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UNHRC 40th session opens with Sri Lanka on the agenda

Bachelet drew on the lessons she learned during her two terms as President of Chile, prior to taking up the post of UN Human Rights Chief.“In my service as a Head of State and Head of Government I learned many things, but there are two lessons that I would like to share with you this morning,” said Bachelet. In her statement on the opening day today, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet called for “courage and vision” from State leaders to advance both the interests of humanity and the national interest of their own countries, stressing that human rights-based policies deliver better outcomes across the social and economic spectrum – and beyond borders. “One was very simple: there was rarely a serious gap between the interest of humanity, and the national interest of my country. If a policy seems in the short term to advance a narrow interest, but hurts the future of humanity, that policy is surely counter-productive. Today, we sometimes hear human rights being dismissed as supposedly “globalist” – as opposed to the patriotic interest of a sovereign government. But how can any State’s interests be advanced by policies that damage the well-being of all humans?”“The second lesson…in my capacity as a Head of State; as a government Minister, a member of non-governmental organisations; and a refugee myself, I saw many human rights measures being debated, enacted, updated and upheld. And I watched these measures work. It can be done. I have seen it done.”Bachelet stressed that human rights-based policies prevent grievances, conflicts, inequalities, and suffering and discrimination of all kinds. The 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council opened in Geneva today with Sri Lanka on the agenda.UN Secretary General António Guterres and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet made statements on the opening day of the session. The session, which began today concludes on 22 March and a report on Sri Lanka by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights is set to be discussed on March 20. “Policies that build social justice also help to develop stronger economies. They drive more inclusive political systems, better frameworks for education, health-care, and other basic services. They build confidence and social harmony. They deepen trust. They build hope,” she said. The High Commissioner emphasised that there “cannot be optimal, sustainable or inclusive development when the voices of civil society are absent”, calling on authorities to engage in respectful dialogue with civil society.Bachelet acknowledged that in the current political landscape, the will is not always there, and that in some countries, important human rights advances are being dismantled, while in other countries, States drag their feet on crucial issues like climate change. (Colombo Gazette) read more

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Column In comparison to public sector workers in the US Irish frontline

first_imgTHE RECENTLY NEGOTIATED Croke Park II agreement has further pain in store for all of us who work in the public sector. While commentators are right when they point out that we, at least, enjoy a greater degree of job security than private sector workers, there is no doubting that our pay packets have taken some serious hits over the past several years.The group that may be most severely impacted by the details of the new agreement is frontline workers – including, though not limited to, gardaí, firemen and nurses. Hearing these details and taking note of the widespread anger in their ranks in the wake of Croke Park II, as well as gauging the reaction of nurses and nursing students to the just reset €22,000 starting salary for newly-qualified nurses, got me thinking about their counterparts on the frontline in my home city of Boston.Irish-American workersOn the surface, there are strong connections between frontline workers in the two countries. Indeed, the archetypal Irish cop in the US, famously described in the oft-heard ballad, “The Streets of New York,” is not a mythical figure. Still today, substantial numbers of Boston’s policemen and women, fire fighters and nurses are Irish-Americans.Yet to say that they inhabit two quite different worlds on opposite sides of the Atlantic is an understatement.  New recruits to An Garda Síochána earn approximately €25,000; new Boston police officers earn almost $50,000 (€38,432). New full-time firemen in Ireland earn around €25,000; new Boston fire fighters make about $60,000 (€46,118). Newly qualified nurses in Boston make two to three times what the government has sought to establish as the new starting salary for Irish nurses.And the disparity only increases with seniority. In 2012, 50 per cent of Boston police officers and 75 per cent of Boston fire fighters made in excess of $100,000 (€76,864).  Not many earn six figure salaries here in Ireland. Experienced nurses in Boston hospitals typically make $80,000 (€61,491) and more.Disparity in salaries – why?Why is there such disparity between the salaries paid to frontline workers in Boston and in Ireland?  Well, as ever, context is important.First, frontline workers in Boston are among the most well paid in the US. By some estimates, they are the best paid. That reflects the very high cost of living in the city and the northeast US more generally. Second, public employee unions are extremely powerful in Boston. Any politician who dared to suggest a single pay cut for cops or fire fighters – never mind a series of pay cuts and other changes to employment conditions as successive governments have pushed for here – would be a dead man or woman walking.Third, frontline workers in Boston tend to work longer hours than they do in Ireland. Their high salaries are usually the result of substantial overtime. Police officers also benefit from paid “details” (ie, all public works projects and major event in the city require the presence of at least one police officer) and from undertaking further courses of study for which they receive pay increases. Fourth, it can be reasonably argued, particularly in the case of police officers, that there is a level of danger and risk that inheres in working on the frontline in a large American city that warrants better compensation.Living costs and overtimeOn the other hand, the cost of living in Ireland, and especially in Dublin where a large percentage of Ireland’s frontline workers are based, is likewise very high. And there’s no doubt that policing certain areas of Dublin and other Irish cities does present dangers. Moreover, those on the frontline in Ireland do work hard, and most would probably work additional overtime if they could. As for the strength of the unions representing frontline workers here, the days, weeks and elections ahead will tell the tale.In the end, I can’t fully account for the extraordinary pay disparity between frontline workers in Boston and in Ireland. But I do wonder if the most painful aspect of pay cuts for Ireland’s frontline workers is their sense that these measures might somehow reflect the esteem (or lack thereof) in which they are held by society. I also wonder if the lower salaries and different conditions of employment that have resulted from the Croke Park agreements will be impediments to attracting the “best and brightest” to work on the frontline in future.For my part, if I was one of the not insignificant number of young Irish people in possession of a US passport and I wanted a career in policing, fire protection or nursing, I’d be pricing Aer Lingus flights to Boston.Larry Donnelly is a Law Lecturer at NUI Galway and a political columnist with IrishCentral.com.Read: Taoiseach says Croke Park proposals do not target frontline workers>Read: ‘I have given as much as I can’ – garda speaks out against pay cuts>last_img read more

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