Dunnes Stores employees, organised by Mandate Trade Union, went on strike Thursday 2nd April. They are now organising a major demonstration on Saturday 6th June, assembling in Merrion Sq at 1pm. Their issue is decent work practices and pay:
- Secure hours and incomes
- Secure jobs
- Fair pay
- The right to be represented by their trade union
Stand in Solidarity with Dunnes workers
It is key not only for the Dunnes workers but for the future of decent pay across the country now and into the future that we all stand in solidarity with the Dunnes workers. We need to send a signal that offering precarious work and zero hour contracts is NOT ok. We need to send a signal that workers are NOT cost units that can be used and abused in the pursuit of profit and competitiveness. We need to send a signal that workers are partners in employment, workers are talented and committed to carrying out their work and deserve fair recompense and security, workers have the right to be represented by their union and that workers are to be treated with respect.
Standing in solidarity means telling the Dunnes workers that what they are doing is right and that you support them. Standing in solidarity means marching with workers on Saturday 6th. Standing in solidarity means signing the Dunnes campaign petition. Standing in solidarity means wearing a ‘I support Dunnes Decency for Workers‘ sticker. Standing in solidarity means following them on twitter @dunnesworkers and on FB Decency for Dunnes Workers Community. Standing in solidarity means reading up on the issues (see below and on www.dunnesworkers.com) and telling your friends to support the campaign.
Standing in solidarity is easy compared to fighting off employer intimidation and pressure, taking a very public stand by going on strike. Put yourself in their shoes – it takes courage and determination. Stand with them!
The Bigger Picture
While the Dunnes Workers strive to stand together and we will stand in solidarity with them we also need to look at the bigger decent work picture. Better legislation is needed to ensure that all workers are guaranteed decent work. The Low Pay Commission established by Minister Ged Nash and his investigation into the prevalence of zero hour contracts is an excellent starting point while the debate on a living wage is invaluable and sets a benchmark for the meaning of a decent day’s work for a decent day’s pay. However, we need binding legislation that ensures that decent work is the cornerstone of our jobs and economic development policy. Congress’ Legislation and Social Affairs Officer Esther Lynch, proposed the following 10 requirements in her address on Regulating for Decent Work to NUIM last year
- Require employers to provide the employee with a written statement of ‘normal working hours’ no later than the first day of employment;
- Increase the period of ‘compensated time’ so that employees are compensated for half of unworked time – currently employees are compensated for only a quarter of unworked time or 15 hours whichever is the lesser;
- Provide that ‘normal working hours’ can be calculated using the hours’ (i) stated in the employment contract /written statement or (ii) by using a reference period of 13 weeks and (iii) the hours the employee may be called into work, whichever is greater – this would also assist with addressing problems that have arisen when calculating holiday pay;
- Provide a right to request full-time work and a corresponding obligation on employers to seriously consider the request; allow refusals only where the employer can demonstrate the need for zero- hours type practices;
- Consideration should also be given to limiting the proportion of the workforce that can employed on zero-hour type practices; or
- Limit the length of time a post can be filled with workers on zero- hours type arrangements;
- Provide a right for employees to an overtime premium (e.g. time and a half) for hours worked in excess of the ‘normal hours’ in the employment contract/written statement;
- Provide that employees cannot be called into work for excessively short periods such as periods of less than four hours;
- Increase the notice period for rosters to at least a week – only in genuinely unforeseen circumstances should shorter notice of working time apply;
- Protect employees from penalisation for example, having their hours cut – “being zeroed down” when they stand up for their rights including organising in a trade union
These provide an excellent blueprint for a legislative approach that can secure decent work for all. We need to lobby our local representatives and our trade unions to progress the drawing up and passing of such legislation. Such legislation would negate the need for the Dunnes workers or any worker to strike for secure hours, incomes and jobs.
A debate for another day that is linked to this bigger picture is whether or not the state in subsidising and indeed encouraging low flexible wages through tax cuts. Do employers not have a responsibility to contribute either wage increases or higher social wage (employer contribution) while the state has a responsibility to provide high quality public services? Another day ……
The Key Issues
Secure hours and incomes
Many Dunnes Stores employees do not have regular guaranteed hours specified in their contracts. Many only have flexi-hour contracts (often a basic 15 hr contract) with no defined days or times. They tend to find out their working hours/days/times a few days in advance. As you can imagine, this means employees and their families find it difficult to plan or establish childcare or school drop-off and pick-up routines. It also means that employees do not know from week to week how much they will earn. This lack of income certainty has an impact on their ability to pay family bills, rents or mortgages. It also has an impact on their social welfare support:
- you have no entitlement to jobseekers payment if your 15 hrs are worked over 4 days or more;
- you have no entitlement to Family Income Support if you work less than 19 hours;
- you need to ear over €38 per week for a state pension stamp to be paid by the employer to the state
- you must have a minimum of 520 paid stamps plus an average of 48 stamps, paid and/or credited, per year from the day they first start working in insurable employment to qualify for the full rate state pension contributory, €230.30 per week
While some Dunnes employees have permanent contract many other are on rolling contracts. This gives these employees no security for their future employment or career prospects. In a Mandate Trade Union survey of 1,200 Dunnes Stores workers 78% indicated that they were on part-time flexible contracts while 85% indicated that insecurity of hours and rostering were used as a method to control workers – is this fair for one of the biggest employers in our state?
Mandate Trade Union secured a 3% pay rise for Dunnes Stores workers in 2013. However, as indicated above many employees have flexible low pay hours that do not allow them earn a living wage. Workers want banded hour contracts that ensure guaranteed earnings (Bands: 15-19 hrs; 20-24hrs; 25 – 30hrs etc) and a further increase of 3%
The right to be represented by their trade union
Mandate Trade Union and Dunnes Stores management signed a collective agreement in 1996. However, Dunnes Stores have ignored this agreement and workers are frequently denied individual and collective representation. Is it not unreasonable to ask Dunnes Stores to implement the terms of the 1996 agreement with immediate effect and to recognise and respect the right of workers be represented by a trade union of their choice at both an individual and a collective level?
Dunnes Stores is an iconic family owned retail brand and company. It was established in 1944 and has over 100 stores across the country with 10,000 employees, over half of which are organised. They have a significant share of the market – 23.8% (Kantar World Panel, Feb 2015) and have an estimated turn over of €2.2bln and an estimate profit in grocery of €350m which when their clothing and household items are included could exceed €500m. (Source Mandate Trade Union)
Further Reading and Info
- Raising the Floor; Increasing Hours (Mandate Trade Union)