KBC: Shock announcement highlights importance of finance workers joining a union

April 16th: Unite, which represents members throughout the finance sector, today (Friday) expressed solidarity with KBC staff and the Financial Services Union following today’s shock announcement that the bank is in discussions with Bank of Ireland about selling its performing loan assets and liabilities preparatory to exiting the Irish market.  Workers were left to hear of the development from the media.  

Pointing out that KBC is just the latest in a long line of financial institutions to end or shrink their presence in the Irish banking market, Unite Regional Officer Jean O’Dowd said the announcement again highlights the importance of finance workers being part of a union:

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Politicians and employers must consult with hospitality workers and their unions to make sure reopening is safe and successful

Neil Moore, Unite hospitality organiser

Executive announcement comes as welcome relief but hospitality workers need clarity on safety measures and timetable

Decision to bring forward reopening date ahead of schedule demonstrates Executive does not have a plan for reopening

Reacting to this afternoon’s Executive announcement on proposed dates for the reopening of the hospitality sector, Unite the Union urges ministers to consider workers first and foremost in any reopening plans.

Amy Ferguson Unite Hospitality Branch Secretary, and a barista herself, said:

Today’s news has come as a welcome relief to many workers in hospitality who have faced a year of insecurity and uncertainty driven by necessary measures to bring the pandemic under control – though worsened by precarity and poor employment practices within the industry.”

“To see our jobs once again leveraged to push a ‘reopen at all costs’ narrative is galling. Our members have faced job losses, reduced hours and living on less than 80% of the paltry minimum wage for the best part of a year. While most look forward to getting back to work, not only do they need a timetable on when they will return, but clarity on the measures in place to safeguard them against the continued threat of COVID.”

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As construction sites re-open, Unite seeks NPHET guidance on testing regime

April 11th: Unite, which represents construction workers throughout Ireland, has written to NPHET seeking guidance on the optimum testing regime for construction sites.  Although approximately 30% of construction sites have remained open throughout Level 5 restrictions, non-essential construction sites have been closed since January 8th and will start re-opening on a phased basis from tomorrow (Monday April 12th).

Commenting, Unite Regional Officer Tom Fitzgerald said:

“The feedback from our members is that significant efforts have been made by contractors to ensure that sites are Covid-safe and observe the safety protocols which were developed last year in conjunction with unions.

“Nevertheless, our members remain concerned about the possibility of transmission, especially on large sites and in circumstances where they have no option but to work closely together or in unventilated spaces.

“We feel that the best way to allay concerns and ensure that the risk of transmission is minimised, especially in a context where Covid-19 case numbers remains high in the community, is to ensure regular on-site testing. We have therefore written to NPHET seeking their guidance regarding the intervals at which testing should be carried out to ensure optimum protection of our members and the wider public. 

“Unite also believes that project management companies on larger sites are best placed to coordinate testing programmes, and our union is available to work with such companies on implementation.

“Our members are eager to ensure that the phased re-opening of construction which starts tomorrow continues smoothly, and that the sector is not forced into a renewed shutdown due to a failure to observe best practice”, Mr Fitzgerald continued.

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Joint Unite-GMB-Translink statement: Translink services impacted by civil unrest

Translink’s top priority is the safety of all passengers and employees.

Today the company held a positive meeting with its trade union representatives to review bus services operating in Belfast and other regions across NI following the recent violence and hijacking of a bus in Belfast yesterday evening (7th Apr).

Chris Conway, Translink Group Chief Executive explained, “Public safety will always be our number one priority and we are working closely with the PSNI.

“We understand the level of concern expressed by our staff and their families.  Our drivers are delivering essential bus services for all communities and we will ensure this is done safely.  

“We will be monitoring this situation and will continue to work with our Trade Unions as we review our plans to clearly keep the safety of our staff and passengers a top priority.

“Our staff have been resilient throughout the pandemic as they worked to provide essential public transport to keep society connected. This attack on our services is simply unacceptable.

“We would like to thank the public for the many messages of concern and support, particularly for our driver, who is recovering and getting the support he needs.  These are very welcome as we work through these difficult circumstances. 

Davy Thompson, Unite Deputy Regional Secretary

“This is a dynamic situation, and we would encourage people to visit www.translink.co.uk  or follow us on Twitter to get the latest service information before they travel.” Chris concluded.

Davy Thompson and Peter Maklin on behalf of the joint trade unions Unite and GMB said, 

Following the incident yesterday evening which involved an attack on a bus, we would call on all those with influence inside communities to use that influence to calm down the current situation. As trade unions our first priority is the safety and welfare of the drivers and passengers. We will not stand by and watch bus drivers run the gauntlet of violence. 

“To that end, we have asked, and the company have agreed to review the schedules over the coming days and whilst this will undoubtedly inconvenience the general public, we believe there to be no other option at this time”.

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Calls grow for a new deal for Amazon workers in Northern Ireland

Sharon Graham, Executive Officer Unite

When: 11.00pm, Thursday 8th April

Where: Front of Belfast City Hall

Action on Amazon campaigners will be at City Hall in Belfast to spread the word that Amazon workers can blow the whistle on poor treatment, as calls grow for a new deal for the workers that have made Amazon a multibillion pound company.

The union has begun a digital Facebook advertising campaign to ensure Amazon workers know that they can confidentially raise issues of concern free from reprisals by calling 08000 141 461 or visiting the online hotline.

Amazon has a fulfilment centre near the Titanic Exhibition Centre in Belfast. It is part of a huge network of warehouse space across the country. Amazon occupies an astonishing third of all warehouse space in the UK.  Workers toil around the clock to get the essentials delivered to homes during the current health crisis. Amazon’s total net sales attributable to the UK increased from $14.5 billion in 2018 to $26.5 billion in 2020 – that’s an increase of 82 per cent. But Amazon strongly resists attempts by workers to gain a collective voice of their own. 

Unite executive officer Sharon Graham said: “Calls are growing for a new deal for Amazon workers. Action on Amazon campaigners will be at Belfast City Hall on Thursday  to spread the word that Amazon workers working in Belfast can contact us confidentially by calling Unite’s hotline.

“This corporate giant has made billions off the backs of workers. Amazon resists any attempts by workers to gain a collective voice of their own. It is now time that workers have a voice.” 

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