JUNIOR ministers’ chauffeurs are on a collision course with their employers over pay – and the battle could mean ministers having to pay up to €25,500 in fines.The drivers – who are contracted to ferry junior ministers around – are claiming up to €425,000 in money they say they are owed for overtime, and bank holidays.
In addition, two former drivers are suing for more than €80,000 in unpaid expenses.
The group action is set for a Labour Court hearing while the expenses claim – against Health Minister Mary Harney – is set for the High Court.
Embarrassingly for the Government, the reason why the drivers are upset is not just problems with overtime and bank holidays but they are also furious about the amount of hours they have to work to keep their jobs.At the beck and call of their employers, two drivers assigned to each minister work seven days on, and seven days off.
A seven-day period can consist of up to double working week average of 48 hours-a-week as laid down by the Organisation of Working Time Act of 1997.
An employers’ failure to comply with the Act – which provides for breaks, annual leave and holiday time as well as work time – are liable for fines of up to €1,500 per offence.
The drivers’ planned action follows a similar dispute five years ago.
One former driver said: ‘The last drivers’ dispute took about five years to get sorted. The lads are not waiting around that long this time round.’