Seanad Éireann - Volume 128 - 20 March, 1991
Worker Protection (Regular Part-Time Employees) Bill, 1990: Second Stage (Resumed).
Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”
Mr. Howard Mr. Howard
Mr. Howard: Just before I revert to the point I was at before the adjournment, as the Minister of State, Deputy Flood is sitting in, may I avail of the opportunity to congratulate him on his recent appointment and wish him every success there?
Before we adjourned the debate I was about to quote from an article by Patricia O'Donovan, Assistant General Secretary of the ICTU. It appeared in Newsline, July 1990 issue, and I quote:
Women and young people predominate amongst low paid workers. The results show that nearly half of all women workers, 140,000 out of 300,000, are in low paid work. The age divisions are also striking. About half of the low paid are under 25 years of age. The part-time/full-time distinction is also crucial because nearly 60 per  cent of all part-time workers are low paid.
The Minister has come forward with further figures which reflect the growth of part-time work.
There are a few aspects of the Bill on which I wish to express my views. I do not wish to go over the ground that has been gone over by previous speakers. I believe from the debate, as I have listened to it, that very many aspects of the Bill are being covered very thoroughly. I would suggest that the growth we have had in part-time work over the past 15 years, which is the period referred to by the Minister in his speech, is more or less a response to a need. I want to suggest that that is a need that is shared—perhaps not equally—by both employers and employees.
I believe that the growth that we have had, particularly in relation to women in part-time employment, is more of a response to the general economic conditions we have, such as the need to balance the family budget, than it is in itself a desire to find work outside the home and the family. Both the growth in part-time work among women, and particularly the type of women that are engaged in part-time work, actually reflect this. I concur with the views that have been expressed here that a very high proportion of young married women are in low paid jobs in part-time work. That highlights social and economic problems that go far beyond the capacity of this Bill to address.
I also want to put on record that, as far as I am concerned, I am absolutely opposed to exploitation of part-time workers or of any workers. I have to say that if there is exploitation, and I accept other peoples views on it, during my time as a public representative I have not met part-time workers who have come to me on the basis that there is discrimination in their job, that they are at a disadvantage in some way or other or that they have sought my assistance in rectifying a problem that would fall within that category. Perhaps it relates to the part of the country I come from.  However, I accept the views expressed by others that there can be exploitation and that it probably exists.
This word “exploitation” has been mentioned on a number of occasions during the discussion this afternoon and with it goes the implication that most employers could be guilty of this charge. I would like to reject that. I accept that there can be examples. In any society— and we have yet to find the perfect society —there will always be a few bad apples capable of damage. If that is the case— and I am not disputing it may well be the case in a limited number of instances —it is wrong to suggest it should have general application to the whole body of employers. Perhaps I misunderstood some of the observations made, but I got that impression and I feel I should put it on record.
More is needed than what this Bill can achieve. We have to look at the environment in which this legislation is being introduced. That environment in itself puts effective constraints on the objectives of the Minister and on everybody in this House. It is a Bill brought in, to a degree, in isolation even though its net effect is to extend the provisions of seven separate pieces of legislation that at present apply to part-time workers.
The Minister quoted figures in his speech. I want to suggest to him that the figures he used relate to the numbers known to him and his Department who are in part-time work but there are many others who are unknown to the Minister and to his Department. There are those who work in the black economy, who will not declare their position as part-time workers and they will not do that for one simple reason. It is because of the inequities of our tax system. Our general tax system and the manner in which it penalises initiative, work and effort is the environment I am referring to. It is the existence of this inequity in our tax system in relation to work and enterprise that will effect the capacity of this measure to be as effective as we all might wish it to be. Many of those who work in part-time employment and who are  unknown to the Minister and his Department will remain outside the ambit of this legislation. Perhaps there is a hope on his part that this Bill and its provisions will encourage them to come out in the open but I question that. I look forward to the Minister's response in this regard.
I want to take, for example, the woman in part-time work, the wife in part-time work whose husband is in full time employment. Let us be realistic about this. If the wife gets part-time work and declares it, so much of what she earns will be deducted from her in tax as to not make economic sense for her to take up part-time employment at all. That is the difficulty that will curtail the effectiveness of this Bill in the workplace or marketplace. For as long as our tax laws discriminate against work and enterprise, many part-time workers will not declare their correct returns.
The Minister mentioned the protection of seven different enactments which will now be available to part-time workers. The part-time worker's sole interest will be to earn that additional few pounds week by week simply to balance the family budget. That is the chief objective. The protection that will be available under this legislation will have a far lower priority. So long as the overall tax situation continues, this is something we will have to contend with and face up to.
There is also the question of the maintenance of the threshold of eight hours and the 13 weeks. I accept this I do understand — although I have no personal experience of it—that certain large-scale employers perhaps here and elsewhere throughout the country devised a system whereby they could ensure that their employees would work some minutes less than the present 18 hours and, therefore, were able to exclude them. That is a type of practice we all find objectionable and to the extent that reducing the threshold is a method of meeting that situation, I welcome it.
I was interested to hear the Minister say in his speech:
In introducing a 13 week threshold  in the Bill it was the intention that this would ensure that students and other short time temporary part-time employees would not be covered by the Bill and that the Bill would not create a disincentive to such short periods of employment. The 13 week period ensures, on the one hand, an element of commitment and permanence on the part of the regular part-time employee and, on the other, that the casual or occasional workers will still be largely excluded from the provisions of the protective legislation involved.
On the one hand, I welcome that because I believe students have found that this part-time work is useful for the provision of pocket money and helps to ease the cost on their families in maintaining them. On the other hand, I would like to know what happens in relation to the student once the 13 week period is exceeded.
There are two categories of work that students avail of: I am speaking in particular of my own area. There is the tourist season and the employment that hotels and other such establishments provide in tourist areas for students. Certainly, the 13 week period is more than adequate to cover that. I am also aware that students at third level here in Dublin and elsewhere avail of the opportunity to work part-time, sometimes nights and sometimes at weekends. That would certainly take them for a longer period than 13 weeks. Perhaps when the Minister is responding he would indicate to me what is the position of the student who has part-time employment during his school term and which extends beyond the 13 week period.
Senator Ó Cuív suggested an interesting development that could occur under this legislation. He spoke as an employer of some experience and suggested he saw opportunities for people to move from full-time employment to part-time employment under the provisions of this legislation. That is an interesting observation. I have not thought it out, but I was quite intrigued by the suggestion. I  have a fear that the Bill may reduce the opportunity for casual part-time work, because employers—I am talking about responsible employer in this regard— are likely to reassess their role in view of the implications of this legislation and may reduce the availability of part-time work. They may do that by replacing one or more part-time workers by one full-time worker. It may have certain positive effects. It may very well—and I believe that this will be the case — create a number of permanent full-time jobs that would not be created in its absence. But I want to raise with the Minister the question of whether the Bill is going to have a negative effect by reducing the availability of part-time work and that those seeking part time work will, because of the Bill, be pushed further into the black economy.
Unless our tax laws are adjusted to ensure that a second income earner in a household can retain a worthwhile portion of his or her earned income, many of the people will continue undeclared in part-time work. That will continue while economic conditions remain as they are and while our tax laws penalise those who are progressive, penalise the work ethic. To a very great extent this is what is happening. Tax laws, as they stand, punish the second income earner in many households. If that is the case, the objectives of the Bill will remain for many nothing more than an academic exercise, by an large. The opportunities for the casual and part-time worker will remain a feature of the work place. If the effects of the Bill are to reduce the opportunities in decent, open employment, the risk is that it will force those seeking part-time employment to remain undeclared. That is the major reservation I have in relation to the Bill. However, I am quite sure the Minister will be capable of reassuring me that my fears are groundless.
I want to say, finally, that for its many good points I welcome this legislation. I wish it well, but I feel I had an obligation to raise genuinely held fears on my part and also to defend the honest employers —and they are by far in the majority— from any implication or to have their  reputation damaged in any way by the unacceptable activities of the few who go wrong.
Mr. S. Byrne Mr. S. Byrne
Mr. S. Byrne: I would like, first of all, to welcome this Bill. I congratulate the Minister for bringing it to the House and I thank him for his interest over the years for all workers, part-time workers included, and in creating better conditions for workers. Until the end of time there will be people who will exploit others. It is the practice, particularly during the summer months, to exploit young people in our larger supermarket stores. I am sure that this Bill will prevent a lot of that injustice.
Another section I would like to mention—I know this Bill does not cover them but I would appeal to the Minister to sort it out with the help of his colleague, the Minister for Social Welfare —are the people employed as meter readers by the ESB, a body that should be showing an example to other bodies. They are regarded by the ESB as working under contract and deemed to be self-employed. This problem has been around for a few years. They may not be big in number, but they are there, people with families, some of them working for 30 years with the ESB, and working very hard, reading perhaps 7,000 meters every two months. They pay PRSI at the class S1 rate. The ESB are discussing a change in that area which would mean that these people would be employed only eight weeks on and eight weeks off.
There is very serious concern about this and I believe it was mentioned in the Dáil last week when the Minister was taking this Bill. To put it bluntly, these people are not entitled to sign for a stamp, they will not qualify for the dole and their income will be cut by half. In this day and age that is grossly unfair and I appeal to the Minister, if he can, to help these people and to take urgent steps to see to it that justice will be done. If the ESB change the system these people will be out on the side of the road with their income cut by half. That would be a grave injustice. I will not go into the details of it. I am sure the Minister is well aware of  the hardship in that area and the fears of these people who have given excellent service down through the years. They feel now that, with changes being discussed by the ESB, they could be in serious trouble.
I want to again thank the Minister for his hard work to improve the lot of the workers of this country.
Mr. O'Toole Mr. O'Toole
Mr. O'Toole: I think it is important at an early stage to welcome this legislation. From a personal point of view, on two previous occasions in this House we argued with the Minister on other pieces of legislation which we attempted to have extended to those workers who worked fewer than 18 hours per week. On two of those occasions we called it to a vote to indicate in a clear way our opposition to the fact that the particular protective legislation we were then discussing did not extend to those workers who worked fewer than 18 hours per week. On both occasions the Minister said that this was something he was prepared to look into and which he hoped to address in the near future. Credit where credit is due, I would like to put on record my appreciation of the fact that, despite whatever reservations I have about this legislation, he has brought back legislation which goes a long way towards addressing and resolving the problems of many part-time workers.
I do not need to reiterate what has been said by so many speakers today and what has been said by the Minister on many occasions previously. Part-time workers have been exploited. Part-time workers have been used, abused and, indeed, misused. Part-time workers have been used in the many employments as a lever to exploit full-time workers. We have seen many examples of full-time workers being replaced by a series of part-time workers who did not have rights, who did not have the protection of legislation. This Bill will go a long way, perhaps four-fifths of the way, to deal with that problem.
I am intrigued by the eight hour figure. Unfortunately, the Minister's speech  must have been very popular because it is the first time in my experience that there has been a sell out, and I have not been able to get a copy of it for the last three hours. Perhaps he should produce a second edition of it. I did apologise at an early stage to the Minister for not being here for his presentation. I do not know the justification for the eight hour limit or how it was arrived at. I am speaking purely from reading the Bill and these are my observations on it. I do not accept and I disapprove of the eight hour limit. It is important, however, to say that I see this Bill as progressive and forward thinking and one which will protect the rights of many workers. The trade union movement have been calling for legislation like this for many years and has maintained a consistent level of debate with the Department of Labour and the ICTU on this issue for a number of years. A number of unions have had to address this. The fact that part-time workers have been used time and again to replace sacked or disposed of full-time workers has led to industrial disputes in a number of places.
I also accept that this legislation will provide protection for a large body of workers. It will create a great problem for some unscrupulous retailers who have being using and abusing part-time workers for years. It is a milestone in legislation in terms of what existed before now. It goes beyond part-time workers. We will also have to look at the area of seasonal, temporary and agency workers. I know this has been brought to the Minister's attention on a number of occasions previously. The difficulty that arises with the 13 weeks multiplied by eight hours per week is that there would be many people working in continuous employment for fewer hours than that, or perhaps for fewer weeks than that. I know the Minister will respond to that by saying: “One has to draw the line somewhere, one has to create a threshold at some point”. I am not convinced on that issue. I do not see a justification for deciding that part-time work lasts more than eight hours per week and for longer than 13 weeks per year. I appreciate the Bill  because of the implications for equality contained in it. Seventy-five per cent of part-time workers are women and any legislation introduced, promulgated or enacted on behalf of part-time workers is, by its very nature, tied in with the notion of equality of opportunity and of equality between the sexes. Certainly any improvement in the lot of part-time workers is a positive development in terms of equality.
The ICTU have reckoned that 68 per cent of males as opposed to 72 per cent of females in part-time employment work less than the current 18 hour figure. The 18 hour limit was riduculous and it is important that that limit has been removed. For that reason, more than any other, I welcome this legislation and I see it as a move towards gender equality and towards equality in terms of grades and categories of workers. Perhaps the Minister in his response will refer to the point I raised in relation to seasonal workers, such as food pickers, people working in the canning industry or in the fruit preservation area, whether in canning, jam making or freezing, which is dependent on a particular season of fruit. People in these areas might be excluded from this legislation and perhaps the Minister would indicate how we might address that in the future.
The question has been raised with the Minister whether or not this legislation complies completely with the EC position. I have asked a number of people where we stand on this issue. I know it has been brought to the Minister's attention that the EC Directive 76/207 covers many different aspects of a part-time employment. I have been asked whether this legislation complies in spirit with what was required by that directive. I would certainly welcome the views of the Minister on that point. Why the threshold? Why the eight hours? Why does this suddenly become a matter of tremendous importance?
I would also say to the Minister that up until this time the difficulties that arose quite regularly with the employment of part-time workers is that they were used, particularly in supermarkets and in retail  outlets, to fill positions that should have been filled by full-time workers. I want to make it clear that there will always be a need for part-time workers. The very nature of retailing outlets makes it inevitable that there will be peaks and valleys in employee requirement. It is quite clear that coming up to Christmas in a supermarket, toy shop, clothes shop or indeed in the delivery of post, there will be a peak period when it will be necessary to take on part-time, temporary employees. I recognise and accept that fact.
Previous to this, employers could unscrupulously take advantage of their workforce to replace regularly full-time workers with part-time workers and they did this to keep outside the law, or inside the law, depending on your perspective. The reason I welcome the Bill is because it makes that practice more difficult than before and no matter what my reservations would be on the Bill it has to be seen as progressive and forward-thinking and a great development on what was there previously.
A problem which now arises and which the Bill has not addressed and on which I would welcome the Minister's views, is the fact that people will always try to get underneath the threshold. If we see an employer deliberately restricting the hours of work of an employee to seven and a half hours, or seven and three quarter hours per week, or finishing a contract after 12 weeks, how do we address this? There are two issues here. I asked earlier why we have to have this particular threshold? That is one question to be addressed, and I am sure the Minister will have very solid reasons for coming to that point of view. We may differ on them but at least there will be reasons for it.
Let us take the other question of the unscrupulous employer who attempts to beat the system by restricting work to seven hours and 59 minutes per week or to a 12 week contract which will then be broken. I know there is the question of the renewal of contract at a later stage, which was mentioned in the Bill, and maybe I am not clear on whether that may address it. Is there redress? Is there  a procedure for dealing with the grievance of a worker where an employer is quite unscrupulously restricting work to ensure that the employer will not be subject to the Act? It is an important point. If the Minister were to say to me in response to this that it is a problem and that it will be addressed at another time, at least I would see that there was a plan there, that he had taken this on board and that it was the view of the Department and of the Minister than it cannot be addressed at this time. Obviously then we could agree to differ on the issue but at least it would mean that we were moving forward.
By its very nature, part-time work is insecure and part-time workers are insecure in their employment. What is not covered in the Bill, and which always creates a problem, is the relationship between different Government Departments, as in the case of the Minister's Department and the Department of Social Welfare. People move in and out of various types of employment and people move from part-time to full-time temporary employment and back to part-time employment. That is because the various outlets, retailers and services have different peak and valley times when they need to employ some people full-time on a temporary basis and others part-time on a continual basis. This raises issues, not only in terms of the Bill, but also regarding the class of PRSI which people are required to pay. A person in full-time temporary employment might be paying into a pension fund and on that basis be in a particular class for social welfare payments, whereas a person in part-time employment might be paying a different level of social welfare and paying the social welfare contribution which would entitle them to the contributory old age pension. There could well be a conflict here. I am not saying that there is because I do not know enough about it. I cannot identify quite where that conflict might take place but I have seen difficulties arise between people  who for lack of a consolidated social welfare system, cannot move in and out of different categories of PRSI.
I raise this issue because I believe the Department of Labour and the Department of Social Welfare — like the ploughman and the farmer — should be friends on this issue and should be able to talk to each other and get their act together. There is nothing as frustrating for trade union officials as to find one Department saying: “Yes, we are with you but that is a matter for the Department of Social Welfare.” I would like the Minister to respond to that.
I do not know whether the legislation, as we see it, will stand the test of time. I have raised some queries in the European context and other queries in the context of the way part-time workers operate and find employment but it is not clear in the Bill how disputes relating to the continuity of service might be addressed. Sections 5 and 6 of the Bill, for instance, should clearly state that part-time workers will have the same access as full-time workers to the various avenues where employment problems can be resolved, for instance, to the Rights Commissioners and the Employment Appeals Tribunal. It is not clear in the Bill that they will have access to these places.
I have raised a number of issues and instead of being petulant I will finish by saying I welcome this legislation which is progressive and forward-thinking. The Government and the Minister must be complimented on introducing it. It meets a need and responds to the representations of the trade union movement and it will ease many difficulties for part-time workers. The questions I have raised are questions I would be happy to see dealt with in the future.
This Bill is a milestone in labour legislation. Since 1974 the Department of Labour have repeatedly brought in legislation which has advanced workers' rights. The present Minister has been superb in addressing these difficulties and it is good to have that on the record. We can certainly move forward from this point. I have raised difficulties which will  have to be addressed but it is clear the Minister is not prepared to address them at this stage. Recently I heard him comment that it was his wish to have this legislation enacted before the commencement of the new tax year. I can see his reasons for that and it is worthy of him to feel he should do that. However, there remain the problem of workers who can still be exploited whether or not they work an eight hour week. In the meantime I welcome the legislation.
Mr. Neville Mr. Neville
Mr. Neville: I, too, would like to welcome the Worker Protection (Regular Part-Time Employees) Bill, 1990. I congratulate the Minister on its introduction and commend him on his presence throughout the afternoon in the Seanad to hear the views of the contributors to the debate.
As the Minister mentioned, we have now in the region of 82,000 part-time workers and it is generally accepted that many such workers do not respond to surveys to determine their number as many of them are forced to work in the black economy because of our tax regime. They are not in a position to obtain the fruits of their labour, especially if their partner is in full-time employment and their tax level is high. Many people are forced by high mortgages and high expenses to work part-time. Because of the tax regime they find that if they come within the tax net that they are working for practically nothing. Therefore, many work on a part-time basis outside the tax regime.
At the other end of the scale many people are on unemployment assistance. We cannot accept that they are, in fact, working part-time and drawing unemployment assistance but we must face the fact that that actually happens. Many politicians working on the ground come across that on a regular basis. These people work to augment their income because of the low levels of unemployment assistance available.
There is no doubt that the present legislation is necessary because the people to whom I have referred are outside the protection of the previous legislation to  which the Minister has referred. He highlighted the fact that people with 30 years part-time service have no protection under the various Acts, under the Redundancy Payments Act, the Unfair Dismissals Acts or the equality Acts. Under these Acts maternity leave is not provided for. This is totally unacceptable for people with long service and I welcome the fact that they will now be covered under the new legislation.
The Minister also pointed out that these people are predominantly female. This is a positive indication that married women are availing of the opportunity to go back to work part-time. I was involved in organising an evening shift of four hours over three or four days where married women were delighted to be able to take the work opportunity when their husbands came home from work. There were economic pressures on them to go back to work on a part-time basis. We should accept it as positive that these opportunities are now being provided and that these people have a right to be covered under the various Acts which the Minister mentioned.
The growth of part-time work is no doubt a response also to employers' needs for more flexibility of employment due to increased competition. Employers need more flexibility to respond to the changing needs of the marketplace and of their customers. It is important that we recognise good employers who offer good conditions to part-time workers. They should not be put at a disadvantage by employers who want to exploit part-time employees. This Bill puts employers on an even keel with regard to some of the conditions of employment for part-time workers and that must be recognised.
We must also recognise competition within the EC because part-time work operates at various levels from as low as 2.5 per cent in Spain up to 29.4 per cent in the Netherlands. Ireland stands at 7.8 per cent in comparison to our nearest competitors the UK at 22.8 per cent. There is an inter-European competition element in this which we must recognise.
Senator Brendan Ryan referred to  labour costs as they effect competitiveness, about which I would take issue with him. In some industries labour costs in relation to total cost are high, while in other industries, they are low. While no single increase in wages will put a company into liquidation over a period of time high labour costs have put companies out of business. The high increases and cutbacks of the seventies forced companies that were not in a position or who did not have the expertise to cut back on labour costs through improved productivity to go out of business due to increased competition.
Regular part-time work facilitates people who look towards early retirement and who have acquired expertise over the years, and we must recognise the expertise and experience of older employees. It allows them to contribute on a part-time basis and it allows younger people into the workforce while not losing the skills and experience of older employees. It allows mothers of families to work. It also allows people to work part-time work and study. Many went through college on the basis of money earned on part-time work which is a positive development. The more opportunity people get to do part-time work while educating themselves the better the educational opportunities of people at the lower levels of the socio-economic sphere.
I would like to draw the attention of the Minister to the growing complexity of labour legislation. As a member of the Employment Appeals Tribunal I am aware of the confusion of employers with regard to labour legislation. Larger employers may employ trained personnel or consultants to look after this area. Smaller employers—once they get into the labour area—are so confused that they are often unaware of the situation they are getting themselves into. If there could be a less complex approach to the labour area it would help the smaller employers especially to understand their duties under the legislation and the rights of their employees. Most of them often offend through ignorance rather than by  design. The Minister should consider consolidating legislation for areas dealing with holidays, unfair dismissal, equality legislation and so on.
Other Senators dealt with the growing area of contract employment. There are two aspects to this. It can be quite positive when it allows high potential earners to obtain higher earnings by virtue of their skills and their work output. One of the areas quoted already was the meat industry where boners on contract can earn phenomenal amounts of money because of their commitment to working, ten, 12 or 15 hours a day and their scarce skills. If this filters down to the lower earners, there is the risk of a high level of exploitation because these low earners are totally outside the scope of the various Acts. If contract work expands there will be a risk of exploitation by unscrupulous employers.
I would like to draw the attention of the Minister to a contract situation in the semi-State sector of Coillte Teoranta. Coillte Teoranta made employees redundant and promised them work on a contractual basis for the planting season which is about eight to ten weeks. These people returned to work on a contractual basis and most of them came off unemployment assistance because Coillte Teoranta operates in the more severely handicapped areas. They were on contract and found that they would consequently be means tested for unemployment assistance. The money earned for the ten weeks on contract was taken back from them when they returned to unemployment assistance. A married person with two children receiving £98 per week or £784 over an eight week period on unemployment assistance received £1,600 while working with Coillte Teoranta over the same period on contract. These earnings would have the effect of reducing a person's unemployment assistance over the following 12 month period from £98 per week to £69 per week. Therefore, the £1,600 will be taken back together with loss of unemployment assistance for that period. We are now in an exploitative situation where people in a very deprived area of the  country are penalised for working with Coillte Teoranta on contract. Their skills are lost to Coillte Teoranta and they themselves are deprived of an opportunity of employment.
I would like to compliment the Miniister for Social Welfare for bringing 21,000 new workers under the social welfare system. These are part-time workers, 17,000 of whom are women. They are now in a position to claim disability benefit, maternity allowance and unemployment benefit. I would also like to compliment the Minister on his decision to appoint the Employment Appeals Tribunal as judge of whether a fair practice is being operated by an employer with regard to the 13 week break in employment contract. I would also compliment my colleagues on the tribunal for the work they have done already and I am confident they will now continue their good work into this area.
I would like to take up one final positive point. The Bill will now change the rule with regard to holiday entitlements for employees who revert for periods of the year to short-time work for two or three days a week. Heretofore, people who were on a three-day or two-day week lost their holiday entitlement for the periods they were on short-time. In some industries—especially the meat industry with which I am familiar — short-time can last for as long as seven to eight months and full-time 40 hour employment can be as low as four to five months. While unions in certain cases negotiated holiday entitlements people did not have this as a right. Under this legislation they now have holiday entitlement pro rata to the amount of time they work on either a three-day week or a two-day week. I welcome this provision. I commend the Minister and compliment him for spending his time in the Seanad listening to our views. I wish some of his colleagues would follow his example.
Mrs. Doyle Mrs. Doyle
Mrs. Doyle: I take up the point my colleague has just finished on and thank the Minister for his interest in and commitment to this House. It is all too easy at  times to get a junior Minister of whatever persuasion to come in and sit out the Bill, so the Minister is very welcome.
I would like to dwell on the area of the European Commission and the three specific proposals dealing with what is referred to as non-standard employment generally and where this legislation slots in. In some areas the Minister has gone further and in others he did not go far enough. It is interesting to know exactly where this legislation will slot into the overall framework of what is considered part and parcel of the Internal Market. Apart from economic union, social cohesion was also emphasised and is very important in that context.
The three Commission proposals I refer to are a directive on the approximation of the laws of member states relating to certain employment relationships with regard to working conditions; a directive on the approximation of the laws of the member states relating to certain employment relationships with regard to distortions of competition and the third directive is the introduction of measures to encourage improvement in the safety and health of temporary workers at work.
It has been said that these three directives are the first concrete expressions of the so-called social dimension to be proposed by the Commission. The directives potentially affect a significant part of the Irish working population and a part which, in general terms, has tended to be under-protected by social welfare and employment legislation in the past. Perhaps we should always bear in mind when we discuss the move towards equalising the treatment of full-time and part-time workers, in as much as that can be achieved, that part-time work of its very nature responds to a need not just of employers but also of employees. There could be a point where State regulation would have the effect of employers ceasing to provide this type of employment. That is not what we want to achieve. A balance is needed, bearing in mind equality and the best possible treatment for employees in all sorts of non-standard employment without moving to the point where employers back off and decide it  is not for them; that it is too regulated and that Big Brother, the State, is too involved. The aim is to get the balance right in an area that has been under-protected by social welfare and employment legislation in the past. It is a very difficult job and one that must be handled with balance and discretion and with a real understanding of the needs of both employer and employee.
The Commission had a White Paper entitled “Completing the Internal Market”. This was subsequently incorporated in the Single European Act and has led to great acceleration in the work of the European Community in creating a single market. Although the bulk of this White Paper — I know the Minister is very familiar with it — dwelt on the measures necessary to implement the economic aspects of the Single Market, it also emphasised the social aspects. A section of the White Paper states:
The Commission will pursue the dialogue with Governments and social partners to ensure that opportunities offered by completion of the Internal Market will be accompanied by appropriate measures aimed at fulfilling the Community's employment and social security objectives.
This document, entitled “Social Dimension of the Internal Market” and was circulated in 1988, represents the Commission's view of why and how the completion of the Internal Market should have a social dimension. It emphasises that the completion of the Internal Market should be accompanied by measures resulting in the establishment of a European “social foundation” by 1992. I take it that this legislation will be part of our contribution to the social foundation.
Subsequent to the circulation of the Commission's document, the European Council in 1989 adopted the Community charter of basic social rights for workers. This charter endorsed the principles that were enunciated at the time in the document “Social Dimensions of the Internal Market”, including among others the proposition that “the same importance  must be attached to the social aspects as to the economic aspects of the completion of the Single Market”. We have spoken in different fora about economic and monetary union and there has been a stab made here and there at political union and the implications for our security and defence issues in relation to that, but very little has been said about the social aspects of the Internal Market.
The Commission's proposals under the social charter action programme are grouped under many different headings, including proposals to improve living and working conditions of employees, social protection, information for workers, consultation and participation in the workplace, health protection and safety at work. In all, there are about 43 new initiatives proposed by the Commission.
The three proposals for the Council directives on non-standard work which I referred to at the outset are among the first of the social action programme proposals to be published by the Commission. In identifying non-standard employment or part-time and temporary employment, as we more commonly refer to it, as an area for attention the Commission is responding to two important features of the Community's labour market and they are very important features in Ireland also. The first one is the fact that part-time and temporary work is a large and rapidly growing element in the total labour force and the second is that social welfare and labour legislation in member states has tended to overlook the requirements of this segment of the labour force.
Various different analyses by the Commission show that part-time employment accounts for about 13.5 per cent of the total labour force in the Community. Its relative importance among member states ranges from 5 per cent in Mediterranean countries to 30 per cent in the Netherlands. Thirty per cent of the workforce in the Netherlands are part-time workers. Temporary employment is less significant, amounting to about 9.5 per cent of the total on a Community average. Again, there is considerable variance in its relative importance among  member states though temporary employment appears to be inversely related to economic development. In other words, there is a greater amount in countries where there is less economic stability. One-fifth of the Spanish workforce is engaged in temporary work as compared to 5 per cent in Belgium. If one considers that 15 per cent of part-time workers are temporary, it would seem that about one-fifth of the Community, or 20 million workers, are engaged in some form of non-standard, temporary or part-time work. That is a significant number.
Statistics generally and trends in this area are not great nor are they easily come by but from the data that is available it is clear that the incidence of part-time employment has increased much faster than the growth in full-time employment almost everywhere. Temporary and part-time work are not temporary phenomena, nor are they insignificant when one considers the numbers involved. In fact, there are many good reasons why non-standard employment should be a large and growing element in the labour market generally.
There is one very difficult area we have yet to come to terms with. There is work which is not organised into part-time or temporary jobs and it is mainly carried out in the black economy because of the difficulty in getting back to social welfare benefit when part-time jobs are finished. The bureaucracy involved in signing on again and getting your entitlements after three days work, three weeks work or a month's work is an enormous disincentive to people to take part-time or temporary work. Such work could be structured into part-time and temporary jobs or non-standard employment which comes under legislation if we could get over this difficulty.
How many people come to our clinics — the Minister knows what clinics are better than most of us—with difficulties in re-establishing their entitlement, particularly to unemployment assistance,  if they get short time work of one kind or another? If we could get over this bureaucratic difficulty we would encourage more people out of the black economy into properly structured part-time or non-standard employment. All the legislation in the world will not get over that difficulty unless the social welfare aspect is also tackled. If we do not sort that out, they will continue to work in the black economy. That suits the employer and it suits them because they will still sign on at the same time. If we could unravel the bureaucratic mess at that level we would have more jobs properly legislated for and properly structured.
There are many reasons why non-standard employment should be a large and growing segment of the labour market providing we sort out the social welfare hiccups. There is the need on the part of employers for flexibility. That goes without saying. There are difficulties in the economy as regards recession, increased competition, different demands for products at different times of the year, when companies want extra workers for a short period. Equally, they want to be in a position to drop their labour force during the winter months or whenever it does not suit. There is a growing importance of the service industries, particularly for consumer and personal services, where by its very nature, what they call “non-standard” hours of work are demanded by the market. There is the need on the part of certain groups for non-standard employment to complement other activities, for example, students or women who are rearing their family and cannot work full-time in standard employment but could do four or five hours in the evening when the husband comes home or the children are back from school. There are many reasons why non-standard employment will be a growing feature of our workforce generally.
Interestingly, having given the statistics for the European position on part-time and temporary work and having  stated that the proportion of the workforce in part-time work is inversely proportionate to economic activity in the country, the figures for Ireland are that as a percentage of total employees, in 1988, 8.2 per cent of the workforce was in part-time work and we had 9.1 per cent in temporary work. In 1983 we had 5.8 per cent in part-time work and 3.5 per cent in temporary work. Even in this country the figures have virtually doubled in relation to those now in non-standard employment compared to 1983. It is a very interesting phenomena and one which I am sure motivated the Minister in relation to the legislation before us today.
One very important point about non-standard employment that needs underlining is that this segment of the labour force is dominated by women workers. When we are evaluating legislation in this area from a social viewpoint we must take into account not only the impact on equity as between standard and non-standard work or employees but also the contribution of legislation in this area to the equality of employment as between men and women. Most of the workforce in non-standard employment are women. It is a fact of life, for different reasons. It suits them and it often suits the employers. In some cases it is not just a question of suiting them but is is a question of what is available at the time.
As we are a country with a level of economic development well below that of the larger and northern European member states, it is not surprising that non-standard employment in Ireland is also somewhat below the Community average. In Ireland, women are strongly represented in the figures I have just given for part-time and temporary work, representing 70 per cent of the regular part-timers. It is worth noting that while a large number of male part-time workers work part-time because of the absence of full-time jobs, a high proportion of women work part-time because of family responsibilities. Senator Honan and I can  particularly identify with that fact. The growth in the size of the non-standard employment workforce—the increase in the numbers doing part-time and temporary work in our country to translate it into the vernacular—has outpaced the extension of social welfare and labour legislation for the workers involved in nearly every member state in Europe. This has led to a situation where the scope and content of legislation varies greatly from one country to another.
The rationale for the Commission's proposals in this area is, therefore, based on the three main requirements. First, the improved operations of the Internal Market and greater transparency of the labour market. Secondly, the improved living and working conditions of workers and, thirdly, protection of the health and safety of workers at the workplace. It is the view of the Commission that the cost difference between member states which are the results of legislative-based discrimination as between standard and non-standard employees constitute a distortion of the labour market and should, therefore, be abolished.
The Commission has noted major labour cost differences resulting from different national regulations with respect to social insurance contributions, redundancy entitlements, holiday pay and promotion. With regard to the improvement in living and working conditions of the workers, the Commission has also noted a number of areas in which the disparity of member states' legislation calls for harmonisation, including access to training, right to information and entitlement to social assistance.
The Commission has already proposed legislation in the areas of health and safety at work. This is for all employees and does not make any specific provision for the needs of non-standard employees; in other words, the over 18 hours a week and under 18 hours a week or the A1 and J1 employee as we have referred to them up to now. This group needs special consideration as is evidenced by statistics  from various member states showing that non-standard employees are more prone to accidents than their full-time colleagues. This can be attributed to different factors, including lack of training and inexperience on the part of the employees.
There is another basic objective which the proposed European legislation hopes to meet and that is greater equality as between men and women workers. The requirement that there should be no discrimination between men and women with regard to pay and conditions is embedded in national and Community legislation. It may be embedded but in many cases it is merely aspirational, even at this stage. However, the European Court of Justice has found that the requirement of equal treatment extends to indirect as well as to direct discrimination, specifically the different treatment of part-time and full-time workers can be found to be indirectly discriminatory when part-time workers are mainly women and full-time workers are mainly men.
Under legislation in this country, at the moment the 18 hour cut-off has been a very important one for workers of all kinds; over 18 hours and one is considered to be a full-time worker; under 18 hours one is considered to be a part-time worker. Almost all the entitlements under our labour legislation, until this Bill was introduced, were for full-time workers. Only the health, safety and equality legislation was available for people who worked less than 18 hours a week. Other benefits require a minimum of 18 hours per week and a period of employment which ranges from 13 weeks to two years.
The position with social insurance is comparatively simple at the moment. In effect, part-time workers working less than 18 hours per week benefited only from occupational injuries insurance for which a contribution of 0.5 per cent of their pay was made, payable by the employer. Other benefits, including  maternity pay, unemployment benefit, old age and widow's pension, illness and disability benefit are not available for those working under 18 hours or part-time. However, this legislation recognises that alterations are needed to our domestic legislation with regard to part-time workers. The legislation will materially affect the protection of such workers under Irish law and it is to be welcomed.
The Worker Protection (Regular Part-Time Employees) Bill will anticipate some of the provisions of the three Commission directives I referred to. In some ways it is more far reaching than even the Commission required. Some areas have still not been covered. Rights with respect to maternity, unfair dismissal and insolvency in the Bill are entitlements which were not proposed in the Commission directives. The Minister is to be complimented for going further than he had to in relation to the Commission's requirements. On the other hand, there were proposals in the directives which would require employers to extend benefits which companies give to full-time workers in the areas of training, social welfare and seniority pay to part-time and temporary workers.
They are important additional benefits which the Minister has not included. I would appreciate if the Minister could say — perhaps he did so in his opening speech which regrettably I did not hear why these areas were left out. I would appreciate the benefit of the Minister's experience and expertise in this area.
The Social Welfare Bill has just been circulated. I confess to not having gone through it in much detail——
Mrs. Honan Mrs. Honan
Mrs. Honan: We will do it next Tuesday.
Mrs. Doyle Mrs. Doyle
Mrs. Doyle: I am well aware of the schedule for next Tuesday and by next Tuesday I will be very familiar with the Social Welfare Bill. At this stage, I have just gone through it briefly without having gone through each section and  subsection in detail. I understand we are extending social insurance to those working less than 18 hours per week. The entitlement to occupational benefits, for example, pensions, which the Commission directives have proposed is also an important additional entitlement. Am I right in assuming that the Social Welfare Bill will require employers and employees to pay PRSI contributions, which will probably be one of the most significant cost items in any of the directives? I appreciate that it is not this Minister's area of responsibility but it is directly relevant to what we have been talking about and is a further step along the road towards equalising the treatment of part-time and full-time workers. I would be interested to hear the Minister's views.
I am not sure if the Minister is aware of this, but there are implications in relation to the equal treatment of part-time and full-time workers which might require a change in the family income scheme which is only available to people who work at least 20 hours per week at the moment. Are there proposals to change the requirements of the FIS?
I compliment the Minister on the legislation. I emphasise again that part-time and temporary work responds to a need of both employees and employers and whatever legislation we put in place, whatever will be required of us by way of directives from the Commission between now and the completion of the Internal Market on 1 January 1993, must respect the fact that as we equalise treatment, which is only just and right, as far as we can, we must always ensure that it is in the best interest of both the employee and the employer so that part-time work will increase in the legitimate economy and can be brought out of the black economy where, for various reasons, it has languished for far too long.
Minister for Labour (Mr. B. Ahern) Bertie Ahern
Minister for Labour (Mr. B. Ahern): I  made a lengthy contribution when introducing the Bill earlier today. It is important that we set out exactly what we are trying to do in this legislation. There is one thing have learned in the Labour brief and that is that there are people outside this House who study the text of what is said, for example, people involved in management and industrial relations and schools which are partly funded by the trade union movement. They used to say about legislation that we went through some aspects in detail and not others. In all the legislation I have brought in recently I have put the detail on the record as well as trying to answer the various questions.
I thank Senators for their very good contributions. They put a lot of research into them. I thank Senators who sat here throughout the debate, particularly Senators McKenna, Honan and others. I acknowledge their contributions.
The Bill has been given a considerable airing and the whole topic of protection for part-time workers has been teased out in some detail. It is important that we as legislators ensure that this growing category of employees is properly protected while, on the other hand ensuring that there is no unnecessary over-regulation in this area.
It is clear, as Senator Howard emphasised, that there is remarkable consensus that this legislation is necessary and, broadly speaking, there is general agreement on the content of the Bill. During the course of today's debate a number of Senators made various points about the Bill. I would like to address as many of these as possible.
Senator McKenna said my proposals represent an enormous improvement on the situation that now obtains. This has been acknowledged by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions who described the Bill — I am grateful that they did — as the most significant labour legislation since the seventies. In the discussion with the Congress, I explained my position on the point Senator Harte raised.
 In practical terms, what it means is that almost 20,000 workers who were hitherto unprotected under labour law have now been brought into the system. It means that many thousands of workers who were not covered by the Holidays Act and whose employers took that fact as a basis for not granting paid leave can now look forward to annual paid holidays and a paid day off every public holiday, like the rest of us. It means that many of the women workers among them can now be confident that their jobs will be kept for them if they take maternity leave. It extends to many of them the security of knowing that they cannot be arbitrarily removed from their jobs at the whim of their employer. If they are made redundant there are some minimum payments which will be made and periods of notice to which they are entitled. It means that once they have the requisite service they can, like full-time workers, go to the Rights Commissioner or to the Employment Appeals Tribunal to resolve their disputes with their employers. These are significant new developments for a very large number of workers.
With reference to Senator Harte's concern about growth in part-time work, I do not think we are complacent in any way. The important issue is that part-time workers should be protected and this is what teh Bill is about. Many Senators have expressed views which broadly seek to grant part-time workers rights over and above those which full-time workers enjoy under the relevant Acts. It is not the intention of this Bill to concern itself in this way but to provide pro rata treatment for part-timers. The mechanism we employ to do this is to treat them in the same way as full-time workers. All those part-time workers who have had continuous service for not less than 13 weeks are normally expected to work not less than eight hours a week and are excluded from the various Acts including Unfair Dismissal etc., by virtue  of an exclusion provision generally identified by hours and sometimes by social insurance status.
This is the basic approach taken in the Bill. It is important that they should be clearly understood, as it governs my response to calls seeking to give part-timers more favourable rights than their full-time colleagues. It is not seeking to do that; it is seeking to give parity with those that are already covered n the Acts I have amended. This is also the reason behind my inability to accept the amendments about the definition of “employer” and “employee”. I am not proposing to change the scope of each of these Acts and it is not necessary.
The issue of exploitation of young workers was raised by a number of Senators. Senator O'Reilly spoke at length about that and made the point that part-time work is often a form of employment which is taken up by young people. I share Senator'O'Reilly's concern about the exploitation of these young persons, particularly in the retail trade. A number of other Senators mentioned the point about retail trade also. This exploitation was most evident in situations where some supermarkets kept their part-time employees limited to working 17½ hours per week purely to evade their obligation under the labour law when the threshold was 18 hours. They did likewise when it was 21 hours, they limited the hours to 20½. This Bill will stamp out this procedure and should lead to major improvements for workers who are very vulnerable to exploitation. The measures proposed by my colleague the Minister for Social Welfare are also relevant to this question of exploitation, as was mentioned by Senators McKenna and Ó Cuív.
Senator O'Reilly spoke about parental leave and leave for adoptive parents. In the context of this Bill I interpreted his remarks as general and primarily a matter of getting on the record a desire that statutory measures should be introduced  generally in place of the present arrangements. I do not interpret his remarks as a proposal that leave should be introduced exclusively for part-time workers. The question of making a statutory provision has been considered on a number of occasions in recent years. However, in the context of other social priorities, it is considered inopportune to introduce statutory provisions. I intend to keep the matter under review and I have already indicated that in the Dáil. It would not be appropriate for me to provide for this matter in the legislation for part-time workers exclusively because that is going into the Principal Act.
In relation to statistics, Senator Ryan asked a question about the numbers excluded. Some 82,000 people describe themselves as part-timers under the labour force survey and some of them are working very long hours. Some of them are working over 18 hours, perhaps 30 hours, but they are not full-time. Some 20,000 people work less than 18 hours and less than 5,000 work less than eight hours. What we would be excluding in this legislation is probably something like 9 per cent of the hours worked by part-time workers who are not covered by labour legislation. They would be spread all over the place—some with a few hours now and again.
On international comparisons, Senator Ryan asked about the position of part-time workers in Scandinavia. The position is that there is no generally applicable statutory definition of part-time work in Norway and Sweden. In Denmark the number of hours worked affects eligibility for certain rights and benefits. For example part-time workers in Denmark, a country mentioned by a number of Senators, must work at least 15 hours a week to enjoy the same level of employment security from dismissal as full-time workers. As regards annual leave, part-time workers get the same pro rata entitlement in Denmark and Norway. However, in Sweden if a worker works for less than three months or for  less than 60 hours, they have no entitlement to annual leave. The implications of the Senator's remark was that perhaps we were keeping more in line with EC laws and were far behind Scandinavia but that is not the case. I hope that the information is of some benefit to Senator Ryan. My source of information for all of the records, and particularly these ones, is the ILO “Conditions of Work Digest, 1989.”
Senator O'Reilly, Senator Ryan and Senator Harte reflected on the concern mentioned by the Congress of Trade Unions about the growth of non-standard forms of employment, including contract work and agency work. Congress requested that the Bill be amended to incorporate its own definition of “employer” and “employee”. I do not propose to take this up, as i have already explained. Senator Harte pointed out that there are a number of issues involved in this area and it is useful to tease them out. The situation about agency workers needs to be examined. We have had a lot of research on part-time workers but we have very little surveys done on contract work or agency work.
Senator Howard made the valid point that there are many very good employers. Indeed, the vast majority of employers are very good employers and I do not think we should try to create disincentives for them. What we have to do is close off loopholes that are used. I would like to agree with Senator Howard that it is only small employers who get into these difficulties and who become unscrupulous employers but that has not been my experience over the years in various capacities involved in industrial relations. The people who played ducks and drakes with the legislation over the past 15 years since 1975 to a great degree were some of our larger employers. I do not intend to mention companies but it is a fact that some of the biggest employers, perhaps for reasons relating to the operation of their own businesses, were involved. I do not expect people to have the same  workforce in on a Monday as a Saturday if all the customers come in on a Saturday and very few on a Monday. It would be nonsensical for people to work a 35 hour week and have the same number in all the time. I have rejected that concept from the start. However, some of the bigger employers played ducks and drakes with the legislation and it is no good in people trying to deny it. Senator Howard said he never had a constituent or met a person who complained about exploitation. In some ways I wish I was in the same position. My life would have been very much easier in the past few years.
Mrs. Honan Mrs. Honan
Mrs. Honan: He was talking about Clare.
Mr. B. Ahern Mr. B. Ahern
Mr. B. Ahern: I have no doubt that there are probably better people down there than some of the delegations met. Some of the biggest employers in the country who have locations everywhere, including Clare, when the reduced the hours from 21 to 18 on the following Friday reprogrammed their computers to 17 hours 50 minutes to block out the rights. I would not dare mention the name of that large company. We have to protect people against that type of blatant exploitation. I will do equally so. I have spoken to most of the major firms who were abusers and they are quite happy with the spirit of the legislation. We can change the threshold if people try to break it out I do not believe they will.
The situation in relation to agency workers needs to be examined. I have, accordingly, undertaken in the Programme for Economic and Social progress to examine the position of agency workers and the legislation relating to the control of employment agencies and that review will take some time, but I do not consider it should hold up this Bill at the moment. There is also the question of the nature and extent of change in relation to contracting. Some people believe that there has been a dramatic increase in subcontracting or production services from  enterprises to sub-contractors. The evidence for this is often anecdotal and often relates to a small number of high profile examples. We have to be very careful in that area.
My impressionis that for reasons of production and market strategy companies are in the process of decentralising and rationalising and jobs are being devolved; catering, cleaning, transport and security are good examples of this. The point is, however, that many of the workers in these jobs remain employees, employees of the new sub-contractors perhaps, but employees nevertheless and are fully protected under labour law. That is a matter i want to point out to a number of people because I think it was missed by both Houses during the debate.
I cannot deny that there are also those who become or who are made to become self-employed as a result of these strategies. There is nothing new about this nor is there anything intrinsically wrong with it. It is a practice which has obtained for a long time. My concern would be what I would term bogus self-employed workers, close to the black economy, freelancers without the responsibilities and the right either or workers or of the self-employed. We are continuing to gather information about the extent and location of this category, not just because it concerns labour law but also because of its responsibility vos-á-vis tax and social security. Senator Doyle raised that question today, and I agree with her. I agree with Senator Harte also that it is a matter of dealing with the question under a Bill covering part-time work. It is a much bigger question. However, the issues raised are relevant to my labour legislation programme for the nineties. As indicated, I propose to start with the situation of agency workers.
Senators expressed concern about the post-Dickensian exploitation by employers and suggested that there should be a statutory minimum income. That is a preference that has been indicated for conclusion in the provision for a  statutory national minimum wage in the Bill. Low pay is usually associated with certain sectors of the industry and services where part-time workers also predominate. I can understand how in that context the pointhas been raised here.
It is well to recognise where the debate on a statutory minimum wage currently stands. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions proposed in the course of discussions on the Programme for Economic and Social progress that there should be a statutory national minimum wage and the employer organisations stated their total opposition to the proposal. It has been agreed that during the period of the programme the Employer-Labour Conference would consider all the issues involved including the operation of the joint labour committee system in regard to a statutory minimum wage.
For my part, I have made my policy clear. Much low pay work tends to be unskilled, requiring few qualifications, with little or no prospects of promotion, and subject to high rate of labour turnover. As a consequence, measures to comprehensively tackle the problem must cover a range of areas such as education, training, social benefits and taxation as well as the question of pay. Research carried out by my Department on the economic effects of minimum wage legislation concludes that such legislation could reduce employment levels. It is also the case that American research, bears this out. According to this research, the effects of this reduction would be concentrated most severely on vulnerable groups, such as young workers, women and the least well-educated and, I would venture to say, part-time workers. This research also indicates little connenctionbetween low pay and poverty, as many of the low paid do not come from low income households. A statutory minimum wage is, therefore, regarded as being an ineffective anti-poverty measure. Pending the outcome of  the Employer-Labour Conference examination it is my conviction that in attempting to address the low paid problem we must look at all the factors associated with low pay and the categories of workers involved.
As far as pay determination is concerned, I am still inclined to the view that the best approach is collective bargaining operating in conjunction with the joint labour committee system. Because of lack of time I cannot go into that point but I just want to say people who talk glibly about low pay that they should really stop to think and examine what is happening everywhere. I am not saying that somewhere down the line we may not need a statutory minimum pay, although I think it should be confined to sectors, otherwise we will create great difficulties for employment. It is an issue that has to be teased out and rarely do we hear people putting forward constructive arguments on it. I am prepared to debate it and have a look at it but I still remain to be convinced tht it will not do more harm than good.
A number of Senators referred to the concern of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions about a provision that was covered in the Bill as originally published, that provision which exempted part-time employees from having to contribute to the social insurance fund in relation to entitlements to redundancy payments which these employees are being granted under the Bill. However, since the publication of this Bill in December the Minister for Social Welfare has enacted social insurance cover to part-time workers and because of a provision related to this it was included in the Social Welfare Bill and I was able to delete it in the Dáil. The provision which Congress had expressed concern about in the Bill is now gone. In short, I can assure Senator O'Reilly that regular part-time employees under the Bill will enjoy full entitlements to redundancy.  payments on the same basis as their full-time colleagues. Senator McKenna also raised that issue.
On the sharing of family responsibilities, I would like to thank Senator McKenna, Senator Ryan and Senator O'Keeffe for underscoring the point that there should be a greater sharing of family responsibilities, a view with which I would agree. In my capacity as Minister responsible for employment equality, I have initiated a range of measures of positive action, the development of child care services and legislative reform to achieve that aim of more equitable sharing. My aim in relation to reform of the law on part-time work is not to trap women in a part-time work ghetto but to ensure that if they choose to work part-time they will not be treated as secondclass citizens under the law.
In response to a number of Senators whose contributions were on this issue, particularly Senator Ryan, it is fair to say that the reforms in this Bill owe very little to classic supply and demand analyses. I agree with the Senator when he says that this Bill will not result in the disappearance of large numbers of part-time jobs. That is not what we are seeking to do. A number of Senators raised the issue of enforcement of employment regulation orders set out by the joint labour committees. I would like to assure the Seanad that these orders are in force and, to ensure that, I have increased the number of labour inspectors in the Department. Inspections have increased by about 50 per cent. During 1990, over 4,000 inspections were carried out under employment regulation orders and I intend to ensure that this practice continues.
The question as to how this Bill is to be enforced in relation to part-time workers was raised by almost every Senator. These workers will now enjoy for the first time free access to the Employment Appeal Tribunal wherever they are being denied their statutory entitlements. The tribunal over the years has done sterling work in rooting out poor employment  practices in relation to full employment and I now expect that the powers contained in the Bill will enable the tribunal to deal with any denial of statutory rights.
Senator Harte asked me to respond to the suggestion by Congress that the Redundancy Payments Acts will provide a more appropriate mechanism than the First Schedule to the Minimunm Notice and Terms of Employment Act for calculating continuous service. It was also indicated that unscrupulous employers will use fixed term contracts to avoid obligations imposed by the Bill. It was suggested that we would take on board a Congress idea of alternative important social welfare legislation, the notion of cumulative service, 13 weeks service for half a year. I have looked at these suggestions but I do not believe it necessary to amend the Bill in this respect, principally because the First Schedule is already widely used. It has proved in practice to be a very effective mechanism for calculating continuous service. Any disputes which might arise can be dealt with by the Employment Appeal Tribunal. To make absolutely sure that the tribunal would have an expressed power to maximise the situations where employers were deliberately attempting to avoid obligations in the Bill, I introduced the anti-evasion provision in section 2 (2) and I am confident that this gives the tribunal wide enough powers to deal with any attempt to get around the hours and service qualifications in the Bill. That, again, arose briefly from the debate in the Dáil. I think it closes off any loopholes for employers who set out deliberately to get around the threshold.
Senators Harte and O'Toole have been critical of the retention of thresholds. In a perfect world maybe we could dispose of thresholds but the reality is that labour laws and the mechanism set up to ensure that these are observed and that people can exercise their rights under those laws, impose costs on the employer, the Exchequer and on society generally. In deciding how far I could extend the social  policy measure I had regard to several factors. First, as I already explained, there is the position of the Social Affairs Commissioner who has maintained an eight hour threshold in a number of her recent proposals. I do think she would not have done so if it was contrary to the judgments of the European Court of Justice. Secondly I have had regard to the numbers of hours which part-time workers work according to a labour force survey and I have pitched the level at this point. It brings in a very high proportion, about 91 per cent of the man-hours worked by those working less than 18 hours per week. Again, this was something we agreed in the consultations which preceded publication of the Bill and to entirely remove the threshold would give rise to problems out of proportion to the benefits received. We are not out of line with any of the suggestions made and the various research carried out in the past few weeks.
With regard to the points raised by Senators O'Keeffe and Harte about the possibility of unscrupulous employers trying to avoid responsibility arising under the legislation; section 2 (2) applies. Some concerns have been expressed by Senators O'Reilly and Howard that the provisions of the Bill would force people into the black economy. It is the view that advanced statutory protection increases the gross cost of labour or the employers long-range commitment on future costs and, for this reason, there will be recourse to the informal sector sometimes with and sometimes without the workers' concurrence. Nobody can deny that this is one possible reaction to government initiatives whether in the tax field, the extensions of social security or labour law generally and that a certain number of workers and employers are prepared to live with the long-term consequences of that kind of insecurity.
There is an equally compelling argument on the other side, that this Bill provides an incentive to keep people in  the formal labour market and my proposals are designed to encourage workers to stay out of the black economy. I believe that is what will happen because now there are very good entitlements for people to stay out of it. The amendments the Minister will make to the Social Welfare Act in the debate here next week will make that obvious. It will only be a person on very low hours and very low money who will have any incentive now to go on the black economy. If you take the rate of pay paid to lounge boys and lounge girls and with the hours threshold and the payment of money, as set out in the social welfare legislation, there is not much of an incentive. However, it is something we can review as time goes on.
The eight hour requirement was chosen because it was felt that a minimum reduction to 14 hours would not benefit part-time workers and it would be abused. The reduction of the threshold to eight hours was considered as more suitable because first, the desirability of rendering it impractical for unscrupulous employers to reduce the working hours for part-time employees in order to avoid incurring statutory obligations and secondly, the desirability of matching the eight hour threshold to the proposed EC directives on part-time workers.
Senator Neville raised some issues concerning the complexity of labour law, the need for consolidation and particularly the need for comprehensive explanatory literature for part-time workers and their rights under labour law through the published Departmental Guide to Labour Law I have responded to the need to reduce the burden on small employers in that regard. I can assure the Seanad that I will be arranging for the issue of appropriate explanatory literature on this Bill, as I have done in the past year on the Bill relating to industrial relations.
Senator O'Toole spoke at length on the question of people moving in and out of part-time status. The answer to this is the new threshold employed by the  Minister for Social Welfare, the consequences of which is that most part-time workers are now fully insurable. Part-time workers under this Bill have exactly the some means of redress in the event of disputes as full-time workers, that is for unfair dismissal and access to a tribunal. In addition to the first 13 weeks they have recourse to a tribunal under section 2 (5) of the Act.
Senator Doyle referred to the nonstandard directives. The three non-standard directives cover part-time work, temporary fixed time and agency workers. I have mentioned agency workers but I am going to take that separately. This will cover and do better than the Act dealing with part-time work. Because I wanted to deal with the matter separately and deal with part-time workers right across the economy this question will be dealt with on another occasion as soon as we have all the data.
As far as the part-time workers are concerned, we are more or less in course with the EC Directive. There is a common position already on safety and health in the draft directive for temporary workers. There are some ongoing discussions and there are very widely different views in member states. I have a meeting in Luxembourg shortly where we will be reviewing what progress we can make in these areas. Basically, we have agreement on part-time workers' safety and health. There will be no difficulty in that. Our legislation is in line. The Bill we passed in 1989 is in line with the EC Directives. In regard to other legislation we may have to make changes in due course and I am looking at some areas in that connection.
I have tried as far as possible to answer questions that arose in the debate. I thank Senators for their co-operation. It is important that the Bill should be through by 5 April so that it can be lined up with social welfare legislation.
Question put and agreed to.
 Agreed to take remaining Stages today.
Seanad Éireann 128 Worker Protection (Regular Part-Time Employees) Bill, 1990: Second Stage (Resumed).