Precarious work — the challenge for workers

This is not a new scandal. Indeed, the modern Irish trade union movement, including SIPTU, was moulded in the resistance of low paid workers to casualisation, low wages and extreme poverty in the early years of the 20th Century. Over decades of struggle, improvements in wages and in their terms and conditions of work, including the reduction in working hours, were won across the economy and the country by an organised and unionised workforce.

Over 160,000 workers cannot rely on steady and guaranteed hours from day to day, week to week or month to month. The abuse of bogus self-employment means that 10% of workers in Ireland are wrongly described as sole traders who do not employ anybody else. It is deeply shocking that 44% of workers between 18 and 29 years, or almost 100,000 young people, are on short-term contracts in the Republic.

By driving down wages and standards, casualisation will also undermine those with secure, better-paid jobs across the economy. The attempt by employers to drive down wages and demolish employment protections in Ireland will undoubtedly intensify when Brexit takes hold as their competitors in the UK seek to remove hard-earned worker’s rights, as well as the environmental and consumer protections, required under EU laws.

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