By Terry Murphy
In the last eight years there has been an ongoing attack on the pay and conditions of workers across all sectors, and an undermining of collective bargaining rights. A recent article by John Douglas, General Secretary of the Mandate trade union has highlighted the effect that this trend has had on Ireland’s 50,000 bar workers.
At one time the trade unions negotiated rates of pay and conditions for bar workers with the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA). Now, the LVA have abandoned this process, and bar owners have waged a consistent war on workers in the sector, with falling wages, zero hour contracts, and a complete lack of adequate remuneration for working unsocial hours.
Race to the bottom
Due to the lack of employment stability in the sector, employers have been able to adopt a hostile position towards the trade unions and collective bargaining, and indulge in criminal neglect of their legal responsibilities. According to the National Employment Rights Authority, 60% of employers do not comply with workplace regulations, such as minimum wage requirements. Further, the NERA recovered almost €300,000 in unpaid wages in 2014.
Workers from the industry have reported low pay, lack of breaks on long shifts, no notice of hours to be worked, denial of holiday and sick pay, and negligence on part of the employer with regards to basic workplace safety.
These disgraceful abuses of workers are a product of the race to the bottom while major pubs across the country rake in growing profits. These workers were utterly failed by the outgoing government, who continuously failed to address the issues of zero hour contracts and poverty wages.
The trade union movement in Ireland needs to step up and lead workers in a real campaign of industrial action to demand an end to rampant exploitation and for a living wage for all workers.