Zero-hours contracts need to be reformed to prevent Irish workers falling victim to 19th century-style hiring conditions, Business Minister Ged Nash has said.
With an expert study group at Limerick University set to report on the contentious issue, Mr Nash indicated the Coalition was ready to give workers more security.
Calling some of the employment arrangements in existence as “perverse”, he made it clear that Labour intends to tilt the situation more in favour of workers.
Mr Nash hit out at the nature of “if and when” contracts that provide no certainties for employees
“If the terms are interpreted according to the intentions of the employers who impose them, it might even be argued there is no enduring contract of employment at all in such cases,” said Mr Nash told a business audience in Dublin.
“This is because, under this kind of arrangement, there is no obligation on the employer to provide work and no obligation on the worker to do any work that is offered.
“These type of frankly perverse arrangements throw up all kinds of questions for government, for our society and for our economy. But the bottom line is workers need and are entitled to basic security in their employment, to plan their lives.
“This Government will not preside over an economic recovery which involves a ruthless race to the bottom or the sacrifice of hard-won rights that are considered to be the mark of decent and progressive societies.
“While we recognise the need to adapt ourselves to the workplace of the 21st century, this Government has no intention of allowing Irish workers be dragged into some cyber-net equivalent of a 19th century hiring fair.”
Mr Nash said giving the Low Pay Commission powers to set the minimum wage rate annually would benefit the economy.
“From an employer and worker perspective, a significant benefit of the new approach is that minimum wage rates will be assessed annually and therefore adjustments in future will be incremental and less disruptive for business than the step changes we had in the past,” he said.
Mr Nash also said collective bargaining legislation would promote harmony, not strife, in the workplace.
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