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Legislation to Protect Vulnerable Workers Urgently Needed

20 February, 2008

Speaking during a joint Sinn Féin and Labour Party Private Members Motion demanding equal rights for agency workers Sinn Féin TD Martin Ferris warned that without the necessary legislative protections in place current worker exploitation by rogue employers will continue unabated.

Deputy Ferris said:

"It is now clear that those who warned of the consequences of the last enlargement of the EU, as contained in the Nice Treaty, with regard to what the "mobility of capital and labour" promised then would mean were correct.

"This 'mobility' was designed to facilitate a race to the bottom undermining standard pay, terms and conditions for workers. Our government has to date failed to provide protective legislation provided for workers in more developed states with regard to both labour legislation and union membership.

"The Lisbon Treaty is rightly seen as a further loosening of national sovereignty and social controls on capital that gives big business even greater freedom at the expense of workers.

"ICTU last week declared that it may oppose the Lisbon Treaty, indicating the growing feeling on the part of trade union members regarding the downward pressure on wages and job displacement. IBEC know that this is the case and will once again be mobilising its considerable resources in support of the Treaty.

"One example, which came to light because the workforce was unionised, was Doyle Concrete in Kildare where members of SIPTU were sacked and replaced by lower paid workers.

"In addition, despite 296 cases of employers paying below the minimum wage were detected during 2006 and 2007, only one prosecution has taken place. This is hardly a major deterrent for unscrupulous employers willing to access cheap labour through agencies.

"It is likely of course, given the relative lack of inspectors available to monitor adherence to wage legislation that the above figures represent a gross underestimate of the scale of abuse involved.

"It is clear to everyone in this house that the type of legislation proposed in this Private Members motion is urgently required." CRÍOCH

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