Seanad debates

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017: Committee Stage

 

2:30 pm

Photo of Alice Mary HigginsAlice Mary Higgins (Independent) | Oireachtas source

It is counter-intuitive for me to vote against this section. I like that it is there, and that steps have been taken. If it is pushed, I will support it but I understand that the prevailing wind in the House is for its removal. I would not want the fact that we in the joint committee are undertaking hearings to be a reason for not including it. I regret that we were not able to debate the amendment tabled by the Labour Party for an alternative way of addressing the matter.It would be easier to support the removal of the section if there had been due consideration of the proposal they put forward. We are having hearings on it and the concerns are serious even in the early stages of those, as the Minister will be well aware. There are extraordinarily few cases which are followed up or in respect of which prosecutions take place. At the last hearing, there was an indication that there was a preference not to prosecute in this area. There are also very serious questions about how the determination of self-employment is being made and that, even when it is made by the scope unit, it may be overturned by the Department itself. It is a serious concern when one has a measure that barely functions then being undermined. The system is not functioning as we already know from just one hearing. This is a very dangerous issue. It is physically dangerous for persons who operate as supposedly self-employed persons with none of the protections and who are often in extremely vulnerable positions. We have looked, for example, at couriers and food delivery persons. There is a huge area. No issue is more serious than that of airline pilots. The idea that the person flying one's plane may be a self-employed person who has happened to be picked to fly the aircraft today is outrageous in respect of any normal level of safety, responsibility and culpability. It is wrong. I have a concern. It feels counterintuitive to take what appears to be a step backwards by removing this section. While there is a commitment to take two steps forward, I have been disheartened by the initial part of our hearings in the committee.

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