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

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 965 No. 6

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett]  We will support the passage of the Bill because anything is better than nothing but I do not believe the suggestion that it will substantially address the plague of precarious employment which is affecting hundreds of thousands of workers. There are too many get-out clauses. It looks to me as if the employers have lobbied the Government intensively to dilute the legislation to ensure that it is easy for them to get around it. This is not good enough because, to return to my original point, profits have gone through the roof in every single sector where precarious and temporary employment and bogus self-employment are rampant. These are the sectors that have seen dramatic increases in profitability. Precarious employment is good for some but it is very bad for huge numbers of workers, and employers are lobbying and having an influence on the framing of this legislation which the Government claimed would address the issue of precarity.

We will seek to amend the Bill and I suspect many others will too. I welcome that we are at least debating it but we have to go a hell of a lot further than this if we are to address the problem.

In my last 43 seconds, I will raise one other matter about the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection, which is the appeals process. Take, for example, the Rhatigan dispute where the workers had a ruling in their favour. Rhatigan appealed it and the matter went into the social welfare appeals office where the appeal hearing was a kangaroo court.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty Not true.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett It was a kangaroo court. Rhatigan came in lawyered up-----

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I am sorry but I cannot let the Deputy say that.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Deputy is getting into an area that is not appropriate for the floor of the House.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett That is the report I got from workers.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty It is not true.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett We will debate it again but that is the report I got from the workers.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I thank the Deputy for his contribution but that area is not appropriate to this debate. I call Deputy Mattie McGrath.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I am pleased to speak on the Industrial Development (Amendment) Bill 2018. I have to declare that I am a long-standing employer although I am an employee as well. Listening to my good friend and colleague, Deputy Boyd Barrett, we are an endangered species. It is not safe to be an employer any more because we all should be locked up and the key thrown away. I am not having a go at Deputy Boyd Barrett but there are an awful lot of good employers and decent self-employed small business people who trudge daily and deal with all the regulations pertaining to their particular occupation. I cannot envisage the situation where, as the Deputy said, it is only a matter of going online and registering as self-employed. A person has to have a certain turnover and legitimate employment records in the business. He or she also must apply to the Revenue to register for VAT and everything else. I cannot imagine that it is like getting a lucky bag in a shop or online to become self-employed. That is not true at all. I agree with some parts of his comments, however, on some of the bigger companies and the subcontracted work where there might be bullying and intimidation going on, with people being forced to be self-employed in some areas.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I must interrupt the Deputy. My apologies.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath The injustice.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl The Deputy is so prodigious in his output, however, that this is his second contribution on the Employment (Miscellaneous) Provisions Bill 2017.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Gabh mo leithscéal.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Apparently the Deputy spoke for 20 minutes last evening on it. While we would love to hear him again, Standing Orders do not allow it.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath My mistake.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Not to worry. There was no harm done. We will move on to Deputy Burton.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I understood Deputy Mattie McGrath was going to speak for a while.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I would have if I was let.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I would be happy to hear him speak but the Ceann Comhairle is in charge of the House.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath And he is right.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Employment (Miscellaneous) Provisions Bill 2017 is inadequate to address what is one of the most difficult and dreadful developments of our age, which is the continuing expansion and growth of different forms of precarious work. To be perfectly honest, this area is becoming like that of tax legislation. In other words, people in HR departments continually review and change work arrangements to beat, if one likes, the system of labour and wage regulation. The Government needs to acknowledge and wake up to that fact.

During my time in government, one of the first things I did was raise the minimum wage by €1 per hour, reversing the reduction introduced by Fianna Fáil and the Green Party at the height of the crisis. When I was Tánaiste, I got the agreement of Fine Gael to bring in the Low Pay Commission and to introduce the only labour legislation throughout the EU, and certainly in any of the countries which had experienced economic collapses such as Ireland's, to give additional powers to trade unions and strengthen provision in the area of collective bargaining.

The concept of what a job is and what is work is important. We all know how important work is to people and how important it is that they can get work. One of the very good things of recent years is the fact that, notwithstanding the 330,000 jobs lost at the height of the crisis, many people have been able to return to work. In some cases, people have set up their own businesses. All of that has been positive. The concept of work, however, is that a person will do work which is satisfying and important to him or her or gives experience so that the person can go on to do those things that he or she wants to do. It is important to people's lives and well-being. Furthermore, if people work hard, they can support themselves and their family. Through their PRSI contributions and taxation, they can collectively provide for a social insurance and social welfare system that will provide for income support in periods of unemployment and for pension entitlement on retirement. That is the way the social democratic model works and it has worked well in countries such as Germany, Austria and those in Scandinavia. It has also worked well here for generations.

The other key element is collective bargaining, but the Fine Gael Party is highly adverse to it. For the social democratic model to work, it must include collective bargaining. Fine Gael shies away from collective bargaining, however, and we can see that running through this legislation. Although the Bill seeks to improve on the serious flaws and gaps in current legislation, it simply does not go far enough, and this is not in our interests as a country. We want to attract more development, employment, business and foreign direct investment. We also want to develop Ireland in a way which provides employment and all of the different things we want in our society, whether that is education, health care, public development or public works.

When I was a Minister, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions brought to my attention issues relating to this area, including the issue of bogus self-employment. After a long wait and continuing questioning on my part of the Taoiseach on the matter, the report was finally published in the past week or two. It was approximately ten days ago. Lo and behold, there was no debate or discussion. In two tables, however, the report showed that there was a loss to the Exchequer of approximately €60 million in tax and social welfare revenue as a consequence of disguised or bogus self-employment, or whatever one might want to call it. That is part of the problem. There are very few days a Government will sniff at recovering an extra €60 million in either PRSI or taxation because that money would go into the collective to fund our system and give people assurance.


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