Seanad debates

Thursday, 22 September 2022

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business


10:30 am

Photo of Marie SherlockMarie Sherlock (Labour)

I express solidarity with the more than 1,000 workers who are out on strike yesterday, today and tomorrow across a number of section 39 organisations and community employment schemes in Cork, Kerry, Galway, Mayo and Donegal. Most of these workers provide vital health and disability services to some of the most vulnerable people in our communities and yet they have had no pay increase since 2008 and nobody to negotiate with. They cannot negotiate with their employer because the employer receives a fixed amount from the Government. When their unions approached the Government, it washed its hands of them. The question that has to be asked is, are we going to force these workers to strike again in the middle of winter to try to get some improvement in their pay? They have been left with no option.

In keeping with the industrial relations sphere, yesterday it was announced that Patricia King, general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, ICTU, intends to step down over the next few weeks. It is important that we recognise her immense contribution to improve the lives of working people in this country. She was a trailblazer in the union movement, the first woman general officer in SIPTU, Ireland's largest trade union, and the first woman secretary general of the ICTU. Her achievements set her apart in coming to national prominence in 2005 during the Irish Ferries dispute and mobilising thousands of people onto our streets because of the appalling breach of that threshold of decency by Irish Ferries. There was also the 2018 legislation on which she engaged with the Leader when she was Minister with regard to outlawing zero-hour contracts and laying down decent entitlements for those who find themselves on "if and when" contracts. We will see the fruits of all her background work to improve the right to collective bargaining in this country when we see the transposition of the adequate minimum wages directive into Irish legislation next year.

These are but a few of Patricia King's long list of achievements which started four decades ago. To acknowledge her immense contribution any of us who had the privilege of working with her know that she had a fierce determination to furthering the cause of working people. She will be sorely missed across the trade union movement and in this country.


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