I noted what Deputy Rabbitte said. He made these points during the course of the broader Bill which The Workers' Party introduced some time ago. However, it is a fundamental departure from the structure contained in the Bill and it is not within its scope. The Bill was drafted after discussions regarding various aspects. The amendment covers a range of areas which, perhaps, are all very desirable — I would not argue against them individually — but if accepted, I should have to spell out in the Bill how I would implement all these areas, including disciplinary measures, tranfers, lay-offs, occupational schemes and so on.
I have a choice, as Deputies appreciate, between what I would term an anti-discrimination measure along the lines of the Deputy's proposal and a process which would extend our labour laws to categories hitherto excluded. I opted for the latter approach and I am prepared to consider amendments in that context as I did this morning. However, I cannot fundamentally go in the direction indicated in the amendment into areas which are not covered by any of the Acts.
The important point is that the objectives towards which the Deputy is aiming will be achieved in my Bill in so far as it removes any different treatment between regular part-time and full-time workers in the matter of those rights which we have chosen to provide in our labour law. It does that very successfully; it gives pro rata entitlements to all part-time workers of whom, as Deputy Rabbitte and Deputy Fennell said, 70 per cent are women. All this legislation has been built up since the foundation of the State and it has culminated in this Bill which, I hope, will be in force from 5 April.
I stressed on Second Stage that the vast majority of part-time workers are women and, consequently, have access to the employment equality legislation and the institutions under it to pursue claims of direct or indirect discrimination they do that all the time. One of the courts is totally taken up with equality issues, which I welcome because a few years ago when I came into the Department of Labour, there had been an understanding by the previous Administration that one of the courts would close. I rejected that on the basis that we should keep it for long, protracted equality cases which require time. Until quite recently, the court was not free to handle such cases, but now a court deals with equality, which is a vast improvement.
Even with the setting up of the Labour Relations Commission there was probably an internal consideration that if the cases were reduced by the commission the number of courts we have would not be needed. I rejected that and said we should keep a court for equality issues, and it is being used by full-time and part-time workers and all kinds of categories, and I think they are doing a good job. they are changing the law on equality almost weekly, new decisions are being made and it is difficult to come to grips with where exactly that will end. Therefore there is access to discrimination cases and employment equality in a very broad sense at present.
Whatever about the merits of the other areas, to try to put them into a Bill in this form would not be possible as Deputy Rabbitte knows, but they can be looked at. Workplace facilities, access to training, the use of the apprenticeship schemes, the right of women to the various training schemes, etc., all are areas in which I have made substantial movements subject to the financial limitations under which I have to operate in the various agencies under my control, but we have made substantial progress there in recent years.