New politics tonight is about supporting #Yes4WorkersRights

01 June 2016

Just recently the economist Dan O’Brien noted that the Irish economy has increased employment more in the past four years that in the 70 years from 1926 to 1996.

It would be really sad if as a people we in Ireland failed to learn from the near death experience of eight years ago and that’s why I am urging the parties in this chamber to really do new politics and support the concrete set of proposals by the Labour Party to improve the lives of working people:

Labour’s motion calls for :
“increases to the National Minimum Wage until it is pegged at 60 per cent of median earnings,
and for a Living Wage of €11.50 per hour to be adopted throughout the public sector;
further protections for vulnerable workers in precarious employment
and bring an end to exploitative employment contracts that foster increased casualisation of workers including bogus self employment

F Scott Fitzgerald famously observed that the rich are different.

We were cruelly reminded of this one year ago when the new owners of Clery’s maintained zen-like silence while the workers were casually dispossessed of their livelihoods with minimum notice.

This was predator capitalism working as social vandalism.

And if there was a blot on the recent 1916 commemorations in O’Connell Street it was the spectre of Cleary’s famous building shrouded and dead a death created by a series of clever corporate moves both on and off shore with hundreds of workers thrown out on the street

In 2008 Ireland endured the worst economic crisis in the history of the state, the collapse of the banks and the collapse of the construction industry. It needed a big response which Labour in Government made and now we see a dramatic growth in employment. Without a doubt raising worker’s wages and living standards is central to recovery and that is what the Labour Party’s motion tonight is about. We want everybody in Ireland who wants a job to have a job but we want good pay and conditions

An early American President Andrew Jackson once said: “We should measure the health of our society not at its apex (or top), but at its base.”

And as no less a body than the IMF has stated if the income share of the top 20% in a country increases, then economic growth actually declines over the medium term.

But by stark contrast, the IMF found that an increase in the income share of the bottom 20 percent will fuel higher growth.
This echoes similar findings by the OECD.

As workers on €20,000 to €30,000 who gets €2,000 to €3,000 extra will spend most of it in the localeconomy whereas give someone on €120,000 a year another €20,000 they may just save it – they don’t need to spend it.

And it underlines why tackling low pay, insecurity at work and protecting vulnerable workers is really the prudent sensible form of economic management

Recently Luca Visentini the General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) did a speech to the IIEA on ‘Boosting Economic Growth and Relaunching the Social Model’ in Dublin. He referred to Ireland as a positive experience and he said

The ETUC recognise the “Irish example has become a positive benchmark for all the countries in Europe. Since here trade unions and social partners have managed to restore the Industrial Relations, minimum wage systems and what was completely destroyed by the troika intervention in the past and we really appreciated what the Irish Trade Unions and Social Partners were able to do in the last couple of years. And we discuss this a lot about this positive experience because this could really be an example for other countries

New politics tonight is about supporting this motion. I want to call on the parties and independents in this chamber to support progressive politics. Its stands to reason that a wage lead recovery will increase confidence in Ireland, support the growth of small business because people will have more money in their pockets to spend in their local shops and businesses

So far as the Government amendment is concerned, I do welcome the commitment to at least review the application of the Living Wage within the public service and to encourage its adoption across the economy. We could of course go further, faster, and we will keep a careful eye on what the Government actually does to deliver on these commitments.

But it is long past the time the Government can simply and blankly repeat that it will at some stage respond to the University of Limerick study on zero and low hours contracts. Respond when, and how? Do they accept the report or don’t they?

And, on the Clery’s issue, the Government amendment reads as if the Cahill-Duffy report hadn’t been published weeks ago, or as if no one on that side had read it yet.

The Clery’s workers and other vulnerable employees are entitled by now to more than soothing non-committal generalities

The most recent figures from the CSO show we are now at the lowest level of unemployment since the crash. It has been halved from when Labour went into office in 2011 until when we left office a few weeks ago.

Youth unemployment is also halved and employers are again recruiting young people from our universities and colleges right around the country

To make this a more attractive country to live in and a prosperous society supporting this motion tonight is one of the key pieces in the jigsaw to building a fairer Ireland.

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