Stable staff reject Clare Daly ‘indentured slaves’ claims
‘No print marks on anyone’s back’ in horse racing industry, says ISSA chairman
TD Clare Daly said the recent minimum wage agreement between the ISSA and the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association was a “sham”. Photograph: Alan Betson
The Irish Stable Staff Association (ISSA) has rejected claims by the Independents4change TD Clare Daly that many working within racing are “indentured slaves” and it insists working conditions have improved enormously in recent years.
“I totally reject that comment,” said the ISSA chairman Bernard Caldwell.
“There are no print marks on anyone’s back in this industry. It’s an insult to say that. Stable staff nowadays have no problem standing up for themselves.”
During Leaders’ Questions in the Dáil earlier this week, Clare Daly said “wholesale illegality” was going on in the sector with trainers and stable staff failing to comply with tax laws and widespread cash payments being used.
She also described as a “sham” the recent minimum wage agreement between the ISSA and the Irish Racehorse Trainers Association, which saw a one euro rate rise to €10.75 an hour.
The head of the trainers’ association, Michael Grassick, was unavailable for comment on Friday but Mr Caldwell stood over the wage agreement and has dismissed Ms Daly’s criticisms.
“We negotiated a 10.25 per cent increase and not every union out there can say that,” he said.
He said it was impossible to accurately gauge the numbers of people working in yards but stressed that staffing was a major issue and that riding-out in particular could lend itself to being carried out on an informal ‘nixer’ basis.
“No one’s denying that happens. But that’s going on in every industry and it’s not our job to control it. If she has information, she should give it to those who can,” he said.
Mr Caldwell said an accurate estimation of people working full-time in stables could be available within a month after the Revenue Commissioners make a decision on a submission for the setting up of a new stable staff pension scheme.
The submission proposes to ensure all tax-compliant staff employed by the almost 600 trainers in the country are eligible for a new non-contributory scheme.