National Minimum Wage (Low Pay Commission) Bill 2015: Committee Stage

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire Stáit.

Section 1 agreed to.
SECTION 2

Amendments Nos. 1, 23 and 30 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, lines 15 and 16, to delete "National Minimum Wage (Low Pay Commission) Act 2015" and substitute "Low Pay Commission Act 2015".

I apologise on behalf of my colleague, Senator David Cullinane, who cannot be present to take the legislation. I am filling in for him. I am aware that the Minister of State has engaged with him on this issue, especially on Second Stage. As the Senator is our spokesperson on workers' rights, he has a great interest in this legislation, but, unfortunately, he is engaged in a series of meetings on this issue.

Amendment No. 1 is straightforward. It merely seeks to change the Title of the legislation to reflect the fact that if the Government was serious about dealing with the issue of low pay and in-work poverty, addressing the minimum wage is not enough. The issue concerns the Low Pay Commission dealing with some of the statistics which show Ireland is a low wage economy in comparison with 15 other European Union countries.

The purpose of the Bill is to provide for the necessary amendments to the National Minimum Wage Act, 2000 to ensure the establishment of the Low Pay Commission on a statutory basis. The principal function of the commission will be, on an annual basis, to examine and make recommendations to the Minister of the day on the national minimum wage with a view to ensuring the national minimum wage, when adjusted, will be adjusted incrementally over time, having regard to changes in earnings, productivity, overall competitiveness and the likely impact any adjustment will have on employment and unemployment levels. Of course, the remit of the commission will involve it exploring many other factors associated with the issue of low pay.

The Bill replaces the previous means by which the national minimum wage was adjusted and will replace them with an annual analysis and recommendations by the Low Pay Commission. These means were set out in sections 11 to 13, inclusive, of the National Minimum Wage Act, 2000 which are now being repealed by section 9 of the Bill. Clearly, the role of the commission is firmly set within the national minium wage legislation of the State. This does not mean, despite the advice of some representatives in this House, that its remit is narrow. I am disappointed that this view seems to be consistently expressed by Sinn Féin, in particular. As previously stated, the commission is certainly doing much more than setting the rate of the national minimum wage and should be taken very seriously, as it has been by trade unions and employers. I expect representatives in this House to take it seriously, too.

Section 5 also provides that the Commission on Low Pay may be requested by the Minister to examine and report on matters related generally to its functions under legislation. That request will be made not later than two months after the start of each year and will form part of the work programme of the commission for that year. That will allow me and future Ministers to each year ask the commission to address areas about which we are all concerned and advise the Government in an expert and evidence based way on the best approach to take. This is a very significant institutional change in Irish society. I hope all Members can support this, but for the reasons outlined I cannot accept the proposed amendments.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 2 agreed to.
Section 3 agreed to.
SECTION 4

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 4, between lines 10 and 11, to insert the following:

"(a) has due regard to Ireland's human rights obligations to guarantee the right to just and favourable remuneration,".

Ireland has obligations under the ILO convention and international human rights law to ensure workers are offered decent pay and conditions. As we are aware, low pay rates are not good for workers, the economy, the State or wider society. It results in huge costs being placed on the State in terms of social transfers, including family income supplement, and delays in economic recovery. The growth in the numbers of the working poor has a detrimental effect on families, children in particular, and entire communities. The amendment is straightforward and seeks to ensure we have regard to our international human rights obligations.

Section 4 sets out very clear objectives. The national minimum wage should be designed to assist as many low paid workers as is reasonably practicable; should be set at a rate that is both fair and sustainable and, where adjustment is appropriate, adjusted incrementally and over time progressively increased, without creating significant adverse consequences for employment or competitiveness.

I have no hesitation in stating yet again what I have said publicly time and again in this House and in other fora. I want to see the national minimum wage progressively increased where the economic and social circumstances and the conditions and demands of job creation converge. I want to see better working conditions for people and improved pay, particularly for low-paid workers. The Low Pay Commission can and will assist in providing an important institutional framework to ensure this happens. The objective of ensuring workers are entitled to just and favourable remuneration is clearly built into the criteria that will guide the commission in making a recommendation to me on the appropriate level of the national minimum wage. Therefore, I cannot accept the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 4 agreed to.
SECTION 5

Amendments Nos. 3 to 14, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together. Amendment No. 8 is a physical alternative to amendment No. 7.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 4, between lines 32 and 33, to insert the following:

“(a) median earnings during the relevant period,”.

Amendment No. 3 relates to median earnings. Any measure below the median does not reflect the prevalence of low pay in the economy.

Amendment No. 4 is an attempt truly to address the issue of low pay, but to do so we need to deal with the issue on a sectoral basis. While low pay pervades all sectors of the economy, it is especially widespread in the hospitality, retail and services sectors. It is also present in other sectors. The point is that sectors will vary and it is important to take a sectoral approach to deal specifically with low pay in each of the various sectors.

Amendment No. 5 proposes to insert text to the effect that the aim of the commission should be to move incrementally towards a living wage.

Amendment No. 6 serves to ensure the minimum wage is established on the basis of current costs and the minimum expenditure levels incurred by the employee. It need not be as high as it is currently if costs were contained or even reduced. For example, if policies were implemented to control housing rents, the living wage would then fall. Other examples include various interventions in public transport. The Low Pay Commission should highlight the high cost of poor public services that low-paid workers experience and it should do this as a first step in conducting a more detailed analysis of such costs and how they impact on workers' living standards.

Amendment No. 8 servers to ensure that when we discuss job creation, decent work is at the heart of the debate. This must be about more than simply fair pay and a living wage, which are only one part of the overall picture. We need to ensure employers are compelled to treat workers with respect and dignity. They should not be able to harass, intimidate or victimise vulnerable workers, as we have seen in some current industrial disputes. We have seen some workers having their hours cut, while others have been let go in one particular dispute. We should remember these workers are already vulnerable and in or at risk of poverty and deprivation. That employers operate on the basis of controlling workers through a culture of fear or a system of retribution is unacceptable and should not be legally permissible. We need to ensure workers have security of employment and certainty around their hours.

Amendment No. 14 attempts to address the serious problem in terms of a widening gender pay gap. We know that women make up the bulk of workers in the low-paid sectors. They make up approximately 60% of precarious workers, for example. Decent wages would stimulate economic growth as workers would have more spending power. They would also increase what the State receives in terms of tax receipts. We need to ensure income inequality, particularly gender income inequality, is reduced.

I have a number of amendments tabled and will take them one by one. As the Minister of State is aware, I have welcomed the legislation and acknowledge his innovation in this area. The amendments I have tabled aim to ensure the Low Pay Commission delivers on its mission as designed. The Minister of State referred to several issues in his Second Stage speech, including references to making work pay, balancing fair and sustainable pay rates and yet allowing employers to continue to create quality jobs. He also said that the low-paid would share in the economic recovery. To achieve that end, the commission needs to consider all the relevant factors when making its recommendations. Many of my amendments highlight that other factors ought to be considered before making any recommendations while others should be considered subsequent to putting forward the proposals.

Senator Jillian van Turnhout and I have tabled amendment No. 7. The Bill refers to the need for "job creation" but we propose that this be amended to refer to the need for "quality job creation". It amounts to adding the word "quality". As it stands, the reference in the Bill to the need for job creation could be interpreted to imply a potential trade-off between job creation and fair wages and I am concerned about embedding that assumption into the legislation. Fair wages should never be sacrificed for the creation of jobs that are exploitative and unsustainable. This would be counter-productive to the social and economic goals of the legislation. I expect the Minister of State shares these views, regardless of whether he shares them in terms of this amendment. That is why I am suggesting the wording should be changed to read the need for "quality job creation". It is to ensure this assumption becomes explicit within the context of the legislation.

Amendment No. 9 proposes to add certain text. This section has to do with what the commission should have regard to when making a recommendation to the Minister. Several measures have been included in the Bill but we suggest more should be included, including a reference to the cost of living. This is a really important amendment to me and I hope the Minister of State will consider accepting it. It is essential that the commission would be expected to consider the cost of living as experienced by workers when making its recommendations regarding the minimum rate of pay. The question of adequacy of income from employment is central to the issue and should be given more weight in the legislation. I note that in the Bill, as it stands, the proposed section 10C(3)(g) stipulates that the commission should consider the likely effect of its proposal on the cost of living, but this means the commission is not being asked to consider how the cost of living impacts on the minimum wage. The commission should consider this as it thinks about how it ought to influence the establishment of the minimum wage. As it stands in the Bill, if the Government sets the minimum wage at another level, it may not take cognisance of what impact it would have on the cost of living and I do not believe that is sufficient. This amendment, which has been endorsed by the National Women's Council of Ireland, is essential to ensure the cost of living is considered prior to making recommendations.

Amendment No. 10 seeks to ensure the commission would have regard to equality and gender equality. Senator Kathryn Reilly referred to this already in her comments. This has to do with promoting equality and gender equality. As the Minister of State is aware, low pay affects women especially. Over 60% of workers on low pay are women and predominantly female employment sectors, such as hospitality and retail, have been at the forefront of the aggressive casualisation of the labour market through zero-hour contracts - I realise the Minister of State is looking at that in another context - and the erosion of sustainable and secure employment earnings. As a result, the gender pay gap is widening. How can we intentionally narrow that gap - I presume that is a policy objective of the Government - if it is not explicitly targeted in our legislation? The crisis of low pay is alarmingly gendered. It is crucial, therefore, that the Low Pay Commission reflects a strong gender perspective in its analysis and recommendation, but I do not see that in the Bill, as it stands. The amendment proposes that the Low Pay Commission would be mandated to consider gender equality and other equality factors when making its recommendation. Another point in favour of the amendment is that it could be considered appropriate in the light of the new positive duty obligation on public bodies to ensure a regard for promoting equality and human rights in all their work.

Amendment No. 11 proposes to add the text "in-work poverty levels". Again, Senator Kathryn Reilly referred to this idea in her contribution.

Should the commission have regard to in-work poverty levels before it makes recommendations on a change to the minimum wage? It must be recognised that there is a serious issue of in-work poverty in Ireland. In 2014, 16% of those living below the poverty line were in employment, which is unacceptable. Work needs to pay, as the Minister of State said in his opening remarks, and those who work should not need to rely on continual State support to supplement their income from employment. Again, I know that is an objective the Minister of State would share. The Low Pay Commission will have the capacity and expertise to advise the Minister on best practice to ensure work pays adequately, and that is why I propose we include in the Bill the consideration of in-work poverty before the commission makes recommendations.

Amendment No. 12 refers to the social and economic impact of minimum wage levels and provides that the associated cost or benefit to the State be taken into consideration by the commission. This would allow the commission to make a more comprehensive analysis of the costs and benefits to the Exchequer associated with higher or lower wage levels. Again, as the Minister of State is aware, there is a considerable cost to the Exchequer from low pay. It results in reduced tax revenues and increased social protection spending through payments like the family income supplement, for example. As we know, a growing number of workers qualify for family income supplement and while is it an important payment which provides essential income support to families on low pay, it comes at a considerable cost to the State. Essentially, it is often assumed that wage increases must wait for the economic recovery. However, economic growth occurs because of wage increases, especially in the lower income brackets, as spending is more likely to stimulate local growth. I ask the Minister of State to consider including these considerations in the Bill.

The last amendment in this grouping provides that the commission would consider the likely effect of the proposed order. I have argued that many issues should be looked at in the process of shaping any proposal on the minimum wage level. Once the proposal has been formulated, the commission should then look at the potential impact of that proposal, examining what would happen down the line if changes were made. We are arguing that additional considerations should be added to the list of components already in the Bill in terms of generating a proposal.

I wish to speak to amendment No. 5, paragraph (dc) which refers to "the Living Wage as set for the relevant period" but before doing so, I commend the Minister of State for the work he has done in this area since coming into office. A great deal of work has been done and high standards are being achieved, but the Labour Party does not intend to stop at the minimum wage. Our intention is to have a living wage and that should be acknowledged in the House today.

I wish to speak, in particular, about 949 councillors throughout this country who are expected to live on €16,200 per annum. That is not even the minimum wage. I have conducted a survey on this and between one fifth and one quarter of serving councillors are full-time public representatives. The previous speaker, Senator Katherine Zappone, spoke about family income supplement and those councillors qualify for it by virtue of their low basic pay. I have always said that democracy is for everyone, not just for those who can afford to participate as public representatives. What is happening now, and I know this from my ongoing contact with councillors, is that many can no longer afford to be public representatives. They cannot raise their families or pay their bills, and that is wrong in a democracy.

I acknowledge the review, Putting People First, initiated by the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Alan Kelly, which introduced reforms to local government last June following the local elections. However, that document did not address, in any shape or form, the basic living standard that councillors should have by way of their earnings. While approximately 75% of councillors have another source of income, 25% or more do not and those people must be respected and must be able to live. I ask that as part of the review of Putting People First, the Minister of State, Deputy Gerald Nash, would intervene on the issue of councillors' income. As a former councillor in County Louth for many years, the Minister of State knows what I am talking about in this regard. We often spoke about it when we were both serving as councillors. Will he comment on this issue today because it is extremely important? I know good people of all parties and none who say openly to their communities that they cannot represent them any more because they cannot afford to do so on the pay they receive. Will the Minister of State comment and use his office to ensure the review that is taking place also considers the wages and expenses of councillors? There has been much media derision of this issue. When I told a two-person deputation earlier today that I would be raising this issue in the House, they told me that they thought that councillors were earning approximately €30,000 per annum but councillors are earning only €16,200. The Acting Chairman was also a councillor and knows what I am talking about. We have often discussed this issue. Democracy is for everyone, not just for the rich. Public representation should also be for everyone, not just the rich. I look forward to the Minister of State's response.

I welcome the Minister of State for the Committee Stage debate on a very interesting Bill. I listened very carefully to Senator Denis Landy's comments. I believe it was 100 or 150 years ago when Members of Parliament in Britain were first paid, but many members of the Conservative Party did not want to be paid. However, under-privileged Members of Parliament argued that they had to be paid or they would not be able to afford to represent their constituents. That is Senator Denis Landy's basic point. To the extent that it applies in the case of the Houses of the Oireachtas, it also applies in the case of local councillors. While very few councillors are full-time public representatives, a number of them are full-time. In our democracy we need people of varied views and experience and we do not want to find that people can only be politicians if they have sufficient income from other sources. I urge the Minister of State to give some consideration to the point made by Senator Denis Landy.

I also listened very carefully to Senator Katherine Zappone and could not disagree with her objectives and what she is seeking to achieve. However, I must question if it is wise to introduce phrases like "quality job creation" and "decent work". These terms are vague and what constitutes "quality job creation" or "decent work" is debatable. When I started in business, there were no self-service shops here, only counter-service shops. When we opened our first self-service shop, a number of people said that it was not good for the economy or for our employees. They argued that we would have fewer employees than would be the case with counter-service shops and, on that basis, there was quite a strong movement against the development of self-service shops. That would have been a huge mistake but the argument being made at the time was that people need "decent" work and "quality" jobs and that we should not be depriving people of work. I would have doubts about the wisdom of including terms such as "quality job creation" and "decent work" in the legislation and believe the Bill is better as currently drafted. I say that reluctantly because Senator Katherine Zappone made a very strong and understandable case for the inclusion of such phrases. However, if the legislation is to work and achieve its objectives, it should not be vague.

If we are to have legislation that works and achieves its objectives, we must be careful not to be vague.

I wish to speak about gender recognition and equal pay. In every survey conducted of equal pay, women fare much worse than men when doing exactly the same work. Will the Minister of State comment on which aspect of his review will be accounting for this? Will there be surveys in this country? There have been many carried out before. It has been well borne out that gender is a definite factor. The issue can arise when a woman is doing exactly the same work as a man, and in certain places of employment. It does not occur in every workplace, such as in government. That is recognised. It arises particularly in the private sector.

I support Senator Denis Landy's comment on councillors. Having been a member of a council for 20 years, I realise the paying of stamps by councillors is absolutely useless. People give up work to become councillors. When I was elected mayor, I gave up teaching and lost money. One could go back to one's job but one wants to give service to the community and give it well.

The council is now so busy. Twenty years ago, there was half as much work as there is now. One learns this when one meets councillors coming back from meetings. Many councillors in the country now have to travel long distances, which is time consuming. Only those who can afford to become councillors will become councillors. That is not right either. In every job, there ought to be a level playing pitch. The whole issue must be examined. I have asked for a debate on this subject, as has Senator Denis Landy. The sooner we have it, the better. We want the debate before the actual decisions are made because that is what the Seanad is for. It is for generating ideas and sowing seeds as well as listing to a decision when it is made. It is too late to close the door when the horse has bolted. I know we are close to this.

This issue has been ongoing ad infinitum. The Local Authority Members Association has raised it. Local authorities have been amalgamated. We have been singing from the same hymn sheet for years.

A number of very interesting points have been made. I would not have had the opportunity to become a councillor had I not had a very understanding employer when I first entered public life in the late 1990s. I am sure this experience will chime with that of many in this Chamber this afternoon. The issue needs to be taken very seriously. In recent weeks I noted that some people are very reluctant even to take on the responsibility of being mayor of the local authority. This is a great honour and privilege that I once had. The reluctance is due to the time commitments and various other commitments that need to be made on taking on the role while also trying to maintain a busy working life.

There is a range of issues wrapped up in Senator Denis Landy's remarks. I will bring them to the attention of the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, as I acknowledge the Senator has done on many occasions. I am sure the Minister, Deputy Alan Kelly, who is very supportive of local government and who recognises the importance of local representation, will pay serious attention to it. The Senator can be assured that I will discuss this with him directly.

I am very taken with Senator Denis Landy's remark that the opportunity to enter public office, as a member of a local authority, the Seanad or the Dáil, should not be restricted to particular sectors of society. That would not be democratic. This Chamber and others needs to be democratic, and we must insist that all our democratic chambers across the country are, reflective of the population in general in so far as that is possible.

When I first became a member of a local authority, there were no salaries, as such, in place. They were introduced in the early 2000s. That was a step in the right direction. A general principle I apply, including to my political views, is that people should be paid for the job they do, regardless of their position. It is not popular to say that. With pay comes respect. Of course, the role of the councillor has evolved significantly in the past 20 years. It is a very onerous responsibility. Many of the reforms introduced by the former Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Mr. Phil Hogan, and the review the current Minister, Deputy Alan Kelly, is undertaking in regard to the policy document must be taken into account. There is no doubt about that.

On Senator Cáit Keane's point on gender equality, I do not believe we need any more reports to tell us what we already know, namely, that there is a significant pay gap based on gender. This is and will be of concern to the Low Pay Commission, and it will always need to be mindful of that. As Senator Katherine Zappone stated, women are unfortunately only too well represented in sectors of the economy that are synonymous with and associated with low pay. I am anxious to see the Low Pay Commission addressing these issues. The figures and anecdotal experience indicate to us that a very significant number of people who are merely existing on the minimum wage are women.

I will speak to the amendments proposed in the grouping. Section 5 sets out a very comprehensive and challenging set of factors that the commission must take into account in any year in coming to a recommendation on the appropriate rate of the national minimum wage. Amendments Nos. 3 to 14, inclusive, provide for the addition of a wide range of factors that the commission would be required to take into account when making a recommendation. I thank Senators for the thought they have given to the additional factors that could be considered. I thank them also for the spirit in which they put their ideas forward. There are many amendments I would not disagree with in principle, but their application may be very difficult administratively. I will address this now in more detail.

To add further wide-ranging lists of factors to be taken into account, as set out in amendments Nos. 3 to 14, inclusive, would mean the commission could not possibly undertake analysis at the level required. It would find it difficult to produce an agreed recommendation, or perhaps any recommendation at all, by a set date on an annual basis. I am establishing a set date in primary legislation by which the Low Pay Commission will need to respond to the Government each year. I have given significant consideration to the criteria laid down with Government colleagues in the drafting of the Bill over many months. Many of them have stood the test of time in that they were previously incorporated into national minimum wage legislation dating from 2000.

Some of the additional factors proposed concern issues such as decent work, as referred to by colleagues and responded to by Senator Feargal Quinn. The factors are part of a wider decent work and dignity at work agenda I am pursuing. This includes the issues of zero-hour and low-hour contracts, the reform of collective bargaining legislation, the reintroduction of a system of registered employment agreements, a new mechanism for setting sectoral employment orders and the system we now have in place for joint labour committees.

Previous references to changes in earnings have served us well. I do not consider it necessary to refer specifically to median earnings changes, as proposed by Senator Kathryn Reilly, or proportions above or below particular proportions of median earnings. There is significant expertise on and available to the Low Pay Commission. It has resources by which to gain access to information, including new research, if required, in order to interpret properly changes in earnings data. I have no doubt whatsoever that the Low Pay Commission will be and is utilising these kinds of data to allow it to arrive at a recommendation in the case of the current review.

Other proposals are more difficult to interpret and may not be of particular relevance to the concept of the national minimum wage. For example, it would be a very significant requirement to have the Low Pay Commission differentiate between every sector's business model and performance on an annual basis or to carry out an assessment of innovation changes in each sector. If I were to accept that proposal, I would be obviating the need for registered employment agreements, sectoral employment orders and other arrangements. Sometimes the only group of people looking for the national minimum wage to be divided out a little comprises employers who in some cases believe we should have different rates for different sectors of the economy or for different regions. We have a national minimum wage, a statutory floor beneath which no wage should be allowed to fall. That should remain the case. In this regard, the minimum wage does set a floor for earnings, and different sectoral models and different levels of innovation may very well differentiate between pay levels above the national minimum wage. Equally, aggregate demand in the economy and tax receipts are valuable background conditions to which the commission will be attuned, but I do not believe they should be criteria for a recommendation laid out in primary legislation.

I have spoken in the past of my support for the development of the concept of a living wage in Ireland but I differentiate the application of a mandatory national minimum wage and a civil society movement that would see employers volunteer and be proud to pay a living wage. I intend to host a forum on the living wage in the autumn with employers, trade unions and civil society representatives. Employers are the one key group absent from discussions to date. I have never seen any trade union or any individual manage to get a pay rise, or any class of a pay increase, if they did not engage respectfully with their employers. In regard to comparisons with Northern Ireland, or any other jurisdiction which has a national minimum wage, it is fair to say that these are compared by looking at the absolute values and the purchasing power parity. I believe the commission has sufficient expertise available to it to make these distinctions. It would not be appropriate to specifically require the commission, on an annual basis, to analyse different welfare supports, health care provisions, child care and social housing across different jurisdictions. The interaction, or the nexus, between the national minimum wage and the tax and social welfare systems will be the fundamental focus of the Low Pay Commission, particularly in the context of the role of the national minimum wage and what the rate should be.

In regard to the promotion of equality and gender equality it is important to note that the national minimum wage applies to all workers irrespective of gender - it is the epitome of a measure that it eliminates gender inequality in its application. However, as minimum wage workers tend to be predominantly female, by its very nature a national minimum wage is more beneficial to female workers. The comprehensive list of factors to be taken into account is essentially the same as those in the current National Minimum Wage Act and they have already stood the test of time since 2000 when the National Minimum Wage Act was introduced and first enacted. Accordingly, I do not propose to accept amendments Nos. 3 to 14, inclusive.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 4 to 6, inclusive, not moved.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 5, to delete line 8 and substitute the following:

“(f) the need for quality job creation,”.

May I make a comment or must I press the amendment? May I ask a question?

The debate on this amendment is now over. The Senator could have indicated after the Minister of State had spoken. She may speak to the section.

I am sorry; it concerns the sequence.

I need to know if the Senator is pressing amendment No. 7. She may withdraw it and resubmit it on Report Stage.

I understand. I will withdraw it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 8 not moved.

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 5, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following:

“(fa) the cost of living,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendments Nos. 10 to 14, inclusive, not moved.

Amendments Nos. 15 to 17, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

Government amendment No. 15:
In page 5, to delete line 18 and substitute the following:
“(i) be made not later than 2 months after this Act comes into operation and, thereafter, not later than 2 months after the beginning of each year,”.

On amendment No. 15, section 5 of the Bill inserts a new section 10C in the 2000 Act and provides for the function of the commission on low pay. In addition to making an annual recommendation report to the Minister on the national minimum hourly rate of pay, new section 10C(4) provides that the commission may be requested by the Minister to examine and report on such matters related generally to the functions of the commission under the act. In this context, subsection 4B(1) provides that such requests be made not later than two months after the start of each year. This would mean that the Minister would not be able to request the commission to examine an issue until early 2016 at the earliest. Therefore it is considered appropriate to make provision to allow the Minister to request the commission to examine a particular matter within two months of its establishment in 2015. In future years such requests will be made to the commission by the end of February each year.

Amendment No. 16 introduces a number of specific tasks which the commission will be required to undertake as part of its functions - to monitor the incidences of low pay by examining the prevalence of pay two thirds below median earnings; key patterns in paid and unpaid open market internships; and, the effectiveness of existing policies to enforce the national minimum wage. Section 5 of the Bill introduces a new section 10C(4) which provides that the commission may be requested by the Minister to examine a report on social matters related generally to the functions of the commission under the Act. The published Bill provides that requests should be made not later than the first two months of each year and will be part of the commission's work programme. I believe the legislative provision covering the commission's work programme each year shouldn't be proscriptive and inflexible. Amendment No. 16 would tie the hands of the commission regarding its annual work programme. For specific issues related to the work of the commission a request can be made to the commission to examine and report on the matter. The specific topics raised in the amendment may be worthy of examination at some point, but I do not believe it is appropriate to set them down in legislation. Accordingly, I cannot accept the recommendation.

Amendment No. 17 requires further consideration regarding the matter of laying reports before both Houses and I will be giving it further consideration. I will revert to the House on the issue on Report Stage.

I thank the Minister of State for the information on what can and what cannot be included in the commission. I have written to him and brought it up in this House before asking if the child care element and the low pay which is involved in child care - and again it is mostly women involved in preschool and child care - will be specifically included in the Low Pay Commission? They are falling between every stool that is mentioned - the Department of Health, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the Department of Education and Skills. They are not teachers or doctors or anything else, but they are professionals - they are psychologists, they are people with vocations - which is not recognised in their pay. I have written to the Minister of State's Department, but I would appreciate a categoric assurance today from him that their pay will be examined. It needs to be looked at in detail and the Low Pay Commission is the best place possible. We have had this group here and they need the examination done. The Minister of State and his Department are best placed to talk about this. It is low pay but it is the most important job that anybody can do. I have said it to the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy James Reilly, that if every Department put a little percentage of its budget towards child care, then child care workers could be paid properly. It is a false economy now but money could be saved in the long run. I would appreciate an assurance from the Minister of State that this can be included in the Low Pay Commission.

I appreciate that the Senator has made contact with my office in that regard and there has been some correspondence. The Low Pay Commission will be looking at a range of sectors in the economy and issues around low pay.

I appreciate and accept what Senator Cáit Keane said. The child care sector is an extremely important one for society. The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Deputy James Reilly, is reviewing the operation of the child care sector. We should all aim to ensure we have not only a good private child care system but also a good public community child care system. Child care is all too expensive for working families and acts as a barrier for many parents in terms of accessing the workplace or further education. I accept that a discussion on salaries and the nature of work in the child care profession is needed. It could be examined in tandem with the review being carried out by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs. However, I will not be prescriptive at this point about the work programme of the Low Pay Commission because, as I hope the legislation and terms of reference make clear, that would require consultation and deliberation at Government level between all Ministers who wish to have an input into the work programme of the Low Pay Commission.

The legislation envisages that the Low Pay Commission would be provided with its mandate for the year in February of each year, and if amendment No. 15 is accepted, which I hope will be the case, we will be able to do initial work this year. We will be able to identify areas of concern on which reports could be drawn up. That is a matter for the whole of Government. I have my views on the matter, but it would be unwise to highlight any specific sector or element of the economy to be examined by the Low Pay Commission at this point. Its primary focus only a week after its establishment on an interim basis is to examine the next rate of the national minimum wage and it is currently using all the resources at its disposal to do this.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 16 and 17 not moved.

Does Senator Katherine Zappone wish to speak to section 5?

I will reserve my remarks until Report Stage.

Section 5, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 6

Amendments Nos. 18 to 20, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

Government amendment No. 18:
In page 6, line 8, to delete “Minister may—” and substitute “Minister shall—”.

In relation to amendment No. 18, section 6 inserts a new section 10D in the 2000 Act to the effect that:

10D.(1)Within 3 months of the date of receipt of a recommendation and report submitted to him or her under section 10C(2) and having considered the report and recommendation and having had regard to section 10C(3), the Minister may—

(a) by order declare a national minimum hourly rate of pay—

(i) in the terms recommended by the Commission, or

(ii) in other terms,

or

(b) decline to make such an order.

Accordingly, the Minister will have the choice of either accepting, varying or rejecting the commission's recommendation. In these circumstances it is considered more appropriate to use the term "shall" rather than "may" to make it clear that the Minister must take one of the actions specified.

Amendment No. 19 provides that in addition to an allowance for board and lodgings, the national minimum wage shall provide for a prohibition or restriction on charges or reductions on fair hours of employment rules. I have considered the proposed amendment and concluded that it is not necessary. The Payment of Wages Act already provides a redress mechanism for unlawful deductions from wages, while the Organisation of Working Time Act regulates working hours.

Section 5(1) of the Payment of Wages Act allows an employer to make deductions required or authorised by law, for example, PAYE or PRSI, that is required or authorised by a term of the employee's contract such as occupational pension schemes, for example, or any deduction agreed to in writing and advanced by the employee such as trade union subscriptions or health insurance premia.

Section 5(2) of the Act places significant restrictions on employers in relation to deductions on the receipt of payments from wages of employees. Senators will also be aware that I have commissioned a study into zero and low-hour contracts, which is being undertaken by the University of Limerick. The study is expected to be completed in the autumn of this year. I look forward to considering its findings, and where the evidence points to some adjustments being required to the protections in place under employment law, these will be brought forward for consideration by the Government.

Amendment No. 20 seeks to ensure businesses will be allowed sufficient time to plan for any adjustment proposed in the national minimum wage. During Second Stage, Senator Mary White stated she was supportive of the minimum wage but that it would have to be done in a planned way in order that companies could plan their business. I fully agree with this.

Senators may be aware that the ESRI, in its 2006 analysis of the previous Labour Court recommendation proposing an increase to the national minimum wage, concluded that adjusting the minimum wage by a substantial amount on an irregular basis with lengthy gaps between increases, as has happened in the past, is more likely to have a detrimental impact on employment and to contribute to uncertainty for employers and actual and potential employees than regular, smaller and fairly predictable upratings. A significant benefit of the establishment of the Low Pay Commission concept is that in the future the national minimum wage rates will be assessed annually and, therefore, where they occur, any adjustments in the future will be incremental and less destructive for businesses rather than the step changes we witnessed in the past that have been criticised by the ESRI in the review. Moreover, the deadline of 15 July for submission of the commission's recommendations was designed specifically to allow time for consideration of the issue in the context of that year's budgetary considerations and to provide for any adjustment in a planned way. Consequently, this very structure achieves what the Senator is trying to achieve by the amendment.

The commission will also ensure any advice or recommendations it makes to Government is evidence-based and utilises agreed data, that it carries out research and consultations with employers, workers and their representatives, and it will, as has been the case in recent weeks, take written and oral evidence from a wide range of organisations. That is to ensure any suggested changes to the national minimum wage will have a minimum adverse effect on employment and competitiveness. The commission will consult people - workers and employers who are directly affected by the minimum wage, and the commission has been doing that for the past couple of months. The real lived experience, both of workers who are on the minimum wage and businesses which are operating in sectors associated with the minimum wage and low pay, will be vital for the commissioners when they are deciding on their recommendation to me on the rate of the national minimum wage. While I recognise the intent of the proposed amendment, I cannot accept it as I do not consider it necessary because of the structures that are being put in place.

Is the Minister of State not accepting my amendment?

It is difficult enough to hear.

It is not the Minister of State's fault. I believe a sufficient lead-in period should be made available in advance of the introduction of the new rate in order that it can be met in a planned way. I and Fianna Fáil fully support the Bill. My amendment is tabled in the spirit of strengthening the Bill. I wish to discuss the rationale for amendment No. 20. It states:

In page 6, line 27, to delete “pay.”.” and substitute the following:

“pay.

(5) Where the Minister declares an order for any increase to the national minimum wage, a sufficient lead-in period should be made available for this new rate to be met in a planned way.”.”.

From my experience as co-founder of Lir Chocolates, small to medium sized businesses plan their budgets one year in advance. It is therefore imperative they are given enough time to plan for any increase in the national minimum wage. Caution needs to be taken in assessing any proposed changes to ensure any new measure introduced is sustainable from the employers' point of view while also ensuring a meaningful quality of life for employees, which I totally support.

The sentiments of the Minister of State are honourable. He has stated the Low Pay Commission will advise the Government on the appropriate rate of the national minimum wage every year. However, that assessment must be made carefully. The economy's ethos must be to provide sustainable jobs.

The dignity of workers is the first priority as far as I am concerned and it has always been my modus operandi in terms of people's self-confidence and reaching their full potential. There is a need to balance a basic statutory minimum pay rate that is fair with one that is sustainable and allows employers to continue to create quality jobs. The minimum wage should be adjusted incrementally over time having regard to changes in earnings, productivity, overall competitiveness and the likely impact that any adjustment will have on employment and unemployment levels.

The Minister of State has said he will not accept Senator Mary White's amendment. I will not vote for it because I am on this side of the House, but I would like an explanation from him. All legislation should be done in a planned way and one cannot hoist change on an employer just like that. Looking at the way the amendment is put, it seems reasonable, but I am sure the Minister of State has a good reason for not accepting it. I was an employer at one stage and one cannot do today what one will not do tomorrow. Employers need to know where their budgets are coming from because if they do not have the money, they will not be able to pay the minimum wage. Therefore, they would need to plan for that also. Will the Minister of State make a statement on how his ideas can be implemented?

I will repeat what I said earlier and what I have been saying since this concept first started to evolve under my aegis. The ESRI report pointed out in 2006 that there was a danger and a fear, certainly in the business community, about infrequent large step-changes in the national minimum wage. We are modelling this system very closely on the model that has been applied in the United Kingdom since the late 1990s, with some changes. If one looks at that model, one will see that the frequency of the annual review certainly assisted in business planning. It is a matter of record that it has been adjusted incrementally, and annually, upwards in the United Knigdom without having any adverse effect on competitiveness, job creation, or on the operation of businesses. The process is very clear in the legislation as to what happens, how it happens, and the function of the commission. The commission has very strong representation from those who have an interest in the interests of employers and those who have an interest in the interest of employees. I think everybody brings something positive to the table in that regard. They will look at evidence-based data and information to allow them to make recommendations.

This is a much stronger, more evidence-based, and objective system than has been in place previously. Members of the House will be aware that under the current legislation it is open to me, as Minister of State with responsibility for this area, to simply make a recommendation to Government colleagues without consulting anybody and to unilaterally decide what the rate of the national minimum wage will be. Most people in this House are fair minded and reasonable people and while we might have views on what the rate of the national minimum wage should be, I do not think that anybody would want to impose anything on anybody without having consulted them in a democratic fashion and using evidence, because best practice and policy making requires us to collate the evidence and discuss the issues concerned with those who are most widely affected. We are doing this.

This is an important institutional change for this country and I think it is a very important step change in how we do business and should be seen, as I said earlier, as one of a suite of measures to address issues to do with dignity of work and dignity at work. I hope that all of these measures will outlive all of us. This approach, broadly, can, will and does have the support of the business community. We are ensuring that we will have a recommendation in time to allow, for example, the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Social Protection to prepare for any adjustments that would need to be made to the rate of the national minimum wage well in advance of the budget. I envisage that it will be a matter of months before the Government will introduce the rate because there is a process set down in terms of the period from which the recommendation is made to me and bringing it to Government. As that recommendation needs to be made, to the best of my recollection, within three months, there will be a sufficient period for planning and for the Government system to react and adopt any recommended change and to take account of that change and how it will interact with the tax and social welfare system, which is very important for people who are existing on low pay.

Amendment put and declared carried.
Amendment 19 not moved.

I move amendment No. 20:

In page 6, line 27, to delete “pay.”.” and substitute the following:

“pay.

(5) Where the Minister declares an order for any increase to the national minimum wage, a sufficient lead-in period should be made available for this new rate to be met in a planned way.”.”.

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 10; Níl, 19.

  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Norris, David.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Coghlan, Paul.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • O'Donnell, Marie-Louise.
  • O'Neill, Pat.
  • Reilly, Kathryn.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paschal Mooney and Mary M. White; Níl, Senators Ivana Bacik and Paul Coghlan.
Amendment declared lost.
Section 6, as amended, agreed to.
NEW SECTION

I move amendment No. 21:

In page 6, between lines 27 and 28, to insert the following:

" Complaints and protection against victimisation

7. An employer shall not penalise or threaten against a worker, or cause or permit any other person to penalise or threaten penalisation against a worker for having made a statement to the Low Pay Commission or for giving evidence on their own experience through their representative organisation.”.

The section is intended to enhance the commission's anti-victimisation powers and the protection of workers.

Amendment No. 21 proposes to introduce a new section 7 to the Bill to introduce anti-victimisation protections for workers who have made a statement or have given evidence to the Low Pay Commission via their representative organisation.

As the House will be aware, there are already a considerable number of protections in place for workers who consider that they have been the subject of victimisation in the workplace and any worker who might find themselves the subject of victimisation measures for making a statement to the Low Pay Commission or giving evidence via their trade union already has the possibility of taking a case under the Industrial Relations Act. In addition, the 2004 code of practice on victimisation provides that where there is a dispute in an employment where collective bargaining fails to take place and where negotiating arrangements are not in place, no person should be victimised or suffer disadvantage as a consequence of their legitimate actions or affiliation arising from the dispute.

A procedure for addressing complaints of victimisation is set out in the Industrial Relations (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004 and these protections, as the House may be aware, will be further enhanced by me in the context of provisions in the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill 2015 dealing with the Government's commitment on collective bargaining, which this House will have an opportunity to consider over the next few weeks. Accordingly, I cannot accept the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 7 agreed to.
SECTION 8
Government amendment No. 22:
In page 7, line 6, to delete "subsection (2)" and substitute "subsection (3)".

This is a technical amendment to correct an incorrect reference to a subsection in the Act of 2000.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 8, as amended, agreed to.
Section 9 agreed to.
Amendment No. 23 not moved.
Section 10 agreed to.
SCHEDULE

Amendments Nos. 24 to 26, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 24:

In page 8, line 16, after "persons" to insert ", one of whom shall be a person currently managing a small to medium sized enterprise".

I wish to discuss the rationale for amendment No. 24. It is imperative that at least one member of the Low Pay Commission should have a precise understanding of the interests and needs of small to medium-sized businesses and a strong knowledge of the issues faced by these businesses on a day-to-day basis. The rebuilding of the economy in the coming year will depend heavily on the small and medium enterprise sector. These companies are the backbone of the economy, constituting 99% of all businesses in Ireland and employing more than 800,000 people. Their ability to succeed and grow underpins Ireland's future potential for jobs, growth and prosperity. Despite the wide diversity within the small and medium enterprise sector, the issues facing the sector are very similar. The Taoiseach has expressed a desire that Ireland would become the best small country in the world in which to do business. The reality for many small business owners is far from this truth. Given the very challenging and changing environment still facing all small businesses and the fragile nature of Ireland's economic recovery, it is imperative that at least one member of the Low Pay Commission has first-hand experience of managing a small to medium sized enterprise.

I wish to support my colleague, Senator Mary White, on this amendment. We discussed it on Second Stage, as the Minister of State will be aware. and I know he took a particular view on it. However, we believe that it is vitally important. We are not at all convinced that the current representational nature of the proposed Low Pay Commission addresses convincingly the argument that has been put forward by Senator Mary White. I am not sure whether anything can be done to change it at this stage, but we certainly would like to press the view that one member of the commission should be a person who knows what it is like to run a business and to hire workers to manage a business particularly in the small and medium enterprise sector. I suggest one of the weaknesses of successive Administrations in this country, particularly in the modern era during the past 20 or 30 years, has been the lack of business expertise at Cabinet level, and I point to my own party in that regard as much as anything else. That is no reflection on the decent honourable committed people who took up public life, many of them at the expense of family and lifestyle, as was pointed out in an earlier debate by Senator Denis Landy who spoke about the life of councillors. The lifestyle of a Deputy or a Minister when set against the modern norm is horrendous given the manner in which they are imposed upon on a 24-7 basis.

This argument in this respect that was made on Second Stage should again be made on Committee Stage. I would be interested to get the Minister of State's response to it not because I anticipate he will accept the amendment but I hope he will go beyond justifying the existing nominations on the basis that they have experience. Having considered them at the time, I am not in any way suggesting they are not capable of the task that they will be asked to perform. We believe that there should be an extra dimension to this commission and that extra dimension should be recognisable in acknowledging the small and medium sized sector, and that a business person with hands-on experience of business should be included among its membership.

I support this amendment, it seems very rational. The figures are stark in that an overwhelming majority of business in this country is in the small and medium enterprise sector. It seems reasonable to have a specifically designated member from that group on the commission. On a related matter, the Minister of State might consider this point and take it back to his Cabinet colleagues.

The treatment of people in this area is lamentable. People who start up businesses and run them are not covered by social welfare. That is outrageous. They give employment to other people down the line who get protection but if the business goes wallop the person who took the courageous step to start it and invest in it is not covered. I ask the Minister of State to examine if something can be done about that. I have been talking about this issue for a number of years. It is morally wrong that people who create employment are left out of the scheme although their employees are covered.

I understand the wording the Minister of State has used in the Schedule. It states, under membership at subsection (2)(b): "3 shall be appointed from among persons who, in the opinion of the Minister, have an understanding of the interests of employers, particularly small to medium-sized employers and those operating in traditionally low pay sectors". The Minister of State's heart is in the right place. However, the amendment moved by Senator White is much stronger and proposes the inclusion of a person who has the experience of running a small business. In response to a reference to the Minister for Finance some years ago, when I said I had a very high regard for him, I recall a very successful businessman saying that he was always worried about any Minister for Finance who never had to worry about where they would get the money to pay the wages at the end of the week. Lying awake at night wondering where one will get the money to pay the wages at the end of the week is a huge discipline, experience and education. The wording proposed by Senators Mary White and Paschal Mooney is much stronger than the wording in the Schedule. The Minister of State's heart is in the right place and he has the right objective, but I somebody who has had the experience of running a small business is worthy of consideration.

I appreciate the spirit in which the proposed amendment has been tabled.

It provides for a nine-member commission, comprising an independent chair and three members who have a deep understanding of the interests of low-paid workers. It will also comprise three members, as Senator Feargal Quinn outlined, who have a deep understanding of the interests of employers, particularly small to medium-sized enterprises, SMEs, and those operating in the traditional low-pay sector, and who possess a good knowledge and understanding of the particular issues faced by businesses. It will also comprise two members who will have relevant knowledge or expertise in labour market economics, statistics or employment law.

All the commission members were appointed by me on an interim basis in February last to allow them commence their work and make recommendations to me on the rate of the national minimum wage by mid-July. My expressed intention was that members would then be appointed on a statutory basis once the necessary legislation was enacted. In this context, it was decided by the Government, quite correctly, to engage the services of the Public Appointments Service to hold an open and transparent competition for members of the commission. The employer and worker representatives, as well as the academic members, were all selected on that basis and on the basis of the criteria set out in the Bill on which I reflected earlier. Accordingly, it would be unwise to introduce new eligibility criteria at this point.

I am satisfied those members representing employers' interests selected through the public process have much experience representing the business community and the SME sector and owners. The provisions on the qualifications of the employer representatives of the commission are already comprehensive enough to ensure the interests of business, particularly SMEs and traditional low-pay sectors of the economy, will be well articulated in the commission’s deliberations. Accordingly, I cannot accept amendment No. 24.

On amendment No. 25, I am satisfied the expertise requirements for the academic experts will ensure the commission will have the necessary and relevant academic supports and expertise to assist it in undertaking this work. Accordingly, I cannot accept this amendment either.

On amendment No. 26, the Bill provides that worker representatives on the commission will have an understanding of the interests of low-paid workers, as well as good knowledge and experience of working on behalf of workers’ interests and representing workers, particularly low-paid workers, with a proven track record in advocacy. We can say with some certainty that the members selected by the Public Appointments Service such as Patricia King, general secretary of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Gerry Light, assistant general secretary, Mandate, and Edel McGinley, director, Migrant Rights Centre Ireland-----

The Minister of State is not supposed to name people in the House.

I am complimenting them.

It does not matter a damn. That is what we are always told. I agree with the Minister of State, but that is not the ruling from the Chair.

As they are members of a commission appointed by the Government, I do not think they will have any difficulty being referred to in that light.

Deputy David Norris, I mean Senator David Norris, I apologise that I may have demoted him.

There are no demotions here.

As I stated on Second Stage, these are members from trade unions and civil society who have spent their entire professional lives, often in voluntary capacities, representing the interests of working people, particularly those in low pay or those on the margins of our society and economy.

The commission will not just be confining itself to desk-bound analysis of detailed economic and statistical data. Anyone can do that. It will also be obliged to engage face-to-face with employers in low-pay sectors across the country to get a handle on the lived experience of what it is like to run a business in this sector, as well as those working in this sector. It will be engaging on a series of different levels of consultations before it makes its annual recommendations to me or any future Minister on the appropriate rate for the minimum wage. Accordingly, I cannot accept amendment No. 26.

Although I have high regard for the Minister of State’s dedication to his portfolio, I am sorry I have to disagree with him on this. I was privileged to be a member of Bord Bia when I worked full-time with Connie Doody and all our staff in Lír Chocolates. Having the hands-on experience of a start-up food company without a pen or pencil when we started, I was able to contribute and suggest changes at Bord Bia’s board level. I could not have done that if I have not had first-hand experience. Going around talking to company people is no comparison. I agree with Senator Feargal Quinn that one does not know about being at the coalface of being an entrepreneur until one lies awake at night worrying if one will get the sales to pay the wages that week. The commission needs manufacturing people, those who grow their companies and create more jobs, not those appointed by the Civil Service commission or whatever it is.

I still have the highest regard for the Minister of State, however. I had a go at his colleague yesterday evening because he was looking at his laptop during the debate on the 1916 commemoration and the Moore Street area renewal Bill.

There is no fear of this Minister of State looking at his laptop.

The Minister of State is probably aware he has a fan club on this side of the House when it comes to this legislation.

I have the highest of regard for civil servants but, in a way, it is a bit sad that the onward rush of the media forced this and the previous Governments’ hand to take more authority away from central government in appointments because they were seen somehow to be questionable. It has gone to the extreme of the baby being thrown out with the bathwater if a Minister, elected by the people and subsequently ratified by the Dáil, is accused of not following the correct procedures adopted for the nomination of people to State appointments. Everything has been taken away from central government and the Minister of the day, and given to an appointments commission.

The appointments commission, with respect, is made up of civil servants. In this particular instance, with all due respect, those civil servants will operate under the criteria set down by the Government. That does not take account of what the Minister of State has heard from Senators Feargal Quinn and Mary White. What do civil servants know about being at the coalface of business? With respect, horses for courses. They are excellent civil servants and superb at their job. That is the core of this argument. If it were a Minister who had exclusive responsibility for the appointment of the Low Pay Commission, I have no doubt it would have been a much broader church than what we have seen with this legislation. The Minister of the day would have known exactly what was required. Now, that has been given to a third party which is operating under paper requirements, criteria, recognition and acknowledgement, without the personal input or experience a Minister would bring to it.

I know it is a separate issue and argument but to me it is an example of how sad it is that such was the push by the media that one side of the argument has been lost. The only power the Minister of State has is one of ratification. He will not oppose whatever recommendations come before him, not just in this instance but for any other group of appointments. If he did, politically, he would be dead in the water. The system is flawed. Unfortunately, we are where we are. There is nothing any of us can do about it. At the same time, we feel it was important to make the argument.

Amendment put:
The Committee divided: Tá, 9; Níl, 18.

  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Norris, David.
  • Power, Averil.
  • Quinn, Feargal.
  • van Turnhout, Jillian.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Níl

  • Bacik, Ivana.
  • Burke, Colm.
  • Coghlan, Eamonn.
  • Conway, Martin.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • D'Arcy, Jim.
  • Gilroy, John.
  • Heffernan, James.
  • Keane, Cáit.
  • Kelly, John.
  • Landy, Denis.
  • Moran, Mary.
  • Mulcahy, Tony.
  • Mullins, Michael.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Noone, Catherine.
  • O'Neill, Pat.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Paschal Mooney and Mary M. White; Níl, Senators Ivana Bacik and Jim D'Arcy.
Amendment declared lost.

I propose that the time allocated be extended to 4.15 p.m. to allow us to finish the debate on the Bill.

Amendments Nos. 25 and 26 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 27 and 28 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 27:
In page 9, to delete lines 12 to 14 and substitute the following:
"(c) the member has a conflict of interest of interest of such significance that, in the opinion of the Minister, the member should cease to hold the office, or".

Section 3 of the Schedule to the Bill deals with the resignation and termination of office of members of the Low Pay Commission. Section 3(2)(c) provides that the Minister may remove a member of the commission from office if, in the opinion of the Minister, the member has not complied with section 14 of the Ethics in Public Office Act, 1995 in the performance of his or her functions as a member of the commission. Section 14 of the Ethics in Public Office Act, 1995 refers to officeholder obligations. As members of the commission do not fall under the definition of officeholder in the meaning of the 1995 Act, it is not appropriate to include a reference to section 14 of the Act in the Bill. Accordingly, it is necessary to amend this reference in the Bill. The new proposed provision repeats similar provisions regarding members of the Fiscal Advisory Council in the Schedule to the Fiscal Responsibility Act 2012.

With regard to amendment No. 28, the Schedule to the Bill already provides the Minister with the possibility of removing a member of the Low Pay Commission from office if the member has committed stated misbehaviour, or the removal of the member appears to be necessary for the effective performance by the commission of its functions. I expect an employer member who commits an offence under the National Minimum Wage Act to fall within these categories. Moreover, a member could be found to have committed an offence under the full range of employment rights legislation which could make his or her membership of the commission untenable. Accordingly, I cannot accept the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 28 not moved.
Government amendment No. 29:
In page 10, line 7, to delete "Commission is—" and substitute "Commission—".

This amendment addresses a grammatical error in section 5(1) of the Schedule to the Bill where the word "is" is included twice in succession.

Amendment agreed to.
Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
Amendment No. 30 not moved.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.

When is it proposed to take Report Stage?

Report Stage ordered for Tuesday, 16 June 2015.
Sitting suspended at 4 p.m. and resumed at 4.30 p.m.