Labour Youth campaigned on a variety of pressing issues in the 2013/14 term. The issues ranged from workers’ rights, ending the Greyhound lockout, free Palestine marriage equality and repealing the 8th amendment.
The two big campaigns we ran were ending zero hour contracts and introducing a living wage. Precarious working conditions are increasingly becoming the norm for many young people. Therefore Labour Youth was determined to try and arrest this worrying trend.
Zero hour contracts are exactly what they say on the tin. They are employment contracts that do not guarantee workers a set number of hours work each week. This makes it extremely difficult for workers to have a decent standard of living because they cannot plan, budget and make commitments, if they do not know how many hours and wages they will be bringing each week. We carried out an intense on-the- ground campaign and a lobbying campaign. We protested outside the buildings of iconic zero hour contract employers. This helped raise the profile of our campaign and attract support from workers and members of the public. In May, the then National Chairperson Ciarán Garrett, attended an international trade union conference in New York, where he stressed the need for the international trade union community to challenge the rise of zero hour contracts.
In addition to our campaign to end zero hour contracts, we campaigned for the introduction of a living wage. Low pay is increasingly becoming a problem in Ireland, research from the OECD shows that Ireland has the second highest share of low paid jobs in the OECD. While campaigning for a living wage, we highlighted the benefits the introduction of it would have not only for workers but also for employers and the government, because it would boost consumer demand in the economy.
After organising a lot of street protests, canvassing the public, engaging in debates in the media and lobbying politician’s, we were delighted to see that ending zero hour contracts and introducing a living wage formed a key focus in Statement of Government Priorities. The Minister for Business and Employment Ged Nash, has made ameliorating the conditions for precarious workers a major priority for him. A Low Pay Commission has been established to assess the rate in which the national minimum wage should be sat and a government study has been commission to present proposals on tackling zero hour contracts.
Labour Youth’s success in getting these issues firmly on the government agenda shows that when a group of committed activists organise effectively, they can make a positive difference for the very people and causes we seek to represent and champion.
This piece was written by Ciarán Garrett – Chairperson of Labour Youth 2014