28 January 2010 Edition
Nuacht na nOibrithe
Government and employers attack minimum wage
AS 90,000 public sector workers in the 26 Counties began to defend against attacks on their pay and conditions this week with a work-to-rule, the Fianna Fáil and Green Party Government helped employers foment the climate for the abolition of the minimum wage.
Former Agriculture Minister Mary Coughlan, who seems to have carried political foot and mouth from her previous brief to her current stint as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment said at the weekend that her Fianna Fáil-led Government is considering allowing employers in the hospitality, retail and construction sectors to claim an ‘inability to pay’ the legally-defined minimum wage.
Coughlan contended that the lowering of the minimum wage in these sectors “would only apply where employees agreed to the measure in order to keep their jobs”. Talk about workers being made an offer they can’t refuse!
Under sustained pressure from Sinn Féin and the Opposition to reaffirm the Government’s commitment to the minimum wage for the lowest-paid in society while the bankers are bailed out for billions, the bungling Tánaiste tried to kick for touch by stating that the matter is currently before the Labour Court.
Further pay cuts
Meanwhile, at a special delegate conference on Tuesday of the Civil and Public Services Union, which represents lower-paid public servants, CPSU General Secretary Blair Horan said “the Government now has a fight on its hands”.
Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise and Employment Mary Coughlan has refused to assure public sector workers that they won’t face further pay cuts in next year’s Budget.
Blair Horan said that lower-paid staff had seen wages cut by 12% to 13% and the union will not tolerate “poverty wages” for lower-paid staff in the Civil Service.
One Civil Service delegate to this week’s CPSU conference revealed that she has had to take on a second job to make ends meet and pay for childcare and often works up to 70 hours a week.
Community sector vows to resist cuts
SIPTU members in the community and voluntary sector have vowed to escalate their campaign of resistance to pay cuts and reduced Government funding.
SIPTU Divisional Organiser in the Public Sector and Community Sector Gene Mealy said that pay cuts and the slashing of programmes and budgets in the sector will hit the most vulnerable in society.
“The withdrawal of training and the reduction of material grants in addition to wage cuts in Community Employment and Jobs Initiative schemes will act as a barrier to the unemployed accessing these training and employment programmes.”
He pointed out:
“This campaign is not simply about wages. It is about securing funding for vital services on which many vulnerable communities depend. Community Development Programmes, local partnerships, drug rehabilitation projects and youth services are all facing substantial cuts in funding, leading to reduced services.”
Young people tell TDs: ‘Don’t Skip Our Future – Is it not worth €12 a week?’
DOZENS of youth groups from across Dublin protested at the Dáil on Wednesday against cuts in funding for projects helping to keep young people out of trouble, developing their talents and giving them life skills as well as educational supports.
The Dublin Focus on Youth Network said that any further cuts in funding for youth services will threaten their futures and also seriously damage local communities.
The young people stood in rubbish skips while dressed in costumes representing some of the future careers they aim towards.
They said they want to send a clear message to Government: “Don’t Skip Our Future – Don’t Put Young People on the Scrapheap.”
The young people taking part in the event were part of the Dublin Focus on Youth campaign, a coalition of nearly 70 youth services that receive funding from the City of Dublin Youth Service Board (CDYSB).
The coalition was staging a Youth Work Day of Action which up to 300 young people, parents and community workers took part in around the city.
Some of the young people at the Dáil protest also posed the question at the event: “Is my future not worth €12 a week? The total CDYSB budget for youth projects and services and backup support was less than €20 million in 2008.
As nearly 34,000 young people availed of the projects and services in 2008, this means it cost less than €12 per young person per week. “Great value for money in anyone’s book,” a spokesperson said.
Additionally, they added, a range of voluntary youth clubs and groups also carried out great work with just under 13,000 young people in 2008.
Dublin Focus on Youth has warned that a round of funding cuts has already seriously hit services, putting some at risk of having to shut down.
Some services have had to cut frontline services, leaving many young people disadvantaged without the vital support they need to build personal skills, maintain education and contribute to their local community.
Youth groups have pledged to resist the cuts that hit grassroots support for young people in their communities.
Leinster House jobs protest
As TDs and Senators returned to the Dáil and Seanad last week, the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed and Dublin Sinn Féin welcomed them back with a demonstration outside Leinster House, protesting against the cuts made to social welfare payments in the recent budget and further cuts that were made to the wages of participants on Community Employment and Jobs Initiative programs