Unions set for showdown over agency worker issue

THE Irish Congress of Trade Unions is almost certain this morning to follow the example of SIPTU and vote in favour of participating in the new national pay and employment talks.

However, just a day before the ICTU debate, fellow social partner, IBEC, has claimed trade union demands for equality for agency workers are simplistic and warned it will oppose any measures that affect flexibility in the labour market. The demand for equality is a fundamental prerequisite of the trade unions’ position in the new pay negotiations.

Brendan McGinty, IBEC’s director of industrial relations and human resources, said his organisation believed agency workers are already fully protected by employment legislation.

He said agency workers are, and will remain, a small part of the labour force in Ireland and the current ‘crop’ have the same protections as permanent workers under unfair dismissals, redundancy, etc.

Mr McGinty said any calls for further regulation only served to restrict the labour market, send out negative signals to investors and alarm agency workers into doubting the existing set of rights established in law.

His claims were rejected by SIPTU general secretary Joe O’Flynn: “Rather than try to justify the present scandal by minimising its extent, IBEC should welcome steps to end this abuse [of agency workers] in any new national agreement. It is in the interests of bona fide employers to do so. Otherwise the cancer will continue to spread,” he said.

The motion which will be brought before delegates at the Irish Congress of Trade Unions conference this morning will call for:

* Pay increases sufficient to insulate workers against rises in the cost of living.

* Comprehensive and enforceable pensions policy.

* The enhancement of the programme of legislation agreed in Towards 2016.

* The creation of a legal framework which includes the right of workers to engage in collective bargaining with their employer through their trade union.

* Support for the social wage through ensuring an adequate level of investment in public services.

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