The issue I raise relates to the construction sector. I thank the Minister of State for being here. He will be aware of this because we have spoken of it. I understand the Tánaiste has met with the platform workers. That is a serious issue.
I will discuss the use of State money via our local authorities to support the practice of bogus self-employment. I understand that is not Government policy and do not suggest it is. However, it is happening in the construction sector at the moment in local authority projects. The State is supporting bogus self-employment because these practices are effectively being funded through the finances of the local authorities. We have contractors contracting business from local authorities. They have to look for value for money, and I do not suggest that is not important but it does not have to equate to undermining workers' rights. The practice of bogus self-employment does a number of things, chief among which is to undercut the sector employment order, SEO, rate. We have sectoral employment orders and I understand they are liable to challenge but they are the State saying that this is the minimum. I have payslips, some here and more that I can share with the Minister of State, which show people are not getting their pension, not paying the correct rate of PRSI and, more importantly, where the SEO rate is around €19.37 per hour, they get €10.50 or €10.55 per hour. These are semi-skilled and, in some cases, skilled, workers. There are no checks and balances that I can see in place by the local authorities on the practice of bogus self-employment and undermining the SEO rate. The contractor gets the contract and the money flows from the local authorities.
I want to be constructive, work with the Minister of State and ensure this is stopped. I doubt the Minister of State stands over this practice and I am sure he wants to stamp it out as well. How can we ensure local authorities respect the SEO rate and there are decent terms and conditions? Where the State spends money, it must ensure it uses its spending power to uphold workers' rights and the SEO rate and to deal with instances of bogus self-employment.
Unfortunately, contractors working for local authorities have been advising the chief executives of some of these local authorities of these practices and are not getting any follow-up. If this was being dealt with at local level, I would not be raising it. I raise it because I want to see the State take a greater hand in clamping down on bogus self-employment within the construction sector, ensuring SEO rates are upheld, proper rates of the job, pensions, etc.
There cannot be a hands-off approach to this. It cannot be the case that the local authorities sign the cheque and there is no follow-up on the terms and conditions. Essentially, these people are performing a function on behalf of the State. Where the State directly employs a nurse, carer, doctor or teacher, there is a rate for the job and that rate is respected. There is a pension and that is paid. That is not happening in the construction sector and I am conscious that, as the economy starts to reopen, these practices will become more and more the norm again. I have evidence and can share it with the Minister of State. Some mechanism needs to be in place to ensure the State is doing all it can to stamp out the practice of bogus self-employment. That is not just legislation but following up on where the State is spending money.