be watched with enormous interest by a lot of people. If they fly then much more likely is the chance that this will survive to the 2016 elections. If they don’t, well, certain lessons may be drawn from that failure.
Ross, is certainly astute enough not to tie himself to any entity that will demand too much of that which makes Ross Ross – and frankly even the mention of his name suggests that for those hoping this is the new left social democrat dawn, well, prepare to be disappointed. And that stands whether he’s there or not.
Of course it is entirely possible that this is all about harnessing that ‘independent’ element in advance of 2016 and using it to propel people back to their respective representative seats. Fair enough, but is to be after that mission is successfully accomplished that we might see something a little (or preferably a lot) more hard edged? Perhaps.
UHI and the government and how left approaches crumble… February 18, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left.
In a way the row over universal health insurance between Fine Gael and Labour, assuming it’s not purely cosmetic, appears to point up yet another problem with the approach of the LP in all matters relating to government. Simply put we know that Fine Gael favours a version of UHI that has private insurers at its heart. Labour… well, what does Labour want instead? The SBP argues that:
Fine Gael believes that though Labour is raising objections on the grounds of cost, it is also ideologically opposed to a health insurance system which would be delivered through private insurers, fearing it amounts to a significant privatisation of the health system.
Labour sources said that the Department of Public Expenditure was simply doing its job. ”This is what PER is for, said one high-ranking source.
Another source said: ”Ask the Department of Health how much this going to cost. They can’t answer. We will not sign up to anything when we cannot get an answer to that question.
Say that is correct, that the LP has an ideological aversion to private insurer led UHI, and that it is attempting to box clever by pushing this onto the terrain of ‘costs’, the problem is that from the off the LP isn’t openly articulating a vision of a non private insurer led UHI which in itself is deeply problematic (let alone any genuinely equitable alternative, such as an NHS funded out of general taxation – yes, increased general taxation at all levels). So immediately the LP vacates the ideological ground that it should be inhabiting in order to make the case for progressive alternatives to the FG proposals. And worse again it means that if FG can counter-attack on that chosen terrain of ‘costs’ then the LP has no fundamental principles guiding its objections.
One could argue that that is in essence the dynamic of the LP throughout its time in various governments, albeit with some exceptions, but it serves to demonstrate how difficult it is once one moves away from articulating a clear left line (even from the perspective of many quite a moderate left social democrat line) to actually inhabiting, let alone expanding, the political space that it should – at least nominally – be within.
Of course all the above is predicated upon the idea that there is a distinguishable distinction between LP and FG approaches. Some might think that’s quite an assumption.
The LP meets. They may be feeling good. Why? February 17, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, European Politics, Irish Politics, The Left.
1 comment so far
Was Harry McGee being mischievous at the Labour Party’s expense this weekend, was his tongue firmly planted in cheek when he wrote this column, was he, to put it bluntly, having a laugh? Because how else to interpret a piece that examined the situation of the LP as it had a one day conference which started with the idea that while last year it had a ‘miserable performance’ in the Meath East by-election and ‘a string’ of defections…
…the party seems to have recovered some of its support and – more importantly – some of those vital but hard-to-grasp qualities: morale and purpose.
It sounds good for Labour, doesn’t it? Except no particular evidence is offered to sustain this idea of increased support, or even moral and purpose, well bar Ruairi Quinn being quoted as saying that while he ‘stops short of saying the party has turned a corner’ he does however ‘accept a recovery of sorts is underway’. And… that’s that!
Has there been a new poll indicating revived fortunes for the LP? Not exactly, the Paddy Power RedC poll last month had them at 10%, down 2% on the previous one. The RedC SBP poll of the 26th of January had the LP on 9% (down 3). Sure, the SI/Millward Brown Poll from that same day had the LP up 3% on 12%. At best one could say that there’s conflicting signals – albeit tilted towards bad news for the party, more realistically that the weight of evidence suggests a weakening of the LPs position.
But mood and morale, always somewhat intangible, what evidence is there to support this good feeling?
Some of those who voted for the party in 2011 will never return because of perceptions of broken promises and failures to strike a match to thrown onto certain bonfires. That said, its successes on abortion legislation, on the promissory note (though may turn out to be less than the sum of its parts) and the exit of the Troika may have persuaded enough of its traditional supporters to return.
‘May’? Not the stuff of recoveries, that. And yet McGee argues that:
…the atmosphere at its one-day conference in Enfield, Co Meath [will be], if not buoyant, a whole lot better than last year
Yet again, where’s the evidence for same, or rather they may be in a good mood, but for what reason, because then McGee goes and spoils it all by pointing to the problems ahead.
To be sure, recovery or not, both sets of elections in May are going to be very tough nuts for the party to crack. Labour’s historic average vote is a little over 10 per cent. It did very well in 2009 getting some 15 per cent of the vote (though it fell short of its exceptional performance in 2011). However, opinion polls show that the party is struggling to get into double digits in terms of popular support.
As if that’s not bad enough, how’s this?
In the local elections in 2009, it became the biggest party in four councils, Dublin City, Fingal, Dublin South and Galway. It is very unlikely to remain as the biggest party on any of those councils and is likely to see both its percentage and seat-share slide.
He presents a ray of light, a gleam in the dark, a flicker at the end of the tunnel…
The one consolation is that with the local government reforms – and the abolition of town councils – the actual number of full local authority seats will increase.
Only to…er…extinguish it immediately.
That said, Labour will struggle to retain the seats it held and may see it slipping into third or even fourth place on those councils.
Feeling gloomy about the LP’s prospects (or elated at same if you’re antagonistic to all their pomps and works)? You should if you’re reading the rest of his analysis:
The picture for the European elections is grim. The party won three seats in 2009. Two of its MEPs subsequently stood down and the two substitute MEPs Emer Costello and Phil Prendergast, don’t enjoy the same profile. In addition, another of its elected MEPs Nessa Childers, elected in the extinct East constituency, will be standing as an independent in Dublin.
And then he bundles it together and adds in a masterpiece of understatement:
The falling support for the party, plus the slightly lower profile of its candidates, will see the party struggle to retain any of its European parliament seats. So the messages will be slightly mixed. The party is more comfortable in its own skin in Government than it was until now. Yet it knows that the elections will provide it with another uncomfortable challenge.
The message will be slightly mixed?
In fairness to McGee, the rhetoric emanating from the conference was pretty odd in its own way, try this for size from Gilmore:
“We have done it,’’ he said. “If politics is the art of the possible, then Labour is the specialist in doing the impossible and let us do it again.’’
I think I know what he’s getting at, but… I’m not sure it scans the way it was intended. Or perhaps it does – who can say?
And then there’s another curious outbreak of unwarranted confidence:
We have shown that over the past three years and I am confident we will show it again in the forthcoming local and European elections,’’ he added.
[Gilmore] said Labour in Government had prevented tougher cuts being made, even if the party had “taken political risks with the choices we have made”.
Labour had made sure a “threshold of decency” was maintained, and will continue to do so to “make sure nobody is left behind”.
One doesn’t know where to begin in deconstructing that given the measures actually implemented by this government in the past three or so years. So I’ll leave it to others.
Area ‘social democrats’ not quite getting the idea of ‘free’. February 17, 2014Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
And one very reasonable question from a delegate…
During a question and answer session, Mr White was asked by a delegate if free GP care could evolve along the same lines as free third level education only for fees to “creep back in in the future”. Registration fees have been introduced at third level and increased after a period.