02 May 2017

Labour spokesperson on Workers’ Rights, Senator Ged Nash, has said that the Government’s draft legislative proposals to address ‘if-and-when’ contracts appear similar to a curate’s egg, good in parts.

The proposals follow a study by the University of Limerick, which was commissioned by Senator Nash in Government, into the prevalence of these contracts.

Senator Nash commented:

“This process was started by the Labour Party and no attempt whatsoever would have been made to address the growth in the casualisation of work – either by this administration or the previous one – had Labour not insisted on action being taken.

“This was part of our dignity at work agenda in government, which saw two increases in the National Minimum Wage; the establishment of the Low Pay Commission; new collective bargaining laws; Sectoral Employment Orders; Registered Employment Agreements and the reinstitution of Joint Labour Committees and Employment Regulation Orders.

“I cautiously welcome the proposals but will reserve judgment until I see the details contained in the forthcoming legislation.

“The bottom line is that there are still too many people in this country going to bed on a Sunday night and not knowing how much they will earn that week because of uncertainty over their hours.

“While the proposals undoubtedly represent a step in the right direction, I believe that the 18-month reference period where an employee will be entitled to have the terms of their contract reflect the reality of the hours worked over that period, is far too long.

“The Labour Bill passed in the Seanad late last year proposes that the look-back period should amount to six months.

“I am extremely concerned that one of the core original proposals – to exempt employers from new legislation on ‘if-and-when’ contracts in cases where employers and trade unions have negotiated Sectoral Employment Orders or where an Employment Regulation Order (ERO) has been signed as a result of a Joint Labour Committee initiative – has been binned.

“In my opinion, including a measure such as this could have had the effect of incentivising the convening of JLCs in the retail and hospitality sectors and would markedly improve the living standards of all workers in those vulnerable sectors.

“The proposal to prohibit ‘zero hours practice’ from the relevant legislation makes a virtue out of necessity and while it is merely a piece of legislative housekeeping it is nonetheless welcome.

“The 1997 Organisation of Working Time Act in essence means that we do not have the kind of pure zero hour working arrangements which have become a feature of the labour market in the UK and it is positive that the reference to ‘zero hours’ in our legislation is being removed entirely.

“I welcome the progress made in this area and look forward to improving further on these proposals through the legislative process.”

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