Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Death of Inez McCormack

SIPTU pays tribute to Inez McCormack as a fearless champion of working people

Date Released: 21 January 2013
SIPTU President Jack O’Connor has paid tribute to leading trade unionist and human rights campaigner, Inez McCormack, who passed away today (21st January).
“Inez McCormack’s work as a defender of working people and campaigner for peace has helped shape modern Ireland. The level of energy and commitment she brought to the many campaigns and causes she championed acted as an inspiration to others”.

“Her life’s work spanned many fields, including defending workers rights in the face of the onslaught of the 1980s Thatcher governments, to advocating for the travelling community, to a key role in ensuring the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 was truly inclusive of all sectors of Northern Ireland’s society.”

Jack O’Connor added: “As a trade unionist and feminist Inez broke the mould. She was the first woman full-time official to be appointed by the National Union of Public Employees (NUPE). She was the first woman to become Chair of the Northern Ireland Committee of ICTU, and from 1999 to 2001 the first woman to serve as President of ICTU. In the energy she brought to these positions, and in her leadership of the Northern Ireland branch of her own union UNISON, Inez ensured that the Irish trade union movement truly lived up to its commitment to represent all workers regardless of their gender, creed or ethnicity.”

“It is with sadness but also great pride that I recall Inez’s role as a fearless champion of working people and extend my union’s sympathy to her husband Vincent and her family whose sense of deep loss will be shared by many people throughout Ireland.”

Thursday, 21 June 2012

SIPTU signs collective bargaining agreement with Regal Processors

SIPTU members and the management of pet food manufacturer Regal Processors have signed a collective bargaining agreement at the company’s plant in Lurgan, Co. Armagh.   

SIPTU workplace representative, Gerald Devlin, said; “Our members are delighted with this agreement. A good union recognition agreement, such as the one SIPTU has concluded with the management of Regal Processors, is not only beneficial to the workers but also the overall operation of the enterprise.

“Much of the credit for this agreement must go to my colleague, Frank McGinn, and SIPTU Organiser, Martin O'Rourke. Their commitment over the last couple of months has been crucial in securing this agreement.”

Regal Processors Managing Director, George Jordan, said; “In the challenging times that we are all now facing, the benefits of a good working relationship between employers and unions is crucial. I believe that this agreement lays the foundation for such a good relationship.”

The agreement stipulates that SIPTU representatives will meet senior management on a monthly basis to discuss workplace issues. It also provides an opportunity for union representatives to meet with new staff to brief them on the agreement and the union’s activities.  

SIPTU Organiser, Martin O’Rourke, said; “It is hoped that this agreement will assist in developing open and transparent communications so that all stakeholders are aware of the views of the others.”

Tuesday, 3 April 2012


Activists from SIPTU’s Communities Uniting campaign have secured a meeting with the Social Development Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly as part of their campaign to have a “threshold of decency” clause applied to state funding for Community and Voluntary Sector. This follows the launch of the Programme for Government by the First Minister and Deputy First Ministers Office which included a commitment to insert a social clause into public procurement contracts. 

 Speaking ahead of the meeting which is scheduled for 26th May next, Community Activist Sean McMonagle said “We welcome the inclusion of a social clause for public procurement contracts and believe the Executive should be applauded for this positive step.  We believe that a “community and voluntary sector social clause” should also be included. This should stipulate minimum employment standards to be applied to any worker delivering services in this sector.  A “minimum standards” or “threshold of decency” social clause could resolve many of the difficult issues faced by community sector organisations and the workers within them.”

The Social Development Committee was established to advise and assist the Minister for Social Development, Nelson McCausland MLA, on matters within his responsibility as a Minister. The committee undertakes a scrutiny, policy development and consultation role with respect to the Department for Social Development and plays a key role in the consideration and development of legislation.

The variety of services provided by community and voluntary groups across the North of Ireland is extensive – from sporting groups to meals on wheels, health services, peace building, information centres, and childcare services to environmental activities and residents’ associations. 

The positive impact of this sector is not limited to the social fabric of society, as it also plays a vital economic role.  While community and voluntary groups receive on average about 43% of their running costs from the state they generate £4 for the local economy for every £1.00 of state funding. 

However workers within this sector face major challenges. They have little or no job security and rates of pay and conditions of employment vary widely.  Due to funding gaps workers are required to go for frequent and extended periods without any pay.  This situation is further compounded for organisations receiving multi stream funding.  Around 3,000 workers in this sector have lost their jobs over the previous two years, with the remaining 27,000 attempting to fill the void at a time of ever increasing demand for their service.

An analysis of rates of pay, access to a funded pension scheme, sick pay and maternity entitlements between the two sectors illustrate very clearly that community workers providing vital state funded services to the most disadvantaged sectors of society are treated less favourably than public sector colleagues. 

Catherine Pollock who will be representing SIPTU for the engagement with the Social development Committee stated “If we accept that these workers are providing services for the state, then we as citizens have an obligation to ensure the people providing these services are treated in a reasonable manner.  We do this for public sector workers yet the same provision for community sector workers is not yet available.”

Martin O’Rourke from SIPTU concluded “We believe that  minimum standards on pay and conditions should be agreed between all the stakeholders in a tripartite forum; the funders, the employer organisations and trade unions representing workers in the sector.  Such a forum could review these conditions of employment on a periodic basis, and in addition seek resolution to issues arising within the sector. “

Monday, 5 March 2012

Stormont Celebration Event for the C+V Sector

SIPTU is aware that many aspects of vital community and voluntary work are not appreciated by the wider public, and funding  decision makers.  This creates additional difficulties at a time of dwindling budgets resulting from the substantial reduction of the block grant from Westminster.   We believe over 3,000 workers in the sector or approximately 10% of the numbers employed have lost their jobs over the previous two years.  It is vital that we ensure that organisations providing vital services to the community are better protected.

As part of our campaign, SIPTU is hosting a celebration of Community and Voluntary organisations in the Long Gallery in Stormont. The purpose of the event is to allow organisations with SIPTU membership the opportunity to display their professionalism directly with the political representatives.  In addition we wish to provide each organisation attending the opportunity to invite the political representatives to visit the organisations in their own constituencies so that they might engage directly with service users, volunteers and workers.  Each organisation will have a table if required to display information relating to their organisation, and to share with interested parties.  We also believe this event will be an ideal opportunity for organisations to engage with each other and share information.  MLAs from the five main political parties have assisted us in the organisation of the celebration.

We will also be using the event to build support for the introduction of a fair play/ threshold of decency clause into every contract issued by the Government for public procurement contracts issued to the sector.  This campaign hopes to build upon the commitment to introduce Social Clauses in the draft Programme for Government.  We also hope to  have some key speakers at the event to make it as inclusive and informative as possible for all stakeholders in the sector.  SIPTU will be providing greater details of the planned event which is scheduled for the 28th May 2012 between 10.00 am and 2.00 pm.

If you or your organisation would like to attend contact SIPTU at or 048 90 314000  

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Threat to community services as The Department of Education procrastinates.

As a direct failure of the Department of Education to honour its commitment to pay rent due to An Droichead in Belfast,  14 workers now face a bleak 2012, with serious consequences for the provision of childcare facilities for local children and parents from the South and East Belfast area. The lackadaisical approach of the Department also puts into question the preschool needs of the adjacent school.

An Droichead was founded in 1992 and provides  local playgroup, preschool and after schools service for the local area.  It has received numerous professional awards over the years for its innovative approach and added services to the local area. It has provided hundreds of thousands of pounds in investment to the local school which operates on its land, but now  faces pressure to moveas the Department of Education has refused to allow payment on the leases.

The organisation is owed the rent for the School for the previous 3 years, and have made on-going efforts to have the Departmentengage with them to resolve the matter.   The non payment of the rent due has resulted in the organisation being forced to consider  placing its employees on protective notice, and these jobs are now at a real risk of being lost.  This organisation also funds a bus service for the school , however it expects to be forced to cease this service before the end of March, due to the non payment of the rent.

Sean Hayes, a Spokesperson for the organisation stated ”we have attempted to resolve this issue by dialogue and agreement, but regrettably it would appear that the people we are engaging with are not prepared to protect the interests of the children in their care. While the jobs are obviously a concern what is of greater concern are the interests of local children’s educational needs which the Department is putting in serious jeopardy.  Our plans for the future include the provision of 50 jobs in the social economy, however this plan cannot go ahead unless we receive the long overdue payments.”

Niall McNally from SIPTU added “we are not prepared to allow the loss of 14 jobs and vital services to the Community.  We are calling upon the Sinn Fein Minister for Education, John O’Dowd to ensure this matter is resolved and these vital services are protected.  We have been in contact with and  are seeking an urgent meeting with the Department and will be insisting this issue be resolved to the satisfaction of the group and concerned parents.  We are not aware of any logical reason as to why this rent has not been paid, and it is not acceptable that vital services are now under threat.”

Thursday, 2 February 2012

SIPTU responds to the draft PfG

The following response to the Draft Programme for Government 2011-15 submitted by SIPTU.  

We will not comment upon each commitment, although the vast majority we welcome such as “invest in social enterprise growth to increase sustainability in the board community sector”  however another such as “press for the devolution of corporation tax and reduce it’s level” are not.  However we are limiting our response to one commitment in the PfG and one omission.

Priority 5: Delivering High Quality and Efficient Public Services.
Social Clause “Include Social Clauses in public procurement contracts for suppliers, services and construction”

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”. While the term social contract covers a multitude of areas, all of which we also welcome, we are limiting our response to the clauses offering protection of people working for companies or organisations who are funded from the public purse.   In this regard we trust that the provision of a social clause into public procurement contracts will ensure these contracts contain ‘a threshold of decency clause’ in relation to terms and conditions of employment for any organisation employing staff and securing government funding. 

We are aware from contact with our membership and organisations in the Community and Voluntary of growing concerns that Government Departments are seeking ever increasing ‘efficiencies’ from the Sector in funding. 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 the terms and conditions of employment in the sector.  It 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.

SIPTU believes the insertion of threshold of decency clauses as a Social Clause will provide organisations with a level playing field to compete for Government contracts based upon the solely upon the quality of service they provide.  We believe workers providing  key services deserve the inclusion of a social clause and the Northern Ireland Executive needs to be applauded for this commitment.  We hope that this commitment when implemented into policy will result in appropriate protection for workers and services provided to the public.

We also seek that these clauses be reviewed periodically by representatives of the Government Departments issuing public procurement contracts, the employers organisations and the trade union representatives.

Peace IV
SIPTU notes that policy makers have many competing demands for commitments to be included in the draft PFG.  We are nevertheless disappointed that a commitment to secure Peace 4 funding was not included in the draft PFG.  Noting the valuable work undertaken by Peace 1,2,and 3 Programmes and also aware that our society requires much more assistance as we attempt to resolve the legacy of the troubles.  We hope the Executive shares our understanding in this regard.

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!”