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Dunnes workers update: Making a request to be placed on a secure band of weekly working hours

To: All Dunnes Stores Members

From: Gerry Light, Assistant General Secretary

Re: Making a request to be placed on a secure band of weekly working hours

Dear Member

It has been confirmed that the provisions for banded hours provided in the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2018 are due to come into force next week.

As you may be aware Mandate information meetings and outreach clinics with Dunnes members have been taking place across the country over the past month to fully explain the banded hour’s legislation and the process your Union is taking in order to assist members to request a more secure band of weekly working hours. See link to main information sheet here.

A key requirement of the new law is that workers who have been employed with Dunnes for 12 months or more and who want to be placed on a more secure band of weekly working hours must submit a written request to their employer. Mandate has drafted a template letter for members. See link to sample letter you can print. NOTE: Only complete the name, address and signature part of the form. DO NOT complete the “Date” and “To” fields. You can get a template letter from your local Mandate office, official or a shop steward.

During the past several weeks your local officials have been collecting hundreds of signed request letters from Dunnes members that will soon be submitted by the Union together as a group to relevant store manager in each Dunnes location.

It is important that all Dunnes members who want to submit a request to the company through Mandate to return their signed request letter back to their Union Official/Organiser/Shop Steward before next Friday the 8th of March.  

While there will be opportunities to submit letters of request for banded hours through the Union on an ongoing basis in future, we encourage all members to return their letters before next Friday so as not to miss out on the first stage of these requests.

After letters are submitted to the store manager, you will receive confirmation via text message. The company then has a maximum of 4 weeks by law to place you in a new band in accordance with the legislation.

If you have any queries please contact your local Mandate office, official or shop steward.   www.mandate.ie

Any non-members who wish to join can do so at www.joinmandate.ie

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How to Make a Request to be placed in a Weekly Band of Hours under the New Legislation

Dear Member

As you are all aware, the Bill which will enable workers to have more secure weekly working hours based on the hours they actually work was passed and signed into law in late December 2018 after a long and hard fought campaign particularly by Mandate members in Dunnes Stores over several years.

The new law called the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 2018 is expected to come into force during the first week of March 2019 and we will keep you informed of the specific dates once they are known.

It is essential given the fact that this new law would not have come into being only for the fighting spirit of our members in Dunnes that we ensure that they above all others fully benefit from its passing. In preparation for this your local Mandate Officials and Organisers will be coordinating together with Shop Stewards and other local union reps, local meetings, outreach visits and information days for Dunnes members in order to explain the process and to assist members in making requests for a secure weekly band of hours that is now for the first time ever based on the hours they actually work and thereafter reflected in a new contract of employment. Please look out for texts and other notices regarding these events for your store and make sure to attend them so that you have all the necessary information and are able to submit your request correctly. If you have any queries please contact your Shop Steward or local Mandate office.

As is always the case, the ability to protect and improve conditions for workers in Dunnes Stores depends on the strength in union membership across the company. That is why you should continue to strengthen your Union in Dunnes by sharing this information and asking fellow colleagues to join.

Yours fraternally

For Mandate Trade Union

Gerry Light

Assistant General Secretary


MANDATE TRADE UNION WILL BE HOSTING A BRIEFING ON THE NEW [Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018] IN DUN LAOGHAIRE ON WEDNESDAY, 6TH FEBRUARY 2019 AT 7PM IN THE ROYAL MARINE HOTEL. MORE INFORMATION AVAILABLE HERE.

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Dunnes workers win 3% pay increase

Mandate Trade Union has congratulated their members in Dunnes Stores following confirmation that a 3 percent pay increase will be applied to all staff and backdated to October 2018.

This brings the total pay increases won by Dunnes workers over the last 6 years to 18 percent and proves that being a member of a trade union pays.

Mandate lodged a pay claim on behalf of its 3,000 members in April but the company refused to concede and instead paid managers a 3 percent pay increase. Mandate wrote to the company last week and issued a statement calling on the company to award their staff a cost of living pay increase before Christmas.

The pay increase formed part of a wide pay and benefits claim made by Mandate Trade Union and also included secure hour contracts, more full time jobs and a staff discount scheme to be applied to all workers.

Gerry Light, Mandate Assistant General Secretary explained that almost all of the claim has now been delivered.

“We are welcoming Dunnes Store’s management’s concession of our pay claim which is well deserved recognition of our members hard work in bringing their company to the top retailer position in Ireland again. This follows the announcement that the staff discount scheme has now been opened up to all our members too,” he said.

“Furthermore, with the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017 about to be enacted in the Dail this evening or tomorrow, this will provide our members with secure hour contracts. This legislation will enable Dunnes workers to seek a new contract of employment that reflects the hours they actually work, enabling them to better plan their lives.”

Mr Light concluded: “With this pay increase and secure hour contracts imminent, this will be a much happier Christmas for many of our members in Dunnes Stores.”

Dunnes Stores award management pay hike, but refuse workers cost of living pay increase

Mandate calls on Dunnes to ensure workers are not left out in the cold this Christmas

Senior management at Dunnes Stores, Ireland’s leading retailer, are refusing to pay up to 10,000 workers an annual cost of living pay increase, despite awarding store managers a pay hike earlier this year.

Mandate Trade Union members in Dunnes Stores are calling on the company to pay a 3 percent annual cost of living increase before Christmas.

In a letter sent to Dunnes Stores by Mandate’s Assistant General Secretary, Gerry Light today, he said:

“As the nation’s most successful retailer who depend on the hard work and dedication of loyal staff throughout the year to serve customers, our members are calling on Dunnes Stores to share the benefits of this success and to award the 3% cost of living increase before Christmas.

“Your workers and our members simply deserve better,” added Mr Light.

Mr Light said: “Disappointingly the Company has continued to refuse to respond or engage at any level with thousands of Mandate members employed in Dunnes Store on a number of important claims which are now awaiting a formal hearing before the Labour Court.

Mandate lodged a claim in April 2018 on behalf of its members in Dunnes Stores seeking an annual cost of living pay increase of 3 percent. Also included in the claim was a demand for more secure working hours, more full time jobs, and equality in the Company’s pay scales.

Commenting on these developments, Mr Light said:

“Our members in Dunnes Stores have had to contend with increases in rent and house prices, along with other increases to the cost of living. Christmas is going to be very tight for many of them and their families if their employer doesn’t pay workers a deserved pay increase this year.”

Mr Light concluded by saying, “The company can alleviate many of the pressures on their workers this Christmas by simply agreeing to this annual pay increase. After all, it is Dunnes workers who make the company the success it is today with more than 22 percent of the grocery market.”

Full letter from Gerry Light to Dunnes Stores here: Dunnes Stores – Sandra Buckley 101218

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URGENT: Three steps to decent work!

One of the most important pieces of legislation on workers’ rights in decades is to be debated in Seanad Eireann on Tuesday, 20th November 2018 at 5:45pm.

If it passes, it may mean the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017 becomes law before Christmas, and workers will have the right to new contracts of employment that reflect the hours they actually work.

We are asking Mandate Trade Union members and all other trade unionists to take the following three steps to ensure this Bill passes without any further delays:

  1. Email all Senators at senators@oireachtas.ie (sample message below)
  2. Call & email Fine Gael and Fianna Fail offices and tell them you support this Bill and will be watching how they vote (details below)
  3. Tweet to the key political parties by clicking here or below.

Tweet: Legislate for secure hour contracts now!
#PrecariousWork is damaging lives. We want:
1. Strong bands of hours 2. Secure incomes 3. No victimisation
We’ll be watching the Seanad on Tue, 20th Nov, & watching how you vote @fiannafailparty @FineGael @sinnfeinireland & @Labour
—————-

Please forward any correspondence received from Senators or political parties to Mandate Trade Union at news@mandate.ie

—————–

Dear Senator,

As you know, the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017 will be debated in Seanad Eireann next Tuesday, 20th November 2018 at 5:45pm. This piece of legislation is of the utmost importance to me and to thousands of workers on precarious contracts of employments.  

I am asking, respectfully, that you ensure this Bill progresses as quickly as possible and ensure that the minimum provisions set out in the Bill include the demands of the Secure Hours=Better Future campaign:

  1. Ban Zero Hour Practices – including exploitative “If and When” contracts.
  2. Provide workers with secure hour contracts that reflect the reality of the average weekly hours worked.
  3. Ensure a maximum ‘look-back’ period of 12 months or less to calculate the average weekly hours and the subsequent ‘band of hours’* into which a worker is placed.
  4. Ensure the maximum width of all ‘band of hours’ is no greater than 5 hours per week
  5. Protect workers from victimisation for enforcing their rights under this legislation.
  6. Ensure legislation is implemented so that current workers can avail of its provisions for hours already completed.

If you have any questions in relation to this, please let me know, or else contact Mandate Trade Union at news@mandate.ie or 01-8746321.

Thank you for your support and we look forwards to seeing this Bill being enacted into legislation.

Yours sincerely,

_______________________

———————–

More information on the Bill is available here:

A mobile friendly  version is available here.

Seanad Eireann to debate Banded Hour Contracts on 20th November

It has been confirmed that Seanad Eireann will debate the Employment Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2017 on Tuesday, 20th November 2018.

The Bill, which would tackle precarious work and insecure working conditions, must be supported by all Senators, according to Mandate Trade Union.

In a letter sent to all TD’s and Senators today (Tuesday, 13th November), John Douglas said:

I am writing to you on behalf of Mandate’s 40,000 members working in bars and retail in every constituency in Ireland. I also speak for hundreds of thousands of low paid and precarious workers in dozens of other sectors when I say that it is imperative that this legislation is not delayed any further and that it progresses and becomes an Act as quickly as possible. Every single day that the legislation it is not implemented, there are dozens of precarious workers who are being ruthlessly exploited by their employer.

Mr Douglas added, “This piece of legislation is the single most important piece of legislation for vulnerable workers in decades. I would hope that you and your political party/grouping will support our members and support decent work in Ireland.”

In his correspondence to TD’s and Senators, Mr Douglas included an information document which illustrated how the Bill could provide decent work for hundreds of thousands of precarious workers.

“Martina is a member of Mandate Trade Union and she works for a major multinational retail outlet. She’s been working between 40-48 hours per week for 7 years. Recently Martina complained to her local manager about a stack of pallets blocking the fire exit of her store. Her manager took action. Except, her manager didn’t resolve the obstruction to the fire escape. Instead, she cut Martina’s hours to the minimum number in her contract, which is 10, as a penalty, and told her she could have her 48 hours back in six months. There is absolutely nothing illegal in this.

This reduction in hours amounted to an 80% cut in income for Martina and she had to go to her local Credit Union to make up for her lost hours and income (her contract forbids her from obtaining work elsewhere). This has made Martina a very compliant worker. Since this incident, Martina has never raised a grievance.

This is not a fictional scenario. This happened, and it is not unusual.”

The document goes on to link the healthcare and housing crisis with precarious work and calls on all political parties to support the legislation and Mandate’s suggested amendments.

The full document is available to read here – Seanad-Employment Misc Prov Bill 2017.

Alternatively, you can read a mobile friendly version here.

Mandate Trade Union’s position on the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017

The issue

Martina is a member of Mandate Trade Union and she works for a major multinational retail outlet. She’s been working between 40-48 hours per week for 7 years. Recently Martina complained to her local manager about a stack of pallets blocking the fire exit of her store. Her manager took action. Except, her manager didn’t resolve the obstruction to the fire escape. Instead, she cut Martina’s hours to the minimum number in her contract, which is 10, as a penalty, and told her she could have her 48 hours back in six months. There is absolutely nothing illegal in this.

This reduction in hours amounted to an 80% cut in income for Martina and she had to go to her local Credit Union to make up for her lost hours and income (her contract forbids her from obtaining work elsewhere). This has made Martina a very compliant worker. Since this incident, Martina has never raised a grievance.

This is not a fictional scenario. This happened, and it is not unusual. It illustrates the level of control that many Irish employers have over their workers. In Dunnes Stores, the second largest private sector employer in the country with 10,000 staff, 85% of respondents to our annual survey said allocation of hours by managers is used as a method of control against them. In a separate survey of workers across the retail sector, 51% said allocation of hours is used by management as a method of control. Lodge a grievance, join a trade union, request the implementation of your minimum statutory rights and you may have your hours cut.

When 6,000 Dunnes Stores workers participated in industrial action on April 2nd, 2015 to highlight this very issue, the very next day their employer slashed workers’ hours, making an industrial resolution to this issue close to impossible.

This is why the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017 is so important. It is an opportunity for our elected representatives to help protect low paid workers in vulnerable positions.

Societal impacts

The absence of legislative protections for workers on low hour contracts in Ireland is a major contributor to many of the current crisis facing the country. Retail, bar, restaurant and hospitality workers, among other precarious workers, are all disproportionately impacted by poverty, homelessness and the healthcare crisis.

Housing: Due to the fact that workers can only obtain a mortgage based on their guaranteed income, many are stuck in the private rental sector. A Dunnes Stores worker, who may regularly work 38 hours per week on €12 per hour (€456 per week), can only borrow 3.5 times their income off a bank. Because of their 15 hour contract, this equates to €32,760 which is obviously insufficient based on today’s house prices. Therefore, they are forced to continue in the private rental sector where they have faced rent increases of up to 82% in recent years. This is one of the main factors behind precarious workers being made homeless.

Healthcare: A recent research document produced by TASC entitled Precarious Work: Precarious Lives explained how precarious work has a negative effect on mental health. “The majority of participants described how their temporary and insecure working conditions caused depression and anxiety because they were unable to plan for the future.” Many Mandate Trade Union members are forced to attend work while ill because they fear they will not get their hours the following week if they call in sick. This was highlighted in the recent Lloyds Pharmacy strike where workers attended work while suffering from swine flu, bronchitis and pneumonia. The instability of income also makes it difficult for workers to make the choice between paying to see a doctor and putting food on the table for their families.

Low Pay: The flexibility in workers’ hours combined with a lack of representational rights in Ireland has contributed to Ireland having among the highest prevalence of low pay, not only in the EU, but also the OECD. This has led to high levels of food poverty, fuel poverty and child poverty. In many instances, when a low paid worker receives a pay increase, they want to reject it. This is because they know their hours will be reduced and their employer will hire a new member of staff on lower rates of pay and it will be those workers who receive additional hours. 89% of Dunnes Stores workers said it is common practice that new staff on lesser terms and lesser rates of pay receive more hours than longer serving staff on better terms.

Banded hours

Many employer representatives have highlighted their objections to this piece of legislation with bogus concerns.

Employee flexibility: One of the most often cited objections to legislating for secure hour contracts is “employees also want flexibility”. While this may be the case for a number of workers, the legislation does not prevent employees and employers coming to arrangements as equal parties. There isn’t currently a balanced relationship between employers and employees, with the employers holding a disproportionate level of power in the determination of hours. When 1,400 Dunnes Stores workers were asked: “Do you want more stable hours?” 98% said Yes.

Following debates in both the Oireachtas Committee and the Dail a settlement was reached in relation to the width of bands of hours. These bands, as proposed by the Dail, still provide employers with a high level of flexibility. An employee’s hours can still be cut by 5 hours per week, which is a significant reduction in income for a worker. For instance, an employee on the 16-21 hours band who is earning the Living Wage of €11.90 per hour can be cut from €250 to €190 per week. This €60 is a significant amount of money for a low paid worker. For employers’ bodies to argue to expand that band to 10 hours (15-25 hours) is disproportionate and unfair to low paid workers. For a worker earning the Living Wage of €11.90 per hour, they could have their income slashed from €297.5 to €178.5. This cut of €119 per week, or a 40% reduction in income, still provides employers with an enormous capacity to ensure workers are compliant and would therefore limit the intentions of this Bill.

Mandate Trade Union has negotiated secure hour contracts with a large number of employers including Tesco Ireland, Penneys, Boots Ireland, Marks & Spencers and Heatons, among others. The current bands in the legislation are closely aligned with some of those agreements and it is fair to say that they provide the employee and the employer with a level of flexibility and income security that suits both parties.

Recommendation: Mandate recommends maintaining the existing bands of hours.

Employment Status

At the last stage of the debate on the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017, an amendment which stated: “It shall be an offence for an employer to incorrectly designate an employee as self-employed” was inserted. While this amendment has merit, the Minister pointed out that the issue has not been fully debated during the consultation process and will therefore delay the implementation of the Bill if the amendment remains. It is worth implementing the merits of this amendment in a stand-alone Bill, but it is unfair on workers on precarious contracts to delay this Bill any further.

Recommendation: Remove Section 20 of the Bill in its entirety.

Ability To Seek More Hours

During the previous two stages of the Bill (Committee and Report Stages), a provision to allow workers to seek more hours at work was debated. It was inserted into the Bill at Committee Stage, but ultimately rejected by 38 votes to 35 at the Report Stage.

It stated: “In the event of hours becoming available an employer shall be required to offer any surplus hours to existing part-time employees first.”

This is in line with the EU Part-Time Worker Directive 97 – Annex Clause 5, Section 3:

“3. As far as possible, employers should give consideration to:

      (a) requests by workers to transfer from full-time to part-time work that becomes available in the establishment;

      (b) requests by workers to transfer from part-time to full-time work or to increase their working time should the opportunity arise;

      (c) the provision of timely information on the availability of part-time and full-time positions in the establishment in order to facilitate transfers from full-time to part-time or vice versa;”

Unfortunately workers in Ireland, unlike in many other EU countries, have no right to seek more hours at work. The lack of legislation in this regard led to a dramatic increase in underemployment and ‘involuntary part-time working’ in Ireland between 2008 and 2013 when we had the second highest prevalence of this practice behind Spain, with more than 147,000 workers unable to obtain extra hours. That figure is still quite high with many employers choosing to employ two or three workers on part-time precarious contracts rather than provide a decent full time job for any workers.

In 2015, when lone parents’ allowance was cut, the government cited this as an activation measure. The argument was that it would incentivise lone parents to seek more hours at work. Neither lone parents nor any other workers have ever had the legislative capacity to seek more hours at work. If the government is genuine about activation programmes and incentivising lone parents or low hour contract workers to seek more hours, this provision is essential.

Recommendation: This provision should be supported where possible, in this legislation or elsewhere.

Conclusion

During the past decade the Irish workforce has become more and more precarious. The combination of low pay and instability of hours has led to many workers becoming reliant on charities, food banks and on social welfare transfers. Dunnes Stores and Lloyds Pharmacy workers, among others, have highlighted the implications of insufficient legislation. There are now 450,000 workers across the country working on part-time contracts with little or no protections. The implementation of this Bill will not solve all the issues, but it will go some way towards redressing the power that unscrupulous employers have over their workers. It will provide tens of thousands of workers with certainty of hours and therefore certainty of income. And it will ensure that work in Ireland does pay.

Mandate Trade Union urges all members of the Oireachtas to pass the proposed Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017 as a matter of urgency and to ensure there are no more delays. Our members have waited long enough. Legislate for secure hour contracts now.

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