23 March 2000 Edition

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Mála Poist

Wages for Housework Campaign

A Chairde,

We very much appreciate and welcome your public commitment to measuring the quantity and the economic value of the unwaged work of women (An Phoblacht, 9 March). As you know, this was a basic demand of the Global Women's Strike on 8 March 2000. Women in over 60 countries took action to make visible caring work, housework, farm work, volunteer work - all the work that women spend their lives doing, bearing all the children of the world and raising most of them, making others comfortable and happy, and even growing the family's food.

Housework is said to be the largest industry in Ireland. In Africa, women and girls grow 80% of the food consumed there, and in many Third World countries women and girls have to walk hours every day to get firewood and water so they can cook for the family when they get home. This work is estimated by the UN to be worth $11 trillion worldwide, £736 million in Britain alone.

Because women are the carers everywhere, it is mostly women who take on the defence of loved ones they have nurtured when they are persecuted - because they are Irish Catholic or Black British or Bosnian Muslims or Palestinians or Chileans under Pinochet... Yet mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, fighting for justice, is the most unrecognised unwaged work we do. Movements for justice rarely give women credit for all that justice work.

When we demand for our work to be counted, we know very well how much it is counted on: by employers whom we provide with a workforce every morning, and by everyone we care for and defend. Not surprisingly, it was that brilliant organiser Margaretta D'Arcy of Galway who initiated the women's strike. The International Wages for Housework Campaign made it as global as the market.

She was the first to demand a paid holiday in recognition of womens' work, which the National Council of Women endorsed. That became a Global Women's Strike demand. We hear that many women in Ireland were involved in the strike. We look forward to reading your report!

Power to the sisters and therefore to all the exploited.

Selma James,

Wages for Housework Campaign,

Crossroads Women's Centre,


Give nurses their due

A Chairde,

At a time when the main parties are softening up the public to tolerate a 28% increase for TDs (from £38,796 to £54,150 in basic pay - not counting allowances), our health services continue to deteriorate. The waiting list for serious operations grows daily while hundreds of hospital beds lie empty. This scandalous waste of taxpayers' capital investment is caused by the severe shortage of nurses. Last year, nurses had to resort to industrial action to get even minimal increases, but the continued shortage of staff shows that it is not enough. Surely it makes economic sense to shift resources to nursing staff, where there is a scarcity, from TDs, where there is always a long list of applicants!

Another factor in the difficulty in recruiting nurses is the highly discriminatory refusal to pay university fees for nurses. If these student nurses survive financially, they will end up working alongside fellow professionals, whose fees have been paid. When Mícheál Martin was Minister for Education, he passed the buck for nurses' fees to the Department of Health.

Now that Mr Martin is Minister for Health, he should do the decent thing and thus begin the much needed transfer of resources to where they are most urgently needed - and that's not TDs' pay!

Councillor Dessie Ellis

Sinn Féin

Finglas, Dublin

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1