Seanad debates

Tuesday, 15 November 2022

An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business


2:30 pm

Photo of Paul GavanPaul Gavan (Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

Like others, I want to begin by expressing sympathy on behalf of our party on the passing of Vicky. Even though we knew she was very ill, it was still shocking to hear that she had passed away. Vicky Phelan was a graduate of UL and had particularly close links to Limerick. She was a past staff member of the university and of course was awarded an honorary doctorate in 2018 in recognition of her courage and incredible leadership on all the issues she faced. I agree with Senator Paul Daly. Rather than words, the best tribute we can pay is the actions she wanted to see regarding all of the issues she raised. May she rest in peace.

I met a group of security workers at a SIPTU meeting at the weekend. We have 16,000 security workers throughout the State. I could not begin to describe the level of anger expressed by workers who continue to wait for a pay rise. An employment regulation order, ERO, due to come into being at the end of August was challenged by just three employers. An injunction was raised. These workers are now on €11.65 per hour. They are front-line workers who kept many of our factories and hospitals open during the darkest days of Covid, yet they are only earning €11.65 an hour. A new ERO would have lifted their pay to €12.50 initially and then up to €12.90 in February. Quite frankly, that is not enough, but it would have been of some significance.

The difficulties I have, which the workers asked me to express here today, is that while we understand an injunction was raised we also know the Minister has it within his remit to challenge the injunction. It is a matter of more than regret that three months later no such challenge has taken place. It looks as if the Minister is content to let the challenge meander. It is Groundhog Day for the workers because they have been in this situation before. It may well go on for the best part of another year.

Frankly, it is simply not good enough for the Minister to allow the workers to twist in the wind. They are low-paid workers and work in an industry that has seen significant cutbacks over the past number of years, often with consequences for themselves. The ERO would also ensure the right to sick pay, payment while injured on the job and some improvements to the basic rate pay, yet once again the workers have been left behind. They were very clear to me that they will go on strike if some action is not undertaken. The consequences of that for our hospitals, key factories and other sectors across the State will be massive.

I cannot understand the lack of action by the Minister of State, Deputy English, in regard to this issue. He can and should challenge the injunction. He should work collectively to defend the ERO system. We have seen a new, and very welcome, ERO for childcare workers. Where is the Government when it comes to defending this ERO and standing up for our security workers? I am at a loss as to why this has not happened. I ask for an urgent debate and the support of the Leader on this matter.


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