Universal Credit causing misery and hardship for families in Northern Ireland


Northern Ireland households claiming the new all-in-one benefit, Universal Credit are being plunged into misery and hardship

Westminster government must stop the roll out of Universal Credit before even more families are forced into poverty

23rd May: As part of a UK-wide Day of Action, Unite Community members and campaigners will be demonstrating from 3-4pm in SSA Headquarters in Belfast City Centre at Castle Court, Royal Avenue tomorrow [Thursday 24th May] to demand the roll out of Universal Credit be stopped by the Westminster government.

As well as the long waits for payment, other problems with Universal credit include the complex on-line-only application process and the level of benefit sanctions for people claiming Universal Credit being much higher than for other benefits due to reasons such as the difficulties people have in dealing with the complexity of the system and that many people claiming this on-line benefit don’t have access to the internet at home thereby missing job centre appointments and instructions they don’t hear about in time.

In areas of the UK where Universal Credit has been rolled out already food-banks have seen a 50 per cent increase in use compared with 13 per cent increase in areas with the old legacy benefits. ‘Left Behind’, a report into the impact of Universal Credit by the Trussell Trust, has found that 92 per cent of people claiming the all-in one benefit said that it doesn’t cover their full cost of living, and 57 per cent have experienced mental or physical health problems.

Albert Hewitt, Unite Regional Community Coordinator said:

“Universal Credit was introduced to Northern Ireland after the outgoing Executive voted to hand back powers over social welfare to the UK parliament enabling the Tory party to unleash the full impact of this brutal assault on working people – now working communities are facing the dreadful consequences of this policy.

“Despite knowing that Universal Credit causes serious problems for those claiming it, Westminster is ploughing ahead regardless while claimants are descending further into debt, relying on food banks and getting into rent arrears and in many cases are being evicted from their homes.

“In order to claim Universal Credit claimants need an internet connection which many simply can’t afford – when things go wrong claimants are being left to fend for themselves. The new regime also forces working people to go long waits before receiving money and new system will impose brutal benefit sanctions both for those claiming while in and out of work.

“The mitigations which were supposedly negotiated for Northern Ireland have been proven to be useless – Universal Credit must now be stopped. That’s why we are protesting as part of a UK-wide day of action against the benefit at SSA headquarters in Belfast tomorrow”, Mr Hewitt said.

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Unite members to be balloted on strike action over sacking of injured Health & Safety rep at Encirc

unite-white-out-of-redSupport offered for solidarity protest called by Fermanagh Council of Trade Unions in defence of Encirc workers this Saturday [19th May] 11am at Encirc factory gates

Two workers had their arms crushed working with same piece of equipment – the first of whom has been dismissed by Encirc management due to his inability to work

May 17th: Unite Regional Officer, Michael Keenan, urged trade unionists to support the rally called by Fermanagh Council of Trade Unions to protest the sacking of a Unite Health & Safety rep who was injured at work only five months previously.

“Unite had hoped that new owners, Vidrala, would adopt a more progressive attitude to its workforce than that previously at the workplace; unfortunately today’s action by the bosses demonstrates the utter contempt in which they hold their employees.

“A number of workers have suffered injury at Encirc in the last six months – all with the same piece of equipment.

“The circumstances of the injury suffered by the worker who was dismissed today speak for themselves. When our convenor at the site had his arm seized and crushed by a piece of machinery, our Health & Safety rep who works on the line raced to his aid, staying with him until he was placed on an ambulance. Later on the same day the Health & Safety rep himself had to be rushed to A&E after having his arm crushed in the very same way with the same equipment.

“Both men were mechanically assaulted at their place of work through no fault of their own. Both men were lucky to have not lost limbs in the accident but now five months later both men’s employment is threatened over their inability to work as a result.

“Unite has raised a range of health and safety concerns at a workplace – in coming days and weeks we will be redoubling our efforts to bring basic levels of health and safety and respect for workers to this corner of Northern Ireland.

“We urge trade unionists to support Fermanagh trade’s council’s solidarity protest this Saturday at the factory gates. For our part, Unite is now launching a consultative ballot by text of our members while we take the steps for a formal ballot on strike action. An injury to one is an injury to all – we will not rest until we secure justice for this workplace rep”, Mr Keenan said.


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SONI must withdraw threat to Kilroot workforce given implications of High Court ruling for North-South Energy Interconnector

unite-white-out-of-redDecision by High Court to block progress of ARC21 incinerator calls into question likelihood of second energy interconnector

High Court Interconnector threat is only latest blow to SONI’s decision to withdraw contract to AES Kilroot and Ballylumford B with loss of 270 local jobs

May 15th: Unite Regional Officer for the energy sector, Joanne McWilliams, called on the System Operator for Northern Ireland (SONI) to review its determination on the first all-Ireland electrical supply auction in light of the implications of yesterday’s High Court judgement against the ARC21 incinerator in Hightown.

“SONI’s decision to exclude Kilroot and the Ballylumford B Generator from the all-Ireland Integrated Single Electricity Market (ISEM) market will result in approximately 270 job-losses and will eliminate 36% of Northern Ireland’s domestic electrical generating capacity.

“Unite has repeatedly raised concerns in regard to the fact that this decision will leave Northern Ireland’s electricity system hugely reliant on a north-south interconnector which has yet to be built, a Moyle interconnector which is highly sporadic in its operation and totally dependent on external gas supply at a time of mounting geo-political insecurity. Continue reading

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Bosses must remove threat to Moy Park workforce shift premiums to avoid strike ballot

unite-white-out-of-redDeep resentment felt over bosses’ attempts to squeeze $50 million ‘savings’ out of Moy Park workers for new owners Pilgrim’s Pride

Moy Park struggling to sustain production as more than one thousand leave employment in last six months

May 15th: Unite Regional Officer for the agri-food sector in Northern Ireland, Sean McKeever, indicated that there was widespread resentment simmering among the Moy Park workforce over recent management behaviour.

“Three thousand workers at Moy Park’s Craigavon and Dungannon sites are members of Unite and there is a genuine risk of industrial action in the next month. These two facilities supply the bulk of chickens for the UK market including all the chickens sold by M&S and Waitrose, and large proportions of those sold across Tescos, Sainsburys and Lidl.

“Relations between the workforce and management have steadily deteriorated since June of last year when Moy Park was sold by owners, and one of the largest meat-packing companies in the world, JBS, to a company in which they are a majority shareholder, Pilgrim’s Pride of the USA. Continue reading

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Ballot on all out industrial action imminent at Moy Park over management threats to workforce terms and conditions

unite-white-out-of-redUnite warns new owners Pilgrim’s pride must reverse course to avoid massive distribution to UK chicken supplies

Workforce voted 95% for strike action to defend shift premium in unofficial ‘consultative’ ballot

May 14th: Unite Regional Officer with responsibility for agri-food sector workers in Northern Ireland, Sean McKeever, issued a strong warning to bosses at Moy Park over the potential consequences of their attempt to remove workers’ shift premiums.

“Unite represents the overwhelming majority of workers employed by Moy Park at their Dungannon and Craigavon sites where workers have been offered a measly 3.5% pay increase in return for the loss of shift premium rates. Not only is this lower than the RPI inflation rate over the past year but under the current government’s long-term policy to raise the statutory legal minimum wage, pay for workers at Moy Park would have to increase by this amount and more in the next few months in any case. In effect, management are seeking workers’ longstanding shift premium rates for nothing.

“It is relevant to remember that Moy Park was sold by JBS, Brazilian meat-packing giant, to one of its own subsidiaries Pilgrim’s Pride of the USA, at a time when the company’s profits have been soaring. Moy Park’s latest annual pre-tax profits were just short of £60 million, an enormous increase of 67% on the year previously. Meanwhile Pilgrim’s Pride declared net earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of $1.39 billion dollars for the year 2017. This is not a company that needs to squeeze its workforce – this is a company which is attacking workers’ pay and conditions to maximise profits for their corporate shareholders; indeed at the time of transfer Unite warned that this was the likely intent of JBS’ senior global corporate management. Continue reading

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