If one is to read this section in its fullest context, not only is the worker required to have four years continuous employment but it is written in that the four years continuous employment shall be with the same employer who dismissed him or laid him off or kept him on short time. It also excludes any period of employment with the employer before the employee attains the age of 18 years. I now feel that will be amended to 16 years by reason of discussions we had yesterday. This raises a very serious matter as to whether or not service with other employers will be taken into account at all. If it is true to say that the employment of the whole working life with various employers from time to time is not to be regarded, then I feel the workers will feel also that a very serious injustice is being done to them.
A man may have worked 20 or even 30 years with one employer and for one reason or another left or was dismissed. Then this man takes up employment with a new employer and at the expiration of, say, three years, is declared redundant. That man, although he would have given 40 years of active work, would not qualify for redundancy payment at all. I feel in the final analysis it would be extremely difficult for many workers to qualify under this section. Apart altogether from the number of years required to qualify, this important matter of the service rendered by a worker over his working life is very important. I appreciate that it might be taxing the fund too greatly to demand that his full record of service be taken into account. I respectfully submit to the Minister that he ought to have special regard to a worker who has been engaged in the same industry all his life and who was mobile enough to transfer when this was expected of him.
I feel that workers, in particular the skilled workers of the industrial type I have in mind, would expect that their length of service in that industry would be taken into account and they would feel deeply aggrieved if it were not. The Minister is anxious to create a situation which will facilitate the mobility of labour, the movement of labour from the depressed areas to the expanding areas or the developing areas, as we call them. There is contained in this Bill a provision for that purpose to assist them by way of some form of compensation for uprooting themselves and moving on to another area.
This is very desirable and very laudable and it is important in this context that the mobility of labour be recognised, especially in the trades and industries to which we have adverted. In the building industry, it is an exceptionally good job, especially in the rural areas of the country at large outside Dublin, which will last for 12 months. It is an exceptionally good contract and it is fortunate for the tradesmen and labourers involved if the contract will last two years. It is unusual in the extreme to find a building industry outside Dublin, except perhaps something like the Ballymun scheme, which will last for three or four years. I do not know of any such scheme which lasted that period.
We have a constant interchange of tradesmen, artisans and general workers in the building industry who are going from one job to another and are working with varying employers. It would be all right if the Minister were able to have special legislation in respect of those workers in the building industry comparable with what we have here in this Redundancy Payments Bill.
The same applies to catering workers, and indeed with the desire for greater efficiency in quite a number of industries, there is bound to be quite a shake-up of labour. We have at the present time the grouping of companies, the merging of various companies and the centralising of those companies in certain parts of the country. The State is facilitating that by way of the provision of industrial estates. We have, therefore, a situation in which the concentration of industry will be in certain specialised zones or areas and the workers will be expected to go there in the future. In all the circumstances, therefore, we are concerned that the period for qualification is pretty long, four years, and is bound to trip up quite a lot of workers who obviously can never qualify for redundancy payments on this basis.
The question of the period of employment with other employers is also vitally important. I stress again the necessity for giving recognition to the service of workers in their particular industry. If needs be, make it a charge on that industry to make a refund in respect of the administration of this Bill. If industries such as the clothing industry, the boot and shoe industry, the motor car assembly industry and the like want to retain their skilled workers and they are anxious naturally to keep them and to avail of their service in all parts of the country, it would be intrinsically wrong if the service of those highly skilled workers over their whole working life were to be ignored, and if redundancy, or eligibility for redundancy, were to be based on the period of service they had with their last employer, ignoring altogether the part which these workers played in the building up of industry generally and, indeed, the part they played in the building up of our economy as a whole.
Workers very jealously guard the contributions they make to their particular trade or industry. They are quick to repudiate anyone who would seek to belittle the service they render their employer, their industry or their country. This is particularly true of the manner in which they jealously guard their social welfare contributions which are reckoned on the basis of a stamp for every week of their working life. This otherwise excellent scheme will be rendered abortive if we do not show some liberality at this stage. If we stick rigidly to a four-year qualifying period, with no regard for service rendered with other employers over a man's working life, I submit that the real values and benefits inherent in this scheme will have been lost for quite a number of our workers.
Lastly, I should like to refer the Minister to the funding of this scheme and to advert again to the fact that it is by way of worker-employer contribution, with the State contributing nothing. In order to perfect this scheme and confer the greatest possible benefits on the workers concerned, we on this side of the House will support the Minister if he comes back here and says that he requires extra pennies per worker for the financing of this redundancy fund scheme. I do not think that we should destroy the effectiveness of the scheme on financial grounds, especially as it is on the basis of worker-employer contributions.