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Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017: Second Stage (Continued)

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 965 No. 5

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath] McAlpine would not have it when he was building in London. I said it would keep up Shannon Bridge or the whole of Dublin Castle. It is only to put up the scaffolding. They told me the ground conditions here are an issue. If we are not careful, we will fall through the cracks someday. The scaffolding they have out there would keep Dublin Castle up. They are doing a good job on health and safety and everything else.

Why do we have all these reports? We have reports everywhere; they are coming out of our ears. Common sense is all we want. We do not need half of the reports because we know what is going on. There was a study from University of Limerick and the Bill could have been constructed around that. I heard the contributions of Deputies O'Dea, Penrose, Daly, Collins and others on the Bill. I watched them on a monitor. It is about common sense. It should be based on respect and support for workers instead of trying to milk them and blackguard them. The figures from the report and the CSO figures are stark. We need to act. We do not need to give another six months to debating this Bill. We need to debate it on Committee Stage and amend it to make it more meaningful. We need to direct the penalties in a more punitive way where they are deserved and in a less punitive way to ordinary small business people who are complying with everything. They have NERA and a plethora of Government agencies that have to be complied with and rightly so. It is overbearing on small companies because the amount of paperwork that has to be dealt with is enormous. The Bill is weak. I can see the lobbying of ISME in it. Sorry, not ISME, the bigger one.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea IBEC.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath IBEC. It is big business. I see them around here all the time. I know them from a former incarnation. Some of them are in the Construction Industry Federation. They are not interested in the little people. We have to recover na daoine beaga. It is na teaghlaigh go léir agus na feirmeoirí go léir who will recover it. They are on the ground every day, all day, 365 days a year. They are not interested in a quick buck. They are the cogs and chains keeping the system going and they must be supported.

Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh sí. Young people are also not supported. It is awful to see young employees being sucked into these companies. They were in here with great aplomb. They have been brought into our towns. I am mostly talking about Tesco, which is in many towns in Tipperary. They are welcomed when they announce all the jobs but there is no talk of the jobs they displaced. There is no talk of the sweet deals that are done for planning fees and planning conditions and everything else for them. There is no talk of sucking the vibrancy out of the towns which they have done in my town of Clonmel and Tipperary and further afield. They do not even bank their money in our banks. They do not even bank it here. It hurts me to see it.

People have a right to buy online and use delivery services. Some people are sick or working so maybe they have to. One sees the Tesco vans up and down every road now. We have gone back to the days of 70 years ago - I was talking to Deputy Healy-Rae about this earlier - when a man would go around selling stuff out of the back of a van. A lot of them grew into great entrepreneurs. Now it is done more clinically and costly and with no respect for the workers delivering it. That was a different situation. It is the same kind of a principle but it is really mean-spirited. The zero-hour contracts, as I have alluded to, are just not acceptable.

The colleges have caught the contagion. Many people in college have told me that they spend five days a week in college but might only have 12 hours of tuition with lecturers. That is ridiculous, especially if it is spread over the five days. They cannot get a job or anything else because they are in college for two hours one day, one hour the next day and three hours the next day, which is ridiculous. It is a contagion which suits some of the higher up people in the universities and institutes who are doing that. It is not good. Families have to support their sons and daughters in universities and colleges and they like to have them get a bit of part-time work because it is good for them. It is a good grounding for them. They cannot do that if they have two hours in college every day. Why can they not have the lectures over two or three days a week and let them carry on with other activities. It must be streamlined. I do not know why the Minister is shaking her head.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I agree with the Deputy.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I thank the Minister. Normally the Minister nods when she agrees with me but she was doing something else so I thought she was saying she did not agree with me. That is grand. We will accept that. As I said, a quarter of all employees working nine to 18 hours per week are in wholesale or retail with another 17% working in health. A significant proportion of those who work 19 to 35 hours per week are in education and health. They are also in our nursing homes, which we badly need. I meet them all the time. There are a lot of staff in nursing homes who work very hard and they do not have many hours. I know nursing homes are normally small entities or a family business and it is difficult but they are a very important area. We will all end up there. We do not want to say anything in here that might bite us when we end up there. "Be nice to your kids, they pick your nursing home" - that is what stickers on the back of cars say.

  We need to have respect for workers. It is a two-way street. If an employer respects workers, they will respect the job and be dedicated to it. It is not acceptable as I said. The penalties included in the Bill are too weak. As I said, we need real penalties that have teeth. We need to send a message to big employers, of which there are many. They are greedy and driven by greed. It is a race to the bottom. They abuse staff and do not respect them. We should send the message that it will not be tolerated. It is a land where we respect and value our workers and families. People will not be able to get a loan. We know that. How will they get a county council loan or any kind of credit union loan? The penalties included in the Bill still leave huge voids for people to get loans to be able to carry on in a small business or to repair their house or get on the market. It is a two-way street.

  Employers must be respectful and vice versa. If that is the case, one will have a flourishing and happy company with good dialogue. Some companies might not even be unionised but there is respect. It is a two-way street and the workers go the extra mile when the pressure is on. That is especially true in the service industry when they have to respond to different situations whether it is after storms or different climatic conditions or perform seasonal work. When people are on zero-hours contracts and are threatened and cajoled and told they will lose some hours if they do not comply, it creates hostile and poor relations in a company. A company like that will not flourish.

  There has to be a good environment with robust debate like we have here most times. I salute employers like SuperValu and even Marks and Spencer. I was in SuperValu in Carrick-on-Suir last week and was pleasantly told by one of the smiling staff that there were 90 staff and they are all very happy people. I could see that when I walked around and experienced the ambience of the shop. It is the same in SuperValu in Clonmel, Cahir and Tipperary Town and all the ones I go into. I salute them for that.

  I heard a very wonderful interview on radio one morning with former Senator Feargal Quinn and his son. I think it was "Miriam Meets" He was a powerful man and so were his forefathers. I think he is the fourth or fifth generation. The way they treated their staff and customers is what we need. We do not need mollycoddling and dancing around with each other and hugs and kisses. We need honest, decent and respectful work and honest, decent wages within the limitations of what the company is doing. One will always find that workers will be understanding in those situations. They put their shoulders to the wheel. They have understanding if we meet lean times or difficult times. There will be a better outcome.

  We need to let the axe fall where it should fall and it needs to fall on a lot of them. Many of the companies that built our motorways - not many but a lot of them - now have issues with the quality of work. They get these Government tenders. We saw it today with the ferry for Tory Island in Donegal going in at ridiculously low prices. I salute the people we met today and anyone in the business. Hundreds of them came here. They could not all be from the island or they would have three times the population they do. If there were that many, Deputy Pat The Cope Gallagher would have a bridge built out to the island to go out canvassing. They have that little ferry and they know the lowest price is not the best. With eTenders we are getting companies coming in here and showing scant regard for Irish employees and tradespersons who are scarce commodities at the moment. I ask the Minister to support the trades because we need to get people back into trades as well.

  As I said, women seem to be very poor.

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