Equality Report to ADC 2015

 

 

CPSU

EQUALITY REPORT

 ANNUAL DELEGATE CONFERENCE

KILLARNEY 2015

 THERESA DWYER

EQUALITY OFFICER

 

 

 

  1. DIGNITY AT WORK

 

The Anti-Bullying, Harassment and Sexual Harassment Policy– A Positive Working Environment, was originally negotiated around 1998/99 and was the first Policy of its kind in the Civil Service.   Up to then the only way of dealing with such complaints was through the Grievance Procedure or through industrial relations. A major change in workers’ rights came about with the enactment of the Employment Equality Act 1998 which came into force in October 1999. This Act defined Harassment and Sexual Harassment for the first time in Irish law. The definitions were expanded in the 2004 Act which came into effect on the 25th October 2004, to include among other things same sex harassment. This piece of legislation confers legal obligations on the employer in terms of a duty of care but it also has implications for workers as well as union reps in terms of identifying harassment/sexual harassment and reporting it to management. Therefore workers need to know what to do in such circumstances and also need to feel safe to talk about it especially those working in lower grades. While there is no legal definition of bullying the definition used by the Health and Safety Authority is widely accepted in organisations.   Therefore there is an obligation on employers to have a clear, strong, robust Policy in place to deal with complaints of bullying, harassment and sexual harassment.

 

Information gathered in a CPSU Equality and Diversity Survey last year, which had a 30% response rate, showed that 95% of respondents had never used the Anti-Bullying, Harassment and Sexual Harassment Policy and 86% said they wouldn’t know what to do if they had a complaint to make.

 

A common theme that emerged from a Labour Court review of bullying and harassment complaints that came before them over a 30 month period, February 2012 and April 2014, included

 

  1. a failure to follow process and procedures
  2. the use of an independent investigator or mediator to resolve the dispute

(which was supported by the Labour Court)

 

The Policy in the Civil Service was agreed in 1999 and reviewed in 2005 where a greater emphasis was placed on mediation as a means of resolving the complaint. The reality was however that it became the norm to refer all complaints for investigation whether they complied with the Policy or not. Similar to the Labour Court experience processes and procedures as well as timeframes were not always adhered to.

 

The recent review, which was completed in December 2014, took account of all these issues as well as our experience to date and agreed a broad range of issues such as the need

 

  • to deal with workplace conflict in an efficient manner
  • stress the importance of the line managers role and early intervention
  • to ensure the information and support is available
  • for wider use of professionally qualified Mediators
  • to apply realistic timelines for mediation and investigations
  • for a Review/Appeals mechanism

 

The outcome of Workshop events and negotiations has resulted in the new Policy which is aptly named the ‘Dignity at Work – An Anti-Bullying, Harassment and Sexual Harassment Policy for the Irish Civil Service’. If a member believes they are being bullied, harassed or sexually harassed they will, under this Policy have access to information from their HR Division, a Contact Person, the Employee Assistance Service and of course their union rep. There can be up to four stages to the complaint:-

 

Local Resolution – a complaint must be made no later than four months after the most recent occurrence unless there are extenuating circumstances which can be taken into consideration. It may be possible to resolve the complaint at the Local Resolution stage with the help of the Line Manager and/or Mediation if both parties agree.

 

Designated Person – This is a new role as recommended by the Health and Safety Authority. When a complaint is referred to HR they will appoint a Designated Person to oversee the complaint, provide relevant information between the parties and deal with the complaint until it is brought to a conclusion.

 

Investigation – If a complaint is not resolved at mediation then HR will appoint an Investigator who will investigate the complaint and bring it to a conclusion within three months. If the investigation is going to take longer than three months the Investigator must provide an interim report to HR advising as to the reasons for the delays and the intended date the investigation will conclude.

 

Review – If either party is dissatisfied with the conduct or outcome of the investigation they can apply for a review to assess if a) the Policy and procedures have been followed correctly, b) whether the conclusions reached by the investigator can be validly drawn from the evidence on the balance of probability. The Review will be conducted by a senior officer from the Department.

 

The intention of the Policy is to promote dignity and respect at work for all staff. Where conflict, as defined in this Policy arises, the informal resolution methods and/or mediation should be used as often and as early as possible so as to bring the matter to a conclusion. If the issue is not resolved then it will proceed to investigation which will take place within a specific timeframe. The Policy also includes details of the supports that are available to the parties of a complaint.

 

  1. ETHICAL WORKPLACE INITIATIVE

The Ethical Workplace Initiative is the Trade Unions response to the “The President of Ireland’s Ethics Initiative’ which was launched over a year ago. From the 1st to the 31st March 2015 ICTU sought input from wide range of working people across the country by asking one simple question: What does an Ethical Workplace Mean to You?

Several hundred people responded in a range of ways – replying by hand on the specially designed postcard, online through the Ethical Workplace website as well as through social media. On the 30th April 2015 an Ethical Workplace Initiative Presentation and Celebration Event took place in Liberty Hall where all of the information collected was presented to the President by Patricia King, Congress General Secretary, on behalf of the Trade Union movement.

In his address the President said

“The terms “respect”, “equality”, “trust”, “honesty”, “transparency”, “security”, “effort” and “creativity” recur in many of the collected messages, outlining a vision of the good workplace as that where workers are enabled to pursue their material well-being and personal development in conditions of dignity, economic security and equal opportunity, and also that where workers are enabled to participate, as citizens. Such a sense of well-being and involvement is to the benefit of society as a whole, and thus it is also, in a broad sense, highly productive.”

He went on to acknowledge and recognise the role the Trade Unions have in determining a good workplace. Congress are developing a National Charter of Workplace Ethics that will provide clear guidelines on the principles that govern fairness, dignity and equality of conditions in the workplace over the next twelve months.

 

  1. MENTAL HEALTH

Mental health difficulties affect more than half a million people in Ireland across every demographic. Mental health does not just refer to diagnosed mental health conditions they include day to day issues such as stress, anxiety and depression. In recent times there has been a fundamental shift in peoples understanding of mental health and this has been helped by the willingness of sports and television personalities to talk openly about their own experiences. Mental health problems are not something that happens to someone else they can happen to anyone, in any family, at any time in their lives. It is a deeply personal issue for the individual but it is good to see that the stigma that created a wall of silence around mental health issues is starting to crumble and this is a good thing. Good mental health is equally as important as physical health which is why the Joint Congress Women’s Committee put this item on the agenda for the Seminar.

At the end of July 2014 the Civil Service Employee Assistance Service (CSEAS) published an Information Guide on Mental Health & Well-being in the Workplace which has been issued to all Personnel Officers. The Guide is now available from the CSEAS website and they also have a summary leaflet on the Guide as well.

 

The Guide states: “The term ‘mental health’ describes a type of emotional resilience which enables us to enjoy life and cope with the challenges that life brings. A lot of factors can influence and impact on our mental health and wellbeing. Examples of these factors can include bereavement, financial difficulties, physical ill health and any major life change. This list is not exhaustive. Individual responses to these factors vary. Our response can determine our selfesteem, selfconfidence and sense of selfworth and dictate how we interact with our family, work colleagues, others in our wider circle and the world around us generally. We should look after our mental health in the same way as our physical health. This means investing sufficient time and effort in maintaining it on an ongoing basis.”

 

While the Guide is focused on the workplace benefits of maintaining positive mental health, it is also useful as a personal guide to looking after your mental health, identifying stressors and provides self-care tips as well as the supports available.

 

  1. INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY

 

International Women’s Day is held on the 8th March each year.

International Women’s Day originated in the USA at the beginning of the 20th century at a time of major growth in the industrialized world. There was growing unrest among women who worked in the textile industry in what are now commonly known as “sweatshops” regarding pay, shorter hours and voting rights. In 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York to protest about dangerous working conditions and low wages and voting rights. They also called for a shorter working day of 10 hours! Police attacked the protesters and there were a number of casualties. The following year a memorial march took place in the USA on the 28th February 1909 and National Women’s Day was observed across the United States. In 1911 Germany, Austria, Denmark and Switzerland celebrated the first International Women’s Day in Europe on 19th March. On this day more than one million women attended rallies in a quest for the right to vote, the right to hold public office, the right to work and end discrimination. Less than a week later on the 25 March, the tragic ‘Triangle Fire’ in New York City took the lives of more than 140 working women, most of whom were Italian and Jewish immigrants. This tragic event drew attention to working conditions and labour legislation in the United States and became a focus of subsequent International Women’s Day events. In 1913 on the eve of World War 1 Russian women held their first International Women’s Day. The following year women in countries across Europe held rallies to protest about the war and show solidarity with their sisters.

 

In 1917, on the last Sunday of February Russian women began a strike for ‘bread and peace’ in response to the death of over two million Russian soldiers in war. Despite political opposition the women continued the strike until four days later the Czar was forced to abdicate and the provisional Government conceded women’s right to vote. The date the women’s strike commenced was the 8th March and this became International Women’s Day across the world.

 

 

  1. PRSI AND WORKSHARING

The rules governing PRSI contributions require a person for whom a contribution is made to work at least one day in a PRSI contribution week. A PRSI contribution week is defined as each successive period of 7 days starting January 1st each year. Members who are on a reduced pattern of attendance under the Worksharing Scheme should note that their pattern of attendance may affect their PRSI contributions and consequently their entitlement to social insurance benefits.

 

For example, 1st January 2015 falls on a Thursday therefore the PRSI contribution week throughout 2015 is Thursday to Wednesday. Members who Workshare on a pattern of a week on/week off from Thursday to Wednesday or a split week from Thursday to Wednesday in 2015 will not be PRSI compliant because they will only work every second contribution week which means that they will have 26 contributions recorded as opposed to 52.

 

In the Civil Service the Union negotiated an agreement whereby members wishing to change their pattern of attendance in order to be PRSI compliant would be facilitated. Any such requests would have to be submitted through your line manager.

 

 

  1. MARRIAGE EQUALITY

 

CPSU members are asked to do their bit to make Ireland a more inclusive and tolerant society by voting YES in the upcoming Same Sex Marriage referendum.

In presenting the Equality Report to Conference two years ago I advised Delegates of the Government’s plan to hold a same-sex marriage referendum by mid-2015. The union welcomed the Government’s plan as Civil Marriage is the only option that affords equal rights for same-sex couples. The Unions affiliated to Congress, which include CPSU, make up almost 800,000 people in the workplace across Ireland and the Trade Union movement are committed to full equality for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and transgender people in terms of marriage equality.

The Civil Partnership legislation that came into force in 2011 provides a number of very important benefits for LGBT workers as does the Children and Family Relationships Act 2015. However there are still some key differences such as a Civil Partnership is not recognised in the Irish Constitution in the same way as a Civil Marriage is. Irish society places a high level of importance on the institution of marriage in that it provides a secure foundation for people in a loving committed relationship.   It is valued by their families and friends and in their communities.   Same sex marriage must be part of any society that considers itself fair and must treat all its citizens equally.

I would like to remind members to ensure you are registered to vote in the referendum on May 22nd. You can do this by logging on to www.checktheregister.ie   and inserting your name and address details.

Each and every member is encouraged to go out and vote YES on Referendum Day Friday May 22nd.

 

 

  1. FAMILY LEAVE BILL

 

Government proposals on a new Family Leave Bill which will consolidate all existing family leave such as Maternity, Adoptive, Parental and Carers Leave was introduced in the Houses of the Oireachtas in 2013. The purpose of this Bill is to consolidate all existing family leave such as Maternity, Adoptive, Parental and Carers Leave and address any discrepancies and anomalies between the various Acts and streamline the legislation. The ICTU, the National Women’s Council of Ireland (NWCI) and Start Strong (which is a coalition of organisations and individuals committed to advancing quality care and education for your children) came together to set out issues that need to be included in the legislation. This Bill, whenever it’s published, will be a crucial opportunity for Government to give families stronger supports by:-

 

  • Introducing a new entitlement to Paid Leave for Parents which can be taken at the end of Maternity Leave and available to either parent.
  • Promoting the sharing of care roles through reserving at least one month of the new Paid Leave for Parents for fathers as a ‘fathers quota’.
  • Introducing two weeks paid Paternity Leave, available to a partner at the time of the birth of the child or to be taken concurrently with Maternity Leave. By way of collective agreement we currently have 3 days paid Paternity Leave for fathers in the Civil Service but it is not a statutory right.
  • Extending the right to request flexible working hours by all parents with young children up to the age of 6 years regardless of whether they are returning from Parental Leave or not.
  • Increasing the period of time that mothers can take breaks at work for breastfeeding from the statutory six months to at least one year. In the Civil Service we have an agreement that this period is two years.

To date this Bill has not been published but there is no indication from the Heads of Bill that the Minister for Justice and Equality will advance these proposals.

  1. MATERNITY LEAVE ‘SHARING’ PROPOSAL

In addition to the Family Leave Bill above the Government are proposing, by way of a Private Members’ Bill in the Seanad, the sharing of paid Maternity Leave between the mother and the father of child. It is being suggested that at the mother’s discretion two of the 26 weeks paid Maternity Leave can be given to the father. The CPSU fully supports the role of fathers in caring for a new born child but believe this can best be achieved by the introduction of an appropriate level of paid Paternity Leave and/or paid Parental Leave. The whole purpose of having a reasonable period of paid Paternity Leave for fathers is to allow both parents time off around the time of the birth of the child. If the mother transfers two weeks of the Maternity Leave to the father then she has to return to work which defeats the whole purpose of Paternity Leave in the first place.

 

The proposed Bill seeks to reduce the hard won rights of new mothers by introducing provisions that will potentially reduce the period of paid Maternity Leave which was only increased to 26 weeks from March 2007. Any attempt now to reduce the period of paid Maternity Leave to mothers by introducing a Bill that seeks to trade Maternity for Paternity leave would have to be carefully considered by all concerned.

 

 

 

  1. JOINT CONGRESS WOMENS SEMINAR 2015

The Congress Joint Women’s Seminar took place in Belfast on the 5th and 6th March 2015. The theme of the Seminar was Changing the Record: Women’s Views, Women’s Voices’. As Chairperson of the ICTU Women’s Committee I co-chaired this event.

 

In what was one of his final public appearances David Begg, outgoing Congress General Secretary, opened the Seminar. The Chairperson thanked him for his support for the ICTU Women’s Committee over the years and also paid tribute to his work in terms of fighting all forms of inequality and in particular gender inequality. Patricia King, incoming Congress General Secretary was congratulated on her appointment and wished every success in the post. Patricia took up her new role on the 8th March 2015 which coincidentally was International Women’s Day.

 

Other keynote speakers included Zuzanna Muskat-Gorska from the International Trade Union Congress (ITUC) who presented a paper called Where to Now? The Congress Women’s Seminar coincided with a review of progress on commitments set out in the United Nations Declaration and Platform for Action adopted at the 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 to advance women’s human rights and equality. The Irish and UK Governments were due to take part in that review by the UN Commission on the Status of Women in mid-March 2015. The trade union voices were being coordinated by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the Seminar was addressed by Zuzanna.

There were two workshops – Changing the Record

  • Gender equality in public and political life – Facilitated by Eileen Dinning, STUC Women’s Committee
  • Gender Equality in Trade Unions – Facilitated by Margaret Coughlan, Vice-Chair of the ICTU Women’s Committee

The afternoon session focused on Mental Health. Caroline McGuigan, Suicide or Survive gave a presentation entitled ‘Welcome to my World’ and can be viewed on the Congress website www.ictu.ie

The keynote speaker at the final session was Annie Campbell, Director of Women’s Aid Federation NI. This session focused on Gender Based Violence post the Beijing Platform for Action and considered violence against women in terms of war on women and girls through continuous, widespread violence in all its many forms – whether behind closed doors by intimate partners, in the workplace through discrimination and harassment or during civil unrest and war through rape.

This presentation was then followed by a panel discussion on Violence Against Women with the following speakers –

 

Theresa Dwyer – CPSU

Tom Meagher – White Ribbon Campaign

Tony Flynn – COSC

Karen McCall – Domestic Violence Partnership

Annie Campbell – WAFNI

 

Each panel member made a brief presentation on different aspects of violence against women which was followed by a question and answer session.

 

  1. VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN

I want to bring the activities of a Mr Julian Blanc to the attention of all those attending this Conference. Julian Blanc describes himself as a ‘leading international coach on dating’ claiming to teach men how to seduce women and make them ‘beg’ for sex. In effect his message advocates the use of violence and other inappropriate behaviors against women. He became notorious when a video of him detailing his strategy for picking up women in Japan went viral. He has been running seminars across the globe, quite successfully, at a cost of $1,800-a-head despite his own admission he is the ‘most hated man in the world’.

The type of behavior and techniques he promotes under the guise of ‘dating advice’ is sexual violence and abuse against women.

He recently retweeted a photo from a domestic violence charity with the caption Violence – Physical and Sexual – see the chart below.

The chart was intended to help women and girls who are victims of physical and sexual violence to identify the treatment they had endured. However Mr Blanc decided to use it as an ‘education tool’ to show his ‘students’ how to exert power and control over women and girls.

 

 

Blanc was deported from Australia in November last year where the Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison told Sky News that ‘This guy wasn’t putting forward political ideas, he was putting forward abuse that was derogatory to women… those are values abhorred in this country’. He was also banned from Singapore after footage emerged of him using racist language and grabbing women by the throat. He was due to run a seminar in the UK late last year but his visa request was denied following a campaign and petitions from Women’s Groups of more than 136,000 people. Home Office Ministers intervened as they felt that the so called values he promoted could lead to an increase in sexual harassment and intimidation and incitement to sexual assault or violence against women. The Minister for Justice was able refuse entry to the country in the interest of “the public good”.

Blanc is due to come to Ireland in June this year and tickets were on sale for a ‘bootcamp’ event at a cost of $2000 per person. There was a petition to deny Blanc an Irish Visa but because he holds both US and French citizenship he does not require an entry visa for Ireland. The Congress Women’s Committee has written to the Minister for Justice and Equality setting out our concerns and asking the Minister to intervene to prevent Mr Blanc from arriving on our shores.

 

  1. GARDA EQUAL PAY CASE

 

The High Court handed down a judgement on the unions Appeal of the Garda Equal Pay Case on the 13th January 2014 in which the Judge decided to refer the case back to the Labour Court for rehearing. This was an appeal on a point of law under the Employment Equality Act 1998 – 2004 and European Directives and the union is now preparing our case for the Labour Court.

 

The union won the claim for equal pay on behalf of seven claimants against the named Garda comparators before the Equality Tribunal in 2005 but that decision was overturned on appeal by the employer to the Labour Court in 2007. The Labour Court gave three main reasons for their decision as follows:-

 

  • The comparators were not representative of the Garda who were in the group assigned to designated clerical posts.
  • Gardaí are required to exercise police powers. The seven comparators cited did not need police powers.
  • Industrial relations factors. The Chairman of the Labour Court accepted that there were more Garda doing CO work than needed but Garda management were making a genuine effort to reduce this number through Civilianisation and the only Garda left in these posts had police powers.

 

What this effectively meant was that the Labour Court did not accept the comparators were performing ‘like work’ or work of equal value with that of the claimants even though they held that the comparators did not use police powers.   That there are objective grounds other than gender justifying why Garda are doing the work and that genuine efforts were being made by the employer to address the issue by seeking to reduce the number of designated clerical posts from 354 to 219 posts. The union did not accept the Labour Court Decision and appealed it to the High Court in 2007 arguing with our legal team to have the legal issues in contention referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). On foot of arguments and submissions from both sides before the High Court the Judge agreed to the referral to the CJEU and it was then a matter of reaching agreement as to the questions to be referred (see Equality Report to ADC 2012 on www.cpsu.ie). When this was done the union worked with our legal team in preparing our submission. The case was heard before a Court of seven judges in the CJEU 12th July 2012 in Luxembourg. The opinion of the Advocate General was published on the 29th November 2012 and the final judgement of the CJEU on the clarifications delivered on the 28th February 2013.

 

Mr Justice Patrick McCarthy heard the case over two days in the High Court on the 7th and 8th October 2013. He delivered his judgement on the 13th January 2014 and in that judgement he set out the basis on which he is referring this case back to the Labour Court for rehearing and set out the approach that should be adopted as follows:-.

 

  • It should first choose comparators and they should be drawn from the generality of those engaged in clerical work for or as members of An Garda Siochana.
  • It should then address the issue of whether or not ‘like work’ is being performed by the claimants by reference to the validly chosen comparators.
  • If this condition is satisfied then the Labour Court should address the issue of whether or not the pay differential can be objectively justified on grounds other than gender by the employer.

 

The procedures in the High Court are that a Judgement must be made as to costs before the Order referring the case back to the Labour Court is made. The hearing on costs took place on the 24th February 2014 and the union is very pleased to report that the Judge awarded the union two thirds of our costs in relation not just the High Court but also to the Court of Justice of the European Union. The State appealed this award to the Supreme Court and the union has lodged a cross appeal.

 

The Chairman of the Labour Court held a Case Conference in June last year. As a result of the Case Conference the Chairman requested a submission from the union, on behalf of the claimants, in relation to the group of comparators that we could use in this case. The union position is that the comparator group is the designated posts while the State is arguing that the comparator group has to be the generality of Garda doing clerical work. Given the complexity of the case I completed a detailed analysis of all the documents which included the Decisions from the Equality Tribunal and Labour Court, the Order of Reference to the High Court and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), the Judgement from the CJEU to the High Court and from the High Court to the Labour Court as well as all of the submissions from the State to each of these institutions and all the High Court papers and references. I then prepared the submission over November/December last year and the Submission was lodged in the Labour Court in early December.

 

The State have not as yet submitted their response to our Submission but when they do the Chairman will convene another Case Conference. In the meantime the detailed work in relation to identifying suitable comparators, as per the CJEU and the High Court, is continuing.

 

Over 7000 follow on claims were lodged with the Equality Tribunal and as promised anyone who wants to be part of this case can do so by completing the complaint form and returning it to Head Office or you can download the complaint form from the homepage on our website. Queries are being dealt with on an ongoing basis.
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