Unite seeks establishment of Emergency Forum comprising government departments, ICTU and employers
Moratorium on residential and commercial rents, ban on evictions, imperative
March 19th: Commenting on the Health (Preservation and Protection and other Emergency Measures in the Public Interest) Bill, trade union Unite – which represents workers in all sectors – outlined four principles which must inform actions taken in the context of the COVID-19 emergency:
- Economic measures need to be balanced: Unite the Union notes the need for new legislative powers to cope with the COVID-19 emergency but has concerns that economic measures introduced today are unbalanced and do not go far enough
- Civil rights: In addition, from a civil rights perspective, legislation has to be proportionate and justified. There is an onus on our public representatives, and what is in effect a caretaker Government, to ensure that fundamental rights and freedoms are not unnecessarily breached
- Sunset clause: All emergency legislation must have a strong ‘sunset clause’ outlining at what point the legislation is revoked from the statute book after the emergency has passed
- Democratic accountability: Emergency legislation has been rushed through the Oireachtas today outside the normal process of parliamentary scrutiny. Moreover this is being done by a ‘Government’ that has been voted out of office, and we even have Ministers making decisions who are no longer Oireachtas members. This imposes even greater responsibilities on those who find themselves in Ministerial Office – in effect, a caretaker Government – at this time of emergency to act solely in the national interest free of ideological bias
In these circumstances, Unite is calling on the Irish government to establish an Emergency Forum made up of Government Departments, ICTU and Employers to liaise twice weekly & discuss measures and to assist workers, their families and SMEs.
Commenting, Unite Senior Officer Brendan Ogle said the remit of such a forum would be to mitigate damage to people’s lives and livelihoods (i.e. society) to the very maximum extent possible:
“Unite is deeply concerned that the economic measures introduced by the government do not go far enough to protect our people and our society. Over 10,000 businesses have been shut down this week, 140,000 workers have already lost their jobs and some are forecasting a further 200,000 job losses by the end of the week.
“Thousands of those workers are renting in an already recklessly overpriced and unsustainable private housing market that has forced up the price of accommodation across the country. Those workers will not be able to pay rents at the end of this month, or next month, or the month after.
Furthermore they have no means to change this situation while businesses have been shut down.
“It is an absolute imperative that our caretaker Government step up immediately and introduce a moratorium on both residential and commercial rents and a complete ban on evictions”, Mr Ogle stressed.
“They can do this immediately. Neither workers nor business can afford to wait until May. Freed of ideology, our caretaker Government can intervene here in a way that protects us all.
“Any measures introduced must avoid a pattern of continuing to protect vulture fund landlords and the REITs, or Real Estate Investment Trusts. But this is not an ordinary economic crisis: there can be no fiscal stimulus. Because we want people to stay at home the last thing we want now is a fiscal stimulus. People cannot pay what they don’t have. The market is closed.
“Unite understand the scale of the emergency. We want to see the maximum extent of social solidarity and care for each other in our common interests. That it falls to this caretaker Government to lead is simply an accident of timing. We must all support each other and work together now, and we believe the measures we call for here will go some way towards helping in that effort”, Mr Ogle concluded.