And so it continues. Day 2 of ICTU conference saw us listen to and unanimously vote on 17 motions, only one motion had a dissenting voice and that was down to requesting stronger wording from the proposers. 28 motions so far and one that stirred up debate?
Today saw some interesting contributions from guest speakers. Unfortunately the Tanaiste, Eamon Gilmore, couldn’t make it as planned as conference was told he had a more pressing engagement in the European Parliament. Martin McGuinness, Northern Irelands Deputy First Minister spoke eloquently on Northern Society. He had to be careful as Peter Bunting from ICTU had laid down a pretty good marker. There were strong contributions and the reminder that the “reality is for our members is that you will see landrovers on the streets as they go home. Sectarianism hasn’t gone away and we need to deal with that”. We also heard how “Poverty is increasing day by day” and how it is important for the trade union movement to “Take responsibility and make our communities, society and workplace better places”. The real question that kept appearing is HOW to do this?
Some startling figures appeared throughout the day. 10,000 older people in Ireland face the spectre of abuse. 35% of women have been on the receiving end of physical or sexual abuse. Again a real symbol of society is how it treats the elderly and more vulnerable. Foodbanks are a common experience in SCotland and the Scotish TUC have been visiting these. We were treated to a class in George Orwell “He who controls the present, controls the past. He who controls the past, controls the future” and were told to “deepen the relationship between communities and union”. “Trade Unions are still here because of our enduring values of collectivism and solidarity” and we need to stay here.
There was a lot of discussion around Equality and Community. Trademark came in for special mention for the work they do in bridging gap between the union movement and communities. “There is a huge and unacceptable gap between men and women at decision making roles in Trade Unions” Considering women make up 52% of the membership it is still a disparity that needs work on. “There is a myth among women that we are ok. We are not.” Patricia McKeown from Unison told the Floor that “Women have been fighting for Centuries. We have a long way to go”. The gender pay gap stands at just over 17% (59 days of a working year). One notable comment was “Let’s not just support this motion, let’s do something about it”. Another was “Let’s come back in two years and talk about what actions we have taken and not about the pain and suffering inflicted on members.” Messages for the incoming Executive Council who were being voted on today.
It is strange to hear that whilst Ireland recognises trade unions we still as a country allow employers the right to ignore and prevent their workforce from joining one. Collective Bargaining is in the Programme For Govt and poignantly 100 years after the lockout of 1913 this is still an issue for the trade union movement in Ireland.
Mandate promoted their Fair Shop campaign. Ironically their website is now down but hopefully that will be rectified soon. They spoke of what we can do as consumers and actively use places that recognise trade unions in the way the Fair Hotels scheme is run.
All in all another interesting day but what’s missing is the lack of real debate. Either we are all on the same page looking to engage or empower our membership or we like to talk the talk and walking the walk is representing the people who pay their union fees which can’t be done up here.