Dáil debates

Thursday, 23 April 2020

3:25 pm

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Waterford, Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

The Covid-19 crisis has caused a major economic shock. Hundreds of thousands of workers have lost their jobs and many businesses are struggling to stay afloat and face an uncertain future. We need an economic and social plan for the here and now. We also need a plan for when we start to emerge from this crisis - which we will - and we have to get it right. We have choices to make and we must make the right ones in the time ahead. We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past. The Minister's Government cannot rule out or dismiss solutions previously rejected as politically impossible. A return to austerity is not the answer. We need a stimulus package that creates jobs by investing in housing and infrastructure and which also provides decent healthcare, a roof over people's heads, and decent work and pay. We need balanced regional development and sectoral recovery plans for sectors that will be deeply hit by this crisis. We also need to challenge those profiteering from this crisis, including the banks and the insurance industry.

Austerity, emigration and building an economy on low pay and precarious work can no longer be part of the solution. They are the failures of the past. Previous Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments before, during and after the last economic crash cut the minimum wage and income supports for lone parents, to give two examples. They saw emigration as a release valve and solution.

What we now need is a living wage for all, not some vague aspiration to achieve this. We need a real living wage in the here and now for workers. We also need a bailout for workers and families.

I also want to applaud all of our front-line workers. However, the front-line workers of today cannot be the forgotten workers of tomorrow. Many of the front-line workers in retail are on low pay, have if-and-when contracts and are victims of precarious work. We need to end all of that and end the hollowing out of our public services. We have a clear choice; we can continue with the low road chosen in the past of building an economy based on low pay and precarious work or we can take the high road and build an economy based on decent work, decent pay and decent public services. The choices we make will determine how long this economic recession lasts. If we make the right choices and put proper supports in place for workers and families, we will come out of this crisis an awful lot quicker.


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