Feature Article
Mental health info line launched
by Róisín McKane

A dedicated mental health phone line has been launched by the HSE. The ‘your mental health information line’ is a confidential, 24/7 freephone service that offers information on how to access services and provides signposts to support systems. You just dial 1800 111 888 to use the service.

A dedicated mental health phone line has been launched by the HSE. The ‘your mental health information line’ is a confidential, 24/7 freephone service that offers information on how to access services and provides signposts to support systems. You just dial 1800 111 888 to use the service.

This new facility aims to help and support those suffering with mental health difficulties, and their families. Callers are connected with a trained team member who can provide national and local information.

The HSE has committed just over €1 billion to the provision of mental health services in 2020, which is a significant increase in budgetary support in recent years.

Get more information on available mental health supports HERE.

Articles A
Union recommends local govt deal
by Hazel Gavigan and Bernard Harbor

Fórsa’s Local Government Division is recommending acceptance in a ballot on new arrangements for filling admin posts in local authorities.

Fórsa’s Local Government Division is recommending acceptance in a ballot on new arrangements for filling admin posts in local authorities. The proposed new arrangement, which would replace the common recruitment pool, would “significantly improve promotion opportunities,” according to the union’s head of local government, Peter Nolan.

The new arrangement, proposed by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC), would see 50% of all promotions between grades IV to VII confined to the local authority sector, 20% confined to the employing local authority, and 30% open to public competition.

This compares to existing arrangements where half grade V vacancies are open to public competition.

All members in these grades, who are eligible to compete for promotion, are able to participate in the ballot. The division’s executive committee is strongly recommending that they vote in favour of the WRC proposal.

The union has written to the members concerned. Local Fórsa branches are now conducting ballots, and must send in their results by 11th December. The local results will be aggregated into a national result, which will apply to everyone.

Peter Nolan said: “The revised fields of competition will greatly enhance the career development prospects of our members in local government and regional assemblies. This proposal marks the most radical and progressive development for those seeking promotion in over 50 years, and we urge people to support it,” he said.

The new procedure would incorporate any existing arrangements for the first filling of new posts. Any existing panels in place for clerical and administrative grades lV to Vll at the date of commencement of these new procedures would also be used until they expire.

This proposal follows an industrial action ballot of Fórsa members after the Local Government Management Agency, which represents employers in the sector, said it intended to scrap the common recruitment pool and see promotions filled by open competition.

Get full information about the proposals HERE.

Unions warned of post-PSSA pay limbo
by Bernard Harbor

The possibility that no public service pay agreement will be in place to follow the current deal when it expires at the end of next year has been raised by Fórsa at a meeting of ICTU’s Public Service Committee, which represents most unions with members in the public sector.

The possibility that no public service pay agreement will be in place to follow the current deal when it expires at the end of next year has been raised by Fórsa at a meeting of ICTU’s Public Service Committee, which represents most unions with members in the public sector.

The union’s general secretary Kevin Callinan said Fórsa and other unions needed to prepare for the possibility, while urging the Government to inject more urgency into addressing problems with the current Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA).

Talks with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER), which have been underway since April, have reached broad agreement on a basic architecture for sectoral bargaining. This would allow unions to deal with grade-specific issues in talks early next year, with a view to implementing outcomes as part of a successor to the PSSA.

But there has, so far, been no agreement on the amount of money that would be available to meet such claims. More worryingly, the sectoral process is yet to be signed off at political level.

This needs to happen soon because a near-certain election in the first half of next year will telescope the time available for talks on a PSSA successor. It was expected that these would take place in the spring or early summer of 2020, but it’s now possible that an election – or post-election coalition talks – will be underway at that time instead.

Although PSSA pay increases are budgeted for 2020, next October’s budget would have to make provision for 2021. The likely electoral timetable means it’s increasingly feasible that negotiations and union ballots may not be concluded by then.

Earlier this year, Fórsa’s Kevin Callinan led unions into talks when he said the PSSA was no longer adequate to maintain living standards and keep up with economy-wide wage settlements. Since then the problem has worsened, with average private sector wage growth now running at three times the rate of public service increases.

Unions therefore fear a nightmare worst-case scenario where public sector pay continues to lag behind in 2020, and no deal is in place to deal with this in 2021 and beyond.

The union-backed Nevin Economic Research Institute has predicted average economy-wide pay increases of 4% in 2020 – a year when PSSA increases will be a maximum of 2.5% in total.

Fórsa has also insisted that a mechanism for dealing with grade-specific issues, including recruitment and retention difficulties, must be put in place.

It says the need for this has deepened since the summer, when the Government wound up the Public Service Pay Commission before it had made determinations for all but a tiny number of grades like nurses and doctors.

Fórsa welcomes commitment to study Dublin waste services
by Bernard Harbor

Fórsa has welcomed the allocation of €75,000 to investigate the feasibility of bringing Dublin City Council’s refuse and waste management services back into local authority control.

Fórsa has welcomed the allocation of €75,000 to investigate the feasibility of bringing Dublin City Council’s refuse and waste management services back into local authority control. The decision, which is included in the council’s 2020 budget, comes on foot of recommendations by a working group on remunicipalisation of the service, which was privatised in 2011.


The council will now seek tenders for a research project in partnership with a third level institution. It is expected that the duration of the project will be between a year and 18 months, which means it will report within the lifetime of the existing council.


Earlier this year, a waste management proposal was put to the council by the working group – made up of councillors and union representatives – on foot of a cross-party composite motion, which called for the remunicipalisation of household waste services. The motion was passed last July.


The council working group responsible for the remunicipalisation of waste services recommended that Dublin City Council should use the research to develop a roadmap to a new waste management system for the capital. Other recommendations included examining the challenges that face the project and ensuring that people with the necessary expertise are included in its planning and execution.

Peter Nolan, who heads Fórsa’s Municipal Employees’ and Local Government divisions, said the current system of unregulated private waste collection had led to a chaotic market, increased costs and a huge growth in illegal dumping in and around the capital. “Given the evidence, it is clear that a public waste collection service will provide a more efficient service to the citizens of Dublin. We need a new approach that expands the scope and quality of refuse and waste services so that Dublin can reach its full potential as a place to live, work, visit and do business,” he said.


Fórsa and other unions in the local government sector, which collectively represent over 30,000 council staff, have been campaigning for increased local authority powers and functions, and for directly-elected mayors and restored and expanded town councils. Their 'More Power to You' campaign calls for substantially increased revenue and funding powers for local authorities.


They have published research that shows Irish councils have less autonomy from central government than their counterparts in 39 European countries, that only 8% of Irish public spending occurs at local government level compared to an EU23 average of over 23%, and that a quarter of the Irish spend is not fully under local authority control. With just one city or county council for every 148,507 people, Ireland has far fewer local municipalities than similar-sized European countries.



Huge underreporting of harassment revealed
by Hazel Gavigan

Just one in every five people who experience sexual harassment in their workplace report it, according to a new survey by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU).

Just one in every five people who experience sexual harassment in their workplace report it, according to a new survey by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU).

The study also found that only a quarter of those who have reported harassment felt their complaint was taken seriously and appropriately dealt with.

The survey uncovers many barriers to reporting. One-in-three respondents said they feared reporting would damage their working relationships, while 25% feared it would have a negative impact on their career. The same number believed they wouldn’t be believed or taken seriously.


In a tenth of cases, the perpetrator was part of the reporting process.

ICTU general secretary Patricia King said: “Of all the alarming statistics thrown up by the poll, I’m struck by the unacceptably high levels of under-reporting and dissatisfaction with their employer’s action among those who do report sexual harassment.”

Echoing this statement, Fórsa’s equality officer Geraldine O’Brien said clear reporting structures were needed in every organisation so that people can feel comfortable coming forward.

“Under the Employment Equality Act, employers are obliged to adopt, implement and monitor a comprehensive, effective and accessible policy on sexual harassment. The results of this survey clearly indicate that this isn’t happening in nearly enough workplaces.


“Everyone has the right to feel safe and be respected at work, and employers who fall short on these obligations should face greater repercussions,” she said.

ICTU’s social policy officer Laura Bambrick said that one in five incidents of sexual harassment took place at work social events, while one in seven occurred via phone, by email or online.

"The Christmas party has long been identified as the most common off-site location of workplace sexual harassment, and this is borne out in our survey. However, the extent of unwanted sexual behaviour from colleagues taking place online also points to a growing problem in the modern workplace,” she said.

The national opinion poll of 1,347 union members with experience of sexual harassment at work was conducted online between 1st and 14th November. Over 70% of respondents were women.

For more information see HERE.

Private pay rises three times faster than public
by Bernard Harbor

Average private sector wage growth was three times higher than in the public service in the year to September 2019.

Average private sector wage growth was three times higher than in the public service in the year to September 2019. New figures, published by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) last week, showed that average weekly earnings rose by 3.9% in the private sector and 1.3% in the civil and public service.

The largest private sector increases came in the administrative and support sector (7.2%) and information and communications (6.8%).

The quarterly figures suggest that the gap between earnings in the public and private sectors is continuing to narrow. A recent detailed CSO study showed that the public-private pay differential closed between 2015 and 2018, despite the fact that significant restoration of crisis-era pay cuts took place in that period.

It found that the pay differential in those years ranged from -3.8% to +7.1%, depending on how it’s measured. In other words, by some measures, average public service pay is now lower than in the private sector.

Fórsa general secretary Kevin Callinan welcomed the fact that incomes were rising, but said pay was now increasing faster in virtually every part of the private sector, when compared to the public service. “The fact that the largest increase was in administrative and support services adds further weight to the union’s call for a review of public service pay," he said.

Recent pay rise projections from the union-backed Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI) suggest that the gap may narrow again. It predicts average economy-wide pay increases of 3.6% this year. This is significantly ahead of increases under the Public Service Stability Agreement, which come in at just over 1.75% in 2019. NERI predicts average economy-wide pay increases of almost 4% next year.

Private sector increases are being driven by labour shortages in an ever-broader range of occupations. Last week’s CSO figures showed that the job vacancy rate had fallen to just 0.8% in the year to September 2019, down from 1% the previous year.

The monthly unemployment rate stood at 4.8% in October.

Call for green new deal
by Róisín McKane

Ireland needs a total rework of its ideas about economic development if we are to achieve a ‘green new deal,’ according to Maynooth academic Dr Lorna Gold

Ireland needs a total rework of its ideas about economic development if we are to achieve a ‘green new deal,’ according to Maynooth academic Dr Lorna Gold.


Speaking at a recent event hosted by the union-backed Nevin Economic Research Institute, she called for a “war on emissions,” expanded public transport, and major programmes to retrofit public housing and the homes of those on low incomes.


First proposed by US Democrats, and inspired by US President Roosevelt’s 1930’s depression-busting New Deal, the green new deal describes a package of social and economic measures that would simultaneously address climate change and economic inequality.


It complements the concept of a ‘just transition,’ which is championed by unions here and abroad. This would protect workers and communities currently dependent on environmentally-damaging jobs and industries as we move to a low-carbon world.


Giving NERI’s annual Dónal Nevin lecture in Dublin, Gold urged policymakers to focus on communities on the margins and to manage the migration to low-carbon by creating generous supports for those affected by the necessary economic and industrial shifts.


While there are no jobs on a dead planet, we must share the unavoidable cost to workers directly affected by green measures, particularly through the creation of meaningful employment replacement opportunities.


And she argued that we need to radically revise our social policy to develop a progressive welfare state, social insurance and quality social services: a “social floor to be strengthened and reformed to address the challenges of an equally unpredictable world.”


Gold said Ireland could be well placed to participate in a global response to the climate crisis. But she warned that changed mind-sets were needed.

The Climate Change Performance Index ranked Ireland the worst EU country on climate action as recently as 2017. A year later, two more studies had us just above Poland at second from the bottom.

Also in this issue
Union subs ceiling raised
by Eoin Ronayne

The ceiling for Fórsa subscriptions has been raised from €380 to €387.60 with effect from 1st January 2020. This applies to those members paying the general membership rate of 0.8% of gross pay, which has an annual ceiling of €48,450. This ceiling ensures a limit to the amount that members are asked to pay in annual subscription to the union.

In accordance with the union’s rules, Fórsa’s elected National Executive Committee (NEC) decided to make the change to take account of the pay adjustment under the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA) of 2% due to civil and public servants in 2020.
The union’s two other subscription rates are unaffected by the change. These are the legacy rates paid by those who were members of the former PSEU on 31st December 2017 and the 1% rate for new and existing CO related grades in the Civil Service who have access to the former CPSU Benefit Scheme which was carried over into Fórsa.


On top of negotiated pay increases and protection when things go wrong at work, union members can benefit from an improved range of membership entitlements introduced when Fórsa was formed in 2018.

These include €5,000 in personal accident cover or €5,000 critical illness cover or death benefit, which also is also available to spouses of Fórsa members.

Alternatively, €5,000 in illness benefit is available to members who are out of work for more than 12 months. And Fórsa also covers evacuation or repatriation expenses up to the value of €250,000 for members who become seriously ill or injured, or who die, while abroad.

That’s on top of a range of financial benefits, negotiated with external providers, which can mean big savings on financial products like car, home and travel insurance, pension benefits, salary protection and life cover.

Fórsa members can also avail of free counselling, legal advice and support helplines, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. And they can opt into our group scheme, which gives them access to huge savings on a wide range of everyday items and services including restaurants, retailers, hairdressers and coffee shops.

Get full details about membership benefits here

Passport opens doors at work
ICTU/IBEC launch workplace passport scheme for workers with disability
by Niall Shanahan

Congress General Secretary Patricia King and Danny McCoy, CEO of IBEC, have launched a Workplace Accommodation Passport scheme to enable workers with a disability to carry out their work on an equal footing with others.


The joint launch took place on Tuesday (3rd December), the International Day of People with Disabilities.


Fórsa’s head of Education Andy Pike said the newly launched scheme provides for reasonable accommodation ‘passports’ whereby workers needing an adjustment to assist them in staying in their job, or accessing training, can set out the accommodation required due to their disability and agree an action plan with management.


“This is then portable to their next job, so they can demonstrate to their new employer what is needed to assist them in carrying out their work. It’s a very useful initiative and marks another step to improved equality in the workplace. It’s particularly welcome to see unions and employers launching this initiative together,” he said.


Read more HERE.

Unions mobilise against politics of hate
by Bernard Harbor

Fórsa and other leading trade unions are urging members to support a rally for peace, and against the politics of hatred, which will take place outside the Dáil from 1pm on Saturday 14th December.

The event, which is also being backed by faith and community groups, will bring people and families together “to sing and eat mince-pies in the spirit of the festive season, and to stand up for an Ireland where everyone feels safe and welcome,” according to the organisers.

The initiative is, in part, a response to small gatherings of anti-immigrant agitators, which have been taking place in recent weeks.

Along with Fórsa, the peace event is supported by Siptu, the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, Unite and Mandate, as well as the Dublin City Interfaith Forum, the National Women’s Council of Ireland, the Stop Climate Chaos Coalition, and the Irish Network Against Racism.

The rally takes place at 1pm on Saturday 14th December outside the Dáil in Kildare Street, Dublin 2.

Palestinian youth tells of incarceration
by Mehak Dugal

Palestinian youth Ahmed Alsoos was recently released from an Israeli military jail after a six-month prison sentence for throwing a stone at a soldier – a charge he denies.


Speaking in Dublin last week Ahmed, now 17, recalled the horrors of his time in prison and the drawn-out military court proceedings – during which he had no contact with his family – that led to his conviction solely on the testimony of an Israeli soldier.


He recounted his confinement in a small, stuffy dark room with no windows, and tearfully relived the constant humiliation, degradation and abuse he suffered at the hands of the guards.


Since Israel lowered the age of criminal responsibility, the military can – and do – arrest and confine children as young as 12 years old.


Alsoos was in Dublin to address a conference on the rights of Palestinian children organised by Trade Union Friends of Palestine (TUFP), which called on the Irish Government to halt trade links with Israel in protest at the systematic maltreatment of Palestinian children by the Israeli military.


Speaking on behalf of TUFP, Fórsa official Denis Keane said an Israeli strategy of mass arrests and maltreatment of Palestinian children was being implemented on an “industrial scale,” and appeared to be part of a deliberate policy to traumatise large numbers of children.


According to UNICEF, the United Nations agency for children, 59 Palestinian children were killed by Israeli forces in 2018. Another 3,472 were injured, while over 200 children – some as young as 12 – were detained and prosecuted in the Israeli military court system every month.


“Israel is the only country in the world that prosecutes children through military tribunals instead of civilian courts, and even strong allies of Israel have expressed alarm at its treatment of Palestinian children.


“We are calling on the Irish Government to take a stronger stand on Israel’s deliberate policy of killing, injuring, imprisoning and traumatising thousands of children. It should end all economic and trade links with Israel until the physical and psychological maiming of Palestinian children stops,” said Denis.


Other speakers included psychiatrist Samah Jabr, who spoke about the physical and mental impact of living in a war-torn environment, and the suppressed trauma experienced by children who experienced violent and life-threatening confrontations with Israeli soldiers.


Speakers were united in their calls for greater EU solidarity with the Palestinian people. While they welcomed a recent European Court of Justice decision on the labelling of goods originating from illegal Israeli settlements, advocates argued for stronger action to restrict commercial activities with Israel while children continue to be mistreated.


There was dismay at the weak EU response to the USA’s recent announcement that it no longer considered Israeli settlements to be illegal.


Trade Union Friends of Palestine is supported by almost all ICTU-affiliated trade unions on the island of Ireland. For many years the Irish trade union movement has had a strong position of solidarity with the Palestinian people.


Twelve years ago, ICTU adopted a policy of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) to end international support for Israel's oppression of Palestinians and to put pressure on Israel to comply with international law.

Employers join four-day week debate
by Hazel Gavigan

Local employers and members of the public were among those who attended regional information evenings on the Fórsa-led four-day week campaign in the union’s Limerick and Galway offices last week.

Representatives from the various pillars of the coalition spoke at the event, including Fórsa campaigns director, Joe O’Connor, Margaret Cox, director of Galway recruitment company ICE, Orla O’Connor and Sandra McCullagh of the National Women’s Council of Ireland, and Oisín Coghlan of Friends of the Earth.

Attendees had the opportunity to ask the panel questions about the concept of a four-day week and the benefits it would bring to their lives and workplaces. There was a diverse presence of people from all across society, employees and business owners alike, all keen to learn about what the campaign has to offer.

Joe O’Connor welcomed the interest in the meetings. “As part of the campaign’s promotion of the four-day week, it offers support and resources to businesses considering trialling shorter working time. So it was great to have employers present as well as members of the public,” he said.

The initiative is the Irish leg of an international campaign to establish a four-day week without reductions in pay or productivity. It aims to achieve a gradual, steady, managed transition to a shorter working week for all workers in the private and public sectors.

Meanwhile, the international campaign is gathering momentum as Microsoft Japan announced that productivity rose by 40% when it tested a four-day week in the summer. Its ‘work-life choice challenge 2019’ saw the tech giant grant its 2,300-strong workforce five Fridays off in a row, without decreasing their pay.

The Irish four day week roadshow will continue in 2020 with another series of meetings across the country.

One Galway quiz night
by Mehak Dugal

ONE GALWAY is hosting a Christmas quiz night in aid of Pieta House on 5th December (Thursday). It takes place in Crowes Bar, Galway city.


The quiz, which runs from 8-10pm, will promote playful rivalry between teams from trade unions, student unions and community groups in the spirit of raising money for charity.


In addition to bragging rights, a number of spot prizes will up for grabs.


Interested parties can register themselves in teams of four and it costs €40 per team. Registrations at galway@onemovement.work or get further information about the quiz here.


So if you have a free evening, pop down to the quiz to help support a good cause.