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Time for Government to include social clauses in public procurement contracts- Lynn Boylan MEP

10 March, 2015 - by Senator Lynn Boylan

Dublin Sinn Féin MEP Lynn Boylan has called on the Irish government to use the new procurement directives to achieve gender equality targets. The State spends approximately €9 billion each year on goods and services and while social clauses have been included in a very small number of public contracts, they are not currently legislated for nor are they mandatory.

 Speaking on the issue last night in Strasbourg, Ms Boylan said:

“In April 2016, Ireland will transpose three new procurement directives into national law.

Previous guidelines from the European Commission give real scope for the government of Ireland to use procurement as a positive instrument to achieve gender equality targets, sustainable development and to realise social goals such as its national anti-poverty targets.

In order to ensure real public accountability, labour rights, equality and environmental considerations should be explicitly referred to at all stages of the procurement process.

The right to organise, collective bargaining and gender equality as set out by the International Labour Organisation standards must be complied with and monitored on an ongoing basis.

Given that Ireland is currently languishing second in the OECD for low pay and women are particularly vulnerable in this area, the living wage should be included when applying the best price-quality ratio. Contracts cannot be just assessed on the bottom line as this would lead to a race to the bottom in wages and working conditions.

It is also important to note that the Directives do not oblige Ireland to contract out services they wish to provide themselves and therefore they should remain in public control. Community and voluntary services must also be protected and their ability to access funding through grants rather than relying on tendering processes should not be interfered with.

Sinn Féin had a bill, Social Clauses in Public Procurement Bill 2013, which is now buried in committee, even though this government supported it in theory. This Bill legislates for the mandatory inclusion of social clauses in all public procurement contracts worth in excess of €1 million.

Now is the time for this government to recognise how necessary social clauses are in public procurement and for it to take the necessary leap forward when transposing these new European directives.

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