22 May 2003 Edition

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Government not protecting workers

In the Dáil on Thursday 15 May, Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Trade and Employment, Arthur Morgan, speaking on the Redundancy Payments Bill, accused the PD/Fianna Fáil government of having no affinity with protecting the rights and entitlements of the working class. He put forward an amendment which, if accepted, would have made the provisions of the Bill retrospective. The amendments put forward by Sinn Féin to make the provisions of the Bill retrospective were not supported by the government parties, however. Morgan said it was shameful of Mary Harney that she absented herself from the Dáil for a large part of the debate.

"The Redundancy Payments Bill is urgently required," said Morgan. "Despite the wealth generated in the last ten years, life remains a perpetual struggle for the low paid workers of this state. Government and employers' organisations have made every attempt to resist giving workers who are made redundant adequate compensation.

"James Larkin once referred to William Martin Murphy as the 'most foul and vicious blackguard that ever polluted any country... a capitalistic vampire'.

If he had lived today, I expect that James Larkin would describe the current Minister for Finance in similar terms, for it is Minister McCreevy who has led the lockout against the workers of this state, preventing them from accessing the profits which their labour generated during the years of the Celtic Tiger boom. Fianna Fáil deputies are disgraced by their conduct in government, by their betrayal of the rights of Irish people.

"The workers of Peerless Rugs in Athy and the Irish Glass Bottle Factory in Dublin deserve much of the credit for forcing this uncaring government to reform the outdated redundancy legislation, the basic terms of which had not changes in 35 years.

"It is a sad indictment of this government that it took these protracted disputes and the determination of the workers of those companies to force An Tánaiste to bring forward legislation to increase redundancy entitlements.

"Though I welcomed this Bill, I do not believe it has gone far enough. I welcome the fact that discrimination suffered by young workers under the 1967 Redundancy Payments Act is being abolished. The discrimination against older workers under this legislation, whereby those over the retirement age are not entitled to statutory redundancy payments, must also be tackled.

"I do not believe the Bill has gone far enough with regard to the level of statutory redundancy. Workers who have long waited for this legislation are deeply disappointed that the government, once again, has given into pressure from employer organisations to restrict the level of redundancy to two weeks per year of service. Sinn Féin supports the demands made by the trade unions that the statutory redundancy payments be increased to three weeks pay for every year of service and I have put forward an amendment to that effect."

Balance between inward and indigenous investment

Morgan said that a growing number of workers are likely to become redundant in the coming months due to the decline of the economy. "19,828 people lost their jobs in 2002, the highest number since 1993. The government must insure that workers are protected at a time of economic downturn and this includes measures in addition to providing adequate statutory redundancy. We need to see a real strategy from the Department of Enterprise Trade and Employment to deal with job losses which goes beyond simply setting up a new task force each time a factory or business closes.

"Increasingly, we see that multinational companies that received inordinate amounts of grant aid from the state during the boom years are now uprooting and moving to developing countries where they can access cheap labour. This trend illustrates the necessity of providing indigenous industries with the same quantity and quality of resources as were made available to foreign investors.

"We need an economic development strategy that creates a balance between inward and indigenous investment. We need to encourage both small and large-scale indigenous companies with a research and development anchor, while also recognising that the bulk of employment stems from small and medium-sized enterprises. Investment is indigenous companies will have a beneficial impact on ensuring job security for Irish workers."

An Phoblacht
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