Category Archives: Statements

Four things we should learn from the Coronavirus pandemic

Now we know how much we depend on front line workers
Now we know how much we all depend on front line workers

In the current circumstances, most of us are forced to think in the ‘here and now’. With the level of threat posed by Cornoavirus, the risk to life, and the disruption to our working, social and family lives, that is a very understandable and very necessary reaction.

#Number 1:

The deeper this crisis gets, the more we are all dependent on the people who keep our society functioning. The much talked about front line would not exist if it were not for supermarket staff and other essential retail workers, delivery drivers, warehouse staff, cleaners and refuse workers. They are the base which supports the rest of the front line, and ensures that all the other necessary support services can do ther job.

Yet some of the most important people we rely on are those on minimum wages, zero hours contracts and precarious employment.

#Number 2:

The National Health Service has stepped up to meet the challenge of C19 in a way in which few other organisations could do. Its staff and its work is quite rightly being lauded and publicly acclaimed.

Yet only a few months ago, for the first time in its history, the Royal College of Nursing, had to call on its members to take industrial action to secure pay parity and safe working conditions. Sinn Fein, the DUP and the other executive parties had been denying them both demands for years.

For at last ten years the NHS budgets have been slashed by Tories in Westminster and in Stormont. All seems to be forgotten as the very people responsible for the cuts fall over themselves to applaud the nurses they refused to pay

#Number 3:

The examples of businesses ignoring the health and well being of their workers by refusing to comply with basic public health and government guidance on social distancing and other measures, demonstrates the priority which the relentless pursuit of profit has over the well being of employees.

There are also many examples of non-essential businesses seeking to trade on the flimsiest of excuses and some times on no excuse at all. Viruses come and go: production and profit are a constant.

The importance and benefits of trade union membership and of a unionised workforce has never been more evident. This crisis has shown that the health and well being of many working people is threatened on several fronts.

#Number 4:

The Coronavrus pandemic will end. When it does, many of the changes which it brought about to the way we work and live our lives could have a lasting effect.

Capitalism has a single focuses: profit. It will not look back and say ” How can we ensure that front line workers get the best deal and the best wages?” It will not be meeting with trade unionists to discuss better conditions, better pay or greater involvement in firms, factories or services.

Neither capitalism, nor the political parties which support and administer it, will be looking at the NHS and saying ” How can we improve this, how can we make it better , or how can we fund it more effectively”.

They are much more likely to seeking ways of privatising and profiting from public and personal health. They are much more likely to be drafting plans for even more restrictions on trade unions and union membership and they are much more likely to be looking at ways of capping the minimum wage, extending zero hours contracts and diluting workers rights.

In times of uncertainty, only two things are guaranteed: capitalism will never waste a crisis and working people will be paying the bill.

The plans are drafted and waiting for the storm to pass. We must be prepared and waiting too.

Homeless people vulnerable to Coronovirus

Homeless people are three times more likley to have a chronic health condition

“We are all at risk from Covid 19, but homeless people, particularly those who are rough sleeping, can be amongst the most vulnerable”, Workers Party spokesperson Conor Duffy says.

Calling for a specific Covid 19 response package to meet their unique needs, Conor said, “homeless people are three times more likely to experience a chronic health condition, including asthma and COPD”.

“The support they depend on needs to be secured and strengthened as the demands on all resources increase at this time. It is vital that homeless people are recognised as a vulnerable group and that the Northern Ireland Executive steps in now to protect and enhance the vital services they need”, he said.

“I have been in touch with the Department for Communities and the Department of Health to bring these issues to their attention”, Conor added, “and, as a minimum first step, I am calling on the Executive to announce a programme of measures including:

  • securing hotel style accommodation to meet the increased need for self-contained accommodation so that people can self-isolate. 
  • ensuring that anyone who is at risk of, or is already homeless, can access self-contained accommodation.
  • providing additional financial support through the Universal Credit system to ensure that people are not pushed into homelessness. 
  • protecting renters from evictions
  • rapid access to testing for the virus and healthcare assistance for people sleeping rough and living in hostels and shelter accommodation
  • recognising frontline workers in homelessness organisations as an emergency service
  • allocating an emergency budget to fund homelessness services”.

Voluntary and Charitable sectors must be protected

Workers Party representative, Paddy Crossan, has called on the Communities Minister to announce an immediate and comprehensive package of financial support for the voluntary and charitable sectors here.

“Voluntary and charitable organisations play a vital and often life sustaining role in our society. Their work is affected by the Coronavirus pandemic in the same way as small businesses: they face many similar problems”. he said.

“I have written to Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey, and the Emergencies Leadership Group which she is heading up, calling on her to announce a package of measures to support the voluntary and charity sector through this crisis. We not only need their valuable work now; we also need to ensure that they will still be here when this emergency has passed”, Paddy said.

“Many, many people in the community are dependent on the support of voluntary and charitable organisations: the young the elderly, victims of domestic violence, refugees and asylum seekers, people with disabilities and those living with mental health problems. For many they are a safety net and a lifeline.

“In their battle for survival every day counts. The Minister must act immediately,” Paddy added.

I have asked her to address the following measures specifically as a first step to ensuring the survival of this vital support network.

  • Extend support for small business to the voluntary / charitable sectors
  • Ensure that all charities and voluntary organisations are eligible up to 80% of salaries for retained workers
  • Set up a ‘stabilisation fund’ to help charities stay afloat during the pandemic
  • Establish a loan guarantee scheme for charities needing overdraft facilities to cover cashflow problems
  • Approaches the National Lottery to secure additional emergency funding
  • An Emergency funding package for food banks to allow them to continue providing vital support

If employers cannot protect their workforce they should close down immediately

Workplace guidelines on health and safety must be enforced

The Workers Party has echoed calls by the trade union movement and others for the immediate and enhanced protection of workers in all essential services.

It is very clear that many workers delivering essential services are being put at risk by their employers who are refusing to adhere to public health guidelines on social distancing and personal protection measures.

It is also clear that a number of companies whose businesses are not essential in the current crisis are continuing to trade and are putting the workforce at unnecessary and unacceptable risk.

If  employers cannot protect their workforce they should close down immediately

The Party is calling on the Health and Safety Executive to enforce public health and government guidelines by ensuring full compliance with safety measures at work and is also calling for an immediate Executive Order to be enacted by the Assembly directed against those non essential firms which continue to trade. .

Workers providing essential services which are keeping our society function at this critical time are being put at serious  risk through the lack of personal  protection equipment and social distancing measures. Other workers re being told to report for work in non  essential  services  and in dangerous and unhealthy conditions like some call centres and production lines.

Unionised workforces at least have power and leverage to effect change but many, many thousands of workers are in non-union firms and are at the mercy of employers who place the relentless pursuit of profit above health, well being and life .

Those who put their workforce at risk must be challenged  and sanctione. Those who continue to trade without justification should be closed forthwith.

Such developments, however, must take place in the context of providing effective financial support measures to avoid mass redundancies and to ensure that jobs are protected and workers paid. 

The work of politically bankrupt gangsters

Lyra McKee: there can be no justification

Last night’s murder of 29 year old Lyra McKee was the tragic, but inevitable, outcome of recent violent activity and the ongoing attacks on the community by groups of politically bankrupt gangsters

There can be no justification for Ms. McKee’s murder, but doubtless there are those who will seek to explain it away in the coming days. Those who carried out this attack, and those who support them, have no contribution to make , bring no value and until they desist, have no place in this society.

We need to be very clear about the violent intent of these people and dismiss notions of the ‘lone gunman’: there is no such thing. People who bring weapons onto the streets have often a very sophisticated, support network of people who store their guns, transport them, provide them with cover and offer practical and moral support. Those people are as morally culpable for Lyra McKee’s murder as the person who pulled the trigger.

There is little point in appealing directly to those who carried out this murder – they are too self absorbed and self justifying to be even remotely interested . However, the community in which they skulk and hide can play a telling and crucial role. By ostracising these gangsters and their supporters they can be left without the cover they need to continue with their senseless and savage campaign of terror against the community.

We offer our deepest sympathy to Lyra’s family friends, and colleagues and call on anyone with any information about this murder to contact the PSNI and support them in their investigations

Nationalist ‘group hug’ dangerous and divisive


“…a Bill of Rights remains a fundamental part of the strategy to establish and guarantee the relationship between citizens and the state”

If further evidence were needed of how narrow, politically bankrupt and dangerous nationalism is, then it could be found at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast on Saturday. To that criticism can also be added exclusionist.

The ‘Beyond Brexit’ conference organised by ‘civic nationalism’ and addressed by, amongst others, Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald, senior members of Fianna Fail and their new political ally the SDLP’s Colum Eastwood, was designed not to progress the debate but to polarise it.

This is not a group of people, or a political philosophy, concerned with the material conditions of ordinary people.

It represents instead, self-interested and self-serving social groups jockeying for position in a race whose outcome is yet to be confirmed using the cover of ‘rights’ to masquerade their narrow and selfish intentions.

Nationalism, Irish and British, never blames itself, never questions its actions nor reflects on its own behaviour. In the world of nationalists and nationalism someone else is always at fault.

As ‘civic nationalists’ most of them looking cautiously over their shoulders at each other, gathered in Belfast this weekend they were seeking to shift political attention away from their own failings, secure their own future positions and send a clear, unambiguous and unapologetic message to anyone who is not an Irish  nationalist that a shared future does not include them.

Nationalism is not only a backward political philosophy: it is a toxic one. It seeks to divide and exploit difference. It blames others and otherness. It is a political cancer that deliberately subverts progressive politics and invariably is home to the worst examples of native gombeen men and women.

How long will it be before ‘civic unionism’ responds with its own gathering and demands for ‘unionist rights’?

Democratic secular society

The Workers Party version of a democratic secular society in Northern Ireland is based on the rights of citizens as citizens not on their allegiance to any religious or nationalist bloc.

It is for that reason that the demand for a Bill of Rights remains a fundamental part of the strategy to establish and guarantee the relationship between citizens and the state, guaranteeing the civil liberties of all citizens, regardless of communal background.

The demand for equality and democratic rights is not the property or the preserve of any bloc. Its ownership should rest firmly with citizens as citizens. Only on that basis will progress be made and citizenship flourish.

Priority

The pressing  priority for Northern Ireland is not a nationalist group hug but the immediate restoration of the Assembly and the Executive to progress that agenda. But that, of course, would mean no hiding place for the failed and failing politics of nationalism.

Border Poll a sectarian head count

Calls for a border poll have been labelled ‘divisive, sectarian and unnecessary’

‘No matter how they try to dress it up or explain it away, the clamour by nationalists to hold a border poll is nothing less than an attempt to secure a deliberately divisive sectarian head count’, the Workers Party has said.

We have had no government in Northern Ireland for two years. Public services are grinding to a stand still, schools and hospitals have no budgets, major building projects can’t go ahead, child poverty, fuel poverty, a mental health crisis and the impact of welfare ‘reform’ are crippling an entire generation.

As always nationalism’s response is a ‘wrap the green flag round me’ border poll.

The political priority in Northern Ireland is the restoration of the Assembly, Executive and a working government to address the real problems that face people in their daily lives.

Supporters know the score

Time to end this culture of disrespect and contempt – Gemma Weir

North Belfast Reds Cliftonville Supporters Club‘ has been praised by Workers Party representative Gemma Weir for  its response to the conviction of Jay Donnelly on charges of  distributing an indecent image of a child.

“The supporters club as got it absolutely right”, Gemma said. ” This case revolves around a 16 year old girl and what the judge described as ‘a gross invasion of privacy’. This young girl is a victim  and that needs to be recognised without equivocation”

“The statement made by the Reds Supporters Club correctly addresses the core issues  relating to the offence which has been committed and is in stark contrast to the comments made by the Board of Cliftonville FC which fails to even mention the young girl and the ordeal which she has been subjected to by one of its players”.

” It is as regrettable as it is unbelievable that some people need to be educated about how to treat other human beings with respect: but that appears to be the case. 

“Congratulations to the Cliftonville Supporters Club for tackling this issue head on and for telling it like it is. Hopefully their stance will help to change this culture of disrespect and contempt, particularly for girls and young women”, said Gemma

Universal Credit -‘broken and unworkable’


Universal Credit is a broken system and it is unworkable.

Addressing a UNITE trade union rally marking a day of action against the Universal Credit benefits system,  Workers Party representative Joanne Lowry has said that the new system is consciously cruel, is unworkable and has to go

“”We have heard the stories and witnessed at first hand the assessments which leave vulnerable people with little or no benefit entitlement and which compound the problems they already have”, Joanne said

“At a personal and individual level the stories are as unbelievable as they are heart-breaking.  But we must not allow that to blind us to the bigger picture”, she warned

Universal Credit is a broken system and it is unworkable. But more than that, it is ‘conscious cruelty’

Punishment                                                                                                                  “It has been designed deliberately to make life even harder for the most vulnerable in our society. It targets those most in need and it punishes them for seeking benefits”, she said.

“We never see a system which pursues tax dodgers with the same level of intensity. We never see a system designed to flush out and penalise corporate greed and corrupt financial practices”,  stated Joanne

“And the reason why the most vulnerable are always, always  the ones to pay the price, is because the entire social and economic system is designed to deliver that very outcome”, she said

For those people who have to undergo medical assessments before receiving benefits the reality can be even grimmer.

Targeting the most vulnerable                                                                          “Demeaning and humiliating interviews resulting in hurtful and insulting outcomes confirm that Universal Credit is ‘conscious cruelty. The most  vulnerable in our society yet again bear the brunt of the social policies of right wing governments”

“But let us be clear” Joanne said, ” this need not be the case. Sinn Fein and the DUP kicked welfare reform decisions into touch. They surrendered the fate of thousands of vulnerable local people to the Tory Party and the Westminster government”,

They could have intervened, they should have intervened … but they did not! Today they will tell us that there was nothing that they could have done. Ironically that’s exactly what they did – nothing!

We haven’t had an Assembly here for almost two years. That is the priority and the concern that these parties place  on people in need of help and support.

Our message from this rally today should be clear and unambiguous. Universal Credit is broken and unworkable – it has to go!

Child poverty and deprivation an indictment of DUP and Sinn Fein

Joanne Lowry and Chris Bailie: ‘ thousands of local children and their families continue to suffer a hardship and deprivation that will haunt them for the rest of their lives‘.

Following the recent  report by the United Nations into austerity measures across the UK, two Workers Party representatives have drawn attention to  the appalling levels of  child poverty and social deprivation in North and West Belfast.

“These two areas have some of the highest levels of child poverty in Northern Ireland”, Joanne Lowry and Chris Bailie have said

“Almost 20,000 local children live in homes haunted by poverty.  That means families with increasing debts, choices between ‘heat or eat ’, teenagers with a limited or non-existent social life and an increased risk of chronic illness. Children living in poverty also consistently under-perform at school and find it harder to get a job when they leave”, they said

Highest levels                                                                                                          The highest levels of poverty are to be found in the Collin Glen and Falls areas in West Belfast and Ardyone, New Lodge and Cliftonville in North Belfast

Research by Save the Children has shown that around 20% of parents in poverty say their children have to go without new shoes when they need them and a large number of children in poverty say they are missing out on things that many other children take for granted, such as going on school trips and having a warm coat in winter.

“The introduction of Universal Credit, cuts to health and education budgets, pressures on community, voluntary and youth services all compound the problems already affecting thousands of  local families – many of them with a least one partner working”, Chris and Joanne said

“It is unforgivable that while in Government Sinn Fein and the DUP refused to implement the promised Anti-Poverty Strategy and sent powers relating to Universal Credit  to Westminster. As a result thousands of local children and their families continue to suffer a hardship and deprivation that will haunt them for the rest of their lives”.

“If there is a more important political priority than addressing child poverty, then perhaps some local MLAs would like to tell us about it”, the duo concluded.

%d bloggers like this: