Domestic violence leave: IBEC stance highlights toxic ‘culture of doubt’

IBEC’s objections to legislation dubbed ‘anti-woman and anti-business’

October 6th: Unite, which represents workers throughout the economy, today (Thursday) said that demands by employers’ group IBEC earlier this year that domestic violence victims be required to provide evidence of abuse when seeking leave under new legislation highlight what the union termed a ‘toxic culture of doubt’ surrounding domestic violence.

Commenting, Regional Women’s and Equalities Officer Taryn Trainor said:

“It is estimated that, globally, fewer than 40% of women experiencing domestic violence and abuse seek help – not only because of practical obstacles, but also because of misplaced shame, embarrassment and the fear that they will not be believed.

“The fact that IBEC not only objected to the very concept of domestic violence leave, but also apparently sought a provision allowing employers to seek proof from a worker applying for such leave in order to ‘avoid any potential abuse of domestic violence leave’ sends a chilling message to workers caught up in a domestic violence situation and reinforces a toxic culture of doubt which forces women to stay in unsafe situations”.

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Unite survey of striking housing workers exposes shocking impact of poverty pay at NIHE

NIHE picket line, Craigavon

90% struggling to make ends meet, 73% borrowing to get by, one-in-three forced to use foodbanks

A Unite the union survey of its members working for the Northern Ireland Housing Executive has exposed the scale of the financial pressures bearing down on housing workers. 

Many of the workers on the picket lines surveyed are skilled craft workers – carpenters, plumbers and plasterers – who could get much higher rates of pay elsewhere. The failure of pay to keep pace with that elsewhere in the sector is resulting in an extensive staffing crisis.

The workers are now into their eighth week of strike action and are seeking a pay increase above the meagre 1.75 percent offered by the National Joint Council for the 2021-2022 year. Unite is seeking all housing workers to have two pay point increases and a lump sum in addition to the national pay offer.

The survey identified that a startling 95 percent of workers had suffered declining living standards, and that 96 percent worried either often or constantly about their household finances. More than 90 percent experienced trouble making ends meet and 73 percent admitted that they had had to borrow to get by. Shockingly 32 percent of these public sector workers had visited a foodbank in the last six months.

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MediaHuis closure of Newry site is a severe blow to Northern Ireland’s print sector

Neil Moore, Unite regional officer

Unite seeks to defend employment of 46 workers who face prospect of redundancy

Last week the MediaHuis group, which owns the Independent titles and Belfast Telegraph, made public its plans to end printing at their Newry site. The facility is their last remaining printing site in Ireland, north or south, and is now set to close at the end of January with the loss of 46 jobs. Unite the union, which represents the majority of the workforce, is engaging in the redundancy consultation process with the aim of avoiding closure and the loss of jobs. 

The Newry facility is the only facility in Northern Ireland which can utilise both the ‘heatset press’ and ‘dual-web’ technique and its shutdown represents a major blow to the print sector in the region. Unite expressed its fears that the closure will result in a ripple effect as it removes the back-up capacity, leaving papers with reduced contingency options should there be problems at other plants. 

The ultimate owner of the printing site is the Belgian-owned MediaHuis group which reported a net profit of Eur 117.3 million in 2021, double that the previous year. The announced closure came just hours after the Dublin government’s 2023 budget applied a zero VAT rate to print media – likely to save MediaHuis Eur 15 million annually.

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Housing Executive workers’ strike for improved pay to continue for a further four weeks

Absence of any movement from NIHE management on 1.75% offer “galling”.

Unite the union confirmed that it had lodged notification that the four week strike action being taken by its members working in the Northern Ireland Housing Executive will continue for a further four weeks. Housing workers in the union are seeking a pay improvement above the 1.75 percent increase for 2021-22 recommended by the National Joint Council for local authorities employers. Workers are seeking a two pay point uplift and a cost of living payment but as yet the union understands that management have not even sought any additional funding from the Department to settle the pay dispute.

Strike action at the housing executive is resulting an ever extending backlog of improvement work to public housing units. This is impacting social housing tenants who are left without measures to improve energy efficiency or for conversion to better suit those with disabilities. 

It has been widely reported in the press that companies performing these tasks for those contracts which have been outsourced have had their fees increased by 20 or even 30 percent – while workers performing the same tasks in-house through the Direct Labour Organisation have been offered a mere 1.75 percent improvement.

Unite is questioning how private companies with outsourced contracts and performing the same work as its members can obtain increases reported to amount to 20 or even 30 percent whereas workers are being offered an insulting 1.75 percent.

General Secretary of Unite, Sharon Graham, offered her continued support to the Housing workers:

Our housing workers provide vital maintenance and improvement services to social housing tenants. This galling 1.75% offer means they are left with no alternative but to extend their strike action for a pay increase.

“The absence of any movement to address our members’ pay claim and end this dispute from management is a truly shocking failure. Unite is full square behind these workers in their fight for a decent pay increase.”

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Unite the union is engaging to defend the interests of its members working at NuTrack

George Brash, Unite Regional Officer

NuTrack confirms to workers that the company has entered into administration in a further jobs blow to Ballymena

Unite the union this afternoon confirmed that it had received correspondence sent to workers from the owners of NuTrack, a manufacturer supplying components for buses, that the company had entered administration and has permanently closed operations as of 22ndSeptember 2022. 

The news threatens the livelihoods of several dozen workers who are employed by the company. It is a further blow to the Ballymena economy which has suffered a number of high profile closures and job losses in the manufacturing sector in the last decade.

Regional Officer for Unite, George Brash, confirmed his union would engage with the insolvency practitioner to safeguard his members’s interests in the process and with the aim of the company being transferred as a ‘going-concern’. 

“This is another jobs blow for the Ballymena area and for our manufacturing economy. We were informed earlier today that the company has now entered administration and has shut down production.

“We urge the company to give workers clarity on the situation and confirm as a matter of urgency who has been appointed to deal with the administration. That will then allow Unite to engage fully with the insolvency practitioners with the aim of ensuring that our members receive the fullest possible compensation if we cannot avoid job losses. Our objective entering this process is to defend this manufacturing capacity and as many jobs as we can.”

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