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A question on Irish Trade Unions and internationalism November 28, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left, Unions.

Here’s an email asking some useful questions which people may have answers to.

I’m currently writing a paper on Irish trade unions and the role of internationalism within the movement. As far as I can see, the first organisation that ICTU joined was the ETUC. However, I’m having difficulty finding information on other unions. I’m particulary interested in SIPTU (ITGWU & FWUI), the ATGWU (Unite) and the TEEU.

Do you know of any publications that might deal with such themes?

I appreciate any help whatsoever.

If you have any suggestions please use comments below or email them at irishinternationalism@gmail.com

Austerity and human rights I May 14, 2013

Posted by Tomboktu in Austerity, Human Rights, Social Policy, Unions.

This is the first of two posts on the topic of austerity and human rights. Today I report on a recent set of five cases taken against Greece. Tomorrow, I examine the possibility of applying EU law to challenge the way in which austerity is imposed by the troika.

It would be a bit misleading to say that the Troika’s austerity packages breach human rights law. What can be said, though, is that, in five legal challenges, pension cuts in Greece imposed as part of the austerity package have been found to be in breach of European human rights law.

Three weeks ago, the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR), a less-well known sibling to the European Court of Human Rights, published its rulings in the five cases challenging cuts to pensions.

The cuts are deep and wide-ranging. They are also complex because the apply to different pension schemes and pensioners of different statuses. I will not list all of the cuts here, but the approach and severity is indicated by the following three points made by the complainant trade unions:

  • pension payments have been reduced by between 50 and 70 percent, depending on the professional category (see paragraph 57 of Decision 76/2012);
  • pensioners under 55 years old with a pension of less that €1,000 [per month] suffered a 40 percent cut (paragraph 58); and
  • auxilliary pensions have been reduced by approximately 30 percent.

The Greek government tried to argue that the cuts were necessary because of its obligations to the troika. The ECSR rejected that line of argument.

With regard to the observation made by the Government to the effect that the rights safeguarded under the 1961 Charter have been restricted pursuant to the Government’s other international obligations, namely those it has under the loan arrangement with the EU institutions and the International Monetary Fund, the Committee considers that the fact that the contested provisions of domestic law seek to fulfil the requirements of other legal obligations does not remove them from the ambit of the Charter.

The five unions that brought the complaints alleged that the cuts that had been imposed on pensioners breached the rights of the pensioners under Article 12.3 of the European Social Charter. The ECSR also mentioned that Article 12.2 was relevant to the case:

Article 12 – The right to social security
With a view to ensuring the effective exercise of the right to social security, the Contracting Parties undertake:
2. to maintain the social security system at a satisfactory level at least equal to that required for ratification of International Labour Convention No. 102 Concerning Minimum Standards of Social Security;

3.  to endeavour to raise progressively the system of social security to a higher level;

The ECSR had three grounds for finding that Greece is breaching its human rights obligations. There is lots that legal scholars could say about the three bases for the finding, but some points are worth mentioning here.

The sharpest rebuke for the Greek government is in paragraph 81 of Decision 76/2012 (and repeated in paragraph 77 of the other four Decisions):

[…] the effects of the adopted measures risk bringing about a large scale pauperisation of a significant segment of the population […]

‘Pauperisation’ is strong language for a legal body. The following may not be the language of a legal study but: the ECSR’s choice of word is a clear and vigorous attack on the Greek government’s policies.

Second, the ECSR also found that the measures

have been introduced in a manner that does not respect the legitimate expectation of pensioners that adjustments to their social security entitlements will be implemented in a manner that takes due account of their vulnerability, settled financial expectations and ultimately their right to enjoy effect[ive] access to social protection and social security

An interesting point in that text is that pensioners have expectations. They are important enough to mention twice: as “settled” and “legitimate financial”. Any cuts must take account of those expectations. If that approach is adopted by other legal bodies that interpret and apply human rights standards — such as the Court of Justice of the EU and national constitutional courts (the Supreme Court in Ireland) — then it would be a severe challenge to the zeitgeist, not just in pensions but in other economic relations too. For example, underlying thrust in current policy on pensions generally is to close defined-benefits schemes — schemes that allow expectations to which the ECSR has accorded protection — and move workers to defined contribution schemes, forcing workers to play the stock market with their savings for retirement. (And it is not just in pensions that expectations are under threat. The day after the ECSR published the five Greek decisions, the UK Chancellor was engaged in a battle with the House of Lords on legislation which would see worker’s employment rights reduced in exchange for shares — and the financial risks that go with that — in the companies they work for.)

Third, the ECSR found that the Greek Government

has not conducted the minimum level of research and analysis into the effects of such far-reaching measures that is necessary to assess in a meaningful manner their full impact on vulnerable groups in society. Neither has it discussed the available studies with the organisations concerned, despite the fact that they represent the interests of many of the groups most affected by the measures at issue

If the Greek government did not have access to research and analysis, then it is reasonable to assume that the troika did not have such research and analysis either, a point I return to in tomorrow’s post. It is a basic point about making any policy: knowing what the effect will be. This third finding also has a second point: the lack of discussion with the organisations concerned. This is in keeping a little-studied strand in the ECSR’s case-law, which it has mainly developed under Article 30 of the Revised European Social Charter, which concern the right to protection against poverty and social exclusion.

All of that prompts the question: what practical importance does this have? I do not know the standing of ECSR decisions in Greek domestic law, so I do not know what effect the decisions will have on the behaviour of the Greek government. I can say that if these had been Irish cases, the rulings would have meant little: although the decisions of the ECSR are binding on the State, in Ireland they have no legal effect in the State. That is, they do not change internal law and the Irish courts would not be bound by them if the citizens tried to use ECSR decisions to force the government to change its course. (The exceptions to this general rule are EU law and rulings and judgments of the European Court of Human Rights when they do not conflict with the Constitution.) In fact, under Article 45 of the Constitution, the Irish courts are prohibited from adjudicating on social policy. (Another possibility, which I do not know enough about, it that the right to private property in Article 43 might be used to fight a cut to a pension.) And there is little evidence — none that I know of — that the State changes its policy to comply with obligations under ECSR case-law. (A few months ago I was at a book launch where I met a senior civil servant who has responsibility for policy on a particular area covered by one aspect of ECSR law. Over the nibbles, I mentioned a ruling that affected Ireland. The civil servant said that when he first saw a note on the ruling circulated in his department, he was concerned, but he stopped worrying when he realised it was from the ECSR, and not the EU Court of Justice: “Strasbourg can’t fine us”.)

A final point is that the rulings of the ECSR do not apply to the EU and its institutions (or to EU member states by virtue of their membership of the EU). The role of the EU is important, because two parts of the troika — the European Commission and the ECB — are EU institutions. The question of how they might be brought to account is explored tomorrow.

Join the March on Saturday next, Feb 9,—even if you have no confidence in union leaders—then keep the movement going if/when ICTU leaders retreat! February 5, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics, The Left, Unions.

From Paddy Healy, Convener National Public Service Alliance

Click Here for details for your region

Garda, Nursing Unions Mount Pressure on Government, IMPACT mounts pressure on Members, Education Unions Hide in the bushes!
Demand that your union Withdraws from the Reduced Pay Talks NOW!!
A report in Irish Times to-day on developments surrounding the reduced pay talks can be found by clicking here.

An update on the talks from the WEBSITE of the Trade Union IMPACT can also be found by clicking here.

Following the withdrawal of the AGSI from the Reduced Pay Talks, the Garda Representative Association representing rank and file gardaí have now also withdrawn. Speaking on RTE this morning, the President of GRA said the association would consider a work-to-rule if their members pay was cut. He added that cuts to pay and allowances would breach the existing Croke Park Deal and that accordingly the prohibition of industrial action in the DEAL would fall also.
The nursing union INMO meets to-day to consider developments in the talks. A statement from the union said they would use all means at their disposal to resist reductions in any aspect of members pay.

On the other hand, the IMPACT Update repeats government threats and even threats “by influential elements in the political world” to members pay and conditions: “Management has already said that, in the absence of an agreed extension to the Croke Park deal, it will seek to impose payroll savings of “at least” €1 billion. It is also clear that influential elements in the political world would seek to impose other unpalatable changes in the absence of an agreement. Public statements by ministers have, among other things, called for the introduction of compulsory redundancies and the freezing, or even abolition, of increments.”

There is no mention of any proposed action by the union to defend members against such attacks. The UPDATE effectively says that the union has no choice but to accept increased working hours though an increase of 5 hours per week is unacceptable.

It should be recalled that Minister for Finance, Michael Noonan, has admitted in reply to a parliamentary question that the top 10,000 personal income recipients earned on average 595,000EURO each per year.

The government didn’t impose a penny extra in taxes on the top 10,000 in the budget. Yet it is demanding that public servants concede a billion in pay cuts!!

Unions should end their shameful participation in these talks immediately.

“Reports from the coalfront” January 2, 2012

Posted 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.







Still More Reasons to Despise Danny Alexander and the Lib Dems November 7, 2011

Posted by Garibaldy in British Politics, Unions.

On November 30th, the UK will witness a massive wave of strikes, the biggest in decades. In case you are unfamiliar with him, Danny Alexander is the Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and sometime “ginger rodent”. He is often wheeled out on UK television to justify whatever egregious piece of anti-people nonsense is in the headlines that involves finance. And so the fact he was on the Andrew Marr show this morning was entirely predictable. What he had to say was slightly less so, but was more proof, as if it were needed, that the Lib Dems are overwhelmingly sham progressives, tories in yellow skirts. Here we go

“The most important people here are not the trade union leaders. They’re the individuals nurses, teachers and civil servants,” he said.

“This week, and over the next couple of weeks, we will be communicating directly to 2.5m public servants across this country to explain to them what it is the government is offering.

“In those people’s hands is the decision about whether or not to go on strike. In those people’s hands is the influence on the unions.”

Asked whether he was, in effect, going over the heads of union leaders, Mr Alexander replied: “I think most of the unions, the moderate unions, want to reach an agreement, but there are some who seem desperate, hell-bent if you like, on strike action.

“What we need to make sure is that the interests of public servants are not set aside in the interests of trade union leaders who want to go on strike.

Ah of course. The evil and unrepresentative trade union leaders holding back the poor workers who want their pay, conditions and pensions slashed. I could swear I’ve heard this sort of thing before. And it was rubbish then, and rubbish now. Just like the idea that Clegg’s Lib Dems were any going to behave any differently in government than they have done. There are two real questions regarding the Lib Dems and the next election. How many seats will they lose? And will their voters move to Labour or the Tories? The outcome of the next election may well depend upon it. Whatever way it goes, let’s hope Alexander is left out of a job anyway.

Could we learn from the liberal agenda? October 10, 2011

Posted by Tomboktu in Economics, Feminism, Social Democracy, Social Policy, The Left, Unions, Workers Rights.

The liberal agenda has been very successful in Ireland over the last forty or fifty years. Headline issues include securing the availability of contraception, access to abortion, the right to divorce, decriminalising homosexuality, and lifting the ban on same-sex marriage. Other items on the agenda would include equal pay for men and women, the criminalisation of rape within marriage, abolishing illegitimacy, Garda practices concerning rape victims, the right of a married woman to have her own legal domicile, Garda procedures in cases of domestic violence, sex education in schools, and (more recently) gender recognition for trans people.

Not all of those goals have been achieved, but given the progress that has been achieved, it is worth asking if the Left in Ireland today could use the same strategies.

The first thing to notice is that the list is a list: a set of individual items. A source of motivation might have been the overarching concepts of “women’s lib” or “gay rights”, but progress was not made by simply demanding that women be liberated or gay people be given rights. Instead, the overarching goal was broken down into distinct objectives.

What would be on a similar list for the Left in Ireland? A first draft of such a list in three areas might include the following.

Wages and incomes

  • the minimum wage tied to the average executive salary
  • replacing (most) social welfare benefits with a universal basic income

Corporate governance

  • worker directors in all firms with more than 25 employees (as is the case in Sweden)
  • half the board of large firms to be worker directors (as is the case in Germany)
  • executive pay subject to annual approval by the employees
  • tax incentives for co-ops over other firms (as is the case in Italy, although it is abused through firms registering as a co-op but not operating internally as one)

Housing and accommodation

  • rent increases in all accommodation tied to inflation, not “market” prices (as was — and may still be — the case in Denmark)
  • 12 months’ notice required to end all private tenancies that were not originally established (and proven to be) bona fide short-term rents (in the case, for example, of students) (also from Denmark)
  • obligatory requirement on landlords to prove eviction is for serious breach or for them to move back into the property as their primary residence and to prove that rent will not be increased in the case of a new tenancy (also from Denmark)
  • requiring all mortgages to for primary residences be at fixed rates of interest (I don’t know if it is the law, but it I believe it is standard practice in Germany)

To be clear, this is not a definitive statement of the Left’s agenda. There are key items missing from it, and some on the Left would probably object to the inclusion of some items. However, a lot could be gained by identifying a set of key concrete changes and making each of those the focus of a campaign.

That does not mean achieving change would be easy. The experience of the liberal agendas was that the arguments on the issues were explained, criticised, defended, argued, and then explained all over again, on TV, in policy reports, on radio, to the Supreme Court, before the European Court of Justice, at the European Court of Human Rights, to TDs, in submissions to the Law Reform Commission, on street protests, at photo-opportunities — and once even with a famous train journey to Belfast — and back again through many of those activities, over months that turned into years, that turned into decades.

Of course, the idea that the Left could use this approach isn’t novel: I recall taking my now 20-something nephew when he was about eight or nine on a protest calling for the introduction of a legal minimum wage, organised by the Dublin Council of Trade Unions and held outside low-pay fast-food outlets in Dublin’s O’Connell Street. (I wasn’t a particularly good political educator: when the protest finished, he asked if we could go into one of the outlets to get a burger.)

If a core set of specific and concrete objectives is identified, how would the work of achieving those items be organised? A second characteristic of the liberal agenda was that separate organisations were formed to work on most of the key issues: the Divorce Action Group, the Irish Family Planning Association, the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, the Rape Crisis Centres, Woman’s Aid, Marriage Equality, Transgender Equality Network Ireland.

That approach might not be adapted as easily for the Left’s agenda. There already exist organisations that are (or are supposed to be) working to achieve the objectives that would be in the list — the unions and the parties of the Left. Further, the prospect of a range of new single-issue organisations raises many questions: would it take activists and workers away from the existing organisations. Rivalries between parties and organisations mean that efforts to set up stand-alone campaigns would — in fact, already have — been viewed with suspicion: is that really a campaign about topic x or a front to recruit support for a party or a candidate at the next local elections? On the other hand, disagreements on strategy, ideology — and even rivalries based purely on personality and working styles — existed (and still exist) between activists in the liberal agenda, so that is not a reason to eschew the use of separate organisations for individual goals.

Adopting an approach that looks to non-party and non-union organisations to lead different campaigns for issues of concern to the Left could simultaneously be both a risk and a benefit. The core of that dilemma is that it could create the impression for some people that at their core these are not political issues. One the one hand, de-linking them from the identity of the Left could make them more attractive to people who are uncomfortable with that label. It might create the possibility of sufficient support for many of the issues, but do that by drawing different sets of people who have differing views or levels of comfort with different issues: not all supporters of linking minimum wages to executive salaries, for example, might be happy with an automatic right to worker directors in all firms, just as not all supporters of lifting the ban on divorce were necessarily comfortable with decriminalising homosexuality. However, that ‘depoliticisation’ is deeply unattractive precisely because it is false. And, to boot, it is the strategy that the Right has used to pursue the changes that is has lobbied for, not just domestically and at the level of the EU, but globally through GATT and the WTO. Just now in the USA, Spain and Greece — but less so here, I think — there has been a change, with growing popular acceptance that the ‘free’ market approach is not ‘natural’, is political.

It would stick in my craw to adopt IBEC’s strategy, but if that is what it takes to make progress in Ireland, then maybe it’s what has to be done.

“Cutting Our Pay Will Not Create Jobs” …. June 27, 2011

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Economy, Unions.

Good to see the ICTUs Better Fairer Way campaign having an ad in today’s paper.
The message being “Cutting Our Pay Will Not Create Jobs” and that workers on low wages are already suffering.
It is a pity that ads such as these have to be taken out to combat ISME, IBEC and their media and political cheerleaders.

I think the attempt to change the JLCs has inadvertently publicised the increasingly tough position low paid workers are in. I’ve yet to meet anyone who believes that reduction of the minimum wage or the JLC rates will create new jobs.

IMPACT Channel October 27, 2009

Posted by Tomboktu in Education, Health, Internet, Ireland, Irish Politics, Justice, Labour relations, Social Policy, Society, Trade Unions, Uncategorized, Unions.

I thought regulars (and, indeed, visitors) in the Cedar Lounge Revolution might be interested in the IMPACT channel at Youtube.

At the moment it contains four films: Labels, The Nerve, They’re Everywhere and Monster.

The first two are straightforward.

Which of your wasteful public services would you cut?:

A concerned mother shares her son’s experience with his public servant speech therapist:

The second two engage in parody.

News ‘report’ on public servants:

A backroom Irish public servant comes clean:

This I like… Some clever tactical thinking down at SIPTU regarding national pay deals. August 9, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Unions.

Don’t know what they’re on down at SIPTU but heartening to see that they’re working to a Plan B in relation to the national pay deal. An unusually strong stance by the unions at the negotiations between ICTU and IBEC on said deal led to an unusually strong outcome…

PRIVATE SECTOR trade unions have said they are working on the assumption they are no longer involved in a process to negotiate a new national pay deal and will now begin lodging wage claims with individual companies.

Nor were they shy about pointing the finger of blame….

Mr Shanahan [ICTU chairman of the private sector committee] said the Government had also contributed to the breakdown in the pay talks. He said it had not brought forward measures sought by the unions on collective bargaining, agency workers and pensions: “If they had made substantial proposals in those areas, it would have coloured the thinking of unions on the pay side.”

Mr Shanahan said that, following the breakdown of the national talks, unions had been waiting for the committee to produce guidelines on lodging claims.

And lo, they have.

Mr Shanahan said the pay deals for many thousands of workers had either expired or would run out over the coming weeks and months. “Workers expect us to lodge claims. Inflation has not stopped, price rises have not stopped,” he said.

Now for those of us who work(ed) in the private sector it has been long apparent that national pay deals have been so ring-fenced by opt-outs and such like that the fulfillment of claims by employers has – for a significant portion of those within that sector – been largely notional. So to hear that ICTU (and by extension SIPTU) are pushing for wage claims in a much more aggressive fashion is heartening. Nor is this strategy without nuance, as indicated by the fact that…

Under the guidelines, unions are to seek flat-rate increases of €30 per week for low-paid workers and rises that match inflation – about 5 per cent – for those above this threshold. Unions will look for further rises in profitable companies.

Mr Shanahan said members and their representatives would decide which companies could pay increases and what alternative strategies had to be adopted in cases where the firm was facing difficulties or job security issues. “At the end of the day, responsibility will rest with the members. They will make the final decisions,” he said.

But better again has been a rabbit pulled from the SIPTU hat that underscores what is possible, and how a constructive but forceful approach can work.

Siptu announced today it had agreed a 3 per cent pay rise for workers in the motor industry.

In a statement, the country’s largest union said it had secured the increase for up to 5,000 workers in the motor trade to cover the eight months from May 1st to the end of the year.

And crucially this reflects back on the failed national pay deals in two stark ways. Firstly it indicates that unions can bargain with employers and make significant gains and in such a way as to belie the sort of language that sees such deals as indicative of some sort of national catastrophe. And while most of us (I hope) take a different view from the latter it is strikingly difficult to persuade many workers of their interests in union activities. Indeed as it happens I was talking to someone this week who while in a workplace situation that was characterised by a near de facto constructive dismissal was afraid that by raising any sort of criticism or taking it to a union that would somehow mark out this individuals future career.

That mindset is one that a broader discourse in the media and in the society generally seeks to utilise to suppress union activism and membership.

Or as SIPTU President Jack O’Connor put it:

The SIMI agreement is important because it provides an example of what can be achieved with reasonably minded employers. It also shows that local bargaining is already beginning to work.

And as importantly points up a further aspect of the pay deals as noted by SIPTU:

“The fact that a major group of employers such as SIMI was prepared to agree such terms suggests that the Ibec agenda in the talks was driven by a hard line minority determined to use adverse economic conditions to put the boot into the most vulnerable sectors of the workforce.”

Hard to disagree. Or with the proposition that:

“It [the agreement] also underlines how unrealistic were the terms proposed by Ibec last week, which involved pay pauses ranging from six to 12 months, followed by increases worth 2.5 per cent – or nothing at all if employers were feeling pessimistic about the future.”

In a context where the graphs have had a generally upward trajectory for over a decade it is remarkable how this – relatively slight – blip in that trajectory is being used by employers (and to note the cognitive dissonance of a media unable to decide whether we’re really really in a recession which – if true – spells the end of their pretensions as regards their ‘commercial’ and ‘domestic’ property supplements or their lifestyle sections and the impulse on their part to give in to their faux-puritanical mode, mentioned the other day, and give a good kicking to workers for daring to y’know, consume) to shout ‘catastrophe’. This is a time of significant danger for workers, and as someone who eschews hyperbole in all matters I don’t use that term lightly. The possibilities that our new(ish) government, unused intellectually and practically to the deals necessary between unions and state to keep the road on the show, may make a massive misjudgement are considerable, weakening the position of workers.

Still, IBEC ever quick to sneer, responded with:

Ibec director of industrial relations Brendan McGinty challenged Siptu’s portrayal of the “new” deal.

“This deal was reported as far back at May 29th. There is nothing new in this,” he said. “To represent it as a breakthrough in the context of a reversion to local bargaining is misleading.

“To represent this as some kind of achievement in the wake of the collapse of the national pay talks is untrue.”

Which is interesting because it wasn’t reported in the Irish Times in May. And a quick Google doesn’t show any place where it was reported.

And to support the broader thesis an interesting snippet in this weeks Phoenix noted that the situation under Cowen has changed.

ICTU head David Begg is the most unlikely militant and he made it clear both during and after the talks that he would have accepted less than the 5% inflation rate as an agree wage rise… the 2.8% offered by employers was regarded as derisory but somewhere in between cuold have been agreed if some other non-pay element was introduced. Hints from the unions about last year’s Supreme Court ruling that denied negotiating rights to non-unionised workers were either ignored or dismissed.

And interestingly: … this is an are that Bertie would undoubtedly have pursued had he been in situ.

And the perception of the unions is that this is a legacy of the Harney reign at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment where government and civil servants ‘have set their faces against any further reform of industrial relations legislation [to the benefit of workers]’. And problematically, ‘the country solicitor Cowen’ has no instinctive understanding of the area.
Good to see the unions for once running rings around both government and IBEC.

‘Campaign for a Decent Public Health Service’ – DCTU/ICTU Public Meeting… 11th February 2008 Liberty Hall February 1, 2008

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Trade Unions, Unions.
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The Dublin Council of Trade Unions, in conjunction with the Youth Committee of the ICTU and in co-operation with the Health trade unions, wishes to inaugurate a ‘Campaign for a Decent Public Health Service’.

The Campaign hopes to bring together those who work in the Health Service and their trade unions, with patients’ advocates, Health and Hospital campaigners, concerned Health professionals, community and voluntary organisations, the trade union movement in general and the general public to demand a civilised Health Service.

We hope to open with a large Public Meeting on 11th February:


Public Meeting

6.00 p.m.
Monday 11th February 2008
Liberty Hall, Dublin 1.

Janette Byrne, Patients Together
Conor MacLiam, husband of Susie Long
Dr. Christine O’Malley, Former President IMO
Liam Doran, General Secretary, Irish Nurses Organisation
Kevin Callinan, National Secretary, IMPACT
Louise O’Reilly, National Nursing Official, SIPTU

Come along and help launch a campaign for a civilised Health Service
There will be time for discussion (in short contributions) from the floor
The political parties will be invited.

Note the early starting time (6.00 p.m.). Be there and still be home for the 9 O’Clock News.

And here is a graphic for use to publicise it…

This was forwarded by Des Derwin on behalf of the campaign…

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