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.
Government Exploiting JobBridge as 228 interns ‘never had even the slightest chance of being kept on’
JobBridge becoming widespread in Education; Unions must act
The latest figures published in today’s Irish Times show that we in the Scambridge.ie campaign were correct when we said that the government would use this scheme to plug holes left in the public service by their austerity measures and the recruitment embargo. Of the 228 government jobsbridge interns, not one was taken on. Even the Taoiseach’s own department has been engaged in this exploitation.
One of the key arguments which supporters of the scheme used to promote it was that an intern could use it as a chance ‘to get a foot in the door’. We were told that if they worked hard they could get a job in the company. What these figures do is blow that argument out of the water. These interns never had even the slightest chance of being kept on, they were there to fill a hole and then thrown back out when no longer needed.
The Government have cynically used this scheme and exploited the unemployed to try create a yellow pack public service. They have implemented cuts, and redundancies in the public sector while stopping replacements being hired. They have used JobBridge to try to replace paid labour with free labour.
Over the summer period we have seen an increase in the number of schools looking for teachers and other staff through JobBridge, while universities like UCD are also looking for staff through the scheme. It looks like the scheme is beginning to take roots in the education sector. The trade unions need to act to stop the use of this scheme in undermining their members pay and conditions, but also parents should engage with the school to ensure JobBridge isn’t used in a school and organise to demand proper funding for education.
This afternoon there will be a debate on youth unemployment in the plenary session of the European Parliament. I will raise this gross exploitation when speaking in this debate. Young unemployed people need real jobs schemes not exploitation schemes like JobBridge. I have tabled an alternative resolution which calls for a significant increase in the funding allocated by the EU to the Youth Employment Initiative as the €6bn which is largely redirected from other funds is nowhere near enough to have any real impact.
Note – A video of Paul’s speech is now available here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_S8pW-B4y9w
In a cynical political stunt, the government has proposed a referendum on the abolition of the Seanad. The Socialist Party is calling for a Yes vote. Not because we agree with the government’s hypocrisy or general attacks on democratic rights, but because the Seanad is an undemocratic, elitist, conservative body that should be scrapped.
Abolishing the Seanad must go hand in hand with a struggle against austerity and the undermining of democratic rights which is pushed in the Dail and Seanad by all the establishment parties.
Fine Gael and Labour have no credibility. Their proclaimed “Democratic Revolution” has become a counter-revolution, using the crisis to significantly undermine democratic rights. Power over the key economic decisions in Ireland now effectively lies with the Troika of the unelected European Commission, European Central Bank and the IMF. Even to the extent that decisions are made by the government, the powers are increasingly centralised in the Economic Management Council. With the Fiscal Treaty and
other European legislation, significant powers have been handed over to the European Commission – all in a plan to enshrine right-wing austerity policies in law.
It is no wonder that people are inherently suspicious of the government’s intentions in trying to abolish the Seanad. Correctly, people are opposed to the further centralisation of power and believe there needs to be a check on the power of the government. The Seanad is not that body, however. People power is the only real check on the government’s agenda. The Seanad is a fundamentally undemocratic, elitist body designed to be a conservative check on any progressive change.
In the past five years of the economic crisis, the Seanad has acted as a rubberstamp on austerity. In its entire history, it has only twice voted down a government bill. Its electorate is a tiny percentage of the population as a whole – 11 are simply nominated by the Taoiseach, 6 are elected by graduates of NUI universities and Trinity College and 43 are elected by Councillors, TDs and outgoing senators in one of the most undemocratic fashions imaginable.
Potential Senators must be nominated by four TDs or a so-called ‘nominating body’. These bodies include some genuine cultural organisations, but are dominated by big business organisations such as IBEC, Chambers of Commerce, the Construction Industry Federation, the Irish Exporters Association, and the National Off-Licence Association. While some politicians have more than one vote – the vast majority of working class people have none whatsoever.
This isn’t an accidental feature of the Seanad that could be resolved with reform – it is the purpose of the Seanad from its inception – a more limited franchise is designed to ensure a Seanad that is more conservative than the Dail. None of the proposals for a reformed Seanad change that reality.
Hypocrisy abounds on all sides on this issue. On the No side, Fianna Fail’s bleating about a reformed Seanad is just as hypocritical as the government’s talk about democratic change. The collection of right-wing politicians and journalists that makes up the so-called ‘civil society’ group, Democracy Matters, is just as guilty. If Fianna Fail was serious about reform of the Seanad, it could have driven it during its dominance of politics over the past decades.
It took 20 years and the death of Savita Halappanavar for the political establishment to legislate for the X Case, and even then it did it in the most limited way that was possible under the Supreme Court ruling. The idea that any serious progressive reform will come from any of the major parties is laughable.
Real democratic change
A fundamental democratic problem is that there is no significant party which represents the interests of working class people. All of the establishment parties fundamentally represent the bankers and big business – and they share the same right-wing economic policies. The cause of the deep economic crisis is not because of the ‘whip system’ or because of an absence of ‘experts’ in the Dail. It’s because all of the major parties agreed with the policies which created the housing bubble for the benefit of the developers and defend the crisis-ridden capitalist system. They all agreed with bailing out the bankers at the expense of the rest of us.
The banks and bondholders have numerous political parties to represent their interests in Ireland. Working people need one – representatives of working people to oppose the austerity agenda, to promote a socialist alternative and to assist the organisation of the opposition in communities and the trade unions.
Fine Gael Minister Richard Bruton in defending the abolition of the Seanad asked the question: “Can you imagine any other situation in your life where you would be happy to have 1pc of the people making a decision on behalf of the other 99pc?” This is precisely what happens in the capitalist system that he defends. Working people in Ireland and across Europe are feeling the impact of this now. Austerity makes no sense from the point of view of the vast majority of people or the economy as a whole. It does make sense for the 1% however, the rich bondholders who want to maximise their return and the bosses who want to drive down wages to increase profits.
In reality, we do not live in a genuinely democratic society. The key decisions about what happens in our economy are not even made by the politicians – they are made by the ‘financial markets’ (banks, bondholders and hedge funds) and by the directors of big business. Their decisions have caused a calamitous collapse of investment in Ireland, with the consequently very deep crisis.
Real democratic change is not just about the institutions of the state – it is also about economic democracy – the public ownership of the key resources and corporations in the economy under the democratic control of workers in those industries and working people generally. Then, rather than being ruled by short-term profits, a plan for sustainably developing the economy for people’s needs could be developed.
Real democracy also means a state not built on the model of electing people once every four or five years in elections dominated by money and right-wing media coverage. Instead, a socialist democracy means power being taken out of the hands of ‘professional politicians’ and into the hands of ordinary working class people – through popular assemblies and Councils in workplaces and neighbourhoods, making decisions on the matters affecting them and delegating representatives on a workers’ wage and subject to recall to higher bodies.
Despite government spin there is no momentum behind economic growth – austerity is failing working people
The CSO this week released the latest live register figures that showed a marginal drop in unemployment.
Just hours after the release of the data a headline on the website of an Irish newspaper proclaimed ‘recovery gains momentum’. This is the ultimate spin. It does not represent a real recovery in the economy; the figures largely reflect people leaving the labour force and the motor of emigration which is driving masses of young people out of the country. Last week, the CSO had another report out which showed that the rate of emigration has increased by 2.2%, with 243 people leaving the country daily, which amounts to one every six minutes!
These figures and the job creation figures are underpinned by the growth in part-time and precarious, low-paid jobs. Ireland now has the highest rate of this type of employment in the EU. It is a damning statistic which underlines the failure of the government’s action plan for job creation. We need decent full-time jobs not precarious low paid 1913 style jobs.
A patient at St James Hospital, with a degenerative spinal disease and who wears a leg brace due to a badly damaged knee says he has been forced to cancel all his hospital appointments because of a decision by the HSE to cut back on an ambulance service. The ambulance service would usually collect him and other patients and transfer them from their homes to the hospital. He has no other affordable mode of transport.
William Trent, from Inchicore, said “This decision and letter shows the HSE has absolutely no interest or concern in the consequences for patients.
“This decision affects me greatly. In particular I cannot attend hospital regarding my spinal condition, or regarding my seriously damaged right knee or attend the department of neurology.
“I now have to cancel all my appointments – one of which I’ve been waiting over a year for. The result of this is that my progress will not be monitored and importantly this means that any deterioration in my condition will not be picked up.”
Mr Trent has been let down by the health services at various levels during his illness. This is the latest set back he has faced.
The HSE and the Minister for Health must clarify if the withdrawal of this important service is the result of cutbacks and how many patients are going to be affected? There are potentially thousands of elderly or ill people around Dublin who will be affected by this cut and face the prospect of wondering how they will make it to hospital for their appointments.
This is a graphic illustration of the real impact of austerity on people’s lives, in this case, cutting off access to a vitally needed health service.
The cut should be reversed and the ambulance service must be restored immediately.
The latest allegations, and effective non-denial by the Gardai, about the giving of €35,000 worth of alcohol to Gardai by Shell come as no surprise to those of us who have participated in the protests in Co. Mayo over a long period of time.
The Gardai in the area were commonly referred to as ‘Shell’s cops’ and with good reason. They acted, with the direction of this government and the previous government, effectively as Shell’s private security force. They violently assaulted peaceful protesters, including myself, with impunity in order to facilitate the criminal giveaway of our natural resources and the building of a dangerous onshore refinery and pipeline.
A question that must be asked now is whether the Gardai were drunk on Shell’s booze when they were assaulting protesters? The protests took place early in the morning, before 7am, and the breath of some Gardai smelt of alcohol. Was it Shell’s alcohol which fuelled their violent attacks on protesters?
A public inquiry needs to be launched, not just into these specific allegations, but the placing of a rural community under effective Garda occupation over a period of years. Of course, the most significant crime here is the act that this behaviour was designed to facilitate – the giveaway of oil and gas in Corrib worth over €10 billion and reserves of around €1.5 trillion throughout the state.