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Sinn Féin MLA Michaela Boyle has welcomed the news that from today there will be a blanket ban on so called 'legal highs'.

Ms Boyle said:

“I very much welcome this enforcement. This is something I had put pressure on the health and justice ministers on in the last mandate.

“There is no doubt about the misery ‘legal highs’ have caused across all communities. They have led to deaths and caused untold harm to so many, particularly young people.

“Sinn Féin has consistently called for an all-Ireland approach to deal with so-called legal highs." CRÍOCH/ENDS

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson will meet with representatives of the farming and agriculture industry next month to discuss the importance of EU membership to the sector. 

Ms Anderson said; 

"There has been much discussion across society about the impact of the EU referendum, particularly among the farming and agriculture community. 

"As part of Sinn Féin's campaign for a vote to remain in the EU, I will meet with representatives of the industry next month in a debate in CAFRE, Greenmount Agricultural College, organised by Agricultural Producers Association and Farmers for Action. 

"There is no doubt there is a democratic deficit at the heart of the EU and it is in need of reform but Sinn Féin believes that can only be achieved from within. 

"Our farming and agricultural industry has benefited hugely from Europe and it simply does not make sense to place that in jeopardy so Sinn Féin will be campaigning vigorously to remain in the EU."

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Sinn Féin MEP Martina Anderson has urged people unable to vote in person against Brexit from the European Union to apply for a postal or proxy vote before June 3rd.

Sinn Féin is urging the electorate to vote to remain in the EU in the referendum being held on June 23rd.

Martina Anderson said:

“If you are unable to make it to the polling station on 23rd June you can apply to vote by post or nominate someone to vote for you by proxy.

“People entitled to a postal or proxy vote are those housebound due to illness; a student away at University or those working away from home during weekdays.

“Applications to secure a postal/proxy vote in this election close on Friday 3rd June at 5pm. 

“So I would urge everyone who requires such a vote to secure it now.”

Electoral Registration, Photo ID and postal/proxy application forms can be downloaded from the Electoral Office Website: www.electoralofficeni.gov.uk

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Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay has said that the new Finance committee must continue with the NAMA Inquiry which he proposed during the term of the last Assembly.

Mr McKay said; 
"Sinn Féin has led on the issue of the NAMA Project Eagle sale North and South and that work must continue.
"I have no doubt that the new Finance Minister will release all relevant files and documentation to the Committee. However the most important thing is that we hear from the remaining key witnesses that have yet to come before the Inquiry.

"The Committee needs to get to the bottom of this important issue and the Inquiry should remain open until it does."

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Speaking in reaction to the news that the Ulster Bank is to sell €100,000,000 in agricultural loans, Sinn Féin Agriculture spokesperson Martin Kenny TD said that the bank’s reassurances were no comfort.

The Sligo Leitrim TD said:

“The bank telling us that the loans do not belong to ‘typical customers’ is no comfort. They are the loans of people who have gone into arrears with their loans and have been in arrears for some time. This, unfortunately, is becoming very typical across Ireland.

“What is worrying is the process by which a significant portion of agricultural land is on international markets and going out of the hands of Irish farmers for a knock-down price.

“This amounts to selling off Ireland, the very soil that is her makeup, and has disastrous consequences for this country.

“The government has a responsibility to step in and stop this happening. Our Finance spokesperson, Pearse Doherty TD has been in contact with the Ulster Bank to ask them to give first option to the farmers who have the loans.

“The response was that they were not in the business of writing off loans, but the serious consequences of large swathes of land falling into the hands of vulture funds merits intervention by government.

“The land of Ireland is not for sale and this activity must be stopped.” 

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Sinn Féin MLA Michaela Boyle has raised the ‘Bluebox’ broadband blackout with the new Minister for the Economy this week as many homes throughout West Tyrone are still without service.

Speaking this week Ms Boyle said:

“My constituency office has been inundated with calls from constituents who are affected by the blackout. It is a very serious situation with the huge number of people affected.

“People in areas such as Aghyaran & Plumbridge are poorly served by the traditional Broadband providers and many have had to look at alternative means of getting sufficient coverage for their homes and business. This has seen a large demand for satellite provision provided through Bluebox.

“Apparently thousands of homes have been affected by the Bluebox outage. Each affected home has to be visited and remotely switched back on. Our fear is that there are only a few engineers employed to do this so it could take months to resolve.

“The lack of Broadband coverage in rural areas across West Tyrone is a major problem and was one of the main issue raised with me on the doors during the recent election campaign. It isn’t acceptable that in 2016 homes and businesses in my constituency have little or no broadband or mobile coverage. This is something I have asked the newly appointed Economy minister to focus on and prioritise in the new mandate.

“I will continue to raise this issue regarding Bluebox service until we get a speedy resolution.”

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David Cullinane, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Public Expenditure and Reform, has severely criticised Minister Donohoe for his comments during the Sinn Féin Bill on Irish Water.

Deputy Cullinane said:

“The Dáil debate on Sinn Fein’s bill shone a light on the Minister’s political instincts and intentions. He said that the suspension of water charges will mean that “tax revenues will have to be re-directed from elsewhere”.  His party has stood over a narrowing of the tax base with tax cuts for the wealthy, for high earners and for corporations. Yet, despite this fact, the Minister decided to blame ordinary people struggling to get though the week for the subsequent crisis in funding for essential social services.

“Is this the type of right-wing logic we will get from Paschal Donohoe during his tenure as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform?

“Will he continue to blame the majority of working people for the crisis in funding brought about by his government’s slash and burn approach to health, education, justice and local government – an approach they have undertaken so that the richest people in this State can walk away from paying their fair share?

“We already know that the Irish tax avoidance lobby has the ear of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour, and it is clear from the Minister’s tirade last night that this is not going to change one iota under his watch.

“Only last week the Minister’s colleague, Michael Noonan, issued a statement saying that his government will not be looking for any deal on the bank recapitalisation debt. The repayments on that debt is money that is diverted from essential services and capital investment. On this the Minister is strangely silent, but on water charges he shouts from the rooftops.

“Minister Donohoe has embraced the political philosophy of his predecessor in Dublin Central, Bertie Ahern: portray yourself as a man of the people, but don’t forget to fleece the people.”

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Sinn Féin MP Paul Maskey has urged people in west Belfast to take part in a consultation being held tomorrow in the Andersonstown Leisure Centre on the proposed new GAA stadium at Casement Park.

Paul Maskey said:

“Sinn Féin is committed to the development of a world-class stadium for the GAA at Casement Park and the largest investment ever by the Executive into Gaelic Games. 

“The new state-of-the-art stadium has the potential to be a powerful economic driver for West Belfast, and the GAA has a proven record in delivering sporting and cultural activities which contribute to the local economy.

“The GAA is holding a consultation with the local community tomorrow at the Andersonstown Leisure Centre between 1.00pm to 8.00pm.

“I am confident the consultation will show strong support for the Casement development.

“This is a great opportunity for local people, businesses, sporting and community organisations to engage with the GAA so this project can move ahead.”

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Speaking this evening on Sinn Féin’s motion regarding the abolishment of Irish Water, Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire TD expressed dismay at Fianna Fáil’s ambiguity and apparent willingness to completely disregard promises they had made before the election.

The Cork South-Central TD said:

“Fianna Fáil carried out an Olympic U turn ahead of the election, moving from being the authors of Water Charges, to being opposed. They are now after turning on their heel yet again, and falling behind the Government.

"This is likely a sign of things to come

"Fianna Fáil signed up to a confidence and supply agreement. We have been critical of that deal, and how it is an effort to hoodwink the electorate, but in any event this is not a confidence vote.  Fianna Fáil are perfectly at liberty to vote how they wish on this motion.

“If they are truly opposed to Water Charges, if they want rid of it, they should vote for it.

“We heard that this motion has no legal effect. Can I take it then that Fianna Fáil will not in future use Private Members Business to debate a motion? To give voice to the will of the Dáil on important issues. Why should the Dáil not express its wishes to get rid of Water Charges and Irish Water?

“The Irish people had their say. We committed to ensuring that on the first opportunity, our first PMB, we would ask the Dáil to have a vote on this matter.”

Speaking following his contribution, Deputy Ó Laoghaire added:

“Many people in Cork South Central voted for Micheál Martin and Michael McGrath because they believed that they would get rid of Water Charges. We tabled a simple motion, demanding that, and Fianna Fáil, have fallen behind the Government to defeat it.

“I think many people in Cork would be astonished to hear that, given the commitments made during the election, and I believe they deserve an explanation from their TDs.” 

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Sinn Féin TD for Cork East, Pat Buckley has called on Irish Water to immediately cease billing people who live in areas with a boil water notice. He made his comments during a debate on a Sinn Féin bill to abolish water charges, stating that a number of areas in his constituency with unsafe contaminated water supplies were still being billed by Irish Water.

Deputy Buckley said:

“Despite the proposed suspension of water charges, the people of East Cork are still receiving their water bills in full in the boil water notice areas of Whitegate, Cloyne , Ballinacurra and Ballycotton just to mention a few.

“In recent days, I have received a number of complaints from my constituents in these areas complaining that Irish Water are still issuing bills for water in and water out, despite the fact that the residents of these areas were assured that they would not be charged for water in.

“In recent days, I have also received two separate answers from Irish Water pertaining to the same Question that I and my Sinn Féin County Councillors have submitted on behalf of the people in East Cork.

“Irish Water have said ‘where a boil water notice has been issued, or where a customer is subject to a drinking water restriction notice linked to the public water supply network, affected customers will receive a 100% discount to the water supply portion of a their bill for the duration of the restriction which will be reflected in their next bill.’

“So why are these costumers still being billed for water in and water out?

“Irish Water also failed to properly notify many people in the locality of the boil water notice. They are able to send a bill to every household when it comes to collecting money, but are not able to notify every household when it comes to the safety of their water supply. This is unacceptable.

“It shows clearly that where Irish Water is concerned, charges are more important that public safety.” 

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Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has said tonight that since its initial proposal, the prospect of water charges has infuriated ordinary people the length and breadth of this country, and that people came together and revolted against this unjust tax and took to the streets in their tens of thousands.

Deputy Ó Caoláin said however, that they did not vote for a suspension of charges, rather for their abolition.

The Cavan-Monaghan TD said:

“Since its initial proposal, the prospect of water charges has infuriated ordinary people the length and breadth of this country. People came together and revolted against this unjust tax and took to the streets in their tens of thousands. The effectiveness and the potential of ‘people power’ in any social movement for change has never been so glaringly demonstrated.

“Hundreds of thousands of people took their anger to the ballot boxes and in February this year, the majority of Irish people voted to scrap water charges and to place Irish Water in the dustbin of history.

“Most of the Dáil deputies elected to this house made pre-election pledges to abolish water charges and to do away with the entity known as Irish Water- even Fianna Fáil. However, in the new deal struck between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael they have only managed to secure a ‘suspension’. People do not want a suspension. They want these charges scrapped all together.

“Irish Water and water charges are an affront to people across this land. It is time for Government therefore, to respect the democratic will of the people and to end this shambolic situation once and for all.

“The path forward is clear; abolish domestic water charges immediately, establish a public water and sanitation board to deliver water on the basis of need, and set a date for a referendum to enshrine the public ownership of water services in Bunreacht na hÉireann.” 

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said government accountability to the Dáil now seems to mean getting no answers at all as opposed to last government’s non answers. The Deputy submitted a question to each of the 16 government departments about how much the commitments relevant to their Departments contained in the Programme for Government will cost.

Deputy Doherty:

“I was surprised to find that of the questions I submitted to each Department, only one Department has replied. The question I posed was a simple one, ‘how much are those things you say you are going to do cost?’ What would appear to be a straight forward query from an opposition TD. Only one Department, Public Expenditure and Reform (PER) replied, but with no detail whatsoever. In fact, the reply reads like a press release.

“When I questioned why I had received no reply at all from the other 15 Departments, I was told they had all transferred the question to PER. That is a shockingly arrogant attitude and disrespectful to those who voted for me to hold this government to account.

“The lack of replies actually reveals the real answer; that the government has no idea how much the Programme for Government policies will cost. We spent much of the election campaign discussing the Fiscal Space and the accuracy of parties’ manifestoes. Now we have a government which can’t stand over a single figure in its own manifesto.

“There has been much talk of the new Dáil being empowered and I intend to test that to the limit by demanding that Ministers answer the straight forward questions put by TDs. Political reform cannot mean that the non-answers of the last government are replaced with no answers at all.” 

Note: The Question posed

To ask (all Ministers) with regard to each commitment relevant to their Department in the Programme for Government to provide the full anticipated cost for each measure and to show clearly in a table how each measure is financed i.e. whether it is already committed spending, additional new spending to be taken from the fiscal space, EU funding etc. and to make a statement on the matter.

PER Reply:

REPLY.

The Programme for a Partnership Government sets out the ambition to build a strong economy and to deliver a fair society so that communities thrive throughout both urban and rural Ireland.  For each of the policy challenges contained in the Government's Programme a clear unambiguous high-level ambition is also identified, for example:-

- meet the target of building 25,000 new homes needed every year by 2020;

- create 200,000 jobs by 2020, including 135,000 outside Dublin;  

- reducing waiting times in the health sector; and 

- spend at least €6.75billion more on public services by 2021 compared to 2016.

As stated in the Programme for every policy challenge, the new Government will ensure that a balance is struck between addressing urgent priorities - utilising the action plan framework set out in the Programme document - and engaging in long-term planning and thinking, so that lasting solutions with broad based support are implemented.

In order to adopt this approach in practice, a key action for the Government's first hundred days is securing agreement with the Oireachtas on putting in place a reformed budget process.  This is intended to secure a significantly more participatory approach, underpinned by a substantially enhanced Dáil input into and feedback on the development of budgetary priorities.

It is envisaged that an important element of this new model will be to facilitate appropriate consultation and engagement on the costings of specific measures intended to respond to particular Programme for Government priorities, as well as examining how these measures align with overall fiscal parameters.  

This new approach will have a central role to play in guiding and informing deliberation by the Oireachtas on budgetary options and in shaping the Government's budgetary proposals in due course. These proposals would then form the basis for setting out the proposed Departmental expenditure ceilings required to accommodate the specific measures to deliver the Programme for Government priorities. At that point in time, the fiscal space implications of changes in Departmental expenditure arising from these specific measures can be fully assessed.

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Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has welcomed the appointment of Máirtín O Muilleoir MLA as the north’s Finance Minister.

Deputy Doherty said:

“I warmly congratulate Máirtín on his appointment. It is a welcome move that Máirtín has been appointed to the Finance Department. His record on Finance issues is well established.

“While Tory austerity will continue to represent a serious challenge, I am sure in his role Máirtín will drive forward progressive moves and all-Ireland economic development. I look forward to meeting Máirtín in Dublin and Belfast to plan our work together.”

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Sinn Féin spokesperson on Education and Skills, Deputy Carol Nolan, has today called for a commitment from the Minister for Education Richard Bruton that the School Transport system will not be further restricted. The Deputy was commenting on an extract from the Minister’s Brief, which appears to indicate that the availability of concessionary school transport would be restricted by efforts of the Department to downsize buses.

Deputy Nolan said:

“The figures provided by civil servants in the Minister’s brief show clearly the impact of the cuts to the school transport system.

“There are 1,946 less students availing of the school transport service overall in 2014/15 compared to 2011/12 despite a growing student population.

“The number of children availing of concessionary transport has risen to a staggering 18,688 students in 2014/15 compared to 4,854 in 2011/12.

“Concessionary school transport is granted to students who are ineligible under the current scheme where there is spare capacity on buses.

“This clearly shows that the current rules are not meeting the needs of parents, students or their communities as a significant proportion of children are choosing to attend the traditional school that other members of their families or communities attend.

“The Department’s response, to threaten to downsize buses required to transport eligible children to commence on a phased basis from the coming school year 2016/17, is a cynical attempt to reduce costs.

“Rural communities in particular rely heavily on the school transport system and any attempts to restrict it would have a serious impact and I am calling on the Minister to make a commitment that there will be no further restrictions to the school transport service.” 

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Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín, spokesperson for Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts, and the Gaeltacht, has welcomed the appointment of Chris Hazzard MLA as Minister for Infrastructure in the Assembly.

Speaking today from Leinster House, Deputy Tóibín said:

“I look forward to working with Minister Chris Hazzard and I welcome his appointment as Minister for Infrastructure in the Assembly.

“Last January, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation published its‘Report on the All-Island Economy’, which explores the unique nature of the economic structure of Ireland, the challenges and opportunities of island-wide trade and explores the impact of the Border upon Ireland, North and South.

“Sinn Féin is an all-Ireland party and, as Sinn Féin’s spokesperson for Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts, and the Gaeltacht, I look forward to meeting Minister Hazzard in the next weeks to discuss developing the infrastructure and economy in both parts of Ireland and tackling issues affecting rural communities.” 

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David Cullinane, Sinn Féin TD for Waterford, said today that the latest report from the CSO, which show the South-East with the highest regional unemployment rate in the state, is a damning indictment of successive government policy when it comes to Waterford and the South-East.

Deputy Cullinane said:

“In February, Fine Gael and Labour went to the people with talk of keeping the recovery going. Today’s shocking figures confirm what the people of Waterford already knew – that the slogan was an insult and a lie to the tens of thousands of ordinary families who are struggling to get by.

“The Quarterly Household Survey shows that the South-East has an unemployment rate of 12.5 percent. This, of course, is the official figure – it doesn’t take into account JobBridge and other activation programmes, nor does it factor in under-employment or households struggling on full-time but low pay incomes.

“This is the reality of eight years of austerity policies. These are shocking figures and show how neglected the Southeast is.

“There is a need to prioritise Waterford and the South-East, to move to bring clarity to the university, and to revisit the South East Economic Strategy that I published on behalf of the Joint Committee for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.” 

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Following a meeting with Jonathan Taylor, Vice-President of the European Investment Bank (EIB) Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has reiterated calls to the Irish Government to utilise resources offered by the EIB, in order to tackle flooding.

Speaking after the meeting, the Midlands North West MEP said,

"Flooding and support for flood defence and prevention systems is an issue that I have been actively pursuing since my election as MEP.  Following last winter's floods when roads, houses, farms and businesses were devastated by a series of bad storms the issue has become even more apparent.

 

"Disappointingly, the Irish government has failed to apply for funds through the EU Solidarity Fund and it was revealed in a report in April that there are serious issues surrounding the national programme for flood risk assessment, the steering group of which did not meet for a four year period.

 

"In January of this year, the EIB announced a €200m loan scheme.  This loan is being disbursed through the Office of Public Works, which has already approved 29 flood defence projects.

 

Carthy continued,

 

"However with 10 out of the 29 projects for Cork and another 5 for Dublin and a large proportion of the rest for other urban areas, there is quite obviously a failure to direct funding towards neglected rural regions which have been prone to flooding.  Areas surrounding the river Shannon, which experienced lasting devastating consequences, have been completely ignored in the allocation of EIB loan funds.

 

"As well as highlighting this fact, my meeting with Jonathon Taylor was also geared towards finding out what actions local authorities that had been side stepped by the government could do to in order to prepare for future floods in their areas.

 

"It has been clear for some time that, historically, there had been a certain lack of engagement by the Irish Government with the EIB, which as a non-profit bank is offering loans at low interest rates. While the situation has improved since Sinn Féin highlighted the issue during the European elections in 2014 we need to actively ensure that EIB loans are drawn down for key infrastructural projects across Ireland.  Jonathon Taylor has clearly indicated to me that the EIB is open for business and willing to offer loans to additional Irish projects. 

 

"Therefore the Irish Government has no excuse and I will be feeding back the results of this meeting to the working group of Sinn Féin representatives from areas affected by floods as we are currently preparing a comprehensive set of proposals to address the deficits that are in place.  Additional EIB funding must obviously from a part of that response." ENDS 

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Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy has said the SDLP is not even in control of the opposition never mind anything else.

He was responding to criticism from the SDLP about the appointment of the Justice Minister.

Mr Murphy said; 

"This is rich coming from a so-called nationalist party who expressed no interest in the department of justice, health, education, the economy, communities or anything else. 

"We are in control of Finance, Health, and Infrastructure and Martin McGuinness is a co-equal First Minister. The SDLP are not even in control of opposition. 

"We will not take any lectures from a party which has walked away from its responsibilities and which is making no positive contribution.”

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Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Health Louise O’Reilly TD has today welcomed the appointment of Michelle O’Neill MLA as Minister for Health and Social Services in the Northern Executive.

Deputy O’Reilly said:

“I welcome the appointment of Michelle O’Neill MLA as Minister for Health and Social Services in the Executive and I look forward to working constructively with Michelle in the articulation of health policy on an all-Ireland basis.

“Reform of our health service is not just about structures but about culture. I hope that the appointment of Michelle as Minister for Health in the North will entrench a culture of further all-island cooperation in this area which will move the island to a genuine public health model that is based on targeting health inequalities.

“Sinn Féin believes healthcare must be developed on an all-Ireland basis. We believe that we should move from increased cooperation to ultimately full integration of services on the island, maximising the healthcare benefits for all and achieving greater economies of scale.

“The past decade has seen some developments in health cooperation between the Assembly and Leinster House, with a number of exciting joint departmental projects being developed including work on shared radiotherapy and paediatric cardiac services; health promotion focusing on alcohol, tobacco and obesity; cancer research; mental health; and suicide prevention. It is my hope that we will now continue work in this area.

“I will be meeting Michelle in the upcoming period to discuss all-Ireland healthcare and, as part of the new Oireachtas committee to develop a 10 year vision for health, I will be proposing that an invitation is extended to her to make a presentation so that this important aspect of health policy is not excluded.” 

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In the Dáil this morning, Louth Sinn Féin TD Gerry Adams raised tomorrows strike involving Tesco workers, including those at stores in county Louth, with the Taoiseach.

Teachta Adams accused the government of failing to have “any substantial commitment in the Programme for Government to defending the rights of workers. The commitment to increase the minimum wage to €10.50 per hour over the next five years is a minimalist objective that will make no substantial impact in the longer term on levels of poverty.”

Deputy Adams said:

“There is a vague commitment to tackling the problems caused by the increased casualization of work but no mention of the use by employers of low hour or ‘if and when contracts’.

“Neither is there any commitment to the introduction of a living wage for workers.

“This is especially important in light of the current number of industrial disputes, including the planned strike by Tesco workers over that company’s efforts to force long-serving workers to accept a new contract with less money and worse conditions of employment.

“Tesco management is behaving irresponsibly. It is engaging in sharp practice and it is unacceptable.

Tesco is ignoring the rights of workers and is seeking to increase its substantial profit margin in this state by forcing staff to accept significantly reduced pay. Claims by Tesco that this is about streamlining its systems deliberately ignores the reality that for many workers their conditions of employment will be made worse and their pay packets will be cut.” 

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