Dáil Éireann - Volume 386 - 01 February, 1989

Ceisteanna-Questions. Oral Answers. - Office of Register of Friendly Societies.

4. Mr. Quinn asked the Minister for Industry and Commerce if he has satisfied himself that the Office of Registrar of Friendly Societies is adequately staffed and equipped to deal with applications for mergers and amalgamations of trade [949] unions seeking to rationalise their structures; if he will ensure that no delays occur which may impede the process of rationalisation which has been welcomed by Dáil Éireann; and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. R. Burke): I am satisfied that within the constraints of Government policy on Civil Service staffing, the registry has been allocated an adequate amount of staff to deal with mergers and amalgamations of trade unions. Indeed, a temporary augmentation of staffing in this area of the registry has been arranged to deal with current proposals. I know that the Registrar attaches the highest priority to activity in this area.

Mr. Quinn: I thank the Minister for his reply, but as I have had some experience in this area, I am speaking with a degree of historic knowledge. Therefore, let me ask him if he is not aware that processing applications from existing unions, some of whom have now successfully merged, took what appeared to them, and, indeed, to many others, an inordinate length of time and that inordinate length of time frustrated the desire of those unions and the support of many other people in this House that they should rationalise. Having regard to that, will the Minister assure the House that he will make available to the Registrar all resources necessary and convey to him the concern of this House that such applications for amalgamation be facilitated without undue delay?

Mr. R. Burke: I can confirm that it is Government policy because it is the expressed view of the House that we should have amalgamation of unions. We want to do everthing possible to encourage that. With that in mind, and in the light of complaints that have been made in relation to the operation of the Registrar's office, I had a meeting with the Registrar recently. The Deputy will be aware of the application of the FWUI and the ITGWU to amalgamate, a major item to be considered by the Registrar. [950] To help in the consideration of that application, and to ensure that there will not be any delays in dealing with it, we have arranged that a former member of the staff of the Department of Labour who is very familiar with this area, will be employed on a temporary basis in the Registrar's office. The Registrar is totally committed to helping in the processing of applications for amalgamation. However, he must meet his strict legal responsibilities and must consider all applications in a particular way. Within the constraints of his responsibility to carry out a detailed examination of all applications he has assured me that everything will be done to speed up amalgamations and that there will not be any delays.

Mr. Quinn: I thank the Minister for his comprehensive reply to my supplementary question. Is the Minister aware that an application from a major Civil Service union to merge with a smaller Civil Service union is being processed at a very slow rate? Will he accept, on the basis of the time taken to handle the paper work related to that small number of unions that the time limit of 1990 for the new IPTU union will not be met by the Registrar's office?

Mr. R. Burke: It was with the unfortunate delays in mind that in relation to the SIPTU amalgamation it was decided to employ an experienced official to help the Registrar deal with that application. It is fundamental to national policy that we should have amalgamations of our unions. I will bring to the attention of the Registrar the point made by the Deputy about the Civil Service unions. The Deputy can be assured that the Registrar is well disposed to speeding up the amalgamations through his office. However, he must deal with those applications in accordance with the criteria laid down by law.