O’connor Calls For Sanctions On Israel To Stop The Genocide

Teachers, members of INTO union, marching in Dublin with their ‘Teachers for Palestine’ banner

THE IRISH Trade Union Congress Executive Council member and INTO Deputy General Secretary Deirdre O’Connor delivered a speech on behalf of the workers of Ireland at the International Labour Conference in Geneva earlier this month in a special session organised to discuss the report of the ILO Director General on the ‘The Situation of Workers in the Occupied Arab Territories’.

Held under the auspices of the United Nations, this global event brings together representatives of governments, workers, and employers’ organisations.

New policy priorities are discussed, international labour standards are adopted and their implementation is supervised.

O’Connor welcomed the decision by the Irish government to recognise the State of Palestine and urged similar leadership in relation to sanctions: ‘The failure of the international community to impose meaningful sanctions has led to Israeli impunity,’ she said.

‘The INTO once again calls for an immediate end to the brutal violence, the freeing of all hostages, the provision of humanitarian aid to all in need, and the rebuilding of vital infrastructure including educational facilities where teachers in Palestine can work safely and steadfastly to secure a brighter future for their students.’

Additionally, the INTO stated that they are appalled by the Israeli attack overnight on Al-Sardi School at Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza.

The UNRWA school was being used as a shelter.

There were 36 reported fatalities with many others seriously injured. In addition to the devastating humanitarian impacts of the ongoing violence in Gaza, access to education is being obliterated.

Currently, 625,000 students are being denied their right to an education. Ministry of Education reports show 6,650 students and 334 education staff have been killed and 85% of schools have sustained damage.

Meanwhile the Irish government on Tuesday tabled an amendment to social welfare legislation that will increase the point at which an employer has to pay a full social insurance contribution on their employee’s wage.

Irish Congress of Trade Unions general secretary Owen Reidy said: ‘Government’s amendment to social welfare legislation will result in millions of euro being denied to the Social Insurance Fund each year.

‘This is the main source of funding for workers’ contributory pension and other welfare payments during gaps in employment such as when they have a baby or are injured at work.

‘Instead this much-needed investment in the future sustainability of the Fund will go towards reducing labour costs for employers.

‘Government say that this is being done to support small businesses struggling with rising costs, including the increased minimum wage.

‘The truth is, this amendment will benefit all employers – big and small, profitable and struggling – employing workers on less than 496 euros a week and regardless of whether those workers are working a full 39-hour-week on the 12.70 euro hourly minimum wage rate or working a part-time 19-hour week on 25.40 euro an hour, twice the minimum wage rate and over 50,000 FTE (full-time equivalent).

‘Government know this to be the case. In bringing forward this amendment they are flying in the face of advice from their own advisory body – the Tax Strategy Group – and the Commission on Taxation and Welfare to phase out the lower 8.8% rate of employer PRSI.

‘Having initially acted on this advice by not increasing the employer PRSI (pay related social insurance) threshold in Budget 2024 in line with the increase in the minimum wage, the amendment rows back following months of lobbying by business representatives.

‘Adding insult to injury, government will raise workers’ PRSI by 0.1% at the very same time as the increased threshold for employer PRSI kicks in – from October 01st.

‘The estimated 62 million euro yield to the Social Insurance Fund in 2024 from the raised PRSI contributions will be all but cancelled out by the increased cut-off point for the lower rate of employer PRSI.

‘This costly and badly targeted amendment is a bad deal for workers and for struggling small businesses. It rips a large hole in and does untold damage to support for government’s own PRSI roadmap to a sustainable Social Insurance Fund. Its only function is to buy the silence of lobbyists ahead of a general election.’

Meanwhile, Aer Lingus pilots, who are members of the Irish Airline Pilots’ Association (IALPA), have once again voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action, up to and including strike action.

Members voted 99% in favour (on a turnout of 89%) in a paper, in-person ballot that was conducted over the weekend.

IALPA president Captain Mark Tighe said in a statement that the result of the second ballot was ‘an incredible reaffirmation of our mandate for industrial action in pursuit of a meaningful pay offer’.

‘It is unconscionable that an employer would attempt to undermine our members’ democratic and constitutional right to vote for industrial action. The effect of Aer Lingus management’s intervention last week has served only to further antagonise pilots. They are now more determined than ever,’ he added.

In a statement, Aer Lingus said it noted the outcome of the paper ballot supporting industrial action.

‘Any decision by IALPA to now serve notice of industrial action would be entirely unnecessary and would result in significant disruption to the airline’s customers and to other employees,’ the airline said.

‘IALPA has rejected the outcomes of two independent processes which have sought to resolve the issue of pilot pay in Aer Lingus – the Pilot Pay Tribunal Report and the interim recommendation of the Labour Court.

‘Following these rejections by IALPA, Aer Lingus has offered to continue to engage in meaningful direct discussions with IALPA and to request the support of the Workplace Relations Commission in order to further explore solutions. As of now, both of these offers have been rejected by IALPA,’ the company said.

Last week, IALPA members also voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action via electronic ballot.

However, Aer Lingus raised a question about the validity of the electronic poll.

Aer Lingus has described the level of pay increases being demanded by pilots as exorbitant

IALPA said there was no question about the integrity of the vote, but rather than spending weeks in court arguing about it, the union instead conducted a paper ballot over the weekend.

Pilots were able to vote at polling stations in Dublin and Cork since Friday morning. The ballot closed at 11am Monday morning and votes were counted that afternoon.

On Friday, Aer Lingus expressed concerns about the speed at which the in-person ballot was being conducted and said it may communicate these concerns to IALPA.

The airline said it had queried the validity of the original electronic ballot, having regard to the statutory requirements for secrecy and the provisions of the IALPA constitution.

Aer Lingus has asked IALPA for at least 15 days’ notice if pilots are planning to strike. The union is required to give a minimum of seven days’ notice.

IALPA has claimed that 15 days would allow Aer Lingus to avoid paying compensation to passengers, but the airline said it is seeking the additional time to minimise the impact on customers.

Talks between management and pilots at Aer Lingus ended without agreement last Thursday evening.

IALPA members have voted overwhelmingly to reject a Labour Court recommendation that pilots should receive pay increases totalling 9.25% as part of an interim settlement.

The figure was well below the 23.8% that the pilots had been seeking.

Aer Lingus has described the level of increases being demanded as exorbitant, outrageous and untenable.

IALPA said previous pay offers do not reflect the impact of inflation, the large profits made by Aer Lingus, or the sacrifices made by pilots during the pandemic to save the company.

Aer Lingus has accused IALPA of failing to engage in various independent processes responsibly and claimed that the union’s stance risks investment, growth and jobs in the airline.

The airline said it has lost the opportunity to secure two new Airbus aircraft from its parent IAG due to the uncertainty caused by the ongoing pay dispute.