CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
Address by Mr David Stanton TD, Minister of State
Department of Justice and Equality
Launch of ICTU Equality Guide
Tuesday 7th November
Good afternoon to you all.
I am delighted to be here today to speak at the launch of the ICTU Equality Guide. The Guide provides very useful advice for trade union officials on a range of equality issues. It builds on ICTU’s longstanding role as a champion of equality in the workplace. ICTU’s guides and training for its members have been invaluable in equipping them to promote equality and to challenge discrimination.
The Employment Equality Acts 1998-2015 and the Equal Status Acts 2000-2015 have provided robust protections in the areas of employment and access to services. They have made an important contribution in safeguarding the rights of an increasingly diverse society and workforce. It is important that workers and trade union officials are properly informed of their provisions so that they can avail of these protections, where necessary.
I would like to use my remarks today to bring to your attention some of the recent equality-related initiatives advanced by the Government that are relevant to trades union and to workers. Many of your members are parents who have daily to reconcile caring responsibilities with their work duties. The Government has focussed on supporting parents in the workforce. In recent years, there has been significant additional investment in the early years sector, focussing investment at each stage on critical elements of early years care and education. The new measures announced in Budget 2018 form part of a trend of continued growth and investment. In Budget 2017 there was a 35% increase in childcare funding, which followed from a similar 35% increase in Budget 2016. This year's announcement of a 7% increase in the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) capitation is intended to support the workforce. The €18m in 2017 to support the administration burden associated with the scheme ('Programme Support Payment'), is also intended to support providers and their employees. Cumulatively the last three budgets have seen an increase of 87% in investment.
The Government has also made a commitment in the Programme for Partnership Government to extend the family leave provisions available to parents, particularly for the first year of a child’s life. As you know, I had the honour to steer the Paternity Leave Act through the Oireachtas in 2016. That Act has given fathers the right to take two weeks’ paternity leave when their child is born. We are currently working on provisions to extend maternity leave for mothers of premature babies. The issue of paid parental leave is also currently under consideration. Once implemented, these provisions will represent a step change in the supports available to parents in the workplace.
One of my priorities is to support those who are experiencing disadvantage in the workplace. The Migrant Integration Strategy, which the Tánaiste and I launched last year, is the blueprint for Government action to promote the integration of migrants in our society. Workplaces have made huge strides in managing workplace diversity. However, it is important that trades union remain alert to the needs of migrant workers and to highlight any instances where they are being treated less fairly. I am conscious that migrant workers can be disproportionately represented in lower paid jobs. The Government’s legislation to tackle precarious work should be of benefit to migrant workers caught in potentially exploitative situations. It is also important that the Civil Service should be representative of the diversity of Irish society so that they understand the complexities of Irish life more fully. The Migrant Integration Strategy includes an action to ensure that at least 1% of the Civil Service should be of minority ethnic origin. This is just the start of the process of making the Civil Service more representative. What is useful, however, is that monitoring processes will be put in place, enabling us to see how many persons of minority ethnic background are in the Civil Service, and how they are progressing within it.
The Government is also focusing on the issue of the gender pay gap. You are aware of the commitment in the Programme for Partnership Government to undertake wage surveys to establish if there are wage differentials between men and women. This is part of a package of measures that is planned. We plan to establish a stakeholder forum with representatives of trades union and business to identify further actions that can be taken. The Tánaiste, Minister Flanagan and I undertook a consultation exercise over the summer on this issue. I would like to thank the trade union movement for contributing to that exercise. The submissions are currently being assessed. We also plan a symposium on this issue on 4 December that will look in more detail at the proposals that have been suggested in the submissions received. Trade union participation will be welcomed at that symposium.
The National Strategy for Women and Girls, 2017-2020 underlines the Government’s support and promotion of gender equality, diversity and inclusion. My Department will take the lead, along with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Trade Unions and Employers, in considering the feasibility and benefits of an “Equality, Diversity and Inclusion mark” for business.
Action is being undertaken to promote equality on a number of fronts, within the framework of the National Traveller and Roma Inclusion Strategy and the National Disability Inclusion Strategy. A National LGBTI Strategy will shortly begin to be prepared. The trade union movement’s contribution will be important in the process of making equality in the workplace a reality for more workers.
I wish to congratulate ICTU on the publication of this new Equality Guide. I believe it will improve understanding of equality legislation and its impacts in the workplace. Furthermore, it will also help to change mindsets and increase awareness of the importance of equality in our work environment. Equality, whether inside or outside of the workplace is a win/win for everyone, once we all embrace it.