SIPTU members to consider industrial action after break down of bus talks

SIPTU members in Bus Éireann and Dublin Bus will meet tomorrow (Tuesday, 31st March) to consider balloting for industrial action following the break down of talks, facilitated by the Labour Relations Commission (LRC), on plans to privatise 10% of public bus services.

SIPTU Utilities and Construction Division Organiser, Owen Reidy, said: “The talks, between representatives of the transport unions, the National Transport Authority (NTA), CIE and the Department of Transport, broke down today following a threat by the NTA to implement the privatisation of routes without agreement with unions.

“SIPTU opposes any privatisation of public bus routes. However, our members accept that if such a process is going to be implemented there must be agreement on what impact it will have on workers in terms of transferring to new employers, pension entitlements and other areas of concern.”

SIPTU Sector Organiser, Willie Noone, said: “These talks had been going on for several months. SIPTU had submitted a number of questions to the NTA in relation to our members concerns. Today, the NTA responded to these questions in a completely unsatisfactory manner, which fails to indicate how key issues such as the transfer of undertakings and legacy costs will be dealt with if routes are privatised.

“Without an adequate response to these issues it is impossible for our members to agree to participate in the NTA plans. However, when this was indicated to the NTA its representatives threatened to implement the privatisation of routes without agreement. It was at this point that SIPTU representatives withdrew from the talks and will not re-enter them until the threat is lifted.

“Tomorrow the members of the SIPTU Bus Éireann and SIPTU Dublin Bus committees will meet to discuss what course of action to take in light of the NTA threat. These meetings will consider the holding of a ballot for industrial action, up to and including strike action.”

Dutch students fight for University free from commercialisation & colonialism

The resurgence of student protests in Amsterdam, and in particular the highly publicised appropriation (occupation) of the Maagdenhuis building , have succeeded in pushing the issues of democracy, transparency and accountability to the heart of a public debate about the management of higher education in the Netherlands. The success of the movement has been remarkable in the extent to which it has reconfigured this debate on its own terms and broadened the scope for what it is possible to demand and pragmatically expect to achieve through protest and struggle. Within this context, a group of students concerned about the various mechanisms of discrimination and exclusion in operation at university level have used the space of the Maagdenhuis to address these concerns and to push for them to be integrated into the demands of the broader movement. In order to see proof of such mechanisms of exclusion, one need only look at the glaring disparity between the diversity of the city of Amsterdam on the one hand and the uniformity of the university staff and student body on the other. A core organising principle has therefore been that as long as the issues of race, class, (dis)ability, gender and sexual orientation remain absent from our critique of the higher education system, then steps toward democratisation of the university will remain necessarily limited.

Image from the Bungehuis and Maagdenhuis Occupations  of the University of Amsterdam (UvA)

Image from the Bungehuis and Maagdenhuis Occupations of the University of Amsterdam (UvA)

We have thus far organised several public lectures in the Maagdenhuis with the aim of highlighting the academic and societal relevance of this struggle. On 17 March, social and cultural anthropologist Professor Gloria Wekker gave a public account of the phenomenon of what she calls ‘Dutch White Innocence,’ and the manner in which it manifests itself in academia through the stubborn resistance that many have encountered (Professor Wekker included) in attempting to include topics relating to Dutch colonialism and the slave trade in course content. The following week, we hosted Dr Sandew Hira, Director of the International Institute for Scientific Research and an expert on the history of Dutch slavery. His lecture was on the Eurocentric ideological biases of various university courses and the strategies that are best suited to decolonising education and the mind. The most recent talk was given by Chandra Frank, a Dutch/South African PhD candidate at Goldsmith’s in London, and was centred on the theme: “towards a decolonised university.” In this lecture, Frank examined decolonial and feminist research practices within neoliberal Western university settings.

Upon the basis of these perspectives and others, we call for a decolonised education system that acknowledges the contemporary link between Eurocentric university curricula, the uniformity of the academic staff and student body, and a lingering unresolved colonial mentality. We have recently published a list of demands directed at universities in the Netherlands that aims to translate these principles into practice. These include but are not limited to: the establishment of critical studies departments that privilege such disciplines as postcolonial and decolonial, critical race, queer and women’s studies, the inclusion of non-Eurocentric disciplinary perspectives in university curricula, and the immediate implementation of policies that break down barriers to higher education by promoting universal accessibility and institutional diversity. While some of these demands may be further out of reach than others, they are all equally necessary if the process of democratisation of the university is to be substantive in nature and does not ultimately end up reproducing the exclusionary mechanisms that are currently in operation within the education system.

The occupation has sent messages of support to the University of Cape Town who have been fighting for decolonisation of their university through the Rhodes Must Fall campaign.

Solidarity to the students of UCT, Cape Town, South Africa,  fighting against institutional racism and for the decolonization of their university from the occupying students of UvA

Solidarity to the students of UCT, Cape Town, South Africa, fighting against institutional racism and for the decolonization of their university from the occupying students of UvA


University of Colour Facebook page:

The Demands of the University of Colour:

Die Nieuwe Universiteit site (student movement occupying Maagdenhuis):

Rethink UvA site (staff movement in support of occupation):

Written by Hassan Ould Moctar, who is a Masters student at the University of Amsterdam.

Workers Rights in a Global Economy

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USi Exclusive: young Chinese labour activist: I want to set up my own NGO

The government is reining in the development of labour organisations. New ones have been shut down. Factories are having difficulty making decent profits and many are moving outside the Pearl River Delta and even China, triggering a series of protests where workers demand severance compensation. Furthermore, the old-generation migrant workers (aged over 50) are retiring but find they don’t have proper social insurance in place. All those factors lead to the escalation of collective labour incidents in China.

This week, USi talked to a Shenzhen-based labour activist, who has been involved in major labour conflicts in the past few years. Recently he quit his job from a prominent labour NGO. He shared with USi his observations over the challenges of China’s labour movement, and his plan of setting up his own labour NGO.

Due to the sensitivity of the issues discussed, we decided not to reveal his true name in this story.

USi: What are the external environment of China’s labour movement in your opinion?

Labour activist (LA): We face both external and internal challenges. Externally, China’s economy is not performing as well as before. Governments are reluctant to support workers’ collective actions, and employers are financially limited to make compromises.

USi: How about internally?

LA: I think the biggest dilemma is how we can cultivate the new generation of labour activists. There is not much career progression for young people at labour NGOs.

Also, we have the long-standing problem of organisational management, which is an issue prevalent not only in labour NGOs but in all types of NGOs in China. The resources are always controlled by founders, and there’s a lack of supervision on how those resources are managed and allocated. There is a popular term in our circle, ‘founder syndrome’, which means the founder has the biggest say, and some are reluctant to accept young people’s ideas or recognise our talent.

USi: That must be frustrating. Is it the reason why you decided to leave this area for the moment?

LA: That is one reason. Another reason is I realised I can not be working on the frontline like our senior labour activists. They have protection but I don’t. I still need to make a living and support my family.

USi: You must have a plan of your own.

LA: Yes. Actually it would be a good idea if young people can set up their own labour organisations. We have our natural advantage. We are politically clean. We can work on a lot of issues that old NGOs cannot work on.

USi: What projects do you have in mind?

LA: I know collective bargaining is definitely the most important and promising project that may bring about an institutional breakthrough. But collective bargaining also requires the trainers to possess practical skills to handle immediate risks (e.g. police harassment). If the government thinks your involvement is too much, it can impose crackdown anytime. I think I will leave collective bargaining to the brave-hearted pioneers.

For me, I’d like to focus on community capacity-building, which is less sensitive and facing less pressure from the authorities. We can deliver training to raise workers’ citizen awareness and equip them with legal knowledge. The downside is the project outcome is often difficult to evaluate.

Previous USi exclusives:

USi China Exclusive: Chinese workers’ fight for right to pneumoconiosis compensation – a profile of He Bing

USi China Exclusive: from student leader to labour rights defender, a profile of Lin Dong

Blacklisting – still going on?

A damning new report by the Scottish Affairs Committee (SAC) published on Friday (March 27), found that construction companies involved in the blacklisting scandal have hardly atoned for their sins.



It’s been six years since the Information Commissioner’s Office first discovered a database containing the names of more than 3,000 construction workers. Those on the list would find themselves secretly barred from finding work anywhere in their field for reasons such as being a trade union member or raising a health and safety concern.



Since then, a compensation scheme was set up by 8 of the 30 companies who were caught using the blacklist to bar workers from employment, but the SAC report is scathing in its criticism of how little the scheme has done to secure the blacklisted workers justice.



The companies which set up the scheme claimed that it was agreed to by unions, when in fact, it was not. Thus far, only 149 workers have received any compensation. Compensation levels, which start at just £4,000, are far below what many of the blacklisted workers – some of whom were unable to find work for decades – should be entitled to.



The committee report slammed the scheme, calling it “an act of bad faith”, and adding that it was “likely to be motivated by a desire to minimise financial and reputational damage rather than being a genuine attempt to address the crimes of the past.”



The report concluded that much more was needed to be done to both redress the blacklisted workers and make sure it never happens again. The committee recommended that the companies involved put greater effort into contacting all workers on the list, including family members if the workers may now be deceased.






The greatest concern MPs sitting on the committee expressed was whether the “odious practice” of blacklisting may still be ongoing. The only way to find out, the committee concluded, was to conduct a full public inquiry.



Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail hailed the report, saying its recommendations covered Unite’s main concerns.



“The report by the Scottish Affairs Committee is a damning indictment of the underhand and cruel tactics that the construction industry employed against decent workers prepared to stand up and be counted on such issues as health and safety,” she said.



“We welcome, in particular, the employment of ‘blacklisted’ workers,” Cartmail added. “This is the only ‘proof positive’ that these major contractors are on the road to cleaning up their past dodgy employment practices.



“However, it is clear from the report that many companies are dragging their feet on the issue of compensation to remedy what the committee calls ‘the sins of the past’.



“Whoever is in government after May’s general election must respond to the repeated call for a full public inquiry into the long-running issue of ‘blacklisting’.



“The Scottish Affairs Committee, as a whole, and its chair Ian Davidson have shone a light on this murky world of blacklisting. We are indebted to them for their work and dedication in seeking out truth and justice,” Cartmail concluded.



Labour has pledged to conduct the full public inquiry on blacklisting if it is elected in May.



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Win! Union strikes first blow in zero hours contract dispute

Marks & Spencer150 staff at Marks and Spencer’s Swindon distribution depot are to be offered permanent jobs after a campaign by the GMB against zero hours contracts.

The union has been fighting against a two-tier workforce that has seen agency staff being paid £2 less an hour than permanent staff.

GMB organiser Carole Vallelly said: “We welcome the news that DHL are to offer 150 permanent jobs to workers on the Marks and Spencer distribution site.

“This means our members will have the opportunity to have permanent, secure contracts, and will end the precarious nature of so many peoples working lives.

“We hope this is a move towards ending the two tier workforce and eventual pay parity across the site, with all workers, whether agency or permanent receiving the same pay for the same work.”

Blow to Scottish economy

Rolls-Royce is set to deliver a blow to the Scottish economy as it announced plans on Friday (March 27) to further axe over 200 jobs at two aircraft engine plants in Inchinnan and East Kilbride.

An estimated 180 jobs will be cut at the Inchinnan site, which manufactures aircraft engines, and will entail slashing the total number of shop floor workers by a third. At the East Kilbride repair and maintenance facility, 30 job posts are expected to go.

The latest announcement follows an onslaught of 500 job cuts since 2007 at the Inchinnan site. Unite has called on the company to give guarantees over compulsory redundancies and assurances over the future of aerospace engineering in Scotland.

While the company has claimed that the cuts are needed following a drop-off in customer demand, Unite regional officer Debbie Hutchings argued that this strategy was short-sighted.

“These cuts are a huge loss of skills to the Scottish economy and will lead to a further hollowing out of the company’s skills base in Scotland,” she said.

“Decent jobs are being taken out of the local economy in a short-term move which will undermine Scottish engineering.

“There is every danger that Rolls-Royce will shoot itself in the foot with this move and face a skills shortage when there is an upturn in orders,” Hutchings added.

“The company needs to give assurances over its long term plans for manufacturing in Scotland and provide guarantees over no compulsory redundancies.”

In November of last year, Rolls-Royce, in a vicious cost cutting measure, announced it would slash 2,600 jobs globally over the next 18 months, with an estimated two-thirds of the cuts to be made in the UK, according to the BBC.



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Charities bring Easter cheer

Food banks are gearing up to address growing demand during the Easter school holidays. Hard-pressed parents have to step in with lunches normally provided free at a school and may rely on charitable food banks for the kids meals.

As well as three-day food parcels, charity the Trussell Trust will provide Easter eggs as part of the food parcels to make “Easter a little brighter for families and children who are struggling to put food on the table.”

Last year a cross-party group of MPs recommended that free school meals should be provided to vulnerable kids during school holidays. Their report – Feeding Britain – recommended working to make the UK “hunger free” and called for a rise in the minimum wage and scaling back benefit sanctions that left claimants without money for food.

The latest report from the Department for Work and Pensions Select Committee published on March 22 demanded the government provides evidence the sanctions regime was not just “purely punitive”.

Sanctions and food poverty

Dame Anne Begg MP, who chairs the select committee said: “Recent research suggests that benefit sanctions are contributing to food poverty. No claimant should have their benefit payment reduced to zero where they are at risk of severe financial hardship, to the extent of not being able to feed themselves or their families, or pay their rent.”

The Committee said a hardship payment system designed to prevent people being left without money was not effective. This is because “hardship payments are not available until the 15th day of a sanction period. It is not reasonable to expect people to live without any source of income for two weeks.”

Prime minister David Cameron was challenged on the rise of food banks in the first TV debate. Interviewer Jeremy Paxman pressed Cameron in the increase in food banks from 66 in 2010 when he took office to 460 at the end of those five years.

While Cameron has been vocally supportive of food banks, some parts of government and his cabinet colleague Ian Duncan Smith have been scathing. Duncan Smith has accused food bank providers Trussell Trust of “scaremongering” while the DWP has accused them of “misleading and emotionally manipulative publicity-seeking” and accused the charity of “aggressively marketing their services”.

The charity has confirmed that Iain Duncan Smith has still not met its chairman Chris Mould. This is despite a request dating back to 2013.

But Trussell Trust, a Christian charity has refused to curtail its charitable activities despite the ire of Duncan Smith and the DWP. Having provided more than 1,000,000 food parcels in the last year, they have comfortably fed more than the 5,000.

Trussell Trust UK foodbank director Adrian Curtis says: “School holidays are especially difficult for low income families whose children usually receive free school meals or support from breakfast clubs. Many of the UK’s poorest parents are concerned about being able to feed their children over school holidays, and many skip meals to feed their children.

“Benefit delays and changes – including sanctions – are the trigger for 45 percent of referrals to Trussell Trust foodbanks nationwide. Over Easter many foodbanks will give out Easter eggs alongside the standard three day emergency food parcels to help make Easter a little brighter for families and children who are struggling to put food on the table.”


If you would like details of how you can assist Trussell trust, please visit its website here.

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Igniting a passion for learning

Anne Heavey is a policy officer at ATL. The mood at Stanley Park High is a happy one, in which all students and staff are united in joint purpose – learning. The students were engaged in their...