NUI Galway students learn about workers’ rights

NUI Galway students are learning about their rights as workers this week as part of a three day campaign being run at the university.

The initiative, which is the brainchild of the Union of Students in Ireland and the trade union SIPTU, finishes today (Wednesday ).

It is being run in two additional colleges - Athlone Institute of Technology and Limerick School of Art and Design.

The workers’ rights campaign is calling for all employees to be paid a living wage of at least €11.45 per hour.

The campaign will inform students about the best ways to deal with issues such as: how to make a complaint, unlawful deductions from wages, not permitted breaks, not permitted annual leave, insufficient rest periods, maternity leave, right to associate with a union, unfair dismissal; and discrimination of ethnicity, gender, sexuality, age, religion, sex, marital status, membership of the Traveller community, and/or disability.

The organisers will also launch a petition for the introduction of a living wage in Ireland which is supported by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. Politicians of all parties are being called to support the call.

In November 2015 the joint committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation launched a report entitled Low Pay, Decent Work and a Living Wage (2015 ). The committee noted that “paying low-paid employees a living wage offers the prospect of significantly benefiting the living standards of these employees” and that “the State should become a living wage employer and that payment of the living wage should be stipulated as mandatory in government procurement contracts.”

USI president Kevin Donoghue, who was at NUI Galway this week for the campaign, said that the fair treatment of workers at all levels should be a key priority for any government.

“We will be advising students on their rights at work; how to raise a complaint regarding issues at work; how not to get taken for granted in their part-time jobs; and informing them about SIPTU’s Workers Rights Centre which is offering a confidential advisory service to all students who are members of USI.”

He outlined that the prevalence of in-work poverty and deprivation is unacceptably high. “Some 350,000 workers (just under 20 per cent of the workforce ) are currently classified as ‘living in deprivation’. This rises to 33.8 per cent in one-income households. Additionally, 95,000 workers are at risk of poverty. This needs to change and the introduction of a living wage will help make this change happen.”

Dave Curran, SIPTU organiser, said that everyone deserves a living wage, job security and stability in working hours so that they can plan their lives.

“In recent years there has been a push by some of the political and business establishment to drive down wages and erode working conditions. Young people have borne the brunt of this with the proliferation of short term contracts, insecure hours, ‘if and when’ contracts, low pay and unpaid internships. Not only is this bad for workers but the insecurity and stress it creates are bad for society. Young people need strong unions, and unions need the voices of young people so we can build a better society for all.”

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