Feature Article
Roscommon rally needs your support
by Bernard Harbor

Fórsa’s Roscommon Local Government branch is calling on members from across the union to support next Saturday’s protest over management’s refusal to implement a flexi-leave scheme in the council. The rally takes place in Roscommon town at 2pm on Saturday 23rd June.

Fórsa’s Roscommon Local Government branch is calling on members from across the union to support next Saturday’s protest over management’s refusal to implement a flexi-leave scheme in the council. The rally takes place in Roscommon town at 2pm on Saturday 23rd June.


A campaign of one-day strikes every Thursday and Tuesday will commence in the council tomorrow (21st June) in a dispute that’s been running for over two years.


Council management has refused to halt its effective ban on flexi-leave in defiance of two biding Labour Court recommendations, two Labour Court clarifications of its position, and one Labour Court clarification of its clarifications. The union decided to take industrial action after management refused to concede any progress in Workplace Relations Commission-brokered talks, which have been going on for weeks.


Branch chair Florie Hickey invited Fórsa members from across the country to join the protest. “We were buoyed by the outstanding support the branch received at last month’s Fórsa conference in Killarney, and now we’re looking for your support for this Rally on Saturday 23rd June,” she said.


Branch secretary Fiona Fallon said flexi-systems in other public service employments could be put at risk if Roscommon management got away with flouting agreements. “Staff in Roscommon County Council have been denied access to flexi leave since May 2017. This is Roscommon today. It could be you tomorrow,” she said.
Fórsa official Padraig Mulligan said management had not budged an inch in seven Workplace Relations Commission hearings on the matter. “We really have explored every avenue to avoid industrial action. Now we need the support of Fórsa branches as we embark on a campaign of one-day strikes,” he said.


The Labour Court last year confirmed that Roscommon council staff should have the same rights as their colleagues throughout the local government sector. Its recommendation, which was binding on both sides, pointed to the Haddington Road agreement’s provisions on flexi-leave, which say: “no change is proposed to the existing terms with regard to the amount or the use of hours to be carried over.” That protection carried into the current Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA).


Padriag said management’s intransigence, which is unprecedented in Irish local government and across the public service, was an attack on working parents, particularly working mums. “No other local authority in Ireland has attacked working parents – and particularly working mothers – in this way. It is unprecedented within the public service, and it hits lower-paid women hardest as many of them depend on the flexi scheme to balance work and caring responsibilities,” he said.

Assemble at the Sacred Heart Church car park, Roscommon Town, 2pm, Saturday 23rd June.


For updates and rally details, including branch transport arrangements, register at the Facebook event page.



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Unions back Ervia pay proposal
by Niall Shanahan

Fórsa, Siptu and Unite members at Ervia / Irish Water have backed new pay proposals which will increase basic pay, by an average of 2.5% per year, up to March 2020.

Fórsa, Siptu and Unite members at Ervia / Irish Water have backed new pay proposals which will increase basic pay, by an average of 2.5% per year, up to March 2020.


Union members backed the proposals by a margin of 59% to 41%. Ervia employs just over 1,600 staff in what was formerly Gas Networks Ireland (Bord Gais) and Irish Water.


The multi-year deal provides for base pay increases, equivalent to market movement, in addition to increased performance-related awards plus an increase in annual leave for lower grades (F and G grades) represented by Fórsa.


Under the terms of the new deal, basic pay will rise by:

  • 2.5% from 1st January 2018
  • 2.5% from 1st January 2019
  • 0.67% from 1st January to 31st March 2020.

In his report, independent facilitator Joe McDermott recommended that the company arrange immediate payment of the pay increases for 2018 following formal acceptance by the group of unions.


The newly agreed pay model replaces the review of 26 comparator companies with a new assessment that looks at the average pay movement from three established pay surveys.


The surveys are the IRN-CIPD annual survey, the Ibec annual survey and the Willis Towers Watson general industry survey.


In order to ensure the company's pay remains in line with market movement, the deal provides that, in the event of greater than forecast pay trends (plus or minus more than 0.1%), this will be reflected fully in subsequent years, after March 2020. In addition, the pay progression process will continue to be subject to an annual affordability test.


Assistant general secretary Johnny Fox said the new pay model, by agreement, maintained a performance-related approach. “The new agreement ensures pay stays in line with average pay movement across the economy, while also boosting the potential to deliver, particularly for the F and G grades represented by Fórsa.


“Securing an improvement to standard annual leave, in addition to performance awards, for these grades is another important breakthrough, and while we’ve ensured that pay improvements are consistent with economic trends, the deal provides for this to be addressed post-2020 in the event that pay movement is much greater than forecast,” he said.


The full set of proposals is available HERE.

Ryanair pilots ballot for industrial action
by Niall Shanahan

Directly-employed pilots in Ryanair, who are members of the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (IALPA), are currently balloting for industrial action on the issue of management’s approach to transferring pilots between its European bases.

Directly-employed pilots in Ryanair, who are members of the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (IALPA), a branch of Fórsa, are currently balloting for industrial action.


The ballot concerns management’s approach to transferring pilots between its European bases. The union is seeking an agreement that would govern base transfer arrangements and related matters.


The ballot was originally due to close on Tuesday (19th June). However, an IALPA circular issued on Monday advised its members that the ballot deadline has been extended to noon on Tuesday 3rd July.

Unpaid parental leave may increase
by Hazel Gavigan

The maximum unpaid parental leave entitlement of 18 weeks per child could rise to 26 weeks if the Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2017, which passed through the Dáil last week, becomes law. The Bill, which was put down by the Social Democrats, would also extend the threshold for parental leave from eight years of age to 12.

The maximum unpaid parental leave entitlement of 18 weeks per child could rise to 26 weeks if the Parental Leave (Amendment) Bill 2017, which passed through the Dáil last week, becomes law. The Bill, which was put down by the Social Democrats, would also extend the threshold for parental leave from eight years of age to 12.


However, it would require Government support to introduce paid parental leave as opposition parties cannot propose Bills at a cost to the state.


Speaking at the Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ (ICTU) women’s conference in Fermanagh last Wednesday, ICTU general secretary Patricia King said unions wanted the introduction of paid parental leave, she said Ireland lagged well behind other countries when it comes to paid family leave.


“That’s why Congress has joined with trade unions across Europe to demand swift adoption of a new EU directive on work-life balance that would enhance women’s work opportunities through provision of better family-related leave and flexible working,” she said.


If adopted, the proposed directive would lead to the introduction of paid parental leave on a similar basis to maternity and paternity leave.


Congress equality officer David Joyce commented on the current barriers to Irish working families. “With up to 50% of workers in Ireland earning less than €34,000, and almost one in five classified as low paid, it is clear that many households will be unable to avail of unpaid parental leave,” he said.


The Fórsa contingent at the women’s conference included the union’s president Ann McGee, who spoke on the representation of women in public life. National secretary Billy Hannigan spoke on gender inequality in the finance sector. Margaret Coughlan spoke on the ICTU charter for housing rights, while official Geraldine O’Brien spoke on pension inequality.

More than half young workers going hungry to pay rent - Congress
More than 80% of young workers say housing will influence vote in next election.
by Irish Congress of Trade Unions

One in two young workers are struggling to cover their housing costs and are going without meals and other essentials to pay their rent according to a new survey from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

The national opinion poll of 1,500 trade union members under the age of 34 on their housing costs was conducted online between the 1st and 14th of June.


The survey was carried out by Congress ahead of the Labour Employer Economic Forum (LEEF) discussions between Government, union and employer representatives on housing.


In a statement on the survey findings, Congress said it recognises the “significant and unacceptable impact of our broken housing system on vulnerable individuals and families with young children experiencing homelessness.”


Congress is continuing to lobby TDs to commit to adopting its Charter for Housing Rights.


Congress social policy officer Dr Laura Bambrick said “This particular piece of research focused on the impact of the housing crisis on a generation of people who are sandwiched between high housing costs and low wages, to allow us take a detailed look behind snappy terms such as ‘generation rent’ and ‘delayed adulthood’.”


Congress general secretary Patricia King said: “The findings are worse than feared. Lives are being damaged and destroyed and a whole generation of young workers are now feeling alarming levels of frustration, insecurity and despondency with their housing situation. We are failing badly our young people” she said.


Patricia added: “Congress will use these stark findings to continue to put pressure on Government to take action through our ongoing housing campaign and in the upcoming social dialogue with ministers and employers.”


Key findings

  • More than half (54%) of all young workers are struggling to cover their housing costs. One in every two have had to borrow or sacrifice another basic need, such as food, heating and transportation, in order to pay their rent or mortgage in the past year. Of those young workers struggling to make the rent, one in six (17%) are unable to keep their head above water and are in arrears
  • Two in five (40%) of all young workers are spending in excess of the 30% rent-to-income ratio of housing affordability. Half of these workers are spending between €31 and €40 out of every €100 of take-home pay on rent. One-quarter are spending between €41 and €50. The other quarter are spending above €51 in every €100 net earnings, which represents one in ten of all young workers spending more than half of their wages on housing
  • Almost half (46%) of all young workers are frustrated that they remain living in their parents’ home or that they are trapped renting. One in six (18%) are very frustrated with their current living arrangements
  • One-third (33%) of all young workers are blighted by housing insecurity, with one in three having little or no confidence in being able to continue living in their current home for as long as they would wish
  • The vast majority (74%) of young workers have little or no confidence in being able to buy a home in the future should they wish to
  • More than eight in ten (84%) of all young workers say housing will influence how they vote in the next election.
Aware issues plea for volunteers
by Roisin McKane

Do you want to help people impacted by mental health difficulties? Perhaps you have three hours a week to spare? If so, Aware urgently needs your help.

Aware is Ireland’s leading organisation working with and for people affected by mental health issues, and it provides free support, education and information.


The organisation relies heavily on the support of its team of dedicated, passionate volunteers. And it’s urgently seeking new recruits to ensure the continuation of these profoundly valuable, nationwide services.


Aware need volunteers to help in four main services – the support line, support mail, support and self-care groups and an online life skills group.


You don’t need qualifications or prior experience because volunteers receive comprehensive and continuous training.


Fórsa lead organiser Julie Healy has welcomed the initiative, encouraging all interested parties to get involved. “This is a fantastic opportunity for anyone interested in providing support to those dealing with mental health issues. Volunteering can be very rewarding, and can make a real difference in someone’s life,” she said.


“Aware is an invaluable organisation and provides essential support services to those in need. Following Fórsa’s launch of the Green Ribbon Campaign earlier this year, the importance of mental health support services was apparent amongst our members – not just for people experiencing personal difficulties, but also for their families,” said Julie.


Recruitment is currently underway with a view to having volunteers in situ by September.


Click HERE for more information on how you can get involved.

Fórsa audio bulletin episode 10
by Hazel Gavigan (audio editor)

In this episode we cover the Roscommon industrial action, concerns over plans to establish a single water facility, Fórsa retired members' benefits and more.

Presented by Hazel Gavigan and Diarmaid Mac a Bhaird.

Also in this issue
New entrant engagement set for summer
by Bernard Harbor

Contacts between unions and officials from the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) on the ‘new entrant’ issue will continue over the summer, according to Fórsa senior general secretary Shay Cody.


Initial engagements have taken place and DPER is continuing to gather data. Unions and management are exploring the practical issues involved in shortening pay scales for staff who joined the civil and public service after 2010.


Fórsa has called on the Government to allocate funds in October’s Budget to begin shortening new entrant pay scales next year. This would be significantly earlier than envisaged in the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA), which simply committed the Government to explore the issue.


While the focus of the current exchanges is on how to shorten new entrant pay scales, which vary in length for different grades, unions also want to ensure that any solution is fair to those who have gone beyond the two additional points added to the start of pay scales in recent years.


Although no money is budgeted to deal with the issue in 2018, Fórsa senior general secretary Shay Cody said he wanted the implementation of an agreed resolution to begin next year.


“This is an equity issue and, while no money has been allocated to resolve it in 2018, Fórsa believes it should be possible to start funding it next year, rather than delaying until 2020 or beyond. Pay equity is a priority for all trade unions, and every bit of progress in addressing this injustice has been achieved by unions collectively, through national pay negotiations and public service pay agreements,” he said.

Women can, and should, all strive to be leaders– Fórsa president
by Niall Shanahan

Organisations with fewer women in senior roles are losing out on the widest range of talent available to them, according to Fórsa president Ann McGee. She said organisations must not overlook the people with talent, ability and experience available to them, and told delegates that they can, and should, all strive to be leaders.


Ann was speaking at the Irish Congress of Trade Union’s (ICTU) biennial women's conference last week which took place at the Killyhevlin Hotel in Enniskillen, Fermanagh.


Ann was proposing a motion on the representation of women in public life. She said institutions that are more diverse are better able to respond to the needs of everyone in society and provide services that are more in tune with the public.


“The barriers to women’s representation are often referred to as the ‘five Cs’: care, cash, confidence, culture, and candidate selection.” Ann said a lot of existing research backs the need for measures such as flexible, family-friendly working hours for both women and men, and that these kinds of policies would help to overcome some of the existing barriers to women wishing to take on more senior roles.


Ann also called for the implementation of policies to ensure more gender equality in caring, including state-subsidised childcare. She said this was especially needed for early years childcare, in addition to subsidised quality after-school care.


Ann said that the barriers are not exclusively related to caring responsibilities. “The causes are more wide-ranging. Women often don’t feel supported or encouraged to participate, and personal confidence can be identified as a major obstacle to women,” she said.


“It’s essential to involve women in public life to take advantage of their contribution, to ensure their interests are protected and to fulfil the guarantee that the enjoyment of human rights is for all people regardless of gender. Women's full participation is essential not only for their empowerment but also for the advancement of society as a whole,” she said.


Ann called upon Congress and all affiliated unions to encourage the promotion of more women activists and officials. “Our determination to succeed is strong enough, so let there be no obstacles or barriers to women securing positions of leadership in our movement. I stand here today as an example that today’s accomplishments were yesterday’s impossibilities,” she said.



Life quality lags behind economic growth
by Diarmaid Mac a Bhaird

Strong growth in the European economy has not improved the quality of life for workers according to a report by EU research outfit Eurofound. Living and working in Europe says “groups within our society are being failed by the economy, the labour market and social policy.”


It says more needs to be done to establish a better work-life balance for workers across Europe.


Eurofound identified a strong recovery in European employment over the past decade. However it warns of an imbalance in opportunities across the EU, which vary depending on where you live.


The report found that 10% of workers in the EU are at risk of poverty, and it says the living wage should supersede the minimum wage to help workers living in poverty.


It also found that long-term unemployment among young people has dropped. But the Irish rate of 6% is slightly above the EU average of 5.5%.


There are recommendations on enhancing social dialogue and reporting on labour market trends to address inequality. Recommendations reference the Towards upward convergence 2017-2020 programme, which sets out Eurofound’s lobbying and activity in 10 key areas.


These include campaigns on working conditions and sustainable work, innovation and job creation, inclusivity in labour markets, and monitoring convergence in the EU.

Eurofound will publish a report on casual work and short/zero-hour contracts later this year.

UN rep praises ICTU housing charter
by Bernard Harbor

The United Nations’ special rapporteur on the right to housing has praised the Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ Charter for Housing Rights, saying it “concretises” the key elements of her global campaign on the right to housing.


Speaking at a meeting with ICTU’s Housing Committee last week, which was led by Fórsa deputy general secretary and ICTU vice-president Kevin Callinan, Leilani Farha said the Irish unions’ charter might be used as an international model.


Ms Farha is working to build a worldwide campaign on the right to housing, which will involve local authorities, NGOs, civil society housing groups, and trade unions. Kevin said: “The view that housing is a human right underpins the campaign, which is in line with the approach adopted by Fórsa and other Irish unions.”


Ms Farha asked ICTU to promote the charter model in its European and international networks as part of the effort to build a global campaign on the right to housing. “She spoke positively about future cooperation with Congress, and agreed in principle to officially endorse the Charter,” said Kevin.


During her short time in Ireland, Ms Farha also addressed the Oireachtas Committee on Housing, where she warned of the increasing commodification of housing and the resultant destruction of communities. She said governments should take a key role in the provision of public housing.


Read the ICTU Charter for Housing Rights HERE.