Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Workers' Charter of Rights.

Trevor Sargent

Question:

8 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment whether he intends to introduce a charter of rights for contract workers in order that they may enjoy the same rights as those enjoyed by permanent and pensionable employees. [7764/95]

Trevor Sargent

Question:

79 Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment if he intends to introduce a charter of rights for contract workers in order that they may enjoy the same rights as those enjoyed by permanent and pensionable employees. [7416/95]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 8 and 79 together. The term "contract worker" may be interpreted as referring to a number of different categories of workers, some of whom are employees and some self-employed.

Contract workers who are employees, that is persons employed under a contract of service or apprenticeship, come within the scope of employment protection legislation and, in general, enjoy equivalent protection to other employees under such legislation. Persons who work under a contract for services are not employees and, consequently do not generally come within the scope of labour legislation which regulates employer-employee relationships. Such persons enjoy a significant degree of autonomy in deciding matters such as their particular hours of work and holiday breaks.

I should mention, however, that all workers, self-employed or otherwise, are fully protected in so far as occupational health and safety at the work site is concerned by the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 1989, and its associated regulations.

In summary, therefore, contract workers who are employees come within the scope of employment protection legislation and I do not consider that the addition of a charter of rights is necessary.

Does the Minister agree there is an increasing use of part-time and contract workers leading to the casualisation of work? It is always people in employment who talk blithely of the nature of work in future but people who have only experienced casual work long for the surety of what would be termed a regular job. I think we should seek to provide more sustainable jobs rather than applauding the casualisation of work. I would like to hear the Minister's views on this matter, particularly in view of her interest in EU legislation.

I certainly do not laud the increasing casualisation of work.

Does the Minister agree that this is happening because of the higher costs and the requirements of some of the labour legislation and that the effect of this legislation is leading to increasing casualisation of employment?

No I do not agree, the factors are complex and it is simplistic to pick out labour legislation. Unlike the Deputy I do not favour a Hong Kong regime for workers. I think our employment legislation is serving workers and business well.

They earn more than Irish workers.

On the question of casualisation of work, is the Minister aware of the growing tendency in companies to use part-time workers in any way they see fit? It has been brought to my attention that out of a total of 63 clerical staff in Stena-Sealink there are up to 30 part-time workers at this time of year. What is the Minister's view on raising the standard for part-time workers rather than bringing down the standard of permanent jobs, as is the case in some companies, by trying to get more casual staff? This is a very worrying trend and the Minister should clearly state her support for the need to deal with this practice as it is an abuse of people's rights which must be addressed.

The question referred to contract rather than part-time workers but I agree with Deputy Kitt that greater protection is needed for part-time workers and work on this issue is being carried out at European level.

If the Minister believes there is a need to address this issue why is she waiting for European requirements and why does she not bring forward her own proposals? Why does she think there is an increase in the use of contract and casual workers?

Supply and demand.

She went to the SFA on these matters.

She was not invited.

She should talk to them.

Deputy Kitt is concerned about part-time workers. We have extended our holiday social welfare legislation to give pro rata rights to part-time workers and further issues, pension rights and so on, for such workers are being examined at European level. In any case our legislation will have to incorporate European legislation.

In terms of the increasing number of part-time workers it will always be the case that people are employed on a casual basis to meet fluctuations in demand, and that type of flexibility is good in terms of being able to cope with the surge in demand which any company may have. Issues surrounding the C45 contracts have caused a great deal of concern, a working party was set up to examine the matter and, arising out of a great deal of hard work by the CIF and the building industry trade unions we have made significant progress in that area.

It is important to realise that many part-time workers are getting one-third of the wages of permanent staff. Clearly there is a need for the Minister to address this issue nationally. Will she make this one of her prime objectives when attending the next Council meeting in Brussels? As the Minister rightly said, there is a need for part-time workers and that is accepted by the trade unions but in many cases, as she is aware, they do not have a voice at trade union level and are marginalised. It is my duty and that of my colleagues to raise this very important issue with the Minister as she can be a voice for these people. I ask the Minister to deal with this issue nationally and make it a priority at Council level.

Do not line up with Mr. Portillo.

As somebody who has spent most of my working life in part-time work, I will be very happy to be a voice for part-time workers.