Business Irish

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Plans for new protections 'to outlaw worker exploitation'

Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor. Photo: Mark Condren
Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor. Photo: Mark Condren

Alan O'Keeffe and Anne Marie Walsh

New legal protections for vulnerable workers who do not have guaranteed working hours will be considered by the Government.

Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor will bring proposals to Cabinet aimed at assisting low paid workers on low hour contracts.

Patricia King, general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, has written to all TDs and senators stating these changes, proposed by a University of Limerick study of the problem, are "the minimum required to outlaw some of the most extreme forms of exploitation experienced by some workers in Ireland today".

The study was commissioned by ex junior minister Ged Nash.

Ms Mitchell O'Connor said the proposals will address "the increased casualisation of work" and to strengthen the regulation of "precarious employment".

"Our proposals will address the issue of employees on low hour contracts who consistently work more hours each week but whose contracts do not reflect the reality of their hours worked," she said last night.

"The proposals will also seek to ensure that employees are better informed about the nature of their employment arrangements and their core terms at an early stage in their employment," she said.

"A balance needs to be found between protecting the rights of employees and avoiding unintended consequences on business, which may negatively affect the competitiveness of the Irish economy."

A ban on 'zero hour' contracts has been in existence for two decades, but the new proposals will strengthen that ban and outlaw similar work practices.

An Ibec spokeswoman said its own briefing for politicians today will acknowledge abuses by a minority of employers must be addressed, but that a sledgehammer should not be used to crack a nut.

With Brexit, Irish employers must not be unduly hindered in competing with UK firms on labour costs, she said.

Union chief Ms King's letter to Oireachtas members said the trade union movement is backing the right of an employee to be provided with a statement on their core conditions of employment, including working hours.

Also they should have a right to a minimum three hours pay, where no work is made available, and provision for banded hours contracts, with employees having the right to claim an alteration to their contract if, over a specified period, their actual working hours were in excess of their contracted hours.

Irish Independent

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