Sinn Féin spokespersons on Workers’ Rights, Louise O’Reilly TD and Senator Paul Gavan, have queried whether a mix of working with the Department of Education and Higher Education to equip students with critical skills in areas where we have skills shortages, as well as improving pay and conditions, would be the best way to ensure we have the requisite skillsets across our economy.
They were speaking during the Enterprise, Trade, and Employment Committee hearing on the General Scheme of the Employment Permits (Consolidation and Amendment) Bill.
Teachta O’Reilly said:
“The Critical Skills Occupations List has been in place for nearly 10 years, and it has allowed Ireland to attract extremely valuable and talented workers to help our economy grow in key areas.
“However, after nearly a decade, there appears to have been no meaningful engagement between the Department of Enterprise and the Department of Education and Higher Education to help increase the number of workers with these critical skills coming through our institutes of technology and universities.
“Relying solely on the international labour market to provide us with such skilled workers can cause difficulties, as if they decided to leave, a significant void would be left in our jobs market. There is an onus on the state to ensure that we are educating students and reskilling workers for key areas of the economy.
“Many people in my own constituency, especially those from the Middle East and Africa who have made Ireland their home, have highlighted that they could work in many roles that require language skills if they were helped upskill, by the state and by companies, in relation to IT or sales.
“It is important that we have a holistic approach to changes in this area. This should include making sure we have permits for areas of need, that no worker is being exploited, that our education system is responsive and helps students attain skills in growing areas, that the state and companies here are constantly upskilling workers, and that those out of work are also helped with training and upskilling.
Senator Gavan said:
“The proposed creation of a seasonal work permit to address difficulties in certain sectors is an attempt to allow bad employers circumvent improving the pay and conditions on offer for these roles.
“Such a move opens the possibility to an exploitative employment model in these sectors, which is neither an ethical nor sustainable solution for the sectors.
“What these sectors, and workers in these sectors, need is a Living Wage, a statutory sick pay scheme, decent pay and conditions, and a right to collective bargaining.
“Only progressive changes like this will future-proof our economy, make work pay, attract workers to sectors which struggle because they are low pay and have poor conditions, and ensure all current and future workers in these sectors are afforded decent pay and conditions.”