09/18/2018 Comments are off Patrick Cole

SIPTU says significant progress made in negotiations on pay justice for Section 39 workers

SIPTU representatives have said that significant progress has been made in negotiations today (Tuesday, 18th September) with officials from the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the Department of Health to resolve a pay dispute for members working in Section 39 organisations.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “The engagement today was challenging but extremely productive. The principle of pay restoration was accepted by the Government side. The parties have now adjourned until Tuesday, 2nd October to consider a number of matters including a timetable and process for pay restoration over an agreed period of time and how the mechanics of pay restoration will be implemented. These talks were convened to bring about a resolution to the national dispute concerning pay justice for Section 39 workers and we are confident that we have made significant progress.”

He added: “What has emerged from these negotiations today is that there is an opportunity to provide a clear roadmap for Section 39 organisation workers to have their pay restored in a manner which corresponds to their counterparts directly employed by the HSE.”

09/16/2018 Comments are off Patrick Cole

A New Ambition, New Direction for Health

Next month, SIPTU Health Division activists will debate several key motions at its Biennial Delegate Conference (BDC) in Pairc Ui Chaoimh, Cork that call for a new direction on how public health services are delivered.

Right alongside housing and precarious work, the funding of our health service is the number one concern for SIPTU members.

Over the last number of months, we have seen the tragic consequences the outsourcing of vital work has had on our health services and the chances of low paid health workers owning a home become a pipedream.

SIPTU Health Divisional Organiser, Paul Bell says that SIPTU members will have an opportunity to discuss and debate motions on how health workers can be more ambitious when it comes to campaigning to address these vital issues.

Minister for Disabilities, Finian McGrath, broadcaster and journalist, James Bloodworth whose book “Hired” delves into the ever-expanding growth of precarious work and CervicalCheck campaigner Vicky Phelan are among the several high profile speakers who will address the conference.

An exclusive interview with James Bloodworth will be premiered on Sunday 30th September.

09/14/2018 Comments are off Patrick Cole

SIPTU defer Section 39 strike action following intervention from Minister for Health

SIPTU Health representatives, as affiliates to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, have this afternoon (Friday, 14th September) agreed to accept an invitation from the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) scheduled for Tuesday 18th September.

The move is in response to an understanding that the Department of Health and Health Service Executive have a position to communicate which may resolve the pay justice claim of Section 39 workers.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “In response to the intervention from the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, today and at the request of the WRC, SIPTU representatives have agreed to defer strike action scheduled for Tuesday 18th September. It is through the commitment and collective efforts of our shop stewards and members that this crucial position has been reached.”

He added: “The decision taken by our representatives to defer strike action was not taken lightly and is down to the efforts of the WRC, ICTU and our members’ determination to win pay justice without impacting on the clients they care for. The strike action is temporarily deferred and not cancelled. Should the engagement at the WRC not be successful, we will reactivate the strike notice with immediate effect.”

SIPTU will not allow Section 39 workers battle to pay justice to be ignored

SIPTU representatives have today (Friday, 14th September) confirmed that thousands of Section 39 health and social care workers will participate in a one day national strike next Tuesday (18th September) to highlight their claim for full pay restoration.

A demonstration to be addressed by ICTU General Secretary, Patricia King, outside the Department of Health in Dublin will take place from noon on the same day.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “Our members deferred strike action last February at the request of the Minister for Health, Simon Harris, to allow for a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) process to be initiated.

The process was designed to allow for an orderly resolution to our members’ legitimate dispute. The process agreed between the parties in February resulted in the gathering of data from fifty nominated Section 39 employers which confirmed that none of these organisations had the necessary financial resources to commence pay restoration.”

He added: “What is most staggering about this dispute is that An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, confirmed on the floor of Dáil Eireann that these workers, many of them low paid, have an established pay link with the public service and as such are entitled to pay restoration in line with directly employed counterparts, under the FEMPI legislation. It should be remembered that Dáil Eireann voted unanimously in favour of a Fianna Fail private members’ motion seeking pay restoration for these workers.

It is incomprehensible to our members that the Government and HSE acknowledge that the monies are owed, yet will not pay them.

“The WRC process did produce a formula of how Section 39 organisations could make applications for the funding necessary to pay our members. SIPTU, ICTU and other unions have agreed that this proposed formula is acceptable.

However, the formula can only work with initial funding in the region of €4 million. It is also important to recognise that this campaign for pay justice has received cross-party support, including from disabilities minister, Finian McGrath, and massive public backing.”


09/10/2018 Comments are off AideenC

Women’s rights activist Sylvia Meehan dies aged 89

Tributes have been paid to Irish women’s rights activist and trade unionist Sylvia Meehan, who has died aged 89.

Her death follows a long illness, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (Ictu) has said.

Ms Meehan studied legal and political science at UCD, where she was the first woman to win the UCD Literary and Historical Association gold medal in 1951.

She began her career in teaching, becoming heavily involved with the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland trade union during her teaching years and the Women’s Committee of Ictu.

She served as the first chair and chief executive of the Employment Equality Authority, from its establishment in 1997 until 1992.

In 1977, she left teaching to become the first chief executive of the Employment Equality Agency, which was established to oversee the enforcement of the Employment Equality Act.She has been particularly credited with being instrumental in the movement towards achieving equal pay for women.

In more recent years, she served as President of the Irish Senior Citizens Parliament.

The President, Michael D Higgins, said her pioneering work on equality in education and employment had left a lasting legacy.

“In her life, Sylvia Meehan overcame many challenges, becoming a tenacious campaigner for workers’ rights, determined to promote the inclusion and empowerment of women, older people and all vulnerable sections of society.

“Her energy, vision and dynamism were directed at making Ireland a more empowering, informed and welcoming society.”

Ictu General Secretary Patricia King said Ms Meehan’s “pioneering work paved the way for a generation of feminists”.

“Sylvia believed that woman must demand their place at the negotiating table and encouraged greater participation by women in the trade union movement, in civic society and in politics,” said Ms King.

Director of the National Women’s Council of Ireland Orla O’Connor said Ms Meehan “will be a great loss not only for her family but for the women’s movement in Ireland.”

Minister for Equality, Immigration and Integration, David Stanton said he was “very saddened” to learn of Ms Meehan’s death.

“An inspiring role model and a campaigner for equality when it was far from fashionable, she has been hugely influential across a long career which spanned teaching, public service as the first Chair of the Employment Equality Agency, and advocacy,” he said.

“We take inspiration from her example as we continue to work for full gender equality. On behalf of Minister Flanagan and on my own behalf, I extend our deepest sympathies to Sylvia’s family and friends.”

Sinn Féin spokesman for workers’ rights David Cullinane said Ms Meehan was an “outstanding advocate and activist”.

Ms Meehan is survived by her five children, John, Niall, Sarah, Richard and Rosa.

This article was written by Áine McMahon for the Irish Times, September 6th, 2018

Congress Calls on Government to Restore Pay to Section 39 Workers

Today (Monday, September 3rd) ICTU General Secretary Patricia King has called on the Government to restore pay to Section 39 workers, in line with the public sector agreement. King has specifically called on the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Health to immediately make available resources to resolve the dispute.

“The workers in Section 39 Organisations had their pay cut in line with cuts imposed on workers in the public sector. Now that pay is being restored in the public sector workers in Section 39 Organisations should also receive the terms of the public sector pay agreement.”

Patricia King’s comments follow a meeting earlier today in which SIPTU, FÓRSA and UNITE confirmed that they would be consulting with members to consider what action is appropriate in light of the failure of Government to address the issue of pay restoration for workers in Section 39 Organisations.

09/02/2018 Comments are off Patrick Cole

5 tips for Tories’ Brexit negotiators

The Brexit negotiations between the EU and UK government are entering perhaps their most critical period. I use the term “negotiations” loosely.

As trade unionists, we all know a thing or two about negotiations. We know that there are a number of common key principles which apply, whether you are negotiating a restructuring or a pay claim, or even a process to extract your state out of the EU. I would suggest there are five key principles.

First, you have to know what it is you want. Second, what you want has to be achievable and realisable. Third, you have to have a strategy to achieve this. Fourth, you need to bring your people with you.Fifth and finally you don’t need to like the other side, but at some stage, you have to let them know what they have to do to settle.

Under each of these criteria, this Tory UK government has failed abysmally.

Were the consequences not so serious for us all it would be laughable.

The EU is very clear in its position. An agreement has to be reached by the October Council meeting as the agreement has to be ratified by each of the remaining 27 EU member states and this has to occur before the end of March 2019 when the UK is due to leave to EU.

Given the chaotic nature of the “negotiations” on the side of the UK government, the reality is unless Teresa May can hold a depleted and fractured Cabinet together, her Cabinet talks will probably break down.

Losing David Davis and Boris Johnson may only be the beginning of her government implosion. However, if May can push her latest position on Brexit through her party and parliament in the coming weeks and months, and the EU reach a compromise with her government, a soft Brexit is possible.

However, the EU is unlikely to accept May’s latest White Paper proposals as they stand.

All the while the people of these islands potentially suffer the ever-increasing prospect of a devastating hard Brexit.

The ICTU has been particularly active in articulating the interests of workers and citizens north and south of the Irish border.

We are focusing on the social, economic and political consequences of Brexit, seeking that workers on the island of Ireland do not pay the price of Brexit.

Our key priorities include employment, trade, living standards, the peace process, rights and avoiding a hard border north and south but, equally important, east and west.

We are engaging with Michel Barnier and his team, the Irish government through the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the UK government through the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the international trade union movement through the ETUC and the English, Welsh and Scottish TUCs and all other political parties and key social partners north and south.

In recent weeks the ICTU met with Jeremy Corbyn and his team at our Belfast offices on Brexit. Most of us in the trade union movement would like to see a change of government in Britain and the return of Labour to power.

However, it is clear on the issue of Brexit, the British Labour Party is also quite divided and it has some way to travel on the issue of Brexit to stand up for the interests of workers.

Clearly many of the UK unions, and indeed the TUC with ICTU’s support, have played an important role in bringing the British Labour Party on a journey. UNITE has indicated support for an alternative approach to Brexit.

However, it is clear that Labour has yet to reach that final destination which, if it is to be in the interests of workers on the island of Ireland (irrespective of their views on the constitutional issue) and workers across Britain, has to be the softest Brexit possible.

That means the UK as a whole remaining in the Single Market and in a Customs Union. There are many people, including trade unionists, now calling for a referendum on the final deal.

Returning to the analogy at the start of this article on the key elements to any negotiation, whether it be a pay claim or a restructuring, or indeed leaving the EU, what is wrong with letting the members and the people have the final say?

This article was written by Assistant General Secretary of the ICTU, Owen Reidy. 

08/31/2018 Comments are off AideenC

The right to organise in a union will not be denied

The fight for workers’ right to organise in a union for the purposes of collective bargaining has been the key task for our organisation during its more than 100 years of existence.

Currently, SIPTU members are considering industrial action in relation to two companies where the employer has refused to adequately engage with their union. These companies are Rapid Action Packaging in Gweedore, County Donegal, and the Respond Housing Association.

In both cases, despite the companies being in receipt of public funds, management has ignored direction by the State’s industrial relations mechanisms to engage with union representatives.

Elsewhere, from the pharmacy chain Lloyds to retailers such a TK Maxx, employers are also refusing to respect workers’ right to collectively bargain as members of their union, Mandate.

In the early decades of the 20th Century the struggle for the right to union recognition resulted in titanic struggles such as the Great Dublin Lockout of 1913. Since then, most businesses realised that an attempt to deny workers the right to union recognition was a battle they were bound to lose, and so have desisted from such attempts.

From Ryanair to Lloyds Pharmacy, the battle for union recognition remains at the heart of the struggle by workers for fair and equal treatment. Both companies are hugely profitable concerns which, until now, have been reluctant to share those rewards with the workers who have made them possible.

08/27/2018 Comments are off Patrick Cole

Education and Development Support Scheme

SIPTU members are invited to apply for a SIPTU award under our Education and Development Support Scheme.

The Information and Application form is available here.

Download a workplace poster here.

The closing date for all four scholarship applications, including the Migrant scholarship, is the 30th September.

Please note that migrant members are also entitled to apply for the original three scholarships, –  Third Level, Second Level and Gaeltacht.

Although we require that each application is signed by the member’s Sector Organiser, if you have any difficulty with this, just send the completed form to Jean Kennedy, SIPTU College, 563 South Circular Road, Kilmainham, Dublin 8 and she will arrange for the relevant Sector Organiser to sign the completed form.

08/26/2018 Comments are off Patrick Cole

Hiking up the pension age won’t solve Ireland’s pensions problem

If the Government gets its way, by 2028 Ireland will have the highest pension age across advanced industrialised economies. Ireland is currently just one of three countries across the OECD that plans to increase the State pension age to 68.

Entitlement to the state pension rose to 66 in 2014, it will rise to 67 in 2021, and the third increase is planned to occur in a decade’s time in 2028.

These policy changes were put in place in March 2010.

Now, in 2018, the current Government has set out a roadmap for pension reform over the next five years. Of course, we have been here before – the Green Paper on pensions was published in 2007 and we thought then that it would set in a train a series of changes.

The current roadmap has six strands: consideration of an auto-enrolment occupational pension system, measures to support the operation of the defined benefit scheme, public service pension reform, measures to encourage “fuller working lives” which entail deferral of state pension payment and measures to improve the management of private pensions.

The first and most imminent strand relates to changes to the State pension.

The Government is proposing a change that would see individual entitlement calculated on a total contribution basis, i.e. the total number of contributions over a person’s working life as opposed to a system which considers the number of years and the total number of contributions.

As the changes to the pension age were made in 2011, they are not currently under consideration in this roadmap. They should be.

In effect, the move to increase the pension age without comprehensive reform of the overall pension system amounts to putting the cart before the horse.

There is a strong argument to be made that trans formative changes such as the introduction of a second-tier auto-enrolment system cannot be made without comprehensively assessing all the factors relating to pensions and that includes the age of entitlement.

SIPTU representatives have highlighted that an increase in age will do little to resolve the overall affordability of the state pension system and unnecessarily disadvantage those in physically demanding occupations.

Already, we know that not all workers retire at the age of 65 or 66. Just over half (51%) of all those aged 60-64 participate in the labour market – are either in work or seeking work.

This reflects the sharp fall-off in the number of persons available for employment from the age of 55 so there is also a sizeable gap between the effective retirement age and the age of entitlement to the State pension.

Furthermore, an increase in the State pension age takes no account of the age when a worker actually starts making contributions.

There can be a considerable difference in contribution between those starting their working life straight from school and those entering at a later stage – often after many years of educational attainment and in many cases entering the labour market with a higher wage premium.

Countries such as France, Italy, Spain, Belgium have minimum contribution pension systems, thereby creating differentiated paths to retirement based on length of working life rather than age.

To date, many of our members have found themselves facing the prospect of a forced retirement at age 65 and then waiting a year to receive the State pension.

SIPTU organisers have been working with employers to collectively agree to an optional retirement age while also taking individual employment equality cases.

This problem is only set to swell if the issue of the age increase is not addressed in tandem with those other pension reforms.