Unions Propose Changes To Precarious Work Legislation

Proposed legalisation on precarious work cannot deal with the problem and must be changed in five key areas if it is to benefit the hundreds of thousands of people enduring unacceptable working conditions, trade union SIPTU has said.

In order to secure an effective end to the spread of precarious jobs in all sectors of the economy, SIPTU is involved in a high level political campaign to drive home to the Government and opposition politicians the need to amend the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017.

SIPTU Deputy General Secretary, Ethel Buckley who is lobbying the Government for the union along with Congress and affiliates said: "Unfortunately, as the Bill stands it is largely toothless in dealing with the scourge of precarious work which is destroying the quality of life of workers across the country. It simply does not go far enough in a number of key areas to provide workers with the protections they need in order to achieve fulfilling work and home lives.

"This Bill is a response to the SIPTU campaign against precarious work and similar drives by other unions. We remain committed to bring the fight for secure and fair work to a successful conclusion."

She added: "In this fight we have been greatly encouraged by the level of support shown by all the major opposition parties for the series of amendments proposed by Congress which seek to ensure this Bill does what the Government claims is its aim – to put a stop to precarious work."

Trade unions are demanding the Bill is amended so that it ends 'if and when' contracts, introduces workable banded hours contracts and includes effective deterrents for employers who breach its conditions.

In order to achieve these aims Congress has proposed amendments in five areas:

• Radically tighten up the definitions in the Bill of various categories of workers, in particular casual employees, in order to remove a loop-hole which could be exploited by unscrupulous employers and actually lead to an increase in precarious work.

• Establish a minimum three-hour payment for workers, at their normal rate of pay, when they are called into work, even if they are sent home immediately because work is not provided.

• Narrow the bands in banded hour contracts so that they are established with a maximum of five hours intervals. Currently up to 13 hour bands are proposed in the Bill. i.e. rather than a contract specifying that a worker can be rostered to work each week anything between 11 to 24 hours there must be a tighter specification, of, for example, working between 11 to 15 hours a week. This means the number of bands specified in the Bill will have to increase from the proposed four to eight.

• The 'look back' period which is reviewed in order to adjudicate on average weekly hours worked to be reduced from 18 months to 12 months. This means that workers will be able to secure contracts that more accurately reflect the average amount of hours they work each week in a 12 month period. Being able to secure a contract that more accurately reflects hours worked can assist in securing loans and benefits and ensure that working hours cannot be reduced below a certain minimum.

• Strengthen penalty clauses in the Bill. Increase the amount an employer must compensate a worker for breaches of the legislation, from a maximum of four weeks' pay to 104 weeks' pay, the latter figure being the norm in most industrial relations legislation. Shift the onus of proof of a breach in adherence to the legislation from the worker to the employer. This will mean that employers, if challenged, will have to be able to prove they are adhering to the legalisation.

Congress General Secretary, Patricia King, concluded: "We are confident that there is sufficient support for the changes we have put forward and are hopeful they will be realised at the next stage of the legislative process, in order to deliver greater protection for workers."


Related Northern Ireland Recruitment News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

30 July 2012
Work Capability Assessments 'Are Unfit To Work'
SDLP Welfare spokesperson Mark H Durkan MLA has said reiterated his call for the work capability assessment (WCA), which is used to assess whether or not people should be in receipt of incapacity benefit, to end immediately.
29 June 2016
'West Belfast Works' Project Praised For Supporting People Into Jobs
Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, and Junior Minister, Alastair Ross, have celebrated the achievements of the 'West Belfast Works' project which is supporting people into employment across West Belfast and Shankill area.
29 July 2014
Irish Rail Union Members Announce Strike Action
SIPTU members in Irish Rail will launch a campaign of industrial action and participate in a one-day work stoppage if the transport company carries out a threat to cut workers wages on Sunday 24 August. The industrial action is scheduled to begin on Sunday 24 August, with workers implementing a 'work to rule' action.
04 July 2014
High Court Rule Unpaid Work Scheme 'Incompatible' With Human Rights Laws
The High Court has ruled that emergency laws introduced by the government in 2012 that allowed its back-to-work scheme to place jobseekers in unpaid work, is "incompatible" with the European Convention on Human Rights.
14 October 2013
Jobseekers To Sign Claimant Committment
Starting today Monday 14th October, new jobseekers will have to account more clearly for their efforts to find work in order to receive their benefit.