Organisation of Working Time Bill, 1996: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

The Organisation of Working Time Bill brings our laws on worker protection into the 21st century. It simplifies and updates labour law dating back to the 1930s. The world of work has changed out of all recognition since the 1930s and I am sure Deputies will agree it is time to review and modernise a body of law dating back 60 years.

The Bill places concerns for workers health and safety at the heart of how work is organised. It gives workers across the economy a legal right to minimum daily and weekly rest and to adequate rest breaks during the working day. It extends from three to four weeks the present legal right to paid holidays, phased in over three years to 1999. Next year workers will be entitled to 16 days holidays, in 1988 they will be entitled to 18 days and in 1999 and thereafter to 20 days per annum. Holiday rights for part-time and casual workers are being improved and, for the first time, our law will specify that employers must have regard to balancing family needs with work requirements in the timing of annual leave.

The new Bill tackles the vexed issues of Sunday work and zero hour contracts, issues at the heart of the recent industrial disputes in Dunnes Stores. Employers will be legally required to give reasonable advance notice of working hours to enable workers to make family and social arrangements. There are currently 137 pages of legislation, more than seven Acts, together with hundreds of regulations, licences and orders governing working time. This Bill will replace those with modernised and flexible legislation.

The need for ministerial approval every time there is a change in shift patterns is an example of outdated law which will be abolished when this Bill is enacted. I am also simplifying the procedures for resolving disputes under labour law. There is great flexibility in the Bill to accommodate different shift patterns, overtime and work arrangements. In general, the Bill's standard provisions on rest breaks and shift patterns can be varied once appropriate compensatory rest is offered. Agreed working arrangements which are working well can be accommodated within this flexible framework.

The European Union is not just about economic and monetary union. It is also about establishing common standards and basic rights for Europe's citizens. The Bill gives effect to the EU Directive on Working Time which will apply in all member states and was recently reaffirmed by the European Court as based on the principle of promoting the health and safety of workers. Shared principles and common policies are the foundation stone of the European Union ideal. Ireland has benefited greatly from membership of the European Union and, in turn, we are proud to subscribe to the principles of social solidarity which underpin the Union. Fundamental to those principles is a core set of minimum rights, a minimum decency standard for workers.

The majority of Irish employers already meet these minimum standards. When they carefully examine the small print of this Bill, they will know they have little to worry about in terms of this legislation. The skill, quality and commitment of our workforce are our key competitive resource. As good employers recognise, that commitment and those skills are best mobilised in a working environment that offers good working conditions, adequate breaks and an overriding concern for the health and safety of workers. Excessive working hours, or working long hours without a break, can damage the health of workers and tired workers can put their safety, or that of their colleagues, at risk. Excessive working hours have been linked to accidents in the workplace, to stress, and health and family problems. A study carried out in California has shown that working more than 48 hours a week can double the risk of coronary heart disease.

I have found that the greatest commitment to health and safety in the workplace comes from our largest and most successful companies. Far from undermining competitiveness they recognise that investment in health and safety planning for their workers is a key part of their business startegy. Large multinational companies are keen to promote health and safety values and do not have a difficulty with this legislation. They have more difficulty with the whinging of certain representatives who imply there is a poor business environment here when they believe there is an excellent one.

There is a great deal of misunderstanding about the provisions dealing with the 48 hour working week. I want to put the record straight in this regard. I have built into the legislation a substantial degree of flexibility about how this rule will be applied. Examples of this flexibility are that hours can be averaged over four, six or 12 months, fully providing for seasonal work or a rush of overtime to meet a particular order, and that hours are calculated net of lunch breaks, coffee breaks, etc.

It is worth recalling that the present limit on weekly working hours in industry is 53 hours a week. Since this was set in the 1930s, average working hours have fallen by five hours a week, from 44 hours to 39 hours a week. The working hours limit is now being reduced accordingly by five hours. I do not think this is excessive 60 years later.

I do not believe that in this day and age workers should be asked to work excessive hours to earn a decent wage. However, the overriding principle of this Bill is that workers' health and safety must come first. One cannot opt out of wearing a hard that on a building site. There can be no voluntary opt-out where basic health and safety are involved.

The Organisation of Working Time Bill implements the main provisions of the EU Directive on Working Time 93/104 adopted three years ago by the Community, which will have effect in all member states, including the UK. Other provisions of the directive will be implemented by regulations under the 1989 Health, Safety and Welfare at Work Act. The directive's legal base in Community law has been reaffirmed as a measure to improve workers' safety and health.

The Bill goes beyond just implementing the directive. We are taking the opportunity to address a number of problems that have emerged in recent times, first, the issue of pay for working on Sunday — I am delighted that Deputy Tom Kitt has submitted his own Bill in this regard. Second, zero hour contracts are being outlawed, which is a very important and progressive move. Third, holiday rights are being extended to categories of part-time and atypical workers previously excluded from these entitlements. Fourth, there will be simplified procedures for claiming entitlements under the Act in case of dispute. Fifth, we are addressing a loophole that has emerged where a company is wrongly named in a labour law claim to the Employment Appeals Tribunal. Claims will now not be out of time if the company is inadvertently wrongly named.

Another important feature is the Bill will apply generally to all employees in the public and private sector alike. Historically, public sector employees were excluded from the scope of labour law.

The overall effect will be to greatly simplify and clarify the rights and obligations of employers and workers. The Bill represents an updated and modern approach to conditions of employment. It will update the basic entitlements of workers to adequate rest during the working week, rest breaks while at work, maximum hours of work and holidays, bringing these into line with the terms of the EU Directive on Working Time.

The Bill repeals seven Acts regarding conditions of employment applicable to various sectors and replaces them with generally applicable legislation. The Acts to be repealed are the Conditions of Employment Acts, 1936 and 1944; the Shops (Conditions of Employment) Acts, 1938 and 1942; the Night Work (Bakeries) Acts, 1936 and 1981 and the Holidays (Employees) Act, 1973. The Bill also repeals section 4 of the Worker Protection (Regular Part-Time Employees) Act, 1991. The practical effect of this is that employers and employees can now refer to one consolidated Act instead of seven Acts or 137 pages of primary legislation and hundreds of regulations, orders and licences. We are always being asked to simplify red tape and regulations, which is what I am doing in this Bill.

Over the past number of years the number of people working on Sunday has been rising steadily. While seven day working has always been a feature of certain industries and services, for example, the bar trade, the increase appears to be due to extended operating time for industry and an increase in Sunday opening hours for shops.

The most practical way of recognising the special character of Sunday is to provide that some additional payment must be made to employees required to work on Sunday. This is the approach adopted in the Bill. Most employees who work on a Sunday already have a premium built into their rate of pay to cover Sunday working and I think it is generally accepted that Sunday working should command a premium. In the various employment regulation orders the premium varies across sectors but the principle is generally well established. The Bill proposes to set this principle down in law. This measure has, at the same time, the effect of recognising the special nature of Sunday as a traditional day of rest while permitting Sunday work which has become commonplace in a large range of employment sectors.

Recent labour force survey figures show a dramatic increase in the number of people at work, with a greater participation rate in the labour force of women than ever before. Part of this increase is made up of part-time employment and other atypical work. I recognise the needs of business for flexibility and that many employers require working patterns which are no longer based on our traditional view of regular working hours or the full-time job. I am also very conscious there is a demand from some workers for part-time and a typical work to match their own personal circumstances, and this appears to be the case for many women who take up such employment. I spent many years as an atypical worker.

However, the trend towards greater flexibility in the workplace has led to the development of some disturbing practices. Of particular concern is the development of the practice known as the "zero hours" contract. This practice, whereby the employee must make himself or herself available throughout the week for work that may not materialise, is perhaps the most demeaning. It has all the hallmarks of the old hiring fair practice, and shows no regard for the worker who may be called upon to work at a moment's notice or, worse still, remain on standby without being offered any work. Workers must be able to plan ahead for their working hours, their family and child care arrangements, their social life and their income.

Changing patterns in the organisation of work and the need for flexibility on the part of the employer clearly place new pressures on employees. However, greater demands for flexibility on the part of the employer must be accompanied by certain protections for the employee. For this reason we propose a twofold measure in this legislation, first, to ban zero hour contracts and, secondly, to require employers to give advance notice of working hours to their employees. Under these new measures employees will not only be entitled to advance information on their rostered hours but also to be paid for a minimum number of the hours for which they are required to be available.

The zero hour contract concept is somewhat different from casual work. It refers to the situation where employees are required to be on call on a constant basis, such as was the case in Dunnes Stores. There has been a wide welcome by industry for this change.

The legislation will also improve holiday entitlements by raising the statutory minimum from three weeks to four on a phased basis over the next three years. The three week entitlement dates from 1973 and has been surpassed by means of collective agreements for the great majority of employees since then. Our latest information is that about 80 per cent of workers currently get four weeks holidays.

We are also using the opportunity to improve the holiday entitlements of part-time workers and those on very short contracts. We are extending the right to holidays to all employees regardless of hours worked, and the principle that holidays are earned against time worked will apply to all. With growing participation by part-time employees in the workforce, we want to see basic rights such as holiday pay extended to all employees. The participation rate for part-time employees has risen from 8.5 per cent to 13.8 per cent in the past eight years and it is important to extend this provision to them. For example, somebody who works four hours on a Monday for one employer, four hours on a Tuesday for another employer and four hours on a Wednesday for a third employer will earn holiday entitlements for all the hours they work.

We are also changing our approach to the enforcement of these new statutory rights and propose to give an expanded role to the Labour Court which will act as the arbitration body for the purposes of this new legislation. The Labour Court and the Rights Commissioner Service provide a cost effective, speedy service in which I am confident that any problems or disputes arising in this legislation can be quickly resolved. Under the enforcement provisions an employee or a trade union will be permitted to take his or her case to a rights commissioner, and on appeal to the Labour Court, without resorting to formal legal proceedings. Working time issues such as disputes over rest times have traditionally been dealt with by the Labour Court and a reservoir of expertise has been built up in dealing with these issues. This replaces provisions whereby holiday disputes must go before the ordinary courts, as the Labour Court is more appropriate for such disputes. On Committee Stage we will look at a procedure whereby a holiday case can be bundled in with a series of cases going before the Employment Appeals Tribunal, for example, in the interests of simplifying enforcement for workers.

In this Bill we are also leaving substantial space for the social partners and employer and employee representatives at local level to utilise the significant flexibility permitted by the directive to negotiate working time arrangements which accommodate the interests of both employer and employee. Alternative rest and working times may be agreed at local or sectoral level and the terms of such agreements will be binding under the legislation. Through this measure we are responding to and encouraging the move towards genuine partnership at local level. The Bill gives employers scope to organise working hours to accommodate production demands and it sets out new standards and norms of protection for workers. Competitive pressures and the adoption of new systems of work have given rise to new working patterns. The organisation of work is facing rapid change at every level. We recognise this and are responding to these changes in this Bill, which is an extremely flexible instrument.

This legislation will apply to all employees, with certain exceptions including doctors in training, sea fishing and other work at sea and the transport sector. Work is under way in Brussels on appropriate directives to cover those sectors and that is the reason they are not included at this stage under this legislation. The transport sector will be exempted by regulation to provide for a more comprehensive description of the types of transport employees which are to be excluded. Under that provision workers with transport duties, irrespective of whether they work for a transport company, would be exempted. The Bill also exempts employees who determine the duration of their working time. Separate sector specific directives are being discussed in Brussels for the exempted categories. I understand that the Commission will publish a White Paper on the manner in which those categories will be regulated early next year.

In addition, we also propose to exempt the Defence Forces and the Garda. I am satisfied that in normal circumstances the Defence Forces and the Garda have sufficient protection built into their rostering and holiday arrangements. However, due to the nature of the service provided by those two categories, and in accordance with the exemption permitted in the framework directive, it would be impractical to apply the terms of the directive to their work. In accordance with the directive, the Bill also gives an enabling power to exempt employees in the civil protection services where the nature of the work inevitably conflicts with the directive.

I am also incorporating additional flexibilities for certain sectors recognised as having such a need. They include industries subject to seasonality or a foreseable surge of productivity and cover agriculture, public utilities, the media, security industry and industries which cannot be interrupted on technical grounds. Those sectors, listed on pages 42 and 43 of the Bill, can avail of a six month averaging period for the 48 hour week. In addition, exemptions from the provisions regarding daily rest, rest periods at work, weekly rest and night work may be made by means of ministerial regulation in those sectors. In effect, all the derogations permitted under Article 17 of the directive have been provided for in the Bill.

There has been a good deal of misunderstanding about the 48 hour rule provision and I want to explain carefully what is involved. First, the limit is an average 48 hour week. Workers will still be free to work more than 48 hours in any given week, for example, at busy times of the year, provided their average hours calculated over the reference period do not go over the 48 hour figure. Employers will be able to arrange overtime to meet a seasonal rush of business or to meet a particular order. The 48 hour limit can be averaged over four, six or 12 months, which will offer flexibility to seasonal businesses and those working annualised hours.

The generally applicable reference period is four months. That is increased to six months in a wide range of sectors and circumstances and may be as high as 12 months under the terms of a collective agreement. Accordingly, the limit in the Bill allows for a significant amount of regular overtime, it is some 23 per cent higher than the standard 39 hour week agreed to by the social partners under theProgramme for Competitiveness and Work, and certainly allows considerable scope through the averaging arrangements to deal with seasonal or other peaks in demand.

The generous nature of the limit is evident from the fact that so few people will be affected by it. The Labour Force Survey indicates that only 6 per cent of employees regularly work longer than 48 hours per week. As many of those belong to the exempted categories, the number affected will be significantly below that figure. It is difficult to see how a measure which impacts so marginally on the workforce could possibly have the dire consequences predicted by some interests. There is some special pleading and scaremongering in regard to this aspect of the Bill.

I have taken full advantage of the flexibility under the directive to allow a six month averaging period in the designated sectors and other seasonal or continous process sectors. Averaging over 12 months is available to any firm which concludes a registered collective agreement with the workforce. Collective agreements in unionised companies will have to be negotiated through the normal negotiation mechanism, the trade union. Under the Bill individuals can be free to work 48 hours a week right around the year, equivalent to working six eight hour days every week throughout the year.

Second, the calculation of the 48 hours will be based on net working hours, time spent working not including work breaks such as lunch or tea breaks. A person who works for 48 hours per week probably spends in the region of 55 hours in the workplace when work breaks are taken into account. Such an employee could spend 11 hours per day over a five day week or about 9.5 hours per day over a six day week in a workplace without breaching the limit. Accordingly, the limit allows for quite a long working week. In many cases that may mean workers who work a gross 55 hour week may work under 48 hours net. Those arrangements will cater for the vast majority of existing overtime arrangements, where overtime is worked to cope with normal fluctuations in the workload. I reject suggestions that there is not sufficient flexibility in the Bill to meet competitive challenges, seasonal orders or a rush of business. There is a great deal of flexibility built into the Bill and if people read the small print, they will realise that is the case.

It is also important to point out the limit on weekly working time is not importing any new principle into Irish labour law. Limits have applied to working time for 60 years in a wide range of sectors including industry, construction, public utilities, retailing, hotels and the licensed trade. For example, in industry and construction working time is currently limited, under legislation dating back to the 1930s, to an average of 53 hours per week over any 12 month period.

The new legislation will change this position in two respects. First, the limits will apply to a wider range of sectors and, second, current limits are being reduced. The reduction in the 53 hour limit to 48 hours must be viewed in the context of the general reduction in working hours since the limits currently applicable were set in the 1930s. The standard working week in industry in the 1930s was 44 hours, it is now 39 hours. The reduction in the limit mirrors very closely the general reduction in working hours.

Article 18 of the directive gives member states the option of allowing an individual worker to opt out of the maximum working week of 48 hours by means of agreement with his or her employer. The provision was included in the directive at the request of the UK to reflect the particular industrial relations environment in Britain. To my knowledge the opt out clause will not be availed of by any of the other member states where it is widely regarded as incompatible with a partnership approach to industrial relations and I share that view. Partnership has served us well over the last decade and we are currently engaged in attempting to negotiate a new agreement. It would be wholly inconsistent with that general approach to include that opt out clause in the legislation.

It is important to stress that the 48 hour limit is a health and safety measure. It would be unprecedented to allow an individual employee to opt out of a health and safety requirement. The risks associated with working long hours have been established and it is legitimate for the State to seek in law to eliminate those risks which carry costs in human terms and to the economy and the Exchequer. Health and safety legislation is never optional. Employees are not permitted to decide for themselves whether to wear protective clothing or to handle heavy loads. It is the duty of the employer to ensure they comply and the duty of the State to enforce the law. It would be a retrograde step if we were to import the concept of voluntary acceptance of risk into our health and safety law.

We must query whether the opt-out clause, if it were provided for in the legislation, would, in practice, be voluntary. Individual employees could be put under severe pressure by their employers and by fellow employees. Employees are often interdependent in their work — increasingly people work in teams — and refusal by some to avail of the opt-out clause may, in practice, prevent others from working beyond the limit. In such circumstances the availability of the opt-out clause would be a continuing source of dispute and tension and it would be naive to believe conditions exist for genuinely free choices to be made. I am concerned about workers who are unorganised or who have limited bargaining power being forced to "agree" to opt out of rules for their health and safety agreed across Europe. We should not lightly open the door to a system that would replace collective bargaining and social partnership which has served this country well with individual negotiation of working conditions or individualised contracts rather than the going rate for the job.

The employment aspect must also be considered. As a country with 180,000 people out of work, we need to look very critically at arrangements where some people work excessive hours while others are not being offered work. The sole purpose of including provision for the opt-out clause in the Bill would be to allow for extremely high levels of overtime to be worked on an ongoing basis. For example, we would be legislating for two people to do three jobs. Employment is the top priority of this Government and it would be wholly inconsistent with that commitment to include, what is in effect, an anti-employment measure in the legislation.

For all these reasons the opt-out is not included in the Bill. While the impact of the 48 hour rule will be very limited, some people will certainly be affected. However, Governments must make choices on the basis of the broad national interest and I urge the House to accept that the Government's decision in this case is the right one in that context.

I now turn to the detailed provisions of the Bill. Section 1 provides for the Short Title and for the commencement of the Bill. Section 2 is an interpretation section and defines the terms used in the Bill.

Section 3 exempts members of the Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces, persons engaged in work at sea, doctors in training, family members who are employees and persons who determine the duration of their own working time. This section also empowers the Minister to exempt from any provision of the Bill by regulation employees involved in transport activities or in the civil protection services where application of the Bill would be such as to undermine the efficiency of the service concerned.

Section 4 exempts from the daily and weekly rest provisions, set out in Part II, an employee each time he or she changes shift and an employee whose work involves periods of work spread out over the day. The section empowers the Minister to make regulations regarding split shift workers. It also allows the Minister, on condition that compensatory rest is provided, to exempt by regulations specified sectors set out in Article 17 (2) of the directive from provisions of the Bill regarding daily and weekly rest, rest intervals at work, night working and information on working hours. The Minister must consult the employers and employees likely to be affected by the proposals before making such regulations. In addition, the section provides that a collective agreement approved by the Labour Court, registered employment agreement or an employment regulation order may exempt affected employers and employees from compliance with the sections of the Bill, set out in Part II, which deal with daily and weekly rest and rest intervals, provided that the employees benefit from compensatory rest.

Section 5 exempts employers from compliance with the working time provisions of the Bill, without prejudice to the employees' entitlement to compensatory rest, in exceptional or emergency circumstances which could not have been avoided or are due to unusual or unforeseeable circumstance beyond the employer's control. Section 6 provides that if an employee is not entitled to the minimum rest provisions set out in the Bill by reason of ministerial regulation or an approved collective agreement, including a registered employment agreement or an employment regulation order, the employer must ensure that the employee has available to him or her equivalent compensatory rest. If, for objective reasons, it is not possible for an employer to ensure that the employee avails of the minimum rest to which he or she is entitled, the employee is then entitled to appropriate compensation which may not be of monetary or material benefit, but may take the form of provision of a benefit which improves the physical conditions under which the employee works or the amenities or services available to the employee while at work.

Section 7 is a standard provision which empowers the Minister to make regulations concerning aspects of the Bill and also to amend or revoke any such order, with the exception of a commencement order. Regulations or orders must be laid before each House of the Oireachtas. Section 8 empowers the Minister to appoint inspectors for the purposes of the Act and sets out the powers of such inspectors while section 9 repeals certain conditions of employment, night work, such as bakeries, and holidays enactments.

Section 10 is a standard section dealing with the expenses incurred in the administration of the Act. Section 11 provides for an entitlement by an employee to a minimum rest period of 11 consecutive hours in each 24 hour period. Section 12 provides for an entitlement by employees to a rest break while at work of 15 minutes in a period of four and a half hours' work and 30 minutes, which may include the preceding 15 minutes, in a period of six hours' work. Breaks at the end of the working day do not satisfy these requirements.

Section 13 provides for an entitlement by everyone to a weekly rest period of 24 hours which must be in addition to the daily rest period of 11 hours. This may be granted over a 14 day period. In the event of technical or other objectively justified circumstances, the employer may decide that the weekly rest is not preceded by the daily rest entitlement of 11 hours. Unless otherwise specified in an employee's contract of employment the weekly rest period shall include a Sunday. If the employee must work on a Sunday he or she will be entitled to another day off during the week.

Section 14 provides that an employee required to work on Sunday shall be entitled to a premium payment for this work which may consist of a payment or time off in lieu or a combination of both. If the employee does not already receive a Sunday premium he or she shall be entitled to the appropriate premium payable to a comparable employee in a collective agreement in force in a similar industry or sector in accordance with the arrangements set out in this section.

Section 15 provides that an employer shall not permit an employee to work for more than 48 hours averaged over a four month period. A six month averaging period is permissible in the sectors set out in Article 17 (2) of the directive such as agriculture, tourism and electricity production. This section also allows for the averaging period to be extended to a maximum of 12 months by collective agreement. The averaging period shall not include absences from work due to statutory annual leave, sick leave or maternity or adoptive leave.

Section 16 defines "night time", "night work", "night worker" and "special category night worker". It provides that where a night worker is not a special category night worker, the employer must ensure that the employee does not work more than an average of eight hours per night — 48 hours per week — averaged over a two month period. The section provides that employers and employees may enter into a collective agreement, which must be approved by the Labour Court, which may extend the period over which the nightworking is averaged. This section provides that where a night worker is categorised as a special category night worker, following a risk assessment of the hazardous nature of the work, there shall be an absolute limit of eight hours night work per 24 hour period.

Section 17 provides that an employee shall be entitled to be notified in advance of the hours which the employer will require the employee to work. Where unforeseeable circumstances justify a change in the notified times, an employer may alter the starting or finishing times.

Section 18 effectively bans zero hour contracts. In broad terms the section provides that, in the event of an employer failing to require an employee to work at least 25 per cent of the time the employee is required by his or her contract of employment to be available to work for the employer, the employee will be entitled to payment for 25 per cent less of the contract hours or 15 hours per week, whichever is less. The section is modelled on the settlement provisions of the Labour Court in the Dunnes Stores dispute with regard to zero hour contracts.

It appears that the Minister of State will exceed the time limit laid down by the House in its order this morning of 30 minutes for the Minister of State, the main spokespersons of the Fianna Fáil Party and the Progressive Democrats. Does the House agree to permit the Minister of State to complete her speech? Agreed.

Section 19 sets out the three mechanisms for earning an entitlement to annual leave. The mechanisms are similar to those applying to employees in existing legislation on holidays, including part-time employees, while allowing for the increase in holiday entitlement from three weeks to four weeks or from 6 per cent to 8 per cent of time worked for part-time employees. The new four week entitlement shall not come into effect until April 1999. Up to then the First Schedule sets out the transitional arrangements giving entitlement on a phased basis as follows: April 1997 — 16 days; April 1998 — 18 days and April 1999 — 20 days.

Section 20 sets out the criteria which shall apply to the times at which annual leave may be granted and to the arrangement whereby an employee may be paid for this leave. A change from the existing arrangements is that an employer must take into account the need for the employee to reconcile work and any family responsibilities.

Section 21 sets out the criteria which shall apply to public holiday entitlements. The qualifying period for part-time employees of at least 40 hours during the five weeks before the public holiday will be required for entitlement to a public holiday. Section 22 provides that the mechanism for calculating the rate of pay for a public holiday shall be set out by regulation. This section also provides the time off granted to an employee for holidays or public holidays shall be regarded as time worked for pay purposes. Section 23 provides that an employee, or his or her personal representative in the event of his or her death, shall be entitled to the payment of any holidays or public holidays compensation owing at the time of cessor of employment.

Section 24 provides that the Labour Court shall approve collective agreements which are concluded to vary the basic terms of the Bill concerning working time. Before it can approve a collective agreement, the Labour Court must be satisfied that such agreement accords with the directive, that it has been concluded in the manner usually employed in determining the pay or other conditions of the employees concerned and that the body negotiating the agreement is representative of the employees concerned. The Labour Court shall determine its own procedures and shall keep a register of the approved collective agreements which shall be available for inspection of the public.

Section 25 specifies that an employer must keep records for at least three years to show that he or she is complying with the legislation. Section 26 provides that an employee who refuses to co-operate with an employer in breaching the legislation shall not be penalised by the employer. Section 27 provides that an employee or an employee's trade union may make a complaint to a rights commissioner that an employer has breached stated provisions of the legislation or the provisions of an approved collective agreement. The rights commissioner shall investigate the complaint and decide that the complaint was, or was not, well founded and where appropriate require the employer to comply with the legislation and pay compensation to the employee. The complaint must be presented before six months following the occurrence of the breach unless exceptional circumstances prevented this. Provision is also made in this section for ministerial regulation.

Section 28 provides that a party may appeal a decision of a rights commissioner to the Labour Court which, following a hearing at which the parties may present evidence, may affirm, vary or set aside a decision of the rights commissioner. An appeal must be made within six weeks of the communication to the parties of the rights commissioner's decision. The Labour Court shall determine the proceedings for such appeals. Where a rights commissioner's decision has not been appealed by the employer and has not been implemented within six weeks, the Labour Court, without an investigation, may make a determination the same as the decision. The Minister may, at the request of the Labour Court, refer a question of law for determination by the High Court. Any party to proceedings before the Labour Court may appeal a determination of the Labour Court to the High Court on a point of law.

Section 29 provides that a determination of the Labour Court can be enforced by the employee, the trade union or the Minister in the Circuit Court without hearing the employer or any evidence in relation to the complaint. The court may order the employer to pay interest on the award.

Section 30 deals with evidence in relation to prosecution of a person for failure to attend before the Labour Court, refusal to give evidence, or failure or refusal to produce documents. The section provides that a document signed by the chairman or registrar of the Labour Court, giving details of the alleged offence, shall be admitted by the court as evidence of the matters so stated without further proof.

Section 31 allows the Minister to present a complaint to the rights commissioner in circumstances where a breach of the legislation or collective agreement is taking place and it is unreasonable to expect the employee to present a complaint. The complaint so presented by the Minister shall be treated in the same way as if it were a complaint from the employee.

Section 32 obliges employers who employ outworkers to keep a register, the details of which will be set out by regulation. The Minister may also set conditions relating to the employment of outworkers. Failure to comply with this section shall be an offence.

Section 33 prohibits double employment where the aggregate total of hours worked exceeds the provisions of the Bill. Failure to comply with this section shall be an offence.

Section 34 provides that an offence may be prosecuted by the Minister. Section 35 sets out the procedures for the preparation by the Labour Relations Commission of a code of practice for the purposes of any section of the Bill. Section 36 is required to clarify the powers of inspectors under the Bill. Section 37 is a standard provision relating to avoidance of provisions in an agreement which excludes or limits the application of or is inconsistent with any provision of the Bill.

Section 38 provides for the making of regulations under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 1989, to give effect to some provisions of the working time directive. Section 39 provides for a solution to the difficulties encountered with the enforcement of decisions of a rights commissioner, the Employment Appeals Tribunal or the Labour Court under a range of legislation where details relating to an employer are incorrectly set out in a decision.

The Bill is a long and complex measure and I ask Deputies to consider its contents carefully. It is clear from some of the comments made on its publication that there are misunderstandings about it and, in particular, a failure to recognise the degree of flexibility which it contains.

For example, several inaccuracies appeared in an article which appeared after publication of the Bill. The article criticised it for failing to provide for a lead-in period or a phasing-in of its provisions. However, there is no provision in the directive which would permit this. The directive was adopted three years ago and it might reasonably be argued that there was ample time to prepare for its implementation. However one responds to that argument, the directive does not permit of any phasing-in of provisions after transposition date, other than in relation to holidays, for which we are providing.

A second error in the article concerned the provision in the Bill for exemptions from the requirements regarding daily rest, weekly rest and rest periods. The article alleged that such exemptions could only be effected by way of collective agreement. This is wrong. Deputies will note that section 4 (3) provides that exemptions may be made by way of ministerial regulation in any of the circumstances in which they are permitted by the directive. In effect, the maximum flexibility permitted by the directive has been incorporated in the Bill.

The article also alleged that no recognition had been given to changes in working practices in accordance with which some employees were more and more in control of their own working time. Again, it appears the author overlooked an important provision in the Bill. Deputies will note that section 3 (2) (c) provides that a person who determines the duration of his or her own working time is exempt from the Bill. I urge Deputies to consider its provisions carefully when the flexible approach which has been adopted to the transposition of the directive will become evident.

The Bill builds on solid improvements in worker protection already in place. The safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 1989, puts a legal responsibility on management to plan for safety in the workplace in conjunction with staff representatives. Part-time workers who work over eight hours per week now enjoy the full range of employment protection law. Workers are now entitled to a written statement of the terms and conditions of their employment. Contract workers enjoy improved protection under the Unfair Dismissals Act and renewing a contract need not always mean a break in the employment relationship. Workers employed through employment agencies also enjoy improved protection under employment law. They are included under this Bill also.

Earlier this year I steered through two important Acts to strengthen workers' rights. The Protection of Young Persons Act strengthens the law in relation to the employment of under 18s, raises the minimum age of normal work to 16 and puts work for young people of school-going age in the clear context that their education comes first. The Transitional Information and Consultation Act, better known as the European Works Council Act, gives workers in the private sector for the first time a legal right to information and consultation structures with central management in those firms covered, multinationals of a given size operating in at least two member states.

Further progress is under way. Negotiations have begun in Brussels between employers and unions under the social Protocol on protecting atypical and part-time workers.

I hope agreement will be reached on a new national programme and that the prosperity which social partnership has brought will be further built on under a new programme. I want to see that prosperity underpinned by a respect for basic workers' rights, particularly in the most vulnerable sectors of the economy. The reform and modernising of our labour laws to bring them into the 21st century has an important role to play in underpinning this process. I commend the Bill to the House.

As we are all aware, this is complex legislation, confirmed by the length of the speech of the Minister of State. As she is aware, during the debates on the Protection of Young Persons Act and the European Works Council Act my party and I were very supportive. We had interesting discussions and introduced some amendments. As my party when in Government agreed to the EU directive on working time in November 1993, I support many of the measures contained in this Bill and hope the Minister of State will take account of the points I raise in relation to the voluntary opt-out clause.

My party welcomed then, as it does now, any measures introduced in the interests of workers in Ireland and throughout the European Union. Although described in the 16 November edition ofThe Economist as a muddle, which many people feel it is, I regard the working time directive as comprehensive. It gives the European Council responsibility for the adoption of laws aimed at protecting the health and safety of workers in all member states. This Bill goes further than seeking to implement its terms in domestic law; it seeks to substantially amend Irish legislation — eight enactments in all — dealing with employer-employee relations. The main aim is to protect employees against the adverse effect on their health and safety caused by working excessively long hours, by having inadequate rest or destructive working patterns. The Bill, broadly, gives effect to the directive on these issues.

According to EU Commission figures, the average number of hours worked weekly by employees in Ireland is 40. The comparative figure in Britain is 43.7. It is clear, therefore, that this legislation will not impact on the vast majority of workers.

As a party which has always strongly advocated social partnership, Fianna Fáil is especially concerned that the Minister of State has adopted a dogmatic approach towards the voluntary opt-out clause in the case of a person who wishes to work more than 48 hours per week. The Minister of State referred to the need to promote social partnership. I remind her that it works two ways. Her narrow interpretation of the directive has resulted in the director of the Small Firms Association stating it would have to carefully consider its continued participation as a social partner in the current discussions on a new national programme to replace theProgramme for Competitiveness and Work if the Bill is implemented in its present form.

From what the Minister said today, I am convinced she has not listened carefully to this view. It is unacceptable and insulting to workers that she is preaching the philosophy of "we know what is best for you". The rights and freedoms of the individual are paramount in society but they are being trampled on by the Minister of State in not allowing people to avail of the voluntary opt-out clause.

I listened carefully to the Minister of State and I am convinced she has missed one point. There is a work ethic in society — we discussed this issue during the debate on the Protection of Young Persons Act — which we must respect. There is also the question of individual choice. We should start, in looking at these issues in this modern age, with the individual's position. Listening to the Minister of State I wondered at one point if I was living in a communal-communist state where the state decides what is best. I make this point with some degree of alarm because the Minister is missing the entire issue of an individual's right.

The Minister said the opt-out clause was included to satisfy the British. However, the deputy leader of my party, Deputy O'Rourke, who has clarified her position on this issue, and the Minister for Finance, Deputy Quinn, who was Minister for Enterprise and Employment at the time, supported the principle of the opt-out clause on the basis I outlined earlier. It can be interpreted in a number of ways, including the point of view of the British who want an open flexible approach. However, an individual's right is part of the debate and the Minister should consider this aspect rather than lecture the House.

Rather than protecting individual rights, the Minister suggested this legislation will become a major job-creating mechanism. Individual workers are being told they can work only for a certain time and earn a certain amount and that by forcing them to work less, the unemployed will be somehow given an automatic opportunity to enter the labour market. This is utter nonsense and demonstrates a paucity of ideas emanating from the Government in relation to job creation.

Jobs will be created when the Government of the day gives individuals and enterprises, particularly small enterprises, the freedom, opportunity and encouragement to grow and expand. Jobs will be created by new enterprises and ideas and not by curtailing the individual freedom of those currently working in the labour market as the Minister proposes in the legislation. The principle of an individual's right is key and in that regard there is a need for bottom up rather than top down development in relation to employment policies. The Minister's comments smack of a big brother, or big sister, approach.

Flexibility is a critical factor in an enterprise society, particularly in relation to small enterprises. The recent Forfás report,Shaping Our Future, stated that overly restrictive employment protection legislation has negative consequences for employment and inward investment. Employers and employees have sought such flexibility. For example, many workers in the security industry and other areas are concerned that their take-home pay could be reduced by between £1,000 and £5,000 a year if provision is not made for an opt-out, which is permissible under the directive. Such workers have contacted me in groups and as individuals. It has been suggested that there is an orchestrated campaign but we are wise enough to recognise genuine campaigns.

It is incomprehensible that the Government would introduce legislation which would result in workers losing out financially. The Minister should listen carefully to individual workers, many of whom are very concerned about the legislation, because they are being denied their right to choose the number of hours they work each week. The Irish Security Industry Association made a comprehensive submission on the legislation and I understand the Minister of State has, on two occasions, met delegations from the security industry to discuss the Bill. The association is concerned that, while the Bill will impact on only 6 to 7 per cent of workers overall, 100 per cent of security officers will be affected. It made a number of proposals which the Minister rejected. However, its most recent proposal to provide for an opt-out clause under a collective agreement — which I hope the Minister has been — indicates a possible compromise on this matter and should be examined carefully by her.

At a time when the Government claims to practise transparency and openness, it is alarming that the Minister of State in recent letters to Deputies suggested that the net 48 hours working week can be circumvented by increasing the gross hours. In a recent letter to a Deputy she stated that the 48 hours week is calculated on net and not gross hours, with lunch breaks, coffee breaks, etc., excluded. She went on to state that a 55 hour gross working week could well be less than 48 hours net working hours. I reject this nod and wink approach to the real concerns raised by workers in the security and other industries.

The law must be clear, honest and structured to allow employees and employers to know precisely where they stand. To suggest that there are ways around this matter is not the proper way to proceed. I, the Minister and others rejected such approaches in the past when society turned a blind eye to various matters in relation to employment policies. We should be clear where we stand and that is why this issue must be addressed honestly. My party has major concerns in that regard and if that is not the case, we will put down amendments on Committee Stage.

Neither I nor my party will stand over or tolerate a low wage economy and I advise the Minister to reconsider the constructive proposals made by the Irish Security Industry Association about the Bill. I referred to the association on a number of occasions because its position is unique. The black economy which exists in that industry should be stamped out. Legislation can and should be introduced to regulate the security industry to ensure a proper licensing system is in place for all security firms. If that were done and an opt-out clause under a collective agreement were put in place, the concerns of many workers in the industry would be met and the growth of the black economy and the number of unscrupulous employers in the sector would be severed once and for all. There is a way forward but the Minister has got it wrong by pursuing her approach to the bitter end. The principle of an individual's right is involved and the Minister should reconsider how the directive, which includes an opt-out clause, is implemented.

Credit must be given where it is due and the Minister has finally dealt with the issue of zero hour contracts. I have made a number of contributions on this matter since taking up responsibility for labour affairs for my party and I am most concerned about it. Given the unprecedented casualisation of employment and the growth in part-time work, the practice of some employers of recruiting staff on zero hour contracts should be vehemently opposed. A zero hour contract means employees do not know when they will start or finish work. They usually must wait by the telephone to be called to work and in some cases employees travel to work only to be told they are not needed.

This level of control over an employee is totally unacceptable and I proposed in the past that zero hour contracts should be outlawed. This is why I welcome the fact that the Minister is endeavouring to eliminate zero hour contracts in the legislation. Employees should be entitled in law to advance notification of their working hours and employers who attempt to continue such contracts should be vigorously pursued.

The Bill deals with Sunday work in a general and inadequate manner. In recent years the increasing commercialisation of Sunday and changing lifestyles have placed shop workers in the retail sector under pressure to work on Sundays as part of the normal working week. The recent ruling by the European Court on the UK challenge to the working time directive means that Sunday is no longer different from any other day. This is a worrying development because Sunday has traditionally been a day of rest, a family day. I am convinced that shop workers should not be obliged to work on Sunday if they do not wish to do so. Even in the UK, where there is a minimalist approach to Sunday work, the employee has the option of not working on Sundays. Despite promises by the Minister for Enterprise and Employment, Deputy Bruton, during the Cork by-election campaign, the Government has not addressed this issue since taking office. The Bill will do nothing to prevent a shop worker being coerced into working on a Sunday.

I am the first to accept that the broader issue of Sunday trading is difficult to address. Throughout Europe, for historic, cultural and religious reasons, various countries have different approaches to it. The Government of which I was a member considered this matter and the trade union, MANDATE, has particular views on it. I am currently consulting Fianna Fáil members of local authorities on this issue and how it could be addressed. Given the many retail companies coming into the country, particularly from the UK, there is genuine concern that Sunday will be the same as any other day. We have certain traditions which must be respected. The issue is whether Governments can intervene to change patterns and trends. It is difficult to deal comprehensively with the overall issue and I am carrying out a consultative process in my party. I am convinced that as a nation and as legislators we can deal with the issue of workers in that framework. There is a move towards casual and part-time work, which is part of this issue and relates to the conflicts that arose between the management of Dunnes Stores and employees. Opening hours should be considered in terms of Sunday trading, but there is a separate issue that can be dealt with immediately, the position of the worker.

Recent figures show a dramatic increase in Sunday work, particularly in the retail trade. In 1992 there were 209,800 people working on Sunday, in 1994 that figure increased to 219, 200 and in 1995 it stood at 226,100. This Bill does not address the voluntary or involuntary nature of Sunday work. Provisions should be introduced to ensure it is not obligatory for an employee to work on Sunday, particularly in the retail trade. This is an area of major growth in Sunday work where problems have arisen for employees.

Today I sought, and received the approval of the House, to introduce a Private Members' Bill entitled Protection of Workers (Shop) Bill, 1996, which would provide greater protection for shop employees in terms of Sunday work, in particular the option to opt out of Sunday work. That Bill would apply only to the retail sector where there are growing pressures on workers to work on what has been traditionally a rest day, a family day. Such an approach is bolstered by the ideology behind the directive we are discussing in terms of annual leave where there are provisions that the employer take into account family responsibilities of the employee. There is recognition in the directive of that very important factor, the family circumstances of workers.

It seems inconsistent to accept that Sunday working should be compensated for on the one hand while on the other hand employees are not given the option to stay at home with their families on that day. If the Minister wishes to adequately protect Sunday workers in the retail sector — the Bill I intend to introduce specifically deals with that sector — she should support the Bill when it comes before the House. The Bill primarily deals with the question of opting out of Sunday work. It is a measure to protect the worker. It also seeks time and a half payment for Sunday work, recognising that Sunday is different, and that payment is made on an overtime basis. The Bill seeks adequate notice, and I accept the Minister is dealing with that issue in this legislation. It will include sensible exemptions in regard to hotels, public houses and so on. It will be a minimalist Bill in that sense but it will deal with an issue that arose in the Dunnes Stores dispute which has not been solved and which may become an even greater issue. This is a concern not only for workers but for the public.

I welcome this Bill in that it brings us into line with European standards on health and safety. It updates existing legislation and deals with the issue of zero hour contracts. I cannot, however, support the Minister's decision not to allow for the voluntary opt-out for those who wish to work more than 48 hours per week. I do not wish my position to be misinterpreted in any way, but I believe that is a very important choice for the individual. In the vast majority of cases the individual will not take the opt-out option. We are dealing with a very small percentage of workers. Given the initial response of representatives of the business community, the Minister's uncompromising stance has the potential to wreck the whole process of social partnership. The views of those representatives that there should be a phasing-in period should be taken on board by the Minister — she referred to that matter.

There is no great rush by other Governments to introduce legislation in this area — I understand that two Governments have introduced such legislation. Since it has taken so long to introduce the Bill, the deadline is past and it is now being rushed through. Plenty of time should be given to discuss it and there should be no rush in dealing with the legislation. In the interests of the business community and workers and having listened to the views of the representatives of the business community, the Minister should insist at EU level that there be a phasing-in period. That would give industry enough time to assess the impact of the legislation, make the necessary arrangements to implement it and negotiate collective agreements. The Minister can still get it right if she enters genuine dialogue with the social partners on this legislation but judging by her statement on introducing the Bill, I am not optimistic about the prospects of arriving at an agreed outcome.

We will oppose this legislation for a number of reasons which I will outline later. I wish to quote from the report entitled Shaping Our Future, published last May by Forfás, the agency that advises the Government on industrial policy. In regard to labour market regulations the agency, when referring to employment policy and employment issues, stated:

Given the high level of unemployment in Ireland the trend towards increased protection should be kept under constant review and slowed down where appropriate. Any proposals coming forward, for example, from the EU must be scrutinised in consultation with employers and trade unions, particularly those in small and medium sized enterprises, to ensure that they will have no significant consequences for the competitiveness of Irish enterprises.

Will the Minister say whether consultation took place? Given that the advice of Forfás a few months ago was so strong in terms of regulations and the effect they have on the competitiveness of Irish industry, why is the Government ploughing ahead to introduce this working directive in its most liberal form? As a result of this directive being put into effect will any worker lose his or her job? Will any worker have a loss of earnings? Will industrial costs increase and will the competitiveness of Irish industry decrease? Will any foreign company be lost to the economy as a result of implementation of the directive? I do not believe the Minister will be able to give a categoric assurance on any of those questions.

Europe has been good to our economy. We receive £2 million net per year, £35 per week for every household, but just because Europe is bankrolling us does not mean it must also steamroll us. Europe is the unemployment black spot of the world, with an unemployment level of 20 million people, the equivalent of the population of three member states, or four if one includes Luxembourg. It is chilling to look at the record in this regard. In Germany the unemployment rate is 10.5 per cent; Italy 12 per cent; Spain, 22.5 per cent; France, 12.5 per cent and the United Kingdom 7 per cent. In the United States the unemployment rate is 5.5 per cent and in New Zealand, 6 per cent. I could give figures for the whole industrialised world but nowhere would one find such a high unemployment record as in Europe.

The reason Europe fares so badly in the employment stakes is that it is so heavily regulated. There are two countries in particular, Germany and France, that are very much burdened with labour market interventions and these regulations are being introduced so that they can claw back the edge they have lost in competitivenessvis-à-vis the loosely regulated economies such as Ireland and Britain. They are pushing for these directiveness because they do not want to continue to lose out when it comes to foreign mobile investment coming to those countries. Their record has been bad and they have been losing out in that regard.

The Minister went to great pains to tell us these regulations are being introduced in the interests of health and safety. I can think of nothing worse for one's health than losing one's job or £20 or £30 per week.

The private sector industry, to which Deputy Kitt referred, has a major problem in relation to the black economy. The blue chip or scrupulous companies in that industry will lose out as a result of this directive. The average pay in the blue chip companies is approximately £4.20 per hour. The best paid employees are in the blue chip companies. Those companies will put this directive into effect as they obey European law, but it will play havoc with manpower planning in that sector. It will increase the costs of these companies and they will, therefore, have to increase their charges. As a result they will lose out to the unscrupulous companies in the sector, the cowboys who could not care less about Europe or its directives.

Time and again companies in that sector have made it clear to the Minister and the Government that if these regulations are implemented in this form, many jobs in the sector will be put in jeopardy. One company surveyed its 350 employees and it is interesting to note that only one employee believed this directive should be implemented in the manner suggested by the Minister.

If this directive is about health and safety, why does the Minister give herself power under section 3 (b) to exempt certain categories of employees from its provisions, in particular those engaged in civil protection? A prison officer will be able to work 80 or 90 hours per week but the Comptroller and Auditor General's report for last year indicated that one prison officer earned £800 per week in overtime. The Minister is giving herself a power to exclude that category of worker from the provisions of the directive, yet she tells us it is about health and safety. The Minister cannot have it both ways. If it is about health and safety it should apply to every worker, regardless of whether they work for a private security firm or in the prison service. It is interesting to note that the average overtime earnings of a prison officer in 1995 was £300 per week. The prison service is ridden with overtime. Virtually every officer in the service works long hours of overtime, yet the provisions of this legislation will not apply to them.

This legislation is an obstacle to the private sector in particular. The real engine of growth in this economy is small and medium sized businesses. They take the risk and use their entrepreneurial skills to invest their money in enterprises for their own benefit and for the benefit of the community because through their efforts and their risk-taking they employ other people.

There was an assumption in the Minister's contribution that all small and medium sized businesses employ ten, 20, 50 or perhaps 100 workers because she referred to them keeping employment records for three years of the hours worked by each of their employees. Under these provisions they will have to make those records available to their employees if they intend to take legal action against the company. It is time we realised that small and medium sized businesses are not an extension of the Central Statistics Office. Their purpose is not to complete official forms for the Government but to develop their companies into successful enterprises, thereby contributing to the growth of the economy and employment within it.

It is difficult for new companies in particular to get a venture off the ground. I note Deputy Creed is in the House; he is the excellent chairman of the Joint Committee on Small Business and Services, although with 23 committees and eight Deputies, my attendance record of late has not been as good as I would wish. The Deputy would bear out what I am saying. Small business people believe they are harassed and hounded all the way by officialdom. The Joint Committee on Small Business and Services has made great efforts recently to reduce the burden the State places on small and medium sized businesses. Regulations of this kind being implemented in their most drastic, rigid form by the Minister are a further obstacle to job creation and an additional cost to industry.

It is a time of great uncertainty when companies are first established. They do not know what support, if any, there will be for their goods or services. They need flexibility and a staff that will support that flexibility and work the hours that are required of them, particularly at the beginning of the venture.

I do not believe any employee should have to work more than 48 hours per week but if people want to work longer hours they should be free to do so. This should be a free society, not some class of Communist society that tells people they can only work 48 hours per week if they work in particular sectors. That is objectionable and I agree with Deputy Kitt in this regard. If we are really interested in social partnership, what is the problem in allowing employees to negotiate with their employer to work more than 48 hours? There is little point in the Minister telling me it is an average over four or six months in the case of some employment. People should have the right every week, even if it is for 52 weeks, to work more than those hours if they wish.

It is interesting that autonomous decision makers will not have to comply with this directive. The Minister said that junior hospital doctors will not have to comply either because regulations will be forthcoming in regard to them. People who work for the State will be exempted, by and large, from the provisions of this directive. The Minister gives herself a way out in civil protection but what is so special about the prison service that its employees can work for 80 hours per week while those working for a private security firm cannot work for more than 48 hours?

It has been estimated in Britain that it will cost £2 billion to implement the directive. Comparing like with like given the size of our respective economies, I estimate the cost in Ireland will be between £80 million and £100 million.

The Minister did not give us the cost so she can respond later. Has her Department worked out the cost? In The Square shopping centre in Tallaght, for example, the cost to one company which will have to increase its security as a result of the directive will be approximately £35,000 to £50,000. Perhaps the Minister can give me the cost but if it is what I suggest, and I believe that to be the case comparing like with like, that is the equivalent of adding 4 per cent to the standard rate of corporation profits tax. That is an enormous cost.

This economy has a huge number of people unemployed. The Minister referred to 180,000 in her contribution but the real figure is approximately 250,000. The Minister cannot say that those who work in community employment have real or sustainable jobs. We must talk about those who have real or substainable jobs. We have a small productive base in this economy. For every ten people that work, there are 22 dependants. Of those ten, eight are private wealth creators and two work for the State. Those eight have 24 dependants or a ratio of 1:3. Denmark, for example, has a 1:1 ratio. We must increase the productive base of this economy if we are to generate more wealth, more employment and better social services. We cannot do that by putting in place regulations that do not have any benefit.

The Minister makes the directive sound rosy. She talked about people having more leisure time with their families but people must meet their household needs and pay their bills. For many workers these regulations, when implemented, will make the difference between paying and not paying their bills. In some sectors such as private security we are talking about a loss of earnings of between £20 and £30 per week.

In relation to the enforcement of the regulations, section 8 states that the Minister may appoint inspectors. What will be the cost of that inspectorate? Will those inspectors work anti-social hours? Who will ensure that the inspectors comply with this legislation? Will they be forced to work 48 hours or more? I am interested to hear what their working hours will be. What will happen in relation to a factory that closes at 7 p.m. and does not open again until 7 a.m.? What security arrangements can be put in place during that 12 hour gap? Is the Minister suggesting that at 4 a.m. the security guard will have to give up work or is she talking, as I think she is, about putting additional costs on industry?

When we deal with legislation of this kind we imagine we are talking about very big concerns. The Germans and the French, who drove this legislation, have very big concerns. A large company in Ireland would be considered small in Germany. The task force on small business showed that the cost of administering the Government's various provisions in so far as they affect industry adds 4 per cent to the cost base of a small industry as against an additional cost of less than 1 per cent for larger corporations.

We seem to be taking the view when debating this legislation that it will only affect larger units. In some cases we are talking about companies that employ three or four people. Many of them work on the basis that everybody puts their shoulder to the wheel. People do not demand clear demarcation lines. They do not say that a particular task is not their job or object to working more than 48 hours, yet the employer will have to ensure they do not do so if he is to obey the law as the Minister expects him to.

We are very good at bringing in legislation but we are not good at enforcing it. We know that there is a high level of fraud in the taxation system. The Comptroller and Auditor General told us that £1.4 billion in taxes was not collected in 1994. We know there is a high level of fraud in the social welfare system and that the Department's recent efforts to publicise that fact took 20,000 people off the live register in two months. If we cannot implement our tax and welfare policies without massive fraud, how on earth will we implement these directives? The Minister was not clear on that matter in her contribution.

Will the Minister consider on Committee Stage any of the suggestions that have been made by the interests that feel discriminated against in the way she has introduced this legislation? She had an alternative, particularly in relation to the opt-out clause. Can the Minister say whether she is prepared to allow for voluntary agreements between workers and their employers and to allow for the opt-out clause, to which most businesses would like her to agree? Many sectors want the voluntary opt-out clause. I do not accept that, as the Minister claims, workers will be forced to do work they do not want to do. Does she really believe that more people will get work as a result of this directive? The opposite will be the case. The more regulations, difficulties and obstacles we put in the way of employment, the more jobs we put at risk.

If the costs I have mentioned this evening are not correct, who evaluated them? Has any independent analysis of the cost of these directives been done by the Minister's Department? I wish to know the cost of the implementation of this directive, both the cost of policing it and the cost to industry of compliance. How many workers will have to meet the conditions laid down in this legislation and how many will be exempt from it?

The Minister placed emphasis on zero hour contracts and casual employment. Some 200,000 people are now casually employed in the economy. Some five years ago, 5 per cent of those who worked in the manufacturing industry were casual employees. That figure has more than doubled to 11 per cent because the more regulations, obstacles and difficulties we put in the way of business, the more they will move towards the casualisation of their workforce. The quality of Irish employment has disimproved accordingly. The measure we are debating puts a further obstacle in the way of employment. It adds to the industrial cost base of our economy. It will not do much for the health or safety of workers. It will not secure their employment or improve their take-home earnings. On the contrary, it will act as a barrier in that whole area.

For these and many other reasons the Progressive Democrats will oppose this legislation on Second Stage. It would help me in my attitude on Committee Stage if the Minister indicated whether she is open to the voluntary opt-out clause which any Minister attached to the Department of Enterprise and Employment should be delighted to take on board. Why should we say to workers and their employers who voluntarily agree to particular practices in an industry or in a particular plant that their agreement is not good enough for the Government?

It is time we realised that the mandarins in Brussels do not know best what is good for Irish workers. It is time we stood up to these mandarins. We have asked for and received derogations from competition for Telecom Éireann to the year 2000 and beyond. It is strange that rather than look for a derogation from these regulations and the indirect costs they would place on industry, rather than even introduce them in their most liberal form, we are to introduce them in their most inflexible form. We are doing a great disservice to employment, industry, to workers, their families and their health and safety.

I am pleased to contribute to this debate. I welcome the Bill and congratulate the Minister on bringing it before the House. I commend her for resisting the pressure put on her by the Opposition and various representatives of employers to water down the Bill. According to those organisations we are always one step away from a financial disaster, but the disaster never happens. I am not sure how well employers are served by this "cry wolf" brigade.

The significance of this Bill will increase in the run up to the next general election. Across Europe support or opposition to this EU directive has become a benchmark separating those who are prepared to support the extension of reasonable rights for workers from those who are not. The British Government has led opposition to the measures contained in this Bill and thankfully its plea to the European Court of Justice that the directive should not have been subject to majority voting because it did not cover health and safety issues was rejected. It is ludicrous to suggest that the prolonged working of long hours, for instance, is not injurious to people's health or their quality of life. Studies conducted on behalf of the British TUC have been conclusive on that issue. Workers who continually work long hours are more prone to physical and mental illness and marriage breakdown and spend less time with their children.

In Ireland those opposed to the Bill have not had the courage of the British Government to oppose the Bill in full. Their attitudes to the Bill are confused and duplicitous. I read recently that Deputy O'Rourke regarded the decision not to allow an opt-out from the 48 hour rule as one which ran against common sense. Deputy O'Rourke prides herself on her realism and pragmatism. I will tell Deputy O'Rourke about reality. The fact that our economy has progressed in the past few years does not mean we do not continue to have problems. Some industries continue to have low and exploitative levels of pay. Some employers are prepared to use every loophole in the system to further their own ends. It is not difficult to imagine employers putting pressure on workers to opt out of the 48-hour rule, if that were possible under the legislation. There are good employers, and they comprise the majority of people engaged in business. However, one does not make labour laws to cater for good employers. I welcome the provision in the Bill which will make zero hour contracts illegal. It is an indictment of some employers that such a provision is necessary.

There is nothing unreasonable about the 48-hour rule. There is sufficient flexibility to allow for seasonal or occasional overtime. The 48-hour rule only applies to a mean 48 hours per week over a four-month period. Are Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats suggesting that workers should have to work more than 48 hours a week to earn a reasonable wage? Should they have to work that long to earn one holiday per year? If that is the case — and sometimes it is — the problem is surely not the number of hours worked but the remuneration received for the work. Rather than chasing politically expendient shadows, Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats should admit that the real problem is remuneration.

Fianna Fáil's position on this Bill is deeply contradictory. Within the past fortnight that party published a document on women and work. Newspaper reports on the launch of that document suggested that Fianna Fáil would seek to encourage flexible working arrangements to create a working atmosphere more favourable to the family. I support such an approach. Moreover, the adoption of measures such as job sharing and proper support for women in the workplace would not only help the position of women in society, it would increase the availability of employment to those currently not employed. It is unfortunate that despite these fine words, Fianna Fáil failed at the first hurdle. This Bill is a defining moment for Fianna Fáil. Normally its one and only policy in Opposition, the policy of not offending anyone, is sufficient to get by. That policy will not wash on this issue. Fianna Fáil is either in favour of workers being accorded dignity, respect and legal protection or it is not. In this case it appears its financial backers are calling the shots, but cowardice brings its own reward. On this occasion Fianna Fáil bought some more lucrative lunching time in the Berkeley Court.

As to the Progressive Democrats, one expects no more from a party of avarice, fresh from their tawdry display of greed and intolerance at the weekend. They would like nothing better than to get stuck into the rights of workers in this, the first debate of the week. Deputy Harney railed against the Bill. Her view is clear-legislation, by definition, damages our competitiveness. This is a simplistic view of how competitiveness is compromised. Productivity tends to be greater in higher-earning and regulated industries. When the British Government abandoned that country's wage councils, wages did indeed go down, but employment did not go up. The United States, the most free market-oriented economy in the world, whose performance on the job creation front is often argued by economists, has recently agreed to a twofold increase in the legal minimum wage. They know regulation has a role to play.

The directive and the Bill provide for holiday entitlements of 20 days, an increase of five days which will have to be implemented over three years, a rest break when six hours has been worked, a minimum uninterrupted 24-hour rest period per week, a maximum weekly working limit of 48 hours, a maximum of eight hours' night work in any 24 hour period. These strike me as reasonable proposals. The Minister engaged in wide-ranging consultations with all the social partners prior to publishing the Bill, and I welcome in particular the support of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

What is at stake here is the European social model. Although they are reluctant to say it, the parties opposite do not believe in a high wage, high tech economy. Deputy Harney often talks about Hong Kong and New Zealand. Fianna Fáil is not so explicit. The bottom line is that this economy will never be able to compete with countries in Eastern Europe where wage rates are often as little as one seventh of ours. I am tired of the line that our tax system is at fault for problems caused by the opening of global markets. Far too often the public perceive the European Union as being about foreign policy and monetary union, and this frequently goes above their heads. In recent years we heard talk of subsidiarity, but that means nothing to the public. If Europe is to succeed it has to be about more than monetary union. It must also be about social solidarity and this directive is part of developing that ideal in a way that is beneficial to workers.

The line used by the Progressive Democrats to justify their intention of giving back tax to those who are already well off is well known. What impact do they think a reduction in the top rate of tax of 48 per cent to 40 per cent will have on those who are low paid or contemplating moving from welfare to work? Why, if they are so concerned about the problems facing young people with low skills on low wages, is their track record so awful in this area? When in Government they made no effort to tackle this employment trap. Would they support the introduction of a minimum wage to help raise the incentive to work? I fear not.

I welcome the provisions in the Bill which create holiday entitlements for atypical and part-time workers who are not catered for under the current arrangements. As the incidence of part-time working increases this is a necessary and important move. For many people part-time working gives them an opportunity to work which they would not have if they had to work full-time. Those people too should be accorded the dignity of legal protection.

I support this Bill. I look forward to the coming election when Fianna Fáil will be asked to explain its position on this to the voters. I listened to Deputy Tom Kitt earlier. I too support the development of small businesses, but I reject his accusation that the Government is adopting a "big brother" approach. Why, every time a measure that would benefit workers is introduced, do those who are opposed to it argue that it is not in the interest of workers to receive such benefits? Deputy Kitt spoke about the difficulties facing workers forced to work on Sundays. I look forward to reading his recently published Bill. However, the arguments he cited in favour of his own Bill can also be used in favour of this Bill, minus the opt-out clause. Deputy Kitt criticised the Minister for the delay in bringing the Bill forward, but in the same breath implied that she should not be in a hurry because there has been no huge impetus to legislate for the terms of the directive elsewhere in Europe. Deputy Kitt cannot have it both ways. No doubt the same argument was used against the criminalisation of child labour. The 48 hour week is the equivalent of six eight hour days per week or, if lunch times are included, almost 55 hours per week over 16 weeks.

This Bill simplifies much of our existing labour legislation and even if it did no more it would be welcome. We do not have a dearth of labour law but much of what we have is difficult to enforce because of its complexity. I welcome the Minister's move in this direction and commend the Bill to the House.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this legislation. Lest anybody be under any illusion, we on this side of the House welcome in principle most of what is in the Bill. It will implement the bones of the Directive on working time agreed by the European Union more than three years ago. For the benefit of the Labour Party, Fianna Fáil was in power at that time. I understand the heads of this Bill, including the opt-out clause, were agreed at that time between the Government parties which included the Labour Party. Obviously somebody — perhaps some of its partners further to the left — has influenced the Labour Party in the meantime.

That is not true.

Fianna Fáil agrees in principle with most of what is in the Bill. However, there are one or two aspects about which we have reservations and on which we will table amendments on Committee Stage. The protections provided for in the Bill are welcome and necessary. Nobody would want people to work excessive overtime to receive a decent wage. We are as concerned about the health and safety of employees as any other party in this House. The zero hours contract is one about which we have reservations. Everybody should be given ample notice of working hours. An abuse of the system as it existed was that employers did not co-operate with their employees and took advantage of certain sections of the community and certain employees who were vulnerable. I am pleased a section covering this is included in the Bill and it will have our support.

The Bill gives effect to the European Union Directive on working time. The Minister acknowledges that the large industries and the large employers will not have any problems with it. However, I agree with my party colleague, Deputy Tom Kitt, who referred to the negative effects this legislation will have on some medium sized employers and on small businesses because of the increasing number of regulations and the increased paperwork which, by law, they will have to complete. This will bring further pressure to bear on the administrative capacity of certain small companies.

The Joint Committee on Small Business and Services, of which I am a member, was impressed by the excellent presentations made over the past two years by various employer and employee groups. These presentations made members aware of the conditions under which some companies have to work. An interesting plea was made at the meeting last week by sections of the small business community who are concerned about certain aspects of the Bill, including the non-inclusion of the voluntary opt-out.

A stark case was made by an employer in the security business. He said his employees have to work a five day week, ten hours each day, mainly at night time, doing security duty for large firms. The employees are obliged, once every hour to take a five minute walk around the premises to check the security of the various places within that business and to sit down and watch security monitors. The work involved is not taxing in the physical sense but the working time these individuals put in is substantial. However they will not be allowed the option of voluntary overtime over a 48 hour week under the terms of this Bill. Compare that with trainee doctors who are excluded under the terms of the Bill. Their work is such that they have to be alert while on duty, yet they are not protected by the 48 hour working week. It is difficult to understand the reason trainee doctors are excluded while people in the security business are included.

The holiday extension from three to four weeks is welcome, even though it is spread over a three year period and does not have to be fully implemented until 1999. I would have preferred a shorter lead-in time. Small businesses will be most affected by this legislation. Due to the number of changes in work practices and in the work place it is only right to update our legislation. This legislation will simplify and consolidate seven Acts and more than 137 pages of legislation and hundreds of regulations, licences and orders which have governed working time for years.

The Bill which contains most of what we were seeking will have the support of the Fianna Fáil party. Workers should not have to work excessive hours to get a decent wage. In Ireland today most workers do not have to work excessive hours and have sufficient legislative protection.

The Minister of State said she was changing the approach to the enforcement of these new, statutory rights. Employers listening to such language immediately question whether this will place potential employers at a disadvantage, as that is the attitude of the Minister and Government to their endeavours to encourage job creation; certainly it does not boost their confidence.

Our greatest commercial competitors are our fellow European Union member states, including the United Kingdom. In the case of the latter, we shall be unable to fight for a fair market share since they are availing of the opt-out clause. That being the case, perhaps the Minister should carefully examine whether it is worth placing our industry and market share at risk. Article 18 of the directive affords member states the option of allowing an individual worker to opt-out of the maximum 48 hour week by agreement with his or her employer. Why do we not avail of that article if there is to be true partnership between employer and employee, particularly when a voluntary agreement exists to allow an employee to avail of increased overtime?

I welcome the Bill in principle but ask the Minister to seriously consider the voluntary opt-out clause.

I too welcome this Bill and look forward to the early implementation of its provisions as I have — like all Members — received a number of inquiries from constituents, some of whose concerns arose from a misrepresentation of what the Minister was endeavouring to achieve. I hope this debate will help to clarify the many issues, thus offering reassurance to those who feel these regulations may be too restrictive in practice.

The Minister made the point that the Bill was drafted with the health and safety of workers in mind, a concept all Members support. I attended a meeting of the Select Committee on Small Business and Services last week, the first opportunity the Minister had of briefing Members on the provisions of this Bill and their practical impact, at which there were quite a number of submissions from representatives of different business groups and unions representing various employees. When the Minister responded to our questions, most people were satisfied that this is a reasonable, non-draconian Bill, the provisions of which will not constitute any huge burden on employers or create an impediment to employees endeavouring to maximise their earned income.

The Minister said last week and repeated this afternoon that, even if this updating legislation was not being forced on us by the European Union, it is required bearing in mind the many economic and social changes since the 1930s following which relationships between employers and employees have changed dramatically. Even since the 1950s and 1960s, the old ideological division between them has vanished, leading to a greater degree of partnership and recognition that both must grow and thrive together, the consensus being that what is good for the employer will be good for the employee.

The Minister repeated that, bearing in mind the huge numbers of people unemployed here, we might well hope that the provisions of this Bill will help in the creation of jobs to some small extent. There is more than sufficient work available and more than sufficient numbers of people willing to work but supply and demand cannot always be appropriately married. When employers examine the rules and regulations to be complied with on the enactment of this Bill they may find, certainly in the case of a number of firms, that it would make sense for them to recruit extra employees which, even on a very small scale, will yield desirable results.

Most people who approach public representatives are anxious to know how the 48-hour working week regulation will impact on them. In the case of my constituency, the first to spring to mind are those employed by co-operatives involving a high level of seasonal work and they have expressed the greatest number of concerns to me. Therefore, we are grateful for the Minister's clarification at last week's committee meeting and again this afternoon, clearly demonstrating that the 48-hour rule will not have the negative impact some had feared. When it is realised that it will be an average 48-hour week, spread over perhaps four, six or 12 months, it will be readily recognised that the requisite flexibility will be afforded because any such rule or regulation relating to employment must afford such flexibility.

Regrettably we are informed that anything between 3 per cent and 5 per cent of workers could be affected. However, we must view the matter from the wider perspective, that its provisions will be welcomed by most, including those with fears that their incomes might be affected, most of whom will agree that in the majority of cases, the flexibility involved will allow reasonable compromise and most people's work practices will remain unaltered.

The Minister quoted the results of the Labour Force Survey showing that 6 per cent of employees regularly work longer than 48 hours per week. When it is realised that this new 48-hour working week will be a net rather than a gross limit, most people will readily realise that their working week will fall comfortably within that limit. I acknowledge the concerns of those who fear they may be affected but it is my firm belief that most people's working hours will fall comfortably within the purview of the new regulation. Within the past few days we have been made aware that an employer and employees can negotiate a 12 month working arrangement with their union representatives. This arrangement will eliminate many of the problems and I welcome it.

Previous speakers referred to the opt-out clause. When dealing with European directives one expects the demand for an opt-out clause to come from the House of Commons, not from Dáil Éireann. We cannot have our cake and eat it by claiming all the prizes we regularly seek from Europe or lecturing Britain on the need for further European integration while availing of an opt-out clause at the first opportunity. We must look at the overall picture in terms of the positive economic and social benefits of EU membership and try as far as possible to enshrine European directives in Irish law. The Minister is taking the correct course of action in implementing the regulations in full. While an opt-out clause may seem to get us off the hook it will cause problems down the line. For example, some industries may avail of the opt-out clause while others will not and difficulties could arise in firms where employers have different views from those of their employees. Under the Minister's proposals everyone will be working on a level playing pitch. The achievement of a 48 hour working week over six or 12 months or within a three or four year period will eliminate many of the problems which might arise.

Holiday entitlements have been progressing at a reasonable rate for many years and there is nothing radical in the proposal that all workers should be entitled to four weeks holidays. The social partnership philosophy is widely accepted and many employers would offer a four week holiday entitlement to employees even if there was no obligation on them to do so. Most employers and employees recognise that when they work together they succeed but when they have different agendas they fail. The four week minimum holiday entitlement is a helpful rather than a negative measure.

My views on zero hour contracts are similar to those of the previous speaker. Most reasonable people will agree that this area needs to be tided up and will welcome what is being done. Hope-fully the regulations will bring to an end the unreasonable demands put on employees by a tiny minority of employers. Most employers recognise the need for a good relationship and clear agreements with their employees. The sooner zero hour contracts are eliminated the better.

I welcome the proposal to regulate the position of employees who work on Sundays. We could devote an entire debate to the issue of Sunday trading, a matter which must be addressed by the Government. The huge increase in Sunday trading in recent years has been of little benefit to the country from an economic point of view and has been damaging to many people from a social point of view. From an economic point of view there is very little difference between Sundays and weekdays. One of the factors which led to the growth in Sunday trading was that many employees were obliged to work on Sundays without any increase in pay. It is not its purpose but I hope the legislation will help to regulate the number of hours worked on a Sunday and reduce the level of Sunday trading.

The representations I received on the legislation related solely to the maximum 48 hour working week. I am glad the Minister has clarified the position and is ensuring sufficient flexibility to deal with any problems which might arise. Most reasonable people will admit that the legislation is very much in line with the employment and social legislation required in the Ireland of today. Previously employers had to comply with a plethora of rules and regulations. The legislation will make life much simpler for employers in terms of keeping accounts etc.

I welcome the Bill and look forward to debating it in more detail on Committee Stage. I am glad the Minister is providing the maximum possible flexibility as it will ensure the legislation works from both an employer and employee point of view.

The European Court's verdict on the 48 hour working week received widespread coverage in the national and international media. The court found against Britain in stating that the legal basis of the directive was well founded, the measures being taken were proportionate to their end and the Council of Ministers had not exceeded its powers or infringed essential procedures. The judgment dealt with the legality of the directive and did not deal, as the Minister stated at a committee meeting last week, with its merits or otherwise.

Commissioner Padraig Flynn subsequently made it clear in an interview that it was a good day for social Europe and for those who believed employees should have the right to say no to excessive working hours. However, in its transposition into Irish law the opt-out clause has been substantially eroded and the inbuilt flexibility in the original European directive has been lost. The Bill will be portrayed as enlightened legislation and those who oppose the imposition of the 48 hour working week will be portrayed as supporters of exploitation and sweat shops.

There are many positive features to the legislation with which nobody could take issue. Many of its provisions have been recognised for years by enlightened employers. In general, good practice has been the norm in the labour market and the majority of employers and workers do not require the force of legislation to recognise their mutual obligations and responsibilities. A happy and productive workforce leads to the long-term viability of a business and a reciprocal opportunity of reasonable wage structures, bonuses and so on.

As reported in theIrish Independent of 15 November, the Minister stated this is balanced legislation which will stand the test of time, bring labour law up to date and eliminate sweat shop practices. As I stated at last week's meeting of the Joint Committee on Small Business and Services, which the Minister and representatives of employee and trade union groups attended, there is a responsibility on her and those groups to eliminate sweat shop practices and, more importantly, to identify them and not make general sweeping statements which appeal to the emotional dimension of this debate. The passing of this legislation will not prevent people from referring to the fact that certain types of employment are poorly paid and that working conditions are not good, but one must compare like with like and one marketplace with another. Broad generalisations are a dishonest attempt to indict many types of employment which cannot pay the same wages or provide the same working conditions as sophisticated pharmaceutical, chemical, computer and other such industries, which are only a recent phenomenon here.

The theory of market forces does not work in practice. I am sure the Minister and many other Members have never employed a person on a full-time basis and do not have hands on experience of the ingredients necessary for producing a product or rendering a service year after year, with the instinct and toughness to survive in a competitive national or international environment. I was amused at Deputy Bree's contribution. He may be a full-time public representative, but his experience in the workplace before becoming a public representative is open to question. His comments on business ethics and work practices were laughable.

(Laoighis-Offaly): Perhaps they hurt too much.

The surest reality in this debate is that if the legislation were to apply to owners and managers of industry as it will apply to workers, the 48 hour rule would ensure not only the loss of thousands of jobs but owners would spend considerably longer at home with their families than is currently the case.

It could be argued that the 48 hour week is sufficiently long and that thereafter workers' productivity falls and health and safety can be at risk, but what studies and reports objectively prove that point? Accidents will continue to happen, regardless of the length of the working week. Monday morning blues have as much to do with health and safety as with poor productivity due to excesses taken over the weekend.

I appreciate that the opt-out clause can be got around by collective agreements, but how will the 60 per cent of the productive sector which is not unionised negotiate collective agreements? The Minister adopted a minimalist approach to the exemptions built into the directive. While I accept the legislation will affect only 6 per cent of our workforce who, as a result of the nature of their employment can often work longer than 48 hours, if passed unamended it will have serious consequences for certain categories of industry and rather than creating thousands of new jobs, as predicted by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, it will mean the loss of jobs for certain categories of employees. The 3 per cent figure, which the CSO said will be affected, was arrived at by categorising all workers as clerical workers and then averaging it. The Bill will affect not only the security industry. The dairy food industry and the construction and construction supply industries are also vulnerable under the directive. Employees in those industries often do substantial overtime, but doing away with it will not translate directly into new job opportunities for those currently unemployed. The question of overtime has been examined by Governments, unions and others over many years and its elimination cannot be easily translated into additional jobs. The current high unemployment level is also due to our taxation policy, the tax wedge between take-home pay and current social welfare rates and many other factors which I will not put on the record.

Rather than creating new jobs, the Bill will result in workers double jobbing and turning to the black economy. A category of non-managerial staff work on trust arrangements to complete tasks set for them; they are not employed for a certain number of hours. They are not controlled by management or supervised in the normal way and they are free to work whatever hours are necessary to complete the task in hand. How will the Bill affect workers who operate on a call-out basis? If such workers have to work until midnight, under the legislation they will not be able to start work until 11 a.m. the following morning. More importantly, the Bill will create additional administrative requirements in terms of extra computerisation, record keeping and so on. All firms will have to seek additional professional help to comply with its requirements. What will be the percentage payroll costs of complying with the legislation?

I appreciate that Great Britain has opted out of the Social Charter and, with a cohesive and united front of professional spin doctors, paid for out of the public purse, some sectors here and in Europe are trying to portray Great Britain as the sweat shop of Europe. The Minister of State was reminded at the committee meeting that many Irish industries are currently setting up factories in England to avail of competitive rates. Why do we shed crocodile tears when the Welsh or Scottish industrial agencies successfully secure largescale overseas industries in the face of intense competition from the IDA? One could argue about whether sufficiently attractive grant-aid packages are offered by this Government. We certainly need more jobs. Can the Minister of State name one overseas industry which located in Great Britain, because of the efforts of the Welsh or Scottish development agencies, which she would not want located here because of their work practices?

There is some flexibility in the legislation in that the working week can be spread over a four or six month period and this can be extended to 12 months, if there is agreement between employers and workers and it does not include meal breaks. Why give statutory effect to something that can be left to individual employees and employers? It could be argued that there would not be equal bargaining power, but can the Minister say with her hand on her heart that she has received persistent complaints from workers about having to work long hours?

(Laoighis-Offaly): What about Dunnes Stores?

They may certainly complain about safety standards or low pay rates, but I would be surprised if, other than in rare circumstances, complaints are made about having to work excessive hours. Jobs could be at risk.

A long-standing complaint relates to the punitive regime applied to junior doctors who have to work more than 100 hours per week. They are not producing a standard article or operating a standard production process. They deal with a multiplicity of matters in emergency hospital wards and outpatient clinics, but they will not benefit under the Bill. Neither does it apply to law enforcement, prisons, security or emergency services or the transport sector. Accordingly, a large number of State employees are excluded from the provisions of the Bill. Why should it be difficult to recruit extra workers in the State services and train them to do the work that is being done at excessively high overtime rates when the Minister suggests that the private sector can employ extra people to do the overtime that is being done by others? Why should prison officers be paid substantial overtime? For the Minister to say this matter is being examined and proposals are in hand to rectify it could justifiably lead to indignation among employers and employees in the private sector who will be affected by the directive. Why should a law apply primarily to the private sector when a large category of State employees are exempt?

Debate adjourned.