Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

Archive for the ‘Irish Congress of Trade Unions’ Category

Cash for Ash -Will the Stormont Sinn Féin-DUP Coalition be Incinerated?

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A BBC (Northern Ireland) news story offers a neat summary of the key issues in Belfast’s FosterGate : £400 million disappear into the pockets of Cash for Ash friends of the Stormont Peace Process Government.

Cash for Ash – Stormont Incinerated?

“It is estimated the way the scheme was set-up will cost taxpayers £400m over its 20-year lifetime.

Mr Bell told the BBC that top advisers from his DUP party stopped him from restricting the RHI scheme.

According to Mr Bell, the advisers, who deny the allegations against them, secretly tried to “cleanse the record” of references to Mrs Foster.

Those alleged attempts to alter the papers were made “without my knowledge, without my consent”, Mr Bell said, and were revealed to him by a senior civil servant at the department.

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Gregor Kerr: an enlightening Facebook discussion on Lansdowne Road

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4th November
Gregor Kerr post:
LRA is now officially in tatters. All trade union leaders should recognise that fact, full pay equalisation and restoration for all should be demanded NOW
Comments and debate:
Michael O’Reilly All well and good, personally I’d prefer to see the country stop borrowing for daily expenditure and a proper health service. It’s nonsense for unions to expect z return to Celtic tiger.
Gregor Kerr Maybe we should stop borrowing to pay off the debts of international financial gamblers and speculators – which thanks to decisions made by politicians and facilitated by a compliant trade union movement we will be doing for many many years
Michael O’Reilly Certainly I agree we should have burned them all, but that’s a separate issue!!
Michael O’Reilly You think you can win INTO election??

Gregor Kerr Burning or not burning the bondholders, tackling or not tackling the evasion and avoidance tax by corporations and Vulture Funds, controlling or not controlling the percentage of economy being sucked up by profits – – – these are not things that can be treated as separate issues.
Gregor Kerr In relation to the election, the objective of taking part is to encourage participation, to empower members to become more involved, to develop the thinking behind We Are The Union and to initiate a real discussion about how members are facilitated in or prevented from using the union structures to organise and campaign on the issues that affect them.
Can I win? Absolutely. Getting a very good response from branches and members that I have been engaging with. And that discussion about how members relate to the union and vice versa is certainly taking place.
As I see it, policies pursued by the current leadership have brought us to where we are. I think a change is needed and hopefully enough members will agree with me, vote for me but also step up their own involvement.
Glen Brennan Celtic Tiger?? LOL had no effect on my living… I have same house, same car. Could never afford second properties and will never. ASTI are not looking for increases but pay for work carried out and equalisation.
Larry Molloy  Exactly. If the government actually were free market capitalists the housing bubble wouldnt have happened. The government ,the bondholders, the high street banks (owned by the bondholders ) colluded to enslave the citizens of this state in a criminal ponzi scheme. The amalgamation of state and corporate power is called fascism. The only solution is citizen initiated referenda.

Laura Seoighe As a teacher who started during the Celtic Tiger, Michael could you explain to me what the teachers gained during the Celtic Tiger compared to what they were getting pre Celtic Tiger please?

Michael O’Reilly About trice the salary that we had prior to it!

Michael O’Reilly Sorry, that should have said twice! If you don’t believe me check the public records…..or even a few into annual diaries!!!

Mairéad De Búrca I didn’t get twice my salary but my current salary is lower than about the year 2,000. Benchmarking that gave 1% here and 0.5% there has been well wiped out.

Michael O’Reilly salary levels…. These were unrealistic always and further you are intelligent enough to realise that increasing salaries all round simply leads to inflation!

Gregor Kerr Perhaps if they introduced rent controls, built public housing, did something to control the price of car insurance, made access to health services available, controlled the spiralling cost of third level (indeed all levels of) education…. Perhaps if all this was done then the necessity to increases wages/salaries would not be so great.
Another reason why we need a trade union movement that has a bigger vision of how society should be run.

 Michael O’Reilly Can’t disagree with those but realistically “they” won’t do them so I think the point I made stands?

Michael O’Reilly Anyway I shouldn’t be wasting your holiday time. Hope you’re having a good break.
Keith Burke Michael, so you think we should continue to “take one for the good of everyone”? Fine Gael are happy to let the rich get rich again and the poor return to being poor. They would be happy to pay teachers nothing if they could get away with it. They certainly will never put pay parity in place if they aren’t forced to.
Des Derwin They won’t curb their prices (leading to inflation), but we must (in case it leads to inflation!) 🙂

Written by tomasoflatharta

November 5, 2016 at 3:16 pm

Gregor Kerr: Lansdowne Road effectively torn up.

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27th October rally a missed opportunity Threat of Garda dispute won huge gains Strategy to achieve Pay Equalisation urgently needed

I wrote this article in the immediate aftermath of the INTO/TUI Pay Equalisation Rally.  Since then the gains won by the threat of strike action by gardaí have effectively torn up the Lansdowne Road Agreement.  The formulation of a strategy for gaining full Pay Equalisation and Restoration has just got more urgent.

Approximately 1,500 teachers – mostly members of INTO with a small number of TUI members – attended the Pay Equalisation rally outside the Dáil on 27th October.  It was great to see such support for LPTs, but how many people left that Rally feeling energised, empowered and with a feeling that our unions are ready for the next stage of the battle for Pay Equalisation??

The answer is very few indeed.  In fact most people left with the feeling that in holding the rally the union leadership were mainly just going through the motions, holding a rally so that they could say they held one, and treating the members of the union as extras to turn up, wave flags for half an hour and go home again,

Where were the plans for what is going to happen next?  Where was the outline of the next phase of the campaign?  Where was the ‘ask’ of union members – the tasks they should have been asked to do to step up the fight?  Other than asking attendees to turn towards the Dáil and chant a slogan or two, what did our union leadership ask us to do in the coming weeks and months??……

Dual Purpose

A rally such as that held outside the Dáil has a dual purpose.  By bringing large numbers of people together we demonstrate to the government that we are capable of mobilising large numbers against them and in support of our demands.  We give them the message that they will have to meet our demands or we are capable of stepping up our protests.  But also – and just as importantly – its purpose is to Educate, Agitate and Organise.  People should go home from it more informed, more ‘agitated’ (ie with more motivation/ fire in their belly) and more organised (ie with a plan as to how each of them will contribute to the campaign over the next few weeks and months).

On both of these fronts – warning the government and motivating the membership – the Rally failed miserably.  In relation to the first of these, the failure to even acknowledge the fact that our ASTI colleagues had just spent the day on the picketlines in pursuit of the same goal of Pay Equalisation was shocking.  We don’t have to agree with the ASTI tactics or strategy (which I do!) to realise that basic trade union solidarity should have ensured that we acknowledged their stance and gave them a shout-out of support!

Failure to acknowledge ASTI, however, demonstrated an even more fundamental flaw in our strategy.  Does anyone seriously believe that the progress (limited as it is) that has been made by INTO and TUI on the pay equalisation issue would have been achieved if ASTI was also inside the confines of the Lansdowne Road Agreement?  Without doubt the talks that have thus far taken place on pay equalisation had as one of their prime motivations attempts to isolate ASTI and force ASTI members into LRA…..

Rushed ballot

INTO members, by contrast to ASTI, were first to sign up to LRA following a rushed ballot in June 2015 – a ballot in which, in common with many recent ballots in INTO, information presented was one-sided and not always correct (For example, ‘gains’ presented for LPTs included gains already available in HRA).  There was huge pressure placed on members to vote Yes, with a barrage of leaflets, texts and emails coming from head office.

By remaining outside LRA and by being willing to take action for immediate Full Pay Equalisation, ASTI have done us a huge favour.  If all 3 unions were inside LRA, why would the government be making any concessions?  On the other hand, of course, if we were all outside it and were all taking the brave stance of ASTI wouldn’t the government have to concede even more??  So at the very least at the 27th October Rally we should have acknowledged the contribution of ASTI and should have warned the government that unless they want to see us leave the LRA and join with our colleagues on the picketlines an immediate timeline for full pay equalisation and restoration must be given.

Instead, a government member looking at our rally would have drawn the conclusion that we posed no threat.  And a union that poses no threat will receive very little in negotiations…

Educate, Agitate, Organise

This leads me to the second point.  The other reason for holding a Rally is to Educate, Agitate and Organise the membership.  If you see the union members as a group of people who have a contribution to make to building a campaign that is… But more and more it seems that our union leaders see the members as consumers, as people who should be looking to ‘the union’ to deliver a service.  They see us as people who can be called on to send emails to government before the budget, to turn up and wave flags at the odd rally…  They are content enough with a relatively passive membership who they can ‘represent’.

My vision of trade unionism, however, is one in which the members are the union, and the role of the leadership should be to motivate and organise us, to facilitate us in using the union structures to campaign on issues that affect us.  In relation to Pay Equalisation, and in particular in relation to the Rally, the very least that should have happened is that people who were there should have been encouraged to go home from it seeing themselves as Organisers of the next phase of the campaign – in their own schools and staffrooms, in their own branches and districts.

1,500 people at the Rally was impressive enough but we have a membership in the greater Dublin and Leinster area of over 14,000 (plus students) so there were clearly a lot of members not there.  We should have been asking everyone going away from the rally to see themselves as key organisers and motivators of fellow staff members, to talk about the issue in staffrooms, to engage in debate at their local branches……

Debate and Strategy

Because we do need a debate about how Pay Equalisation is going to be achieved, and a strategy to achieve it.  The union leadership are content enough with slow incremental progress, with moving towards Equalisation.  But they do not have any strategy for where we go next.  Others argue that given the changed circumstances, and in particular given the stance of the ASTI, we should be holding a ballot on whether to withdraw from LRA.

In a leaflet distributed at the Rally, I called for

  • “ Pay restoration promised in LRA should be brought forward and paid immediately
  • INTO should demand immediate talks with government for a new deal to replace the LRA with a deal that gives:

– full pay equalisation

– full pay restoration

– the payment of money owed to us such as the Principals’ benchmarking award

– return to the ONE 2010 pay scale

– back pay owed to post 2012 graduates due to their qualification allowance cuts”

I outlined what I thought union members should do –

“To achieve those demands we each need to

  • Contact CEC reps and the union leadership with this demand
  • Contact our branch secretaries and ask that this demand be discussed at the next branch committee meeting and be forwarded to CEC and head office
  • Start now to build momentum behind this demand for January AGMs and towards Congress 2017
  • Use social media and other fora to make the case for these demands”

And I pointed out that “In both of the last paydeals the government looked for early talks because they wanted to impose more cuts.  We don’t need to wait for end of LRA to demand talks.”

Options

So there are 3 options

Continue with the CEC strategy (although what plans they have to move things along are rather vague)

Look for a ballot to withdraw from LRA

Demand that pay restoration elements in LRA are fast-tracked and that new talks begin on a deal to replace it

What is clear is that a discussion on our strategy needs to happen immediately.   It should be led by the CEC and full-time officials, but it won’t be.  They went through the motions and held the rally, they’ve ticked the box and hope that the ticked box will be sufficient to keep us quiet for now.  So it is up to every one of us to initiate the discussion – In your staffroom ask your colleagues what they think.  If you’re on a branch committee raise it at the next meeting.  If you’re not, why not get your staff (or as many of them as will do so) to write to your branch secretary asking that the issue be discussed. Similarly write to your CEC rep and to the general secretary.

We, the members, have to take control of the discussion and of the campaign.  We have to assert that the INTO is our union and we have to use its structures to fight on our behalf and on behalf of our lesser paid colleagues.

Gregor Kerr

From ‘Gregor Kerr for INTO President’ blog

5th November 2016

Written by tomasoflatharta

November 5, 2016 at 2:55 pm

Moments of crisis: Aer Lingus seeks millions from SIPTU over strike threat

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Moments of crisis: Aer Lingus seeks millions from SIPTU over strike threat

Sam Nolan, veteran socialist and trade unionist and long-standing Secretary of the Dublin Council of Trade Unions has post this personal message on Facebook today (14th March). https://www.facebook.com/sam.nolan.391 I have commented on it below.

“Moments of crisis happen at certain stages of history. Such a moment is now upon the trade union movement. The threatened move by AER LINGUS to sue SIPTU for financial damages for a strike that did not take place is such a moment. This move is a threat to the future activity of every trade union in the country. There must be a sharp militant response from CONGRESS affiliated unions as well as a legal challenge. Labour in government must decide which class it represents.”

My comment:

There has been surprising little reaction from the unions, the left and even the blogosphere (or my sector of it) to the announcement that Aer Lingus was suing SIPTU over a strike that did not take place. http://www.irishtimes.com/news/ireland/irish-news/aer-lingus-seeks-millions-from-siptu-over-strike-threat-1.1725298

The action by Aer Lingus, for damages, breach of contract and, in at least one report I heard, conspiracy, has all the marks of the pre-1906 open season on trade unions. As the day wore on the need for someone authoritative in the labour movement to take a stand and make a clarion call was ever more pressing. It is no accident that it is Sam Nolan that has stepped forward and it is fitting and fortunate that it is he who has. Not only has he stood in the front line for decades but he has the respect and authority in the trade union movement to be taken seriously and to be heeded and followed.

When Sam Nolan says it – “Moments of crisis happen at certain stages of history. Such a moment is now upon the trade union movement” – you know it is not stock left rhetoric. It is not some hamburger merchant that is suing, it is the national airline, backed by the airport authority and also by the biggest anti-union outfit on the continent, the William Martin Murphy of 2014.

It is time for SIPTU and ICTU to fight before there is nothing left to fight for – or fight with. And fight with street mobilisation and industrial action, not just in the courts or with press statements which omit that the Labour Party is in government and, in this case, that the government is on the board of the union-busting company. I hope unions, union committees and Branch and Sector Committees can take up his call without delay and that, if there is a delay, the Dublin Council of Trade Unions can repeat its recurrent role of being the focus and the catalyst on crises facing the labour movement.

Des Derwin

http://siptuactivist.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/moments-of-crisis-aer-lingus-seeks-millions-from-siptu-over-strike-threat/

Written by tomasoflatharta

March 15, 2014 at 12:25 pm

Croke Park Deal croaks

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Written by tomasoflatharta

April 16, 2013 at 11:40 pm

Rally of Education Public Servants against Croke Park 2: Saturday 9th March, 12:00, Gresham Hotel Dublin

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All public servants welcome

Vote “NO” to Croke Park 2. Defend Education. Defend Public Services.

Colleagues,

A grass-roots rally of public servants in the education sector will take place in the Gresham Hotel Dublin at 12:00 on this Saturday 9th March 2013.

The focuses of the rally will be on:

  • securing a “NO” vote to Croke Park 2 in as many unions as possible
  • the need for unity amongst all public servants in the face of the on-going attacks on us, and
  • the way forward to better representation and mobilisation of public servants
  • sending a message to our unions, to ICTU and to the Government that this so-called agreement will not be accepted

This rally is not called by the Executive of any union and has absolutely nothing to do with ICTU, which clearly no longer represents public servants at all.

Please attend and advertise the rally to all other public servants you know, both within the Education Sector and outside it: All public servants are very welcome to come along.

The intention is to show our own union leadership and ICTU that in the absence of representation from them, we can and will mobilise ourselves.

We urge you to attend.

Regards,

Martin Marjoram (TUI Branch Chair IT Tallaght)
Michael Carr (TUI Branch Chair Dublin Colleges)
Gregor Kerr (INTO District 14)
Maria Parsons (TUI Branch Chair IADT Dun Laoghaire)
Claus Derenda (TUI Branch Chair IT Carlow)
Gerald Mills (IFUT UCD)
Richard Crowley (TUI Branch Chair Dundalk IT)

Thomas Dooley (TUI Acting Branch Secretary Dundalk IT)
Andrew Phelan (ASTI)
Paddy Healy (TUI Dublin Retired Members Association)
Kevin Farrell (TUI Executive, Area 15)
Eddie Conlon (TUI Executive, Area 16)
Niall Smyth (INTO)
Paul Farrell (TUI IT Tallaght)
Ronan Callanan (TUI Dublin City PP)

Written by tomasoflatharta

March 4, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Good Days for Financial Parasites, Friends of the Fine Gael-Labour Government

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In case you were wondering where the €427 million to be ‘saved’ by the cuts in welfare spending in 2014 (€390 million in 2013) is going (childrens allowance, respite care grant, PRSI increases for low earners, etc) or where the household and ‘property’ tax money is going – here’s a snapshot of today’s activities: payments to bondholders on Dec 17.
Check out who’s paying out, by hitting ‘A good day’ below.
http://cedarlounge.wordpress.com/2012/12/17/a-good-day/
BoI (Bank of Ireland) and EBS (now merged with AIB). They are paying ‘Senior Unsecured’ bondholders – rich people who bought bonds from the banks with no associated collateral to guarantee repayment – and therefore a higher rate of interest. The banks used the money raised from these bond sales to fund the developers – and together they drove up land and house prices. Since the crash, these bonds have been trading on the bond markets for anything up to a 50% discount – but the banks are paying out full listed price to current bondholders.
There again, let’s not think the bankers are losing too much sleep over giving a euro for a bond bought for 50 cent: the money they’re using to pay the bondholders is state / your money (the state is the payer of last resort, because it can raise the money by taxing you and me), or money borrowed from the ECB with the state / you standing as guarantor. And the state, Labour and Fine Gael, the EU and the ECB, are all insisting that full payment is made on what are otherwise almost worthless bonds.
As to who decides these matters, you might think that the state would act in the interests of citizens. It does indeed do that – but for the wealthy citizens. So when you hear that well-hackneyed phrase ‘protecting the most vulnerable’, have a think about how vulnerable those bondholders must be – coz they’re sure getting a lot of protecting.
The state put €5,000 million into BoI since 2008 (when it was bankrupt and nobody else would give any money) and got 50% of its shares in return. 35% of those shares were sold earlier in the year by Michael Noonan to billionaire Wilbur Ross for €1,000 million. In doing so the government agreed to give him a little prezzie of €2,500 million: he only paid €1,000 million for shares the state paid €3,500 million to the bank for. The state still owns 15% of the bank and has a ‘public interest director’ on the board. But he hasn’t met the minister for finance for over a year (he’s been busy working out the bonus payments for the other directors).
That €2,500 million discount to a billionaire is an interesting contrast to the respite grant cut to the full-time carers of people with disabilities – at a ‘saving’ to the state of €26 million.
As to AIB-EBS, the state owns 99.9% of it. And put in over €20,000 million. So the bondholders are getting the whole whack from state ‘injections’ of capital; or from borrowings made with the state as guarantor. The Irish banks have been ‘recapitalised’ (given money or had borrowings guaranteed by the state) with €17,400 million set aside for next year’s bond payments alone. And more again for the following years.
Did I hear you say ‘child benefit’?
The €500 million Labour and Fine Gael hope to get from ye through the ‘property’ tax in 2014 will help out with the €9,100 million interest payments on the money borrowed by the state to fund the banks and their debts to speculating bondholders.
So as you can see, your money’s going to good use – sure wouldn’t ye only waste it on food or drink or keeping warm if it didn’t go to ensure payment to those ‘most vulnerable’: bondholders – the people who are really being protected. Check out the Indo a while back for the wages and expenses of Ireland’s bank directors. And as you may have heard, the Financial Regulator (state employee) has told the banks that they must increase their charges and interest rates to get back into profit asap. So you’ll be helping the ‘most vulnerable’ in multiple ways: cuts, taxes, and bank charges. Mother Teresa couldn’t do more!
If all this has you feeling a bit irritated, put Saturday, Feb 9, 2013, in your diary – it’s the day of protest being convened by ICTU against the austerity required to keep the rich well provided with Prada bags (running out the door of Brown Thomas at €900 a go). And tell your friends. If we don’t have a big turnout in Feb – and another big demo before the €3,060 million ‘promissory note’ payment for Anglo on March 31, we can kiss goodbye to any hope of stopping the home tax – or repudiating debts which are not ours (or our children’s).
Brendan Young