Potential 20,000 daily personal interactions in sector
July 12th: Unite, which represents driving instructors throughout Ireland, today (Sunday) warned that both instructors and learners could be at risk unless rigorous safety protocols are developed which take account of conditions specific to the sector. The union has written to Transport Minister Eamon Ryan highlighting instructors’ concerns, pointing out that they were not consulted prior to being included in Phase 3 of the re-opening ‘roadmap’, and asking the Minister to facilitate engagement between all stakeholders in order to develop sector-specific safety protocols.
Commenting, Unite Regional Officer Jean O’Dowd said:
“The COVID-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing have focused attention on the challenges faced by different sectors in keeping those providing and using services safe.
“Driving instructors face particular issues given that their work is carried out within the small enclosed space of a car, and involves close interaction with learners. Our members estimate that there could be up to 20,000 personal interactions in the sector every day. Both the confined space and the close interaction pose an obvious risk for both instructors and users.
“Unite has written to Minister Eamon Ryan highlighting these issues and asking him to facilitate engagement between all stakeholders in the sector to develop safety protocols which will keep everyone safe and ensure that the sector does not contribute to spreading the virus.
“We are now at a critical juncture in our management of this emergency, and workers must be fully involved in developing safe working practices to protect all of us”, Ms O’Dowd concluded.
Unite accuses company of failing to engage and breaching agreement
July 8th: Unite, which represents workers at Drogheda magnesia plant Premier Periclase, has announced that its members are set to take strike action from Monday July 20th.
Commenting, Unite Regional Officer Willie Quigley said:
“Despite a long-standing collective agreement, management have not meaningfully engaged with us on their proposals for what they have called a ‘Temporary Shut-down of the Plant’.
“The company proposes to lay off our members or put them on reduced hours, while transferring work to non-union labour and retaining contractors on site.
“We have made a number of unsuccessful attempts to avoid arriving at this point. However, management did not seem interested in meaningful discussion on issues surrounding the ‘temporary shutdown’. As a result our members have voted to take strike action from Monday July 20th.
“Unite remains available for meaningful engagement”, Mr Quigley concluded.
Members of Unite give coalition a ‘slow clap’; say workers were “applauded then abandoned” by those who promised a “lasting appreciation”
July 2nd: Members of Unite Trade Union held a short rally outside Dáil Éireann today (Thursday), highlighting how workers have been forgotten about in the so-called ‘new normal’. This was followed by a sarcastic ‘slow clap’ for the new coalition Government which remarkably, managed to leave a workers’ rights agenda out of its Programme for Government almost entirely.
There have been lessons for workers in the last few weeks, starting with the treatment of the Debenhams workers who could only be exploited because successive Governments failed to close a legal loophole which had already caused untold misery for workers in Clery’s, GAME, La Senza and Vita Cortex (to name a few). Speaking this morning Jane Crowe Shop Steward at Debenhams Henry St said:
“We are striking now for around 6 weeks now, our future and our families futures are on the line, we still have a lot of fight left in us and we will keep going until the bitter end’
Further to this, last week’s landmark High Court ruling on the constitutionality of Sectoral Employment Orders could have very serious implications for tens of thousands of construction workers.
Speaking ahead of today’s event, Unite Regional Officer Tom Fitzgerald said:
“The government must immediately seek a stay on the orders contained in the Court decision and then appeal the rulings to the Supreme Court. Should there be any obstacles to either course of action, robust emergency legislation must be brought forward to protect the terms and conditions contained in the SEOs.”
Health & Safety is now a major concern for workers and Unite’s Hospitality and Tourism spokesperson Julia Marciniak pointed out, “While there has been no shortage of industry voices seeking to trivialise important public health advice by forcing debates on the merits of social distancing, many workers are being forced back into working arrangements in which they are afraid, at-risk and have been denied consultation.”
Unite Community is demanding that the new government take into account the urgent need for a new Charter for Workers, one that places the health and safety of workers, and their right to be represented by a trade union, at the heart of any roadmap for recovery.
Comprehensive strategy and support package needed to avert huge job losses and severe damage to the Northern Ireland economy.
Recent losses of 1,500 aerospace jobs estimated to have lowered national output by half a billion and reduced household spending by £50 million
New research commissioned by Unite and undertaken by Acuity Analysis highlights the importance of Aviation and Aerospace currently threatened by the inaction of both Stormont and Westminster in the face of a sharp global downturn in the sectors caused by the Covid crisis.
Echoing the call by his union, Unite, at the launch of their campaign demanding a national aerospace taskforce to save the industry Jackie Pollock Regional Secretary said,
“Aerospace makes a colossal contribution in terms of jobs, economic output and demand; if we lose this world-class sector it will punch a huge hole in the Northern Ireland economy. Together Aviation and Aerospace generates billions in output and supports tens of thousands of high value-added union jobs.
“In the face of the unprecedented Covid downturn to this critical, high-skilled industry, the foot-dragging of governments in Stormont and Westminster is threatening catastrophic job losses. If you look at Germany and France, they have brought forward huge investment programmes to sustain aviation and aerospace, by comparison to which the support offered by the UK government pales into insignificance.
“Research commissioned by ourselves with Acuity highlights that Northern Ireland’s aerospace cluster comprises 220 companies employing around 10,000 people. That means that despite having just 2.8 per cent of the UK’s population, Northern Ireland is home to over 8 per cent of the UK’s aerospace companies and 10 per cent of aerospace employment. The sector directly generates £1bn in output (gross value-added) annually and contributes more than £2bn to Northern Ireland’s entire manufacturing output.
“Aerospace jobs are high value-added and tend to be unionised, and therefore better paid. The research confirms a large Aerospace premium amounting to an additional £11,000 per year for each worker. These are not jobs easily replaced – they must be defended.
“In recent weeks we have unnecessarily lost more than 1,500 aerospace jobs. The research estimates that these losses alone, and their impact in the wider supply chain, will reduce national economic output by half a billion and cut household spending by more than £50 million and that’s before accounting for loss of taxation or social security payments for each redundant worker. For every job lost at an aerospace company like Bombardier, three more are lost within the supply chain; the damage from these avoidable losses will be long-felt and reflect the cost of continued inaction and political failure.
“The additional impact for Northern Ireland and for the UK from the combination of the aviation and aerospace clusters must also be considered. Both sectors are highly interdependent and their proximity in and around Belfast generates significant spill-over effects, in terms of employment and economic output.
“The Stormont Executive must help secure the establishment of a national aerospace taskforce by the London government. We also need to see an Aerospace rescue strategy for Northern Ireland; unions and the aerospace industry must be involved in delivering a detailed programme for the sector to survive, rebuild and recover. In recent days, we’ve heard a lot of talk about innovation and government intervention but very little action; the bottom line is that with every day that goes by without government intervention, aerospace jobs become more and more vulnerable.”
Unite workplace reps and officials will be meeting with Economy Minister Diane Dodds where they will raise these concerns directly.
Unite blasts move since three-quarters of workforce facing jobs threat could easily remain on furlough
Aviation rescue strategy to safeguard future of both Belfast airports needed from Stormont
George Brash, Unite Regional Officer for security workers employed by Wilson James at Belfast International Airport blasted management plans for 54 redundancies – many of which were entirely unnecessary.
“Unite has received a HR1 notification from Wilson James for proposals to make redundant 54 workers at Belfast International Airport. This heartless decision by bosses is entirely unnecessary and avoidable. Three quarters of this workforce are currently furloughed under the government’s Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme and there is absolutely no need to push them onto dole queues and their families onto bread lines in the midst of a pandemic.
“The workers affected have been left reeling as they had rightfully assumed that their status would be protected through the furlough scheme until the airport recovered its footfall.
“This announcement is only the latest in a string of job-losses at Belfast International and City airports. As Unite has repeatedly highlighted, there is now a serious threat hanging over the future of both airports as vital security workers, baggage handlers, check-in staff, cabin crew and pilots have been laid off.
“Again we are left asking what exactly the politicians in Stormont are doing to safeguard the aviation sector and the future of these critical regional transportation hubs. Once again we call on Stormont political leaders to bring forward an Aviation Rescue strategy – Northern Ireland and these workers deserve better than continued inaction.
“In response to this announcement, Unite will continue to engage with management at Wilson James to attempt to reduce job losses and to obtain the best possible outcome for our members. We are doing everything we can – but we can’t save this industry alone”, Mr Brash concluded.
Decision to make redundant 160 workers in Antrim comes only months after plans to close Sensata Carrickfergus was announced
Stormont must establish a Manufacturing Taskforce to roll-out a proactive Industrial programme to secure jobs, skills and a future for industry
George Brash Unite Regional Officer for Unite members in Sensata, the sensor manufacturer, expressed his dismay after bosses in the company revealed to the media plans to make 160 workers redundant at their Antrim site.
“While this is only the latest in a string of Covid-related redundancy notices, the impact on each of the 160 workers who will lose their livelihoods will be hugely distressing; another 160 households face the loss of an income in the midst of a pandemic. There is absolutely no need for these job-losses in the context of the continued availability of furlough support through the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
“Today’s announcement comes only months after Sensata bosses decided to shut-down their Carrickfergus site. There is a mounting sense of retrenchment – and it isn’t confined to this one business. Northern Ireland manufacturing is facing a tidal wave of job-losses and threats of job-losses as the Covid pandemic is being used by employers as the excuse to slash their employment footprints and reduce capacity.
“The cumulative impact of job-losses on such a scale will be potentially devastating for the working-class but all we have seen from Stormont is continued inaction. We now need to see real ambition and determined intervention to safeguard the skills base so vital to future growth when markets restabilise. Unite is calling on the Northern Ireland Executive to establish a Manufacturing Taskforce, bringing together unions and employers, to oversee an ambitious industrial programme for growth and a just transition.
“The way in which news of these job-losses was broken to the media demonstrates the need for workers to be collectively organised with full trade union recognition rights. The best way for Sensata workers not already members of our union to protect themselves from similar attacks in the future is by joining Unite. We will be engaging with our members in the company to secure the optimal outcome for any affected by today’s bad news”, Mr Brash concluded.
Protective notice extends to 175 Swissport employees at Belfast City airport and 112 workers at Belfast International
Stormont Ministers must now intervene to deliver Aviation rescue strategy as shadow is cast over regionally strategic airports
George Brash, Unite Regional Officer for Swissport workers at Belfast City and International Airports expressed his disgust over a management jobs threat issued to 287 employees.
“This evening’s announcement by Swissport confirms our worse fears after the company announced 4,556 job losses across the UK: 175 employees at Belfast City and 112 at Belfast International airports face the immediate prospect of redundancy.
“This will be devastating news for these workers and their families. It is also entirely unnecessary – the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme remains in place – these workers could continue to be furloughed. There is no need for any job-losses at this time. This is a disgraceful move solely rooted in the need to secure corporate profits.
“The situation in Belfast City Airport is particularly concerning as the protective notice extends to every single Swissport employee at the airport. Without baggage handlers, gate staff and security desk workers, the airport cannot operate; the scale of this announcement casts a shadow over the future of both Belfast airports, in particular Belfast City.
“The total inactivity of politicians in Stormont in the face of the mounting economic challenge to aviation has been nothing short of criminal. In March, at the start of the Covid downturn Swissport workers joined with colleagues from the collapsed airline Flybe to rally in front of Stormont to seek urgent intervention but absolutely nothing has happened since. In the intervening period, Belfast International has made 45 redundancies and the small operator, Jet2, 34 – while Easyjet has announced 4,500 job-losses across the UK although we haven’t a breakdown of how that affects Northern Ireland. There is a mounting crisis in our aviation sector.
“There is no reason for these jobs to go but the Northern Ireland Executive has offered nothing positive by way of a rescue strategy for aviation. In particular, there doesn’t appear to be anyone making the case in any serious or effective way in Westminster for Northern Ireland aviation jobs and the vital importance of both Belfast airports – key to securing the future economic prosperity of our region.
“It is now absolutely imperative that we see urgent action in both Stormont and Westminster to safeguard our aviation sector, its workforce and the future of regional airports”, Mr Brash concluded.
June 24th: Members of Unite’s Regional Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority (BAEM) Committee have expressed solidarity with all those saying “Black Lives Matter!” in Ireland and around the world. Pointing out that the global response to the killing of George Floyd by police in the United States has highlighted racism in Ireland and elsewhere, union activists are determined to build on the current momentum to combat institutional racism:
Committee chair Memet Uludağ said:
“The Black Lives Matter response to the killing of George Floyd has rapidly spread beyond the United States, and the past two weeks have seen numerous manifestations of solidarity throughout the island of Ireland. While racism is deeply embedded in US society, we in Ireland also have systematic state racism and discrimination that manifests itself in different forms, from discriminatory policing of Black and ethnic minority people to the deeply inhumane – and racist – Direct Provision System in the Republic.
“The Black Lives Matter movement is educating all of us in understanding racism today, as people are making links between slavery in the past and the systematic nature of modern day racism.”
Committee member Muhammad Al-Hussaini added: “This is an historic opportunity for the labour movement in both the Republic and Northern Ireland to speak and act in solidarity with our black brothers and sisters in the United States and worldwide. At the same time, the Irish labour movement must engage with the endemic discrimination against the Irish travelling community, as well as more recent Black and ethnic minority arrivals who have made Ireland their home. This is a time to engage self-critically and remove the statues and idols of prejudice in our own minds”.
Looking beyond the protests, Memet Uludağ said:
“Solidarity events in Ireland have sent a strong message of unity against all forms of racism. There is also a growing determination that politicians must not be allowed to condemn racism while implementing discriminatory and racist policies.
“Trade unions play an important role in the fight against racism. As noted by Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey, we need to take further steps to build on anti-racism within Unite and the wider trade union movement, and ensure that the voices of Black and ethnic minority union members are heard and acted upon. As in every area of life, there can be nothing about us, without us”, Memet Uludağ concluded.
Decision threatens workers and economic recovery
Unite will use all means to protect and advance workers’ terms and conditions
June 24th: Trade union Unite, which represents workers throughout the construction sector, today (Wednesday) said that the Government must immediately seek a stay on the orders proposed in yesterday’s High Court decision striking down the electrical Sectoral Employment Order and then appeal the the ruling to the Supreme Court. Pointing out that the decision has implications for tens of thousands of workers whose terms and conditions are governed by SEOs, Unite Regional Officer Tom Fitzgerald warned that the ruling posed a significant threat to Ireland’s economic recovery and said that Unite would use all means at its disposal to protect and advance workers’ interests.
“The Government must immediately seek a stay on the order proposed in yesterday’s High Court decision and then appeal this ruling to the Supreme Court. Should there be any obstacles to either course of action, robust emergency legislation must be brought forward to protect the terms and conditions contained in the SEOs.
“At a time when Ireland is facing into an unprecedented economic crisis, yesterday’s decision threatens the incomes of tens of thousands and workers and thus puts our economic recovery at risk.
“Crucially, the absence of Sectoral Employment Orders would also mean that, for the first time in over 50 years, in huge sections of the construction sector there would be no constraints, beyond existing industrial relations legislation, on workers taking industrial action to defend themselves. Such a situation would pose a considerable threat to many employers. In that scenario, Unite is confident in our ability to defend our members’ terms and conditions using all means at our disposal”, Mr Fitzgerald warned.
Foyle Foods Omagh workforce suffered at least 35 confirmed Covid cases during first peak of pandemic
Unite the union Regional Officer Gareth Scott was scathing about a threat by Foyle Food Group bosses to remove a special Covid payment from July 3rd. The payment was provided to employees to help meet the additional costs arising from the pandemic.
“Foyle Meats workers in Omagh suffered probably the most significant cluster of Covid-19 infections in the meatpacking sector in Northern Ireland. Despite the secrecy around the scale of the outbreak, Unite is aware that at least 35 people in Foyle Food sites in Omagh tested positive for the virus.
“While bosses have been safely cocooned away, day after day meatpackers at Foyle Foods in Omagh and Campsie have turned up to production lines. Although management pays lip-service to the role of employees in ‘ensuring a seamless supply of red meat’ – they are choosing to reward them with this callous slap in the face.
“In recent days, despite extended delays in revealing details we now know of two very major outbreaks in meatpacking facilities in England and Wales. In Germany seven hundred workers in one workplace alone have tested positive for Covid-19 and it is estimated that 25,000 workers in US meat processors have contracted the virus in the last few weeks. Contrary to what bosses are proclaiming, the risks of a second peak in this industry remain very high.
“Meanwhile workers continue to face additional travel and childcare costs; there is every reason to retain a special Covid payment at this time. While one pound an hour might seem inconsequential to bosses, to their lowly-paid employees one pound a day can make a big difference.
“Workers were informed of plans by Foyle Food Group to scrap the payment at the very same time bosses at ABP Group announced to their workers that they would end a ten pound weekly Covid payment. These are wanton acts of naked corporate greed.
“There is a palpable sense of mounting anger among the Foyle Food Group workforce over this latest act of disrespect by bosses. Unite is demanding Foyle Food Group reviews their decision and extends the payment – there should be no deductions to our members’ take home pay”, Mr Scott concluded.
Unions warn that unilateral action will undermine airline’s recovery
June 20th: Unite Regional Officer Willie Quiqley, who chairs the Craft Group of Unions at Aer Lingus, has written to Aer Lingus management seeking an immediate meeting in light of the company’s decision to unilaterally ‘lapse’ the Covid 19 Recovery Plan 2020 ‘Understanding’ and move to forced implementation of changes and layoffs.
Aer Lingus’ decision followed their refusal to allow craft unions time to ballot on the company’s proposals, while at the same time affording another grade of worker three weeks to consult and ballot. These actions by management have created a huge amount of anger among members along with a high level of mistrust of management.
“Any unilateral action will undermine the company’s prospects for recovery as we emerge from the pandemic.
“Aer Lingus appears intent on tearing up the industrial relations practices which have been developed over decades and contributed significantly to the company’s success.
“The Craft Group of Unions has written to Aer Lingus management seeking an immediate meeting and we look forward to an early reply and meaningful engagement with the company”, Mr Quigley concluded.
Provision must be made for those who cannot return to work due to health or childcare concerns
Responding to this evening’s announcement that the hairdressing sector is to re-open from June 29th, three weeks earlier than initially planned, trade union Unite – which represents hairdressers throughout Ireland – said that employers need to engage collectively with workers to develop an agreed Covid-19 safety protocol before salons re-open. The union also called on employers to facilitate those employees who are unable to return to work at the end of the month due to underlying health conditions or lack of childcare provision. Commenting, Regional Officer Brendan Byrne said:
“While our members are keen to return to work, they need to be assured that both they and their clients will be safe in circumstances where close contact is unavoidable. Unite is also aware of workers who have underlying health conditions, or family members with such conditions, and therefore do not feel safe returning to work. There are also many workers in the sector who will be unable to make childcare arrangements between now and June 29th.
“Employers have not been in contact with Unite regarding re-opening, and the only safety information we have is a document published by the Irish Hairdressing Federation earlier this month. Before salons re-open, a sector-specific safety protocol will have to be agreed between employers, workers and the relevant government agencies. In this regard, Unite would welcome contact from employers’ representatives.
“In addition, hairdressing workers who cannot return due to underlying health conditions affecting themselves or their families, or who are unable to make childcare arrangements, must be maintained on current income supports.
“The best way to ensure that the hairdressing sector recovers quickly is for employers to engage collectively with their workers on all aspects of the re-opening”, Brendan Byrne concluded.
Frontline Meatpackers at ABP Craigavon who continued to work despite Covid-19 pandemic threat to sector left deeply angered over threat to pull premium of a mere tenner a day
Workers continue to face extra Covid costs due to lack of childcare and fears over using public transport
Unite the union Regional Officer Brian Hewitt slammed a communication sent by the Chief Executive Officer Bob Carnell to ABP workers to tell them that management at the company planned to end the Employee Assistance Fund/Scheme, initiated on March 30th, on Sunday June 21st.
“The communication to workers by the Chief Executive of ABP UK is nothing short of a blatant act of corporate greed. Like those everywhere else in this sector, the workers at ABP Meats are poorly-paid but throughout the Covid pandemic crisis, day after day, they continued to present for work.
“Globally Covid-19 has infected tens of thousands of meatpackers and outbreaks have occurred across meat processing plants across Northern Ireland but while the likes of Bob Carnell were safely cocooned, these workers were at the lines ensuring vital food supplies. Is such a contribution so easily forgotten?
“The letter speaks of the ‘significant cost to the business’ incurred by paying workers an extra tenner a day. I doubt Mr Carnell has much idea of what an extra £10 a day means to low paid workers so the decision to remove it is just another business consideration to him. This business is part of the ABP group which made €170 million in profits last year – this is not a business which needs to slap its workers in the face like this.
“While thankfully the first peak has passed, there are still very genuine fears in the meat sector globally and the pandemic is still costing our members money. Mr Carnell excuses his move by telling workers that ‘as lockdown eases… public transport and other retail / consumer services resume’ but they live the reality of real problems getting childcare. There’s still real fear about travelling on public transport and fewer seats given the need to ensure continued social distancing.
“The scrapping of this meagre payment is all about protecting the company’s bottom line – for shareholders and ensuring the Executives continue to receive huge bonuses. There is a very real sense of anger among the workforce who feel that bosses only want to exploit them. We are demanding that no deductions are made to our members’ take home pay”, Mr Hewitt concluded.