The first of three dozen policewomen and social workers, supported by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), have arrived on the Indonesian island of Java to monitor child rights and trafficking issues and provide psychosocial support for children in the aftermath of last month’s devastating earthquake that killed more than 6,000 people.Speaking to reporters in New York today, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the move was part of ongoing humanitarian efforts to assist the victims of the 27 May earthquake, which measured 5.9 on the Richter Scale and seriously affected the provinces of Yogyakarta and Central Java, displacing at least 200,000 people.Relief operations continue to provide emergency shelter, medical assistance, clean water and sanitation, and food to survivors, and, to date, over 90 per cent of them have received treatment for their injuries from the Indonesian medical authorities and international partners, the UN Office of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a news release.Partners in the Emergency Shelter group have distributed over 17,000 tents since last weekend, but attention is now focusing on providing families with the materials and tools they need to repair and build temporary shelters. Some 45,000 tarpaulins have been brought in, and wheelbarrows and spades will arrive in the next few days. Around 400 tonnes of dried noodles, hi-energy biscuits and rice have been distributed to almost 200,000 people in the earthquake-affected area, and a further 860 tons of food will be delivered by UN agencies and partners, led by the World Food Programme, in the next three days, targeting 100,000 people in the most difficult areas. Food supplies from WFP have so far reached 173,000 people and a joint needs assessment is now being carried out to help determine where needs are greatest. Fifteen children’s centres are now up and running, with the help of the Government and various UN and other organizations, OCHA said, adding that policewomen trained to monitor child rights and provide psychosocial support have been deployed to two of these centres, and more are being trained.It is now anticipated that the worst of the emergency phase will be over in the next seven days, after which there is likely to be a period of sustained relief. During the remainder of the three-month emergency phase declared by the Government, the international community will work on early and medium-term recovery, OCHA said.
A LONG-RUNNING dispute over pay at Irish Rail has been referred to the Labour Court, with the hearing expected to take place on 4 April.It’s after the majority of unions last month rejected proposals put forward by the Labour Relations Commission relating to changes in terms and conditions of employment.Irish Rail called for the urgent referral of the matter to the Court as soon as those results were confirmed, saying that the services targeted were “essential to secure the financial viability” of the company.The General Secretary of the NBRU, one of five unions involved in the dispute, gave a guarded response to the confirmation of the Labour Court date.“The NBRU will fulfil our obligations with regard to attending at the Labour Court in order to set out our members mandated position in relation to the Company’s proposals,” Dermot O’Leary said.However, he warned that: The expectation that the Labour Court can bring about an Industrial Relations solution to what is a politically imposed problem runs the risk of undermining those State bodies tasked with resolving industrial disputes.He added that “reducing subvention to the levels which were obtained in 1998 and then expecting that you can maintain a 2014 level of service by simply asking workers to plug the gap is not a sustainable funding platform for public transport provision”.The NBRU, along with SIPTU, UNITE and the TEEU all rejected the cost-cutting proposals set out by the LRC. The TSSA voted to accept them by a margin of 73 per cent to 27 per cent.The proposals would have seen the introduction of pay cuts ranging from 1.7 per cent to just over six per cent, lasting for up to three years.Irish Rail has warned that “each week that passes without these savings being secured costs the company an additional €100,000″.Speaking in January, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said he thought strike action at the company was “inevitable”.Read: Train strike “not inevitable” according to Irish Rail and NBRURead: Irish Rail apologises after passengers have to stand in carriage aisles