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Abuse of Agency Workers a ‘Cancer’ in the Irish Labour Market

19 February, 2008


Speaking during a joint Sinn Féin and Labour Party Private Members Motion demanding equal rights for agency workers Sinn Féin spokesperson on workers rights Arthur Morgan slammed the ongoing failure of government to introduce legislation to end the abuse of these workers. Morgan described the absence of adequate legislation to protect agency workers as " a cancer in the Irish labour market" and said that if the abuse of agency workers was not tackled now exploitation would spread "aggressively and invasively through all workplaces and all sectors".

Deputy Morgan said:

"The purpose of this motion is to stem the rising tide of exploitation that is resulting from the failure to legislate for the principle of equal treatment for agency workers.

"This joint motion, from Sinn Féin and the Labour Party, demands that the abuse of agency workers in ended and that their right to equal treatment with other workers is enshrined in law.

"Not only are agency workers being denied the rights, entitlements such sick pay, holiday pay and overtime and rates of pay equivalent to permanent staff, increasing numbers of new jobs are temporary and are being filled by agency workers. The employment of agency workers is resulting in the displacement of directly employed workers. This is not just an issue that affects migrant workers, existing Irish workers are being displaced, are forced to work as agency workers and are seeing their wages being driven down and their existing conditions undermined as a result of the failure to legislate for the principle of equal treatment. This practice is also driving down general wage levels in a range of sectors.

"The failure to introduce legislation to provide for the principle of equal treatment for agency workers means that they are being exploited by employers to drive down wages and to side step duties they would have to directly employed workers. If this issue is not dealt with we risk returning to casualisation of labour reminiscent of the 19th or early 20th century.

"The absence of adequate legislation to protect agency workers is like a cancer in the Irish labour market. If it is not tackled now exploitation will spread aggressively and invasively through all workplaces and all sectors - already its affects are evident in construction, hotel and services, retail, logistics, red meat and mushrooms. Further delays in introducing the legislation which we are demanding here tonight will be detrimental for individual workers (both indigenous and migrant), for employment conditions as well as being grossly unfair to good employers who are put at such a competitive disadvantage that they are forced to compete in a "race to the bottom".

"Not only has the Government failed to introduce domestic legislation on this issue, it has shamefully played a pivotal role in blocking an EU Directive on Temporary Agency Workers. It is time for the Government to introduce domestic legislation and to drop its opposition to the proposed EU Directive. It is time for the Government to fulfil its obligation to protect decent work standards for all workers." ENDS

For further information please contact:
Sinéad Ní Bhroin 087 9266764
Sinn Féin Press Office 01 6184276

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