From Socialist Voice, April 2011

Workers’ rights under sustained attack

Workers’ rights continue to be undermined by both the Government and employers. The Government has set up what it calls an independent review body to look into employment rights orders and registered employment agreements.
     EROs cover such groups as agricultural workers, contract cleaners, law clerks, and hotel workers. The Labour Court makes an ERO confirming proposals submitted by a joint labour committee. This order is legally binding. It is the JLC that agrees and sets the pay and working conditions for the workers covered. The ERO made by the Labour Court therefore makes the JLC agreement enforceable by law.
     If the ERO were to be abolished, or if opt-outs by individual companies were allowed, this could result in reductions of up to 20 per cent in wages, as well as the loss of such benefits as overtime payment, weekend premiums, and also sick pay.
     The EROs have both provided some protection to organised workers and created a benchmark for workers in a particular industry. As an example, hospital contract cleaners under an existing ERO are legally entitled to €9.50 per hour. If their ERO was abolished they would suffer a drop to €7.65, the new minimum wage. The bosses’ organisation, IBEC, has called on the new Government to “adhere to the structural reforms agreed to with the IMF, including keeping the national minimum wage at the new level of €7.65 and allowing the review to consider abolishing the ERO system.”

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