Bill would allow zero hour workers increase hours ’gently’

Legislation aimed at Dunnes Stores business model of ’exploitation, pure and simple’


Legislation has been introduced to allow workers to have their hours increased “in a very gentle fashion” over time.

Sinn Féin jobs spokesman Peadar Tóibín published his Banded Hours Contract Bill, under which he said it would take about 2½ years for a worker to have their working hours increased to the maximum amount.

Aimed at Dunnes Stores’ employees, the Bill gives a worker the right, after six months of continuous employment, to request increased hours and obliges an employer to permit refusal only on objectively justified grounds, and also to provide employees with information on the overall working hours available.

Mr Tóibín’s legislation will be discussed in Private Members’ time, chosen on a lottery system.

Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, he said if hours were not to be granted, the employer had to demonstrate the business was having severe financial difficulties and could not sustain the increased level of hours.

The Meath West TD said the Mandate trade union had successfully negotiated banded hours contracts with a number of large employers. But he said “some extremely profitable employers will not do so”.

He said legislators had an obligation to provide alternative ways to facilitate a level of equilibrium “where decent employers can function within society and where workers can seek to have their hours increased in a very gentle fashion over time”.

He insisted: “This is a business built on a system of low- hours contracts. It is simply unjustifiable for employers to keep the bulk of their staff on part-time flexible contracts, as it pushes these people into poverty and into a position where they cannot plan for their families.”

Criticising Dunnes Stores, he said its business model had everything to do with leverage over employees. “It is exploitation, pure and simple.”