Thursday, 27 January 2011

SIPTU Encourage Community Workers to Attend 'The People's Congress'

The People’s Congress for a Better & Fairer Way
The Octagon Room, King’s Hall, Belfast

10am - 2pm, Saturday, 5th February 2011

Organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions

Registration: 9:30

Conference Chair: Avril Hall-Callaghan, Chair NIC-ICTU

First Session: The Facts of the Real Economy and the Myths used to Justify Cuts.
Introduced by Peter Bunting, ICTU (5 mins)
Overview by Dr Andrew Baker, Economist, Queen’s University Belfast (15 mins)

Second Session: Towards an Economy which serves Society, and not vice-versa
Introduced by Eugene McGlone, Unite & Vice-President, ICTU (5 mins)
Overview by Paul Nowak, Head of Organisation and Services, TUC (15 mins)
Panel Discussion and open mic for questions and statements.

11:15 Break

Third Session: Big Society, Small Future: The Assault on the Welfare State
Introduced by Maria Morgan, NIPSA member on NIC-ICTU (5 mins)
Overview by Prof Eileen Evason, University of Ulster & BBC’s On Your Behalf (15 mins)

Fourth Session: Rights in a Time of Recession
Introduced by Pamela Dooley, Vice-Chair, NIC-ICTU (5 mins)
Overview by Ursula O’Hare, Law Centre NI (15 mins)
Panel Discussion and open mic for questions and statements.


Working Lunch & End of Conference.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Public meeting - Defending Omagh's Communities from Cutbacks

Ireland's leading Trade Union SIPTU have organised a public meeting in Omagh that will discuss pending Tory/LibDem Cutbacks to the Assembly Budget, the devastating impact these cuts could have on local communities and the need for communities to campaign together and organise against any cuts to frontline services.

The public meeting 'Defending Omagh's Communities from Cutbacks' will be held in the Strule Arts Centre at 7.30pm on Thursday 17th February, and everyone is welcome.

Encouraging people to come along to the meeting, Omagh community activist and SIPTU member Gerry McCusker said,

"Local communities deliver a vital service to society, delivering a diverse range of projects like childcare, senior citizen clubs, disability support, suicide prevention, drug and alcohol awareness courses, youth clubs, summer schemes, adult education and preparing long term unemployed back into work. While socially invaluable and extremely cost effective, many are already surviving on a shoe string budget and relying on the exemplary commitment of their workers and volunteers to survive."

"It would be completely wrong for cutbacks to jeopardise such crucial services to our community, which in many cases would leave a deep void and tear the soul out of many local areas and leave a lot of vulnerable people neglected. SIPTU have already met with a wide range of Community groups across the north including Tyrone, we will be doing a presentation to Omagh District Council on Tuesday 1st
 February, and we have called the meeting in the Strule Arts Centre to bring together community workers and people from the community who want to make a stand against any cutbacks to the vital services which they rely on daily. It's your community, your future, your meeting, come along!"

SIPTU welcome PUP Leader's positive statement on Community Sector

Ireland's largest Trade Union, SIPTU have welcomed the recent comments by the PUP leader Brian Ervine on the 'vital' work carried out by the Community sector.

Brian Ervine commended East Belfast Community groups who delivered essential services to vulnerable residents during the recent cold snap, and spoke of the importance of such projects, particularly now in a time of economic crisis,

“The Sector is more important than ever given the current economic climate when social inequalities are increasing, and those living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods are likely to become more marginalized as unemployment levels rise and benefits are cut.”

(PUP leader Brian Ervine)
Welcoming and endorsing the PUP leader's comments, SIPTU Organiser Martin O'Rourke said,

"SIPTU absolutely agree with Brian's assertion that the community sector is vital now more than ever, because of rising unemployment and cuts to benefits will create huge pressure on many within working class areas who are already struggling to cope and survive. People rely on these vital services and projects, they cannot be allowed to be cut, and we in SIPTU will be to the fore in uniting and organising communities against any proposed cuts."

Thursday, 20 January 2011

SIPTU Urge Boots to Engage Constructively with Workers

Ireland’s largest Trade Union, SIPTU have labelled the Boots Management as ‘belligerent and uncompromising’, for failing to acknowledge workers concerns.
SIPTU who are organising Boots workers in stores across the north drafted a petition and collected hundreds of signatures from staff calling for dignity and respect in the workplace.
The trade union said the dignity and respect campaign was initiated following a number of complaints by Boots workers, who were extremely unhappy at the negative manner in which they were being treated by senior management, and their concerns not being taken seriously or dealt with in an appropriate manner. These concerns in part relate to the fact that this very profitable company (1 of 3 which broke the £1bn profit margin in 2010), fails to ensure adequate staff levels are maintained to provide a professional service to the customers without creating undue stress and strain on the workers.
The petition which had almost 400 Boots staff signatures was handed in on Monday 18th October, yet the Boots management have not yet responded whatsoever to SIPTU’s proposals to resolve the issue in a constructive manner. 

(Some members of the SIPTU Boots Organising Committee)

SIPTU Organiser Niall McNally has launched a scathing attack on Boots management style,
“We believe the Boots Management are an absolute disgrace, they have continually and point blank refused to address the concerns of their own staff, whether it is raised by the workers themselves or by SIPTU on behalf of the hundreds who signed the petition. How long does it take to respond to and deal with these concerns? It has been over 3 months since we sent in the petition followed 2 weeks later with proposals from the union, which had been requested by management. As of yet we have not received any response despite their commitment to revert to us within 2 weeks. It is wholly unprofessional and an absolutely appalling record from a company who have grown and achieved record profits down to the professional staff who they employ, the very staff who they are showing total disdain towards. Their behaviour is not conducive towards establishing good industrial relations between the workforce and the company.”
“We believe the belligerent and mean practice by Boots of failing to take on board or deal with their workers concerns is something that must change. We are in the process of organising a General Meeting of all Boots workers, to come together and ensure that the Boots management begin to take their concerns seriously and start to implement a dignified and respectful atmosphere in the workplace.”
Marie McAteer, SIPTU Boots Organising Committee, said,
“At this late stage we urge the Boots management to engage with the representatives of the workers and to address our concerns.”

Monday, 17 January 2011

Communities unite through SIPTU

Community activists from across the north are joining SIPTU to work together in ever increasing numbers to protect front line community services in their local areas.

That was the clear message on Tuesday 11th January as community leaders from across the north met at SIPTU's Belfast offices to assess the potential impact of cuts to frontline services in communities and to develop an effective campaign to protect these 'invaluable services' and the projects and centres which deliver them.
(SIPTU Community meeting in Belfast) 

SIPTU Lead Organiser Martin O'Rourke said,

"It was wonderful to see a strong cross community presence at our organising committee with a united view that the real enemy was the proposed cuts. Communities are uniting through SIPTU, with the union bringing people together to organise for the safeguarding of frontline community services. We are deeply committed to working with all communities in the north to protect the invaluable services they receive from their local projects."

"There is a real fear at the moment that the proposed Tory Cuts to the Assembly budget will have an impact on local projects, and due to the rising unemployment these services are needed now more than ever. We are lobbying all the main political parties both locally and at a European level, to protect the vital community services and to that end we will be meeting with all 26 District Councils, beginning with Omagh, Derry, Strabane and Fermanagh and have organised Community public meetings in Tyrone, Derry and Belfast for the month of February.”

"SIPTU feel privileged to be working with such committed and dedicated activists whose vocation to their community is making a difference to thousands of people's lives each and every day. The selfless and collective ethos at the heart of the community projects is a key tenet of a fairer and better society, and we must play our part in protecting these frontline services and the very spirit that sustains them."

SIPTU welcome statement by Deputy First Minister

Martin O'Rourke
SIPTU, Belfast

At the recent NICVA (Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action) conference on Wednesday 12th January, the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness stated that we should not continue with the failed policies of the past and investment was the best way out of the recession.

In an optimistic tone for the future he said,

"The Executive has unity of purpose to deliver an economy that works for all."

This is a welcome statement from the joint leader of the Assembly, in particular because it was made at a conference focussing on the community and voluntary sector.

There is a real fear in communities at the moment that frontline services will be cut, and essential projects will be lost, so to hear such a positive statement from such a senior political figure is heartening.

At this time of huge uncertainty we would call on the Executive to follow on from the Deputy First Ministers comments, and to reassure communities about the future of essential frontline services.

We in SIPTU have constantly said that cuts are not the answer, only investment will create the stimulus needed for a resurgence in the economy.

If we want to build a sustainable and equitable future we need to ditch the failed policies of the past and focus on investment of our public sector, and our communities. Only through investment can we build the better and fairer society we all need.

Bring water back into public control!

Jim Mc Veigh
SIPTU Community   

Over the Christmas period the severe weather spell here in the North of Ireland brought misery to tens of thousands of families.  That misery was compounded by the abject failure of NI Water, a semi privatised arms length government quango, to adequately respond to the crisis.  As a consequence tens of thousands of homes and businesses found themselves without water for days and in some cases weeks.

The minister responsible for NI Water is Sinn Fein MP Conor Murphy, and he has instituted an investigation into what went wrong and who was responsible.  That investigation is due to report back quickly.

While we await those specific findings it is worth examining the legacy of neglect and under investment in the water supply infrastructure in the North under consecutive Westminster governments, both Tory and Labour.

(One of the many 'water queues' over Christmas)

Over recent decades both London parties pursued an ideologically driven policy of privatisation and hollowing out public services or publicly owned organisations.  This has led to hundreds of skilled workers in the water service losing their jobs and much of the work handed to private companies. 

In the case of NI Water, the service was taken out of direct public ownership and scrutiny.  When the more recent crisis struck, NI Water was unable to cope and instead went into meltdown, as too few workers struggled, in some cases valiantly, to restore supply.  In many instances, private contractors reaped the financial benefits of privatisation.

The Minister in question has indicated his and his parties desire is to see NI Water taken back into full public ownership and for the decades of neglect under British direct rule to be reversed.  Trade unionists North and South, including SIPTU, must make their voices heard on this issue.  The public ownership not just of our broken banking system but also of our vital public services, such as water, is something that many ordinary citizens now demand.