Feature Article
Free health helpline for Fórsa members

Fórsa members now have exclusive access to a new health and fitness helpline, which includes free non-diagnostic advice on medical matters. The new service, introduced at the end of 2018, also offers free advice on allergies, the side effects of drugs, and improving your fitness.



Health and medical information is provided by qualified nurses from 9.00am to 5.00pm, Monday to Friday, excluding public and bank holidays. If you call outside these times, you can leave a message and you’ll get a call back. Phone: 1890-254-164.


And you can get information on our other free legal, counselling and domestic assistance helplines – exclusive to Fórsa members – HERE.

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Labour Court's flight crew compromise
by Niall Shanahan

The Labour Court has split the difference between Fórsa and Aer Lingus on the issue of cabin crew ratios on the company’s transatlantic flights.

The Labour Court has split the difference between Fórsa and Aer Lingus on the issue of cabin crew ratios on the company’s transatlantic flights.


The current agreed crewing composition for the Airbus A330 aircraft is eight personnel, made up of a cabin services manager, three senior cabin crew and four cabin crew members (a ratio of 1:3:4).


Fórsa official Ashley Connolly explained, “We sought to retain the current crewing level, as the company sought to change the crewing ratio to 1:1:6, reducing the number of senior cabin crew.


“We argued that the current crewing ratio had remained unchanged even when the airline was at its most challenged. With the company expanding and profits at an all-time high, we argued there’s no financial need for this radical change,” she said.


The court recommended a crewing ratio of 1:2:5 for the A330 aircraft, with two senior cabin crew managers instead of the current three.


When the Labour Court made a recommendation on pay at the airline in 2017, it included the possibility of group-by-group productivity pay increases, with the savings from the productivity measures to be distributed 50/50 between the workers and the company.


The transatlantic crewing ratio is just one item currently under discussion between Fórsa and Aer Lingus. A number of other productivity issues remain under discussion and are expected to be put to a ballot when talks on all the outstanding issues are completed.

P&O pay deal accepted
by Bernard Harbor

Fórsa members employed by P&O Maritime have voted overwhelmingly to accept a new pay deal worth 6.75% over two years.

Fórsa members employed by P&O Maritime have voted overwhelmingly to accept a new pay deal worth 6.75% over two years. The agreement will see pay increases of 2% from last May, a further 2.25% from May 2019, and another 2.5% from 1st May 2020.


P&O Maritime operates the Marine Institute’s two research vessels, the RV Celtic Explorer and RV Celtic Voyager and employs ship-based and land-based staff. Fórsa members in the company are in a section of the union’s new Marine branch, which represents staff in the Marine Institute and the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority.


Fórsa assistant general secretary Johnny Fox said the deal would keep pay increases in line with average increases across the economy. “Over the past six years Fórsa has negotiated cumulative pay increases of 16%, which averages out at 2.8% a year. This is well within the economy-wide average and above industry norms in this sector,” he said.

Fórsa to discuss new IAA deal
by Niall Shanahan

Fórsa is preparing to negotiate a comprehensive new five-year pay and pensions deal with the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA). Six of the union’s branches – drawn from each of the unions that amalgamated to form Fórsa last year – will be represented as a single unit for the first time when talks commence later this month.

Fórsa is preparing to negotiate a comprehensive new five-year pay and pensions deal with the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA). Six of the union’s branches – drawn from each of the unions that amalgamated to form Fórsa last year – will be represented as a single unit for the first time when talks commence later this month.


The current agreement with the IAA expires at the end of 2019. Fórsa official Johnny Fox said negotiations on a new five-year pay and pensions deal were brought forward to March, owing to the likely complexity of the task.


Johnny will be working with Fórsa official Denis Keane and Billy Thompson of the AHCPS in the negotiations. “This is the first time we’re entering negotiations as a single union, alongside the AHCPS. Previously, pay discussions would've been handled by three separate (IMPACT) union branches,” he said.


“We’re embarking on a major set of negotiations, which we estimate will take six months or more. For those of us involved, it’s very significant that we’re entering negotiations as one union. It shows the confidence of our new union structure, taking on something of this scale at this early stage,” he said.


The union branches represented by Fórsa in the negotiations include the Aviation Technical Officers Association, which joined Fórsa in March last year.

Flaws in airline employment practices
by European Cockpit Association

The European Cockpit Association (ECA) issued a statement last Friday (1st March) in response to the publication of a European Commission report which aims to improve legal certainty for aircrews by providing clarifications on their protection under EU law. The report has been welcomed by IALPA, a branch of Fórsa.

A long-awaited wake-up call to EU Member States and an Expert Group are the two essential elements of the EU Commission’s new plan to prevent social abuses in aviation. Published today by the Commission, it outlines the ‘Social Agenda’ for air crew, with the aim of achieving ‘socially responsible air transport’ in Europe. Its primary targets are airlines and temporary agencies, some of which are using loopholes and lack of enforcement of EU and national social legislation.


Airlines misclassifying their pilots and cabin crew as self-employed; making quasi-permanent use of broker agencies; offering young pilots exploitative Pay-to-Fly schemes; or preventing crews’ access to the labour law of their Home Base country are some of the major challenges listed in the 'Social Agenda' report. Central to tackling those problems will be a new Expert Group of labour inspectorates and civil aviation authorities from EU Member States, which will be working towards practical solutions. This means some airlines, agencies and intermediaries may now feel the heat – after years of undisturbed circumvention of existing labour laws and EU regulations.


“Due to the lack of a common European labour law and social protection, the EU has far too long turned a blind eye on the social problems, abuses and anti-competitive practices piling up in our Single Aviation Market,” says ECA President Jon Horne.


“We need to break away with the idea that the EU cannot do anything because it has no say over national social issues. Recently adopted rules for truck drivers that are clearer, fairer and more enforceable show the EU actually can do a lot when a strong political will is there. The new Expert Group of aviation and labour authorities is potentially a very good approach towards the many problems we face in our sector – although regulatory changes will also be needed soon.”


The ‘Social Agenda’ report puts the spotlight on a major handicap of today’s system: the lack of legal certainty and the constant need for a time-consuming case-by-case analysis of problematic employment situations and business set-ups.


“Legal certainty is not a ‘nice-to-have’ – it is a ‘must-have’,” says ECA President Jon Horne. “National authorities need clear and enforceable rules with clear responsibilities for the airlines. The same is true for the crew: they need to know their rights and have legal certainty in advance. If we know for example that nearly all pilot self-employment is in reality fake, why not create criteria, definitions, presumptions and prior checks of compliance to prevent such abuses before they happen? It should not be up to the individuals to fight a long and costly court battle against a multi-billion euro company.”


The report also states that rules are to be respected: EU legislation setting the minimum social standards, such as the Posted Workers Directive or the Coordination of Social Security, and national labour law applicable to air crew, must be adhered to by the airlines and be enforced by national authorities. Importantly, the EU Commission also explicitly spells out that the ‘Home Base’ of air crew is the single most significant criterion to determine which national labour law applies to them, and that the ‘nationality of the aircraft’ is irrelevant in this respect – unlike what certain airlines have claimed so far.


Bogus self-employment among pilots is a major issue to be addressed seriously by the new Expert Group. According to the Commission, strong indicators show that self-employment is actually not genuine. Instead, it is used by airlines as a smoke-screen for what should be regular employment. The Ricardo study, carried out for the purpose of the EU Commission’s report, reveals the scale of the problem: 93% of the self-employed pilots in Europe were not free to choose when, where and for whom they want to work.


“More and more airlines are forcing precarious atypical employment upon their crew to provide flexibility and productivity at all costs. They call it ‘new business models’, we call it abuse,” says ECA Secretary General Philip von Schöppenthau. “These ‘models’ are possible because of existing legal loopholes and lack of enforcement. It is time to recognise this and – also for the EU Commission – to accept that some of these new business ‘models’ in aviation are actually part of the problem.


Unfortunately, this ‘Social Agenda’ report does not go far enough on this, and many of the proposed actions can only be considered as a very initial first step.”


He continues: “However, with this ‘Social Agenda’ report nobody can deny any longer that significant social challenges for air crew exist and are tangible in their daily life. To make socially responsible connectivity and a level playing field a reality in Europe’s aviation, these problems must be tackled urgently and jointly by Member States, the Commission, Parliament and social partners. The ample evidence provided in this report is a powerful reason for the current Commission to keep focus on the social agenda now and to pass it on as a priority to the post-Juncker era.”


See also: Statement by the European Commission Aviation: Commission continues to push for higher social standards Friday 1st March 2019.

Private employers anticipate pay rises
by Diarmaid Mac a Bhaird

Employers in the private sector expect pay to increase by an average of 2.5% in 2019 according to CIPD Ireland, the professional body for human resource practitioners.

Employers in the private sector expect pay to increase by an average of 2.5% in 2019 according to CIPD Ireland, the professional body for human resource practitioners. This is first time its overall pay projection has risen above 2% for six years.


CIPD’s winter 2018-2019 Labour Market Outlook says small and medium enterprises (SMEs) expect pay to increase by 3%, while larger private sector employers predict a lower 2% increase.


Last December, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) set a target of 3.4% for private sector pay settlements this year. Its private sector committee also tasked unions with securing additional benefits and continuing to address ‘legacy issues’ in the sector.


The CIPD outlook says 43% of British employers still can’t say how their pay will change in 2019, with uncertainty around Brexit cited as a particular concern.


Read the report HERE.

Fórsa marks international women’s day
by Hazel Gavigan

Fórsa’s probation branch will be running a clothing drive to mark International Women’s Day (IWD) on Friday (8th March). The event will support ‘Dress for Success Dublin,’ an organisation that helps women to access employment.

Fórsa’s probation branch will be running a clothing drive to mark International Women’s Day (IWD) on Friday (8th March). The event will support ‘Dress for Success Dublin,’ an organisation that helps women to access employment.


The branch is collecting suits, shirts, unworn tights, shoes, handbags and jewellery. Donations are welcome any time before March 8th to Fiona Daly on the fourth floor and Linda or Mary on the first floor at 9 Haymarket, Smithfield, Dublin 7.


Dress for Success campaigned alongside Fórsa and multiple other groups for the introduction of gender pay gap reporting legislation in Ireland. If enacted, the law would oblige companies above a certain size to publish details of their gender pay gap. The Bill is currently before the Dáil, having passed through the Seanad last October.


The gender pay gap in Ireland today is approximately 14% which is significant to the theme for this IWD - #BalanceforBetter.


Also on this IWD, Fórsa president Ann McGee will speak on a panel at the Irish Congress of Trade Union’s (ICTU) Women’s Committee seminar. The panel, to be chaired by ICTU president Sheila Nunan, will discuss the challenges and opportunities that women in leadership positions face in the trade union movement. Contributors include leading women from various unions across Ireland and the UK.


The event takes place on Thursday and Friday (7th and 8th of March) in Newcastle, County Down, and you can follow proceedings on our Twitter.


At the international level, the European Federation of Public Services Unions (EPSU), of which Fórsa is an affiliate, is sending a delegation to the 63rd UN Commission on the Status of Women. This global event coincides with IWD, and will examine the theme of “social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.”


For more information on this you can follow the hashtags #IWD #EPSUIWD and #publicservicesforequality on Friday.

Also in this issue
New entrants deal kicks in
by Bernard Harbor

The union-negotiated ‘new entrants’ pay deal came into force last week, well ahead of the earliest date envisaged in the current public service pay agreement. The new arrangement will see public servants recruited since 2011 skip their fourth and eighth increments.


The change now kicks in on the date on which each individual affected hits their fourth and eighth increment date. It will boost pay, and ensure that new entrants’ reach the top of their pay scales over the same time period as their more experienced colleagues.


The term ‘new entrants’ refers to people who started work in the civil and public service, and organisations linked to it for pay purposes, after 2011 when inferior pay scales for new staff were imposed by the Government without agreement.


These inferior scales, which were worth 10% less at every point of each scale, were abolished at unions’ insistence under the 2013 Haddington Road agreement.


But, until now, new entrants continued to have more lengthy pay scales than their longer-serving colleagues, with two lower pay points at the beginning of each scale.


The Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA) established a process to address the problem. Following detailed discussions and inputs from Fórsa and other unions, this resulted in the solution that took effect last week.


Get more detail HERE.


Read the DPER ‘frequently-asked questions’ document HERE.

Congress seeks softest possible Brexit
by Bernard Harbor

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) has called on the Government to abandon plans for tax cuts, and instead earmark €500 million to deal with the possible fallout of a hard Brexit. In a briefing document published last week, ICTU says a British crash-out from the EU later this month would bring substantial job losses, food price hikes, and a dent in public finances.

The implications of a no-deal Brexit, ICTU’s fourth Brexit briefing, says fears of a hard Brexit have increased, but argues for the softest possible settlement between the UK and the EU.

“The best way to achieve this is to agree the closest possible relationship between the UK and the EU, ideally with the entire UK staying in the single market and the customs union. Only by achieving this can we ensure that jobs and citizens’ and workers’ rights are not negatively affected,” it says.

Meanwhile, Paschal Donohoe has said 400 extra customs staff will be recruited before the end of March to deal with a new Brexit customs scenario. And another 200 will come on stream soon after that. Speaking in the Dáil last week, the finance minister also said he would provide extra resources to Revenue if they were needed.

Last week, the chief executive of Dublin Port said the number of lorries travelling through Dublin from outside the EU would rise by 800,000 if there was a hard Brexit.

Irish policy fuels low-pay
by Diarmaid Mac a Bhaird

Welfare supports and weak labour market protections are combining to facilitate low pay, poor working conditions, and insecure and precarious employment, according to the social change think-tank TASC.


The state we are in: inequality in Ireland today says Ireland ranks among the worst in the EU in terms of labour market protections and the regulation of temporary contracts. And inequality here is boosted by relatively high living costs and the lack of universal provision in public services like health, childcare and housing.


Coupled with poor labour market regulation, the report says welfare payments like child benefit, family income supplement and jobseekers’ allowance for part-time workers act as State subsidies for low-paying employers.


Ineffective regulation also puts governments under pressure to subsidise lower middle-income earners in precarious work, it says.

The study finds that the share of income among middle earners is generally stable across many countries. “Where Ireland differs is not that the poorest are unusually poor, but that groups above the bottom 10% get a smaller share compared to our more equal European neighbours,” it says.


TASC also says a high proportion of the population – 24% – are at risk of poverty. Over 27% of children are at risk, while adults with disabilities and lone parents are also particularly vulnerable groups.


Read the report HERE.

Unions key to automation protection
by Diarmaid Mac a Bhaird

An increased role for trade unions and collective bargaining, along with improved social security supports and a broader focus on skills, is needed to protect job quality in the face of workplace automation, according to a new report from the Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI).


The future of work: The impact of automation technologies for job quality in Northern Ireland, examines the effects of increasing automation on the nature of work and job quality. It draws on previous experience of new technologies to understand how automation might affect the quality of jobs in the future.


The report says that automation may destroy some jobs, but will likely create more employment. It adds that assessing the impact of this for workers requires evaluating both the jobs lost and those subsequently created.


It says that, while the economy has been able to create new jobs to avoid overall employment reductions, lost jobs in sectors like manufacturing have not been replaced with identical roles.


The report also found that industries and occupations with the lowest risk of automation are more susceptible to lower job quality in Northern Ireland, and it is unlikely job quality will improve without direct policy intervention.


Read the report HERE.

Future of work dubbed a security challenge
by Bernard Harbor

A former US national security advisor has identified the impact of new technology on work practices and employment as one of the top challenges facing governments across the world.

Speaking on a podcast last month, Tom Donilon said the impact of technologies like artificial intelligence, robotics and automation was “a fundamental discussion that we’re not having.”

Mr Donilon was national security advisor in the Obama administration, and also worked in the White House for presidents Clinton and Carter.

In an interview with the left-leaning US podcast Pod Save The World, he ranked the issue alongside the most worrying geopolitical trends including nuclear weapons proliferation, great power confrontation, cyber-security and threats to democracy.

“Populism is not at its peak right now. We have a much more fundamental populist challenge in the western democracies, and one of the essential things in dealing with this is having a really serious discussion about how we’re going to manage the future of work in the face of technology,” he said.

Mr Donilon criticised the lack of US investment in infrastructure to address the issue, particularly at a time when governments can borrow at very low interest rates. “We have conversations about trade, and trade has had negative impacts on communities in the United States. But it’s not at the same scale, frankly, as these technological impacts are going to be.

“I would like to see a lot of discussion about that. I would consider that to be a national security discussion, because it’s the sort of thing that keeps a society together and gives us a strong economy going forward,” he said.

Last month Fórsa published policy guidelines on the implications of new technologies in the civil and public service. The union said management should work with unions to ensure that their introduction does not result in job losses or poorer services.

The Fórsa paper called for steps to ensure that new recruits are equipped to thrive in increasingly-automated work environments, and that older workers should get help to adapt.

Youth network relaunched
by Róisín McKane

A new Fórsa youth network was launched in February, and the group is now working hard, establishing their presence. Nominations to the network were sought from branches late last year and the newly constituted group, made up of just under 30 young members, held their first meeting last month.


The committee, chaired by Fórsa President Ann McGee, has been charged with highlighting issues relevant to younger members and advocating on their behalf. The inaugural meeting kicked off with a busy agenda, and an engaging and robust discussion around workplace and social issues ensued.


Fórsa’s youth network is open to any member under the age of 35. The union has advised anyone who wants to get involved to contact their branch secretary or email the network HERE.