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Congress Report Shows Precarious Work 'Pervasive' Across The Economy

4 Dec 2017

Publication cover - Precarious Work Final Dec 2017 Cover image for Precarious Work Final Dec 2017

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions today (Dec 3) urged the government to act with urgency to address the problem of precarious work, following the release of a new Congress study that shows precarious and insecure work is now ‘pervasive’ across the economy and has risen significantly since 2008. 

The new Congress study – Insecure & Uncertain’; Precarious Work in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Irelandreveals an alarming growth in precarious work practices across the island of Ireland, since 2008 and is the first study to examine the problem north and south of the border.

Congress General Secretary Patricia King said the report confirmed that there was now “an urgent necessity for government to address this problem decisively through legislation, once and for all. As the study 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.

“Very specifically, we must see changes to the legislation proposed by government that will ensure the elimination of zero hour contracts, guarantee the right to a minimum number of working hours and provide workers with a clear written statement of their terms and conditions from day one,” Ms King said.

The Congress 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.

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 that a loss of workplace rights over recent years, along with 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 revenue for the state.