“After the war people said, ‘If you can plan for war, why can’t you plan for peace?’ When I was 17, I had a letter from the government saying, ‘Dear Mr. Benn, will you turn up when you’re 17 1/2? We’ll give you free food, free clothes, free training, free accommodation, and two shillings, ten pence a day to just kill Germans.’ People said, well, if you can have full employment to kill people, why in God’s name couldn’t you have full employment and good schools, good hospitals, good houses?”
Tony Benn, Member of the British Labour Party
Everyone has a right to gainful and decent employment which would provide dignity, respect and a living wage. A full employment economy requires several layers: an expanding public sector including public enterprise; a growing cooperative sector, non-profit and labour-managed sector; and a growing public enterprise. At the very least, where people cannot find work, the state must act as an employer of last resort, directly employing people in socially productive activity.
A progressive government will vindicate people’s right to decent work through a revolution in the workplace embodied in a far-reaching Decent Work Act. This will eliminate precarious employment, provide under-employed workers with the right to seek additional hours in their workplace when they become available, introduce the right to collective bargaining (by referendum if necessary) – enabling economic and political democracy, end bogus self-employment, and legislate for overtime and unsocial hours pay. Employers who refuse to recognise their workers’ right to collectively bargain should not be able to avail of any tax refunds or benefit from any State assistance.
In order to provide equitable non-discriminatory access to the workplace a progressive Government will legislate for the right to publicly available, accessible, high quality affordable childcare, part-time, full-time and after-school provision.
This policy will also see the abolition of compulsory or exploitative elements of Government activation schemes such as JobBridge.
The future is wage-led – in particular, the ending of low pay. The medium term goal should be to make the Living Wage the statutory floor.
Exploitation of workers, particularly low-paid workers in vulnerable sectors, is exceptionally high in Ireland while inspections by the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) and the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) is limited. Legislation providing for inspections from licensed trade union officials in relation to breaches of both employment and health and safety laws – in line with “right of access” laws in other countries like Australia and New Zealand – should be implemented.
The PRSI system should be expanded to include the self-employed in order for them to avail of the same social welfare benefits as all other workers.
We will defend the right to take effective strike action and will remove the obstacles contained in the Industrial Relations Act 1990 that are designed to prevent this. We will also reform the Insolvency Acts to put workers at the top of the queue in a liquidation situation and reform the Company’s Acts to make it more difficult for private companies to split their assets and avoid their liabilities to their workers.