Tuesday 14 February 2023

Legislative change needed to enable workers work more than their ‘banded-hours’ contracts where extra working hours are available

Research to be published today in a Mandate Trade Union report, ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ (15952_smoke&mirrors_report_interior), shows that nearly two-thirds of retail workers are earning less than €451 per week. The biggest challenge in terms of decent incomes shown in the report is the number of hours worked in the sector and the union is calling for legislative change to enable workers to work more than their ‘banded-hours’ contracts where extra working hours are available.

Dr Conor McCabe, researcher with the Queen’s University Management School, Belfast – who prepared the report for the union – said that while hourly rates have been improving, this hasn’t been fully reflected in weekly earnings because of the relatively low number of hours being worked by retail workers.

“Last July, Mandate Trade Union conducted a survey amongst 3,000 of its members and the feedback showed that just one fifth (21%) were earning more than the weekly Living Wage which was €502 back then. What’s more, the research shows that nearly two-thirds of the survey respondents (64%) were earning below €451 per week and this is due mainly to the relatively low number of working hours available to retail workers with the CSO showing that such staff work 72% of the average national working week.

“The Mandate survey shows that 75% of the respondents were on a banded-hours contract and, of this cohort, over 50% were on a contract of 31 hours or more a week. A significant number of these workers, 40%, would like to work more than their banded hours. While some do get that opportunity, many do not due to a mix of management intransigence and care responsibilities,” Dr Conor McCabe said.

Mandate General Secretary, Gerry Light said that legislative change is needed to allow workers increase their working hours where extra hours are available so that they can get a decent weekly income.

“The 2018 Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act has helped retail workers by introducing ‘banded-hours’ contracts which provide a minimum floor of hours and have gotten rid of zero-hour contracts. ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ shows that further change is needed to enable workers to avail of extra working hours where those hours are available. Our experience on the ground shows that where extra hours are available, many companies are actively choosing to by-pass offering those hours to existing staff who are looking for them, instead choosing to go with ‘new starts’ in order to keep wage their bills down.”

Gerry Light also said that the National Minimum Wage now needs to be replaced with a Cost of Living Wage.

“The National Minimum Wage is no longer fit for purpose in terms of helping workers avoid poverty – particularly at a time of rapid increases in the cost of living. To tackle this problem, the National Minimum Wage needs to be replaced by a Cost of Living Wage which would ensure that everyone in work can have enough income to live decently. In addition, the sub-minimum rates that apply to young workers and deny them decent incomes – as well as being blatantly discriminatory – need to be abolished too,” Gerry Light concluded.