Written Answers. - European Social Charter.

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

179 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if she will supply a list of the provisions in Irish law which contravene the European Social Charter of the Council of Europe; the proposals for reform in this regard; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19519/00]

Ruairí Quinn

Question:

180 Mr. Quinn asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment when Ireland will ratify the remaining Protocols to the European Social Charter and the revised charter; the steps taken toward ratification of these instruments since 26 June 1997 to date; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [19530/00]

Ireland was among the first Council of Europe member states to sign and ratify the European Social Charter, which was opened for signature by the Council of Europe in 1961. In so doing, Ireland decided to accept all the essential or "core" provisions of the charter – Articles 1, 5, 6, 12, 13, 16 and 19. We accepted most of the remaining provisions with the exception of: Article 4 – The Right to a Fair Remuneration: (Paragraph 3 – Equal Pay for Men and Women); Article 7 – The Right of Children and Young Persons to Protection: (Paragraph 1 – Minimum Age for Admission to Employment; Paragraph 7 – Minimum of Three Weeks' Paid Annual Holidays for Workers under 18 Years of Age; Paragraph 9 – Regular Medical Supervision for Young Workers (under 18) in Prescribed Occupations); Article 8 – The Right of Employed Women to Protection: (Paragraph 2 – Prohibition of Dismissal during Maternity Leave; Paragraph 3 – Allowing Time Off for Nursing Mothers); Article 11 – The Right to Protection of Health: (Paragraph 1 – Removing the Causes of Ill – Health; Paragraph 2 – Promotion of Health and the Provision of Health Advisory and Educational Facilities); and Article 12 – The Right to Social Security: (Paragraph 2 – Maintaining a System of Social Security, which at least equals ILO Standards (ILO Convention No. 102).
The decision to omit the above provisions clearly reflected the Irish authorities' assessment of social and economic progress in the Republic at that time. However, the intervening years witnessed enormous social changes in Ireland, especially following our membership of the European Communities from 1 January 1973, to the point where today, Ireland should be able to accept the charter in its entirety without significant difficulty. The only outstanding difficulty continues to be with Article 8 – The Right of Employed Women to Protection (Paragraph 3 – Allowing Time Off for Nursing Mothers) as our legislation does not cover that at present.
I might also point out that there are differences of interpretation, particularly in regard to industrial relations issues, where Ireland's voluntarist approach occasionally conflicts with the more regulated approach of continental European countries.
The Revised European Social Charter was opened for signature in Strasbourg on 3 May 1996. To save time it was proposed to sign and ratify the Revised European Social Charter, thus incorporating the non-accepted provisions of the 1961 charter; the amending protocol of 1988, the additional protocol of 1991 and also some entirely new provisions of the revised charter.
Ireland has given detailed consideration to the revised charter and I am confident that we will be in a position to sign and ratify it in the near future.