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Because We Deserve Better


A Charter for a Fairer Society Introduction: Since acquiring office in 1997 Fianna Fáil and their various partners in government have presided over the most prosperous time in the Irish Economy. Unfortunately those times are no over. Poor banking regulation coupled with a reckless fiscal policy based on populism rather than pragmatism have greatly damaged the Irish economy. Now we look into the abyss of NAMA and our ever growing levels of debt and we wonder will it ever be possible to move out of this debt. We wonder will we ever achieve a sustainable economy again. In this document Labour Youth hope to outline not just how we can work towards fixing our broken economy but how we can work towards something better. Fixing this mess isn’t good enough anymore we need to fix it and ensure it never happens again.

Because We Deserve Better – A Charter for A Fairer Society


Background: During the Cowen, Bertie and McCreevy years there was an increase in levels of comparative poverty. Despite a surge in economic growth across the period, a report published by the ERSI in 2002 highlighted how the gap between the highest and the lowest earners had widened over the boom period of 1995 – 2002. Although many argue that comparative poverty is not as serious a problem as immediate poverty, Labour Youth holds a different view. We believe that we have a collective duty as a society to narrow the gap between rich and poor, not just to give the poor the crumbs but to allow them a share of the actual cake. This is not done through handouts or social welfare payments but through a collective duty of investment in services. We are calling for an investment in Education for the future and a Health Service in whic people can feel confident. Furthermore, we believe in communtiy investment, empowering communities to create local organisations to help encourage social interaction. What is core and essential to this policy is the eradication of immediate poverty and the easing of the gap seen in comparative poverty levels. To achieve all of this it is completely necessary to overhaul the tax system. One of the greatest examples of economies that are both vibrant and socially conscious are the Northern European Economies such as Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland. It is the widely held view of Labour Youth that it would be in the best interest for Ireland to learn from these economic models. We believe, from studying these economies, that the following is necessary for us to create a better, fairer, society. We believe that the Irish people deserve better.

Because We Deserve Better – A Charter for A Fairer Society


Collective Duty: The recent publication of Kate Pickett’s and Richard Wilkinson’s book The Spirit Level highlights how and why more equal societies always do better than societies with wider gaps between the rich and poor. Their book, generally regarded as one of the most substantial pieces of modern research, highlights how it is not just the poor that suffer in unequal societies but rather it is society as a whole who is badly affected. Societies that are more equal have better health care, longer age limits, higher levels of adult literacy, lower crime rates, the list goes on and on. Labour Youth believe in The Spirit Level model. As an organisation we think that is not just enough to increase the wealth of a small few but that it is the duty of government to ensure that there is a living wage for all. It is a duty of government that no one is left behind because of their inability to afford healthcare or to put food on the table. Labour Youth believe in the idea of collective duty. A collective duty that sees the Government as having a responsibility towards society to not just help the poor and marginalised but to also address those that earn excessive amounts of money i.e. we believe that the Government must create a tax system that sees everyone pay according to their ability and that those that earn the most pay the most. Such a system could ensure that we contribute to our collective duty and could narrow the gap between the rich and poor in Ireland. What we need is a complete review of the tax system. We need to query the levels of tax that people pay in this country and benchmark it against other EU countries comparing what they pay and the level of service that they get against what we pay and the level of service that we get. Such a review should be setup with the view of moving our nation towards ways in which we can create better public services. We need better healthcare, higher education standards, better transport systems etc. The only way we can achieve any of this is by reviewing our taxation system and fixing its numerous flaws.

Investing in Society: The idea of collective duty goes beyond just overhauling our tax system as it also incorporates the need to make investments in Education and Healthcare. As already outlined a fairer tax system is within all of our interests, we will all need to go to the Hospital at some point in our lives and we all benefit from higher education standards. The additional money raised from the remodelling of the tax system can be used to fund better services including health, education and transport. Such an investment is needed in our society and it would be one from which we would all reap the benefits. Health: For too long there have been long hospital waiting lists for public patients. People have waited months and months for a simple consultation. The case of the poor, late, Susie Long is a scourge on our healthcare system but her case is not a simple isolated incident. Over the last number of years we have seen how many people have been affected by the poor conditions of our health service. We see people having to wait too long for life saving operations and others incarcerated on trolleys in A&E desperately waiting for a bed in the hospital. When did this become acceptable?

Because We Deserve Better – A Charter for A Fairer Society


Our country for so long has tolerated a poorly functioning health service. Labour Youth believe that it is time to invest in healthcare in Ireland. We believe that it is no longer acceptable for us tolerate the intolerable. As we attempt to move out of this recession we must strive to improve healthcare in Ireland. Calls to privatise the VHI or to build co-located hospitals are simply smokescreens. What we need now is to invest properly in a functioning Health system. We need to create a publically funded healthcare service for all. We must strive to ensure that people can see cancer specialists within two weeks of referral from a GP. We must abolish the HSE and move back to the better functioning regional structures that existed before. Following on from that we have to ensure that hospitals are run for the patients benefit not for the consultants. We need clever planning and clever investment in services. Education: Like Healthcare, we need to invest in Education. As it stands the OECD average for public investment in education is 6% of GDP. Ireland’s spend is not even close to that and instead comes in at around 4%. That is to say, it is third smaller than the average across the OECD. Education is the cornerstone of any economy. People constantly need to up skill to help empower them with their current job or to help them find new work. It is essential that every child, regardless of their background, can come out of school able to read and write.

Because We Deserve Better – A Charter for A Fairer Society


This is the complete foundation of our economy. If we cannot ensure that every child is literate by the time they finish school then we have failed as a nation. Sadly, according to Barnardos – The Children’s Charity – “1 in 3 children in disadvantaged areas have severe difficulties with basic reading and writing” and “1 in 5 children across the country leave secondary school without completing the Leaving Certificate”. Investing in Education is a core to any rebuilding of our economy. We must ensure that people are provided with the skills that they need, and that our economy needs, to help us build our economy into something great. Labour Youth believe that we must aim to invest 6% of GDP in Education and Skills and that this investment must be for all levels of education; Primary, Secondary and University. First and foremost it is our collective duty to guarantee that everyone can leave school being able to read and write. This requires putting more resources into primary education and secondary education. We need to provide more graduates with teaching posts to help expand our knowledge base. We should include subjects like politics, law and drama at second level to help give people wider opportunities of study.

Third Level fees should not be introduced as it will only lead to a disincentive to study and the creation of education as a commodity rather than an essential tool of society. What Labour Youth believes is that we need to value education as an investment. The decision in the 90's by the then Labour Minister for Education Niamh Bhreatnach, to abolish Third Level fees, was a correct decision and one the best decisions ever made by the Labour Party in government, as it opened up Third Level Education to so many who otherwise would never have had the chance. Labour Youth feels passionately that we need to encourage further study within the higher education structure by offering more educational scholarships for people with both the ability and desire to continue studying. On top of that, it is our view that it is essential that

Because We Deserve Better – A Charter for A Fairer Society


Research and Development in Third level institutions is given the resources it needs to help in enhancing job creation by developing a highly skilled work-force and encouraging both indiginous and foreign investment, which in turn will have an impact on employment levels. Protecting Workers’ Rights: As part of our idea of ‘collective duty’, Labour Youth believes that we must recognise the need to protect workers. In particular guaranteeing a worker’s right to join a Trade Union and enshrining such rights into Irish Law by creating collective bargaining rights. Under the Charter of Fundamental Rights, annexed to the Lisbon Treaty, there were provisions in place to guarantee workers the right to have their union recognised by their employer. As we move ever further into recession it is becoming apparent that workers are often subjected to mistreatment and bad behaviour from business owners and management. Labour Youth believe that now, more than ever, is it time for the Government to guarantee that workers get a fair deal by enshrining collective bargaining rights into Irish Law. Without workers no company could profit, no wealth would be created. All money that is raised or earned for a company is done so on the back of workers. Juxtaposing this workers rarely reap the rewards of their hard work. Owners and management surf on high profits and workers sometimes struggle to pay their mortgage. It is only fair that the Government should recognise that workers are the most important stakeholder. They deserve the right to collectively organise so that they can unite against poor terms and conditions. As things stands employers can ignore unions and can actively prevent unions from representing their members. This has to stop. Labour Youth believes that it’s time to even out the odds. If we are to experience the wealth that we experienced before then we must ensure that there are foundations for a future that is fair for all. Collective Bargaing is key to that.

Because We Deserve Better – A Charter for A Fairer Society


Conclusion: According to the EU Income and Living Conditions Survey (EU-SILC), in 2008 6.3% of all children under the age of 17 were living in consistent poverty, Children’s Charity Barnardos claims this amounts to 65,270 children. On top of that shocking statistic, the same survey outlines that a further 18% of children were at risk of immediate poverty. So despite, the 11 years preceding this having unprecedented levels of economic growth, we still have thousands of children living in poverty. How did we allow this to happen? As has been the overall theme of this document Labour Youth believe that we need to respond to our collective duty. We have to ensure that no more do Children live or grow up in a society where significant numbers of them are not even guaranteed a meal before they go to school in the morning. We need to invest in Education and in Healthcare and to do this we must change our taxation structure to allow us to increase our domestic revenues. To guarantee us all a better standard of living, it is essential to allow for collective bargaining. The Trade Union movement will always lobby to protect the most vulnerable, marginalised and under represented sections of society. It is therefore pivotal that they be allowed to organise and negotiate at all levels to guarantee improvements in wages and better worker safety laws. Labour Youth believe that if we want to build ourselves up to be a great nation, again, then we must move towards all of the above aims. As has become a widely held view amongst democratic socialists and social democrats, it countries that have a narrower gap between the rich and poor that are most socially functioning. If we are lucky to acheive the same levels of economic success again, then we must not waste the oppurtunity. Next, we must use our wealth acheive a society that is fair for all. Researched and written by Rory Geraghty (National Chairperson 09/10)

Because We Deserve Better – A Charter for A Fairer Society

Because We Deserve Better  

Labour Youth policy document