Press Release

Unions welcome return of rights to freelance workers in Competition Amendment Bill

Date Released: 31 May 2017

Trade unions have pledged to re-organise freelancers in the arts, culture and media sectors following the passage through Dáil Eireann, this evening (Wednesday, 31st May), of the Competition (Amendment) Bill 2016 which will restore collective bargaining rights to these workers. The Bill was tabled by Senator Ivana Back and restores the automatic right of freelance workers in defined categories to be collectively represented by trade unions. This right had been removed by the Competition Authority.

At a function in Buswells Hotel, Dublin 2, trade union leaders pledged to utilise the new legislation to organise freelance workers. NUJ Acting General Secretary, Seamus Dooley, said: “This is a significant breakthrough for the trade union movement and shows the power of persistence. We should never have fallen victim to the ideological agenda of the Competition Authority’s narrow view of workers or collective agreements. Having won back the right to organise we face the challenge of organising within the sector but we do so with confidence.”
 
SIPTU Services Division Organiser, Ethel Buckley, said: “The passage of this Bill is a fitting reward for the tireless efforts of hundreds of trade union activists and many full time officials who campaigned to have collective bargaining rights returned to freelance workers. With an ever increasing percentage of workers across many sectors being employed in freelance arrangements, unions will utilise this new legislation in a drive to organise these people so they can collectively achieve a better deal for themselves and wider society.”
 
Irish Equity President, Padraig Murray, said: “It was 13 years ago that the Competition Authority moved to prevent Irish Equity from negotiating effectively for certain groups of freelance workers. This resulted in a significant deterioration in the terms and conditions for these workers. Since then our union activists have campaigned relentlessly for these workers to have their right to collectively bargain recognised.”
 
Musicians Union of Ireland (MUI) President, Seamus Doyle, said: “The exploitation of freelance musicians is nothing short of shocking. This new legislation will provide a crucial opportunity to stabilise and improve their working conditions.”
 
When signed into law the new legislation will exempt three named categories of workers (voice-over actors, session musicians and freelance journalists) from Section 4 of the Competition Act 2002.  In addition, the Bill sets out a formal process allowing a trade union to apply to for collective bargaining and agreements in respect of specific classes of self-employed workers.



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