Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Select Committee on Finance and General Affairs díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 1 Dec 1993


Amendments Nos. 25 and 26 are related and it is proposed to take them together by agreement. Agreed.

I move amendment No. 25:

In page 17, subsection (3), line 14, after "transfer." to insert "Every post held by such an employee shall be deemed to become a post under the county council to which its holder is so designated or deemed to be so designated for transfer.".

This amendment relates to the distinction that appears in local government legislation between officers and what are termed servants of the local authority. In this legislation there is a section dealing with procedures for the transfer of staff of dissolved bodies. In the case of officers it states:

Every office held by such an officer shall be deemed to become an office under the County Council to which its holder is so designated or deemed to be so designated for transfer.

In other words, in addition to the staff who are currently serving in the dissolved bodies being protected, the posts of those staff are protected if they are officers, but they are not protected if they are not officers. That distinction should not apply. The amendment proposes that the posts of non-officer staff of the local authorities should be protected in the same way as officers.

I oppose amendment No. 25. Provisions similar to this amendment are included in subsection (1) in relation to officer posts only, having regard to the local government legislative code which contains specific provisions relating to the creation of filling of such posts. The creation of an officer post requires my sanction and the consent of the elected members. In addition, officer posts are filled through the Local Appointments Commission. The law requires the submission of statutory requests for filling them, the holding of competitions following public advertisements, the making of recommendations, etc. The employment of employees other than officers is a matter for the local authorities concerned subject to general labour law. I do not consider the proposed amendment necessary in their case.

In relation to amendment No. 16, there may be a need to provide for a situation in which an appointment to an employee post is in the course of being made and which, for one reason or another, cannot be finalised prior to the establishment day. I propose to bring forward a suitable amendment on Report Stage to take account of that situation.

How many jobs does the Minister assume will be lost under the provisions of this Bill if there is no protection for them?

Discussions took place between the representatives involved and this matter was raised on a number of occasions by the union representative. I have no evidence to suggest that there will be any loss of employment in the new situation.

Surely a large number of employees in the housing maintenance and management section of Dublin Corporation will be superfluous to requirements given the provisions of this Bill. If all these employees transfer en bloc to the new county councils there will be duplication of some of the posts particularly some of the lower clerical posts.

All staff transfers and matters relating to that have been agreed by the unions. Housing maintenance and related matters will be regulated by the various county councils. As has happened in many other cases, where a particular job no longer requires the involvement of personnel employed by the council, the personnel are transferred to other necessary activities by agreement with the unions.

I am pleased that the Minister will bring forward an amendment on Report Stage in response to amendment No. 26. However, I am still unhappy about the situation regarding amendment No. 25. Staffing and relations with staff and unions at local authority level are executive functions. I am aware that there have been extensive discussions between the management and unions of the three authorities regarding the arrangements for the transfer of staff and protection of employment. It would appear that there is a large measure of satisfaction so far as the union representing the officer grades is concerned as IMPACT seems to have concluded satisfactory agreement with the management of the three authorities.

However, I am concerned about the position regarding the outdoor staff in these authorities, many of whom are vulnerable because of the changes being imposed in this legislation. Much concern has been expressed to me by individual employees of the local authorities, for example, people working in the roads sections, refuse collectors and others, who have fears about the future and the security of their employment. It is not acceptable to have one law for office staff and another law for refuse collectors. I agree that there should be, as is proposed, a clause which safeguards the posts of office holders. I am not denigrating that and I compliment those who negotiated these arrangements. However, there should be a corresponding arrangement for the non-officer staff.

I ask the Minister to make some such provision in the Bill. He has responded to amendment No. 26 and I ask him to take another look at amendment No. 25. The people who work in non-officer posts collect the refuse, sweep the roads, maintain houses, clear the sewers and do the dirty work that must be done by local authorities. It is manual work. They are entitled to the same protection of their employment as those who work in other capacities in local authorities.

I agree with Deputy Gilmore. It is not appropriate that there be one law for the rich and one law for the poor because that is the division here. It should not be an arbitrary arrangement which depends on what one union can swing over another. It is important for the morale of council employees that there be equity in the way people are treated.

There were many misgivings and much heart searching among staff at all levels within the various departments about the division of the council into three county councils. Thankfully, many of the misgivings have been unfounded. However, when we are starting off new county councils it is important that people work together for the sake of the morale of manual workers who provide a service for the council because, if morale is not good, obviously something will give and, in this instance, the service provided could conceivably be damaged. I would not like to see that happen. We want people to get value for money and a proper service given to our constituents. In that regard, it is important that there by equity and that there is nothing arbitrary about the way people are treated. I am pleased that the Minister will re-examine section 25 (3) and I ask him to look at amendment No. 26 on Report Stage.

First, I compliment the staff of Dublin County Council at all grades for the way they have dealt with this issue. There was a lot of disturbance for all the staff and a change of work practice which by and large, was through negotiations. Obviously, such a change would not be possible without some conflict but I hope all those issues have now been resolved.

Fingal will be disadvantaged in relation to non-officer staff because geographically, it is much larger than the other areas. There is a need and an expectation for staff in the towns and villages, yet we do not have the manpower required. There is a great opportunity for tourism and tourism related business in Fingal. Therefore, there is a need to have the area kept clean and tidy on an ongoing basis. Who will have the power to employ extra staff to carry out these works? We have lost the tradition of a person with a cart and brush going up and down sweeping the roads and the whole environment has suffered accordingly. There is a need, particularly in these areas, to retain these services. While acknowledging what the Minister has done and what he intends to do in relation to the officer grade, how can we respond to that? What power will we have to employ extra staff?

Does the Minister envisage that the problem regarding the enormous number of temporary posts will be resolved? The practice seems to be widespread and permanent staff are a rare commodity. It makes for great difficulties for people who, although they may be employed in — to all intents and purposes — permanent jobs for years, are often unable to get mortgages or be sure of their future. Deputy Ryan spoke about a person with a cart and brush, but a clean sweep at this stage would solve much of the hardship that some council employees experience by virture of the fact that they are temporary on a permanent basis.

I would like to be associated with the comments of Deputy Ryan in complimenting all the unions involved in negotiations in relation to the establishment of these three new authorities. Clearly we envisaged change and, perhaps, a certain amount of doubt and difference, but it has been managed extremely well and I am pleased that has been the case.

Deputy Gilmore used the term "servant" and I will ensure that the use of that word is not included in the Bill. I would like to quote section 17 (7):

Save in accordance with a collective agreement negotiated with any recognised trade union or staff association concerned, an officer or employee of a dissolved body who is transferred pursuant to this section to a county council established by section 11 shall not, while in the service of that council receive a lesser scale of pay or be brought to less beneficial conditions of service than the scale of pay to which the officer or employee was entitled and the conditions of service to which that person was subject immediately before the establishment day.

That is a general provision taking account of some of the fears expressed this evening. It is also fair to say, as I outlined at the beginning, that the officer grade is subject to specific local government provisions and the non-officer grade to the general body of labour law. It is not fair for Deputy Sargent to say that permanent staff are just not to be seen anywhere, there are 20,000 permanent non-officer grades——

In Dublin?

No, in the country in local authorities. It is not as if——

We are talking about Dublin.

We are, but a comment like that——

I am only talking about Dublin.

A comment like that conveys the wrong impression. As far as temporary staff are concerned these matters are handled entirely at local level and not within the remit of the Minister for the Environment.

Is amendment No. 25 being pressed?

I withdraw it at this stage but I will re-enter it on Report Stage.

Amendment No. 25, by leave withdrawn.

Amendment No. 26 has already been discussed with amendment No. 25.

The Minister has undertaken to bring in his own amendment on Report Stage so I will await that.

Amendment No. 26 not moved.
Question: "That section 17 stand part of the Bill" put and agreed to.