Wednesday, 30 November 2011

SIPTU Members Are Fighting Back

SIPTU members have hailed the support received from the public for the strike action taken by over 200,000 public sector workers in Northern Ireland today (30th November).
Across the North, workers on picket lines reported expressions of public support for their industrial action taken to protest attempts by the London government to cut workers pension entitlements and reduce public services.
Approximately 1,000 SIPTU members from Northern Ireland Railways, Belfast City Council, Newry and Mourne District Council, Southern and Belfast Education and Library Boards and Northern Ireland Water took part in the industrial action.
SIPTU picketed local government offices, railway stations, waste depots, community centres and schools.
Rallies were held in Newry, Omagh, Derry, Magherafelt, Downpatrick and Belfast city centre where public sector workers heard teachers, bin workers and health employees explain what cuts in services would mean to the public.
The main rally was held in Belfast centre, attended by an estimated 20,000 among them SIPTU President, Jack O’Connor.
Addressing the crowd ICTU Assistant General Secretary, Peter Bunting, said; “The real extremists in our society are those who evade and avoid tax, those who have gambled billions with other peoples’ money to sate their greed, and those politicians who have decreed that ordinary people, private sector workers, public sector workers and the most vulnerable of all, the unemployed, the sick, women and children, and senior citizens, will pay for the criminal conduct of the pampered elite.”
Peter Bunting concluded; “Let us fight on and build for the alternative – people, jobs and public services!”

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

SIPTU Calls for Fairness from DEL

SIPTU have written to the  Minister for responsibility for the Department of Employment and Learning (DEL) to seek a reconsideration of the decision to declare funding applications from Derry community groups as late.  The groups had ensured their applications were received in good time.  However, due to a combination of an administrative error and IT problems, the vacancies were not registered by the Departments lead partner the North West Regional College before the closing date.

Sean McMonagle a SIPTU activist from the umbrella group Triax Neighbourhood Partnership stated: “The right and proper thing is for the minister to accept a mistake was made but it was not made by any of the community groups who had their application in on time.”

Step Ahead was introduced by the Department for Employment and Learning in direct response to the economic downturn, giving the voluntary and community sector and social economy businesses an opportunity to assist the long-term unemployed back into work.

The programme was utilised in creating exciting, genuine employment opportunities for those who were long-term unemployed and wished to take the first steps back into employment.   Around 175 people a month had been signing up for the programme, which was set up two years ago.

Overall during the life time of the scheme around 4,000 people were lifted out of social security dependency into temporary posts with voluntary or community sector groups, which improved the job prospects of participants by giving them a recent employment history.  In addition the vital work of the community and voluntary was enhanced.

However as a  cost saving measure the scheme was axed by DEL and a closing date for applications of the 21st October was imposed.  This decision was as a direct result of the reduction in the Block Grant received from Westminster.

SIPTU  have written directly to the Minister of DEL Steven Farry seeking an urgent review of the decision to deem the applications as late.  Martin O’Rourke Lead Organiser for SIPTU stated  “We trust the Minister will accept the groups acted in a professional manner ensuring the completed applications were received in good time by their lead partner, and the circumstances that led to the late receipt were entirely outside of their control”. 

The geographical are covered by these groups is one of the most deprived areas in the local economy and the services which these additional 30 workers could bring to the city are urgently required.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

SIPTU Welcomes Commitments in DPG

SIPTU welcomes draft Programme for Government’s commitment to inclusion of social clauses

SIPTU has welcomed the publication by the Northern Ireland Executive of the Draft Programme for Government 2011-15, and in particular its pledge to “include social clauses in public procurement contracts for supplies, services and construction.” 

Social clauses in public procurement procedures refer to social and labour standards that contractors have to fulfil in order to tender for public contracts.  Such clauses require that all bidders respect certain locally established standards so that public contracts do not exert a downward pressure on wages and working conditions.

“We trust that the provision of a social clause into public procurement contracts will ensure they contain ‘a threshold of decency clause’ in relation to terms and conditions of employment for any organisation employing staff and securing a public procurement contract,” said the Chair of the SIPTU North West Community Sector Division, Karen Mullan.

“We are aware from contact with our membership and organisations of growing concerns that Government departments are seeking ever increasing ‘efficiencies’ from the Community and Voluntary Sector in funding applications. Some organisations have regrettably addressed this conundrum by reducing the pay or hours of work of the staff they employ.  This, if not adequately addressed will result in a race to the bottom in relation to terms and conditions of employment in the sector and will also result in the loss of experienced, skilled and committed staff.  This will then lead to a reduction in the quality and level of community and voluntary services,” Karen Mullan added.

Karen Mullan Chair of the North West District Committee

SIPTU believes the insertion of threshold of decency clauses will provide organisations with a level playing field to compete for Government contracts based upon the quality of service they provide.

Chair of the SIPTU Belfast Community District Committee, Pat McCauley, said; “We have written to the Northern Ireland Executive advising itof our position on this issue, and seeking a meeting to explore the introduction of the commitment together. Society relying upon, and the workers providing us with key services deserve the inclusion of a social clause and the Northern Ireland Executive needs to be applauded for this commitment. SIPTU will continue to monitor the situation.”

Pat McCauley Chair of SIPTU Belfast Community District Committee

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

SIPTU Organise Meeting for all C&V Organisations

SIPTU have organised a meeting for all community and voluntary Sector organisations within the city in the City Hotel, Derry, on Thursday 10th November at 2.00 p.m. 

A large number of community and voluntary workers have already joined SIPTU and are uniting under SIPTU’s Communities against Cuts Campaign.  There are a range of issues that affect the community and voluntary sector with funding cuts been the most threatening to the sector at this time but other issues are also part of the SIPTU campaign are employment rights and recognition on issues such as long term contracts, pension rights and redundancy pay.

Martin O’Rourke,  Organiser for SIPTU stated “ We have become increasing concerned that organisations providing vital services to the most vulnerable in society who are already operating on a “shoestring” budget are being asked to make further “efficiencies.”   These essential services cannot be provided to our communities unless adequate funding is put in place.  Inflation is currently running at over 5% and even if funding was provided at last year’s level this would result in a reduction in real terms of over 5%.  This meeting is one of several across the local economy to ensure the community and voluntary sector can learn from the experiences of other organisations and speak and act with one collective voice.

According to SIPTU The Community and Voluntary Sector only receive 45% of its operating costs from Government funding and in return for every £1.00 invested delivers £4 to the local economy.  It delivers essential services at a lower cost than government agencies can, and despite this has already seen a 10% reduction in services and jobs over the last two years. 

Karen Mullan, Chairperson of the Western Organising Committee called upon all Community and Voluntary sector organisations whether members of the Union or not to come to the meeting to mobilise together against further cuts.  Karen Mullan added “The community sector is already at a major disadvantage in comparison to the public sector and even many private sector workers in terms of recognition around issues such as pensions, redundancy pay and long term contracts of employment. Over the course of the last two years upwards of 2,000 community development workers have lost their jobs in the delivery of vital services, if this occurs in any other sector there would be major outcry and there has been in the past, but loss in community development jobs, services, and its impact on the local economy as hardly received a mention in local or regional news. But as community development workers and projects we need to organise ourselves into strategic representation in the Union to protect this vital sector which has already received disproportionate cuts  resulting in the most disadvantaged in our society suffering.   It is time to reverse this trend, and to demand recognition from Government and other funding bodies in par with that of the public and private sectors workers, in terms of working conditions outlined. - the first step in doing so is the organisations attendance at this meeting.”

Monday, 31 October 2011

Trade Union Leader calls for workers to unite to fight attacks on pay and services

SIPTU's Jack O'Connor calls for workers to unite to fight attacks on pay and services

Speaking at an event to mark the unveiling of a portrait of Trade Union Leader James Connolly in Belfast City Council this evening SIPTU General President Jack O’Connor called on workers to unite to fight attacks on pay and services.

Thanking Mayor Niall O’Donnghaile and the City Council, he described the initiative as “acknowledging the role of the majority – i.e. Working people, in the history and civic life of the City”.  He said that while his union was founded in Dublin as it ITGWU in 1909 it was conceived in the great Belfast Dock Strike of 1907 when workers of all traditions across the city united to assert their rights.

He went on to cite the parallels between the circumstances at the end of the 19th and early 20th century to those prevailing today.  The economic collapse which precipitated the great London Dock Strike of 1889 and the wave of militancy among workers across Western Europe followed a global expansion of capital not unlike the 30 years before the implosion of 2008.  This has legitimised a new assault on pay,  which parallels the reaction of capital to the collapse that occurred in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Once again it is being done in the name of competitiveness. Once again we are learning that whatever differences exist between those at the top of society in different countries, they are unanimous when it comes to deciding on who is going to bear the lion’s share of the burden for the collapse of capitalism – working people as always.   “The austerity programme being promoted across Europe is mirrored by the approach of the UK government, which will jeopardise 40,000 jobs in this jurisdiction over the next four years.

“The outlook for working people, which only a few short years ago envisaged jobs and prosperity for the young, and reasonable pensions for the elderly increasingly begins to mirror that of an earlier, depressing era. Mass unemployment once again stalks the landscape. Casualisation, now in the form of agency working, mirrors the culture of the gangmaster, rendering the young subject to the volatilities of precarious working without rights.  The combination of public service cuts and collapsing private pension incomes are once again reducing the elderly to a status approaching penury.
“It’s time to apply the other lessons of history once again – working people must stand together and support each other.  Never have we faced a more urgent need to renew our commitment to the ideals of Connolly and Larkin and to their concept of building a fighting trade union movement capable of confronting the architects of austerity on the economic, social and political fronts. 


Wednesday, 19 October 2011

An offer Boots’ pensioners can refuse

An offer Boots’ pensioners can refuse

Not many companies try to solve their pension problems by cutting workers’ retirement incomes. Well not blatantly, anyway. But step forward Boots the chemist.

Alliance Boots, as the health and beauty company is now called, was bought by private-equity group KKR for £11bn in 2007. That may explain why the company that used to be known for its squeaky-clean image and girls in white coats is now being more so ruthless.
The trick is to offer pension-fund members an immediate increase in their pensions of nearly 25 per cent. But the price for that is to forfeit future inflationary increases.
Most actuaries would have difficulty working out whether that was a good deal, nevermind Boots’ former staff. But here’s a clue: only 60 per cent of the saving from losing the increase is used to boost the basic income. Then other 40 per cent will be used to offset the fund’s £602m deficit.
So unless you expect to die imminently, have no spouse to inherit your pension, or want to live a life of luxury now and poverty later, you’d end up a loser by swapping the increases for the higher income. At 5 per cent inflation, the rising pension would overtake the enhanced static payments within five years.
But people notoriously under-estimate their longevity. And even without an understanding of discounted cash flow techniques, they place more value on immediate cash than future promises. So many will be tempted to take the money now and ignore the future.
Boots would not have made the offer to more than 25,000 pension members if it did not expect a decent take-up. The pensions regulator does not like this sort of swap but is powerless to stop it. The trustees ought to make their view known. It’s time for them to do their duty and show their independence – even if they are employed by the company.

"We are calling upon all SIPTU Members who have retired from Boots to reject this "offer" and to retain their current pension benefits" stated Martin O'Rourke.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Centenary of James Connolly’s Belfast Arrival to be marked in City Hall

Jack O’Connor, Jackie McDonald, Carál Ní Chuilín, and John Gray will speak at a unique event hosted in Belfast City Hall on Friday 28th October to mark the 100th anniversary of the arrival of James Connolly in Belfast to organise dockers and mill workers. The evening will begin at 6.30pm with Belfast Mayor Niall Ó Donnghaile unveiling a portrait of Connolly painted by Belfast Artist Frank Quigley. The guest panel will follow with their discussion at 7pm.

The historic trade unionist came to Belfast in 1911 following James Larkin’s departure to Dublin. This special event will hear from cross community leaders who are members of the trade union SIPTU articulate the view that now more than ever working people need to be united.

The theme of the event will be ‘The Task Today’ and will focus largely on the modern needs of workers and the people who rely on public services.

John Gray from the Ulster Peoples College will provide the historic context of the City in 1911 and the work undertaken by James Connolly and the hundreds of trade union activists in Belfast to organise workers in the docks and mills.

Jackie McDonald will speak as a SIPTU activist about the needs of today’s poor and disadvantaged and the requirement to work together to lift communities out of multi-generational poverty.

Carál Ní Chuilín MLA who is also a member of SIPTU will focus upon how the trade union movement is able to bridge the cross community divide, to build a stronger and more powerful voice for the disadvantaged in our shared society.

Jack O’Connor General President of SIPTU will provide the union’s analysis of what is planned for workers and the people who rely on public services by the elite in society, and how we must all work together to undermine this neo liberal attack.

Speaking on the event SIPTU organiser Martin O’Rourke said,

“Connolly’s contribution in empowering working people in Belfast was immense; his campaigning played a key role in enhancing working conditions and the lives of the most deprived in society. Connolly was passionate about uniting working people, and breaking down sectarian barriers, his time in Belfast was characterised by his drive to unite communities. SIPTU believe that James Connolly’s actions and thoughts are as relevant today as they were 100 years ago, and we hope by marking this great man of Labour, and exploring his contribution in Belfast, we can further understand the task today for us in the trade union movement.”

Due to limited spaces you must RSVP your attendance by calling SIPTU on 028 90314000

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Magherafelt Council Chairperson hosts SIPTU campaigners

The Chairperson of Magherafelt District Council, Ian Milne (Sinn Féin) has today hosted a reception to mark the centenary of the arrival of James Connolly in Belfast to organise the Trade Union movement.

Speaking at the event, SIPTU Organiser Martin O'Rourke said,

"SIPTU were delighted to attend the event to celebrate 100 years of Trade Union activism, building upon the strong foundation laid by Connolly. Many thousands of activists have worked tirelessly since then to ensure that working people receive a fair return on their labour; notwithstanding this fact the challenges which faced working people 100 years ago are equally relevant today. That is why SIPTU is engaged in an organising campaign for the community sector which has faced and is facing disproportionate cuts. It is neither right, fair nor acceptable that people who protect the most disadvantaged in our society should have their work impeded in this way."

(Magherafelt Council Chairperson Ian Milne makes presentation to Martin O'Rourke, SIPTU)

Extending a warm welcome to Martin O'Rourke and Barry McColgan who represented SIPTU, Cllr Milne said:

"The Trade Union movement has been one of the main forces that continues to work towards improving people's lives and ensuring that public services are available, while helping shape a fairer society for all.

"I take this opportunity to commend SIPTU as a campaigning and organising Trade Union committed to fairness at work and justice in society. SIPTU's campaign to enlist the support of all key stakeholders to deliver on the future survival of the Community and Voluntary sector is very important in the fight to maintain vital frontline services to the disadvantaged and vulnerable in our society.

"It is estimated that there are 30,000 people employed within the Community and Voluntary sector with a volunteer base close to 100,000. Now is the time to ensure that people are put at the heart of our economy and that our economy serves society, not the other way round.

"We need to ensure the protection of wages and income and fight against the race-to-the-bottom to improve 'competitiveness'. Workers are the heart of an economy and should be treated as such, not just as a means to a profit. We must ensure that everyone has absolute entitlement to join a trade union and collectively bargain.

"This evening's reception is a celebration of organised labour and a tribute to the thousands of activists who over the last hundred years have worked tirelessly to improve terms and conditions for working people."

SIPTU help Art Ability secure interim funding

In June of this year Art Ability – a community organisation assisting children and adults with disabilities -  based in Agnes Street, Belfast, was  given just one week’s notice that it’s funding was to be removed.  A SIPTU organised campaign has been running since then to secure funding to protect this vital cross community organisation from closure, and to ensure its client’s needs were addressed. This campaign resulted in the initial securing of limited funding which did not fully protect the organisations future.
However, as a direct result of the SIPTU campaign we are delighted to be in a position to report that interim funding has been secured to enable the organisation to continue to operate.  Art Ability will now be in a position to apply for further funding for the autumn quarter, and their doors remain open.
(SIPTU facilitate Belfast Mayor Niall O'Donnghaile visit to Art Ability in June)

Richard Long, Project Manager for Art Ability and SIPTU member said,
 “Our project was under very real threat of closure.  If it hadn’t been for SIPTU getting involved with their organised campaign, we would probably have had to close our doors. SIPTU’s campaigning experience and assistance have enabled us to secure this additional funding and I would advise other community sector workers to join SIPTU also”.
SIPTU Organiser Teri Cregan stated,
“We could not have achieved the interim funding without the help and support of activists, the media, political representatives, and civil servants who worked with us on our campaign to protect this vital project. To each person that played their part in this collective campaign we say thank you. We are absolutely delighted that Art Ability have secured this vital funding and we are now working with other organisations who have also either lost vital funding or have had it substantially reduced.  Our analysis is that community sector organisations coming together with SIPTU is the only mechanism where Community Sector workers might be afforded the same protection as that enjoyed by workers in other sectors facing the threat of cut backs.   This analysis is shared by a growing number of community sector workers who are joining our union in ever increasing numbers.”
While this project that has been running for 21 years is “not out of the woods” yet, this interim funding will allow it to continue to provide cross community services to the locality at least in the short term.
Watch the You Tube video filmed before the successful outcome of our campaign, where Richard Long speaks about Art Ability;

Monday, 26 September 2011

SIPTU welcomes Assembly Motion

SIPTU has welcomed the motion put forward in the Assembly in support of the vital work undertaken by the  Community and Voluntary  sector from the following MLA’s Mr M Copeland  (East Belfast, UUP), Mr R Beggs  (East Antrim, UUP) and Mr J  McCallister (South Down, UUP).

The motion states,

“That  this Assembly notes the invaluable contribution made by the community and  voluntary sector, particularly in assisting the most vulnerable people in  society; believes that where the sector provides public services, it is  appropriate that it should be adequately funded for this provision and any  related overhead costs; and calls upon the Minister for Social Development to  ensure that there is an effective working relationship between all Executive  Departments and the community and voluntary sector.”

This motion is to be considered by the Assembly on Tuesday 27th September 2011 and SIPTU has called upon all MLAs to support it, and all Executive Departments to act upon it when passed.

 “We share the forward thinking of the proposers of this motion and believe that representatives of the Executive Departments, NICVA and the trade unions representing Community and Voluntary workers should engage regularly on a formal basis to ensure best practice in this sector and to ensure the motion is the catalyst to assist the Community and Voluntary organisations and their dedicated workers in their endeavours to lift people, families and communities out of poverty”, stated Martin O’Rourke Lead Organiser, SIPTU.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Community and Voluntary Sector fights back with SIPTU

SIPTU members in the Community and Voluntary Sector have formed a Western Organising Committee and selected local representatives Ms Catherine Pollock and Mr Sean McMonagle to represent them on Derry’s Trade Council. This Committee will add to the work already undertaken by SIPTU’s Belfast Committee.

Various representatives from the City, Strabane and Omagh were also selected to ensure the Committee would act in a cohesive manner over the entire region.

Speaking after the event SIPTU Organiser Martin O’Rourke stated.

“Over the last two years around 3,000 Community workers have lost their jobs through lack of funding for vital projects for the most vulnerable in our society. This has resulted in increased hardship for the community with the loss of vital services and skills. The Department of Social Development intend to further reduce funding by 25% for this vital sector at a time of growing need for this type of service.”

Karen Mullan who was selected as the Chairperson for the group stated,

“The early intervention provided by the Community Sector ensures real savings in both economic and social terms to the state. Cuts to funding for vital projects make neither economic nor social sense, and that is why we are determined to resist the planned cuts” “Our Society deserves better and the SIPTU members in the Community Sector are going to ensure the people they provide services to are protected. The Community and Voluntary Sector which has been seen as the point of least resistance for planned cuts are getting organised with their Trade Union SIPTU to protect the most vulnerable and to build a fairer and better society for us all. We would encourage all community and voluntary workers to join us to build a strong united voice for our sector."

The next meeting of SIPTU’s Voluntary and Community Western Organising Committee is scheduled to take place in Tullyally within the next two weeks.

Monday, 12 September 2011

SIPTU Stand Up for Derry to Coleraine Rail Line

Ireland’s largest Trade Union SIPTU has added its voice to the many who are calling for necessary and immediate investment in the Derry to Coleraine rail line. The very future of the line was put in doubt recently when Translink announced that because of cuts to its budget from the Department of Regional Development, the £75m required to upgrade the line was not available and the work would have to be deferred for three years. They are also downgrading from 9 to 5 services per day.

SIPTU who represent NI Rail workers have said that failure to provide the needed investment for upgrade now, would not only be highly dangerous but also put the long future of the rail line between Derry and Coleraine in doubt.

SIPTU Lead Organiser Martin O’Rourke said,
“The short sighted decision to not provide the needed funds for upgrading the Derry to Coleraine line will not only adversely affect the working people who rely on the service daily, but will also be highly dangerous, and could put the long term future of the line at risk. NI Rail workers are striving to provide a first class service to the public, yet the quality of service they can provide is constantly being hampered by underinvestment.”
“This line is also strategically important for the tourism industry and a reduction in the number of daily services will make the beautiful north west coast less accessible to everyone. The historic lack of investment in the north west needs to be put right.”

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Open Invite to SIPTU Community Workers' General Meeting

Dear Colleague,

We have arranged a General Meeting of all SIPTU Community Sector Workers and People working in the Sector who have joined or wish to join the Union.

The meeting will be held in the Gasyard Centre, 128 Lecky Road, Brandywell, BT48 6NP at 1.00 p.m on Thursday 15th September 2011.  Please advise colleagues who have not yet joined the Union to also attend the meeting if they also wish to join.

The Agenda of the meeting is;

·         Overview of Campaign
·         Objectives of Campaign
·         Election of the following Officer Positions of the Western Organising  Committee;
-     Chairperson
-         Deputy Chairperson
-         Communications Officer
-         Trade Council Representatives x 2
-         Campaign Strategists x 4

The elected Committee will meet on a monthly basis, and will develop a local strategy for the Sector.  If you would like to fill one of the above positions we ask that you would also have a proposer and seconder at the meeting.

It is also planned to hold further General Meetings on a three monthly basis to best ensure members are kept informed of the campaign progress and have the opportunity to advise the Committee of any issues.

If you have any queries in relation to the above please do not hesitate to contact our office on 02890314000.  We look forward to seeing you at the meeting and with working with you to secure much needed improvements within the sector.

Yours fraternally,

Martin O'Rourke
Lead Organiser

Monday, 29 August 2011

SIPTU Proud to Support Foyle Pride 2011

SIPTU activists were out on the streets of Derry on Saturday (27th August) supporting the second annual Foyle Pride parade. They joined with thousands of people including trade union and community activists, all united in celebrating diversity and demanding equality for the LGBT community.

SIPTU Lead Organiser Martin O’Rourke said,
“SIPTU were very proud to march at Foyle Pride and it was great to see so many trade union and community activists turn out in support of LGBT rights. The march was a celebration of diversity and equality, but it was also to send a clear message that homophobia and associated attacks are absolutely wrong and will not be tolerated. The thousands who turned out in Derry demonstrated powerful cross community solidarity.”

SIPTU Supports Belfast Pride 2011

We are SIPTU - Tim Smith

Monday, 22 August 2011

SIPTU call for better services at Mater A&E for distressed and suicidal persons

SIPTU representatives attended the PIPS (Public Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide and Self harm) silent vigil outside the Mater Hospital on Friday 12th August 2011 calling for better services to be provided to distressed and suicidal people who go to A&E late at night.

SIPTU representative Anne Thompson said,
“We believe too many distressed and suicidal people and their loved ones are paying the ultimate price for failures in the system. As a trade union we strive for a better social wage for all citizens. We are calling upon the Department of Health and Social Services to ensure that appropriate measures are in place to support vulnerable people seeking urgent assistance.”
“In situations like this society does not get a second opportunity to resolve the issue and the systems must be robust enough to support people at their most vulnerable. SIPTU is currently undertaking a Community Sector campaign to ensure organisations like PIPS secure necessary funding to continue their vital work into the future.”

SIPTU give voice to the Community

As part of their ‘communities uniting’ campaign in the north, SIPTU are giving voice to community workers through an online series of interviews, ‘We are SIPTU.’

The series of interviews will be continually updated to YouTube, allowing people to easily access and get an insight into the everyday work of community activists, the services they provide, and the cuts facing projects. To access the interviews click on the following link;

SIPTU Lead Organiser Martin O’Rourke said,

“I encourage people to watch, follow and promote the ‘We are SIPTU’ interviews. We are giving voice to community activists, allowing people to hear their story, and get an insight into the vital work they carry out daily. They also focus on the very serious cuts facing and indeed being imposed on projects currently.”

“The interview series has a constant message running through it that if we organise and work together through a trade union, then we can defend our community services from the full onslaught of ideological driven cuts facing us.”

We are SIPTU - Richard Long

Monday, 4 July 2011

SIPTU encourages support for Belfast Gay Pride 2011

SIPTU is calling on the public to come out in support of the week long festivities for Belfast Pride from 23rd – 30th July. The full calendar of events can be found online at;

The 21st Pride festival which the organisers hail as ‘a celebration of diversity’ will culminate with Ireland’s largest LGBT parade, making its way through Belfast city centre on Saturday 30th July.

Encouraging people to attend Pride, SIPTU Lead Organiser Martin O’Rourke said,
“SIPTU encourages everyone to come out in support of equality and diversity by attending the various events at Belfast Pride. Pride is a vibrant celebration of diversity and plays a huge role in creating an inclusive and welcoming society for the LGBT community. Last year’s parade attracted almost 17,000 people making it the city’s largest cross community festival.”

Friday, 1 July 2011

SIPTU condemns attack on Derry Community worker's car

SIPTU have condemned the ‘sickening attack’ on a Derry community worker’s car.

Sean McMonagle a well-known community activist, and who is a member of SIPTU, had his car attacked at his Rinmore Drive home, in the Creggan area of Derry on Wednesday night.

Hundreds of people took to the streets last night in the Creggan estate in a protest against the attack and in solidarity with Sean.
(Sean McMonagle's car was attacked on Wednesday night)

Mr McMonagle speaking on the attack said,

"It is not just about me, it is about what I do, it's about what a large number of people in this area, right across Derry do. I think this is the community beginning to stand up and saying to any of these groups, or any individuals that are involved in this type of stuff, 'no, you're not going to isolate or intimidate people and you're not going to bother them'."
Condemning the attack SIPTU organiser Martin O’Rourke said,
“Community activists like Sean work day and night to improve the life’s of others around them, the huge numbers that turned out in support of him last night demonstrates the high regard in which he is held and the level of anger at this absolutely sickening attack. The solidarity shown by local people last night is a strong message to these anti community elements to stop immediately with their pointless and criminal attacks.”

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Boots workers protest over withdrawal of Basic Terms and Conditions of Employment

SIPTU, the trade union representing Boots workers held a day of action at the company’s flagship store in Donegall Place, Belfast today (Sat 25th June) to highlight Boots attack on low paid workers despite achieving record profits of over £1 billion last year.

Workers held a protest for over 2 hours and handed out thousands of leaflets to bring attention to Boots withdrawal of basic terms and conditions of employment.

Mayor of Belfast Niall O'Donnghaile, a former Boots worker attended the protest to show his support.

(Belfast Mayor Niall O'Donnghaile supports Boots workers)

In a joint statement by the workers present, they said;

“Boots workers are disappointed and angry at Boots, a highly profitable company attacking our pay and conditions despite us being key to their success. We are extremely annoyed that our basic employment terms and conditions have been eroded over the years and this is a further insult to our rights as workers. We will not take this latest attack lying down and are determined to raise awareness with the public regarding this profitable company's attempts to attack our worker’s rights. We encourage shoppers and members of the public to support us by talking to management in their local Boots stores.”

Speaking at the protest SIPTU organiser Niall McNally said;

“Boots have made big headlines recently due to their tax avoidance strategies but they have sunk even lower with an attempt to slash pay for unsocial hours on Sundays and Public Holidays. After a plethora of changes, on which the workforce have been inadequately consulted, this pay cut is their latest development and has proved the last straw for the SIPTU organised staff.”

Thursday, 23 June 2011

SIPTU endorse Mencap’s ‘Stand by Me’ campaign

SIPTU spokesperson Anne Thompson has endorsed a 3-Year campaign launched today by the leading learning disability charity Mencap. The ‘Stand by Me’ initiative is aimed at highlighting and ending hate crime directed against people with learning disabilities.
The launch coincides with Learning Disability Week 2011 which is on from Monday 20th to Sunday 26th June.

Anne Thompson said,

“SIPTU endorse the ‘Stand by Me’ Campaign 100 per cent.  Hate crime against any section of society needs to be challenged by all of us, and this initiative by Mencap to tackle verbal or physical attacks against those with a learning disability needs to be supported by all of us. While the PSNI, criminal justice system and the courts have a key role in this, it is also the responsibility of wider society to challenge and face down hate crime against people with learning disabilities.”

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

SIPTU calls for an end to East Belfast Violence

SIPTU, the Trade Union representing the community and voluntary sector have appealed for calm in East Belfast, calling for an end to further attacks and praised the 'crucial' work of those community workers on all sides who were 'at the coalface' in dealing with the recent violence.

SIPTU Organiser Martin O'Rourke said,

"The violence in East Belfast is absolutely wrong and serves no purpose, with the potential to damage the spades of good work and strong community relations built up over recent years. We appeal for calm and an end to the violence."

"We all need to recognise the crucial work of community workers on all sides who were at the coalface in dealing with the very live and dangerous situation. Few other jobs demand such courage, conviction and commitment and their intervention in these situations is vital, playing a hugely positive and constructive role during and in the aftermath of such events. The very fact that events like this are so rare today is down to the necessary bridge building work carried out by the community activists in interface areas and they should be fully supported in their endeavours."

Thursday, 16 June 2011

SIPTU produce YouTube film – ‘Communities Uniting’

SIPTU have produced a short video for YouTube as part of their community campaign in the north.
The short film which is called ‘Communities Uniting’ gives a brief overview of the Trade Union’s campaign, interviewing a number of community workers who explain the invaluable work carried out by their groups, the threat faced by cuts and the importance of community organisations, workers, volunteers and those who use the services joining together to protect these invaluable projects.

Jennie Cornell of the Greater Shankill Community Safety Network said,

“If these cuts are coming, which they clearly are, then the only way we can resist them is to speak with one voice and that would be why I joined SIPTU and why I would be encouraging others in the community sector in my area to join SIPTU.”

Finbarr Kelly, Youth Worker with Tar Isteach said,

“Without many of these community organisations up and going there wouldn’t be anywhere for young people to go, there wouldn’t be anywhere for them to get small achievements which builds their confidence, that makes them into better people.”

Thursday, 2 June 2011

SIPTU facilitate Belfast Mayor’s historic visit to Art Ability

SIPTU’s campaign to reverse the decision to cut funding to Art Ability continues.  Thankfully as a result of the Campaign some element of funding has been secured but not sufficient to ensure it can continue to cater for the needs of the most vulnerable in society.  Indeed 4 members of staff have been forced to seek alternative employment despite having initially worked on without pay to protect the needs of the clients of the centre.
Art Ability provides training and support for 48 young people aged between six and 16 as well as 24 adults.
Manager Richard Long said they would need around £150,000 in the next three years to continue operating.
"We are a cross-community organisation and have children and adults from right across Belfast," he said. "If this place closes then there will be no respite for families and people with learning difficulties will have to stay in their own homes."

(Belfast Mayor Niall O'Donnghaile at Art Ability)

Martin O’Rourke Lead Organiser stated.
“SIPTU wrote to Belfast City Council prior to the election of the Lord Mayor requesting that the first official community function of the new Lord Mayor would be a visit to Art Ability.
Following his election as Belfast's youngest ever Lord Mayor, Niall O'Donnghaile confirmed his acceptance of the invitation and became the first-ever republican first citizen to visit the loyalist Shankill Road in an official capacity.“
SIPTU members from Denmark Street Community Centre gave up their time to assist with the visit, to ensure the clients, families, and visitors needs were met during the engagement.
The Lord Mayor Mr O'Donnghaile stated:

"This was one of the first invitations that I received since becoming Mayor and I was really, really eager to do it. Art Ability is an excellent facility and I am really happy to be here.
"I have relatives with learning difficulties and I appreciate the support and respite that places like this give to families.
"I have listened to the concerns and will do all in my tenure as Mayor to give them a lift."
Also in attendance yesterday was Jim McVeigh, a SIPTU Community Sector Activist and Councillor for Lower Falls. Jim stated,
“It is vital that people working in the Community Sector come together under a trade union banner and ensure they enjoy the same collective voice as public sector workers.”
Art Ability chairman Albert Hewitt, who is also a SIPTU activist who works with loyalist ex-prisoners on the Shankill, said they had no qualms about welcoming a Sinn Fein man to the area.
"It doesn't worry me the fact that he is Sinn Fein," he said. "The fact that he has come here and supported us and brought such publicity is fantastic.
"We didn't know who to turn to or where to go, thankfully SIPTU came to the rescue and they have worked tirelessly to protect Art ability and the vital services provided by the Community Sector."
Funding for the centre, which provides respite for parents and young adults with disabilities, was stopped in March by the then Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey.
Meanwhile, SIPTU organiser Teri Cregan said:
"There has been a blatant disregard for the impact that cutting services such as Art Ability has on parents who depend on the respite, but most importantly on the children and young adults that use the centre.
"Art Ability helps these users lead a much fuller life and it enables them to integrate more fully into their communities and interact much better with other users.
"The callous decision to cease this funding says a great deal about the lack of recognition of what centers, such as Art Ability, mean to local communities and how they help the most vulnerable in our society."