Seanad debates

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017: Committee Stage


2:30 pm

Photo of Gerard CraughwellGerard Craughwell (Independent) | Oireachtas source

The Minister mentioned the working time directive. The State is one of the worst culprits in that regard. The Defence Forces have 35 cases before the High Court and the most recent case cost the State €200,000 in legal fees and a five-figure sum to settle the case, which was the seventh. There are 35 more cases in train and there will be further multiples of 35 coming after them. What a waste of money defending the indefensible.

On Senator Ruane's amendment, the historical evidence is not there because those in precarious employment simply will not go through the process. I worked for 25 years as a representative in a teachers' union. I have seen the most appalling things done to teachers. I heard one principal saying in his retirement speech that he was proud of the fact that during his tenure, he had made nobody permanent and, as such, had left a flexible staff behind.

If, as the Minister suggested, there are five employees in a company, the employer could operate a list or panel system whereby casual extra hours could be dished out if they were available. Senator Ruane can correct me but I think she is looking at the type of people I am talking about - teachers, nurses and lecturers in colleges and universities who are watching hours that they could take being allocated to others in order to keep them in precarious employment. Those in precarious employment simply will not go to the Workplace Relations Commission because they are afraid.

I understand why people are afraid. Generally the most vulnerable are afraid but once that ethos starts in an organisation, nobody will take a case. Once they succeed with the first person, everybody else will fall into line. I really understand the point the Minister is making but I still fully support Senator Ruane. If we fail to get this through, I am likely to take the Minister up on her offer of taking a case to the WRC because I really want this sorted. It is just wrong; it is abuse of workers. It is almost worse than a zero-hours contract because although the person knows he or she has ten hours a week, that is not enough to put bread on the table. I saw one particular school in which there were ten teachers on short hours and the principal made them sit in the staff room every day in case substitution hours might come up.If a person was not in the staff room, he or she could not get the substitution hours. That was an outright abuse of people. Thankfully a lot has been done through the Lansdowne Road and Croke Park agreements. What I have outlined are two of the most horrible things that have happened in my time but in some way we managed to change the terms and conditions of employment of those in short-term work. I see what Senator Ruane is doing here and I still support her. I hope the Minister will take it on board.


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