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Remember May Day? May 31, 2012

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

30/31 odd days ago. Seems like most forgot it in the Houses of the Oireachtas…

Deputy Gerry Adams:     Today is May Day. I remind the Labour Party of that.
An Ceann Comhairle:     We would like to hear about May Day. Is the question about May Day, Deputy?
Deputy Gerry Adams:     Yes. Éist agus beidh eolas agat, a Cheann Comhairle.
Deputy Pat Rabbitte:     Does Deputy Adams want us to dance around a tree?
Deputy Dinny McGinley:     It used to be a big day in Moscow.
Deputy Gerry Adams:     In Irish mythology, as the Taoiseach knows, this is the beginning of summer. It is a time of transition and of purification. It is also the day when trade unions and working people across the world unite in solidarity and support of workers’ rights. In this State, however, Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party are about the work of austerity and the erosion of workers’ rights. The European Trade Union Confederation has rejected austerity and the austerity treaty.
Tá a fhios ag an Taoiseach go gcuirfí austerity and an conradh níos mó brú agus cruatán ar dhaoine atá ag obair agus ar a dteaghlaigh. Ag an am chéana, tá a lán oibrithe gan chearta ar bith.
In Vita Cortex which the Taoiseach visited, Wilson Publishing, Lagan Brick and, in my own constituency, in Vodafone, Diageo and Irish Cement, workers are having their rights trampled upon. In Vita Cortex the workers are on the 138th day of a sit-in.
Tonight, Sinn Féin will bring forward the Protection of Employees (Amendment) Bill 2012. On this May Day, or Lá Bealtaine, which is a time of purification and transition, will the Taoiseach commit the Government to supporting the Bill and to working constructively with Sinn Féin to close the loopholes some employers have used to ride roughshod over the rights of workers?
The Taoiseach:     I met Vita Cortex workers some time ago and the matter was raised in the House on numerous occasions. The workers told me that what they really requested was respect for the long years of committed and diligent service they gave to the firm. I am aware of a number of recommendations that have been made and I understand that even in the past week or ten days, recommendations have been put, without prejudice, that might bring about progress.
This is not the only situation where difficulties have arisen, and continue to arise. The Government is anxious to use all the facilities of the State’s machinery to resolve these problems. I am aware of the intervention of the courts in respect of the Vita Cortex workers. Some recommendations have been made there. It is important, not only to have such facilities but that they be seen to work and to bring about successful conclusions.
The Vita Cortex workers have put in an extraordinary campaign. Their comment to me was not the usual one about money. In their case it is about respect. They deserve that.
Deputy Gerry Adams:     They also deserve the legal protection of the State, and they do not have that. They deserve the legal protection of the Government, particularly a Government that has a Labour Party component. Tonight’s Bill will give the Taoiseach the opportunity to start that process. It would need a suite of Bills to give workers the legal rights to which they are entitled.
I visited many picket lines, including the Vita Cortex protest. I am reminded of the Christy Moore song, “Ordinary Man”. People who have given 35 years of service have been told, “Sin é, you are out” and left floundering. Tonight’s debate will provide an opportunity for the Government to sign up and support the Bill.
I know he does not mean it, but the Taoiseach occasionally says Sinn Féin never says anything positive. Here is a positive initiative we have taken.
Deputy Pat Rabbitte:     Hold on while we write it down. What is it?
Deputy Gerry Adams:     I ask the Taoiseach to sign up to support the Bill. It is very straightforward. I presume Deputy Rabbitte will be bolting out of his hole to support the Bill.
The Taoiseach:     I thank Deputy Adams for his reminder that this is May Day and for his reference to mythology and what it stands for.
The Government has considered the Protection of Employees (Amendment) Bill 2012. This is not the best way forward. For that reason the Government will not support what Sinn Féin has put forward as a simplistic solution to this problem.

’tis far from that attitude Pat Rabbitte was reared as regards May Day.

Meanwhile May Day Greetings from the Seanad… and other matters…

<Senator David Norris:     Both.
Senator Darragh O’Brien:     Can one not be both?
Senator Rónán Mullen:     Christian socialist.
Senator Aideen Hayden:     On RTE radio yesterday morning, Karl Whelan pointed out that we would face significant increases in costs in the budget if we do not ratify the treaty, on the grounds that the IMF is only one of our funders. With only the IMF to rely on for funding, and if we did not have access to the European Stability Mechanism, we would have to close our deficit gap very quickly and this would require stricter budgets.
Senator Darragh O’Brien:     That is not correct for this year or next.
Senator Aideen Hayden:     I am not talking about this year or next year, and I do not believe the Minister intended to refer to this year or next. He was being honest with the Irish people, and the people need the Government to be honest with them with regard to what they are facing.
I rose to speak about the 16 year old girl whom Senator Bacik mentioned. This incident occurred in 2009, not 1959. The school in question said it would not offer her a place on the basis that the school was not a haven for young pregnant people or for young mothers. This country has legislation prohibiting discrimination on the grounds of sexual preference, membership of the Traveller community and on a number of other grounds. It is horrifying, in this day and age, that a 16 year old would be refused an education on the basis of either being pregnant or a young mother.
Senator David Norris:     Schools and their ethos are exempt from that legislation.
Senator Aideen Hayden:     We do not know what the ethos of that school was, and I do not care.

Okay, so during the Protection of Employees (Amendment) Bill 2012: Second Stage, there were a few voices who remembered the day… Take it away…

Deputy Peadar Tóibín:    I move: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”
How does one follow that contribution? Fáiltím roimh an deis seo an Bille seo a chur os comhair na Dála. Tá na mílte oibrithe faoi láthair faoi bhrú uafásach sa tír seo agus táimid ag iarraidh iad a chosaint tríd an Bhille seo a chur i bhfeidhm. I welcome the opportunity to use this Sinn Féin Private Members’ time to bring forward this legislation. It is timely that the legislation is before the House today, May Day, which is most associated with celebrating the contribution workers have given to society, remembering the sacrifices they have made and recommitting ourselves to equality and social justice.
Deputy Brian Stanley:    As this is May Day, I extend greetings to workers, working families and the unemployed. It is pertinent that we are debating the Protection of Employees (Amendment) Bill on International Workers’ Day. It is not a coincidence that Sinn Féin chose today to introduce the Bill because we are proud of our socialist politics and history of supporting workers in struggle, north, south, east and west. My party has never shied away from supporting workers who are struggling for justice anywhere in the world, whether in support of the Dunnes Stores strikers in Dublin in the 1980s, striking dockers in Liverpool or Ford workers in Belfast. Our politics are about providing solutions for the challenges that face workers in today’s climate of austerity.
Deputy Dessie Ellis:    Ba mhaith liom tacaíocht a thabhairt don Bhille seo. Today is May Day, a day when workers, trade unionists and those who struggle for a better world for ordinary people remember the fights of the past, the victories, the losses, the revolutions and the counter-revolutions, the great men and the great women. It is a day we in Sinn Féin mark and a day that always causes me to pause and think of the great things that have been achieved by working people and the many things we have yet to wrestle from those who seek to hold us back from human progress in order that they can pursue profit and power.

Deputy Seán Crowe:    I suppose 15 minutes seems like a long time, but it is probably longer than the notice many employees received that they were to lose their jobs. I have talked to people who worked in Waterford Crystal, La Senza, TalkTalk, Lagan Brick, Vita Cortex, Game and Wilson Publishing and used this Chamber to publicise their cases. The Minister of State, Deputy Sean Sherlock, is one of the people who replied to my queries and tried to make sense of some of the decisions taken by the employers of these workers. All of the workers involved in these closures were angry and frustrated. In many cases, they had met their job targets and worked extremely hard. They had worked for profitable companies, the finances of which were, in some cases, exported abroad, yet they were told there was no money for redundancy payments. They asked us what we could do to help. As legislators, we raised these anomalies with the Minister and the Minister of State on a number of occasions and asked how some employers could get away with this sort of thing in today’s world.
Other speakers have reminded the House that this is May Day. I think of the 1913 lock-out. What was it about? It was about workers trying to secure basic rights such as the right to join a trade union and have basic working conditions. Those workers were of a different generation and did different jobs and we like to think conditions have improved since, yet many of today’s workers are in the same situation. Some were informed by telephone or email that they were being made redundant. Some heard it in the media, while others were informed by heavies. One young woman told me she had been surrounded by guys as she was opening the shop front and told the business was closed. That is how she was officially informed that she had lost her job. She was trying to keep the shop shutters down, thinking the men were about to rob her employer’s business. She was trying to protect her employer’s stock and premises. When she telephoned head office, she was told, “Yes, your job is gone.” That is not acceptable and I do not believe anyone in the House would disagree with me. People listening at home do not want to see that type of society emerging. That is why Sinn Féin drafted this legislation.

Here’s Sean Sherlock doing everything but actually mentioning May Day by name. Quite some feat given how discursive he was.

Deputy Sean Sherlock:     I am proud to be present today because it is the first anniversary of the announcement by the then president of the Labour Party, Mr. Michael D. Higgins, of his candidacy for the office of President of Ireland. With your permission, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I will quote from his statement of that day:

The Labour Party is the oldest party in Ireland and was founded in the year before one of the greatest confrontations between labour and capital in the history of the Irish State, the great lock-out in Dublin of 1913.

He goes on to say:

What was then a poverty stricken and vulnerable movement of labour sought to organise against a version of capitalism that refused the most basic rights to workers, including the very right to organise. That confrontation required courage, tenacity, solidarity and, above all, a commitment to class and history beyond the short-term challenges. We should never forget that. To this day we are the beneficiaries of the struggle of the labour movement of 1913. Moreover, as their heirs we are required to make an analysis of our own difficult times to craft a strategy and to deliver our view of an alternative society with a sustainable and productive connection between economy and society in the institutions that can deliver it.

That man, thankfully, is now President of Ireland. I am proud to be here to say we are continuing, to the best of our ability, on his legacy and vision.
On the legislation, and that particular vision, given the day that is in it, I was glad to see the pupils of the Presentation primary school of Doneraile in the Gallery because we must have regard to their future. It is precisely in the vision set out by persons dating back to 1913, and through persons like President Michael D. Higgins, that such narrative continues. We do our best to ensure there is a future for those children.
The plight of employees in the current economic environment is foremost in the deliberations of Government as it seeks to stimulate the creation of jobs and a return to economic growth. Various high-profile cases that have been widely reported in the media highlight the precarious nature of employment in some sectors at present and the need to ensure vulnerable employees are treated fairly by employers and their complaints adequately adjudicated by the appropriate employment rights bodies of the State.
No doubt the proposed Bill under discussion here this evening is well intended. However, it is impractical in its scope and in terms of what it seeks to achieve. Ultimately, it could serve only to expose the taxpayer and employers to additional burdens while also, ironically, acting as a chill factor to the creation of vitally necessary new employment in the State. We need only go back to one of the original EU directives of 1998 in this area which notes the need “for balanced economic and social development” within the EU.

Deputy Colm Keaveney:    I thank the proposers of the Bill for bringing it forward for consideration. There was some historic reference made to the lock-out of 1913. That great struggle between capital and labour took place not five years before the then president of Sinn Féin, Arthur Griffith, asked the Labour Party to stand down on the basis that workers’ rights in this country would have to wait their day. We have come a long in Irish history in less than 100 years when Sinn Féin is taking a stand in this House in regard to workers’ rights. On 1 May, above all other days, I commend the party in this regard.
The Bill, however, has some technical defects that render much of it undesirable to bring into law.

And… er… that’s it.


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