Repeal the 8th: The Role of Trade Unions

Jointly hosted by the Trade Union Campaign to Repeal the 8th Amendment (TUCR8A) and the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth, this public meeting dealt with article 40.3.3 as a work-place, class, equality and human rights issue. Like most trade union meetings, Repeal the 8th: The Role of Trade Unions started a little behind schedule. Organisers, speakers and audience members were chasing after each other to ask advice, cash in favours, and update each other—doing all the behind-the- scenes work that kicks campaigns off and keeps them afloat.The meeting was well attended by trade union officials and activists as well as by non-union members.
The meeting was chaired by Ailbhe Smyth, convenor of the Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment, with her usual blend of humour and passion. Dr Fiona Bloomer and Claire Pierson opened the meeting by giving an overview of the ground-breaking survey “Abortion as a Workplace Issue: A Trade Union Survey North and South of Ireland.” This survey can be found on the websites of the participating unions: Unite, Unison, Mandate, CWU, and GMB.

The survey is broken up into three main parts: Views on abortion—broken down by gender, age, religion, profession, and region; Abortion as a workplace issue—a range of scenarios related to disclosure, advice and support, time off, and sickness pay; and Qualitative responses— discussion groups and personal remarks.

Maggie Ryan, on behalf of the TUCR8A, spoke on the class aspects of access to abortion and how these link directly to trade union struggle, as well as precarious work, low pay, and the difficulties of obtaining leave, particularly for those precariously employed or in feminised professions, such as teaching and nursing. She spoke of the secrecy surrounding women’s health, and the fact that this needs to be addressed for real progress to be made. She held up a TUC publication, Supporting Working Women through the Menopause, and said, to much applause, that she looked
forward to the day the ICTU could produce the same, along with one about abortion.

Emily Waszak brought a new perspective to the table. Speaking on behalf of a new campaign group, Migrant and Ethnic Minorities for Reproductive Justice, she pointed out the need for an intersectional approach— an approach that acknowledges
class struggle but also how racial and ethnic discrimination overlap
with it. She succinctly highlighted the fact that the “right to travel” is non-existent for women in direct provision and for the many migrants who do not have the means to prove their identity in order to travel.
A speaker from the British Trades Union Congress joined the panel to add an international flavour. Philipa Harvey of the National Union of Teachers mirrored the journey that twelve women from Ireland make every day to obtain access to abortion
to offer solidarity and speak on the need to be prepared to fight to maintain access once repeal is won.

The respected community and reproductive rights activist Cathleen O’Neill further examined the 8th Amendment as a class issue and argued that it is a further erosion of the lot of working-class women. She emphasised the ground that had been lost for women and community supports during the recession and stressed that these need to be won back.

Drawing the many threads together, Mags O’Brien (ICTU Global Solidarity Committee) closed the meeting by referring to the hypocrisy of the Government and the rhetoric about Ireland’s commitment to human rights while women are still denied access to essential health services.

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Neoliberalism and the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI)

Neoliberalism Cartoon

It seems obvious that high levels of unemployment are directly linked with the performance of the economy. However, the discourse and public policy surrounding unemployment has a tendency to ignore the impact of the economic cycle, and instead focus on the personal failings of the unemployed themselves. So the focus is instead placed on their lack of skills and poor work habits, rather than the failure of the Capitalist system to provide enough jobs for the working population. Continue reading “Neoliberalism and the National Youth Council of Ireland (NYCI)”

EFFAT Youth – 4th Congress Report

EFFAT_logoUnite Youth Ireland chair, Blaine Kilgallon, also sits on the EFFAT Youth Committee (European Federation of Trade Unions in the Food, Agriculture and Tourism – one of Unite’s European Federation affiliates). At the 4th Congress, held on the 20th to the 21st of November this year, he was part of a team presenting a four hour session on organising young people and guaranteeing the future of the trade union movement through the participation of young trade unionists in decision making roles.

Please click on the links to be brought to his presentations in PDF format. You can read more in the EFFAT youth newsletter. Continue reading “EFFAT Youth – 4th Congress Report”

Report: Challenging Workfare Public Meeting

On the 7th of July, the Unite Regional Youth Committee organised a meeting in the shiny new offices on Abbey street to highlight the hypocrisy of the so-called ‘workfare’ schemes; JobBridge, Gateway and Tús. We were there to provide the following report.

Challenging Workfare Public Meeting

Paul Murphy (Scambridge.ie activist, Unite member and former MEP) was the first to speak and remained true to form by opening with an explanation of Karl Marx’s concept of the reserve army of labour and its role in capitalist economies. He followed by explaining that the government’s so-called ‘recovery’ is based on a two pronged attack which is both:

  • Economic: Workfare schemes provide a government subsidy to private sector companies which drives down wages while interns are used in the public sector to bolster overstretched workforces and hide the true impact of the recruitment embargo.
  • Ideological: Workfare schemes drive the normalisation of people working for free and present the idea to the public that working for free is a ‘morally right’ thing to do before you’re allowed to gain reasonably paid employment.

Continue reading “Report: Challenging Workfare Public Meeting”