Fridays shock closure of the iconic Clery’s department store in Dublin shows how the law is set up to favour capital and screw workers. Workers are being told there may be no additional redundancy or owed holiday payments as the company is in debt. But this is only the case because right before the closure the largest asset, the building itself, was separated off from the accumulated debts. This was almost certainly legal under our system but of such obvious dubious morality that the workers could expect massive popular support if they occupied the building on a permanent ongoing basis.
According to SIPTU unions organisers some of the workers are owned “four or five weeks’ wages” and the limited redundancy they will get will come not from the company but from the rest of us via the government’s insolvency and social insurance fund which pays out statutory redundancy when companies declare bankruptcy. In other words all those costs are to paid by us.
We might’ve voted for equality in large numbers when it came to the marriage referendum, but the likelihood that this will impact on the way the country is run or the lived realities for many appears unlikely. This week the Irish Government is once again having their knuckles wrapped by the UN in Geneva for failing to live up to the documents they sign around the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights. The reality is that there has been the imposition of austerity measures on the sections of Irish society who can least afford it. The inevitable by-product is inequality, increasing poverty and deprivation. The message is simple, economy trumps all else and lip service is all that is all that is paid in terms of human rights or equality. Emily Logan – Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission said as much, she said that ‘budgetary decisions had been made without any consideration of the State's human rights obligations.’ This is the reality that needs to be examined, especially in the aftermath of the sight of politicians kissing, smiling, hugging each other and slapping each other on the backs as champions of equality in Dublin Castle.
The vast sums of our money that the state gave to Denis O’Brien are hard to understand. None of us are ever likely to see one million, short of winning the lotto, never mind 336 million, the amount written-off when O’Brien acquired Siteserv Group, Topaz Group and Beacon Private Hospital.
But here is a comparison that helps put the real cost in context. It’s been reported this week that a number of rape crisis centres may have to close because of escalating cash difficulties. These are caused by the loss of €240,000 in core funding. The state funding body Tusla explicitly claimed that the cuts had to happen in order to to make the best use of limited resources.
The three debt write-offs the O’Brien companies got are the equivalent of 1,400 years worth of that core funding. If Catherine Murphy’s Dáil allegation about the preferential interest 1.25% rate he was given are correct then that cost us 30 millions a year, which is around 125 years core funding for every year the loan is not repaid in interest terms alone.
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