Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Bill, 2000: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 8, to delete lines 38 to 42.

This is an amendment to avoid section 9(4) of the Bill which would have the effect of excluding part time workers from eligibility for a pension scheme. The directive on which the legislation is based does not permit any blanket exclusion, yet the Minister is proceeding in a fashion that will prevent part-time workers, people who work less than 20% of the normal working hours, from participation in a pension scheme. That is an extraordinary provision. It is exclusive. I cannot understand why it is there. There is no legal barrier currently in the way of anyone working less than 20% of the normal working hours being eligible for a pension scheme, and many such people are already in pension schemes. Will the Minister clarify whether this will put a legal impediment in the way of their being in a pension scheme?

We find ourselves in the farcical position that this Bill will be guillotined at 10 p.m., yet a large number of amendments have not been dealt with. The farcical intervention of Deputy Gildea tonight not only does an injustice to his constituents in Donegal, but he has proceeded to do a considerable injustice to part-time workers in Donegal because we will not be able to take amendments other than those sponsored by the Minister. The Minister advises me privately that he has responded positively to the case I made on behalf of the Labour Party in respect of a number of matters I raised on Second and Committee Stages. I appreciate and welcome that.

However, there are still a number of matters that go to the heart of this Bill. There are almost 300,000 part-time workers. Therefore, this amendment is a matter of some import. If one is a teacher for instance, with eight hours teaching content, that is quite a number of teaching hours contact. I made the point on the last occasion that there are many people in secure positions protected by Act of parliament in full-time professorial jobs who do not work much more than eight hours a week, apart from nixers in theSunday Independent. It is regrettable the Minister of State is ploughing ahead with this. I hope that even at this late stage he will change his mind.

I appreciate that we are running out of time. I clarify that I will accept amendments on the basis of what Deputy Rabbitte and his party suggested during the debate. Amendment No. 12a is an alternative to Opposition amendment No. 12 in regard to the protection of an employee for giving evidence in any proceeding under the Act. Amendment 12a is an alternative to Opposition amendment No.12 on the issue of penalisation by an employer of an employee in circumstances for refusing to transfer from full-time to part-time work or vice versa. In case we do not reach those, I acknowledge the contributions made by Deputy Rabbitte and Deputy Broughan on those two issues.

With regard to the points made by Deputy Rabbitte, we have responded to the Opposition's suggestions on the issue of 20% of normal hours of work. Section 9(4), as amended on Committee Stage, provides in effect for the exclusion of part-time employees who normally work less than 20% of the normal hours of work of a comparable full-time employee from access to pension schemes or arrangements under the Bill. It was considered that such persons should be excluded from such schemes on the grounds that the administrative costs of providing for such access to persons with such little service would be far in excess of any benefits that might accrue to them from such pension schemes. Deputies will recall that this issue was originally raised on Second Stage. Some Deputies felt that in the case of certain full-time teachers and lecturers, to whom the Deputy referred, who normally work a maximum of 22 hours a week, the threshold of eight hours would have the effect of excluding a high proportion of such part-time teachers and lecturers. It was felt the threshold might be better expressed in such circumstances as a percentage of the hours of comparable full-time workers. I was happy to address these genuine concerns on Committee Stage by means of an amendment incorporated in the current text of the Bill.

Opposition amendment No. 8, however, proposes the deletion of section 9(4). The amendment agreed on Committee Stage goes a long way towards addressing the concerns raised by Deputies during Second and Committee Stages. For the reason I outlined, I do not propose to accept this amendment. The administrative costs involved would put people in an impossible position in terms of the administration of such a measure. We are talking about very small monetary costs. What we are doing is workable. The Opposition has contributed to improving the Bill in terms of the idea of 20% of normal working hours. That is the right approach. That is the position and I cannot accept the Deputy's amendment.

I accept what the Minister of State said about expressing the hours to be worked as a proportion of normal working hours, 20%, rather than eight hours is a modest improvement, a suggestion I made on Second Stage. However, he has not dealt with the fundamental grievance, which is the exclusion of all workers working less than 20% of the normal working hours from eligibility for a pension scheme. I asked him to say if where there is no legal barrier currently, there will be one in the future because it seems the new threshold will exclude these persons from any pension scheme or arrangement. This is especially discriminatory towards women. I wonder whether it will demonstrate any infirmity in the legislation if challenged on that basis. The great preponderance of workers in this category happen to be women for reasons I do not have time to elaborate on and in any event Members will be familiar with them.

I ask the Minister of State to address the phenomenon of people who are pressed into more than one part-time job. If a person is working twice eight hours a week in different employments, would that person be eligible to join a pension scheme? This is an important point. There are time constraints. One cannot do anything in this House anymore, it is regimented and guided by rules. This is an important matter and I would like to hear the Minister of State's view on it.

On the Deputy's last question, if a person had different employers, that person could have different pension schemes. On the Deputy's question of a possible legal impediment, it would not change existing arrangements. The law, as it stands, would apply. Any concerns the Deputy may have should be based on the current legal position.

We have improved the earlier Bill brought before the House. We have taken on board the idea of 20% of normal hours of work, with reference in particular to teachers and lecturers. We have made some amendments, which due to the time constraints, we will not reach. I outlined to the Deputy in private what we are doing. It is not our fault that those of us who are debating this Bill are in this situation. We have debated this Bill at length. It is important that we bring the directive into law. There have been some delays in relation to this. I appreciate the co-operation of the House to date. It is important that we pass this legislation because, as the Deputy rightly identified, it will allow part-time workers to be treated much more favourably than they are at present, particularly the many women who work in part-time employment.

I hope I answered the queries the Deputy had on this section. I confirm that there are other elements later in the Bill that we have amended, including clarification on amendment No. 12a, as requested by the Deputy on the question of penalisation.

As it is now 10 p.m., I must put the question, but before I do so I want to be absolutely clear that the Minister of State is not accepting any of the Opposition amendments.

As a result of the debates we had previously, I am bringing forward amendment No. 9a, which is based on Deputy Rabbitte's—

That is in the Minister of State's name.

Yes, that is later on. It is important that we clarify that. I am not accepting this amendment. We have gone as far as we can on amendment No. 8.

Are the amendments in the names of Opposition Members being accepted?

That is all the Chair wants to know. As it is now 10 p.m., I am required to put the following question in accordance with an order of the Dáil of this day: "That the amendments set down by the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment and not disposed of are hereby made to the Bill, that Fourth Stage is hereby completed and that the Bill is hereby passed."

Question put.

Ahern, Michael.Ahern, Noel.Andrews, David.Ardagh, Seán.Aylward, Liam.Blaney, Harry.Brady, Johnny.Brady, Martin.Brennan, Matt.Brennan, Séamus.Briscoe, Ben.Browne, John (Wexford).Byrne, Hugh.Callely, Ivor.Carey, Pat.

Collins, Michael.Coughlan, Mary.Cowen, Brian.Davern, Noel.Dempsey, Noel.Dennehy, John.Doherty, Seán.Ellis, John.Fleming, Seán.Flood, Chris.Fox, Mildred.Gildea, Thomas.Hanafin, Mary.Harney, Mary. Tá–continued

Haughey, Seán.Healy-Rae, Jackie.Jacob, Joe.Keaveney, Cecilia.Kelleher, Billy.Kenneally, Brendan.Killeen, Tony.Kirk, Séamus.Kitt, Tom.Lenihan, Brian.Lenihan, Conor.McCreevy, Charlie.McDaid, James.McGennis, Marian.McGuinness, John J.Martin, Micheál.Moffatt, Thomas.Molloy, Robert.Moloney, John.

Moynihan, Donal.Moynihan, Michael.Ó Cuív, Éamon.O'Dea, Willie.O'Donnell, Liz.O'Flynn, Noel.O'Hanlon, Rory.O'Keeffe, Batt.O'Kennedy, Michael.O'Rourke, Mary.Roche, Dick.Ryan, Eoin.Smith, Brendan.Smith, Michael.Treacy, Noel.Wade, Eddie.Wallace, Dan.Wallace, Mary.Woods, Michael.Wright, G.V.


Allen, Bernard.Belton, Louis J.Boylan, Andrew.Bradford, Paul.Broughan, Thomas P.Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).Bruton, Richard.Burke, Ulick.Carey, Donal.Clune, Deirdre.Connaughton, Paul.Cosgrave, Michael.Coveney, Simon.Crawford, Seymour.Creed, Michael.Currie, Austin.Deasy, Austin.Deenihan, Jimmy.Dukes, Alan.Enright, Thomas.Farrelly, John.Fitzgerald, Frances.Flanagan, Charles.Gilmore, Éamon.Gormley, John.Gregory, Tony.Hayes, Brian.Hayes, Tom.Healy, Seamus.Higgins, Jim.Higgins, Joe.Higgins, Michael.

Hogan, Philip.Howlin, Brendan.McCormack, Pádraic.McDowell, Derek.McGinley, Dinny.McGrath, Paul.McManus, Liz.Mitchell, Olivia.Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.Naughten, Denis.Neville, Dan.Noonan, Michael.Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.O'Keeffe, Jim.O'Shea, Brian.O'Sullivan, Jan.Owen, Nora.Penrose, William.Quinn, Ruairí.Rabbitte, Pat.Reynolds, Gerard.Ring, Michael.Ryan, Seán.Sargent, Trevor.Shatter, Alan.Sheehan, Patrick.Shortall, Róisín.Stagg, Emmet.Stanton, David.Timmins, Billy.Upton, Mary.Wall, Jack.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies S. Brennan and Briscoe; Níl, Deputies Bradford and Stagg.
Question declared carried.