Redundancy Payments Bill, 1970: Committee Stage.

Section 1 agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 1 and 49 are related and can be discussed together.

I suggest that, when we come to certain amendments which are related, we agree to discuss them together.

That is usual.

NEW SECTION.

I move amendment No. 1:

Before section 2 to insert the following new section:

2. —Any provisions of the Principal Act and this Act which effect or relate to the preservation or the continuity of an employee's employment shall apply to periods of employment before the 1st day of January, 1968, as they apply to such periods after that date.

In relation to section 2, it is agreeable that we should take amendments Nos. 1 and 49 together. We are suggesting that before section 2 there should be inserted the following new section:

2. —Any provisions of the Principal Act and this Act which effect or relate to the preservation of the continuity of an employee's employment shall apply to periods of employment before the 1st day of January, 1968, as they apply to such periods after that date.

This may appear to be a rather tortuous piece of statutory legalism. Nevertheless, the Labour Party are very concerned that this amendment should receive every sympathy from the Minister. We feel that the amendment by and large would broaden, or rather connect, the general statutory means for preserving the continuity of an employee's general service under the Bill. We submit that, because the amendment will not in any way impose any financial obligations on employers generally and will not do any harm to any individual, it should be acceptable to the House.

We had a situation in relation to the debate on the Principal Act and we noted that there was a gap of 23 weeks, between May, 1967 and January, 1968. The Minister may recall the debate in the Seanad at the end of 1967 when this matter was raised. On the general suggestion in relation to amendments Nos. 1 and 49, we would be happy if the Minister were to accept either amendment. This would meet our views in relation to the proposed extension of continuity of employment and either amendment would meet the wishes of Labour Deputies in this respect. I feel that a general strengthening of the continuous employment provision in the Schedule of the 1967 Act would be of considerable benefit. We would be interested to hear the Minister's view on these amendments because we feel there is a gap at present which needs to be bridged.

I have a good deal of sympathy with what appears to be the spirit of the amendments but I am not quite sure that the Deputy has revealed what exactly he intends to achieve. In relation to the entire Bill and the provisions on the preservation of continuity of employment and in relation to the most important principles on what I might call the technical side, there are a number of amendments. As I have said, the first amendment relating to the preservation of continuity of employment has my sympathy but I should like to hear that the amendment is proposed on the understanding that any provision of this kind written into the legislation would become operative only after the date of commencement of the Act—in other words, that continuity be preserved but that it applies only in relation to cases after the date of the commencement of the Act. If this is not already clearly established in the Bill, I have already asked the draftsman to have a look at it to ensure that that will happen. I think this will satisfy the Deputy.

I would seek a slightly broader assurance from the Minister. The general assurance we want is that the definition would go backward and would go forward. The Northern Ireland Act seems to contain this broad provision. Having regard to the assurance given by the Minister I would not be inclined to press our amendment. The only problem about amendment No. 49 is that it appears to apply to the Schedule as such which is an aspect of concern and amendment No. 1 is more appropriate in that regard. I would point out to the Minister that in Schedule 3 there is inserted by the Government the words:

was or is transferred from one person to another,

This may or may not be adequate as far as the Labour Party are concerned. It is the kind of contingency in regard to which we are very anxious to close loopholes but if the Minister can give a general assurance that, by and large, continuity is effectively assured under the Bill we will not unduly press the point with him on the technical basis.

I hope the Deputy understood me properly and he will have an opportunity of looking at this amendment on Report Stage. I would like to have a discussion with the draftsman regarding an amendment which would put this matter right with regard to continuity of service but it would not enable past cases to be reopened; it would apply only to new redundancy claims arising, in other words that the right to continuity of service be preserved. I think this meets the Deputy's point unless I misunderstand him. He will have an opportunity on Report Stage to have a look at this amendment.

Do I take it from the Minister that continuity of employment will continue? Any cases decided by the tribunal could not come into it at all. Is that what the Minister means?

Not the reopening of old cases but it is desirable, particularly in relation to persons with long service, that their right to continuity of employment be preserved.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 2:

Before section 2 to insert the following new section:

If an employee was in continuous employment on/or subsequent to 1st January, 1968 and during the period of continuity he was insurable for all benefits under the Social Welfare Acts, the Act shall apply to that employee in respect of that period during which he was so insured, provided that his weekly remuneration shall be taken to be the remuneration at the time when the change in insurance occurred and that redundancy payments (if any) arising from this section may be paid from the Redundancy Fund.

Perhaps with amendment No. 2, we could discuss amendment No. 20, which is a related amendment, if the House agrees?

Yes, we would be agreeable to discussing Nos. 2 and 20 together. No. 2 refers specifically to giving greater coverage under the social insurance system to certain categories of employees. If I may make a particular case, there were some 30 employees affected in the recent Palgrave Murphy receivership because they were over the £1,200 limit. It seems that the Act discriminates against clerical employees because they do not get credit for previous insurance contributions as do manual workers. In effect, if one goes out of insurance one goes from under the benefits of the Bill itself. This amendment would give that essential retrospection, not of a formal kind, but it would give even a consolation prize to the insured worker and he would not lose unduly by virtue of the change in the insurance statutory limits. It is difficult to frame an amendment to meet entirely the wishes of the Labour Party in this regard but with the recent proposed decision, for example, of the Minister for Social Welfare to raise the insurance limit to £1,600 per annum this question will inevitably, under existing legislation, loom again and inevitably anomalies will tend to develop under the law. Therefore we are suggesting to the Minister that:

If an employee was in continuous employment on/or subsequent to 1st January, 1968 and during the period of continuity he was insurable for all benefits under the Social Welfare Acts, the Act shall apply to that employee in respect of that period during which he was so insured, provided that his weekly remuneration shall be taken to be the remuneration at the time when the change in insurance occurred and that redundancy payments (if any) arising from this section may be paid from the Redundancy Fund.

I would stress the last part of the amendment. This means, in effect, that no employer would be unduly affected retrospectively. The redundancy fund at the moment is in a healthy condition and it would not suffer an excessive burden if a small number of employees who do not come under the scope of this measure were covered. I have in mind very much the Palgrave Murphy employees who were kicked out from under the Act.

No matter how sympathetic I may feel and I know how the Deputies opposite must feel about people who will not get the benefit of the improvements in this Bill I must at this stage say that I shall set myself against any retrospection. There are many cases which have been brought to my notice privately and otherwise which do not benefit under the provisions of the parent Act and while the fund at the moment would appear to be capable of standing up to some largesse in the way of retrospection I am afraid it is not possible to put the stress of retrospection on the fund. In the terms of the Bill generally we are flirting very generously with the fund. Apart from that, the idea of retrospection is difficult. One could hardly introduce it in regard to one aspect and reject it in regard to another. One could hardly decide from what date it would be acceptable. I do not wish to be awkward on this point but I have decided to reject any retrospection. I would be opposed to any policy that involved the introduction on a highly selective basis of a new principle, that the benefits be related to insured service rather than to actual service with a particular employer so that a person who ceased to be insurable should be eligible indefinitely for benefits by reference to insured service. Formerly in the cases of persons who went beyond the limit of £1,200 and of non-manual workers, there was provision in the principal Act to leave them in for two years, which period it is proposed to increase to four years, even with the proposed change to the £1,600 limit. Without going into any further details on this point, I think the principle is wrong having regard to the fact that the coverage given to non-manual workers under this Bill will be improved to a substantial degree. The principal point is that I am not in favour of retrospection in this case.

While I agree that the fund should be maintained in a satisfactory state and appreciate that this provision might consume some of the fund I doubt if this would amount to a very considerable amount. The Minister has stated that he does not believe in retrospection and I am not 100 per cent in favour of it. However, when other Government Departments are collecting money, for instance income tax, they have no objection to the principle of retrospection. The Minister of Finance has no objection to imposing taxes retrospectively. There is one law for the Government and another law for the people. Where a person has remained in the same job and where increases in his salary have been obtained by trade unions, I consider he should be eligible for redundancy payment. When a person has got promotion in his job this is a different matter but those who remain in their jobs should be covered. This would save quite a few people. I would also point out that the cost of living has soared. The ceiling should be increased to £2,000.

I cannot understand the Minister's emphatic statement that the main objection he has to accepting this amendment is the question of retrospection. The Department and the Minister himself have already accepted this principle, and wisely so. The Minister stated here a short time ago in a case where approximately 30 persons were rendered unemployed that he was making provision that they would come within the scope of this Bill when it was passed. We agreed with that principle. However, if the Minister could then accept this principle, I cannot understand how he can now be so emphatic about the principle of retrospection.

Retrospective legislation would not appear to be a new principle for the Government. When we had long and heated discussions in this House regarding the then proposed Prices and Incomes Bill, the present Minister for Finance was emphatic that it would be retrospective. Therefore, having regard to these facts I do not think the Minister's objection to retrospection would bear examination. On 1st October, 1969, a statement was made by the Department of Labour that the scope of and payments under Bills would be retrospective.

I agree with Deputy Belton that an example of the Revenue Commissioners making something retrospective for collection would justify retrospection in the case of a Bill of this kind. I would remind Deputy Cluskey that I have conceded already the importance of retrospection with regard to the qualification of applicants in relation to past service but not in relation to cases of persons who failed to qualify under the previous Act who could now be made to qualify under this Bill as from a particular date or in certain circumstances. Too many such cases could be cited and this is one of the reasons I am opposed to retrospection. One could hardly make provision to suit 30 persons without thinking of another 20 who, by considering different dates and means, could be made to qualify retrospectively. I have decided that I could not accept the principle of retrospection in relation to cases that have been decided in the past.

When the Redundancy Bill was going through this House our party tabled a considerable number of amendments which sought to do nothing else than to bring this Bill up to recognised standards in this part of the world but the Minister rejected them. Now on reflection, and we welcome this, the Minister has proposed certain definite improvements. However, by not having foresight when the Bill was introduced, the Minister excluded persons who should have been included. The Government made a mistake then; they should make amends now and include these persons.

Is the amendment withdrawn?

Would the Minister undertake to have a second look at this matter? On that basis we would withdraw the amendment. Either of the amendments, numbers 2 or 20, would be acceptable to us. I think it can be accepted that the drafting as it stands, without our amendments, prevents an extension to certain clerical employees of the same credit for earlier continuous employment as applies to manual workers. I am sure the Minister does not want us to accuse him of having a discriminatory aspect in the Bill but it seems to be inbuilt in the Bill and this is very serious. The retrospective aspect is also serious and both these matters merit further consideration by the Minister prior to Report Stage. Perhaps the Minister would agree at this stage to have another look at this matter?

I do not mind having another look into this matter but I cannot give any assurance that I could come up with anything that would meet with what this amendment has in mind. We could talk on this matter for a long time. Certainly I shall have a look at the matter to see if what the Deputy suggests would be justified.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 3:

Before section 2 to insert the following new section:

"The Principal Act is hereby amended by the insertion of the following new section before Section 3:

‘The provisions of this Act in relation to a payment to an employee (or eligibility for a payment) shall have effect from 22nd January, 1971 provided that the difference between a payment under this Act and the payment (if any) under the Principal Act, in the period between 21st January, 1971 and the commencement of this Act shall be paid from the Redundancy Fund'."

Amendments Nos. 3 and 46 are related and may be discussed together.

This amendment is designed to ensure that the new benefits will apply from 21st January, 1971. If the Minister accepts No. 3 and/or No. 46 it will effectively prevent an employer from anticipating and avoiding the provisions of the Bill and thus damaging a person's entitlement to redundancy. There is nothing new in this. We have advocated this before and it will help employees made redundant after the new rules have been published. The provision would not impose any retrospective liability on the individual employer as it is proposed the amount involved would be paid from the Redundancy Fund. As the fund has approximately £1.75 million in hands it can afford these benefits.

I would like to support Deputy Desmond's remarks. This Bill would have been law by now and people would be benefiting from the 21st January if there had not been delays in regard to legislation because of certain happenings in the Government.

I am afraid my argument is the same here, that I could not accept any period of retrospection in relation to this. I do not think the argument that employers would take advantage of the interim period is relevant. Most of the improvements in the Bill will be met out of the fund. It is unlikely that anybody would try to jump the gun. There may be hard-luck cases of people having been caught in the interim period. One can have sympathy with them but it would not justify my accepting the amendment. I would like to tell Deputy Belton that this is a complicated Bill involving a great deal of technical drafting. Many amendments have been submitted, over 50 of them by the Labour Party. All these amendments have had to be processed and I have looked at them as carefully as I could. While we are very happy that there is a surplus in the fund we are not too sure that the fund could be played around with to the extent of conceding retrospection. I believe the Bill before the House is reasonably generous and it could put a great strain on the surplus, indeed might erode it to the extent that we would find ourselves with a deficit. I hope that will not be the case but I will not take any chances that there is sufficient in the fund to do all these things, and I said on the Second Stage that retrospection is one of the principles I would not be prepared to concede.

The Minister must be aware that in relation to the Principal Act a number of firms jumped the gun. I distinctly remember one case in which the gun was blatantly jumped and in regard to which I had to make representations to the then Minister. Surely this will happen again. I wonder if the Minister has any record of the number of complaints made before the passing of the Principal Act to the effect that employers did use the opportunity to bring about redundancies before the Act came into effect.

I have no such record but I do not think there were anything like the number of cases that were predicted in the House. There could have been cases; I am not sure, but I would point out that redundancy payments were originally introduced in the Principal Act and many people were not quite clear as to what was entailed. There may have been cases where small employers or a few irresponsible employers thought they could circumvent the provisions of the legislation, but it certainly did not happen, so far as I am aware, to the extent that would justify my being worried about the period prior to implementation of the legislation. I am talking now only from memory. I have no statistics readily available as to the number of cases that were involved at the time.

Surely there are other aspects involved besides firms jumping the gun. The Minister even brought in a special Bill, involving the expenditure of £70,000, because one firm jumped the gun. Maybe there was no choice but to jump the gun but this did happen. The period involved in this amendment is a maximum of three months, so it will not affect businesses. If it were going back a long period I could understand the objection. It takes a year to liquidate any business, so a period of three months would not have any significance. When I referred to delays in regard to this legislation I was not trying to be smart. If the Government had not been arguing among themselves, this Bill, which I presume the Department had ready earlier, would be law by now. Because of the delay certain workers will lose.

The Minister rightly said that, while the fund was in a reasonably healthy condition, it could not bear too many demands upon it that have not been foreseen, but the number that this amendment would include would not be very great because we are not asking that everyone be included in this arrangement. There is a definite qualification of 104 weeks continuous employment at the time at which interruptions occur or a person would have had 104 weeks continuous employment if the interruption had not occurred before the commencement of the Act provided that redundancy payment, if any, should be made from the Redundancy Fund.

The improvements inherent in this new Bill were published some time ago. Deputy Belton mentioned that for various reasons, legislation cannot be pushed through this House in a speedy manner but this is very poor consolation to the 200 men in Ballingarry who were laid off last week. It is a poor consolation to them to know that we in this House have so much legislation on the books that they will be deprived from benefiting from the provision under this Bill. In tabling this amendment we in the Labour Party did so in a responsible way. We did not ask that everyone should come under the provisions. We specified definite cases. I would suggest to the Minister that we would make far more progress and not do any great damage either to the employers or to the Redundancy Fund if he would relax his attitude and not refuse retrospection regardless of the justification for it, if he would consider each amendment on its merits and think of these people in Ballingarry who, only very recently, but long after the provisions of this Bill had been made public, find themselves caught between the employers in Ballingarry and this House. I should remind the Minister that there is a lot of employees' money in the Redundancy Fund and that it is not all employers' money that has gone towards building up this healthy stockpile.

In his opening remarks on these two amendments, the Minister suggested that very few employers would avail of the interregnum to take advantage of the lower rates of contribution. It is in this respect that these two amendments are so important. If they are accepted by the Minister, we will be able to debate the remainder of the amendments in a constructive way, giving sufficient time for argument in an effort to persuade the Minister of the benefit of including these in the Bill. On the other hand, if the Minister does not accept these two amendments, and if the debate on this Bill continues for a number of weeks, more people will be affected by it— those people who become redundant between the date mentioned and the date of the coming into effect of this Bill.

Deputy Cluskey has mentioned those people who have been laid off at Ballingarry. We hope that there will be no other such occurrence either now or in the future but this case illustrates the importance of these amendments. If, after we have dealt with a few more amendments, we adjourn this debate at 6 o'clock and are unable to resume the debate for some time because, for instance, of the introduction next week of the Budget, we have no way of knowing when the Bill will be concluded. It may not be concluded for several weeks or even some months. The few people who would be affected would be assured of the proper rate of redundancy payment if the Minister were to accept both the amendments. Such acceptance would allow for proper debate on all the other amendments.

Nothing that the Deputies have said would lead me to reconsider the matter which, as I said, is fundamental to the whole Bill. Indeed, it affects a large number of the amendments that have already been tabled. There must be a period from the time of the circulation of the Bill to the enactment of it and I do not think there should be any question of going back. There is reference in the Bill to one specific case which we are rectifying. This relates to the definition of redundancy to bring into line with the spirit of the original Act arising from a definition given by a High Court decision in relation to a specific case. This could not be regarded as being restrospective because, as I announced in October, 1969, amending legislation would be brought in to cover this particular case and any similar cases that have arisen since have been dealt with as if this legislation had already been in force. Other than that, I could not agree nor have I any authority from the Government to agree to any retrospection, irrespective of what the date may be.

Can we take it from the Minister's statement that the people in Ballingarry will be dealt with as if this Bill had been passed?

No. I was referring to the High Court decision in relation to the Limerick case. There is a section here amending that.

Surely the Minister would agree that, in relation to a piece of social legislation of this nature, it is desirable that there should be some commencement date other than the date on which the Bill might be passed? This gives ample opportunity to any employer in the State to evade the provisions of the Bill if he so desires. We are being rather conservative and modest in suggesting that a Bill which was published in July, 1970 should have as the operative date for the application of new benefits the 21st January, 1971. That gives a fair crack of the whip to any employer in terms of application. We are going further and saying that in respect of those cases that might be involved between the 21st January, 1971 and the date of the passing of the new Bill the interim period be covered by payments from the Redundancy Fund so that no employer would be at any undue loss during that period. That is reasonable and it facilitates employees, especially those made redundant after the publication of the new rules. At the moment I know of numerous cases of industrial workers who can only qualify under the old Act but may not benefit under the new one as they are involved in redundancy that is pending. I think there is a case to be made in that regard and while it may be a precedent in some respects I do not think it is of such massive proportions that it should upset the Minister unduly.

I am not trying to be awkward or difficult about this. Indeed, there is nothing to stop me from having a look at this in regard to whatever date would be fixed but I would not like to give any undertaking in order to provide Deputies with a sop for giving the Bill a quick passage and then come back on the Report Stage and say there is nothing doing. It is a fairly gigantic task to make legislation like this retrospective to any date. Several hundreds of cases would be involved and one has also to consider the case that might qualify under the Bill when it becomes an Act and of the people who knew that they did not qualify under the old legislation and did not apply at all. It would be impossible to estimate the number of cases even since the 21st January. Then one cannot help thinking of the people who missed out as from the 1st January. I have considered this from every angle. There is nothing to stop me from having a look at what is involved again but I am giving no undertaking whatever to give way.

Would the Minister have a fresh look at it and possibly indicate to us before the Report Stage whether or not these are eligible?

I will do that. I should like to know what is involved physically as well as financially.

While we have put down the 21st January I am aware that there is a major problem involved. I would not be averse, and I am sure Deputy Cluskey and Deputy Kavanagh would not be, to a date later than the 21st January. I have in mind the commencement of this month. As long as a date is fixed for commencing the operation of the new benefits it would be a decisive matter in putting the legislation through the House.

When the original Redundancy Bill was introduced we said that it was very conservative and very careful and that better benefits could have been provided. Now we have £1,750,000, which is not a great deal of money. There is a great deal of unemployment and the number of redundancies has gone up this year. Somebody at some stage said that a Redundancy Bill was in the offing last July. The way it is going, will it be in operation by next July? Surely the date on which it was introduced should be the date, within a month or a fortnight? There may be many employers who held on so that employees who would be made redundant would get the new benefits under this Bill but now they just cannot hold on. Surely when it was the Minister's intention to bring it in at a certain date and that date has passed it should operate from that date? I would ask the Minister to change his mind about this.

No. One thing which the Deputy reminds me of is in regard to employers who held on to employees which was one of the better sides of the story. I was asked about our experience on the last occasion, if there were any evidence of people jumping the gun, from the time the Bill was introduced until it became law, and the position was that there was no proof, but there was some evidence that firms did hold on to their employees until they were able to get the benefit of the new legislation. I hope that that will be the case here too. There was some delay since the Second Stage. I think I mentioned the 10th March, or the 3rd March, as the date for the Committee Stage and it was not possible to have it then. However, I did mention in my Second Stage speech that I would totally oppose retrospection. I said that deliberately because I thought that otherwise I might be misleading.

I do not believe in retrospective legislation either taxwise or otherwise but this is not a long period of retrospection. It should be remembered that the Minister for Finance went back a couple of years in regard to one aspect of profits tax and a company which had already fixed their payments had to go back and re-check and provide for three years instead of one. Nothing like that applies here at all. There are only two or three months involved and retrospection would do no harm at all. It may be a little complicated but no great cost is involved. This is like selling a cow where there is a difference between £3 and £1 and you split the difference and make it £2. This is what we are asking. We are not even asking for the full amount.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That section 2 stand part of the Bill."

Is there any great necessity for having section 2 at all in view of the decision taken by the tribunal? I would refer the Minister to the fact that the tribunal have decided in two cases, Nos. 95 and 97 of 1969, that the Act does not apply to persons aged over 70. The tribunal have in fact already ruled on this matter and therefore the question may be asked as to whether the section is required. Secondly I should like to thank the Minister and the staff of the Department for the very comprehensive document with which they have provided us and which outlines the amendments and the nature of the amendments. This is an explanatory document which is very helpful in considering the Bill.

There was some doubt about the clarity of the Principal Act in regard to the over 70s and this is merely for clarification. Payments will not be made for the first time beyond the age of 70. However, there is provision in the Bill for persons who have already been in receipt of benefits by the time they reach 70 and they are allowed to exhaust the benefits even though this carries on until they are over 70. I am grateful to the Deputy for his remarks about the work the staff have put into this to try to simplify it. Nobody is better aware than I am of the work involved here and the vast amount of material that had to be processed in relation to the amendments and I know that the Deputy is cognisant of that fact. The classification in section 2 puts the matter beyond doubt.

Question put and agreed to.
SECTION 3.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 2, to delete line 21 and substitute the following:

"(1) the substitution for subsection (2) of the following:

‘(2) Subject to subsection (1). an employee who is dismissed shall be taken to be dismissed by reason of redundancy if the dismissal is attributable wholly or mainly to—

(a) the fact that his employer has ceased, or intends to cease, to carry on the business for the purposes of which the employee was employed by him, or has ceased or intends to cease, to carry on that business in the place where the employee was so employed, or'."

We brought this amendment to the attention of the Minister and if he is unhappy about it we will not press it unduly but we suggest that if there is a general consolidation measure the Minister might be wise to print the Act as amended as a general Departmental document. I have in mind that with the Bill going through the House, the many sides of industry, employment exchanges, trade unions and various tribunal members could usefully have in advance the amendments as they are agreed or rejected by the House in view of the very complex nature of this Bill. Apart from that we regard amendment No. 4 as a consolidation suggestion on our part.

I think this is unnecessary. It is a piece of consolidation in the middle of an amending Bill, which could be included if and when we have a consolidation some day of the two Acts. I do not think simplification of terms for easy reference should be pursued now. I will give an assurance that the booklet we shall produce will clearly outline, as the existing one does, the provisions of the Act and the amending Act and this will meet the purpose of this proposal.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendment No. 5 and, as amendment No. 6 is a related amendment, the two may be debated together.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 3, between lines 4 and 5, to add to section 3 (1) the following new paragraph:

"or

() the fact that, in the opinion of the Tribunal the employee was dismissed (or is taken to have been dismissed) in circumstances of redundancy other than those prescribed in paragraphs (b) to (e) of this subsection."

We are suggesting that the tribunal should enjoy under the Act a certain latitude in the definition of redundancy. One of the problems facing the House is that we did pass the Act in 1967: it came into effect in 1968 and now we are here a couple of years later redefining various sections of the Act in the light of decisions by the High Court and the tribunal. We, therefore, suggest as a general provision a new paragraph:

"() the fact that, in the opinion of the Tribunal the employee was dismissed (or is taken to have been dismissed) in circumstances of redundancy other than those prescribed in paragraphs (b) to (e) of this subsection."

The Minister and his senior officials are well aware that at this stage this legislation is a lawyers' paradise in regard to interpretation. It is extremely complex but it is very difficult to envisage the multitude of circumstances surrounding the redundancy of an industrial worker. With that in mind we have produced a piece of drafting which can be found I suggest, in the Northern Ireland legislation and Northern Ireland and British parliamentary draftsmen are well known for their precise statements of intention. Yet, they decide in regard to statutes that it is rather unwise to try to envisage every particular circumstance likely to qualify under the definition of redundancy. Accordingly, we have suggested that broad latitude should be given to the tribunal in this matter.

These amendments are designed to provide that power should be given to the Redundancy Appeal Tribunal or the Minister to extend the definition of redundancy provided in the Act. This is not a power that any Minister would like to have and I do not think it is good legislation. Redundancy is pretty widely defined here now and should cover all possible cases envisaged in the original legislation but if a case similar to the Limerick case should arise I should prefer to come to the House by way of amendment rather than give these powers to the tribunal or the Minister. I am opposed to the idea.

I agree with the Minister on that.

Surely the Minister agrees that it is possible to define the overall general circumstances relating to redundancy? I have been assured by members of the tribunal on both the employer and worker sides that it is beyond human ingenuity to define the multitude of circumstances which may affect any employment. That is why we propose this amendment—to avoid a number of amendments coming before the House again—by suggesting that the tribunal or the Minister under section 5 of the principal Act may apply regulations giving particular definitions. I am as reluctant as anybody to give regulatory statutory power to any Minister but I see that a case can be made that amendments Nos. 5 and 6 are worthy of the Minister's consideration.

A couple of months ago a charge hand carpenter came to see me. He had been given notice of dismissal and had asked for his redundancy money as he said the Act applied to him. He received what I regard as an extremely "snotty" reply: "You were not discharged because of redundancy." I do not think he would have any difficulty in establishing that he was, because a number of others were discharged at the same time and if that is not redundancy I do not know what it is. He told me that the owner of the business was, he thought, a decent man but a "whizz kid" had come into the business and was making his mark on the place. There is no use in pretending that this kind of thing cannot happen. Although I have no doubt this man would win his case before the tribunal, he was first of all given no reply; he was told he was not discharged because of redundancy and when he filled in the appropriate form, they sent it back to him. I do not know if the Minister is as innocent as he pretends to be on occasions. In fact, I have begun to have grave doubts about it. He has been much more serious in recent months than he used to be.

I hope I am always serious.

As I have said before, the Minister could charm the birds off the bushes last year but since the going has got tough the Minister has a more serious mien about him these days. I think he is finding life a bit more difficult. I have protested time and again about these omnibus clauses in legislation in favour either of the Minister for Finance or the Revenue Commissioners. I cannot see why an omnibus clause in favour of the citizen could not be put in for a change.

I do not think this confers any special benefit on anybody, except that it puts at the disposal of the Minister a means by which, if certain situations arose, he could have the tribunal define "redundancy". The definition of "redundancy" in the Bill is pretty wide and in cases of doubt the tribunal is there to see if any of the many situations outlined would apply to a particular case. I think this meets it generally and I do not think it is necessary to take such wide regulating statutory powers in this particular case. I would rather not have them.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 6 not moved.
Question proposed: "That section 3 stand part of the Bill."

It is important to consider the overall relevance of section 3 and how this Bill will affect employment at this point in time. It is important not merely to pass legislation but to see how it is going to affect industrial workers. It is significant that notifications of redundancy to the Department of Labour have riser sharply in 1971. Notifications in 1970 totalled 3,896, an increase of some 200 over 1969. In the first eight weeks of 1971, 1,149 redundancies were notified to the Department, three-quarters of which were men. This was exactly double the weekly rate for 1970. These notifications of redundancy relate specifically to workers with over four years service—workers with less than four years service who are declared redundant are not included.

It is relevant to point out on section 3, which is amending section 7 of the principal Act, that the unemployment rate among insured persons last year averaged 7.2 per cent, which was double the British rate. It is unlikely that there will be any significant reduction in the rate in 1971. It might be asked how then will this Bill apply during the remainder of this year? I would suggest it is going to apply in a number of directions and we might as well be prepared for them. Firstly, it is going to apply in relation to the continuing rationalisation in industry which went on quite considerably in 1970. Secondly, there will be an increase in unemployment arising from tariff reductions. This is already evident in relation to the footwear industry and I have no doubt that this Bill will have a continuing application to employees engaged in that particular industry. Thirdly, the recession abroad in major industrial sectors, such as the heavy textile sector and the general electronic component sector, cannot be discounted. This major recession has already had an impact on this country. Added to these three factors must be the major question of cost inflation. The relative cost competitiveness of certain exports will most certainly have an impact. I am not being a Jeremiah now; I am speaking of the effects on Irish industry today. We may also have redundancies through bad management—the Hibernian group is a classic example. These various factors mean that the rate of redundancy will continue at a substantial figure during 1971.

At this point in our economic history we need a much faster rate of general economic growth to offset these factors and to ensure that employment is maintained. If this can be done I think it will be one of the major achievements of the 'Seventies. The present situation has not arisen solely because of the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Agreement: it is a combination of factors of management rationalisation, the effect of tariff reductions and of recession abroad, particularly in the electronics and engineering side in America. All these factors have combined to hit many of the 800,000 insured workers at the moment. We on this side of the House are very concerned about the impact of these factors.

Question put and agreed to.
NEW SECTION.

I move amendment No. 7:

Before section 4 to insert the following new section:

"4. The following subsections are hereby inserted in section 4 of the Principal Act and shall be deemed to have been enacted in that Act:

‘(2A) If an employee was or is in continuous employment on or subsequent to 1st January, 1968 and his normal weekly hours of work in the period of 208 weeks ending on 1st January, 1968 were not less than 21 hours, but were reduced below 21 by reason of redundancy, or in periods of redundancy, that employee shall be deemed to have been employed for at least 21 hours per week on 1st January, 1968.

(2B) Payments (if any) to employees affected by subsection (2A) by reason of redundancy before the commencement of this Act shall be made from the Redundancy Fund'."

The Minister is already familiar with section 7 which has resulted in the introduction of a new word in connection with redundancy, a word coined by the redundancy tribunal, namely, "creeping" redundancy. One can have a situation in which workers can have their hours systematically reduced below 21 hours per week and the employer in that case can effectively reduce the workers' qualification for redundancy. The Minister is familiar with the decision of the tribunal in the case of Noonan v. Dwyer, page 384. In that case the employee's appeal failed because of what one might describe as "creeping" redundancy. He had less than 21 hours and he could not, therefore, qualify. I make no particular allegation against the particular employer. I merely state the decision of the tribunal. There was a systematic reduction in the hours of work below 21 hours and the employee, therefore, did not qualify. There was another case, Deasy v. the B & I, 240 of 1970.

The Bill was introduced in May, 1967. Under section 4, workers could have a "creeping" redundancy imposed on them and could suddenly find themselves out on a limb. This amendment clarifies the section, which is rather silent in regard to this particular type of case. The present situation is not cricket; the worker should not lose.

The purpose of the amendment is to bring within the scope of the scheme persons not covered by the 1967 Act. It was never intended that persons who would normally expect to work for the requisite number of hours for the same employer should be covered by the Act. This is a rather clever amendment but I could not accept an amendment at this stage applicable to cases prior to 1968. There are cases in which people did not qualify for straightforward redundancy since that time. Despite the subtle case made by the Deputy, I could not accept the amendment.

This type of redundancy could have a particular application to dockers, for example, in whose employment there would be an element of casual employment. It could apply to them with a good deal of force. I am not sure that we can accept the Minister's statement that this goes back to the 1968 period. It is conceivable that this could happen following the passage of this Bill. That is why we urge the Minister to consider this amendment.

This does not arise on the amendment, but I mentioned to the Minister privately the case of workers who work less than 21 hours, who work for, perhaps, 18 hours. The number of hours might be lowered. Office cleaners and women workers in some factories could never claim from a redundancy fund and they would be wasting money by contributing to it.

That does not come within the scope of this measure.

I appreciate that.

I could not entertain an amendment relating to the position prior to 1968. The Deputy mentioned dockers. I think they manage quite well and they are quite likely to continue to do so in the future. I should not like to have anything in the Bill which might deprive them in any way, but I do not think there is any difficulty in their case.

The Minister may have a point about dockers. Some of them may manage quite well. There are others who do not. However, there are other categories of workers who have suffered quite severely as a result of this 21-hours requirement. Office cleaners are hit by this provision. This kind of work is usually done, though not invariably, by young widows with families. They come in at an early hour in the morning before the office staff comes to work and they very often return again in the evening. A number of agencies employ women and send them out to clean firms and offices. If their average week is 24 hours that could very easily be reduced to 20 hours in order to exclude them from the provisions of this Bill. There are quite a number of workers who are forced at certain periods to go on short time and they might find that at a particular time they were not working a full week and were, in fact, not punching in the 21 hours. These people are being excluded by the Bill. I have only cited one case in relation to women office cleaners. I am sure there are a number of other cases of people in this category.

Part-time women workers in factories.

The Minister seems to be in a mood for saying "No" today. He should be more rational in his approach to this problem and not just give an overall refusal. We know that other people must be considered.

The measure makes all the necessary provision, as did the previous Act, for this case of creeping redundancy where employers would progressively reduce the hours. The employees have every right to make their claim for redundancy where this happens.

A case was made but the tribunal did not agree with the workers when they made it.

I know something about the case the Deputy has in mind. It was an exceptional case.

Noonan v. Dwyer, and Deasy v. the B and I.

It is hardly possible that this could happen.

It happened during the first 18 months of the operation of an Act.

I am sure that if the Minister had envisaged it when he was introducing the Act, he would have done something about it.

I do not think it would justify any new section or amendment. People are much more conscious of their rights now than they were ever before, and I hope they will put themselves in a position always to envisage what is likely to happen.

The only reason I did not mention 18 hours instead of 21 hours was that I did not think of the case of the women cleaners mentioned by Deputy Cluskey where people could be paying in and they might not collect at all. The reason I did not put down an amendment to reduce the hours from 21 to 18 was that women cleaners would pay in and not get their money back. A business might employ 50 cleaners to do five hours a day and they might reduce the hours to three per day, and the workers would be forced into a position in which they could not contribute towards redundancy payments. The Minister's Department might make money out of this.

No. The amendments as proposed here relate to cases prior to 1968 rather than to cases since then, which are covered. There could be a gradual erosion of the hours. The amendment proposes to take in persons not covered prior to 1968.

The Minister is claiming that this goes back to 1968. When we were discussing previous amendments there was a question of a couple of months and the Minister was still objecting to it. The Minister obviously came into the House this afternoon with orders. I get the impression that he was told that under no circumstances was he to give anything. Although this is not the Government's money—I should like to emphasise that it is the money of the employees and the employer—Fianna Fáil do not care about the workers.

They never did.

And even though it is not coming out of the Exchequer and the fund is at present in a very healthy condition financially, the only conclusion I can come to is that the Minister and the Cabinet foresee such large-scale redundancies that they are afraid to give anything, no matter how small, because they foresee in the near future that the fund will be very rapidly eroded. If I am wrong about this, will the Minister give us some concrete reason why he is refusing to concede anything?

The Deputy is wrong. These amendments, which are trivial in a sense, could be rather controversial and certainly unfair to others in so far as they are retrospective in relation to a particular section. It is wrong to say that I came into the House in any Molotov mood. I immediately conceded to have a redrafting of the first section in relation to the first amendment which was very important and more fundamental than all the others. I do not think that the amendment here is necessary to take in a few people prior to 1968 which some Deputy may have in mind, and the type of category to which it refers is well covered since then. Their case has been strengthened in this Bill. When the Deputy talks about excess redundancies I hope he will keep in mind the overall generosity of this Bill which virtually doubles the benefits available to redundancy cases in so far as it shortens the period to two years. That in itself is tremendous.

Does the Deputy wish to have the amendment put?

Amendment put.
The Committee divided: Tá, 38; Níl, 54.

  • Barry, Richard.
  • Belton, Luke.
  • Belton, Paddy.
  • Browne, Noel.
  • Burke, Joan.
  • Cluskey, Frank.
  • Conlan, John F.
  • Coogan, Fintan.
  • Cooney, Patrick M.
  • Corish, Brendan.
  • Flanagan, Oliver J.
  • Governey, Desmond.
  • Harte, Patrick D.
  • Jones, Denis F.
  • Kavanagh, Liam.
  • Kenny, Henry.
  • Lynch, Gerard.
  • McLaughlin, Joseph.
  • McMahon, Lawrence.
  • Cosgrave, Liam.
  • Creed, Donal.
  • Crotty, Kieran.
  • Desmond, Barry.
  • Dockrell, Maurice E.
  • Donegan, Patrick S.
  • Donnellan, John.
  • Dunne, Thomas.
  • Enright, Thomas W.
  • Finn, Martin.
  • Malone, Patrick.
  • Murphy, Michael P.
  • O'Connell, John F.
  • O'Donovan, John.
  • O'Hara, Thomas.
  • O'Reilly, Paddy.
  • Pattison, Séamus.
  • Ryan, Richie.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.

Níl

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Andrews, David.
  • Boylan, Terence.
  • Brennan, Joseph.
  • Brennan, Paudge.
  • Brosnan, Seán.
  • Browne, Séan.
  • Burke, Patrick J.
  • Carter, Frank.
  • Carty, Michael.
  • Childers, Erskine.
  • Colley, George.
  • Collins, Gerard.
  • Connolly, Gerard C.
  • Cowen, Bernard.
  • Cronin, Jerry.
  • Crowley, Flor.
  • Cunningham, Liam.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • de Valera, Vivion.
  • Dowling, Joe.
  • Faulkner, Pádraig.
  • Fitzpatrick, Tom. (Dublin Central).
  • Flanagan, Seán.
  • Foley, Desmond.
  • Forde, Paddy.
  • French, Seán.
  • Gallagher, James.
  • Geoghegan, John.
  • Gogan, Richard P.
  • Haughey, Charles.
  • Healy, Augustine A.
  • Hillery, Patrick J.
  • Hilliard, Michael.
  • Hussey, Thomas.
  • Kenneally, William.
  • Kitt, Michael F.
  • Lalor, Patrick J.
  • Lemass, Noel T.
  • Lynch, Celia.
  • Lynch, John.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • Meaney, Thomas.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Moore, Seán.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Connor, Timothy.
  • O'Kennedy, Michael.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Malley, Des.
  • Power, Patrick.
  • Sherwin Seán.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Timmons, Eugene.
Tellers:—Tá, Deputies Cluskey and Kavanagh; Níl, Deputies Andrews and Meaney.
Amendment declared lost.
Progress reported; Committee to sit again.