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Gateway is state-sanctioned slave labour – Ó Snodaigh

10 March, 2014 - by Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD


Gateway is exploitative and punitive. It seeks to take advantage of some of the most vulnerable people in our society by forcing them into twenty-two months of hard labour for a welfare top-up of €20 that can be eroded by tax.

Sinn Féin will use its Private Members time this week to table a motion which calls on the Government to abandon the Gateway Scheme and to instead adopt activation programmes that are based on the principle of equal pay for equal work.

The motion will be debated in the Dáil on the evenings of Tuesday and Wednesday.

Speaking from Dublin today, Sinn Fein Social Protection Spokesperson Aengus Ó Snodaigh said:

“Gateway forces unemployed people to carry out work for local authorities through the threat of cuts and suspensions to welfare payments.

“Gateway is exploitative and punitive. It seeks to take advantage of some of the most vulnerable people in our society by forcing them into twenty-two months of hard labour for a welfare top-up of €20 that can be eroded by tax.

“Gateway does not provide for brighter futures. It does not include training or education mechanisms and as such it does not enhance the employability of participants. This reality is sharpened by the fact that local authorities cannot provide sustainable employment opportunities due to the Public Sector recruitment embargo.

“Gateway is nothing more than state-sanctioned slave labour.

“It is product of a regressive mode of thinking which suggests that the unemployed are the problem, not unemployment.

“It dehumanises jobless citizens and in doing so it actually denies the root causes of the jobs crisis. Those causes persist due to Government policy.

“Much like other initiatives from the Department of Social Protection, such as JobBridge and TÚS, Gateway seeks to demonise the unemployed.

“The backward, right-wing mentality, at the heart of this Government’s social protection policy, was recently shown-up by Fine Gael TD Jim Daly when he said that Gateway would teach unemployed people ‘what it is like to get up in the morning’.

“The progressive, rights-centred alternative would be to adopt an activation programme that has training and education at its core and which genuinely seek to enhance the employability of participants.

These schemes should be about improving the future prospects of participants and not about producing ill-gotten cost-savings for a right-wing government in the here and now.

“Sinn Féin is calling on the Government to not only abandon the Gateway Scheme but also to abandon the mode of thinking that has produced a series of programmes which has ultimately led to the persecution of unemployed people in this state.”

ENDS

· Please find the full text of Sinn Fein’s PMB motion below:

DÁIL ÉIREANN

Fógra Tairisceana : Notice of Motion

GNÓ COMHALTAÍ PRÍOBHÁIDEACHA

PRIVATE MEMBERS’BUSINESS

“That Dáil Éireann:

noting that:

when the Government came to power 55.1 per cent of those unemployed were long-term unemployed, after three years of this Government 61.4 per cent of those unemployed are now long-term unemployed; and

there has been a 25 per cent reduction in local authority staffing levels since 2011 and local authority services are therefore unable to provide adequate services across a range of areas, as evidenced by the recent delays in addressing damage caused by severe weather;

considers that the new Gateway scheme:

is a work-for-benefits scheme, also known as workfare or forced labour, on which participation is not voluntary;

entails 22 months of hard labour for a very small social welfare top-up of €20 that can be all but eroded by tax;

will not enhance the employability of participants, as there is no quality training involved and there is a recruitment embargo in place on local authorities;

punishes the unemployed for being unemployed;

copper fastens the under-staffing of essential local services; and

undermines existing pay, terms and conditions for staff across the local authority sector; and

calls on the Government to abandon the Gateway scheme and instead explore the introduction of an alternative activation programme based on a training-intensive Community Employment scheme type model for a local authority context or temporary work experience opportunities on the basis of equal pay for equal work done.” — Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Jonathan O'Brien, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Gerry Adams, Mary Lou McDonald, Michael Colreavy, Seán Crowe, Pearse Doherty, Dessie Ellis, Martin Ferris, Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, Sandra McLellan, Brian Stanley, Peadar Tóibín.

[7 March, 2014]

Change Cannot Be Stopped

The story of change is only beginning.

Sinn Féin will not allow Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to waste the potential, the possibilities and the aspirations of our people.

A government led by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil together does not represent the change that people voted for in February. In fact, it is an attempt to deny change, to protect the status quo and to continue with the same broken politics that has so badly failed workers and families

Sinn Féin will defend the change that the people voted for. We will continue to stand up for workers and families.

North and south, Sinn Féin is that change for a fairer, stronger and united Ireland.

Fully Supporting our Health Service and Frontline Workers

We need to ensure that we have all available capacity within our health systems, that we have sufficient ventilators and respiratory equipment, sufficient beds including ICU beds, and that our frontline workers are protected.  We need more testing and tracing and we need to ensure that we have all available capacity within our health systems, that we have sufficient ventilators and respiratory equipment, sufficient beds including ICU beds. 

The lack of protective equipment (PPE) for health workers, carers and others is causing a lot of concern – with frontline workers taking to the internet looking for resources and the government have stated that homehelp workers don’t need PPE. 

We need to see delivery of more testing across the island to tackle COVID-19 in line with the advice of WHO and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

Income Support - Protecting Workers & Families

Sinn Féin’s proposals in the south would have guaranteed 100% of income up to €525 a week for workers and the self-employed who are laid off due to this crisis.  The Irish government’s proposal comes nowhere close to that and does not go far enough. €350 is not enough for people who have lost their jobs. 

While we are supportive of the wage subsidy scheme we believe that it must be targeted and not open to abuse - employers should have to make up the rest of the 30% of the salary – under the Irish government proposal employers could put in just one cent towards their employees pay.

There are also outstanding issues including: will workers have to pay tax on this income, now or at the end of the tax year; can workers who reside in the north but pay tax in the south be able to access the PUP payment?

Protecting Workers, Families and Businesses in the North

Finance Minister Conor Murphy has introduced protections for workers, small businesses and is lobbying the British Treasury to support the self-employed. He has brought in rate relief, including a three month rate holiday for all businesses and grants to support SMEs.

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has streamlined the benefit system to make it easy for those affected by COVID-19 to access benefits, including sick pay for workers.  She has also introduced support measures for the community and voluntary sector.

Affordable Housing

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael cannot be trusted to deliver on housing. Their records speak for themselves.

Sinn Féin is committed to delivering the largest housing build in the history of the State.

Sinn Féin's "Fair Rent and Protection of Renters Bill" would prohibit rent increases on existing and new tenancies for three years and end the practice of tenants being evicted from buy-to-let properties on the grounds that a property is to be sold. These are vital protections that people need now more than ever.

In the north, Sinn Féin Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has introduced measures to support those in the public housing sector and we have called for mortgage relief for homeowners and businesses.

Banks and the Insurance industry

It is outrageous that many people with a €200,000 mortgage will pay close to €2,000 more over the lifetime of their mortgage because the banks are not only charging interest but interest on the interest.  This is how the banks are intending to profit out of this crisis and it is outrageous. We want the Central Bank and the banks called in by the government and this to be stopped. We have been in touch with the Minister, the Central Bank and the banks on this. The fact is that they already charge twice the average EU interest rates for mortgage  - they need to waive all interest during the period of the emergency and not profit on it.

The behaviour of the insurance industry also needs to be tackled – they are failing to respond properly to this crisis.

The insurance industry is trying to find ways of avoiding providing coverage to businesses who pay very high insurance premiums and have been forced to close as a result of the crisis.  They need to be reined in by the Central Bank and taken to task over this behaviour. Nothing less than this is approach is required.