Night Work (Bakeries) (Amendment) Bill, 1981 [Seanad]: Committee Stage.

Section 1 agreed to.

I move amendment No. a1.

In page 2, to delete lines 21 to 29 and substitute the following:—

"(2) On the application, of any person, which shall be made in such form and containing such particulars as the Minister may direct, the Minister, after advertising in the public media inviting public objections and then after consultation with persons who in his opinion are representative of all employers in the bakery trade and with persons who in his opinion are representatives of all workers in that trade, may, if he is of the opinion that it is in the public interest to do so, issue to such person a licence to carry on, in a bakery to which this Act applies, in the period of night, any process of manufacture which is prohibited by subsection (1) of this section."

The main reason for the amendment is to include a requirement that applications for licences should be advertised and open to public objection. This is important especially in the light of the fact that the principal Act of 1936 has proved unenforceable for many reasons not the least being that very often the places of such baking have not been known, whereas people living around the night bakeries and people engaged elsewhere in the bakery industry would have a right to object to a licence being granted.

People would have a right to object if living in the vicinity of a place where night work was to be carried out because it is not hard to see that this could undermine the peace and tranquillity of their neighbourhood at night. But much more important is the right of people employed elsewhere in the bakery industry to object. An example will illustrate what I mean. Suppose bakery A applies for a licence under this Bill. Management and union at the bakery, who will be consulted if this subsection is not amended, are agreeable because it suits both parties. Take a bakery 20 miles away. Neither workers nor management are consulted. Yet, by granting a night licence to bakery A bakery B could find itself facing unfair competition and in an extreme case could be forced out of business as has already been the case of some bakeries, notably Kennedys which was forced out by unfair competition from bakeries working illegally at night.

Another possibility is that it will have the effect of forcing workers to do night work at bakery B although neither they nor the management want it. If I were a worker at bakery B or the spouse of such worker I would be very upset that the normal pattern of my family life, the normal enjoyment of the company of my spouse and family at night could be taken away because I did not know the licence was being granted elsewhere. I urge the Minister to consider this point. The workers have a right to know and be heard on the matter. They have the right to object before a decision to grant or refuse a licence is made. That is very important. It may well be that the only effect of it would be to alert themselves to seek a night licence but in any case there are such interests involved. There are people with a clear interest in what happens in individual bakeries and the only reasonably sure way of alerting them, seeking their views, objections and so on, or of informing them is by advertising in the public media and inviting their comments or objections.

I am sure the House is aware that before a license is issued my Department will consult with the ICTU and the FUE. As well as that consultations will be held with the management of the bakeries concerned and with the representatives of the employees. It is my view that this represents a thorough consultative programme and I cannot see why we would have to resort to placing advertisements in the media. This would be at considerable cost when the matter can be taken care of in the same straightforward manner as we normally do in cases like this. Therefore, I hope the Deputy will accept that I, the Government and the Department are satisfied that we will have consultations with all the people concerned and Congress will be informed. Therefore, I see no reason for this amendment.

The Minister in saying that this will cost a lot of money is hardly credible. There are many precedents for such an arrangement and the cost should fairly fall on the applicant just as it does on publicans seeking to renew their licenses and persons seeking planning permission or alterations to planning permission. It is not a credible reason for not accepting the amendment. There is a very strong case for alerting the public to any such application, not least because of the domino effect of granting one licence. I am afraid of this and I want to do everything possible to prevent a proliferation of unnecessary night baking. The reason for that is something that has not been alluded to too much in the Second Stage debate or at all here today, the adverse social and health implications of prolonged night work. The danger is that if one licence is granted it will prompt another application for a licence and will have a domino or multiplier effect. Potentially a lot of people in the bakery industry who for years and years had enjoyed or certainly got used to certain hours of work, usually starting early in the morning until midday, are going to be dragged unwittingly and unknowingly on to night work because they are not alerted. I argue strongly that they are entitled to know.

We went into this in much greater detail, very properly, during the passage of the Safety in Industry Act and in the preparation of that Act I had very prolonged discussions with the Association of Industrial Medical Officers and the Faculty of Occupational Medicine at UCD and with the Health and Welfare Section in Brussels. I also consulted such documents as were available from the ILO in Geneva. It is an accepted fact that prolonged night work causes severe social disorientation and is a root cause of many health problems. For that reason we have to be very careful not to be taking several steps or even one step backwards in facilitating more night work than is absolutely necessary. For that reason this amendment should be accepted. Bakeries B, C and D have a right to know if bakery A are seeking a licence and they have a right to state their case because it is going to affect them. While I accept that the Minister should consult with the employers and trade unions, there is a division within the bakery union. The division, however, leaves the bakers within Dublin, who are most adversely affected by this, in a minority. They are and always have been opposed to night work and I feel that they should have a right to know about this. Congress may say that the bakers' union have voted to accept night work but the No. 1 Branch in Dublin have not. If I were a baker in Dublin I would resist like hell going on night work if I could at all avoid it.

I want to stress again the health factor. Regarding night work, the original list of amendments which I submitted was lost somewhere in the House but included in that list was an amendment which sought to curtail the number of weeks in any year that any worker could be required to work. In drafting a rushed second version of this I omitted to table that amendment and I do not know whether it would be possible to take it on Committee Stage. I did that because in the United Kingdom there is a 26-week limit on the number of weeks that can be worked in any one year. I ask the Minister, if I cannot do this procedurally, if he would consider such an amendment on Report Stage.

We are on amendment No. a1 at the moment. Does the Minister want to come back on it?

Question "That the words proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendment No. b1 has already been ruled out of order.

On a point of order, I accept the Ceann Comhairle's ruling in that respect that it is technically out of order. Nonetheless, it is a terribly important subject and I urge the Minister to look at the whole area referred to in this amendment, which I have now to accept is out of order, because I think there is prima facie evidence, certainly in the bakery industry, that things are not as they should be.

I have allowed the Deputy to say so much, but I have ruled that it is not relevant, and if it is not relevant it cannot be debated. Amendment No. 1 is in the name of the Minister. Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 are cognate. The Minister will move amendment No. 1 and we will debate amendments Nos. 2 and 3 with it.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, line 3, to delete "£200", and to substitute "£500 and, in the case of a continuing offence, a further fine (not exceeding in total £600) not exceeding £50 for each day during which the offence is continued".

During the Second Stage debate Deputy Mitchell asked for amendments to increase the level of penalties set out in the legislation and by amendment No. 1 we propose in page 3, line 3, to delete "£200" and substitute "£500" and, in the case of a continuing offence, a further fine not exceeding £600 in total and not exceeding £50 for each day during which the offence is continued. This amendment is in order to meet the request to increase fines.

I thank the Minister for introducing this amendment. A somewhat similar amendment in my name was on the original list. I understand that the £600 limit is to keep within the powers of the District Court. This limit is in need of urgent revision because a bakery gets off scot-free, having committed the offence for three successive days, unless another summons is issued. However, I accept that the Minister has gone as far as he can.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 3, line 12, to delete "£100" and to substitute "£250".

Amendment agreed to.
Section 2, as amended, agreed to.
Section 3 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 2a:

In page 3, between lines 21 and 22, to insert the following new subsection:—

"(2) As part of the industrial inspectorate a post of Inspector of Bakeries is hereby created and shall, from the enactment of this Act, at all times be filled by a whole-time person whose duties shall exclusively consist of monitoring and enforcing the provisions of this Act.".

I believe that the industrial inspectorate is totally undermanned for the task they have to carry out. I want the creation of a post of inspector of bakeries and the person appointed to be employed fulltime in looking after the bakery sector so that this Bill, unlike the Principal Act, will be enforced. This legislation has been made necessary by the failure to enforce the 1936 Act and we must not allow ourselves to enact further legislation which will not be enforced. That is the kind of thing which brings legislation into disrepute and it has a very subtle and far-reaching effect. I hope the Minister will accept the amendment.

The Deputy will agree that this is a matter of administration rather than legislation and I can assure him and the House that we will have the necessary inspectors to enforce this legislation.

I am not happy with that. It is a fundamental point that the earlier Act failed to make adequate provision for enforcement. We have a duty to those involved in this industry to see that they are protected. It would be a signal failure in this amending Bill if we did not make provision for its enforcement. I would be very critical of the Bill as a whole if we did not make such provision.

The specific appointment of an inspector of bakeries would lead to demands for inspectors of this, that and the other. We have a pool of inspectors who generally move from one industry to another.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 3, subsection (3), line 28, to delete "one hundred pounds", and to substitute "£250".

Amendment agreed to.
Section, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 5 and 6 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Agreed to take Fifth Stage today.