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« A Super Solution to a Super Problem | Main | Go For It, Eamon, You’re On To a Good Thing 1: The Extent of Low Pay »

January 30, 2008

Comments

Neil Ward

Great to have the blog back after the Christmas break!

Love the idea of the left becoming the economic equivalent of law-and-order parties!

Keith Martin

Interesting to find out what punishments are meted out...
I remember a PQ going down to Micheál Martin about prosecutions under minimum wage rules. Turned out that not a single person had actually been prosecuted for not paying the minimum wage. Quite a few people had been caught, but the penalty was that they had to pay the money owed to the employees. No interest, no fines, no court appearance.
So, if you're an employer, the maximum cost to you of being caught is to pay what you should have paid. The benefit of cheating is that you can save money if you're willing to. So, do a cost/benefit analysis and you'll be compelled to pay your staff the least you possibly can, and damn the consequences (which will be no worse than paying them what they're due).

James Doorley

Well NERA is indeed progress. I remember ten years ago following up on the protection of young workers in employment act, this is the legislation that is supposed to limit the hours children and young people under 16 work. DETE told us that there was no problem, they had come across no infringements of the law...we only discovered later that they has 12 inspectors, all based in Dublin who worked 9-5. Its no wonder they didn't come across any problems!!!

Michael

Thanks, Neil. Good to be back. So many right-wing economic myths to expose, so little net space.

Good point, Keith. The NERA says a total of 98 cases were referred to the Chief State Solicitor’s Office for prosecution during the year. Over the year, 61 cases were concluded. A large number resulted in successful convictions and the imposition of a fine. Doesn't say how many in total nor does it say for what infractions. On the specific issue of minimum wages, there were 1,939 inspections carried out with a 10% breach detection rate. That's 194 or so cases with arrears recovered of €122,000. Of course, we don't if the breaches relate to single individuals or a number in a workplace. But if as you point out, the only penalty is to pay back what is owed to (stolen from) the employee it really doesn't incentivise 'law-abiding'. Similar to the burglar who, if caught, merely has to return the DVD with no interest, no fine, no court appearance.

You raise another good point, James. Some time ago a trade unionist (I think it was TEEU but I can't be sure) complained that inspectors contacted employers prior to an inspection which, of course, can defeat the purpose of an inspection. It's not just the powers the inspectors have, backed up by appropriate sanctions; its not just the number of inspectors; it's also about the protocols of inspection - whether that be site, records, payroll, data, etc.

I'm sure 'Leo of the Fine Gael' is taking this all in and waiting to time his intervention in the most effective way possible.

Fboij

Yesterday was the first opportunity for the opposition to raise this with the Minister. Suprisingly they did, FG had a question on the enforcement of employment law and if there were sufficent deterents, whilst Sinn Féin had one in on the workings of NERA in promoting knowledge of employee rights.

Michael

Thanks for pointing that out, Fboij. Though it appears that it was Sinn Fein that put the question down, Leo only got involved in the supplementary follow-up. Still, fair play (maybe he reads my blog).

Here's the link for everyone to read:

http://debates.oireachtas.ie/DDebate.aspx?F=DAL20080207.xml&Node=H9-6#H9-6

SerialComplainer

The irony behind the high showing of the hotel industry in the 'breach' statistics is the case taken in the High Court last week which attempted to free that industry from the restrictions on minimum wages and working conditions imposed through the Joint Labour Committee system.

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