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Government must act on jobs crisis

17 June, 2009 - by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD


Ó Caoláin urges support for Sinn Féin/Labour motion on jobs

Speaking in the Dáil this evening, on a joint Sinn Féin/Labour Party motion on job creation, Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD said there is a real fear amongst the population that the minimum wage is about to be cut and general wages depressed across all sectors. Deputy Ó Caoláin said depressing wages will only serve to further contract our GDP and the economy as a whole.

He went on to call on the Minister for Social and Family Affairs to ‘get her act together’ and address the scandalous situation where people are waiting for up to three or four months to get the Jobseekers Allowance to which they are entitled.

Full text of Deputy Ó Caoláin’s speech follows:

“Sinn Féin and the Labour Party jointly tabled this motion on unemployment to once more implore this Government to act effectively on the jobs crisis. The Taoiseach’s prediction of 400,000 unemployed by the end of 2009 has already come true and we are not yet at the end of June. Those people and their families have a right to expect a sense of urgency, a strategic plan and effective measures from Government. They have been sorely disappointed, as have we, in the Government’s response.

“Last night the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise Trade & Employment Mary Coughlan listed a number of measures she claims this Government is implementing or about to implement to save and create jobs. There is a glaring anomaly here. Unemployment is rising. Every day more jobs are lost. There has been no stemming the tide on unemployment. Ask any employer to name one measure that has been made available to them to help them keep their staff in jobs and they will struggle to answer.

“The measures that Sinn Féin put forward last night were concrete. The jobs retention scheme would actively keep workers off welfare and in jobs. Lowering the costs of doing business will keep businesses operating, as will ensuring they have access to credit.

“The Tánaiste claimed this government is investing in education at all levels to ensure the workforce is skilled and ready for the turnaround in the economy. Yet this Government has cut the education budget. The re-introduction of third-level fees will further deter our young people, the future workforce, from attending college and increasing their skills sets.

“The Tánaiste also claims there are adjustments being made in labour costs to secure employment. There is a real fear amongst the population that the minimum wage is about to be cut and general wages depressed across all sectors. In this, the Government is extremely short-sighted. The minimum wage is an incentive to work. It is also necessary to provide workers with some small disposable income, which in turn helps to sustain economic activity. Depressing wages will only serve to further contract our GDP and the economy as a whole.

“There is much that can be done to address the cost of doing business. Sinn Féin has called for energy and other utility costs to be addressed and for commercial rents to be made negotiable through legislation. We also want the indirect Value Added Tax to be examined in the longer term.

“The Minister lauds the performance of our trade sector, particularly exports. Last year the Minister launched ‘Catching the Wave’, a report which erroneously set out Irish export figures as contributing to a trade surplus. The fact is, our export sector, which we need to thrive to rebuild our economy and provide jobs, has been underperforming for years. Almost 90% of all that is exported from this state stems from multinationals based here. We are operating a trade deficit in this state in real terms. Our export market is not fit for purpose in terms of economic recovery or jobs.

“I want to stress again the very urgent need for the Minister for Social and Family Affairs to get her act together and address the scandalous situation where people are waiting for up to three or four months to get the Jobseekers Allowance to which they are entitled. Staff must be transferred from other Departments if necessary to address this crisis which is causing real hardship. In this era of computerisation it is absolutely inexcusable that people should be faced with such bureaucratic delays. The Minister must act and act now.

“I have repeatedly raised the need for action to address the special problems of the Border region. The differences in prices of goods, in tax rates and in regulations on either side of the Border are compounding the effects of the recession in this region. At the moment it is this side of the Border that suffers. In the future, as in the past, the flow will be in the opposite direction and the distortion of our island economy will continue. It is time to end the vicious circle or we will be faced with even more complex problems when the recovery eventually comes.

“Are the TDs on the backbenches of that side of the house going to continue to support Mary Coughlan in her role as Tanaiste and Minister? Do they think that she has done enough when unemployment is at 400,000 and rising?” ENDS

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