Monday, 29 March 2021
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
Colleagues were rightly outraged by the Beacon Hospital-private school vaccine scandal and I know they spoke about it on Friday. However, a related scandal which has not really received any airing over the past couple of years is the €91 million subsidy given to private schools each year by this Government. To be clear, I have no problem with parents who want to send their children to private schools. However, I have a major problem with parents expecting to be subsidised by the Irish taxpayer to send their children to private schools. When one considers that Barnardos estimates it would cost just €112 million to make national school education truly free for all parents when it comes to schoolbooks and uniforms, surely, the republican thing to do would be to phase out the subsidy to private schools and the wealthy parents who send their children to those schools,and instead ensure there is proper free education for everyone. This is an issue I have raised before but which successive governments seemed very reluctant to engage on. I ask for a debate on the issue so we can hear where everyone stands on €91 million in subsidies to private schools.
The second issue I ask for a debate on is workers' rights. I am continually concerned about how this Government is failing workers. I will cite three particular examples. The first is Deliveroo. I acknowledge other Senators have raised the issue of Deliveroo. It was very depressing to hear a Minister of State reply to Senator Seery Kearney, two weeks ago that this Government has no intention of legislating to protect Deliveroo workers when it comes to their employment status. My union, SIPTU, has clearly called for that status to be protected in terms of proper employee status. The fundamental question I ask is whether we, collectively, are okay with the idea of young people having to sit in the dark and in the shadows outside fast-food restaurants, night after night, and not getting paid? It is basically a recreation of the old hiring fairs. They are waiting outside restaurants to see whether they get a fare. They then take their chances on the roads in Dublin. There is something fundamentally wrong with that and yet this Government has, to date, set its face against legislation to get rid of bogus self-employment. That is an important point we need to raise.
My second example is community employment, CE, supervisors and the ridiculous decision by Fianna Fáil to do a volte-face, a 180° turn.Instead of supporting CE supervisors in their right to a pension, Fianna Fáil is now saying that it changed its mind on that, it is sorry and there is nothing it can do. It is so disappointing for those CE supervisors. My union, SIPTU, is involved.
The workers in Debenhams will be one year on a picket line next week. It is so frustrating to see the failure of Government to deal with this issue. There is the bones of a settlement available. The €3 million is not the issue. The issue is how we can give that money to those workers. The Government has failed. It is so disappointing to see that the Taoiseach has failed to write back to Mandate, not once but twice, on this issue. Those workers deserve so much better. I am calling for an urgent debate on workers' rights. The Government is failing workers.