On ignoring the Legislative Assembly..

I mentioned previously the u-turn by the Agriculture Minister, Sinn Féin’s Michelle Gildernew, [and the Sinn Féin party – Ed] on abolishing the Agricultural Wages Board.. after hearing the other side of the argument – nothing wrong in changing your mind, btw, but it’s worth realising that means that she had made up her mind previously, or rather her party had decided its policy, after hearing “only one side of the argument.” Anyway, with the Assembly vote recorded and having resolved – “That this Assembly calls on the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development to bring forward the required legislation to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board.” – why is the Sinn Féin Agriculture spokesman, Gerry McHugh, now calling on the Agriculture Minister to ignore the democratic wishes of the Assembly? Assuming they all realise that, actually, they’re supposed to be Members of a Legislative Assembly..

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  • noel adams

    I am not a member of MGs party but on this one she got it right in the end, by the way how did the numbers stack up for MLAs with farming intrests in the scrap it lobby. Do they have to declair an intrest.

  • A navvy writes

    Michelle Gildernew had made her intitial decision to scrap the NI AWB after lobbying by the Ulster Farmers Union – claiming ‘red tape’ was binding farmers hands.
    Fortunately, Unite the unon stepped and demolished the UFU argument informing the minister of the reality – scrapping the wages board would mean an 18p cut per hour for low paid workers.
    Unite’s regional organiser on the AWB Gareth Scott said: “We believe that UFU wish to further lower wages and exploit agricultural workers in Northern Ireland, particularly migrant and temporary workers, as a source of cheap labour. Their aim is to make Northern Ireland the agricultural sweatshop of Western Europe.”
    Adding: “T&G Section of Unite is totally opposed to any move to reduce earnings and the standard of living for agricultural workers. We are opposed to the exploitation of workers whether they are indigenous, migrant or temporary workers. We are opposed to Northern Ireland becoming the agricultural sweatshop of these islands.”
    This forced the minister to change her opinion.
    The UFU and those ministers in the pockets of the farmers (poor sods couldn’t survive without grants, grants, grants and MLA expenses, council expenses and MP expenses, never mind the health and education board expenses and all the other costs from the quangos they sit on. Who’s paying for this gravy train? Us from our PAYE).
    The current rate of pay for agricultural workers in NI is £5.70 an hour – the UFU and their cronies in the assembly want this reduced to the minimum wage of £5.52 for workers aged 22 and over.
    But the vote in the assembly went against farm labourers – the UFU and their cronies won the day.
    If farmers are happy to take the crust out of our mouths then next time they ask for intervention – cash, cash, cash – can somebody somewhere please close the till on their grubby fingers!

  • Rory

    I’m similarly “minded” as Noel Adams on this issue. Gerry McHugh and Sinn Fein’s position is a healthy counter-balance to the profoundly undemocratic nature of an assembly with such a preponderance of members willing to make Pavlovian responses to the Ulster Farmers’ Union lobby.

    Of the “stakeholders” (horrible term) with an interest in this matter affecting their livliehood, the agricultural labourers far outnumber the members of the UFU and it is only right that their voice and interests be championed against those of their powerful and much wealthier employers.

    It is very, very important that the rights and interests of workers are protected against rapacious employers seeking ever to increase their profits at the expense of their workforce with the help of their pals in politics and it is good to see Sinn Fein giving that protection.

    While one would expect that the UUP would always trot in, tails wagging, behind any UFU lobby if I were an agricultural labourer and a unionist I would have to wonder why no MLA from the pan-Unionist camp looks to my economic interests.

  • Pete Baker

    It’s all very well supporting a Minister ignoring the Assembly when you disagree with the Assembly vote.

    But it sets a precendent for all Ministers to be able to ignore the Assembly in any or all votes – including those where you would agree with the Assembly.

  • Rory

    Don’t worry, Pete. When that happens I’ll simply change to support the Assembly and denounce the Minister’s stance. This is not relgion after all or philosophy. There is nothing morally principled about it. It’s pork-barrel politics – the fat cats switch to maximise their interests as necessary and we must do the same.

    For all my differences with old Trotsky, he did have something valuable to say on such issues in his pamphlet, Their Morals and Ours,which will of course outrage those of bourgeois sensiblities since it rather exposes and outflanks their own absolutely amoral game play.

  • Pete Baker

    Morals have nothing to do with it, Rory – neither your’s, nor mine.. nor Trotsky’s.

    Once one member of the Executive is allowed to ignore a vote of the mass Assembly of public representatives then they all can.

    Such as in this case, for example..

  • kensei

    Considering that if they are allowed to get away with it, the chances of it happening are exactly 1, are you really surprised?

  • Is what Ms Gildernew did a breach of Ministerial Conduct? Agree with her decision of not it sets a very dangerous prescedent that could end up costing this new government dearly.

  • Mekong

    I’ll be curious to see how Anna Lo reacts tomorrow if Gildernew retains the Board, as she was not too happy having to vote in favour of its abolition, at the behest of David Forde, even though the organisation she used to head (NI Committee for Ethnic Minorities) was supporting Michelle Gildernews position in defence of migrant workers rights.

  • JD

    Just seen the Assembly live link (sad I know) Michelle has announced that she will be retaining the Board dispite the Assembly vote. Fair play to her she has put the proteection of migrant workers rights over the views of the fat cats in the UFU and their unionist allies.