Irish Independent OpEd: We can’t let zero contract trends undermine spirit of 1913 Lockout

August 29, 2013 § 1 Comment

by Alex White TD – Irish Independent 

One hundred years ago this week, the 1913 Lockout began – a titanic struggle between capital and labour; class and power. Many in Dublin lived in squalor in tenement city slums. Work was often of a casual nature, doled out on a daily basis and given to those willing to work for the lowest wage. For those in steady employment there was little to protect their basic rights. Coupled with desperate social conditions, there was no protection for people against the vagaries of the market.  While the strikers of the 1913 Lockout were defeated, their legacy of decency, social solidarity and struggle for the right to engage in collective bargaining lived on for the benefit of our nation.

The anniversary of this pivotal moment in our history provides an opportunity for Labour party representatives, activists and members to reflect on the values we share and our vision for the future. There is no doubt that Labour as a coalition party in Government has faced stark choices. But that does not deter us from imagining a society built on the principles of freedom, equality, community and democracy.

Of course, the major challenge for this Government is to bring about our economic recovery and in doing so to restore employment and living standards for our citizens. By strengthening our international trade links, creating a stimulus programme, and establishing activation schemes such as Jobs Plus, Labour Ministers are advancing policies to increase employment, even if our prospects rely much on recovery in Europe and in the global economy.

While accelerating employment growth remains the number one priority for the Labour party, it is also important to recognise the challenges many workers face in the current economic climate. A strong trade union movement is essential for the protection of labour rights. The Programme for Government commits to reforming the law on the right to engage in collective bargaining, and I look forward to these proposals being advanced in the coming months.

We have a new “precariat” in some sectors of the labour force, with people working on zero-hours contracts, short term contracts, or for free on unpaid internships. These trends can undermine rights earned by workers in the past, and the relevant statutory protections may require strengthening, or at least review. Zero-hours contracts shape a life of uncertainty for people where their ability to budget for the future or manage a stable family-life is particularly difficult. Surely at this time we can strive beyond the prescriptions of William Martin Murphy, who thought that working people should receive a wage sufficient to “live in frugal comfort”.  For citizens to derive value from their work, they need a level of security and fairness.

If as a country we accept any jobs at any cost, and try to compete with low wage economies, we are destined to lose. Equally, if we forfeit hard-won labour rights or the means of their vindication, we risk undermining the welfare of the next generation. We will only thrive as a nation if we have decent, high quality employment for those who can work, and a secure social safety net for those who cannot.

We face enormous challenges today, with so many people unemployed and many more in financial difficulty as a consequence of political and economic failure. However, it is nevertheless the case that the Ireland of 2013 would be unrecognisable to the workers and citizens of 1913 Dublin. We have seen enormous progress in employment rights, education, social protection, housing, and the ending of Church control over social policy. It is indisputable that much of this progress has been achieved by Labour participation in government.

Our task now is to look forward ambitiously, and to re-imagine a society and economy where everyone pays their due, employees achieve their full potential, and society strives to protect the most vulnerable. With prosperity and solidarity interlinked in this renewed social contract, the Ireland sought by the strikers of 1913 can be realised.

Public Health Nursing Contribution to Primary Health Care

August 27, 2013 § 1 Comment

Address at the 3rd International Public Health Nursing Conference, NUI Galway.

Thank you for the invitation to address the 3rd International Public Health Nursing Conference being held here in NUIG this week.  I would like to take the opportunity to welcome the delegates from Ireland and from all around the globe to the wonderful city of Galway and I hope and trust that you will find time to enjoy the hospitality that the city and its people offers you.

Governments throughout the world are challenged to provide better, more efficient, more cost-effective healthcare systems.

This Conference, organised by the Institute of Community Health Nursing, is providing an important forum for debate onthe issues facing public health nurses and community nurses and is also providing the opportunity to reflect on the considerable potential that exists for reform and development of the profession.  The title of your conference ‘Contribution to Primary Health Care’ is most appropriate at this time as we endeavour to make significant changes to the development and delivery of primary care here in Ireland.

Health Challenges

We have a population of just over four and a half million people.  Our population is ageing, and while people living in Ireland are now living longer than ever before, not all are living those longer lives in good health.  The population over 65 will more than double over the next 30 years and this, coupled with our high fertility rate, has significant implications for health service planning and delivery.

Many people living in Ireland and their families are affected by chronic diseases and disabilities related to poor diet, smoking, alcohol misuse and physical inactivity. These so-called lifestyle factors have the potential to jeopardise many of the health gains achieved in recent years.  Diseases of the circulatory system and cancer are the two highest causes of death in Ireland.

We have embarked on a major health reform programme, the core of which is a single-tier health service, supported by Universal Health Insurance.  This system will provide equal access based on need, not ability to pay, and will deliver the best health outcomes for Irish citizens.  Change of this scale requires careful oversight and management.  Regulation of quality, safety and governance will be critical elements of the emergent healthcare system.

We would like to shift the emphasis in our health system from an ‘illness model’ dependent on care in hospitals, to a model where primary care services are strengthened, and health and wellbeing are promoted.

Health is a key factor in employment, earnings, productivity, economic development, equality and growth for all of Europe.  A workforce challenged by health problems due to obesity, type-2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, a lack of physical activity, poor diet and mental health issues, threatens the economic recovery of Europe.  Health issues will place an intolerable strain on the resources of the health services in the future if left unchecked.

What is more, health and wellbeing are not evenly distributed in our society. This uneven distribution, together with the prevalence of chronic conditions and accompanying lifestyle behaviours, are strongly influenced by socio-economic status, levels of education, employment and housing.

Extension of Free GP Care

As part of the Health Reform Programme, this Government is committed to introducing, on a phased basis, a universal GP service without fees within its term of office, as set out in the Programme for Government and the Future Health strategy framework.  This policy constitutes a fundamental element in the Government’s health reform programme.

The Programme for Government envisaged a phased introduction of a universal GP service scheme, commencing with free GP care at the point of access for claimants under  the Long Term Illness Scheme.  However, it was agreed at the Cabinet Committee on Health in April 2013 on my suggestion that alternative options for providing GP services without fees should be explored. Basing a person’s qualification for a GP service on their having a particular medical condition would be complex from a legal point of view. It could be done, but it would mean further delay and it doesn’t make sense to start drafting complicated legislation for this, given that you were only dealing with the first phase of a much bigger, population-wide project.

At the end of July, along with Minister Reilly, I made an interim report to government on alternative approaches to introducing free GP care. I am continuing to work on these proposals, and giving close consideration to such aspects as phasing by age cohort – or otherwise – and also the all-important financial implications of the phased implementation of this universal primary care health service. I intend to bring developed proposals to Government later this year, and hope that we can make a good start on this vital project, perhaps as early as in the Budget, due to be announced in mid-October.

There has been some speculation in the newspapers regarding specific age groups in this context. I would like to emphasise that while both I and Minister Reilly have indicated our view that young children would be a good group to start with, no decisions have been made by government as yet, and these issues remain under consideration in the Department.

I should say though that the Government has already made clear its commitment to delivering on the implementation of a universal GP service for the entire population by providing additional financial resources in the two most recent Budgets.  The HSE Vote now contains funding of €30 million for an initial phase of the provision of free GP services at the point of access.

The Programme for Government also provides for the introduction of a new GMS contract with GPs, to include an increased emphasis on the management of chronic conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular conditions, and a new focus on prevention, I hope that progress can be made on this aspect also in the coming months.

Public Health and Community Nurses are already providing vital services in General Practice and I hope – and intend – that they can play an enhanced role in this area into the future. « Read the rest of this entry »

Alex White TD Congratulates Leaving Cert Students

August 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

Alex White, TD for Dublin South, has sent his best wishes and congratulations to the Class of 2013 who will receive their Leaving Certificate results tomorrow.

“It can be a daunting time for students and parents when the Leaving Certificate results are released. I want to congratulate students who worked hard to achieve their grades and I also want to acknowledge their teachers, parents and guardians who supported them.

“It’s important at this time to reassure and encourage people who did not do as well as they may have liked. Don’t give up and be disheartened. There are many paths that lead to success and your Leaving Certificate results don’t define you and your talents.

“I want to alert students to a Leaving Certificate Helpline run by the National Parents’ Council and supported by the Department of Education. With this service, qualified guidance counsellors will give advice and support to both students and their parents. The helpline phone number is 1800 265 165 and it will open at 8am tomorrow, Wednesday August 14th.” 

For students wishing to continue their education at Third Level, the first-round of CAO offers will be available on Monday, August 19th from 6am. The CAO process will continue into September with second round offers being made available. 

Summer activities for all in South Dublin

August 2, 2013 § Leave a comment

It really has been tremendous to see people enjoying the weather over the summer and getting out in the fresh air and being active. The good weather creates a positive atmosphere, which is beneficial for us all.

I hope people are aware that there are some excellent free events taking place throughout August. There will be free outdoor movies screenings in Marlay Park on Saturday August 10th and Sunday August 11th.

For those who prefer something a little more active, there are free 5k runs that take place in Marlay Park every Saturday morning at 9.30 am. Runners of all standards are welcome. To participate, simply register here: http://www.parkrun.ie/marlay/

If you’re an outdoors or nature enthusiast, a bushcraft course is taking place in Marlay Park on Sunday August 18th from 10am-12pm where people can learn survival skills. On Friday August 30th an evening bat walk will take place in Marlay Park at 8.45pm.

I’m delighted that the Summer of Heritage Programme is returning again. The idea of Summer of Heritage is to help people see the wonderful history on our doorsteps.  Tours of the stunning 18th Century Cabinteely House are taking place every Wednesday and Sunday for free until September 1st between 2-5pm. A free historic tour of Dundrum will take place every Wednesday in August at 7pm and the starting point is the Barton Road roundabout. A free-guided tour of the Obelisk in Stillorgan will take place every Saturday in August from 2-5pm. The beginning of the tour begins at Carysfort Woods on Carysfort Avenue.

For families hoping to pop into the city centre at the weekends, ‘the Summertime Kids go Free Weekend’ deal is in place on the Luas until the end of August. Each adult with a valid Luas ticket may take up to two children aged 3-15 years free of charge on the Luas. Children under 3 always travel free on the Luas.

To find more information on these free outdoor activities please go to http://www.dlrevents.ie or email info@dlrevents.ie

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