Unite finance members hear calls for next Government to move on statutory union recognition, reversal of pension changes

unite-white-out-of-redFebruary 4th: ‘Fair Play for finance workers’ was the theme of a conference today  of Unite members working in the finance sector. Opening the event, Unite Regional Secretary Jimmy Kelly said:

“As politicians come knocking on our doors, we need to ensure that the issues of concern to working people are on their agenda: low pay and low hours, the ongoing attacks on our pensions and the continuing failure to legislate for real collective bargaining, through a union of the workers’ choice. These are just some of the issues being discussed today, and I have no doubt that our members will be raising these concerns on the doorstep during the next few weeks”.

Speaking during a session on collective bargaining, Dr Daryl D’Art of DCU and UL welcomed certain provisions of the 2015 Industrial Relations Amendment Act but criticised its failure to provide for statutory union recognition:

“This Act protects employees who invoke it from victimisation, and attempts to establish the independence of an ‘excepted body’.  However,  the legislation falls short of  providing statutory union recognition and departs from the ILO’s requirement that collective bargaining cannot begin until a union is recognised for that purpose.  Statutory recognition allows employees to exercise a democratic choice – free from employer interference – as to their preference regarding union recognition”.

One of the issues facing workers in the finance sector is the attempt by some employers to implement definitive median-based pay models. Re-stating Unite’s determination to resist the unilateral implementation of such models, Unite Regional Officer Maeve Brehony said that they represent

“an attempt by employers to orchestrate a fundamental break between pay and company profits, and between pay and inflation, while pitting workers’ against each other – across departments, across other companies and across sectors”.

Unite has been campaigning for a Living Wage not only in Ireland but also in Great Britain, and the conference heard from Unite official Jose Vallejo Villa about London’s successful Living Wage for Cleaners campaign. Highlighting the links between finance and other workers, Jose said:

“An army of vulnerable workers – from maintenance and cleaning to catering and security workers – is employed in the premises of banks and finance corporations, many earning less than the Living Wage. We need to work to organise these vulnerable workers, proving the truth of the union slogan that we are ‘stronger together’”.

Turning to pensions, Bernard Daly, a Unite activist and pension trustee, called on the incoming Government to reverse recent changes:

“The decisions taken by the outgoing government to implement the increase in the pension age, change the state pension eligibility criteria, and to cut the benefits of old age pensioners without discussion or consultation with any of those affected or their trade union representatives was an attack on our members, particularly women, and needs to be challenged. Unite demands that the incoming Government reverse these decisions and enter into proper consultation with the trade union movement to bring about pension reform based on the principle that it is the social responsibility of any society to provide an adequate standard of living for all”.

Unite has been campaigning for a Living Wage not only in Ireland but also in Great Britain, and the conference heard from Unite official Jose Vallejo Villa about London’s successful Living Wage for Cleaners campaign. Highlighting the links between finance and other workers, Jose said:

“An army of vulnerable workers – from maintenance and cleaning to catering and security workers – is employed in the premises of banks and finance corporations, many earning less than the Living Wage. We need to work to organise these vulnerable workers, proving the truth of the union slogan that we are ‘stronger together’”.

The conference also heard from Dr Micheal Collins, Senior Research Officer at the Nevin Economic Research Institute; Unite organiser Roy Hassey; Joe Conroy, chair of the Unite Committee in Irish Life; and Tom Hogan, one of the former Waterford Crystal workers who won a landmark court case in the European Court of Justice to secure their pension entitlements.

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