Minority Government suffers first defeat in Dáil vote

Labour and Sinn Féin in sharp exchanges over Dáil motion on workers’ rights

Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan: claimed Labour was guilty of ‘gross hypocrisy’’ , given it failed to defend the rights of workers while in government. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan: claimed Labour was guilty of ‘gross hypocrisy’’ , given it failed to defend the rights of workers while in government. Photograph: Aidan Crawley

 

The minority Government has suffered its first Dáil defeat.

Its amendment to a Labour motion on workers’ rights was defeated by 78 votes to 58 on Wednesday night. Fianna Fáil voted with Labour against the Government as did Sinn Féin, the Green Party, a number of Independents and the AAA-PBP.

Sinn Féin did not press its amendment.

A number of Independents including Clare Daly, Thomas Pringle and Mick Wallace facilitated a vote for the AAA-PBP amendment as the group did not have the minimum 10 TDs required for a vote, but then abstained. The AAA-PBP motion was defeated by 104 votes to seven.

Labour’s motion on the protection of workers’ rights was accepted without a vote. It calls for the Government to introduce a legislative package to protect and enhance workers’ rights through a number of measures including ending the abuse of ‘if and when’ contracts, combating, bogus self-employment, ensuring freelance workers have the right to collective bargaining, promoting the living wage in public procurement and preventing unilateral pay reductions.

There were sharp exchanges between Sinn Féin and Labour during a resumed debate on the Labour motion.

Sinn Féin TD Maurice Quinlivan claimed Labour was guilty of “gross hypocrisy’’ , given it failed to defend the rights of workers while in government.

He said the Labour motion called on the Dáil to stand up for working people and ensure employees secured a fair share of national prosperity.

“These are fine sentiments but this motion is sponsored by a party who was a partner in the most right-wing government since the foundation of the State,’’ Mr Quinlivan added.

“In government, Labour and Fine Gael went vulture-like after the incomes of ordinary working people and waged war on the living standards of the most vulnerable.’’

Labour TD Alan Kelly accused Sinn Féin of engaging in political point-scoring instead of looking meaningfully on the issue.

“While Labour in the Republic is trying to form a coalition of political thought and trade unions to tackle if and when contracts and zero hour contracts, Sinn Fein in government in Northern Ireland stands over one of the highest rates of the proliferation of zero hour contracts anywhere in the world,’’ he added.

Sinn Féin TD Donnchadh O Laoghaire criticised the “practice of bogus self-employment and the ill-treatment of workers’’.

He said it had been a significant issue in the building industry and was now creeping into other forms of employment.

Mr O Laoghaire said bogus self-employment allowed a company to make an illegitimate saving on tax and employers PRSI, a figure which increased profit by roughly 11 percent at the exchequer’s expense.

“For the worker, this can mean no entitlement to holiday pay, sickness or maternity benefit, or even pension contributions,’’ he added.

“There is no redundancy, no notice of termination and no recourse when it comes to a case of unfair dismissal.’’

Labour TD Joan Burton said if there was a blot on the recent 1916 commemorations in O’Connell Street, it was “the spectre of Clerys famous building shrouded and dead, a death created by a series of clever corporate moves both on and offshore with hundreds of workers thrown out on the street’’.