1 March 2007 Edition

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Nuacht na nOibrithe

By Stephanie Lord

Nurses protest in Cork

Members of the Irish Nurses ‘ Organisation held the first of a series of lunchtime protests at Cork University this week as part of their campaign for a pay increase and a shorter working week. The INO General Secretary has said that a nationwide work-to-rule and short work stoppages may commence without further notice, and called for the union’s concerns to be addressed immediately in order to avert further action.
The nurses are campaigning for a 10% pay rise, a further allowance for nurses working in Dublin, a reduction in the standard working week from 39 to 35 hours and the elimination of an anomaly under which qualified nurses and midwives are paid less than unqualified childcare workers who report to them. The INO and the Psychiatric Nurses’ Association, another union representing nurses, have both said that the Health Service Executive Employers Agency failed to engage in substantive negotiations with them during the 21 days since they first gave notice of industrial action.

Trade unions to step up water non-payment campaign

The trade union movement in the Six Counties is to step up its campaign against the payment of water charges with a co-ordinated push against the new company that will levy the charges. The trade unions, through ICTU, are encouraging householders to withhold payment and to create disorder in the payment system in the coming months. The British Government-owned company NI Water Ltd will take over the service of water provision in April and will then impose the first stage of the new charging scheme. This scheme will provide for annual water charges to be worked out according to house values, with bills ranging from £30 to £260 – a third of their tap tax this year. As the charges are being brought in on a phased basis, the full charge will not hit householders until 2008-9 when the average household bill is expected to be £334, with the highest charge being £800.
Peter Bunting of ICTU says, “We are encouraging people to withhold your payment and disrupt and disrupt and disrupt.”
The support website for the campaign is accessible at www.waterchargesnonpayment.com

Merchant Brilliant crew go home

It emerged this week that the crew of the Merchant Brilliant have gone home to Russia after a four day stand-off between crew and owners of the ship. The dispute first emerged while the ship was in Irish waters. The ship owners, ADG Shipmanagement SIA, dragged out negotiations over claims of non-payment to the ship’s crew, by first agreeing to pay them and then saying that they would have to return to Belfast and not Heysham where they had been told the £70,000 owed wages would be. They were then told that another vessel would bring the wages to them. Ken Fleming, an International Transport Federation inspector who accompanied the crew during the dispute, said: “The case is over and the crew are homeward bound. Now we get ready for the next one.” The ship owners have flown in another Russian crew onto the Merchant Brilliant, which the ITF will continue to keep under observation along with its sister ship the Merchant Bravery.

Aer Lingus warned of strike by SIPTU

Following a four-hour meeting of shop stewards in Dublin on Monday, Aer Lingus have been warned by SIPTU and its craft unions that members plan a 24-hour strike from midnight on Sunday unless airline management suspends plans to introduce new terms and conditions for existing staff from 1 March. 1,800 Aer Lingus workers are represented by SIPTU. Its members, as well as craft union members, have said that they will refuse to work overtime, that there will be a work-to-rule and that on-call services will be withdrawn except in emergency cases. The Labour Court have invited the unions to attend “exploratory talks” which both sides have agreed to take part in. Aer Lingus pilots and cabin crew are represented by Impact and although they have voted in favour of industrial action, they will not be participating in the strike as they have not yet served notice on the airline.

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