I welcome the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Richard Bruton, to the House.
Industrial Development (Forfás Dissolution) Bill 2013: Committee and Remaining Stages
Amendments Nos. 1 to 6, inclusive, are cognate and may be discussed together. Is that agreed? Agreed.
The Bill provides for the staff of Forfás to transfer to various bodies under terms and conditions of service relating to remuneration no less favourable than those they currently enjoy. This provision is in line with other recent legislation relating to public sector reorganisations. However, Forfás staff and their representative bodies expressed concerns that the provision represented a dilution of terms and conditions under existing industrial development legislation, which provided for staff to transfer under existing terms and conditions, including but not confined to those relating to remuneration. As such, staff representatives requested that the provisions enacted in respect of staff transferring to Irish Water under the Water Services Act 2013, which encompass that protection, be inserted in this Bill.
Following discussions between my Department and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and trade union representatives, it was agreed to amend the language used in the Bill to provide for the transfer of staff under existing terms and conditions, including those relating to remuneration. This agreement was subject to the putting in place of a protocol between the relevant bodies specifying the non-pay and non-pension terms and conditions of employment that apply in respect of Forfás staff redeploying to other State organisations. The purpose of this protocol is to ensure the terms and conditions identified are in line with existing public service norms and avoid the continuation of any atypical arrangements which would no longer be considered appropriate. A draft protocol agreement has been agreed between the management and union representatives.
Accordingly, we are happy to broaden the language used in the Bill to provide for staff to transfer under existing terms and conditions, including those relating to remuneration. The subsections requiring amendment are subsection 6(2), which relates to staff transferring to Enterprise Ireland; subsection 9(2), staff transferring to IDA Ireland; subsection 12(2), staff transferring to Science Foundation Ireland; subsection 14(2), staff transferring to the National Standards Authority of Ireland; subsection 24(2), staff transferring to the Department; and subsection 54A(3) of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, as inserted by section 31 of the Bill, dealing with staff transferring to the Health and Safety Authority. In each instance, the relevant subsection will now state as follows:
Save in accordance with a collective agreement negotiated with a recognised trade union or staff association and approved by the Minister with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, a person referred to in subsection (1) shall be subject to such terms and conditions of service including terms and conditions relating to remuneration, as are not less favourable than the terms and conditions of service, including terms and conditions relating to remuneration, to which the person was subject immediately before the coming into operation of this section.
I welcome the Minister. He referred to the various organisations to which Forfás staff will transfer. Do we know the numbers transferring to each body? One of the Minister's stated considerations in bringing forward this legislation is to facilitate a transfer of expertise to the Department to assist him in his decision making. My concern is that the staff might all be going to the other designated bodies. I did not come across these figures in any of the information pertaining to the Bill, and it would be helpful if the Minister could provide them.
It is important to note that Forfás had additional functions other than the policy function for which it is best known, all of which are being delegated to IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and other appropriate locations. To give an example, one of its function was to operate the Irish National Accreditation Board, which is now moving, as a unit, to the Health and Safety Authority. In other words, we are not seeing a splitting up of the core research capability of the organisation. Rather, the Bill simply provides for the relocation of some of the functions Forfás traditionally executed into suitable locations following its dissolution. Forfás staff are already working in these agencies on secondment, including 11 in the Health and Safety Authority, predominantly in the Irish National Accreditation Board unit. Approximately 50 have moved to the Department.
I thank Senators for facilitating the progress of this legislation. These amendments are essentially technical in nature and follow on from the good debate we had on Second Stage. The provisions contained in the Bill represent a piece of work that needed to be done to improve the capacity of the Department to execute policy across the system, encompassing not just agencies under its remit, but also providing an insight into the work of other Departments. Forfás already has become central to the Action Plan for Jobs, which is our key tool in seeking to influence policy towards improving employment and enterprise performance.
This change is the correct way to go. It is not just about efficiency in aligning or reducing the number of bodies, although that is obviously a concern, but it is also about making sure we can do our policy work in the most effective way and improve the implementation of policy. That is the motivation behind the legislation and I thank the Seanad for its support.
I welcome the passing of the Bill and endorse everything the Minister has said about continuing efficiency in an important area that is central to our economic development. I wish it well.
I, too, thank the Minister. He is always welcome in this House and I wish him well. His Department is crucial to the development process, as are the agencies. We are concerned that the rate of job creation seems to have moderated in the last quarter, but we hope that it is just a blip. Although the Minister is unceasing in his labours to make Ireland more competitive and to promote development, we are concerned that that does not go for the whole of Government. A 55% increase in energy costs through the public service obligation was proposed by the Commission for Energy Regulation last Friday. That report has not received much attention. That would obviously be bad news for the Minister in his sterling efforts to promote industry.
We were just discussing with Minister, Deputy Varadkar, how one should configure airports. What the Minister has done with Shannon is important, but can the same thing be done in Cork? Competitive energy and competitive airports are needed in the Minister's unstinting efforts to promote development and employment. In that, the Minister has our support, including for this reform.
I join others in complimenting the Minister on bringing this legislation successfully through the House. Throughout his career he has demonstrated a great ability to bring about reform, and certainly this is a significant reform which will strengthen and enhance policy-making within the Department. I encourage the Minister to redouble efforts to keep the jobs programme at the top of the Government agenda. We are seeing many successes. We would all like to see job opportunities spread out to the regions and to areas such as east Galway that have suffered significantly through unemployment during the past decade. I wish the Minister continued success and welcome the passing of this legislation.
Ba mhaith liomsa freisin tacú agus glacadh leis an mBille seo agus tá áthas orm go ndeachaigh sé tríd an Teach. We are not opposed in principle to the dissolution of Forfás and the transfer of its functions. Its amalgamation into the Department and the other agencies seems a common-sense approach. It is clear that many of the functions of Forfás could and should be completed by other agencies and within the Department. On resources, we note that the Minister said that the transfer of functions will not place added costs on the Department. We also welcome the commitment to maintain the terms and conditions of workers throughout the transfer. That is a positive move. Fáiltíonn muid roimh an mBille agus tá áthas orainn gur glacadh leis.
When it is proposed to sit again?
The House will sit again at 2.30 p.m. next Tuesday, 17 June 2014.