Anti-Discrimination (Employment) Bill, 1975: Instruction to Committee.

I move:

That it be an instruction to the Committee on the Anti-Discrimination (Employment) Bill, 1975, that it has power to make provision in the Bill in relation to—

(i) the establishment of an Employment Equality Agency, having functions in relation to the said Anti-Discrimination (Employment) Bill, 1975, and the Anti-Discrimination (Pay) Act, 1974.

(ii) compulsory re-instatement or compulsory re-engagement in relation to cases of retaliatory dismissal under the said Anti-Discrimination (Employment) Bill, 1975, and the said Anti-Discrimination (Pay) Act, 1974, and

(iii) any other matters incidental

The purpose of the motion is to permit the moving of amendments that would make provision in the Bill in relation to the establishment of an Employment Equality Agency having functions in relation to the Anti-Discrimination (Employment) Bill, 1975, and also having functions in relation to the Anti-Discrimination (Pay) Act, 1974. The amendments will also refer to the compulsory re-instatement and compulsory re-engagement in relation to cases of retaliatory dismissal under the Anti-Discrimination (Employment) Bill, 1975, and the Anti-Discrimination (Pay) Act, 1974.

It is necessary to move this motion because the amendments are additional and depart somewhat from the provisions of the Bill as originally before the House. The Employment Equality Agency will have both an investigative and overseeing role. First, it will have the function in the public interest of identifying and seeking out areas of discrimination where they exist. It will also have an enforcing function to ensure that the terms of the legislation apply in practice.

To achieve this the agency will carry out formal investigations and it will have power in connection with these investigations to require the production of information. The agency will then either recommend changes in practices or issue nondiscriminatory notices requiring those who are infringing the provisions of either of the Acts to cease such unlawful practices. Of course, if there is persistent discrimination the agency may seek an injunction from the High Court to ensure that the person in breach of the law desists.

The agency will have the sole right to institute proceedings in cases of discriminatory advertisements. Where advertisements in their format or language break the provisions of the legislation the agency can institute proceedings. The agency will also be able to assist individuals in the preparation and presentation of their cases where special circumstances justify it.

I hope the agency will have an important role as educator in generally promoting equality of opportunity. It will be a source of information about legislation and about the remedies available to those who suffer, or feel they suffer, discrimination and it will conduct research into the areas in which the law applies as well. Guidelines and codes of good practice in the light of investigations carried out by the agency will be published.

During the debate on this Bill Deputies accepted the need for such an educative central organising agency and the purpose of this motion is to meet the need expressed in this House and elsewhere. The agency will consist of a chairman and ten ordinary members to be appointed by me. Of the ordinary members two will be workers' members, two employers' members and of the remaining six members three will be representative of women's organisations. The staff of the agency will be civil servants provided from the offices of the Department of Labour.

A similar agency, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, was established in the United States in 1972. In Britain the Equal Opportunities Commission of 1975 carries out similar functions and in Northern Ireland the Equal Opportunities Commission came into power in 1976.

I would hope the agency will monitor progress towards the elimination of discrimination in employment under the Equal Pay Act and, based on this legislation, make recommendations to the Government of the day for any amendments that may be considered necessary. The agency will, of course, be independent of the Government in its work.

Another reason for moving this motion is that the remedies for retaliatory dismissal for those pursuing claims on equal treatment under this legislation or for equal pay under the Anti-Discrimination (Pay) Act, 1974, are being brought into line with the remedies under the unfair dismissals legislation. The Bill, as originally put before the House, provided for either monetary compensation or that reinstatement may be recommended. It is now proposed that the remedy will also be available that one may order re-instatement or order re-engagement if the Labour Court findings support these remedies.

I referred to these amendments on the Second Stage of the Bill in December, 1976, but it is necessary, in accordance with Standing Orders, to move this motion to give an instruction to the committee empowering it to make these amendments.

This is a new approach in introducing a Bill of this nature, that half of it is brought forward at a particular time and then, when the many inadequacies of the Bill are seen, to decide, by way of motion, 16 or 17 months later, to introduce the bones that were missing from the original Bill.

While I support the need for social legislation, this Minister and this Government have been overplaying, for cheap political gain, much of the legislation that has been introduced here. This Bill is a glaring example of it. About ten days prior to the West Mayo by-election which was held in November, 1975, this Bill was circulated and the Second Stage ordered. It took approximately 12 months to reach the Second Stage and when the Second Stage was reached the bones to which I have referred as being missing from it were agreed by all sides of the House to be missing. The Bill was presented to the House without the Employment Equality Agency referred to in the motion, or a similar body, either a new section of the Labour Court specifically to deal with this legislation or at least a body of some sort to deal with the many problems that will arise under this legislation.

We shall not be opposing the motion simply because it gives us the opportunity of discussing on Committee Stage all the amendments proposed. The Bill introduced in October-November, 1975, deliberately excluded the necessary bones because it was expedient to have some measure circulated before an electoral contest. This is to be deplored.

If this Government have failed in any area and if this Minister has failed in any area, I believe it to be in the area of equal opportunities and equal rights for women generally. There has been the disastrous backtracking or reneging on the commitment by this House to equal pay under the 1974 Bill. The Equal Opportunities Bill which was expected to follow fairly quickly on the 1974 Bill is now being used as a political tool to convince some of the electorate that something is being done.

The number of amendments alone in this Bill prove how ill-prepared or how far from being ready was the initial Bill as circulated. My party have no objection to this motion so that we may get to Committee Stage. I am very pleased, in fact, to see the official representation in the House is all ladies. The only worry I have now is the danger of discrimination being exercised in the opposite direction.

Male chauvinist.

I welcome the innovation. I am glad to see them here. I have no objection to the motion but I am very critical of the necessity for this motion because of omissions from the Bill as presented to the House. I believe that Bill should never have been circulated if it had not been properly researched and prepared at that time.

There has been a great deal of social legislation passed in recent times. Each measure was improved because of the attention given to it here on Committee Stage. The amendments to the Bill indicate very clearly that much more time and detailed examination must be given to this measure than was given to others because of the inadequacies of the Bill as presented.

There is hardly a section or subsection of the Bill that has not been amended for Committee Stage. The additions are numerous, and the Minister referred to the setting up of the Employment Equality Agency. I am not sure that he should not have given time to examining, wherever possible, the establishment of such an agency under the wing of the Labour Court or a new section of the Labour Court in order to keep as closely related as possible to the activities of the agency under this Bill.

It should be remembered that in the Unfair Dismissals Bill the powers of the redundancy tribunals have been extended to cover cases under it. The one fear I have about all this social legislation is that we would have here a pattern somewhat similar to that in Britain where the effect of some of the social legislation has been the number of trivial cases being brought before these bodies involving the State in enormous expense. We must investigate the size of this body. The Minister said it would consist of a chairman and ten ordinary members. My party and I would question very seriously the necessity for such a large membership of this agency in the initial stages. The greater the number on it the greater the cost to the taxpayer.

Again, I accuse the Minister of a certain amount of window dressing here. In regard to setting up the equality agency, the Minister says there would be two employer representatives, two worker representatives and six appointed by the Minister, three of whom would represent women's organisations. I believe the Minister is playing nicely to women's organisations. It is important that three members be women, but I question very seriously why this House should give such extensive power to any Minister in this Government to appoint a chairman and six members to this agency. We have seen from experience what kind of appointments have been made to date. They are all political. The first essential for the seven members we are talking about here will be that they be supporters of one or other of the parties forming the Government. Nobody else is given any opportunity in relation to this type of agency at the present time. For that reason the numbers proposed here must be studied in detail on Committee Stage.

I am amazed that in relation to the two workers' representatives the Minister has not stipulated that at least one must be a woman. I am amazed, too, that in regard to the two employer representatives it is not stipulated that one be a woman. Yet in regard to the six ordinary members the Minister says that three must be representative of women's organisations. I have no objection to a greater proportion than 50 per cent of the membership being comprised of women.

Giving the Minister power to appoint six members means in effect that ministerial appointments will dominate this agency completely. If there is to be a fair expression of views, a fair opportunity of adjudication on whatever differences may arise under the Act, it is imperative that there be equal representation of the workers', the employers' and the State sides and that there be a neutral chairman. The chairman will not be neutral, though, in so far as politics are concerned. We know from experience that he will be appointed from one of the political parties, that perhaps he will be a card-paying member or a well known supporter of either of the Government parties. Later we shall be discussing the question of compulsory re-engagement in regard to cases of retaliatory dismissal. The relevant Bill has far-reaching consequences. Certain sections of it will create anomalies because we are saying that there must not be discrimination against either sex or even between people of the same sex. There are sections in the Bill into which not enough thought has been put in relation to the difficulties that will be created. We have no objection to the motion but we shall discuss the details on the Bill itself. The Bill was inadequate in its original form but there are amendments now which result in its being put into better shape.

Question put and agreed to.