Celebrate the workers on May Day
Today is May Day, a global celebration of working people supported and promoted by the international trade union movement. The first Monday in May, a public holiday in honour of Irish working people, is one of our more recently established public holidays, the first was in 1994. The roots of May Day run much deeper.
The 1904 Conference of the Second International, called on "all Social Democratic Party organisations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on the First of May for the legal establishment of the eight hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace."
The date was chosen to commemorate the Haymarket affair – the events that surrounded and followed a May 1886 union demonstration at Haymarket Square in Chicago.
At its national convention in Chicago, held in 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions (which later became the American Federation of Labor), had proclaimed that "eight hours shall constitute a legal day's labor from and after May 1, 1886.”
Up to this point working conditions were severe and it was quite common to work 10 to 16 hour days in unsafe conditions. Death and injury were commonplace at many workplaces.
On 1st May 1886, more than 300,000 workers from 13,000 businesses across the US walked off their jobs in the first May Day celebration in history. In Chicago, 40,000 went out on strike.
The demonstration at Haymarket Square began as a peaceful rally in support of the eight-hour work day. The previous day police had killed eight workers when they fired into the crowds at the McCormick Reaper Works.
On 4th May at Haymarket Square, a bomb was thrown into the police ranks. An estimated seven or eight civilians died, and up to 40 were wounded.
The trial of eight protesters that followed is widely regarded as a miscarriage of justice. Four of them were executed in 1887. The remaining organisers were pardoned six years later.
The May Day movement spread across the industrialised world and is now celebrated as an official workers' holiday in 66 countries across the globe.
For more on the history of May Day and the Haymarket Affair visit the Industrial Workers of The World website and see also The Bloody Story of How May Day Became a Holiday for Workers (Time Magazine, 1st May 2018)
Events in Dublin and Cork
The annual Dublin May Day rally takes place this evening at 6.45pm. Organised by Dublin Council of Trade Unions, demonstrators are asked to assemble in Parnell Square prior to a march to a public meeting at Liberty Hall.
The event will draw attention to the housing crisis, problems in the health service, climate change, inequality and discrimination against migrants.
In Cork, the winners of Ireland’s Got Talent will be on hand to help Cork celebrate International Workers’ day at an event next Monday (6th May). Mayfest is a free event organised by the Cork Council of Trade Unions and ONE Cork, will be held at City Hall between 11am and 4pm.
CE supervisors to meet minister
Trade union representatives from Fórsa and SIPTU will meet social protection minister Regina Doherty tomorrow (Thursday) as Fórsa’s CE Supervisors branch continues its preparations for five days of strike action from Monday 13th May.
Fall in industrial action
Trade union representatives from Fórsa and SIPTU will meet social protection minister Regina Doherty tomorrow (Thursday) as Forsa’s CE Supervisors branch continues its preparations for five days of strike action from Monday 13th May.
The meeting was initially arranged to discuss the union’s concerns over non-compliance with an enhanced redundancy agreement for CE supervisors. But it’s since been confirmed that the meeting will include some discussion about pensions, the issue behind the proposed industrial action.
Angela Kirk of Fórsa’s Services and Enterprises Division gave a cautious welcome to the change. “We don’t expect all the issues to be resolved at tomorrow’s meeting, but the opportunity to have discussions with the minister on both issues is a welcome development,” she said.
A disputes committee, which includes representatives from both unions, met yesterday to finalise arrangements for the industrial action.
Fórsa official Brendan O’Hanlon said the action would coincide with a series of daily protests by CE supervisors at seven locations around the country. These include Intreo and Revenue offices in Galway and Waterford, and political constituency offices in Dublin, Donegal, Galway, Cork, Portlaoise and Limerick.
“We’ll be arranging protests in these locations on each day of strike action and we’ll be taking the opportunity to canvas the public to support our campaign of action in the run up to the local and European elections on 24th May,” he said.
The 1,250 staff concerned have no access to any occupational pension scheme, despite a 2008 Labour Court recommendation in their favour. A one-day strike by CE supervisors and assistant supervisors took place in February.
Unions have said the action can be averted if the Minister for Finance, Paschal Donohoe, agrees to meet to discuss the implementation of the 2008 Labour Court recommendation.
The Court said an agreed pension scheme should be introduced and adequately funded by the recognised funding agency. Unions have said this responsibility falls upon the Government.
Last year had the lowest number of days lost to industrial action since 2012 according to new Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) figures.
Unions may seek pay deal review
Last year had the lowest number of days lost to industrial action since 2012 according to new Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) figures. The WRC’s latest annual report reveals that just over 4,000 days were lost to industrial disputes in 2018. Just over 1,100 workers were involved.
These statistics include four days of strike action by Fórsa members at Roscommon County Council and five days at Ryanair last summer.
The number of days lost to industrial action in 2018 was over 90% lower than in the previous year when just over 50,000 days were lost through strikes.
While the WRC report describes 2018 as a relatively peaceful year, it said it received over 1,000 requests for conciliation. This is a 13% increase on 2017.
The WRC Annual Report 2018 is available HERE.
Fórsa has raised the idea of a mid-term review of the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA), which currently governs pay and working conditions in non-commercial semi-state organisations.
Most workers have no pension
Fórsa has raised the idea of a mid-term review of the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA), which currently governs pay and working conditions in non-commercial semi-state organisations. The union’s Senior General Secretary Designate, Kevin Callinan, said last week that such a review could help maintain confidence in the deal, which had been ‘stretched’ by the Government’s agreement to introduce a new nursing grade.
Speaking to the Irish Times over Easter, Kevin Callinan said a mid-term review was one of a number of ideas he and other union leaders have raised in informal talks with the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform.
“The PSSA was negotiated two years ago, and the country has seen economic growth and inflation on a level that was not anticipated at the time. The Government’s decision to agree to a valuable grade reform for one group of public servants has also led others to ask why their concerns can’t also be addressed within the scope of the deal.
“A mid-term review might be one way of dealing with these issues, while maintaining the credibility of the PSSA, which is due to deliver significant additional income improvements over the next 18 months,” he said.
The next pay increase under the PSSA is due in September. A further rise is set for September 2020. The agreement, which expires at the end of 2020, is worth a total of up to 7%.
The accord includes a clause that allows for a review if unforeseen developments undermine the assumptions that underpinned its negotiation. The union believes that this could include economic growth, which has outstripped the expectations that prevailed in the summer of 2017, when the deal was struck.
Callinan first warned that the underlying assumptions of the PSSA needed to be reviewed at the prestigious annual Industrial Relations News conference last month.
He told the conference that a review could take account of lost spending power, recent and projected growth rates, and pay movements. And he said public service agreements should also allow for individual grade claims to respond to enhanced responsibilities, higher qualification requirements, additional skills, and increased productivity.
“The credibility of the PSSA is being stretched by two factors, which have taken root over the past decade and which now need to be addressed. One is the spending power of incomes after living costs are factored in. The other is the scope for the agreement to respond to profession-specific and grade-specific issues and ambitions,” he said.
Less than half of workers are currently in an occupational or private pension scheme, according to new figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).
New entrants to get further consideration
Less than half of workers are currently in an occupational or private pension scheme, according to new figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO). Just 47% of workers in Ireland are currently contributing to a pension plan.
The CSO figures show that only one in six workers aged between 20 and 24 have pension coverage, while 70% of those aged between 45 and 54 pay into a scheme.
Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) general secretary Patrica King said the figures reaffirmed the case for auto-enrolment, which entails compulsory occupational pension provision funded by contributions from employees, employers and the State.
Fórsa backed the introduction of auto-enrolment at its national conference in Killarney in May 2018.
Commenting on the CSO figures, ICTU’s social policy officer Laura Bambrick said: “Tax relief has failed as a policy instrument to encourage low and middle-income earners to save enough to secure their future financial stability.”
She added that Government plans to introduce auto-enrolment by 2022 were in line with international best practice, and said a legal requirement on employers to contribute to workers’ pensions was necessary to boost pension coverage and address the current policy failure.
Read more HERE.
Outstanding issues of concern to so-called ‘new entrants’ – staff who entered the public service in 2011 or after – are set to be reviewed, according to a text agreed by public service unions and management.
IBEC slammed on parental leave
Outstanding issues of concern to so-called ‘new entrants’ – staff who entered the public service in 2011 or after – are set to be reviewed, according to a text agreed by public service unions and management.
The general issue of pay disparities between new entrants and longer-serving staff was resolved by an agreement reached last autumn, but some unions have expressed concerns about it.
The solution didn’t address the 2011 withdrawal of allowances from new entrants either. Historically, these had made up a significant part of total income for some public service grades.
Now, a text agreed by the parties says that “outstanding issues of concern” about new entrant pay scales “will be given full consideration either by any pay review mechanism agreed by the parties, or in the context of the next round of pay talks.”
Fórsa has expressed disappointment at Ibec’s negative reaction to proposals to expand paid and unpaid parental leave.
Lyra McKee remembered in peace pledge
Fórsa has expressed disappointment at Ibec’s negative reaction to proposals to expand paid and unpaid parental leave. Last week, the employer’s body claimed measures to improve work-life balance would place a “heavy burden” on business.
The recently-published Parental Leave and Benefit Bill 2019 is expected to lead to the implementation of two weeks’ paid parental leave from February this year. This will increase to seven weeks’ leave for each parent by 2021.
The developments stem from a recent EU directive on work-life balance, which obliges governments to increase access to paid parental leave for both parents.
Although Ibec supports Ireland’s EU membership, which requires us to implement European legislation in matters like this, its Director of Employer Relations Maeve McElwee said the long-overdue measures to help working parents would be “extremely costly for many small and medium size enterprises.”
This is despite the fact that the taxpayer will cover the cost of the new measures by paying the basic parental leave payment.
Fórsa official Geraldine O’Brien condemned Ibec’s reaction, saying the new law was a modest but important step towards increasing women's participation in the labour market.
“This welcome help for working parents, which is rooted in EU law, is exactly the sort of thing that can make Europe more relevant to our daily lives. These measures will facilitate greater sharing of care responsibilities, and reduce the pressure on working parents to choose between their family lives and professional career,” she said.
The proposed paternity leave payment will be the prevailing maternity and paternity leave rate, which is currently €245 a week. Along with existing measures, the change would increase to 42 weeks the amount of paid leave available to new parents during the first year of a child’s life.
The Irish legislation anticipates the recently agreed EU Work Life Balance Directive, which requires EU member states to provide a minimum of ten days’ paternity leave – plus five days' unpaid carers’ leave a year – within the next three years.
The directive also allows for a minimum of four months’ paid and unpaid parental leave per parent, of which two months would be non-transferable between parents.
The Irish Government intends to set parental leave at two weeks late this year, before increasing it to seven weeks on a phased basis over the next three years.
Delegates at Fórsa’s Education Conference stood in solidarity with the late Lyra McKee last Wednesday.
Resources needed to address unpaid wages
Delegates at Fórsa’s Education Conference stood in solidarity with the late Lyra McKee last Wednesday. The journalist was shot dead while working at the scene of a riot in the Creggan area of Derry earlier this month.
The union’s President Ann McGee invited conference to send condolences to the family and friends of Ms McKee by standing in a moments’ silence the day of the 29 year-old’s funeral.
“We join with Lyra’s loved ones and the National Union of Journalists in calling for peace and respect across this island, and across a world that has witnessed so many atrocities in recent times,” she said.
Earlier, ICTU General Secretary Patricia King also paid tribute to Lyra: “We stand with her NUJ colleagues and her loved ones at this time, as we do so with any workers threatened or assaulted by these masked delinquents who sully the noble term 'dissident',” she said.
Colleagues from across the globe paid homage to Ms McKee on social media using the hashtag #WeStandWithLyra.
Inspections carried out by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) discovered and recouped over €3 million in unpaid wages in Ireland last year, according to the WRC’s annual report.
Inspections carried out by the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) discovered and recouped over €3 million in unpaid wages in Ireland last year, according to the WRC’s annual report. But the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) said the modest increase in the number of workplaces inspected last year – and the large increase in unpaid wages discovered – demonstrates the need for more resources for the body’s inspection and enforcement service.
ICTU general secretary Patrica King said: “The €3.1 million in unpaid wages recovered by inspectors last year represents just the tip of the iceberg.”
The WRC report also said that 45% of employers inspected were in breach of employment legislation. Sectors where the greatest numbers of breaches included retail, transport and hospitality.
There was a 20% increase in the number of inspections carried out by the WRC in 2018 compared to the previous year.
Fórsa backs NERI head’s new book
Limerick lets it rise
A new book by Tom Healy of the trade union-backed think tank the Nevin Economic Research Institute (NERI), was launched last month. An Ireland Worth Working For proposes an alternative economic model to tackle challenges such as technology, demographics and the environment.
The publication addresses a range of challenges in an Irish, EU and global context, while also considering the future of work and wages, public services and new enterprises over the next 100 years. Healy says it aspires to build on the democratic programme announced by the first Dáil in January 1919.
The book also features a foreword from President Michael D Higgins, who praised the book’s “important contribution to a necessary debate on our shared island.”
An Ireland Worth Working For: Towards A New Democratic Programme, by Tom Healy is available in bookshops now.
Homelessness protest for 18th May
Fórsa President Ann McGee helped launch a new book about the Limerick Soviet last weekend. The publication of Let Us Rise was the centrepiece of the city’s commemoration of the events, which has been spearheaded by local Fórsa official Mike McNamara.
The 1919 strike, by more than 15,000 workers in the city, made international headlines. After a permit system was introduced by the British military authorities, the workers took over all aspects of the running of the city, produced their own daily paper, policed the city, controlled all food and fuel supplies and even printed its own currency. It became known internationally as the Limerick Soviet.
Speaking at the book launch, Ann said the soviet demonstrated the power of union organisation, and the ingenuity of working people working together. “From food distribution through power supply, a citizens’ police force and even a newspaper, it showed what working people can achieve when we’re united. And the creation of its own currency was a bold challenge to the bankers, which perhaps we might have revisited on this island a few years ago,” she said.
Ann congratulated the Limerick Writers’ Centre, which brought the project to fruition. She also acknowledged Mike McNamara, who's also President of Limerick Trades Council, which has been behind this month’s commemorations.
“It’s fitting that they are taking this initiative at a time when Fórsa, Siptu and other unions – along with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions – are working to breathe new life into the trades’ councils – and to put trade unions at the centre of communities across Ireland. The Limerick Soviet is an inspiration in that important work,” she said.
Mick’s miles for Sligo Simon
The national housing and homelessness campaign ‘Raise the Roof’ is staging a national demonstration in Dublin on Saturday 18th May. The coalition, which includes trade unions, student bodies and housing and homelessness organisations, is calling for local authority-led investment in public housing.
Raise the Roof also wants secure tenure, rent controls, an end to forced evictions, and a legal right to housing.
Fórsa, which is supporting the protest, is also urging members to sign the Irish Congress of Trade Union’s housing petition.
Fórsa members should assemble at the union’s Dublin office (Nerney's Court, Dublin 1) at 12.30pm on 18th May, before joining the rally at 1pm.
On the road with More Power To You
Fórsa activist Michael Scully will be donning his cycling gear once again to push out the hard miles as he prepares himself for a 180km solo cycle to the Services and Enterprises divisional conference in Sligo on 22nd May.
Michael will be raising funds for the Sligo Simon Community, and will be supported by Fórsa colleagues Paddy Quinn and Pat Fallon.
Michael is a veteran cyclist and this is the second time he’s powered solo to conference to raise funds for the Simon Community. “The route will take me through Tullamore, Athlone, Roscommon, Boyle and then into Sligo. I’ll be doing the cycle solo but if people want to join me along the route they’re most welcome. We’re raising money for a great cause,” he said.
If your branch would like to support Michael by making a donation, a collection of branch donations will take place at the two divisional conferences in Sligo.
What in the World returns
A series of public meetings to promote Fórsa’s More Power To You campaign got underway in Cork this week. The initiative aims to reclaim the role of local authorities and local democracy.
The campaign, which brings together trade unions representing over 30,000 local council workers, is also calling for legislative changes to facilitate directly-elected mayors and restore and expand town councils, which were abolished in 2014.
Fórsa Campaigns Director Joe O’Connor said the campaign was seeking commitments from political parties and candidates in the May local elections.
“We’re looking for commitments on a range of badly-needed local government reforms covering waste, water, housing, and energy services, to retain and properly resource these services and give greater autonomy to local government,” he said.
The campaign’s reform objectives include:
- Legislative changes to facilitate directly-elected mayors
- The return and expansion of the town council system, which was abolished in 2014
- Increased revenue and funding powers, with parallel systems of accountability and transparency, to move the percentage of local authority-managed public spending towards the European average
- An immediate end to the outsourcing of council housing maintenance and a medium-term shift to a new local authority-led public housing model
- Stronger regulation of the waste sector to ensure that every household has access to an affordable waste disposal service, as a precursor to the reintroduction of improved public provision
- A constitutional referendum on the right to water, which should ensure that water and waste water services remain in public ownership and control
- Investment in local authority environmental and sustainable energy infrastructure and staff, to facilitate the maximum use of the SEAI ‘Better Energy’ programme.
The meetings continue tomorrow (Thursday 2nd May) in Sligo, and in the coming weeks as follows:
Support and follow the campaign on Twitter at #MorePowerToYou
RTÉ TV is set to air the twelfth series of the hard-hitting documentary series ‘What in the World’ later this month. The show, which aims to raise awareness about global economic inequality and human rights violations, receives some funding from Fórsa’s developing world fund.
The new series of the show features episodes set in Somalia, Lebanon, Palestine, and Iraq. They will be aired on RTÉ One on successive Tuesdays, from next week (7th May).
Fórsa’s developing world fund, which is made up of 3% of all membership subscriptions, supports a range of solidarity and education projects in the developing world.