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Oh yeah? July 28, 2011

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.
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“The measures will radically overhaul the system so as to make it fairer, more competitive and more flexible so as to increase job-creation in these sectors,” Mr Bruton said. “They will also reinstate a robust system of protection for workers in these sectors in the aftermath of the recent High Court ruling.”

On foot of…

Lower pay rates are likely to be introduced for tens of thousands of workers in sectors covered by the joint labour committee system for setting wages in future under Government plans announced this afternoon.

At the same time workers in such sectors will lose their existing legal entitlement to special Sunday premium rates. Instead Sunday working will be covered by existing legislation that allows employers to recognise work carried out on Sunday either by a special payment, an increased hourly rates across the entitle week or time off in lieu.

Erm…where is the Labour Party in all this?

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1. paddy healy - July 28, 2011

Labour’s Shame
Not alone has the Labour Party agreed to the scrapping of the Sunday premium for low paid workers, it has also agreed to allow employers to claim inability to pay and ,if successful, to pay a lesser rate for normal working days. In circumstances in which demand is being continuously removed from the economy by government, this can only lead to continuous reduction in the direction of the minimum wage and the effective collapse of the system. Compliant employers will be progressively undermined by those paying a lower rate.
The scrapping of the Sunday premium will simply add to the profits of highly successful multi-national retail chains at the expense of their employees.
The 100th anniversary of the founding of the Labour Party in Clonmel by Larkin and Connolly in 1912 which will be held next year will be a in the nature of a wake.
The actions of the Labour Party are an insult to the memory of Larkin and Connolly. Larkin is rightly celebrated for his heroic battles on behalf of the low-paid. In addition, Connolly is celebrated for his heroic stand for Irish Independence and sovereignty. But the Labour Party is allowing internatonal financiers to suck the lifeblood out of Ireland and even allowing them to dictate cuts in low pay under the EU-IMF Deal. When it is considered that cuts in low pay will actually worsen the national finances by lowering the tax take, the capitulation of Gilmore on the JLC issue must be the most abject surrender of Irish sovereignty conceivable. Will Gilmore have the hard neck to turn up and to give an oration at Arbour Hill next year?
Paddy Healy 086-4183732
Member of National Steering Committee, United Left Alliance

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WorldbyStorm - July 28, 2011

+1, Thanks Paddy.

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Garibaldy - July 28, 2011

Much of the LP leadership and membership are old hands at insulting the memory of people who gave a lifetime of struggle or indeed their lives to build a better society for Ireland’s workers, so the centenary of the foundation of the LP won’t bother them in the slightest.

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EWI - July 29, 2011

The LP has spent some time recently sidelining Larkin and Connolly in favour of (rather) less-well known party types.

Unsurprising, really. The contrast with the smug, intensely-relaxed-about-poverty types that now run the party on the anniversaries would be too striking.

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1798Mike - July 29, 2011

Great post Paddy.
Well, well – it’s clear that Richard Bruton knew hot air when he saw it. He looked at Labour, Gilmore and all 37 tribunes of the people and was not afraid.
Labour’s sorry record in government continues with this sell-out of the low paid.
What a record it is so far:
The failure to use any leverage against the ECB, given the vulnerability of the French and German banks.
The abject surrender which resulted in billions coughed up to unsecured bond-holders.
The failure to insist that limited investigations into certain local authorities planning records should go ahead.
The agreement to accept regressive taxation proposals which will fall on the poor and low paid disproportionately.
No special tax measures to target the wealthy or high paid.
Pat Rabbite’s unequivocal support for the Fianna Fail sell-out of our natural resources
Gilmore’s failure to take any stand on the Israeli attack on the Irish gaza ship.
Gilmore’s support in the Dail for the right-wing reactionary regime in Columbia.
A friend of mine – a labour supporter – said to me recently, when commenting on the Kenny ‘vatican speech': ” Unfortunately it’s not a speech that you could even imagine Gilmore, timid and conservative as he has shown himself, ever delivering.”
From a loyal labour person, it was a devastating conclusion to come to.

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2. Alan - July 28, 2011

I heard him on Drivetime earlier justifying this or rather trying to justify it. It’s pretty indefensible.

No idea where Labour are but no doubt there’ll be a claim spun that this measure has the “Tried, tested and ameliorated by Labour Party” stamp of approval. It seems each week there’s something new and the response from some Labour members/apologists (on the internet at least if that’s anything to go by) is meek.

Mary Wilson read out a text message/email from someone saying that his wife has been told that her and all the workers in the company she works are being let go after Sunday and will have the option to resign a new contract with lower pay otherwise they shall remain fired. Burton had no response other than to reiterate this “protection” tosh. Joah Burton has apparently “not had the chance” to read the proposal.

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WorldbyStorm - July 28, 2011

FFS. Just to be sure that’s not addressed to you Alan, it’s a response to the Burton statement. Wasn’t it Ruairi Quiin who only this week was talking about how we don’t live in a fair time? How lovely.

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3. WorldbyStorm - July 28, 2011

By the way, not all LP members appear immune to this sort of thing…

http://tomasoflatharta.com/2011/07/27/helena-sheehan-leaves-the-labour-party/

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Mark P - July 29, 2011

As I said over on the Tomas O Flatharta blog, by my count that means that the Labour Party is now down to roughly 49 left wing members.

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4. dmfod - July 29, 2011

Whoever does the photos on the IT website has a good sense of the government’s disconnect with a nice picture of Richard Bruton giggling while he announces the impoverishment of thousands. Someone should shoot the newspeak headline writer though: ‘Sunday pay rates to be altered’.

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5. paddy healy - July 29, 2011

Mandate Trade Union and Unite the Union have roundly condemned the Government proposals to cut the low pay of over 200,000 employees.
The proposals will give rise to reduction of JLC rates generally, elimination of Sunday premium, and allow employers to claim inability to pay.
“The trade union Unite said last night it would not rule out industrial action in protest at the Government’s planned measures. The plan was also strongly criticised by Mandate, the union representing retail workers.” Martin Wall Irish Times, July 29
But following the surrender of the Labour Party in Cabinet, SIPTU has described the proposals as “relatively positive” on RTE Television News, July 28 and has given the government plan “a cautious welcome” (Martin Wall, Irish Times July 29).
This is a dark day for Irelands biggest union which was built by Larkin and Connolly
The trade union affiliation of the new government appointees to the board of Solas (replacing Fás) will be of considerable interest
The extent of the attack on the low-paid can be gauged from the remarks by John Douglas, General Secretary , MANDATE, on Morning Ireland, to-day, July 29
“This is devastating for 200,000 workers- following increases in gas prices, mortgages, food prices, thousands will be driven over the edge- majority are women earning no more than 9.50 an hour trying to put food on table-this is not to create jobs but to lower pay and conditions-it won’t create a single extra job. When Margaret Thatcher dismantled the wage councils in England ,it did not create one extra job-the research shows this despite the ministers claims”

Analysis
The EU-IMF deal commits the Irish Government to a “review of wage setting mechanisms”. There may have been additional secret assurances given by the previous government but the EU-IMF Deal does not specify any particular measure.
Bruton had made his proposals before the JLC system was struck down by the courts on constitutional grounds. The changes to pay rates, conditions of service and terms of reference in the proposals have nothing to do with the decision of the court. The proposals for these changes pre-date the courts decision. There are changes in procedures which are genuinely required in the light of the courts decision. In the wake of the court decision there are no legally enforceable Employment Regulation Orders (ERO) in existence in the state. The process of establishing new constitutional EROs will have to commence from scratch. This will take several months during which no legally binding EROs will exist.
If the Fine Gael/Labour Government were interested in protecting the 200,000 employees covered by the original EROs at the earliest possible date, they would have introduced the procedural measures contained in the proposals published yesterday before the Dail was adjourned for the summer one week ago or alternatively, they could have kept the Dail in session to deal with the matter.
Government “spin” to the effect that the measures were announced yesterday to protect workers in the light of the court decision is entirely false and misleading.
The way that the matter has been handled ensures that workers will remain unprotected by EROs for several months and when new EROs are produced their provisions will be far inferior for workers to the ones that have been struck down by the courts.
Job Creation?
The Minister and the employer body IBEC continually argue that pay and conditions under EROs must be reduced in order to create jobs. There is no evidence for this. Indeed, the Duffy/Walsh Report to the Minister for Enterprise, Employment and Innovation concludes inter alia : “We have concluded that lowering the basic JLC rates to the level of the minimum wage rate is unlikely to have a substantial effect on employment.” and “ we conclude that it is not accurate to suggest that the body of primary employment rights legislation currently in force adequately covers matters dealt with by EROs and REAs.” According to the OECD, Ireland suffers from some of the highest levels of low‐pay. Over 21% of full‐time employees are ‘low‐paid, compared to a Eurozone average of 14.7% and EU Commission data shows that labour costs (include wages and employers’ contributions) in the Food & Accommodation sector in Ireland are 6% below the EU-15 average.
Despite the fact that the above information has been contained in several statements by trade unions and ULA TDs , Minister Bruton was allowed to repeatedly assert that the measures would to create jobs in interviews on Drivetime and RTE News without the contrary evidence being put to him. IBEC spokespeople have also been allowed on all media to claim that 40% of restaurants do not open on Sunday “due to the Sunday premium”. Of course many restaurants have always remained closed on Sunday because their trade depends on demand from locally employed people who do not work on Sundays. Restaurant closures, limited opening hours and increased Sunday closing is due to the reduction in demand caused by increased unemployment and income reductions due to recent budgets. The IBEC claim is a gross abuse of dubious statistics based on surveys of restaurant owners. “They would say that, wouldn’t they?”
Key Measures
The Minister asserts that new JLC rates will be lower. This is because the terms of reference for the wage setting process have been changed to the disadvantage of the worker side. “These include competitiveness factors, average hourly rates set in comparable sectors in Ireland’s main trading partners as well as employment and unemployment rates” Martin Wall, Irish Times,July 29. For example, the employer side will now be able to argue that pay rates should be lowered due to the extent of unemployment. This is a classic use of unemployment by employers to drive down wages. It has no justification except capitalist greed. It will now be supported by statutory terms of reference agreed by the Labour Party.
The Minister claims that these new lower rates will not affect existing workers who are protected by the terms of their current employment contracts. The minister knows well that existing employees can be pressurised in many ways to agree to reductions in existing pay rates if these are not legally binding. That is a major reason why legally binding JLC rates exist. Employers have many ways of discriminating in favour of new cheaper workers (eg allocation of overtime, denial of promotion, assignment to easier or more pleasant job etc). In addition, a new businesses paying lower rates will be able to undermine existing businesses paying higher rates. This is also the case in relation to the new provision of allowing businesses to claim inability to pay. An employer being undermined by competitors can then pressurise employees to accept the lower legal rate or face closure and unemployment. The original JLC system was designed to prevent this “race to the bottom” in competing businesses dependent on finite demand.
The new JLCs will be precluded from setting a Sunday premium. The suggestion that the provisions of The Working Time Act is an adequate replacement to protect workers is completely false. Under that Act the employer can simply give another day off instead. This effectively means that staff can be made to work at the flat rate. Sunday premium has been simply abolished.

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