The EU working time directive has been transposed into national legislation by way of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. As the House will be aware, the Defence Forces are excluded from the provisions of the Act. However, it is important to say that the Government has committed to amending this Act and bringing the Defence Forces and An Garda Síochána within the scope of its provisions. There is no resistance to that.
The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection has responsibility for introducing this legislative change. My Department has worked closely with that Department to progress the legislative changes required. I am advised that responsibility for this legislation will transfer to the new Department of enterprise, trade and employment in the near future and work on progressing the requisite legislative changes will continue with that Department.
The working time directive recognises the unique nature of certain military activities and allows for derogations and exemptions of such activities. A significant amount of work has been undertaken by civil and military management in determining the military activities that fall within the scope of the directive. I am advised that a high percentage of the normal everyday work of the Defence Forces is already in compliance with the working time directive and that a range of activities also qualify for exemption. Deliberations on these matters are continuing between civilian and military management and will feed into amendments to the legislative framework.
A subcommittee of the conciliation and arbitration council, one comprising the representative associations and military and civil management, has been established to discuss matters relating to implementation of the working time directive. Arising from these discussions, amended practices regarding compensatory rest have been introduced. This builds upon existing work practices relating to compensatory rest that comply with the directive. Discussions with the Defence Forces representative associations will continue to be undertaken through this forum as the current work evolves.
My Department and the Defence Forces remain fully committed to ensuring that the provisions of the directive are applied throughout the Defence Forces. I assure the Deputies that the health and safety of personnel in the Defence Forces remain a priority for me and the Chief of Staff.
We are committed to doing this. Mine is not the primary Department introducing legislation. It will change from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection to the future Department of jobs. I assure the Deputies that I will pursue this issue and try to move it on in as timely a manner as we can. There has already been considerable discussion, as well as a structure to facilitate that discussion, to ensure that we are doing what we can to act in the spirit of the working time directive before we introduce the amending legislation to get it done in law.