26/04/2018 Comments are off SIPTU

SIPTU seeks equitable solution to pay inequality for new entrants to the public service 

SIPTU representatives will meet with Government officials, tomorrow (Friday, 27th April), to discuss the ending of the two-tier pay structure in the public service as part of a process established under the terms of the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA).

The arrangement imposed on new entrants since 2011 has resulted in nearly 60,000 public service employees, working in the health, education, local authorities and other sectors, doing the same job for less pay than their colleagues.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “Our members don’t expect a big bang solution to this issue. However, they do expect the presentation of concrete proposals that outline a clear road map towards the ending this pay injustice.

“We will continue to work with all parties to make sure a fair and equitable balance is struck, that leaves no worker in the public service behind, while also ensuring that the lowest paid are given priority.”

He added: “SIPTU members have consistently argued that it was unfair of the Government to cut the entry grade of pay for workers joining the public service since 2011. We now have an opportunity to resolve this injustice through dialogue within the terms of the PSSA.

“SIPTU representatives have made it clear we will not be party to any successor to the PSSA unless the two lower entry points for new recruits are abolished.”

Striking against war in the trenches

In 1915 James Connolly wrote that a general strike would have prevented the bloodbath that was then enveloping Europe: “As workers, they were indeed in control of the forces of production and distribution, and by exercising that control over the transport service could have made the war impossible.”

This did not happen in Ireland or anywhere else in Connolly’s lifetime. More than 200,000 Irishmen served in British forces during the war. In part as a protest, Connolly threw in his lot with the Republican insurgents of 1916 and was executed as a result.

But just two years later, Irish workers did with a general strike halt an attempt by the British government to extend conscription to Ireland in its tracks.

The general strike of 1918 became possible due to the rapid wartime growth of the ITGWU, from just 5,000 members after the Lockout of 1913 to more than 60,000 by 1918 as workers, both urban and rural, tried to bring wages up to the level of rising wartime food prices and inflation.

What was more, by this time Ireland was also in political turmoil. British rule had been fatally compromised by the repression unleashed by the rebellion, but even more so by the threat to impose conscription on to Ireland in the spring of 1918 following the German offensive of that year. By 1918, there was little appetite for more war in Ireland and virtually none for conscription.

All the nationalist parties campaigned against it, including Sinn Fein and the Irish Parliamentary Party, which withdrew from Westminster in protest. The Irish Volunteers, hugely increased in numbers but largely disarmed since the Rising, prepared to resist it.

But it was the action of the trade unions which did most to defeat conscription. The Irish Trade Union Congress called a one-day general strike against the imposition of conscription and brought the country to a standstill on 23rd April 1918 – the largest strike to date in Irish history.

Everywhere outside of unionist dominated Belfast, the country lurched to a halt; transport, even the munitions factories set up for the war ceased work for the day. Cumann na mBan, the Republican women’s movement also called a day of protest, lá na mban (‘the Striking against war in the trenches day of women’) in which they urged women not to take the jobs of men conscripted for the army.

Not long afterwards the British government let the Conscription Act lapse. The general strike had demonstrated that more troops would be needed to implement conscription in Ireland than would be gained from the draft. Irish labour had struck a decisive blow against the war and for Irish independence

Combatting precarious work

The term “precarious workers” refers to low paid, part-time employees who work irregular or variable hours, or those on full-time, short-term contracts. Many people in these situations are paid only for the hours they actually work and therefore their income is insecure.

From a workers’ point of the view, a simple definition of precarious work is employment which is perceived to be “insecure, uncertain or unpredictable”.

Being forced into such an employment situation means these workers are unable to secure loans or mortgages or to make financial plans. Precarious employment is also linked to negative physical and mental health, as well as offering little opportunity for career progression.

Precarious work is not a new concept. In its current guise, it is linked to the spread of neoliberal economics and the emphasis placed on a ‘flexible’ workforce. With the onset of the global financial crisis, its increase has become a key concern for workers in nearly all sectors of the economy.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “It may be a strong charge but I believe precarious work is not unlike a legalised version of modern day slavery. In many cases, bosses demand that employees immediately respond to a call to present for work. Should they fail to do so, the contract of employment can be terminated. Many workers on precarious contracts are also forbidden to work for other companies. It is interesting that this practice is accepted by employer organisations, many of whom rest on their defence for precarious work on the legitimacy of flexibility.

Surely labour market competition and restriction of trade must be a consideration for employers and these representative organisations.”

Worker insecurity: Sector by sector

Precarious work practices have spread throughout the economy. These are just some of the sectors affected where SIPTU members are organising to confront them.

Home care sector

The sector has three types of provider – public, voluntary and private. The first two are fully funded through the HSE. The average rate of pay for a public sector Home Help is €15 per hour; the voluntary sector rate is €11.50– €12.50 per hour, and in the private sector, the rate of pay averages approximately €10.50 per hour. In the private Home Care Sector, “if-and-when” contracts are the norm, meaning not only do workers lack guaranteed hours but they also don’t know from week to week what hours they will be working.

The lack of security extends to complaints made against them by a client; if a client makes an allegation against a carer they are instantly let go. Precarious home care workers in the private sector receive statutory maternity leave, but it is unpaid. While they are entitled to take holidays, it has to suit the employer. There is also a large amount of unpaid work in the private sector in the form of travelling time from one client to the other. Staff turnover is high in the private sector.

Childcare sector

There are 23,000 workers in this sector, who are predominantly female and whose average rate of pay is €10.27 per hour. They have no pension scheme, very few workplaces have paid maternity leave, and they receive the statutory minimum of 20 days’ holidays. Early Years educators get paid for the hours of contact time they have with a child per day. However, this does not take into account the extensive work that is done outside of those hours such as observation reports, preparatory work and administration.

The precarious nature of work in the sector results in an annual staff turnover rate of approximately 26%. This is a consequence of the limited scope for career progression, including pay increments for Early Years Educators. A high turnover in the sector has further implications for the quality of childcare services in Ireland because the highly educated and professional staff cannot be retained.

Third-level education sector

There have always been workers employed in a precarious manner in this sector doing occasional lecturing and tutoring. However, it is estimated that there are now at least as many people on precarious contracts as permanent contracts. Lecturers and tutors hired on a part-time hourly basis are paid for the hours they teach. This payment is said to be inclusive of preparatory work. However, they are not being paid for follow-up or administrative responsibilities. Many others are retained on short-term contracts. The implications this has for academics are wider than simply the direct impact on their lives.

It also creates an atmosphere of self-censorship, meaning they are less likely to partake in vigorous, academic debate.  Many are also constantly anxious about reaching the end of their contract and having to put much of their energies into applying for new employment rather than focusing on publishing or doing research.

Financial sector

The financial sector has also seen an increase in temporary contracts and outsourcing. In the credit unions, new entrants are being brought in on one-year, fixed-term contracts. This has followed changes relating to mergers and amalgamations, resulting in management claiming it may not be in a position to say what kind of staff needs they will have in the future. For “permanent” staff in this sector, there is also a growing trend towards ‘performance management’ which means that over a two-year period a contract can be terminated on the grounds of capability. Therefore, while permanent workers may not be contractually precarious, they do feel precarious, and this is an example of a sector where the issues facing contractually precarious workers are seeping into the working conditions of permanent workers.

Restaurant sector

Most people working in restaurants are employed on a casual basis, with part-time contracts and irregular hours of work. Workers often only find out from week to week what their hours will be. People employed in the restaurant sector often work long hours on a flat rate. Workers often report unpaid work such as doing overtime, where management will attempt not to pay them for the extra hours they worked.

Furthermore, when they are paid for overtime, it is on a flat rate, regardless of whether they worked day or night. It is difficult for workers to challenge management in these circumstances because they can be punished by not being put on the roster or having their hours decreased. Another issue is workers being asked to work unpaid for a “training period” before they are officially employed.

Agricultural production sector

During the economic “boom”, employers and agencies in industries such as meat production and vegetable processing specifically targeted certain countries to bring in migrant workers on minimum wage, with no security of employment or entitlements. Typically, contracts in the meat or vegetable processing industries would be on an “if-and-when” basis and would involve something along the lines of “up to 48 hours”. In many cases, people do not have a written contract. It is also common for workers to live together in crowded accommodation and pay rent to their employer.

When it comes to fruit and vegetable picking, workers can also be paid on a productivity measurement system, for example being paid for the total weight of the product they pick. There is a high turnover of people, and the precarious nature of the work leaves people feeling too vulnerable and frightened to act collectively to improve their working conditions.

The construction sector

Since the financial crisis, the construction industry is organised differently to how it was previously when large construction employers had high levels of direct employment. Now, the predominant form of employment for technical operative grades is through agencies that employ them on an if-and-when basis. Among the trades, bogus self-employment features highly. It is also rare for agency workers to be offered a mandatory pension scheme to which the employer contributes.

Often construction workers have disputes with the agencies over holiday pay that is outstanding to them. Bogus self-employment in the craft trades is forced on the workers; they are told that if they want the job, they must register as self-employed, or else the job will go to someone else. By forcing a self-employment status on trades’ people, this leaves them bereft of any protection in employment law.

Hotel sector

A generation ago, a hotel was considered a good place to work because there was career progression. Now it is very rare to find contracts in the sector with fulltime or even part-time guaranteed hours. This was triggered over 10 years ago when employers began to hire people with neither qualifications nor experience to work in the sector.

This culminated in the de-skilling of the workforce, and consequently, employers could justify diminishing the contract terms and conditions for new entrants on this basis.

The biggest problem for a lot of workers in the hotel sector is rostering. They can be rostered in for certain hours and on certain days, only to find out on their arrival to work that they are not needed. Workers in the hotel sector are also being pushed to do more work in less time, with housekeeping staff, in particular, suffering from so-called ‘speed up’, resulting in increased incidents of injury.

SIPTU tells HSE to complete Section 39 audit or strike notice will be reactivated

SIPTU representatives have today (Friday, 13th April) informed the management of the HSE that if it has not completed an audit of Section 39 organisations by May Day (Tuesday, 1st May) union members will reactivate a notice for strike action.

The move follows a meeting, chaired by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, where representatives agreed to an HSE request to allow their officials two additional weeks to complete the audit of Section 39 organisations.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell, said: “Having received a partial audit of Section 39 organisations, which had been due to be completed by 31st March, we have taken the decision to accede to a request by the HSE to extend the time agreed to complete this critical work.

“We have also alerted the Workplace Relations Commission, the HSE and the Department of Health that we are insisting that all the parties to the dispute re-engage on May Day.”

He added: “We have informed the employer that if this vital audit is not completed, to our members’ complete satisfaction, by May Day, it will face the reactivation of their notice for strike action.”


06/04/2018 Comments are off SIPTU

SIPTU rejects attempt to extend National Ambulance Service members retirement age

SIPTU members working in the National Ambulance Service have today (Friday, 6th April) stated that they will reject an attempt by the Government to extend their legal retirement age beyond 65 unless a proper evaluation of the full impact of such a measure is undertaken.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell said: “Our members are determined to engage with Government on their intention to extend the legal retirement age for public servants from 65 to 70 years of age. Members of the public may not be aware that the normal retirement age of ambulance professionals employed by the Health Service Executive is 65 unlike members of the Fire Service, Defence Forces or An Garda Síochána. This is unacceptable and we will be campaigning for parity of esteem with other frontline emergency workers.”

He added: “The job of an ambulance professional is both stressful and physical by its nature. The occupation requires shift work, long hours and this contributes to a degree of burnout. It is also necessary to understand that ambulance professionals require continual academic training and education which bring their own pressures.”

“Our demands are simple. We want an independent study on the physical ability of ambulance professionals to perform the full range of life-saving duties at more than 65 years of age. It must also include an analysis of international best practice, as well as comparing the role with the Fire Service, Defence Forces, Prison Officers and An Garda Síochána all of which are exposed to similar working environments.”

02/04/2018 Comments are off SIPTU

SIPTU demands Government reverses pay cuts for public servants over the age of 65

SIPTU representatives have today (Monday, 2nd April) demanded that the Government reverses pay cuts imposed on public servants who remain in their jobs after the age of 65.

The call comes after Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Pascal Donohoe, confirmed that public servants who opt to stay in employment beyond the age of 65 face an automatic reduction in pay until legislative change is introduced.

SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell said: “We are in the intolerable situation of having swathes of health workers, many of whom have given their whole working lives to the public service, facing the indignity of being ‘rehired’ for their own jobs on substantially less pay.

“It is a mean-spirited and ill-thought out approach. The fact that nurses and midwives are exempt from this treatment indicates the stark inequality of the current system. Our members believe the approach taken with nurses and midwives can and should be used for all health workers.

The decision by the Government to slash the pay of loyal public sector workers impacts disproportionately on women. A large number of women workers in the public service do not have an entitlement to full pension benefit as they may have joined the service later in life or had no option but to take temporarily leave for several years due to care commitments. Due to this situation, many women workers have no option but to remain in work.

He added: “SIPTU Health Division representatives have made a claim to end the current unjust approach to public servants who decide to work beyond 65 years of age. We are due to meet with Health Service Executive representatives on Thursday (5th April) for talks on this issue.

“If no substantial progress is made in these face to face talks, SIPTU representatives will refer the issue to the Labour Court within the next ten days.”


Grasping these basic home truths

Having a roof over your head is the most basic of fundamental human rights and every human being, adult and child, deserves to live in a safe and secure home.

Many people are now coming to realise that the line that separates people from having a home and not having a home is becoming ever thinner.

The reasons for homelessness are many and complex and we can see the most desperate of situations before us every day with increasing number of rough sleepers caught at the coalface of the housing crisis.

There are now almost 10,000 people registered as homeless in Ireland. That figure is made up of over 1,500 families (increasing at the rate of up to 100 families per month) and including more than 3,200 children who have no home to go to.

Despite the ambitions and promises in the Government housing plan Rebuilding Ireland, these numbers are growing month on month. The figures count the number of people depending on state-funded emergency accommodation and do not include the many thousands of others living in housing distress or in overcrowded and unsuitable conditions.

The housing crisis now affects people from all walks of life. Good housing means good health. It’s a no-brainer.

There are 800,000 people currently living in private rented accommodation. Some of these rely on housing assistance payments (HAPs). However, there are many renting in the private sector who cannot afford to buy their own home. This is because they either cannot get a mortgage or cannot afford to buy on their income.

Rents across the country continue to rise at unsustainable rates. Despite the introduction of ‘rent pressure zones’, intended to cap rent increases at 4%, rents continue to rise. People who can’t pay are being forced out of their homes into homelessness as their rents continue to rise beyond affordability.

People who are having their homes repossessed because they had to pay inflated mortgage prices for their homes or because they lost their jobs during the recession are also being forced into homelessness.

Young people cannot move out of the family home to start their life and whole sections of society are now in the position where they will never be able to afford to buy a home of their own. It is a basic home truth that ensuring homes for all is a fundamental human rights’ and social justice issue.

What is becoming an all too common feature is the lack of local authority home inspectors. There’s plenty of evidence across the country that the Housing Assistance Payment is being used to pay for substandard accommodation. When tenants complain and secure an inspection an improvement notice on basic safety issues like gas, heating and electricity standards usually follows and subsequently results in eviction under the guise of the landlord selling the property. This is unacceptable.

Doing the right thing, in a time of crisis requires flexibility and courage.

This national emergency requires all parties, including Government agencies, NGO’s, the Trade Union movement, the Construction Industry Federation, the Credit Union movement, local Government and the political establishment to work together and for no contributor or suggestion to be excluded.

The solution to the crisis was a feature in Ireland in the 1960s and 1970s with the construction of affordable housing facilitated through local authority loans and in parallel the construction of social homes.

There has never been as much wealth in the hands of so few in our nation.

Every day this year private landlords will be given €2 million of taxpayers’ money to deliver social housing. This is a flawed and failing ideology. It’s time for a change in direction.

That is why the National Homelessness and Housing Coalition is growing in numbers and support every day. This is the largest grouping of organisations to ever come together to join forces to demand serious political action on the housing crisis.

The demands of the Coalition are clear and simple and centred around a move away from the privatisation of housing, away from the notion that a house is a commodity to be traded for profit but a home to fulfil a basic need and a human right. The Coalition focuses on the provision of public housing, security of tenure, the prevention of evictions to nowhere and other long-term solutions.

It is only through a radical change in housing policy that meaningful and sustainable solutions to the housing crisis can be found. And it is only through joining forces around the housing crisis that we can achieve the necessary change.



Time Ireland got real on climate change

Right now, thanks to the impact of climate change, SIPTU members are living and working through unprecedented Red Alert weather warnings in Spring.

Over the coming decades, future generations must change the way the people of the world live and work if we are to collectively avoid multiple global catastrophes.

Possible doomsday scenarios over the next century include a shutdown of the Gulf Stream, which Ireland depends on for its relatively mild weather, leading to another ice age.

The science is incontrovertible.

Global warming is man-made, and emissions of carbon and other gases are the main culprit.

Sure, Ireland makes up only a small amount of total emissions. Because of its size, China alone accounts for more than a quarter of all emissions annually. The US, another 15%. But, we rank highly in emissions per person and total emissions are going in the wrong direction, up 3.5% in 2016 when the Government is targeting a 5% reduction.

While the worst environmental impacts of climate change might still be some way off, we could be facing a bill of nearly half a billion euro every year from 2020 onwards unless we get our house in order.

As part of European and global efforts to reduce emissions, we have committed to a reduction of 20% (from 1990 levels) by 2020.

Ireland is one of the few EU countries on course to miss its target, leaving itself open to annual fines equivalent to widening the standard income tax band by €2,500, building 2,500 social houses or having the money to properly fund Slaintecare.

So, what to do?

Transport and energy each account for about a fifth of Ireland’s total emissions and both have started to pick up in recent years alongside economic activity.

Much has been done to move Ireland to more fuel-efficient transport and to more renewable energy, but more remains to be done. For too long, reduced excise on diesel has effectively subsidised its use ahead of petrol, which produces fewer emissions.

Equalising excise on diesel to the same level as on petrol would bring in more than €300m, which could be used to reduce taxes or increase investment elsewhere while removing incentives to switch to diesel.

In 2014, peat generation accounted for only 8.8% of our electricity requirements, but 21.8% of our carbon emissions from power generation! Not only that, but energy consumers pay an annual subsidy of roughly €140m for the privilege.

This can only be achieved when there is an agreed transition from non-carbon based fuel production with workers in the industry whose jobs must be protected and many of whom are SIPTU members

But, this comes at an environmental cost that neither farmers nor consumers currently have to pay. One option that is being considered in New Zealand is a tax on methane emitted by cattle – inevitably dubbed a ‘fart tax’. Again, funds raised in this manner could be used to reduce other taxes, or to invest in rural broadband or to invest providing better health care for communities and better jobs for local workers.

The point is to change behaviour, not raise revenue.

New or higher taxes, combined with fewer or lower taxes in other areas, creates both winners and losers.

The distributional impact of green taxation should also be taken into account more broadly. People with lower incomes tend to spend a larger share on food or fuel to heat their homes or drive their cars, for example than those with higher discretionary incomes, who save more and spend more on services, activities which are less carbon-intensive.

So, increasing the carbon tax while reducing taxes on labour (which are already low to non-existent on low incomes) would lead to increased inequality if no offsetting measures are introduced.

This could be tackled by increasing subsidies for the low paid and welfare beneficiaries or by increasing welfare rates and introducing a refundable tax credit.

That is not to say that green taxation is politically easy, as the water charges debacle made clear. Policymakers should be aiming for a policy mix that is ‘win-win-win’, supporting economic growth, social equality and environmental sustainability.

But it’s high time that Ireland took its climate responsibilities seriously, matching green rhetoric with green policies.

SIPTU welcomes talks on injustice of lower pay for new entrants to public service

SIPTU representatives have welcomed a decision by the Government to enter discussions with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) on the issue of lower pay scales for new entrants to the public service.

The agreement follows representations to the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, Paschal Donohue, by the Public Services Committee (PSC) of the ICTU on the new entrants’ pay differential.

A report published by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) today (16th March) found that some 58,000 new entrants to the public sector have been adversely affected by the unilateral cut to their pay scale imposed in 2011. The report estimated that it would cost an estimated €200 million to resolve the problem, in a full year.

SIPTU and other public service unions had opposed the lower pay scales when they were imposed by Government during the economic crisis and sought to resolve the issue during negotiations for the Public Service Stability Agreement (PSSA) last year and previously the Haddington Road Agreement.

It was confirmed by DEPR today that discussions to resolve the injustice of lower pay scales for new entrants are to take place.

“SIPTU members have consistently argued that it was unfair of the Government to cut the entry grade of pay for workers joining the public service, since 2011. We now have an opportunity to resolve this injustice through dialogue within the terms of the PSSA,” said SIPTU Health Division Organiser, Paul Bell.

Congress General Secretary Patricia King said that securing new talks on the issue marked “a significant step towards the resolution of this long-standing problem, which resulted from a unilateral government decision to cut new entrants’ pay, in 2011. This development will, in the context of the terms of the Public Service Stability Agreement, allow this dialogue to commence.
“At its most basic, this was and remains a simple issue of fairness and equality. The decision to cut entry grade pay across the public service was never endorsed or accepted by trade unions and we have consistently sought to bring this injustice to an end.” Ms King said.
A report on the issue published today (16th March) by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (DPER) found that some 60,000 new entrants to the public sector has been adversely affected by the unilateral cut imposed in 2011 and that it would cost an estimated €200 million to resolve the problem, in a full year.

Precarious work – the challenge for workers

We live in precarious times. Tens of thousands of workers in Ireland wake up early in the morning unsure whether they will earn a living that day, or whether they will earn anything at all.

Ending the scandal of precarious work is a significant challenge facing workers and their trade unions in Ireland. It affects workers across a range of employment sectors, including hotels and restaurants, early and third level education, retail, child and home care services, home care, construction and agriculture, to name just a few.

The spread of casualisation, ‘if and when’ and zero hour contracts under which mainly low paid workers are forced into uncertain irregular hours of employment and short-term contracts must be stopped.

The system destroys the physical and mental health of workers and forces them into a cycle of endless poverty. Precarious employment means a worker only gets paid for the hours they work, often doesn’t know when they will be employed and are denied the benefit of even meagre pensions, holiday and sick pay.

Pushed into long-term, low paid precarious work, often without any contract of employment, young workers are unable to secure the loans, mortgages or the rent they need to make plans for a decent home and family life.

For employers, the attraction of casualised employment, or of outsourcing work to sub-contractors, means they are freed of their obligation to meet their responsibilities to provide for the health and well-being of their employees including their entitlements to normal career progression, holiday and sick pay and decent welfare and retirement benefits.

This is not a new scandal. Indeed, the modern Irish trade union movement, including SIPTU, was moulded in the resistance of low paid workers to casualisation, low wages and extreme poverty in the early years of the 20th Century.

Over decades of struggle, improvements in wages and in their terms and conditions of work, including the reduction in working hours, were won across the economy and the country by an organised and unionised workforce.

Advances were made by women workers demanding equal pay for equal work, the introduction of, and increases to, a minimum wage and in the creation of industrial relations machinery to tackle exploitation and discrimination by ruthless employers.

Many of those welcome changes are in danger of being reversed on the new battleground where workers are forced into anti-social work practices which undermine hard-won employment standards.

The spread of precarious, casualised work is endemic across the country, as it is across other EU states and the scale of mistreatment by some employers of workers, over whom they exercise control by virtue of the insecure jobs they provide, is massive.

Over 160,000 workers cannot rely on steady and guaranteed hours from day to day, week to week or month to month. The abuse of bogus self-employment means that 10% of workers in Ireland are wrongly described as sole traders who do not employ anybody else. It is deeply shocking that 44% of workers between 18 and 29 years, or almost 100,000 young people, are on short-term contracts in the Republic.

The figures in the North are similar with a 25% increase in the number of workers in temporary employment since 2008. These figures make a lie of the claim that the economic recovery is lifting all boats. There has certainly been a dramatic reduction in the numbers of unemployed which has come down from over 15% in the depth of the recession to just over 6%.

Behind this statistic, however, is the cruel reality that many of the jobs created in recent years are in low paid, precarious employment. Women, in particular, who have taken up tens of thousands of jobs in the recovering services sector, find they are unable to meet the costs of childcare, rent and other basic needs from the wages they receive.

Migrant workers and young people entering the workforce are equally marginalised when it comes to decent work and properly paid jobs.

By driving down wages and standards, casualisation will also undermine those with secure, better-paid jobs across the economy. The attempt by employers to drive down wages and demolish employment protections in Ireland will undoubtedly intensify when Brexit takes hold as their competitors in the UK seek to remove hard-earned worker’s rights, as well as the environmental and consumer protections, required under EU laws.

SIPTU has joined with Congress and other interested organisations and groups in determined efforts being made to strengthen the law and the rights of employees and to get rid of zero hour and so-called ‘if and when’ contacts, most recently under the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill currently passing through the Oireachtas.

The Bill is an important piece of legislation to assist vulnerable workers but is flawed, in many respects. The Government has claimed that under the proposed legislation, zero hour contracts will be banned.

However, this is disputed by opposition parties while SIPTU, the ICTU and other unions are lobbying for substantial amendments in order to ensure that precarious work is tackled in a meaningful way and that zero hour and ‘if and when’ contracts are completely eliminated.

The first defence for workers facing unscrupulous employers seeking to diminish their wages and conditions is to join a trade union.

For SIPTU the scandal of precarious work is a top priority among the various campaigns which union members are pursuing across all employment sectors in which we organise.

Join the campaign in the battle against precarious work.