I propose to take Questions Nos. 4 and 5 together.
In December 1998 I reconvened the high level group on trade union recognition and addressed them on a number of industrial relations issues. On 11 March 1999 the group adopted and submitted to me a report which includes an agreement on industrial relations issues. I thank the group for reporting back so speedily.
The group agreed that, where negotiating arrangements are in place, the most effective means of resolving differences which arise between employers and trade unions representing employees, is by voluntary collective bargaining, that is, the existing voluntarist industrial relations system.
The group's report makes four proposals, designed to underpin the voluntarist approach to industrial relations, which serves this economy so well. These areas are as follows: agreed arrangements to enable the parties to a dispute to work voluntarily with the Labour Relations Commission and the Labour Court on the pay and conditions elements of the dispute where negotiating arrangements are not in place and collective bargaining does not occur; agreed exceptional arrangements, which would confirm, in legislation, the Labour Court as the court of last resort in disputes where the agreed voluntary arrangements proposed by the group are not followed; amendments to the Code of Practice on Disciplinary Procedures, which would reflect existing legal provisions and best practice on grievance as well as disciplinary procedures; and the parties providing essential services to amend their dispute procedures to include key provisions of the Code of Practice on Disputes in Essential Services before the expiry of Partnership 2000.
This is an agreed report and I express my appreciation for the work of the group's members, especially the IBEC and ICTU representatives. Debate on the group's proposals has commenced, not least within the social partner organisations.
The proposals in the report merit careful consideration by those concerned with national social and economic partnership, industrial relations generally, the role of the LRC and the Labour Court and investment in business and jobs. I will present the report to Government in due course.