Labour Trade Unionists appalled at Fianna Fáil disregard for low-paid workers

Labour Trade Unionists
28 November 2019

In an outrageous response to a request for Seanad support on a Bill to support the most low-paid and vulnerable workers in the State, Fianna Fáil chose to support the government party, Fine Gael, which continues to block any and all progressive legislation to improve the situation for those working in the most precarious jobs.

On Wednesday 27th November Senator Ged Nash presented a Private Member’s Bill Industrial Relations (Joint Labour Committees) Bill 2019 to the Seanad which sought to end the employer’s veto of JLCs and address the inadequacies of the current system.

The Joint Labour Committee system, in place by the Oireachtas for more than 100 years, is a mechanism focussed entirely on workers who are in precarious and low-paid jobs and who are seriously under-represented within their sector. This Bill sought to remove the employers’ veto and ensure that all parties in the sector work together to resolve the issues and improve wages and terms and conditions of employment.  However, since the re-establishment of the system in 2012, employers have decided not to participate thereby rendering the system unworkable.

Speaking after the vote Senator Ged Nash said:

“It is disgraceful that Fianna Fáil sided with Fine Gael to block any prospect of underpaid workers in sectors such as hotels and restaurants being entitled to binding minimum rates of pay above the statutory minimum wage.

“The battle lines on workers’ rights are clearly drawn. Fianna Fáil has a hard neck claiming to be a left of centre party. As today’s vote shows, the party that cut the minimum wage are just as bad as their bedfellows in Fine Gael when it comes to the question of decent pay and working conditions for hardworking people” added Senator Nash.

“This legislation is long overdue and would give some protection to workers across various sectors who are low-paid but also have inadequate conditions of employment, be it long hours of work, no access to sick pay, or no fixed working hours” said Willie Hamilton, a spokesperson for the Labour Trade Union Section and MANDATE trade union official. 

“Today we fully expected that Fine Gael would vote this down, as they are the party of businesses and bosses.  However, we were appalled and quite frankly shocked at the position taken by Fianna Fail, who now stand with the Fine Gael government and unscrupulous employers in stark opposition to workers and their unions”.

“It is clear that Fianna Fail are not a friend or ally of workers in this country, and that is a message we will be taking back to our homes, our workplaces and our communities” he added.

“Although they are clear in their lack of support for workers’ rights and protections, from blocking tipping legislation, deferring the increase in the National Minimum Wage and now voting down a mechanism to provide a more secure and better quality of life for workers, Fine Gael do seem confused about the role of the State in Industrial Relations ”, said Fiona Dunne, chair of the Labour Trade Union group.

“In the chamber today, both Fine Gael and Fianna Fail referenced the “voluntarist” nature of the industrial relations environment whilst suggesting that the role of the State was purely facilitative to bring about resolutions. However, how can any conflict be resolved when one of the key parties won’t even come into the room” she asked. 

“The message to workers today is loud and clear, the majority parties have no interest in working rights and improving conditions for workers.  The only support that workers can rely on is from the Labour Party who are leading on these issues with other progressives on the left, along with their trade unions with whom we will continue to work to improve the industrial relations environment”.

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