Friday, 18 December 2020
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I will begin by wishing the Cathaoirleach a happy Christmas. I thank him for his guidance during the year. I also extend Christmas wishes and thanks to Mr. Martin Groves, Ms Brigid Doody and all the Seanad staff as well as to the Leader, whose constructive approach thus far must be acknowledged.
I was struck by the comments of Senators Casey and Crowe and my heart genuinely goes out to them. I cannot imagine how hard it is for the hospitality sector at the moment.I appeal to the Government to review this constantly and determine what more it can do for the hospitality sector at present. That said, I believe there is probably no alternative but to go back into some kind of lockdown. Considering the figures and what is happening across Europe, health has to come first. That, however, does not make anything any easier for all the businesspeople who have struggled throughout this period so far.
I was really pleased that Senator Casey mentioned the staff in the Oireachtas, particularly the cleaning staff and other contractors. I feel passionate about the idea that this Oireachtas should be a living-wage site. It can be done. My union, SIPTU, has pioneered the concept. It means that every worker, regardless of whether they are employed directly by the Houses of the Oireachtas or here as contractors, gets a living wage. There are a number of sites in Ireland that have already established this practice. It would make a substantial difference to the people who do an amazing job in these buildings and who are paid very low sums of money. It would make a substantial difference to them. It would not be a huge drain on the Exchequer. It would be very small. When we come to work next year, would it not be wonderful if we knew the workers were getting at least a living wage and could earn a living? I appeal to Members on a cross-party basis in this regard. I have written to the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission and asked the Chair to consider my proposal actively so we can make a real difference for people. It is not enough just to give applause to the essential front-line workers. Maybe we could consider my proposal for next year. I wish everyone well and a happy Christmas.