Part time work, the new slave labour?

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Workers rights are something that have been challenged over and over again. Throughout the last few decades it’s been inspiring to see people stand up everywhere and fight for their rights.

There are a lot of different groups that can say they were treated unfairly for a particular reason. Women have usually always been at the forefront of the workers rights issues. But now, maybe it’s time for the students to stand up and claim equal rights.

College students struggle as their rights are being taken for granted
College students struggle as their rights are being taken for granted

Under current law, those who work part-time have to be treated equal to those who are full time, if the job that they do is interchangeable. This applies to most people who work in the service industry such as restaurants, hotels, bars and supermarkets.

There’s a lot of stress put on students that work part time through college. The lecturers want them to put their college work first and their employers want them to put their jobs first. It’s a difficult situation when you need both in your life. A college degree will further your career later in life, but your current part time job is what puts the food on the table and a roof over your head.

Talking to one student, who wishes to remain anonymous, they discussed what kind of pressure they were put under in their job at a large supermarket chain;

“As an employee in a large retailer, I found that I was constantly having to defend myself to ensure even the most basic rights. If there was a problem, like for example I wasn’t paid correctly, I would have to spend days chasing down various people to try to sort it out, only to be met with an attitude that made me feel like I was the one in the wrong. Managers frequently talked down to me and belittled me. I was expected to go above and beyond my duties daily and my tiniest mistakes were blown wildly out of proportion. My requests for days off to allow me to sit exams were ignored. The message is very clear: “you are lucky to even be here, so shut up and get on with it.”

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Unfortunately, this is not the only incident where a student has felt like they were being pushed to forgo their college work in favour of their part time job.

Another student from Dublin Institute of Technology spoke about how their employer would over work them and expect them to be able to deal with it. The student said that they were meant to be on 20-25 hours a week, but after signing the contract that’s not how it worked out.

They put me on flexi-time which meant they put me in for hours I was in work when I should have been in college. It made education very difficult. On top of that I was given hours way above my contract with threats of losing my job if I made complaints about it. The argument was made that my job should always come ahead of my education.”

So what’s there to do if you are a college student and can’t seem to find the right words to speak up against exploitation? It seems like a doomed hope sometimes. You don’t want to keep working in an unfair environment, but you need the money to live.

Fortunately there is hope.

Femi Bankole, the Welfare Officer in DIT offers his help to students when it comes to standing up for your rights. He encourages every person who is having difficulties to come talk to him for advice.

“I’d usually advise firstly by asking what steps they’ve taken with regards to resolving the situation if any . Sometimes these conflicts can usually be sorted by just having a chat with your manager / supervisor … If not I’d be referring them on to NERA.”

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NERA, is the National Employment Rights Authority in Ireland. Established in 2007 they deal with coomplaints and queries in the workplace. They’re there for support if you feel that your workplace isn’t adhering to the laws. If you need more information you can visit www.citizensinformation.ie for more details on your entitlements as an employee.

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!

The Organisation of Working Time Act 1997 states the laws in relation to breaks and rest periods. The law goes as follows;

  • You are entitled to a break of 15 mins if you have worked four and a half hours.
  • You are entitled to an additional 30 mins if you work over six hours
  • For those who work in shops, if you work more then six hours, some of which are worked during 11.30-14.30pm, you are then entitled to a one hour (consecutive) break
  • You are meant to have a rest period of minimum 11 hours inbetween any shift
  • The maximum you are legally allowed work is seven days in a row before having to be given 24 hours off
  • Split shifts are not covered by the Act
  • The only ones exempt from the Act are Gardai, the Defense Forces, Family employees on farms/in private homes, employees who are in control of their own working hours

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