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FactCheck: Did Fianna Fáil REALLY get union support for their zero hour contracts plan?

FactCheck steps in to resolve a row in the Dáil this week, and answer a reader’s request.

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SINN FÉIN PROPOSED a bill during the week to effectively ban zero hours and precarious worker contracts.

During a debate on Tuesday night, Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins put forward an amendment to, in short, delay reading of the bill for a year, while an Oireachtas committee considers and debates it in further detail.

He also claimed that he had personally discussed that amendment with the leadership of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU), and received their support for his party’s position.

Later in the evening, Sinn Féin firmly rejected Collins’ claim that he had got ICTU support for his plan.

Olive NicCanna, from Ballybrack in Co Dublin, got in touch with us to ask us to clear up the dispute.

(Remember, if you see a bold claim in our national parliament, email factcheck@thejournal.ie).

Claim: Niall Collins personally got ICTU’s full support for Fianna Fáil’s approach to the Banded Hours Contract bill.
Verdict: Mostly FALSE

What was said:

Source: TheJournal.ie/YouTube

After presenting his party’s amendment, Limerick TD Collins claimed:

I’d also like to say to the House, and to the members who are here, that I’ve discussed this amendment and the Fianna Fáil approach to this, with the leadership of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, and they’re fully supportive of our approach in this regard.

Later on in the debate, Sinn Féin TD Peadar Tóibín rejected this, and himself claimed:

…It’s also interesting that Deputy Collins, just a few minutes ago, stood in the chamber and said that he had support of the unions for the Fianna Fáil stance.
But we have been just contacted by ICTU, who would like the record actually amended to say that Fianna Fáil have no such basis for their claim whatsoever, and that Deputy Collins will receive a letter from ICTU in the morning, to set him straight.

The Facts

16/4/2015. Fianna Fail Drug Problems Source: RollingNews.ie

In response to queries from FactCheck, Fianna Fáil told us:

On two separate occasions, the leadership of ICTU contacted Fianna Fáil, including Niall Collins directly, to draw attention to the many flaws in Sinn Féin’s legislation.
Based on these representations and our own analysis, it was clear that for there to be meaningful action on zero hour contracts the Bill would need to go to Committee for further examination and redrafting.
Fianna Fáil’s amendment achieves this and puts an upper limit of 12 months for all that work to be completed. ICTU leadership was informed of this approach and raised no objection.

This statement doesn’t claim that ICTU leadership was “fully supportive” of the party’s approach, as Collins claimed in the Dáil. It says that ICTU “raised no objection” to it.

FactCheck asked Fianna Fáil and Niall Collins whether they would maintain or repeat the specific claim made during the Dáil debate, but we did not receive a response.

The party was also not able to provide evidence in writing of that purported support expressed by ICTU.

When asked for evidence that Niall Collins had not received an expression of support from ICTU, Sinn Féin shared with FactCheck an email sent to Niall Collins on Wednesday morning by an official at ICTU, who also CCed politicians from other parties.

With permission from the individual who sent it (whom we are not naming) here it is:

ictucollinsemail

The official says that ICTU recognised the Sinn Féin bill needed to be amended in committee, but that Niall Collins’ proposal of a one-year delay for those considerations was rejected by ICTU.

This is contrary to Fianna Fáil’s claim that ICTU “raised no objection” to their proposal.

The ICTU official also states that he repeated his “concern” about the one-year delay, which was an important component of Fianna Fáil’s approach.

Finally, the official explicitly says:

In light of the above it is unclear as to how it can be construed that Congress had endorsed the FF position. It is a fact that Congress was not advised of the position that FF intended to adopt and it is inconceivable that we could lend our support to a motion we had not seen.

Conclusion

While we cannot know for certain what took place in the conversation between Niall Collins and ICTU leadership, the best evidence available to us at this time strongly suggests that ICTU was not, in fact, “fully supportive” of his party’s plan.

  • The following morning, a representative from ICTU itself told Niall Collins that it had not endorsed or supported Fianna Fáil’s approach, not least because – in its view – it had not been told what the party’s final proposal was to be.
  • Notably, the official also expressed to Collins that, as of the morning after the debate, ICTU supported a Sinn Féin amendment which would reduce the delay to three months.

This amendment would obviously preclude Fianna Fáil’s proposal, and therefore can be reasonably interpreted as an explicit lack of support for Fianna Fáil’s approach.

  • And finally, in its response to queries by FactCheck, Fianna Fáil stated that ICTU had “raised no objection” to their plan. The party did not repeat Niall Collins’ claim in the Dáil that ICTU “fully supports” their approach.

Allowing for the fact that we were not in the room for Niall Collins’ meeting with ICTU leadership, but acknowledging the preponderance of evidence available, we rate his claim Mostly FALSE.

Send your FactCheck requests to factcheck@thejournal.ie

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About the author:

Dan MacGuill

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