Posted on February 08, 2016 at 10:00 AM

Patricia King - Congress General Secretary
Patricia King
Congress General Secretary

General Secretary Patricia King looks at issues of concern for workers ahead of General Election 2016

At the peak of the housing bubble, one television advertisement caught the public imagination and became a part of everyday conversation.

It featured a commuter on a bus who gets to his feet and nervously admits: “I don’t know what a tracker mortgage is.”

The advertisement worked because it tapped into a general sense of bewilderment at the range and complexity of financial products then on offer, each one promising greater riches than the last.

As we now know, people were right to be both bewildered and suspicious, while those who designed these complex financial offerings were proven to be disastrously wrong.

Given what we have heard in the opening rounds of General Election 2016, it might be helpful if someone remade that ad, with our bewildered commuter getting to his feet and declaring: “I don’t know what the Fiscal Space is (or where to find it).”

I suspect hundreds of thousands around the country would erupt in spontaneous applause.

Before we lose sight of what matters and end up getting lost in fiscal space, we should recall that elections are first and foremost about people and about what type of society we want to build.

Political anxiety about the size of the fiscal space dwindles into insignificance when placed alongside the sort of queries that trouble working people every day:

Can we afford a home of our own? What happens if our children or elderly relations get sick? How will we pay for school costs next year?

Congress recently published the results of an extensive engagement we undertook with all political parties and elected representatives.

We asked each of them to sign up to our Charter for Fair Conditions at Work, which outlines five key elements needed to see the creation of Decent Work across all sectors of our society.

These are: a Living Wage, Fair Hours of Work, Right to Union Representation, Right to Respect and Dignity at Work and Fair Public Procurement.

The results reveal huge support for these principles among parties of the left and little or no support among parties and high profile independent TDs on the right of Irish politics.




Before voting on February 26, I would urge all union members, their families and anyone who aspires to a better society to carefully check the results. Find out if your here elected representative supports Fair Conditions at Work.

Congress has also drawn up key principles on which all affiliated unions are agreed, in relation to General Election 2016. 

It is our view that if you want to see the creation of a fairer society then it makes sense to support the parties and candidates who will back:

  • The Living Wage,
  • Decent Jobs,
  • Fair Pensions,
  • Good Public Services.

Living Wage

Low pay is bad for our economy and society and the only people who benefit are bad employers. The current rate for the Living Wage is €11.50 per hour and means people can reach an agreed minimum standard of living. Raising wages is the best antidote to national and global inequality. You should ask candidates in your area if they support the Living Wage. 


Decent Jobs

Low hour contracts and precarious work are commonplace, making it impossible for many workers – mainly young and female - to plan their lives and save for the future. Workers are entitled to security of hours and certainty of income. They have the right to union representation and to be treated with respect in the workplace. Do candidates in your area support Decent Work?


Fair Pensions

Everyone is entitled to a living income in retirement to ensure they can afford essential needs and enjoy a dignified life after work. No retired worker should live in poverty. A living income must be guaranteed through the pension system. Will the candidates in your area support Fair Pensions?


Good Public Services

Investing in quality public services – like health and education - will boost economic growth, achieve a better quality of life for all citizens and help create a more equal society. Good public services should be funded through a system of fair and progressive taxation. Ask your candidates if they support good public services funded by progressive taxation?

Make your vote count.







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