Donegal Dáil Deputy, Pat the Cope Gallagher, has criticised the government for what he says is their complete failure to address the needs and rights of the thousands of seasonal and part-time workers.
Deputy Gallagher said that seasonal and part-time workers find it impossible to obtain social protection entitlements, when their seasonal or part-time work ceases.
"An absolute commitment was given by the former Social Protection Minister, who is now An Taoiseach Varadkar, in the budget debate 2017 that a full review and report would be complied and completed by February / March.
This has been long-fingered and buffed over by numerous government representatives since and absolutely no action has followed on their part. This report has been renegaded by the government, despite the firm commitment given in the Dáil on 22nd November 2016 during a debate on the matter which I addressed personally on the matter. Numerous Dáil questions on the matter and topical debates highlighting the workers concerns since were raised by me since but to no avail, the Government simply are not listening to the plight of the workers or if they are they are failing completely to take any action. This entire process of reviewing seasonal workers’ rights has been nothing more than an empty promise given for cynical political purposes by a Minister who simply does not understand the ordinary people’s needs – there is a complete failure by this Government to understand the problems and difficulties facing seasonal and part time workers on a daily basis especially in west and south west Donegal. It is a further example of how out of touch this Government is with rural matters and the struggle ordinary families have on a daily basis as a result of their policy decisions."
He added: "Not alone is the report going to be eight months late, but as I now understand the report will not address the matters which directly affect the part time workers’ rights – matters such as the requirement to make 13 new contributions within the last 78 days of your existing claim, the need to maintain 117 contribution over a three year period to mention a few. It appears that only the subsidiary income threshold which will be addressed and adjusted, this is very disappointing news but it is clear the Government just do not understand the problems and hardships facing seasonal workers. The lack of knowledge of the ongoing problems and hardships by the various rule changes for seasonal workers is truly shocking; it is incredible that after years of highlighting the issues the Government still simply does not understand the problems which face seasonal and part time workers. They continue to fail to take any action or to alleviate the problems and what is shocking is that the average annual income for these seasonal and part time workers could be as low as €5,000 to €7,000 on average and that social protection payments would top up their employment income."
The Donegal TD continued: "I am calling on the Government to wake up to the crises in the livelihoods of seasonal and part time workers and their families, which, if not addressed, will lead to a skills shortage in certain employment sectors notwithstanding the difficulties it is causing in households right through out Donegal and the west of Ireland. The Government must honour their commitment to the Dáil and complete the review of workers’ rights as requested by me and outlined in great detail during the budget debates in November 2016. Nothing less will be tolerated and the seasonal and part time workers are entitled to their rights. Sufficient time has elapsed in order for the relevant Department and Minister to have dealt with this and provided a solution which would have helped seasonal and part-time workers."
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