Senator seeks better Good Friday pay

Sinn Féin Senator Paul Gavan, Seanad Spokesperson for Workers’ Rights, has re-iterated his call on the government to ensure that proposals to change licensing laws for Good Friday are linked to better pay and conditions for bar staff.

Following a meeting with LVA and VFI representatives recently he reiterated his call for better conditions in the hospitality sector in general and called on the vintners to commit to paying staff a premium for working on Good Friday.

“The least that the vintners should do is deliver a decent premium to staff for working on Good Friday,” he said in welcoming the engagement with the VFI and LVA on the matter, “While there’s no legal requirement for them to do this, I believe it would be due recognition for the dedicated staff working on that day.

“While I recognise that there are a great many good employers in the sector, the National Employment Rights Authority reports that 48% of employers in the trade were in breach of basic employment legislation.

“We know that there are abuses in terms of split shifts, unfair rosters and not paying proper premiums for working on Sunday or overtime rates,” he continued, “The latest CSO statistics show that 75% of employees in the food, drink and accommodation sector earn less than €400 gross a week.

“There’s been a welcome uplift in trade for licensed premises over the last couple of years but staff are not seeing any of the benefits trickling down to their pay packets. In fact the average pay for the sector has decreased from €334 per week in 2008 to €321 in 2016 according to CSO statistics. Too many workers employed in the trade rely on precarious work contracts and rates of pay that do not enable them to live with dignity.

“While the Bill is being examined in the Oireachtas I’d urge the government to engage with the trade unions – Mandate and SIPTU in particular – and call on the vintners and the other folks involved in the accommodation and food sector to acknowledge that there are poor standards in terms of pay and conditions and engage with the Joint Labour Committee process. The JLCs offer a roadmap to better standards in service and pay for the hospitality sector.”

In response to his call VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben told Drinks Industry Ireland, “We engaged with Senator Gavan at the invitation of Senator Billy Lawless who has proposed the Good Friday Bill in the Seanad. Senator Gavan indicated that Sinn Fein would not be opposing the Bill and we welcome that stand.

“Senator Gavan raised a number of issues around wages and conditions generally in the sector. We pointed out the challenges that the industry has been through and the fact that wages are lower is reflective of the fact that there are considerably less hours being worked in the sector.

“He also raised the question of a premium payment for Good Friday. We indicated that our request has been that Good Friday would be treated as an ordinary Friday and premiums are not paid on an ordinary Friday. We further pointed out conditions of employment are solely a matter for individual outlets and our only advice to them at all times is that the relevant laws are adhered to.”

LVA Chief Executive Donall O’Keeffe agreed, “Our view is that the Good Friday amendment is a licensing law matter and completely unconnected from employment law,” he told Drinks Industry Ireland, “We’re ultimately seeking that Good Friday becomes a regular Friday from a licensed trade perspective and accordingly workers would then be treated as if it were a regular Friday from an employment and pay perspective.

“There’s no question of a premium payment unless Good Friday is designated as a Public Holiday which we are not seeking. The LVA works closely with its members to ensure they understand and uphold employment legislation and our in-house HR advisory service is central in this regard. We also hold the firm view that the Dublin licensed trade are decent employers providing valuable full and part-time work for a larger variety of workers.”

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