Sinn Féin spokesperson on Enterprise, Trade and Employment Louise O’Reilly TD has said new data provided to her, which shows that over one-third of WRC investigations since 2015 detected breachers of employment law, reveals a dark underbelly of the Irish economy that must be stamped out.
Teachta O’Reilly said:
“Despite being underfunded and under-resourced, the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) does fantastic work on behalf of workers across this state.
“In spite of the challenges posed by the pandemic the WRC carried out 7,687 inspections in 2020 and managed to recover almost €1.7m in unpaid wages for workers.
“Indeed, data recently revealed to me outlined how, since 2011, the WRC has recovered almost €18m in withheld wages for workers.
“On the back of this comes new data in relation to the scale and number of breaches of employment law detected by WRC investigations since 2015. In those six years, the WRC has detected breaches in employment law in more than one-third of all investigations.
“Of the number of cases investigated, 35.9% found breaches by employers for non-payment of the minimum wage, employment permits, protection of young persons, annual leave and public holiday breaches, unpaid wages, among others.
“Sectors such as food and drink, retail and wholesale, hair and beauty, and construction, to name but a few, have seen consistent breaches of employment law in recent years. The breadth, scale and nature of these breaches reveal a dark underbelly of Irish economy, which must be stamped out.
“Furthermore, as the Irish SME Association (ISME) has said, businesses not paying workers the minimum wage are undercutting decent employers, are engaged in anti-competitive practices, and should be put out of business.
“The idea that there are only a select few bad apples breaching employment law and workers’ rights has been blown apart by this data – in six short years over a third of employers investigated by the WRC have been found to be in breach of employment law.
“Added to this is the fact that the WRC is underfunded and understaffed. In all probability, if it had more staff, it would have detected more breaches.
“The Commission has only 53 inspectors carrying out this work, despite being authorised to recruit 90 inspectors back in 2006. The Tánaiste and Minister responsible for Workers’ Rights, Leo Varadkar, must ensure the WRC receives the funding and resources necessary to recruit, employ, and deploy 90 inspectors, if not more, immediately.
“In addition, this data also reinforces the need for workers being given the legal right to collective bargaining through their recognised Trade Union so they can stand up for workers and protect them against such abuses.
“The government cannot continue to turn a blind eye to employment law and workers’ rights being ridden roughshod over.”
A breakdown of the above figures can be found in tabular form here.