Fears of winter election among zero-hour Leinster House staff

‘If-and-when’ Oireachtas contract staff fear losing work if Christmas election goes ahead

Staff working in Leinster House on zero-hours contracts for external companies could be left without an income in the run-up to Christmas if a general election is called.

The threat is causing "severe anxiety", The Irish Times was told. "It's a major financial hit just before Christmas, it's a total disaster. How do you plan your life for this?" one contract worker said.

The shifts given to some Leinster House contract staff depend on the length of Oireachtas sittings, with their contracts making it clear that their employers are not “obliged to offer you work”.

Some zero-hour staff work in the crèche, fitness gym, and broadcasting service, according to a record of public tenders advertised by the Houses of the Oireachtas.


Agency staff are used, too, in the kitchens and catering, a spokesman for the Houses of the Oireachtas confirmed, adding that they are are employed on a “drawdown basis”.

One worker, who asked to remain anonymous, said work is “highly precarious” and many staff quit because of the job uncertainty. “If there’s a snap election we’re out of a job,” the worker said.

Such workers learn of their hours for the following week on Friday, while their contracts make clear that they “may be required to work additional hours when requested”.

“It’s frustrating, there is a deep inequality” between full-time civil servants and contract staff, they said. “There is a high turnover rate. New entrants are on even worse contracts.”


Sinn Féin TD David Cullinane said "it is scandalous" that Leinster House uses staff on "zero-hour and if-and-when contracts".

In May 2015 the Oireachtas tendered for 12 transcribers, emphasising that demands “are unpredictable” and the workload contingent on demand. It stipulated that the transcribers should “provide assurances of their availability to attend on this basis should the need arise.”

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times