I wish to share time with deputy Broughan.
Organisation of Working Time Bill, 1996: Second stage (Resumed).
I am sure that is in order and agreed.
This legislation makes statutory provision for the European Union directive on working time we adopted in 1993. Similar legislation is being enacted in the other member states.
I hold a different position from that enunciated by certain sections of the Opposition, particularly the Progressive Democrats who seem to believe the sky will fall in if we provide for an organised pattern of working time in the workplace. They are harking back to the days of the industrial revolution, when people worked very long hours and women and children worked in the mines. We certainly do not want that type of working environment. We want a coherent, well organised, healthy, safe and secure working environment.
When labour legislation was first enacted in the 1930s the average industrial working week was 53 hours. Surely a reduction to 48 hours — five hours in six decades — is not outrageious. I take issue with the dark picture painted for the industrial sector by the Euro sceptics in the Progressive Democrats and in some sectors of Fianna Fáil.
This legislation will consolidate and update labour law. As we approach the 21st century it is coherent safety standards in the workplace. I am sure all employees will welcome the provision to increase an employee's entitlement to paid holidays from three to four weeks. This will be enforced on a phased basis and fully implemented by 1999. It is the norm in most workplaces at present.
The Bill also deals with part-time work and the question of zero contracts which has caused a great deal of industrial strife. Women have been discouraged from entering the workforce because of the casual way employers treat them. The rapid increase in the workforce can be attributed to a large extent to the number of women employed on a casual, part-time basis, many of whom are being exploited. The part-time workforce has increased from less than 10 per cent seven or eight years ago to almost 15 per cent. Therefore, it is necessary to legislate for this area. I am pleased the legislation proposes to ban zero hour contracts and provides that employees shall be entitled to notification in advance of the hours the employer will require them to work. This takes into account individual and family considerations, which have been abused in the past.
The Bill provides for an entitlement by an employee to a minimum rest period of 11 consecutive hours in each 24 hour period, a rest break after every four and half hours worked, a half hour after six hours and an uninterrupted period of 24 hours each week. It also provides for a limit of eight hours' night work in a 24 hour period and, one of the most controversial provisions, a period of 48 hours rest in a seven day week. As these provisions currently operate in most good workplaces, we need not apologise for placing them on a statutory basis and for showing social and industrial solidarity with workers here and internationally. Employees are entitled to adequate rest breaks, leisure time and advance notice of working hours.
The assertion that we will lose our competitiveness has little basis. International studies reveal that a workforce performs better in conditions conducive to work. It is not simply a question of getting more productivity from an increase in the number of hours worked. More productivity will come from proper team work, management and a happy and motivated workforce. We should respect the dignity of workers and the context in which they work. The claim from Members opposite that the economy and business will founder does not have any basis. Competitiveness will be enhanced by this legislation.
The question of the 48 hours is a red herring. There is a considerable degree of flexibility within the 48 hour period. Lunch and tea breaks are not necessarily part and parcel of the 48 hours provision. The number of hours can be totalled and the period of work can be based on a monthly period or on a period of four, six or 12 months. There is considerable flexibility where seasonable changes have to be taken into consideration and overtime is necessary at certain times. The number of hours worked can be totalled and annualised.
At present only 6 per cent of employees work more than 48 hours. That covers employees in every area of employment. Almost 95 per cent of employees adhere to the proposals in this area. Members of the Dáil are one of the few categories which exceed the 48 hours provision by a great many hours. I often think we would benefit from some form of trade union representation to ensure Members adhere to working a reasonable number of hours per week.
I thought the Deputy was in that section of the Labour Party.
What section is that?
The conscience section.
He used to be.
All Deputies in the Labour Party——
Let us not have any more interruptions.
It is a pity there are not eight of them in the Fianna Fáil Party.
Perhaps there may be yet.
Eight who are courageous enough.
There is another member of that party of that calibre.
I am sure Deputy Davern will have an opportunity to speak.
There is provision for exemptions and derogations from provisions in the Bill. Employees in the prison service, where there is approximately a 1:1 ratio, work on average 60 hours per week. We should not consider giving a derogation from that provision to employees in that part of the State sector. Where employees work on a 1:1 basis they should not work many hours overtime because they can get tired easily and in tense situations where sensitivity is required many serious problems can result.
I welcome the Bill and compliment the Minister of State for introducing it. I will be pleased when all 15 member states of the European Union have implemented similar legislation.
I warmly welcome the Bill which implements EU Directive 93/104. For many years labour legislation, notably that enacted as far back as the 1930s, has required updating to make it relevant to modern working conditions. Reform of that legislation to make it relevant to the modern era was urgently required. I congratulate the Minister of State, Deputy Fitzgerald, for doing that. She utilised the social charter and the social action programme under the European charter to bring our working time and conditions of work into line with what is appropriate in the modern era.
I welcome the fact that the Bill lays down basic minimum standards of rest and maximum working hours for all workers. I also welcome the fact that it will be implemented across member states of the EU. The debate on this legislation to which I listened with great interest revealed some interesting characteristics of Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats. Throughout the European landscape only the battered and totally discredited English Tory Party can surpass the antics of the Progressive Democrats and Fianna Fáil when it comes to introducing necessary social legislation. Across the floor of this House are our Irish Tories. They fit that label in all respects. They spouted about workers' rights this morning when debating other legislation and now they run to this House as if they were IBEC's lap dogs, representing employers' vested interests and constantly whinge about the rights of large employers when they know the economy, particularly the private sector, can be a harsh place for the working man or woman. Sadly, some of those people continue to vote for the Fianna Fáil Party although they should recognise that in terms of the most important aspect of their lives that party is their mortal enemy.
Having regard to the comments on the opt-out clause in respect of the 48 hours provision, it is clear that the party opposite would put workers in a vulnerable position and would require them to almost place themselves in a difficult and heroic role.
They would put them back into the sweat shops.
They would put us back into the era of our founder, Jim Connolly. In 1913 my predecessor, Jim Larkin——
He must be turning in his grave.
Deputies will be aware that Jim Larkin was a representative for Dublin North-East, my constituency. Next year we will celebrate the 50th anniversary of his death and his great contribution to this country.
Will the Deputy accept an intervention? The then Minister, Deputy Quinn, and our colleague, Deputy O'Rourke, signed for the opt-out clause in regard to the 48 hours provision. The Deputy has talked a good deal about Fianna Fáil, but a Minister of his party agreed to the opt-out clause.
Let us consider the record of Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats. Sadly, Deputy Kitt's party has begun to lock itself into the orbit of the Progressive Democrats. As the pre-election campaign develops after Christmas we will have to draw to the attention of the electorate in greater detail the unfortunate relationship between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats and the implications that will have for the working people, particularly for employees in the exposed private sector and for public sector workers. That is what we will be faced with if we have a harsh English Tory style Progressive Democrats Government.
I congratulate the Minister on introducing this vital legislation and for steadfastly representing workers, particularly the most vulnerable. We had to protest on the street and represent workers on zero hour contracts a few months ago when a famous store effectively refused to negotiate with them. Those employees who are on short-term contracts are required to work difficult hours. The Minister of State has sought to lay down basic working conditions in this legislation to cover those vulnerable workers. The provisions in sections 15 and 16 are particularly welcome.
Irrespective of how one views the opt-out controversy and the 48 hours provision, having regard to basic issues of health and safety and the stress-related character or the quality of much of modern work in our increasingly efficient economy, this is a basic provision which we should require employers to make. I deplore the fact that the parties opposite have acted as the lap dogs of big business in this regard and refuse to stand up for the workers of Ireland in this House.
I also welcome the provisions covering breaks at work, the extension of holiday time, a rights commissioner, the Labour Court and the LRC. This is fundamental legislation which a Labour Minister and Labour Party are very proud to lay before the House. There are one or two aspects, perhaps, in relation to zero hour contracts which we will ask the Minister of State to consider.
Thus speaks the conscience of the Labour Party.
Thou shalt not live by the sweat of thy brow.
It is regrettable that within a couple of hours on one sitting day a motion and a Bill are introduced, representing an attack on the rights and freedom of workers. Just a few hours ago we dealt with a motion on the Worker Participation (State Enterprises) Order, 1996 seeking the approval of the House to restructure the board of Telecom Éireann following the conclusion of a strategic alliance between that board and the KPN-Telia consortium which will involve its workers losing two of their former four places on that board. As a compromise the Government has devised a sort of "Pat Rabbitte, baby chair" type solution which will permit two workers to be present at board meetings as second-class members but their rights and status as full board members will have ceased.
Now we are asked to deal with this Bill whose provisions constitute a further attack on the rights and freedom of workers.
Deputy Broughan did not answer the last charge put to him by Deputy Tom Kitt. It is extraordinary what power and position have done to some Members of this House. Three years ago when this directive was agreed in Brussels, the Fianna Fáil and Labour Coalition Government had been working together for the rights and freedom of workers and insisted that an individual opt-out clause be included.
That was the reason they ceased to be in Government.
It was put in for the benefit of Irish workers.
It was put in for the benefit of British workers.
I very much doubt that our Labour Party looked after the interests of British workers although I am aware some of its advisers are more than willing to please British multinationals whenever opportunity allows. I assure the House that no Fianna Fáil Minister would have gone to Brussels to demand protection for British workers; he or she would have left others to engage in that exercise. What has changed since 1993?
We have a different Government.
Since in 1993 there was no disagreement between the Fianna Fáil and Labour Parties in Government, has the Labour Party been corrupted by Democratic Left or Fine Gael? Where are the northside conscience-stricken eight? While some aspects of this Bill are to be welcomed it is regrettable the Minister of State did not avail of the opportunity afforded by the relevant European Union directive to introduce it in a form that would afford workers the protection envisaged in the directive, the right to choose to work longer hours if they so wished. It is unfortunate the Minister did not travel that distance.
Some provisions, such as the zero hour contracts and so on, are welcome although the Minister has not exactly gone wild talking about 24-hour notice and similar aspects on which she touched when introducing the Bill. To be of any real benefit, such provisions would have to be greatly strengthened.
Deputy Tom Kitt recently introduced a Private Members' Bill dealing with Sunday trading, on which this Bill will have some bearing. No doubt we will be afforded an opportunity to deal with that matter in greater depth on Committee Stage.
Acknowledging that this Bill has been foisted on us in order to comply with an EU directive, the Minister could have allowed the 48-hour opt-out. We cannot and should not ignore the rights and freedoms of workers. I am concerned that one of its provisions will eliminate an individual worker's right, in conjunction with an employer, to choose his or her working hours. It discriminates against hourly, low-paid workers, about whom many crocodile tears have been shed. It imposes an arbitrary ceiling on the earnings of low grade workers, encouraging a shift to part-time labour, atypical employment, or whatever is the appropriate term. In addition, limiting voluntary overtime will add to the live register and drive many wishing to have an opportunity to earn a few extra pounds into the black economy. I cannot see any alternative.
In introducing this Bill, the Minister said workers should not have to work excessive hours for a decent wage — we all subscribe to that sentiment — but without the inclusion of the individual opt-out she is raising expectations, giving workers the impression that this Labour Minister is introducing a new law which means we will earn the same money for a 40-hour week. All Members will have had representations and objections from individual workers rather than from big businesses or unions. If the real message was clearly understood outside this House, there would be very many more objectors. Many workers believe they will retain the same wage packet and standard of living having worked fewer hours. I do not believe the Minister will be able to deliver on that type of perceived advantage for workers and I am particularly unhappy she did not insert an individual opt-out clause.
The Minister has said the provisions of the Bill will affect 6 per cent or 7 per cent of workers only. One can jockey statistics about to prove anything. Although somebody contended that an average Irish employee works only 48 hours weekly, "average" includes many three-day, part-time, female workers. Even on the basis of the Minister's own figures, it is evident that 6 per cent or 7 per cent of people work more than a 48-hour week and their standard of living will be seriously affected.
There is a belief that we are quite willing to enact laws without ensuring their enforcement in the belief that life can continue as before. Some may say this is yet more legislation which can be thrown on the shelf and that there is no point in continuing that practice perpetrated by successive Governments. Presuming that the provisions of this Bill will be enforced, I note a handy loophole of exemptions for anybody involved in the business of transportation. I can foresee many people loading two or three cartons on to a truck for a couple of minutes each morning, pretending they are engaged in transportation, and then returning to their machinery or other normal working practices. If exemption is as simple as that, and that would appear to be its general interpretation, the Bill might as well be thrown in the bin. There has been some reference to another directive in the offing relating to transport workers, hospital doctors and others who work long hours, so perhaps that loophole will be closed in the very near future.
There appears to be an inconsistency in that the Minister of State talks about the numbers of unemployed, about her concern that workers should earn a decent wage, yet if they cannot engage in voluntary overtime — accepting that some people can withstand longer working hours than others, as I discovered in my own employment — the Minister has not addressed the consequences. Such workers will continue to want to earn more and their only means will be through a second job or moving into the black economy. One legitimate reading of this Bill is that its provisions constitute an attack on many of the conditions of employment and benefits built up over the years by workers and trade unions. It will encourage temporary and part-time employment.
Some people try to improve themselves by educating their children and furnishing their houses and they will work every hour God gives them if they are given the opportunity. However, we are stopping them from doing so. I cannot understand why a Labour Minister is trying to discourage people from improving themselves or their standard of living. That is like saying to someone that because they are a manual or factory worker with a certain earning capacity and who lives in a certain suburb they should not try to improve their lot. There should always be an opportunity for people to improve themselves and to contribute to society whether in a capitalist or a socialist country. However, if we tell people they can only work a certain number of hours, we are denying them the right to do so.
This is a form of snobbery because people who have reached a certain standing in life are trying to deprive others of doing so. There is much talk at local authority level about social integration, which should be welcomed. Some local authorities buy houses in private estates for people. However, the Minister is categorising people and saying that because they are a certain type of worker and they have a certain earning capacity, they should not try to improve themselves.
In my previous job one could improve oneself through promotion. However, there are no opportunities for promotion for many industrial workers. The only way they can improve their lot is to work longer hours. Overtime is the only way that many workers can earn extra money. However, the Minister is capping their earning capacity which means they will enter the black economy in order to improve themselves.
A few weeks ago we were told this legislation would take effect from 23 November. If it is not passed until February, will it still be effective from that date? Will the number of hours people have worked from 23 November be taken into account?
Low paid workers will be hardest hit by the Minister's proposals. Recently I met workers from security businesses who complained bitterly about these measures. They work more hours than the average worker because they are needed from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. on weekdays and all day Saturday and Sunday. Many of these people work 60 and 70 hours a week but they are paid an hourly rate. Does the Minister expect them to change their standard of living? Her proposal to change meal breaks, etc. will not help these people who are being asked to take a huge drop in salary. This will add to part-time and black economy labour.
I do not understand why the trade unions, which are affiliated to the Labour Party, have not created blue murder at the way the Minister has nullified the conditions of employment set out by the trade union movement over the years. What will happen if a person works up extra hours over a four or 12 month period? Must they take two weeks off work without pay? Must they go on the dole?
This Bill seems to suggest that the onus is on the individual and on the company to adhere to the legislation when it is passed. How can that be controlled and what disciplinary measures will be taken against the company or the individual if they break the law?
The Minister is denying people freedom of choice — this used to be a Labour Party slogan — to work the hours they wish. The Minister should introduce measures which encourage people to work, reward effort and develop a workmanlike ethos. This Bill probably represents an ideological point of view which gives the Government control over people's lives — where they live, how they look and the hours they work. It seems strange that in the same week the Minister published the Freedom of Information Bill, she is taking away people's freedom to work the hours they choose. Surely she recognises the contradiction?
Security people respond to emergencies such as if there is a problem on a site or in a factory. The company will want the same person, not a stranger who has been taken off the dole, to deal with such problems as they will know the layout of the premises. I hope the Minister will do something for this industry because many of its workers are paid on an hourly basis. They are convinced they will lose the right to earn money and that their standard of living will change drastically. I hope the Minister of State can at least do something for that group of workers as the Bill proceeds through the House.
I welcome this Bill. The spirit and thrust of this Bill was agreed three years at a meeting of social affairs Ministers when Deputy Woods was Minister. It was decided to have it introduced throughout Europe by 5 November 1996. Luxembourg has introduced it, other countries may be in the process of doing so, others have reservations about the spirit of the Bill and the UK has decided to opt-out. My information is based on a submission I received from ICOS in recent days. Perhaps it is not as clued in as the Minister of State with regard to the operation of this Bill. To what degree will this legislation be implemented in Europe?
Certain sections of the community have made representations to politicians. The security industry has been earmarked today but in my area I have had representations from two leading co-operatives which are concerned about this legislation. Milk is to Limerick what oil is to Texas. People often work excessive hours during peak periods in the dairy industry because of its seasonal nature and many work seven days a week. Concerns have been expressed by workers who consider this an accepted tradition. Over the course of a year overtime makes it worthwhile for people to work such hours. Working long hours has been an inherent part of the industry and trade unions accept that.
The Minister of State stated that a 48 hour week will be extended by lunch breaks and morning and afternoon breaks. To a certain degree there is a feeling that certain industries are exaggerating the effects of this Bill. I want these industries reassured that the Bill has been thought out, is measured and that its implementation satisfies ICOS, the co-operatives and IBEC, which initially voiced many concerns about its introduction. On a positive note, the Minister of State has attempted to improve a raft of legislation which dates back to the 1930s and encompass it in this Bill. One has to welcome that.
The dairy industry is worth £6 billion per annum to this country. There are 26,000 workers and this legislation impacts directly on 8,000 of them. I have tried to explain the intention of the Bill to many deputations which I have received. It was planned a long time ago and people do not necessarily accept that. Perhaps, on Committee Stage the Minister of State could bring us up to date and allay any concerns expressed. There may be a need to make other exemptions. Does the Minister have an open mind on this or are the provisions written in tablets of stone? Are the exemptions earmarked in this legislation the only ones that will be entertained? Is the Minister afraid of diluting the overall emphasis of this legislation by adding further exemptions or by accommodating a specific industry?
I hope the Minister had discussions with ICOS and listened to its concerns articulated on behalf of its membership. I hope the legislation is compatible and fair.
I wish to share time with Deputy Ned O'Keeffe.
Is that agreed? Agreed.
The broad outline of this Bill is welcome, particularly the issue of zero hour contracts and the application of premium rates or time offin lieu for Sunday work or a combination of both. My party opposes the Bill because of the refusal to include an opt-out clause. I was delighted to hear Deputy Finucane speaking in that regard as it is the major problem. Most of the people who approached me about this were workers in factories, co-operatives and other industries who want to continue working overtime as long as they feel fit enough to do so. I do not understand why the Minister of State removed this after it had been included by Deputy Quinn when he was Minister for Enterprise and Employment and by Deputy O'Rourke when she was Minister for Labour in the previous Government. They saw it as common sense. One of the workers who came to me was a member of the Labour Party. He said the more time off he has, the more money he needs; the less time off he has, the more money he saves. He has two children attending university and has to give them money each week. He has to earn £160 per week to give them £40 each for the week.
Only one employer approached me on this matter. The others were individuals or groups of workers who were concerned about their right to work overtime. They have been guaranteed overtime for many years and have incorporated it in their lifestyles. They have new cars and houses or have built extensions to their houses. They could not afford that lifestyle on a basic wage. Those people want to continue working for as long as they are strong and able enough. There is no reason for the Minister of State to be ideological on this issue. It is a throwback to Democratic Left and strong Labour Party beliefs that the Minister insists on this being introduced. Members of Fine Gael are extremely worried about this. The chairman of the Party, Deputy Hogan, stated there were problems in the party in regard to it. Again, it amounts to the tail wagging the dog. It is the decision of the Minister of State and Democratic Left to block this. It is frightening she will not even entertain an opt-out clause when it is the workers who are seeking to have such a clause retained.
Deputy Finucane referred to co-operatives. Co-operatives are busy at certain times of the year and at other times they could let workers go but do not do so. There is a tremendous amount of overtime in the high season which, in terms of milk production, is April-May. The proposal in the Bill would prevent people in that industry, some of whom work 70 hours per week — rural TDs work 80 or 90 hours per week — from doing overtime. Those people are up in arms about the fact that they will be prevented from working more than 48 hours per week. The worker should have a right to opt out if he does not want to work overtime, but for those who need the extra money, they have a right to work extra hours.
It is surprising the Minister did not listen to the representations made by employers and Members who have regard for workers. I speak particularly about co-operatives in Tipperary, Merck Sharp and Dohme, Medite and other industries whose workers wish to do overtime but will be prevented from doing so under this legislation. Will their lifestyle change if they are not allowed work more than 48 hours per week? Will they have to return their cars or sell their houses because they cannot afford to pay for them? Will it mean they will be unable to send money to their children who are attending college or university?
Abuse was hurled at us today by the Northside Eight who purport to be the conscience of the Labour Party. The Minister should be wary when they praise her because they are a dangerous group. I plead with the Minister to consider the opt-out clause, which would not interfere with the Bill. The vast majority of workers want the right to work overtime so that they can provide a better life for their families.
I have no major criticism of the Bill, but I would like to see the inclusion of an opt-out clause. At yesterday's meeting of the Select Committee on Enterprise and Economic Strategy it was decided to advertise for interested parties to make submissions on this matter. This is far-reaching and complex legislation, particularly in terms of the 48 hour restriction. I come from the north Cork area where a large segment of the food processing industry operates. For example, in Mitchelstown 1,350 people are employed in the processing business, the lifeblood of the area, and many service industries operate there.
Considering the seasonality aspect of the dairy industry, and other industries, this legislation will cause problems in terms of loss of earnings and a greater amount of management time will be consumed in organising workers. That will have critical cost implications for the industries involved. When this directive was negotiated in Brussels by my colleague, Deputy O'Rourke — Deputy Quinn was Minister for Enterprise and Employment at that time — the voluntary opt-out clause was agreed, and I fail to understand what has changed since then. If such a clause was included it would solve all the problems.
Not only will the north Cork area be affected by this legislation but so also will many other areas. The food industry is the backbone of the economy and because of the seasonality aspect of the business a concession must be granted. I have been lobbied on this matter by people involved in the dairy industry. An extract from an ICOS document states:
The Irish Co-operative Dairy Industry is a business totalling 6 billion pounds turnover per annum. It employs almost 26,000 persons of whom approximately 8,000 are engaged directly in the manufacture of dairy products.
That is a huge number of people by any standard. That industry is very important to the economy, particularly to the southern region. The document states:
The industry relies in the main on exports and contributes enormously to the Irish economy. The Irish industry is very different from its counterparts in Europe in that it experiences a marked peak production period in the summer months.
I am sure Deputy Finucane shares my views in that regard because he comes from one of the finest dairying counties, County Limerick. The dairy industry experiences peak production in May. There are insufficient processing facilities at that time of year and employees work long hours to overcome difficulties such as breakdowns in plants and so on. The restriction would have enormous cost effects as more processing facilities would have to be put in place to improve efficiency. There would be cost implications for the producer, the processor and the economy.
The ICOS document states: "This involves the industry in very high capital investment because it must cope with a high to low ratio of 8:1." Ireland experiences a higher peak production period than any other milk producing country in the European Union. For example, Denmark and Holland have a much lower peak of supply. The document goes on to state:
Dairy industries in Europe experience an increase of approximately 10% in summer. The Co-operative Dairy Industry is modern progressive industry which has a positive attitude to its employees. Earnings in the industry are comparable to earnings elsewhere. The average basic rate of pay was £200 per week approximately with average earnings in 1995, as per CSO statistics in the region, of approximately £300 per week.
The health, safety and welfare of its employees is a primary consideration for the industry. Indeed the industry has an impressive record in relation to health and safety in its plants. Measures therefore which protect employees are generally welcome. Despite this however the industry views with some concern the current Organisation of Working Time Bill, 1996, which is being discussed in the Dáil. This paper expresses the industry's concerns at various aspects of the Bill.
The current Bill is based on the Council of the European Union Directive Number: 93/104/EC of 23rd November 1993.
I referred earlier to that directive. This is important legislation, but the consequences for the industry when it is passed must be spelled out. The document states:
A primary area of concern for the Dairy Industry is the question of the consequences arising from the implementation of the Working Time Directive for both the industry and its employees. Milk prices are falling and farmers are facing reductions in income over the coming years.
We are well aware of that. This is the first Government in the history of the State that has tampered with farm prices. There was a re-evaluation of the punt some weeks ago and we are threatened with another re-evaluation, with further price reductions. The Government has no commitment to the agriculture industry. The document states:
Restrictions on working time will also mean a fall in earnings for employees. The results could be serious for an industry which depends on export markets.
Since we are an island nation our goods must be transported by ferry, which involves huge costs. We must compete with countries such as Denmark and Holland where goods can be transported cross-border and there is no cost factor involved. We have many disadvantages in the marketplace but those are the main ones.
It has long been the tradition in the dairy industry that employees work a seven day week in the peak season. This practice has grown up over the years in accordance with the agreement made with the unions representing employees. When employees require a day off it is arranged locally by mutual agreement. Many of these employees exceed the 48 hour limit and it may not be possible to offset this during the off-season. In cases where employees do not want the work to be offset, attempts by the industry to alter present arrangements will be resisted by employees and their unions.
Under section 25, an employer is obliged to keep records which will show whether the legislation is being complied with in respect of any employee. Failure to do so will be a criminal offence and in any proceedings before the rights commissioner or the Labour Court the onus of proof will be on the employer. The Bill does not recognise or take account of any contractual or industrial relations difficulties an employer may encounter with employees in seeking the time record, whether by clocking in and out or otherwise.
I am glad to have had the opportunity to speak on the Bill and I hope I was not too negative. I appeal to the Minister not to allow herself to be compromised on this occasion. She should agree with this side of the House and recognise the difficulties the Bill will cause to the processing industry, which have been mentioned by both sides. I have spelt out the problems which will arise for the farming community and that industry. We are disadvantaged in having to cross a sea to reach our markets, which involves a huge cost factor.
It was fascinating to hear the earlier contribution of Deputy Broughan. I cannot understand the Labour Party's position because this is the most profoundly anti-worker legislation to have been introduced in the time that my family and I have spent in this House.
It is amazing that two anti-worker measures are being discussed today and I am proud to say we oppose both. As I said earlier, the Worker Participation (State Enterprises) Order should have been called the "Diminution of Workers' Rights in Telecom Éireann Order", because it reduced the number of employees on the board from four to two. Astonishingly, a Labour Minister of State, Deputy Stagg, introduced a measure to reduce workers' influence and participation.
Only one provision of this legislation is anti-worker. I agree with Deputies Tom Kitt and Ned O'Keeffe that this is a fine Bill in many respects, for example, in its provisions on zero hour contracts.
How can a fine Bill also be one of the most anti-worker Bills?
I am coming to that point.
Will the Deputy withdraw some of her hyperbole?
No, and I ask the Minister to let me say my piece. The anti-worker aspect is the refusal to grant workers their voluntary right to opt out of the legislation. Anyone looking back in the next century will get a dreadful impression of present day Ireland from this Bill, which goes out of its way to refuse to grant a worker the right to work. This is extraordinary no matter how one looks at it.
I would like to show the Minister my file on this legislation. I have said little on the Bill because my colleague is dealing with it ably but workers all over the country have asked me if I intended to vote to refuse them the right to work. One person quoted a man mentioned by Deputy Broughan, the late "Big Jim" Larkin, who said: "A man's wealth is his labour". This Bill proposes to take away a man's right to his labour, and hence his wealth, by refusing him the right to opt out. Deputy Kitt, the Opposition spokesman on labour affairs, has competently pointed out the many fine points in the Bill but this provision is extraordinarily draconian, anti-worker, anti-employee and anti-labour.
In 1993, I was the Minister responsible for labour affairs, as Deputy Fitzgerald is now. I travelled to and fro to Brussels, as the Minister of State quite correctly does also. The directive on this matter was being discussed over a long period and we thought we would never see the end of it. On the day on which a final decision was to be made, my officials received a telephone call from my senior Minister at that time, Deputy Quinn. The then Minister for Enterprise and Employment always gave me plenty of leeway in my duties but he gave me a clear order that morning. Not only was I to vote in favour of a voluntary opt-out clause, I was to speak on the desirability of such a provision. That was my inclination anyway because I am strongly pro-worker and my record and that of my family on workers' rights is well known. The record shows that I voted for that provision and spoke strongly for the need for a voluntary opt-out clause, so that workers would have the right to earn if they wanted to. I accept there are health and safety considerations.
The Minister does not have a magic wand with which to give proper pay to everyone immediately, but the fallacy that she does is growing. Two workers discussed this Bill with me; one protested about it but the other said that if it was passed, he would be paid the same for 48 hours as he had been for 60 hours. I told him he would not and that he would lose his right to overtime; he replied that he would get the same money because the Minister had said it was a method to give people a proper wage. Of course we want everyone to have proper wages but this Bill will not provide them. That will be done by a different Bill which will be much more far-reaching than this one.
When Deputy Kitt and I met representatives from Congress, I showed them a wage slip given to me by a SIPTU member, which indicated his current wages and what he would receive if the Bill was passed without a voluntary opt-out clause. The Congress people had no answer to that point. This man has a third child about to enter third level education. He does not live in Dún Laoghaire or a well-heeled area of Dublin, so the abolition of fees is not a bonus to him because he must give his college-going children £50 each every week to pay for their digs and meals. He said he would not be able to earn extra money and I told him I agreed with his point. He said he wanted to get the Official Report of this debate so that fellow members of his union could see what was being done to them.
Workers do not fully understand what is happening here, although the alert ones do. The legislation has been covered with an enveloping blanket and they assume that Labour knows best, that they should not work any more than 48 hours, and that there will be a redistribution of wealth. That would be wonderful if it could be done.
Real distribution of wealth is from the wealthy to the low paid, but that has not happened. The ESRI report highlighted the yawning poverty gap which increased during the period of our Administration with Labour and this Administration with Labour. We need to redistribute wealth from those who have it. Abolishing university fees for those who could afford to pay them is not a redistribution of wealth. It would have been far better to raise the income threshold levels for those people caught in the middle.
Workers do not know what is being done in this legislation. It is like a massive snow job and nobody dares to speak out. The man to whom I referred told me something which I found extremely funny, and I have had several other letters and callers on this issue. He said they were told through their union not to go to any public representative to make a complant about this matter because it was for their own good. I can give this man's name, address and union number to anybody who wants it, and several others also.
This legislation is profoundly anti-worker, anti-labour and anti-employee and it is not in the best interests of workers. I regret very much that the Minister of State has presided over such erroneous legislation, particularly in regard to not allowing a voluntary opt-out, which is a civil right. It is the right to work, earn a living and provide for one's children. By denying a voluntary opt-out to workers we are taking from them their God-given wealth which is their labour and their right to earn a living for those in their care.
It must be remembered that these workers are not living to high standards or earning huge salaries. They are earning modest salaries but they have worked into their weekly or monthly wage packets a factor, namely, overtime which we are eliminating in one fell swoop in this legislation. We are saying to them that it is for their own good and they cannot earn any more because we say so.
I have telephoned people in other countries in regard to this issue and they laughed. They do not understand the reason everybody is getting so intense about this matter. We are getting intense because we know there will be a follow-up on this and that workers will be extremely perplexed when the full enormity of this legislation becomes clear to them. That is regrettable but I stand on the commitment I gave when I spoke in Brussels in November 1993, with the words of the then Government ringing in my ears, which were that I should espouse the voluntary opt-out clause.
Cuireann sé áthas orm deis a bheith agam labhairt ar an mBille sea. The thrust of the Bill is good. Nobody in the House would disagree with it but where abuses are taking place there is not adequate provision in the Bill to stamp out those abuses. On the other hand, particularly for the small employer, there is over-regulation.
The Minister of State referred in her contribution to local arrangements, collective bargaining and partnerships. Did it ever strike her that a large number of employees work for small employers and have a personal relationship with those employers? Yet in this legislation the Minister will burden those two, three and four person enterprises with this mass of regulation and then give them vastly complicated opt-outs through organisations of which they might not even be members. The current presumption is that all employers are members of an employers' organisation and that all employees are members of unions. That is not true. There is a growing small sector in the economy which does not belong to either of those groups.
The main problems in relation to workers have arisen in the large organised sectors of this economy, particularly in recent times in the retail sector. Everybody in this House would favour bringing those abuses under control. For a long time I worked as the manager of a small co-operative employing between 30 and 40 people at various times. I knew all the workers, who lived locally. Like other small enterprise, we developed house rules that were convenient to us and to the workers. We entered into dialogue — it would have been strange to meet every day and not have good dialogue on a worker-management basis. Most of those workers, or their families, were shareholders in the co-operative and the board of management was made up of local people. We had to devise rules that suited both the viability of the business and the workers. I have discovered that in drawing up rules in consultation with people 95 per cent, particularly of small employers, will agree rules that are convenient to both sides.
I oppose zero hour contracts and the lack of notice that seems to be prevalent in some bigger companies. Apart from anything else that is bad business because ules managers have employees support for what they are doing, it is difficult for them to run a good operation. There is no excuse for any employer planning on that basis. If we needed 15 people to work on a particular day in the co-operative of which I was manager, we gave the maximum notice to those who would be working that week. We also had a call-up list and if for some unforeseen reason a person could not attend, we contacted the next person on the list. People always obliged us by coming in to work because they knew the system and they knew that, where possible, maximum notice was given. It is clear some people do not operate to those standards and it is right that strong legislation protecting workers in those circumstances be introduced, but this legislation is not sufficiently clear in that regard.
Regarding Sunday work, we must write into the legislation what we mean by premium rates. We must be absolutely specific in that regard. Premium rates should be paid for Sunday work as of right and there should be no beating around the bush in that respect. Furthermore, we should examine the European norm in relation to Sunday work because there is a Union aspect to this issue that is important.
I support the opening of small retail outlets on Sunday, but it is not necessarily in people's interests if employers force them to work on Sundays. It is difficult to draw a line between having an opt-out in regard to Sunday work and the fear on the part of employees that if they avail of that opt-out they will be the first to be let go when difficulties arise in the company. Regardless of whether that might happen, it would certainly be in people's minds.
On the Sunday work issue in general, we must have regard to the fact that in many rural areas certain sports and community activities take place on Sundays. There is a certain benefit in co-ordinating it in such a way that the maximum number of people are free to participate in these activities at the same time. It gives a rhythm to society which allows it to act as a community.
My colleague has published a Private Member's Bill. Will the Minister examine this issue in terms of the organisation of society? We always say in this House that we do something because it is the European norm, but it is my understanding that, other than the UK, we are the only country without some legislation in this field.
All my colleagues mentioned the limit on hours of work. I support such a limit as good management practice. An employer has not a right to force workers to work more than a certain number of hours. I was slightly amused by the reference to the study carried out in California which showed that working more than 48 hours a week—— risk of coronary heart disease. I hope, in view of that statement, the Minister will organise regular coronary checks, particularly for rural Deputies who work far in excess of 48 hours a week——
And urban Deputies.
—— and who must be at not double but treble the risk of coronary heart disease, according to the statistics produced in California. Nobody should be forced to work more than 48 hours a week.
The Minister referred to 12 months, but that is not an option for small employers because the process is too complicated for them. The kind of companies working in areas such as that in which I worked are more likely to have a four month average.
I know many people who choose to work long hours over long periods. I cannot understand why there is not an opt-out to allow them continue. The reality is that this will not be policed, particularly in small firms employing fewer than ten people. If the employee does not blow the whistle the employer will not and a nod is as good as a wink. If that is what is intended it is an abuse of the whole concept of legislation and brings the law into disrepute.
In my long time as a manager I learned that one can make two mistakes — not having enough rules and having too many rules — and one is as bad as the other. If there are too many rules it is impossible to comply with all of them and the good rules get ignored along with the frivolous or unnecessary ones. That is what will happen in this case. If an employer and employee decide it is convenient for both to work for more hours than are specified in this Bill, they will ignore the legislation. However, that opens the door to real abuse. A distinction will then have to be made between serious abuse and abuse which occurs on a nod and a wink basis between employers and employees to get around regulations which they regard as an unnecessary imposition.
Many small operations depend on employees working long hours. I can testify that was the case in the kind of work in which I was engaged for 20 years. I do not know if the people who draw up these regulations comprehend the pressure on employers and employees in small businesses. The two groups often work in partnership to try to keep those businesses afloat. Employers and employees in such businesses work longer hours than is allowed for in the Bill.
Most small employers work far more than 48 hours a week. When I was in that position, although I was on a fixed salary it was necessary for me to work for much longer than 48 hours a week to keep the business afloat. Many of our employees worked far more than 48 hours a week, both in the interests of the business and to provide for their families. Of course, that would not be necessary in an ideal world. I always worked on the basis that, where possible, it was better if people could earn an adequate income and get all the work done in a well worked 39 hour week. The reality is that is not always possible but a reasonable opt-out has not been provided in the Bill for such cases.
I welcome the extension of the holiday period to four weeks. I have always believed there should be a direct proportionality between holidays and time worked. Long before it was contained in legislation, proportion to the hours worked by an employee during the year. Holidays are very important for workers.
Something which is wrongly accepted as fact should be made a fact at this stage. Most workers think that Good Friday is a public holiday but it is only a bank holiday. It would be a step forward to make Good Friday a public holiday so that workers would not have to take it out of their annual leave or would not be under an obligation if it was given as a dayex gratia. Most people take that long weekend off and it is only reasonable to make the Friday before that holiday weekend a public holiday also.
Tá fáilte roimh bhunáite na moltaí atá sa Bhille seo. Is dóigh liom go bhfuil sé lochtach: níl sé sách láidir ar láimh amháin ag cosaint oibritheoirí in aghaidh na bhfostóirí láidre a bhaineann aimhleas as rialacha agus tá sé ró-dhian ar na fostóirí beaga a thagann ar chomhréiteach deonach — agus cuirim béim ar an bhfocal sin — le hoibrithe le os cionn 48 uair a chloig a oibriú in aghaidh na seachtaine.
I whish to share my time with Deputy Ring.
Is that agreed? Agreed.
I compliment the Minister of State on this important Bill which updates a great deal of outdated legislation on workers' rights. It is important for us to be seen to be a caring Government. The legislation will be well received by many people, and by employers who wish to be fair to their workers and to give them the best treatment they can afford in the conditions under which their businesses must operate.
Workers' conditions have improved dramatically in the last ten years, and unions have played a large part. It is only right that they do so as health and safety issues are extremely important. Employees should not have to work under conditions that are injurious to their health. One major industry on the outskirts of this city, one of the most outstanding employers here, is setting a high agenda for that type of multinational computer industry that is being attracted to this country. I compliment the Minister on that.
It is important that there be an incentive to work. The person who gets out of bed in the morning to do a day's work must have a reward as against the person who simply will not work and depends on social welfare. I agree with what the Minister is trying to do but I ask her to look in particular at the food industry which is a difficult area to manage in the context of the Bill. That industry here is worth about £6 billion and employs almost 26,000 people, 6,000 of whom are employed in the dairy sector. It is in relation to the dairy sector that I will be making my case. It is a seasonal industry, and in Cavan we manufacture dairy products to a high standard. Farmers in Cavan work under difficult conditions and, without boasting about my county, if a Cavan farmer were sent to County Meath he would be a millionaire; conversely, a Meath farmer, if he were sent to County Cavan, would become a pauper because he would not be able to manage the land there as we have learned to do.
Dairying is seasonal in Cavan, and in the constituency as a whole. There may be other regions where milk can be produced from grass for practically 12 months of the year, but farmers in Cavan are limited to the months from April to September or October when there is a rush of milk to the creameries, with the result that workers must do a great deal of overtime and that is balanced out by the slack periods. The Minister should consider that aspect and ensure that the provisions of the Bill do not impinge on that industry. I highlight that industry because it is the one with which I am familiar. There may be other industries, for example, hotels, tourism, etc. that will have difficulty in complying with this legislation. However, I have no difficulty with protecting the rights of workers and making their working environment safe so that families do not have to worry about dangers or the life span of parents who, perhaps, work in chemical industries that might be injurious to their health. I hope the Minister will consider the points I made about the dairy industry. I have no difficulty in supporting the Bill but would like a response from the Minister to the points I made.
My contribution will be short. I welcome some aspects of the Bill and compliment the Minister on them. Governments have been promising for years to introduce such a Bill. There is concern about one aspect of the Bill, and I hope the Minister of State will take into account the views of both Members of the Opposition and of the Government parties on the problems of overtime in certain industries. People should be allowed to work. Some people, even if millions of jobs were available, would not work, but others have worked in low paid jobs over the years and have raised children who have been lucky enough to go on to third level education and obtain degrees. Those people were prepared to work in jobs that others did not want because of the unsocial hours and so on.
The Minister should consider amending the Bill because people are concerned about the impact of its provisions on overtime working — I received letters from constituents about this. The Opposition is hyping this up and has referred to matters that are not in the Bill.
The Bill has some positive and negative aspects. The Minister should consider what Deputy Boylan said. I also come from an agricultural area where there are not many major industries. Some people in the constituency work long hours, but only for a few months of the year. They are used to this, and if this legislation interferes with their income it will upset and annoy them. I am aware that it is not the Minister's intention to stop these people from working but to deal with those who abuse the system.
Under the Bill employees will have a statutory right to complain, if they wish, and to have their complaints heeded. Those doing seasonal work in industries should not have their jobs interfered with. The Government should encourage people to work. If people want and are able to have two or three jobs to supplement their income and assist their families, they should be allowed and be congratulated on doing so. Too many people depend on the State. Also, we should not drive people into the black economy. They should be encouraged to make a contribution to the State by paying their taxes. Workers should be protected by law, but if they want to work extra hours, they should have the right to do it. I hope the Minister will consider the valid points made by all Members. It is our duty to legislate for the people and to help them. If people are not satisfied with some of the provisions they should be dealt with on Committee Stage.
I propose to share my time with Deputies Michael Ahern, Mattie Brennan and Batt O'Keeffe.
I was disappointed by the somewhat contentious character of Deputy Broughan's contribution. My party's record is second to none as far as defending the rights of workers is concerned. That goes back to the tradition established by Seán Lemass in the 1930s, the work he did in the International Labour Organisation at the time, the Conditions of Employment Act, 1936 and his attempt during the Emergency to reform trade union structures and introduce a rational trade union structure. This would have been very much to the long-term benefit of the trade union movement which could have spoken with a more unified voice; that was not possible because of the continued fragmentation of British-based unions here, something the Labour Party historically defended and our party did not. The Department of Labour was established by my party. For Deputy Broughan, on the eve of a general election, to come into the House and abuse my party on the issue of the protection of workers was quite ridiculous.
I appreciate that the Minister has a difficult task in introducing a measure of this kind. Discretion is permitted under the regulation and the Minister has a choice as to form and methods of implementation. Special pleas will be made from various groups and, at the end of the day, a balance has to be drawn as to what is appropriate. Broadly, I welcome this measure, particularly the provisions relating to rest breaks and annual leave. However, concern has been expressed by employees in the security industry that the provision of a maximum amount of weekly working time will result in a reduction of earnings for persons who wish to earn money to support themselves and their families. A married person who is supporting a spouse and children by working for a reputable security company — I stress the word "reputable"— and earning a somewhat modest wage may wish to supplement that wage by working an extra shift to boost earnings. That person is rewarded through an improved standard of living. He is not forced by his employer to work those hours, and there is no question of neglect in relation to basic health and safety provisions. That person is caught by this legislation, although apparently a fisherman at sea is exempt, as is a member of the Garda Síochána, a soldier, and a junior doctor — something the public finds extraordinary. Yet a person working in the security industry is not exempt and may be deprived of additional earnings.
Article 17 of EU Directive 93/104/EC provides for a derogation. I appeal to the Minister of State to consider enshrining it in the legislation. The directive specifically provides that, in the case of security and surveillance activities requiring a permanent presence to protect property and persons, a derogation is permitted to member states, especially in respect of security guards, caretakers and security firms. The derogation was provided for on the basis that this was a matter in which flexibility should be left to member states. If the social conditions of the country require us to exercise it, she should consider permitting a breach of the maximum time limit in this instance.
I make this plea to the Minister of State on the basis of a substantial number of representations received. There is nothing wrong with bringing to the attention of the House representations of individual citizens who are adversely affected by prospective legislation. The Minister of State, representing as I do a substantial urban constituency, must also be aware of them. They should be heeded because while the purpose and rationale of a maximum weekly hour provision is to prevent stress to the worker, the introduction of this measure will increase the stress of individual workers. The Minister of State should give attention to this when considering amendments to the Bill. I compliment her on introducing the Bill. There are other points which I look forward to addressing on Committee Stage.
I was not surprised at Deputy Broughan's contribution. It will not surprise anybody who has listened to the Deputy over the past two years that he takes a narrow view on proposals made by this side of the House. A Deputy of his ability should consider the facts rather than attempt to score points against the Opposition.
I welcome this Bill, especially its provisions on rest breaks and maximum weekly working hours.
Legislation is necessary in this area to take care of the less well off who are not being looked after by the unions. The Bill goes some way to improving workers' conditions.
However, Deputies from all sides of the House have expressed concern at certain aspects of the Bill. Deputy Lenihan spoke about the situation regarding those working in the security industry. A proprietor in the industry who lives near me is concerned that the proposed legislation will change his business and may ruin it. Workers in the industry have also made representations to me to the effect that if they are not allowed use the opt-out they will lose substantial income. They are in favour of their present working hour arrangements and do not want to change them.
A similar situation applies with regard to agriculture. For example, over the past ten to 15 years those employed in the cheese-making industry in Cork have worked long hours on a seasonal basis. This is necessary to provide them with a decent income and to ensure the survival of the industry. Similarly, vegetable growing, whether it be beet, peas or cauliflower, is an important industry in my area. Vegetables must be set and reaped at specific times of the year when those involved must work exceptionally long hours. They would breach the regulations set out in the Bill. The Minister of State should examine these areas as the proposed measures are a cause of concern to workers.
Sunday work and zero hour contracts are not sufficiently addressed in the Bill. I hope the Minister of State will present more detailed proposals on Committee Stage. The Bill does not clarify that those working on Sundays have the right to premium payments. Indeed, the question of Sunday work must be seriously considered. For Muslims Friday is a rest day and for Jews it is Saturday. However, for most people in this country Sunday is a day of rest, sporting events and community activity. It would not be good to allow it become an ordinary day of the week. Will the Minister of State give greater consideration to this matter?
I hope we will consider aspects of the Bill in greater depth on Committee Stage. I also hope that the amendments introduced by the Minister of State will conform with provisions allowing for opt-outs, agreed to by the former Minister for Enterprise and Employment, Deputy Quinn, and the former Minister of State, Deputy O'Rourke, when they signed the directive.
I agree with the rights and safety provisions in the Bill. They are important because too many people have been injured and crippled in the past, especially those working on building sites. Some have died from injuries sustained in the workplace. Any person who wants to work should have that right and the right to work long hours if they so wish, in particular in the run-up to Christmas. I worked in a factory and in the run-up to summer holidays when orders had to be met people who wished to earn extra money for their holidays were allowed to do so. This was necessary, particularly in a joinery factory where work has to be completed by a certain date.
In rural areas there is not the same type of transport service as in Dublin. Young people in these areas who have to travel up to 30 miles to work must have a loan for their car insurance. A young person with a provisional licence or even a full licence has a loan on a car costing in the region of £4,000 to £7,000. On a loan of £7,000 they are paying back over a period of four years at the rate of £42 per week. They are also paying between £1,000 and £1,900 for third party insurance. These people have to earn money and have to work long hours if they are to meet their repayments. Will the Minister give these people the right to work long hours if they wish to meet their repayments?
A young married couple on a local authority loan or a mortgage have to meet their repayments monthly. Overtime working would help them to do so. This Bill probably helps higher civil servants who are earning high salaries.
This Bill will create unemployment. More people would go to work if they were allowed work longer hours. In the forthcoming budget there will be an increase in unemployment figures. Given that a worker is not entitled to a medical card if earning in excess of a certain amount, the difference between going to work and not being allowed work overtime will result in more unemployment.
The Minister is between a rock and a hard place with this Bill. On the one hand she has genuine concerns about health and safety and on the other she is trying to meet the various demands of the Garda, prison officers and other exempted categories. I am not sure she has reached the correct conclusion. The inconsistencies in the Bill will rankle with many workers.
I am astounded that junior doctors are exempted from the Bill. Most junior doctors work 65 hours per week and some as many as 85. This means a junior doctor goes on duty on a Friday morning and will come off duty at 8 a.m. on Monday morning. These are the people who are in the front line of patient care. We must be concerned that they have the capacity, energy and expertise over those long hours to cater properly for the people who come before them.
The Committee of Public Accounts of which I am a member gets a weekly report from the Comptroller and Auditor General which clearly indicates that the level of overtime in certain parts of the public sector is astonishing. Following an examination of the prison service last year we found that the average overtime earnings for a prison officer were £300 a week.
One particular officer worked such an enormous amount of overtime that one wondered how he could fit it into his way of living; if he had a wife and family he had serious difficulties. These workers, including gardaí, are in what would be considered safe, pensionable and well paid jobs. People working in the security industry, the construction industry and in various stores will ask why it is all right for those people to work overtime and not themselves.
If the Minister, as stated in her speech, is so concerned about the health and safety of workers why does that factor not equate for people such as doctors who are in the front line of health care, prison officers who are looking after the welfare of people and maintaining prisoners and the Garda who have to fulfil all the roles pertinent to them? It is difficult to understand the thinking behind the exemptions.
I see a real difficulty for the Minister in that the Bill, if enacted, will mean many people will lose in the region of £30 to £60 per week. That is a huge sum of money if one has a wife and family. Many of these workers have entered into contracts on the basis of their earnings. The provisions of this Bill will mean a lower standard of living. One must also take into account that the cost factor for smaller industries could be as high as 4 per cent or 1 per cent for the larger industries. We are always shouting about being competitive and being able to export into Europe and to ensure that our goods and services are available at the most economic cost.
I thank the Deputies who contributed to a lively debate and the broad welcome which the vast majority of the Bill's provisions have received. Sometimes the media give the impression that we are all in the pocket of Dunnes Stores. I am pleased at the welcome for the outlawing of zero hour contracts and the addressing of Sunday working, issues that were at the heart of the recent Dunnes Stores dispute.
Deputies quoted from the ICOS document which states that the milk business is highly seasonal with a peak to normal ratio of 8:1. This means there will be no difficulty in accommodating long hours during a concentrated peak period and spreading the season over six months automatically and over 12 months by collective agreement. I do not envisage any difficulty in securing collective agreements in this highly unionised sector of the economy.
Some Deputies referred to clocking in, to which there is also a reference in the ICOS submission. I will look carefully at the regulations in this area as I do not want industrial disputes to arise over the way records are kept. I am very open to receiving submissions on this issue.
Deputy Kitt and others referred to Sunday trading. I gave careful consideration to the way this issue should be addressed and have built in a premium for Sunday working. This premium is the norm in the industry and is determined by the Labour Court. I have not put a maximum ceiling on the premium which will be considered by the Labour Court. Deputy Ó Cuív said we should not prevent small shops in rural areas from trading on Sunday. I took legal advice on the matter of Sunday trading and the same rules must apply to large and small shops. This matter is being addressed by way of the premium.
There was also a reference to the need for flexibility. In the case of nine items arising from the directive we had the option of choosing a flexible or narrow interpretation. We have chosen the most flexible interpretation in the case of eight items. Having discussed the matter with Congress and IBEC, we need to strike a balance — Congress favours less flexibility in these areas while IBEC favours maximum flexibility. We decided not to follow the most flexible route in the case of the 48 hour rule, about which there are many myths. For example, some Deputies said that overtime would disappear. This will not happen as people will still be able to work from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with normal lunch breaks, six days a week and still come within the rules.
A recent opinion poll carried out by theSunday Independent showed that 80 per cent of people support the 48 hour rule. A similar opinion poll carried out in the UK showed that 80 per cent of people there support the 48 hour rule and that, surprisingly, 72 per cent of declared Tory voters support it.
Deputy O'Rourke accused me of introducing anti-worker legislation. She later said it was only the 48 hour rule that was anti-worker and acknowledged that the rest of the legislation was progressive and pro-worker. She said we should not set down mandatory rules. However, I remind her and the House that it was the dreaded socialists Seán Lemass and Éamon de Valera who introduced the 1936 Conditions of Employment Act which set down mandatory rules on a maximum working week of 53 hours. We are reducing the number of working hours by five. There was no voluntary opt-out provided for in 1936. It is not appropriate to allow a voluntary opt-out from the health and safety rules. We do not allow a voluntary opt-out from the rules governing the wearing of hard hats on building sites or carrying excess loads which may endanger workers' health. It is not appropriate to allow a situation to develop where some workers may be put under pressure by their employers to agree to an opt-out. The hard scientific evidence available shows that workers who work more than 48 hours per week are twice as likely as other workers to suffer from a heart condition.
I agree with the points made by Deputy O'Keeffe and others in regard to junior doctors. The Health Council in Brussels is working on this issue and it hopes to reach agreement early in the new year. If agreement is reached in time I will be happy to incorporate it in the legislation and, if not, I will introduce rules governing the position of junior doctors under other legislation.
Deputy Finucane suggested that some European countries were reluctant to proceed with the legislation. The European Court has ruled that all European countries must implement the legislation, and I understand all of them are happy to do so.
On the question of what happened at the European Council meeting, the Article 18 opt-out was originally negotiated by the UK which did not want the directive. At the time the 48 hour rule became an option for individual countries, Belgium, Spain, France, Italy and Luxembourg stated they would not make use of it as an agreement between an employer and worker would be totally inadequate in a matter as important as that referred to in Article 18 and the issue should be governed by stringent and uniform provisions. Other countries are far from lukewarm about the legislation; they feel so strongly about it that they wrote it into the minutes of the meeting that health and safety rules should apply across the board.
Deputy Kitt generally takes a progressive line on labour legislation and his heart was not in his criticisms of the Bill.
That is disarming.
Deputy Harney made an extraordinary contribution which was more worthy of Euro sceptics Bill Cash and Tessa Gorman. She referred to the horrible rules which were descending on us from Brussels. She does not seem to recognise that we are simplifying the employment codes going back to the 1930s. She might regard this as deregulation. She said nobody would invest here and plucked figures out of the air. For example, the figure of £100 million given by her has no basis in reality. I have rarely heard such a destructive Euro sceptic contribution in this House.
Since the publication of the Bill at the beginning of November 7,300 new jobs have been announced by the IDA. Today it announced the creation of 400 new jobs at the Kodak plant in Limerick. When Deputy Harney's colleague, Deputy O'Malley, was Minister for Industry and Commerce this country lost an average of 47 jobs every day. The record speaks for itself. Adherence to modern employment rights does not frighten off investors and good companies which already adhere to them.
This progressive legislation will bring our labour law into the 21st century. While I welcome the general support for the Bill, some Members appear to misunderstand the 48 hour rule. There has been a sterling defence of overtime from some quarters at a time when there are 280,000 people out of work. I want work shared equally. People have a right to overtime under the legislation, but they should not be forced to do excessive overtime to provide for their families or to earn a decent wage.
I look forward to a constructive debate on Committee and Report Stages and commend the Bill to the House.
I want to clarify Fianna Fáil's position in this regard. I am proud to have taken the workers' line on many issues, including the Dunnes Stores dispute. Under the EU Directive a worker may work more than 48 hours a week if he or she consents to do so, with the provision that no worker should suffer for not agreeing to work more than 48 hours per week. Workers have an opt-out clause and we are taking a proworkers position on this issue.
- Ahearn, Theresa.
- Barry, Peter.
- Bell, Michael.
- Bhamjee, Moosajee.
- Bhreathnach, Niamh.
- Boylan, Andrew.
- Bradford, Paul.
- Bree, Declan.
- Broughan, Thomas.
- Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
- Bruton, Richard.
- Burke, Liam.
- Burton, Joan.
- Byrne, Eric.
- Carey, Donal.
- Connaughton, Paul.
- Connor, John.
- Costello, Joe.
- Crawford, Seymour.
- Creed, Michael.
- Crowley, Frank.
- De Rossa, Proinsias.
- Deenihan, Jimmy.
- Durkan, Bernard.
- Mitchell, Jim.
- Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
- Mulvihill, John.
- Nealon, Ted.
- Noonan, Michael (Limerick East).
- O'Keeffe, Jim.
- O'Shea, Brian.
- O'Sullivan, Toddy.
- Owen, Nora.
- Pattison, Séamus.
- Penrose, William.
- Quinn, Ruairí.
- Finucane, Michael.
- Fitzgerald, Brian.
- Fitzgerald, Eithne.
- Fitzgerald, Frances.
- Flaherty, Mary.
- Flanagan, Charles.
- Foxe, Tom.
- Gallagher, Pat (Laoighis-Offaly).
- Harte, Paddy.
- Higgins, Jim.
- Higgins, Michael.
- Hogan, Philip.
- Howlin, Brendan.
- Kavanagh, Liam.
- Kemmy, Jim.
- Kenny, Seán.
- Lynch, Kathleen.
- McCormack, Pádraic.
- McDowell, Derek.
- McGahon, Brendan.
- McGinley, Dinny.
- McGrath, Paul.
- McManus, Liz.
- Mitchell, Gay.
- Rabbitte, Pat.
- Ring, Michael.
- Ryan, John.
- Ryan, Seán.
- Shatter, Alan.
- Sheehan, P.J.
- Shortall, Róisín.
- Stagg, Emmet.
- Taylor, Mervyn.
- Timmins, Godfrey.
- Upton, Pat.
- Walsh, Éamon.
- Yates, Ivan.
- Ahern, Bertie.
- Ahern, Dermot.
- Ahern, Michael.
- Ahern, Noel.
- Aylward, Liam.
- Brennan, Matt.
- Brennan, Séamus.
- Briscoe, Ben.
- Browne, John (Wexford).
- Burke, Raphael.
- Byrne, Hugh.
- Callely, Ivor.
- Connolly, Ger.
- Cowen, Brian.
- Davern, Noel.
- Dempsey, Noel.
- Doherty, Seán.
- Ellis, John.
- Flood, Chris.
- Foley, Denis.
- Fox, Mildred.
- Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
- Harney, Mary.
- Haughey, Seán.
- Hughes, Séamus.
- Jacob, Joe.
- Keaveney, Cecilia.
- Kenneally, Brendan.
- Keogh, Helen.
- Killeen, Tony.
- Kitt, Michael.
- Kitt, Tom.
- Lawlor, Liam.
- Lenihan, Brian.
- Martin, Micheál.
- McCreevy, Charlie.
- McDaid, James.
- Moffatt, Tom.
- Morley, P.J.
- Moynihan, Donal.
- Nolan, M.J.
- Ó Cuív, Éamon.
- O'Dea, Willie.
- O'Donnell, Liz.
- O'Donoghue, John.
- O'Hanlon, Rory.
- O'Keeffe, Batt.
- O'Keeffe, Ned.
- O'Leary, John.
- O'Malley, Desmond.
- O'Rourke, Mary.
- Power, Seán.
- Ryan, Eoin.
- Smith, Brendan.
- Smith, Michael.
- Treacy, Noel.
- Wallace, Dan.
- Wallace, Mary.
- Walsh, Joe.
- Woods, Michael.