December 2015        

Maria fighting back

■ Readers may recall the previous articles on Maria’s struggles in Socialist Voice (November 2014 and August 2015).

Maria decided to fight back, on the strength of her political education with the outreach group from UCD women’s studies group in Mid-West Dublin. She received a HETAC level 7, which was a great achievement.
     She contacted the relevant authorities, namely the National Employment Rights Authority, and decided to pursue her two claims under the Terms of Employment (Information) Act (1994), as she was not provided with a written statement of the particulars of her terms and conditions of employment in accordance with the act and also under the National Minimum Wage Act (2000).
     Her former employer acted swiftly and in December 2014 tried to silence her with a paltry offer. It was refused outright, even though the money would have come in handy for that Christmas period. The case came before the tribunal during the summer of this year, and Maria won her first claim under the Terms of Employment Act. She was awarded a few hundred euros, but her other claim was thrown out.
     Though she didn’t know it at the time, she found out that she could appeal the second decision, and after much consideration she decided to do.
     When she arrived at the Labour Court she felt intimidated by the three judges—her former employer’s representative, her own representative, and the chairperson—as well as the secretary of the court. Her ex-employer arrived flanked by two solicitors—the big guns were out in force; Maria was supported by a friend and two family members. She was told to read her deposition, which she did, her hands trembling but with steely determination. Her friends watched with pride at how she carried herself.
     Counsel for the employer read out their deposition, but the employer’s representative on the bench stopped him in his tracks, asking him whether he realised that the employer had committed a criminal offence under the National Minimum Wage Act. The shocked look of counsel said it all. His principals apologised to the court for what had happened. The judge then asked the employer to speak to the claimant and see if they could come to an agreement.
     We left the courtroom; and even though the employer knew that under a technicality of the act the claimant hadn’t got a leg to stand on, they didn’t want to upset the judge. Maria took strong advice and decided that in her interests she would have to accept the compensation (which would be taxed). It would have been much better to have a legal precedent set for other workers for the future.
     Some weeks later the cheque arrived—taxed to the hilt. The costs to her former employer are a lot heavier, with legal costs, days off work, etc. He would be most annoyed. Good enough for him!
     Some weeks later, in November 2014, Maria was offered another job. As soon as she started there the anxiety began. She didn’t stay long, and it took more than five months for it to go—months of no sleep, hardly eating, worry, and medication. Christmas 2014 was a dreadful experience.
     A year later Maria is contented in her new job, and hard lessons have been learnt. Her class-consciousness is wide awake in a world that must change and where the yoke of capitalism must be ripped apart and socialism embraced for all of us.
     As Clara Zetkin said, “That will mean freedom for the woman from the old household drudgery and dependence on man.” We all look forward to that day. To do this I urge all women to join us and to make a difference. There is a better world.

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