National Minimum Wage (Low Pay Commission) Bill 2015: Report and Final Stages

Amendments Nos. 6 and 8 have been ruled out of order because they were not discussed on Committee Stage and amendment No. 22 is ruled out of order as it could involve a charge on the Exchequer.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, line 8, after “wage;” to insert the following:

“to make provision for the purposes of the operation of the Workplace Relations Act 2015 and, for that purpose, to amend that enactment and certain other enactments;”.

This amendment is required to amend the Long Title of the Bill to reflect the amendments to the Workplace Relations Act 2015 and certain other enactments. This amendment is taken together with amendment No. 31, which is a technical drafting amendment. The proposed new section 11 provides that the Act of 2015 shall mean the Workplace Relations Act 2015 and the Minister shall mean the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation for the purposes of the proposed new Part 3 of the National Minimum Wage (Low Pay Commission) Bill 2015.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendments Nos. 2 and 30 form a composite proposal and will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 3, line 8, to delete “related matters” and substitute “matters related to low pay”.

We have had this discussion on a number of occasions in respect of a number of Bills, but the point must be made again now. Low pay and under-employment are entrenched within the Irish system. That means for hundreds of thousands of individuals the simple necessities of life are beyond reach for their families. As has been said, over 20% of the population is on low pay. The facts that people who are working are in poverty, that people who are working are getting a subsidy from the Government to subsidise their employers to pay them the low wage and that the State is employing people in the public sector on a low wage and giving them family income support, acknowledging that their wages are not enough for them to survive, mean that when we approach a Bill such as this we must do so with ambition and an understanding of the real lives of mothers, fathers and children throughout the State. For that reason, we have asked that the Government broaden the terms of the Bill.

The Bill refers to low pay. However the national minimum wage applies to 4.7% of the population. Low pay affects over 20% of the population, so over 15% of people in the State will not experience any positive effects from this Bill. From the start we have asked the Government to substitute the phrase "matters related to low pay" to broaden the scope. We have tabled this amendment and a number of other amendments to ensure we provide something useful to those people. I wholeheartedly urge the Minister of State, even at this late stage, to take the time to consider the families that have been left out of this legislation and to see how they can be helped.

I support the amendment. The problem is that we know that some people, even today, are not even getting the minimum wage. The Rhatigan workers, for example, were paid €5 per hour. I agree that this must be broadened to include introducing comprehensive legislation regarding the minimum wage, in the first place, and we must go further than low pay and towards a liveable wage.

The Bill is too broad. I will not use the word "slipshod", but it allows a certain number of employers to opt out, as it were. What worries me is that we could have easily inserted the words "minimum wage" and "liveable wage". We are talking about low pay, but there is no definition of what amount people should be earning or what employers should pay.

This omission could be a failing in the Bill. While I accept the good intentions behind the legislation and I do not wish to be excessively critical of it, as Deputy Tóibín pointed out, with a little foresight, its scope could have been extended to cover many workers who will not be covered if it is passed in its current form.

As I did not have an opportunity to respond to remarks made on the motion, I should point out that I find it unfortunate that the amendments had to be presented in this manner. This has been done for reasons that are beyond my control and I fully accept that it is an imperfect way of doing business that should not become de rigueur. This is complex legislation. We are in the business of trying to ensure that it works for employers and employees and that the service assists in transforming the landscape and becomes much easier and more effective for those who need to use it.

Many criticisms have been made of the way in which we intend to structure the Low Pay Commission since we first announced the concept some time ago. I do not accept the criticism that the remit of the new organisation is narrow. The opposite is the case as the commission's role will extend far beyond setting the rate of the national minimum wage on an annual basis. The body was established on an interim basis at the end of February and, given the short timeframe it has to report to me and Government and make a recommendation for a new rate for the national minimum wage, it has focused on this task in the early months of its existence. I do not make any apologies for that.

Section 5 provides that the Low Pay 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. This may be a rather inelegant way of providing that the commission will have a broad remit. In addition, its remit will be very much based on concerns expressed in the House every week about matters related to low pay. This Government and subsequent Governments will need to be conscious of this issue and address it in a democratic fashion.

The Government must provide the Low Pay Commission with its work programme not later than two months after the legislation has been enacted and, subsequently, by the end of February each year. In doing so, it will reflect on the state of play in respect of low pay, the incidence and prevalence of low pay and various related matters and various sectors that may be of concern to the House and Governments in future. This is how the Low Pay Commission's work programme will be developed. It will be adopted by the Government each year and sent to the commission for its examination. This will allow me and future Ministers to ask the commission each year to do the work all Deputies want it to do and advise the Government in an expert and evidence based manner about the best approaches to take. For these reasons, I cannot accept the proposed amendments.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 33; Níl, 52.

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • O'Brien, Jonathan.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Troy, Robert.

Níl

  • Breen, Pat.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Conlan, Seán.
  • Connaughton, Paul J.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • White, Alex.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Dara Calleary and Peadar Tóibín; Níl, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Joe Carey.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 3, 4, 28 and 29 form a composite proposal and may be discussed together. Recommittal is necessary in respect of amendments Nos. 3, 4, 28 and 29 as they relate to the instruction to committee motion.

Bill recommitted in respect of amendments Nos. 3 and 4.

I move amendment No. 3:

"PART 1

PRELIMINARY AND GENERAL

Short title, collective citation and construction.

1. (1) This Act may be cited as the National Minimum Wage (Low Pay Commission) Act 2015.

(2) This Act (other than Part 3) and the National Minimum Wage Act 2000 may be cited together as the National Minimum Wage Acts 2000 and 2015 and shall be construed together as one Act.".

Amendments Nos. 3, 4, 28 and 29 are technical amendments. Section 9 of the Bill, as published, provides for the repeal of a number of sections of the 2000 Act. As drafted, section 10 provides for the Short Title, collective citation and construction of the Bill arising from the insertion of a Part 3 to the Bill to facilitate amendments to the Workplace Relations Act 2015 and other enactments. These provisions are being moved to sections 1 and 2, respectively. Amendments Nos. 28 and 29 provide for the deletion of the construction and repeal provisions contained in sections 9 and 10 of the Bill as published.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 3, between lines 11 and 12, to insert the following:

"Repeals

2. Sections 11, 12 and 13 of the Principal Act are repealed.".

Amendment agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.

I move amendment No. 5:

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,".

I tabled the amendment because it often seems that this is a typical debate that is had between left and right on the issue of wages and that it is an insular Irish issue but this is not a typical discussion between left and right. The inequalities that have become entrenched in the labour force today are like nothing what we have seen for generations in this country or internationally. In an effort to rebalance that, we need to make sure that we have the most robust answer possible.

The inclusion of a commitment to our international responsibilities, responsibilities to which we have already signed up to as a State, would be logical to buttress the legislation and make it stronger. For example, Ireland has international commitments to a fair wage, as indicated in the commission's considerations. It was highlighted by ICTU during the pre-legislative scrutiny hearings that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees the "right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring...an existence worthy of human dignity". The European Social Charter refers to "a right to fair remuneration, sufficient for a standard of living for themselves and their families". The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights declares a right to fair wages and decent living for workers and their families. We are part of this process. I am sure the Minister of State would agree that this is something up to which we should be signed - therefore, let us sign up to this in the legislation.

One meets many people on the minimum wage or earning below a living wage or people employed in the black market who are not even paid the minimum wage. That is a breach of their human rights. That is acknowledged in the European Court of Human Rights. It is acknowledged across Europe that people have a right to earn a reasonable wage. This is an interesting proposal and there is no reason it cannot be included in the legislation. Its inclusion would commit us to what is provided in the European Court of Human Rights and in the European Convention on Human Rights, to which all of us in this Parliament would subscribe. I do not know anybody here who would not subscribe to it. There is no reason the protection afforded by a reasonable wage against the violation of a worker's right could not be copper-fastened in the legislation. If we are serious about ensuring people have a living wage and addressing the issue of low pay, we definitely would not have a problem with making this a human rights issue.

I raised an issue in the House, highlighted to me by a girl I spoke to recently who is employed on a zero-hour contract and who, having worked, came home with €124. It is a breach of her human rights to work and not earn a living wage and that should not be allowed. This proposal is a good one. It would not alter the objective of the Bill if we were to guarantee that the right to a decent and living wage is a human right.

I concur strongly with this amendment and the previous comments that were made. The points have been well elaborated in recent times, particularly with the Dunnes Stores strike and the manner in which those workers highlighted, through their action, the utterly scandalous situation of low pay and the intolerable conditions they and workers in many other employments have to put up with. Is there a radio on?

There is a technical problem.

To establish this right and link this legislation to what is a human right is a very positive, progressive and necessary step. We must raise the standards and counter the pressure and drive towards the race to the bottom.

I would point to another dimension to this issue which we discussed at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform yesterday and I was very pleased to get a positive response from economists who were there. We were debating the issue of quantitative easing, which is a technically dense, complicated, barely understandable process that is being engaged in by the European authorities, the ECB and so on, essentially to counter the impact of austerity. I, and others, put it to that group of economists, Stephen Kinsella, Dan O'Brien and Constantin Gurdgiev, who are quite a mixed bag from the political and ideological spectrum, that with respect to all the economic crisis, quantitative easing, austerity and the problems the European and global economy are facing, that the big problem is low pay and that all of those measures were symptoms of the fact that the share of income that is going to labour has dropped by about 10% since the Thatcher-Regan era and there has been a corresponding increase in the national economic cake or wider European economic cake going to profits. There has been a significant and consistent transfer across Europe and the world of wealth from the pockets of workers, in the form of wages, into the pockets of the rich in the form of profits and that transfer lies at the base of the economic crisis we are now witnessing.

There is an economic imperative, from the point of view of the whole economy, to address the issue of low pay, not only for the low-paid but for the stability of the entire economy. If workers do not have enough money in their pockets, they cannot afford to put a roof over their heads and they cannot afford to pay for goods. If they cannot do that, it causes a big problem for the economy and there is only one way that can be resolved and that is by them getting loans - many loans - they cannot afford to pay back. The result of that is credit bubbles and the financialisation of the entire economy. That is what has happened during the last 25 years.

The question of radically redressing the race to the bottom, the issue of low pay and the transfer from wages to capital which has essentially taken place during the past 25 years is really a matter of economic urgency for our economy and the global economy, not to mention for the people who are really struggling. Some 19% of those working are living in poverty, which is an extraordinary situation. Stephen Kinsella said yesterday that this is a Marxist argument but Marx was right; he actually said that. I was amazed by that comment. Constantin Gurdgiev did not quite agree with him all the way but he nodded to indicate that there was a very significant element of truth in it.

For various reasons we have to shift the narrative on the question of fair remuneration, a living wage and a decent income for working people. Otherwise, the crisis our economy has just gone through will recur and on the current trajectory, it is increasingly likely that will happen. We have to address this and one way to do that is to say that decent remuneration is a human right to counter the relentless narrative about competitiveness, which becomes the justification for attacking pay and conditions for workers. That sounds good on the face of it but when we examine it closely, it is a disaster for the economy when it is viewed in its entirety.

I thank the contributors for the remarks they made. They are making a strong case for the establishment of an institutional framework like the Low Pay Commission and for the collective bargaining legislation I am introducing, the re-establishment of REAs and sectoral employment orders and the work I intend to carry out on zero-hour and low-hour contracts. We are all at one on that. We may differ in terms of how we might approach it, but the best way to tackle incidents of low pay is to do it in a strategic, sustained and structured way and try to change our institutions to ensure they are hard wired to constantly seek to address the issues that concern us all and those who spoke on this particular amendment.

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

I have stated previously in the House, and I have no hesitation in stating again, that I want to see the national minimum wage progressively increased where the economic circumstances and the demands of job creation, social conditions and other requirements converge. I want to see better working conditions for people and improved pay, particularly for low paid workers. It is something that motivates me as a public representative. One of the reasons I went into public life in the first place and sought a mandate from the people I represent was to do precisely that, and I am doing that. The Low Pay Commission can present an opportunity to change our institutions to make sure that we have an institutional response in a sustained, strategic and structured way to the issue of low pay.

Section 5 provides for criteria to be taken into account regarding the areas Deputy Boyd Barrett and Deputy Tóibín spoke about because, in reality, and it does reflect this, it refers to changes in economic distribution during the period since the last order so, on a continuous basis, the Low Pay Commission will be examining the changes in income distribution and will have to respond to those in its annual reports, not just on the national minimum wage but on the various other issues it will address on an annual basis.

The objective of ensuring that 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, and to future Ministers, on the appropriate level of the national minimum wage and, therefore, I cannot accept amendment No. 5.

Does Deputy Tóibín wish to respond?

I will not speak again but I am pressing the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendment No. 6 not moved.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 4, between lines 17 and 18, to insert the following:

“10BA. The Commission in the performance of the functions assigned to it by section 10C shall forward recommendations to the Minister regarding low pay that—

(a) reduces the incidence of low pay,

(b) considers access to public services,

(c) takes into account the standard of living, general wage levels and access to welfare supports to include social protection supports, universal healthcare provisions, State provided childcare and social housing,

(d) supports the phased introduction of a living wage.”.

This amendment considers poverty and low pay in the round because, in effect, low pay is people's ability to consume the necessary services and materials required for their family to be able to have a decent life. The level of public services, etc., has a strong effect on poverty. I refer to welfare supports, protections, etc. The Minister of State has stated on a number of occasions that he will be holding the first Government backed forum on the living wage concept in the autumn. He has said previously that it is crucial to bring employers, employees and representatives together with civil society organisations to discuss whether this concept could successfully be applied to Ireland but what is actually happening, in the dying days of this Government, is that a talking shop is being set up to examine these issues. Most of the individuals the Minister of State said would be put in that talking shop are members of the commission he has created. The only people he may need to add to this are individuals with a sociology and social policy background. That would complete the picture necessary for a commission to have the experiential background and desire to tackle these issues.

We are arguing strongly that the schedule of work being undertaken by the commission should not be limited to its annual recommendation on the hourly rate of the national minimum wage. We want it to live up to its name. It does not take these issues into consideration, and that is why I ask the Minister of State to support the amendment.

Are we discussing amendment No. 7 only?

I apologise, Deputy. Amendments Nos. 7 and 9 to 18, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

That is fine. I speak in support of all the relevant amendments but in particular amendment No. 7 tabled by Deputy Tóibín on broadening the remit of this commission and, in particular, inserting in the Bill, which we have also done with one of our amendments, the question of a living wage because this should not be just about establishing a bottom floor in terms of a minimum wage but a wage on which people can live. People have a right to live and should have wages to reflect the cost of living. A good deal of research was done by the Nevin Economic Research Institute, NERI, and others to emerge with the living wage which, for a single adult, in the best case scenario, was about €11 an hour when it was originally proposed some years ago. They have done new work in recent months which has increased the living wage to €11.50 an hour. That does not take into account people who have children. We have to have an aim of establishing that people achieve the living wage and it should be an aim of the Low Pay Commission to do that as opposed to solely dealing with the question of the minimum wage.

Our amendment No. 18 is a call on the Government to face up to the reality of bogus self-employment practices. The Irish Times recently headlined on the issue but, interestingly, did not mention the construction industry. The very bidding process for State construction contracts feeds into a situation where so-called self-employed people end up earning less than the minimum wage, for example, in Rhatigan's, where the workers were on €5 an hour. When the big construction companies enter bids they make claims that they can lay X number of blocks for Y amount of euro but when we take into account the physical limitations in terms of the number of blocks that can be laid per hour, it can be seen that not only are the REA rates not being observed but the minimum wage rates are not being observed either. It is essential that is inserted in this Bill.

We are also in favour of something the Minister of State has spoken about previously, namely, other legislation to deal with that, but our amendments are before the House and we believe they should be accepted as an indication that we will take this issue seriously.

Those who are meant to be taking it seriously, namely, Revenue, are not and as such it is losing out on massive amounts of money. This is a case of worker exploitation on a massive scale and the State being ripped off. Government can send out a signal in this regard today by accepting this amendment.

On the issue of bogus self-employment, the response of the Minister for Finance on this issue is shocking. There is no acknowledgement of the serious level of wholesale tax fraud that is going on in this area. The State is not interested in dealing with it. There is an interesting parallel between current events in Greece and the attitude of our State to the issue of bogus self-employment, which is rampant in the construction sector here. There has been much talk about the biggest problem for Greece being that the Greek people do not want to pay taxes. In comparison with Greece, Ireland is a legally compliant state where people play by the rules and the State is very serious about going after people who play fast and loose with the tax system. Public sector and PAYE workers in Greece pay their taxes in the same way as people in Ireland. It is taken out of their pockets.

In so far as there is a problem with regard to tax in Greece, it revolves around the self-employed sector. It is true that there is a large self-employed sector in Greece and that there has been an expansion of that sector in Ireland. This is a sector which Fine Gael in particular would like to see expand even further. Self-employment in the construction sector has expanded significantly from what it was in the good old days. While previously workers in that sector would have been employed directly as PAYE workers, there has been an exponential expansion of self-employment in the sector and, with that, wholesale abuse and exploitation of that category of self-employed construction workers.

In regard to the amount of tax collected from the self-employed in the construction sector, as against that collected from PAYE workers in the sector, the numbers of which in each category are similar, while hundreds of millions are collected from the PAYE sector, a minus is often recorded in respect of those categorised as self-employed. Even where an amount is collected, it is derisory. Any cursory examination of the number of people who are supposed to be self-employed in the construction sector would indicate that not all of them could be, in reality, self-employed. This sector has expanded massively and direct employment has reduced in tandem, the result of which has been a very significant loss to the Exchequer. We hear constant and entirely credible, confirmed in many cases, examples of tax fraud and abuse and exploitation of the RTC-1 system.

It is clear to me that the Minister for Finance and, in my view, Fine Gael, because it is ideologically committed to this whole notion, are not interested in dealing with this issue. They choose to turn a blind eye to this because it enables the State to have public contract work such as school buildings construction done cheaply, even if it means workers are being exploited and the tax system is being abused. In their view, they are promoting competition. This abuse is taking place on a widespread basis. While the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, is not willing to address this issue, one would expect a Labour Minister to avail of any opportunity to address it and this legislation presents such an opportunity.

I was contacted again this morning by one of the Rhatigan's workers, for whom address of this issue is now a crusade. Fair play to him because week-in, week-out he provides me with details of where this is going on. I have not had time yet to have a proper discussion with him but he left a message on my phone this morning about another site where this is going on. He said that contractors from the North have come up with a new scam, which has something to do with invoicing of the main contractor, to get around Scope or NERA on the issue of compliance in the context of self-employment. This is rampant and the Minister of State knows it. We need a specific mandate for the commission to address this issue in a serious way.

Deputy Tóibín made some important points on the wider issue of the minimum hourly rate. This is of critical importance when it comes to the issue of accommodation. The ability of people to access affordable accommodation is at crisis point. While this is obviously a serious problem for the people, it will soon be a major problem for our economy if people cannot afford accommodation because their wages are so low. The question of wages being sufficient to allow people to put a roof over their heads is critical. This requires serious consideration. It is untenable that some people are paying 50%, 60% and sometimes 70% of their income on keeping a roof over their heads. It is shocking. Various bodies across Europe recommend that people should not be paying more than a quarter or, at most, a third of their income for accommodation. Otherwise, they will get into serious financial trouble. People here are spending virtually all of their income on accommodation. Sometimes even that is not enough to keep a roof over their heads. The Low Pay Commission should, as part of its work, examine whether the level of pay here is adequate to ensure that people who are working can afford to pay for accommodation. People should not have to fork out every penny they have to do that.

The proposed amendment is very good in that it points in this direction. Even if the Minister of State will not accept it, the issue of affordability of accommodation and its relationship to wage levels must be the focus of this or any future Government.

I subscribe to everything that Deputies Richard Boyd Barrett and Paul Murphy had to say in regard to amendment No. 7. What we have been speaking of for the past half hour in the context of the amendment is the remit of the Low Pay Commission. This is not all about low pay or the minimum wage, rather it is about a living wage. Many examples have been given. It should be within the remit of the commission to ascertain or determine what a living wage should be.

It is a definition that has been debated by different groups right across Europe. It is the human right of every person to have a wage which affords him or her a quality of life that makes existence liveable.

The difficulty with this Bill in its entirety is that it gives no indication that we are heading in the direction we should be heading, namely, towards the introduction of a liveable wage. The points Deputy Boyd Barrett made are crucial to this debate. Unless we begin to move in the direction of a living wage and focus on people's quality of life, we will continue to see exploitation in such areas as housing, where even people on reasonable wages are being crucified in terms of what they have to pay out. Those on low pay, including people making only the national minimum wage, some of whom are on local authority housing lists, are struggling to meet the cost of lower-rent accommodation.

We need to move beyond talking about low pay and minimum pay and instead focus on ensuring that people earn a liveable rate of pay. I am sure the Minister of State would subscribe to that concept. It is how one lifts people out of poverty while at the same providing stimulation to the economy. If we pay people a liveable wage, they will have the means to spend more in the economy and have a better quality of life. To that end, the remit of the Low Pay Commission should be expanded to allow it to make recommendations as to what a living wage should be. It is not about whether people should or should not be on low pay - I expect the commission will say they should not be - or about setting a minimum wage. The minimum wage is not working. In fact, it is keeping thousands of people on or below the poverty line. In a context in which the cost of living is beginning to increase again, particularly in respect of housing, it is clear that a national minimum wage is not the solution to poverty in the medium or long term. I conclude by referring, as I did earlier, to the observation by the ambassador from Switzerland that paying people a reasonable wage is the way to take them out of poverty and stimulate the economy.

I am pleased to point out to Deputy Boyd Barrett that wages are increasing across the economy, though not perhaps at a rate that would satisfy him and his colleagues. After years of extreme difficulty in this country, that development illustrates how far we have come. We have a way to go before we reach a point where everybody can share in the accelerating economic recovery. There is no denying, however, that the evidence shows wages are rising across the bulk of our economic sectors.

Section 5 of the Bill sets out a comprehensive and challenging set of factors that the Low Pay Commission must take into account in any year in coming to a recommendation as to the appropriate rate for the national minimum wage. Amendment No. 7 seeks to assign additional factors that the commission must take into account when recommending a minimum hourly rate of pay, including a requirement to reduce the incidence of low pay and support the phased introduction of a living wage. I would have been happy to address the issues of overtime and Sunday premiums, as dealt with in amendments Nos. 6 and 8, but unfortunately those amendments were ruled out of order.

Deputy Tóibín's amendment No. 9 seeks to have the Low Pay Commission, in addition to its obligation to issue an annual recommendation on the national minimum hourly rate of pay, be required to make an annual recommendation to the Minister on a living wage. I have spoken in the past, both here and elsewhere, about my support for the concept of a living wage. However, we need to differentiate between the application of a national statutory minimum wage and the living wage movement, which is a societal movement that would see employers volunteer to pay - indeed, be proud to pay - what is agreed to be a living wage. I have looked very closely at the operation of the living wage concept in the United Kingdom and how it has evolved in recent years. That initiative grew out of a very successful grassroots civil society campaign and draws its strength from the fact it has cross-society and cross-economy support. Some 1,500 employers have signed up to and endorsed that approach. As I said, it is a concept the Tánaiste and I support.

There were interesting developments yesterday in the House of Commons when the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, made some compelling remarks on the living wage. Whatever about the flaws in his overall approach, we should at least appreciate that efforts are finally being made in the neighbouring jurisdiction, limited as they might well prove to be, to tackle low pay. What the Chancellor has done does indeed seem, on the face of it, like the political masterstroke some have described it as. However, when one chisels away at it and looks under the bonnet, it is, like all tactical masterpieces, found wanting in many respects. People have not reflected on the impact that cuts such as the withdrawal of tax credits will have on the working poor in the UK. Those cuts seem to be a quid pro quo for the more positive changes that are being introduced.

What Mr. Osborne has done, in effect, is set out on a journey towards an annual increase in the national minimum wage, which is what the Low Pay Commission in the UK would have been doing anyway. In other words, he has really just rebranded the national minimum wage as a living wage and has, in fact, put a ceiling on that payment of £9 up to 2020. I am not prepared to impose any such restriction on the thinking of the Low Pay Commission in Ireland. It is a flawed approach to impose any such curtailment on an independent statutory body, but it is what is happening in the UK. Nobody should be seeking to strangle an important civic society movement or trying to occupy that space. As I said, Mr. Osborne's initiative amounts simply to a rebranding of the national minimum wage, but that is a discussion for another day and a matter for our colleagues across the water. As Deputy Tóibín noted, I have indicated my intention to host a forum on the living wage in the autumn, to which we will invite civil society organisations, trade unions and employers to discuss how a living wage might be applied in this country.

Amendment No. 10, from Deputy Calleary, would require the Low Pay Commission each year to research and recommend to the Minister national minimum rates of pay for youth and apprentice categories, and to research and recommend to the Minister national minimum rates of pay for female workers. The sub-minimum rates provided for since 2000 under the National Minimum Wage Act were originally recommended by the National Minimum Wage Commission, which was appointed to advise on the introduction of a national minimum wage. The commission recommended that employees under the age of 18 be entitled to 70% of the national minimum wage, with a view to striking a balance between ensuring young employees were not exploited and ensuring that the rate of pay applicable to them would not encourage students to leave full-time education. The National Minimum Wage Commission also recommended that sub-minimum rates apply to employees in the first two years of employment over age 18 and to those undergoing structured training. The commission was of the view that employers should be encouraged to focus on training and that the structure of the national minimum wage should provide encouragement and inducement for employers to take on unskilled staff and involve them in training. The rationale underpinning these provisions is that, all else being equal, an experienced employee is of more value and more productive than a new entrant or trainee. It is equally important that those seeking employment are not prevented from having an opportunity to enter work because of their lack of experience or training.

Apprentices have been excluded from the scope of the national minimum wage provisions since their introduction in 2000. The reason for this is that there had been a separate long-standing statutory wage-setting mechanism covering apprentices, namely, registered employment agreements. While the REA system was struck down in 2013 by the Supreme Court, the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill 2015, which has been passed by this House, will provide, inter alia, for the possibility for sectoral employment orders covering statutory pay and pension provisions for workers in particular sectors, including provisions for apprenticeship rates. These are important issues which may be appropriate for the Low Pay Commission to examine in the context of a future work programme. However, I do not propose to include them as part of the commission's ongoing annual recommendations.

On the question of requiring the commission to recommend national minimum rates of pay for female workers, the Deputy is aware that the commission may be asked to look at a range of related matters in the context of the minimum wage. The prevalence of female workers on or near the national minimum wage is well known and it is in this context that I see the Deputy's concerns better addressed.

In any event, setting a minimum wage based on a person's gender would probably be in breach of equality legislation.

On amendment No. 11, I indicated on Committee Stage that I would bring forward an amendment to section 5 on Report Stage to amend the date on which the committee must submit its recommendations and report to the Minister. As the Bill is currently drafted, the date specified is 15 July of the year to which the examination relates. I propose to change this to the third Tuesday of July of the year to which the examination relates.

It had been my intention to bring this Bill back to the Seanad on 9 July following the completion of Report and Final Stages on 6 July, but I have been informed that this will not be possible for logistical printing reasons. Instead, it is now my intention to return to the Seanad on 13 July, with the intention of having the legislation finalised at that point. This presents some difficulties in terms of having the Bill on the Statute Book on or before 15 July. Accordingly, I have decided to move the reporting period back by four working days. The amendment also has the advantage of removing a specific date from the Bill and providing for a day that will fit the Government's schedule and with the general calendar of Government meetings. I wish to stress that this change to the reporting period is not associated in any way with the work of the commission, which I understand is making very good progress. The minor change is purely for logistical reasons.

Amendments Nos. 12 to 18, inclusive, provide for the addition of a range of factors to the already extensive list the commission is required to take into account when making a recommendation. My Government colleagues and I have given very serious consideration to the criteria set out in the Bill. Many of them have stood the test of time and are incorporated into national minimum wage legislation going back to 2000. They provide a balanced suite of issues and factors for the commission to consider. To add a further wide-ranging list of factors to be taken into account, as set out in these amendments, would make it virtually impossible for the commission to undertake the level of analysis required, and it would be very difficult to produce an agreed recommendation, or any recommendation at all, by a set date on an annual basis.

Some of the additional factors, such as issues surrounding decent work, are part of a wider decent work agenda that I am pursuing, with the introduction of sectoral employment orders and registered employment agreements and the work we are doing on zero- and low-hour contracts, or already exists in the context of the Bills I mentioned, including the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill 2015. Previous references to changes in earnings have served us well and I do not consider it necessary to refer specifically to median earnings changes or proportions above or below particular proportions of median earnings. Specific expertise is available to the commission to properly interpret changes in earnings data.

Another amendment refers to Northern Ireland. Comparisons with it or other jurisdictions that have national minimum wages must involve the absolute values while also having regard to purchasing power parity. 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 provision, child care and social housing across different jurisdictions. I agree that fair wages should never be sacrificed for the creation of jobs that are exploitative or unsustainable. That is why section 4 of the Bill provides very clear objectives for the national minimum wage. In this regard, the commission will be obliged to ensure that any recommendations it makes on the minimum wage rate will ensure it is a rate that is fair and sustainable.

On bogus self-employment, as referred to in amendment No. 17, I share the concerns expressed by Deputy Boyd Barrett and others. This is an enforcement issue, rather than one that the Low Pay Commission should be required to take into account. Deputies will be aware that NERA inspectors carry out inspections of employers’ employment records and workplaces to determine compliance with employment law and employees' statutory entitlements. In 2014, NERA carried out more than 5,500 such inspections. The policy of NERA is to seek voluntary compliance where breaches of employment law are detected, and it works with employers and allows them every reasonable opportunity to rectify breaches. Allegations of non-compliance with employment rights legislation should be referred to NERA, which investigates matters that are brought to its attention. Deputy Boyd Barrett mentioned complaints he has received about alleged bogus self-employment, and I encourage him to report them to the relevant authorities. If he wishes, he can pass them on to me and I will address them on his behalf.

It is not within the remit of NERA to make determinations regarding the employment status of individuals vis-à-vis employment or self-employment; that is the responsibility of the Scope section of the Department of Social Protection. The Revenue Commissioners also have a role to play. Where either of these bodies makes a determination on these issues, NERA, in accordance with the code of practice for determining the employment or self-employment status of individuals, will generally accept their decisions on the issue. Finally, the matter can also be determined by the courts. Whether any given situation is an abuse of the subcontracting or relevant contracts tax, RCT, systems is a matter for the Revenue Commissioners.

On the promotion of gender equality, it is important to note that the national minimum wage applies to all workers irrespective of gender. As such, it is the epitome of a measure that 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. Accordingly, I cannot accept amendments Nos. 7, 9 and 10 and 12 to 18, inclusive.

If I need more time, I hope the Acting Chairman will give me some, because I took his initial direction that we were only speaking on amendment No. 7. I will not speak for too long.

Most of my amendments are to do with the necessity for a living wage. The Government has a major opportunity to deal with this, an opportunity that it may not have again. That means we should grasp this opportunity with both hands. Work is currently being undertaken on an independent basis by the Living Wage Technical Group, which is a group of progressive organisations. We believe the Low Pay Commission needs to undertake similar work. To do that, it needs to broaden the remit of issues to take into consideration.

Amendment No. 14 refers to economic inequality. Nowhere in the Bill is the commission instructed to consider poverty when making recommendations to the Minister. It is difficult to believe that we could have such a debate without the crisis of poverty being hardwired into the Bill. The Bill is too heavily weighted towards a limited number of economic measurements and is not helpful in tackling economic inequality or rebuilding the economy.

Others have mentioned that the percentage share of the national income comprising wages has crashed. I understand there has been a fall of 20% in the past 20 years, which is in line with other European countries, but it is still a significant shift in how an economy works. In other words, an economy is not working for the people who are working in it any longer. Some 50% of all women in the State earn less than €20,000, which is a shocking figure for this generation. It seems completely unreasonable that the issue of income inequality between men and women is not hardwired into the Bill.

The Minister of State said the minimum wage was blind to gender and therefore everybody would be treated the same. However, we know everybody is not treated the same, and one's gender determines one's income, to a certain extent, under a minimum wage. Unless the infrastructure of the minimum wage is changed or how we deal with low pay is changed in a way that takes gender inequality into consideration with regard to wages, we will not fix the issue.

I refer to amendment No. 18. The construction industry in this country is in crisis with regard to how it operates. Decent construction work should involve direct employment, with people receiving a wage, sick pay, holiday pay and the entitlements that citizens should expect. Recruitment companies in this country are advertising for people on the RCT system to do work that is normally done by those paid a direct wage. They tell companies they do not owe the workers any entitlements - holidays, pensions or anything else.

These companies operate in the chasm the Government has left in company and contract law. They are making fun of the Government with regard to commitments. I know of people who worked on the Kishoge site who were told by their employer they were now self-employed and gave them their wages. They thought the money was for one individual, but the employer told them it was for all five people in the room. This is what is happening under the chaos of the Government's relevant contracts tax legislation.

It was interesting that the Minister of State suggested David Cameron was playing a bit of a game, by committing to a living wage but taking it away with the other hand through tax credits. He stated wages are rising here and that we are trying to deal with low pay. Is the Government not doing exactly the same thing? Is that not the whole point of these amendments? I am very glad to say a motion was passed at the ICTU conference, against some resistance it has to be said by the unions generally associated with the Labour Party, but, nonetheless, the majority of unions, headed up by the right to water trade unions, stated that ICTU should oppose water charges because they are another regressive tax which reduce the real income of workers and therefore it is an issue for the trade union movement. They are absolutely right. I am sure it was for political reasons that certain trade unions with a strong association with the Labour Party opposed the motion. It speaks exactly to what the Minister of State just rightly accused David Cameron of doing.

I would not like to be paying water charges in the UK.

It is exactly what is going on here. We are speaking about rising levels of wages in a situation where the cost of accommodation has gone out of control. What is the real actual money workers have? What is the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Dublin these days? Is it €1,600? How many workers only earn this a month? These are serious issues and we are asking that the Low Pay Commission must have them stitched into it.

Everybody agrees this is a very important body but where we disagree is its ambition and the powers it will have. With regard to amendment No. 10, the Minister of State mentioned that apprentices are subject to registered employment agreements, but the Low Pay Commission should be in a position to set a consistency about certain conditions for every apprentice. It should be the overarching body which sets the guidelines for various types of apprentices. As other Deputies have said, women are particularly affected by low pay issues. A total of 90% of those affected by the Dunnes Stores situation are women. This is the case throughout the service and retail sectors. The amendment does not intend to introduce different rates and the Minister of State acknowledged this. The Low Pay Commission should be a body which, from its inception and foundation, has enough ambition and manpower to be the overarching body for low pay in all areas. Rather than having a silo approach whereby various people have various areas of responsibility, we should give this body the teeth and resources from the start to tackle all of the issues, not only pay but, as other Deputies have said, accommodation, child care and all of the expenses which affect the value of pay. Let us do this now and not come back in a couple of months time with amending legislation, or when we see the various restrictions in the scope of the body, which we are identifying now and which we could fix now rather than have the body chained to its remit in a few years' time.

With regard to what Chancellor Osborne did yesterday, the view of a Tory, particularly that brand of Tory, of what is a living wage is very different from the view of 99% of the rest of the world. It is more an attempt to stifle debate on a living wage versus a minimum wage than anything else.

I seek clarification on amendment No. 10 with regard to youth and apprentice categories. Did I hear the Minister of State say the recommendation is 70% for people under 18 years of age?

The National Minimum Wage Commission recommended it in 2000.

I understand that, but will the Minister of State clarify that we are stating people under 18 years of age will get 70% of the minimum wage? Is that what he said?

It is what is in the document, but the reality is different. I am not aware it is the rate that is generally paid.

The Minister of State does not see it as a recommendation.

Deputy Halligan will finish in a moment and the Minister of State can answer then.

Could we remove this section? It indicates that people under 18 years of age could be exploited in the sense they do not have to receive the full minimum wage and can get 70% of it. Why have it in if it is not what is recommended?

It is in the National Minimum Wage Act 2000. It is a provision rarely, if ever, used.

If Deputy Halligan is finished, I will allow the Minister of State to respond.

I appreciate what the Deputy has said. For reasons the National Minimum Wage Commission considered in 2000 when the Act was introduced, the view was taken that what it wanted to do was encourage young people to remain in training and education and not move out of it into the workforce. This was the consideration of the time. I stand to be corrected, and I do not want to mislead the House in any way, but my understanding is that the rate was not necessarily paid to anybody. As I understand it, the vast majority of people, if not all, on the national minimum wage are paid €8.65 and not the sub-minimum rates. This was a consideration of the National Minimum Wage Commission in 2000. It is in the National Minimum Wage Act 2000 and it is what it considered to be appropriate at the time. I doubt there is any danger somebody is being paid below €8.65, regardless of age.

I indicated ages ago.

On this bunch of amendments. I have only spoken once.

Seriously, I-----

Sorry, you did not indicate to me that you wished to respond.

I did indicate and you acknowledged me.

I have allowed the Minister of State to respond.

I thought you were allowing him to respond to Deputy Halligan specifically because of a particular question he asked. That is all he answered.

I do not want to go around the houses because the Minister of State has already given his response.

But only to a particular question. I will be very brief.

I thank the Chairman.

The Deputy has two minutes.

With regard to the issue which has just arisen, I am aware of at least one worker in the fast-food industry who receives less than the €8.65 rate by virtue of being under 18. I do not know how widespread it is, but certainly I am in favour of no exemption for under 18s whatsoever and everybody being entitled to the minimum wage.

The Minister of State mentioned that wages are rising rather than reducing. On 16 June 2015, the CSO produced a report on earnings and labour costs. According to the most recent and up to date figures we have, average annual earnings declined again in 2014. They have declined every year since 2009. In 2013, they were €35,830 and in 2014, they were €35,768. This indicates a continuing, although slowing, rate of decline which is, broadly speaking, the model of this so-called recovery we have.

A discussion has emerged around the living wage in Britain. More extensive research has been done in Britain than here on the impact of the living wage. Research has shown that if the minimum wage were to become what is assessed to be the living wage, 6 million workers would be lifted out of poverty and Exchequer funds would be increased to the tune of €1.5 billion.

Similarly, if we had a significant increase in the minimum wage to a level in the region of a living wage, it would have a massive impact on people's lives and would bring increased tax revenue, which could in turn be used to offset other costs for small businesses.

There is no doubt that after a period of serious recession in the country and internationally wages had declined, but they are on the way back up. We can consider various respected surveys from the likes of IBEC or Industrial Relations News and see that there is considerable wage growth being experienced at the moment.

The Deputy might have a particular view on the organisation but I would not question the veracity of its research.

I would trust the Central Statistics Office first.

We have separate views on the national employers' body and that is fine. The Deputy is entitled to the opinion but I am happy to accept the veracity of the research it undertakes as a serious body, regardless of where Deputy Boyd Barrett might stand. Employers create jobs and IBEC anticipates pay awards of at least 2% in the majority of companies this year, which is to be welcomed. The Small Firms Association would indicate something similar. It is fair to say that as employment is growing, so are wages.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 26; Níl, 49.

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Mathews, Peter.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Troy, Robert.

Níl

  • Breen, Pat.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Conlan, Seán.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Nolan, Derek.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • White, Alex.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Peadar Tóibín and Dara Calleary; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg.
Amendment declared lost.
Amendment No. 8 not moved.

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 4, line 24, after “pay” to insert “and hourly living wage rate of pay”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 4, between lines 24 and 25, to insert the following:

“(c) research and recommend to the Minister national minimum wage rates of pay for youth and apprentice categories,

(d) research and recommend to the Minister national minimum wage rates of pay for female workers.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 4, line 29, to delete “15 July of the year” and substitute “the third Tuesday falling in July in the year”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 12:

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

“(a) wage share of national income,

(b) the role of wages as a source of demand,

(c) median earnings,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 4, after line 36, to insert the following:

“(i) innovation in each sector has increased, decreased or remained stagnant within the current period,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 14:

In page 5, between lines 5 and 6, to insert the following:

“(e) economic inequality,

(f) the percentage of workers in the economy earning two-thirds or less of median income,

(g) the Living Wage as set for the relevant period,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 15:

In page 5, line 7, after “Northern Ireland” to insert the following:

“taking into account the standard of living, general wage levels and access to welfare supports to include social protection supports, universal healthcare provisions, State provided childcare and social housing,”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 16:

In page 5, line 8, after “creation” to insert “and decent work”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 17:

In page 5, between lines 12 and 13, to insert the following:

“(iv) addressing levels of income inequality to include income inequality between men and women in the current period,

(v) aggregate demand in the economy,

(vi) tax receipts.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 18:

In page 5, between lines 12 and 13, to insert the following:

“(h) the prevalence of the improper use of self-employment arrangements in sectors that result in a rate of income that is below that of the national minimum wage,

(i) the level of the living wage as articulated by trade unions and non-governmental organisations.”.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 27; Níl, 50.

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Mathews, Peter.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Troy, Robert.

Níl

  • Breen, Pat.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Conlan, Seán.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harrington, Noel.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • White, Alex.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies John Halligan and Paul Murphy; Níl, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe.
Amendment declared lost.

Amendments 19 to 21, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 19:

In page 5, between lines 25 and 26, to insert the following:

"(5) The Commission shall act as a watchdog of the incidence of low pay by examining the prevalence of pay two-thirds or below of median earnings in the current period in each sector of the economy, and report its recommendations to reduce the share of employees in each sector who earn below two-thirds of the hourly median wage over the following 3 year period.

(6) The Commission shall examine and report on key patterns in paid and unpaid open market internships providing a regulatory framework for internships and to support professional associations to promote ethical internship programmes.

(7) The Commission shall examine and report on the effectiveness of existing policies to enforce the National Minimum Wage and make recommendations for improvement of compliance and enforcement.".

When the national minimum wage was introduced, it was established at two thirds of the median wage. Less than that is considered low pay. It was stated that the minimum wage would be at that level in future. Obviously, this-----

(Interruptions).

Please, have respect for the speaker. Deputy Tóibín has the floor.

The minimum wage is not at that level. Indeed, it has slipped backwards. Given the facts that low wages are entrenched in the economy and we need a system to ensure that the minimum wage is a decent living wage, it is important that we use the Low Pay Commission in an effort to keep an eye on poverty, low wages and the minimum wage. Britain, which has more experience with a minimum wage and low pay commission than we do, is coming to the view that its commission needs a watchdog role. This view was echoed by the Migrant Rights Centre Ireland, MRCI. In its submission to the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, it called for our commission's remit to be expanded to include a watchdog role and for powers to be granted to it to set targets for reducing low pay across a number of areas.

Recently, IMPACT launched a report, entitled "JobBridge - Time to Start Again?", in which it sought for the JobBridge scheme to be scrapped and for the Low Pay Commission to be tasked with examining the prevalence of open market, unpaid internships. The report, spearheaded by Dr. Mary Murphy of Maynooth University, recommended that the commission report on the key patterns of paid and unpaid open market internships. Some 80,000 people are in job activation schemes, many of which do not offer those individuals the economic value of their work. People are being exploited, are not receiving extra training, have no opportunity to progress in their roles and are receiving low pay.

These two suggestions are innovative uses of the Low Pay Commission. They would benefit society and empower the commission to eradicate poverty. It is also noteworthy that the British are considering developing their Low Pay Commission further whereas we are seeking to replicate its original version. They are designing an iPad while we are designing the calculator. We need to ensure that we are ahead of the curve in developing mechanisms that eradicate low pay.

The Minister of State should not use this debate to say "No" to every amendment. Instead, the Government should listen to Opposition parties' positive proposals, not be partisan, focus on those proposals that would be of material benefit to individuals' pay packets and ability to look after their families and take some of these amendments on board.

I support Deputy Tóibín's amendment. We need a watchdog in respect of employment, low pay and exploitation. We have some watchdogs, for example, the National Employment Rights Authority, NERA, but they are underfunded.

I wish to speak in support of subsection (6) of Deputy Tóibín's amendment on the role of internships and the need for more research into same. Having done an amount of work in this regard, particularly through the campaigning website, ScamBridge.ie, it is my strong belief that internships, facilitated by the State via JobBridge, First Steps and Gateway in terms of councils, Tús and so on, are consciously used by many employers to take advantage of free labour. This is widespread and has an impact across employment, in that employers can effectively tell or imply to employees that, if they seek wage increases or so on, the employer can bring in someone for free to do that work and therefore question why they would grant any wage increase. Rather than dealing with the issue of unemployment, internships can make it worse, because they depress wages generally in the economy and normalise the idea of people working for free. This is not just an Irish phenomenon, but an international one. We should stand against it. Researching the key patterns in paid and unpaid open market internships would assist us in knowing what is happening and outlawing those internship programmes that are exploitative, which ours are.

Turning to amendments Nos. 20 and 21 from the Anti-Austerity Alliance, we must be sensitive and responsive to changes in the cost of living, particularly as regards the low paid. The commission making recommendations every three years is not adequate. A better approach would be yearly. It would be even more preferable were minimum wage rates indexed to inflation so that, if there was inflation, low paid and minimum wage workers would not automatically lose out.

Regarding amendment No. 21 specifically, three months is too long a lapse between recommendations emanating from the commission and their being acted upon by the Minister in the context of cost-of-living increases and higher inflation rates. Such a time lapse would be used by employer organisations to apply pressure on the media and build opposition to increases in the minimum wage. It should be shortened to one month.

At 21.8% or 22%, low pay is entrenched in Ireland's economy. It is reasonable to ask for monitoring by the Low Pay Commission. ICTU stated that any legislation had to include provisions that ensured that employees could not be frustrated in their attempts to improve working conditions, but the commission must go further. If low pay is so entrenched in our society as to make us only second to the US, we must have some way of monitoring how people are treated after we pass this legislation. If we do not monitor something, how will we know whether it is working? Some of us have a difference of opinion about whether this should be about a living wage rather than a low or minimum wage.

The Minister of State has rejected the amendment that would have included a reference to a "living wage". I do not think he should have rejected it. Surely it is reasonable to ask that we find some way of monitoring this over the next few years. Should we leave it once more to the OECD and to other groups to find out how many people are on the minimum wage or on low income rates? What is the point of the commission if it just finishes after it makes its recommendations without being able to monitor what happens to workers in Ireland over the next five or six years? How are we going to know how people are being treated? We have already heard examples today of people not even getting the minimum wage. The Minister of State and I know there are examples of people not getting it. I wanted to speak earlier on amendment No. 10, but I did not get an opportunity to do so. As I said earlier, it is unacceptable that people under the age of 18 are on a 70% rate because it opens the door to exploitation. I think the recommendation in this amendment that some way should be found to monitor this matter is a reasonable one. The commission is the group to do that. We should not be leaving it to organisations in Europe like the human rights committee to talk about the breach of human rights that is the denial to people of the right to earn a minimum or living wage. We have to find some way for this commission to monitor this. I suggest we should instruct it to do so.

I would like to add my support to these amendments. The expression about lies, damned lies and statistics is certainly a relevant idea when we are talking about low pay. We can bandy around statistics, as the Minister of State did earlier when he said that pay levels are increasing. We can debate whether the JobBridge and Gateway schemes are licences for exploitation or, as I suspect the Government would argue when cases of abuse are highlighted, otherwise good programmes that are being abused in a small number of rogue instances. Similarly, there is an urgent need for rigorous monitoring and enforcement levels to end the abuses associated with bogus self-employment. We can debate things at theoretical, legislative and statistical levels, but the devil is always in the detail of the individual real cases. That is how we discover what is really happening and what needs to be addressed, tightened up and changed. If the Low Pay Commission is to become an active force in addressing the scourge of low pay, the abuse of schemes like JobBridge and the question of bogus self-employment, it must be given a real, tangible and concrete watchdog role. I have nothing to add to Deputy Paul Murphy's points. I agree that we need something that is responsive to the changes in the cost of living, etc. As such changes often happen over relatively short periods of time, we need to be able to review these matters on a more frequent basis. I believe these amendments are sensible and practical.

Amendment No. 19 proposes that as part of its functions the commission will be required to undertake a number of specific tasks; for example, monitoring the incidence of low pay by examining the prevalence of pay at or below two thirds of 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 10(C)(4), which provides that the commission may be asked by the Minister to examine and report on matters relating generally to the functions of the commission under the Act. The Bill provides that such a request shall be made not later than the first two months of each year, apart from this year, and will be part of the commission’s work programme. I believe the legislative provision covering the work programme to be given to the commission each year should not be prescriptive and inflexible. Amendment No. 19 would tie the hands of the commission with regard to its annual work programme. A request can be made to the commission to examine and report on specific issues related to the work of the commission. While the specific topics raised in the amendment may well be worthy of examination by the commission at some point, I do not believe it is appropriate to set them down in legislation.

On amendment No. 20, section 5(5) of the Bill provides that every three years, the commission will report generally on the operation of this Act and, in particular, on the impact of any orders made under it on low pay, income distribution and employment costs. Amendment No. 20 would impose a requirement on the commission to produce such a report every year. I believe that would be quite impractical. We do not want the commission to spend all its time analysing itself and its own work. The intention behind the requirement for the commission to submit an analysis every three years of the operation of the Act and, in particular, on the impact of orders made on foot of its recommendations is to allow time for the full impact of the orders to be properly assessed. Inevitably, it takes some time for the full effects of such orders to feed through and for worthwhile and reliable evidence to be analysed. In my view, to require the commission to carry out such in depth analysis of the impact of its recommendation regarding the national minimum rate on an annual basis would not be a good use of the limited resources available to it. In addition to the submission of an annual recommendation on the national minimum hourly rate of pay, the commission may be asked to examine and report on matters relating generally to its functions under the Act. We went into that in some detail earlier. The reports that the commission will make, in addition to the report it submits to the Minister accompanying its annual recommendation on the national minimum wage, will be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas.

On amendment No. 21, I agreed on Report Stage in the Seanad to introduce an amendment to provide that the Minister shall cause a copy of any report or recommendation submitted by the commission to be laid before each House of the Oireachtas not later than three months after the receipt of that report or recommendation. Amendment No. 21 would provide that the reports should be submitted within one month of their receipt. Section 6 of the Bill provides that the Minister is required to make a decision on a recommendation of the Low Pay Commission within three months of receiving it. I would not consider it appropriate to require the Minister to lay the report before the Oireachtas while consideration of the issue is still ongoing. Of course Deputies and Senators will have an opportunity to debate the reports as they are tabled and scheduled for debate in the Houses. That is correctly the case. Accordingly, I cannot accept these amendments.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 29; Níl, 47.

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Colreavy, Michael.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Cowen, Barry.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Halligan, John.
  • Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McLellan, Sandra.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Mathews, Peter.
  • Murphy, Paul.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Troy, Robert.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Níl

  • Burton, Joan.
  • Butler, Ray.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Cannon, Ciarán.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Conaghan, Michael.
  • Conlan, Seán.
  • Conway, Ciara.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Dowds, Robert.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Gilmore, Eamon.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Humphreys, Kevin.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kenny, Seán.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • Lawlor, Anthony.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McNamara, Michael.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Mulherin, Michelle.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Nash, Gerald.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Mahony, John.
  • O'Reilly, Joe.
  • Phelan, Ann.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Wall, Jack.
  • White, Alex.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Peadar Tóibín and Sandra McLellan; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg.
Amendment declared lost.

I move amendment No. 20:

In page 5, line 26, to delete "23 years" and substitute "year".

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 21:

In page 5, line 35, to delete "3 months" and substitute "1 month".

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendment No. 22 is out of order.

Amendment No. 22 not moved.

Amendments Nos. 23 and 24 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 23:

In page 6, line 10, to delete "3 months" and substitute "1 month".

I do not propose to rehash the arguments made in the earlier discussion on related amendments. The amendments propose to reduce the period within which the Minister must act on a recommendation of the Low Pay Commission from three months to one month, particularly in the context of cost of living increases and the potential for pressure to be exerted on the Minister not to act on the commission's recommendations.

Section 6 inserts a new section 10D in the National Minimum Wage Act and provides that the Minister shall, within three months of receiving a recommendation from the commission, decide whether to accept, reject or vary the recommendations of the commission for stated reasons. The provision for the Minister to make a decision on the commission’s recommendation within three months is consistent with the existing provision in the National Minimum Wage Act since it was originally enacted in 2000. It is not unreasonable to expect that the Minister would be given a reasonable amount of time to give careful consideration to the matter and, in this context, three months is not excessive.

The 2000 Act also provides that the Minister may accept, reject or vary a Labour Court recommendation on the national minimum wage. Accordingly, I do not consider it necessary to specify that a decision by a Minister in future to vary the terms of a recommendation from the Low Pay Commission needs to specify that it would be in "improved" terms. Accordingly, I cannot accept amendments Nos. 23 and 24.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 24:

In page 6, line 16, to delete "other" and substitute "improved".

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 25 and 26 are related and may be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 25:

In page 6, to delete lines 26 to 28 and substitute the following:

"(3) The national minimum hourly rate of pay declared by order under this section may include—

(a) an allowance in respect of board and lodgings, board only or lodgings only at such rates as are specified in the order,

(b) a prohibition or restriction on charges or deductions,

(c) fair hours of employment rules.".

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions, in its submission on the Bill, called for an amendment to be made to include additional provisions to ensure that the prohibition or restriction of charges or deductions would be included in a recommendation on the national minimum wage, as well as fair hours of employment. Sinn Féin supports this sensible proposal to ensure people have a decent standard of living and that wages may not be reduced by means of other mechanisms.

When an order is made changing the minimum wage, a lead-in period should be provided to allow employers to prepare - for example, by making the required payroll changes. The amendment should be accepted to take account of the practical aspects of doing business.

Having considered the proposed amendments, I consider that they are not necessary. Amendment No. 25 provides for a prohibition or restriction on charges or deductions from the national minimum hourly rate of pay. The Payment of Wages Act already provides a redress mechanism for unlawful deductions from wages. Section 5(1) of that Act allows an employer to make deductions required or authorised by law, such as PAYE or PRSI, or required or authorised by a term of the employee's contract, such as occupational pensions schemes, or any deduction agreed to in writing in advance by the employee - for example, trade union subscriptions or VHI premiums. Section 5(2) of the Act places significant restrictions on employers with regard to deductions or the receipt of payments from wages of employees.

As regards fair hours of employment rules, the Organisation of Working Time Act regulates working hours. In this context, Deputies will be aware that I have commissioned a study on zero-hour and low-hour contracts by the University of Limerick and I expect the study to be completed in the third quarter of this year. Where the evidence points to some adjustment being required to the protections in place under employment law, these will be brought forward for consideration by the Government. Accordingly, I cannot accept amendment No. 25.

Amendment No. 26 seeks to ensure that businesses will be allowed sufficient time to plan for any adjustment proposed in the national minimum wage. I am supportive of the view that any increase in the minimum wage must be done in an orderly way in order that companies can plan their business. I remind Deputies that the ESRI, in its 2006 analysis of the most recent 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 occurred 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 increases.

A significant benefit of the establishment of the Low Pay Commission is that the national minimum wage rates will be assessed annually and, therefore, when they occur, any adjustments will be incremental and less disruptive for business than the previous step changes which were criticised by the ESRI in its 2006 analysis. The deadline of 15 July 2015 for submission of the Low Pay Commission's recommendation was specifically to allow time for consideration of the issue in the context of the year's budgetary considerations and to provide for any adjustment in a planned way. Consequently, this very structure achieves the objective the Senator seeks in his amendment.

The Low Pay Commission will also ensure that any advice or recommendations it makes to the Government is evidence-based by utilising agreed data, carrying out research and consultations with employers, workers and their representatives and taking written and oral evidence from a wide range of organisations. This is to ensure that any suggested changes to the national minimum wage will have a minimum adverse impact on employment and competitiveness.

The commission will consult workers and employers who are directly affected by the national minimum wage, as it has been doing, to get a handle on the real experience of businesses and employees in sectors associated with low pay. While I recognise the intent behind the proposal, I cannot accept the amendment, as I do not consider it necessary given the new structures and processes that are being put in place.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 26:

In page 6, between lines 32 and 33, to insert the following:

"(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 and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 27:

In page 6, between lines 32 and 33, 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 statement to the Low Pay Commission or for giving evidence on their own experience through their representative organisation.".

The amendment does what it says it does.

It seeks to provide that an employer shall not penalise or threaten 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. It is a very straightforward and decent amendment and it sets out what should be expected for the functionality of the Low Pay Commission. It was recommended by ICTU. Workers should be able to give evidence to the commission and need to be protected when they do so. This protection was offered under the Workplace Relations Service and similar anti-victimisation protections are in place in other areas such as the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill. We want to make it implicit within the Bill.

I thank Deputy Tóibín for the proposed amendment. The proposal is to introduce in a new section 7 of the Bill anti-victimisation provisions for workers who make statements to the Low Pay Commission or who give evidence to the commission via a representative organisation. I recognise and respect the Deputy's intention in terms of tabling the amendment, but there is already a number of protections in place for workers who consider that they have been the subject of victimisation in the workplace. As matters stand, any worker who finds himself or herself the subject of victimisation for making a statement to the Low Pay Commission or giving evidence via his or her trade union already has the possibility to take a case under the Industrial Relations Acts. 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 that dispute. A procedure for addressing complaints of victimisation is set out in the Industrial Relations (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2004. These protections will be further enhanced in the context of provisions in the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Bill 2015 which deals with the Government's commitment on collective bargaining and which the House has recently passed. Accordingly, I cannot accept the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Bill recommitted in respect of amendments Nos. 28 and 29.

I move amendment No. 28:

In page 7, to delete lines 21 and 22.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 29 arising out of recommittal proceedings was already discussed with No. 3. If amendment No. 29 is agreed, amendment No. 30 cannot be moved as it is a physical alternative.

I move amendment No. 29:

In page 7, to delete lines 23 to 27.

Amendment agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Amendment No. 30 not moved.
Bill recommitted in respect of amendments Nos. 31 to 44, inclusive.

I move amendment No. 31:

In page 7, after line 27, to insert the following:

“PART 3

WORKPLACE RELATIONS

Definition

11. In this Part—

“Act of 2015” means the Workplace Relations Act 2015;

“Minister” means the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 32:

In page 7, after line 27, to insert the following:

“Amendment of Industrial Relations Act 1946

12. (1) The Industrial Relations Act 1946 is amended by the insertion, in section 21, of the following subsection:

“(5) A document purporting to be signed by the chairman or the registrar of the Court stating that—

(a) a person named in the document was, by summons under subsection (1), required to attend before the Court on a day and at a time and place specified in the document, and

(b) a sitting of the Court was held on that day and at that time and place, shall, in proceedings for an offence under this section, be evidence of the matters so stated unless the contrary is shown.”.

(2) This section shall come into operation on the commencement of section 74 of the Act of 2015.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 33:

In page 7, after line 27, to insert the following:

“Amendment of Redundancy Payments Act 1967

13. (1) The Redundancy Payments Act 1967 is amended by the insertion of the following section:

“Appeal to Labour Court from decision of adjudication officer

39A. Section 44 of the Act of 2015 shall apply to a decision of an adjudication officer given in relation to an appeal under subsection (15), or a question referred to the Director General under subsection (16), of section 39 of this Act as it applies to a decision of an adjudication officer under section 41 of that Act, subject to the following modifications:

(a) the substitution of the following subsection for subsection (1):

‘(1) (a) A party to an appeal under subsection (15), or proceedings in relation to a question referred to the Director General under subsection (16), of section 39 of the Act of 1967 may appeal a decision of an adjudication officer given in that appeal or those proceedings to the Labour Court and, where the party does so, the Labour Court shall—

(i) give the parties to the second-mentioned appeal an opportunity to be heard by it and to present to it any evidence relevant to the appeal,

(ii) make a decision in relation to the appeal affirming, varying or setting aside the decision of the adjudication officer to which the appeal relates, and

(iii) give the parties to the appeal a copy of that decision in writing.

(b) The Labour Court shall have power to make any decision in an appeal under this paragraph that an adjudication officer has power to make on the hearing of an appeal under subsection (15), or a question referred to the Director General under subsection (16), of section 39 of the Act of 1967.’;

and

(b) any other necessary modifications.”.

(2) This section shall come into operation on the commencement of section 76 of the Act of 2015.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 34:

In page 7, after line 27, to insert the following:

“Amendment of Unfair Dismissals Act 1977

14. (1) Section 8 of the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977 is amended—

(a) by the substitution of the following subsection for subsection (1):

“(1) (a) A claim by an employee against an employer for redress under this Act for unfair dismissal may be referred by the employee to the Director General and, where such a claim is so referred, the Director General shall, subject to section 39 of the Act of 2015, refer the claim to an adjudication officer for adjudication by that officer.

(b) Section 39 of the Act of 2015 shall apply to a claim for redress referred to the Director General under paragraph (a) as it applies to a complaint presented or dispute referred to the Director General under section 41 of that Act, subject to the modification that references, in the said section 39, to a complaint or dispute shall be construed as references to a claim for redress so referred.

(c) An adjudication officer to whom a claim for redress is referred under this section shall—

(i) inquire into the claim,

(ii) give the parties to the claim an opportunity to be heard by the adjudication officer and to present to the adjudication officer any evidence relevant to the claim,

(iii) make a decision in relation to the claim consisting of an award of redress in accordance with section 7 or the dismissal of the claim, and

(iv) give the parties to the claim a copy of that decision in writing.”,

(b) by the substitution of the following subsection for subsection (1A) (inserted by section 7 of the Unfair Dismissals (Amendment) Act 1993):

“(1A) A decision of an adjudication officer under subsection (1) consisting of an award of redress in accordance with section 7 shall include a statement of the reasons for the award of such redress and the reasons for the adjudication officer’s deciding not to award other redress under that section.”,

(c) by the insertion of the following subsection:

“(1B) Subsection (14) of section 41 of the Act of 2015 applies to a decision of an adjudication officer under subsection (1) as it applies to a decision of an adjudication officer under that section subject to the modification that the words ‘subsection (1) of section 8 of the Act of 1977’ shall be substituted for the words ‘this section’.”,

(d) in subsection (2), by the substitution of—

(i) the words “regulations under subsection (17) of section 41 of the Act of 2015” for the words “regulations under section 17 of this Act made for the purposes of subsection (8) of this section”, and

(ii) the following paragraph for paragraph (b):

“(b) within such period not exceeding 12 months from the date of the relevant dismissal as the adjudication officer considers appropriate, in circumstances where the adjudication officer is satisfied that the giving of the notice within the period referred to in paragraph (a) was prevented due to reasonable cause,”,

(e) by the deletion of subsections (3), (4), (5), (8) and (9), and

(f) by the substitution of the following subsection for subsection (10):

“(10) (a) A dispute relating to a dismissal shall not be referred to an adjudication officer under the Industrial Relations Acts 1946 to 2012 if, in relation to the dismissal—

(i) a recommendation has been made by a rights commissioner under this Act, or a hearing by the Tribunal under this Act has commenced,

(ii) a decision (other than a decision consisting of a dismissal of the claim concerned) has been made by an adjudication officer under this Act,

(iii) a decision has been made by the Labour Court in accordance with subsection (2) of section 8A affirming a decision (consisting of a dismissal of the claim concerned) of an adjudication officer under this Act, or

(iv) a decision has been made by the Labour Court in accordance with the said subsection (2)—

(I) setting aside a decision to which subparagraph (ii) applies, and

(II) not awarding any redress under section 7.

(b) An employee shall not be entitled to redress under this Act in respect of a dismissal if, in relation to the dismissal—

(i) a recommendation has been made by a rights commissioner or an adjudication officer under the Industrial Relations Acts 1946 to 2012, or

(ii) a hearing by the Labour Court under those Acts has commenced.”.

(2) Section 8A (inserted by paragraph (h) of subsection (1) of section 80 of the Act of 2015) of the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977 is amended by the substitution of the following subsection for subsection (2):

“(2) Section 44 of the Workplace Relations Act 2015 shall apply to a decision of an adjudication officer given in respect of a claim for redress under this Act by an employee as it applies to a decision of an adjudication officer given in proceedings under section 41 of that Act, subject to the following modifications:

(a) the substitution of the following subsection for subsection (1):

‘(1) (a) A party to a claim for redress under the Act of 1977 may appeal a decision of an adjudication officer given in relation to that claim to the Labour Court and, where the party does so, the Labour Court shall—

(i) give the parties to the appeal an opportunity to be heard by it and to present to it any evidence relevant to the appeal,

(ii) make a decision in relation to the appeal affirming, varying or setting aside the decision of the adjudication officer to which the appeal relates, and

(iii) give the parties to the appeal a copy of that decision in writing.

(b) A decision of the Labour Court under paragraph (a), may include an award of redress under section 7 of the Act of 1977.’;

and

(b) any other necessary modifications.”.

(3) Section 11 (inserted by paragraph (k) of subsection (1) of section 80 of the Act of 2015) is amended, in subsection (2), by the insertion of “or the Companies Act 2014” after “the Companies Acts”.

(4) This section shall come into operation on the commencement of section 80 of the Act of 2015.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 35:

In page 7, after line 27, to insert the following:

“Amendment of Protection of Employees (Employers’ Insolvency) Act 1984

15. (1) The Protection of Employees (Employers’ Insolvency) Act 1984 is amended by the insertion of the following section:

“Appeal to Labour Court from declaration of adjudication officer under section 9

9A. Section 44 of the Act of 2015 shall apply to a declaration of an adjudication officer given in relation to a complaint under section 9 as it applies to a decision of an adjudication officer given in proceedings under section 41 of that Act, subject to the following modifications:

(a) the substitution of the following subsection for subsection (1):

‘(1) A party to proceedings in relation to a complaint under section 9 of the Act of 1984 may appeal a declaration of an adjudication officer given in those proceedings to the Labour Court and, where the party does so, the Labour Court shall—

(a) give the parties to the appeal an opportunity to be heard by it and to present to it any evidence relevant to the appeal,

(b) make a decision in relation to the appeal affirming, varying or setting aside the declaration of the adjudication officer to which the appeal relates, and

(c) give the parties to the appeal a copy of that decision in writing.’;

and

(b) any other necessary modifications.”.

(2) This section shall come into operation on the commencement of section 81 of the Act of 2015.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 36:

In page 7, after line 27, to insert the following:

“Amendment of Terms of Employment (Information) Act 1994

16. (1) The Terms of Employment (Information) Act 1994 is amended—

(a) in section 6A (inserted by section 18(d) of the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2012), by the substitution of the following subsection for subsection (2):

“(2) In this section ‘inspector’ has the same meaning as it has in the Workplace Relations Act 2015.”,and

(b) in paragraph (a) of subsection (1) of section 7 (inserted by Part 1 of Schedule 7 to the Act of 2015), by the substitution of “before, on or after the commencement of section 8 of the Workplace Relations Act 2015” for “before the commencement of section 8 of the Workplace Relations Act 2015”.

(2) This section shall come into operation on the commencement of Part 4 of the Act of 2015.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 37:

In page 7, after line 27, to insert the following:

“Amendment of Employment Equality Act 1998

17. (1) The Employment Equality Act 1998 is amended—

(a) by the substitution of the following section for section 83:

“83. Section 44 of the Act of 2015 shall apply to a decision of the Director General of the Workplace Relations Commission under section 79 as it applies to a decision of an adjudication officer under section 41 of that Act, subject to the following modifications:

(a) the substitution of the following subsection for subsection (1):

‘(1) (a) A party to a case referred to the Director General of the Workplace Relations Commission under section 77 of the Act of 1998 may appeal a decision of the Director General given in an investigation in relation to that case under section 79 of that Act to the Labour Court and, where the party does so, the Labour Court shall—

(i) give the parties to the appeal an opportunity to be heard by it and to present to it any evidence relevant to the appeal,

(ii) make a decision in relation to the appeal affirming, varying or setting aside the decision of the adjudication officer to which the appeal relates, and

(iii) give the parties to the appeal a copy of that decision in writing.

(b) The Labour Court shall have power to grant such redress in an appeal under this paragraph as the Director General has power to grant in an investigation under section 79 of the Act of 1998.’;

and

(b) any other necessary modifications.”,

and

(b) in section 101, by—

(i) the insertion of “or” after “begun” in paragraph (a) of subsection (4), and

(ii) the substitution of the following paragraph for paragraph (b) of subsection (4):

“(b) an adjudication officer has made a decision to which subsection (1) of section 8 of the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977 applies in respect of the dismissal.”.

(2) This section shall come into operation on the commencement of section 83 of the Act of 2015.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 38:

In page 7, after line 27, to insert the following:

“Amendment of Equal Status Act 2000

18. (1) The Equal Status Act 2000 is amended by the substitution of the following section for section 31:

“31. Section 43 of the Act of 2015 shall apply to a decision under section 25 as it applies to a decision of an adjudication officer under section 41 of that Act, subject to—

(a) the modification that the following paragraph is substituted for paragraph (b) of subsection (1):

‘(b) on application to it in that behalf, with the consent of the complainant, by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission,’,

and

(b) the following modifications:

(i) references to a complaint or dispute shall be construed as references to a case so referred;

(ii) the reference to section 41 shall be construed as a reference to section 25 of this Act;

(iii) in subsection (1), the words ‘decision of the Director General of the Workplace Relations Commission under section 25 of this Act’ shall be substituted for the words ‘decision of an adjudication officer under that section’;

(iv) the deletion of subsection (2);

(v) the words ‘decision of the Director General of the Workplace Relations Commission under section 25 of this Act’ shall be substituted for the words ‘decision of an adjudication officer’ in each place that they occur; and

(vi) references to employee and employer shall be construed as references to complainant and respondent respectively.”.

(2) This section shall come into operation on the commencement of section 84 of the Act of 2015.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 39:

In page 7, after line 27, to insert the following:

"Amendment of Freedom of Information Act 2014

19. (1) Part 1 of Schedule 1 to the Freedom of Information Act 2014 is amended by the substitution of the following subparagraph for subparagraph (k):

“(k) the Workplace Relations Commission—

(i) insofar as it relates to records concerning the provision of mediation services under the Employment Equality Acts 1998 to 2011, the Equal Status Acts 2000 to 2012 or the Pensions Acts 1990 to 2014, where parties to the process are participating in a voluntary capacity to try to settle such disputes, or

(ii) insofar as it relates to records concerning—

(I) the referral of a complaint or dispute for resolution under section 39 of the Workplace Relations Act 2015,

(II) attempts made in accordance with that section to resolve any such complaint or dispute, or

(III) the resolution of any such complaint or dispute in accordance with that section.”.

(2) This section shall come into operation on the commencement of sections 82, 83 and 84 of the Act of 2015.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 40:

In page 7, after line 27, to insert the following:

“Amendment of Workplace Relations Act 2015

20. (1) The Act of 2015 is amended—

(a) in subsection (2) of section 1, by the substitution of “sections 8(7), 57(3) and 66(3)” for “subsection (7) of section 8”,

(b) in section 2, by the insertion of the following definitions:

“ ‘Act of 1984’ means the Protection of Employees (Employers’ Insolvency) Act 1984;

‘equality officer’ has the same meaning as it has in Part VII of the Act of 1998;

‘equality mediation officer’ has the same meaning as it has in Part VII of the Act of 1998;

‘rights commissioner’ means a person appointed under section 13 of the Act of 1969;”,

(c) in subsection (4) of section 13, by the substitution of the following paragraph for paragraph (f):

“(f) is, or is deemed to be, the subject of an order under section 160 of the Companies Act 1990 or a disqualification order within the meaning of Chapter 4 of Part 14 of the Companies Act 2014.”,

(d) in paragraph (b) of subsection (2) of section 28, by the substitution of “a provision to which this section applies” for “any employment enactment”,

(e) in paragraph (a) of subsection (15) of section 28, by the substitution of “a provision to which this section applies” for “a relevant enactment”,

(f) in section 40, by the deletion of subsection (10),

(g) by the substitution of the following subsection for subsection (17) of section 41:

“(17) The Minister may, by regulations, make provision in relation to any matter relating to—

(a) the presentation of a complaint, referral of a dispute or conduct of proceedings under this section, or

(b) the making of a claim for redress or conduct of proceedings under the Act of 1977, that he or she considers appropriate.”,

(h) the substitution of the following section for section 53:

“53. (1) Where a decision or recommendation in relation to a complaint or dispute to which subsection (2) or (4) of section 8 applies was made by a rights commissioner before the commencement of this Part and no appeal was brought from the decision or recommendation before such commencement, the decision or recommendation shall be appealable to the Labour Court under section 44 as if the decision or recommendation were a decision of an adjudication officer under section 41.

(2) Where a decision or recommendation in relation to a complaint or dispute to which subsection (2) or (4) of section 8 applies was not made before the commencement of this Part, any decision or recommendation made by a rights commissioner in relation to the complaint or dispute after such commencement shall be appealable to the Labour Court under section 44 as if the decision were a decision of an adjudication officer under section 41.”,

(i) by the insertion of the following section in Part 4:

“Performance of functions of rights commissioners after commencement of this Part

53A. The functions standing vested in a rights commissioner immediately before the commencement of this Part shall, in relation to complaints or disputes referred to in subsection (2) or (4) of section 8 or subsection (3) of section 52, continue to be performable after such commencement by a person who immediately before such commencement was a rights commissioner.”,

(j) in section 74, by the deletion of paragraph (b),

(k) in section 76, by the deletion of paragraph (d) of subsection (1),

(l) in section 80, by—

(i) the deletion of subparagraphs (i), (ii), (iii), (iv), (ix), (x) and (xi) of paragraph (g) of subsection (1), and

(ii) the insertion of the following subsection:

“(1A) The functions standing vested in a rights commissioner immediately before the commencement of this section shall, in relation to a claim for redress referred to in subsection (2), continue to be performable after such commencement by a person who immediately before such commencement was a rights commissioner.”,

(m) in section 81, by—

(i) the deletion of subsections (4) and (5), and

(ii) the insertion of the following subsection:

“(4) The amendment of the Act of 1984 effected by this section shall not apply in relation to a complaint presented to the Employment Appeals Tribunal under section 9 of that Act before the commencement of this section.”,

(n) in section 83, by—

(i) the deletion of paragraphs (g) and (m) of subsection (1), and

(ii) the insertion of the following subsections:

“(3) The functions standing vested in an equality officer immediately before the commencement of this section shall, in relation to a case referred to in subsection (2), continue to be performable after such commencement by a person who immediately before such commencement was an equality officer.

(4) The functions standing vested in an equality mediation officer immediately before the commencement of this section shall, in relation to a case referred to in subsection (2), continue to be performable after such commencement by a person who immediately before such commencement was an equality mediation officer.”.

(o) in subsection (1) of section 84, by—

(i) the deletion of paragraph (g), and

(ii) the insertion of the following subsection:

“(3) The functions standing vested in an equality officer immediately before the commencement of this section shall, in relation to a case referred to in subsection (2), continue to be performable after such commencement by a person who immediately before such commencement was an equality officer.

(4) The functions standing vested in an equality mediation officer immediately before the commencement of this section shall, in relation to a case referred to in subsection (2), continue to be performable after such commencement by a person who immediately before such commencement was an equality mediation officer.”

(p) in subparagraph (3) of paragraph 3 of Schedule 3, by the substitution of the following clause for clause (g):

“(g) is, or is deemed to be, the subject of an order under section 160 of the Companies Act 1990 or a disqualification order within the meaning of Chapter 4 of Part 14 of the Companies Act 2014.”,

and

(q) in Schedule 4, by—

(i) the deletion of the following:

No. 10 of 1977

Unfair Dismissals Act 1977

Section 14(1), (2) and (4)

”,

and

(ii) the deletion of the following:

No. 5 of 1994

Terms of Employment (Information) Act 1994

Sections 3(1) and 5

.”.

(2) This section (other than paragraph (a) of subsection (1)) shall come into operation on such day or days as the Minister may appoint by order or orders either generally or with reference to any particular purpose or provision and different days may be so appointed for different purposes or different provisions.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 41:

In page 7, after line 27, to insert the following:

“Transfer of property of Director of Equality Tribunal to Workplace Relations Commission

21. (1) On the commencement of sections 83 and 84 of the Act of 2015 all property, including choses-in-action, that immediately before such commencement, was vested in the Director of the Equality Tribunal shall stand vested in the Workplace Relations Commission without any assignment.

(2) Every chose-in-action vested in the Workplace Relations Commission by virtue of subsection (1) may, on and from the commencement of sections 83 and 84 of the Act of 2015, be sued on, recovered or enforced by the Workplace Relations Commission in its own name, and it shall not be necessary for the Workplace Relations Commission or the Director of the Equality Tribunal to give notice to any person bound by the chose-in-action of the vesting effected by that subsection. (3) On the commencement of sections 83 and 84 of the Act of 2015 all records that, immediately before such commencement, were records of the Director of the Equality Tribunal shall be records of the Workplace Relations Commission and shall, accordingly, be transferred to the Workplace Relations Commission.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 42:

In page 7, after line 27, to insert the following:

“Transfer of rights and liabilities of Director of Equality Tribunal to Workplace Relations Commission

22. (1) All rights and liabilities of the Director of the Equality Tribunal subsisting immediately before the commencement of sections 83 and 84 of the Act of 2015 and arising by virtue of any contract or commitment (expressed or implied) shall on such commencement stand transferred to the Workplace Relations Commission.

(2) Every right and liability transferred by subsection (1) to the Workplace Relations Commission may, on and after the commencement of sections 83 and 84 of the Act of 2015, be sued on, recovered or enforced by or against the Workplace Relations Commission in its own name, and it shall not be necessary for the Workplace Relations Commission or the Director of the Equality Tribunal to give notice to the person whose right or liability is transferred by that subsection of such transfer.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 43:

In page 7, after line 27, to insert the following:

“Liability for loss occurring before commencement of sections 83 and 84 of Act of 2015

23. (1) A claim in respect of any loss or injury alleged to have been suffered by any person arising out of the performance before the commencement of sections 83 and 84 of the Act of 2015 of any of the functions of the Director of the Equality Tribunal shall after such commencement, lie against the Workplace Relations Commission and not against the Director of the Equality Tribunal.

(2) Any legal proceedings pending immediately before the commencement of sections 83 and 84 of the Act of 2015 to which the Director of the Equality Tribunal is a party, shall be continued, with the substitution in the proceedings of the Workplace Relations Commission for the Director of the Equality Tribunal.

(3) Where, before the commencement of sections 83 and 84 of the Act of 2015, agreement has been reached between the parties concerned in settlement of a claim to which subsection (1) relates, the terms of which have not been implemented, or judgment in such a claim has been given in favour of a person but has not been enforced, the terms of the agreement or judgment, as the case may be, shall, in so far as they are enforceable against the Director of the Equality Tribunal, be enforceable against the Workplace Relations Commission and not against the Director of the Equality Tribunal.

(4) Any claim made or proper to be made by the Director of the Equality Tribunal in respect of any loss or injury arising from the act or default of any person before the commencement of sections 83 and 84 of the Act of 2015 shall be regarded as having been made by or proper to be made by the Workplace Relations Commission and may be pursued and sued for by the Workplace Relations Commission as if the loss or injury had been suffered by the Workplace Relations Commission.”.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 44:

In page 7, after line 27, to insert the following:

“Provisions consequent upon transfer of property, rights and liabilities to Workplace Relations Commission

24. (1) Anything commenced and not completed before the commencement of sections 83 and 84 of the Act of 2015 by or under the authority of the Director of the Equality Tribunal may, on or after the commencement of sections 83 and 84 of the Act of 2015, be carried on or completed by the Director General of the Workplace Relations Commission.

(2) Every instrument made under an enactment and every document (including any certificate) granted or made by the Director of the Equality Tribunal shall, if and in so far as it was operative immediately before the commencement of sections 83 and 84 of the Act of 2015, have effect on and after such commencement as if it had been granted or made by the Director General of the Workplace Relations Commission.

(3) A certificate signed by the Minister that any property, right or liability has or, as the case may be, has not vested in the Workplace Relations Commission under section 21 or 22 shall be sufficient evidence, unless the contrary is shown, of the fact so certified for all purposes.”.

Amendment agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.

Amendments Nos. 45 to 47, inclusive, are related and will be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 45:

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 know the Minister is trying to avoid too much prescription in the Bill but it is important that as well as representatives of the various employer organisations, there should be someone in a day-to-day employer role included. It should be someone who is actually running a business and who understands the day-to-day implications of the decisions being taken by the commission and its recommendations. That would bring a very practical view to its work.

I support the amendment proposed by Deputy Calleary and rise to speak to amendment No. 46 which seeks to include "sociology" and "social policy" after "economics" on page 8. In their submission, the National Women's Council of Ireland recognised that it is an area of expertise that should be involved in the decision making process. We support its recommendation that the expertise on social policy should be included. Amendment No. 47 is similar to Deputy Calleary's in that we suggest a low-paid worker would bring invaluable and practical knowledge and expertise to the work of the commission.

I recognise where the Deputies are coming from and the spirit in which they propose the amendments. I am satisfied that we have a very strong balance on the Low Pay Commission. All of the members applied through the Public Appointments Service which is a system that works very well. I am satisfied that those who have an understanding of the interests of employers can reflect very well the experience of those operating in the SME sector, in particular the sector associated with the areas the commission will be examining in some detail. Similarly, those who have been selected through the process on the side of those with a deep interest and understanding of the interests of employees have spent a considerable amount of their working and professional lives representing the interests of low-paid workers in a very successful way. They are bringing something extremely important to the table in consideration of all of the issues the Low Pay Commission will tease out and examine. It is important to note that we had an open process to appoint the members of the commission from the perspective of the employer side, employee side, civil society and the independent academic representatives. There is no requirement to extend further the disciplines in terms of academia. There is sufficient expertise and knowledge there to do the job the Government has asked the commission to do and that the legislation insists it does. Accordingly, I cannot accept the amendments.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 46:

In page 8, line 26, after “economics” where it firstly occurs to insert “, sociology, social policy”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 47:

In page 8, between lines 28 and 29, to insert the following:

“(d) 3 members shall be appointed from among persons, who in the opinion of the Minister, are low paid workers, who have an understanding of the socio and economic impact of low pay on individuals and their families, including access to social goods, equality of opportunity and living standards.”.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 48 to 50, inclusive, are related, and amendment No. 49 is consequential on amendment No. 50. Therefore, amendments Nos. 48 to 50, inclusive, will be discussed together.

I move amendment No. 48:

In page 9, between lines 18 and 19, to insert the following:

"(a) is found guilty of an offence under the Principal Act,".

The legislation sets out instances in which a member of the commission can be disqualified. It is important that members of the commission have done right by employees previously. My amendment seeks to add a provision for disqualification of a person who has been found guilty of breaching the National Minimum Wage Act.

In regard to amendment No. 48, the Schedule to the Act already provides the Minister with the possibility of removing a member of the commission from office if the member has committed a stated misbehaviour or the removal appears to be necessary for the effective performance by the commission of its functions. I would expect that an employer member who commits an offence under the National Minimum Wage Act would 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 also make their membership of the commission untenable. Accordingly, I cannot accept this amendment.

In regard to amendment No. 50, I indicated on Committee Stage that I intended to bring forward an amendment on Report Stage relating to disqualification provisions under company law in respect of membership of the commission contained in the Schedule to the Bill. Currently, reference is made to certain provisions of the Companies Act 1990. This requires an amendment to include corresponding provisions under the recent Companies Act 2014.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 49:

In page 9, line 25, to delete “or” where it secondly occurs.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 50:

In page 9, to delete lines 26 to 29 and substitute the following:

“(e) is, or is deemed to be, the subject of an order under section 160 of the Companies Act 1990 or a disqualification order within the meaning of Chapter 4 of Part 14 of the Companies Act 2014,

(f) is a person to whom a declaration under section 150 of the Companies Act 1990 applies, or

(g) is a restricted person within the meaning of Chapter 3 of Part 14 of the Companies Act 2014.".

Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as amended, received for final consideration and passed.