Siptu conference urges action on 'precarious' working conditions

Siptu conference urges action on 'precarious' working conditions

Almost half of all workers in the Waterford area are in precarious employment — a situation likely replicated across the entire country.

Speakers at Siptu’s biennial national conference called for an end to the growing issue of precarious employment, citing the frightening statistics from Waterford which, they say, are indicative of the situation elsewhere in Ireland.

They said the issue is not confined to one sector but has permeated working environments in all areas, with thousands of workers stuck on unreliable contracts, facing low pay and irregular hours, which can lead to in-work poverty, undermine workers’ abilities to respond to unexpected expenses, and, in a number of cases, being refused for mortgage applications and private rental contracts.

Two separate motions urged the union to tackle the issue, including from the union’s national executive council which called for cross-union collaboration to promote the issues associated with precarious employment and to develop innovative policies to turn the tide on the issue.

Catherine Smith, a retail worker, told the conference: “Precarious conditions exist throughout our economy — it destroys incomes, isolates workers, and spreads uncertainties. It is one of the biggest challenges facing our union.

Employers try to muddy the debate; they claim that it doesn’t matter too much as it only affects young workers for a short time, or that some people enjoy flexibility. They are wrong.

One-in-three workers are affected, she said.

Trevor Skelton from the wholesale retail sector said that the reality is that the numbers affected could actually be even higher.

He cited a recent study on employment in the Waterford area which surveyed some 39,000 workers and found 47% were deemed to be in precarious employment or close to it.

“I guarantee this is the same in every town and city in this country,” Mr Skelton added.

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