This Seanad Bill has been amended by the Dáil and in accordance with Standing Order 103 it is deemed to have passed its First, Second and Third Stages in the Seanad and is placed on the Order Paper for Report Stage. On the question that the Bill be received for final consideration, the Minister may explain the purpose of the amendments made by the Dáil and this is looked upon as the report of the Dáil amendments to the Seanad. For the convenience of Senators, I have arranged for the printing and circulation to them of those amendments. The Minister will deal separately with the subject matter of each related group of amendments. I have circulated also the proposed grouping in the House. A Senator may contribute once on each grouping and I remind Senators that the only matter that may be discussed is the amendments made by the Dáil.
Protection of Employment (Exceptional Collective Redundancies and Related Matters) Bill 2007 [Seanad Bill amended by the Dáil]: Report and Final Stages.
I call the Minister to speak on the subject matter of amendment No. 1, which comprises the first group of amendments
This amendment arises because of the necessity to have the same definition for the words "employee representatives" in this legislation in accordance with Towards 2016 as in the Protection of Employment Act 1977. It is somewhat technical, but is in agreement with what was decided in Toward 2016.
We now turn to the amendments in group 2.
These are amendments Nos. 2, 3 and 5.
We will discuss amendment No. 2 and then amendments Nos. 3 and 5 by agreement.
Amendment No. 2 inserts additional words "or periods" after the word "period". It is already implied in the section that the redundancy panel be set up for a period of three years with provision for a three year extension, however, concern was expressed in the Dáil that it was not sufficiently clear and I accepted the amendment.
Amendment No. 3 is unnecessary legally but it makes the text somewhat easier to understand for the layperson.
We now come to amendment No. 4.
I do not wish to be obstreperous and I have no real issue with this, however, I thought we were dealing with group 2, amendments Nos. 2, 3, and 5.
Yes, I beg your pardon.
Amendment No. 5 is a technical amendment to section 9(3)(a),which provides for a substitute provision for section 7(1)(c) of the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977. It relates to enhanced compensation where an employee takes a successful unfair dismissals case following the issuing of a Labour Court opinion that the dismissal was one of a number of dismissals, including in exceptional collective redundancy. This amendment is necessary because it clarifies that the employer is responsible for payment of any enhanced compensation awarded under the amended section 7(1)(c) of the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977, as is the position under the present Act in regard to compensation awards. The amendment is necessary also to provide that the concluding phrase of section 7(1) of the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977 would apply also to the enhanced compensation provision in the amended section 7(1)(c) of that Act, in the same way as the phrase applies currently to compensation provisions under that Act. This concluding phrase provides that where there is a reference to the word “employer” in the provision of redress for unfair dismissal, these references will be understood to be references to the new owner in a change of ownership case.
We now come to group 3.
Amendment No. 4 does not change the sense but reflects exactly what was agreed in paragraph 18(3) in Towards 2016. I introduced it in the Dáil, having had discussions with ICTU on its concerns that it was better to reflect exactly what was decided.
We now proceed to group 4.
Amendment No. 6 is somewhat similar. This is provided to provide comfort to those companies with established operations in different locations who may need to restructure and to move part of an operation to another existing location. It reflects what was agreed in Towards 2016.
We now turn to amendments Nos. 7 and 8, group 5
Amendment No. 7 provides that for the avoidance of doubt, the flexibility of the provisions of section 6 of the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977 to the type of dismissals situations described in the new section 5(2)(a)of that Act is not affected by the provisions of this new section. In other words, section 6 continues to apply to circumstances in which all the employees involved in a strike or industrial dispute are dismissed.
Section 6 of the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977 provided that, generally, a dismissal shall be deemed to be unfair unless an employer can prove there were substantial grounds justifying it. The section also outlines certain criteria on which dismissals may be adjudicated as either fair or unfair. In addition, it describes certain dismissal circumstances that are automatically deemed to be unfair. This is covered by amendment No. 7.
Amendment No. 8 clarifies that the specific criteria listed in paragraphs (i) to (iv) of the new section 5(2A) of the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977, on which the fairness or otherwise of dismissals can be adjudicated, apply only to circumstances where all the employees involved in a strike or industrial dispute are dismissed.
I wish the Minister of State well in his endeavours.
I thank the Minister and his officials. Getting this essential Bill through was a very close shave and the Minister of State and his officials put considerable work into it. I thank the Minister of State for the time he has spent in the Seanad. I wish him well in the general election and have no doubt he will be a member of the next Cabinet.
I thank the Minister of State and his officials. The legislation was necessary but perhaps somewhat overdue. There were shady practices and, therefore, a necessity for tidying up. I thank the Minister of State for this measure and wish him well.
I thank the Minister of State, who deservedly received a ministerial portfolio. He put his heart and soul into it and has been exemplary in carrying out his duties. I concur with Senator Leyden in that I hope he will have further ministerial responsibilities under the next Government. I thank his staff for all their support. I thank the Acting Chairman and am shocked to realise he does not intend to run for the Seanad again. I wish him well.
He is not running for the Dáil.
In my position as Acting Chairman, I cannot possibly comment.
I wish him luck.
The country probably needs more of this sort of legislation. I am very glad we have dealt with this Bill because it arose from some unsavoury performances that did not do much for the image of Irish business. I welcome that it is the product of consensus. The Minister of State obviously consulted widely and established such consensus. I compliment him thereon. I know him a long time and, subject to the possibility of the Labour Party winning a seat in County Clare, I wish him well in the election.
I join the Senator in wishing the Minister of State well.
I thank the Acting Chairman and all the Members of the Seanad for their courtesy, help and co-operation. I have dealt with several Bills in this House over the past two and half years and really appreciate that Members have taken the time to consider the relevant issues. I suspect I have accepted more amendments in the Seanad than any other Minister, certainly on apro rata basis. I have been very pleased to take on board ideas in which Members invested some thought and consideration. The legislation we have passed is all the better for the input of the Seanad. I cannot offer to reciprocate Members’ help until I find out whether I will have a vote in the forthcoming Seanad election. I certainly hope so.
I wish Senator Dardis well if he is not contesting the election. We worked closely together on a number of committees. I have worked at committee level with all Members present on occasion. People outside the Houses do not realise that when we get over the election issues and do mainstream political work on their behalf, there is much co-operation across party lines. Most of us are sufficiently open-minded to accept that very good ideas come from Members with whom we do not consider ourselves aligned politically, thus benefiting legislation and policy. I wish all the Members well and thank them for their co-operation. I thank my staff in the Department who have put considerable work into this very difficult Bill and several others. I am pleased to have got this Bill through the House before the end of the term of the current Oireachtas.