Saturday 7 December 2019

Government's first defeat sees Labour motion passed on rights for workers

Labour leader Brendan Howlin highlighted the case of the former Clerys workers Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Labour leader Brendan Howlin highlighted the case of the former Clerys workers Photo: Frank Mc Grath
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The Government has suffered its first defeat in the Dáil in a vote last night on a Labour motion on workers' rights.

According to the Labour Party, this was the first such loss by a government for more than 25 years.

The minority government's amendment to the Labour proposal was defeated by 78 votes to 58, with some Fianna Fáil TDs voting alongside Labour, Sinn Féin and members of the Anti-Austerity Alliance-People Before Profit among others.

The Labour motion - which seeks a series of new protections for workers, including a significant increase in the minimum wage and a living wage of €11.50 per hour throughout the public sector - was later accepted without a vote.

The result will come as a blow to the Government, which had sought to amend the Labour proposal in line with the Programme for Government.

And it is the first demonstration that Fianna Fáil won't abstain on votes in order to facilitate government plans.

The Government's version of the motion, which pledged to respond to any recommendations of the Low Pay Commission, was roundly defeated last night.

A Labour Party spokesman said the party was "delighted" if "slightly surprised" at the result.

He said it was the first time that a government had been defeated in this manner since Charles Haughey lost a vote over care for people with haemophilia who had contracted HIV from infected blood products.

Back then, the current Labour leader, Brendan Howlin, moved a Private Member's Motion, calling for the establishment of a £400,000 trust fund for such patients.

Mr Haughey's government was defeated on that issue, which in part led to the 1989 General Election.

Last night's Private Member's Motion on workers' rights sought to tackle what Mr Howlin, now Labour leader, described as "insecure hours and enforced, bogus self-employment".

In making the motion, he highlighted the case of the former Clerys department store workers, who lost their jobs without notice almost a year ago, an event which resulted in the taxpayer having to pay statutory redundancy for the workers.

Mr Howlin told the Dáil that such a scenario "cannot happen again".

Some of the former Clerys workers were in the gallery in Leinster House to watch the proceedings last night.

Irish Independent

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