“Doesn’t It Suit Those Who Utilise It To Have That Dysfunctionality?”

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Seamus Dooley, Billy Wall, Patricia King and Brendan O’Hanlon at an Oireachtas committee meeting yesterday

Yesterday…

At a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Employment Affairs and Social Protection…

Patricia King, General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions; Billy Wall, Chair of the Congress Construction Industry Committee; Seamus Dooley, National Secretary of the National Union of Journalists; and Brendan O’Hanlon, Assistant General Secretary of Fórsa, went before the committee.

As posted yesterday, Ms King estimated that there could be a loss of Revenue to the State in just the construction sector alone of up to €240million a year as a result of bogus self-employment.

Bogus self-employment is where an employer wilfully and wrongly treats an employee as a self-employed contractor in order to avoid tax and social insurance contributions and other employment rights.

Ms King told the committee that the committee doesn’t have to rely on figures from the Irish Council for Trade Unions to understand the potential loss to the State.

She encouraged them to look at the figures from the Comptroller and Auditor General last November and separate figures from the Central Statistics Office.

She explained:

“The C&AG said a person on €100,000, paying tax and PRSI in the normal way, would have a yield to the State of €44,600. So, if you come to a self-employed person, the take to the State would be €29,648. And for a person operating through a company, and so on, the take to the State would be €29,900.

“The difference between the two – so the PAYE contributor and the either self-employed or company person – is €15,000 per individual for the €100,000.”

There are 146,000 people employed in the construction sector in Ireland, Ms King said, with 32,000 of them declared self-employed.

Ms King said there is an issue with resources.

With just 57 labour inspectors “for the entire economy”, she said “why wouldn’t there be a development of a view that ‘you can actually do this and nobody will deal with it'”.

But she said there’s also a “dysfunctionality” in the system whereby nobody is dealing with the matter and added: “But doesn’t it suit those who utilise it to have that dysfunctionality?”.

Ms King also said:

If you’re a worker on a building site and even if you know you have been misclassified fairly early in the process and you turn around and you say to the employer ‘why did you do that because I’m a worker, I’m filling all the control mechanisms and everything else, I’m a worker?’ Well the answer that you’ll likely get is: if you don’t like it, ‘go somewhere else and take a job’…in most cases, that’s no choice.”

Mr Dooley, of the National Union of Journalists, said there’s a “conspiracy of silence” around the issue and that the State has allowed it to happen.

He also said the reason so few journalists complain about bogus self-employment is because they’re “terrified”, saying “they are as weak and as vulnerable as any other section of workers”.

He added, in relation to “well-paid jobs”:

Frequently, in organisations, such as the national broadcaster, require people, as a condition of their employment of the offer to register for VAT because of the size of their earnings. And once you are registered for VAT, you are ‘agreeing’, in adverted commas,  that you are actually not an employee.

“And yes, you can go down to the Workplace Relations Commission, or the LRC, and, I have done it, and try to prove that you are and employee and the employer who can’t afford to pay you on the proper terms has no hesitation in bringing down an army of lawyers and barristers to prove that Mr Dooley agreed that he was a company and that he registered for VAT.

“So one of the reasons that there are so few complaints, is that people are so, or investigations, is that people are so afraid to make them.”

Mr Dooley went on to say he links ‘bogus self-employment’ with ‘bogus redundancies’.

Referring to a national newspaper group, but without identifying it, he said:

“Frequently….we have a situation where workers are offered, again in adverted commas, what is a bogus voluntary redundancy and then rehired under a contract for service. It’s done in such a way, it’s a voluntary redundancy, the terms are above the statutory rate and you’re rehired under a name within an indecent period of time. That’s happened and it will happen within this city within the next year in one of our large national newspaper groups that I won’t name.”

In relation to RTÉ, Mr Dooley warned the State broadcaster’s failure to provide correct contracts for workers “will have consequences” for RTÉ.

He said workers who have been denied contracts will be seeking retrospection.

He listed the following:

“Of a total of 433 contractors reviewed, 106 have been assessed as having ‘attributes akin to employment’. RTÉ objects to the term ‘bogus self-employment’ so if you would kindly use the phrase ‘attributes akin to employment’ or ‘attributes which are not akin to employment’ that would be very good.

“There are 51 contractors assessed as having attributes akin to both employment and self-employment and 276 were assessed as individuals who would not normally be considered as employees and would require no further individual review.

“According to the PAC period review, January to May 2018, there are 472 contracts of service in RTÉ – 81 are incorporated limited companies.”

He then added:

“All broadcasting and media organisations have a fetish about personalities. There is a belief among broadcasting organisations, in particular, that in, some way, on-screen talent should be treated differently. I reject that notion whether in the public service broadcaster or anything else. It has a number of negative consequences.

It denies some employees the opportunity of promotion. It favours people who are on contracts for service or limited companies and it has potential for discrimination on age and gender.”

Watch back in full here

Yesterday: “Torturous And Extremely Difficult”

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