When others talk, Labour acts on workers' rights
Posted on February 27, 2017 at 12:25 PM
This week in the Dáil, Labour will yet again be advancing workers' rights.
On Tuesday evening, we will be using our Private Members' Business to advance our Competition (Amendment) Bill.
This Bill stems from a longstanding Labour party commitment to ensure protection of the right to collectively bargain for freelance workers, including journalists, actors and others who perform their work on a self-employed or contract for services basis. Under competition law, currently every self-employed person is considered to be a separate independent economic undertaking. If one self-employed person combines with others to set prices for their services, they can be accused of an illegal anti-competitive practice. At its most extreme, freelance journalists in a newsroom would be barred from bargaining collectively with their common employer about their wages. That is the understanding in Irish law under the Competition Act 2002, and that is what this important Bill seeks to change .
The Bill will allow self-employed workers, such as actors or journalists, who personally provide work or perform services, to collectively bargain with their employers. However, the Bill is narrowly drafted so as to ensure consumers remain protected from illegal price-fixing. I know that many unions, such as the NUJ and SIPTU, have sought the change in the law that this Bill will achieve; and that they have welcomed the Bill's progression to Report Stage – it marks an important advance in the protection of vulnerable workers.
Speaking about the Bill at the Labour Trade Unionists' Annual Conference, Brendan Howlin said "It is the first opposition Bill to have fully passed through either House of the Oireachtas. But, even though the Government supported it in the final stages in the Seanad, they wouldn’t give time for it to be debated in the Dáil. So we will. Next week, we will give over our Private Members’ time once more to workers’ rights. And we’ll begin getting this Bill on the road through the Dáil. Enough time - more than enough - has now been spent debating this Bill. I am determined that it will become law by the summer. If it does so, we will have once more confounded expectations. With just 12 PLP members, we will become the first opposition party to get a piece of legislation enacted in this parliament. Where others talk, we act. This is just another example of that."
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