I move amendment No. 1:
In page 4, line 28, to delete “subject to section 39” and substitute “subject to section 41”.
I welcome several guests to the Gallery this evening. I also welcome the Minister of State. We have had a tremendous interest in this Bill because it affects tens of thousands of workers in the hospitality sector. I am delighted to welcome members and activists from the One Galway and One Cork movements, which comprise trade unionists, community groups and student union members. I have received their letters and emails over the past several days. They are here tonight because they are passionate about this Bill. I also welcome some of my Dublin trade union colleagues from SIPTU. We also have had tremendous support from Mandate and Fórsa. All of these people have come together because this issue is pressing. A colleague asked me as we were coming into the Chamber if there was really a problem in the sector. There certainly is.
One in three workers in the hospitality sector does not receive their tips. We know this because of extensive research carried out in Galway by the Hospitality Alliance and my former colleague, Trevor Ó Clochartaigh, who deserves great credit for this. Out of 450 inspections of establishments in the hotel and restaurant sector carried out by the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, in 2017, 58% involved non-compliance with employment law. This rate is truly shocking. There is no question the sector needs regulation. This is just one core element.
I acknowledge and welcome the fact the Minister of State will not oppose the Bill at this Stage. I offer our support in terms of working with the Department to address any of the concerns he has with definitions, as well as further amendments we could bring forward together on Report Stage. We cannot have these workers left in the lurch for another 12 or 15 months. It has been nine months since the Low Pay Commission was asked to report on this matter. These workers have been waiting some time.
My colleague earlier asked me what is happening in the sector. I received several emails over the past few weeks. One worker told me that they worked in a café but did not receive any tips. Throughout the summer, many bus tours, largely of Americans, visited the café who received a complimentary Irish coffee. The tips were used to pay for the whiskey for the Irish coffee.
A second worker told me:
I started working for an international chain of restaurants in Ireland. When I got the job, I started my training period, during which I was told I would receive no tips. Other members of staff told me that they were incentivised to make my training period last for as long as possible so they would get to keep my tips. Then when I passed through training, I was told a percentage of my tips were taken for breakages.
A typical complaint is that 10% of tips are taken for breakages and a further 10%, 20% or 30% is taken to balance the till if there is any shortfalls at the end of night. These are all examples which came in over the past week as to how tips are withheld. The classic example is that the money is put towards a Christmas party. A five-star hotel in the west offers this. However, if a worker leaves the employment before Christmas, for any reason, he or she will not be paid a penny. It is a deceptive means of hanging on to money.
All Members, regardless of party affiliation, understand the importance of the tourism industry. Some fantastic people work in it. Unfortunately, many of them are suffering from wage theft. That is why this Bill is so important. I acknowledge the broad support across the Chamber for the legislation. I acknowledge in particular my colleague, Senator Nash, who was good enough to come out with me last Thursday in Galway to meet people on the streets ahead of Valentine's Day. We asked those going to restaurants to ask where their tips would be going. There is a problem in this sector. I was on the Ivan Yates radio show this evening when a terrific chef, who owns four restaurants in Galway, came on. The first thing he said was that there is a problem in the sector and that people’s tips are being withheld. This disadvantages good employers and it is unfair competition when people are pocketing tips.
I appreciate that the Minister of State will not be opposing the Bill. It is welcomed by our colleagues in the Gallery. We need to work together to ensure it progresses. If we do not, we will let everybody down. This should not be a win for Sinn Féin but should be a win for all of us. It will be a great way for the Seanad if we could work co-operatively on this Bill and deliver it.
Amendment No. 1 is a simple technical amendment to refer a matter to an adjudicator rather than a mediator. I thank my colleagues in the trade union movement who suggested this to tighten the legislation. We are open to more amendments from everyone across the Chamber. Hopefully, we all have the right interests at heart.
On amendment No. 3, I thank Senator Horkan for a constructive engagement on this issue earlier today, in particular regarding the concerns of the Licensed Vintners Association, LVA. Rather than have employer involvement, it aims to have employee involvement. We do not want employers having any further complications or bureaucracy. We want employees to manage this process, as they already do in many establishments. We are seeking a set of guidelines for this to happen. Hopefully, this amendment will address one of the LVA’s key concerns.