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NUJ calls for better rights for freelance workers

9 September 2015

The NUJ has called on the Irish government to honour commitments made in the national social partnership agreement Towards 2016 to provide greater protection for workers in the media and cultural sectors, including freelance journalists, actors and musicians, by amending competition law in Ireland. The union also wants the government to crack down on bogus self-employed contracts. These are contracts that treat workers as self-employed in order to circumvent employment law and deny workers’ the same rights that are afforded to employees.

On Tuesday 8 September and today (Wednesday 9 September) in Dublin, the NUJ is hosting a conference on collective bargaining for atypical workers organised by four labour federations within Europe: the International Federation of Actors (FIA), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the International Federation of Musicians (FIM) and UNI Global that represents workers from the skills and services sectors.

NUJ Irish secretary Séamus Dooley and NUJ joint-president Andy Smith have used the event as an opportunity to condemn the failure of successive Irish governments to address the situation created by a decision of the Competition Authority of Ireland to treat freelance workers as business undertakings and therefore outside the scope of industry. Séamus Dooley said the Irish government is in clear breach of the International Labour Relations (ILO) convention and it has shown scant regard for the ILO.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) general secretary Patricia King addressed the conference and confirmed ICTU fully supports the joint campaign by SIPTU and the NUJ to improve employment rights for freelance workers.

Andy Smith, NUJ joint-president, said:

"It is a source of grave disappointment that successive Irish governments have failed to honour commitments made in national partnership agreements to undo the damage done by the Competition Authority. The Irish state made specific commitments through the social partnership process. My union fully accepts that with the collapse of the Irish economy the government was unable to implement pay increases promised in the agreement known as Towards 2016.  
"We do not accept that the inability to implement pay increases absolves the Irish government – or absolved its predecessor, from honouring a commitment made to the trade union movement to bring in legislation which would amend competition law in such a way as to protect certain types of atypical workers.
"In the run-up to the Irish general election the NUJ will be re-activing the campaign to support freelance members and will be relying on the support of sister unions and ICTU to highlight the exclusion of a major cohort of Irish workers from the right to trade union representation. The growth of bogus self-employed contracts is a scandal which must be tackled.
"The imposition of self-employed contracts is a trend reported by our members across all sectors of the media industry in the UK and Ireland. It is a practice which is widespread across Europe. Any discussion on collective bargaining for atypical workers cannot ignore the tendency to force employees to accept contracts for service which compel them to declare themselves as self-employed – a means of forcing a worker to sign away their own employment rights and social protections.
"The exclusion of atypical workers from any form of collective trade union voice is a clear incentive to employers to promote bogus self-employed contracts – these issues are two sides of the same coin, a coin which should have no currency in Europe."

Tags: , ireland, freelance, europe, ictu, dublin, trade union rights, efj