Patrick Cole

12/08/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole

A Victory for Support Grade Workers

As we prepare to ballot, let us reflect on the objectives of our PAY JUSTICE campaign, how far we have come by working together and what the NEXT STEPS in our campaign can achieve for you and thousands of members of our union.

The Recommendation comes at the end of a hard fought campaign in which you, the members, demonstrated your determination by taking strike action last June.

This action was taken after deep consideration, as a last resort, after the Government attempted to deny SIPTU members who were successful in Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the Job Evaluation scheme payment until 2021 and 2022.

Due to our members taking to the picket line intervention was made and after over 10 days the Labour Court determined that the objectives pursued by SIPTU representatives be addressed starting in September 2019.

Labour Court Recommendation at a Glance

SIPTU shop stewards have been the key factor in making the Support Staff Job Evaluation a reality for thousands of members across the country. Our campaign had two pillars:

  • Payment in 2019 to members successful in Phase 1 and Phase 2 of a Job Evaluation Scheme
  • A commencement and closing date for Job Evaluation for members in Phase 4

These two key objectives have been addressed and secured in Labour Court Recommendation 22066

To see LCR22066 in full click here.

Phase 1 and Phase 2

Should the Labour Court Recommendation be accepted, payments due to members successful in Phase 1 and Phase 2 will commence 1st September, 2019.

Phase 4

A commencement date for evaluation of members in Phase 4 will commence immediately on acceptance of the Recommendation.

In recognition of the timeframe to conclude Job Evaluations accurately and fairly, the Labour Court has recommended the cut-off date for completion of these evaluations and any payments due to members to not go beyond 1st January, 2021.

For Payment, For Progress. Vote in Favour of Pay Justice

As the Labour Court Recommendation delivers on the key objectives of our Pay Justice campaign we recommended that members VOTE IN FAVOUR of the recommendation.

A YES VOTE will help us move to the next phase of the campaign where thousands of members will receive increases in pay and thousands more will enter a process that allows for their jobs to be evaluated.

Public Service Stability Agreement

SIPTU members will also receive a pay boost of 1.75% this September due under the Public Service Stability Agreement and a further 2% increase in October 2020. This is in addition to upgrades and increases due to our members in all phases of Job Evaluation.

New Entrants

New Entrants agreement not effected by Labour Court recommendation.

Use your vote

SIPTU members in 38 hospitals and health care facilities will be voting on Labour Court Recommendation 22066 from Monday 12th August 2019 until Wednesday, 18th September, 2019.

Please contact your local Shop Steward and/or SIPTU representative for ballot details.

11/08/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole

Liberty Hall’s courageous caretaker

“YOU are quite at liberty…” With these words, caretaker Peter Ennis greeted the early morning raiding party at Liberty Hall on Friday 22nd August 1919.

September 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of Wicklow-born Ennis’ resulting court martial.

On the Wednesday prior to the raid, Christopher Quigley, a news vendor, had induced Private S Morrison, of the 3rd Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment, to procure a rifle for sale. A deal was struck for £2 and the rifle was passed through a window at the Hall. Quigley’s and Morrison’s subsequent arrests led to the raid.

A detailed account of the 4am raid and Ennis’ trial is documented in the British National Archives at Kew.

Having greeted the raiding party with the words, “You are quite at liberty”, Ennis continued his good humoured banter by asking, “Are you going to pay me overtime for this, sir?” The search uncovered firearms and Ennis, as the only resident, was arrested.

He was registered as prisoner 499 at Mountjoy Prison, where he was also listed as a ‘hunger striker’. An approval by the Chief Secretary of Ireland allowed Ennis to sign union papers while at Mountjoy.

Ennis’ court martial took place on 24th September 1919. He was successfully defended by the eminent republican barrister Patrick Lynch KC, who would later serve as Attorney General. Ennis co-accused Quigley, on the other hand, was sentenced to a year in prison.

In what seemingly was a reprisal for his acquittal, late one evening the Black and Tans ‘lifted’ Ennis from the Hall, brought him to the Custom House railings and beat him mercilessly on the head with revolvers.

Years later, Ennis’ obituary stated that he had “given himself up for dead” at the time. Suffering terribly, he dragged himself back over the cobbles at Beresford Place to the Hall and was able to close the door. According to the obituary, he then “swooned from loss of blood and lay almost unconscious until discovered the next morning”.

His obituary recalled that this was one of “many occasions” that Ennis had “exciting and almost fatal encounters with the armed forces of Dublin Castle”. During the Easter Rising, and under James Connolly’s orders to leave “as the union needed him”, he had staged a dramatic escape from the GPO under machine gun fire to return to Liberty Hall.

As a resident at Liberty Hall during the War of Independence, he found himself at the centre of several incursions into the building by Crown Forces. Ennis was often alone during these raids and his apartment was frequently ransacked.

On one occasion he saved Liberty Hall from certain destruction when men in ‘plain clothes’ broke in and poured petrol over the woodwork. Another time, Ennis and William O’Brien were bringing “documents” out when they were confronted by “as murderous a gang of Tans that ever shot a civilian”.

Ennis later remarked that “only for the old bolshie, I was gone that time”.

Ennis is remembered as a trade union activist and a prominent socialist.

He joined the newly-formed Socialist Party of Ireland (SPI) in April 1904 and would remain a staunch member, serving on committees, presiding at meetings and speaking on public platforms, before taking a central role in James Connolly’s Independent Labour Party of Ireland (ILP) from 1912 to 1914.

He was a trade unionist with the National Union of Dock Labourers before becoming a founding member of Irish Transport and General Workers Union in January 1909.

Ennis co-signed the first Rules of the ITGWU. At Liberty Hall, he served three giants of Irish labour history – Jim Larkin, James Connolly and William O’Brien.

Sadly, his wife Mary Kate who shared his life at the Hall died on 15th April 1914, aged only 31. Peter Ennis died on the 2nd January 1927, aged 51.

Rosie Hackett cared for him in his failing health. More than 3,000 mourners attended his removal, described by the Irish Independent as “an exceptionally large cortege”.

A plaque honouring Peter Ennis was erected in 1927 in Liberty Hall and can be seen today in the Irish Labour History Society Museum.

06/08/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole

Labour Court recommends increases in pay for health support staff

SIPTU representatives have today (Tuesday 7th August) confirmed that the Labour Court has recommended increases in pay for over 7,000 SIPTU members working in support grades across the health service.

The court issued two recommendations aimed at resolving the dispute involving support grade staff and chefs in the health service.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “The Labour Court has recommended that members receive significant increases in pay in from 1st September 2019.

If accepted, SIPTU members evaluated under phase 1 and phase 2 of the support staff job evaluation scheme will receive increases in pay ranging from around 6% to 13%. These payments are in addition to the 1.75% increase in pay due in September 2019 under the terms of the Public Service Stability Agreement. The Labour Court also recommends a pathway for members who have yet to have their jobs evaluated with specific cut off days for completion and under the existing formula.

“In a separate Labour Court recommendation, our chef members have also taken a significant step closer to securing pay justice with the Labour Court recommending that a 12 week proactive process, under the auspices of the Workplace Relations Commission, is undertaken by the union and the Health Service Executive. This engagement will seek to build on the work already undertaken in order to assess and evaluate the pay issues particular to chefs and head chefs in the health service.”

He added: “Union representatives will continue to assess the detail of the recommendations. The final decision is in the hands of our membership, who will be balloted on the terms of the recommendation. Balloting will commence Monday, 12th August and conclude on Wednesday, 18th September and we will be issuing further communications and literature in the coming days.”

04/08/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole

Greed and the housing market

There is a tendency to discuss property developers and landlords in terms of ‘greed’. The implication is that if there was less ‘greed’ in the area of housing, we might be closer to the goal of affordability – whether that means affordable rents or house prices.

However, the private players in the housing market are acting rationally. They follow the market signals. They attempt to maximise their investment.

The problem does not lie with their behaviour. It lies with policy makers who create and maintain markets (yes, governments create, organise and structure markets – they are not some natural phenomenon). And the Irish housing market is structured to favour the highest return, regardless of social need or economic efficiency.

Minister for Housing, Eoghan Murphy’s recent love affair with co-living developments is an example. Co-living involves a number of rental units in a complex which share kitchen facilities and other common areas.

The actual living quarters are tiny (16 square metres; prison cells are 7 square metres) with pull down beds. One proposed development will see 42 people – all paying market rents – sharing one kitchen.

Murphy says people should be ‘excited’ about these developments. But as a leading housing commentator, Mel Reynolds, has pointed out, it’s the developers who will be most excited.

Why? Because they can cram in more people and, so, more rents into a smaller space. Instead of two normal rental units (two beds), a developer can now squeeze in five units into the same space.

The maths are pretty simple. Five rent-paying tenants will yield more return than two rent paying tenants. But it gets worse. Co-living developments drive up land prices due to the expectation of a higher return for an acre of land. This will increase normal apartment rents and new house prices. Land can account for up to one third of the cost of a housing development. No balconies, no parking and no obligation to provide the legally mandated 10% social housing that every other developer has to sell to the State at a discount: there is money to be made in co-living arrangements. Money for developers.

This could lead to a two-tier housing market, especially in Dublin. Tiny, co-living apartment spaces and developments geared towards the high-end of the market where rents can rise to €3,000 per month or more.

This will leave low and average income workers (and even higher paid workers) without any supply. They will have to choose between un-liveable units or un-affordable units. Or, they will have to move out of Dublin (this is already happening) raising questions of sustainable work/life balance and the cost and time of getting to work.

Eventually, this process will push up prices outside of Dublin (again, this is already happening). Why blame developers for pursuing the highest return? They are following the logic of the market. But this logic is a political one and can be changed by government policy – at both national and local level.

SIPTU has emphasised the need to use land that is already publicly owned to provide public housing for all – for those on waiting lists and for workers. Public housing development is not based on land prices, developers’ margins or profits.

However, we also need the private sector to operate in tandem with public need. All private housing developments should be led by democratic regulations that require proper living accommodation accessible to a wide range of income groups. It should not be led by developers’ interests.

It is up to both councillors and TDs to draw up the regulations to ensure, whether public or private, that housing policy serves the interests of people and not the highest yield.

03/08/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole

Labour Court recommendation set to be issued next week

SIPTU Health representatives have today (Saturday, 3rd August) confirmed that the Labour Court will issue recommendations aimed at resolving the dispute involving support grade staff and chefs in the health service by the end of next week.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “We expect that court will issue recommendations before the end of next week (Friday, 9th August). When the court issues its recommendation we will communicate its content and the position of our union to our members directly. We would like to thank our shop stewards, staff and activists for their determination, hard work and efforts in attempting to resolve this dispute without further impacting on public services or members pay.”

28/07/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole

A fearless fighter for equal pay and decent jobs

I still remember the first day, in 1981, Padraigín was introduced to us in 48 Fleet Street in the headquarters of the Irish Women Workers’ Union (IWWU). In came this woman full of enthusiasm and ready to take on her role as assistant general secretary, bringing new ideas, new changes which would benefit the members going forward.

She brought new light to the women workers’ membership. She worked tirelessly to organise and campaign for the rights of workers. She loved the buzz of it. She had found her calling.

Padraigín commenced her working life in the Civil Service. However, it wasn’t long before she felt the need to move forward to fight for the rights of workers and their families, particularly for women.

She became an official in the Federated Workers’ Union of Ireland in 1973, one of a number of radical young officials appointed at the time with the intention to breathe new energy and commitment into the union to face the many challenges ahead.

Padraigín was assigned to service the membership of the union in Aer Lingus, with particular responsibility for the cabin crew. She quickly established herself as their champion in the many battles they had with management, achieving vast improvements in their pay and conditions.

In no time, Padraigín was promoted to the position of branch secretary. Only two women in the FWUI held that position. She re- mained in that role until she was appointed assistant general secretary of the IWWU in 1981. She became general secretary of the IWWU on the retirement of the then general secretary, Maura Breslin, in 1982, a position she held with great pride.

She was the last serving general secretary of the Irish Women Workers’ Union from 1982 until the amalgamation of the IWWU with the FWUI in 1984.

With the IWWU Committee she led the negotiations with the FWUI and its general secretary, Bill Attley. The proposals for a merger were devised and accepted by ballot by the members of the IWWU in 1984.

Welcoming the discussions to join forces with the FWUI, Padraigín said she was “confident that the Larkinite tradition of democratic trade unionism upon which both trade unions are founded will ensure the successful outcome of the talks.”

By the time the merger proposal was formally agreed by an overwhelming vote of IWWU members in June 1984, Padraigín had been nominated by the FWUI and the ICTU to the Labour Court where she became its first female worker representative. Padraigín remained as a worker representative of the Labour Court until her retirement in 2014.

In 1992, Padraigín’s health was to suffer a blow. However, with the same determination that had marked her work as an official, she fought back and continued to struggle for workers until her retirement. Despite the fact that her health worsened over the years, it did not stop her continuing her work for the movement.

In March 2013, she oversaw the unveiling of a plaque to commemorate the founding of the Irish Women Workers’ Union with Kay Marron and Margaret McCurtain at Liberty Hall, Dublin. The plaque was the result of a long campaign by the IWWU Commemorative Committee which had worked tirelessly for recognition of the stand taken by three young women in Jacobs’ factory who had refused to remove their union badges.

Padraigín, during her working life, achieved a great many things as a trade union official. She showed great determination. She was known to be stubborn. She was an achiever and a brilliant negotiator. She was one of the courageous young women in the 1970s who campaigned for women’s rights and, while there is still unfinished business, she will be remembered as a fearless fighter for equal pay and decent jobs.

Her role within the trade union movement will never be forgotten.

But, behind all that bravado, the Padraigín we knew was a kind, considerate and passionate person, always willing to help others. She never stopped trying to make a difference and her legacy will stand the test of time. We were a good group, we laughed, we had good times and bad times but we worked well as a team. We have fond memories.

Padraigín was also an avid reader, an excellent cook and breadmaker. She fought fiercely for the rights of married women to remain in full-time employment.

Earlier this summer on Tuesday, 4th June 2019, Padraigín succumbed to her illness.

She will be sadly missed by her two children Eoghan and Ruth, by her brother Eamon, her extended family and friends and all who knew her.

Perhaps now, for the first time in a long time, she is at peace, no longer in pain and suffering, content that the world she was born into is a better place because of the work that she did on behalf of workers.

Not many of us can say that.

Forever in our heart, Padraigín. Rest in peace.

This piece was written by our friend and colleague Brenda Doyle (IWWU/SIPTU)

23/07/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole

Labour Court to issue recommendations aimed at resolving health dispute

SIPTU representatives have today (Tuesday, 23rd July) confirmed that the Labour Court will issue recommendations aimed at resolving the dispute involving support grade staff and chefs in the health service within 10 working days.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “SIPTU representatives have spent six days in the Labour Court arguing our members’ case. We welcome the news that the court is now in a position to issue recommendations aimed at resolving our longstanding dispute within 10 working days. We would like to thank the members of the Labour Court for their hard work and efforts over the last number of weeks and our members for the patience and resolve they have shown throughout this process so far.”

He added: “SIPTU representatives will issue a further statement in due course.”


23/07/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole

Labour Court hearing adjourns

A Labour Court hearing aimed at resolving the current dispute involving up to 10,000 health workers and chefs has adjourned for the night. 

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell said: “The Court has adjourned to consider its position overnight. The Court will make contact with the parties later today (Tuesday, 23rd July).”

Members can be kept up to date by downloading the SIPTU Health App.

22/07/2019 Comments are off Patrick Cole

Talks over mental health nursing contract adjourn

SIPTU representatives have confirmed this evening (Monday, 22nd July) that talks at the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) over a new enhanced mental health nursing contract have adjourned.

SIPTU Nursing Sector Organiser, Kevin Figgis said: “Talks between health service management and union representatives have adjourned this evening without agreement. A range of issues were discussed around the enhanced nursing contracts; including the development of a FAQ document, the expert review group on nursing, recruitment and retention issues, advance nurse practitioners ratios, nursing management structures and superannuation among other issues of concern to our members.”

SIPTU Industrial Organiser, John McCamley said: “SIPTU nursing representatives remain available to progress any outstanding issues. Members will be kept informed of any further developments.”