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