11/01/2018 Comments are off Patrick Cole

SIPTU Ambulance Sector pursing pay, professional development and professional status.

SIPTU Ambulance Service Professionals are not engaged in any form of industrial action and continue to provide vital public services to our most vulnerable citizens and all citizens

SIPTU Health Division and SIPTU National Ambulance Service Sector are continuing to pursue matters concerning remuneration, professional development and professional status.

These issues are the subject of an agreed process.

Further information will be issued in due course.

10/31/2018 Comments are off Patrick Cole

SIPTU College podcast

Journalist James Bloodworth talks to Paddy Cole about his experience being embedded for six months as a zero-hours worker and the importance of trade unions.

SIPTU Learning Coordinator Eira Gallagher speaks about how SIPTU College jump-started her return to education and how she went on to get a first in her MA.



10/29/2018 Comments are off Patrick Cole

We Shall Overcome: Liberty Hall remembers

On Saturday 10th November a group of trade unionists, human rights campaigners and musicians of the We Shall Overcome Committee will host a seminar and concert in Liberty Hall to mark the 50th anniversary of the Northern Ireland civil rights movement.

Book tickets here

The choice of location emphasises the role of trade unions and those campaigning for social justice in the history of that struggle and in similar challenges faced today.

The seminar, with speakers including solicitor and human rights campaigner Michael Farrell, Advocate for the Homeless Fr Peter McVerry, ICTU President Sheila Nunan, and community and political activist Bernadette McAliskey, will link the lessons of 50 years ago to current struggles in housing, workers’ rights, discrimination and racism.

The concert will give musical expression to the fight for social justice with singers and musicians including Tommy Sands and Niamh Parsons.

In 1945, while the members of CIO Food & Tobacco Workers Union Local 15 were on strike in Charleston, South Carolina, a woman called Lucille Simmons came down to the picket line to sing for them.

The song she chose was an old African-American spiritual called I’ll Overcome Some Day.

She changed the song title to We Will Overcome reflecting the solidarity of struggle.

When the strike was over the song was picked up by another woman, social activist and folk song collector, Zilphia Horton, who, in turn, passed it on to Pete Seeger. By the time he performed it at his famous 1963 Carnegie Hall concert, both the name and tempo had changed to become the iconic We Shall Overcome.

It became the soundtrack to the civil rights movement in the U.S. and echoed across the Atlantic to Britain’s backyard where people also demanded their civil rights in the late 1960s.

After decades of discrimination by the then-Unionist government against nationalists, particularly in housing, employment and local government, the struggle for civil rights burst on to the streets and towns of the North in the autumn of 1968.

Actions protesting discrimination in housing were followed by a civil rights march in Derry on 5th October that year. The march was batoned off the streets by the Royal Ulster Constabulary before the eyes of the world. It was a seminal moment in modern Irish and world history.

What followed was a dam burst of the pent-up grievances of a whole community.

Marches and pickets were organised by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA), involving many from the trade union movement as well as republicans, and by the militant student body, People’s Democracy.

The Unionist government at Stormont eventually and reluctantly responded with proposals which were too little and too late.

When another march, organised by People’s Democracy, was ambushed at Burntollet Bridge 10 miles from Derry in early January 1969, the long full-time whistle began to blow for a regime which was described decades later by Unionist leader David Trimble as “a cold house for Catholics”.

He might have included, for good measure, the left, workers, trade unionists, liberals and anyone unwilling to bow to the sectarian state of Northern Ireland.

10/28/2018 Comments are off Patrick Cole

Retrospective – The Presidency of Michael D Higgins

The last seven years have been eventful ones for our union and our country.

To the fore for both has been President Michael D Higgins, who has placed progressive causes and commemorating the history of the labour movement high on his agenda during his time in Áras an Uachtaráin.

From the launch of his campaign to become President in October 2011, when he batted away a hostile question from one journalist from the right-wing press with the putdown “being called independent and having independence of mind are two different things”, it was clear he was not going to shy away from his lifelong allegiance to progressive politics.

As a long-time SIPTU member and trade union activist, Michael D made sure that the role of the socialist and labour movements was given their rightful place during commemorations of the Dublin Lockout of 1913, the 1916 Rising as well as the First World War.

Early in his presidency he summed up his views on the importance of trade unionism when he said: “The trade union movement has been central to the development of community for over a century and I believe that the trade union movement…will, or should I say must, play a pivotal role in rebuilding our damaged society.”

Labour Rights and the Rising

Among the commemoration events, the President attended was the unveiling of the Green Flag of Ireland hoisted over Liberty Hall in the lead up to the Rising. The flag was loaned to the union by the Inniskillings Museum in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. It had been captured by members of the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers from a ruined Liberty Hall in the aftermath of the Rising.

The first major event of the SIPTU calendar of commemorations was the showing of the iconic films Mise Eire and Saoirse? in Liberty Hall on Sunday, 13th March, which featured a presentation by President Higgins to the director of the two epics, George Morrison. He also attended a gala concert on Easter Saturday, 26th March, in Liberty Hall featuring Christy Moore, Damien Dempsey, Karen Casey and other performers.

On Easter Tuesday, 29th March, President Higgins laid a wreath at the statue of James Connolly opposite Liberty Hall on Beresford Place in a State commemoration of those who lost their lives fighting with the ICA in Easter week 1916 and in the executions that followed.

Sabina Higgins… actress & activist

IN October 2016, Sabina Higgins took to the Liberty Hall stage in James Connolly’s short play Under Which Flag?. It was just one aspect of the very active role that the wife of the President has taken in the cultural life of our union.

Sabina has often attended SIPTU associated events with her husband in his presidential capacity. However, just as regularly she has visited Liberty Hall or attended union events in her personal capacity or as an active member of Irish Equity, the SIPTU affiliated union for actors.

She was awarded life membership of Irish Equity earlier this year.

Sabina Higgins attended the Jim Larkin commemoration in Glasnevin Cemetery on Sunday, 2nd February 2014. Later that year she was present at the official opening of the Rosie Hackett Bridge which crosses the Liffey under the shadow of Liberty Hall.

Call for action for precarious workers

A NEW progressive ideology must be developed to help organise those in casual and precarious employment into a force that can change society for the better, President Michael D Higgins declared in early 2015.

His strong call for action for workers in precarious jobs came in a speech delivered on 26th February 2015, in the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, to commemorate the role of Irishman Edward Joseph Phelan in establishing the International Labour Organisation.

In the important address, the President rubbished the neo-liberal ideology which has “underpinned the systematic deregulation of national systems of labour and the promotion of competition between them”.

He said such an approach had not only led to economic disaster but also created a new class of worker, the “precariat”, which “is defined by partial involvement in labour combined with extensive ‘work-for-labour’, that is, a growing array of unremunerated activities – often internships of various sorts – that are required to get access to remunerated jobs.”

The speech by the President played an important role in beginning a national debate on the spread of precarious work practices throughout many sectors of the economy. He said: “The shift towards precarious employment is far from being confined to low- skilled jobs.”

He added: “In Ireland today, a considerable volume of teaching and research work is carried out by ‘temporary lecturers’, ‘adjunct lecturers’, and so-called ‘teaching assistants’ who have no job security at all and must repeatedly resume their elusive and exhausting hunt for the next short-term contract.”

Highlighting the fight for global justice

During his years as an activist and politician the President was strongly focused on international justice issues. And President Higgins has maintained this keen concern throughout his seven years in the Aras.

He has made a number of state visits where he has highlighted struggles for justice including during his tour of Latin America and Cuba in 2017 and when visiting a refugee camp in Greece earlier this year.

While in South Africa in November 2014, President Higgins visited the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. This visit inspired the hosting of a Nelson Mandela exhibition in Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the late South African President and 25 years of diplomatic relations between Ireland and South Africa.

At the opening of the exhibition in July 2018, the President highlighted the strength and breadth of Ireland’s relationship with South Africa, from support for the anti-apartheid movement to the vibrant partnership which exists between the two countries today.

In his speech, President Higgins praised the Dunnes Store strikers action as “a touchstone moment of the protest against apartheid in Ireland” and emphasised the power of workers to bring about political change. He said: “In July 1984, a group of workers mainly young women, in Dunnes on Henry Street, took a moral stand and refused to handle produce imported from South Africa. It was an utterly selfless act.”

He added: “The power of their protest and principled stance eventually led the Government of Ireland to ban South African goods from being sold in Ireland, and this ban remained in place until the end of the apartheid regime.”

Weaving the story of the 1913 Lockout

 PRESIDENT Higgins worked closely with the union in commemorating the Great Dublin Lockout of 1913. In November 2012 he visited Liberty Hall to launch the SIPTU Lockout Tapestry project commemorating the struggle which defined the early years of our union.

At the launch, he said: “It is through the power of collective action that the workers of the Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union sought to establish their right to organise to secure a better deal for the ordinary workers of Dublin, and it is very fitting that it is through collaboration that they are being remembered.”

10/21/2018 Comments are off Patrick Cole

Together we Win

The SIPTU Health Division represents tens of thousands of committed health workers on the frontline of our hospitals, other healthcare facilities and within communities throughout the island of Ireland.

Our members are organised in both the public and the private sector – are engaged in a constant battle to maintain a health system for the benefit of their communities.

From porters to chefs and catering staff, from radiographers to health care assistants home care workers our members make a major contribution to improving the quality of people’s lives and delivering essential services.

This is our story.

10/17/2018 Comments are off Patrick Cole

Section 39 WRC Proposals

SIPTU members in Section 39 members considering the proposals for full pay restoration it should focus on the progress they have made since the launch of their pay justice campaign.

While there is still some road left to travel it is very important that we consider the success of our campaign to date.

Thanks to the efforts of members, shop stewards and activists the Government and Section 39 employers are in no doubt of the determination to win pay justice.

The Government’s strategy for dealing with Section 39 workers from the start was very simple. They firstly imposed cuts in pay and attempted to break the pay relationship with public service pay scales.

They also fought hard to maintain this position by continually stressing that Section 39 Health and Social Care workers are not public servants.

They have now had to accept that such an approach will not be accepted.

Three steps to Section 39 Full Pay Restoration:

  • €1,000 from 30th April 2019
  • 50% of outstanding restoration paid on 1st October 2020
  • Final payment completing 100% restoration paid on 1st October 2021

10/17/2018 Comments are off Patrick Cole

SIPTU Deputy General Secretary condemns privatisation for Cervical Check scandal

The SIPTU Public Administration and Community Division Biennial Delegate Conference was today (Tuesday, 16th October) told that creeping health service privatisation lay at the root of the Cervical Check scandal, by the union’s Deputy General Secretary, Ethel Buckley.

Addressing the more than 170 delegates gathered in the Imperial Hotel in Cork City, Buckley said that the SIPTU leadership pledged to “continue to fight with all of the might of our union to ensure that vital health services and other public services are publicly funded and operated in the common good”.

Buckley said: “The human tragedy of outsourcing has now been laid bare for all to see with the Cervical Check scandal. Women were yet again let down badly by the State. SIPTU stands in solidarity with these brave women. The bravery and resilience of Vicky Phelan in fighting a High Court battle to uncover the real reason why she had been misdiagnosed – resulting in a fatal delay in her treatment for cervical cancer- revealed the appalling impact of creeping health privatisation.”

She added: “For rather than carry out the analysis of vital smear tests in Ireland, it was decided to send them to a private for-profit company in the US. Only a full investigation will confirm what part this decision played in hundreds of women’s misdiagnoses, but the moral bankruptcy of such decision-making is already crystal clear.

“These ideological decisions are nothing new in the Irish health system which is brutally divided along class lines between a private system and a public system, the failings of which are relentlessly used to frighten people into paying for health insurance.”

In her address, Buckley also said the union was committed to developing local structures to increase its ability to campaign and force change on issues of importance to members. She added that this approach was already being pursued by the SIPTU Big Start Campaign which was focused on “opening up a national conversation about how we care for and educate our youngest citizens as well as how we should treat the workers who provide this essential service to families”.

10/14/2018 Comments are off Patrick Cole

Vicky Phelan speaking on CervicalCheck, outsourcing and the Scally Report

The human tragedy of outsourcing has now been laid bare for all to see with the CervicalCheck scandal.

Women were yet again let down badly by the State.

CervicalCheck campaigner Vicky Phelan shared her thoughts with us recently on the outsourcing of health services, the findings of the Scally Report and how lessons must be learnt.

10/13/2018 Comments are off Patrick Cole

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10/10/2018 Comments are off Patrick Cole

Budget fails to tackle housing, health and childcare crises

Responding to the details in Budget 2019, SIPTU economist, Marie Sherlock, described it as a scattergun approach designed to get over the hump of the next election.

“Contrary to what the Government might claim, this was an exercise in populism over prudence.  A truly progressive and prudent budget would have pooled available resources to bring about real change,” Marie Sherlock said. “The lure of tax cuts does little for families improve access to childcare, healthcare and affordable housing, concerns which the Government and its Independent Alliance supporters claim to profess.”

She said the increase in VAT on hotels and restaurants to 13.5% is long overdue and vindicates the long campaign carried out by Congress and SIPTU over several years to end this unfair concession to a profitable sector where many workers are underpaid and exploited.

“The rise in the 9% VAT rate in the hospitality sector is long overdue and is to be welcomed. The increase in profits in the hotel and restaurant industry has far outpaced any increase in wages for employees. We believe that the vast majority of employers will be able to absorb the increase to 13.5%.”

However, she said, putting over €1.5 billion into the Irish Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) for the so-called rainy-day fund – and an additional €500 million per year – ignores the immediate need for large-scale capital investment in social and affordable housing.  This is also an unnecessary and costly duplication.

“The lack of social and affordable housing is the single most urgent crisis facing working people and their families. It is raining already and placing available funds of more than €1.5 billion into the ISIF reflects a lack of urgency in relation to the housing crisis, notwithstanding the monies diverted to affordable housing over the next three years,” she said.

“The overall targets for the delivery of social and affordable homes are disappointing while the increase in direct payments to landlords through the Housing Assistance Programme is another example of placing private ahead of public interests. Re-introducing 100% mortgage interest relief for individual landlords is a further waste of public monies,”she added.

“At a time where the public finances are in the extraordinary position of being almost close to balance and where we have had corporation tax receipts greatly exceeding expectations, now is the time to build resilience within our public services to withstand future downturns. Instead, we have a government forced to use a €1 billion windfall to plug a gap that continues to arise in the health service each year with no medium-term budgetary planning to implement Sláintecare or to deliver affordable childcare supports for parents, educators and providers.”