Wednesday, 19 December 2018
Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017: From the Seanad
The most interesting contribution so far has been made by Deputy Curran. Like Deputy Boyd Barrett, I heard the advertisements and thought it was great, as we were going to help to protect workers and provide reassurance. Deputy Curran implied it was part of an exercise to gauge the size and gravity of the problem, but the required response was not achieved. I am not surprised by the low level of response because there is no legislation in place to protect workers in bogus self-employment. They are not going to commit suicide by declaring bogus self-employment when we are not protecting them. Are we putting the cart before the horse? That is a strong argument in favour of passing this provision, with the rest of the legislation, or at least giving us the right to vote on it. There can be as many advertisements as we like on television and radio, but they will not protect workers. We need provisions in legislation. Reading through this provision, it sets out penalties for forcing bogus self-employment on somebody and who is an employee and a self-employed person. It is perfectly sensible and not rocket science. I look forward to hearing from the Minister what exactly she objects to.
The committee scrutinised departmental officials on this issue. Once upon a time, when I worked for the Mandate trade union, we commented that there were more dog wardens in the country than labour inspectors. We believed there was a low level of oversight of employers and how they behaved. It was very difficult to win cases in what was then the Labour Relations Commission under employment legislation. Such legislation is weak in this country and not as robust as it is elsewhere in Europe, for example. The best people to ask are Ryanair workers. One of the highlights for all of us in 2018, in addition to repealing the eighth amendment, was the other "R" - Ryanair. Success was achieved across Europe in forcing an intransigent boss who had never had anything to do with unions - he might call them commies living in Stalinist times - to deal with them. Therefore, the first people who could tell us what it is like to be in bogus self-employment are pilots in Ryanair. Many of them have been subject to criminal charges in other countries because of the bogus nature of their employment with that company.
We must hear clearly what the Minister has to say. When we scrutinised the departmental officials, they acknowledged that their numbers had increased. They also acknowledged that they had no idea of the depth, size or prevalence of the problem of bogus self-employment. We asked if, when they visited sites, factories, shops, markets or companies that were delivering food, they looked at the books to see who was employed and what their conditions were. They do not do so; they just walk back out again. We could have found out such information, not with advertisements on radio but by utilising the expertise in the Department to gain that insight into this really despicable way of employing people. We must know how prevalent it is, but this provision does not fly in the face of that knowledge. It would help to protect workers and allow them to come forward and tell us what was happening, how it was happening and where.