THE Kilkenny Council of Trade Unions have been meeting with the local Oireachtas members over the past few weeks to express their concerns on the forthcoming Budget. They also discussed a number of important issues concerning employees rights with them.
“The Budget must protect the less well off in our society and insist that those with the ability to pay do that,” Pat Kavanagh, Chairperson of the local Trades Council and TEEU official said following the meetings. “This has not been the practice as Budgets have always targeted the low and middle income earners and Social Welfare recipients,” he added.
“It cannot be right for any government to ask a person on E35,000 a year to pay the same rate of tax as those on hundreds of thousands of euro. Yet this is what happens in this country because we do not have a proper progressive income tax rate,” Mr Kavanagh said.
A proper progressive income tax system would have gone some of the way in tackling the scandal of the exorbitant pensions and lump sums paid to high ranking civil servants and politicians. Yet, the Government claimed they could do nothing about this,” he said.
While the Union delegates agreed that the meetings were constructive, they will judge there success or otherwise by the content of the Budget next week.
In addition to their Budget concerns the Trades Council advised the local Oireachtas members that they are regularly contacted by workers in desperate situations in the work place. Bullying at work is a common complaint along with breaches of Labour Legislation - including holiday entitlements, Sunday pay, wage reductions, changed employment contracts and deductions from wages.
“The problem is that the penalty for mistreating workers and not paying their entitlements is so paltry that it fails to deter them,” according to Phil Funchion, Secretary of the Trades Council.
“In too many cases employers who break the law are only told to refund the money they took from the worker It would be the same as if the penalty for shop lifting was just a return of whatever was taken,” he said.
Having regard to this situation the delegates pointed out that the government plans for industrial relations reform must include greater penalties for the law breakers.
“This would also assist good employers who comply with the law and treat their employees fairly as it would remove the unfair competitive advantage that the others currently have,” Mr Funchion said.
Delegates also pointed out that it is time a date be fixed for when workers can exercise
the fundamental right to be represented by a trade union.
“We were told this was part of the Lisbon Treaty - the treaty has come by twice and been accepted once, but still no trade union representation,” Mr Funchion said.
“Imagine some employers walk into the Labour Court represented by IBEC- their organisation and then proceed to make a case as to why their employees are not entitled to representation. Yet,that is the type of hypocrisy that takes place and there is no rush on the part of the governmentto introduce emergency legislation to protect union members,” he added.
The Kilkenny Council of Trade Unions is anxious to point out to all workers that each and every one of them needs the security and protection of trade union membership. They can join on an individual and confidential basis by contacting the Noreside Resource Centre at 056-7762146 and the TradesCouncil will arrange to meet them in confidence. Then if problems arise on the job they have an organisation to turn to for help and assistance.