The housing crisis and the struggle for decent work and decent pay - Patricia King

3 Jul 2019

Taoiseach on stairs

General Secretary Patricia King was given a standing ovation at the Biennial Delegate Conference when she recalled growing up as one of five in a three-room house in County Wicklow with no running water- the tap was in the yard.

She used her reply to a speech by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to highlight the scale of the housing crisis and the plight of children who have to live in temporary accommodation.  

She urged him to tackle the crisis because of the damage to children living in hubs and hotel rooms. Patricia King recalled the shame of going to a local national school but being actively discouraged from having people back to her families three basic three-room dwelling.

She told the Taoiseach that his government’s policy on housing had failed and needed to urgently change direction. “Congress believes the delivery of social and affordable housing should be done through local authorities. Patricia King also urged him to do something, to get it right and not left children in homelessness “pay a dreadful price”.

On the subject of collective bargaining she said the Government had failed unions, who were in the same position today in 20 19 as Jim Larkin had been on a tram in O’Connell Street in 1913, “the law does not officially recognise our right to exist or collectively bargain- we can only have it if employers want to give it”. She described the situation as “bare-knuckle capitalism with some employers, hostile and that they harass, penalise, inject fear and even dismiss workers”.

Patricia King also told the Taoiseach that the state facilities bogus self-employment and she had recently joined in a construction workers protest at the National Children’s Hospital, where workers had been misclassified, “that is pure wrong”, she said. “The battle for decent work and decent pay was the defining struggle of our time”.

On Northern Ireland, she said people there wanted an end to inertia and urged the Government to campaign for a sustainable power-sharing government, along with a Bill of Rights endorsed in the Good Friday Agreement, the right to choose reproductive rights and the right to marriage equality.

There was a welcome on Twitter from many of those following Patricia King's remarks to the Taoiseach: 

RT @RoisinShortall: An outstanding contribution from Patricia King of ICTU setting out priorities which Government needs to address.

Excellent speech from Patricia King calling on @LeoVaradkar not to leave anyone behind.... not children in emergency accommodation, not low wage f casual workers and not women and the LGBT community in NI Dr Sinead Ahern@sineadmahern

@John_Burns1Superb response to an Taoiseach from ICTU GS Patricia King #BDC19 #joinaunion @fsuireland

Aideen Carberry@aideencarb Late to the party here, but how fierce was Patricia King's speech to @irishcongress #BDC19 ? Her final point about the childhood trauma currently being created due to the housing crisis was so on point. Well worth watching. …