[Sinn Fein]

26th June 2003

Government not committed to protecting workers rights - Ferris

Speaking during the Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Bill debate in the Dáil this evening Sinn Fein's Martin Ferris TD said he wasn't ``gullible enough to believe that this government has any real commitment to ensuring workers rights''. He accused the Coalition of only moving on the issue as a result of their non-compliance with a 1999 EU Directive being referred to the European Court of Justice.

Deputy Ferris said, ``I welcome the objectives of this bill. It is only right that fixed-term workers must be given equality with comparable permanent workers.

``However, we must ask is why is it only now, in this Bill, that the government is implementing the provisions of EU Council Directive 1999/70/EC of 28 June 1999? The target date for the implementation of this directive was July 2001. The European Commission referred this state to the European Court of Justice for failure to implement the directive on time.

``We must recognise that there has been a high level of abuse in this area from employers who keep staff on a casual or temporary basis. Scandalously even public sector employers are involved in this abuse

``Neither myself or my party are gullible enough to believe that this government has any real commitment to ensuring workers rights. This is a government which has completely ignored the issue of work place accidents and deaths. Fifty-seven people died in work related `accidents' last year. Twenty-one people were killed on construction sites in 2002 and 172 have died on the building sites in the last ten years. In the first four months of this year there have been 8 fatal accidents in the construction sector. Yet the coalition government has failed to act to protect the health and safety of workers.

``This is a government which, in the interest of employers, recently joined with Britain, Germany and Denmark in blocking an EU directive designed to improve rights for part-time and temporary workers giving them the same pay and conditions as full-time workers

``This is a government which has used the partnership process to create an obedient trade union leadership. Workers are increasingly forced to bargain with employers on issues such as employer recognition of unions, compliance with labour legislation and the fulfilling of statutory redundancy rights which are all basic workplace rights The current agreement Sustaining Progress represents a poor deal for Irish workers and the low paid. It offers nothing on real issues facing workers - health, childcare, education.

``This is a government for employers, landlords, big business and the exploiters. Workers should not be fooled by the words of a Junior Minister such as Minister Fahy who has, given his record on other issues, little credibility among the ordinary people of this state.'' ENDS

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