Housing and Workers’ Rights – Government’s failure is no accident

Tuesday 10 October 2017, 12am

Straight Talking - by John Douglas

The most visible manifestation of Ireland’s housing crisis is the sight of citizens curling up in sleeping bags in shop doorways and lanes in every major city across the country. 

Less visible is the tens of thousands of families forced to exist in cheap bed and breakfasts and hotels moved onto new temporary locations on a daily or weekly basis. 

There are families living out of bags, always ready to be moved on to the next hostel or bed and breakfast. 

Over 3,000 children are living like this, homeless, no place to do their homework, no place to make friends, no place to play – these children are the urban nomads, passed from room to room by a State system which has no compassion and no moral compass. 

This government and recent governments have made the “choice” that this is to be their lot and this is not happening by some social accident.  It is a direct policy decision to privatise the provision of housing to the profit maximising private sector of developers, hoteliers and landlords.  Often these are one and the same person or persons. 

In the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s when the Irish State was not nearly as wealthy as it is now, the Governments of the time, built thousands of social housing units in every corner of Ireland, good quality homes for workers and families, good community places where you made friends, had good neighbours, a place you could call home. 

But in the last number of decades successive governments decided that they were building no more public/social housing, all citizens would be forced to engage with the private sector of bankers, developers and landlords to secure a home, whether or not your income or circumstances were sufficient enough to do so. 

The State stopped building houses and started paying billions of euros to landlords for more and more unsuitable private units to rent to those families which the State ignored. 

The gravy train of rent subsidies for hoteliers, landlords and developers trundles on to this very day, lining the pockets of those who keep our failed government in power.

The present government’s housing policy is akin to re-arranging the deck chairs on the titanic.  They have no intention of solving the problem or upsetting their allies.  They know what they have to do, it’s not rocket science, it’s as simple as “build houses”. 

They have the land, they have the money, what they lack is the will. 

To hide their real agendas they will muddy the waters with talk of planning delays, resource shortages, supply blockages etc., the reality is they have no intention of doing anything. 

The crisis is of their making and is fuelling their own ideological policies of giving all services to the private sector to make profit from what is a basic human right. 

They have done this with healthcare as over 700,000 citizens waiting for care, they have done it with education with thousands of schools under-resourced, they have done it with water services, where the infrastructure has collapsed. 

See first you create a crisis by starving public services of resources, then you declare that the public sector is inefficient and incapable of providing housing, water, education, healthcare or transport and then you pass it to the private sector to make profits by cherry picking the most profitable parts. 

Simple really, the State washes its hands of its constitutional responsibilities and becomes the paymaster to big business.

Ireland is a wealthy country, but it is a very unequal country as an increasing share of wealth created in Ireland is going to capital (profits, dividends) and the share going to labour (wages) is falling. 

So while productivity increases, wages remain virtually stagnant and that is why workers need to join together collectively in unions and demand a fairer share of private wealth and State wealth. 

That is why workers and their families should only vote for politicians who will represent workers’ interests and the working class.  It is the only real way of making change happen. 

Unions are not perfect, they have not always made the right decisions, but they are the only power workers have and that is why employers and governments spend so much time demonising unions. 

Workers must take responsibility for their unions, they must be active, they must recruit, but most of all they must organise.  A strong workplace is an organised workplace, a workplace where management know the workers’ strength and therefore are afraid to bully or intimidate workers.  

Mandate, your union is building worker power, at work and in our communities, all members are part of this movement, all members have a responsibility for themselves, their colleagues and their union.  Whether it’s Ryanair, Dunnes Stores or Tesco, workers have the solution within themselves, “organise, organise, organise”.

A different Ireland is possible, but it must be won for nothing is given freely.

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If you believe Another Ireland is Possible, come to the Right2Change conference on Saturday, 4th November 2017 where we can discuss alternatives to the current crisis Ireland is facing.

More details and tickets available by clicking here.

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