The labour inspectorate of my Department is part of the employment rights enforcement section. The inspectorate has 17 inspector posts supported by a further seven administrative posts. The employment rights enforcement section comprises three interlinked units which, apart from the inspectorate, incorporates the employment rights information unit, with ten staff members, and the legal services, with a further five staff members.
The present structure of the employment rights enforcement section reflects full implementation of a key recommendation arising from a thorough business process re-engineering project undertaken in 2001 by consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers. Other proposals to streamline activities have also been put in place.
A further recommendation was that the existing computer systems be retired and replaced by a more modern and robust application. This, too, has been delivered. In June 2003 a new electronic case management system was introduced into the labour inspectorate. For the period following its introduction the old system also continued in use. In December 2003, staff concentrated on ensuring all relevant data were finally committed to this legacy system and its day to day use then ceased.
I am confident that this work and investment in technology, together with other actions that have been completed, such as the streamlining of procedures, and the availability of newly developed user friendly employment rights information in print and on the web, ensure that the inspectorate is enabled to provide an effective and efficient service. There are no plans to increase the complement of inspectors at present.
It should be noted also that in many cases employment rights legislation contains provisions whereby workers who believe that they have been denied their entitlements, or otherwise unfairly treated, can take the matter before a commissioner in the rights commissioner service of the Labour Relations Commission.