Report on Development and Working Conditions in the Irish Film Industry: Motion

I move:

That Dáil Éireann shall take note of the Report of the Joint Committee on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht entitled 'Development and Working Conditions in the Irish Film Industry’, copies of which were laid before Dáil Éireann on 12th July, 2018.

Ba mhaith liom mo bhuíochas a ghabháil as an deis labhairt ar an tuarascáil seo, tuarascáil a cuireadh le chéile sular tháinig mise i réim mar chathaoirleach ar an gcoiste seo. Tá obair an-mhaith déanta ag an gcoiste ag cur le chéile na tuairimí a cuireadh faoina bhráid agus a cuireadh leis na moltaí os ár comhair. Beimid ag déileáil leis na moltaí sin so it is those recommendations on developments and working conditions in the film industry report which the Joint Committee on Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht produced after a number of hearings last July. We submitted it for the lottery to be selected and thankfully it has been. The report discussed arises from a number of contacts made with other members of the committee. As I explained, I only came into the role of committee Chairman late last year. This report already existed. The committee members had a number of contacts following developments in the film production industry in Ireland. As well as highlighting the advances and great successes of Ireland's indigenous film industry this report discusses concerns raised by some witnesses which centred around working conditions, training and development, funding and trade union representation. Having considered the matters, it was given priority by the committee and a number of stakeholders were invited to make a written submission outlining their views on these matters. The committee heard how the creative film industry is one of Ireland's great strengths. Irish-made productions are enjoyed by audiences around the world and they enhance our reputation and provide employment. It is important that the long-term sustainability and development of the sector be enhanced and encouraged.

The cultural and economic value of independent production needs to be continually supported and extended by Government funding incentives such as tax incentives and other funding schemes that are vital for the sustainability of the industry. Such Government commitment will ensure Ireland's ability to compete against other jurisdictions in getting productions to locate here and to be seen as a territory with strong skills bases, suitable infrastructure and competitive financial incentives. It cannot be a blank cheque. There are responsibilities to avail of tax breaks, which is tax forgone from the public moneys.

The committee invited five stakeholders from the industry to come before it and to discuss the topics in question. The content of these discussions and further written submissions received by the committee form the main content of this report. I encourage people to look at the full report. They will see what framed the discussion. The report deals with the main concerns expressed during the period of consultation between the committee and the stakeholders. The concerns related primarily to the following four areas: working conditions, training and development, funding, and trade union recognition.

Continuity of employment was raised as an ongoing issue whereby workers are generally employed from production to production and generally do not work on more than one production at the same time. This is especially the case for those working on section 481 productions for which the mother production company must set up a special production company for newly funded production, referred to as special purpose vehicles, SPVs. The committee acknowledges the nature of the industry in this regard where film studios and production companies in Ireland and all across the EU, do not generally employ creative and technical talent on a full-time long-term basis and only retain small full-time long-term teams to support a production company or studio in the long run between productions. That means long periods of lay-offs or unemployment for workers in the industry.

Some instances were highlighted where workers were being engaged as trainees over different productions from year to year and that such training was not leading to offers of full-time employment as new productions came along. The success of the section 481 funding incentive was leading to substantial increased activity in the industry and part of the scheme insisted on the provision of training on all productions supported by it. However, the committee was asked how such training could better reflect the overall needs of the industry and be better monitored and recorded.

With regard to funding, the section 481 tax incentive was strongly welcomed, in spite of some of the issues it raised. However, the importance of restored and guaranteed funding for these bodies and organisations which play a leading role in guaranteeing the future of the sector and in ensuring the long-term sustainability and development of the sector is strongly underlined in the report. The withdrawal and reduction of funding threatens Ireland's ability to compete against other jurisdictions in getting productions to locate here and this undoubtedly raises challenges and concerns for Ireland's strong reputation as a territory with a strong skills base, a suitable infrastructure and competitive financial incentives.

With regard to trade union representation, during the discussions with the committee, some concerns were raised on workers' representation on unions and other representative bodies and these are reflected in the report. All of these issues and other topics related to the film industry in Ireland today are reflected in the committee's report and form the basis for the key recommendations.

The importance of the Government's section 481 financial incentive has contributed significantly to the success of the creative industry in Ireland and is crucial to the industry. However, the committee is very aware how it can lead to some problems for employees as outlined in the four areas I addressed. There was a question of whether employees are fully protected by legislation and negotiated collective agreements and whether these need to be strengthened. Concerns could perhaps be first addressed through collective bargaining agreements between employers and their representatives and the trade unions, supported by the dispute resolution procedures of the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court.

I will outine the other recommendations made. Section 481 is a key and central component within the Irish film industry. This fact is accepted by the vast majority of the industry's stakeholders. Section 481 should remain central to the industry in the future. Secondly, it is the view of the committee that the Government should seek to make working arrangements more secure. Film companies should comply with all labour and other laws in relation to employment and self-employment. The committee calls on the Government to develop plans that ensure gaps in work are counted towards employment rights and redundancy. There were concerns with regard to working terms and conditions that can impact on workers, including income, redundancy and pension entitlements. Terms and conditions can also affect workers' ability to communicate real workplace difficulties as workers without permanent contracts must be constantly rehired.

The committee sought the reform of training in the sector to ensure all training has a recognised qualification, where possible, and a beginning and an end, and that trainees are not forced to repeat specific training. The committee proposed that there would be a wider geographical spread of training courses, the introduction of formal apprenticeships and additional finance to improve training and development.

In recommendation No. 4, the committee calls on the Irish Film Board to constitute the board's film forum, with an independent chair, to allow all stakeholders in the sector to meet and work together to develop mutually beneficial solutions for the industry.

Recommendation No. 5 is that an international comparative study be constituted to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the section 481 tax credit. The committee did not recommend the abolition of the credit, far from it, but its evolution to ensure certain foreign investment is not lost as a result of its current form. Attention must be focused on how section 481 can be improved to develop rich productive and sustainable indigenous film industry capacity.

Recommendation No. 6 is that workers within the craft grades of the industry should have representatives nominated to the Irish Film Board to feed their perspectives and needs into the industry's development. In recommendation No. 7, the committee called for collective bargaining rights for freelance workers.

In recommendation No. 8, the committee called for State support for actors, who lead a precarious existence, and sustainable pension structures for workers in the film industry. In recommendation No. 9, the committee sought further integration of the film industry on a North-South basis with the creation of formal North-South structures, development plans and investment.

In recommendation No. 10 the committee called on the trade unions and other representative organisations to work towards a mutually beneficial and respectful understanding. The final recommendation, No. 11, is that public funding and adherence to employment standards be linked.

The report and its recommendations highlight a number of specific issues which speak for themselves. I previously stated I was not the Chairman or a member of the committee at the time. Prior to taking on the role, however, I had a number of contacts with people who work in the film industry and since then I have had much contact with those in the industry. Some of the accusations levelled against the industry, including blacklisting and shorter working, must be fully investigated. The Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, is the obvious vehicle for doing so. The committee also suggested that the forum should address specific areas.

The film industry in Ireland employs a very small number of people. Overall, the number is estimated to be 17,000 but when one drills down the number employed full-time and throughout the year is fewer than 2,000. Some people are employed for six months and others are employed for three months. The industry as a whole is small but many people have an interest in it. There are probably 17,000 people, or perhaps more, with skills that are utilised in the industry over a period. They must be protected in every way possible to ensure they have rights as workers and that people can be self-employed if they wish but they must be properly self-employed rather than only in name. There are solutions to these issues but they require engagement. The parent companies or the small sub-companies that have been set up to avail of the tax incentive must understand the need to address the issues. We need to do more. We are in competition with other countries and do not want international film companies to bypass Ireland because we are not willing to iron out existing difficulties, some of which could be very easily addressed. Some changes have started to come through, even since the report was published.

If there are problems with the way Revenue is dealing with the film industry, we must address them but we must do so in a way that protects public moneys. Any tax incentive is tax forgone and public money. Where public money is invested, the recipients must be accountable to this institution and also the Revenue Commissioners. If the investment is designed to create jobs, then such jobs must be forthcoming. We must also look at whether the investment is developing the industry to a sustainable level so that at some stage in the future it will no longer be dependent on tax incentives. I recall a major debate about section 481 in 2003 when it was argued that the section was under threat and would be abolished. Thankfully, it was not abolished because it has sustained and enhanced the film industry. We must encourage more investment and training in order that we have an industry of which we are proud.

In the 1990s, SIPTU used to produce a book listing the various people who worked in the industry which could be given to film companies. Companies could see who was a carpenter or who could do creative, location or site work. It was a bible for the industry as a whole. The reintroduction of such a mechanism could be considered. We must address some of the accusations that have floated around in recent years and find a solution to them or they will continue. In the main, the recommendations stand. It is welcome that the industry has already begun to take steps to address some of them but to my knowledge others are still outstanding.

On a procedural point, we are meant to hear next from the Minister for 15 minutes and then have a ten minute wrap-up from her towards the end of the debate. It might be better to allow her to have 20 minutes towards the end of the debate to comprehensively address the points raised and make her own important contribution. Is the House agreeable to that proposal?

Does that mean the Minister will not respond initially?

The Minister will listen to what the Members have to say.

I am in the hands of Members.

I can speak now or I can speak at the end and summarise the points that have been made at the same time. I am at the disposal of Members.

It would make more sense to hear the Minister at the end when she has the benefit of the collective wisdom of Members.

We would not have an opportunity to contribute again.

That is a good point.

The proposer has the opportunity to contribute again.

I can read my statement now.

Yes. We can contribute again.

That is no problem. I will read the statement.

I welcome the opportunity to speak to the motion and thank Deputy Ó Snodaigh for introducing it. We are all in agreement that the Irish audiovisual industry is of the utmost importance as part of the cultural, artistic and economic life of Ireland. My Department shares the objectives of the Oireachtas joint committee to develop the industry, enhance the experience of all stakeholders in the sector, promote growth and see the continued expression of Ireland’s creativity through the medium of film in order that it is enjoyed by a global audience.

The report, Development and Working Conditions in the Irish Film Industry, which was published last July, dovetails neatly with the launch of my Department's audiovisual action plan a few weeks earlier in June 2018. Colleagues will recall that in April 2018, I joined with the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform to launch my Department's capital investment plan, Investing in our Culture, Language and Heritage 2018-2027, which includes the Government's commitment to provide €1.2 billion in capital funding for culture, heritage and our language over a ten-year period. Of that amount, €200 million is to be invested in media production and the audiovisual industry over the ten years to 2027 as part of the implementation of the audiovisual action plan which aims to make Ireland a global leader in the sector.

An audiovisual steering group was set up to implement the action plan and the steering group comprises all Departments and State agencies involved in the industry. The steering group will work to implement the eight policy recommendations in the action plan. The steering group also took on the task of addressing the recommendations of the joint committee's report. As Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, the first recommendation emphasises the importance of section 481 to the film industry.

I echo those sentiments. Section 481 is a key and central component to the Irish screen sector. Colleagues will be aware that changes were made to this film tax credit in the Finance Act 2018, and were designed to speed-up the time required to decide on applications for relief. Previously, applications were made directly to Revenue. Now a producer company applies directly to my Department for a certificate stating the film is to be treated as a qualifying film for the purpose of section 481. My Department has published guidelines and an application form on the Department website, and the new system has been in effect since 27 March 2019.

I was also pleased to note the announcement in the budget speech in October last that the section 481 tax relief for the film industry would be extended beyond its 2020 deadline to 2024. As the film tax relief is a state aid, the consent of the European Commission is required, and a notification has gone to the Commission, from which a decision is awaited.

Recommendation No. 2 of the Oireachtas joint committee report refers to working terms and conditions. I am pleased to inform the House that this recommendation has been implemented in recent months and since 28 March, all applicants for section 481, including the producer company and the qualifying company, have been required to sign an undertaking that they will comply with their obligations under employment law. As a condition of certification, the companies must also have in place written policies and procedures regarding grievances, discipline and dignity in work, including harassment, bullying and equal opportunity. Screen Ireland has also introduced similar conditions for receipt of its funding. This now links funding to employment standards as proposed in recommendation No. 1.

Recommendation No. 3 refers to reform of training. Last November, Screen Skills Ireland, the training and skills development division of Screen Ireland, held an education forum for the audiovisual industry. This forum brought together screen industry stakeholders, education and trading providers and policy influencers to focus on the skills development challenges and opportunities. The forum was a success and will be repeated this year. In the matter of the training requirements of section 482, changes targeted at improving outcomes have recently been effected. Deputies may be aware that certification for the tax relief is conditional on delivery of defined levels of training and upskilling. This requirement has been amended and the focus is now on skills development that is linked to quality and a more expansive range of skills development at all levels, including hard skills, soft skills, future skills, technical skills and leadership skills. As part of these revised requirements, films with eligible expenditure of over €2 million must have their skills development plans agreed in advance with Screen Ireland.

The plans developed by Screen Ireland require applicants to consider carefully the skills needs of the production, the company, the participant and the sector as a whole and to reflect on how the planned activity will address skills needs across different levels and different departments of the production, from new entrants, trainees arid crew to above-the-line talent and company leaders. This is designed to move away from a system where individuals are labelled as trainees. It goes some way towards addressing the concerns that the Oireachtas joint committee flagged. A post-project skills development compliance report must also be submitted to Screen Ireland in order that the impact and outcomes of the training might be captured and quality assured.

Screen Skills Ireland and other providers of training can support skills development. Education providers and Government agencies can work towards developing programmes or systems of accreditation but accreditation of itself does not always guarantee progression. There is an onus on the industry to facilitate and encourage the organic development and progression of skilled individuals in accordance with their experience. I am aware, from information relayed to the joint committee in previous sessions, that this already has been the experience of a number of people within the industry.

While I am on the topic of recommendation No. 3, I will also set out some of the excellent work that is being done on training and the geographical spread of training courses. In terms of accredited courses, Screen Ireland has submitted two level 9 courses, namely, creative leadership and advanced producers, to be developed and certified through Springboard. These courses are in direct response to one of the recommendations in the Olsberg report that new business skills courses be generated that focus specifically on the needs of creative sector companies. Screen Ireland is also developing a certified level 8 apprenticeship programme for the role of computer-generated imagery, CGI, technical artist in the animation and related sectors.

Skillnet Ireland, the national agency for the promotion and facilitation of workforce learning in Ireland, currently has 23 programmes planned for 2019 that are of relevance to workers in the film industry. These programmes include courses in business skills, leadership and project management through animation Skillnet; design enterprise Skillnet; greasán na meán Skillnet and screen Skillnet. A sub-committee of the audiovisual action plan steering group was established earlier this year to oversee the implementation of the recommendations on training and skills in the audiovisual action plan. The members of this sub-committee are drawn from my Department, Screen Skills Ireland, the Department of Education and Skills, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland and Enterprise Ireland. Their work will be incorporated in to a report on the plan, due to be submitted to me later this year.

There are many good examples of training taking place right across the industry. When Screen Producers Ireland appeared before the joint committee in January 2018, its representatives spoke of the excellent work done by Troy Studios in Limerick in collaboration with Screen Skills Ireland, Limerick Institute of Technology, the University of Limerick and the education and training boards in providing training and many graduates from the immediate surrounds have obtained work in the industry. We want to see more of these exemplars in the regions and it is expected that the regional film development uplift, for which EU approval is awaited, will do much to promote skills development outside of traditional hubs of film production.

Recommendation No. 4 called for Screen Ireland to constitute a film forum to allow all stakeholders to meet and work together to develop mutually beneficial solutions for the industry. This has not taken place as not all the stakeholders referred to by the Oireachtas joint committee are prepared to meet as a single forum. Last autumn, Screen Ireland commenced work to organise a forum with an independent chair as recommended in the Oireachtas joint committee report. Screen Ireland has independently reported back to the Oireachtas joint committee that it has not proved possible to constitute a forum of all stakeholders. I agree with the view of Screen Ireland that it seems likely now that, rather than adopting a collaborative inclusive approach in an atmosphere where ideas are exchanged and developed for the good of the industry, the forum probably would constitute little more than the airing of disputes and grievances. Such issues should, of course, be dealt with through the appropriate mechanisms provided by the State, some of which were mentioned by Deputy Ó Snodaigh earlier, such as the Workplace Relations Commission.

Recommendation No. 5 of the report calls for an international comparative study to analyse the strengths and weaknesses of the section 481 credit. Since publication of this report, as part of its work for the Finance Bill 2018, the Department of Finance published its review of the section, entitled "Review IV: Cost Benefit Analysis of Section 481 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 - Film Corporation Tax Credit". This analysis has been the catalyst for the administrative changes to the application process that I have outlined.

In the matter of recommendation No. 6, it is important to note in the first instance that the board of Screen Ireland, under the provisions of the Irish Film Board Acts, is not a representative board in the sense of comprising representatives from the various industry sectors. Section 12 of the Act provides that seven members shall be appointed to the board by the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht with the consent of the Minister for Finance for a period of not more than four years. That said, however, vacancies on the board which arise are advertised by the Public Appointments Service, PAS, and anyone who meets the requirements as set out by PAS may submit an application. There are currently no vacancies on the board. The next vacancies will arise in March 2020, when three vacancies will arise. The function of the board is set out in section 4 of the Irish Film Board Act 1980, which states that the board "shall assist and encourage by any means it considers appropriate the making of films in the State and the development of an industry in the State for the making of films". Screen Ireland’s mission is to support and promote Irish film, television and animation through fostering Irish artistic vision and our diverse creative and production talent, growing audiences, and attracting film-makers and investment into the country and all members of the board, regardless of their sector of the industry, must work towards that vision.

Turning to recommendation No. 8, which comes within the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Regina Doherty, I would remind the House that the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018 was passed in December, which addresses insecurity and unpredictability of working hours for employees on insecure contracts and those working variable hours.

These measures came into effect on 4 March this year.

Recommendation No. 9 relates to the integration of the film industry with that in Northern Ireland. Screen Ireland works with its Northern Ireland counterpart, Northern Ireland Screen, in efforts to attract inward production to the island of Ireland. In January, for example, Screen Ireland announced that, in conjunction with Northern Ireland Screen, it had teamed up with an international sales and film finance company Bankside Films on a joint venture that intends to produce and fully fund up to two feature films per year. It targets projects with a budget of up to €1.5 million and creative teams on each project will come from both the North and South. This is a clear example of continuing co-operation of the film industry on a North-South basis. It must be acknowledged, however, that Northern Ireland also competes to attract internationally mobile inward production.

I hope I have given a flavour of the significant advances made by the Government in the audiovisual industry in the ten months since the publication of the Oireachtas committee report. The Government will continue with the implementation of the audiovisual action plan which delivers ongoing dividends in the industry in line with the overall objectives of Project Ireland 2040.

A report prepared by the Olsberg SPI and Nordicity consultants and published last year found that the audiovisual and radio sector support approximately 17,000 full-time equivalent jobs and generated a gross value of €1.1 billion to the economy.

I thank the Minister for updating us on some of the aspects of Oireachtas joint committee report on the film industry.

Today, I attended a meeting in the audiovisual room organised by Deputy Boyd Barrett attended by the workers and members from the industry. It was disappointing to hear men who had significant experience in the industry, ranging from 12 to 35 years, explaining what has happened since the Oireachtas committee meeting on employment conditions in the industry. Many of these workers have not got work since. They are blacklisted as such within the industry. They explained in detail their situations. One was a props engineer for 12 years and was classed as a trainee for eight years and has not received any contact from the industry since the committee meeting last year. They are waiting for phone calls but they do not get them.

Another worker in the industry explained how he and a colleague applied for jobs in the UK, which they got. However, subsequently, they got a phone call from the same company which told them that it had contacted other companies in Ireland and were told not to take them on because they are on a list. In an industry with significant potential, everybody should share the money made in it. The way these men have been treated needs to be challenged.

As legislators and public representatives, we must stand over the fact that a large amount of public money is going into the film industry. Employment conditions of this nature should be discouraged. The Minister said progress has been made in that the companies must go through the Department and sign up to certain workplace standards. However, that does not seem to be the case and I am still quite concerned about it.

One man at the meeting today asked why he and his three colleagues were sacked from the John Player site when they raised the issue of asbestos and health and safety there. The reply from Screen Guilds of Ireland was horrendous.

It said he was a troublemaker and could not do his job.

He did not receive a verbal or a written warning. He did not receive an opportunity to reply or appeal. It was a tense meeting today which reflected what has happened in the industry in the past ten years. Heretofore there would have been a panel of workers to which the industry could go for a carpenter or a props man. It allowed for continuous work but the workers in question have not had that in the last period of time.

Last time I spoke on this matter, I raised the issue of trainees. There seems to be some movement on that but there are still many outstanding issues. The right of workers to organise into their own trade union and have the right to be able to negotiate with the industry is crucial. There should be panels separate from the production companies from which available workers and trainees can be allocated.

Despite what the Minister said, there is a need for this forum to take place with an independent chair which can deal with these issues. One cannot have a situation where a considerable number of expert workers in the field are being blacklisted. I cannot stand over that as a public representative and legislator with public money going into the industry. If the forum does not go ahead, funding to the film industry should be stopped like what happened in the Abbey Theatre when there were issues around workers’ rights there. That got everybody to the table quickly. Action of that nature needs be taken with this forum.

I thank Deputy Boyd Barrett for facilitating the meeting earlier on in the audiovisual room which I attended. It was an opportunity to hear the issues. At times it was a difficult meeting, and at times it was acrimonious, because allegations were made by individuals against others. The point was made that it is not our role to act as adjudicators on such issues when there are resolution mechanisms available. It is surprising those mechanisms have not been used already.

It is obvious that there are deeply held views on both sides. Both sides brought passion to the meeting, as well as showing their commitment to develop the film industry. It is vital that a process is found to address those issues and find a resolution because it can be resolved.

Issues came out at the meeting about the application of employment legislation. Is it being adhered to and, if not, what are the consequences regarding government funding to the industry? Abbotstown was mentioned as an example. The new guidelines from the Department of Finance regarding accountability were raised. There was a discrepancy about statistics and the numbers employed in the industry. Questions were asked about the formation and role of the guilds, along with training, certification, fixed-term workers, the quality of the employment and protection workers. Questions were also asked about when issues of health and safety are raised, pension rights, the role of those labour relations mechanisms and the role of the unions. There is more than one union involved which brings up a person's right to join a union of their choice. There is also the right to peaceful protest and, therefore, a viable complaints procedure.

An issue was also raised about those from the film industry who gave testimony at the Oireachtas committee some time ago and the way in which they are treated now. On the allegations of bullying, blacklisting and blackballing, there must be process in which those issues can be addressed. Maybe these are matters for the Garda.

It is accurate to say that in Ireland we are very proud of the film industry and the work that has been produced over many years. We know the extent of the work and the great variety of skills that go into film-making. Sometimes we are prone to consider only the actors, directors and camera people but there is so much more involved. It was good to hear this morning from representatives of people with those different skills that go in to making a film. That skills basis is vital for attracting productions to locate here. There is also increased demand for screen content worldwide; I only have to mention Netflix. That is why it was disturbing to hear of the acrimony between the two groups working in the industry. Deputy Boyd Barrett’s used the words "raging dispute" in terms of what we saw this morning, yet pillar 4 of the Creative Ireland programme aims to make Ireland a centre of excellence for media production.

I acknowledge the correspondence from Screen Producers Ireland, the work it has been doing and the work on the self-assessment model. It also mentioned producers’ obligations with respect to employment legislation and skills development. Its correspondence referred to a collective agreement and the work it is doing. What it is saying, in a sense, is that nearly everybody is saying the same thing with respect to the needs in the industry. There is so much common ground and interest in the film industry it beggars belief that there is acrimony.

The forum has been recommended but it is taking too long. Like my colleague, I do not agree with the Minister when she said it is not possible to have a collaborative approach now. I believe it is possible. Everybody at the meeting in the AV room this morning said they were willing to take part in a forum. It will be challenging for the forum but there is a willingness to engage. It will need a skilled chairperson or negotiator. There is probably a need for separate negotiations initially and then for the different sides to come together. It is terrible to use the word "sides" but this issue has to be resolved in the end and all of us have to be on that one side, which is for the betterment of the industry and for all those who work in it.

In recent years, the film industry and the film production sector has expanded in a positive way. This is as a result of a number of big-budget TV dramas produced in Ireland which started with "The Tudors" more than a decade ago. As a result, Ireland is the 17th most popular location in the world for filming TV shows and movies, according to a recent study. Considering the size and scale of Ireland by comparison with the countries ranked higher than Ireland, this is something of which we can be proud.

The report seeks to examine some of the issues which have arisen alongside this request, including concerns regarding section 481 relief, the conditions of workers and the precarious nature of employment within the sector. It is welcome that since this report has been published, changes have been made to section 481 to encourage the development of skills in the sector and to support better recognition and formalisation of training within the industry.

That said, a number of issues have arisen in respect of section 481 relief in the past few months. Despite the Government’s claim to be supporting the industry, it is extremely disappointing the film industry is being put under considerable pressure in recent months as a result of delays in the introduction of new regulations for section 481 relief. These changes were well flagged months in advance and yet it is at least ten months since Revenue started working on this issue before draft guidelines were provided. Fianna Fáil welcomes the progress made in recent weeks but believes that the process should not be repeated. We would welcome clarification by the Minister on the indicative timeline for the completion of guidelines.

Other outstanding issues, including the regional uplift, have not been addressed either. The Ministers for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Finance must clarify the position with regard to the regional uplift elements announced last year. Five months into 2019, they are still not available to the sector. It is unfair on the sector to announce supports which are then not made available within the specified timeframe. The regional uplift is on a temporary basis and simply not available at this point in time. The Minister should provide a clear timeline for when the regional uplift element will be available. It is somewhat ironic that an incentive to encourage the development of the industry risked causing damage by the delay. The film industry has achieved international regard and competes on the same level as production companies in Los Angeles or London. This cannot be allowed to continue any further. The sector has made great strides in recent years and the Government must strive to ensure this continues. While progress has been made in recent weeks, more is needed before the Government delivers on its announcements in that regard.

The report examined terms and conditions and the precarious nature of work in the sector but, unfortunately, it appears that some of the issues raised at committee hearings have not been progressed much further. When this report was completed, the committee called on the unions and the representative organisations to work together towards a mutually beneficial and respectful understanding. It was clear at a briefing in the AV room earlier that significant, focused work will be required.

I compliment Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett on organising that meeting. The Minister has heard from Deputies across the House that there are entrenched and polarised views on the way workers are treated in the industry. Those in various sectors, whether it be in carpentry, costume or make up, have valued skill sets and are artistic in their own right but there is a sense that their work is not valued and that there is an avoidance almost of respect and due regard for the workforce. As my colleagues said, we heard personal accounts of people who have been in the industry for some time but they have not reaped any rewards for their length of service or dedication to their work. We also heard from the guilds today whose representatives made the case that they are working and striving towards making provision to address some of the issues that were raised at committee meetings, whether it be training or providing the support mechanisms that should be in place for this particular sector, but I agree with my colleagues that there is a need for some intervention through a mediator and a facilitator to find common ground and ensure there is due regard and respect for the workers involved.

I disagree with the Minister's comments that the forum is not the place to provide for that. Anywhere that common ground can be found is of major importance. Nothing can be resolved without conversation and round-table discussion. I encourage the Minister in any way she can to try to fulfil what is required by allowing those voices to be heard and having due regard to the workers within that industry without crippling those who are trying to keep these projects up and running. While there has been major investment, anybody who has come from an arts background knows that way that funding is allocated, and projects and films are no different in that they are financed from project to project, which can be difficult. We must be mindful of both sides of the argument. I ask the Minister in her work, deliberations and any input she can make to ensure that both voices are heard and that an amicable agreement can be found. There is a lot of work to be done to ensure there is respect for people's work and service and the industry is not impacted negatively because of the conflict that prevails.

I have no doubt Deputy Boyd Barrett will put it in a more aggressive way than I can but aggression can only get us so far. We must find an amicable way of resolving these issues, hear both sides and find the middle ground in order to move forward and allow the industry to flourish.

We need people to talk to each other in this industry. I agree with Deputy Smyth that aggression is not the answer. The problem is aggression is rampant at this point in the film industry. If we do not address it, it will get more and more bitter and it will do immense damage to the industry. I had also heard the story that Deputy Joan Collins reported. The Minister should think about this from the international perspective and from perspective of the relevant Departments. I assume Deputy Joan Collins did not mention the name of the person-----

------and I will not do so.

Let me put it this way. A prominent international actor who is also a producer sought to employ somebody here to work in transport on a movie and was informed by the Irish producer company that it could not have and was not willing to employ that person. This is clear evidence of a blacklist. Think about the consequence of that for this prominent international actor, all of the people whom actor knows and international investors who might be considering coming into this country. That is as serious as it gets. Unless the Government proactively resolves this, we have a serious problem and we had better acknowledge it.

The other day I met a well known playwright, probably one of Ireland's leading playwrights, with whom I am friendly. We were chatting about the conflict in the Abbey. I mentioned the raging battle that is going on inside the film industry and he said something very interesting. He said that in his experience, if one got a lot of creative people and people working in the arts in one room with a pot of money, the result was not pleasant. This was an interesting comment to hear from one of our leading playwrights and, when one thinks about it, a very disappointing comment to hear. One would expect that the arts is totally different from that, that it is the opposite of that, and that it is better than everywhere else in how people work together, how they co-operate and how they engage with each other. One would expect it is the best of any industry and sector. That is what one would hope for. That is what it should be. Art is supposed to be about the best of us, and instead we have a bitter toxic situation in the Irish film industry. It must be resolved. That forum has to happen.

Members should consider where this stands in the scale of things. We have just had a major national scandal over what was going on in the FAI leading to a clear-out of the chief executive, etc., because the chief executive lent the FAI €100,000. The annual subsidy from the State to the FAI is only €9 million. This was a major national scandal and has led to a complete clean-out of the FAI. Between section 481 tax relief and Irish Film Board or Screen Ireland funding, there is €100 million going into this industry every year. This puts the FAI in the ha'penny place. If the allegations that are being made have any substance, and there is quite a lot of evidence to suggest they may have, somebody has to adjudicate on all of that and it has to be independent. While it is not up to us, the Government, which is the funder of the industry, has to make that happen. What is more, a condition of giving out further funding of that scale has to be that the recipients respect the public who are funding them and agree to come into a forum where these issues will be resolved. Anything less is completely unacceptable.

The Minister states the Government decided that because different stakeholders were unwilling to go into a room with one another, it was not possible for them to talk, she could not have the forum, and we should just accept that. That is crazy. Is that the way we would have operated if the former CEO of the FAI had stated he would not come in to the Oireachtas committee and it should get lost, as some of the stakeholders have done? Would the public have accepted that? The Government would not have accepted it. It is totally unacceptable. This forum has to happen.

I was slightly worried by the Minister's response and I hope she will reconsider. I understood from engagements that I had with the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Regina Doherty, in that regard that she was in favour of the forum happening and the only outstanding question was whether we had an independent chair. A couple of suggestions I would put forward, and these are not exhaustive, would be Mr. Kevin Duffy, the retired chair of the Labour Court, or possibly Mr. Brendan Hayes, the retired deputy chair. Members could have other suggestions but they should be persons who have experience in industrial relations and who will be genuinely independent in bringing people into a room and look at all of this.

It has to be a condition of further funding that the law is being applied and workers' right are not being abused. We have not got to the bottom of whether this is so, but let us ask ourselves a simple question. Could the Minister answer the question as to who the employees in the Irish film industry are? I suspect that the Government cannot answer that question. No one knows who the employees are because none of them has any rights. They do not exist. The vast majority of the workers do not have a contract of indefinite duration that is acknowledged by the people who receive the funding. They do not exist, even though the Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003 clearly applies to them. The Minister, Deputy Regina Doherty, has accepted that this law applies and yet it is not being applied in the industry. Therefore, it has to happen. I do not believe further funding can be extended to this industry until it is clear that is happening.

I refer not only to future practice. We must establish the position of those who have been working. Today, we got testimony from people working 42 years in the industry, 25 years in the industry, etc. On the issue of blacklisting, there are ways to find this out. All of those workers have submitted their PPS numbers to me and the Minister, Deputy Regina Doherty. Others will submit them. We can simply establish whether they have been blacklisted since they came in here. There cannot be too many people claiming they are not working in the industry all of whom are lying, but there is a way to find out. One can check their PPS numbers, their employment record, whether they have worked in the industry for years, who they worked for, whether those people were in receipt of public money and whether they have got rights as employees. These details can be established and we can find out who is telling the truth.

What we heard today from Screen Guilds of Ireland was shocking. When one of those workers, a master painter who has worked for 42 years in the industry, asks why he was sacked from a particular production with two other people and the answer from Screen Guilds of Ireland is because he is a troublemaker and he should have been doing his job, that is breaking the law. Where somebody who is sacked on that basis, his or her rights are being breached and the law is being broken. The people who did that are in receipt of public money, which is conditional on the provision of quality employment and training. That cannot be allowed to stand.

I want to make clear I not only want €100 million to go into the Irish film industry, I genuinely want €200 million to go into it. That has been my party's policy for many years. However, I do not believe a single cent more should go in until we know who are the trainees, who are the employees, whether there are proper pathways into the industry, and until we log, track and ensure that there is quality employment and training. Anything less is completely unacceptable. Is there recognition of service? If somebody who has worked in the industry for 25, 30 or 35 years does not have a job, a pension or any rights whatsoever, that is not acceptable. That is not quality employment and training and nobody can seriously suggest that it is. I have much more to say and just do not have time to say it.

We have a problem and the way to solve it is to convene the forum. Quite frankly, anybody who tells the Government, particularly if he or she is receipt of public money, that the person is not coming should be told he or she will not get a single cent more. One should bear in mind that we were given evidence at the Oireachtas joint committee by the people who were lobbying to continue the funding that there were 17,000 jobs. The Irish Film Workers Association and the GMB stated there were not 17,000 jobs, that there were 2,000 and that those jobs were not actual jobs but were completely precarious with no security.

Revenue looked into the claims of the two sides and found that the Irish Film Workers Association and the GMB union representations were the correct ones. There were only 2,000 jobs, of which only 900 were PAYE, and almost none of them are people who have any security from one job to the next. They can work in the industry for 20 years and then they are just gone. It is not acceptable and we now have evidence piling up. It was because of the campaigning of the workers who gave testimony today that the new guidelines were brought in and why we had the report. We have to take these things seriously and get to the bottom of them. Funding to the film industry has to be conditional on the application of the law and the upholding of workers' rights for the good of the industry, as I have explained. Otherwise, its international reputation will be absolutely shot if it seems that rights are being flouted like that and blacklisting and other sorts of completely unacceptable behaviour are rife in the industry.

Gabhaim buíochas leis an Teachta. The Deputy was referring to industrial relations law in his contribution. In regard to law breaking, the reference in this case was to-----

It was to the Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act, statutory instruments and the Organisation of Working Time Act.

From the contributions, particularly the last contribution, there is a great deal of conflict on the part of a number of people in the industry. The role of the Dáil is to ensure film-making thrives in Ireland and in an environment where people's rights are protected. The previous speaker evidenced conflict, which would pretty much indicate a breakdown. It is welcome that the Deputy mentioned several people who might be acceptable as chair and who have long experience of conflict resolution in employment matters.

Our modern film industry very much rests on the foundation created by the first Minister for culture in the State, Michael D. Higgins, who was a member of a Labour Party Government some time ago. It was a condition of the Labour Party going into government that we would create a Department and Minister for culture. I am aware that the previous speaker rarely praises the Labour Party, but the approach in developing cultural institutions in Ireland by our now President, Michael D. Higgins, was largely based on profound respect for people who are involved in what might be described as the creative industries, of which film-making is definitely one. As we know, there are now associated developments in areas like video and media in general. We also have to recognise that this is now a globalised industry, based on a particular model. Irish film makers who want to be successful on a global stage must work within that environment, which is not always perfect, from an Irish point of view.

It is a complex issue. It is welcome that the previous speaker put forward a number of names of people with long experience of trade unions and dispute issues in an effort to find a resolution, which is positive.

The critical role of the State in recent times relates to section 481. That is a key funding element for the industry. We are all aware - I have raised this issue on many occasions - that that tax break funding in effect should go to real productions which have an output that can be verified. In that context, I bring attention to a Private Members' Bill I produced more than a year ago on tax law reform and codification, and the creation of the structure in regard to our tax which would continuously review, examine, question, and audit developments in tax that may lead to tax not going for tax breaks for the purposes intended, but which go unexamined and for which a permanent review mechanism is not provided. Within the Revenue Commissioners, permanent examination takes place of people involved in film making, whether in a company, a contractor or an employee format, according to the different elements of the tax code. The core funding finance port to the film industry in Ireland is through section 481 and there was broad agreement here, including from the previous speaker, to continue the section 481 mechanism. As I said, I have brought forward a Bill that would allow that examination over a range of tax breaks, not just the film break, to see if they remain relevant and give taxpayers value for money and a return. I would welcome the support of some of the parties who are being critical of section 481, but have also indicated that they support it as a continuing funding mechanism.

It is a globalised industry and is not simply confined to the island of Ireland. We have also discussed what is happening in Northern Ireland. As to the creative culture in this country, areas like screen writing, film making and film production are vital to the film industry. I know many people who work in the film industry. In some cases, they are happy to be private contractors while in other cases they want employee status.

When I was Minister for Social Protection, I set up a working group to look definitively at this whole area. It took us several years to get the Government to publish that report, even though it had been signed off on by the relevant Departments, and those months of delay ran into several years. We now have more capacity, as an Oireachtas, to provide oversight. I would welcome support for the Labour Party's Bill which is sitting in cold storage, to use the current political term, because it relates to tax and the money message issue.

I do not believe there is just one solution. The second issue, about which I have spoken previously, is training people in the industry and I include in that degree courses. In journalism, which in some ways is a parallel and related industry, that the amount of traditional employment available is diminishing because of the advance of technology and social media. Similar things are happening in the film industry. It is important that where dedicated people, particularly young people, are doing a four-year degree and perhaps a masters degree, we have a structure of serious and meaningful work experience for them in the industry. There are very talented people who may get lucky breaks or who may have contacts in the industry. As with many artistic and craft areas, there is a high degree of connectivity in the industry, where people have relations, parents, or people their parents know, and they seem to have access. I worry about people from working class areas who are really talented, but do not have those familial connections.

Deputy Broughan, who is in the Chair, is a former teacher and will know what I am talking about in terms of my constituency and his one, where the talent is just as intense on the ground as it is in places like south County Dublin.

They have the connections. Kids who live on and students from the north side often do not have them. It would be welcome if people with Kevin Duffy's reputation got involved, if he were willing to do so; it would be a big job. He produced the report on apprenticeships. Apprenticeship used to be a traditional route into the industry for people who really wanted to work in it and still is in areas such as camera work and lighting. There is a need for more opportunities for students from DEIS schools or more traditional working class backgrounds who do not have parental connections. They should have a fair opportunity to contribute to the industry and bring their creativity to all of us and the general population.

I am anxious about the issue of education in the context of the report. There are extensive courses available, but at times one worries that there are not enough employment opportunities arising from them or specific training opportunities. If we could address that issue, we could resolve some of the difficulties that have been spoken about. If all else fails, we should bring back President Michael D. Higgins to give some encouragement and advice. We all want to see people working with proper pay and conditions. They should be able to use their creativity not only for their own benefit but also to add incredibly to the cultural richness and experience of the country.

I will address briefly some of the points raised by Deputies. I thank Deputies Ó Snodaigh, Smyth, Maureen O'Sullivan, Joan Collins and Burton for their contributions.

I am sorry. I also thank Deputy Boyd Barrett.

How could the Minister forget him?

I apologise. I did hear him.

It is not.

I thank Deputy Joan Collins for acknowledging the progress made in the area of training. As she is probably aware, the new conditions in respect of section 481 require recipients of public money to observe all employment laws. The onus has been placed on recipients to prevent bullying between workers involved in productions. I also point out to the Deputy that Screen Guilds of Ireland members are workers in the film industry, not employers. I reiterate that the film forum was never meant to be a place where disputes would be resolved. That has never been its purpose. How does it differ from what occurred in the AV room today, for example? The Deputy mentioned section 481 with reference to the written policies that have to be in place on grievances, discipline and dignity at work, including harassment, bullying and equal opportunity.

Deputies Maureen O'Sullivan and Boyd Barrett raised points that were also raised by other Deputies. There is a mistaken belief overall as to what constitutes a film forum. This was borne out by a letter I received from the Irish Film Workers Association, IFWA, in which it asked that I set up a film forum to allow organisations to address allegations of bullying. The committee proposed a film forum "to allow all stakeholders to meet and work together to develop mutually beneficial solutions for the industry". It appears that rather than adopting a collaborative, inclusive approach in an atmosphere where ideas are exchanged and developed for the good of the industry, the forum would involved little more than an airing of disputes and grievances and that we cannot work together to develop solutions which would benefit the industry. In any case, as we know, the State provides institutions to addressing HR issues such as allegations of bullying. Deputy Boyd Barrett organised the meeting today. The people who refused to enter the forum are employees and workers in the industry. Representatives of the producer companies that receive section 481 relief will attend the forum if employees attend.

We do not know who the employees are.

Deputy Smyth mentioned regulations and timelines for the giving of guidance. There are two types of guidance and I am not sure about which one she was talking. The Department's guidance was published in March, but Revenue's guidance is still in draft form. The regional uplifts are subject to state aid approval by the European Commission. I apologise if I am skipping through my notes a little.

Deputy Boyd Barrett is incorrect in saying workers have no rights. That is an incorrect and non-factual statement. The Employment Equality Acts apply to all employees and define "fixed-term contract" and "fixed-term employee". There is also the Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Act 2003. Employed persons enjoy a wide range of protections under employment legislation-----

The people concerned are not employed.

-----including recourse to the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court.

My Department has introduced new rules to tackle bullying in productions in receipt of section 481 relief. They came into effect on 1 May and we should see the results in the next 12 months. Production companies must provide a workplace that is free of harassment and bullying. Ultimately, the obligation is on the employers, the production companies, to ensure workers are not bullied by other workers. If there are substantial allegations of bullying, the producers will not receive any tax relief.

I welcome Deputy Burton's support for the industry in general and section 481. She can speak a word in President Michael D. Higgins's ear, if she so wishes. I have outlined some of the progress that has been made in the area of training and skills development in the past ten months, including new arrangements under section 481 and the work done by Screen Skills Ireland.

I thank all Deputies for their contributions. I will take everything they said into account in my work in the Department.

I thank the secretarial staff, all of the Deputies who contributed and all of the organisations that contributed to putting the report together in the first instance. Their input led to a number of issues being highlighted in it, some of which seem to have been addressed by the various organisations and Revenue. The Minister listed them. I thank the Members who took part in the debate and gave some of the issues a good airing. I apologise that I was not able to attend the meeting in the AV room earlier. It seems I was in three places at once, such is the nature of the scheduling of business here.

An rud atá uaimse, agus glacaim le gach Ball a labhair go dtí seo, ná go go mbeidh tionscal maith againne maidir leis an scannánaíocht sa tír seo ionas go mbeidh postanna maith ann, go bhfuil scannáin den scoth ann agus go mbeidh muid ag féachaint ar thraenáil mhaith do dhaoine a bheadh ag dul isteach sa tionscal seo amach anseo, agus go bhfuil siúd atá ann ag cur leis na scileanna atá acu. Don chuid is mó, an rud atá fágtha as an méid atá sa tuarascáil ná go ndéanfaimid díriú isteach ar na fadhbanna atá léirithe anseo inniu agus go dtabharfaimid fúthu.

As I said, a number of issues were raised at the time the report was put together. Much has started to be addressed in terms of skills and upskilling, certification and so on. We will wait and see, but already it seems to be paying some dividends for those who are trying to enter the film industry and those who are already within it.

Employment protection was mentioned by the Minister. There are protections for employees, but there is a problem is availing of them if a company no longer exists.

This is one of the issues to which we can return to when the forum is established.

It will not be a grievance forum. The Minister is correct on that point. However, the underlying issues behind the grievances need to be addressed rather than dealing with issues on a case-by-case basis . Many of us have met the workers. They have raised issues such as bullying, blacklisting and blackballing. These issues are not all on one side. Accusations have also been made against those who have highlighted them. Those are matters for the Labour Court, the Workplace Relations Commission or a mediator. Some of the matters raised are covered by employee protections.

I did not hear much commentary regarding displacement. People who worked in this industry for many years are now being displaced because their jobs no longer exist. Young people have come into the industry and then been unemployed for two or three years. They have no mechanism to get back into employment. There have been suggestions that blacklisting is to blame. That might be the case but it might also be displacement. If it turns out that displacement is the real cause, there has to be a mechanism to ensure that there is a route back into the industry for those affected. If people are unemployed because of blacklisting, then that is illegal and it needs to stop. I said as much when representatives from the Abbey Theatre were before the committee. Every right-thinking person would agree with me in this regard.

We want people to be able to go to work, have dignity and be compensated for their work. It does not matter if it is the film industry or another industry, we have an obligation to ensure we put the legislation in place to protect pay and conditions. That is what the report suggests. It recommends mechanisms to overcome these difficulties. Most of those recommendations are being addressed. This is going to happen in time. It seems that this one area is not being addressed and if this was happening in any other industry, someone would be appointed to examine the issue. I do not like using the term "sides", but a mediator should be appointed to ensure both parties sit down together. That is the purpose of a mediator. When the issue arose in the Abbey Theatre, all those involved were encouraged to sit and get on with addressing the issue.

A stronger industry results from that kind of approach. We can ensure we have the best film industry by adopting said approach. We must do that because every country is working on the same basis and is trying to protect jobs. There is an understanding that films in Ireland have to be made to the highest of standards because we are in competition with many other countries. We do not want more job losses, displacement or the industry disappearing altogether. I have received correspondence from many workers in the industry. Some wrote to praise the work of the committee while others were aghast at what was said. People are speaking from personal experience and not telling lies. It might not be the experience of those who were aghast. They might have another tale to tell and they should tell it. People should be allowed to outline what has happened to them.

Action needs to happen on this issue quickly because livelihoods are at stake. The main breadwinners of some families are not working in the industry of their choice. It is an industry in which they have developed an extensive skill set over the years. In many cases, those skills are not transferable. Much attention is being paid to this issue. I ask those listening to get down to work and help deal with the real underlying issue within this industry. Some of the big issues have been dealt with but some of the animosity that has been created needs to be addressed. People need to be back in work and we need a proper industry with no major problems in the background.

Question put and agreed to.
The Dáil adjourned at 6.05 p.m. until 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 11 June 2019.