Sep 30, 2005

EU citizens - Ireland relaxes restrictions on claiming benefits .

From the Irish Times

A two-year ban on migrant workers from EU accession states obtaining social assistance was introduced last year due to Government fears that significant numbers of citizens could come here to draw welfare payments.

The Government move is also in response to European Commission concerns over the legality of the restrictions.

Commission sources have confirmed to The Irish Times that it believes the nature of the welfare ban is "incompatible" with aspects of EU law.

Minister for Social Affairs Séamus Brennan is expected to announce in the coming weeks that migrant workers who have worked in the State for a period of time will be entitled to social welfare benefits.

Changes were also made recently to allow the spouses of migrant workers who have worked here to draw child benefit, although these have not been publicly announced.

It is also expected that community welfare officers will be given greater flexibility in authorising short-term emergency welfare payments to migrant workers who do not have any other means.

Migrant worker support groups and homeless agencies say they are being approached regularly by accession state citizens - Polish, Lithuanian and Latvian citizens in particular - seeking food or shelter.

Siobhán O'Donoghue of the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland said: "The people we're dealing with who are experiencing hardship are typically workers who have lost their jobs, suffered injury or been exploited. They tend to be facing short-term difficulties, but they have no protection even if they have been paying taxes here."

A draft report by the Homeless Agency - the body which plans and administers State funds to homeless organisations in Dublin - into the effects of the welfare restrictions says all service providers have noticed an increase in demand from citizens of accession countries.

While there were predictions that the accession of 10 new EU member states would lead to "welfare tourism", official figures do not support this.

The National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism, a State advisory body, estimates that just 3 per cent of the 85,000 citizens from accession states that came here between May 2004 and April 2005 have applied for welfare benefits.

A spokesman for Mr Brennan yesterday declined to comment on plans to amend the welfare restrictions - known as the habitual residency condition - except to say a review would address any cause of hardship among migrant workers.

EU member states have adopted different policies on access to social assistance for newly arrived migrants from accession states.

Another major medical device firm locate in Ireland

Orangeburg-based Zeus Inc. will announce Friday it is establishing its first production facility in Europe. The company will open a multimillion-dollar, 28,000-square-foot facility in Letterkenny, Ireland. The expansion is expected to create 150 jobs over a five-year period. The plant will focus on the production of the company's precision extrusions in Europe's medical, electronics, semiconductor, aviation and aerospace industries. Zeus officials say discussions are also under way to purchase a 2.9-acre lot for future expansion adjacent to the property.

Zeus President and Chief Operating Officer John Worley attributes the Ireland expansion to the recovering global economy and the need for proximity to medical-device customers in Ireland and in the European market in general.

"Zeus reviewed potential locations throughout the world for this new manufacturing facility," Worley said. "We chose Ireland because of its reputation as a country with a highly educated and motivated work force, two factors that are important in the production of high-technology products."

Currently, three Zeus employees are in Ireland handling preparations, with other key Zeus personnel expected to travel to the country for further training of Irish workers, said Karl Graffte, Zeus director of marketing.

"This is going to be really big for us," Graffte said, noting that by manufacturing inside a European Union country, products can be sold in Europe with minimal duties.

Zeus will join a growing list of companies with plants in Ireland.

Today, 16 of the world's top 20 medical device companies, nine of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies and seven of the top 10 software companies have operations in Ireland. Among them are Abbott, Baxter, Boston Scientific, Dell Computer, Intel and Johnson & Johnson.

Worley also cited Ireland's "favorable business environment and extensive medical technology industry cluster" as other reasons for locating there.

"Ireland also is more accessible to our established European customer base, which utilizes our extrusions in highly specialized medical and industrial applications," he said. "We would also like to acknowledge the assistance of IDA Ireland, the Irish government's economic development agency in relation to our investment in Letterkenny."

When the plant in Ireland becomes operational, Zeus will have nine facilities on six campuses in North America and Europe, making it among the largest volume producers of precision fluoropolymer extrusions in the world.

The expansion could not be more timely, Worley said.

In July, Zeus announced a multimillion dollar expansion of its Aiken production facility. The company invested in new extrusion and heat-shrink production lines expected to increase the capacity at the plant.

"Ireland is a hot bed for medical-device manufacturing, and as the leader in our industry, Zeus needs to be there," Worley said. "At the same time, corporations want to partner with suppliers that can deliver large volumes of application-critical extrusions anywhere in the world, whether it's Europe, Asia, or the Americas. Zeus meets this profile. Strategic expansion will reinforce our leadership position in the world marketplace."

Sep 29, 2005

Irish Banks target immigrants

Story from the Sunday Times:

To compete for the huge new wave of immigrant workers in Ireland , banking now needs to be multilingual.

BANKING jargon is gobbledygook to many people — and that is official. According to a report released this month by the Educational Building Society, more than a third of Irish adults don’t know what APR stands for. (It’s annual percentage rate.)

If fluent English speakers have such difficulties, what happens to those who do not even speak the language?

This is a daily problem for thousands of immigrant workers and members of ethnic communities up and down the country. Now the retail banking sector is beginning to wake up and take notice. Banks are scrambling to prepare marketing strategies aimed at capturing a slice of the immigrant market, the country’s fastest-growing personal-banking market segment.

With the introduction of the Irish Bankers Federation’s switching code and Permanent TSB’s (PTSB) launch of its free current account, Bank of Ireland (BoI) and Allied Irish Banks, which between them control about 75% of the market, have seen their market share come under threat. Smarting after a succession of high-profile scandals, both have been eyeing up the immigrant sector to boost branch footfall.

That the immigrant sector is growing at a phenomenal rate is not in doubt. Currently there are about 240,000 migrant workers living in Ireland, about 6% of the population, and the Central Statistics Office has said that the country needs a further 50,000 each year for the next 12 years to sustain economic growth. With some 57% of immigrants holding higher education qualifications, the opportunities for banks who tailor their marketing strategies accordingly are obvious.

BoI, the country’s second-largest bank by market value, was first out of the blocks with the launch of its migrant worker marketing initiative during the summer. “The increase in immigration is obvious to see on the streets,” said Fergus O’Neill of BoI’s personal banking division and the person charged with driving migrant-worker sales. “We noticed it in the branches too.”

According to BoI, in the past year up to 70% of new accounts in some areas were opened by migrant workers.

BoI enlisted the help of the Immigrant Council of Ireland last January as it sought to develop its strategy and, according to the council, more companies have contacted it since. “We carried out significant research with members of the migrant worker community,” said O’Neill. “This highlighted language difficulties as the single biggest barrier for them when it comes to banking.”

In response, the bank translated its brochures and forms into three languages: Polish and Mandarin Chinese, to target Ireland’s two fastest-growing immigrant sectors, and Russian, to target the rest of eastern Europe and the other EU accession states. The forms are available at all branches countrywide. It also recruited a number of bilingual customer service staff for some of its key urban branches, including Chinese speakers at its O’Connell Street and College Green branches in Dublin, and a Polish speaker at its Blanchardstown branch.

The bank is also planning to revamp its online and telephone banking services to reflect the language changes.

In an attempt to reach its new target market, BoI is compiling an advertising campaign in foreign-language press here in Ireland. “Migrant communities are not great readers of mainstream press,” said O’Neill. “We will be advertising with Szpila, a Polish magazine, next month, and we will be also looking at the Polska Gazeta and the Shining Emerald Isle, a Chinese community paper.”

BoI said that, with the exception of a high usage of foreign currency wiring, or remittance services, migrants have exactly the same banking requirements as other sectors, and it has no plans to develop tailored banking products.

AIB, the country’s largest bank, has left itself open to charges that it has dragged its heels on the issue and has yet to reveal details of how it is planning to target the immigrant segment. However, it is expected to follow a similar path to BoI and focus on translation services rather than a product- development approach. “While we believe that ethnic customers will have some unique needs, our approach will be that they can avail of the full range of services offered by AIB to all our customers,” said Grainne Clancy, of the bank’s customer strategy unit.

“It is an important emerging market for us,” she said. “In terms of our business customers, an increasing number are employing non-nationals and are looking to the bank to support them in ensuring that they have accounts in which to pay their salaries.”

AIB will be able to leverage off its presence in Poland — it owns a majority stake in the country’s BZWBK bank — when it comes to targeting that community here in Ireland. “Our primary focus has been on building links with the Polish community,” said Clancy.

PTSB, which is aiming for a 25% share of the current account market, says that it is opening an average of 1,000 new accounts each week. According to the bank, there will be a “number of marketing initiatives” aimed at immigrant communities over the next few months. “We will be looking to identify publications of high interest to the non-national community in order to find new advertising vehicles,” said the bank. “You can also expect initiatives in translation and dedicated customer-service points for non-nationals.”

According to Sarah Deeny, an account director with advertising agency AFA O’Meara and who has experience of working with the banking sector, the banks should focus on building trust in its communications with the immigrant population. “In its poster campaigns BoI should include a photo of its bilingual staff and it should say, ‘Come in and talk to’ (staff member’s name). You have to cross the fear barrier first,” she said.

“Banks could also learn a thing or two from the way Vodafone markets itself at the airport. It targets people as soon as they step off the plane. They should be using this as a benchmark,” she said.

Other ways for banks to target ethnic customers, according to Deeny, would be local leafleting campaigns in urban areas with a high migrant population, the use of mobile-phone marketing through text promotions, and the targeting of ethnic food stores and internet cafes for advertising. “They could run promotions with a trip home to visit your family as a prize,” she said.

Irish banks are still a long way behind their counterparts in the UK and Europe when it comes to targeting migrant communities. In recent years, HSBC launched a Muslim-friendly mortgage — the payment of interest is forbidden under Islamic law — which consisted of rent payments until the value of the house was paid off. Lloyds TSB, the UK’s fifth-largest bank, recently rolled out a remittance venture with India’s ICICI bank to target the millions of pounds sent home by Indian migrant workers each year. BBVA, Spain’s second-largest bank, has launched a chain of designated one-stop shops for immigrants under the banner of Dinero Express.

Across the Atlantic, many US banks now provide “talking” ATMs in several different languages. With the launch of a “talking” ATM for the visually impaired on Baggot Street in Dublin last week, it could only be a matter of time before the country’s cash machines start chattering back to customers in a variety of different tongues.

People should Boycott Irish Ferries

Article from Irish Examiner about Irish Ferries plans to sack all their staff and replace them with lower paid ones from elsewherein the EU. I reckon you should use Stena Line if you are planning on etting to ireland by Ferry.

MANAGEMENT at Irish Ferries was accused yesterday of "bullyboy tactics" over its plans to make staff redundant.

And trade union congress leader David Begg warned if the proposed EU services directive became reality, "then the grotesque Irish Ferries scenario will become the norm".

He described the directive as "a charter for social dumping" that would result in huge loss of properly paid jobs.

Mr Begg said Irish Ferries' chief executive, who earned €687,000 last year, wanted to dump 543 workers and replace them with people on around €3 an hour.

"There's something deeply obscene about that," he told the Challenges for Europe conference in Dublin. "This should serve as a wake-up call for legislators at a national and EU level."

Earlier, SIPTU branch secretary Paul Smyth claimed Irish Ferries was attempting to bully staff. It had sent out a letter reminding them voluntary redundancy package being offered expires next Sunday.

Mr Smyth said: "Irish Ferries is effectively demanding that employees accept the redundancy package by Friday. It is one more instance of the bully-boy tactics that have marked the company's approach since it began outsourcing services and downgrading pay and conditions earlier this year."

Mr Smyth said the ferry company had treated the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment with contempt as it had the Labour Court, the National Implementation Body and even employers' organisation IBEC.

"So it perhaps is not surprising that it is now resorting to these tactics to pressurise employees into making a crucial decision about their futures," he said.

Mr Begg told the Europe conference that pay rises were needed.

Pointing to the high productivity, high growth and low inequality levels obtaining in the Nordic countries, he said this was an example for Ireland to follow.

Sep 25, 2005

Population Growth in Ireland

IRELAND’S population has reached its highest level in more than 140 years.

With a booming economy, buoyant job market and excellent quality of life Ireland has seen a surge of people move here.
The nation’s high wages and low taxes have meant it has become the most popular country in the European Union for migrant workers.

And now Ireland’s population is the fastest growing in Europe. The number of people living in Ireland has risen to 4.13million in April of this year.
The spurt has been attributed to a natural population increase along with an influx of immigrants. New migrants are helping to drive the Celtic Tiger and sustain the economy.

And the influx of new workers is the life-blood of the Irish economy, vital in sustaining the country’s economic growth — according to a report published by the European Citizen Action Service.

Ireland’s own Central Statistics Office (CSO) says the population has increased by 87,000 in the past year alone.

In the same period only 16,600 people left the country — the lowest number to emigrate since records began in 1987.

In the year to April 2005, 70,000 people migrated to Ireland which is the highest number to move to the country in the 18 years since the CSO began monitoring annual migration figures.

More than a third of immigrants were from the 10 accession states which joined the European Union in May 2004.

Some 17 per cent of migrants were Polish while 9 per cent came from Lithuania The combined effect of a natural population increase along with migration are the two main reasons the population has hit its highest since 1861.

With its growing population a booming economy has followed making Ireland the second richest country in the world per head of population after Luxembourg.

And poverty in Ireland has plunged by more than half since 1994 courtesy of the Celtic Tiger.

Even those on low incomes have seen their standard of living improve over the past 10 years.

Experts predict Ireland’s burgeoning economy is set to remain buoyant as long as the country continues to be a popular migrant destination.

Sep 24, 2005

DVD Rental Ireland -
A new dvd rental service - from 9.99 euro a month - for one dvd at a time sent through the post - so you could probably get at least 6 a month. Sounds good - might give it a try soon.