Next year, 2013 sees the 100th Anniversary of the Lockout, the most significant and well-remembered moment in Irish labour history. This anniversary shall doubtless see many of those on the Government Bench’s with a regained, and indeed new found interests in the rights and welfare of workers in modern Ireland
Given what we have seen from the Government in 2012 on the issue of workers rights, however, we can only assume that new found interest will extend little further than platitudes. What is the reality for Irish workers in 2012? Workplace accidents have reached outrageous levels of nearly one a week.
The striking down of the JLC system was a blow to many lower paid workers, but the legislation brought forward by the Minister falls far short of what is necessary, and we call on the Minister to amend the legislation to avoid the loss of the Sunday Premium, particularly given that many workers effectively have no choice financially, but to work Sundays.
Incredibly, despite years of promises, and indeed a programme for Government commitment, we have no collective bargaining, which brings us in to clear contravention of several International labour Organisation Conventions, which are legally binding on us.
There compliance mechanisms are appallingly poor, and companies are regularly disregarding determinations of the Labour Court, and having to be dragged through every stage for even the basic remuneration and sanctions.
While there is much to welcome in the new Protection of Employees (Agency Workers) act, there is a loophole in the legislation, which you could drive a horse and carriage through, and which remains in the legislation despite the fact that the loophole was pointed out by Sinn Féin
Probably most notably, we have seen in workplace after workplace, workers being forced to occupy their workplace, and launch campaign after campaign, for something as basic as their redundancy entitlements.
We are all familiar with the stories of Vita Cortex, who are finally getting their reward for a heroic campaign which has lasted some five months. We have also seen similar campaigns with Lagan Brick, La Senza, EBSCO, Game, and many many more.
Yet the Government, and Minister Richard Bruton has refused to act on these issues, and even taken advantage of some others. Sinn Féin some weeks ago brought forward the Protection of Employees Amendment Bill 2012, which would have gone some way to improving the lot of workers who had been made redundant, including by reducing waiting times. They refused to support it.
They have also refused to bring forward legislation on Corporate Manslaughter, despite the fact that Sinn Féin has brought forward legislation on this in recent years. Sinn Féin is serious about Workers rights and we will continue to challenge the Government to ensure that workers get the protection they deserve in the Ireland of 2012. We will work with the Trade unions, and with other progressive forces to advance the cause of workers.
Over the next 12 months we will be beginning a campaign to fight for the right to collective bargaining. Our aim is to ensure that workers have more a level playing field, and can fight for their rights as a collective. The Government, and in particular the Labour Party, would do a disservice to the memory of Jim Larkin and of the lockout, if we enter 2013 without the right to collective bargaining.
We will be bringing forward proposals on redundancies, to ensure that workers get their redundancy entitlements in good time, and in full. We will be bringing forward proposals on compliance, and bringing forward proposals around non-victimisation of workers. Sinn Féin will continue throughout to be vocal in our defence of workers’ rights, and we will not allow the Government to get away with their current inaction
Ní saoirse go saoirse lucht oibre.