Financial Resolutions. - Redundancy Payments Bill, 1970: Committee Stage (Resumed).

Debate resumed on amendment No. 48:
In page 11, at the reference to Schedule 3 of the Principal Act, after the proposed amendment of paragraph 6, to insert: The insertion after paragraph 6 of the following new paragraphs:
6A. If an employee's employment is interrupted (including voluntarily leaving the employment) and the employee resumes employment at the employer's request, or with the employer's consent within 52 weeks, continuity of employment shall not be broken by such interruption.
6B. Where before or after 1st January, 1968, an employee is or was indirectly employed or engaged by an employer (through an agency, contract or otherwise) and subsequently that employee became employed directly by that employer, that employee's employment shall be deemed to be continuous.
6C. For the purposes of this Schedule employment at the same place of employment with successive employers shall be taken to be continuous, unless the employee voluntarily leave the employment.
6D. For the purposes of this Schedule a "take-over" of an employee by an employer shall not break continuity of employment.
—(Deputy Tully).

Before the debate was adjourned I had been discussing the three or four facets of amendment No. 48. I said that paragraph 6D, in the fourth part of the amendment, could have wide implications and I could not accept it. I expressed doubts as to what the words, " `take-over' of an employee by an employer" referred to. I said this had already been debated on an earlier amendment. I said that section 20 (6) of the 1967 Act provides safeguards for employees who become involved in the change of ownership of the business in which they are employed. I cannot accept the amendment, not because I am opposed to it, but because it is not necessary as it is already fully covered in the Bill.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 49 not moved.

I move amendment No. 50:

In page 11, at the reference to Schedule 3, after the proposed amendment of paragraph 6 to insert the following:

The insertion of the following new paragraph after paragraph 6:

6B. If an employee was laid-off (or if his employment was interrupted) for reasons of redundancy, or in a period of redundancy, between 17th May, 1967 (being the date on which the Bill for the Redundancy Payments Act, 1967, was published) and 1st January, 1968, and

(a) that employee had 208 weeks continuous employment when the lay-off or interruption occurred, or

(b) would have had 208 weeks continuous employment on 1st January, 1968, if the lay-off or interruption had not occurred,

that lay-off or interruption shall be deemed to have occurred on 1st January, 1968, provided (1) that this paragraph does not apply to an employee who was given a special redundancy payment from the Exchequer and (2) that the redundancy payment (if any) shall be included among the payments which may be made from the Redundancy Fund.

This is a last effort to get protection for persons dismissed after the rules were published on the 17th May, 1967. Section 7 should apply to these claimants. If the 1967 Bill had been enacted before the Summer Recess of 1967, it could very well have been that the 26 week period in paragraph 5 (1) (b) of Schedule III would have bridged the gap between the publication of the Bill and the commencement of the Act. This was the Minister's intention when it was introduced but unfortunately, for one reason or another, it was not dealt with, the Summer Recess intervened and, by the time the Bill was passed, the 26 weeks did not bridge the period from the publication. As I stated here last night unscrupulous employers took advantage of this and dismissed persons who should have been covered by the Bill. I would ask the Minister to give serious consideration to the proposals contained in this amendment.

I should like to support Deputy Tully. This amendment is worthy of serious consideration. We have spent some eight hours dealing with amendments and we do not propose to delay the Minister unduly this evening. We are anxious to fix the Report Stage of this Bill, which I am sure will be another long session, as early as possible. The Minister should give some indication of his attitude towards amendment No. 50.

As this is the last amendment it is appropriate at this stage to thank the House for the expedition with which they have dealt with this Bill. Some people might not be familiar with the amendments in relation to the Bill itself and the Principal Act. They are rather technical, many of them are consequential, some are just redrafting amendments but most have an element of retrospection in them. Indeed, all have some merit and are an effort further to improve the Bill and close any loopholes which may exist. Amendment No. 50 deals with retrospection as did amendment No. 1 and the House can hardly expect me, having said that I am against retrospection at the outset, to agree with the provisions of this amendment. I cannot accept amendments which contain a retrospective element.

When the Principal Act was before the House my predecessor also had to face proposals to have the provisions of the Act made retrospective in order to cover alleged cases where persons were jumping the gun in order to beat the dateline with regard to the coming into effect of the Act, but I do not think any evidence has ever been produced of any designed efforts on a large scale to do that. If there were any such cases they must have been exceptional ones. Employers who are bad enough to try to do that will always find some way of doing the wrong thing. It is only fair to say, and I think the Opposition would be the first to admit it, that the vast majority of employers have given every co-operation in implementing the provisions of the Act and I believe the same co-operation will be given in implementing the provisions of this Bill when it becomes law.

I am not arguing that every possible loophole has been plugged but we have certainly gone as far as we reasonably can go to ensure that as few loopholes as possible will be left. Officials of my Department sat down with representatives of both employers and workers and discussed every line of the Bill. As a result of that I am satisfied that going any further in regard to details would result in the creation of anomalies or unnecessary difficulties.

The Bill is designed to effect considerable improvement. I am satisfied it is a very good piece of legislation, a step in the right direction and very much in advance of any legislation of its type that has come before this House. Deputies on the Opposition benches are quick to point out that we are dealing with the people's money. This is legislation of an advanced kind. It is superior to any social legislation we have had so far. It brings us into line with legislation of the same type in other countries and, because of that, it is to be welcomed.

I am very pleased with those Deputies who went through the Bill, literally speaking, with a fine comb to seek out ways of improving the Bill. I opposed many of the amendments but I did not oppose them just for the sake of opposition; I opposed them because what they sought to do was already adequately covered in the Bill. The bad employer who would seek to circumvent the provisions of the Bill to the detriment of the workers would be doing something to his own ultimate disadvantage.

Unless he is going broke, but I agree with the Minister.

Any employer with any degree of sense, reason or wisdom will want to have the greatest possible co-operation with his employees and will seek to ensure that they get the advantage of any legislation which is designed to benefit them. I take the opportunity of saying this on this last amendment. I am not accepting the amendment. Again it seeks retrospection.

True to form all the way.

Before the amendment is put, lest there be any doubt about it, I should like to say that we, on this side of the House, realise just as well as the Minister does that most employers have co-operated in the scheme. We are at one with the Minister on that. I am not as happy as the Minister is about plugging the loopholes. We were anxious, and still are anxious, to ensure that the employer who tries to take advantage of his employee does not get away with it. From evidence we have had we are satisfied that this did happen when the original Bill was before the House and, because of that, we do not want to see the same thing happening again. The shortening of the period will mean that certain people will be anxious to avoid paying out even a relatively small sum of money. While the Minister opposed a number of amendments, he agreed to reconsider a number of them and we will anxiously await his final decision on these.

I actually accepted some amendments.

Yes, and the Minister agreed to reconsider others and possibly introduce substitute amendments. We will anxiously await these. We have a few amendments which we shall introduce on the Report Stage, amendments to improve the Bill.

One thing that has struck me very forcibly during this debate has been the fact that the Minister has been battling alone. Is it not rather a pity that one or two Fianna Fáil TDs, who talk so glibly about what they think of the worker, did not find it possible to spend even five minutes on the Government benches and to offer a contribution as to what they think would help. The onus is on them just as much as it is on us. Unfortunately they did not think it worth their while. I am sorry that that should be the case and I am afraid the Bill will suffer because it has not had the collective wisdom of the House. I am sure the Minister consulted with his colleagues. He has made most of the arguments very fairly. We have agreed to differ on a number of things. The Minister is one Minister who can get business done here simply because he has a reasonable approach. One of his predecessors got into serious trouble because he thought he could shout everybody down and prevent any discussion; there were only two ways of doing things, his way and the wrong way. The Minister has not adopted that attitude and we are grateful for that because it is easier and pleasanter to do business in those circumstances. When the Bill comes to the Report Stage we hope it will be improved by the adoption of some of the amendments we suggested. We are anxious to know when the Report Stage will be reached.

I agree with Deputy Tully and I must thank the Minister for his approach. The officials of the Minister's Department are most courteous and most co-operative.

This may be somewhat irrelevant at this stage, but I should like to ask the Minister to consider the point. Where an employer gives long notice and the employee can get a job within two weeks, say, the employer should not be kept to the 55 per cent. I ask the Minister to think about that. I know it is difficult, but there are employers who would be willing to give an employee a chance and plenty of notice to get another job. When that happens and a different job suddenly comes up, surely at that stage, the stage of cutting him off after four weeks, he would be completely redundant and the employer would get the 70 per cent.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Schedule, as amended, put and agreed to.
Title agreed to.

May I suggest to the Minister that he should arrange with the Government to have the Report Stage taken as quickly as possible. I am sure the Government Chief Whip would facilitate us in this matter. We are very anxious to bring in the amendments we have in mind for Report Stage. I am quite sure we could have them to the Minister's office by the weekend if necessary. Therefore, I would ask the earliest possible date be fixed for Report Stage.

I was thinking of Tuesday, 11th May.

When the Minister suggests Tuesday, 11th May, is he envisaging an interruption of the Budget debate for the purpose of having this Bill taken? If my memory serves me correctly, Bills were usually taken during Budget debates on Thursdays rather than Tuesdays and there is no point in naming a date on which it is not possible to take it. Maybe the Budget will be finished by then but——

The 4th or the 17th?

It is well known that the date fixed is not always adhered to. On Second Stage I mentioned the 10th March and we were unable to keep that date. I think we will say the 11th May and if it goes on to the next Thursday that is a matter for the Whips.

The Fine Gael Whip will not agree with it anyway. The 4th May or later.

Well, there may be a reason but for the purpose of the record I think we will say the 11th May. We have a lot of examination to do on the sections and amendments that we have discussed here.

Fair enough.

We could not agree.

Report Stage ordered for Tuesday, 11th May, 1971.