Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

Extend Health and Safety Authority powers on social distancing in Irish Workplaces – The Bad Example of Keeling’s Company

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Paul Murphy TD :

If you walk more than 2km from home you face a jail sentence.

Yet companies forcing workers to work shoulder to shoulder without PPE face no inspections, no enforcement, no fines.

The Health and Safety Authority must start investigating complaints of companies breaking the Covid-19 guidelines. They should start with Keelings.

The Irish Examiner Reports :

TDs have called for extended powers for the Health and Safety Authority (HSA) in order to ensure social distancing in work places.

There is currently no state agency which has the statutory authority to carry out workplace inspections to ensure that appropriate physical distancing measures to protect against the spread of Covid-19 are in place.

Confusion has arisen over who would monitor sites after Rise-People Before Profit TD Paul Murphy says he was “passed from Billy to Jack” while trying to ensure that fruit producer, Keeling’s workers in Co Wexford, who have been flown in to Ireland from other states in the EU for seasonal work, could adhere to guidelines for their own safety.

The HSA has said that currently it has no powers in overseeing the Covid-19 guidelines, despite Business Minister Heather Humphreys stating in the Dáil last week that she was “talking to her officials about it”.

Previously, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said the HSE would oversee such guidelines.

However, the HSE Environmental Unit has reportedly stated to Mr Murphy that it is not their role either.

Mr Murphy written to Minister Humphreys to urge the Government to reconsider the issue as a matter of urgency, as a number of worksites, including 35 “essential” public housing construction sites, have restarted work with government permission, while others expect restrictions on other construction and other workplaces will be loosened when the current run of guidelines runs out on May 5.

— Read on www.irishexaminer.com/breakingnews/ireland/call-for-extended-hsa-powers-on-social-distancing-996293.html

Some people may be surprised that a government headed by Fine Gael Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is unwilling to take action against the Keeling’s Company – an explanation can be found in this image :

Taoiseach Varadkar Campaigning With Owners of Keeling’s Fruit Picker Company in 2015

The Fine Gael Government was lobbied in February 2018 by Keeling’s Boss, the Chief Executive Caroline Keeling, who wants tax laws changed so that her family’s personal profits can be dramatically increased.

Keeling added that it is of “significant concern” that there is a “far greater incentive” to sell a business than to keep it in the family.

She gave an example of a company generating €1 million in profit annually, that could be potentially sold for a multiple of 19 times its profit. After capital gains tax of 33% was deducted, the cash left over for the owners would be €12.73 million.

“Contrast this with the situation where the business (is) retained in family ownership. If a dividend of 25% … of profits after tax at 12.5% were to be paid, this would amount to €218,750, which after personal tax at 52% would yield €105,000 to the owners of the family business.

“This means that it would take approximately 121 years for the family owner to earn the equivalent through dividends as they would on a sale of the company.”

https://fora.ie/keelings-family-business-3855965-Feb2018/

Did the current Fine Gael Government respond positively to the pleas of the Keeling’s Company for more profits – or, in the immortal words of former taoiseach Bertie Ahern, a “dig out”?

The accountancy firm Grant Thornton submitted a Keeling’s Dig-Out Plea to the Fine Gael Government :

In its submission, Grant Thornton said the domestic economy is suited to consolidation of companies through mergers and acquisition, which “threatens the existence of family dynasties”.

It said that Irish entrepreneurs with successful businesses cannot personally benefit from success in their business due to the high levels of tax payable on dividends.

The consultancy added that government measures such as the ‘knowledge development box’, a tax credit for firms in research and development (R&D) mode, tends to favour large multinationals and not smaller Irish firms.

Grant Thornton recommended the policymakers should relax the “extremely rigorous” conditions that companies need to satisfy to qualify for R&D tax credits.

It also claimed that FDI projects got five times the levels of State investment that went into indigenous businesses.

In response to Keeling’s letter, the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation listed a number of benefits available to family business but made no commitment to the establishment of the requested taskforce.

The Irish State applies double standards in many other workplaces – notably care and nursing homes where underpaid and poorly-housed staff perform very difficult work. These workers are often born outside the Irish state, selling their Labour in privatised institutions which are hostile to trade unions.

The CoronaVirus Crisis in Ireland exposes the urgent need to end years of austerity and neoliberalism. The power of greedy capitalist concerns such as the Keeling’s Company must be broken.

Keeling’s Boss Caroline Keeling

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