KELLY TO OPEN DÁIL DEBATE ON COLLECTIVE BARGAINING RIGHTS FOR FREELANCE WORKERS

Labour Trade Unionists
28 February 2017

Tonight in Dáil Private Members time from 8pm, the Labour Party will propose the Competition Amendment Bill. Spokesperson on Jobs, Alan Kelly TD will open the debate.

It provides for collective bargaining rights for freelance workers like journalists, and voice over actors. It has been supported by the NUJ, SIPTU and Equity

This is the only Private Members Bill to have passed one of the Houses of the Oireachtas since the General Election. It passed the Seanad in November 2016 with Government approval and a number of Government amendments.

Originally introduced by Sen. Ivana Bacik in January 2016, it passed 2nd stage, and then was restored to the Order Paper after the election.

Last year, it passed Committee, and Report stages in the Seanad in July, and November respectively.

The objective of the Bill is to exempt certain groups of workers from an over-rigid application of the Competition Act. At present, if one self-employed person combines with others to set prices for their services, the risk under the current competition law is that they could 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.

FURTHER NOTES ON THE BILL

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, session musicians, actors or freelance journalists are barred from bargaining collectively with their common employer about their pay rates.

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.

Trade unions such as the NUJ, Equity and SIPTU, have sought the change in the law that this Bill will achieve; and have welcomed the introduction of the Labour private members’ bill since it marks an important advance in the protection of vulnerable workers.

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