Dáil Éireann - Volume 609 - 02 November, 2005
Written Answers. - Labour Inspectorate.
Mr. Crowe Mr. Crowe
 126. Mr. Crowe asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of times vessels or other workplaces belonging to Irish Ferries have been inspected by the labour inspectorate. [31448/05]
Mr. Killeen Mr. Killeen
Mr. Killeen: The labour inspectorate of my Department carried out two inspections of the records of Irish Ferries. The first inspection was carried out in 2000. This was a routine inspection which was carried out during the course of a major campaign to ensure compliance with the then recently enacted National Minimum Wage Act.
The second inspection of the company’s records was carried out in April this year, following media reports regarding rates of pay of employees of the company.
The labour inspectorate does not carry out inspections onboard shipping vessels. Surveyors from the Department of Communications, Marine and Natural Resources may inspect ships docked at Irish ports to ensure that foreign registered vessels are maintained and operated in compliance with international safety standards and to ensure that the living and working standards are in compliance with the relevant standards.
Ms Lynch Ms Lynch
127. Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment the number of inspections carried out by the labour inspectorate of his Department to ensure payment of the national minimum wage in 2004 and to date in 2005; if his attention has been drawn to concerns expressed by labour inspectors that they do not have adequate resources to police the national minimum wage; if his attention has been drawn to calls by trade unions for additional resources to enable the labour inspectorate to deal with exploitation of non-national workers, particularly in the construction industry; the steps he is taking to address this situation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31604/05]
Ms Shortall Ms Shortall
131. Ms Shortall asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on whether the current complement of labour inspectors will be sufficient to ensure compliance with the legal duty on employers prescribed in the new Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005, in addition to the range of duties already undertaken by the labour inspectorate; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31620/05]
Mr. Stagg Mr. Stagg
153. Mr. Stagg asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if his attention has been drawn to the fact that trade union  officials representing workers in the construction industry are of the view that there is at present no effective deterrent to the exploitation of non-nationals in relation to rates of pay and conditions of employment; if his attention has further been drawn to reports that the exploitation of foreign construction workers here is rampant; the way in which he proposes to deal with this specific issue in terms of effective deterrents; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31621/05]
Ms McManus Ms McManus
161. Ms McManus asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if, in regard to his announcement of the recruitment of an additional 11 labour inspectors, the number that have been appointed to date in 2005; when he expects the full number to be appointed; if they will be concentrated on any particular area of work; the current ratio between the number of labour inspectors and the total numbers in the workforce; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31606/05]
Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin
164. Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on whether the labour inspectorate has the number of inspectors necessary to carry out their duties in respect of the increased workforce and to inspect the treatment of the growing number of migrant workers here. [31454/05]
Mr. Killeen Mr. Killeen
Mr. Killeen: I propose to take Questions Nos. 127, 131, 153, 161 and 164 together.
In January 2005 the complement of labour inspectors was 17 officers. When all sanctioned posts are filled there will be 31 officers assigned to labour inspector posts.
A selection interview process was undertaken following the announcement of additional labour inspectorate posts earlier this year. Arising from that process four officers were appointed. A second round of interviews to identify suitable personnel to fill the remaining vacancies has now been completed. The interviewing process commenced at the earliest opportunity following the summer annual leave cycle and was completed during the past month and a panel of officers has been established. It is intended that these assignments will be completed during November this year.
The Government is aware of the concern being expressed by public representatives, trade unions representing employees and others close to the issues with regard to the abuse of vulnerable workers by a small minority of unscrupulous employers. To enhance the efforts of the labour inspectorate in discharging its remit to enforce employment legislation, increases in staffing lev els this year mean that, when all posts are filled, the complement of inspectors will have almost doubled.
The strengthened inspectorate will be concentrating on those sectors of the economy where workers tend to be more vulnerable to suffering the effects of non-compliance with employment legislation. It is these sectors also that appear to have high concentrations of non-national workers.
In addition to the labour inspectorate, it should be noted that there is a wide corpus of employment rights legislation administered by various State organisations and services. These include the Employment Appeals Tribunal, the redundancy and insolvency sections of this Department, the rights commissioner services provided by the Labour Relations Commission and the services provided by the Labour Court. The labour inspectorate is itself a unit within the employment rights compliance section, which also includes the employment rights information unit and a further separate unit that administers the referral of cases for prosecution and legal enforcement of orders. Between them, these various services have a complement of staff in excess of 140 people.
Work has also been progressing with regard to the discussion document prepared in connection with the mandate and resourcing of the labour inspectorate. The social partners, together with representatives from the Department of the Taoiseach and the Department of Finance, are members of the employment rights compliance group, ERCG, that is considering the discussion document. Among the issues being examined is the simplification and streamlining of employment rights compliance monitoring and the redress system. Those recommendations of the Mercer report that impinge on the activities of the labour inspectorate will be considered by the ERCG.
In 2004, labour inspectors of my Department undertook 462 inspections under the National Minimum Wage Act 2000. So far this year the inspectorate has undertaken 384 inspections under the legislation. Inspectors operate on the basis of achieving compliance. Where an inspection occurs leading to a detection of infringements the employer is required to rectify the infringements detected. Failure to do so to the satisfaction of the labour inspectorate within a specified period results in the initiation of legal proceedings.
In many sectors, including the construction industry, the pay and conditions of employment are governed by employment regulation orders and registered employment agreements. The orders and agreements regulate statutory mini mum rates of pay and conditions of employment for workers employed in the various sectors where these apply. Ensuring compliance with the minimum pay amounts, terms and conditions forms a major element of the work of the inspectorate.
The Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 is separate legislation dealing with occupational safety, health and welfare. The labour inspectorate has no role in relation to this Act. The Health and Safety Authority is the State body charged with overall responsibility for the administration, enforcement and promotion of workplace safety and health and therefore for the implementation of this legislation.
The authority has 100 staff specifically involved in inspection, investigation and enforcement of health and safety legislation and it has an ambitious work programme for 2005, which includes an increase in the level of inspections to be undertaken and the related enforcement. In the context of the overall allocation of resources I am confident the authority can achieve the objectives which are set out in its work programme for 2005.
Dáil Éireann 609 Written Answers. Labour Inspectorate.