That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to amend the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 to prohibit the practice of designating employment as self-employment; to bring the Garda Síochána, the Defence Forces, and doctors in training, under the protection of the Act; to limit the race to the bottom on workers’ rights by extending elements of the Act to the self-employed; and to provide for related matters.
Bogus self-employment is rife in a number of sectors, such as the construction, media and aviation sectors. I have met countless workers in the construction sector and their trade union representatives who are deeply concerned about this growing problem. These are workers who ordinarily should be directly employed but instead are on bogus self-employment contracts and are denied basic rights and entitlements as workers. These are entitlements such as sick pay, holiday pay, pension entitlements and trade union representation. The State loses out in respect of PRSI contributions. It is illegal for employers to engage in practices of bogus self-employment. We have seen potential examples in RTÉ, the State broadcaster. Its representatives were before the Committee of Public Accounts on this issue. A report had to be published that identified problems in the organisation. It is obvious, therefore, that the law needs to change. It needs to change to ensure these practices are outlawed. We also need to give protections to workers who are on these contracts who come forward and who are essentially whistleblowers and who should be treated as whistleblowers. Our Bill intends to achieve this and to give protection to workers. Our Bill has two purposes. First, it is to deal with the reality that this is a growing problem and to deal with it as best we can through new laws. Second, it is to protect workers who need to be protected when they do come forward. I sincerely hope the Government will support this Bill when Sinn Féin introduces it on Second Stage, as I hope will happen.