On the show today we discussed self-employment and contractual rights at a company called Globetech in Cork.
*Marie contacted us a number of weeks ago about her situation. She’s a European professional who came to Ireland to work in this specific job four years ago. Since arrival she has been treated as self-employed, with all the disadvantages (no holidays, no social welfare entitlements, no sick pay and no accrual of rights) that brings, but with none of the advantages. She can’t subcontract her work if she’s sick, she can’t work for other companies, and she doesn’t get to decide her hours or place of work. To all intents and purposes she fulfils exactly the same role as her colleagues, many of whom are employed – but with no security. She spoke on the show today.
We also heard from a non-EU colleague of hers in the same boat, who has the added issue of having no visa if his contract is not renewed.
*Justin is from outside the EU. He has worked as an independent contractor for 20 months and is still working on the same contract he signed in Feb 2015. It expires in September after being extended by a year . He feels very pressured. If he loses his job he has no entitlements in Ireland despite paying tax & PRSI here, and he knows other people let go recently who can’t get the dole because they are independent contractors. Everybody he works with directly is employed and they get other benefits that he doesn’t get – he had asked to be employed, but was the only one on his team who wasn’t. He was told they didn’t require employees but they have hired 3 full time employees since he was there. Only since people starting asking questions and formed a union they have started offering employment. Since raising questions he has only been offered a six month employment, everyone else has been offered a year or two or permanent employment. He told me he has had taxi drivers complain that he’s taking Irish jobs.
This practice is really widespread in particular industries – everyone knows someone working in a multinational in Cork who is working on a rolling contract and has never been made aware that there is an obligation on the employer to offer employment after a period of time. It costs the country a fortune in unpaid tax and PRSI. Here’s the TASC report on that.
It’s also emerging as a huge problem among some of the new ‘disruptive’ companies like Uber and Deliveroo – it’s all very well talking about the ‘gig economy’, but when it’s well-paid academics, consultants and thinktank types talking about it, you can be sure they didn’t just cycle 2 miles in the rain for the only €4 they’ll earn that day.
The problems faced by Marie and Justin are not quite as extreme as that – they are well paid, highly skilled professionals – and as solicitor John Boylan told us on air today, no law is being broken.
But when we’re getting regular figures from government of huge employment at certain companies working in the same sector, it has to be asked – how many of these are secure jobs, and how many are insecure contracts filled by mainly foreign workers who are certainly not being encouraged to pursue their rights?
At the moment Globetech is the subject of approximately 17 cases at the Workplace Relations Commission. To get that far with a case, your situation has to be investigated by the Scope Section, which determines whether you are employed or self-employed – basically, whether your constract consists of ‘bogus self-employment’. But this is where Marie, Justin and others are encountering a logjam – following an investigation of Globetech last year (out of which I understand some of the current cases arose) – there are no resources in Scope Section to investigate their situations. Which means they cannot proceed with their WRC claim…
Joe O’Regan from the Independent Workers’ Union told us that the union has written to Scope to try and get this moving. The contracts are due to be renewed next month… watch this space.
You can listen back to the discussion on our Soundcloud account (from about 3pm today, the beginning of hour three).