Thursday, 7 February 2019
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
This week has seen the culmination of the Fine Gael and Independent Government's incompatibility with industrial relations, and its blatant disregard for workers' rights. The Government has refused to engage with the INMO on issues of pay and recruitment in the health sector. This has forced nurses to rightly protest for better working conditions. The Government has refused to meet with the National Association of General Practitioners, NAGP, on issues such as the much-needed investment in the GP sector, particularly in rural Ireland, it has refused meaningful engagement with the Psychiatric Nurses Association over pay and conditions and has even refused to meet the union of choice for ambulance staff and the national ambulance representative association. They do not even have the opportunity to meet with the Government on key issues of concern. Even the Government's agencies refuse to engage or, in some cases, even recognise unions.
Last week Údarás na Gaeltachta announced a year-on-year increase in job creation figures for 2018, which is welcome. Some 156 of those jobs were created in my constituency of Donegal. However, a question remains over the quality of these jobs with employers that either refuse to engage with unions or simply refuse to recognise union membership at all. For example, last year I supported workers at Rapid Action Packaging in Gweedore who had voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action in a ballot taken by SIPTU due to the continued rejection by management of the company to recognise the workers' union. This company and many others were given grants by Údarás na Gaeltachta, a State agency using State money - our money. To this day, there is no way for us to ensure that employers are respecting workers' rights because the power imbalance benefits the employer. This, through Údarás na Gaeltachta funding, is being reinforced by the Government.
It is time that union recognition is granted once and for all to all workers and not left to the discretion of employers. It should be the case in 2019 that Údarás na Gaeltachta makes it a precondition for companies to recognise workers' union of choice before grants may be issued to that company. It is not enough to create jobs, they must be good quality jobs with the appropriate conditions attached, including mandatory trade union recognition by the employer.
Will the Government commit to making State agencies such as Údarás na Gaeltachta impose a precondition for companies seeking grants to recognise trade unions representing future workers of that company?