By John Douglas, Mandate General Secretary
Christmas is normally the time for celebrations and reflections on the year past. It is a time for family and friends and focus on the things that really matter.
The trade union movement is a family, a family of more than 700,000 workers in Ireland – all struggling for decency and respect at work, all trying to make a better life for themselves and their families.
The Mandate family of nearly 35,000 members has it harder than most, for we have to fight for everything we have and too often nowadays we have to fight to hold on to what we have.
Our members are to the forefront of nearly every struggle in Ireland, whether it’s for decent wages, secure hours, a voice at work or just plain old respect.
We have had to take action to win things that for others is a given at work.
Our members are at the receiving end of so called “flexibility” and “sharp practices”. They face very powerful employers who have very deep pockets.
But despite all that they face, I am proud to say that our family of members never shy away from doing the right thing. They have made and will continue to make brave stands against injustices both at home and abroad. Our members in LloydsPharmacy stood up to one of the biggest corporations in the world and secured better wages and contracts. Our Paddy Power members stood up against the financial might of a massive company and won improvements in contracts and breaks. Our members in Tesco continue to fight against discrimination and fight for the right to have a voice at work.
Add to this the struggles of members in Dunnes Stores, B&Q, Debenhams and many others – our Mandate family continues to be a beacon of justice for all workers in Ireland – we shine a light into the darkness of employer exploitation and abuse.
Also, our members continue to mobilise around water charges, the housing crisis and the hospital crisis – our members get it, they know an injury to one is an injury to all. We have a proud and long history on matters of social justice both at home and abroad – our brave Dunnes Stores Anti-Apartheid strikers proved just that.
As we approach the centenary of the “first Dail Eireann” and its first democratic programme January 1919, we ponder on what could a real republic have looked like?
It certainly would not have 11,000 citizens homeless and 120,000 citizens on a housing waiting list, or 707,000 citizens on hospital waiting lists. It certainly would not have the extraordinary levels of low pay and exploitation of workers and it certainly would not have tens of thousands of workers without a union voice at work.
2019 will be a historic year on this island – the first Dail was a 32 county socialist Dail whose first socialist programme, the “Democratic Programme”, remains largely unfilled to this day.
It is our responsibility as Irish citizens and as trade union members to continue to struggle to achieve the vision of our republic – a republic of equality, solidarity and fraternity.
Mandate’s programme for Decency and Equality at work is an extension of the work of our first Dail – no worker in Ireland should suffer mistreatment, denial of union rights and exploitation on hours or wages.
Let us all again as a union family pledge and resolve to fight injustices at work and in society in 2019. Let us all stand in solidarity to fight for a decent living wage, decent contracts of employment and a voice at work.
No Government or no employer has the right to condemn the majority of citizens/workers to a poverty existence so as to benefit the few.
Happy Christmas and New Year – 2019 the Year of Decency and Respect at Work.