The response to a question on a recent edition of Question & Answers drew some interesting replies. The question was: ‘What is the panel’s reaction to job cuts at Irish Ferries?â€?
Before commenting on the answers, it will be useful to outline what Irish Ferries are planning. They are in the process of re-registering their fleet under “Flags of Convenience’. This means they will no longer be subject to Irish or EU labour laws. Recruitment of staff is to be handed over to an outside source thus allowing Irish Ferries to claim that they are not responsible for pay or working conditions.
When Irish Ferries were recently found to have “employed’ Filipino, workers for 1 Euro per hour they tried to absolve themselves by claiming that they had no responsibility for the pay and conditions of these workers. If Irish Ferries are allowed to get away with implementing their plan, their crews will lose all the established entitlements like minimum wage, holidays and working time directives. In effect, Irish Ferries will be operating a modern form of slave labour.
Here’s how the panel answered the question. Jim Power, Chief Economist at Friends First felt that the plan was reasonable because the company’s finances were coming under pressure from increased competition, especially low cost air fares.
Dick Roche, Minister for the Environment agreed with the opinion of Jim Power adding that Irish Ferries must be protected as it was a vital national industry. Most surprising of all, however, was the reply of John Waters. It’s the way of the worldâ€¦increasing competitionâ€¦workers coming from other economiesâ€¦lower wagesâ€¦it’s something we are going to have to get used to.
The question that immediately springs to mind is: Would any of these gentlemen be happy if they were forced to choose between losing their jobs or agreeing to work for three Euros per hour on twelve hour shifts without the protection of labour laws? The only thing that can be said in their defence is that none of them seemed to understand the full implications of what Irish Ferries are planning to do.
John Waters, a man who likes to portray himself as a crusader for the down trodden, seemed particularly confused and I got the distinct impression that he was merely mouthing the sentiments of the previous speaker. He really should have pleaded ignorance on the matter thus safeguarding his credibility.
Marian Harkin, Independent TD and MEP was also on the panel and strongly disagreed with Irish Ferries policy. As an articulate, intelligent and honest politician, Ms. Harkin is a rare gem on the Irish political scene.