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SF to use private members time to demand stand alone Department of Labour Affairs

20 February, 2006

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Employment and Workers Rights Arthur Morgan T.D. this morning announced that Sinn Féin would be using its private members time this week to demand the establishment of a separate and stand alone department of Labour Affairs.  He explained that Sinn Féin was making this demand in light of the failure of the Government to uphold labour standards, the failure prevent the exploitation of workers and the conflict which exists as a result of the same department having responsibility for enterprise policy and employment policy. 

Deputy Morgan said, “Employment and workers rights are currently handled by a junior Minister within the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment.  We have weak labour regulation matched by non-enforcement.  The focus is not on upholding labour standards, the enhancement of workers rights or the enforcement of existing labour law.  The focus on competition and enterprise, to the detriment of workers terms and conditions of employment.  Last year saw unprecedented revelations about the exploitation of migrant workers.  It saw the numbers of people killed in workplace deaths increase by 21 on the previous year.  The labour inspectorate is desperately under resourced. The work permit system facilitates the exploitation of vulnerable migrant workers.  The Competition Authority is attacking the right of certain freelance workers to be collectively represented and the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment is refusing to intervene on behalf of these mainly low paid workers.

“Sinn Féin will be using our private members time in the Dáil next week to demand the establishment of a stand alone Department of Labour Affairs  - to decouple labour affairs from enterprise in order to address this conflict and to ensure that appropriate priority and focus is given to the protection and promotion of workers rights.” ENDS

The debate will take place at 7pm on Tuesday 21st and again at 7pm on Wednesday 22nd. 

Text of motion follows:

"That Dáil Éireann,

affirming the responsibility of the State to uphold the rights of workers and, in particular, to ensure, protect and uphold the realisation of the following workers rights:

·              the right to be free from exploitation;  

·              the right to a fair remuneration sufficient for a decent standard of living for themselves and their families and to equal pay for equal work;

·              the right to form, join and be represented by trade unions, to negotiate contracts of employment, and to engage in industrial action;

·              the right to work in safe conditions that are not harmful to health and well-being; and

·              the right to access life-long learning opportunities and vocational training and re-training;


·              that the failure to give adequate priority and focus to labour affairs finds expression in a failure to fully uphold Ireland’s obligations under Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Articles 6, 7 and 8 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and Articles 1 to 10 of the European Social Charter (Revised), and in the failure of the State to ratify the UN Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and members of their Families;

·              that the current configuration of labour affairs as a secondary responsibility within the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, whose primary responsibilities are enterprise and competition policy, prevents the State from giving the required priority to the protection of workers rights and to upholding labour standards;

·              the inherent conflict of interest which exists within the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment as a result of that Department having responsibility for both enterprise policy,  including competition policy and labour affairs.  This conflict is exemplified by the attack by the Competition Authority, which falls under the aegis of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, on the right of certain freelance workers, including musicians, actors and journalists, to be collectively represented;

·              the failure of the State to prevent the exploitation of migrant workers as evidenced by the numerous incidences of abuse of these workers, which have come to public attention during the last 12 months;

·              the failure of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment to ensure that the State has a labour inspectorate of sufficient strength and with sufficient powers to enforce existing employment law; and

·              the increasing priority that must be given to the protection of labour standards in light of the current push by certain employers to drive down pay and conditions;

shall, in order to ensure that appropriate priority and focus is given to the protection and promotion of workers’ rights and in order to replace the current model of weak labour regulation and non-enforcement with comprehensive regulation, including the increased use of Employment Regulation Orders and Registered Employment Agreements, and stringent enforcement, establish:

·              a separate and stand-alone Department of Labour Affairs whose primary responsibilities shall be the improvement and enforcement of employment rights and entitlements, the protection of labour standards, industrial relations, the promotion of health and safety at work and the implementation of policies to improve work-life balance and to promote life long learning; and an Oireachtas Joint Committee on Labour Affairs."

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