Dunnes Stores workers write to all members of the Oireachtas

Dunnes Stores workers have written to all members of the Oireachtas today calling on them to support the Banded Hours Contract Bill 2016 this Thursday, 7th July 2016. The Bill will be moved today (Tuesday, 5th July 2016) at 8:30pm in the Dáil by Deputy David Cullinane and will be voted on this Thursday at 1pm in Dáil Éireann.

The Bill would provide workers on zero or low hour contracts with “certainty of earnings” and allow them to seek more hours at work.

Mandate members are urged to contact their local TD’s calling on them to support the Bill. You can find your local representatives by clicking here.

Below is the letter from Dunnes Stores workers to all TD’s and Senators.

To all members of the Oireachtas.

Firstly, we want to start by thanking you all for the tremendous support shown to all of the Dunnes Stores workers throughout the country when we went on strike last year.

Our dispute with our employer is about decent work and security of hours and earnings for all Dunnes workers.

Three out of every four of the 10,000 Dunnes Stores workers are employed on what are called “flexi-hour contracts”. These contracts have a minimum of 15 hours per week. Despite this, most of us work many hours above that. Some of us work 25 hours and some work 35 hours. But the average hours worked per week is 25-30.  All we want is a new contract that reflects the hours we actually work so we have an income we can depend on from week to week.

This would give us confidence that we will be able to put food on the table to feed and clothe our families at the end of the week. At the moment, our income can fluctuate from €400 one week, to €150 the next week, entirely at the discretion of a local manager, and this makes it impossible to plan our lives.

Many of our colleagues have been denied loans with credit unions and mortgages with a bank because of our 15 hour contracts. Bank managers look at our payslips and see 30 hours every week, sometimes for 6 or 7 years, but then see the contracted 15 hours and tell us that our guaranteed annual income is €9,000 making it is impossible to give us a loan on that basis.

Some of us have also been denied rental accommodation for the very same reason. This contract is not an accident. In our Decency for Dunnes Workers survey of 1,400 workers last year, 85% of the said that allocation of hours is used as a method of control over us.

For instance, after we went on strike on 2nd April 2015, our hours were slashed in a campaign of retribution by the company. All we were seeking was the same type of contracts afforded to Tesco, Marks & Spencer and Penneys workers, who know from week to week what they’ll be earning.

These ‘flexi-hour contracts’ are about intimidating workers so management can have a compliant workforce. How can you complain about a health and safety issue or be confident about joining a trade union if you know your manager can cut your hours from 35 to 15 spreading them over four or five days – so that you cannot access supplementary social welfare? This is what’s happening all across the retail and hospitality sector.

Our demands have been vindicated by the University of Limerick Report and the Joint Oireachtas report, both of which recommend that this issue needs to be tackled. And we know that Dunnes Stores is only the tip of the iceberg. There are tens of thousands of workers in the same situation as us and something needs to be done about it now.

We are asking all members of this House to please support this Bill. If we are serious about ensuring workers have some dignity and respect in their lives, then start by allowing us some certainty over our hours and income.

Dunnes Stores National Shopstewards Committee