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Concern at record number of discrimination and racism claims

21 November, 2006

Sinn Fein Workers Rights spokesperson Arthur Morgan TD today outlined his concerns regarding figures which have emerged that show a record number of discrimination claims at work and a significant rise in the number of incidents of alleged racism lodged with the Equality Tribunal for the first nine months of this year.

Deputy Morgan said, "These figures have emerged against a back-drop of us being told that racist attitudes are on the wane in this state. Obviously this is clearly not the case as there have been 321 claims of discrimination lodged already this year. Forty more race claims were lodged with the tribunal in the first nine months of this year than in the whole of 2005 with a total of 93 claims being made.

"Migrant workers and their families are invaluable to our economy both as employees and consumers but they need to be treated with the same respect and dignity that is afforded to our own indigenous population. It is unacceptable that there can be such a sharp increase in racism and discrimination in the workplace.

"The rights of all workers to equality and freedom from discrimination in employment are protected under international human rights law in a number of treaties to which Ireland is a party to including the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. In EU law, the EU Race Directive (2000) and the Employment Equality Framework Directive (2000) lay down minimum requirements on Member States, but also give the option of introducing or maintaining more favourable positions when incorporating the directives into domestic law. Obviously Sinn Féin favours enactment of the strongest possible protections. However, the key indicator of the success or otherwise of employment equality legislation is whether it has been effective and made a tangible difference to workers on the ground. The latest Equality Tribunal figures do not reflect well on the Government attempts to rid the workplace of discrimination.

"Sinn Fein wish to tell the government that what is needed now are legal sanctions on those who promote or incite discrimination, or who directly participate in sectarian, racist, homophobic or sexual harassment as well as removal of the 'comparator' requirement (defining discrimination by reference to comparable situations) as this often makes discrimination harder to prove and works at cross-purposes with principles of equality by setting up the currently privileged group as the norm. " ENDS

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