Dunnes Stores workers vote for industrial action.

Mandate Trade Union members in Dunnes Stores have today (Friday, 6th March) voted by more than two thirds in favour of industrial action.

The Union says a national strike committee will convene on Tuesday to determine the type of industrial action and the date of that action.

Dunnes Stores worker Cathy Mcloughlin said:

“Our employer continues to refuse entering into discussions with us through our union, and they won’t even go to the Labour Court to address our issues. None of us want to go on strike because we really can’t afford it, but what other option have we got? Our employer can stop the strike by simply agreeing to meet our Union and we don’t feel that’s an unreasonable request.”

Addressing the issues in dispute, Ms Mcloughlin said: “We have bills to pay and children to feed but we don’t know what hours we’ll get from week to week. We can’t live like this anymore.

Result from survey of Dunnes Stores workers from the Decency for Dunnes Workers campaign

Result from survey of Dunnes Stores workers from the Decency for Dunnes Workers campaign

“All we’re really asking is to be treated the same as workers in other retail outlets like Tesco, Penneys and Supervalu who have secure hours and a right to be represented by their union.”

  • Dunnes Stores workers want a number of issues addressed including:
  • The implementation of banded hour contracts which would give workers security of hours and earnings.
  • Fair pay for all workers in Dunnes Stores.
  • A review of Dunnes’ excessive use of temporary contracts of employment.
    Individual and collective representational rights for Dunnes workers.

Gerry Light, Mandate Assistant General Secretary said:

“Despite Dunnes Stores threatening job losses and cuts in hours, our members have taken the remarkable and very brave decision of voting in favour of industrial action.

The close result of this ballot is a reflection of the nervousness felt by staff members over their security of income and security of their jobs,” continued Mr Light.

“They have reached the end of the road and in many ways the result of the ballot today was the inevitable waiting to happen. Where else can they go after the Company has closed off and rejected all reasonable approaches by the Union and the Labour Court to deal with the issues in dispute?”

He added, “Least we forget, Dunnes remains a highly profitable retailer with an estimated turnover of approximately €2.2b in the Irish grocery sector alone. It won’t cost them anything but pride to sit down and negotiate a banded hours framework which would afford their employees the same security of hours and income which is common place in all of their main competitors.

Mr Light concluded: “One again we are saying directly to senior management and the owners of the Company that industrial action is entirely avoidable. Furthermore we are calling on them to do the responsible, reasonable and morally correct thing, and that is to enter into meaningful discussions with Mandate Trade Union. This is obviously in the best interests of the workers and of the company.”

NOTE TO EDITOR

A Dunnes Stores survey of more than 1,200 workers took place last November with the following results:

  • 76% of workers say they are on part time flexible contracts.
  • 98% of workers want more stable hours.
  • 85% say insecurity of hours and rostering is used as a method of control.
  • 98% of workers want Dunnes to respect their right to trade union representation.
  • 88% of workers believe hours are unfairly distributed.
  • 97% of workers believe that if hours become available in their store, they should be offered to existing staff in the first instance.
  • 89% say it is common practice that new staff on lesser terms and lesser rates of pay receive more hours than longer serving staff on better terms.
  • 83% say temporary contracts are being used outside of busy trading periods and Christmas.
  • 88% feel Dunnes workers are not treated with dignity and respect in the workplace.

Taken for granted

Unite’s members working for Parcelforce overwhelmingly rejected a pay offer that management went ahead with, prompting the union today (March 6) to warn the courier company that it risks inciting industrial action.

 
The bosses of Parcelforce, a subsidiary of the Royal Mail, implemented a paltry 2.8 per cent pay rise backdated to July 2014, following a pay review.

 
Unite CMA officer Brian Scott argued that the Parcelforce members’ pay is deeply unfair.

 
“Unite members at Parcelforce deserve and expect the same as their colleagues in Royal Mail and that has just not happened,” he said. “This demonstrates a contempt for workers and Unite members.”

 
“We now have no alternative but to seek a ballot for a work to rule,” he added. “There’s no doubt this action will have a significant impact on Parcelforce customers.”

 
Scott asserted that the courier workers’ hard work has gone unrewarded for far too long.

 
“Unite members work more than their normal hours each day and they do so as a commitment to the company and to its customers,” he said. “Our members now feel they are being taken for granted and, indeed, bullied by the management to accept this deal.

 
“We asked the company for an urgent meeting once members decided to throw out the pay offer, but they did not even bother to respond before rushing to enforce this paltry pay offer,” he added.

 
“We call on bosses to get round the negotiating table with us now in order to resolve this dispute and get a fair deal for hardworking employees who deliver for this company day-in and day-out.”

 

 

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“I am not a slave” Labour of Love campaign launched

Au pairs, carers, and domestic workers launched Labour of Love, a new campaign focusing on the rights of workers in private homes across Ireland.

Watch the video report here:

Where the Martyrs worshipped

The story of the Tolpuddle Martyrs – six farm workers imprisoned and transported to Australia for their attempt to prevent falls in their wages by forming a “friendly society” in 1834 – is the story of trade unionism’s birth in this country.

 
The six men who ignited a movement are remembered in books and museum – but a new site recently purchased for conservation will eventually give the public a unique insight into how, exactly, these humble men lived.

 
A grade II listed former Methodist Chapel built in 1818 in Tolpuddle, Dorset, and thought to be where at least four of the six Martyrs worshipped and three may have preached, was purchased last month by the newly formed Building Preservation Trust, supported by funds and advice from English Heritage.

 
Unite’s agricultural branch based in Tolpuddle was delighted at the news of the purchase.

 
Tony Gould of the Unite Tolpuddle branch noted that because the building will eventually be open to the public, a visit to Tolpuddle will be even more worthwhile.

 
“Although the TUC explains at the Martyrs Museum the industrial objectives the Martyrs had, their religious faith as Methodists underpinned their conviction as trade unionists,” Gould said. “This is also an important part of the story.”

 
Emergency repairs to stabilise the cob walls and to make the building wind and water tight commenced on February 17. Major conservation works are planned to be completed by 2018, in time for the 200th anniversary of the opening of the chapel.

 
Chairman of the Toldpuddle Old Chapel Trust (TOCT) Andrew McCarthy expressed gratitude to English Heritage and other partners for the support needed to preserve the chapel for generations to come.

 
“We look forward to consulting local people about possible future uses for the building once renovation work is complete,” he said.

 

 

 

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South Africa: union proud of Cape fire fighters

South African fire fighter

South African local authority union the Independent Municipal and Allied Trade Union (IMATU) has praised all disaster management teams, firefighters, volunteers and municipal officials who worked tirelessly to bring devastating fires along the Southern Peninsula in the Western Cape under control.

“Our members in the fire fighting division have been battling large fires in Muizenberg, Ou Kaapse Weg, Chapman’s Peak at the Hout Bay side, Tokai Forest and Noordhoek, since Sunday. Strong winds have made this already difficult situation worse and additional fire-fighters and volunteers have been deployed in efforts to bring the fires under control,” said IMATU President, Stanley Khoza.

It is estimated that more than 10,000 acres of vegetation has been burnt thus far.

“IMATU is very proud of the firefighters, many of whom are our members, working around the clock to contain this fire and protect people in the surrounding areas. We would like to commend them for putting themselves on the line and tacking this enormous task head on. As a small token of appreciation staff from our Cape Town Metro Office handed out energy drinks and chocolates to returning firefighters yesterday,” stated Khoza.

“We are extremely proud of our members’ passion and commitment in fulfilling their duties fearlessly. IMATU, together with South Africans everywhere, hope that this fire will be contained and brought under control soon,” concluded Khoza.

The fires swept across the Table Mountain range during extremely high temperatures earlier this week, destroying vegetation and homes. Although wildfires are a natural occurrence in this part of the world, climate change and human activity makes them more frequent and more severe.

The irony of the situation is that in many cases, extremely poorly paid firefighters risked their lives to save the houses and property of the wealthy people who live on the mountain slopes.

Nuclear build delays?

The construction of Britain’s first nuclear power plant in a generation may see delays as it faces continued legal challenges from European critics, including the Austrian government and a co-operative of energy suppliers in Germany.

 
The construction of the Hinkley Point C plant – which will be a boon for the local and wider economy, while powering seven per cent of the UK’s electricity – was granted final permission by the European Commission (EC) in October of last year.

 
The EC’s approval, however, followed a lengthy inquiry into state aid, which involves the UK government guaranteeing a minimum price for the electricity bought from the new reactor for a period of 35 years.

 
But critics contend that this guarantee unfairly distorts the market and disrupts the free flow of capital in the EU.

 
Now, energy and business minister Matthew Hancock revealed yesterday (March 5) that the government is requesting a “golden share”, which would give the government special voting rights and a decided control in the plant’s future.

 
The Independent reported that the golden share request could lead to even more delays, further fuelling critics’ legal challenge.

 
But Unite national officer for energy and utilities Kevin Coyne argues that the golden share request can only be seen as a good thing.

 
“We are of the view that all utilities should be publically owned, so anything that moves towards a publically funded system, we would support,” he said.

 
Best energy solution

 
Even in the face of legal challenges, Coyne defended the UK’s nuclear investment programme, which he says will provide a reliable and environmentally friendly long-term solution to the nation’s energy security.

 
“Nuclear is zero-carbon and is a huge generator of electricity for the UK,” he said. “The building of Hinkley Point would put on another 20 gigawatts to the supply and it would do it without carbon emissions. Therefore in all ways it is environmentally friendly.”

 
“We’ve found that even people from the environmental lobbies are coming around to our view that nuclear is probably the best solution,” he added.

 
“Wind power cannot compete, in the sense that the wind doesn’t blow when it’s not cold and you can’t store electricity.

 

Secondly, coal, in its unabated form will be outlawed by 2025. Without the massive investment in carbon capture and storage, coal will go out of production, which means that 25 per cent of our electricity goes out of production overnight.”

 
Coyne explained, then, that investment in nuclear is integral to a balanced energy policy in the UK.

 
“Coal and nuclear together provide well over half of the UK’s electricity,” he said. “And so if you don’t have new power stations, how are you going to replace that? The only other source is gas, but gas is a carbon emission.”

 
Best agreements ever negotiated

 
Hinkley is the site of two other nuclear power stations, with one currently being decommissioned. It’s this background that Coyne says makes the construction of a new plant in the area vital.

 
“There’s a large workforce that’s based there that’s eminently qualified in terms of skills,” he said. “The population know how to operate and run power stations. So the new plant would provide continuity in the area for the next 60 years – and that’s just in terms of its operation.

 
The construction of the plant alone, however, will be a wellspring of jobs for the local economy.

 
“The construction of the plant is based upon 5,000 jobs at any one time, with 22,000 over its six-year lifespan,” Coyne said.

 
The most exciting prospect of Hinkley’s construction and the jobs it will generate is that these jobs have been negotiated by Unite and other unions under what Coyne calls “some of the best agreements we’ve ever had.”

 
“They provide for a huge quality of pay,” he explained. “The terms and conditions are good, and trade unions are absolutely central to them. There’s a clause of no blacklisting and specific methods which ensure that it doesn’t happen – this is very important to us. There’s a pension scheme which traditionally you don’t have in construction.”

 
“And those are just snapshots,” he added. “There’s so much in the agreements that are very impressive.”

 
The cost of cleaning up

 
If the eventual construction of the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant may herald a nuclear renaissance, nuclear clean up and decommissioning of existing sites remains a dilemma.

 
Yesterday (March 5), the National Audit Office noted in a report that the estimated cost of decommissioning and cleaning up Britain’s most hazardous and complex nuclear plant, Sellafield, will rise by £5bn in a year – bringing the total cost to £53bn.

 
Although Coyne asserts that nuclear clean-up is an inherently expensive endeavour, exorbitant costs can also be attributed to private outsourcing.

 
At Sellafield, a private consortium contracted for 17 years to undertake the clean-up and decommissioning process was sacked earlier this year after reckless mismanagement. Parts of the project will now be essentially renationalised.

 
“The consortium contracted for the project employed all sorts of mechanisms which ended up being prohibitively costly,” he explained.

 
Coyne pointed to Cavendish Fluor, an American-based company contracted to decontaminate 12 other nuclear sites, as another prime example. Last month, just six months after winning the contract, it has now requested millions of dollars in additional taxpayer money.

 
“Our biggest concern about all these private companies is that when they first estimate costs, they often discover something or the other at a later stage that they hadn’t accounted for – and so they subsequently charge more,” he said.

 
“With a public contract, on the other hand, you’re paying the workers, as it were, and you do whatever there is to do,” Coyne added. “It’s much more cost-effective.”

 
Indeed, as the Sellafield contract is cancelled not long after the Circle and Atos contract disasters in two completely separate arenas of public provision, a clear pattern emerges. Whether it’s health, welfare or nuclear clean-up, privatisation simply doesn’t pay.

 

 

 

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Southampton calling

Unite, along with the Mirror, Hope not hate, and Operation Black Vote have embarked on a bus tour across the UK to encourage some of the 7m people who are eligible to vote but are not registered to sign up and get on the register for the election on May 7.

 

Below is short video from the bus visit in Southampton yesterday (March 5).

 

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Eastern Euphrates entirely liberated by Kurdish Defence Units

Kurdish Women's Defence Units YPJ smile while taking a break after a successful operation in the town of Shiukh, Upper, March 6, 2015 - Photo: Mustafa BALI

Kurdish Women’s Defence Units YPJ smile while taking a break after a successful operation in the town of Shiukh, Upper, March 6, 2015 – Photo: Mustafa BALI

A Kurdish news service reports that last night Kurdish forces completely pushed back ISIS forces from the Western front of Kobane (Eastern side of Euphrates River) after a major operation that lasted four days.

Driving ‪‎ISIS‬ out of the small, strategic towns of Shiukh (the Lower and the Upper ones), Kurdish units have so far advanced further than their positions on 15th September 2014, taking on many ISIS-controlled villages and areas in rural Kobane.

ISIS has reportedly destroyed parts of the bridge over the river, blocking Kurdish advance towards their stronghold on the western side, Jarabulus town.

Rojava_february2014_2

The city of Kobane was liberated by Kurdish partisans in January this year, but much of the countryside of Kobane canton remains occupied by ISIS forces. Kobane is one of three cantons in the autonomous Kurdish region of Rojava in northern Syria. Rojava is isolated and surrounded by hostile forces, but according to a group of Cambridge academics who visited recently, the region has developed systems of self-governance and democratic autonomous rule which are radically transforming social and political relations.

Many people have made the connection between the defence of Rojava and the defence of revolutionary Spain in 1936, and foreign fighters have joined Kurdish forces. Recently, a former British Royal Marine Konstantinos Erik Scurfield was killed fighting with Kurdish partisans.

 

 

 

Should there be a NEST for your nest-egg?

It says much for the resilience of the sort of consensual approach facilitated by the Pensions Commission of a decade ago that even before the government’s rash and irresponsible pensions freedom reforms have been implemented, opinion is coalescing around the best ways to ameliorate their likely...

Trade union solicitors launch Thompson Foundation to remember their founder

Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti delivering the inaugural Thompson Foundation Lecture, March 2015

Liberty director Shami Chakrabarti delivering the inaugural Thompson Foundation Lecture, March 2015

Thompsons Solicitors have launched The Thompson Foundation’ in memory of the firm’s founder.

The Thompson Foundation has been established to mark the retirement of David Thompson from the firm. It will be the first time in Thompsons’ 94 year history that no member of the Thompson family will be working for the firm, which was established by David’s grandfather W.H. Thompson.

Chief executive Stephen Cavalier said: “Since its foundation in 1921, Thompsons has been constant in its aim to be the leading legal adviser to the trade union and labour movement.

“We have established The Thompson Foundation to maintain the firm’s links with the Thompson family and to guarantee in perpetuity our unique constitutional commitment ‘to assist trade unions and their members and not to earn members the maximum income which, in general practice (including work for more affluent clients), they are capable of earning’.

“David is a close comrade and friend who has made a huge contribution to the firm’s development and success. His retirement marks an unprecedented milestone in our history and we are delighted that the Thompson Foundation will maintain his connection with the firm.”

David Thompson said: “I am proud that The Thompson Foundation will underpin the firm’s continued commitment to the trade union and labour movement, provide bursaries to support aspiring trade union lawyers and hold an annual lecture by an eminent figure on issues concerning trade unions.

“We are custodians of the great history of Thompsons and I am confident that the leadership of the firm will continue that tradition and ensure a successful future for the firm.”

The inaugural Thompson Foundation lecture was delivered by Shami Chakrabarti CBE, Director of Liberty, to an invited audience of distinguished guests at the TUC headquarters in London.

Ms Chakrabarti said: “In addition to forming Thompsons, W.H. Thompson was a founding member of the National Council for Civil Liberties. His vision of using the law to provide justice for working people lives on today in the work of David Thompson and that of the wider firm.

“I was proud to deliver the inaugural Thompson Foundation lecture and to join colleagues with shared values to pay tribute to David’s long career of fighting for injured workers and their families.”

Outrage as two union members sacked after raising grievances at work

Salford UniversityUCU members at the University of Salford are being balloted for strike action in protest at the sacking of two union members.

The two members, who had raised grievances against the university in the past, were placed on forced gardening leave the day before a new restructure was announced. Their contracts of employment were then terminated.

UCU said the treatment of the individuals, who work in the School of Marketing and Student Recruitment, flew in the face of agreed procedures on how the university should carry out redundancies.

The pair were not given the opportunity to be part of a redundancy selection pool, were not consulted on how their redundancies could be avoided and were not allowed to appeal against their job losses.

The union believes the employees may have been targeted as a result of their role in the union where one of them took the role of local representative. Despite axing both members of staff, apparently as a cost-cutting exercise, new posts have since been advertised internally in their department.

UCU regional official Martyn Moss said: “We are very concerned that the two members of staff who were sacked were also union members, and had raised concerns about a restructure at the university. We urge our members at the University of Salford to show support for their colleagues and send a clear message to the university that it cannot treat staff and their union reps in such a contemptuous manner.

“In the meantime we remain hopeful that talks to settle this dispute through conciliation experts ACAS will lead to an early settlement without the need for industrial or legal action.”

“If you want to win my vote, you must talk to me”

vote ballotThe Unite-backed NoVoteNoVoice bus today heads West in a bid to register voters before the General Election.

Some 7.5 million people across the UK stand to lose out on the vote that they are entitled to, but fears are growing that huge numbers of west country and Welsh voters will be among those unable to take part in May given the worrying decline in voter registration in these parts of the country.

To raise awareness of this risk, a registration roadshow is rolling westwards to seek out and register would-be voters. The NoVoteNoVoice double decker – powered by a Daily Mirror, HOPE note hate, Operation Black Vote, Operation Disabled Vote and Unite the union coalition – will target those groups where drop off rates are causing greatest concern – the young, those in rented housing and minority communities.

In Bristol, 5,641 voters have fallen off the roll but it is in Wales where the slide in voter numbers is particularly alarming. In Cardiff, some 23,500 voters have disappeared, with 14,000 of these in one constituency alone, the marginal seat of Cardiff Central. Along the coast in Swansea, over 10,000 voters have fallen off the electoral roll since 2014.

According to the NVNV team, patchy promotion of the change away from household and onto individual registration has caused voter numbers to plummet, which is why the eye-catching bus will be equipped with everything would-be voters need to get registered. Where people are uncertain about their status they can check that too using the unique VoteBooster technology that allows voters to check if they are on the roll there and then.

Nick Lowles of HOPE not hate said: “Elections are the life-blood of any democracy so it is a scandal that so many people cannot vote. The government’s own figures show that 8.5 million people – 17.7 per cent of all eligible voters – are not registered to vote. And what is worse is that it is those groups who most need a voice – the young, those on lower incomes and minority communities – who are worst affected.

“Giving people the chance to vote is absolutely essential and I would urge everyone to support the No Vote, No Voice campaign and start talking to their friends, families and neighbours about the importance of voting.”

Ros Wynne-Jones of the Daily Mirror said: “Politicians have been too relaxed about the registration changes being understood, but as we cannot wait for Westminster to wake up, we’re getting out there to talk to people about the value of voting.

“Simply registering sends a message to politicians. It says, if you want to win my vote then you must talk to me and listen to me. People may feel hacked off with political life in this country but our message is ‘don’t sit this out – your vote is your power, use it’.”

Ellen Clifford for Operation Disabled Vote said: “Disabled people remain one of the most marginalised and excluded groups in society and every day barriers to participation include exercising our democratic right to vote. On the road with the NVNV tour we’ll be talking to disabled people about how they can vote and the access standards they can expect at polling stations.

“If disabled people want politicians to prioritise the issues that matter most to us then we need to make disabled voter power really count.”

Anthony Curley national coordinator of Unite young members added: “The saying goes that ‘if you vote you get stuff, if you don’t you get stuffed’. There’s a worrying trend of young people not engaging with the political process, too many aren’t registering to vote – I fear that may become the habit of a lifetime.

“We need to mobilise the voting power of younger people, get them on that roll so that politicians of all parties think about our countries’ future, not just getting over the finishing line in May.”

The NVNV bus will stop at Bristol (today), Cardiff (tomorrow), Birmingham (8 March), Chester (9 March), Liverpool (10 March), Manchester (11 March), Calder Valley (12 March), Sheffield (13 March), Leeds (14 March) and Newcastle (15 March).