I thank the Chair for allowing me to raise this matter on the Adjournment. I thank the Minister for the Marine who I understand is standing in for the Minister for Labour. None of us can fail to observe the ongoing problems there have been in the ISPCC. Earlier in the week there was some hope of a settlement of the dispute as there were talks of Labour Court hearings and discussions. However, because these have come to nothing and in fact the situation has become stalemate, I raise the matter in the House in the hope that the Minister may be able to intervene to the Labour Court to bring the sides back to the table to seek a resolution.
The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children is noted, not for management and staff problems, but for the wide range of support services they give to the poorest and most vulnerable sections in the community. This is the first time in the 100 years of its existence that this kind of situation has emerged. This dispute does no good, either to the image of the society or to the 1,000 or so families in either the settled or the itinerant communities who are dependent on the services and the support services of the ISPCC. In my own constituency they provide a playschool service in the local itinerant settlement. This is a valued and very important service in helping the children to become integrated into the community. That little extra assistance at pre-school age, which is so vital, is of great benefit when they go to school.
The issues involved appear to be complex involving redundancies, retrospection pay and the general problems of the society in maintaining their operations under the economic pressures which will be there for the foreseeable future. In the past week as the dispute has been going on there have been no moves whatsoever because an initial Labour Court conciliation attempt was deserted by the management side who refused to submit to binding arbitration. The unions involved, who represent the workers, have offered to submit the issues to binding arbitration in the Labour Court. It would be desirable to bring the sides together to that forum to seek some agreement. The workers and the management must also be frustrated because of the lack of progress and some intervention may be needed to bring the sides together. I am asking if there is any way in which the Department of Labour could get the wheels in motion to get some form of conciliation or to arrange a forum in which the two sides could meet and seek to find a solution.