Wednesday, 18 November 2020
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
Last Friday, the UK's High Court issued a landmark ruling regarding gig economy workers. The ruling stated that the UK had failed to properly implement EU law, specifically certain parts of two EU health and safety directives which had not been transposed correctly. This meant that some self-employed workers did not enjoy the same legal protections as employees. As Members will know, the gig economy is characterised predominantly by workers with short-term or freelance contracts. Those workers are the van drivers, takeaway delivery drivers and couriers, all individuals whom I consider to be front-line workers. They are people who have worked right through this pandemic and have been on pretty much every doorstep in this country in recent months. They have worked continuously and are at a higher risk of contracting the virus than employees in some sectors.
In the specific case to which I refer, the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, IWGB, sought a judicial review of the implementation of the relevant EU directives and the gap in protection for those it represents. Concerns were raised about the provision of personal protective equipment, PPE, to these workers and it was found that they should enjoy the same protections as other workers, should have access to PPE and should, if they feel unwell, be allowed to stay home from work. In his ruling, Mr. Justice Chamberlain stated that the issues were of potentially wider significance and found that the IWGB was correct to say that the term "worker" includes those working in the gig economy.
This could be of significance in Ireland since we also have many workers who are employed on those types of contracts. These people work for Deliveroo, Just Eat and DPD and other couriers and have been on every road and every estate in the country this year. I ask that the Leader bring the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment before the House to the House to provide an update on the Department's view on that ruling and whether there may be significant implications for Ireland. Are gig economy workers properly protected and is there a requirement under those EU directives for the provision of PPE to those workers in this country?
I raise a second issue which came before the House yesterday and which was broadly discussed across all media. I refer to the EU budget and the provision of Brexit and Covid recovery supports . Members will be aware that Poland and Hungary have vetoed the EU budget because they are seeking concessions in respect of abdicating elements of the rule of law, significant human rights infringements and limitations on free speech within their jurisdictions. This has the potential to delay significant amounts of money coming to Ireland to protect our economy, assist the recovery from Covid and protect against the impact of Brexit on 1 January. I ask that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Coveney, come before the House to discuss the implications of the actions of Hungary and Poland, including how they might affect Ireland in the context of accessing the funds to which I refer. I ask that the Minister update the House on what is happening at EU level regarding how it intends to deal with this matter. My view is that this behaviour needs to be stamped out. Poland and Hungary cannot be allowed to get away with what they have done and there need to be significant consequences for those member states trying to impede the recovery of the EU from Covid.