Thomas Pringle TD

Thomas Pringle TD – All Debenhams Workers Are Asking For Is To Be Treated Fairly

Thomas Pringle TD - All Debenhams Workers Are Asking For Is To Be Treated Fairly

I fully support the motion. I pay tribute to Deputy Joan Collins for the work she has done on behalf of the Debenhams workers and for bringing forward the motion. It is vital for all the workers to ensure they will get some compensation when they are made redundant. The implementation of what the motion outlines and the recommendations of the Duffy Cahill report would do that, sending out a strong signal that the State respects its citizens. It would be a sea change for a Government in this country to support workers and workers’ rights and it would send a signal that the State thinks as much about citizens and workers as it does about companies. That would be significant progress for workers.

For too long we have protected businesses that have no interest in protecting or respecting their staff and, in this case, no interest in respecting the State either as a defender of businesses. It must be a real shock for the Government to realise that. Sadly, it is happy to bend over for companies and businesses. The reality is that businesses and companies do not, in the main, have any interest in citizens or workers. They do not have any interest in the Government either, other than in what it will do for them and that is it. For too long, Governments have argued that companies supply jobs and that, therefore, we should do everything for companies. It is workers, however, who supply the labour and who make companies viable. What we should be doing is looking after workers and companies side by side and then we would see progress and perhaps an economy that works properly on behalf of all our citizens.

I listened earlier to the Minister of State, Deputy English, make the argument on behalf of Debenhams and I was very disappointed. He then went on to make the case for Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party as well, wringing his hands and saying there is nothing he can do. The Government, through its spokespeople, is offering sympathy to the workers but they deserve better than that. The Debenhams workers, and workers who in the future find themselves in the same situation that the Debenhams workers are in now, are being let down by the delay in implementing the Duffy Cahill report. There is a possibility that if the Government acted and implemented the report now, the workers could apply under Duffy Cahill for payment of the redundancy that the company agreed to in the past. That is what this motions calls for.

Every day the Government delays makes it more difficult for the workers to have their rights vindicated. The Minister said that the Government will review the Duffy Cahill report to see what can be done, but the Government response to the motion states it has already done that and ruled it out. Which is it? The Government has ruled it out on the basis of the Company Law Review Group review, although it is not possible to access its consideration of the report on its website.

The Duffy Cahill report was commissioned by two Ministers in the previous Government, which is basically the same Government we have now. If that report had been acted on, the situation that has arisen for the Debenhams workers would not have arisen. If the conditions of it had not applied then, so be it, but we cannot know that. The only thing we can say, sadly, is that it has not been implemented. This State does not care about workers. The Government will do what it can for companies but not for workers. There is nothing radical in what is being called for in this motion. It has been already done in a number of European countries such as Germany, which is hardly a bastion of socialist principles, but it does acknowledge that business needs survive better when workers are respected and treated fairly. That is all that is called for in this motion. The Debenhams workers on the picket line, the former Clerys workers and so on are only asking that they be treated fairly and with respect. The least citizens of this country could expect is that the Government would think about them as well and act on their behalf.

The Government says it cannot intervene in the law, which is fair enough, but it can implement the Duffy Cahill report. It can stop being hypocritical in terms of the manner in which it is dealing with this issue. Earlier, the Minister said that a review can be done, but the Government response to the motion says that has been already ruled out. The least Government could do is treat people with respect. People need clarity and a response in terms of a review. I call on the Government to give them a review and we can see where we go from there. I do not think it is too much to ask for anybody to be treated fairly. It is time that the State and the Government acted on behalf of Irish citizens. The Government will vote against this motion next week and its amended version of the motion will be on the record of the Dáil for all to see. It will show that Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party care more about companies than citizens. That is all it will show. It will be a sorry memento of this Government on the record of the Dáil.