Other Questions

Military Exports

Peadar Tóibín

Question:

6. Deputy Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his plans to continue issuing licences for the export of military list items from Ireland to Israel. [39082/14]

This question relates to the issuing of licences for the export of military list items from Ireland to Israel. I do not doubt that many of the items in question were used by Israel in the most offensive and horrific way when over 2,150 citizens were killed and more than 10,000 injured in Gaza. Deputies on this side of the House are trying to find out how the Government can stand over the export of these items to Israel at a time when Israel is using them in such an horrific fashion.

My Department is responsible for controls on the export of military items from Ireland. Under Irish law, military export licences have to be sought in respect of the goods and technology, and any components thereof, listed in the annex to the Control of Exports (Goods and Technology) Order, SI 216 of 2012, which reflects the EU common military list. The EU common military list includes military goods and technology and components for such items that should be licensed for export from the Union. Items which are classified as "military goods" from an export control perspective and are exported from Ireland involve components rather than military equipment. Components licensed for export by my Department are generally exported to manufacturers and systems integrators before being sent to the final end users. The Department consults the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in respect of all military export licence applications. All such applications are subject to rigorous scrutiny and are considered in the light of the spirit and objectives of the 1998 EU code of conduct on arms exports. This code, which was subsequently adopted in 2008 as an EU Common Position, seeks to safeguard regional stability and human rights, among other concerns.

Eleven licences for the export of military list items to Israel have been issued since 2011. No licences for the export of military list products to Israel have been granted since the end of the first quarter of 2014. All applications received for the export of military list items to Israel are carefully assessed on a case-by-case basis, having regard to the end use and the end user and against well-established criteria. Observations would be sought from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade on any proposed export.

Every time we raise this question, the Minister sticks to the line that military export licence applications "are carefully assessed ... having regard to the end use and the end user and against well-established criteria". He always tells us that "such applications are subject to rigorous scrutiny and are considered in the light of ... the 1998 EU code of conduct on arms exports". He also tells us that these applications are carefully assessed to work out what the end use will be. I do not understand how any export of military list items to Israel can be said to be rigorously scrutinised in any way. The scale of Israel's human rights abuses and breaches of international law is unmatched in the developed world. It is impossible to argue that any future decision to sell components to Israel will have been made rigorously. I ask the Minister to explain why Ireland will potentially continue to issue licences for the export of military list items to Israel. I suggest that this country is clearly in breach of any code of conduct on arms exports.

When applications for export licences come from individual companies, we have to look at the ultimate users and so on. There is a process whereby each licence is assessed on its individual merits. That is the system that is in place. It might bore the Deputy that I am explaining the system to him, but he asked me about the system that is in place.

I am saying it is wrong.

When we have identified the end user and the country of final destination, we have to look at key issues in that country, such as its respect for human rights and international humanitarian law, the internal situation there as a function of the existence of tensions and armed conflicts, and the preservation of regional peace, security and stability. This range of tests focuses on the individual product and the wider context. Each case has to be assessed on its merits. That is the system. It is not a question of designating or blocking out a whole lot of products. Each case has to be identified and assessed on its merits. The system that is in place will continue to apply in a fair way.

I remind the Minister that Ban Ki-moon has said the destruction of Gaza was "beyond description". The physical effect of Israel's attack on Gaza is beyond description. It is impossible to give it words, but I will make an effort. A total of 2,152 people were killed and more than 10,000 were injured during the 51-day war against Gaza. Families were killed in the most barbaric circumstances. Many of them were children. Indeed, the majority of them were children. Israel targeted UN facilities, hospitals, schools, children and families, residential areas, power plants and sewerage and water purification facilities. All of this was designed to collectively punish a people. I am asking the Minister how any understanding of the word "rigorous", or any understanding of the EU code of conduct on arms exports, can allow military list items to be exported from this State in the knowledge that they will end up in the hands of the Israeli Defense Forces for the purposes of the level of destruction to which I have referred. Will the Minister say that the Israeli Defense Forces will no longer be the end user of any of the military list items exported from this country?

I am trying to explain to the Deputy that these applications are assessed on an individual basis. An assessment is made in each case. Some applications are approved and some are refused. This system is not based on picking countries that one does not like. It is based on established and published criteria. As I have indicated, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade must be consulted, the human rights conditions in the affected countries must be assessed and the likely use of the individual component or product must be examined. Each case is decided on its merits. Some applications are approved and some are refused.

That is the system, and that will result in refusal in some cases of concern where they do not meet those criteria. It is a fair system in that it deals-----

How can any fair system export these items to Israel?

-----with both sides of the concerns.

National Minimum Wage

Dara Calleary

Question:

7. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views on the merits of a living wage separate to the current minimum wage; the way he feels this would impact on the prospects for jobs and consumer spending; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39086/14]

I ask the Minister for his thoughts on the merits of a living wage as opposed to a minimum wage and the actions Government can do, in the context of a still relatively weak economy, to support a higher living wage as opposed to the statutory minimum wage.

The living wage concept is grounded in the idea that a person’s wage should be sufficient to maintain a safe, decent standard of living within the community without the need for substantial recourse to the welfare system.

The national minimum wage in Ireland is considered to be relatively high by international standards. The most recent figures published by EUROSTAT show that Ireland’s rate is the fourth highest among the 21 EU member states that have a national minimum wage. When the cost of living is taken into account, Ireland’s rate is the fifth highest.

The decision to restore the national minimum wage to €8.65 per hour, after the cut by the previous Government, with effect from 1 July 2011, together with the decision to put the joint labour committees, JLC, system on a more secure legal and constitutional footing and reinstate a robust system of protection, represents a significant commitment by this Government to protect the lowest paid and most vulnerable workers.

The Statement of Government Priorities 2014-2016 contains a commitment to establish a low pay commission on a statutory basis as an independent body to make annual recommendations to the Government about the appropriate level of the national minimum wage and related matters. I am currently developing proposals to implement that commitment.

The Government is moving on a number of other fronts relating to wage setting.

The Industrial Relations Acts provide a framework within which employers and employee representatives, through the JLC system, can come together voluntarily and negotiate terms and conditions of workers in their respective sector. Pay rates negotiated in the JLC fora have tended to be above the national minimum wage and the JLCs operate in areas where collective bargaining is not well established and wages tend to be low.

For vulnerable workers, the advantage of JLCs is that they see fair terms and conditions such as wage rates, sick pay and so on agreed and given effect by employment regulation orders. For some employers, the advantage of the JLC system, based as it is on the principle of self-governance, means that they can agree and set minimum pay and conditions and agree on work practices which are custom-made to their industry; a flexibility which cannot be achieved by primary legislation. Where both parties to a JLC see commonality of purpose and outcome an agreement may emerge that is of benefit to both.

In addition, the Government recently approved the drafting of the legislation to provide for a revised legislative framework to replace REAs, as I stated earlier in response to Deputy Tóibín.

In the UK, where neither systems of REAs or JLCs exist, London is often highlighted as an area that has recognised the concept of a living wage and has put that in practice in many respects. It is voluntary and, as such, does not prevent UK employers paying the national minimum wage rate of £6.50 per hour in the UK context. However, it does recognise the costs of living in London.

In addition to Ireland's national minimum wage, JLC and REA structures, we have a system of supports through the Department of Social Protection supporting low income families. The Department avails of every opportunity in its engagement with employers and jobseekers to build awareness of the availability of FIS.

Based on the question and appreciating the sincerity of Deputy Calleary tabling it, I very much welcome Fianna Fáil's Pauline conversion to the notion of higher rates of pay for lower paid workers.

I would remind the Minister of State, Deputy Nash, that much of the infrastructure to which he referred, and that he is now using, was put in place by our party. First, I ask him to consider the Government's responsibilities in this regard. For instance, when PRSI kicks in for somebody on the minimum wage their entire income becomes liable to PRSI if it increases by a small amount. We also have the perverse situation where somebody earning €18,304, which is the minimum wage, would be paying an effective tax rate of 5.25%. If somebody earns an additional €1 per hour it goes up to 9.25% because of PRSI kicking in. Will that be considered by the commission?

Second, one of the biggest deterrents to somebody coming off welfare and taking up a position in the labour force is the cost of child care and the lack of child care provision. There was nothing in the budget to assist people with child care costs, particularly people we want to get back into the workplace. Will the issue of child care costs and provision be examined in the context of the commission, given its importance for people making the decision to go back to work?

I want to reiterate the concept of the living wage, which is of deep interest to me and to Deputy Calleary and other Deputies. It is a concept that requires proper debate in this House and across society. There are considerable merits to having that debate. As the Deputy will be aware, I have already expressed my own views on the notion of a wage-led recovery and have called on employers now making profits to consider sharing that prosperity with working people through higher wages. This is not just a debate that is taking place here. It is going on across Europe, and in some cases from some of the least likely sources we would imagine. The Tánaiste is on record as stating that she believes employers should consider signing up to a voluntary code in respect of a living wage, as they do in parts of the United Kingdom.

Lest those on the Opposition benches think this is purely motivated by some kind of exclusively leftist agenda, we would be surprised by some of the individuals in the UK in particular who are supportive of the living wage concept because it makes sense for employees and for business. People like the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and figures on the right such as Iain Duncan Smith support the concept as well.

The Minister need not worry. I would never accuse the Labour Party of being motivated by a leftist agenda-----

Exclusively leftist.

-----because it is clear it is not. I accept his argument that profit-making enterprises should contribute to wage recovery but many enterprises are not in a situation, perhaps because of debt service commitments, where they can make profits. When they are able to they will but as of now, their workers need some share in this recovery.

I am anxious to pursue the Minister on the PRSI element in particular. Will that be a matter of consideration for the minimum wage commission or will it focus entirely on the relationship between employer and employee?

The low pay commission will be asked to consider a range of matters in the context of making recommendations to me as Minister for business and employment on the rate of the national minimum wage on an annual basis. I am sure that will be one of the items the commission will consider when it is appointed.

To return to the concept of the living wage, it is an attractive concept and an issue on which we need to have a debate. I would welcome that debate and look forward to meeting with organisations such as the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice and the Nevin Institute, which have done considerable leg work and research on this issue. The Nevin Institute is on record as saying that if we are to have a living wage in this country, essentially it would be on a voluntary basis in the way it is in the UK and that any move in that direction would be done on an incremental basis.

I look forward to bringing a proposal to this House shortly on the establishment of the low pay commission and to working with all Members in ensuring that we get that body up and running as soon as possible and to make sure that it works.

Enterprise Support Services Provision

Stephen Donnelly

Question:

8. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will provide an update on plans to streamline the process of setting up new businesses here; if a one-stop-shop is part of those plans; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39076/14]

This question came about through a meeting I had with Bray Chamber of Commerce before the budget. One member said he had recently set up his own business and enterprise in Wicklow and had a good deal of hassle doing it. He found it very complicated and there was not one office or website he could go to where he could find out what he needed in terms of getting an accountant, a lawyer, complete forms and so forth. The ease of doing business ranking, which we referred to earlier, specifically on starting a new business, indicates we have fallen from ninth place last year to 12th place this year. Starting a new business is something entrepreneurs in Wicklow are saying is difficult and complicated, and the World Bank is saying we have fallen down the rankings in the past year. What are the Minister's plans to do something about that and, specifically for the entrepreneurs, can a well-functioning one stop shop be set up to help them?

I am disappointed because Wicklow has one of the very good local enterprise offices, which I visited recently. It is the one stop shop we have established, one of 31 across the country. That would be their first port of call. It is exceptionally well run and managed and would help the individual within the Bray Chamber of Commerce.

At national level, all three of us are involved in the taking care of business initiative to support access, and one of those events is taking place today in Dublin. The local enterprise office is the first port of call. It is a first stop shop where people can get access to all of that information.

We have developed and put in place protocols with the Revenue Commissioners, the Companies Registration Office, and the Department of Social Protection if people are accessing the back-to-work allowance.

There are two websites also - the local enterprise office one which has all the supports that are available; and one of my Department's websites named businessregulation.ie. Those two websites give easy access to the relevant information but the local enterprise office is the first port of call.

The Deputy also asked about the process of setting up an operating company, which is being streamlined by the new Companies Bill which is at an advanced stage in its passage through the Oireachtas. It will greatly simplify matters by providing for a single founding statement, single director companies, lower audit thresholds and it will dispense with the need for a physical AGM.

The Companies Registration Office has reduced the time for registering a company from 15 to seven days. It is thus delivering an improved service.

We are also introducing an integrated licensing application service, so companies requiring licences can go to one portal. That system will be up and running in the course of the coming year.

My ambition is to make the process of starting a business as simple and clear as possible. The first-stop-shop is the high street location but behind that we are also making a lot of changes to adjust the system and make it more business-friendly, putting us in the position as one of the best places in Europe, or indeed the World, in which to start and grow a business.

I thank the Minister for his reply and I welcome the changes that are coming in through primary legislation. There is a gap between aspiration and reality concerning the one-stop-shop. I had a feeling the Minister would say the LEOs are very good and that he would advise people to go there. Therefore I rang somebody this morning and asked him to try to start up a business today to see how he would get on. He rang the Companies Registration Office first and found a range of forms for fees, which was not very useful. He then contacted the LEO website which mainly contained links to the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Social Protection. It was not very good, so he rang them saying: "I want to start a new business, can you help me?" They referred him to a different site called nubie.com. Ironically enough, that site was set up in 2008 by two brothers who could not find a one-stop-shop.

While I absolutely accept the Minister's aspiration for this system to work, a simple test this morning suggests that it clearly is not yet working. The people in the local enterprise office referred the person I had asked to test the system on to nubie.com and not their own site. What is the Minister's reaction to that?

If the individual concerned wants to send me that information I will have it fully investigated. However, in the last 12 months we have put in place protocols between the local enterprise office and each and every one of the agencies. Whether it is the Revenue Commissioners or the Companies Registration Office, therefore, there is a protocol in place whereby a named individual in those bodies will deal with people who are coming in. In some cases, depending on what is required, they will refer people on. One does not expect detailed Revenue advice if, for example, one wants to avail of the seed capital scheme. One has to get the detailed back-up but forms, the scheme's broad threshold, and a contact person will be available in local enterprise offices.

A system is in place but I will examine the experience of the Deputy's constituent. I will also talk to the Wicklow enterprise office to see if people are having a poor experience. That was certainly not my experience when I visited them, however. There was great enthusiasm there. Many businesses are doing exciting things and they have had a good throughput in dealing with inquiries. Every system can be improved upon, however, and we will seek to improve that one.

To be clear, I do not know if it was the Wicklow local enterprise office that the person called. I asked the person to ring an LEO as a test to see how he would get on. The message I got back was that it was not working. At least, in some places it is not working but it is a great initiative. Maybe people should be hired to do a quick outside-in, like a mystery shopper, to report back to the Minister. In that way we could see whether it is working, as well as who is doing well or not.

The Minister might consider commissioning a consultation with local businesses, which would be useful. I am hearing repeatedly from local businesses in Wicklow - and I imagine that many other Deputies are hearing it in their own constituencies - that interactions with local authorities could be improved. For example, when a local authority shuts down the water supply in a town, it does not forewarn businesses using that water. The same applies to major road works because the council does not tell local businesses in advance.

In some areas, it seems that LEOs could be better. Will the Minister consider undertaking an analysis of interaction between local authorities and local businesses, from the latter's perspective? In that way, we could see what is working and what could be shared.

At the heart of the local enterprise offices' initiative is the fact that they have built strong consultative relationships with business communities, including local chambers of commerce. The Minister of State, Deputy Nash, chairs the high-level group on business regulation and more recently has established more formal connections with chambers of commerce. He has thus undertaken a detailed level of understanding what local businesses need from a national perspective.

At both levels, therefore, we are putting in place those networks. In some cases they need continual revival. The Minister of State, Deputy Nash, has revised the membership of some LEOs in order to bring in fresh blood to challenge how we are performing. Our ambition is, like the Deputy's, to deliver a high quality service which is rolling out successfully. I have attended many of the launches, as have other Ministers. Since the bridge has been built with local authorities, there is a real enthusiasm to do something special for businesses and offer them a turnkey service as can best be delivered from those offices.

Industrial Development

David Stanton

Question:

9. Deputy David Stanton asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the State supports available, from his Department or bodies under the aegis of his Department, to support the establishment of micro-breweries, in particular, with regard to the growing of hops; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39093/14]

My question concerns micro-breweries and I note that in the budget some assistance and encouragement was given in that regard. It has been drawn to my attention, however, that the feedstock for micro-breweries are hops, which are expensive to grow. We are currently importing them but they could be grown quite easily here. I therefore want to know what supports the Minister's Department or departmental bodies could give to companies to grow hops.

I thank Deputy Stanton for his question. There has been a significant increase in the number of micro-breweries operating in the last couple of years. It has been a successful sector for the country, as the Deputy pointed out. It is estimated that there are between 30 and 40 micro-breweries in Ireland, the majority of which are engaged in own production. These new businesses are located throughout the State and are a platform for regional job creation.

According to the Independent Craft Brewers of Ireland the output of craft beer by micro-breweries amounted to some 49,000 hectolitres in 2013. Based on trends to date, this will rise to 71,000 hectolitres in 2014. It is a sector that we need to support as best we can. That has been recognised in the budget.

In line with Enterprise Ireland’s mandate, the agency has and will continue to support those breweries with export potential. The services of the LEOs are available for those focused mainly on the domestic market. I think the craft brewers would agree that the LEOs work quite well for most people.

There are several supports available from Enterprise Ireland for companies setting up craft breweries with export potential. Initial supports include funding under the competitive feasibility fund and the competitive start fund to scope out the project and progress through the early stages of building the business plan.

Support under the mentoring initiative and the innovation voucher programme is also available to assist a company in accessing business development and technical support respectively. Supports are also available for research and development.

Enterprise Ireland has also invested in craft brewery high potential start-up companies. In these instances, the companies had a strong management team with experience in the brewing and beverage industry, actively building relationships with overseas distributors and doing so in conjunction with Bord Bia. Production capacity was also a key, with brewing taking place in Ireland and equipment having the capacity to fulfil both home sales and export orders.

To further assist the development of this sector, in budget 2015 the Government has increased the annual excise relief production ceiling for micro-breweries from 20,000 to 30,000 hectolitres. That is what the Independent Craft Brewers of Ireland had sought in their budget submission.

Under EU rules, however, supports are not available for the production of hops or cereals generally.

I thank the Minister of State for that response. I note that the industry maintains there could be over 100 micro-breweries in a number of years. It is a growth area. The hops issue is a problem, however, because it is extremely expensive to cultivate them. We are currently importing virtually all the hops required. I ask the Minister of State to revert to the Department and its various agencies to see what assistance, support or encouragement could be given to establish domestic hops production. I am told that it could cost up to €100,000 to establish ten acres of hops, which is very expensive. We are importing them but we could have export potential if they were grown domestically. I understand that the climate conditions here are perfect for growing hops. They were grown here in the past, but it is not happening now to the extent that it should. The Minister of State referred to supports, but this is one area where support is needed. It could lead to the creation of quite a lot of jobs.

All the nice sunny weather in Cork makes it easier to grow hops there.

The Deputy is right that we grew them in the 1980s and 1990s but there was consistent poor weather in the 1990s. The main producers, who were based near Kilkenny and towards where Deputy Stanton is based, stopped production but there is an interest in developing the sector again. The main cost is in the support structures that hold them up because the hops grow up to 5 m in height. There is no room for EU support in the area but, through the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, funding is provided in competitive horticulture. That is worth exploring and I will raise the matter with the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Coveney, and the Minister of State, Deputy Tom Hayes. They can support the processing, marketing and equipment. We can approach them and try to do something. I am happy to try to find a solution and we will work with the various Departments involved. It is a sector we want to help and support and there is great potential.

I welcome the positive response of the Minister of State. I approached the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the response was that it had no supports. Perhaps we can make contact at European level. I am told ten people might be working seasonally, with two or three full-time staff in each of these hop growing facilities. It is worth exploring. This is an issue for the people who approached me and they are looking for support, help and assistance. I ask the Minister of State to have a go. He is correct about Cork being a great place to grow crops. He was in Fota recently and that name means warm ground. We have warm hearts and warm ground.

I will raise the matter again. There is scope in the horticultural fund although perhaps not for the support structures for growing. Perhaps it can apply to other parts of the business, such as marketing, processing and equipment to develop further and for storage. We might get support for some parts of the business through that fund but I have no problem raising the issue at the next EU meeting. It is something we believe in and something we want to back up. The Action Plan for Jobs refers to it a number of times.

National Minimum Wage

Clare Daly

Question:

10. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation his views regarding multinational companies paying persons less than €3 per hour to do work equivalent to a full-time employee, for months at a time, and attempting to justify this as work experience; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39075/14]

My question is in general terms and I can be more specific about it now. I am speaking about someone who was taken on by Hertz car hire and paid the princely sum of €2.46 per hour for a period of months on the promise of a permanent position. Is the Minister of State aware of the situation? If it can happen in a company as supposedly reputable as Hertz, what is to say examples of exploitation are not happening elsewhere? What will the Minister of State do?

With limited specified exceptions, such as close family members, statutory apprentices and participants on JobBridge, the National Minimum Wage Act applies to all employees. The Act defines employee as a person of any age who has entered into, or works or has worked under, a contract of employment. A contract of employment means a contract of service or apprenticeship or any other contract whereby an individual agrees with another person to do or perform personally any work or service for that person or a third person whether or not the third person is a party to the contract.

The current national minimum wage for an experienced adult worker is €8.65 per hour. Hourly rates of between 70% and 90% of the adult rate apply to employees under the age of 18 years, in the first two years after the date of first employment over age 18, and those undergoing a course that satisfies the conditions set out in SI 99 of 2000.

It is a criminal offence for an employer to pay an employee less than his or her minimum hourly rate of pay entitlement. If an employee is not satisfied that he or she is being paid his or her statutory minimum entitlement under the 2000 Act, the employee may refer the dispute to the rights commissioner or refer the matter directly to the National Employment Rights Authority, NERA, for investigation. NERA has a regionally based inspectorate mandated to ensure compliance with employment-related legislation, including the national minimum wage. Inspections result from cases and sectors identified on the basis of risk analysis, including unannounced inspections, and as a result of complaints received. Some 917 inspections were by way of follow up to complaints in 2013. To end of September 2014, NERA has recovered €637,000 of unpaid wages for employees.

It is clear from the response of the Minister of State that there has been a flagrant breach of the law and a criminal offence has been carried out. At least two, if not more, people were taken on based on the promise of a full-time job. They were employed for six months and received payslips with the figure €2.46 per hour. When they questioned the payment after a month or two, they were told not to worry, that it was emergency tax and that they would receive the money back. A complaint was submitted to NERA in June and I wrote to the company in the past month but received no reply. I believe NERA was in contact last night and that Hertz said that when it looked at the books with NERA there was a mistake, that it is sorry about it and that moneys will be refunded. I am sorry but this is not a mistake but a criminal offence. Everyone knows the minimum wage and paying people €2.46 is not a mistake but fraud. I hope the Minister of State follows up and I hope we see a criminal prosecution. Unless we do, this type of exploitation will continue.

The Deputy has raised a serious matter and I am glad she took the opportunity to put it on record. I have a personal interest in this area and keep an eye on trends of enforcement and prosecution. I understand NERA has carried out an inspection with regard to the issue raised by the Deputy. It is important that there is a strong message from the Parliament that, where there are suspected breaches of important national minimum wage legislation, they are reported to NERA. NERA is equipped to carry out inspections and a suite of regulations governs the area. It is critically important that these issues are brought to the attention of our national employment inspectorate. It will investigate and does get results. From the point of view of enforcement, inspections and prosecutions, it is clear NERA gets results when complaints are made to it.

I accept that and I hope the Minister of State will monitor it. The complaint was made in June and the person started in April and finished up last week, exactly six months. In that sense, the horse had bolted by the time NERA got back. Multinationals like Hertz rely heavily on people for whom English is not the first language. There are many European workers employed there who are not originally from Ireland and, based on that fact, they are more vulnerable to exploitation. That was the situation in this case. We need to do more about this, which is not a mistake. It is a trend and to cut across that we must be heavy-handed in response. I will monitor the case at the next Question Time but I ask the Minister of State to look into this.

NERA works closely with employers and uses every opportunity to ensure employers are aware of their legal obligations and the legislative area that is of interest to me. It is important that employees, trade unions and public representatives remain vigilant about cases brought to our attention to use the appropriate channels to have these serious matters investigated and decided upon.

Written Answers follow Adjournment.