Private Members' Business. - Protection of Part-Time Workers (Employment) Bill, 1988: First Stage (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following Motion:
That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to provide for equal treatment of part-time workers and to make unlawful in relation to their employment certain kinds of treatment.
— (Deputy De Rossa.)
It is unfortunate that the Minister has not found it possible, so far at any rate, to withdraw his opposition to the Bill. In moving the motion for leave to introduce this Private Members' Bill, it is important to note that what the Bill proposes to do is to extend legal protection to part time workers who have to work fewer than 18 hours a week because that is the period for which they are employed.
The fact that many workers now enjoy this protection is as a result of long years of campaigning by the labour and trade union movement. Unfortunately, many part time workers do not enjoy that protection. The trade union movement have been campaigning for many years for the extension of this protection to part time workers. This Bill is an effort by The Worker's Party to have the protection of the law extended to those who are without legal protection — and I understand officially that is about 20,000 workers at present — and those who work fewer than 18 hours per week, many of whom are existing on pay levels well below the poverty line.
The nature of the workforce is changing rapidly and there is a need for legislation to keep up with the changing trends. Employers are looking for what they call a "flexible" workforce and indeed there should be no problem with this provided that all workers are given the basic protection of the law and that "flexible" does not mean exploitable or expendable.
There is no doubt that employing part time workers for fewer than 18 hours per week can be very attractive for employers as they can hire and fire with impunity. This creates an atmosphere of fear in the workplace with employees reluctant to seek improvements in their wages and conditions in case they lose their jobs, as has happened. There is also no doubt that the absence of adequate protection for part time workers encourages people to remain in the black economy. Therefore, a measure such as this could have a very positive spin off by making it attractive of part time workers to come into the white economy, thereby increasing revenue from employers' tax and PRSI contributions. At present, those who work fewer than 18 hours per week are not covered by the Redundancy Payments Acts, the Maternity (Protection of Employees) Act, the Protection of Employment Insolvency Act, the Unfair Dismissals Act, the Holidays Act or the Minimum Notice Act.
Our Bill seeks to extend the protection of these pieces of legislation to all workers. The European Community is very keen on the principle of equal treatment, but that principle particularly coming up to 1992 must be broader than simply the question of equality for men and women. The principle of equal treatment should be applicable to all workers and those who are forced by circumstances to work fewer hours than the norm should not be discriminated against. Social protection for workers in most EC countries is stronger and better than in Ireland. Indeed, in 1982 a draft EC directive on protection for part-time workers was prepared, but its progress was blocked by conservative elements in the EC. In drafting this Bill we have had regard to that draft EC directive and also to the ICTU proposals made to the Minister for Labour which arose from a submission made under theProgramme for National Recovery. This Bill seeks to extend employee protection legislation to part time workers. We recognise that the separate problem of extending full social welfare rights to part-time workers would need to be addressed in another Bill on which we are working. The cost implications of extending the protections envisaged in our Bill would be negligible. It would require a .8 per cent increase in employers' PRSI, of 80p per £100 of wages paid plus pro rata holiday pay for annual hours worked.

The Deputy might now bring his speech to a close.

The Government decision to oppose this Bill last week is quite extraordinary, because what they are doing is opposing even the printing and circulation of the Bill. I have no doubt that the printing and circulation of this Bill would add considerably to the debate which is required on this issue. It is only appropriate that a Bill on this issue from the Members of the House should be circulated. As I have already indicated, the Labour Party, the Progressive Democrats, the Fine Gael Party and the Independents in this House have indicated their support for the printing and circulation of the Bill.

I must now call on the Minister to reply.

I recognise that some of them will have a particular problem with the contents, but I appeal to the Minister even at this late stage to withdraw his opposition to the Bill.

The development of technology and the demands of the market are now such that many industries require employees to work atypical working patterns. These include week on, week off, complex shift rotas or job sharing arrangements. In addition the personal circumstances and choices of many people dictate a preference to work on a part-time or irregular basis. In order to facilitate those employees who for family or other reasons wish to work on a part-time basis, and to provide a flexible labour market in a competitive economy, we must recognise the fact that part time and atypical work patterns will increasingly be a feature of the employment scene.

At present, in this country, approximately one in every twenty employees is in regular part-time work. The number of part-time employees has increased over the last ten years from 39,400 in 1977 to 57,700 in 1986. Despite this increase, part-time employment still constitutes only a modest percentage of total employment. It is important that the scale of part-time employment be realised. Some of the more spectacular news reports might lead one to believe that we are becoming a nation of part-time workers. The facts do not support this view.

While many people doing part-time work seek full-time employment and would move given the opportunity, others voluntarily wish to continue working on this basis. Information collected as part of the 1986 Labour Force Survey indicates that 46 per cent of women work part-time because of family responsibilities and 25 per cent because they do not want a full time job. As almost three quarters — 74 per cent — of all part-time employees in Ireland are women, it is clear that part-time employment suits many of the workers who are employed on this basis.

The issue which we as legislators must address — and this is aside from considerations of motivation and statistics — is how best to regulate part-time employment. We must allow the potential of this sector of the employment market to be fully realised, while simultaneously affording basic rights to all workers employed on a regular basis. A balanced legislative response is therefore called for. One which excessively regulates part-time employment could discourage employers and reduce the employment potential of this sector. A total lack of legislative protection leaves employees open to exploitation.

I have been conscious of the need to review the position of part-time workers by reference to the labour legislation administered by my Department. I have accordingly initiated a review of the situation regarding part-time employment and, as part of the consultative process, I wrote some time ago to both the ICTU and FUE asking for their views. The social partners will approach the issue from their own perspectives. In the interests of attaining the balance to which I have already referred, however, I feel that it is important that consultations be comprehensive. Subsequently decisions will then be well-informed and effective at improving the situation of those whose vulnerability on the labour market is being exploited, in the absence of applicable law.

At the moment much of the protective legislation administered by my Department makes no distinction between full time and part time workers. Legislation such as the Conditions of Employment Acts, 1936 and 1944, the Shop Conditions and Employment Acts, 1938 and 1942, the Payment of Wages Act, 1979, the Anti-Discrimination (Pay) Act, 1974, and the Employment Equality Act, 1977 applies to all workers irrespective of the hours they work. Some Acts exclude workers who are not employed for a minimum number of hours. These are the Unfair Dismissals Act, 1977, the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Act, 1973, the Holidays (Employees) Act, 1977, the Maternity (Protection of Employees') Act, 1981 and the Redundancies Payment Act.

The ICTU have already forwarded a submission and I am hopeful of receiving the views of the FUE shortly. When I have considered both submissions I will undertake detailed discussions with both sides. I have already had preliminary discussions with the Congress of Trade Unions. Then I will be in a proper position to decide on the scope and level of regulation required.

This brings me on to the Bill proposed by The Workers' Party. The Bill is by and large a reproduction of a submission by the ICTU to my Department in the matter. The omnibus charter proposed ignores any implications for amendment of specific and detailed provisions of existing labour legislation, which would require to be amended if legal clarity is to be a consideration. It also ignores the relationships between existing enactments in their scope and coverage and parallel provisions in the social security code. The draft Bill presupposes a greenfield legal context which is not the case.

I must conclude consultations with both sides of industry in line with the Programme for National Recovery and with the policy of collective bargaining, before legislation can be brought forward by the Government. These discussions with both sides of industry will take place before we proceed further to draw up a package which represents a balanced approach to the needs of both employers and employees. The Bill proposed by The Workers' Party does not achieve the required balance.

Can I ask a question?

On a point of order, am I not entitled to ask the Minister a question?

Surely the Minister would agree that nothing he has said should preclude the right of a Deputy to have a Bill circulated in this House?

The Minister has replied to the debate. I am putting the question "That leave be given to introduce the Bill."

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 61; Níl, 77.

  • Barnes, Monica.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Begley, Michael.
  • Bell, Michael.
  • Birmingham, George.
  • Boylan, Andrew.
  • Bruton, John.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Carey, Donal.
  • Clohessy, Peadar.
  • Colley, Anne.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Cosgrave, Michael Joe.
  • Cullen, Martin. De Rossa, Proinsias.
  • Desmond, Barry.
  • Doyle, Avril.
  • Dukes, Alan.
  • Durkan, Bernard.
  • Farrelly, John V.
  • FitzGerald, Garret.
  • Fitzpatrick, Tom.
  • Flaherty, Mary.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Gibbons, Martin.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Harte, Paddy.
  • Higgins, Jim.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Hussey, Gemma.
  • Kavanagh, Liam.
  • Keating, Michael.
  • Kemmy, Jim.
  • Kennedy, Geraldine.
  • McCartan, Pat.
  • McDowell, Michael.
  • McGahon, Brendan.
  • Mac Giolla, Tomás.
  • Mitchell, Gay.
  • Mitchell, Jim.
  • Molloy, Robert.
  • Naughten, Liam.
  • Noonan, Michael. (Limerick East).
  • O'Keeffe, Jim.
  • O'Malley, Desmond J.
  • O'Malley, Pat.
  • O'Sullivan, Toddy.
  • Pattison, Séamus.
  • Quill, Máirín.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sheehan, P.J.
  • Sherlock, Joe.
  • Spring, Dick.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Taylor, Mervyn.
  • Taylor-Quinn, Madeleine.
  • Wyse, Pearse.
  • Yates, Ivan.

Níl

  • Abbott, Henry.
  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Andrews, David.
  • Aylward, Liam.
  • Barrett, Michael.
  • Brady, Gerard.
  • Brady, Vincent.
  • Brennan, Matthew.
  • Brennan, Séamus.
  • Browne, John.
  • Burke, Ray.
  • Byrne, Hugh.
  • Calleary, Seán.
  • Collins, Gerard.
  • Conaghan, Hugh.
  • Connolly, Ger.
  • Coughlan, Mary T.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Daly, Brendan.
  • Davern, Noel.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Dennehy, John.
  • de Valera, Síle.
  • Doherty, Seán.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Fahey, Jackie. Fitzgerald, Liam.
  • O'Donoghue, John.
  • O'Hanlon, Rory.
  • O'Keeffe, Batt.
  • O'Keeffe, Ned.
  • O'Kennedy, Michael.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Rourke, Mary.
  • Power, Paddy.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Smith, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
  • Flood, Chris.
  • Flynn, Pádraig.
  • Foley, Denis.
  • Gallagher, Denis.
  • Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
  • Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
  • Hilliard, Colm Michael.
  • Hyland, Liam.
  • Jacob, Joe.
  • Kirk, Séamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lawlor, Liam.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Leonard, Jimmy.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Lynch, Michael.
  • Lyons, Denis.
  • McCarthy, Seán.
  • McCreevy, Charlie.
  • MacSharry, Ray.
  • Mooney, Mary.
  • Morley, P.J.
  • Moynihan, Donal.
  • Nolan, M.J.
  • Noonan, Michael J.
  • (Limerick West). O'Dea, William Gerard.
  • Stafford, John.
  • Swift, Brian.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Tunney, Jim.
  • Wallace, Dan.
  • Walsh, Joe.
  • Walsh, Seán.
  • Wilson, John P.
  • Woods, Michael.
  • Wright, G.V.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies McCartan and Sherlock; Níl, Deputies V. Brady and D. Ahern.
Question declared lost.