Under subsection (3), the Minister may make regulations—this is something I had intended adverting to earlier but overlooked it—and I should like to ask the Minister if it is his intention that these regulations should be laid before the House? In the case of regulations under most legislation they are laid before the Houses. In this case quite a number of regulations will be made under various sections and is it the Minister's intent to lay them before the House for the information of Members?
National Loan 1987-1992. - Redundancy Payments Bill, 1967: Committee Stage (Resumed).
I did not intend to but I have no objection to doing so.
The Minister should lay them before the House.
We can do that. I did intend to have any changes in the amount of contribution come through the House. This is just for information and I have no objection to doing it.
I move amendment No. 19:
In page 13, line 44, before "an employee" to insert "such".
This is a drafting amendment. It is necessary to qualify the term "employee" on line 44 to ensure that the term applies only to an employee who is entitled to redundancy payments under this Bill. As worded at present, it would seem from reading the section that a worker who terminates his employment in accordance with section 12 (2) would automatically become entitled to redundancy payments under the section, irrespective of whether or not he qualified. The insertion of the word "such" covers this situation.
I move amendment No. 20:
In page 14, lines 17 and 24, after "employment" to insert "on terms which are generally not less favourable than those of his contract with the previous owner."
It is very desirable that this should be done. It is not much use offering a person who has been employed at, say, £18 or £20 a week, other employment at £8 or £10 a week. The terms of employment which he is offered must be comparable with the kind of employment he had prior to this notice; otherwise it would be unreasonable to expect a person who did have this type of employment to accept another type which will either lower his status or put him, perhaps, to grave inconvenience financially if he were to take it. In order to protect the workers, we should have such words as these inserted into the section.
Would the Minister say if this is covered by section 4?
I think this will be covered by the employee's rights to refuse the employment and if he loses redundancy payments as a result, he can go to the appeal court. It would appear that there is no objection in writing to this but it would be possible, in circumstances which we may not conceive, that a worker would be willing to take employment which was less remunerative than what he had been used to and if we put in this amendment, we would stop him from getting that employment. It would be better to leave it as it is.
We could debar him from getting that employment.
It would lead to unnecessary complication.
Deputy Jones wants to protect the worker but I think he is already protected.
I move amendment No. 21:
In page 16, line 15, to delete "an appeals officer" and insert "the Tribunal".
I understand this amendment was discussed with amendment No. 3?
Yes. We discussed this change of name last week. As far as I was concerned at the time, it did not matter whether the word "Board" or "Tribunal" was used. The House accepted "Board" because it did not seem to matter and particularly since Deputy Treacy conjured up a vivid picture of workers being arraigned before a tribunal which would put the worker in a bad position. As it did not seem to matter, I said I would accept the word "Board". But, over the weekend, I learned that the trade unions, who will be one side of those engaged in the operation of the appeals tribunal, wanted the word "Tribunal". I wondered if Deputy Jones, in the knowledge of that, would like to go back to "Tribunal"?
If the unions say the workers would prefer that word, I agree.
If we were going to change, I would have to ask the House for permission to change the word in each of the consequential amendments.
Am I to take it that there has been an expression of opinion from some of the trade union movement. If so, can the Minister say to what extent? Is it Congress or is it perhaps particular unions?
It is difficult to deal with members of trade unions who do not consult with their own unions. I cannot spell out publicly every communication I receive. I do not think it would be desirable.
I move amendment No. 23:
In page 16, line 17, after "is" to insert "employed".
It is necessary to bring in this to clarify the situation of a worker who might be outside the State in the ordinary way for some reason, even in the course of his employment here. The section ought to cover the worker at any stage, unless he happens to be employed outside the State. Can the Minister say if a person working outside the State for a subsidiary, for instance, is covered?
A person ordinarily working in the State is entitled to redundancy payment and would not be affected because he was outside the State on the date of his dismissal. For that reason, the amendment is not necessary. If it were accepted, a person who was outside the State on the date of his dismissal for some reason other than one connected with his work—for instance, if he were on sick leave with his employer's permission—his position might not be clear. As it stands, the man who ordinarily works in the State but is outside it at the time of his dismissal is covered. Therefore, it might be better not to have the extra words.
Take the case of a person employed by a petrol company in Ireland but transferred to England?
He is all right for 12 months, but after 12 months he is regarded as ordinarily working outside the State and there would be a break in his service.
If he comes back for one day and loses his job?
He would have continuity of service if he came back.
What would be the position of a person employed by Aer Lingus, sent to work on their behalf in London, Manchester or Birmingham and who was normally working there although employed by Aer Lingus? Would that man forfeit his claim?
If he is ordinarily working in the other State, he would be covered by the Redundancy Act there.
Only 12 months is not sufficient. A person is often sent over to England for two years to gain experience or a knowledge of management or of a certain product. Under this Bill, if he is outside the State for 12 months, he is no longer eligible.
I told the Deputy that if he is out for 12 months and comes back here again, his service is regarded as continuous.
Suppose one of the petrol companies send him to England for two years and he is dismissed after 14 months? Even though he is working to gain experience and comes back here what position is he in?
After 12 months, he is not regarded as ordinarily working here. His employers could bring him back if they thought he was going to be redundant. You have to assume that employers such as you mention, seeing that he would be caught by the law, would bring him back if there was a question of redundancy.
The Minister has so far more faith in the employers than many people have. When a person employed by an Irish concern is sent outside the State for some considerable time on the business of that concern, surely he should be covered?
I thought 12 months was sufficient with a branch of his firm, especially those firms just mentioned.
I know a person employed by an oil company here sent to England for two years. They may retain him there or he may come back. It would appear there could be redundancy and under this, he could be dismissed without getting anything.
In the unlikely event of redundancy within the first 12 months, his service here counts. After 12 months, he is establishing service with a new firm.
It may be the same firm.
It is regarded as a new firm in this country. He may have established his right to redundancy payments in that other country. I do not know how long a period would give reasonable cover to such a person. Could the Deputies say what the period should be? I cannot think what it should be.
Aer Lingus was mentioned. The Minister must be aware there are Irish people working for Aer Lingus in New York and other places. They would not qualify under the Minister's present suggestion.
If they are sent out for experience for an Irish company for two or three years and the Irish company is still employing them, they should be eligible.
I will look into it for Report Stage. What you want covered is the man sent out for some years, but still employed by the head office. If he is brought back within 12 months there is no break in his continuity but I will look into it again. At the moment I cannot think how it could be done.
If a man becomes redundant, say, after 12 months or two years, the query is whether he qualifies under the Redundancy Compensation Bill; that should relate only to the question of a limited period of time.
If redundancy came quickly, it would be a very short period of time. However, we must consider the case that where a man is gone 12 months, two years or four years, he will have spent that time not contributing to the fund here. What the House is asking is that for a period during which he did not contribute and his employer did not contribute to the fund here, he would draw benefit. I shall have a look at it between now and Report Stage to see if any better cover can be given to this type of person.
I move amendment No. 24:
In page 16, line 44, to delete ", under the control and management of the Minister,".
Amendments Nos. 24, 25 and 26 may be taken together.
Yes. The House will be aware that when funds such as the proposed Redundancy Fund are established which comprise a current account and an investment account, it is normal procedure to provide that the current account will be managed by the appropriate Minister who is dealing with the legislation and the investment account will be managed by the Minister for Finance. Examples of such funds are the Social Insurance Fund under the Social Welfare Act, 1952, and the Occupational Injuries Fund established under the Social Welfare (Occupational Injuries) Act, 1966. These three amendments are designed to provide that these arrangements will apply to the accounts of the Redundancy Fund.
On the next section I have a comprehensive amendment in regard to this Fund, and I do not know whether I should deal at this stage with what the Minister is proposing now or deal with it on the next amendment.
If we accept this as the usual procedure in regard to such funds, we can discuss the Deputy's amendment afterwards.
While the two funds which the Minister has mentioned have an element of State contribution in them, there is no element of State contribution in the fund which is now being created. Therefore I have reservations in this regard. If the Minister's proposal goes through, what effect will it have on the section which follows it if the House should accept the amendment which I propose to move in relation to this Fund? Here is a fund to which only the employer and worker contribute; the State has no responsibility in regard to it, but the Minister for Labour who is directly concerned with the administration of the Act will not have the administration of the Fund at all. Its administration will pass over to the Minister for Finance. This again involves the dual type of responsibility in relation to which I was glad to see the Minister accept the principle that he should keep it within his own Department. The Minister knows from his own experience in the Department of Education that many funds which fell to be administered within the Department of Education were administered, invested and managed by the Department of Education. This is an argument on which I should like to elaborate on the succeeding amendment. If this amendment is passed, I do not want to be told afterwards: "The previous section nullifies the effect of what is now being proposed." If the control of the Fund passes over to the Minister for Finance, there is no reason why there should be an advisory board set up at all to deal with the matter. Therefore I am in some difficulty in this regard and I should like to have some advice on it.
If Deputy Jones's amendment is accepted, the decision on these three amendments can be raised on Report.
If Deputy Jones's amendment is accepted——
We are not discussing Deputy Jones's amendment; we are discussing amendments Nos. 24, 25 and 26.
The point he is making is that if we pass these now, they will influence our decision on his amendment.
We shall have to discuss it when it arises.
I have a certain amount of sympathy for the point of view expressed by Deputy Jones in relation to control of funds having regard to the fact that funds such as superannuation funds, which arise as the result of the contributions of workers and employers, are usually dealt with on a trustee basis. However, there is another aspect of the matter on which we have not disguised our dissatisfaction, that is, that the Minister up to this stage has insisted that contributions towards this Fund shall come only from workers and employers. We have consistently held that because to some extent redundancy may come about as a result of State activities, as a result of State exhortations to employers, etc., the Government should not stand aside and refuse to contribute. This is the reason I feel reluctant to support Deputy Jones's amendment, because we would be indicating quite clearly that we would be departing from the stand we have taken and will continue to take on this question of redundancy compensation, that the State should not wash its hands of the responsibility of contributing.
I agree with the Minister's amendments for this reason: I realise that somebody must control the Fund and I certainly would not agree it should be left to employers to control, because we know what some employers would do and what other employers would not do. I regard this arrangement as a progressive step, and I take into consideration the predicament the worker finds himself or herself in in connection with social welfare cards. They are in the custody of the employer, and if they are lost or stolen, the poor worker will not be paid. We know whom to look to in connection with this Fund, and I am sure it will be accounted for regularly. If it were left to each individual employer, we would be in a sorry mess. I know we are not dealing with Deputy Jones's amendment, but I am not for this idea of setting up too many bodies to administer this Fund, particularly when it is advocated that people should be paid out of it other than people who contribute to it.
One of the points which fall to be considered at a later stage in regard to this Fund, and even under these amendments, is the fact that the Minister's control is being weakened. Subsection (6) of section 26 says:
...shall be invested by the Minister in accordance with such directions as may be given by the Minister for Finance...
One thing that emerges in the following sections is that while the Minister for Finance on behalf of the State will not contribute anything to this Fund, at the same time, he will have power to see that his expenses and other expenses will be paid from this Fund. It is very important that the Minister for Labour, under whose auspices this Fund is being created and to which the Minister for Finance makes no contribution, will not be able to deal with this Fund directly himself but its control and management will pass to the Minister for Finance. The extraordinary thing is that in later sections of the Bill the Minister for Finance is taking power so to arrange that he can require that payments shall be made out of this Fund in regard to any measure required under this Bill. Equally, should we have to advance moneys under this Bill to enable it to get off the ground, he can recover these sums from this Fund. I hold this is something that should not happen in regard to legislation like this.
The point made by Deputy Mullen and by Deputy Larkin previously is that they do not concede that there should not be a contribution from the State. They feel that the State could very well have an obligation in regard to redundancy payments for workers who lose their employment. At the same time, it is hard to imagine why, in these amendments as proposed, control of the Fund is passing to the Department of Finance and from the Department of Labour. Why should the Department of Labour not be able to manage these funds as other Departments manage theirs, invest them and give an account of their management as is done by every other Department, to the Comptroller and Auditor General?
Previously, I objected to the fact that control was taken away from the Minister under another section. That has now been rectified but, particularly when the State is not contributing, I see no good reason why the Minister and his Department should not be able to manage this Fund. If the State were contributing to the Fund, one might see that the Department of Finance, as custodian of State finances, would have a vested interest in the Fund to ensure that it was properly managed. I shall be later suggesting that this Fund could very well be properly managed by the Department of Labour with the advice of the Department of Finance. I am sure the Minister has some views on this and I should like to hear them.
As I have already said, the ordinary management of the Fund will be the function of the Minister for Labour, the collection of subscriptions, payment of redundancy lump sums and so on. Any management of a current type will be done by the Department of Labour but from time to time I hope and expect there will be money available that is not being drawn and the Minister would have to invest it as best he could. In any case he would seek advice from the Minister for Finance on how best to invest the money and for administrative purposes it is better to give the Minister for Finance the money and say to him: "Invest that for me". That is exactly what the amendments are doing. The management of the Fund so far as it affects the scheme and any activity related to the scheme will be done by the Department of Labour and any moneys which come to be invested will be given to the Minister for Finance who would invest it for the Fund. If the amendments are not accepted and there is a duty on the Minister for Labour to invest it himself he would still, because of the structure of Government, have to seek the advice of the Minister for Finance on investment. Therefore, for administrative reasons I think what is suggested here is best. The principle is already established in other legislation.
Having the Minister for Finance involved in this is, I think, a guarantee for the future. From the point of view of the workers affected, it is well to have the Minister for Finance concerned because, as we know, this is purely a trial piece of legislation. It may have to be amended when we find out how it functions. Therefore I think we should leave it as it stands in the meantime, with the Minister for Finance having a deep interest in the whole matter.
Deputy Mullen spoke about stamping cards. Will we have any guarantee that cards will all be stamped under this Bill? At present we very often have cases, particularly with small employers, where cards are not stamped and even though the offender is prosecuted, it does not do the worker much good even if the offender is sent to prison or fined. That does not restore payments. I should like to know what improvement we could have on the present system to ensure that redundancy payment cards are properly stamped and the workers given full credit for them.
I want to ask the Minister to keep an open mind on the question of financing the Redundancy Fund and if he would consider leaving scope in the measure so that a subvention might be made to the Fund by the Minister for Finance who will now control it to a very large extent in the event of a serious run being made on the Fund.
That is provided for.
I am pleased to hear that because the financing of the Fund marks a complete departure from traditional methods of financing social welfare here which up to now has been on a tripartite basis, with contributions from the employee, the employer and the State. In this case contributions come only from the worker and the employer and there is no provision for State contribution. That is regrettable, and while the Minister is very confident in his belief that there will not be serious redundancy in the future and does not envisage a run on the Redundancy Fund, we have to face the fact that the Committee on Industrial Organisation which examined certain industries indicated very clearly that as freer trade came about, we would face serious unemployment and redundancy problems, that we could have upwards of 11,000 people unemployed in freer trading circumstances and if certain adaptation measures were not adopted, we could have a further 23,000 unemployed.
In such circumstances, it would be unfair to expect the financing of the Fund to fall only on workers and employers. The Minister should have latitude in this measure to allow the State to come to the rescue of the Fund in the event of its being in jeopardy. I am pleased to have an assurance from the Minister—and I want it to go on the records of the House—that in the case of such an event occurring, there is provision in this Bill whereby the Minister for Finance can make a subvention to the Fund in order to deal with a special emergency situation.
If the amendment is adopted and the investment money is under the control of the Minister for Finance, do we take it as a matter of course that the investment income from that will revert to the credit of the Fund?
That is right: it will be invested only for the Fund.
Ministers for Finance are peculiar people when they get hold of money.
Any time money is wanted for the Fund it is covered in the Bill that it will be taken back. Deputy Moore raised the point about an employer who does not stamp an employee's card. In this Bill the worker is covered by his service, whether his card is stamped or not, so that if he has an adequate period of service he has a claim on that employer for a redundancy lump sum and a claim on weekly payments according to his service. So that, if an employer does not stamp his card, the worker does not suffer.
As to the question of a subvention, what is provided for in case of a run on the Fund, which I do not expect, is that the Minister for Finance will give a repayable loan to the Fund, but this comes under a later section.
Having regard to what the Minister has just said, is there any way whereby an employee will know that the regulations are being carried out by his employer in respect of this Fund? The employee may continue to contribute. Is there any regulation in existence whereby the employer will be obliged to give a weekly account or acknowledgment of the deduction of this money for the Redundancy Fund?
I have been trying to find a way. At the changeover of cards is the time that the employment exchange would be able to see the position.
There is provision for this in the Six Countries arrangements.
There will be regulations all right but how to catch such an employer is what the Deputy is anxious about.
The Minister knows how loose it has been in this part of the world having regard to our experience under the social welfare code. This Bill should afford us an opportunity to tighten up matters. I am just inquiring now what effort will be made.
There will be regulations and the worker will be entitled to demand to see that his cards are stamped. We have been trying to cover every loophole. No matter what happens, the worker will not suffer loss of benefit.
No matter what happens?
If it is not paid up.
That is not the position under social welfare.
I know that. Under this Bill the worker is qualified by years of service.
The State will acknowledge responsibility if the employer defaults?
Yes; the worker is still covered.
There is one other point I want to put to the Minister. It concerns one of his amendments in connection with subsection (6) of section 26. As this Bill is drafted, it is provided in subsection (6) that moneys standing to the credit of the investment account of the Redundancy Fund shall be invested by the Minister in accordance with such directions as may be given by the Minister for Finance. For some reason, that is now being amended and it will be provided that the money shall be invested by the Minister for Finance. Could the Minister justify that amendment at this stage or is this a matter of the Department of Finance sticking its nose in?
It is to bring it into line with social welfare legislation. As I explained, it is easier administration. It is easier to let the Minister for Finance have the money in order to invest it rather than that he should tell the Minister for Labour how to do it. It is easier administration.
The Minister is aware, from his experience as Minister for Education, that there are various funds under the control of the Minister for Education and that the Minister for Education directs the investment of these funds. Again, he seeks the advice of the Department of Finance.
This amendment is to bring it into line with social welfare legislation. There is not a big principle in it, only easier administration. It will have the same effect in the long run. Either the Minister for Labour invests it on the advice of the Minister for Finance or he will give it to the Minister for Finance to invest. The second course is the easier administrative way. There is no big principle involved. There are much more difficult things in the Bill than that.
I still think there is the principle that a Minister in his own Department should be able to manage the funds of his own Department.
As the Deputy said some time ago, they are not my funds at all. I have it in such a way that the Minister for Labour in anything to do with the day to day running of the fund, collection of contributions, payment of benefit, payment of the part of the lump sum or all the lump sum if the employer defaults, will be managed by the Minister for Labour. If he wants money he gets it from the Minister for Finance, wherever he has it invested, and if he has money to spare, instead of asking the Minister for Finance, "Where will I invest it?" he gives it to him and says "Invest that." I do not see a big principle involved. It brings it into line with social welfare legislation. It is better administration, easier to handle. However, management and every dealing with that Fund in anything to do with redundancy are done by the Minister for Labour. The investment of money for the Minister for Labour and where it is best invested is left to the Minister for Finance.
Having regard to the contemplated wise investment the Minister for Finance is going to indulge in, we can assume that the Fund will grow, particularly if we take into consideration what the Minister for Labour has already said, that he has great hopes for the future. This means the Fund will grow and there will not be the draw upon it that, perhaps, there would have been if it had been in operation now. Am I to take it that as the Fund will grow as a result of investment and because people are not withdrawing money, that will enable the Minister to have another look at the benefits? Is there any provision made at the moment or about to be made for the yearly, biennial or triennial revision of the Fund, with a view to seeing if the Fund can afford greater benefits?
This is true. Any scheme of this kind is experimental and what you do first is based on your best calculations and the experience in other countries. Our calculations are based on an estimate of about £1 million coming in in contributions and the benefits payable are based on what the Fund with that income and the likely draws on it could carry. I would hope that the Deputy is right. If any change is necessary in the benefits payable I would have to come to the House again, but it can be done by motion rather than new legislation. This comes later.
I should have added, bearing in mind the number we have excluded and who will be contributing, which will also help to build up the Fund.
There will be some contributions from people who may not benefit.
I move amendment No. 25:
In page 16, lines 49 and 50, to delete subsection (2) and substitute the following new subsection:
"(2) The Redundancy Fund shall comprise a current account, to be managed and controlled by the Minister, and an investment account, to be managed by and controlled by the Minister for Finance."
I move amendment No. 26:
In page 17, lines 16 and 17, to delete "by the Minister in accordance with such directions as may be given".
I move amendment No. 27:
Before section 27 to insert a new section as follows:
"(1) The Minister shall appoint an advisory Council to be known as `the Redundancy Fund Advisory Council' (in this Act referred to as the Advisory Council) consisting of a chairman and members three of whom shall be appointed from a body or bodies representative of employers and three from a body or bodies representative of employees.
(2) The Advisory Council shall advise the Minister on the management of the Fund, the level of weekly contributions necessary to be maintained from time to time and on any other matter referred to them under this Act by the Minister.
(3) The members of the Advisory Council, not being employees of the State, shall be paid such remuneration, and in the case of all members, such allowances as the Minister may determine."
I have previously adverted to the fact that I am concerned about the position that here there is a Fund which is being created by the contributions of workers and employers and the manner as to how the Fund is to be built up, what the level of contributions will be, are matters being determined by an authority outside the persons who are contributing to the Fund. We suggest that an advisory body be set up which would be helpful, first and foremost, to the Minister in his administration of the Fund. The setting up of that body would be an indication again of what is most necessary in regard to the future of both workers and employers, that is, the goodwill which is necessary even for the successful working of a Redundancy Payments Bill.
When the Minister comes to think of it, he will find that in setting up a body such as this to assist him he would not be imposing, by way of regulations or otherwise, on either side in regard to the contributions that will have to be made, and he would not be imposing in regard to the state the Fund would be in at such time. Everyone knows that it is necessary to keep an eye on a fund created for a purpose such as this, or for any other purpose, where contributions are paid out at a later stage. That is an actuarial job which requires expert advice. Where there are contributions from two sections, without any third body contributing, surely the two contributing elements should be entitled to express their opinion as to how the Fund should be financed and administered? That does not take from the Minister's discretion at all. This is an effort to improve the situation. It is a negation to deny the people who are contributing any say in the administration of the Fund or the level of the payments to be made into it.
One of the things that may well fall to be considered at a later stage is that the contributions may have to be increased. If we may envisage such a fortuitous occurrence, it is easily possible that the amount being contributed may not be needed. The Fund will be growing and will be passed over to the Investment Fund of the Minister for Finance. The fact of having an advisory body such as that recommended in this amendment to deal with this Redundancy Fund would do a lot of good from the point of view of creating an interest on the part of the people contributing to it and creating their goodwill, and it would also be helpful from the management point of view. It would be helpful either way. Beyond that, it would give the people directly concerned a say in the administration of the Fund which they themselves were helping to create.
In the third subsection of the amendment, we propose that the people engaged on such an advisory body should be remunerated. That is no worse than the situation will be if the Minister for Finance is handling it, as is proposed at present, because the Minister for Finance has the right, as set out in this legislation, to recoup any expenditure incurred by him out of the Fund. I cannot see any violation of that principle. I cannot see that the situation will be any different from what will happen if the Fund is completely under the control of the Minister for Finance. For that reason, I am moving this amendment and I hope the Minister will see fit to accept it.
I imagine that, in actual practice, the decisions which will come to be made about the Fund will be in relation to changes in the rate of benefit or changes in the contributions required, as our experience may suggest. As I said before, any redundancy fund must be experimental because we do not know what the demand will be. As I said, £1 million might be paid in but the amount necessary will depend on the age of the workers, the level of incomes, the years of service and many other imponderables. That is why we say it is experimental. It is a tentative estimate of the payments and contributions that will be required. An advisory committee, to my mind, could deal only with actual figures such as, should the contributions be higher or the benefits be better. That is in relation to the day to day running of the Fund. I believe that any change in the rates should be a function of both Houses of the Oireachtas. We have provided that any proposal to change the rates should be subject to an affirmative resolution of the Houses of the Oireachtas. I am satisfied that the Oireachtas is the appropriate place to discuss what in actual fact would be discussed by an advisory committee.
There is a man-power advisory committee which has worked all the way with me and with the Department on this legislation and the training legislation. While they are there to advise and to alert the Minister to what needs to be looked at, the Oireachtas is still the place for making decisions and giving advice about the rates of contribution and the rates of benefit. I do not think I could accept an advisory committee. It would not be required and would be taking the place of the Oireachtas.
I am at a loss to understand the need for an advisory committee. As I understand the situation, this Fund will be under the control of and administered by the Department of Labour. I am wondering can the Minister describe the set-up which will come into existence when this Bill becomes law. Am I right in assuming that in actual fact a section of the Department of Labour will be responsible for the administration of this Bill, and that it will remain for any aggrieved person to make a complaint through the channels which are there?
Earlier on, we were talking about the composition of an appeals tribunal to which matters in dispute would be referred. Furthermore, am I right in saying that since this scheme is in its infancy, it will be open to the employers' side and the workers' side, as time goes on, to make representations, if they see fit, in connection with any improvement of this Bill, and that in the final analysis, if any improvements are to be made in regard to the contributions or the benefits, such matters will be brought to this House? I should like the Minister to tell us how he envisages this Bill will operate?
I have already said that I presume a section of the Department of Labour will be doing this job. I am sure the people in such section will be charged with the responsibility for gathering in funds and making sure that contributions are paid. As was said earlier, arrangements will be made to advise those who come within the scope of this measure as to what they should do in order to obtain benefit from it. I do not support the idea of the formation of more committees for this and committees for that. One can get cluttered up with committees. Very often committees are set up to keep people quiet. I know a great number of voluntary committees working in industrial circles in which no payment is made to the members of the committees, in which the members of the committees do not expect payment for their services.
I have in mind the various joint industrial councils and other committees in existence, representative of both employers and employees. These people are not paid: they give their labour voluntarily in the interests of the particular industry. If it is necessary to set up a committee, I am sure it could be done without making this kind of provision for it. The Minister has his contacts with organised employers and with the trade unions; he would have no difficulty in calling them together at any time for consultation. I do not think this advisory council is necessary. If Deputy Jones insists on this, then I should like him to elaborate further on the particular purpose he thinks it will serve.
I have already mentioned the purpose. Under the social welfare code, employers and employees make a joint contribution towards the payment of a representative of management and labour to look after welfare funds; they meet from time to time and discuss how this money is to be apportioned. Now this is something in the nature of welfare, in the sense that it is designed to make provision for people who become redundant so that they can be helped financially until such time as they get other jobs. There will be two sides contributing and those who contribute will naturally have the greatest interest in the operation of the Fund. While admitting the validity of Deputy Mullen's argument in relation to people who give voluntary service, subsection (3) of this amendment is not mandatory in any sense. I am sure management and workers could set up an advisory body, the members of which would not require compensation for their time. This is just the ordinary provision to ensure that such a body could be set up, if it were thought desirable.
Is it not a fact that, when this Bill becomes law, those who administer it will have no option but to stick strictly to what is in the Act? If there were an advisory committee such as the Deputy suggests and that committee recommended the stretching of a point or the barring of something else, that could not be done under the Act. There would be no authority to do anything except talk.
I do not want to accept the amendment.
Is the Deputy withdrawing the amendment?
I move amendment No. 28:
In page 17, line 32, after "shall be" to insert "paid into the Fund".
This is a drafting amendment to improve the wording of the subsection and make its meaning clearer.
I move amendment No. 29:
In page 17, to delete lines 38 and 39 and substitute the following:
"(b) advances as provided for in subsection (2)".
This, again, is a drafting amendment. There is an inconsistency as between the provisions of subsection (1) (b) and subsection (5) of the section. Subsection (1) (b) provides for advances to the Redundancy Fund out of moneys voted by the Oireachtas whereas subsection (5) makes it clear such advances should be made from the Central Fund. The amendment, as I say, clears up the inconsistency.
Amendment No. 30 falls.
It is consequential on amendment No. 27.
I move amendment No. 31:
In page 18, lines 52 to 54, and in page 19, lines 1 to 4, to delete subsection (7) and to substitute the following new subsection:
"(7) A contribution under this section shall be payable in respect of each contribution week during the whole or any part of which the employee concerned was employed and in respect of which an employment contribution was payable for that employee under the Act of 1952."
Subsection (7) of this section lays down the circumstances under which redundancy contributions are payable. The basic intention with regard to these contributions is that they should be payable on behalf of eligible employees in precisely the same circumstances as employment contributions are payable under the Social Welfare Act, 1952. This intention is not fully expressed in the subsection as at present worded. Instead of repeating the lengthy sections of the social welfare legislation involved, I consider it makes the requirement more readily understood if it is simply stated that a redundancy payment on behalf of an eligible employee is payable when an employment contribution is paid under the Social Welfare Act. The amendment accordingly has been drafted with this simplification in mind.
What is the position in the case of a worker who becomes ill? Under the social welfare legislation at the moment, a worker who becomes ill can be credited with contributions. Will there be a credit given in this particular case? Will the worker who falls ill be given credits for contributions to this redundancy fund?
If he is off work with pay, his contributions are payable. He is covered any way if his service is not broken.
If his illness is protracted?
I think the Deputy is on to another question now, that of the length of illness which breaks continuity. This is not like social welfare. His service is what counts.
If a man or woman is unfortunate enough to go into hospital for six months?
Six months illness would break continuity.
What period of time would break continuity?
If we are making the point that this is not like social welfare, and indeed that it is better than social welfare, surely we now have the opportunity to recognise that where a worker is absent from work through no fault of his own, it should not be held against him? One can envisage a person who has been paying into this Fund for a number of years and through no fault of his own meets with an accident or becomes very ill and has to go into hospital for a period of time. Is this person to be denied benefit? Surely that should not be held against him?
Paragraph 5 of Schedule 3 relates to continuity of employment rather than what we are dealing with at the moment. It says:
...continuity of employment shall not be broken (even though notice of termination of a contract of employment has been given) where an employee's period of service has been interrupted for a period of not more than 26 weeks by reason of lay-off, sickness, holidays, service by the employee in the Defence Forces of the State or any other reason (other than the voluntary leaving of his employment by the employee) authorised by the employer.
Therefore it would take 26 weeks to break the continuity of employment, but what the Deputies envisage is sickness and dismissal.
If he is out for six months, can he make his own contributions to the Fund?
It is not the principle of payment; it is the principle of service and continuity of service that counts for redundancy.
He has this service behind him.
Six months would break the continuity if he were dismissed by his employer.
He has not the option of paying his contributions himself?
No. An employer could have neglected to pay contributions, but because of having his service, the employee is covered. It is on service.
In the case of a person with, say, tuberculosis, where a minimum period away from work is six months, is it not unreasonable to have a person who is afflicted by such a disease cut off from the Redundancy Fund? We can discuss it later if the Minister wishes, but one would have thought that where a person has pulmonary tuberculosis and is laid up for a considerable period of time—six months is the minimum period and very often a person is advised not to return to work for a further three months —he should not be cut off. I think this is something the Minister should look into. It is unreasonable that such a person should be deprived of the benefit of a fund to which he has been contributing and that his benefit at that stage is lost. I feel this is something the Minister will have to consider seriously.
This is a very complicated Bill and the Deputies have jumped right on to the Third Schedule. We are discussing a section and it would be far easier to discuss it as it stands.
Is the Schedule dependent on the Bill or the Bill dependent on the Schedule?
The Deputy went on to things like breaking continuity of service and this makes it very difficult. It is very complicated to handle as it is.
The point I am making is that in this subsection we are dealing with contributions.
I do not know where the Deputy is.
The Minister moved his amendment to subsection (7) of section 28. That amendment reads:
A contribution under this section shall be payable in respect of each contribution week during the whole or any part of which the employee concerned was employed and in respect of which an employment contribution was payable for that employee under the Act of 1952.
The Act of 1952 being the Social Welfare Act.
Yes, but the Deputy went on to the break of continuity of service.
What I am concerned with is an employee under the Social Welfare Act of 1952 may not make a contribution if he is not in employment on that occasion but he is credited.
I explained to the House that this has nothing to do with credits. This Bill relates to service and there is no question of credits. If the employer neglects to pay the contributions, the man still gets his redundancy payment on the service he has given the employer.
When I say credit, I mean that a person may, if he is not working, go to the Garda barracks and say he is able and willing for work and he gets what is called credit.
A person who is sick could not go to the Garda barracks and a person who is available for employment could not be put on credit. It is a total misconception.
We will come back to it.
The Deputy is saying that a man is going for employment to the Guards and he wants that to be put on credit to the employment he is in, but he is not in employment if he is unemployed.
A worker who is sick.
If he is sick, he cannot go to the Garda barracks.
Are his rights going to be protected?
I do not know how further to explain it. The point is that it is not related to the number of contributions and has nothing to do with the contributions. It is related to the number of years service he has and it does not matter whether he is permitted to pay up contributions; that has no influence on it. What would influence it is if he were to break his period of service.
According to this subsection, if he does not pay contributions for 26 weeks——
No, if he breaks his service. We will deal with it when we come to it.
If the Act of 1952 is to govern this subsection, take a docker who has worked today for one stevedore; then the boat is finished and he is let go. Next week he works for a different stevedore and gets another contribution marked up against him. If that went on for four years, would he qualify for redundancy payment even though he did not work for the same employer for four years?
We dealt with that last week. The claim is made by a worker who has worked for four years with one employer and by having worked four years, he has established a right in that position by contributing during his work in that employment. The question was raised here last week of workers who do not stay with the one employer — dockers and catering workers were mentioned—and it was argued that something should be done for those people. I propose for this type of work that we will have a special scheme and under this scheme they would be contribution. If they frequently change their employment, they would never work up enough service with a single employer to get benefit. The amendment is for a separate type of scheme.
Are we only dealing with contributions in this amendment?
Yes, that is so.
If a worker works one day in the week, he is eligible to pay contributions to this Fund; is that not so?
Yes. I would like to get across to the Deputies that payment of the contribution is not related to the man's requirement to claim benefit.
I understand that. Am I right in thinking that he is expected to make contribution to this Fund in the same way as he presently makes contribution to the social welfare fund? The man may work one day in the week with one employer. The first person he works with is the person who stamps his card. The man has got to pay the contribution, once he is employed in any part of the week.
I thought I explained that last week. There will be people paying contributions who will not benefit under this Bill. We hope to have a special scheme for them. There was a proposal before I brought this Bill to the House to have such people excluded but I felt it was better to put pressure on those concerned to have a special scheme.
I just want to comment briefly on the section. Subsection (7) states:
A contribution under this section shall be payable in respect of each contribution week during the whole or any part of which the employee concerned was employed but where no remuneration has been received for, or no services have been rendered by the employee during, any contribution week, the employer shall not be liable to pay any contribution either on his own behalf or on behalf of the employee concerned for that week.
That is easy enough but I want to query the Minister as to whether the same principle stands in every week where the employee may be rendered unemployed because of a laying-off, sickness, holidays and the like, that is, for every week he receives no wages, no redundancy stamp will be applied? It is very unfair if this is true because it means that if a man is out because of sickness he obviously gets no wages and no stamp is credited to him for redundancy purposes.
He does not need credits.
What purpose do the stamps serve at all excepts to indicate that he is eligible for redundancy payment?
The unfairness Deputies have been preaching about is that there is not any money coming into the Fund when a man is sick but by being sick, it does not take away in any way from the payment he will get if he is declared redundant.
I am quite happy if what the Minister says is the case.
It is not related to his contributions and if he does not pay a contribution when he is sick. If he is declared redundant afterwards, he does not lose any benefit because of being sick.
It is only when he is out six months.
We will deal with that.
Bearing in mind that we are dealing with contributions, and as I understand it, the worker is still employed when he is on holidays, just to be right about this so that we know what we are talking about elsewhere, am I to understand that when a person is going on holidays, the contribution is deducted?
I understand from the Official Assignee that as at present worded, subsection (3) of this section may be defective. I am having the matter looked into and if necessary, I will have an appropriate amendment tabled on Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 32:
In page 22, lines 26 and 27, to delete "this section" and insert "subsection (2) (b) or (2) (c)".
This amendment proposes a slight change in the wording of subsection (3) of this section so as to limit the offences under the section to (a) the failure of an employer to comply with regulations made relating to the production of documents and (b) to the furnishing by any person of false information under regulation made requiring information to be furnished. The Deputies will appreciate that subsection (3) as at present drafted is too wide having regard to the type of matters mentioned at subparagraphs (a), (d) and (e) of subsection (2). Contravention of regulations made in relation to these matters could not, of course, be regarded as an offence warranting prosecution and hence the desirability of this amendment.
Would the Minister inform me what rank will the deciding officers mentioned in this section be? Would the Minister also inform me when decisions are being communicated under this section, will it be made clear that those decisions are the decisions of the deciding officer?
The officers would generally be of the grade of staff officer. I expect that the officers appointed to act as deciding officers will be of such rank.
The same status as deciding officers?
I have not made any decision about the second point.
That there be a clear indication that the decision given is the decision of a deciding officer?
I do not envisage the situation where it would not happen.
The Minister will be aware that sometimes you are told that under a decision under section so-and-so you are debarred without its being confirmed or intimated that this is a decision of a deciding officer.
I do not see how it would serve the person concerned to have this information.
The Minister will be aware that under social welfare legislation at present decisions are sometimes given and then a person may have to come back to the Department and find, eventually, on appeal that it is decided by a deciding officer, and that is final and conclusive in the ordinary way. But if a person knew at the beginning that it was a decision of a deciding officer, there would be no need to pursue it further.
When a deciding officer makes a decision, if it is found that it is against the person concerned, he is told, and surely they would also be told that they had a right of appeal? This is the position in Social Welfare. A person is told he is disqualified and will not get benefit. Presumably this will be the same.
I am not quite clear on why Deputy Jones mentions a deciding officer. What benefit would this give?
If a deciding officer makes a decision against the person seeking benefit, will the deciding officer, in making known his decision to the person concerned, also inform him of his entitlement to appeal?
I asked the Minister a point in respect of deciding officers and I want again to reiterate the questions raised by Deputy Jones in respect of the status of these officers. Could the Minister say at this stage how these people will be recruited; whether, in fact, they will be recruited from his own Department of Labour or whether, in the main, they may well be recruited from the Department of Social Welfare? Is the Minister in a position to give the House information at this stage as to the calibre of the people who will be recruited?
They are all Departments of State and they are drafted from the same pool of officers. While the Department of Labour is being established, we have arrangements with other Departments about staffing. When fully established, recruitment will be in the ordinary way. Officers will be recruited from the Civil Service. It may, perhaps, be possible to get these people in the Department of Labour in the first instance.
I move amendment No. 33:
Before section 39 to insert the following new section:
39. (1) There shall be a tribunal (which shall be known as the Redundancy Appeals Tribunal and is in this section hereinafter referred to as the Tribunal) to determine the appeals provided for in this section.
(2) The Tribunal shall consist of the following members—
(a) a chairman who shall be a practising barrister or solicitor of seven years' standing at least,
(b) not more than three vicechairmen, and
(c) not more than eight ordinary members.
(3) The members of the Tribunal shall be appointed by the Minister and shall be eligible for re-appointment.
(4) The appointments pursuant to subsection (3) of the ordinary members of the Tribunal shall be made—
(a) as to one-half of these members, from among persons nominated for that purpose by a body or bodies representative of employees, and
(b) as to the other half of those members, from among persons nominated for that purpose by a body or bodies representative of employers.
(5) The term of officer of a member of the Tribunal shall be such period as is specified by the Minister when appointing such member.
(6) (a) A member of the Tribunal may, by letter addressed to the Minister, resign his membership,
(b) A member of the Tribunal may be removed from office by the Minister.
(7) (a) Whenever a vacancy occurs in the membership of the Tribunal and is caused by the resignation, removal from office or death of an ordinary member mentioned in subsection (4) (a), the vacancy shall be filled by the Minister by appointment in the manner specified in that subsection.
(b) Whenever a vacancy occurs in the membership of the Tribunal and is caused by the resignation, removal from office or death of an ordinary member mentioned in subsection (4) (b), the vacancy shall be filled by the Minister by appointment in the manner specified in that subsection.
(8) In the case of a member of the Tribunal filling a vacancy caused by the resignation, removal from office or death of a member before the completion of the term of office of the last-mentioned member, the member filling that vacancy shall hold office for the remainder of the term of office of the person who so resigned, died or was so removed from office.
(9) A vice-chairman of the Tribunal shall act as chairman thereof when so required by the chairman or the Minister and when so acting shall have all the powers of the chairman.
(10) A member of the Tribunal shall be paid such remuneration (if any) and allowances as may be determined by the Minister with the consent of the Minister for Finance.
(11) Whenever the chairman of the Tribunal is of opinion that, for the speedy dispatch of the business of the Tribunal, it is expedient that the Tribunal should act by divisions, he may direct accordingly and, until he revokes his direction, the Tribunal shall be grouped as so directed.
(12) Each division of the Tribunal shall consist of either the chairman or a vice-chairman of the Tribunal, an ordinary member of the Tribunal mentioned in subsection (4) (a) and an ordinary member of the Tribunal mentioned in subsection (4) (b).
(13) The Minister may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, appoint such officers and servants of the Tribunal as he considers necessary to assist the Tribunal in the performance of its functions, and such officers and servants shall hold office on such terms and receive such remuneration as the Minister for Finance determines.
(14) The decision of the Tribunal on any question referred to it under this section shall be final and conclusive, save that any person dissatisfied with the decision may appeal therefrom to the High Court on a question of law.
(15) Any employer who is dissatisfied with a decision given by the Minister in relation to a rebate or with any decision given by a deciding officer in relation to any question specified in section 38 (1) (d), 38 (1) (e) or 38 (1) (f), or any employee who is dissatisfied with a decision given by a deciding officer under section 38 or with any decision of an employer under this Act may, on giving notice of appeal to the Minister in the prescribed manner, have the question referred to the Tribunal for a decision thereon; provided however, that the Tribunal shall not be competent to decide whether or not an employee is or was at the material time in employment which is or was insurable for all benefits under the Social Welfare Acts, 1952 to 1966.
(16) A deciding officer may if he so thinks proper, instead of deciding it himself, refer in the prescribed manner to the Tribunal for a decision thereon any question which falls to be decided by him under section 38.
(17) (a) The Tribunal shall, on the hearing of any matter referred to it under this section, have power to take evidence on oath and for that purpose may cause to be administered oaths to persons attending as witnesses at such hearing.
(b) Any person who, upon examination on oath authorised under this subsection, wilfully and corruptly gives false evidence or wilfully and corruptly swears anything which is false, being convicted thereof, shall be liable to the penalties for wilful and corrupt perjury.
(c) The Tribunal may, by giving notice in that behalf in writing to any person, require such person to attend at such time and place as is specified in the notice to give evidence in relation to any matter referred to the Tribunal under this section or to produce any documents in his possession, custody or control which relate to any such matter.
(d) A notice under paragraph (c) may be given either by delivering it to the person to whom it relates or by sending it by post in a prepaid registered letter addressed to such person at the address at which he ordinarily resides.
(e) A person to whom a notice under paragraph (c) has been given and who refuses or wilfully neglects to attend in accordance with the notice or who, having so attended, refuses to give evidence or refuses or wilfully fails to produce any document to which the notice relates shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds.
(18) The Minister may make regulations giving effect to this section and such regulation may, in particular but without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing, provide for all or any of the following matters—
(a) the procedure to be followed regarding the submission of appeals to the Tribunal,
(b) the times and places of hearings by the Tribunal,
(c) the representation of parties attending hearings by the Tribunal,
(d) procedure regarding the hearing of appeals by the Tribunal,
(e) publication and notification of decisions of the Tribunal,
(f) notices relating to appeals or hearings by the Tribunal.
(g) the award by the Tribunal of costs and expenses and the payment of such awards,
(h) an official seal of the Tribunal,
(i) for treating the Minister as a party to any proceedings before the Tribunal where he would not otherwise be a party to them and entitling him to appear and be heard accordingly."
This amendment proposes the establishment of an appeals tribunal, on which we had the discussion last week.
You still have the requirement that the chairman shall be a lawyer.
The decision is there.
I move amendment No. 39:
In page 24, lines 10 and 11, to delete "an appeals officers" and insert "the Tribunal".
This is consequential on amendment No. 33.
I move amendment No. 40:
In page 24, lines 12 and 13, to delete "Chief Appeals Officer" and insert "Tribunal".
I move amendment No. 41:
In page 24, line 15, to delete "an appeals officer" and insert "the Tribunal".
I move amendment No. 42:
In page 24, lines 33 to 39, to delete subsection (3).
I move amendment No. 43:
In page 24, lines 40 to 47, to delete subsection (4).
I move amendment No. 44:
In page 24, lines 48 and 49, to delete "or an appeals officer".
I move amendment No. 45:
In page 25, line 6, to delete "or appeals officer (as the case may be)".
I move amendment No. 46:
In page 25, lines 12 and 13, to delete "or appeals officer (as the case may be)".
I move amendment No. 47:
In page 25, line 17, to delete "or an appeals officer".
Amendments Nos. 48 and 49 will be taken together.
I move amendment No. 48:
In page 25, line 28, to delete "four months" and substitute "twelve months".
The purpose of this amendment is to increase from four to 12 months the period of arrears of contributions to the Redundancy Fund which will be regarded as preferential payments in the distribution of the assets of the company which is being wound up or of the assets of an employer who has been adjudicated bankrupt.
This is the period that applies in the case of Social Insurance Fund contributions, and it is desirable that there should be uniformity as between the periods for preferential payment in regard to the contributions due to both Funds.
I move amendment No. 49:
In page 25, line 41, to delete "four months" and substitute "twelve months".
I move amendment No. 50:
In page 25, line 51, after "to" to insert "the Official Assignee in Bankruptcy or".
This is a drafting amendment to clarify the position regarding the position of the Official Assignee in relation to weekly payments being made out of the Redundancy Fund to a redundant worker who is also a bankrupt. The amendment makes it clear that the Official Assignee will be debarred from seeking to have the weekly payments being paid to a bankrupt worker regarded as assets for distribution among his creditors. This will mean that, for the purposes of the laws of bankruptcy, redundancy weekly payments will be treated in the same way as ordinary weekly wages.
I move amendment No. 51:
In page 25, line 52, after subsection (4) to insert the following new section:
"(5) Nothing in section 53 of the Bankruptcy (Ireland) Amendment Act, 1872, or in section 286 of the Companies Act, 1963, shall apply to any redundancy payments made by an employer."
I move amendment No. 51a:
In page 26 to delete line 7 and substitute "offences under this Act or under regulations thereunder as it applies".
There was a typographical error, which repeated one line and caused another line to be dropped. This amendment corrects that error.
Will the Minister, when he is making copies of these regulations available, put into the regulations the relevant subsections of the Social Welfare Acts which will affect people in this regard, so that they will not have to deal with the Acts as a whole to find out what the regulations deal with, when regulations are being made in regard to redundancy? In this section there is reference to the Act of 1952. Would the Minister consider putting that in when he is making regulations—to spell it out for people so that they can look at this without having to go back to previous Acts?
In that connection, will the Minister keep in mind what we have advocated before in connection with this matter—we must publish the regulations and in this case they would need to be published, and compulsorily published, in all places of employment where they can be seen. Furthermore, it is imperative that a synopsis of the regulations be made out and published alongside for the workers' scrutiny, because it is very difficult for an ordinary working man to apply his mind to a set of regulations drawn up in Civil Service language. I agree with the point made by Deputy Jones of a worker having to refer to section this, that or the other of a previous Act. The clearer these regulations can be made, even to the people contributing to the Fund, the better.
What we should do is to have this type of clear publicity material prepared. I intend that there should be clear publicity about it; we shall arrange for that.
Might I ask the Minister if he would have something in the nature of a little handbook available for workers?
In regard to section 49, might I ask the Minister a question? Are there many such schemes, arrangements—to the knowledge of the Minister—in regard to firms where these schemes exist? Has the Minister any knowledge of them; does he know how many there are?
I have not the number; I know there are some schemes which are controlled by Government Departments but I have not any figure here with me.
In regard to private firms?
I have a Parliamentary Question about that for tomorrow and I shall try to have some information then.
I move amendment No. 52:
In page 27, line 37, to delete "employer's".
The section provides that the benefit of the Probation of Offenders Act may not be applied in the case of an employer charged with an offence relating to employer's redundancy contributions until the court ascertains that all contributions have been paid. As drafted, the section would relate to offences relating to employers' contributions only, but it is possible that an employer would commit an offence in relation to an employee's contribution. Accordingly, if we delete the word "employer's", we will cover offences in relation to both contributions, and that will relate the section to what I intended.
I move amendment No. 53:
In page 28, lines 32 and 33, to delete "or an appeals officer".
This is consequential on the Tribunal in section 23 and we discussed it last week.
I move amendment No. 54:
In page 28, before section 55, to insert the following new section:
(1) If in any respect any difficulty arises in bringing into operation this Act or any amendment or repeal effected by this Act, the Minister may by order do anything which appears to be necessary or expedient for bringing this Act into operation, and any such order may modify a provision of this Act so far as may appear necessary or expedient for carrying the order into effect.
(2) Every order made by the Minister under this section shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made, and if a resolution is passed by either House of the Oireachtas within the next twenty-one days on which that House has sat after the order is laid before it annulling such order, the order shall be annulled accordingly, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done under the order.
(3) No order may be made under this section after the expiration of one year after the commencement of this Act.
I think Deputies will realise by now that this Bill is a very complex piece of legislation. To a large extent, it is breaking new ground in social legislation. In these circumstances, it is quite conceivable—although I think it unlikely—that when the Act is brought into operation, some unforeseen difficulty or circumstances could arise which would impede or hold up the implementation or the operation of the redundancy payments scheme. I would then be in the position of having to come to the House, to the Oireachtas, with amending legislation. I think the House will agree it would be unfortunate if, after the commencement date of the Act, some technicality for which we had not provided could hold up the benefits for the section of the community for which the Bill is intended.
Accordingly, to ensure the smooth and uninterrupted operation of the Act, I would seek in this section power to remove any difficulty which is likely to stand in the way of the full implementation of the Act when it is in force. The section would not give me power to make substantial changes, or any change, in the Act; it would merely give power to the Minister to overcome any difficulty in the operation of what has been enacted by the Oireachtas. There are ample safeguards for the Oireachtas against misuse of any powers vested in the Minister by way of this section.
By way of order of the Minister?
Yes, and the House could annul such an order by resolution. It is also a transitory provision; it is not one which will last after a year.
I move amendment No. 55:
In page 28, line 45, after "Minister" to insert "which relates to the scheme of redundancy payments established by this Act".
This amendment is to correct an omission in the drafting of subsection (2) of section 55. The subsection refers to the part of the Minister's expenses without indicating which part is in question. The amendment makes it clear that the subsection relates to the scheme of redundancy payments to be established under the Act.
I move amendment No. 56:
In paragraph 4, page 29, line 36, to delete "four weeks" and substitute "one week".
We think this is a reasonable amendment, particularly when one considers that the type of people we are dealing with are in the main provident people. They are people who, according to this Bill, will have less than £1,200 per year income. If we bear that in mind, I submit it is unreasonable to ask them to wait four weeks before the first weekly payment is made to them. The people I speak about have not been in a position, and will not be, to save up for the type of eventuality posed by redundancy. The main reason we welcome the Bill is that it affords such people an opportunity of getting something in the event of redundancy.
We ask the Minister to accept the amendment because, one way or another, these people will get paid and we consider it to be imposing a hardship on them to have them waiting longer than a week before they get their first weekly payment. Workers now declared redundant are covered by the social welfare code and can go to the employment exchange to obtain their benefit without having to wait a period of four weeks. We ask the Minister to go along with the idea of giving the benefit a week after the termination of employment. It should be an easy thing to bring about, particularly because the Department of Labour will have a special section dealing with it.
In this Bill we get a more enlightened approach to extending benefits than has been the case under the Social Welfare Acts. We are more than anxious to avoid delay in giving redundant workers their weekly payments. As I have said, all the people who will come within the ambit of the Bill will not be able to afford to wait for the money to come. They have daily commitments, never mind weekly commitments, and will need to be paid a week after termination of employment.
In parts of this Bill we decided on periods which we thought most suitable in the light of circumstances which exist. In determining the lump sum provision, we had to decide what an industry could carry, what would be an incentive to an employer. In relation to this period of four weeks, I have tried to come to a decision on whether a man should get redundancy weekly payments at once or whether there should first be a waiting period so as to provide an incentive to him to seek out new employment. I should point out that the waiting period does not reduce the number of weeks for which he will get benefit.
We know that.
It takes nothing from him—he will get the full benefit, starting four weeks after he becomes unemployed. I have been thinking it over: I have had strong representations from my own Party to reduce this period and I am prepared to take a lesser period than four weeks. I think one week is too short. The smallest lump sum would equal two weeks pay and I would be willing to take two weeks as the waiting period.
I appreciate the Minister's approach but may I direct his attention to the fact that this amendment deals with weekly payments, not lump sums, and I understand that the purpose of the Bill is to help people to tide themselves over until they get employment, to keep them going? The income of those who will be affected by the Bill is so low at present that it is not sufficient to enable them to put money by for this rainy or evil day. The State is in a better position, the Department are in a better position, to meet the payments immediately —there is the Redundancy Fund itself. The Department are in a better position to do the waiting, if waiting is required. This deals with a man who, through no fault of his own or, perhaps, of his employer, loses his employment and finds himself subsisting on a weekly redundancy payment, to be regarded as something in the way of a substitute for the weekly wage he had. He will have lost that wage to which he was accustomed and will have to fall back on this, but instead of being able to fall back on it immediately, he will have to wait four weeks. I am conscious of the fact that he will not lose anything but the payment should be made, shall we say as a continuity of the wages he had.
The Minister has said he has had representations from his own Party. I can assure him we shall be satisfied if he makes up his mind between now and Report Stage on this matter. I am sure a number of Deputies in his Party who are in touch with working people will bear out what I have said, that it is highly desirable that this payment be made on a weekly basis without a gap before the first payment.
The Deputy is forgetting the lump sum.
I am not now concerned with the lump sum. It is all very well if the employee gets a lump sum but a lump sum should not be regarded as being a workman's first weekly payment from the Redundancy Fund. That is not its purpose and let us not confuse it.
It is money that can be used.
We are now on weekly payments. I do not care if a man keeps his lump sum payment and never adverts to it. I am concerned with the system of weekly payments. None of the workers affected by this Bill is paid by the month—they are all in receipt of weekly wages.
The lump sum is related to weekly wages. The smallest possible lump sum is two weeks' wages. Most people will have, in the lump sum, money to carry them over the period and that will give them a longer period for their weekly contributions.
When the Minister mentions "lump sum", one would think that it would amount to something.
At the worst, he will have two weeks' wages to cover a gap of two weeks. Most redundant people will have more and will not be left without money for the gap. It is a sort of horse-trading, if you like, but I think we should have a gap.
The weekly payment will undoubtedly be considerably removed from his weekly wage and it will last only a certain period. The lump sum will last as long as he sees fit to keep it. In the majority of cases, the lump sum will be utilised to supplement the weekly payment for as long as the weekly payment last so as to bring it as near as possible to his weekly wage. Most men endeavour to ensure that the wife has a fixed amount per week to run the home. If the lump sum is spread out over the period of weekly payments then the amount will not be anything related to his weekly wage. Perhaps we would never be satisfied with the amount of money that is paid. Many people will pay into this Fund who will never get anything from it. Let us not attach too much importance to this lump sum payment. When a working man thinks in terms of the expression "lump sum payment", he thinks of a few hundred pounds or £60 or £70—not of two weeks.
I shall come down from the four weeks, anyway.
I shall come down to two weeks.
Will the Minister agree to two weeks?
Yes. I shall have to bring in an amendment.
It is very pleasant to hear that the Minister is amenable to cutting down the time-lag in this connection. Much play has been made of the payment of a lump sum as something which would tide a man over this difficult period. Have we any guarantee that that lump sum will quickly be paid, that it is immediately payable when a man becomes redundant? Is it not conceivable that there would be a considerable time-lag before the lump sum is paid?
Section 19 says "Upon the dismissal ... his employer shall pay to him...."
That is all very fine. We want to be completely satisfied that the lump sum will be paid quickly, immediately, on a man's being dismissed and qualifying for redundancy pay. If the time-lag is too great before coming to the rescue of a redundant worker by way of weekly payments, there is a grave likelihood that we may lose quite substantial numbers of skilled workers. In these times of high cost of living, the responsible worker and especially the skilled worker is not prepared to wait around for two, three or four weeks until such time as the State gives his extra benefit or until a job turns up.
Our experience at the present time, especially in industry, is that unless a man sees a prospect of employment— especially a man with family responsibilities who has been used to a relatively high standard of life—he invariably goes to Britain. Such people cannot afford to wait four weeks. They must come to a decision. Unfortunately, all too many of them decide to go to Britain. We simply cannot afford to lose this important pool of highly-skilled labour which may well be affected by redundancy.
We have reached a decision in this connection.
We must not be niggardly or dilatory about it. I think, in all the circumstances, the Minister is being relatively fair in coming down from four weeks to two weeks. I want to sound this note of warning that, during this crucial period of waiting, a man and his family must make a serious adjustment in their standards of life and unless the assistance is readily forthcoming we may lose these people to our society and to our economy. The day has gone when men could simply stick around hoping, like Micawber, that something would turn up. If this Bill is to be effective, there must be the speediest application of redundancy payment.
Is the amendment withdrawn?
The amendment is withdrawn, on the understanding that the Minister will meet us half way.
I move amendment No. 57:
In page 30, after line 27, to insert the following new paragraph:
"13. Notwithstanding anything in paragraph 5, 8 or 9, a person who is undergoing a course of training arranged or approved by An Chomhairle Oiliúna shall not be disentitled to receive a weekly payment for the period of such training on the ground only that he is ineligible to receive unemployment benefit or unemployment assistance for that period."
This is designed to ensure that a redundant worker who is undergoing a course of training approved by An Chomhairle Oiliúna will be entitled to draw the weekly payments under the redundancy scheme as if he were not undergoing training at all. The Social Welfare Acts lay down that a person undergoing a course of training is deemed to be not available for work and consequently would not be entitled to receive unemployment benefit or unemployment assistance. Under Paragraph 5 of Schedule 1 of this Bill, a redundant worker is not entitled to a weekly payment if he is disqualified or ineligible in any way to receive unemployment benefit or unemployment assistance. As it stands this would mean that a person who is redundant but who accepts a course of training for employment would not be entitled to receive redundancy payments. The amendment is designed to preserve such a man's entitlement to weekly payments.
I move amendment No. 58:
In page 33, line 50, before "section 10 (4)" to insert "section 10 (3) and".
This is a drafting amendment. If it is to be explained, we should have to study the complex provisions of section 10 (3) and Paragraph 18 of Schedule 2 to grasp the need for the amendment. If the House wants me to explain, I will endeavour to do so.
Paragraph 18 of Schedule I deals with the position of an employee (a) who is under notice of dismissal by his employer, (b) who has given notice to terminate his employment on a date earlier than in his employer's notice and (c) having done that, dies before the expiry date of his own notice and before his employer has a chance to give him notice requiring the employee to withdraw his notice. This is very complicated but circumstances do arise where an employer gives notice to the worker and the worker sees an opportunity of getting employment before the period of notice is up. In such a case, if he wishes to get redundancy payment, he has to give notice to the employer of his desire to terminate at an earlier date. If an employer for good reasons does not want to let him go, he has to give a further notice to the employee to withdraw his notice of earlier termination. If the employee should die at the stage where he had given notice to terminate earlier and before the employer has had a chance to ask the employee to withdraw his notice, this difficulty arises.
The intention is that in the circumstances I have outlined, it would be assumed that the employer had given the employee notice requiring him to withdraw his notice of termination of employment and the employee had not complied with that notice. If an employee dies in the circumstances I have mentioned, the rights of the employer to dispute a redundancy payment claim will not be taken away by the death of the employee. If the claim were disputed, it would be for the Tribunal to decide whether or not redundancy payment should be made. Just to go over that again: provision is made for a man who is under notice and who wants to leave his employment at a date before the expiry of that notice while preserving his entitlement to redundancy payment, to give notice that he wants to terminate at that earlier date. If the employer has good reasons for requiring the employee to finish out the notice given by him, then he must give the employee notice asking him to withdraw his intention to terminate earlier and if the employee unreasonably refuses to comply with that, then he would not be entitled to redundancy payment.
Who will determine "good reasons"?
That is a matter that will be determined by the appeals tribunal. This section deals with the case where an employer had not time to give an employee notice to withdraw the employee's notice because the employee dies. This would mean the employer could not say that he gave him notice to withdraw the employee's notice.
Must there be a dispute about this?
May we take it that the clause is similar in every way to the wording contained in the British Act?
I think if we could get it drafted in such a way that a man under notice, whether his own or anybody else's, to terminate employment because of redundancy should get redundancy benefit, it would be better. I do not know if it can be so drafted. I will see if it can be improved.
It should be clear; otherwise disputes will arise.
This is to prevent disputes. There are some sections of the Bill which are really legalistic snakes and ladders. I have to accept that they should be there to cover isolated cases that may arise. It might be possible to make it simpler, but I might be told by the draftsman that it would not be possible.
If an employer gives notice and the employee wants to leave at an earlier date than the one contained in the employer's notice, because he has an opportunity of getting another job, and he gives the employer notice and before the employer has any opportunity to inform the employee that he will not accept the shorter notice, the employee dies, is his widow still entitled to redundancy payment?
Yes. The original drafting was to protect the employer against an employee leaving him when he needed him, even though the employee was under notice. As originally drafted, if an employer said: "I want your services to the last date of my notice," and if the employee unreasonably— and this is something that could be determined by the Tribunal—refused to finish on the employer's expiry date, he would not get redundancy payment. It depended on the employer saying in writing: "I want you to withdraw notice terminating your employment at an earlier date because I want you to the end of the notice."
Does an employer have to state his reasons for wanting the employee to remain on?
I suppose he would have to say that he wanted him to remain on for business purposes. He could not do that if the employee dies. It would be difficult for the employer to say that the employee caused him to suffer by his absence for the full term of notice. It is something at which I should like to have another look between now and Report Stage. It is an isolated case, if the House accepts it.
The Minister is trying to be helpful.
Yes. If a man is under notice because of redundancy and is to terminate his employment on, say, December 1st and the man says: "I can get a job before that," and gives notice that he wants to terminate and get his redundancy repayments in the middle of November, then if the employer says: "I am entitled to your services to the last day I have given you and I require them" he is entitled to them. If the worker unreasonably says: "I am going before the notice is up," he will lose his redundancy payment but he will lose it only if the employer has told him in writing that he wants his services. If he dies——
If he dies before the employer has an opportunity to write to him, is the man's estate still entitled to redundancy payments?
It may. But for this amendment, however, the employer would lose his right to contest the payment because the man said: "I am leaving you before the time."
What is the Minister seeking to do?
He is going to put it in plain language.
It is an attempt to cover that isolated case.
Will the Minister be re-introducing this amendment or introducing a new amendment to cover this?
If the amendment is agreed now, it may be reviewed on Report Stage.
I will review it and see if there is any way of making it simple.
I move amendment No. 59:
In page 34, line 21, to delete "six months" and substitute "30 weeks".
This is a drafting amendment to remove an inconsistency between this paragraph and section 24. Section 24 provides for a time limit of 30 weeks in which to make claims for lump sum payments. Paragraph 20 is intended to provide for the position where a redundant employee dies before the expiration of the time limit for making a claim for a redundancy payment and, accordingly, to be consistent, it is necessary to change "six months" in paragraph 20 to "30 weeks". If this amendment were not made and the redundant worker died in the period between six months and 30 weeks without making a claim for a lump sum payment, his personal representative would be debarred from making a claim.
We agree with that.
Amendments Nos. 60, 61 and 62 are consequential.
I move amendment No. 60:
In page 34, line 43, to delete "an appeals officer" and insert "the Tribunal".
I move amendment No. 61:
In page 34, lines 49 and 50, to delete "appeals officer" and insert "Tribunal".
I move amendment No. 62:
In page 34, line 53, to delete "appeals officer" and insert "Tribunal".
Second Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
I move amendment No. 63:
In page 35 to delete paragraph 1 and 2 and substitute the following:
"1. The amount of the lump sum shall be equivalent to the aggregate of the following:
(a) the product of one and one-half times the employee's normal weekly remuneration on the date of his dismissal and the number of years of continuous employment with the employer in whose employment he was on the date of dismissal, after the employee had attained the age of forty-one years, and
(b) the product of the employee's normal weekly remuneration and the number of years of continuous employment with the employer in whose employment he was on the date of dismissal, between the date on which the employee attained the age of twenty-one years and the date on which he attained the age of forty-one years, and
(c) the product of one-half of the employee's normal weekly remuneration and the number of years of continuous employment, with the employer in whose employment he was on the date of dismissal, between the date on which the employee attained the age of eighteen years and the date on which he attained the age of twenty-one years.
2. Where, in reckoning the number of years, of employment in accordance with paragraph 1 of this Schedule, twenty years of employment have been reckoned, no account shall be taken of any year of employment earlier than those twenty years."
Under the Bill as it now stands, a lump sum redundancy payment of a half week's pay for each year of employment between the age of 18 and 41 and one week's pay for each year of employment over the age of 41 is provided for, subject to a maximum of 16 weeks' pay. We propose that the lump sum should be as it is in Northern Ireland, that is, a half week's pay for each year of employment between 18 and 21 years; one week's pay for each year of employment between 22 and 41 years; and one and a half week's pay for each year of employment over 41 years of age. In addition, we propose that the lump sum should be related to the number of complete years in continuous employment up to a maximum of 20 years.
We feel that a man who has given such service in employment is entitlted to far more consideration than is proposed in the Bill. It is only proper that the Minister should accept this amendment as something more reasonable than that proposed in the Bill for a person who has given long and loyal service to a firm and who, through no fault of his own, finds himself faced with unemployment. As I said, the amendment we have tabled conforms with the provision in Northern Ireland. Surely we can have here at least as good a Redundancy Bill as is provided for there? I would urge the Minister to accept this amendment.
Apart from the practice in Northern Ireland, reasonable redundancy compensation has in a number of cases been negotiated with individual employers. Under the provision in the Bill, a person could work almost 20 years with an employer and find, possibly as a result of adaptation procedures or the re-equipment of the industry, himself faced with redundancy. Apart from temporary weekly redundancy compensation, the lump sum would be confined to a half week's pay for each year of service, which would be completely insufficient. For workers with long years of service to suggest, as the Minister has, that a half week's pay up to 41 years and a week over 41 years is leaving the situation most unsatisfactory.
In considering this Bill we must bear in mind we are dealing not only with cases of redundancy arising from a diminution in trade or a loss of orders. We may very well be dealing with redundancy brought about as a result of adaptation procedures or the introduction of new and expensive machinery, for which in many cases the owners may receive adaptation grants or grants from An Foras Tionscal. Yet the effect on that industry might be that the labour force is reduced. Even though production in that industry may increase, there could still be a reduction in the labour force involved. That is not guesswork. It has happened in many cases. Unless orders in such industries increase tremendously, you may have the situation in which fewer workers are producing the same or more goods. Cases can be cited from these benches in which employment in fairly substantial industries has decreased by as much as 30 per cent over a relatively short number of years; yet the production in the same industries has gone up. Therefore, we are not dealing with something that comes about merely by chance. It can happen as the result of the implementation of policy emanating in some cases from the Government benches.
In certain cases where this has occurred, as a result of negotiations by the representatives of the workers concerned, agreement has been reached to protect the workers against the effects of direct redundancy. They are guaranteed either that alternative work will be available for them or, in cases where reasonable pension schemes are in operation, they are urged to opt for a pension at an earlier age. But this Bill would not apply only to these cases. It would apply in any case where a worker is declared redundant. The Labour Party view on this matter is set out clearly in the amendment. In our view, the lump sum compensation under this Bill is inadequate in the circumstances I have described.
We would ask the Minister to look at the position again. Workers are not just cogwheels. They may be considered as such by the employers or even by representatives of the State. But for somebody who has worked ten, 15 or 20 years for an employer, that is his way of life. His domestic circumstances and his social circumstances are geared to that employment. Where redundancy occurs, it means a major operation so far as the worker is concerned, from the family and from the social point of view. He may have to transfer his home, maybe not to another town but certainly to a different part of the city or town in which he lives. I support this amendment and I would ask the Minister to have another look at the level of the lump sum compensation.
I should like to add to what has already been said in relation to the lump sum payment, which is probably the key to the whole Bill. This compensation is intended to cushion the effects of redundancy, which is a depressing and expensive period for a worker. He may have entered into long-term commitments in the belief that he would continue in permanent employment, and then finds himself redundant; he may have purchased a home near his place of employment in order to cut out travelling expenses. I believe the period of 16 weeks is somewhat short. The Minister has been fairly sympathetic right through in meeting the points of view of the various Deputies, and as this is probably the most important section of the Bill, I would ask him to reconsider the size of the lump sum.
I support this amendment and I am glad that Deputy Dowling is also supporting it. What is provided in this Bill could not be described as a reasonable lump sum. In this regard, I should like to emphasise something that has already been said, and indeed acknowledged by the Minister, that there will be a number of workers excluded from payment under this Bill who have paid into the Fund. The Minister has already indicated that he expects there will not be a great deal of redundancy. Those are two indications that this Fund will be reasonably solvent. If we take into consideration the Minister's confidence in regard to the future, we cannot be regarded as unreasonable in putting forward this amendment. Furthermore, as I said here last week, it is highly desirable that when the opportunity presents itself to be as good to our people as the other Government is to our people in the Six Counties, we should seize that opportunity. The opportunity is now there for us to equate our scheme with that of the Six Counties. What we are advocating here is already law in the Six Counties.
In the matter of the lump sum payment, there is not a whole lot dividing us. As Deputy Larkin pointed out, redundancy can come about as a result of improvements in industry and in some cases an employee may be regarded for the time being anyhow as conveniently old because the type of job he has been doing for a number of years has folded up. It could take a considerable time for such a person to adjust himself to other types of employment, and I understand the whole purpose behind these redundancy payments is to assist people to get by, pending the finding of other employment. That being so, it is imperative that we give them a reasonable lump sum payment.
Earlier on when we were advocating from these benches that the weekly payments should be made the first week after an employee's employment has been terminated, instead of after four weeks as provided in the Bill, we were told from the Government benches that there was this lump sum payment provision in existence. If one takes time to add up what this lump sum payment amounts to as it is set out, one finds it is nothing to write home about. We have the support of Deputy Dowling for this amendment, and I am sure there are other Deputies in the Minister's Party who feel the same way. If the Minister does not agree to the amendment, perhaps he would agree to make his decision known on Report Stage. We would naturally hope he would recognise that there is a case for increasing the lump sum payment.
I think there is a misconception here, because we are told we should give this lump sum, that we should make it bigger, omitting any consideration of the fact that this lump sum does not come out of public funds, that it does not come out of the contributions towards the Redundancy Fund but from the employer alone.
No better place.
It is not a question of voting money from public funds but of putting an obligation on the employer only who is already contributing very heavily to the Redundancy Fund, who may very well find his business running down due to circumstances over which he has no control and that he has to pay this lump sum as well. It is not just a matter of the Minister being generous, of the Minister having another think about it. The Minister has not got to find the money. It is the employer who has to find the money. I agree that a man may very well be placed in a difficult position because of redundancy, but who is going to take the brunt of it in the total sense? As I see it, the chances of redundancy coming about by way of large-scale modernisation of equipment or methods are quite slight. It does happen occasionally but rarely enough. What is much more likely is that redundancy will be caused by a change in trading conditions, withdrawal of protection to an industry or some such factor over which the employer has no control. Where a business is contracting, it certainly cannot afford to pay unlimited lump sums to its employees.
We are not seeking unlimited lump sums. That is distorting it. We have set out what we are looking for.
Vastly increased lump sums. When all this is taken together, we find that the employer is being burdened far more—
Deputy Booth is entitled to make his remarks.
I know it is annoying.
It is not meant to be annoying, but very often the truth is disturbing to people who would prefer to pontificate sheer nonsense such as we have heard in this House already.
That is no way to speak to Deputy Dowling.
I would be the first man to say to Deputy Dowling that it is all very well for him to say: "Please, Minister, will you give increased lump sums", but Deputy Dowling has completely forgotten, as the Labour Party Deputies have forgotten, that the Minister will not be paying any lump sums, that the community will not be paying any lump sums.
We do not want the community to be always paying.
Who is going to pay?
It is always the employer who has to pay. Also he must not make any profit. That is the last thing he must do. Out of what is he to pay all this benefit?
If Deputy Cluskey did not annoy me, it would surprise me. I should be disappointed if he did not make stupid remarks. He has no conception of business. I do not think he has ever worked——
Did the Deputy ever work? Let him not become personal.
I have worked much harder than many Deputies and for a lower rate of pay.
It disturbs Labour Deputies to hear the facts, but let it be clearly understood in the House and appreciated by the Minister, as I am sure it is, that we are not here to agree to distribute benefits out of somebody else's pocket. It is very easy to say that so-and-so should get more money when neither I nor you have to pay it, but when you are putting an obligation on one sector of the economy which has already been burdened with a considerable amount of additional taxation to subsidise this Redundancy Fund, to place on him an additional load at a time probably when business is least able to bear it, is all nonsense.
Everybody would like everybody else to have more money, but we must see where the money is to come from. The entire amount of weekly payments will be paid out of the Redundancy Fund to which the employer as well as the worker contributes, but the lump sum is entirely the employer's responsibility. I do not object to the lump sum provision as it stands. It is a good provision and an added incentive to employers not to declare people redundant. It is a penalty on an employer for declaring people redundant.
Do you think they should get a medal?
I do not think they should get a halo either.
That is not the Minister's interpretation of it.
Employers have not unlimited funds to dispose of in that way.
The Deputy is a bit of a halo merchant.
I do not think I was the first to mention "halo". Employers have not unlimited funds and neither Deputy Dowling nor Deputy Mullen nor anybody else should be irresponsible on that point, just to vote people money out of somebody else's pocket. That is completely irresponsible. If you want to increase the benefits, do it out of the insurance fund or out of public funds but do not put this added burden entirely on the employer's shoulders over and above what they are already doing. That would be completely unreasonable.
What are they doing?
Very many employers already have pension schemes. Under this Bill they will without any pension scheme have to contribute a larger amount than the employees to the Redundancy Fund. Also the employers must now make provision towards setting aside a certain amount of money to pay this lump sum immediately on the dismissal of any employee for reasons of redundancy. What more can you ask? You may say the amount is small. It is small where the service is very short but it will be a considerable sum in the case of a genuine long term employee. The House must remember that we are not dispensing money out of the air. We are imposing an obligation on an employer, on a company, which probably when this arises will be very hard pushed even to meet its obligations. That is what happens when there is redundancy. It is a question of contraction of business and consequently there is no money there to distribute to anybody. Please look at this in a realistic way and do not begin distributing largesse without realising who has to foot the bill.
The final point made by Deputy Booth was dealt with by Deputy Larkin, that is that redundancy is not necessarily caused by contraction of business. Redundancy can be caused—and we are told by the Minister is likely to be caused—by the adoption of new methods of production which may make a reduction of the labour force inevitable. Contraction of business does not come into that and, in fact, adoption of modern production methods and the introduction of up-to-date machinery may bring about a situation in which far greater production is secured and consequently far greater profit instead of the reverse which is the poor mouth case made by Deputy Booth. Deputy Booth is a halo dispenser.
We do not want to hear any uncanonised saints from the Labour Party talking about it.
It was Deputy Booth who came in trailing his hat and daring anybody to stand on it.
It was the Labour Party who first used the term.
Deputy Booth threw his halo on the floor of the House.
I never take it off although I might drop it.
He did this but at the same time he did not speak entirely with the tongue of angels on this subject. In fact, he fell to what I might describe as no more than vulgar abuse in addressing Members of the House. It is distressing to see a man of his public image indulging in this behaviour.
He was not vulgar, was he?
He verged on the vulgar. He was certainly very close to it.
Could we get back to the amendment?
Through the Chair, I want to ask Deputy Booth is he saying that the employers in this part of the country are not able to give this facility to their workers as the employers in the Six Counties are? Is he saying that they are not sufficiently well financed?
It is a different scheme. There is no weekly payment in the North. There are weekly payments plus lump sums here.
Is the Minister saying that it is not as good a scheme in the North?
The weekly payments come out of what the workers pay.
I think ours is a better scheme.
Deputy Dowling and I do not agree with the Minister.
You have shattered my self-confidence.
A very difficult feat and one which I know will take a little time and perhaps another election to accomplish. But the day will come and the Minister should not let his overweening self-confidence run away with him because it is on Deputy Dowling that he depends for sitting where he is and he must take account of Deputy Dowling's views on these matters.
And I do.
I make a strong appeal for democracy on the Minister's part so that the voice of the backbenchers shall be heard in his Party.
Their voice was heard. There is a lot of Deputy Dowling's work in this Bill.
Is the Minister saying then that Deputy Dowling is two-faced?
Is the Minister then saying, in effect, that Deputy Dowling is only putting on a show here, that he has already agreed to these provisions? Is that what the Minister is saying? He is not paying attention. Leave West Limerick and Cork alone for a minute.
They will leave ye alone.
When the two Ministers have ceased discussing West Limerick and Cork and the arrangements for the weekend, I should like to attract the Minister's attention and to ask him is he saying then, when he says that Deputy Dowling's handiwork is in this Bill, that Deputy Dowling is putting on a false front, that Deputy Dowling is not sincere, because that is a gross insult to Deputy Dowling?
Deputy Dowling has expressed his views in private and has now expressed them in public. Government Deputies are tied down a lot. The Deputy must see that.
Your assistant from the extreme right, Deputy Booth, has disappeared, as he is wont to do, having delivered his conservative and Tory broadsides. However, nobody will take much notice of him.
Would the Deputy answer a question?
Providing it is not too embarrassing.
Did you have your tea, because the rest of us are here all the evening?
Is it suggested that because the Minister has not had his tea——
I am worried about the rest of the Deputies who have been here all the evening.
——the fate of thousands of workers should be thrown aside? Is there nobody who will take the Minister's place?
The Deputy has said nothing about the Redundancy Payments Bill.
There are plenty of volunteers who will take the Minister's place. The Minister considers himself indispensable. There is a very well-fed man behind him who will sit in for him. I do not want to take up the Minister's teatime unduly. I should not like to see him develop gastronomic difficulties. At the same time, I must say that I remember the time when such a triviality would not be brought up in defence of the effort to steamroll this Bill through the House, which is what is being done, without due and proper consideration.
We have had a very hardworking Committee all this afternoon.
If all you can do is to say: "I have not had my tea," that is very poor.
The Deputy was not here when the work was being done.
I was doing very hard and laborious work, much more difficult than sitting here exchanging pleasantries.
We were not.
You were. I got reports on you.
There was very good work done.
It was reported to me that that is what you were doing.
And the Deputy came in to stop it.
It is obvious that you are not being kept under control. I must appeal to the Chair for protection against this gross interruption that I am subjected to by the Minister. If I may be allowed to come back to the subject of the Bill, I want to say that we feel very strongly that the proposal is acceptable. Surely, we cannot be in earnest in our protestations about our desire for the unity of the country if we perpetuate the inequities existing as between workers in the North and workers in the South? It is very obvious that we have a duty to endeavour to do as well as the Government in the North of Ireland do in respect of the people for whom they have responsibility. Accordingly, we urge this amendment upon the Minister. I certainly think that the Deputies who have tabled the amendment have done very well.
I am sorry that Deputy Booth is not here. I would have a great deal more to say to him if he were here, but as he is not here, I do not propose to say anything further about him. I would say to the Minister that he has got now the opportunity of proving whether Deputy Dowling is just putting on a show or not, whether he is pretending or not. We would like to know just what the Minister's attitude is in this respect.
I want very briefly to refer to one or two points. Strange as it may seem, the answer to this whole controversy may be found in the Labour Party's contributions and in Deputy Booth's, and in the centre there is the Minister who has given tremendous thought to this Bill. I feel with him that the Bill here compares favourably with the legislation in the Six Counties. It is a good start in a redundancy payments scheme. I would accept the Labour Party outlook that automation will lead to less employment but for the fact that this theory is over 100 years old, going back to the time when the Luddites of England opposed the introduction of the spinning jenny in Lancashire. They were defeated and Lancashire became the greatest cotton centre in the whole world until the Japanese, by better methods, made Japan the cotton centre. Automation and modernisation do not necessarily mean less employment. That has been proved in the United States of America where industries have been modernised and automation has been introduced. Eventually you have much greater employment. In the OECD magazine issued monthly or quarterly, the opinion is always stressed that automation does not, in fact, lead to redundancy. I do not think it does.
In fairness to the Labour Party, they do feel like Deputy Dowling and myself. While I know the Minister has given very careful thought to the Bill, it is natural for some of us here to seek more for a man who is going to lose his job. It is not a pension, merely payment to tide him over temporary difficulties until he finds alternative employment. I know what is in the Minister's mind. On previous occasions when we asked the Minister to amend a proposal, he has done so. I do feel that tonight, perhaps, he could extend the period mentioned in the Bill. That would meet the Labour Party's wishes and I am sure, despite what Deputy Booth has said, would meet his wishes. We have to consider the fact that this money will not come from Government funds or members' contributions; it will come from employers. If we approach this matter in the spirit that each person involved has his rights, an extra few weeks would not break any employer while it would mean a great deal to a worker.
I support Deputy Dowling and the Labour Party on this point in asking the Minister to examine the period mentioned in the Bill and, if possible, to extend it. At the same time, I want to pay tribute to the Minister who has done a tremendous job on this Bill. This is the first time that we have had redundancy payments legislation and the Minister has set a headline in its preparation and has promised that he will have special schemes for special types of workers. We can face the future unafraid of automation or that a worker will be left penniless. He certainly will not become affluent as a result of the Bill but, at least, he will not be left penniless. I put it to the Minister that he should review the period here and, if possible, increase it.
I do not wish to enter into a discussion with Deputy Moore in regard to the effects of automation. He said that automation does not bring about redundancy. He should have said: "should not bring about redundancy." We cannot ignore the fact that our unemployment figure has grown and is still growing and we are not in a period of full employment when we can start thinking in other terms in regard to automation. In my capacity as a trade union official, I have had some knowledge of the results of automation. In a number of cases it has brought about redundancy.
In some cases.
There is no doubt about that. Let us not talk about automation as doing great things for the workers.
I want to deal with the section now. Despite the knowing way in which Deputy Booth talked on this occasion —as he tried to do on other occasions —it is obvious that he, who is always eager to point out to people that they are wrong, has not applied his mind to this Bill at all. It strikes me that he has neglected to do his homework. He tried to come to the defence of the employers and he unhesitatingly cried on behalf of the employers, without realising the full extent of the provisions of the Bill. In the explanatory memorandum which was circulated to all Deputies, it is stated on page 2, paragraph 10:
The principal payments which will be made out of the Redundancy Fund are the weekly payments to redundant workers (paragraph 7 above) and rebates to employers who make lump-sum payments in accordance with section 19 of the Bill. The rebates to employers will be the equivalent of one-half of the lump-sum paid but a bonus of 2½ per cent of the lump-sum will be added to a rebate in respect of each extra week of notice given in excess of the minimum period of two weeks provided for in section 17, subject to a maximum rebate of 65 per cent of the actual lump-sum payment (section 29).
It is perfectly obvious that Deputy Booth did not read that. It is unfortunate that he is not here: as usual, as my colleague, Deputy Dunne, said, he runs in and makes a speech and runs out again. He is oblivious of what is happening. In this instance he does not know what he is talking about. There is the proof that rebates are given to the employers. Let us forget about crying and whinging about the employers paying the lump sum. The money to a great extent will come from the Redundancy Payment Fund. Let us stop talking about the employers paying all this. They will get rebates. Where will the rebates come from? They will come from the Fund. Indeed, I am sorry that Deputy Booth did not bother to study this piece of legislation since it affects his business as an employer, and his business as a man responsible for workers. Now and then he purports to have an interest in the workers.
I think a reasonable case has been made for the amendment. Many arguments were put forward in favour of it, including those made by Deputy Moore and Deputy Dowling. I hope the Minister will accept all that has been said. He has been urged from these benches and by his two colleagues to change this section and to make the provision which we are advocating in the Labour Party amendment. Undoubtedly this will not make or break the Fund. If what we envisage comes about, it surely will not break the Fund to give decent lump sum payments. There is no doubt that the lump sum payments and the weekly payments will be utilised by the working men and women to tide them over until such time as they find another job. During that period of tiding over, it is natural that they should aspire to have the same standard of living, if possible, or as near as possible to the same standard of living, as they had before they were declared redundant, while they were working.
The people we are talking about have less than £1,200 a year. They need this type of assistance and they need these lump sum payments. They are not extravagant lump sums. Another good reason why the Minister should accept this is that apart from this Redundancy Payments Bill, day after day the different trade unions find it necessary, unfortunately, to discuss redundancy payments in respect of some of their members, and on those occasions we have to ask the employers to have regard to the years of service given by the employees. In most cases payment has been made far in excess of what is mentioned in the Bill. I am conscious of the fact that the Bill provides for the minimum only. We have some decent employers and I am hoping that they will not regard this as the be-all and the end-all of this matter.
As I said before, these are largely tentative estimates of what the Fund can carry. Experience will show us whether we can improve them. The figures given here are based on the best estimate that could be made by us, but only experience can tell us what can be done in actual fact. The experience in Britain was that after a year or so of operation the contribution had to be doubled. Their estimate erred and they had to double the contribution to support the Fund.
The difference between our scheme and the one in Britain is that we have weekly payments out of the Fund. This Fund will have to carry the weekly payments and the lump sums or part of the lump sums. Deputy Mullen spoke about the rebate which may be given to an individual employer, and the individual employer will provide the rest of the lump sum. Industry generally in Ireland will be carrying these lump sums and weekly payments. If we want to make our lump sums equal to those in Britain and continue with the weekly payments, we will be putting too much of a burden on industry.
I think it is a better scheme to have weekly payments and lump sums rather than lump sums only. It suits us better to have lump sums plus weekly payments. I do not know what our experience will be, but if time proves that the Fund can carry more, the House will be in a position to accept a proposal by me to increase the amount. I have gone into this deeply with representatives of the workers and employers. Deputy Moore spoke about this period of 16 weeks. That is a figure which I would not mind looking at again, and increasing it.
Right. I do not think we can change the basis of calculating the lump sum without some experience.
Will the Minister have a look at these figures between now and Report Stage?
I have gone into them and I must stay with them until we have experience. These are decisions which were taken. Under our scheme the man with long service, the older man, the man from 55 years on, with a lump sum and weekly payments, would be better off than under the British system.
The Minister has indicated that he will consider extending the period to 20 weeks. I should like to raise another question.
It is the number of weeks?
We appreciate that the Minister is moving in that direction, but I would like to press the other matter. I am surprised at the ignorance shown by Deputy Moore when he talks about new equipment and new methods not resulting in many cases in fewer workers being employed. Let him look at his own undertaking and he will discover what has happened there.
I spoke about the situation generally.
In the Deputy's own case, new techniques and new equipment have meant a very substantial reduction in the numbers employed.
The Deputy is a 20th century Luddite.
I can produce a letter I got only yesterday in relation to new methods, new equipment and a new approach: the firm is looking for a reduction of some 40 per cent in the labour force in one particular department. As it happens, they will not be made redundant; they will not be put out the gate. There will be alternative work for them elsewhere. Let us make the position quite clear because there has been a great deal of talk about productivity: productivity means making the same amount of goods with less labour or a greater amount of goods with the same labour.
That seems to have no connection with the Labour Party amendment.
I just want to make the point.
It has only a vague connection with the amendment.
With all due respect, Sir, I heard you permitting discussion across the floor of this House which had nothing to do with the amendment and, with your permission, I will now demonstrate the relevance of my remarks.
I would prefer the Deputy to come to the Labour Party amendment.
Ministers have called for a greater development of industry and that has resulted in adaptation and new equipment. That may well result in redundancy. Many employers on many occasions have indicated that, in order to make new techniques and new equipment most efficient, it might be as well if the older workers would stand aside, retire earlier, or become redundant. Employers are doubtful that the older workers can be retrained as efficient units in the handling of new equipment. As Deputy Mullen has pointed out, the Minister is very conscious of this particular problem and that is shown in the sections providing for a rebate out of a common fund in relation to redundancy compensation.
We are concerned primarily in our amendment with the effect on the worker who is declared redundant. There are two methods of approach. One is the payment of weekly compensation for a certain period. It is hoped it will be a short period, but it may be longer than is anticipated. The other is compensation by way of a lump sum. I urge the Minister to look again at this level of redundancy compensation. As the Bill stands, if a worker becomes redundant after 20 or 25 years service, he can get half a week's wages for each year of service. Would that happen at any level in management? The Minister knows very well it would not. Management would get compensation of one year, two or three years salary. Management would get adequate notice. Here we are dealing with the worker earning under £1,200 who becomes redundant after 20 or 25 years' faithful service. We hold that ten weeks redundancy compensation, aside from the weekly compensation, is wholly inadequate. In the case of a worker who may have difficulty in getting employment readily elsewhere, it is not only inadequate but utterly miserable. We appeal to the Minister to reconsider this.
Unless the Minister agrees to improve the weekly payments——
This is the lump sum we are dealing with.
I am coming to that.
Amendment No. 63.
Unless the Minister agrees to go some of the way with us in this amendment, this Bill will be an extremely poor measure. The amendment is by no means the best kind of redundancy scheme of which we know. There are many schemes in operation——
I do not wish to interrupt the Deputy, but he will have to adhere to the amendment. We are dealing with the lump sum.
There are many schemes in operation far superior to that contained in this measure. One has only to look at the schemes in operation on the Continent and in Britain. I know schemes under which two weeks wages are paid for each year of service, and sums in excess of that in certain industries. If the Minister insists on pinning down the lump sum payment to half a week's wages, or a week's wages are paid for each year of will stand as a very inferior one. The Minister has agreed to extend the payment period from 16 weeks to 20 weeks.
May I explain?
Will the Deputy give way to the Minister?
I have not agreed to extend the rate of payment; I have agreed that for the lump-sum the maximum period will be 20 weeks instead of 16 weeks. I am not talking about weekly payments. It is impossible to discuss the Bill if the Deputy does not know what is going on.
The Minister was out while I was here. In all the circumstances, I would like clarification of the original stipulation in the Bill that the half-week's pay would commence at the age of 18, between 18 and 41. I take it that the Minister has agreed to apply the scheme to people at the age of 16 and that this age limit will now change to 16 years of age. I do not know if the Minister is confirmed in that opinion at the present time, but I thought at an earlier stage that he was favourably disposed towards applying the scheme to people at the age of 16 rather than 18.
The service will count from 16 instead of from 18. I shall amend that.
That is clear. One of the reasons why we feel that the lump-sum payment should be a pretty generous payment is the fall in the value of money in these times. Workers, when they are declared redundant, are compelled to make a decision, sometimes a quick decision, and this may involve the requirement of their being mobile enough to transfer to another area within the country or perhaps to emigrate.
Where the lump-sum is concerned also, many workers think in terms of branching out on their own and going into some little industry or enterprise and the payments which we envisage in this scheme are ridiculously low from that point of view. Taking a basis of an average wage of £10 a week, the redundancy payment under this scheme as at present constituted would not exceed £160, or £80 for the people who would be only entitled to half a week's pay. If one of the features of this redundancy scheme is to achieve mobility of labour and to entice people to change from one job to another, the Minister will have to increase the lump-sum payments.
In all the circumstances, we feel that a half week's pay between 18 and 21 is something which the Minister has in mind anyway, a week's pay for each year of service between 22 and 40 is contained in the British Act and we are only asking for 1½ week's pay between 41 and, say, 70. There is not an awful lot between us I suppose and I would appeal to the Minister at least to bridge that gap.
Otherwise, the lump sum payments are not very attractive. As was pointed out earlier, the Minister does not envisage a spate of redundancy and the vast majority of the workers who will be contributing to this Fund, fortunately for them, will never benefit by this scheme, so that in respect of the small numbers of people whom we are catering for, I feel that we could afford to be more generous.
There is no question of generosity. Before the Deputy came in, I was saying that we must keep in mind what the industry can carry and if our experience is that the benefits can be increased, we can come back here.
Does this mean you would look at it after a year?
It will take about a year. They had the opposite experience in Britain.
Can you not reconsider the matter between now and Report Stage?
Our scheme provides for a lump sum as well as weekly payments; the British scheme has a lump sum alone. If we were asking our industries to give the equivalent of the British lump sum plus a weekly sum, it would be asking much too much. The workers would have to contribute much more.
I am quoting from the Minister himself last Thursday:
The basic thing behind redundancy is that a man has rights against his employer and he is compensated for those rights when he loses them.
There is no getting away from economic reality, and if you want a bigger payment, you must have a bigger contribution which would be a burden on the workers and on the industry.
According to the Minister's statement, a worker is being compensated for rights which he is losing. The employers pay it.
If there is necessity to increase the contribution after a year, then the Minister can make a case for it, bearing in mind the plans he has laid and that he has said there is not going to be any great redundancy in the future. The Minister is inconsistent.
I am not inconsistent, but it would be irresponsible of me to go away from the calculations we have made. If they prove wrong, I can come back.
They are totally inadequate.
I am wondering about the calculations.
It is very difficult to calculate.
The Minister admits that there is a considerable number of workers going to contribute to this Fund who will never get a penny piece out of it.
I will agree to raise the maximum lump sum. As I say, the older worker is doing better under this scheme than in Britain.
Let us do better at all times.
But he is not doing well.
I would love to be Santa Claus, too, but you must face reality.
There are many other factors relating to older workers in Britain and older workers here.
I realise that.
There are many other factors which would justify their not doing so well, but here redundancy is a very serious problem. In many cases, it may be in small towns where there is little hope of getting employment.
That is why I am willing to make the maximum bigger. I will make the maximum 20 weeks, as requested, but the rest of the figures will have to stay until we have experience.
We will have it out with you on Report Stage. We reserve the right to speak on Report Stage.
When the troops are back.
We are doing very well so we must not get angry.
I move amendment No. 64:
In page 35, after line 33, to insert the following new subparagraph:
"(d) When the total number of years of continuous employment as ascertained in accordance with subparagraphs (a) to (c) falls to be divided for the purposes of paragraphs 1 (a) and 1 (b), any remaining parts of a year in those divisions shall be aggregated and the number of full years represented by this aggregation (when calculated in accordance with subparagraphs (a) to (c) shall be added to the period of employment mentioned in paragraph 1 (a)."
This is an additional sub-paragraph to paragraph 3 of Schedule 3 and it is necessary to provide a basis of calculation when the period of continuous service falls to be broken down between service under 41 years of age and service over 41 years of age because there is a different estimation of amounts for each and it affects the amounts of the lump sum to be paid. We have to lay down rules for the calculation of this because of a complication which arises from a provision which provides for periods of 26 weeks or more being rounded up to one year. In other words if a period of 26 weeks is remaining it is called a year. This is favourable to the worker. The purpose of the new subparagraph is that where this breakdown of service is necessary, any residual service under or over 41 is treated as years under 41. This arrangement preserves the balance between the employers' and the employees' interests. The employee gains by rounding up anything over 26 weeks to a year and to counter that incomplete years would be counted as equal to a year under 41 years of age. It is a fair balance.
It may not be strictly on the amendment but I would appreciate if the Minister would clarify the point in respect of entitlement under this scheme and this whole question of continuity of service.
This comes later.
I move amendment No. 65:
In page 35, after line 45, to insert the following new paragraph:
"6. Where a trade or business or an undertaking (whether or not it be an undertaking established by or under an Act of the Oireachtas) was transferred from one person to another, the period of employment of an employee in the trade or business or undertaking at the time of the transfer shall count as a period of employment with the transferee, and the transfer shall not break the continuity of the period of employment."
This amendment is designed to ensure that continuity of employment is preserved for the purposes of redundancy payment, where a worker was employed in a business which changed ownership before the operative date of the Bill. This may be already covered by the Bill but the amendment is for the purpose of making it clear that a period of employment was not broken by a change of ownership in the business before the Bill became operative.
There is one question I want to put to the Minister on this. It is strictly not relevant to it, but since the Minister was speaking about this continuity, I should like to know what is the position of the workers who have been contributing to a pension fund in one business, say, Dunlops, at the present time? If they should become redundant but secure employment with Fords, can they carry over their payment rights to the new firm?
Is the Deputy talking about a private scheme?
That would be a matter for negotiation.
Will the Minister under the present section be stopping those funds going over?
In effect, amendment No. 65 meets the requirements of amendment No. 66 in our name.
I thought that might be the intention of your amendment. It is the same idea in another context. As far as I see, the Bill covers what you want but I will make sure about it.
Would you indicate whether in fact your amendment covers the content of our amendment?
It is on the same principle. My amendment makes sure that changes of ownership before the operative date of the Bill will have the same effect as changes of ownership afterwards. The Labour Party amendment is intended to deal with transfers before the operative date. I think as the Bill stands such transfers are covered. The amendment has a limited date. I will look at the matter and see what should be done, if it is necessary to do anything, to cover what is intended.
Could I, at this stage, raise a question in respect of the interpretation of this whole question of seniority of service? I want to pose a special question to the Minister. You may have a situation where an employer arbitrarily decides to suspend the services of his workers and to take up an attitude that they are no longer entitled to seniority of service or any other perquisites attached to the firm. This employer adopts the attitude, as the result of a trade dispute, that the workers have ceased their entitlement to any recognition in the firm and that he is purporting to re-open the firm. He purports to re-open the firm, even though the firm is in the same name. Can that employer's arbitrary action have any adverse effect in respect of continuity of service under this redundancy payments scheme?
Once this Bill is an Act it cannot. On the Second Stage, I think it was Deputy Jones who mentioned the fact that people might do it before the Act was in operation. I said I would be prepared to bring proposals before the House to deal with such a situation.
Where we have evidence that it has already happened and where the cessation of the work only lasted a few days but the employer adopted the attitude that he would re-employ those people, break their service and purport to start afresh, would the Minister deal with this?
I would be glad to have details. As the Deputy will understand, you do not make law for rumours. I refer particularly to people doing this to avoid redundancy payments.
If I convey the particular circumstances to the Minister, will he investigate them?
I should be glad to have them.
I move amendment No. 66:
In page 35, between lines 50 and 51, to insert a new paragraph as follows:—
"7. Where an employee of a company is taken into the employment of another company which, at the time when he is taken into its employment, is an associated company of the first-mentioned company, his period of employment at that time shall count as a period of employment with the associated company, and the change of employer shall not break the continuity of the period of employment. This paragraph shall be deemed to have applied from the 1st January, 1966."
Is the amendment being withdrawn?
It is withdrawn, on the understanding that the Minister will deal with it.
I will deal with it.
Amendment 68 is consequential on amendment 67. Both amendments may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 67:
In page 36 to delete paragraph 11.
The effect of this amendment is that we want a strike as well as a lock-out to count. The Minister makes it clear in the Bill that where a lock-out takes place, this would be deemed as allowable service for the purpose of qualifying for redundancy payment. We feel that "strike" should be inserted. We are asking that this word be inserted before "lock-out" so that this will cover both strike and lock-out. There are many cases where a strike would be very justifiable In the vast majority of cases, strikes are justifiable and people are placed in the position where in order to secure their rights, they have to withdraw labour. We feel that this period of time should be allowable with regard to qualifying for redundancy payments. We would ask the Minister to accept this amendment.
I wish to support this amendment and in doing so, may I direct the Minister's attention to what appears to me to be contradictory? We are objecting to paragraph 11 which reads:
Absence from work by reason of a strike in the business or industry in which the employee concerned is employed and which occurred after the commencement of this Act shall not be allowable as reckonable service.
Paragraph 10 appears to be contradictory. It reads:
Absence from work by reason of a strike in the business or industry in which the employee concerned is employed and which occurred before the commencement of this Act shall be allowable as reckonable service.
Paragraph 11 clearly indicates that workers who go on strike will not get redundancy payments. This is extremely unfair. It interferes with the liberty of people. Very often people have to go on strike. They have no other option. The Minister is very well aware of this in regard to the office he holds now as Minister for Labour. Many strikes have come about in this country after long and tedious negotiations extending as far as the Labour Court. What is being advocated in this paragraph is affecting all these efforts and you get an employer continuously saying no, as has been highlighted by a very eminent man who attempted to intervene in the bacon strike. If we have a situation of that kind occurring and the workers are let go on strike such workers will not be allowed to have that period of time taken into account as continuous service. We have always held that a workman on strike is still in employment, still under contract. Does it break his contract to have a disagreement with his employer? When he goes back, he goes back on whatever terms emanate from the strike.
That is added on to the agreement that is already in existence, but this particular paragraph will create a very serious precedent. It will encourage employers to do something that only a few of them have attempted to do up to the present. To the present time, in the matter of service being extended to people, we have had strikes which have been taken into consideration for continuance of service. This paragraph will inspire employers to say in future that if you go out on strike, the period you spend on strike will be a penalty and you will not get any allowance for that period by way of continuity of employment. If this happens, it will only make the people involved in a strike look for compensation before they return to work.
The taking out of this paragraph will improve the Bill. The continuity inclusion in it will destroy the real meaning of the Bill and will fall into line with the thoughts that have been repeatedly expressed, not only on this occasion but on other occasions, by Deputy Booth. There is no penalty of this kind being imposed on the employer. His failure to give continuous employment to the worker can end up only with the worker getting a meagre lump-sum or weekly payment.
I would entreat the Minister to accept the Labour Party's amendment and delete this paragraph from the Bill, just as he has in paragraph 10 where there is an allowance made for strikes in retrospect. They are taken into account for the purpose of calculating continuous service. Surely the Minister can follow it through and let it continue that way? We will not look to the future and say that there will be a series of strikes. Let this Bill not indicate any semblance of a big strike, of a penalty being imposed on workers because they exercise their constitutional rights, rights which they exercise most times after a lot of discussion and argument in connection with the matters affecting them. Very often it can be proved that the disputes that occur are not always the workers' fault. But this paragraph is saying straight away that because a person went on strike, he will have his continuity of service interfered with for the duration of the period of the strike. I would ask the Minister to change it.
I should like to put to the Minister another aspect of the matter. Section 10 deals with the question of absences from work through industrial illness and so on, and absence from work with the permission of the employers. Every case is dealt with on an individual basis, on the individual's absence from work because of his suffering from industrial disease or injury or being absent from work because of illness through occupational disease or absence from work with the permission of his employer for a period not exceeding 13 weeks. This is all covered on the basis of what happens in the case of the individual, but when you come down to this particular section, what do you find—absence from work by reason of strike or absence in the case of injury to a person concerned with his employment.
This particular case departs completely from an individual on strike, perhaps on a strike on a decision of all the workers in the particular employment. It may arise as a result of a section of the workers who are members of a trade union having a dispute with their particular employer and placing pickets on their employment, and other workers in the employment observing the normal trade union practice of not passing trade union pickets. Therefore, you have people who are affected because of this by reason of a strike, not even a strike they are engaged in, a strike from which they gain nothing but one which has affected some other grades of workers.
As has already been said, if you have progressive legislation going through this House, and with all its faults this Bill represents progressive legislation, it does not do very much good and it does not create any kind of good atmosphere to include a section like this in the Bill. There have been many cases in which employers in some circumstances have had perturbed feelings. Yet, they have recognised service for employment purposes, for seniority purposes, for the purposes of payment of service pay and for payment of other things, and interruption of work due to strike would not affect the claim of the worker. It has been accepted and agreed to very widely by large employer organisations and, in fact, accepted by the trade unions, that if a strike takes place, its having taken place should not deprive the worker of the rights he enjoyed previous to the strike.
This section will, in the eyes of the average worker, be a section which will interfere with the rights he had and which will affect him in relation to his compensation. Aside from these matters of a policy approach, let us say, I would put it to the Minister that if he looks at the record of the average period of people on strike, it is so short that to put such a paragraph in this Bill is only creating a situation where people will start looking back on records. Take five years from now. This is 1967 and it comes in in 1968. In 1970, the employer will start compensatory redundancy payments, start looking back over the records and will find "we had a strike of a week's duration in 1969; all right; that is when we got somebody else," and make all these calculations for the purpose of interfering with and reducing the rights of the workers under this Bill. From the practical point of view, it is not worth inclusion in the Bill and from the policy point of view, might I put it to the Minister that it is a section which does not contain the slightest bit of merit? The Minister has been not unreasonable regarding some of the Labour Party amendments. If he will accept this amendment, then he will be doing a good day's work in relation to this matter.
I fail to understand the full implications of this section. If the worker has a right to strike, a break in continuity of service should not occur with the implementation of this section. If it indicated that it applied only in the case of unofficial strikes or wildcat strikes, then there would be some sense in the section, but, in the case of official strikes, I do not see why there should be any break in continuity of service. If an employer feels he can hold up workers as an example —that they will lose redundancy payments because they participate in a strike—that is very wrong. I would ask the Minister to take another look at this section. I feel it is wrong; the worker has a right to strike and the question of continuity of service should be preserved if it is an official strike.
I merely want to add my voice to the voices of others in an appeal to the Minister to delete this penal clause, which is directed against the trade unionists of this country. Reading through the various sections here, one is amazed to see the inconsistencies from one section to another. Paragraph 10 reads:
Absence from work by reason of a strike in the business or industry in which the employee concerned is employed and which occurred before the commencement of this Act shall be allowable as reckonable service.
That is all right.
Paragraph 11 reads:
Absence from work by reason of a strike in the business or industry in which the employee concerned is employed and which occurred after the commencement of this Act shall not be allowable as reckonable service.
That is all wrong, but paragraph 12 says that absence from work by reason of a lock-out shall be allowable as reckonable service. This challenges the fundamental right of people to join a union and to assert their right to strike, which is enshrined in our Constitution: the right to free association and to withdrawal of labour when the necessity arises is fundamental. It is wrong of the Minister and his Department to seek to intimidate, reprimand, or denigrate in any way this fundamental right by allowing this penal clause to stand —that absence from work as a result of strike action will not be allowable as reckonable service. This is obviously an attempt to punish people for going on strike, even those who go on official strike with the sanction of their unions, and there is no punishment at all contained in this Act in respect of the employer who can continue to lock out hundreds or thousands of men indiscriminately at his own whim. The problem of lock-outs has been serious in these times also. It is gratifying to observe that the period of the lock-out is allowable as reckonable service, but there is obviously no way in which a Minister can get at the employer who may be completely in the wrong in respect of a lock-out.
Therefore, unless this Bill is going to show a very distinct anti-working class and anti-trade union bias, this penal clause must be removed. If it is a puny attempt by the Minister or his Department to intimidate trade unionists in the future—that because of the paltry sums which they will get under this measure, they will for one moment concede or acquiesce in this right to strike—these people are under a very mistaken notion altogether. This will have no effect at all in respect of the principles applying in industry in respect of whether or not there shall be strikes in the future; it will not alter the situation one jot, but it does appear to us to make very bad law that one section of our people should be singled out in this Bill for special treatment if they are not good boys.
It was a pity this section was allowed to stand at all, that it should come before the House, because it does indicate a certain mentality and it may well be a forecast of things in future in respect of this whole question of trade unionists, strikes and industrial relations. If this Bill is to be a new section of a workers' charter in this country, I would ask the Minister to consider omitting this reference to setting aside the period involved in official strikes. It is difficult to rationalise or understand why this should have happened at a time when the period of strike, prior to the commencement of the Bill, is being taken into account. I feel sure the Minister, being a sensible man, will meet our wishes in this matter and will not be influenced by people in his Party or outside it who have a distinct bias against trade unionists and who would seek to shackle them in respect of the rights they enjoy in our democratic society, rights which they will never give up.
I should like to support Deputy Dowling's amendment in support of the Labour Party.
They have gone for their tea.
We are dealing with amendment No. 67.
A man's right to strike is held sacred in this country and, provided it is an official strike with union sanction, I join with Deputy Dowling in asking the Minister to look at this matter again. A man may be on strike for six months before he is affected and very few strikes last six months. Most of them are of much shorter duration. Deputy Treacy's suggestion that this is anti-trade union legislation is wrong.
It has been proved here tonight.
This is an attempt to try to better the lot of the workers.
This clause takes the good out of it.
Deputy Larkin took me to task for my remarks on redundancy. I refer him to the annual report of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions for 1957.
Ten years ago.
The principle is the same.
It was the last time the Deputy read the report. I have to deal with this problem and with the workers affected by it.
I am well aware of the Deputy's trade union history and let us leave it at that. I hope the Minister will see the point in the Labour Party amendment, supported by Deputy Dowling and myself. I must have regard to the Minister's view on this because he has given deep thought to it.
Did the Deputy not get a chance to discuss this at a Party meeting?
I am afraid we shall have to create a chance to discuss it again. This Bill, as drafted, is the result of many consultations with employers' and workers' representatives. Matters of the nature now before us have been debated at long and difficult discussions and it will be difficult for me to get away from the principle that a man creates a right in his job by working in it; and that when a man is on strike he is not giving anything to that job. Therefore, it is hard to say to an employer that he owes something to a man for not being there.
He is keeping an eye on the place outside, with his banner.
This would not break continuity.
Reckonable service. I hope the Minister is not suggesting that the unions or the employers asked for this clause. I am satisfied the Congress of Trade Unions did not ask for it and equally, that the employers' representatives did not do so. Who, then, is the villain? Certainly it is not the Minister.
Past strikes are out, so let them be dead. From now on, the question is, should an employer reckon as service a period when he has not had the man in his service?
What penalty is imposed on the employer who creates a lock-out?
He has to reckon it as service.
What is the penalty?
He will have to reckon the period as service. If an employer locks out his workers, he is penalised by having to count that as service by his workers. That is the penalty.
It is a small thing.
It is small because I do not think that in actual practice, it will amount to much. Certain employers will add this, that and the other as an aggregate of time out. I have some doubts about this.
Is it not very difficult sometimes to determine whether it was a lock-out or a strike? This very frequently occurs. Who will determine it?
If it comes to a claim in retrospect, there will be an appeal to the tribunal which would have to come to some decision as to whether it was a lock-out or a strike. It could arise only in the case of an individual who had so much aggregated strike time that he loses——
It is so small it is not worth mentioning in the Bill. Yet it is destroying the spirit of the Bill. It involves reckonable service. It is infinitesimal but it is ruining the Bill.
I will see if there is any way of determining how much it would mean in actual practice and mention it on Report Stage. I should like to point out now that it would not be fair to say to an employer that he must cover a man for working while he is not working. It is likely that, in operation and in practice, employers will not do this.
This gives them the opportunity. Good employers will ignore it but there are the fly-by-nights who take advantage of every technical loophole.
The people who drafted this clause dug a hole for themselves because there will be more trouble in the Department about this than the rest of the Bill.
It will take weeks preparing a case for the tribunal.
I will look into it between now and Report Stage. The Labour Party can put down the amendment again.
I move amendment No. 69:
In page 38, between lines 9 and 10, to insert the following new paragraph:
"22. For the purposes of paragraphs 14 and 15, account shall not be taken of any sums paid to an employee by way of recoupment of expenses necessarily incurred by him in the proper discharge of the duties of his employment."
This is the question I posed to the Minister and he asked me to furnish the information——
——or any other Deputies who would know of such practices.
Would the Minister say anything now in regard to a person who is ill for longer than 26 weeks?
The basic principle is that employment shall be deemed to be continuous unless terminated by a dismissal or by the employee leaving the employment voluntarily. Notwithstanding that, it says that continuity of employment will not be broken even though notice of termination has been served where the employment is interrupted for a period not exceeding six months in respect of any absence authorised by the employer. The Deputy asked about a man who is sick for a period of less than six months. If a man is ill for longer than six months I think the employer could then dismiss him.
That is the point I wanted clarified. Would it not be possible to cover this contingency if there is a doctor's certificate?
I did realise, when the Deputy was speaking earlier, that there is special provision for some of the diseases which were mentioned. In the case of tuberculosis, I think there is a period of 18 months as against a period of six months for ordinary illness.
What about industrial diseases?
I shall have a look at that. I am not altogether satisfied with it. There is some possibility that what the Deputy is saying could be brought into the Bill.
I asked the Minister a question in connection with this Bill. I can understand that, perhaps because of all the confusion, he did not get an opportunity of replying. Is the Minister in a position to say what the salary will be for the chairman and vice-chairman of the tribunal?
I have not decided yet.
Am I to take it that, quite definitely, it will not be fulltime employment?
It is probable that it will not be fulltime. I do not know yet how much work will be available. We have the comparable employment of chairmen of arbitration councils. They are paid on a fee basis while they are working. I imagine this could be the way the chairman of the appeals tribunal will work, unless there are so many appeals as to warrant fulltime employment.
Some of these people lay down their own charges. Will the Minister lay down the payment in this case?
Yes; it would have to be laid down by the Minister. I do not know if the chairmen of arbitration councils lay down a charge or whether it is mutually agreed. I think it is probably agreed.
The charges vary. I know of one case where £50 was charged for an hour's work. I know of another case where £100 was charged for half a day's work. This is very interesting.
Will these fees be tax free?
Watch that because the lawyers are now into it.
When is it proposed to take the Report Stage?
I am trying to get 1st January as the deadline for the scheme. The Dáil is not sitting next week. I should be glad if it were possible to give me the Report and Final Stages on 7th November next.