Friday, 8 April 2011

SIPTU Condemns Withdrawal of Funding from Art Ability

SIPTU condemns the unacceptable withdrawal of funding from Art Ability the renowned Belfast project which promotes social integration between people with physical and learning disabilities and their abled bodied peers from both sides of the community in North and West Belfast.

SIPTU Community activist Albert Hewitt and acting Chairperson of the group, slammed the decision to remove funding from this vital service stating,

“This cruel cut has targeted the most vulnerable in our society and must be resisted by all socially responsible people. Our Trade Union has written to the Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety seeking this decision be reversed with immediate effect. We have also sought an explanation as to why this decision was made and why the centre was only provided with one week’s notice of the termination of funding.”

Adelaide Haddock - who is wheelchair bound herself and mother of Nikita aged 13 who has autism ,and who has been attending the Art Ability centre for the past 6 years has said the fall out of the cut off to funding has already had a impact not just on Nikita but on our whole family.

“Nikita doesn’t understand why she can’t go to the centre anymore. Nikita asked her family for donations and raised £50! She feels this is enough to allow her and her friends to go to Art Ability”.

Adelaide added:

“I want the Minister Mr. McGimpsey to explain to me and my daughter who has autism what justifiable reason does he have to take away hers and our families’ only means of respite, and the chance for Nikita to interact with other children with the same needs and connect with them on the same level. No-one has told us what they are doing to replace this respite, and I as a parent was not made aware that it was going to be stopped”.
Artability was established to continue the work of Shankill Phab Creative Arts Centre, which has been in operation since 1989. promoting social integration between young people with physical and learning disabilities and their able bodied peers from both communities of North and West Belfast. They undertake this by encouraging participation in the arts through various projects operating within the centre. They work with 12 children per day assisting 60 children per week.

The aim of this project is to help young people with physical and learning disabilities and those who are disadvantaged through bullying and who would otherwise be isolated and excluded from street play after school hours. Within the Afterschool’s Project the participants are encouraged to interact on collaborate projects and individual activities using a wide range of artistic materials . Based on the Very Special Arts Programme from America they design sessions that use art and crafts as a tool for expression and communication within a creative, fun and safe environment.

Through this project the participants also have the opportunity to take part in a wide variety of activities such as trips out, networking with other Community Centres, Animation, DJ Workshops, Drama, the Computer Club, external art projects plus many more games and arts activities.

This project offers a free pick-up and drop-off service from the participant’s home. The Centre's transport is wheelchair accessible and has Care Worker with the young people in the Bus at all times to Supervise the participants. This enables parents who do not have their own transport to ensure their children have access to this invaluable service.

“We will be meeting with all the local MLA candidates and have invited them to the three public meeting’s organised by SIPTU across Belfast to advise them of this deplorable act, the impact on the families and the need for action to protect our vital Communality Sector from savage attacks by government bodies and those who feel it acceptable to target the most vulnerable in our society” added Mr Hewitt.

For Additional Comments or Quotes please contact Teri Cregan 07824877000

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Public Meeting for West Belfast Community Workers – All Welcome!

SIPTU, the trade union for Community Workers, have invited all those who work in the community and voluntary sector across West Belfast to a meeting in Farset International on Tuesday (19th April) at 7pm. This is the first of a series of meetings being rolled out across Belfast.

The public meeting will include a presentation from the union on the campaign against cuts to communities and on workers’ rights.

Encouraging people to attend, SIPTU organiser Niall McNally said,

“10% of Community jobs have been lost over the past year, this is absolutely unacceptable. Community workers provide a service that is socially invaluable and extremely cost effective; they are on the frontline of dealing with the most marginalised people and in working to curb the biggest problems in society including suicide and drug and alcohol abuse. These people should be given a medal for their contribution to society, not put under anxiety and stress at the prospect of losing money for vital community projects or even their jobs. We want to call on all community workers from across West Belfast to join with us at the meeting to continue the campaign against cuts to our communities.”

Monday, 4 April 2011

NIC-ICTU Anti-Cuts Rally

SIPTU was well represented at the NIC-ICTU anti-cuts rally which the General President Jack O'Connor attended on Saturday (26th March). The march saw 6,000 people from a broad cross section of society comprising of trade unionists, community activists and members of the public who took to the streets of Belfast to assert their rights against the savagery of the austerity measures. Hundreds of SIPTU members and their families took part in the march to show their total opposition to the unnecessary cuts and to demand that the powers that be adopt a fairer, better way.

Niall McNally SIPTU Organiser, commenting on the march stated:

“It was exhilarating to see cross community activists speaking with one united voice making it clear that the real enemy are the people attempting to foist the cuts on to working families and the people who rely on public services. A message went out loud and clear today that working people have had enough”

He added:

“We are aware that one march will not be enough. Continued, co-ordinated and sustained action will be required to protect the most vulnerable in our society from the rapacious intent of a government hell bent on attacking what working people have built over the last 50 years. The threshold of decency must be maintained!”

Jim McVeigh, SIPTU Community activist, said; “It was great to see people from all sectors gathering outside City Hall to protest against the cuts. I was pleased to see community workers, health workers, teachers all united in their struggle against austerity. This however is only the start of a necessary campaign to resist the cuts”

Billy ‘Twister’ McQuiston, SIPTU Community Activist said; “These cuts will decimate the community and voluntary sector. The sector that is delivering the peace process here. How can you cut peace?”

SIPTU members also marched in Derry to Altnagelvin hospital to insist that the cancer services to the north west are delivered. The marches were organised in solidarity with a massive trade union mobilisation in London with estimates by the British TUC of over 400,000 participants.

Friday, 1 April 2011

SIPTU members in Boots Chemists demand that company honours staff contracts

SIPTU members at Boots Chemists in the North are demanding that the company honours its contracts with staff. The call follows a statement by Boots that it intends to slash premium pay without agreement from 1st June in breach of the Wages (Northern Ireland) Order 1988.

Long serving members of staff are currently paid a premium for Sunday work and public holidays, a long and well established practice to compensate for working unsocial hours.

“SIPTU members are rejecting the proposal from Boots Management to cut premium pay without agreement for staff. This proposal is unwise, unfair and totally unacceptable,” SIPTU Lead Organiser, Martin O’Rourke said.

He said that the pharmacy chain is a highly profitable company which made over £1 billion last year and recently paid a £1 million bonus to a member of senior management, Andy Hornby, who left the company after less than two years of service.

“Our members are not provided with a £1 million handshake at the end of their service whether it is less than two years or over 40 years. They are not asking for this but they are demanding that Boots honour its contracts and SIPTU will ensure their voices are heard in this regard,” Martin O’Rourke said.

He said that the Union will be arranging regional meetings with its members in Boots to ensure they are aware of their rights and the employer’s obligations in this regard. SIPTU intends to take an individual case for each member who suffers a loss as a result of this action by management, if its asked to do so.

“We are calling Boots management to reconsider this unworkable proposal and to engage with us to ensure that the staff whose hard work and commitment on Sundays , public holidays and every working day made Boots the profits they enjoyed last year are treated in a fair and reasonable manner” he said.

SIPTU is advising all Boots employees to join the Union to ensure that management respect their contracts of employment and to ensure that management reconsider its course of action.

SIPTU community drive continues

SIPTU has its expressed concern over fears of further cuts to community services in Northern Ireland in a series of meetings with District Councils and Stormont MLA’s. The union claims one in 10 jobs have already been lost in the community sector over the last two years.

SIPTU Lead Organiser, Martin O’Rourke, said;

“We have met with MLAs from the UUP, the SDLP and Sinn Fein with further meetings planned with the Green Party and Independents.” Describing these meetings as “positive and constructive”,

He added:

“We have reinforced the message to these political leaders that cuts in community sector funding will prove to be a false economy with the resultant long term financial and social costs far outweighing any short-term savings. Some MLAs such as Dawn Purvis (pictured) have worked as volunteers in the Community and Voluntary Sector have a deep understanding and commitment have a proven track record in protecting the interests of working people and the people who rely on public services. We have received cross-party support for our message.”

SIPTU has also written to the 26 District Councils in Northern Ireland requesting the opportunity to engage with them on the issue and asking them to pass motions of support for community sector workers. So far engagements have taken place and dates set for meetings with roughly half of the councils. Thus far all engagements have proven to be positive and constructive, he said.

Martin O’Rourke added:

“In addition, SIPTU has continued its successful engagements with community sector workers across the economy to advise them of our strategy and to ask them to join our campaign to protect their jobs and the vital services they provide,”

More such engagements are planned for Belfast in April.