Category: Archive

City comptroller to enforce MacBride Principles

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

The MacBride Principles, which aim to prevent sectarian discrimination in hiring and in the workplace itself, are named after the man who first articulated them — Sean MacBride, a one-time chief-of-staff of the IRA who went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
The principles were drawn up in 1984. Since 1989, successive city comptrollers of New York have pushed companies to adopt them by a relatively straightforward method.
The New York City Pension Funds, the umbrella group that includes the pension funds for city police officers, teachers, members of the fire department and other employees, is a big investor in equities. It leverages its position as a shareholder in many companies that have operations in Northern Ireland to encourage those firms to accept the MacBride Principles.
The most well known name among the six companies being targeted this year is Berkshire Hathaway, the holding company controlled by legendary investor Warren Buffett. Among the plethora of companies owned by the Buffett vehicle is clothing manufacturer Fruit of the Loom, which operates on both sides of the Irish border.
The other companies are BE Aerospace of Wellington, FL; Claire’s Stores of Hoffman Estates, IL; Crane Company of Stamford, CT; Manpower, Inc., of Milwaukee, WI: and Yum Brands of Louisville, KY.
BE Aerospace manufactures aircraft seats at a plant in Kilkeel, County Down. Manpower, a recruitment company, operates from locations throughout the island of Ireland. Claire’s Stores is a specialty retailer that operates under the name “Claire’s Accessories” in Northern Ireland. Yum Brands is the ultimate owner of the Kentucky Fried Chicken and Pizza Hut franchises, which operate widely in the north.
Announcing his decision to focus on these corporations, Thompson said:
“The [pension] funds have been very successful in urging companies to adopt the MacBride Principles in the past. However, there is still much more work to be done. It is critical that we vigorously encourage companies to adopt policies that promote tolerance and support diversity in the workplace.”
Collectively, the New York City Pension Funds have more than $100.9m invested in the six companies. The tactic of using the Pension Funds’ investments to encourage companies to embrace the MacBride Principles dates back to 1989. The comptroller’s office claims that over two-thirds of the companies that have been targeted since then have agreed to adopt the principles. This is believed to number more than 90 U.S.-based corporations in all.
The City Comptroller’s main responsibility is to advise the mayor, the city council and the public of the city’s financial condition. He also makes recommendations as to the fiscally appropriate action in relation to city programs and the like. William Thompson served five terms as the president of the city’s Board of Education before ascending to his current role. The combined pension funds that he manages are worth more than $93bn.
Many other politicians in both New York City and in the state as a whole have weighed in behind the MacBride Principles in recent years. Back in 2001, Governor George Pataki introduced legislation aimed at ensuring that all companies that did business with the authorities of the State of New York followed the Principles.
“This legislation takes important steps to guarantee that companies that do business with the State of New York and its public authorities are serious about non-discrimination and workers’ rights,” Pataki said at the time. “By requiring companies to follow the MacBride Principles, we are sending the message that New York does not tolerate discrimination, and that companies who want to do business with the State must treat workers in Northern Ireland fairly and equally.”
The nine MacBride Principles include requirements that companies should hire more people from “underrepresented religious groups”, ensure adequate security arrangements for minority employees and ban provocative symbols and emblems from the workplace.
However, they have not been welcomed in all quarters. At the time of their introduction, they received a cool reception from both the British and the Irish governments.
As late as 1993, Robert Atkins, then the Minister of State in the British government’s Northern Ireland office, told the House of Commons:
“The MacBride Principles are unnecessary and inadequate as they do not advocate investment, without which the achievements of fair employment would be more difficult. It is impossible to quantify the negative effect of the MacBride campaign.”
In the same debate, David Trimble, who had not yet won the leadership of the Ulster Unionist Party, agreed with Atkins’ remarks but added:
“It would be helpful if he got in touch with all the public authorities in the United States that foolishly adopt those principles.”
Trimble also suggested that the minister should ” point out that the firm with the worst employment record is the American firm, United Technologies, in the constituency of the Hon. Member for Foyle [John Hume], where out of 737 employees, fewer than 10 are Protestant.”

Other Articles You Might Like

Sign up to our Daily Newsletter

Click to access the login or register cheese