Seanad debates

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

10:30 am

Photo of Trevor Ó ClochartaighTrevor Ó Clochartaigh (Sinn Fein) | Oireachtas source

Tá céad fáilte roimh an Aire. Gan dabht ar bith, tá go leor le maoibh faoi in earnáil na turasóireachta sa taobh seo den tír, ach tá go leor le déanamh go fóill. There are many laudable aspects to Ireland's tourism industry and it has been quite successful in a lot of different areas around the State. I note a lack of discussion in today's debate about the people who may be the greatest asset in our tourism industry; the staff and workers in the tourism industry. I shall focus my comments on some of the conditions in which these people work. We certainly have a lot of very laudable employers and some really good places to work, but there are issues in the industry and we cannot deny those.

I am very disappointed that when I raised these issues with the Minister, Deputy Ross, during a debate on tourism some months ago, he showed a certain amount of concern and asked me to pass on my report, which I have done. I reminded him since then that I had passed it on and I was hoping he or his officials would engage with me on the report we did into the abuse of workers in the hospitality sector in Galway. The Minister has not, to date, done this. I know he has been quite busy but I hope he will get back to me on that report.I would like to outline some of the issues for the Minister of State as well. We have raised issues around some of the conditions under which people find themselves working. It is obviously a very transient working community. The working situation is quite precarious for many people. There are many young people and non-nationals working in the hospitality sector. The practices of many employers leave a lot to be desired.

We carried out a survey of people working in hospitality in the Galway area, to which we got 415 responses. The results were really quite shocking. Some 45% of respondents were not given a written statement of the terms of their employment within the first two months and 18% did not receive a regular payslip. Regarding rest breaks, almost 60% claimed not to receive the statutory 15 minute break after four and a half hours worked and 50% did not get a break of 30 minutes after six hours worked. Almost 50% did not receive their entitlement of nine public holidays per year. Almost 50% did not receive 11 consecutive hours of rest between shifts and over 14% did not receive four weeks paid annual leave. These are the basic legal entitlements that every employer is supposed to give its workers.

Some 44% of respondents reported that their employer used the rota as a negative control mechanism regularly, very often or constantly. Basically, people were told that if they caused trouble they would lose hours or they might not be needed the next week. Some 34% of respondents reported the withholding of tips regularly, very often or constantly, and 28% of respondents reported being underpaid regularly, very often or constantly. Perhaps the most worrying data is that on physical or sexual abuse, harassment or negligence. Some 78% of respondents to our survey reported experiencing verbal abuse in the workplace sometimes, regularly, very often or constantly. That is 78%. Three out of every four experienced some form of abuse. Some 36% reported experiencing sexual harassment or abuse sometimes, regularly or very often. Some 65% reported experiencing negligence on a regular basis. These are really stark findings which need to be addressed.

I also note figures I received yesterday from the Workplace Relations Commission, the WRC, in respect of issues and cases taken. When I have raised these issues with the industry I have been told that there is no problem. I have been told that nobody is taking cases to the WRC or the Labour Court, therefore there is no issue. There were, however, a total of 4,830 cases taken to the WRC in 2016. In the food and drink sector, an incidence of breach was found in 48% of those cases. In the hotel sector the figure was 35%. Obviously there is an issue.

On the issue of unpaid wages, the WRC figures which I have been given show that it has gotten reimbursement for workers who were not paid properly to the value of €1.5 million. There is a huge issue around the way employers are treating employees. I want to work with the industry to try to get that sorted and we are working on a campaign to do that.

The other very important point to which I must refer is infrastructure in rural areas, which has been mentioned previously. For example, many people like to go out to Connemara and visit some of our beautiful areas, but our road infrastructure is absolutely dire. We have a huge issue around the N59 and the R336. Those issues must be addressed. I would be grateful if the Minister of State or the Minister, Deputy Ross, would come back to me on the issues in the workplace for those workers. Go raibh míle maith agat.


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