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Human Rights in Ireland

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ECJ upholds IMPACT case for fixed-term workers' equality

category national | worker & community struggles and protests | news report author Tuesday April 15, 2008 16:49author by Stuart Report this post to the editors

European Court of Justice upholds the judgement by Rights Commissioner Janet Hughes

The union IMPACT brought a case on behalf of 91 civil servants under the European Directive on the protection of fixed-term workers, implemented as the Protection of Employees (Fixed Term Workers) Act 2003 in Ireland. The case demands of equality of treatment with comparable established colleagues and of extension of retrospective benefits to 2001, the date agreed to by the state as a signatory to the Directive, rather than 2003 when the Act was finally signed.

Fixed-term workers are entitled to equality of treatment with respect to pay, benefits (leave, pensions, increments, holiday pay etc), working conditions, promotion, training and opportunities. In effect a worker becomes "established" or permanent after four years' service because the contract subsequent to the third year must be of indeterminate duration or a final year - perpetual contract work is no longer acceptable. The IMPACT members were denied both equality of treatment and retrospective pension contributions upon the signing of the Act, for which the government had ample time to make provision after the agreement in 1999.

The government retains at present an appeal against the judgement of Janet Hughes that the principle of direct effect entitles European Citizens to the full protection of European legislation to which their government has subscribed, irrespective of the failure of the government to transcribe those rights into law. The government's appeal rests on a claim that a Rights Commissioner has no jurisdiction to make such a finding and may pursue a High or Supreme Court appeal. Whilst the finding relates specifically to "public employees" (in the widest sense, encompassing employees of all "emanations of the State" such as schools and public health workers), it effectively defines the extent of the rights under the Act for all private employees as well.

The ECJ judgement is in an important step towards enforcing workers' rights to which the government has subscribed, and an important precedent throughout the European Union.

ECJ judgement:
IMPACT press release:
Fixed-term workers Act:

Related Link:
author by PS Workerpublication date Wed Apr 23, 2008 11:46Report this post to the editors

As a PS worker, my only question is "when will I see the big, fat deposit in my pension fund"? Everyone has ruled that we are owed pension contributions throughout our public service. I saved up my own contributions, but the judgements actually say the government will have to pay these too. We had a big to-do when a lot of us got back-increments and were put onto the pension scheme, but it still isn't equal to permanent staff.

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