May 2014        

Labour movement news

Struggle brings results

The Technical, Engineering and Electrical Union welcomed the report of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development that assessed the Government’s “Action Plan for Jobs,” particularly its warning that more must be done to tackle youth unemployment.
      The general secretary of the TEEU, Éamon Devoy, said: “A major example of the lack of joined-up thinking in this area is the continuing failure of the Government to remove student charges on young apprentices attending training modules at third-level colleges.
      “The charges can range from €833 to €1,433 and are a major imposition on these young workers, who earn less than the minimum wage starting off. In many cases it is preventing them from completing their courses and entering the work force to achieve their full potential, or seek decent employment abroad.
      “These charges fly in the face of the concept of a youth guarantee and are seen by all as a tax on training. The levy being imposed on apprentices is only worth €1.6 million and would be repaid many times over to the exchequer if these young workers were facilitated in completing their training and allowed to enter the work force as fully qualified craft workers.”

Mandate delivers the goods

Members of the trade union Mandate have won more than €20 million in pay increases over the past twenty-four months, the union’s general secretary, John Douglas, has reported. He was speaking to three hundred delegates at Mandate’s biennial delegate conference in Killarney, where he called for more workers to join unions so they could win pay increases and help the local economy.
      “Mandate members in the retail sector have been very successful in achieving higher rates of pay and better security of hours since our last conference two years ago,” he told delegates.
      The union, which represents 45,000 retail and bar workers, has won pay increases in Argos (3 per cent), Boot’s (4 per cent), Brown Thomas (2 per cent), Debenham’s (2 per cent), Dunne’s Stores (3 per cent), Marks and Spencer (2.5 per cent), Penney’s (3 per cent), Superquinn—now Supervalu (2 per cent), and Tesco (4 per cent).
      “While zero-hour contracts and low-hour contracts are becoming the norm in the Irish economy, the vast majority of our members have achieved ‘banded-hour contracts,’ ensuring that they have certainty of hours of employment. This, combined with the pay increases they have won, will secure a decent wage for them and their families.
      “At a time when 16 per cent of those at work are living in deprivation, when one in ten people suffer from food poverty, and 147,000 workers say they cannot get enough hours at work, the solution to our economic and social crisis is clear. Joining a trade union and collectively bargaining with your employer will always be the greatest way to ensure decent income and decent work.”

      Addressing the issue of tax cuts, he said: “While Government and employer representatives argue that tax cuts are the best way to increase domestic demand, this policy is not in the best interests of our members, or lower-paid workers generally. Low-paid workers don’t earn enough money to pay income tax. They rely on social transfers, like the family income supplement, and they also rely on decent public services in health and in education.
      “Cutting tax for the top 20 per cent or 30 per cent of earners will only starve our public services and widen the income inequality gap that is already far too wide.
      “Our union is determined to reduce poverty levels in Irish society. We’re determined to put more spending power into our members’ pockets, and we’re determined to ensure that decent work becomes the norm for the Irish work force. We make no apologies for achieving these goals by collectively bargaining and winning pay increases for our members.”

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