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Dáil to Debate Motion on Exploitation of Agency Workers

18 February, 2008

The Dáil will this week debate a Private Members Motion tabled jointly by Labour and Sinn Fein TDs expressing concern at the treatment of agency workers, including vulnerable migrant workers, who are being subjected to inferior pay and conditions and exploitation. The motion supports the principle of equal treatment for all workers and calls on the government to enact legislation to protect the rights of agency workers and to support the introduction of the long promised EU Directive on Temporary Agency Workers. (Motion text at the bottom of statement)

The motion will be debated during private members time on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The Labour Party Spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Willie Penrose said today:

"Against the background of a downturn in the economy, there is a particular obligation on us all to ensure that there are adequate measures in place to prevent the exploitation of low paid and vulnerable workers, especially those employed through agencies. Temporary staff employed through agencies are particularly open to exploitation, as they generally have little or no job security, access to sick pay and pensions or other non-pay benefits.

"There is growing anger among workers at the failure of the government to enact domestic legislation to protect agency workers and particularly at the government ongoing decision to block the enactment of the Draft Temporary Agency Workers directive which would provide protection for workers across all member states of the EU. The directive was approved by MEPs in November 2002, but has been blocked at the Council of Employment Ministers for over five years, primarily by Ireland and Britain.

"There is no excuse for the government continuing to block this key directive, unless it wants to continue to turn a blind eye to the exploitation of vulnerable workers and I hope that this motion will put pressure on the government parties to reverse their position."

The Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Employment and Workers Rights Deputy Arthur Morgan said

"The failure of the Government to introduce legislation on the issue of agency workers is having serious repercussions for workers in all sectors. It is leading to exploitation and casualisation. It is undermining existing terms and conditions of employment and is depressing wages for workers in many sectors. Worryingly increasing numbers of jobs are being filled by agency workers. In particular this phenomenon is undermining pay rates in the construction and services sectors.

"It is time for the Government to fulfil its obligation to protect decent work standards for all workers. Every member of the Oireachtas will be familiar with cases of exploitation of agency workers and undercutting and displacement of existing workers as a result of the employment of agency workers at inferior terms and conditions. To suggest as the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment has done that giving agency workers equal rights will harm competitiveness is nonsensical - every state in Europe which ranks ahead of us in terms of competitiveness has such legislation. The Government must also drop its opposition to the proposed EU Directive on Temporary Agency Workers.

"All parties who want to see exploitation stamped out must support this motion." ENDS

Motion wording below


"That Dáil Éireann

- the growth in employment agencies and the increased use by employers of agency workers, particularly in the construction sector and in the hotel and services sectors;

- that increasing numbers of new jobs are considered temporary and are being filled by agency workers;

- that agency workers, including vulnerable migrant workers, are being subject to inferior pay and conditions and exploitation;

- that agency workers are being used by employers to undercut permanent workforces and drive down and depress wages across the economy, and to side step duties they would have to directly employed workers; including job security, pension entitlements and redundancy entitlements;

- that the absence of dedicated statutory protection is facilitating the circumvention of progressive employment legislation including the Protection of Employment (Part-Time Work) Act 2001 and the Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003.

- the failure of the Irish Government to introduce any domestic legislation on the issue of agency workers;

- the fact that the Irish Government, along with two other states, have been responsible for blocking a proposed EU Directive on Temporary Agency Workers since 2002.


- The principle of equal treatment

- That without legislation which ensures that agency workers are subject to the same terms as directly employed workers, employers will always be tempted to cut corners on terms and conditions and casualisation and exploitation will take hold;

- That the trade union movement is correct in asserting that legislating for equal rights for agency workers is a vital anti-exploitation measure;

- That further delays in introducing such legislation will be detrimental for individual workers and for employment conditions in general.

Calls on the Government to immediately introduce legislation to protect the equal rights of agency workers, compared to their permanent counterparts, whereby employment agency workers would be subject to a collective agreement specifying terms and conditions of employment including, but not limited to

- specifying a maximum period beyond which the worker must become a direct employee;

- Providing for equal pay and entitlements with directly employed workers performing the same or similar work or work of equal value;

- Ensuring the right of workers employed by agencies to trade union representation.

and to support the introduction of an EU Directive on Temporary Agency Workers."

Willie Penrose, Eamon Gilmore, Joan Burton, Emmet Stagg, Thomas P. Broughan, Joe Costello, Michael D. Higgins, Brendan Howlin, Kathleen Lynch, Ciarán Lynch, Liz McManus, Brian O'Shea, Jan O'Sullivan,, Ruairí Quinn, Pat Rabbitte, Seán Sherlock, Róisín Shortall, JoannaTuffy, Mary Upton, Jack Wall, Arthur Morgan, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Martin Ferris, Aengus Ó Snodaigh.

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