30 August 2007 Edition

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Nuacht na nOibrithe

Multiple investigations at sheltered workshops

Investigations by the HSE, the Equality Authority and the Irish Human Rights Commission are to be conducted into allegations of exploitation in sheltered workshops for people with intellectual disabilities.
It emerged this week that people with learning disabilities are being paid as little as €5 a week for full time work at sheltered workshops and in some cases were not being paid anything for their work. There are up to 4,000 people in sheltered workshops conducting work such as shrink-wrapping for supermarkets or putting inserts into mailshots.
The ICTU has called for the workers to be given full employment status which they do not currently have, hence their exclusion from receiving the minimum wage. Michael Ringrose of the organisation People with Disabilities in Ireland said this is a “severely outdated system that should have no place in modern society”.
Sinn Féin Dublin MEP and party Chairperson Mary Lou McDonald has called on government to put in place a working group to cohesively address the transition of sheltered workshops to places of employment.
“Many of the 4,000 people working in sheltered workshops delivering products that earn an income and/or deliver a service for an employer are effectively not paid at all and experience various levels of bullying”, McDonald said.
“Despite the Department of Health publishing a draft code of practice for sheltered occupational services in 2003 the definition of what constitutes ‘work’ and ‘occupational activity’ remains blurred as the proposed code of practice has never been adopted. We need to ask why not.
“Those with intellectual disabilities working in sheltered workshops should be entitled to the same employment rights, terms and conditions as all other workers. Whilst I welcome the HSE’s investigation into this matter they, the Department of Health and particularly Taoiseach Ahern must shoulder the blame for allowing this situation to develop under the watch of successive Fianna Fáil led governments.
“A working group comprising of key stakeholders such as Inclusion Ireland, Disability Federation of Ireland, ICTU, the Departments of Health and Children and Enterprise, Trade & Employment must be set up to coincide with the HSE’s investigation conclusions due in May of next year. The remit of the working group should be the delivery of a proposed framework to facilitate the transition of sheltered workshops to places of employment”, she said.

Aer Lingus cabin crew echo pilots

Aer Lingus cabin crew may now join the pilots at the centre of an industrial dispute with the airline in protest at proposed pay and conditions at the new Belfast base. It is understood that after the pilots called off their strike last-week, management was unwilling to discuss 14 topics on a list forwarded by the pilots for the Labour Relations Commission talks.
The company says it will only discuss how changes to operations in Belfast could affect pilots based in the South. IMPACT which represents cabin crew, has asked the Labour Court to clarify the ruling that it gave last year which said that the airline could recruit staff at local costs in “foreign bases.” They wish for clarification on whether this ruling at the time would have included Belfast. The pilots and airline talks are due to resume on Friday this week. 

Labour court rule against FAS

This week the Labour Court ruled against FAS, the 26 County state employment agency saying that it cannot make promotions within the agency conditional on staff relocation. SIPTU brought the case to the Labour Court, arguing that workers in semi-state bodies could not transfer between jobs like civil servants because they had different pay scales and pension schemes etc.
SIPTU is opposing forcible decentralisation in range of of organisations such as Bus Éireann, the National Safety Council, Fáilte Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and the National Roads Authority. There are 2,500 Siptu members working in semi-state agencies.

260 potential job losses in Antrim

The company Covidien in Ballymoney, Co. Antrim has put 260 workers on 90-day statutory notice after a review of its global operations. The company’s director of communications Richard Bebiliqua said that “We’ve decided that we needed to improve operating efficiency in all locations and the Ballymoney facility is one that we felt we needed to propose the closing of.” Phillip Oakes an organiser in Unite which represents the workers, said that the news of the closure had come “out of the blue.” 

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