Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Working Hours.

8.

asked the Minister for Labour if he will outline the results of his discussions with the ICTU and employer organisations regarding the proposed reduction in the working week, which concluded in January 1989; if agreement has been reached; if any target date has been set for the reduction in the working week; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

9.

asked the Minister for Labour if it is his intention to reduce the working week from 40 hours to 37½ hours; and if so, when this proposal will be implemented.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 8 and 9 together.

The agreements on pay negotiated in conjunction with the Programme for National Recovery provided that in October 1988 discussions would take place at national level between the Government, the FUE, the CIF and the ICTU on a general framework to allow for the implementation of a one hour per week reduction in working hours over the three year period of the national programme in cases where the normal working week is at or above 40 hours. The discussions resulted in the successful conclusion of an agreement. The agreement provides a framework within which employers and unions may negotiate a reduction of one hour per week. These negotiations are to be carried on at the level at which basic pay and conditions of employment are normally negotiated. Any further reduction in working hours would, of course, be primarily a matter for negotiation between the relevant interests.

Deputies may also be aware that I have initiated a review of the Conditions of Employment Acts which specify statutory maximum permissible working hours for employees in industrial work. I am at present in consultation with the FUE and ICTU in the matter. It would not be my intention to reduce below negotiated norms maximum hours of work under these Acts.

I welcome the successful conclusion of these negotiations on behalf of working people. Can the Minister give any indication of the time-scale for the implementation of this recommendation which he has referred to as discussions to reach agreement over the three year period of the Programme for National Recovery? We are fast running out of time. Will the Minister indicate when these proposals may come into play? Has he or his Department any intention of promoting the idea? While it has been agreed at national level one can anticipate a certain degree of resistance at local shop floor level, particularly from the employers side, at the start of the implementation of this very innovative idea.

It will require some promotion and I will promote it. The working group finished their deliberations on 27 January. The Congress of Trade Unions at national executive level ratified it on 30 January and the FUE National Executive ratified it on 31 January. I am awaiting a meeting of the CIF next Tuesday. As soon as they ratify the agreement it can be launched formally and it is open then to all the social partners to enter negotiations immediately to try to achieve the one hour reduction. It will be subject to the points set out in the document when it was agreed that they would take into account productivity, the state of the company and other matters which would normally be taken into account when discussing pay and conditions. There should be no delay; certainly with regard to companies doing well there should be no delay at all.

Is the Minister satisfied that the parties involved in this matter are committed, or have any anomalies surfaced during the negotiations?

The first meeting between the parties to the Programme for National Recovery was held on 21 October last and they had concluded their deliberations by 27 January last. Indeed, taking the Christmas period into account and the number of bodies involved, that was amazingly quick. Certainly the national organisations are totally supportive of it. What is necessary now is to have the reduced working hours implemented at shop floor and office level as quickly as possible.