The largest operator of the Domino’s pizza chain in Ireland warned a government department that a court judgment making delivery drivers employees would seriously affect their ability to compete fairly in the takeaway food business.
Shorecal Ltd, which operates 22 franchises of the popular pizza restaurant in the Republic, said a Supreme Court ruling would apply only to them and not any of their competitors placing them at an “unfair commercial disadvantage”.
The company sought a meeting with Minister Neale Richmond at the Department of Enterprise but were rebuffed by officials who said the minister was unavailable due to “a very heavy schedule”.
In a letter sent to the department, Shorecal’s chairperson Charles Caldwell said they ran 31 stores in Ireland, including nine in the North, and employed over 400 people directly with another 545 drivers on self-employed contracts.
Mr Caldwell wrote: “This does not account for the many additional local businesses and suppliers which the company works with indirectly.”
He said a then recent Supreme Court judgement involving one of their subsidiaries had determined that drivers were not self-employed contractors and that Revenue considered they should be treated as direct employees.
“This [has been] a long-standing arrangement which our stores have consistently operated and is also the case for the wider food and delivery services sector, as well as many other significant sectors of the Irish economy including online shopping,” said the letter.
Mr Caldwell said they had “significant concerns” about the judgment and its potential to affect only their business and not any of its competitors who all operate the same business model.
He wrote: “The current model we operate is an essential aspect of our business and not something we can change without affecting our ability to compete fairly in the market.”
Mr Caldwell said Shorecal would of course respect and implement any changes required from the Supreme Court decision, but they wanted to meet with Minister Richmond to discuss its implications and how a “level playing field” would be created in the delivery sector.
The letter added: “In order to make sustainable commercial and planning decisions, Shorecal requires clarity on this issue urgently. A fair and equally competitive operating environment is essential in this regard.”
The Department of Enterprise had been contacted by communications firm Hume Brophy last summer, who were acting on behalf of Shorecal, with the meeting request recorded in the Lobbying Register.
An email from Hume Brophy [now Penta] said: “We appreciate the minister’s busy schedule and can accommodate a meeting at short notice and via [virtual communication].”
However, the department responded saying: “Minister [Neale] Richmond is unavailable to meet owing to a very heavy schedule.”
Asked about the letter, a statement from Shorecal said that engagement with Revenue on foot of the judgment continued and that no further comment was possible at this time.