Citizen Journalism: January to October 2013. Emails to politicians et al re Trade Unions and lack of Integrity by Michelle Clarke

Tuesday January 15th, 2013 15:55

Trade Unions and the loss of Integrity Ethics & Transparency

by Michelle Clarke (Comyn) Social Justice 


Dublin 1913 to Dublin 2013

What have we learned? What changes can be made?

Dublin 1913: It was before World War I, Ireland had negotiated a form of Home Rule/self government but there was inequality with extremes in wealth and poverty, nationalism and British Rule created the environment for dissent and rebellion. James Larkin “Big Jim” represented the low skilled workers and William Martin Murphy, a Catholic businessman represented the newly forming middle class. William Martin Murphy owned the Irish Independent newspaper, and the Dublin United Tramway Company and was making inroads against the power of the former elites.

The power of the Unions and Croke Park I and 2 is an urgent matter for discussion by the plain people of Ireland. There is a discrepancy in the integrity, transparency and ethics we expect from our trade unions.

Health is a good place to start.

Can someone please explain how the Ireland can pay their consultants 12 times higher than their equivalents in Hungary and double that of their counterparts in Germany or the UK?

How many more people in other trade unions share the characteristics and self interest that are now evidenced in the IMO deal with their former ‘trade union official’ (as he described himself in 1997). Mr. George McNeice was the public face of the union through his tenure at the IMO. This man worked for the Department of Health as a civil servant for a brief time before joining the IMO based in Fitzwilliam Place Dublin 2. Each year we know he was lauded by the doctors and consultants attending the IMO’s annual conference usually held in the Europa hotel in Killarney.

This supposedly unassuming low profile man, trade union official, was one smooth operator when it came down to negotiating his financial package as Chief Executive of the IMO. The facts as revealed in the Irish Mail on Sunday state that the former IMO President, Dr Cormac Macnamara RIP headed up the committee which approved George McNeices’s over generous contract in 1993. George McNeice, CE, IMO, aged 51, recently claimed that he was entitled to a ‘package’ of £24 million. This package is said to have provided him with an annual bonus of up to 30% of his salary. This bonus was compounded each year. The cruel irony here is the claim of not knowing the details by the Remuneration Committee. Could this be so? In 2013 could it be possible that someone in the IMO could sanction such a spectacular financial package and yet nobody knew about it? No must be the answer because there are too many vested interests in the medical profession and their bureaucracy and hence the pyramid scheme scenario that sees Ireland’s medical profession grossly overpaid for inadequate service.

Mr McNeice, his package, has been negotiated down to £9.7 million. But even this deal is shameful. This is a different financial scandal to those of the developers and bankers but it is linked to abuse of power, a form of narcissism and self interest and is equal to the financial scandals that must be dealt with. The HSE is a monolith of bureaucracy, an entity created by a few, which was no doubt better run under the auspices of the Department of Health.

Surely, others are aware and in turn are in receipt of substantial packages. Do we know? Do we care? Apparently doctors have resigned from the IMO and are seeking an inquiry into the governance of the IMO. This is a warning surely to the Unions to examine their practices.

Moving away from medical unions. What about the people who work for years for say Clerys. What do the unions really do to protect these people? They tend to change their contracts at will from permanent to part-time and then say no jobs exist and bye bye.

Wed Jan 16, 2013 13:17

Trade Unions and greed by (O’Malley)

I agree to a point with the above posting. Our trade unions especially SIPTU have created themselves into a cosy corporate organisation. O’Connor has a salary of £140 plus expenses, package and no doubt a good pension annually. Beggs is similar and Frank Connolly has become almost invisible in SIPTU.

Back to McNeices pay-out (£20 million+ negotiated down to £9.7 million). Of course this is another scandal – the sad thing is – the total silence from all quarters on this. Reilly, Minister for Ill-health was a committee member in the 1990’s and one of the elite who sanctioned this payout. Where is the transparency – the ethics – the morals?

O’Malley (the alley cat)

Fri Jan 18, 2013 15:31

Trade Unions & self-seeking pay packages and pensions

 by Comyn – Observer

Glad you agree but where is the reaction of the people to this scandalous data released Christmas week by the IMO which represents 5,000 unionised doctors. All claim to know nothing but this cannot be so. As always the doctors seem to be reacting once the horse! has bolted and on this occasion the horse age 51 named McNeice had to have his pay package negotiated down from £24 million to £9.7. This man, I believe is neither a doctor, a banker or for that matter a shamed developer, just a man who subtly negotiated his own financial deal, in a silenced way, as he moved from a civil service position to Chief Executive of the IMO – the Union for the medical profession.

Media proves exceptionally quiet about this travesty. Vincent Browne discussed the unions on Monday night in his TV3 programme, and nobody deemed it necessary to mention this scandal in the making. Thankfully today’s Independent is taking a position and is worth reading. There sure are questions that Minister Reilly needs to answer like was he on the remuneration committee which approved the pay and pension deal for the IMO Chief Executives George McNeice (this ponzi plague that needs to be investigated to know just how much our Union officials are paid and the bias it thereby creates). Dr Reilly after all was President of the IMO in 2004-2005 hopefully making him and others privy to all financial information. The Independent heading reveals that the doctors have been ‘aroused to anger’ and aim to ‘oust the union head and probe finances’. An extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) has been called. They seek to remove the interim Chief Executive Niall Saul. The plan is an investigation dating back 12 years into the financial and management of the IMO. Let us take the initiative now as suggested by O’Malley and question exactly what is the unions are at in this country.

Who received what packages in the IMO is the question? Quite a few appear to have their hands in the pie. According to the Independent:-

George McNeice: who negotiated his deal down from £24 million+ to £9.7 million pension with £1.5 m lump sum. (Imagine the return each year on this amount of capital and pension!)  then there is Paul McKeown IMO President: a meagre £105,000 for a part-time role. (Imagine this after tax amount, and what the balance creates as income or wealth generative).  Niall Saul, IMO Interim Chief Executive: who receives a £60,000 retainer + top up and then Joe Barry, Chairman of the IMO now dissolved remuneration committee who receives £105,000 for a part time role.

What is going on?

Cronyism and the semi-state has received a lot of attention on certain Citizen Journalism sites but there is little outcome as we witness the gravy train of what could possibly be described as insider dealing and overall corrupt and fraudulent pratices. Is one position core to a union like the IMO and others not sufficient)? Why do some people like Mr Saul, Mr McNeice gain income from other sources related to their position on the IMO – are there no volunteers left in this country which faces nearly 500,000 people unemployed.

They say 4 in 5 in the public service are in unions while only 1 in 5 in the private sector are in the union. This alone speaks dividends as we see the underclass formation before are very eyes.

We need to be alert. Years ago people read the newspapers, they visited their local, they had the chat and were informed. The time is here to be informed again.


Tuesday, April 02, 2013 16:28

How accountable transparent are Trade Unions?

by Michelle Clarke (Comyn) 

Teachers’ Unions

Eddie Hobbs stood head to head with a Union Official. The message was about luxurious pension funds that some Union employees/executives have secured for themselves through negotiations and in particular via the benchmarking procedures of Croke Park I which now creates the platform and criteria for Croke Park II.

O’Malley, you clearly state the details of George McNeice, a trade union official and former Chief Executive of the IMO who secured for himself an elaborate pension contract in excess of £20 million which was negotiated down to £9.7 m. The latest news is that he claims the IMO is to pay £10,000 for his voluntary health insurance and to forward him ‘the’ painting valued at several thousand pounds which is supposed to still hang in the IMO office, which he says (the painting) belongs to him. If this is an indication of what a man can do in a small union like the IMO, surely we need to know how transparent the workings of the above unions and any others left un-named? The IMO is nothing other than a hot bed of pure intrigue about what quiet negotiation is all about and suggests that as long as McNeice was feathering the nests of the elite medical profession – consultants in particular, nobody was going to ask questions. This no doubt explains why Irish consultants are near the highest paid in the EU.

An oversight and someone uploads the 2011 accounts of the IMO onto the website and surprise surprise the accounts stated the pension scheme was under funded….warning signs which people need to be ever watchful of. It went on to say that an actuarial review was being carried out. The interesting point here is that the information was very quickly removed from the website and a new set of accounts appeared. It stated that the IMO operated a defined contribution scheme for its employees and this raised the question as to how it could be under-funded? The overlap was that Mr McNeice resigned and he was prepared to re-negotiate his package down from £20+ m to £9.7 m. Dr Paul McKeown relayed to the members of the Union that this £9.7 million had to be paid to avoid legal action. Again here we should ask why not go to the Courts? It will be interesting now that the IMO have said they will carry out an retrospective investigation into the runnings of the IMO. Media thankfully – The Sunday Business Post, have provided us with details about McNeice’s perks including courses in Harvard University in the US, conferences in the USA, Australia, South Africa and South America. Needless to say he travelled first/business class and had even used private jets on IMO business – they have no details about the frequency. In the far away distance, it makes one think of the perks in FAS. We need to examine the culture of then to appraise the true austerity of the now and workers who are now being penalised with property taxes, potential water charges, income taxes, household charges etc. We talk about cutting expenditures of the ordinary working people, yet the pay packages and pension deals of the the higher echelons of the Trade Unions, IBEC, and other representative bodies are not and should be transparent so that a sense of equity prevails.

The IMO culture in the organisation was the selected few loyal people but a high turnover in staff and as SBP (Sunday Business Post) quotes the “working environment was very difficult” which if there was a whistleblower within would suggest a strong culture of bullying. The selected few were guaranteed a upwardly mobile payment package especial during the Celtic Tiger years. As stated in earlier postings, McNeice is not doctor but has a partner who is a doctor and there is one teenage child. He started off as executive officer in 1979, moving up to senior executive officer position in 1984. Later that year he took up the post in the IMO. He worked as an industrial relations officers for a number of years before taking over the role of Chief Executive in 1993.

Why did the IMO agree to pay the £9.7 m to a man aged 51, with payments starting when he is 52? How could he have acquired a fund of £20+ m which was the original figure he sought. Could it be related to the fact the IMO just could not afford to pay him what he had negotiated for himself in December 2012? Could it be that when the members discovered the amount, they sought an EGM. The £9.7 million became a bad investment only this time it was not the markets that caused it to evaporate.

McNeice as reported before departed with £1.5 million lump sum, a pension pot worth £4.5 m and a further £3.75 million to be paid over the next 16 years. This £3.75 million gives him £200,000 per year 2016-21 and £250,000 per year from 2021-2032. The man was 51 years old when he retired early. The IMO is a small trade union and if this is indicative of the packages secured by others in McNeices parallel universe, there is a need to ask questions, there is a need for people with a moral conscience to come forward as whistleblowers.

Pension funds and defined contributions or otherwise need to be understood. The people in Waterford Glass had contributed for years and what happened? Staff at Clery’s worked there for years and what happened? All the people who worked in the building industry – what happened their pension funds?

Michelle Clarke (Comyn)


Saturday, May 11, 2013 15:51

Trade Unions and Loss of Integrity: Waste needs attention v STRIKES

‘Most Irish people wish the Germans would stop funding

overpaid Irish Public Sector parisites’.

 by Michelle Clarke (Comyn) 

‘Most Irish people wish the Germans would stop funding overpaid Irish Public Sector parasites’ by Unemployed raises many questions. What initially comes to mind is Bus Eireann and the strike tomorrow Sunday and the fact that the powers that be have facilitated the main executive of the company to move between Ireland and Dubai? How? Why? when we know that this matter  was supposed to be dealt with one year ago? Why have the trade unions not tackled management about this absolute farce? How could a company be expected to cover the huge deficits, let alone be on a potential path to profitability? Unemployed, you are right about the public sector but the trade unions are their allies and are busy playing the game of running with hounds and hunting with the ehares – the elites (Hare sculpture AIB Head Office, Dublin 4). We cannot expect the Troika to facilitate us further until they become satisfied that our public sector is streamlined and effective in accordance with Germany, the lead player.
Over £1 billion excess a month is the debt to Ireland Inc and rising fast ie in real terms when interest is basically compounding on existing debt. The balance sheet on the income side is drawing from all initiatives especially the 2013 Gathering and yet the short-termism prevails and the trade unions are to the fore with their sabotage tactics of ‘hit the tourists’ and that will make the Government respond! So simple yet so complex. The fact is the waste factor in public sector must be identified and expunged because if this does not happen, income, earnings, investments contributed by potential ‘Robin Hoods’ will only be paid into a big black hole with little or no value to Ireland. Tax evasion or the milder form of tax avoidance will be up for mention at the G8 summit in Lough Erne, Co. Fermanagh. Well done Minister for Social Protection (a Chartered Accountant, by profession) for being the first Cabinet Minister in Ireland to have the courage, the ethics, the morality and integrity to highlight U2’s decision to move its ‘publishing arm to the Netherlands – as part of an attack on the “scandal” of tax avoidance’. This took place in 2006 and yet the plain people of Ireland fail to ask if there is not an element of hypocrisy that U2 and so many others could reduce their level of loyalty to Ireland for a few ‘lousy bucks’. What arguments can they put forward? These ‘Artists’ are not the like of Starbucks or Google who are attracted to Ireland specifically related to tax breaks but who create jobs, because mainly we speak English, we are members of the EU and are population are educated (at least to date anyway). U2 like so many other artists were cushioned to their Fame Status by the infrastructure of Ireland Inc and the tax breaks introduced by Charles J Haughey RIP – former Fianna Fail Taoiseach and minister to several portfolios. The later decision to cap the exemption at £250,000 saw the decision by U2 to move to the Netherlands and since this deep economic crisis in Ireland, they have not sought to return to our Exchequer! Shame on all who flew the coup. Redeem yourselves and pay tax in Ireland. Ireland is in dire need of some ‘Robin Hood’ characters who will willingly contribute but we cannot expect this to happen unless our ‘cloth is cut to measure’ and our home grown artists, entrepreneurs, Forbes Wealth list people have the integrity to contribute to the Irish exchequer and not some foreign tax haven which ensures that they have effective tax rates ranging from nil to 4%. This is where our overly indulged trade unions need to interact. These tax exiles, like the Troika, want to see value for money in the public sector and particularly the HSE and this is about making the parasites pro-active in the recovery of Ireland Inc. It is time for transparency and a moral compass. Well said Minister Burton. It is time that the agenda of the G8 summit to be held in Co. Fermanagh next month will be focusing on ‘considering the issue of “exceptionally aggressive” tax avoidance and tax planning’. Michelle Clarke (Comyn)

Fri day June 21st, 2013 16:17

Trade Unions and lack of Integrity

Trade Unions: Their Slush funds; their privileges; forget the unemployed

  by Michelle Clarke (Comyn)

The Troika are reported to have honed in on the Department of Social Protection and lack of performance. We approach a figure of 500,000 people out of work, not to mention the part-timers whose hours are slashed, pay reduced, and rights obliterated. FAS, once a successful model named ANCO, became so smug in their own narcissism that they lost the ability, the morals, the principles and integrity to create opportunities for people in the workplace. The community employment initiative worked well at the beginning but as we know when elitist privileged cultures emerge, over time it affects all and always to the detriment of those most vulnerable. We await, 5 years on from the crisis and from the hands-on investigative initiative of Senator Shane Ross into the totally unacceptable behaviour of the ruling elites in FAS, the new lean machine called Solus. We are waiting and meantime the list of unemployed is rising.
The unemployment problem doesn’t just rest with the inadequacies of Social Protection under the auspices of Minister Joan Burton. What are the trade unions doing for those who were once employed by them, those who monthly paid their union dues and who are the contributors of the 30 million euros plus that SIPTU have rolling over in the bank.? Do their rights die the day they were forced by the economic crisis into unemployment? The construction sector is decimated, many have emigrated, as they have generation after generation in times unemployment. What about those in the retail sector who have been ‘fired’ in order to create positions based on the part-time model and no employer obligations model? The unions and their elites are shy to refer to these people as they negotiate with Government to feather their own existing working members and in particular those in the public sector. Trade Unions: the construction sector was your bread and butter for decades. Before the Celtic Tiger, the unions benefited because Ireland had to cater for social housing provision, which now is replaced by people on the social housing list with basically no or little access to homes. What have you done to recompense these people who are your creditors? Where are the job programmes to upskill, re-skill. Their contributions are the same kind of investments as the union dues paid by present day members. It is your duty to represent these people now. Experience shows me that you dismiss these people the day they lose their jobs. Shame on you. This year of 2013, the anniversary of the Trade Union movement, it would be beneficial for you to consider what the ITGWU did for their workers in 1913 and going forward. Slush Funds: Wow. What are these? Could they be ‘savings for a rainy day’. Slush funds used to conjure up images of greedy private sector executives making provision, for privileges they deemed necessary for their own luxuries, but would allude the keen eye of the young auditors whose job was to audit the books of these private companies. We know now based on the tribunals, the media, programmes like TV3 Vincent Browne and many other sources that the auditors too became immersed in the fraudulent culture that consumed Celtic Tiger Ireland and they failed dismally to put the breaks on massive amounts of now alleged and actual corruption. The issue now, is what have we learned? It appears not a lot because Slush funds are in the news again, only this time, it is SIPTU and the HSE.

Do we have a Fraud office in Ireland? We definitely have the CAB. (Criminal Assets Bureau). Are they so over worked that their services are not required and cases that could be routed to the DPP for assessment are waived? The IMO and George McNeice surely merits more attention. Based on the foregoing postings, the pension pot for this man, aged 50, is beyond reason for a man who is basically a trade union official. The inequalities created by such an enormous pay-out has to reflect on the inequalities that create two tier payment for consultants resulting in the many young people educated for medicine in Ireland, (costing at least £90,000 a year) emigrating while the waiting lists for certain posts remain vacant, particularly for that cinderella profession of psychiatry. Morality and ethics would suggest the IMO funding would be better used towards ensuring our students worked in our hospitals and are given a fair opportunity to progress. Since when is the sole function of the  trade union to focus of ‘pay’ without the creation of a core value part of the equation.

Today’s Independent headline states ‘SIPTU says it could not sack ‘Slush Fund’ official’. Siptu pledges to have known nothing about the ‘slush fund’. Is this credulous? They say that the former national industrial secretary, Matt Merrigan, set up a bank account and collected 4 million euros from the taxpayer over a 7 year period. ‘Study trips’ – the USA, Canada and even Australia for Mr Merrigan, trade union representatives and public sector members was the priority. What is most surprising is the fact that instead of notifying the Fraud Squad, the inquiry is internal and the only advice sought is from a Senior Counsel and his advice was that they could not dismiss Mr Merrigan. The reprimand was that he was demoted and his salary and pension reduced accordingly.

Wining and dining, studying abroad, wives on junkets. A trifle of £4 m squirreled away in a “Slush Fund” and nobody cares. Trade unions are about their members. The Slush Fund here tells another story. Minister Shatter for Justice – are we naive? Is there one law for the person who steals a bottle of wine from TESCO and is caught on the cameras and another for these elites because evidence is massaged?

by Michelle Clarke (Comyn)

Sun Jun 30, 2013 15:57 

Trade Unions and lack of Integrity 

Benchmarking & cosy cartels. Who cares about rampant abuse of power?

by Michelle Clarke (Comyn)


The media and hush hush – we have the tapes that can be played and replayed, printed and re-printed and these are the capitalists who brought Ireland to its knees and providing we don’t prejudice these peoples right to a fair trial, there is no need to examine root and branch of other entities in particular our trade unions, our semi-state sector in search of the same ‘rot’ borne out of lack of integrity, morality and ethics.

So certain people are called before the Public Accounts Committee, when the matter most likely should have been dealt with years ago by An Gardai Siochana and the Fraud Squad. In Ireland it is simple, be a vulnerable person and steal some food from the like of Tesco and the process is clear. The security guard tackles you, the surveillance camera is the evidence, the Gardai are called and you are express delivery file for the DPP, onward moving towards the courts and inevitably prison.

The media is shy in reporting on the likes of IMO (trade union) and McNeice. Does it not augur as suspicious that the man had a £24 million deal secured that enabled him to retire with a pension multiples of the salaries paid to average workers from age 52. Why do people not ask why it was so easy for him to reduce the amount to £9.7 as HIS concession? Does anyone ask where the money came from given the IMO is a trade union? It must ultimately be from the contributions of the members and perhaps McNeice, the benevolent, was willing to accept the reduction to £9.7 because there was no more money in the IMO account. Questions must be asked and the media must report on the findings. The fact that Minister O’Reilly was involved in the IMO and that there are questions to be answered is not justification for the media not to interact and inform the people.

‘Just Farcical’… the heading in the Irish Mirror. Why? because quite evidently people have abused power and are in a position to conceal data and information that belongs not to them but to the general public. It is no small amount of money. Apparently Merrigan created ‘a HSE-funded pot concerned with the training and upskilling of low-paid workers, to pay for trips to New York, Hong Kong and Australia’. Mimicry of the elites is the accusation here and let’s see how the Public Accounts committee will question Merrigan and the answers he will give.

We are back to the trade unions again only this time the person named is Matt Merrigan. Again, it is the spending of vast sums of money on travel abroad, junkets, entertainment, all in the name of training for the undisclosed. This time, a fearful Mr Merrigan when fielded with accusations, including an initial inquiry by the Fraud Squad, sought a report from Grant Thornton, Accountants so that he could ‘clear his name’. What is astounding about this, is that Mr Merrigan refuses to release the report. The Union SIPTU paid £76,000 for this report that they are not privy to!

Fine Gael TD Kieran O’Donnell has said that the “whole thing was farcical”….”I cannot for the life of me understand how Siptu paid for the report. Siptu own that report, not Grant Thornton.” Meanwhile we are forced to accept the mutterings of the general secretary of the trade union that they are basically entitled not to release the report (somewhat like the Anglo tapes now only being released when we all know they should have been in the custody of the Central Bank, ECB and others, the day we knew Anglo Irish was caught out). Individualists have gained too much power and the time is now to break down the walls of abuse of power and restore integrity. The words nothing can be done because we are seeking legal advice are not enough. We have the Fraud Squad, the DPP, the Criminal Assets Bureau, let them have the opportunity for them to do their job and lets get these people who have abused power and their position before the courts to carry the strong words that Ireland no longer tolerates corrupt practices at any level.

40 junkets and no details, a number of which related to St Patrick’s day trips. No officials to sign off. How crazy this is when you look to those in the private sector particularly those in retail and construction whose union dues fund these junkets. These are the people who are now years out of work with no support from the unions they contributed to.   Trade Unions have millions invested – it is time to create modules to get people who funded you back to work. You could co-operate with the Department of Social Protection and the defunct FAS and act now before we become deskilled and of no value. The MNCs have derived much from Ireland, it is time to encourage them to give some corporate social responsibility to us in the form of creating work potential and training for the unemployed. We are now 5 years into recession and we need action on all fronts.

by Michelle Clarke (Comyn)

Friday Jul 12th, 2013 16:33

The Troika are in town again and youth unemployment is rising here and in other peripheral countries.

by Michelle Clarke (Comyn)

Mick (response to posting on Citizen Journalism site) is quite right and we need answers now from the Government. Check out the link on internships and hone in on say the position of architectural technician and examine the value placed on a technician who most likely will replace another, who has been made redundant and is now on the Live Register. The maths does not work. Examine what Mick says and if you are unemployed, under employed or  in line to lose your job, do a little investigation of the services provided by FAS soon to become Solas (ie when they have expugned the rot, deceit and embedded corruption) so that Solas has the clean sheet. What you will find is they closed the unit at Upper Baggot Street and now people are asked to go to D’Olier Street – what a hell hole for demotivation when the market is crying out for creativity and motivation. To quote from Mick….

‘Job bridge like FAS is just another money eating quango that suckers jobs out of the community.
I believe this welfare for business racket is about replacing real jobs with unpaid jobs and will stagnate the jobs market, nullifying what could be paid work. With less tax back to the government by way of taxable paid jobs,i s this really a good idea? Have the government really thought this through?

No the Government have not thought it through. 5 years and we have 5,000+ interns yet unemployment is approaching 500,000 in a small island country, a member of the EU, the Eurozone, an open economy reliant on tourism, with a population of 4.5 million approx. The Island of Saints and Scholars should have a mantra so well in place by now that when people are looking for jobs at these FAS in transition offices that inspiration abounds. Instead you are directed to the FAS page and an office in D’Olier Street which is most un-inviting from the outside and surrounded by vacant premises. This could be a great grounding for inspiration like setting up pop-up shops but instead the public sector disease of apathy surrounding anything to do with those who are unemployed or people with disabilities coast in their ambivalence until they receive their fat cat pensions at age 55+.

Cronyism is smothering opportunities for young people, unemployed people, people with disabilities and this need not be the case. Angela Merkel is facing an election in September 2013; it has been said that she favours the German language as the priority language in the EU. For a country like Ireland, the applications of Mooc to Muddle should be provided by FAS to upskill those who are presently unemployed. We are moving ahead now with life-long learning and distance learning. Instead FAS enlists you to learn the computer, within weeks people fail to turn up and then of course there is the period of 4 weeks off for summer holidays. No favours here for people who don’t want to be out of work, who want to learn, to upskill, to move on with their lives so that they can pay their mortgages again.

The unemployed need opportunities. They people to inspire them and challenge them. Take a recent article in the ‘Pink Paper’ and all should go to the library and check it out, it beats our dead pan media coverage. Apparently, Germany is expressing alarm because they face a “Skills Shortage”. Germany the country of major industrialists (just think cars Volkswagon/Audi/Volvo/Siemens) are distinctly worried that the demographics, the lack of engineers, the skills shortage, is actually ‘threatening their competitiveness and has left manufacturing companies scrambling to find engineers’. Try looking at the FAS courses offered and work out how they are making NO real time provision for people to be able to work in Germany. Who knows people who had to emigrate in the past often returned to Ireland and established their own businesses. These German chief executives warn that the problems in youth unemployment, and education systems, will create serious problems for the leading manufacturers. People are not choosing engineering and these companies will be forced to move more of the research and development to countries who supply their needs for engineers….the countries they are talking about is not Ireland, but China and India. They project that by 2025 they may need as many as “500,000 engineers”.

Raglan Road, Dublin 4 used to have the Siemens HQ; Pembroke Road, it was IBM, Kraft. We need to be up-to-date with changes. Peter Loscher, the chief executive of Siemens (the largest engineering group in Europe) refers to the pending crisis of too few engineers, and in particular in Germany. He goes on to say “We have to ensure that our education system is providing the right engineering skills, that we have qualified immigration coming to Europe… And perhaps the biggest issue that European industry has to grapple with is that we have almost 24% youth unemployment”. Opportunities can be created out of ‘Think Tanks’ and mini gatherings in peoples’ homes, in libraries of ‘Sheds’. It is hard to believe that in Australia, as I was told today, there is massive shortage of truck drivers and that it is possible to earn upwards on $200,000 “aussie”. We don’t hear the FAS de-motivators talking emigration as part of the life plan. It is about giving people the option to have the training and frankly the internships are not suffice input from the Department of Social Welfare because the reality is many interns are exploited. It is worth reading the article in Forbes about Internships in the US….Supreme Court talks the talk and thankfully walks the walk.

Germany is losing many of its small companies, people, for the Germans education, is the only way forward and the scandalous mismanagement of the whole FAS Internship to Solas transition has failed dramatically by not taking the spectrum of thinking laterally. Shame on them and shame also on the trade unions who greedily take the dues of workers particularly in the now ailing construction and retail sector while they feather their own nests. Trade Unions are operating large bank accounts of monies gathered by many of those now unemployed. The money sits in accounts in our state owned banks yielding virtually no return when this money should be up-skilling those who have lost their jobs. The trade union officials are as well provided for as a lot of our public sector with scant knowledge of what it is like to lose a job. Much blame is placed at the door of FAS. The trade unions also need investigation. Benchmarking created the cosy mindsets that trade union representatives failed dismally in providing programmes to up-skill people who become unemployed.

Citizen journalism is needed now more than ever. Bureaucracy strangles growth; people can stop it.

by Michelle Clarke (Comyn)

Wed Jul 24, 2013 16:41


Corporate Social Responsibility

 by Michelle Clarke (Blake)

‘Summer time and the living is easy

fish are jumping and the cotton is high…………….’

But in Ireland too many are now unemployed; too many are under employed; too many young people will become driftwood as a small open economy on the Atlantic off the UK and Europe becomes the Detroit, USA (now bankrupt); the main difference being that the population of Detroit diminished from 1951 at 1.5 million to its present population of 700,000+. What can Ireland learn and learn now?

Interesting post about Eddie Hobbs and his recommendation to our millionaires to take the risk and go to Detroit. Sad really because we need those very same people to innovate and invest in the Island of Ireland where people from foreign countries have chosen to emigrate to and where the population is increasing. Thankfully, the MNC’s still are keen to locate in Ireland based on factors like we speak the English language, we are in the Eurozone, the EU, we have a high standard of education, we have a young population and so much more. We need to take hope from the fact that Google plan to invest further with a conference centre (which will compete with the one we already have) but theirs will host 15,000 people. This is a commitment on their part. The Celtic Tiger moved us up several notches and then dropped us down but maybe now we are near a platform and we need to learn and start climbing again upwards. We can start by asking the MNC’s to use their financial power to negotiate with the Troika to write down a significant proportion of the debt that can never be repaid and soon.

Who has heard of Robin Hood most easily accessed by me on Twitter? We all have. Robin Hood is needed in Ireland so try google and catch up with the plans of the modern day Robin Hood drive in the US and the UK. The EU are mooting for Financial Transaction Tax but the UK lose out so there must be a give and take. Ireland needs to be a beneficiary of this Robin Hood initiative, if only he could influence the powers that be to write down the debt.

Today the OECD has said Ireland is not a tax haven. However we do provide sweet deals for the MNC’s and it is time for us to ask for a greater return from these engines of economic growth potential to provide opportunities through a Robin Hood type programme to create employment for those who are now unemployed in our country. Trade Unionists have failed utterly to be innovative to create work initiatives; their concern is feathering their own nests and sitting on the sidelines. Shame on the reckless management of the IMO, Siptu and others – similar to the banks and developers there is a culture of gross misconduct that if properly investigated by the Gardai would suggest corrupt practices.

The Trade Unions have faltered, they have lost sight of the people who kept them in their present standing, they are too lazy to invest their money in projects alongside the multi-nationals to get the people away from the dole queues and create jobs. It is possible. Ireland is a small country and education is the only way forward.

Google undertake to help the over 55’s with 1 hr hand’s on training in Barrow Street. We need more of these initiatives. The time has come again in another century this time for proper corporate social responsibility. Guinness did it with the Beano and the Iveagh Hostels so today’s MNC’s can create opportunities for the unemployed.

450,000+ unemployed this summer. We are not Detroit, we don’t want to be the Detroit of Europe. We have the education, we have the MNC’s but we must tackle the public sector and we must address the bureaucracy and create a fairer society and to side step the rot of corruption that will fuel the black economy to our detriment. There must be hope. We are not in the awful Civil War that destroys Syria.

By Michelle Clarke (Blake)

 Friday Aug 09, 2013 14:55

Trade Unions and lack of Integrity 

Reply to citizen journalism/open publishing posting: “Bullied by union member to accept……..”

by  Michelle Clarke (Comyn)

Well written posting. A sad reflection of our present day Trade Union officials especially this year the centenary of 1913. Transparency must prevail. If the Charity heads can be reported in the newspapers naming them and their 100,000+ pay packages, their perks, their pensions, then we need a similar shake down on what the elites in our trade unions are paid and what pensions the retirees have secured, all on the back of Croke Park cronyism.

Nobody seems to care about Merrigan – the HSE slush fund of 4 million euros and the questions raised; add to this the scandalous provision for IMO Chief executive McNeice aged 51 with his retirement sugar coated deal which had to be reduced from 24 million euros to under 10 million euros. These are the people identified but what about all the others in their gilded offices shielded from the realities of what the recession in Ireland is really about and the plight of those particularly in the service and retail sector who are the new down trodden neatly referred to as the “Zero-Hours” workers who have no rights apart from the wage rate that the employer pays them.

Trade unions have faltered. You lose your job and their contract with the employee is over. Tough for you but they are embedded in their equivalent to the public service bureaucracy that is rightly being pitted against the private sector who have been severely affected by this recession. If you want to find out details about the rise of the Zero Hours, the Sunday Times 4th August is worth reading.

We have almost 500,000 people unemployed if you add those who are on the dole, disability and massaged FAS courses to reduce the numbers unemployed. We don’t know the figures of how many have emigrated or for that matter how many have immigrated to Ireland. But according to last weeks Sunday Times, we now have ‘Up to 500,000 people who are now “employed” with no guaranteed hours. The Unions are up in arms, but is it really a problem?’.

The above title states boldly and no doubt taking account of the Centenary year of the Lockout that the unions continue to side with the workers and their rights, both when in work and when made redundant, but we know the truth. The unions crossed over the line and their preference is linked hand and glove with the employers. As said before, the media have an obligation to identify the packages these union public sector doss house representatives receive and let them have the opportunity to get back to grass roots and do their job and protect workers’ rights.

Britain is presently waking up to the idea of “Zero-Hours” – most likely we have it entrenched in Ireland without as yet naming it. Zero-hours means: You have no guarantee of regular work or pay; lives are lived at the whims of an employer. This is alarming for a small open economy like Ireland with a population of 4.5 million. The insecurity within the realms of being employed is totally removed from over 500,000 people and the trade unions do nothing.

What about the US trend towards social benefit ie corporate social responsibility? The profit motive is side stepped, not unlike what happened in another century when Guinness, Bewley’s crossed the line from profitability to social. In the UK there is a shame attached to this abrogation of workers rights with retailers such as ‘Arcadia (parent company of Top Shop and BHS), Next, B&Q, John Lewis and Marks & Spencer who like others insist they don’t use Zero-Hours contracts’. The question to be asked is if they have the same view to employing people in Ireland.

by Michelle Clarke (Comyn)

Fri day August 23, 2013 16:42


Moral bankrupts: Consider the practices of John Lewis Partnership

 by Michelle Clarke (Comyn)

The Lock-Out 1913 by the National Library of Ireland exhibition conjures up a meek and mild approach for fear people would embrace the realities of the underclass that is being created in Ireland and take to the streets to protest. It is worth a visit, it runs into 2014 and why not visit Buswells hotel where politicians and civil servants so often frequent.

But let’s not complain, at least there is some acknowledgement of what happened in 1913, the Lock-Out, Wiliam Martin Murphy, Jim Larkin and James Connolly and how the trade unions intervened to improve the status of the lowly Irish worker, both male and female.

The Trade Unions in Ireland today resemble the capitalist whose capital and wealth pays more than an income from mere laborious work. Take the case cited so often on this site of Mr McNeice (former Chief Executive of the Irish Medical Organisation “IMO” (ie their trade union) and his reduction from £24 million pension pot to £9.7 million. Nobody cries out, not even the doctors or the consultants. Do people not ask why? It is simple because the IMO – the medical doctors trade union secured some of the best negotiated deals in Europe for consultants and doctors and for the last 5 years it is the trade unions who have been seriously engaged in preserving their status quo. If this applies to the doctors and consultants, it is not unrealistic to apply the equation to other professions, to government pensions, to public sector. These unions are the goose that laid the golden egg but for how long? The unions are soft, their leaders have lost contact with the people at grassroots. Zero-hour work to them is a wasteland going forward and they avoid these drifters and casualties of the corporates, the construction industry, the retailers because they need to be the advisers to the overlords with their pensions, their perks, their education junkets to Harvard. You see for them it has become the preservation of what they have attained. People need to start asking questions about the semi-state sectors and link-ups that exist with their union officials. Pensions are there to be protected for the new elites and these include the like of Siptu, Unite, IMO, INMO etc etc but we need to ask at what cost?

The Troika, the Government, the Central Bank, the EU gravy train must stop the bureaucracy that is spewing out the message that deceit is better than social justice. It is time to draw a line in the sand. Moral bankruptcy will sink this country. The Tribunals highlight where the corruption was /is entrenched. We know about the black economy but now is the time tackle it and at every level. We know about the Mr Tax Exiles and we know how shame and exclusion from powerful elite meetings can influence change. However, if the people with power in government lack the courage to exclude these Mr Tax Exiles then the deceit continues and the example that people need to thread a more equitable route is absent. In 1913, the Quakers promoted Equity and Peace. Today, we are floundering without examples to influence us towards what is acceptable for all in our society.

Ireland is going underwater. 100,000 people in 90 days arrears in their mortgages, nearly 500,000 are unemployed and say 300,000 have already emigrated, is what we hear about in the media but what we don’t hear is the social damage that has been caused by the ‘wallowing in the mire’ policy directives of those who are supposed to govern. Legislation abounds – guillotine is the new buzz word in the Dail. The Troika tell the Central Bank who tells the banks, the lenders how to act. What happens? We drift on and the more we drift on, the lack of clarity creates an even bigger underclass underpinned by a black economy that becomes the only way for people to survive. We have the rich and the poor and the divide is getting wider and wider.

The trade unions have sold the people out. They have collected funds and hold them in accounts. There are no programmes to re-engage people in the work-force. This has been left to FAS and signs on it has taken them 5 years to date, with minimal impact ie apart from the Internships JobBridge schemes.

The “Pink Paper” ie Financial Times holds out some hope today for a sense of moral integrity can pass through the decades and become an example for people to follow: John Lewis Partnership is worth googling. The motto goes ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’. If you buy something from them and it is cheaper in another shop, they honour the lower price. This is a grassroots principle that applies but today’s headline in the pink paper puts it to us all to re-engage with Integrity but at an individual level and a corporate one too.

The article is by Duncan Robinson – front page – The Pink Paper

‘The John Lewis Partnership has been widely acclaimed

by the political establishment as a model employer’.

There is good reason for this: John Lewis Partnership recently discovered it underpaid approx 69,000 out of its 85,000 workforce from its department stores and Waitrose supermarkets. The staff who regularly work on Sundays and bank holidays receive a higher hourly wage. However, the employee-owned partnership failed to take this into account when calculating their holiday pay (this practice is contrary to Working Time Regulations).

Their way of dealing with this oversight:

‘John Lewis said it had gone beyond its legal obligations by offering to award back pay to employees who were shortchanged, rather than staff having to make claims’. “The Board have tried to take the fairest response and pay back as far as possible”….. it goes back to 2006 and it amounts to £40 million.

O please let us learn from this.

by Michelle Clarke (Comyn)

Thursday August 29th, 2013 16:18

Trade Unions and Lack of Integrity

Trade Unions stand idling; create work opportunities for the unemployed is your task now.  Trade unions: what have you in mind?

 by O’Malley 

The workers in Clery’s Department store were persuaded to accept the equivalent to zero hours contracts and then one day they were out of work and forgotten by SIPTU. There were those who stayed and those who left but then comes a big storm and the water flows into Clerys and the doors are closed for weeks now. It was easy for the private equity group to put in place the re-run of redundancy zero-hour contracts and let’s see what SIPTU do for these now employees pending the re-opening of Clerys., that is of course, if it does ever re-open. Another wrap of the knuckles for SIPTU. What about that security company in Donegal that provided work in security for Tesco Ireland. Tesco decided to go global and now choose a French company. Result all the workers in the Donegal business lost their jobs and there seems to be no negotiation option. Tesco Corporate rules in Ireland or maybe it’s their UK office; it has favourable tax rules in Ireland, and doesn’t have to declare profits. However, this doesn’t mean that they can be so brutal in their exercise of power. This business faces extinction at the whim of Tesco. They will not even negotiate with the workers or their trade unions according to newspapers.

Friday September 27th, 2013 16:31

Trade Unions and lack of Integrity

Trade Unions: Stash of Cash should be used to create jobs and all those trade unions out there who have not yet ‘put their shoulder to the wheel’.

 by Michelle Clarke (Comyn)

Teachers’ Unions

ASTI (teachers) or so it seems may be the ones to go out on strike. The punishment from the Department of Education is that they could lose their jobs. The question is why not? So many others have already lost their jobs and many have emigrated.

What about all the people who have lost jobs, particularly in the retail sector, and the construction sector, which is now 5 years hammered. Nobody seems to be asking the trade unions what they do with the union dues of these abandoned people who are either now on the live register (probably forced into the black economy) or those who have just moved their families abroad as emigrants.  (Also we must include many immigrants from EU countries who have returned to their countries of origin).

Does anyone ask the trade unions how much money ie cash they hold in the banks. It is said that SIPTU holds e30 million +. We know from basic maths that the IMO must have had £10 m on deposit when they could reduce and pay McNeice aged 50 + his £9.7 settlement. The bankers too have trade unions who shelter them from the realities. Inequality prevails but trade unions have stepped over the line and cosy themselves ultimately with the corporates and employers.

FAS in transit to Solas is sure going through a very long period in labour. When is this baby due? We need to get people back to work, we need to train people, we need to create entrepreneurs, we need to assist people to emigrate if only for a few years, we need people to be learning German language as the demographics and skills requirement for work is presently there and will be increasing in the years to come.

The Trade Unions throughout the Celtic Tiger raked in vast sums of money from their members. Where is the money? They have forgotten their source of funds and they continue in their cosy cartel with employers and government ensuring their pension deals, their full-time employment. The trade unions should have created their equivalent to FAS to help people to get back to work.

There comes a point when you must forget all those who have jobs and think of those who are forced into unemployment or demoted to zero-contract hours and make them the priority. Otherwise public sectors costs just continue to rise and the deficit gets wider. People need jobs. Trade Unions need to be creative, spend their cash reserves, lower their salaries, pensions, expenses and compete with FAS to the degree that people have a chance to get proper training education and skills so that we can as a country start engaging meaningfully with the word called Enterprise.

We need to be like emigrants landing on Ellis Island when the only way was to develop the mentality ‘Survivor’ by creation of work.

Friday September 27th, 2013 17:18
Yesterday People – by Ex-Union. Friday September 27th, 2013 17:18

Unions are about Union bosses .

That is why capitalism walks all over them.
(Almost All trade union bosses are in the 1% rich pay bracket.)

Sunday October 6th, 2013 16:02

Trade Unions and lack of Transparency

The Hare, the ship that brought food to the hungry Irish in 1913, the time of the Lock-Out

  by  Michelle Clarke (Comyn)

Siptu again get the media coverage to show their exemplary behaviour towards their union members; the history, the fight for the plight of the under-privileged; forgetting the whole self-seeking farce that they embraced during the reign of Fianna Fail and the Celtic Tiger economy in overdrive. Benchmarking for the elites is more appropriate because the reality is that the public sector still cling on to their jobs while most of the private sector have visited the dole queues, or for some only regained work but based on zero contracts and no job security. Then there are those who just left our shores with empty hands to embrace the other world. These are the new diaspora; the diaspora of the 2000’s which replaces the diaspora of the 1990’s, the diaspora of the 1950’s and before. The untold story is yet to be written.

The diaspora who leave behind their union dues, their pensions in limbo, for those who remain in the Trade Union management tier to exploit for their benefit on the pretence that they are concerned with workers. Clerys is an absolute scandal. Every Irish person knows Clery’s – those who met under the clock, those who danced in the ball-room, those who travelled from the country once each year to shop. Bad management decisions and investment in over inflated priced properties put this old established Department store into liquidation. The news is that the new investors is one of those ‘vultures’ called private equity firms ie Gordon Brothers from the US. These privileged private equity groups can afford to be vultures because that is their job. They are bargain hunters on a global scale. They see value, they use their clout and they derive deals. They manage to get staff fired albeit the neat word redundant is used, and they put pressure on the banks to basically write-down vast amounts of debt. Clerys write-down like the INM is the priortised type of debt write-down that banks engage with.

Trade Unions are busy representing the ’employed’ public sector but what about their function in relation to those now unemployed and those forced to emigrate. We need to realise now just how ineffective and inefficient trade unions are in relation to the plight of the ordinary workers, those who are fired by these companies without any sense of morality or humanity for that matter. It is common knowledge that some people worked at Clery’s for over thirty years and nobody cares to listen to their stories which are horrific. Nobody cares that these people lost their pensions. How much would a Clerys worker have paid into Siptu over their working life with Clerys. Shame on Siptu for the lack of respect, the lack of provision of opportunities to find alternative work for the Clerys staff or for that matter for not negotiating the deal with Gordon Brothers to retain the staff, and to put forward their plans for Clery’s Department Store.

Siptu are not afraid to court the media for their own hero worship. By now all must have heard about the Hare (and it is not that sculpture outside the AIB bank in Ballsbridge). The Hare arrived in Dublin yesterday to commemorate the 1913 Lock Out when food was sent to the starving Irish people and their children caused by the Lock Out. This was about solidarity between two Islands.

Siptu site details as follows:

“The commemoration of the anniversary of the first food ship arrival to Dublin acknowledges the critical importance of the solidarity and practical support of the British Trade Union Movement towards supporting struggling families to survive one hundred years ago. The value of the food aid donated equates to over €20,000,000 in today’s terms.

Unions are urged to encourage members and their families to come along for the re-enactment and event which will run from 11.30am-1.30pm, and promises to be a really enjoyable occasion. Those attending are encouraged to ‘dress’ for the occasion!

The organisers gratefully acknowledge the support received for the SS Hare re-enactment from Congress, Dublin Port Company, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF), Ramsey Steam Ship Company,the RMT, SIPTU and Unite the Union, and for the contribution of the North Inner City Folklore Project, Dublin Council of Trade Union, Ken Fleming ITF and Brian Treacy”

The silence about the gross inefficiencies of the trade unions to act on behalf of workers but also on behalf of workers who have lost their jobs, those who have emigrated are silenced shamefully in Ireland’s media. The trade unions are elitist now. They are trade unionist type captains of their own ship but with no time for those who paid their union dues. It behoves members of the unions to examine their fellow union members who worked in the construction industry in the retail sector and ask is the treatment given to them different than the abuse thrown at their fellow union members but in different sectors. Where is the solidarity?

Another farce is the IMO (the trade union for the medical profession). The young doctors are working hours that are contrary to EU regulations. We are one of only two countries in Europe exploiting young doctors in this way. Some junior doctors are expected to work in excess of 24 hours …. this is morally wrong and should not be accepted.

The question here rests with the IMO farce and abuse of power at Chief Executive and elite management level. Martin Wall’s article in the Irish Times on October 5th 2013 is short but effective and tells us that ‘IMO defers internal inquiry due to cost and legal concerns’.

When does the nonsense stop; add to this Merrigan and Kelly ie SIPTU/HSE and the £4 m slush fund, and what we learn is that those who have power abuse the rights of the people they are supposed to represent and protect.

George McNeice, Chief Executive, in his 50’s leaves with package of £9.7 million reduced from £24 million. Research him – the storyline is a narrative that tells us about what has happened in the so called Trade Union cartel over the last 20 years.

They punish the junior doctors because basically the leaders feather their own nests and those of the consultants, GP’s etc so well, that when it comes to investigation the legalities they can say NO. The cost is too high and there are legal concerns’. What about the minions, those they are supposed to represent.

A Chinese saying

‘Right is right, but wrong is no man’s right’

by Michelle Clarke (Comyn)

About michelleclarke2015

Life event that changes all: Horse riding accident in Zimbabwe in 1993, a fractured skull et al including bipolar anxiety, chronic fatigue …. co-morbidities (Nietzche 'He who has the reason why can deal with any how' details my health history from 1993 to date). 17th 2017 August operation for breast cancer (no indications just an appointment came from BreastCheck through the Post). Trinity College Dublin Business Economics and Social Studies (but no degree) 1997-2003; UCD 1997/1998 night classes) essays, projects, writings. Trinity Horizon Programme 1997/98 (Centre for Women Studies Trinity College Dublin/St. Patrick's Foundation (Professor McKeon) EU Horizon funded: research study of 15 women (I was one of this group and it became the cornerstone of my journey to now 2017) over 9 mth period diagnosed with depression and their reintegration into society, with special emphasis on work, arts, further education; Notes from time at Trinity Horizon Project 1997/98; Articles written for 2003/2004; St Patricks Foundation monthly lecture notes for a specific period in time; Selection of Poetry including poems written by people I know; Quotations 1998-2017; other writings mainly with theme of social justice under the heading Citizen Journalism Ireland. Letters written to friends about life in Zimbabwe; Family history including Michael Comyn KC, my grandfather, my grandmother's family, the O'Donnellan ffrench Blake-Forsters; Moral wrong: An acrimonious divorce but the real injustice was the Catholic Church granting an annulment – you can read it and make your own judgment, I have mine. Topics I have written about include annual Brain Awareness week, Mashonaland Irish Associataion in Zimbabwe, Suicide (a life sentence to those left behind); Nostalgia: Tara Hill, Co. Meath.
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