Thursday 14 December 2017

Overhaul of employment laws planned

Anne-Marie Walsh Industry Correspondent

THOUSANDS of workers face pay cuts and changes to "obsolete" employment rights, as the Government plans a radical overhaul of basic conditions in industries across the economy.

Treble-time overtime payments, wage rates that vary because of the location of a business, and compulsory sick pay schemes are likely to be streamlined following a debate by the Cabinet.

It will consider a new report on wage-setting agreements, known as Employment Regulation Orders and Registered Employment Agreements, which apply to 250,000 workers, within weeks. The review, by Labour Court Chairman Kevin Duffy and UCD Professor of Economics Frank Walsh, recommends keeping the system, which employers want abolished, to protect low-paid workers.

But it says it needs a radical overhaul to make it fairer, including the introduction of uniform overtime and Sunday premium payments. The Government review is likely to be opposed by workers on higher rates of pay within sectors who will lose out, if rates and other terms are standardised, including: l Hotel workers on wages up to €399 a week who are covered by the country ERO. The order applies everywhere bar Cork city, Dublin city and the Borough of Dun Laoghaire (which no longer exists), where workers are only entitled to the national minimum wage. l Hairdressers in Cork city, Dublin city, Dun Laoghaire and Bray are governed by an ERO, but there is none for the rest of the country.

  • The hairdressing ERO in Dublin city, Dun Laoghaire and Bray has different rates of pay for those who carry out ladies' hairdressing and those who do men's.
  • Compulsory sick pay schemes apply in the Catering ERO and the Aerated Waters and Bottling ERO, but not other sectors. l Overtime premiums vary greatly in different EROs. Some rates are time-and-a-half, and others double time. A treble time rate existed in the hotel ERO up to 2009, and is due to return without a new deal in 2013. The agreements apply to 250,000 staff working for 25,000 employers.

Different sets of legally-binding pay rates and employment conditions apply to each sector covered by these deals, including retail, catering, hairdressing, and construction, and there are individual deals for different regions.

The pay rates are generally higher than the separate national minimum wage of €7.65 an hour, which will soon be increased by €1 an hour.

Employers who want the "antiquated" wage-setting mechanisms axed warned last night that the review does not go far enough, and would cost jobs.

SIPTU General President Jack O'Connor he said he had concerns about aspects of the review, but it made some legitimate points.

He said cutting the pay of the lowest 20pc of the workforce would destroy jobs.

Irish Independent

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