15 March 2007 Edition

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Nuacht na nOibrithe

T&G and Amicus to form ‘super union’

Workers in the ATGWU and Amicus have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a merger between the two organisations, which will create a giant union of more than two million workers across Ireland and Britain. It is believed that this organisation will eventually amalgamate with other trade unions across Britain and Europe. Its supporters say this will reinvigorate trade unionism by creating the single biggest lobbying block in British politics. The new union will cover a range of industries including transport, aviation, food and public services.
Tony Woodley, General Secretary of the T&G, has said, “The new union will be a progressive, organising, fighting back industrial giant focused above all on winning for our members in the workplace and taking trade unionism to the millions who need it.”
Derek Simpson, General Secretary of Amicus, said, “The new union will be the greatest campaigning force on behalf of the ordinary people that has ever existed. It is a precursor to the creation of a single global trade union movement capable of challenging the might of multinationals.”


Exploitation of construction workers rising

Worrying figures have emerged to suggest that exploitation of workers in the construction industry may be becoming the norm in the midlands. There are currently over a dozen complaints being dealt with by the Rights Commissioner Service and they are all against companies in the midlands area. This news emerged when 20 Polish workers began an unofficial protest at Athlone Town Centre Development against severe underpayment, exploitation and the loss of their jobs, after asking trade union SIPTU for representation in their pay dispute against Denis O’Connell Dry Lining Ltd.
SIPTU official Pat McCabe has said that the exploitation demonstrated in this case is not uncommon due to the fact that there are so many workers in the construction industry unaware of their minimum employment entitlements, as well as many employers ignoring employment agreements. “Cases like this can be quite prevalent. Some employers just pretend not to know what to do.” The protest of the Polish workers succeeded in getting IBEC, representing the company, to meet with SIPTU. The company admitted to underpaying the workers and accepted liability.  Further meetings will take place to ascertain the amount of monies owed to the workers.


Fixed-term contract worker wins case

In a landmark decision, an industrial tribunal in the Six Counties has ruled that a University of Ulster lecturer whose fixed-term contract was not renewed was unfairly dismissed and discriminated against. He was awarded £36,000 compensation for losses incurred. The university had claimed that Social Policy and Sociology lecturer Dr Andy Biggart was fairly dismissed when his fixed-term contract ended in February 2005. He was not offered alternative employment even though the college were recruiting new sociology staff. The tribunal found that the university did not have any procedure for properly consulting with trade unions on the impending expiry of fixed-term contracts. Dr Biggart was represented by solicitor John O’Neill, who said, “This ruling is critical as it sends the message to universities and other employers that they must generally treat fixed-term workers equally with permanent staff in any redundancy situation. Also, the failure to allow Dr Biggart a proper right of appeal against his dismissal was a disgrace and an act of discrimination against him because of his fixed-term worker status.”


SIPTU and Aer Lingus hold talks

It was announced on Tuesday that SIPTU and Aer Lingus are to hold new talks on the dispute over the airline management’s cost-cutting plans. Both parties will discuss Labour Court recommendations on the plans of management to change work practices. The Labour Court last week ruled that the company’s imposition of new contracts would be a breach of existing agreements and that the company was obliged to negotiate with the staff and trade unions involved.

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