Dáil Éireann - Volume 418 - 30 April, 1992

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Job Protection Measures.

14. Mr. Harte asked the Minister for Labour if he will outline the support his Department provide to industry so as to protect jobs; if he intends extending such support in view of the appalling unemployment numbers, and if he will make a statement on the matter.

Mr. Wilson: Government support to industry is provided in the main by the Department of Industry and Commerce. The Department of Labour provide assistance to industry in the area of training through the activities of FÁS and CERT. That Department also are [2239] responsible for the administration of the Protection of Employment Act, 1977.

Under the Act, employers employing more than 20 workers and proposing to make collective redundancies must enter into consultations with representatives of the workers involved, at least 30 days in advance, and must also inform me at the same time. The consultations under the collective bargaining system must include questions of avoiding or reducing the proposed redundancies and of minimising the consequences. Employers and employees are best placed to consider the options which may be available. In each case, the Department advise FÁS so that they are aware of the situation and can offer whatever assistance is possible.

A review of the operation of the legislation, in the light of practical experience, has recently been undertaken by the Department. The Minister is now considering the results to see if any changes are needed. The Department are also actively participating in discussion at EC level to amend the relevant EC Directive on collective redundancies. Any changes in the directive would entail an amendment of the 1977 Act.

Mrs. T. Ahearn: We have a serious problem not only in failing to create jobs but also in our failure in job protection. Should we not provide more resources in an effort to identify industries that face problems just as we should solve disputes before they reach a crucial stage? Do the Department intend to provide resources to identifying the problems facing industries that could result in closure? Would the Department then take steps to facilitiate industry through research in order to help them get through a temporary crisis so that by stepping in at a crucial time we would protect jobs? Do the Department have any policy in that regard?

Mr. Wilson: As I indicated, the Department of Labour are responsible for the administration of the Protection of Employment Act, 1977. There are very strict obligations on employers who [2240] employ more than 20 people if they find themselves in a situation where they will have to make workers redundant. The obligation resting on the employers, in consultation with the employees, is to avoid the redundancies, if possible, or to reduce or minimise the consequences of redundancy. As I indicated also in the course of the reply, the Act is being looked at and cognisance is being taken of activities in Europe to see if it can be improved. The original idea behind the Act was good and it should be updated in the interests of the continuation of industries and businesses.

Mrs. T. Ahearn: Could FÁS play a greater role in providing backup research and support for industry which in the long term would help them remain viable?

Mr. Wilson: As I mentioned at the beginning of the reply, there are other State agencies involved and the Department of Industry and Commerce also have an obligation in that regard and have considerable expertise in certain fields relating to it.