Unions fear Fines Bill could lead to dismissals

The country’s unions are concerned that proposals to give courts the power to deduct money from a person’s wage may be used by bosses to dismiss or discriminate against employees.

Unions fear Fines Bill could lead to dismissals

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions also wants draft laws to be changed so that people on very flexible contracts, who are expected to be available to work at short notice, do not risk losing their jobs by doing community service in lieu of not paying fines.

Raising the issue of discrimination at the Oireachtas justice committee, Sinn Féin TD Padraig MacLochlainn said that Ictu was seeking amendments to proposed laws.

Responding, Justice Minister Alan Shatter said it was an “interesting” issue which he would examine but said his initial reaction was that existing laws, including unfair dismissals legislation, would cover the matter.

Mr Shatter was at the committee as it processed amendments to the long-awaited Fines (Payments and Recovery) Bill 2013.

Central provisions in the bill lay down the legal basis to enable the courts to deduct, at source, monies from a person’s wage in situations where the individual has not paid a court fine imposed for a criminal offence. The bill gives judges a range of options, also including community service, to ensure that imprisonment for fine default is a last resort.

Mr MacLochlainn, TD for Donegal North East, welcomed the bill, but said: “Ictu have raised concerns in relation to the attachment order, that it could possibly facilitate the dismissal of somebody or could lead to discrimination for that person in future.

“What they’re asking for, is for us to consider amendments that would protect the rights of persons that have attachment orders.”

Responding, Mr Shatter said: “It is an interesting issue. We have the unfair dismissals act and other legislation of an anti-discrimination nature, which I think, my initial reaction, would adequately cover that possibility. I don’t believe an employer who conducted themselves in that way would be acting lawfully.”

However, he said he would examine the matter.

Speaking afterwards to the Irish Examiner, Esther Lynch, Ictu legislation and legal affairs officer, said there needed to be anti-discrimination provisions in the bill, prohibiting employers from dismissing employees or acting against them.

She said the bill also had to take into account the “reality of working life today” in relation to imposing community service orders. She said many people are on very flexible contracts, where they are expected to be free to work at short notice.

She said courts must be able to request from employers an employee’s working times so that people are not at risk of losing their job by doing community service.

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