I propose to take Questions Nos. 171 and 172 together.
I am aware of concerns regarding the employment rights protections for workers in the film and television production industry, including in particular the issue of bogus self-employment. These concerns were raised in both Houses of the Oireachtas during the debates on the Competition (Amendment) Bill 2016. They were also raised with me by one of the bodies representing employees in this sector.
All employers, including those in the film and television production industry, carry the same obligations in relation to compliance with employment law. Where an individual believes they are being deprived of employment rights applicable to employees they may refer a complaint to the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) where the matter can be dealt with by way of mediation or adjudication leading to a decision that is enforceable through the District Court. WRC inspectors can also be asked to investigate certain breaches. Complaints can be made on a single complaint form available at the WRC’s website www.workplacerelations.ie.
It is important that individuals are correctly designated regarding their employment status so that those who ought to be designated as employees are not deprived of their employment rights. This is particularly the case for vulnerable workers who may not feel in a position to object to certain arrangements. However, it is also important to remember that some working in this industry may be correctly categorised as self-employed.
In most cases it will be clear whether an individual is employed or self-employed. Where there is doubt in relation to the employment status of an individual the relevant Departments and Agencies will have regard to the Code of Practice for Determining Employment or Self-Employment Status of Individuals. This Code was drawn up and agreed in 2007 by the relevant Government Departments with ICTU and IBEC.
Finally, I welcome the enactment of the Competition (Amendment) Act 2017, which began as a Private Member’s Bill. The Act is intended to establish rights for certain categories of self-employed individuals to be represented by a trade union for the purposes of collective bargaining. I believe that this Act, which met with all Party support in both Houses of the Oireachtas, provides a fine balance in meeting the stated objectives underpinning it whilst, at the same time, remaining consistent with competition law. It will be of benefit to voice-over actors, session musicians and freelance journalists and it also provides for an application process whereby Trade Unions can apply for an exemption from the application of section 4 of the Competition Act 2002 to collective bargaining and agreements in respect of other specific classes of self-employed workers.