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Bills\Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017\Second Stage

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Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017

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Snippet Contents:

On the face of it, the Government has responded to the lobbying of the trade union movement but in looking at the detail, we can see the Government has diluted the propositions to the point where the Bill will be barely effective at all in many circumstances.
We can give some examples of how the Government has diluted the proposals. The bands proposed by the Government in the Bill are so wide as to give enormous flexibility to employers to continue imposing a great deal of precariousness on affected workers. The first band is between one and ten hours and there is a hell of a difference between one hour and nine hours. The next band is between 11 and 24 hours; if a contract indicates a person will generally work 12 hours in a week but that person consistently works 23 hours per week, under the Government's proposals that worker will not move into a different band and will have no claim to say the employer is being unfair. This can be systematically abused. In contrast, Deputy Cullinane's Bill on banded hours had several more bands. If the hours people were asked to work by the employer varied on a regular basis across the narrower bands, the worker could claim to move to a different band and for this to be acknowledged as a condition of employment. This suits the employers and does not really change much in what they will do in abusing the position of many vulnerable workers.
If a person is trying to plan life around kids, family and time off, having to do everything people have to do, with the variation in a working pattern up to 13 hours in a week, it can have a huge impact. If that happens on a regular basis, there would potentially be enormous consequences for family, earnings and all the knock-on effects. This could happen systematically even if this legislation is passed, so it is not good enough and must be substantially amended.
There are similar concerns with the compensation for workers called in who do not receive work. The University of Limerick, which did the study that is supposed to inform this legislation, proposed that if a person was called in but did not get work, he or she would get the normal wage for that employment for three hours. Under this legislation, the payment rate will be the national minimum wage, which is substantially less than the payment that could be due in many cases, unless it is covered by an employment regulation order. Many types of employment are not covered by those orders, so that is not good enough. The Government must explain why it has diluted and downgraded compensation that would accrue to employees called in under those circumstances.
The provision of contracts and statements of terms and conditions within five days is an improvement but there is a big problem that is fundamental to this Bill. Workers' rights and employment legislation are as we speak being flouted left, right and centre. Even the existing inadequate and weak legislation is being flouted all over the place. I mentioned the Boland's Mills site, which is an iconic site connected to the 1916 Rising, which is seeing enormous redevelopment. The main contractor there will also be doing the new national children's hospital. I have heard reports of workers, many but not all of them immigrant workers, getting paid dramatically less than the sectoral rate for the area by a subcontractor. These workers feel very vulnerable and do not know their rights and entitlements. Part of the problem is that the main contractor can wash its hands of this as a subcontractor has been brought in. The subcontractor keeps changing name and it has operated under several guises. Those workers are very vulnerable and frightened and they do not know their rights. They are being underpaid dramatically and they are not getting payslips.
I know this because an Irish person employed as a foreman on that site complained about the underpayment of these workers and the fact that many workers, including himself, were not getting payslips. He said he would not put up with it unless something was done. He started a protest but nothing has been done.