Government faces questions over treatment of freelance workers

ICTU says Ireland has repeatedly failed to honour ILO Conventions

ILO, labour laws, ICTU, Geneva, International Labour Organisation, complaint, Patricia King

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The Irish Government is facing questions over the treatment of freelance workers by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Geneva.

It follows a formal complaint in 2011 from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) that Ireland repeatedly failed to honour and give effect to ILO Conventions, on the right of freelance workers to bargain collectively with their employer.

ICTU says that as a member state and signatory, the Government will be required to attend the hearing "and account for this failure".

Commenting on the hearing, ICTU General-Secretary Patricia King said: "I will be very interested to hear what defence is offered by the government, especially after the unanimous passage of the recent Dáil motion on worker's rights, that demanded government take action on a number of issues, not least the very specific right of freelance workers to bargain collectively".

"Ireland is clearly in breach of ILO Convention 98 and successive governments have failed to act on this issue, despite firm commitments that go back to 2008".

"That is something they must answer for before the ILO and member states from around the world".

The ILO is due to hear from an Irish Government representative, along with representatives from Congress and business.

"The effective ban on freelance workers engaging in collective bargaining follows a ruling of the Competition Authority in 2004, which categorised individual freelance workers as 'business undertakings'", ICTU says.

Congress representative David Joyce will tell the hearing: "Congress urges the Committee to request the Government of Ireland to implement the agreement arrived at by all sides in 2008 and amend the existing law. Only then will Ireland be in compliance with its obligations under Convention 98 which affords all workers the right to collective bargaining".

While the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has welcomed the ILO challenge. The complaint was lodged with the support of the NUJ amid SIPTU.