27/02/2018

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."

(MH/LM)

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