A union representing around 40,000 craft workers has called for immediate Government action to stamp out bogus self-employment which it estimates is costing the state €300 million a year.

Speaking ahead of the Biennnial General Conference of the newly-formed Connect trade union in Limerick, General Secretary Paddy Kavanagh said the practice of employers forcing workers to be self-employed contractors when they should be direct employees was "rampant" in the construction industry.

Those hired with bogus self-employment status can lose out on significant social welfare and employment rights protections that apply to direct employees,  including unemployment benefit and pension contributions.

Mr Kavanagh  estimates that the state is losing out on up to €300m a year: €80m due to lower PRSI contributions, and a further €200m shortfall from tax foregone.

He accused the Government of failing to take decisive action, despite commitments to end the practice.

He said Connect members are would be conducting a protest campaign involving site visits where there are reports of bogus self-employment to show such employers the 'red card'.

Mr Kavanagh said Government action would be the most effective way to stamp out bogus self-employment and called on the Government to "get a move on" with the Protection of Employment (Measures to Counter False Self-Employment) Bill 2018.

He said that the legislation had been passed by all parties in the Seanad earlier this year, and warned that if it does not begin its passage through the committee stage before the end of the year, it would be clear that the government is not serious about tackling the issue.

He warned that Connect members will be conducting a protest campaign involving site visits where there are reports of bogus self-employment to show such employers the 'red card'.

Mr Kavanagh also called for a referendum on retaining Irish Water in public ownership, adding that Connect would resist any attempt to move Irish Water to a single state utility, whether as a stand-alone non-commercial semi-state or in any other format.

He said such a move could sideline members or remove them entirely from the area of water provision, and called for agreements on staffing levels to ensure that their work was not "outsourced by stealth".

He said that if they so chose, members engaged in water provision should continue working for their local authority, and be covered by the protections of the current public sector agreement.

Mr Kavanagh also said that if staff did choose to transfer to any new their current terms and conditions including pension and collective bargaining rights  should remain intact.

Connect was formed last January following a merger of the Technical Engineering and Electrical Union and the construction union UCATT – and represents around 40,000 members in the technical, engineering, electrical and construction sectors.

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