Equality Commission under attack

The Equality Commission has published its 15th Fair Employment Monitoring Reportpart 1 here and part 2 here [pdf files], a summary is also available[pdf again] – and they have stated that, “The imbalances in employment recorded in the early 1990s have, in effect, disappeared. The composition of the workforce is now Protestant: [57.7%] and Roman Catholic: [42.3%].” [the Non-Determined are, of course, not counted] Good news? Not according to both Sinn Féin and the DUP.. as this Press Association report reveals.From the Foreword to the report –

The imbalances in employment recorded in the early 1990s have, in effect, disappeared. The composition of the workforce is now Protestant: [57.7%] and Roman Catholic: [42.3%]. Given that the proportion of those available for work is around [57.3%] and [42.7%], the current composition is close to what might be expected.

From the PA report –

Sinn Fein Assembly member Catriona Ruane said while there was disadvantage in both the Protestant and Catholic communities, these problems had to be dealt with on the basis of need.

“The fact remains that across every single indicator of disadvantage and multiple disadvantage that Catholics fair far worse,”

“Sinn Fein`s greatest concern is that this is part of a wider agenda driven by the civil service and unionist politicians to rewrite history and, just as seriously, to default on existing equality commitments.”

while

The DUP`s Gregory Campbell said the commission was much too slow in coming forward with pro-active measures to combat the under-representation of Protestants, particularly in the public sector.

“It is totally unacceptable that this report mentions the issue they spent so many years denying the existence thereof, and when they do refer to the problem, they attempt to rationalise it rather than dealing with it.

“They must bring forward solutions for those public sector bodies where they have categorical proof of the scale of the problem affecting Protestant under-representation.”

Plus ca change..

  • CS Parnell

    How depressing was that “I’m more oppressed than you” competition?

    Look, I don’t deny catholics were seriously discriminated against, indeed it was state policy. But when will Sinn Fein abandon there “we are the most oppressed people ever” rhetoric and start to make the argument that really matters – that Norrthern Ireland is an economic basket case that is going nowhere not very fast and that the only way to change that is to integrate it further into Europe – principally by joining the euro?

    Given the Brits aren’t going to join the euro anytime soon, the only reasonable way to do that is to integrate with the economy of the Republic.

    It’s an entirely pragmatic argument, but I also think it is right – and I also bet the reason why more Catholics are unemployed is because more of them live West of the Bann. In the past discrimination was the key factor – but I just don’t think it is anymore and I don’t care how many ab hominem tales are produced to suggest otherwise.

    Serious Irish nationalism would be about persuading protestants that they should want to be part of an all-Ireland set up. Engaging in pissing contests with the DUP is no answer.

  • D’Oracle

    Bob Collins must be getting it about right if both sides are criticising his peoples work.

    A question on a different waveband -if neither Catholics or Protestants are getting jobs then just who the hell is taking them all?

  • Henry94

    D’Oracle

    These guys and they have adapted to our traditions in a way that makes us worl leaders in assimilation

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/4512198.stm

  • Marty J

    What does Gregory Campbell propose? One of those 50:50 recruitment policies he hates so much like the PSNI have?

  • Crataegus

    I wonder how much the Equality Commission costs per annum?

  • belfastguy

    Pete,

    having looked at the full report the non-determined ARE counted and the figures are presented for all persons () and only Protestants and Roman Catholics []. The reason for the [P/RC] only approach is (like 50:50) the wording of the legislation… it is designed to assess representation of those who declare themselves as belonging to a Protestant or Roman Catholic community.

    also, the key message from the foreword has been the same in the last few monitoring reports so it should come as no surprise to Gregory; Catriona etc

    Crataegus – the Equality Commission apparently costs around 5-6 million per annum. Its work of course extends beyond relgion to consider race, gender, disabilty, sexual orientation, age (coming soon) and the s75 public duty etc etc…

  • D’Oracle

    Henry
    Ah So…its those pesky foreigners again then is it! Tyrone must be an amazing place if it has (Lithuanian -Portuguese)interpreters to hand in its chicken plants.

    Them there gotta be real rare birds!

  • Pete Baker

    belfastguy

    You are right, of course, and I should have been more exact in my wording at that point.

    I was referring to the quoted figures themselves, from the summary – “The composition of the workforce is now Protestant: [57.7%] and Roman Catholic: [42.3%]. Given that the proportion of those available for work is around [57.3%] and [42.7%] the current composition is close to what might be expected.” – and not from the more detailed report which also analyses the figures down to an organisational level.

    And yes it does follow from the wording of the legislation.

  • Crataegus

    Belfastguy

    Thanks. Wonder how long it will be before they record the percentage of females of child bearing age employed or sexual preference?

    Like Parnell I am weary of the facile attitude of many of our politicians. On one hand we have a report saying the imbalances have disappeared and on the other people, with a careers based on division, doing their best to rubbish the messenger. Until the politicians start taking the lead and treating people equally as people the sooner we can stop spending money on Commissions and spend it on need.

    It is not just the net cost of the Commission but the cost to business keeping (for them) utterly irrelevant information. As an employer frankly I don’t care what religion my employees are, and really I don’t want to know, it is not my business it is their personal belief. If anything, historically, I have discriminated in favour of people not native to here.

    Parnell

    I agree that the economy here is a basket case, it is due to decades of bombing and murder, inept blow ins running the place and UK economic policies that are out of sync with our local economic needs. I am not so sure that our economic needs would be met in an all Ireland framework either, as to make progress we need political normality and maturity here. Also I am not so sure that the Celtic Lion with its increasing costs will be robust in the medium term. The Ferry dispute is merely a sign of deeper problems.

    I personally think we (all of Britain) should be in the Euro zone. The only people who gain by us being out are Banks.

    From a British perspective we are something separate, anyone getting deliveries to here soon know the difference. From an Irish perspective, if it came to the crunch, who in their right mind would want the place? We here need to stand on our own feet it suits the agenda of Nationalists, Republicans and Unionists alike.

    Britain is a centralised state and despite the Assembly economic policy and parameters are set in London and generally suit the economic conditions in the South East of England. To redress the local economic problem you need an administration here that has real control of economic policy and real decentralisation to local councils so our cities can get on with regeneration and job creation. For that to happen requires a different breed of politician to the present lot and increased devolution which will never happen.

    We need to have a look at business costs and many of the restrictions that we place on business and ask are they necessary? I am not advocating a race to the bottom, but an astute look at some of our taxes. Should corporation tax be say 12.5%, should the rating system be scrapped in favour of local income tax? That way start ups have a lower burden and the likes of Tesco much higher. We need to increase wealth creating employment as a priority. Near full employment would make the statistics being collected utterly pointless.

    The other area that must be faced up to is a reduction in the size and function of the Civil Service. It is an immense burden and some of it like the Planning Service are not providing us with real value for money because of the framework in which they work. They should be helping to create wealth and not simply living like parasites on the fees they charge. Different ethos needed.

    On the West of the Bann factor, I disagree. From experience you can have areas with high unemployment next to areas of high employment opportunity. There are places where employers tend to avoid employing from because applicants from those areas have poor communication skills, poor presentation, coupled with employers experience of employing from families where no one else works. (It is a generality but you tend to get much higher rates of absenteeism, less punctual, more likely to leave and higher rates of sickness). It is places like the inner North & West Belfast and the sink estates that have real problems and collecting overall data does not assist the areas of real, prolonged and acute deprivation. Yes the figures look good but they hide the real localised problems.

  • Alan

    It is time now to move the measuring of employment rates by religion to a much longer time base – 5 years seems appropriate. That way we can still keep the issue in mind, but save a lot of money in the process.

    The money saved should, however, be ploughed back into the Equality Commission to fund an extensive programme of work on disability. The recent Draft Disability Rights Order failed to include rights that were legislated for under the GB’s DRA. The suggested reason for this was that there was to be a review of Section 75. This would need to be a substantial review with significant extensions to existing rights if rights parity with GB is to be maintained.

    Crucially the GB’s DRA included a clause that enabled public agencies to treat people with a disability *more favourably* than others. This is a leap beyond the rather crudely defined equal treatment in Section 75.

  • Crataegus

    Alan

    At present business has to take reasonable measures to ensure property is accessible to disabled. This is easy enough to do in new buildings, and fine no one could complain, but in Victorian and older buildings it can be well nigh impossible, and the cost is astronomical. Another problem is disability is a banner covering many different groups.

    What worries me is the idea that business can solve deeper problems. We can employ our percentage of elderly, disabled, lapsed Protestants, Catholics, over weigh, underweight, single parents, ethic minority. Give us a break, primarily we need to run our businesses and create employment and let us get on with that and there will be lots of jobs for everyone.

    Another little problem is the rapidly increasing cost of doing business here and how we structure our overall tax burden. Why do business here?

  • Thomas

    Parnell

    At least Sinn Fein show their concern about both catholics and protestants being out of work. You just have to read their statement, now look and read the DUPs statement, all they are talking about is giving work to the protestant people, and to hell with the catholic people. That is one of the main reasons why Sinn Fein are doing so well in elections, cause they show and prove they are there for all the people.

  • Alan

    “Give us a break, primarily we need to run our businesses and create employment and let us get on with that and there will be lots of jobs for everyone.”

    I have no problem with that!

    We are, however, all in this together and have a responsibility to include people with a disability, across all the sectors. Why should it always be left to the public sector to make inclusion work?

    Many people with a disability simply would not get a start without the chivvying provided by the DRA. What’s interesting about the red in tooth and claw private sector is the sheer humanity of it. Many a martinet boss has a child, a sibling or someone they know who is disabled and wants to make a difference for them.

  • Crataegus

    Alan

    From experience people with disability and older workers are generally very good employees. Tend not to be out clubbing the night before, tend to stay in the same job etc. Many disabled people simply do not seek employment.

    Also the problem is that people with disability cannot do many jobs just as I cannot go to the Olympics. A deaf person would have safety problems on building sites, someone in a wheelchair in a Kitchen; someone blind would have very limited employment opportunities. A deaf person is a very good one to consider as the person could be of excellent health in all other ways. Even in physical jobs just think how important hearing is. People with mobility problems are actually often easier to employ, and no problem with me.

    I am just weary of burdens being placed on employers. Attempted social engineering through the business sector. It is easier for government bodies and large employers to facilitate but in smaller business there is no personnel department, and often the burden falls on the owner. If you find yourself unravelling some government initiative at 4am on a Sunday morning you soon get utterly pissed off. Just think what the government thinks we can do; pay rates on empty buildings in areas we can’t sell the dammed things; administer maternity leave; administer fair employment; coming soon sort out pensions; and the old favourites like PAYE, CDM; etc etc What everyone has failed to notice is that we are becoming increasingly uncompetitive in this global economy and unless there are regulations that make equal the disadvantage businesses will leave here if they can.

  • Butterknife

    Very interesting:

    I would like to ask of the hard line Republicans / Loyalists and the Nationalist / Unionist bloggers to do the test on the following Web:

    http://www.politicalcompass.org/

    Just to see where we now stand compared with 1998 ~ 2003 ( UUP/post Belfast Agreement days )

  • Mark

    Economic: -8.38
    Social: -7.08

    Still a libertarian socialist, if anything it has put me closer to the bottom left than last time I did it.

  • Animus

    Surely it is more cost-effective to try to keep people in employment than to pay benefits. There are certain social benefits which are as important as pay. Good health may not pay in obvious financial ways, but poor health costs heaps.

    Businesses always complain about paying maternity leave in particular, implying they would rather women just quit altogether than come back. What kind of a society to we want to have – one where only certain people should work? Oh yeah, we tried that, it was called the 60s and 70s. Do keep in mind that equality provisions as stated in much of the legislation apply to businesses employing more than 6 people.

    One of the key problems faced by the Equality Commission is the focus on religion. When the Commission was established, many working in the field of equality worried that this would be the case, a ‘hierarchy of discrimination.’ And that’s exactly what’s happened.

    As for Bob Collins, he’s not yet convinced that his post should be full-time, so I think the jury is still out on him.

  • Alan

    *Also the problem is that people with disability cannot do many jobs just as I cannot go to the Olympics.*

    Which is a classic example of the medical model of disability, or the *seek out their problem* approach.

    Look, you seem genuine enough in terms of seeing the need. The issue is one of making reasonable adjustments, but always trying to push the envelope – Is there more you could do for a small outlay? That kind of thing.

  • Crataegus

    Alan

    From experience I would recommend employing people who are disabled, no problem, providing it is possible in the particular line of work and we have to be realistic. Also no problem making a few adjustments as you would for any employee and often it is less than you would think. The problem starts with setting up people to monitor and enforce and the need for additional paperwork and the cost both in the business and the government. I think there needs to be a serious look at how to make business simpler to run. Why bother with National insurance why not just income tax for example. A high percentage of my time is spent on government related rules. How do we achieve our aims simply.

    There is also an assumption that everyone in business is doing well. If you have a business that is loosing money and you are expected to put in a lift and all the structural alterations required it could bankrupt you and you could even loose your house. For some people even relatively small things are not possible as they really cannot afford to spend money.

    Unless someone has been self employed in bad times it is hard to visualise the problems and stress that some suffer. Some time ago I was injured in a car accident and I can tell you the benefit system was not designed for the self employed. All your fixed outgoings keep running, every week you are loosing serious money. The same applies in times of recession. Like the rates we impose burden irrespective of someone’s ability to comply. That cannot be right.

    Animus

    If you own a business with 6-10 employees and two are on maternity leave you have problems. For a start the people may or may not come back and in the interim you cannot employ others to do the work. You would be lucky to get someone to take out a short term contract. Even if you can it is additional administration, interviews contracts of employment and all that. If you are in a specialist field it can be disastrous. Believe me it really can be a major problem and on the above link to questions I came out well into the libertarian left zone. I am no free market zealot but simply state my experience.

    With regards health care etc of course the state should pay as with other items like care for the elderly and the basic pension should be run by the state. I have no problem with tax to fund these things provided it is based on ability to pay and is made as simple as possible. Good health service, education, transport and care for the elderly and infirm are good for business efficiency.

    On better to employ than pay benefit. Yes and No. It only makes sense if the job is of real benefit and being done efficiently but you need to be careful not to put too high a burden enterprise.

  • Animus

    Crataegus – the employer’s attitude plays a significant role in whether employees return to work. I work for an agency of about 8 staff – I went on maternity leave last year and others worked to cover my work – we couldn’t afford cover for me. Their positive attitude towards me and my pregnancy contributed to my happy return to work. Had I fallen pg at my last job, I would certainly have left altogether because the attitudes were so negative to others who went on maternity leave (and this was a much bigger org).

    If you want someone to work in the short-term, go to a temp agency. (Yes, I know there are concerns about specialisms). But the cost of losing a staff member and going through the interview process and training a new member of staff is high so employers should be looking at how the culture of the organisation works to retain staff. In that way, it’s much the same as looking at why people are frequently absent, not merely punishing them for being absent.

  • Crataegus

    Animus

    I take your point regarding attitude. It involves empowering people and being flexible and often it is reciprocated.

    With regards agencies this increases cost considerably, but does work for say kitchen staff or people who stack shelves, typists and that sort of employment. Though it is a substantial increase in cost to the business. From experience you also need to offer someone who has returned from maternity leave more flexible working arrangements.

    That said I also hear quite a few allegations of the system being abused by employees. There is such a thing as problematic employees.

    I agree there are quite a few things you can do to maintain ALL staff and agree it is to everyone’s interest. Believe me I am all for an easy life.

    I work in a specialist field as does my wife. I speak from experience. If someone is even ill for a protracted period (and any of us can be ill) it is a very real burden and generally means that someone else like me has to work day, night and weekends to cover.

    I have had difficult experience in this regard and am getting to old to work 100 hours a week, I have my rights too like getting to bed at night, also there is a very different attitude for an employer who has a family than there is for an employee. As a result I have had to adjusted how I run my business to minimise my liability, other employers are doing the same or similar. No alternative.

    I think there is an interesting argument to be had on the role and responsibility of individuals, employers and the government, and I do feel the government is off loading a lot of its responsibility onto people without regard to the ability of those people to cope.