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.”