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Ferris raises concern at proposal to amalgamate workers’ rights and equality bodies

16 August, 2011 - by Martin Ferris TD

Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris has expressed concern at Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton’s proposals to amalgamate a number of workers’ rights and equality agencies and bodies.

Deputy was responding to the publication of the minister’s consultation paper on the reform of the State’s employment rights and industrial relations structures and procedures.

He said:

“The Minister’s proposals have the appearance of amalgamating some quite discrete agencies, in a way which may very well be in fact detrimental to the interests of workers. Those concerned by the continuing attacks on ordinary workers by this government, including the recent ‘reform proposals’ as regards the JLCs will be particularly disquieted by any proposals which reduce the amount of scrutiny and oversight placed upon employers.

“If we are serious about protecting workers and about equality, we should ensure that the structures and agencies put in place to protect them are appropriate, robust and properly resourced

“These agencies have very different roles, which might suffer from a lack of independence from one another.

“I would particularly raise concern as regards any possible amalgamation of courts or tribunals, and I would stress that there is a clear need for workers to have the optimum opportunity to have full recourse to the courts, including at appellate level as well as at first instance.

“The minister should note the specific purposes of the courts and tribunals concerned, and it would be foolish and reckless to assume that the areas of equality and of employment are one and the same. I hope that the Minister recognises this, and the need for a specific approach to equality issues.

“The Minister’s proposals come hot on the heels of his anti-worker approach to reforming the JLCs. My concern is that the minister is using a smoke screen of rationalisation and reform to remove the protections workers rely upon.

“The huge number of applications to the Labour Court and the huge demand for the services provided by the other authorities demonstrate that it is simply not good enough to assume that workers are generally well treated, there is a need for protection and indeed for robust protection. We would be very concerned if these proposals had the effect of further reducing the already small numbers of Labour inspectors

“Sinn Féin will be examining these proposals in depth, and will oppose any efforts to hollow out hard won protections for the rights of workers.” ENDS

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