The National Association of General Practitioners have expressed their disappointment that the scope of the Competition (Amendment) Bill has been significantly narrowed – excluding the ‘service economy’.

Mr. Chris Goodey, NAGP CEO, commented, “The briefing document prepared in advance of today’s report stage states that the policy objective is to protect ‘vulnerable workers’ and that ‘the Bill (as initiated) goes far beyond the stated policy objective’. The narrowing of the scope of the Bill ensures its failure to protect all vulnerable workers”.

The NAGP strongly argues that any individual, professional or tradesman, who is dependent on one organisation (e.g. the HSE) for the majority of their income, is vulnerable to changes introduced on a unilateral basis.

Mr. Goodey continued, “It is laudable that the Bill, if passed, will protect actors, engaged as voice-over actors; musicians, engaged as session musicians; and journalists, engaged as freelance journalists; but the scope is clearly too narrow and many vulnerable workers are excluded”.

”It seems clear that the Bill, as initially drafted, was watered down in an attempt to deny doctors, dentists and other professionals the right to collectively bargain. The Bill does provide scope for a Trade Union to petition the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation for an exemption from Section 4 of the Competition Act. However, it is likely that any such decision will be taken in the context of political climate, rather than looking at the merits of the relevant petition”.

The NAGP suggest that if the proposed Schedule 4 was amended, this would ensure that the Oireachtas has the power to decide who should be classed as a ‘vulnerable worker’.

Mr. Goodey, concluded, “We hope that the Dail will adopt a fairer approach to the Bill as currently drafted. Today, political expediency won the day”.