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Provide a living wage, not stigmatisation

Your recent article ‘Jobs plan a community service sentence’ demanded an immediate re-check to see where this was to happen, maybe North Korea or some other such off-the-wall dictatorship.

But no, this ‘initiative’, which will force people to work for little or nothing, is to take place here in Ireland and what is even more extraordinary is the fact that we are under the governance of a Cabinet in which members of a Labour Party hold a veto.

Members of that party might be interested to know from where this “initiative” comes. Its origins are the infamous “welfare” changes Ronald Reagan introduced that resulted in the unemployed being forced to pick litter, dressed in orange jump suits, the garb of the criminal in the US, until the courts put a stop to it.

It has again re-emerged in the Republican deep south of the US. Florida and South Carolina tried to introduce a “work-for-welfare” scheme last year only to be told it was against federal law.

Not to be deterred, Rep Senator Richard Burr, the same guy who supports ‘gun rights’ sought to change federal law to allow States require all unemployed persons to work 20 hours a week in return for basic benefits— sound familiar?

We, of course, do not have to look to the US to find such virulent hostility — William Martin Murphy, for example, was no slouch when it came to thinking up ways to exploit the worker. He was confronted and resisted by the founder of the Labour Party, Jim Larkin.

Indeed it was the fact that Murphy organised business owners to deny workers basic conditions that most probably inspired Connolly and Larkin to consider establishing a political wing of the trade union movement.

And it now appears that the Labour Party they formed has become indistinguishable in outlook from their Fine Gael partners in power and the likes of Sen Burr and William Martin Murphy. What the unemployed need is work that returns a liveable wage, not exploitation, stigmatisation or any other form of abuse.

Jim O’Sullivan


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