Growth of precarious work threatens society

The spread of precarious work practices is a major and growing threat for workers in both the Republic and Northern Ireland, according to research released by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

The Congress study, ‘Insecure and Uncertain’; Precarious Work in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, reveals an alarming growth in precarious work practices across the island of Ireland.

Congress General Secretary Patricia King said: “The report clearly illustrates the impact of precarious work extends well beyond the workplace and its unchallenged growth raises profound questions as to the type of society we wish to live in.”

The study reveals that 8% of the workforce in the Republic — which equates to 158,190 workers — saw significant variations in their hours of work, from week to week or month to month and that some 7% of the workforce was in ‘temporary employment’ in 2016. It also shows a dramatic rise of 34% in the category of ‘part-time, self-employed without employees’, since 2008, a rise which is indicative of significant growth in bogus or false self-employment.

Equally worrying is the revelation that while overall employment numbers have risen, the numbers in permanent full-time employment are still 109,000 lower than the figure for 2008. The report shows that over half of that number said they were in temporary employment because they could not find permanent work, which represents a 179% increase on the 2008 figure. In Northern Ireland, a summary of the trends and patterns of precarious employment found some 6% of the workforce is employed in temporary, non-permanent arrangements.

In addition, 11.4% of the workforce is self- employed without employees, an increase of 1.6% as a share of the labour force over the period 2008 to 2016. The number of workers who are self-employed without employees has increased significantly since 2008. Most significant has been the more than doubling in the numbers who are part-time self-employed without employees.

There has also been a 25% increase in the number of workers who are in temporary employment, over the period 2008 to 2016. The report notes a 43% increase in the numbers in involuntary temporary employment and a 35% increase in the numbers that are involuntary part-time employed, over the period 2008 to 2016.

The Congress study found that female and young workers were more likely to be employed on precarious or insecure terms, with workers in the distribution, hotels and catering, retail and construction sectors featuring prominently, along with public administration, health and education. In recent weeks, media organisations such as RTE have also faced criticism over their use of precarious work practices.

The Congress study found official policies, such as reducing employers PRSI on low paid work, has made it easier and more profitable to hire workers on temporary, insecure contracts.

The study revealed that such work practices impact negatively on workers in terms of lower living standards, inability to access secure accommodation and placed them at greater risk of developing health problems.

It also found that such practices have an adverse impact on business and employers through the loss of productivity and innovation.In addition a growth in precarious work results in lower tax.

So, if you’re in a bad job and want a good job, you should join a union, get yourself and your co-workers organised and fight back against casualisation.

SIPTU members on the Frontline

Eva Mitchell, Hospitality worker, Galway

ot knowing what you’re going to be doing from day to day or week to week, is a huge issue for workers in my industry. Not knowing how many hours you are going to be working, not knowing if you are going to be able to pay your rent. It is as short term as that. Looking into the future is impossible. You can’t, think about mortgage or planning families because it is unrealistic. Why would anyone not want to have some sort of sense of security for the future. It is absolutely vital that we have some sort of security.”

Name withheld, Media Worker, Dublin

have worked for the same company for the last eight years. However, I am not directly employed by that company, rather I am paid through an agency and officially categorised as self-employed. From week to week my working hours can change and I do not receive holiday pay. My contract with the agency is a rolling one which is renewed every few months. Despite the company I am working for being officially a public one, myself and many of my colleagues’ due to the precarious nature of our employment do not have the ability to play a stable role in society.”

Simon Bowes, Childcare worker, Co. Kerry

s the ECCE scheme is only funded by the Government for 38 weeks per year Early Years services are in a position where they can only offer contracts for this timeframe. This means that thousands of Early Years Educators are stuck in a trap of precarity where we are unemployed for 14 weeks every year. We have to claim social welfare during this time which is not a situation that professionals should have to find themselves in. Providers cannot even claim social welfare as they are self employed. Our government needs to increase its funding of the sector to address this precarity.”

This article was written by SIPTU Journalist, Scott Millar and first appeared in Liberty.

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Listen back to “Between the Lines” featuring SIPTU Deputy General Secretary, Ethel Buckley discuss precarious work here

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