SOLIDARITY WITH DUNNES WORKERS

Dunnes Stores worker Muireann Dalton who addressed the rally Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Dunnes Stores worker Muireann Dalton who addressed the rally Photo: © Michael Fisher

“I WANT TO WORK”

“We are not numbers. We are people. We are people who want to earn a decent wage, a living wage. We want to pay our bills. We want to send our children to school. I want to pay for my son to go to college. I want to pay my taxes. I want to work . I want forty hours per week. I want a wage.”

Belfast Trades' Union Council banner being carried past government buildings  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Belfast Trades’ Union Council banner being carried past government buildings Photo: © Michael Fisher

A passionate speech by Dunnes Stores worker Muireann Dalton at the rally yesterday in Dublin. Workers at Dunnes belonging to the union Mandate promised to continue their campaign for better conditions of employment and called on the government to introduce planned new legislation on collective bargaining rights without delay. Around 3,000 people took part in a march from Merrion Square backed by the Irish Congress of Trades Unions, followed by a rally outside the head office of the retailer at Aungier Street in Dublin city centre yesterday in support of the workers’ campaign.

Independent Socialist TD Clare Daly admires the Belfast & District TUC banner Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Independent Socialist TD Clare Daly admires the Belfast & District TUC banner Photo: © Michael Fisher

Staff belonging to Mandate from more than 100 Dunnes Stores outlets around the Republic staged a one-day strike in April as part of campaign which seeks secure hours and incomes, job security, fair pay and the right to union representation. Dunnes Stores has said it does not engage with trade unions. In February it accused Mandate of engineering a row on issues that did not exist to pursue an agenda of securing union representation rights.

SIPTU General Secretary Jack O'Connor at the Dunnes Stores rally Photo:  © Michael Fisher

SIPTU General Secretary Jack O’Connor at the Dunnes Stores rally Photo: © Michael Fisher

Last month Dunnes Stores granted staff a 3 per cent pay rise. The company has also said that staff have received two other salary increases in recent years. Mandate said at the time that the retailer would also need to put in place secure, banded hour contracts for staff if the pay rise move was to be “meaningful”.

Larry Broderick (centre) led the IBOA presence at the march and rally Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Larry Broderick (centre) led the IBOA presence at the march and rally Photo: © Michael Fisher

Addressing the rally, Dunnes Stores worker Muireann Dalton said staff had been “punished” for taking part in the recent strike. She said people who had held posts for 20 or 30 years suddenly had been moved to other areas. She said workers had faced a backlash after the work stoppage and had to hold a march to show Dunnes Stores management that they were not backing down. Ms Dalton urged politicians to pass the planned collective bargaining legislation.

ICTU General Secretary Patricia King addressing the rally in support of Dunnes Stores workers Photo:  © Michael Fisher

ICTU General Secretary Patricia King addressing the rally in support of Dunnes Stores workers Photo: © Michael Fisher

ICTU general secretary Patricia King strongly criticised directors of Dunnes Stores and argued that by any moral measurement, they had descended to a shameful low. “No human being deserves to be treated in the maner in which you instruct on a regular basis.” She said Dunnes Stores used its power to own and control the lives of its workers. “If those workers do not comply with those demands, they threaten disciplinary action or re-assignment and they deny those workers trade union representation”.

UNITE Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly applauds one of the speakers at the rally  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

UNITE Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly applauds one of the speakers at the rally Photo: © Michael Fisher

She said they needed to make sure that every TD goes into Leinster House and ensures that the government publishes a bill on collective bargaining and registered employment agreements and that the legislation is enacted and not obstructed.

Mandate General Secretary and ICTU President John Douglas at the Dunnes Stores march and rally  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Mandate General Secretary and ICTU President John Douglas at the Dunnes Stores march and rally Photo: © Michael Fisher

Mandate said that thousands of workers in Dunnes Stores did not know what hours they would have on a week-to-week basis and consequently their income could fluctuate from approximately €144 per week to €400 per week. Mandate say workers need certainty of earnings.

Dunnes Stores workers protesting over low hours contracts  Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Dunnes Stores workers protesting over low hours contracts Photo: © Michael Fisher

Gerry Light, Mandate assistant general secretary said: “It is totally unacceptable that a local manager in Dunnes Stores can pick and choose which individual members of staff will be able to provide for their families at the end of a week. There are many Dunnes workers who have been with the company for up to 10 years doing 35 hours per week, only to have their hours slashed overnight and the company then hires new staff on lower wages. This is a complete abuse of power and it must be stopped.”

Crowd at the rally supporting Dunnes Stores workers Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Crowd at the rally supporting Dunnes Stores workers Photo: © Michael Fisher

Mr Light (as reported in The Irish Times) said that Dunnes Stores generated up to €350 million in profit annually and the owners had accumulated an estimated €1.78 billion in wealth. “This is not about the inability of Dunnes to treat their workers fairly, it’s about their unwillingness to do so. Today, Dunnes workers, members of the wider trade union movement and the public will send a strong message to Dunnes Stores and all other unscrupulous employers. We want decent work and a living wage for all.”

ICTU Assistant General Secretary (NI) Peter Bunting and (behind) Sligo Cllr Declan Bree with IMPACT group Photo:  © Michael Fisher

ICTU Assistant General Secretary (NI) Peter Bunting and (behind) Sligo Cllr Declan Bree with IMPACT group Photo: © Michael Fisher

Dunnes Stores has not commented publicly on its dispute with Mandate. The retailer employs almost 10,000 workers in 114 stores in the Republic.

Joe Higgins TD at the Dunnes Stores rally Photo:  © Michael Fisher

Joe Higgins TD at the Dunnes Stores rally Photo: © Michael Fisher

The Socialist Party TD Joe Higgins was one of a number of public representatives at the march. According to the party, new legislation that could enforce agreements on Dunnes could be an assistance, but won’t resolve the problems. A party statement said anything imposed was likely to be minimal, because of what it claimed was the anti-worker bias in state institutions and would be resisted by Dunnes. It claimed the company would respond by making the workplace like a dictatorship. “They need to be pushed back”, the statement added.

Joe Costello TD with Michael Fisher at the Dunnes Stores rally in Dublin on Saturday

Joe Costello TD with Michael Fisher at the Dunnes Stores rally in Dublin on Saturday

Advertisements

MAY DAY PARADE BELFAST 2015

 

NUJ Belfast and District Branch: Robin Wilson, Bob Miller (Chair) and Joe Mitchell await the start of the parade Photo:  © Michael Fisher

NUJ Belfast and District Branch: Robin Wilson, Bob Miller (Chair) and Joe Mitchell await the start of the parade Photo: © Michael Fisher

MARCHING FOR A BETTER AND FAIRER WAY – May Day

March for People Jobs and Services.
March for Peace, Progress and Equality.
March for a Better, Fairer Way.

The Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions is pleased to announce the details of its annual May Parade. The annual parade to celebrate workers’ struggle around the world is being held today, Saturday May 2nd, departing at 12:00 noon from Art College Square in Donegall Street, parading around the centre of Belfast and returning to Donegall St.

Participants in the parade are being asked to assemble at 11:30am at Art College Square (UU Belfast), where the Belfast Lord Mayor Arder Carson will welcome guests and participants, followed by short speeches by trade union leaders, Mick Whelan (General Secretary ASLEF) and Larry Broderick (General Secretary, IBOA – the Finance Union).

The Parade will march off from Donegall St/Academy St at 12:00, passing Royal Avenue, Belfast City Hall and returning to Donegall Street via High St. The Belfast May Day parade is still the largest such workers’ event on the island of Ireland, regularly attracting 5-10,000 marchers from every trade union, as well as myriad campaigning and community organisations. It is uniquely multi-cultural, especially for Northern Ireland, although it always has a political message.

In L’Derry, the annual May Day parade will gather at 1pm in Guildhall Square. March off is at 1:20pm, and will be led by the Jay Dee Jazz Band, with some speeches at the end of the march, back at Guildhall Square.

This year’s message is resistance to the austerity programme of the outgoing Westminster government, and the detemination of the trade union movement to ensure that the failed experiment in heaping the cuts and the blame on working people and the most vulnerable will not be supported by any of the eighteen MPs to be elected next Thursday by the people of Northern Ireland.

For more details, download the full programme from the Congress website or pick up a copy of the leaflet from bars, cafes and trade union offices around the city. Copies of the brochure are also available from the ICTU office, Carlin House, 4-6 Donegall Street Place (Behind the John Hewitt Bar).  siptunujlogo_burgundy

DEFENCE NOT DEFIANCE

New ICTU Mural Belfast complementing statue of Jim Larkin Photo: © Michael Fisher

New ICTU Mural Belfast complementing statue of Jim Larkin Photo: © Michael Fisher

This was an important occasion for trade unionists in Belfast. The unveiling by the ICTU President John Douglas of a new mural complementing the statue of Jim Larkin at the ICTU (NI) office at Donegall Street Place. The Lord Mayor of Belfast Máirtín Ó Muilleoir attended the ceremony. The work was commissioned from well-known Belfast muralists Danny Devanny and Mark Ervine. It depicts banners, signs and logos of the constituent unions, including the National Union of Journalists.

Michael Fisher (NUJ), Lord Mayor of Belfast Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, ICTU President John Douglas, John O'Farrell ICTU Photo: © Kevin Cooper Photoline

Michael Fisher (NUJ), Lord Mayor of Belfast Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir, ICTU President John Douglas, John O’Farrell ICTU Photo: © Kevin Cooper Photoline

I represented the NUJ at the unveiling in my capacity as Chair of the Northern Ireland sub-committee of the Irish Executive Council. The artwork tells the story of organised labour from the Dockers’ and Carters’ Strike of 1907 and the struggle of women in the factories and mills, up to the current campaigns against austerity and for social justice.

Mural detail with NUJ logo beside BECTU and RMT Photo: ©  Michael Fisher

Mural detail with NUJ logo beside BECTU and RMT Photo: © Michael Fisher

Afterwards the proceedings moved to the nearby John Hewitt Bar. The Lord Mayor unveiled an item of particular significance for the Belfast Trades Council. It is a bell and commemorative plaque which were presented to Samuel Munro in 1893 when he was President of the Council.

TUC 1893 Congress Belfast

TUC 1893 Congress Belfast

The same year the former Northern Whig employee who came from Lurgan in County Armagh and represented the Typographical Association was elected as President of the Trades Union Congress then encompassing Ireland and Britain. On September 4th to 9th 1893 the TUC held their 26th annual Congress over six days at the Ulster Hall in Belfast. At the time there were 380 delegates from 226 unions, representing 900,000 members.

The Chair of NIC-ICTU Pamela Dooley gave a short speech followed by remarks from Paddy Mackel, Secretary of the present Belfast Trades Council which Munro had led. The story of this committed trade unionist who rose through the ranks and held the top post in the TUC was related splendidly by Francis Devine of the Irish Labour History Society, who finished with a poem he wrote himself in honour of Munro. He explained how Munro came from the old craft section of the trade union movement and was conservative and cautious by character. “Defence not defiance” was his way of operating.

Munro’s address to the TUC on the second day of Congress (September 5th 1893) was illuminating, according to Devine, and demonstrated radical foresight, with demands that were very advanced for their time for the organisation of women, factory reform and protective legislation, labour representation and temperance.

Belfast Lord Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir & Brian Bingham at unveiling of bell at John Hewitt Bar Photo: © Kevin Cooper Photoline

Belfast Lord Mayor Cllr Máirtín Ó Muilleoir & Brian Bingham at unveiling of bell at John Hewitt Bar Photo: © Kevin Cooper Photoline

It was a shade ironic therefore that the memento of Munro should now be displayed in a pub! Brian Bingham from Belfast was present, a friend of Munro’s last known relative, his granddaughter, who lives in London and who presented the bell to the ICTU.

MAY DAY MARCH

NUJ Members at May Day March

NUJ Members at May Day March

The annual ICTU May Day rally and parade was held in Belfast on Saturday 4th May. A number of members gathered beside the NUJ banner at Writers’ Square near St Anne’s Cathedral at 12 noon for speeches followed by a march through the city centre accompanied by brass, pipe and samba bands. The march took a slightly different route and finished back at Writers’ Square. It was one of a series of events organised by Congress on the occasion of the centenary of the 1913 Dublin lockout.

May Day Rally, Belfast

May Day Rally, Belfast

The May Day march is among the biggest in the UK and Ireland, and featured speeches from leading union activists. With sponsorship from the European Union Regional Development Fund, Belfast City Council and the Community Relations Council, are presenting an extended festival programme with events for everyone, including walking tours, exhibition launches, lectures and the May Day and Diversity Festival.

NUJ & SIPTU

NUJ & SIPTU

Amongst the numerous events taking place will be the collaborative exhibition World of Work (WOW) at the Golden Thread Gallery, to celebrate the essence of May Day and showcase the often hidden value of trade union learning initiatives. The gallery will also host the Through the Lens Photographic Exhibition. Over the last six months groups of trade union members and activists have worked to interpret ‘Diversity’ through digital photography. They have come up with images of diversity in all its forms.

There was a good turnout from the main unions including Unison, Unite, NIPSA and the GMB.

NIPSA contingent

NIPSA contingent

MAY DAY PARADE

maydayThe annual ICTU May Day rally and parade is taking place in Belfast on Saturday 4th May. Gather beside the NUJ banner at Writers’ Square near St Anne’s Cathedral at 12 noon for speeches followed by a march through the city centre accompanied by brass, pipe and samba bands. The march will finish back at Writers’ Square where food and entertainment will be provided. Help celebrate the wins and achievements of the trade union movement over the years and show that we are proud to be trade unionists. It’s one of a series of events organised by Congress on the occasion of the centenary of the 1913 Dublin lockout.

BBC Strike, March 2013

BBC Strike, March 2013

The May Day march is among the biggest in the UK and Ireland, and will feature speeches from leading union activists. With sponsorship from the European Union Regional Development Fund, Belfast City Council and the Community Relations Council, are presenting an extended festival programme with events for everyone, including walking tours, exhibition launches, lectures and the May Day and Diversity Festival. Amongst the numerous events taking place will be the collaborative exhibition World of Work (WOW) at the Golden Thread Gallery, to celebrate the essence of May Day and showcase the often hidden value of trade union learning initiatives. The gallery will also host the Through the Lens Photographic Exhibition. Over the last six months groups of trade union members and activists have worked to interpret ‘Diversity’ through digital photography. They have come up with images of diversity in all its forms. The opening night will include a DJ set from Love Music Hate Racism and a performance piece from Scream Blue Murmur.

INEZ MCCORMACK: TRADE UNIONIST

Inez McCormack: ICTU Picture

Inez McCormack: ICTU Picture

Sad news this evening (Monday) about the death at the Foyle hospice in Derry of the leading trade unionist and human rights activist Inez McCormack, aged 69. As a trade union lay representative in the NUJ I met her on a number of occasions. The most memorable event I connect her with is when through her work behind the scenes President Mary Robinson came to a community function on the Whiterock Road in West Belfast in June 1993 and shook hands with the Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams. The gesture was made away from the glare of the media. It was one of the moments recalled by Mary Robinson in her autobiography published last year. The significance of the event was that at the time Sinn Féin were still out in the cold, subject to censorship, and the IRA ceasefire would not happen until the following year.

Inez McCormack with Patricia McKeown, Alan McBride & Geraldine Finucane

Inez McCormack with Patricia McKeown, Alan McBride & Geraldine Finucane

The last time I saw Inez was at a fringe meeting in Derry in April last year during the ICTU (NIC) biennial conference. She was sharing a platform with Geraldine Finucane, Patricia McKeown her understudy and successor at UNISON and ICTU, and Alan McBride of WAVE. I wrote about it in a blog “Pat Finucane case and dealing with the past”. I recalled how as NI Secretary of UNISON Inez had helped to set up the handshake between Gerry Adams and President Robinson at Rupert Stanley College. I remembered that occasion as one when the media were kept firmly outside the door in order to ensure that no pictures of the handshake were taken. Yet it was a defining moment in the lead-up to the IRA ceasefire the following year. Here is one account of the occasion from the Independent.

In 1999 Inez McCormack became the first female President of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions since its formation in 1959. She held the post for two years. She was the first woman full-time official of the National Union of Public Employees (NUPE) from 1976-90. She became the first female regional secretary of UNISON in 1993. Inez was the first woman to be elected to the Northern Ireland Committee of Congress in 1980 and four years later became the first woman to succeed to the post of Chair.

During US President Bill Clinton’s first visit to Ireland, the First Lady Hilary Clinton paid tribute to her work and ever since then they remained friends. Mrs Clinton also mentioned Inez when she was in Belfast last month.

Inez stands out amongst the extraordinary people I have worked with over the last 17 years. She inspired and motivated me, challenged me often. One of Inez’s comments will always remain with me: there are so many more ties that bind us than divide us”,  she said.

A BBC Northern Ireland report recalls how in 2011, Ms McCormack, along with Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Meryl Streep and Mu Sochua (a Nobel Peace Prize nominee from Cambodia), was named by US publication Newsweek as one of ‘150 Women Who Shake the World’. Her lifetime work enabling women to improve their lives by spreading the values of human rights was immortalised when the Holywood legend Meryl Streep played her in a Broadway play. At the time Ms McCormack said: “It is very humbling to have your life story represented in this way and a privilege to have an Oscar-winning actress and strong female character like Meryl Streep involved in the dramatisation. I have had the privilege of spending a lifetime at the service of warm strong women, who challenged injustice not just for themselves but for the people and communities they cared for and whose only affirmation has been that of their own conscience.”

Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and UN Human Rights commissioner:

“Inez was a remarkable woman with a remarkable capacity for friendship. It was from Inez I learned that you can achieve much more if you don’t need the credit. Her support to me as a close advisor when I served as President was invaluable, but she never appeared in photographs or in the front row.”

Mrs Robinson has also written an obituary, which appeared in The Guardian.

Mark Durkan, former SDLP leader:

“Inez McCormack was impressive and effective in all she did. She stood for workers’ rights, for women’s rights, for equality and public services. As an organiser and as an advocate she championed the right of those serving others for lower pay than they deserved. She was articulate, compassionate and steadfast.  She was immensely charming as well as being intense in her convictions.  Her contribution to public life went beyond her primary role as a worker’s defender as she helped to benchmark the values, principles and protections that were needed for a fair and stable society. Her positive outlook, compelling analysis and valid stances won international recognition as a standard bearer for social justice and a role model for all who seek economic emancipation.”

ICTU President Eugene McGlone:

“Her track record in women’s and human  rights was unequalled. Her work in promoting the cause of labour and social justice in Northern  Ireland was known world-wide. Inez’s commitment to social justice began in the ’60s when she became active  in the Northern Ireland civil rights movement. She followed this on when she became a trade union and equality activist  before becoming the full-time official of the National Union of Public  Employees.  She also held the post when NUPE was reconstituted in a merger as Unison. Her unstinting passion was recognised and she received many justifiable  accolades. Her work included campaigning to organise and revalue the work and contribution of the ‘forgotten’ workers, most of whom were women. Inez also led major campaigns for strong equality laws and to assert the rights of the most disadvantaged. In 1998, she led a successful campaign for such inclusive equality and human rights provisions to be included in the Good Friday Agreement.”

Patricia McKeown, regional secretary of UNISON:

“The sad day thousands  of workers and trade union members have been dreading has come and Inez  McCormack, has left us – but only in the flesh. Inez will never leave us in  spirit. She has touched the lives of thousands of ordinary women and men and she has succeeded in what she set out to do. She has made a difference.”

Inez McCormack recalled in the Belfast Telegraph five years ago how her participation in the famous civil rights march at Burntollet in County Derry, in which she accompanied her boyfriend and later husband Vincent, would be an inspiration to campaign for justice. Truly one of the remarkable mná na hÉireann. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam dílis. Rest in peace.

Funeral arrangements: Inez will be buried at the City Cemetery, Derry tomorrow afternoon (Wednesday 23rd January). Her remains will be removed at 2pm from her brother-in-law’s house at 18 Belmont Crescent, Culmore Road (not far from the Foyle Bridge). The death notice says family flowers only and house private.

Memorial Service: The Londonderry Sentinel reports that a celebration for the life of Inez will be held on Saturday 23rd March at the Elmwood Hall in the University Road area of South Belfast from 2pm to 4pm. The ‘Out of the Ballrooms; Peace, Participation and Equality’ event is being organised by Participation and the Practice of Rights organisation (PPR), which Inez founded in 2006.  Seats are available by registration at www.pprproject.org.