I would just like to remind the Minister, in case he has forgotten, on this question of persons who are being declared redundant in a haphazard way without being given the proper notice, that there should be some special protection for them. The amendment we have just withdrawn was an effort to provide protection. The Minister should consider, in the light of what has happened, that this sort of thing should not be allowed to continue. The Ryan v. Limerick Health Authority class of payment is one of the examples we cited here the other evening. This is a loophole in the Redundancy Payments Act of which mean employers are taking advantage and the Minister might do something about it.
Redundancy Payments Bill, 1970: Committee Stage (Resumed).
I am quite convinced that we have tightened it up sufficiently but I shall take a look at it. There is not much room for any infringement in that respect now.
I move amendment No. 15:
In page 4 to add the following new paragraph:
"() the Tribunal shall take judicial notice of Statutory Orders made by the Agricultural Wages Board, the Labour Court, and any other Statutory Wage Fixing Authority and shall not have regard to any contract, wage or remuneration less favourable to the employee than the appropriate prescribed statutory minimum wage."
This amendment which has been tabled by the Labour Party seeks to get over a difficulty in which some workers find themselves, workers who are not properly informed as to what their legal rights are in regard to wages. Certain boards, including the Labour Court and the Agricultural Wages Board, make agreements which have the force of law. There is a situation in which farm labourers, particularly, who are not aware that by law they are entitled to a certain minimum rate enter into a private agreement with an unscrupulous employer—because there is no doubt or very little doubt that the employer is aware of what his obligations are under the law—for less than the legal rate. This amendment seeks to ensure that, irrespective of what private contract, arrangement or agreement may be entered into that is for less than the legal rate, the tribunal would take into account nothing lower than the statutory minimum rate. We ask the Minister to accept this amendment.
I could not fail to have a certain amount of sympathy with this amendment but the cases to which it would apply would involve statutory wage fixing bodies. I am not too sure that the Appeals Tribunal would be the right people at any time to decide what the correct wage rate should be. Would the Deputies suggesting the amendment leave it to me to have a suitable amendment drafted which would cover the position without placing the responsibility on the tribunal to adjudicate as to what was or was not a correct wage in each individual case? In cases where a statutory wage is fixed there are bodies or there should be to determine what the wages should be and I think it is more appropriate that such bodies, and not the tribunal, should determine what the correct statutory wages are.
The Minister may misunderstand the meaning of the amendment and I must accept responsibility for that. Possibly I did not explain it properly. We are not for one moment suggesting that the tribunal fix a rate for a job where legal rates are already laid down. If an agreement is registered with the Labour Court for a particular type of worker, that agreement has the power of law and if a man is paid below the minimum rate the employer is breaking the law. A number of workers who are not members of trade unions are not aware of these agreements and are being taken advantage of by certain employers. What we are asking here is, if a person is being employed below the legal rate already established by one of the bodies which the Minister mentioned, not the tribunal, that when fixing redundancy payments the tribunal would have regard only to the minimum rate—nothing below it. For example, if the legal rate for a job was £10 a week and a person was being paid £8 that the tribunal would regard him as being employed at £10 a week.
I am not really in dispute with the intention of the amendment. I would like the draftsman to have a look at it and determine the relationship between the tribunal and the statutory wage fixing bodies.
The Labour Party amendment has been carefully phrased and urges the tribunal to "take judicial notice of Statutory Orders made by the Agricultural Wages Board, the Labour Court and any other statutory wage fixing authority". We in no way suggest that the tribunal itself should have formal unilateral power to determine a particular minimum rate of remuneration. This is in fact the essence of the proposed amendment. We do not want to see a situation developing where the lump sum payment or the weekly payment received by industrial workers would be less than that which they are in the normal course of events entitled to under the national statutory wage minimum orders made by the various wage-fixing authorities. This is something of major importance because as we have pointed out only half of the manufacturing workers are in trade unions. As a result they are most likely to be in the kind of employment which could be subject to intermittent redundancy. They might well be exploited and they should receive their actual entitlement rather than something which an employer might feel like giving them.
The Minister might find the phrase "judicial notice" hard to stomach but in any event the intent of the Labour Party amendment is that the tribunal should have full and due regard to the orders made by these bodies. This is of considerable importance because there are in excess of 100,000 workers involved. It would be a pity if the tribunal's work was not simplified as we have suggested here.
Surely the Minister could accept the amendment without any redrafting of it?
I assume from what the Minister said that he did not understand the point we were trying to make. It is not unusual to find agricultural workers, particularly those looking after stock, working seven days a week. The minimum rate for the area might be £16 per week but the rate to which they are entitled by law would be around £21 or £22 a week because of the hours they are working. When these people are dismissed, if they are not members of a trade union, there is no one to show the tribunal that they are in fact entitled to a rate higher than what the farmer or the employer says is the rate for the job.
I fully understand.
The Minister spoke about the tribunal "fixing wages". We are not asking the tribunal to fix a monetary rate for a particular job; we are asking them to interpret the rate which should apply to the job, before making a decision.
I can see a situation where the tribunal would have to adjudicate in cases in which arrangements had been made between an employer and an employee which the claimant for the redundancy might not desire. I am not too sure on the wording of the amendment that it could not be used to pay less redundancy in a case where a higher rate should be paid.
Not at all.
"The tribunal shall take judicial notice of Statutory Orders". It may be more desirable to say, "The tribunal may take judicial notice of Statutory Orders". This makes it mandatory and it does not leave any option to the tribunal other than to adjudicate accordingly even though the claimant may not desire it.
The sentence, "shall not have regard to any contract, wage or remuneration less favourable to the employee than the appropriate prescribed statutory minimum wage" is clear enough to anybody.
"Less favourable . . . than the appropriate prescribed statutory minimum".
It should not be less favourable.
Supposing it is considerably greater?
Of course, they are entitled to do that. According to the amendment they would not be allowed to give them less.
I shall get the draftsman to have another look at it and we can refer to it on the Report Stage.
I move amendment No. 16:
In page 4 to add the following new paragraph:
"() an appeal, in a case where the employer has not given a Redundancy Certificate, shall automatically be deemed to be an appeal against the decision of the employer to refuse to give the Certificate."
This amendment proposes, where an employer has not given a redundancy certificate, that workers be automatically deemed to be in appeal against a decision of the employer to refuse to give the certificate. The Minister is possibly aware of case No. 116 of 1970 where the Workers Union of Ireland was involved in a particular dispute with an employer who refused to give a redundancy certificate. In our opinion such a refusal should constitute an appeal because the key is, in many respects, the claim to a redundancy certificate. The adoption of this amendment would simplify the procedure and avoid second and third appeals. The amendment is a reasonably constructive one and I strongly recommend it to the Minister for his consideration.
The amendment is not necessary because there is nothing in the Act which precludes the Redundancy Appeals Tribunal from stating that an employee is entitled to a redundancy certificate. In any event, payments are made on tribunal decisions and the only purpose the certificate would serve is the collection of weekly payments. In the case of a tribunal decision the necessity for an employee to have a certificate does not arise. The amendment is, therefore, superfluous. The matter is thoroughly covered. The decision of the tribunal specifies the particulars on which the employees' entitlement to weekly payments are based and the Department makes the payments on foot of these decisions irrespective of whether or not the employees have redundancy certificates. That is sufficient.
It is not as simple as the Minister tries to make out. I have come across cases in which employees have not been given redundancy certificates and all sorts of ramifications have to be gone through before certificates can be got or claims finalised. I have two cases at the moment which I have asked the Department to investigate. In one case the man was told he would get a certificate and he would be paid all right. After six or seven weeks he went back to the employer and the employer said: "I have no money and I cannot give you any money and you are not getting anything" and the man got no redundancy certificate. All the employer had to do was give him a certificate and the man would have got his money from the Department. In fact, this employer has the money; he is just being damn mean. The employee is the fellow who has no money and he is on very short rations at the moment. Over the last several months I have had at least 20 cases. Employers disappear or refuse to answer letters or applications. If an employer meets the employee he tries to be smart; he sends the employee back to the Labour Exchange, saying he sent in the form, or he makes some other stupid excuse. If the law says that the mere fact that he did not issue a redundancy certificate empowers an appeal to be started immediately we believe such a provision would make these smart alecks change their habits.
We discussed this under another section and I do not think there is anything in this amendment which would meet the type of case Deputy Tully has in mind. This deals with the case in which the tribunal has already given a decision.
The Minister stated this is where the Tribunal has given a decision.
It has already reached the appeal stage by the time this amendment comes into effect and the case of the man who refuses or neglects to give a certificate would be covered.
The amendment is to add the following new paragraph:
"an appeal, in a case where the employer has not given a Redundancy Certificate, shall automatically be deemed to be an appeal against the decision of the employer to refuse to give the Certificate."
If the Minister goes through the case histories he will see quite clearly those in which this particular issue has held up a decision. It is not a question of where a decision has been given.
It is pretty much the same. This is at the stage at which an employer is refusing to give a certificate; this is at an early stage. It has gone past the stage Deputy Tully wishes to obviate. Refusal has already taken place. The matter has gone to appeal. There must be a decision and a decision is as good as a certificate any day.
The employer can still argue, even at that stage, that he has not refused but, if this amendment is accepted, he cannot put up that argument. He can unfairly and untruly state that he has not refused when, in fact, he has failed to give the certificate.
I move amendment No. 17:
In page 4, lines 36 and 37, to delete "Notwithstanding any provision of this Act other than subsection (2),".
This amendment is somewhat similar to amendments Nos. 14 and 18, which have already been discussed. We are suggesting that the Minister might consider deleting this. Its deletion would improve the Bill.
I take it this amendment was put down for the purpose of clarification. The words proposed to be deleted are vital. It is necessary to provide a time limit and that time limit is subject to the extent specified in subsection (2). I could not accept this amendment. Such a deletion would seriously alter the meaning of the amendment in the Bill.
It could mean that no time limit would apply if employers failed to comply with their statutory duty. I was wondering if the Statute of Limitations comes in. I think the deletion of this phrase would give adequate protection to employees generally.
The section deals with the 52 weeks which can be extended to 104 weeks. We have argued this on another section. I think it is adequate notice. It is a remarkable improvement.
Where an employer fails to give notice does the Minister not consider that the employee should have the right to make a claim even after a lengthy period? I know we argued this on another section but do not forget that very often somebody is let go when there is a scarcity of employment for a short period. He can be hanging around expecting to be re-employed for a very long period. Eventually, he is not re-employed. Maybe the place is sold out or maybe the fellow does not take him back. We feel it should be wide open. It would be a deterrent to people who would attempt to take advantage of workers.
I am trying here to be fair between two schools of thought. One would have no limit and the other would have a shorter limit. I decided this was a very generous limit.
The Minister means that the Irish Congress of Trade Unions want no limit and the employers want a shorter limit?
Would the Minister think for a moment why should they ask for a shorter limit? So that they would have a better chance of taking advantage of people?
No. Employers must surely want to know where they stand.
Would the Minister not agree that an employer who dismisses a worker without adequate notice to apply for his redundancy payment is not entitled to consideration like that? They want a shorter period so that they will be able to get out of the difficulty more quickly.
No, it is a question of termination of responsibility at some time.
All he has to do is to give him his notice.
When the Bill was originally before the House it was 30 weeks and nobody questioned it.
It was something new.
I admit that.
We thought they were all decent fellows.
This is a very big improvement on 30 weeks. I want to say on this Section that I intend to make this limit apply to weekly payments as well.
That is good.
I agree with Deputy Tully in the case of the particular worker about whom he spoke but I must agree with the Minister on several points. It is very difficult for any employer to finish his accounting for the year if this is hanging over his head, if a man can claim in two years or three years. Where a company goes into liquidation if the period is 104 weeks shareholders who have their money frozen or creditors cannot really be paid. They cannot pay so much in the pound until such time as they finish the accounts. This cannot be done if there is a group who can claim within 104 weeks and do not claim.
If the claim is in it is all right.
I know but if they have to wait until such time as they know there is no claim coming in it holds them up with their accountancy. There is also the case of creditors and shareholders. We are trying to be fair here mainly to the employee because the job is all he has got but we must also be fair to, say, the small employer. I feel 104 weeks is reasonably harsh. Deputy Tully gave one example on which I agreed with him but I can give another. A person could have an injury claim and rather than put in his claim for redundancy payment he could hold it over until such time as the court gave him his money. He could claim in court that he got no redundancy payment and then when he got his money he could put in his claim for redundancy payment.
He is entitled to both of these. That is not charity, you know.
What I am saying is that he can go to court and say he is not getting or has not got it and the court will take that into account. We must be fair both ways. There must be a date from which to start again. It is wrong to hurt one person but one could hurt ten or 12 people who would be shareholders in a small company. I think the Minister has been quite generous in the period he has given.
I want to take the opportunity to tell the House on this section, of a further amendment to the Bill which I hope to introduce on Report Stage to allow weekly redundancy payments to be made to residents of Northern Ireland who become redundant in the Twenty-six Counties. One or two cases have arisen to date in which persons living in Northern Ireland who travel across the Border daily to work in the South have been made redundant here. The workers concerned received the lump sums from their employers in the normal way. A difficulty arose, however, in giving them weekly payments because paragraph 14, Schedule 1 to the 1967 Act, provides that:
A person shall not be entitled to a weekly payment unless he is normally resident within the State.
I was legally advised that that provision would not allow weekly payments to be made to persons resident in Northern Ireland. We had a few claims in this respect and I felt that, if only on grounds of equity, the Northern Ireland residents who became redundant in the South and who may have contributed to our redundancy payment scheme should be entitled to receive weekly payments as well as lump sum payments. We decided, therefore, to introduce an amendment to the principal Act to enable this to be done. I propose that the amendment will also enable weekly payments to be made to people from the Twenty-six Counties who go to reside in Northern Ireland.
That is the type of case we have already met in practice. In order to implement the proposals it would be necessary to have the assistance of the Northern Ireland authorities in verifying any claims that might arise, and my Department have been in touch with the Northern Ireland Ministry of Health and Social Services who have promised full co-operation. I am sure Members from all sides will welcome this and will join with me in expressing appreciation of the co-operation shown to date by the authorities in Northern Ireland and the promise of further co-operation in the future. I wanted to say that on the appropriate section.
We are very glad to hear this is being done and I should like to remind the Minister that it was as a result of a question I put down to him some years ago that he introduced a change or an amendment which enabled him to pay one of his former constituents who was in an Omagh hospital. He was very interested in the matter when it was brought to his notice and he succeeded in getting legislation which we were all very glad to hear worked out effectively.
The amendment which he proposes to introduce on Report Stage is something which we must welcome as a good idea. The Minister has said it will apply to residents of the Republic who go to work in the North and residents of the North working here who will go back. I should be interested to know if there are to be reciprocal arrangements.
It would not be a reciprocal agreement.
I do not know if it is a matter of our people being allowed to work in the North. Will the Minister be able to operate the Act to cover redundancy payments to people who work in Britain? I am quite sure it is the British Ministry who would have to OK any arrangements between the North and the Republic. Will there be reciprocal arrangements with Britain? This is a very important matter and I am not sure whether reciprocity operates now.
Not in regard to weekly payments.
Would the Minister not regard it as an excellent idea if it could be achieved? Naturally, we would get more out of it than Britain.
The Deputy should not say that.
I am sure Irish accents are noted when unemployment is being created.
This is an agreement. It is not reciprocation. It is an agreement which will be very beneficial. The matter of reciprocity is something which may be extended to weekly payments and this will undoubtedly arise later. Officials were here last week dealing with reciprocity in relation to other matters.
While it is in the Minister's mind is the time to do it.
I have no doubt it will come at some stage.
I move amendment No. 19:
In page 9, at the reference to section 2, to add the following:
"The addition of the following definitions:
‘(a) "offer" in relation to re-engagement or renewal of a contract of employment or an offer of employment, means a written offer, received by the employee.
(b) "diminish" in Part 2, means either temporarily or permanently and from whatever cause.'"
This amendment seeks two additional definitions. In page 19 of the main Act there are a number of definitions. We have "cease", "lock-out" and quite a number of others. The word "diminish" also appears on page 21 of the main Act. There is reference to employees carrying out work at a particular time in the place where he is employed. The word "diminish" is not defined. We want the word "offer" to be defined as "written offer". We also wish to have "diminish" to be defined as meaning "either temporarily or permanently and from whatever cause".
I propose to comment on each paragraph in the amendment separately. In relation to (a), I agree the ideal situation would be if all offers were written, provided it could reasonably be done. However, one can visualise cases not involving big concerns where this might happen and I think it might not be reasonable. I do not think it would be reasonable to ask that all employers would be asked to make their offers in writing.
Is the Minister suggesting that because there are smaller employers it would be unreasonable? Surely it would not be too much to ask that all firms would write the offer.
There are so many safeguards in the Act in relation to redundancy that it would be unreasonable to expect in certain circumstances that all offers would be in writing. It might concern only one employee or it could concern a number. I do not think it is worth pursuing.
It is all very well to say it might not be necessary but I know a number of cases where employers have said: "I offered you alternative employment but you would not take it."
It is already provided that these must be in writing.
I am afraid the Minister would want to go back and check carefully. I can see no reason why the term "written offer" should not be included. I think it is only fair. We have got to make redundancy legislation and industrial relations a bit more formal in this country. It may mean hard work, it may mean that people will have to sit down and think out what they are offering and put it down on a piece of paper and give it to somebody, but this is only the elementary entitlement of people in employment. If an offer of employment is being made it should be a written offer. Otherwise there will be all sorts of excuses, all sorts of evasions. I know it may be inconvenient for employers but I do not think it is that big an inconvenience. There is nothing to prevent an employer having a stereotyped form which he merely fills in for the particular category.
I would direct the Deputy's attention to section 15 of the principal Act which requires the employer to give notice in writing in certain circumstances.
We are discussing here an offer in relation to re-engagement or renewal of a contract of employment. I have in mind a particular case—I do not wish to give the name of the employee or of the employer— where a firm went into liquidation. There was a clever solicitor involved who did everything by word of mouth on behalf of the liquidator. Any information conveyed to the employees or any offer of renewal or re-engagement was made verbally. When this case came before the Redundancy Tribunal there was not any written evidence to show what had been offered. The solicitor kept his mouth shut at the tribunal and got away with it. The trade union members of the tribunal could give many examples like this.
I have been looking at the section which relates to the case of re-employment to which the Deputy is referring. It reads:
(2) An employee who has received the notice required by section 17 shall not be entitled to a redundancy payment if in the period of two weeks ending on the date of dismissal—(a) his employer has made to him in writing an offer to renew the employee's contract of employment or to re-engage him under a new contract of employment,
What the Minister has said covers one eventuality. Suppose the employer does not give an offer, but gives a verbal offer, and at the tribunal he denies that he gave such an offer, the employee has no way of proving it. We suggest that the offer in writing would have to be accepted. What is the Minister's objection to accepting this?
I have a case where the employer says that he gave a particular offer and the employee says that he did not get this offer. There is no evidence, apart from the conflicting evidence on both sides. My sympathy tends to go to the employee who is out of a job. I would remind the Minister in relation to section 17 that it is all right for an employer who proposes to dismiss shall give to the employee notice in writing of his proposal to dismiss him. We pointed out in relation to our amendment that offers in relation to renewal or re-engagement should mean a written offer received by the employee.
I think this is adequately covered already in section 15 (1) which reads:
An employee who has received the notice required by section 17 shall not be entitled to a redundancy payment if in the period of two weeks ending on the date of dismissal—
(a) his employer has offered to renew that employee's contract of employment or to re-engage him under a new contract of employment,
(b) the provisions of the contract as renewed, or of the new contract, as to the capacity and place in which he would be employed and as to the other terms and conditions of his employment would not differ from the corresponding provisions of the contract in force immediately before his dismissal,
(c) the renewal or re-engagement would take effect on or before the date of dismissal, and
(d) he has unreasonably refused the offer.
Subsection (2) reads:
(2) An employee who has received the notice required by section 17 shall not be entitled to a redundancy payment if in the period of two weeks ending on the date of dismissal—
(a) his employer has made to him in writing an offer to renew the employee's contract of employment or to re-engage him under a new contract of employment.
If it is proposed to reemploy him he should have it in writing.
He is in a serious position, if he does not.
We are talking about the offer of re-employment.
The section requires him to make it in writing.
It says that if he has given it in writing it is evidence that he has, in fact, offered a job and the man has no claim against him, but if he does not give it in writing there is nothing to say that that takes away the employer's answer to the claim. In effect, he can say that he has offered him a job verbally and then offered it to somebody else. The offer could be passed around from one person to another and there would not be any evidence that the offer was ever made, but if the offer was in writing it would be different. If there is no writing it lets somebody off the hook. I have seen numerous cases of people having been laid off. Where there is a big lay-off and many people are laid off through redundancy the thing is clear enough but where there are a small number of people and some are laid off, this is a different matter. This happens particularly in the agricultural industry where a farmer may realise that one of his sons is big enough to do a certain amount of work. Such a farmer may lay off an employee who has been with him for 30 or 40 years and who may be over 60 years of age. I know of one man who was laid off after 27 years, and my advice to him was to go back and tell the farmer of the amount of money due to him in redundancy pay. There are instances of employees being told that they must go and that somebody else will do the job, and then when the employers hear about the redundancy pay involved they start seeking around and when they discover that an appeal has been sent in because they have not paid redundancy money they allege that some time, in conversation, an offer of a job was made. This is the trouble. If all offers of employment after redundancy have to be given in writing, the problem would be settled.
I was looking at section 9 of the Bill with reference to the point the Deputy was making.
That has nothing at all to do with it.
That goes quite far. It reads:
(b) an employee who has been dismissed by his employer shall, unless the contrary is proved, be presumed to have been so dismissed by reason of redundancy.
I will not dispute the fact that he dismissed him but suppose he offered him employment because of change of circumstances which will let him off the hook. I cannot understand why the Minister is adamant that he should not put it in writing.
I am reluctant to put in something where it is already well covered. I will have a look at it. I am not opposed to it. As I said already I think it is superfluous. If I am satisfied it is not, I will change it.
Thank you. I was going to suggest that to the Minister. The Minister seems to be convinced that there are several provisions relating to this in other sections. We are a bit sceptical about this and we suggest that the Minister should consider this matter between now and Report Stage and, if possible, bring in an amendment then.
I move amendment No. 21:
In page 9, at the reference to Section 7, to delete "The substitution in subsection (5) of ‘104 weeks' for ‘208 weeks'" and substitute:
"The insertion after ‘weeks' of the following words:
‘(reduced to 104 weeks as and from 22nd January, 1971)'."
May we point out to the Minister that this amendment simply proposes a new qualification "commencing on the 22nd January, 1971"? The net effect of this amendment is to change the date of publication of the new rules. It simplifies matters rather than making any material change in the Bill.
When the original Bill was going through this House a number of us pointed out that unless the operation of it was made retrospective to the previous July a number of persons would be laid off before the Bill became law because of the fact that by this means employers would succeed in dodging their responsibilities in regard to redundancy payments. We were assured such a thing could not happen. I know people who were dismissed the night before the Bill came into operation because of the fact that their employers realised they could get away with it. Individuals who had been employed in family jobs for many years were dismissed the night before the Bill came into operation. We suggest that the way to prevent this happening and to catch the people who have done the same thing again is to date this back to the date of publication of the Bill. If the Minister does that it will solve the problem. There is no big principle involved in this for the Minister. It is something which he can do quite easily and I suggest he should do it.
I made my position quite clear on this question of retrospection at the outset and I do not want to go over it again. The very first amendment dealt with retrospection. I do not want to repeat what I said on the first amendment which dealt in a more global way with the whole question of retrospection. I pointed out then that this is where one has to take a decision to have retrospection or not to have it, the question of what date one should go back to, what date would be justified and the whole principle of retrospective legislation. I firmly decided I would not have any retrospection. I am afraid I must stand on that.
We had all this before on the existing Act, when it was a Bill going through this House. We know what has happened. We had similar assurances from Ministers who did not like to go back, who felt that retrospective legislation was wrong. It is only wrong when it affects people like this.
The Income Tax Act.
The Minister threatened us with the Prices and Incomes Bill.
That is the one I was coming to now. He had no objection at all to going right back on this and felt it was quite in order.
He did not do it.
He did it in regard to income tax.
We know why he did not do it. Fianna Fáil would love to suggest why he did not do it. He did not do it because of the fact that he realised he had bitten off more than he could chew, so he had to backpedal all the way. Incidentally, he set a pattern which is being followed even by the present Minister. He has got into the habit of backpedalling now. I suggest he should backpedal on this one because this is an Amendment we will insist on. We will have a division on it. If the Minister is not aware, we can give him instances where persons have been laid off since the 22nd January to date. It is only a matter of a little over three months. We are talking about retrospection for a short period. We are not talking about going back years or even one year but just three months. This will in effect put a few shillings in the pockets of persons who have been laid off in order to avoid the effect of this Bill. We are, therefore, asking the Minister, whatever he does, to insist on those persons getting their rights by making the legislation operative from 22nd January.
If the Minister wants to consider this we are prepared to give him an opportunity of doing so but if he is not prepared to reconsider it we will at some stage have a vote on it. If the Minister does not introduce an amendment to cover this on Report Stage we will have a vote on the section. It is a principle as far as are concerned and it must be put into the Bill if it is to be effective at all because otherwise a group of smart Alecks will get away with something they are not entitled to get away with.
I have no evidence that there are employers actually taking advantage of the interim period to do this.
Has the Minister not evidence it happened before?
I do not think there is any conclusive evidence that this happened, certainly not on any scale. If it happened it was the exception rather than the rule. There was evidence that certain firms held on so that their employees would come under the new legislation.
What did the State do with regard to the forestry workers? Is it not true that they have laid off forestry workers, some of whom had 20 years service, within the last week or fortnight?
I do not think it was done to escape their obligations.
Is the effect not the same thing whether it was intentional or not?
The effect is the same, whether it was intentional or not. If the Minister wants to get information on this he can go back to his colleague and find out about this. This is one thing we are determined to try to put into the Bill.
Is the Minister prepared to look at it?
I have indicated that I will have a look at certain amendments with a view to introducing amendments on Report Stage but there is not much good in saying I will do so in regard to this amendment because I do not think I would agree to have retrospection in any event. No matter what date is fixed it will not suit everybody.
We spoke about this on the introduction of the Bill. We pointed out on the Second Reading that the date we wanted it operative from was the date of the publication of the Bill. There is no question of people not being aware of the fact that this would be asked for nor is there any doubt that people took advantage of the fact that they thought it would not happen. I can remember distinctly when the parent Bill was going through this House that again and again we were told: "Nobody will be so mean as to lay-off people if the Bill is not made retrospective in order to avoid this". When the time came they dumped some of their employees out. They let them go. As I said to the Minister a few minutes ago they let them go as late as the night before the Bill came into operation and got away with it.
I know one poor farm labourer who came to me crying when he was dismissed on the last day of December and the Bill came into operation on the 1st January. This man had 39 years service and had a large family but the farmer had no hesitation in telling him he was letting him go because if he kept him another day and had to let him go then he would have to pay a couple of hundred pounds to him. The State was paying most of it but that did not worry the man who dismissed this farm labourer. This man has found it almost impossible to get any employment since then while that farmer was able to employ somebody else in a month or six weeks time when the spring arrived. This was done all over the country by employers the last time and the Minister can prevent it happening again by making this retrospective. We are asking for only three months retrospection. I again appeal to the Minister either to do it now or to agree to look at it and bring in an amendment on Report Stage.