Government publishes legislation covering security of hours (banded hours)

13th December 2017
To: All Mandate Members
From: John Douglas, General Secretary

Well done and congratulations to Mandate members regarding the publication last week of a government Bill which sets out a legally enforceable mechanism for greater security of working hours (banded hours). See link to Bill here.

The publication of this Bill is in no small part attributable to the ongoing campaigning by so many of our members – particularly in Dunnes Stores – towards securing legislation to protect workers affected by insecure hours contracts.

Whilst we celebrate the publication of this legislation, there is still much work to be done to get it passed by the Oireachtas and to influence certain amendments to improve on it. Two major changes we are seeking are:

  • Reduce the proposed hourly bands proposed to a maximum width of 5 hours
  • Shorten the ‘look back’ period for calculating average weekly hours to 12 months or less.

We must continue to scale up our lobbying efforts to make this happen. Please make every effort to contact your local TD’s and Senators by calling at their local constituency offices or clinics, phoning them or emailing them. And if you have not done so already sign the online petition here.

If you have any queries about the proposed legislation please contact your local Mandate office.

Update to Dunnes Members 24 Nov 2017

Sign the petition here

A Message from Gerry Light, Mandate Assistant General Secretary:

“Last week your Union launched the ‘Secure Hours – Better Future’ campaign calling on the Government to finally pass promised legislation for greater security over working hours.

As you know the Labour Court adjourned our case against Dunnes Stores for six months back in August pending the government introducing such legislation – not just for Dunnes workers but for all workers who fall under these forms of insecure hours contracts.

Your union is proud to be the main driving force behind these two initiatives and it is important to remember that both of them directly evolved out of our last national one day strike in 2015 and the ongoing Decency for Dunnes Workers campaign.

You and your fellow colleagues hard work has been instrumental in driving Dunnes to the top spot in the national grocery supermarket sector. For this reason alone you deserve to have greater security over your working hours, simply because at this time more than ever your employer can afford to do it.

While there is significant support from the general public and trade union movement for what we are seeking – we need to continue to put pressure on all of our legislators to act once and for all.

Local delegations to lobby TDs and Senators are being arranged through your Union in the coming days and weeks. We are asking all politicians to sign a pledge to support bringing legislation forward.

· You can support the campaign by participating in these local delegations.

· Contact your local TDs and Senators directly – urging them to get behind security of working hours legislation.

· Also support the campaign by signing the Secure Hours online petition which will be delivered to the Dail in December. The link can be found on the Dunnes and websites and Facebook pages. Please promote and share the petition to your co-workers, friends and family.

Finally, make sure to keep your Union strong in Dunnes by encouraging fellow colleagues who are not yet Mandate members to go to and join your Union. Acting together we can and will bring about the positive workplace changes that you and your fellow Union members not only desire, but actually deserve.

Thank you.”


Major Lobby Campaign Launched. Sign Our Petition and send a clear message to TD’s and Senators. Secure Hours Now!

Click Here To Sign Petition:

Retail workers call on TD’s and Senators to end insecure work. Please help vulnerable workers by signing the petition.

By signing the petition you will be sending a clear message to TD’s and Senators, who are elected to legislate on behalf of the people, that they must act now to put an end to exploitative and insecure employment practices. Future legislation to end zero hours and “if and when” employment must be comprehensive, robust and protect workers in precarious employment.

Click Here To Sign Petition:

“Secure Hours – Better Future”

Retail workers call on TD’s to end insecure work

Mandate Trade Union members today (Tuesday, 14th November 2017) called on all TD’s to sign the “Secure Hours – Better Future” charter which would end zero hours and ‘If and When’ contracts.

The Union said Dunnes Stores workers, along with tens of thousands of others, do not know from week-to-week what hours and income they will have.

John Douglas, Mandate Trade Union General Secretary said:

“We know that 85 percent of all Dunnes Stores workers say that hours are used as a method of control over them. If they lodge a grievance, make a complaint or even join a Union, there is the potential to have your hours and income slashed from €400 per week to €160 per week. This can create huge problems in terms of paying essential bills or obtaining loans or mortgages.”

Mr Douglas said retail workers are concerned that the forthcoming government Bill will contain loopholes to allow employers avoid giving their workers security over their hours.

“Sinn Fein have a Bill, the Labour Party have a Bill and now the government is drafting its own Bill,” said Mr Douglas. “We need action on this now, but we need to make sure that the government Bill does what it’s supposed to do, give workers security over their incomes.”

The Banded Hours Contracts Bill, moved by Sinn Fein TD David Cullinane, has already progressed through the Dail and the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. The Joint Oireachtas Committee made 23 recommendations but the Ceann Comhairle’s office attached a “money message” to the Bill, meaning it cannot progress any further without the agreement of the government.

“We’re very concerned that the government will water down the good work that has already taken place in the Oireachtas. The Joint Oireachtas Committee has already heard from all relevant parties; employers’ groups; trade unions; legal experts; academics and more. What’s needed now is action,” said Mr Douglas.

He added, “There’s no point bringing in bad legislation which will not achieve the minimum standards set out in our Secure Hours – Better Future charter. Anything less than this will not serve the needs of low paid and low hour contract workers so we are asking all TD’s from all political parties to sign this charter and ensure our most vulnerable workers are protected.”

Dr Caroline Murphy, Lecturer in Employment Relations & Dr Juliet McMahon, Lecturer in Human Resource Management and Industrial Relations, who were co-authors of the University of Limerick Report: “A Study on the Prevalence of Zero Hours Contracts among Irish Employers and their Impact on Employees,” addressed the launch of the Secure Hours – Better Future charter stating:

“The University of Limerick Report on Zero hours Work in Ireland conducted in 2015 established that “if and when” forms of working arrangements have significant negative implications for individuals including: apprehension related to the unpredictability of working hours (in terms of number of hours and scheduling), unstable income, difficulties in accessing finance and welfare benefits, and difficulties in managing work and family life. The report found instances where employment contracts do not accurately reflect the reality of the number of hours regularly worked by individuals.

“The report noted concerns that workers on such arrangements report having insufficient notice of working hours and being sent home from work if not required, and a belief that they may be penalised by their employer for not accepting work when offered.

“The report emphasised the lack of clarity regarding the employment status of individuals working under this type of arrangement.

“Legislative/regulatory reforms are required in order to bring clarity to this matter and furthermore to address the negative implications for workers. Approaching 2018, a number of Bills have emerged but concrete changes have yet to be established.”

Secure Hours = Better Future Charter

  1. Ban Zero Hour Practices – including exploitative “If and When” contracts.
  2. Provide workers with secure hour contracts that reflect the reality of the average weekly hours worked.
  3. Ensure a maximum ‘look-back’ period of 12 months or less to calculate the average weekly hours and the subsequent ‘band of hours’* into which a worker is placed.
  4. Ensure the maximum width of all ‘band of hours’ is no greater than 5 hours per week
  5. Protect workers from victimisation for enforcing their rights under this legislation.
  6. Ensure legislation is implemented so that current workers can avail of its provisions for hours already completed.

*A band of hours provides a level of flexibility for employers but crucially a level of certainty over income for a worker. For instance, they will work between 20-25 hours or 30-35 hours, with no ceiling but a floor of hours which the worker cannot drop below.

Government plays cynical game with Dunnes workers livelihoods

This week in the Oireachtas workers on insecure hour contracts became collateral damage in a cynical game of power play politics by the government. A disgraceful ploy to block the David Cullinane TD sponsored Banded Hours Contract Bill was concocted by raising a spurious money message mechanism which government conveniently uses to halt the progress of opposition bills that have a genuine chance of succeeding in the Dail.

It seems almost irrelevant to the government that in halting the progress of this important piece of legislation many workers on precarious and insecure contracts who are struggling day and daily to plan their lives and to pay their bills will be the losers by this insidious government political chicanery.

Over the past 18 months Sinn Fein worked closely with Mandate on developing the Banded Hours Contract Bill to allow workers achieve some security in their income and their hours.

The Bill was passed by the Dail at Second Stage on 17th July 2016, with a deferral for 12 months pending legislative scrutiny in the Jobs Committee. This committee heard from over 40 witnesses – including Mandate, ICTU, IBEC and academics – and it produced a 52 page report with 21 recommendations on strengthening and improving the legislation.

David Cullinane TD, the original mover of the Bill, told the committee that he was happy to see all those recommendations incorporated into the Bill. Subsequently, on the 20th September 2017 the Business Committee agreed to allow the Bill to return to committee for amendments. Given the intense scrutiny applied to this Bill over a protracted period and its broad cross-party support, pending the amendments, on the Jobs Committee chaired by Mary Burke FF TD, it is truly incredible that all this time, effort and excellent work can be destroyed at the stroke of a pen by government mandarins intent on denying opposition parties from having good protective legislation enacted.

In April 2015 Dunnes Stores workers took industrial action to achieve income security in their employment. They want and need Banded Hour contracts which would allow them the ability to better plan their lives. This Bill took on much greater urgency for workers when the Labour Court agreed to suspend a case between Mandate and Dunnes Stores for a period of six months pending the passing of the Bill as its incorporation into law would settle the issues raised by the case.

This six month hiatus ends in February 2018 and the government hatchet job imposed now on this important Bill means that the likelihood of getting any decent legislation to protect workers enacted before that date is looking increasingly unlikely. Given the time-sensitive nature of the suspended Labour Court case it almost defies belief that the government would put its own narrow political self-interest above that of low paid workers in precarious type employment. Shame on them for doing so.

David Cullinane TD sought leave to refer the bill to committee for implementation, which was granted by the Dail on 3rd October 2017, but the “money message” barrier was dropped on the Bill afterwards. The ridiculous reason given for delaying this Bill was that it would increase the workload of the Workplace Relations Committee thus requiring additional resources. Government Bills with a money message can be turned around in less than three weeks but opposition Bills do not receive any attention whatsoever. In fact, every single opposition Bill passed at second stage by the Dail this year is still awaiting developments on the money message issue.

If this Bill was about bailing out a failing bank or to help the government refuse to accept billions from their friends in multi-national companies who aren’t paying their fair share of this country’s tax burden then the legislation would be delivered wrapped in a gold bow in the morning. The fact that this Bill was trying to assist workers on low hour contracts to achieve a fairer deal from their employer would appear largely irrelevant to the government and their faceless and nameless bureaucrats who assist them in regularly screwing workers in favour of profitable businesses.

Workers on low hour contracts cannot get a mortgage. They cannot adequately plan their lives as they live in limbo with uncertain hours. They cannot guarantee they will be able to pay their bills from week to week and must make stark choices on what they can purchase with the little money they have at their disposal. These workers needed urgent action and the genuine concern is that the government recent promise by Minister Regina Doherty to deliver soon on banded hour contracts will be a much more watered down and frankly useless piece of legislation that will further enslave these downtrodden and forgotten workers who deserve much better from their government.

Mandate has serious reservations that the governments intended Banded Hours Legislation will either now be delayed with the absence of the Sinn Fein Bill or that it will be an ineffective and dangerous piece of legislation that doesn’t protect workers whatsoever. We have concerns that the government will not implement strong and robust legislation because the Heads of Bill produced so far indicate a real lack of understanding about the predicament many of these workers face. Minister Regina Doherty’s recent public utterances also indicate no intention whatsoever of banning zero hour contracts and “if and when” contracts. That is a national disgrace and we will not stand idly by and allow that to happen unchallenged.

The Sinn Fein Bill is a strong, well balanced and highly scrutinised piece of legislation that deserves to be adopted and made into law. Unfortunately, good and sound legislation is not a major priority for this government based on their actions. Sinn Fein, and in particular David Cullinane TD and Conor McCabe Parliamentary Advisor, are to be commended for their dedicated and hard work over the past 18 months towards developing legislation that would actually do something to protect vulnerable workers.

Mandate will continue to campaign vigorously and lobby intensively over the coming weeks and months to challenge any attempt by government to implement weak and bad legislation. Any watered down alternative to the Sinn Fein Bill will be challenged robustly by our members and we will support them with everything at our disposal. We are committed to the principles of Decent Work and refuse to accept anything less. Mandate’s Decent Work campaign roadshow will be coming to a venue near you over the coming months so make it your business to get along to hear about what’s really happening in Irish society today and join collectively with many other like-minded workers in fighting back and delivering a better Ireland.

Dunnes Stores concede Mandate Trade Union claim for 3% Pay Increase 2017

Mandate Trade Union today welcomed the announcement to award its members employed in Dunnes Stores a 3% pay increase for 2017/18 effective from 3rd October 2017.

This is the fifth consecutive concession of a 3% pay claim by Mandate Trade Union for Dunnes Stores workers in as many years.

Mr Gerry Light, Assistant General Secretary stated:

“This declaration by management comes in the wake of a pay and benefits claim served by the Union on the employer earlier this year”.

Mr Light added: “whilst the pay increase is welcome, we are conscious that the other important elements of the Union’s claim have not as yet been addressed by the Company”.

These aspects of the claim include the following:

  • Introduction of a banded hours framework to secure certainty of weekly working hours
  • Creation of an agreed number of additional full time jobs
  • Application of staff discounts to all Union members

Mr Light concluded: “It now appears that Dunnes Stores management have no intention of dealing with the entirety of the Union’s claim. Therefore the matter will have to be pursued through the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and the Labour Court if necessary.

If you work in the retail, bar or administrative sectors, you can join your Union by clicking here.

Employers launch campaign to stop workers from having secure incomes

This morning IBEC and the Restaurant Association of Ireland (RAI) appear to have commenced a campaign to prevent low paid and vulnerable workers from achieving any form of secure incomes.

Both organisations were afforded a free run on the national airwaves to discuss the government’s pending legislation which would give workers more security over their hours at work and therefore their incomes.

  • IBEC had an uncontested appearance on the most listened to radio show in the country, RTE’s Morning Ireland.
  • The RAI were afforded free reign on Newstalk’s Pat Kenny Show.

It would seem that no trade union representing workers who would be affected by this legislation were asked to participate in either show, which allowed the employers’ bodies to spin, misinform and lie.


In 2014 Mandate surveyed members in Dunnes Stores, one of the largest private sector employers in the country with 10,000 staff. Dunnes management generally issue 15 hour contracts, but in reality, the average hours worked is closer to 26.

However, should a worker step out of line, lodge a grievance, join a union or a local manager take a dislike to a worker, they can have their hours slashed to 15. Furthermore, spreading those 15 hours over a number of days means the workers’ income is significantly reduced and they cannot access Family Income Supplement (FIS) or part-time social welfare, effectively allowing the employer to manage a worker out of their job by pushing them into poverty.

More than 85 percent of those surveyed stated that allocation of hours was being used as a control mechanism over them. Another regressive element to this type of contract is that workers cannot obtain loans or mortgages because the banks only look at their contracted hours, which in the case of Dunnes Stores workers, means they can only obtain a mortgage of between €25,000 and €35,000. This forces them into the private rental sector where they simply cannot afford to live because of increased rents.

More than 6,000 Dunnes Stores workers took industrial action in April 2015 in order to achieve security over their incomes. TD’s and political representatives from all political parties attended the picket lines, with the Taoiseach Enda Kenny stating that he supported Dunnes Stores workers’ right to know what hours and incomes they would have.

The strike led to the government instigating a study into the prevalence of this type of contract through the University of Limerick. This study showed that while zero hour contracts are not prevalent, “If and When” contracts, like the Dunnes Stores workers’ contracts, are “prevalent in the accommodation/food and retail sectors and in certain occupations in education and health: community care work, so-called ‘bank’ nursing, general practice nursing, university/institute of technology lecturing, adult education tutoring, school substitution, caretaking, and secretarial and cleaning work”.

So this is a big problem.


Immediately after the Dunnes Stores strike, the employer moved on workers who participated in industrial action. They launched a campaign of retribution, using the very issue the workers were highlighting against them. They slashed striking workers’ hours down to 15.

The solution then became an issue for legislators because it is unfair to ask workers in such precarious circumstances to strike when this action can be used against them.

Mandate lobbied all political parties for a change in legislation that would simply allow workers to obtain a contract of employment which reflected the hours they actually work.

Banded Hours Contacts Bill (2016)

David Cullinane TD from Sinn Fein launched this Bill in the summer of 2016. The Bill would enable workers to request a new contract that reflected the average hours worked over the previous six months (as recommended by the University of Limerick report). It would place workers inside a “band” of hours and give them certainty of earnings. This Bill was unanimously supported by the Dail, but Fianna Fail introduced an amendment to delay the Bill by 12 months so that all stakeholders could be consulted. The Bill has now proceeded through the Joint Oireachtas Committee, which had inputs from trade unions, legal experts, business representatives, academics and more. The JOC has now made 23 recommendations – including the increase of the six month “look-back period” to twelve months.

Uncertain Hours Bill

This Bill was put forward in the Seanad by the Labour Parties Ged Nash. It would do similar to the Banded Hours Contracts Bill, but significantly this Bill included anti-victimisation clauses for workers attempting to obtain contracts that reflect the hours they work. The JOC included this in its recommendations under the Banded Hours Contracts Bill.

Government Bill

The government has now announced that it will be prioritising a piece of legislation that will address the concerns of low hour contract workers. Early indications are that this Bill (which hasn’t been published yet) will have an 18 month look back period. Mandate’s position is that this is unacceptable. It allows employers the ability to manipulate hours to ensure workers cannot achieve a decent, secure income.

The Government Bill should at the very least match what was unanimously agreed in the cross party Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs.

The Employers’ campaign for insecure work

Today the employers’ lobby is out in full force scaremongering about giving workers security over their incomes.

“It’s the disproportionate nature of a piece of legislation such as the one being proposed,” said Maeve McElwee, Director of Employer Relations with IBEC.

IBEC selectively used elements of the University of Limerick report to try to delay the Bill or block it from passing.

“We don’t have a very significant problem in Ireland with zero hours contracts,” said Ms McElwee.

What she failed to mention was that in Ireland, these zero-hour practices are known as “If and When” practices, which do exactly the same thing.

She goes on to say there are only 5.3 percent of the labour force on “constantly variable working hours” and those on low hours within that are about 2.6 percent.

Sound impressive. Almost as if this barely effects anyone at all, so what’s the point in legislating for the very low 2.6 percent of workers being abused in this way? But look deeper.

Some workers will be on 10 hour contracts for 15 or 20 years, but regularly work 35 hours. They are not considered in this category because they are not working “constantly variable working hours”, despite the fact that they can have their hours slashed at any time should a local manager take offence to them. Then the 2.6 percent is only from within this category, but it doesn’t tell you that more than 8 percent of the workforce (200,000 workers) are on low hour contracts according to the University of Limerick Report she has already quoted from.

Ms McElwee explained that, “The issue and concerns that we have is around the actual cost of this particular piece of legislation.”

What costs? The Bill would only allow workers to achieve the hours they are already working. There’s no cost.

Interestingly, Ms McElwee attempts to frighten workers about the potential impacts of this legislation.

“This will apply to every employer in the state. It will apply to every employee, whether or not you are working on a, hourly paid contract or not. All salaried employees, all part time employees. It will impact on an employer’s ability to be able to vary your hours upwards because you will be in a band of hours. It will impact on people’s ability to be able to consider a-typical working arrangements, flexibilities, e-working…”

Now this is absolutely disgraceful scaremongering. The legislation only takes effect when a worker requests a review of their hours. They don’t have to request it if they don’t want. And it will not prevent an employer from increasing a workers’ hours above the band of hours should the worker wish to receive more hours. Ms McElwee knows this all too well, but spreads the misinformation anyway.

She continues, “We haven’t seen any regulatory impact assessment undertaken by the government, to consider what the economic cost to employers, themselves included, will be.”

Now this is where it gets interesting. As stated earlier, there is no cost. So why would Ms McElwee say this? Well we would argue that she’s attempting to scare politicians, particularly the government, into thinking there will be huge costs if, god forbid, public sector workers are afforded secure hour contracts too. Also, if there is a cost to the government, this means it would need a money bill which would delay the passing of legislation. This is absolutely not the case, it’s simply disingenuous scaremongering.

We repeat, this legislation would only allow workers a contract that reflects the hours that they are already working.

Including the “regulatory impact assessment” as a request links in this interview with the interview by the Restaurant’s Association of Ireland on Pat Kenny’s Newstalk a number of hours later. Adrian Cummins, the CEO of the Restaurants Association of Ireland called for the exact same thing – which indicates that the employers’ bodies are working together on this campaign to prevent legislation proceeding.

One of the more bizarre elements of Mr Cummins statement includes:

“As a representative of an employers’ body in this country, I find it incredible that we can’t get a meeting with those that are drawing up the legislation. It’s a stone wall, take it or leave it attitude in this country. And if we can get into a room, and sit down, put heads together, we can draw up proper legislation that is fit for purpose for everybody.”

It’s strange, then, that Mr Cummins attended a Joint Oireachtas Committee hearing on the 14th February 2017 to discuss these very issues. In fact, the day he was in the Joint Oireactas Committee, he was joined by Patricia Callan of the Small Firms Association (SFA), Tim Fenn from the Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) and two weeks before ISME, IBEC and Chambers Ireland attended the same Oireachtas Committee to discuss this issue. So be under no illusion, employers have already had their say on this issue and have been part of this process.

Mr Cummins said, “Before anybody does anything and it’s signed into law, let’s look at the costs of doing business in this country because we don’t want to get back to the scenario, in 2008-2009 where running a business was, you know, the costs was so high, they were going to the wall.”

Two things:

  • Firstly, that is simply not why businesses went bust in 2008-2009. They went bust because the government guaranteed private debt and implemented austerity measures to cover it, reducing spending in the economy and putting pressure on workers and subsequently on businesses.
  • Secondly, again, this legislation is cost neutral.

Mr Cummins explained that the University of Limerick Report stated that the retail, healthcare and education sectors had low hour contracts, “but not so much in hospitality area, but we’re all being painted with the same brush at the moment, as bad employers or poor employers or whatever you want to call us”.

This is not true. The Report clearly stated that “If and When” contracts are “prevalent in the accommodation/food and retail sectors…”

It would be interesting to hear what Mr Cummins thinks about the Workplace Relations Commissions’ 2016 Report which states that out of 717 inspections in the Food & Drink industry, almost half (48%) of all employers were in breach of legislation and €332,903 in unpaid wages was returned to workers. That’s an average of €464 per inspection. If this is replicated across the industry, it could be tens of millions of unpaid wages that employers are stealing from their employees on an annual basis. Not exactly an industry full of good employers by the looks of it. But to be fair, exploitation exists in all industries in Ireland.

Mr Cummins called for more consultations. He calls for the regulatory impact assessment to take place before any legislation is passed. This is simply another delay tactic. Workers have been waiting years for this legislation to pass. It has been debated up and down the Oireachtas in Committee’s, in the Dail Chamber, in the Seanad, and the business lobby, including IBEC and the RAI have been party to this.

Earlier today Patricia King, General Secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Union’s stated, “As employers are already required by law to keep working time records there is nothing in these proposals that would result in any new or additional administrative or regulatory burden, for them.

“Ultimately, the only beneficiaries from increased casualisation in the workforce are bad and exploitative employers. Good employers have nothing to fear from these proposals,” Ms King said.

So today Mandate Trade Union are calling on good employers and employers’ representatives to stop misleading the public, and we’re calling on all members of the Oireachtas to end the delays. Low paid and vulnerable workers have waited long enough. Pass the legislation now.

Mandate Trade Union is the union for retail, bar and administrative workers. You can find out more and join Mandate by clicking here.

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