I regularly update this blog with reflections on current events, issues I’m dealing with in the parliament or important trips I make. I welcome feedback, and encourage you to comment on the blog posts.
I fully support today’s protest in Dublin to mark International Women’s Day, as a very important and timely initiative. Across Europe, there is a conscious attempted to roll back the gains won by women. Austerity programmes across Europe are pushing women out of work and destroying important services. Women comprise the overwhelming majority of workers in some of the lowest paid sectors, are more likely to be affected by pay freezes in the public sector and are more likely to be in part-time or precarious employment. Across Europe there is a 16% difference between men and women and the gender pension gap which currently is on average a staggering 39% lower!
While across Europe, governments are happy closing women’s shelters, recent report shows that one in three women in Europe experienced form of physical or sexual abuse since the age of 15 and 8% suffered abuse in the last 12 months. This austerity agenda combines with a growing and confident right-wing agenda to undermine reproductive rights in Europe. We see this in Spain where the government trying to introduce a new law to severely restrict the right to choose.
We are continually told that women’s rights such as equal pay legislation were handed down from on high by the EU. In fact, equal pay legislation was won by mass strikes in France after the Second World War and by the heroic strikes of female ammunition workers in Belgium, Ford workers in Britain and countless others across Europe. This is the tradition we need to rebuild to defend the gains that have been won and fight for real equality.
I believe we need to have people elected to provide a platform for those movements fighting for equality. When Savita Halappanavar tragically died in 2012 due to Ireland’s barbaric anti-abortion laws, I was the only Irish MEP willing to speak out and to call for the need to repeal the 8th amendment. We should use International Women’s Day to recommit to build a movement throughout Europe against austerity and sexism that stands for and defends a woman’s right to choose.
JOIN THE INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY PROTEST – SATURDAY 8 MARCH, 1PM – CENTRAL BANK PLAZA, DAME ST.
Videos of Paul raising women’s rights in he European Parliament
Dublin City Council clamping targets: Graphically exposes clamping as a crude revenue gathering exercise
In correspondence that has been leaked to the media it has been revealed that Dublin City Council has set a target of 60,000 car clampings a year.
These reports graphically expose that the City Council see clamping as a crude revenue making exercise and has abandoned any pretence of it being a traffic management exercise.
Disgracefully they have even promised a bonus of €2,000 to clamping staff if this target is met. Other bonuses for meeting individual targets including pay rises and time off are also proposed.
Despite what it may appear on the surface, this method of paying staff represents an undermining of their pay and conditions. It represents a shift towards ‘piece work’ which will put pressure on workers to deliver the targets in order to bring home decent pay.
This method of paying clamping staff will undoubtedly see pressure on them not to exercise discretion and common sense. It will also potentially subject them to abuse by the public. It should be opposed by their union SIPTU and other unions in the City Council.
These workers currently work for an outsourced company, Dublin Street Parking Services. The workers should be brought under direct employment by the City Council, be guaranteed decent pay and conditions and not rely on hitting targets. Instead of being used in a crude revenue gathering for the City Council the workers should be engaged in managing traffic and parking more effectively.
Clamping is not an effective method of managing traffic or preventing obstructive parking; it should be immediately ended.
Instead we need a reversal of cuts to the local authorities, clamping should not be used to plug gaps caused by austerity. We need to see investment in public transport to make not using a car more attractive to people. We also need to have more affordable car parking services provided by the City Council for those that do need to use a car.
Yesterday afternoon saw a determined and well attended protest by student nurses against low pay and reduced pay rates as graduate nurses.
I attended the protest in solidarity with student nurses. The government is using them as a cheap source of labour to plug gaps left in the health service because of the recruitment embargo and other austerity measures.
These nurses work just as hard as their colleagues and do the same long shifts, yet they are paid only €6.49 an hour. Like in many other sectors of the economy, what we are seeing with nurses is the use of young people as cheap labour.
In nursing, teaching and social workers we are seeing the growth of many new ‘graduate placement schemes’ or traineeships where they are expected to work full time hours for less pay. Scandalously, the government have also introduced new reduced pay rates for newly qualified teachers and nurses. This is an attempt to drive down wages in these sectors for good.
I and the Socialist Party offer our support to any further protests and campaigning which are required to force the government to meet the demands of student nurses.
What has been reported by the Irish Examiner as a ‘triple top-up’ is nothing more than a three card trick being played by the government in the middle of an orgy of self-congratulation. Reading these reports and watching the interviews being given by every and any minister and backbencher must stick in the throat of people across the country.
There seems to be at least two different Irelands: the government’s fantasy Ireland and the one everyone else exists in. The policies implemented by the government have made the poorest pay for the crisis. The proposed changes to the tax bands will increase this gap, the more money you have the better off you will be after tax band changes and tax cuts.
There are two massive contradictions in Minister Burton’s call for wage increases. Firstly, during the crisis profitability has increased in many sections of the economy while wages have been cut or stagnated, why does she think bosses will give pay-rises out now? It suits them to keep wages down and profits up. Secondly, when you have the Minister implementing free labour schemes like Gateway and JobBridge and then holding seminars to explain to companies how best to take advantage of them why would they even hire and pay someone, let alone give a wage rise, when they have this free labour on offer? These free labour schemes should be scrapped and a new higher minimum wage of €13 an hour should be implemented immediately.
The government predicted in their last budget that the USC would raise somewhere close to €4 billion in 2014. The government could scrap the USC and replace it with a higher rate of tax for top earners which could raise €2.6 billion and by simply going after the multi-national corporations and making sure they pay the 12.5% of tax which would raise €2.3 billion. This would see the richest elements of Irish society feel the austerity burden while allowing many low and middle income earners to be freed from the USC.
Today it was confirmed that Julia Tymoshenko, together with Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Vitali Klitschko, will attend the European People’s Party congress in Dublin this Thursday. While people are rightly horrified at the sight of Russian troops in Ukraine, they should not close their eyes to the reactionary forces being promoted by the European political establishment. Tymoshenko’s supporters, together with Yatsenyuk and Klitschko, worked closely with far-right and fascist forces like Svoboda and the Right Sector in overthrowing the corrupt Yanukovich. It is not for nothing that a Rabbi in Ukraine called on Jews to flee Kiev.
This new government will not offer any solutions to the needs of working class people and has already started to discriminate against Russian speakers within Ukraine. Tymoshenko was previously in power and her government saw a dramatic rise in unemployment and a decline in living standards.
Working people in Ukraine are currently caught in a tug of war between the EU/NATO and Russia. They will be the victims of this great power game which treats these people simply as pawns. On the one hand, Russian imperialism considers the Ukraine as part of its traditional sphere of influence. On the other, the US and the EU have been driving an imperialist agenda with NATO in eastern Europe to incorporate the former Soviet bloc countries into an organised ‘Greater Europe’, with the adoption of the EU neo-liberal model. There is no question that NATO agents are currently on the ground trying to ensure a result in the interest of Western capitalism.
One hundred years on from the outbreak of World War One, which saw millions of working class people slaughtered in a war over colonies and power, people across the world must today reject all drives towards conflict here. I salute those in Russia, like members of the Socialist Party’s sister party in Russia (www.socialistworld.ru) who have protested against Russian militarism. In the EU we should do the same, rejecting all humanitarian and hypocritical ‘democratic’ pretexts by EU leaders to justify intervention. A strong message is needed on Thursday – no to war, no to militarisation, hands off the Ukraine.
Protest against EPP congress Thursday 6 March, assembling 6pm at Liberty Hall and marching to the Dublin Convention Centre.