Construction workers protest against 'bogus' self-employment

Construction workers protest against 'bogus' self-employment
SIPTU activists and members of other construction industry unions protest at the National Children's Hospital. Picture: RollingNews.ie

Members of Ireland's construction industry unions are protesting this morning against bogus self-employment.

They are gathering outside the site of the new National Children's Hospital in Dublin.

They want to highlight what they say is the practice of hiring staff that are for all intents and purposes employees, but are treated by bosses as self-employed.

Campaigners say there are big financial gains for employers and serious consequences for the public finances.

"The whole arrangement is bogus. When they should be treated as a PAYE worker, they are being treated as self-employed," said ICTU's Billy Wall.

"Then the State is at a loss to the PRSI payments which has amounted to around €241 million for last year."

Explaining why the National Children's Hospital was chosen as the site for the protest Mr Wall said: "It was discovered at the National Children's Hospital that there was a contractor on it who was paying their workers as self-employed workers.

"These workers were turning up at 8am every morning, they were on a pre-determined wage, they were under the direct control of the foreman so it was determined that they were bogus self-employed and they are now being paid on a PAYE basis.

"The likes of the Children's Hospital were demanding that all workers on the hospital be paid on a PAYE basis."

Speaking during the protest, Unite Regional Officer for Construction Tom Fitzgerald said that a two-pronged approach is needed to stamp out bogus self-employment, which imposes an unacceptable cost on individual workers and the wider economy.

“First and foremost, we need to start with a presumption of employment, and force employers to prove that a worker is not an employee," said Mr Fitzgerald.

Secondly, the state should start using its considerable purchasing power to exclude companies using bogus self-employment, or other abusive labour practices, from bidding for public contracts.

“This would put an end to the situation whereby the workers building our hospitals or schools are forced into bogus self-employment."

Mr Fitzgerald said that stamping out bogus self-employment would be a win for both the workers and for the Exchequer.

"And it would be a win for decent employers who are currently being undercut by those who use bogus self-employment and other labour abuses to keep their prices down," he concluded.

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