The Irish Wisconsin Plan

On December 28, Cumann Seán MacCoisdealbha/Máirtín Ó hÚrsáin, Republican Sinn Féin Athlone released the following statement;

Up until 2010, when it was defeated by the Arab Workers Union SAWT ELAMEL, in Arab villages and predominantly in Nazareth Town an Israeli pilot scheme was launched beginning August 1, 2005. This project was called the Wisconsin Plan and was a welfare-to-work programme for the long-term unemployed. In essence it was downright slave labour, the workers coerced into working 40 hours a week with no extra pay or else, in instances of “non-cooperation”, refusal or an unableness to work the participant would face his/her welfare payment being cut off for a period of two months without any source of income. The Wisconsin Plan was facilitated by four international private companies and their Israeli corporations.

The Wisconsin Plan is cited as an excellent international example of workers’ rights being steadily eroded and abused by the State and the privateers they collaborate with in order to facilitate and exploit a politically powerless workforce. In the context of Ireland this kind of collaboration is oft times subtle in the beginning and goes unreported and unchallenged.

From early 2014, in conjunction with local authorities, unemployed citizens who have been on the live register for two years will be “expected” to work for a scheme starkly similar to the Wisconsin Plan. Unsurprisingly this is facilitated by the Trade Unions!

This project, called the “Pathways to Work scheme”, was announced in the 2013 Budget. Each participant with the scheme is expected to work 19.5 hours a week for 22 months and get only a meagre €20 extra on top of their dole payment at the end of the week. This is blatant exploitation of Irish citizens and tantamount to slave labour. The following deserves some thought about the direction we are going.

In the same Budget those under 26 years of age faced dole cuts from €188 per week to €144 per week, while those from 18 to 24 years of age are expected to live on €100 per week. The cuts were supposedly an “incentive” for young people to take up work. The problem is of course, that jobs are few and far between and simply non-existent in many parts of the State, so at this point it becomes clear the agenda and direction we are moving. In essence those who had to contend with a loss of €44 a week are now expected to work for €20 a week for nearly 20 hours a week. A grand total of just over a euro an hour. A few points for consideration are the cost of travel and food the worker will no doubt have to contribute. Most young people cannot afford to drive. In rural Ireland there is no public transport. A taxi over the course of an average 10 miles costs roughly €25 alone. How are people supposed to survive? What future do they have? During the summer of 2013 the chief executive of Irish Rural Link, Séamus Boland said rural areas were being hammered by emigration, with nine out of 10 young people considering leaving the 26 County State to find work. From April 2012 to April 2013 an estimated 89,000 people left the state, many forced to do so with little or no choice, that’s over 1,000 people a week! A crime no one is held accountable for. It is Ireland’s shame that we allow this to happen again and again.

Just like Israel’s glorious Wisconsin Plan anyone who refuses to engage in the initiative faces the prospect of their social welfare payments being reduced, or having payments suspended. These are again sad times for the Irish Nation, crippled by partition and enchained to foreign capitalists where the workers have no rights. A fair wage for a fair day’s work seems a thing of the past if you are a young Irish person.

As a final note, this is all the complete opposite of what Republican Sinn Féin stands for as outlined in our policy; SAOL NUA – A New Way of Life. We encourage the youth of Ireland to stay and build the New Ireland to organise and agitate for real change and not be content with the scraps doled out by the Free State. It is the only way to defeat the privatised economy of the imperial European Union wherein which we now live.

Cumann Seán Mac Coisdealbha / Máirtín Ó hÚrsáin

Sinn Féin Poblachtach, Átha Luain, Iarmhí

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