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."

Care Homes at Threat

Martin O'Rourke
SIPTU Organiser

Vulnerable elderly people and workers are those who will suffer most if the private care group Southern Cross is forced to close.

The group runs 25 care homes across the north, and a further 725 across England, Scotland and Wales.

The company's financial difficulty, it's very future has come into the spotlight this week again when it became evident that they could only pay part of their sizeable annual rent bill of £230million. Southern Cross have been allowed 4 months to come up with a long term solution to their financial woes but it is feared that up to 200 of their care homes are at threat of closure.

To maximise profits the company decided to sell the properties it owns, lease them back, and take the money it received from the sale as profit but are now not in a position to pay the rent on them.

What has been allowed to happen is a disgrace and highlights the absolute failings of privatisation, and has signalled one of the many huge pitfalls in David Cameron's notion of a 'Big Society.'

Care homes and care for our elderly should not be subject to fluctuation in the markets, and rise and fall in demand; they are not factories but an essential part of our community that should be focussed on providing world class care for our elderly and not in meeting financial targets and recording profits.

SIPTU hope that a solution can be found to ensure that all care homes are kept open, and all jobs saved, but we also hope it highlights the obvious failings in privatising something as important as care for our elderly, and hope that long term lessons can be learnt in our approach to how we look after the most vulnerable in our society.


Wednesday, 1 June 2011

New Mayor of Belfast to visit cross community disability project

In one of his first public engagements the new Mayor of Belfast will today (Wednesday 1st June) visit a community project for children and young adults with disabilities in East Belfast. Sinn Fein councillor, Niall Ó Donnghaile will visit the Art Ability project in Agnes Street, just off the Shankill Road where he will meet users and staff of the project which provides respite for parents and young adults with disabilities. Funding for the project was halted by the health department just two months ago.

Councillor O’Donnghaile was born and raised in the Short Strand area of the city where he is well known for his community work and, at 25 years old, is Belfast's youngest ever Mayor.  
The Mayor will also meet members and representatives from SIPTU from both sides of the community who are working together to fight the cuts to funding for Art Ability and other organisations that provide essential services to the most vulnerable in society.
According to SIPTU Organiser, Teri Cregan, the staff at the project continued to work on a voluntary basis after funding was cut but have since been forced to look for work elsewhere.
“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 lot about the lack of recognition of what centres such as Art Ability mean to local communities and how they help the most vulnerable in our society,” Teri Cregan said.

Video of Belfast May Day March 2011