Punitive measures need to be brought against companies found to be forcing staff to accept self-employed contracts, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has said.
Speaking at the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) biennial conference in Belfast, NUJ Irish secretary Seamus Dooley slammed the practice as “unacceptable”.
He criticised successive governments for continuing to “ignore the scale of the issue.”
“Albert Einstein is often attributed with the truism that the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result to materialise,” Mr Dooley said.
“Accepting that there are not too many Einsteins engaged in employment policy formation it beggars belief that the current Irish government’s approach to the issue of bogus self-employment is to rely on a toothless code of practice with no meaningful sanctions for employers who enforce false contracts.”
The NUJ and SIPTU are currently seeking to vindicate the rights of workers in RTÉ, where workers were wrongly misclassified as self-employed over many years.
“It is shocking that a public service broadcaster should have to be dragged to the table on this issue, a problem which has been highlighted by my union for two decades,” Mr Dooley said.
He described the updated code of practice published by the Government in July as “a feeble and inadequate response dressed up in fancy words accompanied by breezy photographs of happy workers”.
He called for employers to be forced to fully compensate for losses suffered.
“The Department of Social Protection suggested in an internal memo – also in July, that the employment records of more than 500 current and former RTÉ contractors ‘may need to be investigated’ to see if PRSI contributions should have been paid.
“Against this backdrop it is shocking to read a code which fails to recognise the genuine losses suffered by misclassified workers. Employers must be forced to fully compensate for losses suffered but the updated code fails to advance the situation for workers denied employment rights, the opportunity to apply for jobs or promotion and even the right to collective representation. If a code of practice solved the issue we would not have a problem in RTÉ or anywhere else.”
He said a robust legal framework is needed to protect workers against the issue of bogus self-employment contracts.