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.
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.
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.
June 19th: Unite, which represents workers in all sectors throughout Ireland, has said that the draft programme for government negotiated by Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Green Party would see Ireland continuing to be run in a manner that puts private interests above the public good. In a statement issued today (Friday), the union’s Senior Officer in the Republic of Ireland, Brendan Ogle, said:
“The draft Programme for Government represents a plan to continue to run our country in a manner that puts private interests above the public good. In addition to the complete betrayal of any pretence to deliver workers’ rights that meet international norms, the Programme commits to Ireland continuing to act as an international tax haven. Ireland will continue to be a safe haven for those who want to contribute nothing, and a daily drudge for those working and paying to improve their lives and our society.
“We have the lowest standard of workers and union rights in our peer group. Negotiators for Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Green Party are happy to keep it that way.
“Apart from the betrayal of workers, including the frontline workers who have been hailed as heroes during this pandemic, the proposals on healthcare are actually shocking. Rather than learn the obvious lesson we need a single tier public health system based on need, not means, the Programme enshrines a right to ‘retain access to private health services, ensuring choice for those accessing health care.’ People on low incomes have no such ‘choice’.
“Putting profit and ‘choice’ before the nation’s health is exactly what left us completely unprepared to face this pandemic. If the pursuit of profit is what is driving our basic right to healthcare (and it is), it is clear what the agenda of this proposed new Government is – further division, inequality, poverty and death.
“This programme is shameful”, Mr Ogle concluded.
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New Government parties must firm up on programme commitments to Midlands
Workers must be central to proposed Just Transition Commission
June 17th: Responding to the news that Bord na Mona is to suspend peat harvesting, trade union Unite – which represents craft and administrative grades in the company – said today (Wednesday) that workers need a clear roadmap illustrating how jobs and incomes will be continue to be protected as Bord na Mona exits out of peat. Unite welcomed Bord na Mona’s commitment in writing to the GOU that no jobs will be lost as a result of the announcement, and said it is now up to the parties forming the likely incoming Government to firm up on the commitments to the Midlands in the Programme for Government published on Monday.
Regional Officer Colm Quinlan said:
“While the exit from peat harvesting marks the end of an era in the Midlands, our focus must now be on ensuring security of employment and earnings going forward.
“As members of Fine Gael, Fianna Fail and the Green Party consider the Programme for Government, Bord na Mona workers and their families want to know how the parties will implement the commitment to “ensure that the Just Transition in the Midlands works inclusively” and that “vulnerable families and communities are protected”.
Regional Officer Ed Thompson added:
“Translating those aspirations into security for workers and communities requires a roadmap detailing projected jobs numbers while ensuring security of employment and earnings.
“The Bord na Mona Group of Unions believes that, as a matter of urgency, all parties should conclude an industrial relations agreement that will lead to job security and the retention of current earnings for existing workers by utilising voluntary redundancy and redeployment where necessary. Such an agreement should set out clear timelines on an annual basis over the next five years for transitional plans, allied to the Just Transition process.
“The Programme for Government notes that the exit from peat in the Midlands is the first test of Just Transition.
“If the parties forming the next Government are to pass this test, workers must be fully involved in the de-carbonisation process. .
Concluding, Colm Quinlan said:
“Bord na Mona workers have a wealth of expertise and experience which can inform the transition to a new low-carbon digital economy, ensuring that communities are not left behind. Workers and their representatives must be central to the proposed new statutory Just Transition Commission, and we look forward to the parties to the incoming Government giving a firm commitment in this regard”, Mr Quinlan concluded.