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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 4 May 1995

Vol. 452 No. 4

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Small Business Sector.

Desmond J. O'Malley


6 Mr. O'Malley asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the plans, if any, he has to implement the recommendations of the Task Force on Small Business in the area of labour legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [8106/95]

The Task Force on Small Business undertook a comprehensive examination of all factors relating to and impinging on the development of the small business sector. The task force examined administrative burdens faced by small business and, in this context, issued a number of recommendations in the area of labour legislation.

These recommendations cover health and safety, insurance costs, unfair dismissals, part-time worker protection and payment of wages legislation. The task force also examined the EU Directive on the Organisation of Working Time which is due to be implemented in November 1996.

The main recommendations relating to health and safety has been implemented by the issuing recently of a model simplified safety statement for small business by the Health and Safety Authority. The suggested reinforcement of a duty of care on employees has, in fact, existed since the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 1989. The three recommendations which address the EU Directive on the Organisation of Working Time are being examined in the context of the transposition of this measure into Irish law.

The remaining recommendations address existing legislation which has offered valuable basic statutory protection to employees. A two tier approach to employee rights based on the size of their employers' business would not be helpful.

In negotiating future employment rights legislation at EU level, Ireland adopts a balanced approach and is concerned to ensure that the detail of legislation is framed in a way which will support employment and avoid red tape while ensuring basic standards of social protection.

Does the Minister agree that applying this legislation to firms with one employee and to firms with 1,000 employees is grossly unfair?

Employees are entitled to basic employment protection rights laid down at European Union level and transposed into our law, whether they work for an employer who has one other employee or for an employer who has 999 other employees.

Everybody is avoiding both the question and answer on this matter because implied in the question is the recommendation by the task force that there should be a two tier system for dealing with labour legislation. I do not agree with that recommendation. Does the Minister of State have the support of the Minister, Deputy Bruton, in her espousal of equal treatment for workers, whether employed in firms with one or 1,000 employees? I did not have the support of the Minister. Deputy Quinn, or the former Minister of State, Deputy Brennan, in that regard.

The Ministers in this Department operate as a team.

I understand the Minister, Deputy Bruton, in his earlier incarnation favoured a two tier system. He favoured the task force's recommendation regarding labour legislation and small firms. The Minister of State need not try to convince me that she has his support.

When I was in Opposition I asked questions. I did not offer views.

A degree of tension is healthy and I was not afraid to give my view when the task force was set up. The Minister of State should not be coy and pretend that everything is la vie en rose between Kildare Street and Adelaide Road, when that is not the case.

Let us avoid entering into a debate about personalities.

Not at all; they are all Deputies.

I would have to disagree with everything I have heard from the two Deputies who spoke earlier. The reality is that Europe is losing out in the international world because of some of these regulations that are impractical, have very little beneficial effect and have the effect of keeping people out of work because they contribute to higher costs. On the forthcoming directive on the organisation of working time, is it intended, in line with the commitment in the Programme for Competitiveness and Work, to have consultation and discussion with interested parties on the implementation of this directive into Irish law?

While that is an entirely separate question I would like to inform Deputy Harney that consultations and discussions are taking place between my office and the relevant groups.

It is not a separate question because in her reply the Minister mentioned the working time directive. When will the Minister produce the report of the study that has been undertaken? Will there be harmony between the various arms of the Department of Enterprise and Employment on that matter?

Does the Deputy want us to break into song?

Yes, harmony would be good.

If Deputy O'Rourke wants to table a question on Sunday trading I will be be happy to answer it.

I know it all; I am well informed. I will not have to bother to table a question.