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Cullinane introduces Banded Hours Contract Bill

28 June, 2016 - by David Cullinane TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson for workers’ rights David Cullinane TD said today that Sinn Féin will use its private members time next Tuesday to introduce the Banded Hours Contract Bill 2016 that will strengthen the rights of employees in this State to a more stable working environment, one that will benefit both employee and employer alike.

Deputy Cullinane said:

“The exploitation of people on low hour contracts, especially in the retail sector but across many other sectors, is an important issue. This Bill will allow workers to apply for a contract that is reflective of their actual working week. Unfortunately, we have far too many instances of workers who were on 15-hour contracts for perhaps ten years working 30 hours and 40 hours week in, week out. This is a way for companies to exploit their workers.

“This Bill offers a solution. It seeks to provide that a worker or his or her trade union representative, or a representative acting on his or her behalf, is entitled, after six months of continuous employment with his or her employer, to make a request in writing of the employer to be moved to an increased weekly band of hours, as set out in the legislation. Under the existing legislation, Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act, there is no obligation on an employer to consider such a request.

“The Bill provides that the employer must comply or set out that it is not economically feasible. The employer must demonstrate that the business is experiencing severe financial difficulties such that there would be a substantial risk that the workers would be made redundant if the hours were granted, the sustainability of the business would be adversely affected or the business could not sustain the increased level of hours. In the event that a worker disagrees with the employer's refusal on the grounds set out in the legislation, the complaints procedure would be through the Workplace Relations Commission.

“The Bill also includes an obligation on the employer to inform all employees on the overall availability of working hours by displaying this information in a prominent position in the place of employment.

“A survey published by the Mandate trade union earlier this year found that three quarters of Dunnes Stores staff were on part-time contracts and yet 98% wanted increased hours. This is not about flexibility around the edges of a functioning business. This is a business built on a system of low-hours contracts. It is simply unjustifiable for employers to keep the bulk of their staff on part-time flexible contracts as it pushes these people into poverty and into a position where they cannot plan for their families. It creates undue hardship as mothers struggle to deal with child care arrangements and families cannot be sure of what they will earn from one end of the month to the other.

“This Bill is earnest in its intent and has the support of many trades unions and would fix a problem which affects many low paid workers and workers who are on low hour contracts in this State.

“We know from Labour’s motion on workers’ rights that there is already broad support for this issue, and we are ready to work with Labour, Fianna Fáil, AAA-PBP, the Green Party, Social Democrats, the government and independents to ensure that this Bill reaches committee stage and, eventually, onto the statute books.” 

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