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14 September 2006 Edition

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Nuacht na nOibrithe

BY Justin Moran

McGuinness at British TUC

Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness MP is attending the annual British Trade Union Congress in Brighton this week. On Tuesday he addressed a fringe meeting organised by the British Communications Workers Union on the Good Friday Agreement, with representatives from other parties, and British Direct Ruler Peter Hain.

"This meeting will provide an opportunity to engage directly with the Trade Union movement in Britain," he said. "It also comes at a time when efforts are being intensified in the run up to the 24 November deadline and before the parties assemble in Scotland early next month for what we are being told will be an intensive negotiation."

The 138th Trade Union Congress also saw the last address from British Prime Minister Tony Blair as leader of the Labour Party severely disrupted by trade union activists, especially from the RMT (Rail, Maritime and Transport union), engaging in a walkout over New Labour's privatisation policies.

Blair's subsequent remarks were subject to regular heckling when he spoke about the so-called war on terror and New Labour's privatisation of education. His speech followed more bad news for the British government, with trade unions declaring the first national strike in the National Health Service for 18 years with NHS supply staff voted three to one for strike action.

Taxi strike called off

Officials from the 26 County Department of Transport met taxi driver unions on Tuesday following requests from union leaders for them to intervene is what is an increasingly bitter dispute.

This follows the decision by the National Taxi Drivers Union, the Irish Taxi Drivers Federation and SIPTU's Taxi branch to call off a planned 24-hour strike due to take place on Thursday. The decision was taken in the aftermath of chaotic scenes on Monday afternoon when around 1,000 taxi drivers brought Dublin to a standstill by blocking O'Connell Street for hours.

The action backfired badly for taxi drivers however, and there were reports of scuffles between the drivers and members of the public stuck in the blockade or in buses. Tommy Gorman, of the National Taxi Drivers' Union, apologised to commuters for the spontaneous stoppage, which intensified as anger grew among concerned drivers, saying that the meeting offered by the Department was, "the breakthrough we have been waiting for."

The focus of union complaint are attempts by Taxi Regulator Ger Deering to force through without consultation changes to the taxi fare system that will see taxi drivers in Cork, Tralee, Killarney, Sligo, Waterford, Carlow and Drogheda face a cut of up to 22% in their minimum charge. Dublin drivers stand to lose thousands with the abolition of a charge for pick ups at Dublin Airport, which were introduced to compensate drivers for paying existing Aer Rianta charges to allow them pick up fares at the airport.

IWU defends part-time workers in Donegal

Eight part-time Council road workers in Donegal are facing substantial wage cuts if they accept a new contract from Donegal County Council. At present, the men receive time and a half for overtime and double pay on Sundays, which would be replaced with a flat rate, with extremely limited overtime entitlements.

Sinn Féin councillor and Donegal South-West candidate Pearse Doherty attempted unsuccessfully to have the issue debated at a meeting of Donegal County Council but was stonewalled by Council officials who refused to allow discussion of what they claimed was a 'corporate issue' to be addressed by the County Manager.

Following what the men claim is a lack of support from their union, SIPTU, the men have sought advice from the Independent Worker's Union, which has been making strong efforts to organise in Donegal. On foot of this, a meeting had been arranged with local SIPTU officials on Wednesday night.

In another recent development for the IWU, a new branch of the union was formed at a meeting in Clonakilty last week following the continued expansion of the union's existing Cork City & County branch. The new West Cork branch is an indication of continued growth for the union, which continues to stand outside of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, which it believes has become 'nothing more than an arm of the state and management'.

An Phoblacht Magazine

AN PHOBLACHT MAGAZINE:

  • The first edition of this new magazine will feature a 10 page special on the life and legacy of our leader Martin McGuinness to mark the first anniversary of his untimely passing.
  • It will include a personal reminiscence by Gerry Adams and contributions from the McGuinness family.
  • There will also be an exclusive interview with our new Uachtarán Mary Lou McDonald.

Buy An Phoblacht magazine here

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