By Dan Grennan
Nearly half of employed young people in Ireland do precarious work which has ‘numerous negative effects’ according to mounting research.
One study commissioned by the National Youth Council of Ireland found 47% of working 18-29 year olds are on non-standard or precarious contracts in Ireland.
“The insecurity and lack of predictability of hours was a key negative implication which was facilitated by employees’ lack of control over hours,” was one finding from a report into ‘zero hour contracts’ by University of Limerick(UL).
“A second negative implication raised by interviewees related to financial implications, specifically, that a lack of predictable hours leads to unstable income,” the UL report also said.
“Trade unions highlighted the negative effects of unpredictable work for employees in terms of unstable income, a lack of integration into the workplace and an imbalance of power in the employment relationship”, the UL report found.
Another report from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions found there is “a mounting body of evidence (that) demonstrates that precarious employment has numerous negative effects on the wellbeing of workers and that of their families.”
Some college students are working up to 50 hours a week in while taking full-time courses.
“You get very little sleep and you live off coffee. You don’t see people(friends) and if you do it is for only a couple of hours a day,” said DIT student Danú Connolly-Fanning who averages 45 hours a week in rockets on Baggot street.
A common complaint of working students is how difficult it is to plan your life while doing precarious work as well as going to college.
“I find it really difficult to plan my life. There’s never a day that i’m not in college or work and I have very little spare time except for the middle of the night. The last time I had a totally free day was hurricane ophelia because both the college and work had to be shut.” said a NCAD student and service industry worker who didn’t want her name published because of fear of being fired.
“At least once a week I have to skip college to go to work, even though my manager is aware that I have to do this”, the NCAD student said.
“I was obsessed with money. I used to love going out every week with my mates so I always wanted money but it was getting to a point where I was like I can’t do anything. I was set to three days a week were I could do things. I had a social life I wanted to pursue too, so I was going manic last year trying to do it all.” said Conor Shields a DIT student and former bookmaker employee.
Another common complaint is getting called to come in on your day off with Danú Connolly-Fanning “turning their phone off on days off”, to avoid calls from her employer.
“My concern in relation to precarious work and ‘if and when contracts’, as we call them, is that when they become the norm we have a problem”, said Ged Nash the spokesperson for employment in the labour party and commissioner of the University of Limerick study on ‘zero hour contracts’.
“Everyone understands that people may take up casual work from time to time, if and when it suits them. If it becomes more widespread and a broader feature of the labour market which it has become in recent years particularly among young people,” Ged also said.
“All of the power lies in the hands of the employer and that is not how it should be,” Ged said.
“I think the imbalance of power was that they used guilt as a weapon. They would guilt you rather than use actual force. They would say ‘well it’s in there(the roster)’ even if you booked it off months in advance and ‘remember that time you didn’t come in for me’ and ‘remember swings and roundabouts.” said Conor Shields of DIT.
“My hours were never cut for refusing to come in on my day off but as a result of refusing my manager simply gave me more hours than I could manage with college” said the student from NCAD.