Labour Freelance Workers Bill will pass Seanad today

Labour Trade Unionists
10 November 2016

The Competition (Amendment) Bill 2016 was introduced in the Seanad at Second Stage on 20th January 2016, on behalf of the Labour Party Senators, as a private members’ bill initiated by Senator Ivana Bacik. The Bill was accepted by then Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Richard Bruton and passed Second Stage.

Labour Senators brought the Bill forward for Committee Stage in the Seanad during their private members on 6th July 2016. At that stage we got cross-party support for the Bill and from current Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor to proceed to Report Stage.

We are very happy to have received support from the Minister and her Department in drafting amendments to the Bill which copper-fastened the right to collectively bargain for actors engaged as voice-over actors, musicians engaged as session musicians, and journalists engaged as freelance journalists. 

Today​, 10 November 2016,​ ​the Bill will be read at Report Stage in the Seanad with cross-party support and approval from the relevant​ ​union​s​​.

This represents a significant achievement ​on the part of the Labour group, and demonstrates what can be achieved through legislative change.

Speaking ahead of the Bill reaching final stage in the Seanad, Senator Ivana Bacik said

​“This Bill stems from a longstanding Labour party commitment to ensure protection of the right to collectively bargain for freelance workers, including journalists, actors and others who perform their work on a self-employed or contract for services basis. ​ ​Under competition law, currently every self-employed person is considered to be a separate independent economic undertaking. If one self-employed person combines with others to set prices for their services, they can be accused of an illegal anti-competitive practice. At its most extreme, freelance journalists in a newsroom would be barred from bargaining collectively with their common employer about their wages. That is the understanding in Irish law under the Competition Act 2002, and that is what this important Bill seeks to change ​.​

The Bill will allow self-employed workers, such as actors or journalists, who personally provide work or perform services, to collectively bargain with their employers. However, the Bill is narrowly drafted so as to ensure consumers remain protected from illegal price-fixing. I know that many unions, such as the NUJ and SIPTU, have sought the change in the law that this Bill will achieve; and that they​​ ​ ​​have welcomed the Bill’s progression to Report Stage – it marks an important advance in the protection of vulnerable workers. ​”

Labour spokesperson for Labour Affairs Ged Nash said 

“We might be opposition, but Labour is still delivering significant change for working people. We expect that these important reforms passed today will quickly get through the Dail and will be in force by the middle of 2017.

“This is the culmination of a 12 year long campaign for the restoration of collective bargaining rights which will deliver better pay and conditions and living standards for session musicians, freelance journalists and voice-over actors. It also ensures that Ireland will now comply with its International Labour Organisation (ILO) obligations in this regard.

“Next week we will debate Second Stage of my Uncertain Hours Bill which seeks to give more certainty over hours, incomes and contracts to workers operating in low hours arrangements. We are hopeful that we can garner cross-party support to make Ireland one of the better small countries in the world in which to work.”



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