December 2016        

Workers in struggle

NUJ versus Independent News and Media

In early December the National Union of Journalists and SIPTU organised a joint protest against the scandalous decision of Independent Newspapers (Ireland) Ltd to close the company’s defined-benefit pension scheme. This decision was taken without the involvement of the trustees and with no consultation with the workers, the members of the scheme, or their unions.
     Workers protested outside the extraordinary general meeting in Dublin as shareholders of Independent News and Media PLC gathered. The shareholders were asked to vote for restructuring proposals, which pave the way for the payment of dividends to shareholders. INM wants to break an agreement reached in 2013 with the Pensions Board and the trustees.
     This case shows the need for urgent reform of the law governing pensions, as illustrated by the fact that INM could not get away with doing this in the North of Ireland.

Unions unite to advance private tenants’ rights

This campaign is an initiative of Mandate, the Communications Workers’ Union, Financial Services Union, Impact, SIPTU, and Unite, together with the on-line campaign group Uplift.
     The demands are simple: • Regulate rent increases by linking rents to the consumer price index. • Revoke the right of landlords to evict tenants for the purpose of sale. • Move from the present four-year leases to indefinite lease terms.
     Rent increases are costing retail jobs and pushing workers into poverty. Rents in Dublin have increased by 40 per cent over the last five years and nationally by 30 per cent, whereas the consumer price index has increased by only 2 per cent during that period.
     Many workers in the Dublin area are now spending up to 60 per cent of their income on accommodation. This means they can’t have enough income to provide food and clothing and other essentials, resulting in a tenth of the Irish population experiencing food poverty and a third of children experiencing multiple deprivation.
     A recent report predicted rents rising by a further 25 per cent in the next two years, which shows the urgency of this campaign.

ASTI recommends rejection

In early December the Central Executive Council of the teachers’ union ASTI called a ballot of its members, with a recommendation of rejection of a set of proposals from the Department of Education, following talks that concluded in the last week of November.
     The union will continue to defer its industrial action pending the outcome of the ballot, which will take place in January.
     Teachers have suffered savage cuts in educational resources as well as attacks on their pay and conditions. Recently qualified teachers have been singled out for additional cuts.
     Following the Government’s unilateral use of the draconian “financial emergency measures in the public interest” against them, ASTI members engaged in two days of strike action over unequal pay and on 7 November withdrew from supervision and substitution duties. Strike action was deferred on 8 November for the duration of the talks process.

Unite’s Living Wage campaign

Fermanagh and Omagh District Council has become a living-wage employer in response to Unite’s Living Wage campaign. The regional secretary of Unite, Jimmy Kelly, welcomed the commitment by the council to become a fully accredited Living Wage employer and called on other councils to follow suit and lead the fight against poverty pay.
      This decision means that all council employees will now be paid a minimum of £8.45 an hour. The decision reflects the growing confidence of the trade union movement in the council area.

Impact and “staffless libraries”

Impact has urged the minister for local government, Simon Coveney, to meet workers’ representatives to discuss their concern over the expansion of “staffless libraries.” This came after the union’s 1,200 library workers backed industrial action by a margin of 9 to 1, with a turn-out of 83 per cent.
     The union has instructed its members not to undertake the work necessary to facilitate the introduction of staffless services in twenty-three local libraries around the country. It believes that a drift towards staffless libraries would fragment the service so that services in small towns and rural areas would be downgraded, with little or no access to specialist advice, educational courses. or cultural events. Poorer urban areas would also be denied both extended opening hours and enhanced services based on modern information and communications technologies.

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