Dáil Éireann - Volume 398 - 02 May, 1990
Private Members' Business. - Protection of Part-Time Workers (Employment) (No. 2) Bill, 1989: Second Stage (Resumed).
Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”
Mr. Gilmore Mr. Gilmore
Mr. Gilmore: In the few minutes remaining to me I want to deal with the question of pro rata rates of pay and employment conditions, one of the main provisions of this Bill. The principle of pro rata rates of pay and employment conditions is something which, to a limited extent over the past couple of years, part-time workers in well organised trade union employments have been securing; there have been some gains made. The Labour Court has tended to confirm pro rata rates of pay and conditions. There are a number of Labour Court recommendations to that effect — for example, in the case of the health services, the  most recent example being the two Labour Court recommendations and subsequent agreement reached between the Teachers' Union of Ireland and the Department of Education regarding part-time teachers. The Teachers' Union of Ireland are to be congratulated on that achievement.
There are also cases of good employers who apply pro rata rates of pay and conditions to part-time workers. Unfortunately, the case of the good employer in these circumstances is more the exception than the rule. The circumstances in which the vast majority of part-time workers find themselves are more usually in employments which are not organised by trade unions, in which the employer is only too willing — as has been repeatedly demonstrated here in the course of the debate — to apply conditions of employment much less favourable than those applicable to a full-time worker and to pay the lowest possible rate of pay.
IDATU, mentioned here recently highlighted at their recent conference the case of young workers being offered appalling contracts of employment in the 7-Eleven group of stores. It is precisely these workers who need legal protection. Otherwise they will be unfairly treated.
There has been much talk on the idea that, if one regulates part-time employment, one will discourage employers from recruiting part-time workers. That raises a fundamental question as to the kind of employment being encouraged. When somebody says that, by providing legal protection for part-time workers, one is discouraging employment, what they are really saying is that they are in favour of cheap labour. As John Blackwell pointed out in his paper, the principal motivation for employers to take on part-time workers is that such workers cost less. If we allow a position to continue in which part-time work is not protected by law, in which the rights of part-time workers are not guaranteed by law, in which they are not protected against unfair dismissal, this economy will slide into being a cheap labour one.
 The only hope both the Ministers for Labour and Social Welfare offered part-time workers was the promise that, at some future date — and, as I pointed out yesterday, that is much more likely to be in the distant future — legislation will be introduced, very probably forced on the Government by the European Community, to protect part-time workers. In the meantime part-time workers will not enjoy legal protection.
If the Minister and the Government are serious about their intention to protect part-time workers by law they are afforded an opportunity now to withdraw their opposition to this Bill, allow it to go on to the next Stage and amend it as they see fit.
Mr. D. Ahern Mr. D. Ahern
Mr. D. Ahern: With your permission, Sir, and that of the House I should like to share my time with Deputy Flood.
Acting Chairman Acting Chairman
Acting Chairman: Is that agreed? Agreed.
Mr. D. Ahern Mr. D. Ahern
Mr. D. Ahern: This Bill covers a most important area, one in which most public representatives would have had experience of the problems of part-time workers. In response to what Deputy Gilmore had to say — when, in a sense, he questioned the resolve of the Ministers for Labour and Social Welfare in this regard — I have to say that when I read the Bill before the House in October last I thought first it was a Government Bill. Having finished reading it I noticed that it was a Private Members' Bill submitted by The Workers' Party. With all due respect to the people who brought it forward I felt it was very simplistic, that there would be no way in which a Government would be able, on the one hand, to implement its provisions because of stringent financial circumstances or, on the other hand, to legally enforce some of its provisions. Nonetheless it is right that it be introduced so that this House be afforded an opportunity to discuss its contents, also the general question of part-time workers with which most of us have had some involvement.
I am aware of a number of people  who from time to time have experienced serious difficulties in their part-time posts whether in the private or public sector. It appears even people employed in the public sector have experienced grave difficulty, particularly in education, when they are let go in June when a college closes and do not know over the summer months whether they will be re-employed in September. That uncertainty has caused considerable concern in recent years. I have no doubt that others have mentioned this. The fact that they are not entitled to any of the major social welfare benefits causes problems.
In conducting research in this area in preparation for this debate, I was surprised to discover that we here have a very low proportion of part-time workers in comparison with other EC countries. I accept that for quite a number of reasons part-time work is increasing. We should examine carefully why it is increasing and also ascertain the reason that, originally, we had such a low rate of part-time work here. At the same time we should examine thoroughly the other types of legislation pertaining in other EC countries, indeed those without the EC, to learn how they take care of what, in their countries, would appear to be a much bigger sector. I imagine the increase has been brought about largely by the changing circumstances of our society. Most of our part-time workers here are female. I suppose the reason is that most of them would be married women who would be desirous of working for part of the day and would want to tend their children or home before and after.
Part of the reason we have more part-time workers now than heretofore is that increased technology in industry has led to fewer and fewer people being needed in the workplace. To a certain extent the part-time facility does help in this respect. There is no doubt that, in future years, we will have to devise better ways and means of dealing with employment countrywide because of increased leisure time. This is something we, as a Parliament and as a nation, must accept.
I was asked at a meeting to find out  how many people were employed on a full-time and part-time basis in a large retail outlet in my area but I could not get this information. I contacted both the Department of Labour, who were unable to help me, and the Revenue Commissioners who, for obvious reasons, were unwilling to give me this information. This is something a Bill of this nature would have to look at in great detail if we are to be able to learn how many people are employed on a full and part-time basis in various firms and different sectors. I ask the Minister to consider this matter in much greater detail when introducing the legislation he intends to bring forward than was possible in the Bill before us tonight.
That is one reason the Bill should be rejected and why we need to examine this area in greater detail. In the case of one retail company which went out of business, part-time workers had no rights whereas rights were afforded to those employed full-time. Social welfare, unfair dismissals and redundancy should all be looked at in great detail. Last night the Minister for Social Welfare stated that the adult dependant ceiling is being increased. I welcome this move as difficulties have been caused where the wife is earning over £50 per week and the husband's social welfare payments are reduced.
The part-time job incentive scheme introduced a number of years ago has worked well although it probably has led to an increase in the numbers working part-time. However it meets the needs of those who have expressed a desire to work for part of the day. It should be borne in mind by the Government and the country at large that this trend is likely to continue.
This Minister said last night that the National Pensions Board are reviewing the area of part-time work. I laud this move. As I said earlier, it is not possible in this short Bill to get at the nitty gritty of what is involved in part-time work and the problems that may be encountered. I commend the Minister for organising the seminar in May 1989 from which Mr. Blackwell's report emanated. I am aware  that the Department found this to be a most interesting and rewarding seminar and because of this other seminars should be held with greater input from both employers and employees.
The Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the Federation of Irish Employers have expressed conflicting views on this topic and obviously it is up to us, as politicians and the Government to strike a balance between the need to allow people to work part-time and the need to ensure there is sufficient legislation to protect such workers. I have to be honest and admit that there is insufficient legislation on the Statute Book at present to ensure that part-time workers are not discriminated against. As most Members of the House are aware, they are discriminated against in some sectors.
A balance also needs to be struck between the contribution paid by part-time workers and the benefits payable to them. This is another issue not dealt with in the Bill. The Minister should investigate this issue in his discussions with employers, employees and other interested groups.
The Bill deals with the question of equal treatment. We should all strive to guarantee this but I do not believe the section is strong enough, and it is doubtful if it would stand up legally. This is another issue the Minister and his Department should look at in greater detail. This area has been in a backwater for too long. It is high time we made it a priority.
The Minister for Labour has taken a very firm initiative and I hope he brings forward legislation as quickly as possible. Perhaps the movers of this Bill will be seen by some as jumping the gun, but it may provide the impetus for the Department of Labour to bring forward their proposals more quickly. I ask the Minister to ensure that they do this because many people find themselves in limbo. It is vital that we introduce proper legislation. There is plenty of legislation on the Statute Book covering unfair dismissals and redundancy which protects those in full-time employment but there  is very little legislation to protect part-time workers. It is high time we put such legislation in place.
In conclusion, this Bill is not the correct one; it is too simplistic. Even before I heard what the Minister had to say last night I felt this Bill was far too simplistic. A much more detailed examination should take place before legislation is put on the Statute Book. It is not acceptable for someone to say accept the Bill and amend it on Committee Stage. We need to adopt a root and branch approach and carry out a very detailed investigation into the problem. Such an investigation has not been carried out up to now and before we introduce legislation this should be done.
Mr. Flood Mr. Flood
Mr. Flood: As has been indicated by other contributors to this debate, this Bill provides us with an opportunity to discuss what is a very serious issue, the need to introduce legislation which protects part-time workers. No Member of this House or anyone outside it doubts the need to bring forward such legislation. When such legislation is brought forward it will have to be very detailed and specific if it is to mean anything to part-time workers. During the years there has been much debate about the way in which part-time workers in specific sectors have been treated in the past. It has been acknowledged in a number of debates, for example, on the contract cleaning area, supermarket employers and the security industry, that there is a dearth of legislation on the Statute Book aimed at protecting part-time workers. We are now involved in a continuation of that debate.
There is a need to ensure that whatever legislation is brought before the House is adequate. There are glaring omissions in the legislation with regard to part-time employment and the protection of part-time workers. I am happy enough that as a result of the debates that have taken place in the last couple of years employers and part-time workers in certain sectors seem to have succeeded in developing a better relationship so that the lot of the  part-time workers has improved. I particularly refer to one of the major supermarket chains where the second generation management now in place seems to have taken on board the need to improve the lot of part-time workers because there are very big numbers employed in some of these major areas. That has happened because of the concern expressed by Members of this House and by other contributors to the debate. It was made known that we could not accept a continuation of a situation where part-time workers worked unsocial hours for paltry remuneration.
The Minister has indicated his commitment to introducing appropriate legislation to protect part-time workers. In the past year and a half he has embarked on a programme of consultation with interested parties who have a contribution to make towards the drawing up of legislation of the kind we are now discussing. He has to involve the trade union movement because they certainly have something to say about this issue. He has to involve the employers because they would have a contribution to make; and he has to involve, as far as he can, the part-time workers themselves through meetings with individual groups of them or through contributions that we might make to the debate. He has to take all this into account in formulating legislation that will take account of the needs of part-time workers.
In doing that we must recognise that the opportunities for part-time working here are limited by comparison with those in other EC countries. We have only reached half our potential in this area and have a considerable distance to go. There is considerable scope for the creation of part-time jobs for people who need that type of facility. We know from certain surveys that have been carried out that although there are people working in part-time employment because they cannot find full time employment there are considerable numbers working in part-time employment because, for a variety of reasons, it suits them. We must take account of that so that the legislation  we introduce does not lead to a retrenchment in the creation of this type of opportunity. In the past ten years there has been considerable growth. The number of people employed in part-time jobs has grown to 72,000 which is a doubling of the numbers from 1979 to 1988. There is a whole range of service sectors out there capable of providing such opportunities, and for the vast majority of part-time workers it is exactly what they want.
Part-time employment is very wide ranging and in introducing legislation we must be specific about what we are trying to do. There is, of course, regular long-term part-time employment. Then there is the short period of part-time employment such as summer work for students and office work for secretarial people which can sometimes be of a much shorter duration. I am not so sure that we can satisfactorily group all those together without impinging on the opportunities that might develop in the years ahead. Part-time work is not all the same. There are differences and it could complicate things if any legislation in this area proved inflexible and incapable of differentiating between the various types of part-time employment. It is important that the Minister bring in legislation that will be helpful to those in part-time employment and give them greater protection.
I have already said there has been a great deal of abuse in certain sectors of part-time employment. It is important to recognise the different shades of part-time employment. We must understand that there are people who can only work part-time and sometimes it is necessary in terms of the individuals themselves or of their family circumstances that they do participate in this type of employment. We must ensure that any legislation introduced does not constrain the growth of part-time job opportunities. We should learn from our fellow member states in the EC. We have only tapped the surface so far as the creation of part-time job opportunities is concerned. We must realise that we lag very far behind some of the more advanced EC countries.
The opportunities for part time employment lie in the services sector.  Part-time employment in these areas is frequently taken up by people who are seeking full-time employment and it frequently leads to full-time employment. It might suit some people to spend a considerable lead-in time in part time employment and, as circumstances change, they may find themselves drawn into full-time employment. That is a beneficial aspect of part-time employment that is rarely mentioned.
Part-time employment not only concerns the employee but we also have to look at it from the employer's point of view to see how best they can benefit from the availability of part-time employees. From my experience, small entrepreneurs when starting out are not in a position to take on a full-time employee. They might be starting off as a one man business and they would not have the resources to take on a full time employee. It is the old story, they have to walk before they can run. They can employ someone on a part-time basis, but if this becomes too complicated it might not be possible for the small businessmen to take on a part-time employee to get the business off the ground. The development of these small businesses has frequently lead to increased job opportunities. We must be concerned that we do not make the legislation so restrictive that it becomes a disincentive for a potential employer to take on part-time employees to do a job which may become a full-time position in the future.
The services sector is the growth area and there are certain long established areas of the services sector that need to take another look at the manner in which they treat their part-time employees. The remuneration, the unsocial hours have to be taken into account and I would like to see an attempt to include those issues in future legislation. I do not think we can confine ourselves only to the issue of remuneration and the other issues currently covered by legislation for full-time workers. The flexibility of part-time employment is crucial and we will have to take this into account when the legislation is being drawn up. As I said earlier, if we make it so restrictive as to be  unworkable we will find that instead of allowing the sector to grow and develop to the benefit of the economy and workers we will cut off an opportunity for workers at a time of scarce employment opportunities.
Last evening when I listened to Deputy Gilmore making his contribution I was disappointed that he was unnecessarily critical of the Minister's tardiness in bringing forward legislation. It is well known that the process of consultation on this legislation is well underway and he has spelled this out in this House on a number of occasions. This was also referred to by the Minister during his contribution and by other Members. I think this was necessary. I agree that it is urgently necessary to bring the legislation forward and the Minister is committed to doing this. The Minister has made very considerable progress over the past number of months and the legislation is with various Government Departments for consideration, which I understand is the normal procedure when Government legislation is being brought before this House. Legislation of this type impinges considerably on other Government Departments. Last night the Minister for Social Welfare outlined his contribution to legislation of this kind and what he has to do to make legislation of this kind workable.
Part-time workers expect to benefit from the legislation and I do not think they will thank us if we participate in bringing forward flawed legislation. I believe the Bill has some serious omissions. The way that remuneration is dealt with is cumbersome and I see it as a prerogative of the trade union movement or representative organisations to take up this issue. I do not see why the remuneration of part-time workers should be tagged on a proportionate basis to the remuneration of full-time workers. This issue should stand alone and I think that remuneration and working conditions should be decided through the normal channels. It is a defect in the legislation to try to tie the remuneration of part-time workers with the remuneration of full-time workers.
 In conclusion, I welcome the opportunity which this debate has afforded us to discuss a process which had begun some years ago under the present Minister for Labour. We have yet to learn a great deal about the legislation that is required. The consultative process is nearing an end and I accept the Minister's commitment, when he made a statement in this House saying that he intends to bring forward the appropriate legislation, which is now with the various Government Departments, to Government and to the Floor of this House during 1990 and to quote the Minister “at the earliest possible opportunity this year”.
Mr. Kemmy Mr. Kemmy
Mr. Kemmy: With your permission, Sir, I wish to share my time with Deputies Mac Giolla, Byrne and Sherlock.
Acting Chairman Acting Chairman
Acting Chairman: Is that agreed? Agreed.
Mr. Kemmy Mr. Kemmy
Mr. Kemmy: This is a good and timely measure and it is a credit to The Workers' Party that they have brought this Bill before the House. We have all heard the cliché, and we have read it in the media every day of the week that “a rising tide lifts all boats”. It was one of the favourite expressions of a former Taoiseach, Mr. Seán Lemass. A great many other politicians of lesser stature used this cliché as a means of getting out of awkward situations when they ran out of ideas. The rising tide concept and the famous table that Deputy Lenihan refers to as a solution to the Northern conflict are mythical creations. The cliché of the rising tide might be a useful maritime principle but it certainly does not apply to workers or indeed part-time workers.
It has also been said that a rising tide helps to create employment and provides for better wages and conditions. All I have seen as a result of the rising tide is increased profits. We can see this very clearly in Britain and Ireland in the past decade or so, where nothing has been done to bring justice, equality and fair play to the marketplace. During the past five years politicians, industrialists and  economists in Ireland have constantly told us that the economic tide has turned and that prosperity for all is just around the corner. It is a long time coming and it is not in sight yet.
How often have we heard about the need to create the right climate for growth and economic expansion? We have been told that this growth will come very shortly. We are also constantly told about the need to create freedom in the marketplace to allow for the full play of market forces which is seen as a prerequisite for the creation of jobs and the improvement of wages. This cry has been taken up by all sides in an uncritical way. The full play of market forces is a Thatcherite doctrine which prevails in Britain and anybody can see that this has been a disaster for the British economy. It has polarised British society, with unemployment and poverty on one side. Unfortunately we have slavishly followed the British model during the past decade and we did not have the ability to think out a separate economic strategy. Too often in the past what passed for economic policy was only a hodge podge of borrowed ideas. We have borrowed the Thatcherite model with all its disastrous consequences. Part-time workers have been among the most exploited of workers in both Britain and Ireland. Hotels and restaurants are classical examples of exploitation of part-time workers both young and old.
I listened to “Morning Ireland” recently and the spokesman for the Irish Hotel Industry spoke about their great difficulty in finding workers for hotels and restaurants and that they were undertaking a recruitment campaign in London to attract Irish workers living in Britain to come back to Ireland to work in the industry here. I read also a press report on the same news item that the hotel industry were spending large amounts of money in going to London and placing advertisements in the British press to attract hotel workers to come and work in this country. This report on “Morning Ireland” and in the newspapers was treated in a most uncritical way. There was no explanation as to why hoteliers are  going to Britain, spending good money to recruit staff to the industry at a time when there is almost a quarter of a million people unemployed in this country and tens of thousands of our workers, young and old, are desperately seeking employment in foreign countries and working in those countries, particularly America, often illegally. They are travelling to Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Germany and Holland to seek work at a time when this recruitment campaign is in progress.
People in any other society would say this is very strange and would ask why it is happening. What is wrong that our people are leaving the country to seek employment elsewhere? They go through the trauma of emigration and endure great costs, dislocation and alienation, while, at the same time, hotels are crying out for staff. No one put a finger on the central point of this question. The reason these people are leaving is that hotel staff are badly paid in too many cases. Part-time workers bear the brunt of this exploitation in hotels, restaurants and the catering industry generally.
Cleaning firms are often equally badly treated in this respect. How often do we see early in the morning part-time workers cleaning the most ostentatious buildings, banks, universities, factories, offices of managing directors and so on? These people, young and old, often widows, deserted wives and so on, work in palatial offices where very highly paid executives are employed while they are only paid a pittance. There is a great contrast in the wages paid to managing directors and cleaners who clean out their offices but nobody takes much notice of that.
As the Minister knows, the qualifications and regulations of bodies such as the Employment Equality Agency, the Employment Appeals Tribunal and so on do not apply to part-time workers. Some of these firms engage highly-paid legal advice to find loopholes in the law to ensure that they escape their obligations under these Acts, and that applies on all sides. These people do not mind spending  money on legal advice to help them to evade their reponsibilities in those areas.
The Minister also knows very well that part-time workers should not only be covered by the European social charter but there should be a special charter for them and that is what this Bill is about. There is need for common standards among the workforce across Europe, not only for full-time workers but also for part-time workers. That is essential. All of us know the truth of what I am saying because these people come to us as public representatives. The Minister knows more about this than most of us because he works hard in his clinics in that regard. Everyday people come to him with examples of gross exploitation among part-time workers. This must be brought to an end as soon as possible.
I heard Deputy Flood speak earlier about the need for flexibility in relation to part-time workers. The trouble is there is too much flexibility in the present legislation and this Bill aims at remedying that. Part-time workers are often told they will be contacted when they are needed. This is an employers' charter, with the unemployed people being exploited. These people must take part-time work in order to survive but they have no protection whatsoever under the present legislation. This Bill attempts to give protection to them. It is a good and timely Bill and I welcome it.
Mr. Byrne Mr. Byrne
Mr. Byrne: I remember well the period when married women started to move back into the workplace. These women were often regarded by men as women who just wanted a few extra bob for themselves — pin money is what it was called. The male workforce, who conjured up the title pin money were often disparaging in their remarks. They felt a little resentful and threatened by the presence of women on the shop floor. Unfortunately, for the vast majority of women the term pin money was often a convenient cover to hide behind because they were not just out for the extra few bob but were in desperate financial need. For economic reasons they were being forced out of the home to earn money to  meet even the basic household budget. It is worth recording that many a family would have starved were it not for the valiant efforts of brave women who abandoned their expected roles as “housewives tied to the kitchen sink” and re-entered the workforce.
How far have women progressed since the late fifties and early sixties? There are about 100,000 regular and occasional part-time workers, both men and women. About 72 per cent of part-time workers are women and this highlights the fact that women are much more vulnerable to exploitation by employers than are men. The level of exploitation of the low-paid workforce is a scandal. This Bill from The Workers' Party is an attempt to get the Government to recognise that it is morally wrong for them to do nothing but stand idly by while employers underpay their part-time workers. The vast majority of part-time workers have no protection against unfair dismissal or redundancy; they have no entitlements to holiday or maternity leave; they have no protection under the minimum notice against dismissal and they are only insured through class J insurance. All of these restrictions will have to be changed.
Last night the Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy Woods, said in his address that in line with the Government's commitment in the Programme for Government he has already begun a review of the insurability of part-time workers and that by late summer he would prepare comprehensive proposals for the social protection of part-time workers. I would like to believe the Minister but I am sure he will do as before: nothing, unless organisations such an FLAC push him into the European Court of Justice, drag him screaming before the European Community and expose the Government for their total disregard for sections of the European Community Directive on Equal Treatment for Men and Women in Matters of Social Security — Directive 79/7/EEC.
The Minister could have proved his intent a couple of weeks ago when he introduced the Social Welfare Bill, 1990,  but no attempt was made in this Bill to redress the position. As a result of the case of Cotter and McDermott v. the Minister for Social Welfare, approximately 40,000 married women are entitled to back payments of approximately £20 million on account of the disgraceful way the previous Government botched the implementation of the EC directive on equal treatment for men and women.
Despite the clear obligation to implement the directive by 23 December 1984, it was not until 1986 that the State undertook its implementation. The delay in implementing the directive meant that between 23 December 1984 and 15 May 1986 the State continued to discriminate against married women in relation to rates of disability benefit, unemployment benefit, injury benefit, invalidity pension and unemployment supplement. Furthermore, women who were unemployed between 23 December 1984 and 25 February 1986 were cut off from unemployment benefit after 12 months as against 15 months for men.
What has the Minister done in relation to the Ruzius v. Willbrank decision of the European Court of Justice? Why should the Minister wait years to supposedly begin a review of the insurability of part-time workers when we have the European Court of Justice decision on the question of part-time workers and their social insurance? One of the major areas of discrimination against part-time workers is the question of their eligibility for social insurance cover. The majority of people who work for fewer than 18 hours per week are considered to be part-time workers for social insurance purposes. Many part-time workers are not allowed to be in the full PRSI-class A, therefore, they are not entitled to employment benefit, disability and other benefits. This discriminates against women because the large majority of part-time workers are women.
In the case I referred to, the Court of Justice of the European Communities held that a rule which discriminates against part-time workers, where such a measure affects a much larger number of women than men is in breach of the EC  directive on equal treatment for men and women on social welfare unless it can be justified on grounds unrelated to sex. The Minister is probably very familiar with the points made by my party colleague, Deputy Rabbitte, in highlighting those cases and issues. I will not repeat what he said but I would attempt to conclude by stating that the exploitation of part-time workers, and particularly women in Ireland today, is basically the same in scale as is the exploitation of blacks by whites in South Africa. It amounts to a conspiracy by employers and Government to keep labour costs low, without any restrictions on the ability of employers to make profits.
When Government Ministers and Fianna Fáil TDs claim how successful they have been in bringing about an economic upturn let them remember on whose backs financial rectitude fell and whose sweat allows £2 billion in profits to be repatriated each year. Let them also remember that the rising tide has not lifted all boats, that left behind, high and dry, are not only the low paid workers but the approximately 100,000 regular and part-time workers. There is nothing so vicious as the exploitation of the vulnerable — people desperate for work in order to survive — who take low paid part-time work often under deplorable working conditions and who are then cynically exploited.
In conclusion I should like to quote from an article in The Irish Times of 28 April 1990 which had a report which coincides with this Bill, entitled “Salon fined £140 for underpaying woman”, as follows:
A Dublin hair salon convicted of underpaying an apprentice for two years was fined £140 under the Industrial Relations Act yesterday.
Marshall Salons Ltd. of Fade Street had already paid £1,634 in outstanding wages to the apprentice following their conviction at a previous hearing at Dublin District Court.
Yesterday District Justice Desmond Hogan imposed fines totalling £140 for failing to pay Ms. Rebecca Roche (22)  proper remuneration, failing to register her as an apprentice or keep proper records and failing to display employment regulations.
The prosecution was taken by the Department of Labour after Inspector David Peckham discovered shortcomings in the records kept of employees at the company's premises in Dawson Street.
I congratulate them in the presence of the Minister. The frightening part of the report is that:
The court heard that although Ms. Roche worked 51 hours a week she only received the 40-hour weekly rate of about £30. This rose to £40 in the third year.
She had two half hour breaks a day which were usually interrupted by calls to do salon duties and was paid the incorrect weekly wage for two brief periods.
Ms. Roche of Upper Carysfort Avenue, Blackrock, worked with the company from February 1987 to April last year. She then left to attend an art course.
Ms. Sinead Gaffney, another apprentice at Marshalls, told the court that staff were too afraid of losing their jobs to complain to management.
That gives us a clear picture of the exploitation that we over the last few days have been arguing exists in our city. I will conclude on that point.
Mr. Sherlock Mr. Sherlock
Mr. Sherlock: The speech by the Minister for Labour at the opening of the debate on this Bill is a clear indication of the absolute necessity for this legislation. The figures quoted for those in regular part-time employment were 39,477 to 72,000 in 1988 and in addition a further 15,200 were employed on occasional part-time work in 1988. The growth of part-time work is further illustrated by the fact that in 1977 4.4 per cent of the workforce were in regular part-time work whereas in 1988 this figure had increased to 7.8 per cent. I would respectfully suggest that the figures could be doubled  because there are many thousands in part-time work for whom there are no records.
All workers need the protection of the law. The fact that many workers have this protection is as a result of years of campaigning by trade unions and, indeed, by enlightened persons in Parliament, even in the Dáil. This Bill is an endeavour by The Workers' Party to extend the protection of the law to a body of works who are now without legal protection, those who work fewer than 18 hours per week, most of whom are way below the poverty line. It is important to recognise that many people have completely ignored the problems facing part-time workers and many are of the opinion that if one does not like one's condition of employment one can simply go to another job. Unfortunately, many part-time workers do not enjoy the protection won by their full-time colleagues. The trade union movement has been campaigning for the past five years for the extension of similar protection to part-time workers.
This Bill is an effort by The Workers' Party to have the protection of law extended to those who are without legal protection, those who work fewer than 18 hours per week, many of whom are existing on levels way below the poverty line. There is no doubt that employing workers for fewer than 18 hours per week can be very attractive as the employer can then hire and fire with impunity. This can create an atmosphere of fear in such workplaces with employees reluctant to seek improvements in their wages and conditions. There is also no doubt that the absence of adequate protection for part-time workers encourages people to remain in the black economy. There is no advantage in most cases for part-time workers to come in from the black economy. A measure such as this could have a very positive spin off by making it attractive for part-time workers to come into the white economy, therefore increasing revenue from tax and PRSI payments.
I list the Redundancy Payments Act,  the Maternity (Protection of Employees) Act, 1981, the Protection of Employees (Employers' Insolvency) Act, 1984, the Unfair Dismissals Act, 1977, the Holiday (Employees) Act, 1973, and the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Act, 1973 as well enacted legislation being implemented in the interest of workers. Unfortunately, however, a large number of part-time workers do not benefit from such legislation and unless we implement legislation of the kind we are discussing here, that number is likely to increase further. Recently I had occasion to give advice to a person who was forced out of employment by what is known as constructive redundancy. The State pays redundancy. The employer told this person that he could employ two young people for what it was costing to employ him because he could pay them whatever he liked and he would not have to pay PRSI or any other contribution to the State. It is galling to see that in the co-operative industry management who have benefited substantially from EC grant aid and otherwise and from the benefit of a good solid workforce are now saying to their workers: “We will make you redundant and re-employ you as part-time workers”. We had this attitude wholesale in respect of people working in forestries and we should recall that these forestries were planted by our forefathers and are now in the hands of Coillte Teoranta.
I make these points to illustrate the problem there is in this country and the need there is for legislation for the protection of part-time workers in an effort to prevent our own employers going down that road. We have seen cases of it in all our towns and villages. In my own town there are 25 young people in employment not one of whom is registered for PAYE or PRSI. That is the most appalling thing that could ever happen. One would never have envisaged it happening in this State. It must be rectified and it can only be rectified by adopting The Workers' Party Bill.
Tomás Mac Giolla Tomás Mac Giolla
Tomás Mac Giolla: This is The Workers' Party's first time ever to get  Private Members' time, so naturally we all want to get in on the act. We brought in this Bill because it deals with the most exploited section of the workforce. I am somewhat disappointed that the Labour Party did not throw themselves more wholeheartedly behind the Bill because of its importance and the people it is trying to protect.
Part-time workers are found in all sorts of areas, in shops, cafés, garages, farms, bars, offices etc., but they are not all in back room areas or back lane businesses. There are doctors' receptionists, dentists' receptionists, solicitors' assistants, public service workers, health workers etc., all in the same category of take-it-or-leave-it jobs, in jobs that can be exploited or, in the words of the FIE, “that have flexibility”. In other words, they are without any protection; you take them on, lay them off, tell them to go here or there, to do this or that, in the most flexible manner, and they have no protection of the law and they need the protection of the law.
As the Minister and others have pointed out, the number of part-time workers has doubled in the past decade, but currently their numbers are increasing even more rapidly. The FIE have said clearly that they favour the flexibility of the part-time worker, therefore the vast majority of new jobs are likely to be part-time because of the flexibility they give. Furthermore, while such workers continue to be unprotected by the law, the type of protection we want to give them is entitlement to equal treatment with the full-time worker in terms of employment and working conditions and the same rights as the full-time worker in the matters of lay-offs, dismissal notices, selection for redundancy and whatever else, and that they be treated not less favourably than full-time workers. Because they have not got those protections at the moment, increasingly employers are laying off full-time workers in order to take on part-time workers, so it is essential for the full-time worker as well as for the exploited part-time worker that part-time workers be given the full protection  of the law because their jobs are threatened also by the so-called flexibility of the part-time worker whom the FIE, the employers, are so anxious to retain. The Minister recognises this and has said he is bringing in legislation, but last autumn it was to be early this year, now it is later this year or at the end of this year and it is moving off further and further. The Minister states that it is important that the Unfair Dismissals Act be extended to those who work less than 18 hours a week. That could be done very rapidly and it should be done immediately.
In an interview in the Sunday Independent of 4 February this year with correspondent Martin Fitzpatrick, the Minister said his legislation would include the proposal that if a person works for one employer more than 1,000 hours he or she will be covered by the Act and will be able to go to an employment appeals tribunal with a grievance. I say to the Minister straight away that that would mean immediately that part-time workers would all be let go after the 1,000 hours, which would be approximately 18 months, because then they would become entitled to be covered by the Act. It is essential that they be covered by the Act from the time they go into their jobs and that they get a statement setting out their conditions of employment and full coverage. Unless something of that nature is provided it will be the same as the 18 hours, as soon as they reach the 1,000 hours they will be subject to dismissal.
Mr. O'Donoghue Mr. O'Donoghue
Mr. O'Donoghue: Without question there is a need for legislation to be introduced to deal with the position of part-time workers. Not in all instances but certainly in some, part-time workers have been discriminated against and are being discriminated against this very day in several areas of the employment sector and that is more marked in certain areas than in others. To this extent I welcome greatly the debate on this issue here tonight.
The exploitation of any worker, regardless of whether the worker is part-time or full-time, must be condemned by  all right-thinking people in a democratic society. The problem of part-time workers in Ireland and the difficulties they experience have grown as the economy has expanded. Between 1977 and 1988 the number of regular part-time workers increased by 83 per cent from 39,400 in 1977 to 72,000 in 1988. Therefore, Members of this House, trade unionists and employers must recognise the requirement to bring in legislation to deal with the problems faced by many part-time workers.
Labour law introduced in this State in the last 20 years has been quite progressive. Many of the Bills which were brought in by various Governments at different times have been a tremendous relief and the basis of justice for full-time workers. That they have not applied to part-time workers is perhaps because we have to date failed to grasp the nettle of this problem. There is a clear divergence of views between the FIE, on the one hand, and the unions, on the other. We have to strike a balance here, and I agree with the Minister that it is necessary to have pro rata entitlements for part-time workers. It is extremely difficult to legislate for part-time workers in the same way as one would for full-time workers if only because of the severe practical difficulties which arise in such a process. Practical difficulties such as these serve neither the part-time workers nor the employers. It is necessary to introduce legislation to deal with this area as a matter of urgency.
Perhaps the most important and complex question the House should address is to what extent in the market-place for jobs there are part-time jobs which could in all reality be full-time. It would be totally wrong for an employer to employ part-time workers on a regular basis when it would be apparent that a full-time job could be made available.
The Unfair Dismissals Act has worked excellently in relation to full-time workers. I agree that that Act should be applied to part-time workers as well. It would have the effect of discouraging employers from summarily dismissing  part-time workers, and this has been a problem. It has been estimated from the 1988 labour force survey figures that the 18 hours threshold has the effect of excluding approximately 20,000 employees or 2 per cent of the workforce. The status of part-time workers has been identified in the Programme for National Recovery as an issue to be addressed. We all know the Minister initiated a review of this situation. I do not think the solution lies in introducing legislation which would give part-time workers the same entitlements as those in full-time employment. That could have the effect of reducing the number of part-time jobs available. To that extent the cure may prove to be worse than the disease and that would be the greatest pity of all. I have no doubt that there exists an idyllic solution to most problems and, presumably, some people will say that an idyllic solution to this problem will emerge in future years. At present there is an urgent need to bridge the gap between the divergent views.
I have no doubt the Minister has plans in mind to put before the House to deal with this important issue and it is my hope that in doing so he will strike a balance which will meet the divergent views midstream. With a bit of luck part-time workers will get their rights without the number of part-time jobs being reduced. There is a need to strike a balance and it appears to me that the Minister's proposals will be designed to do that. I have no doubt he will give a worth-while measure of statutory protection to part-time employees without impeding the growth of that sector of the employment market. It is my wish that the position of part-time workers, and their contribution to the workforce, will be recognised on the Statute Book so that they will be protected in a fair and just way.
We should address the problem of the extent to which part-time jobs in the market-place are replacing full-time jobs. When we have done so we should address the question of pro rata entitlements for part-time workers. I welcome the opportunity to make a short contribution to the  debate if only because there is a considerable number of part-time workers in my constituency, particularly in tourism. Some employers have been found to be fair but others have been found to be unfair. It is correct to say that to a large extent the people most exploited in relation to part-time work are women and I am confident that when he introduces his proposals the Minister will address that problem. It is easy to put forward radical proposals to deal with any problem that arises in Irish society in the hope that those proposals will solve the problem. However, very often radical proposals do the opposite. They create bitterness and a divergence which not only adversely affects the problem they seek to address but affect employers and their position. It is my hope that the legislation which the Minister will bring forward will be fair and will build a consensus which is so necessary to give a severely exploited section of the Irish workforce their just entitlements.
Tomás Mac Giolla Tomás Mac Giolla
Tomás Mac Giolla: I wish to apologise to Deputy Toddy O'Sullivan. I was acting on the basis of wrong information and I understand that the Labour Party have used all the time available to them on the Bill.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle Jim Tunney
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Chair acknowledges the Deputy's apology and the manner in which Deputy O'Sullivan contained his statement. The Chair hopes that the matter which has been dealt with might serve as a model for future misunderstandings.
Proinsias De Rossa Proinsias De Rossa
Proinsias De Rossa: I should like to thank the Deputies who participated in the debate on the Bill. Most of the comment was reasoned and well informed. It was generally positive and even speakers on the Fianna Fáil benches who indicated that they were opposed to the Bill recognised the need for such legislation. I am disappointed that the Government have decided to oppose the Bill which seeks, primarily, to introduce reforms and to extend existing legislation to workers who are part-time rather than full-time.  The Government have decided to oppose the Bill despite the fact that their own backbenchers have admitted that such a Bill is badly needed. For many years we have been hearing promises of legislative action to deal with the plight of part-time workers but successive Governments have failed to act on those promises. In fact, it has fallen to The Workers' Party to raise this issue on the Floor of the House and use the first slot of Private Members' Business they have qualified for after nine years in the House. I am proud we have brought the Bill forward and used our first opportunity on Private Members' Business to do so.
I do not wish to go over the debate we have had over four nights but I should like to summarise some of the main issues that were highlighted. The number of part-time workers is growing and all the indications are that the proportion of part-time workers in the labour force will continue to grow. Precise figures are very hard to come by but the best estimates are that there are now close to 100,000 regular or occasional part-time workers in the Irish workforce. The nature of the workforce is changing rapidly and there is clearly a need for legislation to protect them and to keep up with the changing trends. Employers are looking for a flexible workforce and there is nothing wrong with that provided the workers concerned are not exploited and that all employees are given protection under the law in regard to their basic rights.
As we all know, those who work less than 18 hours per week have virtually no rights under the law and this makes the employment of those workers very attractive for unscrupulous employers. They can hire and fire such staff with impunity. They do not have to give notice of dismissal or provide redundancy payments. They do not have to provide holiday pay or grant maternity leave. That can often create an atmosphere of fear in the workplace, as was outlined by a number of speakers during the course of the debate, with employees reluctant to seek improvements in wages or conditions for fear they will lose their jobs. It creates unfair competition for those  employers who look after their employees in terms of pay and conditions and exercise a degree of social conscience in relation to how they treat those who work for them.
There is no doubt that the absence of protective legislation for part-time workers encourages those in the latter category to remain in the black economy. In that respect the Bill, if passed, could have a positive spin-off effect by making it more attractive for part-time workers now in the black economy to regularise their position. There is also an issue of sex equality involved in the Bill. Many part-time workers are in the service industries in which there has traditionally been a majority of women workers. It is estimated that about 72 per cent of part-time workers are women who work in the retail trade and the cleaning industry. In many supermarkets the majority of those employed are women and by passing this Bill the Dáil would be taking a step which would benefit women workers.
While there have been great advances in the treatment of workers over the years there is still much to be done in relation to wage levels and workers' rights. The debate on this Bill commenced before Easter and in the period since then there has been a number of developments which emphasise just how much still has to be done. Over the Easter period a number of trade union conferences were held and delegates heard of the appalling treatment of a number of part-time workers. The 7-Eleven stores and their lie detector tests were dealt with; it was an issue first raised by Deputy Rabbitte in this House when he moved the Bill.
There was also a statement from the Federation of Irish Employers in their April bulletin strongly opposing a statutory minimum wage on the basis that this would presumably, put some of their members out of business. It seems extraordinary that employers can, quite blandly and without batting an eyelid, claim that they have a right to exploit people on slave wages in order to stay in business. It does not make sense.
The Dublin District Court, as Deputy  Byrne pointed out this evening, heard a case in which an apprentice hairdresser had worked for 51 hours for as little as £27. That is a slave wage. A case cannot be made on behalf of the FIE that that is just. All these events clearly show that there are employers who do not have a conscience about exploiting their workers if they believe they will get away with it. The advances in wage levels and working conditions that the workforce have won over the years have, in the main, had to be forced from reluctant employers by the power of the trade union movement. If it had not been for the trade union movement children would still be working in coalmines; indeed, in some parts of the world, they still do, obviously because the free market values, much vaunted in this House, rule unchecked.
The failure of the Government to produce the promised legislation to extend protection to part-time workers has been directly due to the hostility of the employers. However, the Government have a duty to ensure that employers are not allowed to exercise a veto over the improvement of the lot of part-time workers.
As I said earlier, there have been many promises to help part-time workers but no action. No Minister has promised more — and delivered less — than the Minister for Labour in this regard. When we first sought leave to introduce this Bill in November 1988 it was voted down by the then Fianna Fáil Government but the Minister indicated that he was initiating a review of the situation of part-time workers and accepted the principle that legislation was needed. Replying to a question on 14 March 1989 the Minister indicated that discussions with the ICTU and the FUE were going on. On 2 November last the Minister informed the House that his proposals for legislative reform were now at an advanced stage and that he hoped to have the Bill ready for introduction in the new year. We are now more than four months into the new year but there is still no sign of the Bill. More and more part-time workers are beginning to ask what the Minister is up to.
 Everybody recognises that the Minister is a very capable and astute politician; he has managed to portray himself as the friend of the working class but that image is beginning to wear a bit thin. He has acquiesced in the watering down of the European Social Charter, he introduced an Industrial Relations Bill which is clearly aimed at seriously restricting the rights of the trade union movement and he has failed to deliver on his promises to part-time workers. The Minister's first loyalty is to Fianna Fáil and if their needs dictate that he must dance to the FIE tune — as in the case of the part-time workers — he will be the first on the floor. It is clear that the Minister cannot serve two masters, the employers and the workers, at the same time.
If the Government agree with the aims and objectives of this Bill they should not oppose the vote at the end of Second Stage. They should allow it to proceed to Committee Stage where they could table any amendments they believe necessary. The Government would have an automatic majority on any committee so what have they to fear? The inescapable conclusion is that the Government are opposed to the principle of the Bill, not the detail.
The Minister for Social Welfare said that the Government oppose the Bill because they want a more balanced approach. Indeed, the Deputy who spoke just before me also mentioned the question of balance. Where is the balance between an employer who has all the power of the law behind him and a part-time worker who has no rights whatsoever and who can be sacked on the spot? There is no balance there. Surely the duty of this House is to redress the imbalance between the part-time worker and the employer and not to attempt to achieve a spurious balance of interests where none exists?
My final words are an appeal to the Progressive Democrats. When we attempted to introduce this Bill in November 1988 the Progressive Democrats voted for the motion in support of the Bill but they failed to put a speaker forward during this debate. I hope that  their much vaunted integrity and honesty will prevail and that Deputies O'Malley, Molloy, Harney, Clohessy, Quill and Wyse who voted for the Bill on the last occasion will be consistent and again vote for it tonight.
I ask the permission of the House to share the time left with Deputy McCartan.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle Jim Tunney
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputy McCartan has three and a half minutes.
Mr. McCartan Mr. McCartan
Mr. McCartan: Thank you for giving me this opportunity to conclude this debate on behalf of The Workers' Party. It is the first occasion we have had the use of Private Members' Time in our years in the Dáil. It is significant that we have taken the opportunity of trying to advance the cause, as best we could with the resources available to us, of the ever growing sector of the workforce, the part-time and much exploited worker.
I should like to address the overall tenor, approach and argument advanced by the Minister and those who spoke from the Government benches on the whole approach to part-time workers and their rights. The approach is wrong because it is coming from the point of view of the so-called entrepreneur employer as opposed to the point of view of the worker.
When one is dealing with fundamental rights and entitlements to protections in law which should be made available to people, the issue or concept of balance should not arise. The right is there or it is not. When one begins to talk about balancing the Act between the two interests, the only aspects of the equation that should be considered are those who have little or nothing to lose, namely, the part-time workers.
As Deputy De Rossa said, there is no balance in this debate. When the Government talk about the need for flexibility in the approach to the issue of how far rights should go, they are really talking about how far they should curtail them if rights for part-time workers are established. When they talk about flexibility in the workplace and in work practice  they really mean allowing a situation to continue where the employer has the flexible opportunity to employ or to fire, as the case may be, those workers who simply do not have the protection of the law to establish their position.
Throughout the debate reference was made to costs and the argument was put forward by the employers' organisation that to give rights to part-time workers would mean a loss of employment because of the increase in costs. Considerations of that sort should not be introduced into this debate. We must get the fundamentals right in the first instance: are people entitled to rights? If so, we should say that and establish those rights.
It has also been said that we have to have regard to the national concern, to employment figures and the balance of trade. If we follow this approach it will  simply mean it will be a lot longer before the legislation promised by the Government will ever see the light of day in this House and a lot longer before the rights of part-time workers are established on a fair and equitable basis.
I should like to join with the Leader of The Workers' Party in thanking all the Deputies who have contributed to the debate and, in particular, those who will support this Bill. I want to say to those members of Fianna Fáil who have supported the principles contained in our Bill that if it is defeated it will be up to the Government to see that the long-promised Bill of the Minister is brought before this House without any further delay.
Mr. J. Mitchell Mr. J. Mitchell
Mr. J. Mitchell: The Minister should support this Bill.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 68; Níl, 72.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies McCartan and Byrne; Níl, Deputies V. Brady and Clohessy.
Question declared lost.
Dáil Éireann 398 Private Members' Business. Protection of Part-Time Workers (Employment) (No. 2) Bill, 1989: Second Stage (Resumed).