Redundancy Payments Bill, 1970: From the Seanad.

The Dáil went into Committee to consider amendments from the Seanad.

I move: That the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 1:

In page 4 the following new subsection inserted between lines 12 and 13:

"(2) In relation to the amendments of the Principal Act referred to in section 19 (†), the Minister may, in respect of a dismissal or a termination of employment in the period beginning on the 22nd day of January, 1971 and ending on the commencement of this section and notwithstanding the Principal Act, pay to an employee out of the Redundancy Fund any moneys to which the employee may become entitled by virtue of the said section 19 (†).".

Seanad amendments Nos. 1 and 3 are designed to provide for retrospection for three measures in the Bill back to 22nd January. The House will recall that I resolutely set myself against any measure of retrospection in this Bill and gave my reasons for doing so. There was very considerable pressure to have retrospection from different dates, from the date of the passing of the Bill in the Dáil before going to the Seanad, from the date of its circulation and back to the date of its introduction. For very good reasons it was not possible to consider retrospection of any great length and to give retrospective effect to all the measures in the Bill was not considered either feasible or desirable. The main reasons are that the fund is under fairly heavy pressure at present; only a certain amount of extra payments could reasonably be expected to be met out of it for the time to come, the work involved in giving a full measure of retrospection was pretty well impossible and, indeed, the whole question of making legislation retrospective is not considered desirable and I would not like the step we are taking here to be taken as a precedent in relation to any other legislation we might have.

The Labour amendments which we have here today seek to give retrospection to some other provisions in the Bill. I know that these are the provisions we would all like to make retrospective, particularly the one in relation to the shorter period for qualifying, but this is the one which would entail the opening up of new cases, the heaviest burden on the surplus that is already in the fund and practical work which would be impossible to carry out in any reasonable time.

I should like to point out that the measure of retrospection which these two amendments from the Seanad will give in relation to three provisions of the Bill will involve a considerable amount of extra work and will necessarily be slow. I should like to warn the House, as I did the Seanad, that if some of the recipients who will benefit under the payments provided retrospectively to 22nd January, expect that the payments will be made immediately, I am afraid they will be disappointed because it will take a very considerable amount of extra work in the Department and the extra payment will not be made immediately.

On a point of order, may I take it that the Minister is introducing all the amendments together, or what is the procedure?

We are dealing with amendment No. 1 from the Seanad.

It does not appear to me that amendment No. 1 is what the Minister is talking about.

The Minister stated that he was also referring to amendment No. 3.

If those of us who are moving or supporting amendments are given the same opportunity of making a speech, then I have no objection. It would be terribly unfair if the Minister were to be entitled to make a Second Reading speech on this amendment now and the rest of us were to be confined.

We are dealing with one amendment at a time.

I am not a bit anxious to make a speech, I can assure the Deputy, but I was giving a run over of what the amendments mean and in doing so I referred to the amendments which are now proposed by the Labour Party. I do not wish to add anything further.

It is a welcome change this morning to be engaged in more socially constructive legislation than that with which the House has been occupied for some time. I welcome amendment No. 1, notwithstanding the fact that amendment No. 3 seeks to elaborate that amendment and we have an amendment to that particular Seanad amendment, which is a very complicated one. Such has been the prolonged delay on the part of the Government in getting the Bill through the Oireachtas that some limited measure of retrospection has been conceded by the Government. We are pleased that some of the benefits of the Bill have been made retrospective in the Seanad amendment to the date on which the Bill was published. We welcome that provision also. Many hundreds of redundant workers will get a retrospective bonus from these amendments costing the Redundancy Fund a total of about £250,000. I accept what the Minister says that many thousands of claims will have to be re-examined in the light of the retrospective provisions. The bonus for redundant workers arising from the amendment is certainly welcome.

While we welcome the general extension of cover of the legislation to non-manual workers dismissed because of redundancy since January 22nd, 1971 who have exceeded their remuneration limit for insurability for benefits under the Social Welfare Acts between two and four years, we shall seek improvement, as intimated by the Minister, under the Labour Party amendment to Seanad amendment No. 3. We propose to do this this morning. It is also important in relation to amendment No. 1 and the general retrospection given to clarify the position about the precise entitlement of workers as there is a fair amount of confusion in the public mind regarding the current Bill and the multitude of amendments and the old Act and the redundancies that are taking place and the application of current legislation to them. As matters now stand, with the acceptance of this amendment from the Seanad it is provided that where a person goes over the insurability limit for social welfare he is still held to be eligible for redundancy payments for four years from 21st January last. The old legislation provided for only two years as the period for which non-manual workers would pass the income limit for compulsory insurance under the Social Welfare Acts remained eligible for benefit under the scheme. It is necessary that this fact should be more widely known. I had a number of inquiries about it.

It is also important that it should be more widely known that at present the entitlement to weekly redundancy payments of workers who remain unemployed after redundancy is one weekly payment for each year of service and three weekly payments after the age of 41 for every two years service. Under the changes now being brought in the amount of each weekly payment while remaining the same— half a normal week's pay for each year of service after the age of 41—will now count for two weekly payments. This will certainly benefit older workers. That is all I wish to say in respect of amendment No. 1 from the Seanad. We welcome it as a change of heart on the part of the Minister and the Government and we do not propose to delay the passage of the Bill through both Houses today.

Amendment agreed to.

In the case of amendment No. 2 from the Seanad we first take the amendment to the amendment.

I move amendment No. 1 to Seanad amendment No. 2:

To delete "30 weeks" and substitute "104 weeks" and before "section 24" to insert "where the Tribunal has not made a decision".

This amendment will allow employees' claims which are late, due to the employers' tardiness to be considered. The Minister may not be aware—I think he should be—that, for instance, Rossmore Collieries ceased operations in August, 1970 and no notice of dismissal was given by the company. Neither did the company give redundancy certificates. Negotiations for financial support continued with the Government until October 1970. Obviously, the company should have given the statutory certificate soon after August or after October when they found out what was happening. Statutory duties have been ignored and the Department of Labour have taken no action to enforce sections 17 and 18 of the Act. The result is that the company now allege that some of the employees' claims are late as they were not made within the 30 weeks of termination of employment. How is the date of termination of the employment to be fixed if notice was not given by the company in the first place? The company which is winding up is, in my opinion in double breach of the law and is relying in its defence to the claims of some employees for payment which were not made within 30 weeks on an indefinite date of determination. The amendment would correct this position and would not interfere with any decisions already made by the tribunal.

Company employers and solicitors acting for executors usually plead the letter of the law against employees even when they have been in breach of the law themselves. The Act as it stands only limits lump sum payments which are affected by the 30 weeks time limit; weekly payments are not subject to the time limit. The Bill proposes to make the weekly payments subject to the time limit. Under existing law employees may find it possible to recover the lump sum at common law when the employer has broken a rule and under the Bill this remedy will be cut off. If the Minister complains that this is compensating employers for having broken the law, I should like to know if he proposes to prosecute employers who use this device. The employers cannot have it both ways. In our opinion this is a very simple amendment which should be accepted by the Minister.

I was interested in the Minister's opening speech in which he referred to the fact that he was against retrospection of any kind. He also spoke of improving certain matters. Of course, the Bill improves things, but we are dealing with a class of people who are suffering a tremendous shock. Many of them have been employed for a long number of years and suddenly find themselves out of work. Their future is black—a period on the labour exchange followed by the dole, if some other device is not tried to cut off that, and then, perhaps, if they are lucky a casual job at a lower rate or, perhaps, emigration.

We believe an effort should be made to help these people to find their feet. This was done in the original Redundancy Payments Act; it is improved in this Bill but we think it would be a pity if the Bill went through without preventing employers taking a mean advantage of workers. I have given an example of one case where this is being done. The amendment is a very reasonable one. I do not know whether the Minister fooled the people in the Seanad because they were under the impression he was accepting the amendment in section 7. However, when it appeared in writing it was found that he was only accepting the first part of the amendment; he was not accepting the second part of the amendment. We are suggesting the entire amendment should have been accepted. The Minister is a reasonable man and, as he had an extra day to look into the matter, we believe he will accept our amendment.

I should like to support the amendment put down by the Labour Party. The amendment was put down in the names of Deputy Tully, Deputy O'Connell, Deputy Cluskey and myself, but in view of his experience of the situation at Rossmore Collieries, Deputy Pattison also specifically supports the amendment. I shall give a broad outline of what happened and the anomalies in the situation will be obvious to the House.

On 30th July, 1970, the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union received a general intimation from the company informing them that the company might not be re-opening after the August, 1970, holidays. Subsequently, the union got a further intimation from the owner of the collieries that no assurance could be given by the board that continued employment would be given. Thus, an air of uncertainty concerning future employment was created.

Between August and November, 1970, there were intensive negotiations and requests seeking support by the company to the Minister for Industry and Commerce and the Minister for Finance for further subventions for this company. In November, 1970, Senator Kennedy, President of the Transport Union, wrote to the Minister for Transport and Power pointing out that this had been going on for some time. He mentioned the general uncertainty and the problematic closure of the company and he said he hoped the personnel would receive all outstanding entitlements—social security, redundancy payments and so on. He received a reply from the Minister on 18th November stating that he hoped the entitlements would be honoured and that he had passed on the matter to the Department of Labour with the hope that the redundancy entitlements would be honoured fully by the company.

Thus, for some employees of that company there was an air of general uncertainty regarding the date of termination of employment. The company did not, under section 17 of the Act, formally notify the employees that they were being dismissed by reason of redundancy. Some of the employees did not make claims on the employer for redundancy compensation within the 30-week period. Any employer can say to an employee that if he does not make a claim he will not receive benefit and that they will not formally notify him. The company in the case I have mentioned has been wound up, but the situation arises that an employee's claim may not be made within 30 weeks of termination of employment because of uncertainty surrounding the future employment of the company and the prospects of the company being re-opened. The amendment we are proposing will allow employees' claims, which are late due to the employers' tardiness or failure to notify effectively, to be considered.

In our opinion Rossmore Collieries is the classic example. The mines ceased operation in August, 1970, and notice of dismissal was not actually given at that point by the company to all the employees and redundancy certificate notices were not given to employees. Most liquidators act rigidly in accordance with statutory provisions in regard to meeting the debts of a company and as a result the workers get nothing. There are a number of occasions where negotiations for financial support continue with Government Departments long after the company concerned has taken a formal decision to liquidate. This amendment would be of considerable benefit and improvement to workers who are caught in such a situation.

One must point out that the company to which I have referred is now winding up but, in effect, it is in double breach of the law and it is relying on its own offence of failing to give notice to defeat the claims of some employees which were not made within 30 weeks of a very indefinite date of termination. The amendment we are proposing would correct the position and it would not interfere with any of the decisions already made by the Redundancy Tribunal. This is important because one finds that the solicitors acting on behalf of the executors tend to cling to the letter of the law against employees.

In asking for 104 weeks instead of 30 weeks, if the Minister agreed to accept a period greater than 30 weeks, the Labour Party would be disposed to accept that. I have in mind a minimum of 52 weeks and the Minister has considerable leeway to meet this amendment. We suggest to the Minister that if he opposes the amendment, in effect, he is compensating employers for having broken the law. If he does this, we must ask him if he proposes to prosecute employers who have failed to give the statutory notice and redundancy certificate or, as in the case of the Rossmore Collieries, if the Minister will go the whole hog and serve a claim on the liquidator in terms of breaching the law so that the Department may eventually recover the money. We commend our amendment to the House for general support.

For reasons I have covered broadly already, I cannot accept this amendment which seeks to extend the time limit applying to redundancies to 104 weeks. It is hardly necessary for me to give any long explanation as to why I am opposed to this amendment. As Deputies have pointed out, we have been fairly generous in meeting most of the demands calculated to improve the 1967 Act. At this time I could not consider this amendment which would be unfair to others who have had their cases tested and opened and shut in the meantime.

Did the Minister never hear of the labourers in the vineyard?

I did, indeed. In the amendment which it is sought to amend, we have gone a long way to improve conditions. I could not accept this amendment at this stage.

Does the Minister accept that the Rossmore Collieries should be entitled to get away with this sort of thing? Does he intend to prosecute those who do it, have done, and will do it? That is the simple question. This would stop it happening in future. It would not help the people in Rossmore, but it would stop it happening in future if the Minister would agree that people who break the law will be prosecuted. He cannot have it both ways. Would the Minister answer that question?

I do not want to deal with the specific case to which the Deputy refers. I do not think this is general. The Deputy is referring to a particular case.

I am referring to a particular case as an example of what can happen and has been happening. I am asking the Minister, if employers break the law and then plead that breach of the law for the purpose of avoiding giving redundancy payments, thereby robbing workers of money to which they are entitled—that is the only description of it—does he agree that they should get away with it? That is a simple question. The only way in which it can be dealt with is by the Minister changing the law. If he does not do that, will he prosecute those who engage in those sort of antics?

The Deputy knows perfectly well that anyone who tries to avoid paying redundancy by any device will be dealt with in whatever way it is possible under the law. The last thing we could be accused of is of in any way condoning any practices of the type mentioned by the Deputy. They are not general and they are difficult to prove, if they can be proved at all.

Here is a perfect one. Surely the Minister has all the proof he needs in his Department. Not only did they do it but they pleaded it to the Department when the case was made. Is that not evidence enough, or is this just another bit of whitewashing?

Is the amendment withdrawn?

Amendment put.
The Committee divided. Tá: 39; Níl: 56.

  • Barry, Peter.
  • Barry, Richard.
  • Begley, Michael.
  • Belton, Paddy.
  • Bruton, John.
  • Burke, Joan.
  • Burke, Liam.
  • Burton, Philip.
  • Clinton, Mark A.
  • Coogan, Fintan.
  • Cooney, Patrick M.
  • Corish, Brendan.
  • Cott, Gerard.
  • Creed, Donal.
  • Cruise-O'Brien, Conor.
  • Desmond, Barry.
  • Donnellan, John.
  • Dunne, Thomas.
  • Fitzpatrick, Tom (Cavan).
  • Hogan O'Higgins, Brigid.
  • Jones, Denis F.
  • Kavanagh, Liam.
  • Kenny, Henry.
  • Lynch, Gerard.
  • McLaughlin, Joseph.
  • McMahon, Lawrence.
  • Malone, Patrick.
  • O'Donnell, Tom.
  • O'Donovan, John.
  • O'Hara, Thomas.
  • O'Higgins, Thomas F.
  • O'Leary, Michael.
  • O'Reilly, Paddy.
  • O'Sullivan, John L.
  • Pattison, Séamus.
  • Ryan, Richie.
  • Spring, Dan.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • Tully, James.

Níl

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Allen, Lorcan.
  • Andrews, David.
  • Boylan, Terence.
  • Brady, Philip A.
  • Brennan, Joseph.
  • Brennan, Paudge.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Brosnan, Seán.
  • Browne, Patrick.
  • Browne, Seán.
  • 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.
  • Delap, Patrick.
  • de Valera, Vivion.
  • Fahey, Jackie.
  • Faulkner, Pádraig.
  • Fitzpatrick, Tom (Dublin Central).
  • Flanagan, Seán.
  • Foley, Desmond.
  • Forde, Paddy.
  • French, Seán.
  • Geoghegan, John.
  • Gibbons, James.
  • Healy, Augustine A.
  • Herbert, Michael.
  • Hillery, Patrick J.
  • Hilliard, Michael.
  • Hussey, Thomas.
  • Kenneally, William.
  • Kitt, Michael F.
  • Lalor, Patrick J.
  • Lemass, Noel T.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lynch, Celia.
  • Lynch, John.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • Meaney, Thomas.
  • Moore, Seán.
  • O'Connor, Timothy.
  • O'Malley, Des.
  • Power, Patrick.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Timmons, Eugene.
  • Wyse, Pearse.
Tellers:—Tá, Deputies Desmond and M. O'Leary; Níl, Deputies Andrews and S. Browne.
Amendment declared lost.

I move that the Dáil agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 2:

In page 5, section 12, lines 13 to 35 deleted and the following new section substituted:

12. (1) Section 24 of the Principal Act is hereby amended by the insertion at the end of that section of the following subsection:

‘(2) Notwithstanding any provision of this Act, an employee shall not be entitled to a weekly payment unless he has become entitled to a lump sum.'.

(2) In respect of a dismissal or a termination of employment which occurs not earlier than 30 weeks before the commencement of this section, section 24 of the Principal Act shall apply as if—

(a) ‘52 weeks' were substituted for ‘thirty weeks', and

(b) the following subsection were inserted after subsection (2) (inserted by this section):

‘(2A) Where an employee who fails to make a claim for a lump sum within the period of 52 weeks mentioned in subsection (1) (as amended) makes such a claim before the end of the period of 104 weeks beginning on the date of dismissal or the date of termination of employment, the Tribunal, if it is satisfied that the employee would have been entitled to the lump sum and that the failure was due to a reasonable cause, may declare the employee to be entitled to the lump sum and the employee shall thereupon become so entitled.'."

Amendment agreed to.

To Seanad amendment No. 3 there is an amendment, amendment No. 2, in the names of members of the Labour Party. We will dispose of the Labour Party amendment first.

I move amendment No. 2 to Seanad amendment No. 3:

To delete "first amendment of section 7" and substitute "amendments of section 7".

The object of this amendment is to make the qualifying period of 104 weeks effective from 22nd January, 1971, the date of the publication of this Bill. It is necessary, we believe, to give protection to contributing employees made redundant since 22nd January last and that is the specific purpose of this amendment. The amendment affects employees with two years service and less than four years service. For example, employees employed by Kennedy's Bakery in Dublin would come under the scope of this amendment. We submit the cost would not be very great and only short service employees would be affected. I would make the strong point to the Minister that since January last all employers have been aware that, if they let employees go, employees with less than 208 weeks service, before the commencement of this Act, then such employees will be deprived of redundancy pay.

We submit to the Minister that employers have had an unfair advantage in terms of anticipation of legislation and have thereby been able to avoid the provisions in the Bill. This amendment is not designed to swing the balance totally in favour of the employee, it is designed to hold a fair balance between both sides of industry in terms of redundancy payments. We submit it will maintain a fair balance between the two sides and as such is worthy of the general support of the House. In the case of Kennedy's Bakery a number of women employees recently became redundant and with less than the required service under the old legislation and general coverage under the new legislation they are automatically affected. The purpose of this amendment is to bring in under general coverage women with short service but of course it also applies to any employee.

There is very little to add to what Deputy Desmond has said except to point out that while Kennedy's Bakery have been quoted as an example there are a few more. The amount of money involved for the State and to the employer is small. An employer who dismisses someone who is a week short or less than a month short of the required time is behaving badly. This has been done. We feel that because the amount of money involved is so small this amendment will right what is a very blatant attempt to prevent people from getting a small amount of money which would help them over a lean period while they get another job or leave the country, which is what some of them have had to do. There is no big issue of principle here and we do not propose to challenge a vote on the matter, it is simply an amendment which the Minister, in good faith, should accept, because we believe that when somebody tries to be smart he should be dealt with in the proper way.

To discuss this amendment one really has to discuss my own amendments as passed by the Seanad. If there is to be retrospection in the Bill it would mean making the entire provisions of the Bill retrospective to 22nd January. This is what I was trying to say at the outset when I was speaking generally about the amendments and the proposed amendments to the amendments. I set myself completely against retrospection. I had the case of some measure of retrospection examined to see to what extent we could go. The measure of retrospection which I have proposed is generous to those who have a good record of work. The amendments which I have brought in from the Seanad meet these cases. It is a reasonable measure of retrospection and definitely as far as it is possible to go. The proposal now of the benefit of a shorter period is no doubt one which will be most important but if I were going to consider that the entire Bill in the first instance would have been made retrospective. This would really cost money and apart from that it is a provision which would provide the greatest difficulties in going back and dealing with cases. I know it is the most important provision in the Bill but it is one we have already decided not to make retrospective.

When I hear the Minister saying that he has set his mind against retrospection I always think of the attitude of this Government and indeed of many employers to retrospection. When dealing with lower paid people the usual thing is that there is a big fight over retrospection. It does not apply when the question of highly paid executives comes in and it is usually easy enough to give two, three or four years retrospection as had been given here.

In this case I do not think the Minister quite understands what he is talking about. This was in the Seanad amendment. He accepted one half of amendment No. 7 but he did not accept the other half. He accepted the half which cost money; the one we are asking him to accept this morning will not cost much money because it only applies to people who will not qualify unless the qualification period is reduced. That is plain enough for anybody to understand. I cited the case of people dismissed since 21st January, who instead of having 204 weeks had 203, 202 and 200 weeks and because of that they could not qualify for the couple of pounds which the employers would have to pay them, 65 per cent of which they could get back from the State, if they knew their business.

The Minister has said he cannot accept retrospection, he has set his face against it, but this amendment would cost nothing. I do not know whether the Minister quite understands what we have been trying to say but we are putting it in plain enough language. Because only a small amount of money is involved I am sure that even those who would benefit by getting a week's or a fortnight's pay as a result of this amendment being put in would tell the Minister not to bother with it rather than put the House to the trouble of having a vote on it.

This is not a big issue of principle, it is simply a question of somebody with a good deal of money who tried to be smart and the Minister is encouraging that person to carry on like that. In most cases the people affected are young girls and it is certainly no encouragement to them to try to seek other work in this country when they find that even though they have paid their share for redundancy payments for almost two years the State, now having the opportunity of giving them a small benefit, turns its back on them. I would appeal to the Minister to be sensible about this. The amount involved is so small that it is not worth the trouble we are taking here. It certainly would not break firms like Kennedy's who did this sort of thing to pay a few extra pounds. I would ask the Minister to accept the amendment and let the Bill go through.

I have already given very definite reasons why I did not accept retrospection in this case. In dealing with it I said it was necessary to point out the amendment which I am recommending to this House and which has already been passed in the Seanad. Considerable thought and examination was given to this in relation to the state of the fund. The measure of retrospection which I have conceded is the limit to which we could possibly go back. Going back at all was a result of pressure from Deputies on both sides of the House. It was going a distance to meet them and a distance which I had announced strongly I would not go.

I am particularly interested in this because I had a case of a girl who was declared redundant. She had four years service, less three weeks holidays. It is a shameful thing that she should be deprived of redundancy payment. If her holidays had come in time she would not have got this cessation cessor pay, she would have qualified for the four years. The number of people involved is very few. I do not think it would involve any great burden if the Minister would accept this amendment. It only involves the people who have been declared redundant in this particular period and it affects specifically the employees of Kennedy's Bakery. I have heard that they will not consider the case sympathetically at all. It is incumbent on the Minister to accept this realising the fact that the amount involved is practically negligible and it will serve as some compensation to the employees of this particular firm who are caught by virtue of the present Redundancy Payments Act. I would ask the Minister to reconsider this. The amount involved is negligible and it will not create any precedent. It will merely help the people who are caught by this period between January 22nd last and the date of redundancy.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 3 to Seanad amendment No. 3:

To delete "fourth amendment" and substitute "third and fourth amendments".

This amendment would allow the extra week's pay in the lump sum to be effective from the 22nd January 1971. I should like to have the Minister's comments on it. It is something we felt he would accept in the Seanad and we were rather surprised to find that he had not done so. Perhaps he has had a change of heart since then.

I am afraid I must say the same in relation to this amendment. I do not want to appear to be opposing amendments for the sake of opposing them but I have considered all these things. I went as far as I could in relation to part of the benefits. I think the Deputy will admit in this case that we have met him half-way.

The Minister is very pessimistic. He must expect a tremendous amount of redundancy. Otherwise he would be prepared to accept this amendment and the previous ones. It would cost so little money that it could be easily carried by the redundancy fund. Do not forget there was £1 million in it last year. Does the Minister believe that factories and employments of various kinds will close down so quickly in the next six months that the fund will not be able to carry on even with that amount in the kitty? If that is so I sympathise with the Minister but he has the solution. If he thinks that the best his Government can do is sit on a situation which he knows is likely to result in tremendous redundancy and in the robbing of the fund he should not remain there any longer. He should hand over the reins to somebody who would make a better effort.

The Minister has a golden opportunity to amend the Redundancy Payments Act. It has only been a short time in existence. The Minister will remember the phrase when it was going through this House before: "Of course we can amend it when we find out how it goes. If there is extra money being taken in we will be able to improve it." Having gone through the motions of introducing improving legislation is he now saying that he must wait to see how this goes and in a couple of years somebody will try to improve it again? It is a complete waste of the time of this House to bring in an amendment to the Redundancy Payments Act and to say in regard to a relatively small amount of money that the fund will not be able to carry it. The only reason why the fund will not be able to carry it is if there is to be a tremendous draw on it. If the Minister thinks there are to be wholesale layoffs, if that is his idea of preparation for the Common Market, and if he thinks that going into the Common Market will make the matter even worse, I cannot see where his enthusiasm for the Common Market comes in. I do not see how he, as the Minister responsible, can allow the situation to continue any longer. What he is saying to us now is that he cannot agree to give this small extra concession to workers who lose their employment whether they are employed over a period of two, three four or 40 years because he feels that the fund would not be able to carry it. If he is saying that he must be expecting wholesale redundancy within the next 12 months.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move: That the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 3:

In page 9, the following new subsection added to the section:

"(2) Notwithstanding section 20 (3), this section, in so far as it relates to the first amendment of section 4 of the Principal Act, the first amendment of section 7 of that Act, the fifth amendment of Schedule 1 of that Act and the fourth amendment of Schedule 3 of that Act, shall be deemed to have come into operation on the 22nd day of January, 1971."

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 4 to Seanad amendment No. 4:

To delete "by reason of redundancy before attaining the period of 104 weeks referred to in Section 7 (5) (as amended) of the Principal Act".

While Seanad amendment No. 4 is a net improvement, nevertheless we in the Labour Party feel that steps should be taken to make it more difficult for employers to break service by the use of what we would call, for want of a better term, synthetic dismissals for redundancy or otherwise. If our amendment were acceptable to the Minister it would mean that an employee who was dismissed for any reason and who resumed employment with the same employer within 26 weeks would be deemed to have been in continuous employment. We suggest this is fair. If there was a break and an employee came back with the same employer within the half-year he would be deemed to have been in continuous employment. It is obvious that the employer must have some very good reason for permitting an employee to resume and it is most unfair that what we would call synthetic dismissal merely for the purpose of breaking service, should be tolerated. As things stand the matter is open to abuse in so far as it could be used by an employer forad hoc breaks in continuity of employment without the employee realising it. It could happen subsequently that there would be a claim for redundancy payment and the employee would be, to use the colloquilism, hammered by the employer and by the redundancy appeals board. It has happened, and it is customary in some industries, that a man will get his cards for a couple of weeks and will be taken back and two or three years later the employer will claim that there has been a break in continuity of employment. This is the kind of situation which we in the Labour Party are extremely anxious to avoid. We do not want to give any employer an opportunity to avail of that loophole.

Unfortunately, legislation always seems to deal with those who will milk the legislation dry in their favour. Reputable employers, the vast majority, do not engage in this kind of practice. We fully accept that. We want to close the gaps of abuse which can develop and we submit strongly that amendment No. 4 as drafted by us will suffice to meet the claims on this occasion.

The same applies here. I could not possibly accept the amendment. As the Deputy rightly pointed out, I have gone part of the way in providing the 26 weeks to cover absence but the principle of dismissal which is involved is one on which I would not yield. One of the principles laid down in the Bill is that dismissal is not a case which can be regarded as redundancy. This would provide for taking back a dismissed person. The 26-week period goes a good part of the way to meet those who wanted a longer period.

Does the Minister suggest that if an employer lets employees go over a period of years for a couple of weeks now and again in order to prevent them from qualifying, that this is grand, that he can dismiss them on the grounds that he has no further work for them, before they qualify, and suddenly discover that he has work for them and re-employ them? Does he consider that this House should protect that sort of person? That, in effect, is what the Minister is saying. This is not a question of costing money. It is very difficult to understand the Minister's attitude, or perhaps I should say the Government's attitude, to something like this. I am quite sure the Minister, being a reasonable man, would not be inclined to do things which would militate against people who in fact are casual workers, or encourage the casualisation of work.

The number of people involved may be small. Most employers, let me put on record, are decent people; most firms are decent firms and make their arrangements with their employees usually through trade unions, and carry them out. There are exceptions. Could we not legislate that the mean fellows—and we have those too—the mean firms, that try to be clever, should not be allowed to do it or if they do, would pay for it? That is all we are asking. It will not cost the State money. For that reason I can see no argument as to why the Minister should have turned down the amendment.

The question of preservation of continuity is fairly well covered even in the Principal Act. We could be here for weeks and go on providing for every conceivable type of case but continuity in the type of case that Deputy Tully has in mind is not covered in every conceivable case. We would always have exceptions. However, the Bill makes reasonably generous provision for continuity.

Yes, of course, it does.

It is unfair for the Deputy to try to make it appear that we are legislating against employees.

Let me put this again on the record: I think the Minister has, in certain sections of the Bill, done a reasonably good job. I put that in writing to him. He is probably aware of this. What I do not like is the extraordinary idea he has that certain loopholes which have been pointed out to him by people on this side of the House should not be plugged because they have been pointed out to him by people on this side of the House. There is no other reason why the Minister should reject a reasonable amendment such as this. We are simply asking that the exceptional employer who tries to get away with this should not be allowed to get away with it.

We had a similar situation on the first amendment that we had here. We were asking that employers who deliberately broke the law for the purposes of avoiding this legislation should not be allowed to do it and the Minister said he was terribly sorry but he was not prepared to go with us on that. Now we have a situation where people by employing a mean little trick succeed in depriving workers of something to which they are entitled and the Minister says he is terribly sorry but he cannot go the whole way with us. He said earlier that it would cost money and would cost this, that and the other thing. This does not cost the State money. I cannot see any reason for rejecting the amendment except the one that I have given, that the Minister does not like taking suggestions unless they come from his own party. That seems to me to be the only reason why he is not prepared to accept this amendment.

Question put: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."
The Committee divided: Tá, 59; Níl, 49.

  • Aiken, Frank.
  • Allen, Lorcan.
  • Andrews, David.
  • Boylan, Terence.
  • Brady, Philip A.
  • Brennan, Joseph.
  • Brennan, Paudge.
  • Briscoe, Ben.
  • Brosnan, Seán.
  • Browne, Patrick.
  • Browne, Seán.
  • 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.
  • Delap, Patrick.
  • de Valera, Vivion.
  • Fahey, Jackie.
  • Faulkner, Pádraig.
  • Fitzpatrick, Tom (Dublin Central).
  • Flanagan, Seán.
  • Foley, Desmond.
  • Forde, Paddy.
  • French, Seán.
  • Geoghegan, John.
  • Gibbons, James.
  • Gogan, Richard P.
  • Healy, Augustine A.
  • Herbert, Michael.
  • Hillery, Patrick J.
  • Hilliard, Michael.
  • Hussey, Thomas.
  • Kenneally, William.
  • Kitt, Michael F.
  • Lalor, Patrick J.
  • Lemass, Noel T.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lynch, Celia.
  • Lynch, John.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • Meaney, Thomas.
  • Moore, Seán.
  • O'Connor, Timothy.
  • O'Kennedy, Michael.
  • O'Malley, Des.
  • Power, Patrick.
  • Sherwin, Seán.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Smith, Patrick.
  • Timmons, Eugene.
  • Wyse, Pearse.

Níl

  • Barry, Peter.
  • Barry, Richard.
  • Begley, Michael.
  • Belton, Paddy.
  • Bruton, John.
  • Burke, Joan.
  • Burke, Liam.
  • Burton, Philip.
  • Clinton, Mark A.
  • Conlan, John F.
  • Coogan, Fintan.
  • Cooney, Patrick F.
  • Corish, Brendan.
  • Cott, Gerard.
  • Coughlan, Stephen.
  • Creed, Donal.
  • Crotty, Kieran.
  • Cruise-O'Brien, Conor.
  • Desmond, Barry.
  • Dockrell, Henry P.
  • Dockrell, Maurice E.
  • Donnellan, John.
  • Dunne, Thomas.
  • Fitzpatrick, Tom (Cavan).
  • Fox, Billy.
  • Governey, Desmond.
  • Harte, Patrick D.
  • Hogan O'Higgins, Brigid.
  • Jones, Denis F.
  • Kavanagh, Liam.
  • Kenny, Henry.
  • L'Estrange, Gerald.
  • Lynch, Gerard.
  • McLaughlin, Joseph.
  • McMahon, Lawrence.
  • Malone, Patrick.
  • O'Connolly, John F.
  • O'Donnell, Tom.
  • O'Donovan, John.
  • O'Hara, Thomas.
  • O'Leary, Michael.
  • O'Reilly, Paddy.
  • O'Sullivan, John L.
  • Pattison, Séamus.
  • Ryan, Richie.
  • Spring, Dan.
  • Thornley, David.
  • Timmins, Godfrey.
  • Tully, James.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Andrews and S. Browne; Níl: Deputies Desmond and Kavanagh.
Question declared carried.

I move that the Committee agree with the Seanad in amendment No. 4:

In page 13, after the ninth amendment of Schedule 3, the following inserted:

"The insertion after paragraph 5 of the following:

‘(5A) If an employee is dismissed by reason of redundancy before attaining the period of 104 weeks referred to in section 7 (5) (as amended) of the Principal Act and resumes employment with the same employer within 26 weeks, his employment shall be taken to be continuous.'."

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments reported and agreed to.
Ordered: "That a message be sent to the Seanad accordingly."