22 February 2007 Edition
Nuacht na nOibrithe by Stephanie Lord
Russian freighter involved in pay dispute
Talks will take place this week with the aim of resolving a pay dispute involving a Russian freighter in Irish waters. The Merchant Brilliant is the latest vessel to be involved in a dispute over accusations of exploitation. The International Transport Federation inspected the ship on Monday and crew members claimed during the investigation that they are owed in excess of €150,000.
The ship has now crossed the Irish Sea to England with the ITF’s Irish Inspector aboard, who is to attend talks with the ship’s Russian crewing agency. This case follows just two months after workers on the Russian vessel the Merchant Bravery were found to be paid incorrectly by their agency.
SIPTU representative Pádraig Yeates has said that this case is identical to the one in December, and that action needs to be taken to ban such exploitation from EU waters. “There is a need for some sort of coordinated action on the Irish Sea and one obvious arrangement would be to have an EU Directive covering pay and conditions on these vessels, any vessels in EU waters, but that seems to be a long way away, I’m afraid,” he said.
Tesco staff agree to pay deal
Ten thousand staff represented by trade union Mandate have voted to accept a new pay deal which will result in a wage increase of 11% over two years. Under the terms of the new agreement, workers will get an immediate 6% increase - backdated to September 2006 - and two 2.5% pay rises will follow. Tesco employs around 12,500 staff in the 26 Counties and the remainder of these are either represented by SIPTU, who recently negotiated a similar deal, or are in managerial positions.
Strabane bottom of Six County wage scale
The GMB union has conducted a study which has found that Strabane workers are amongst the lowest paid in the North, alongside those in Cookstown. Employees in Strabane earn on average £380.10 per week while the average earnings in the Six Counties are £472 per week. The highest-earning workers were found in Newtonabbey, where the average weekly pay is £515.10.
Eamonn Coy, a GMB Senior Organiser, said that this shows a continuing need for economic development across all parts of the Six Counties and a need for all workers to be trade union members. “With rising house prices all across Northern Ireland, workers on the National Minimum Wage or those on grades just above it are effectively now priced out of owner occupation. So affordable housing will rise up the political agenda in Northern Ireland.”
BES changes to go ahead despite union objections
Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Micheál Martin is to tell unions that changes to the Business Expansion Scheme are to go ahead despite union objections. ICTU have launched a formal complaint to the European Commission over the Government’s decision to extend the BES and Seed Capital Scheme, saying that they were a vehicle for “tax avoidance for wealthy people.” Minister for Finance Brian Cowen announced in the 2006 Budget that the upper limit for investment would be increased from €31,000 to €150,000, which investors can write off against their taxes. Cowen also raised the ceiling for total BES funding from €1 million to €2 million per company. The ICTU complaint to the Commission is significant in that the Commission must approve changes to the scheme, which could take up to six months.