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Companies (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Covid-19) Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages (Continued)

Thursday, 30 July 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 996 No. 3

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Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy The Leas-Cheann Comhairle will be aware of my views on co-operative movements. She herself raised a question about the issue the first time I took oral questions, at which stage I confirmed to the House, and I am happy to do so again, that work has commenced on comprehensive legislation relating to the co-operative movement. That work is under way, and it is my intention to work with the Department to ensure we can bring it as speedily as possible to pre-legislative scrutiny, with an opportunity for all Members to feed into it.

The legislative framework for co-operatives throughout Europe embraces a variety of approaches towards worker co-operatives. While some member states, such as France and Portugal, define worker co-operatives in their legislation, others, such as Germany and Belgium, leave it to the co-operative movement to provide definitions and rules surrounding worker co-operatives. As part of the review of the industrial and provident societies legislation, my Department intends to provide a definition of a worker co-operative in the new legislation, as I referred to. To increase the visibility of this particular form of co-operative, the Registry of Friendly Societies has added a separate category for worker co-operatives on the register of friendly societies. It is, of course, up to each individual operation to choose the model that best suits the nature of its businesses and the desired ethos of that identity. My Department does not promote one business model over another. Its role is to provide the legislative framework for co-operatives and facilitate their formation and transparent operation rather than actively to encourage or promote them as a preferred structure for enterprise. My Department supports co-operatives in the same way it supports other types of entities, and co-operatives can avail of all the supports available to all other enterprises via the State enterprise agencies. I acknowledge, however, that the legislation is antiquated and needs to be updated. That updating will take place. The Deputy is correct that there are so many good co-operatives in the agricultural sector. I am thinking even of group water schemes in rural Ireland, which were predominantly formed around co-operative movements.

  Question put and agreed to.

  Section 28 agreed to.


An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly Amendments Nos. 7 to 9, inclusive, have been ruled out of order.

  Amendments Nos. 7 to 9, inclusive, not moved.

  Question proposed: "That section 29 stand part of the Bill."

Deputy Louise O'Reilly: Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly I wish to speak briefly to this section and the new section that would be introduced by amendment No. 9, if that is okay. I spoke previously about the concerns that were raised - nobody will be unaware of them - about access for trade unionists to the workplace. What this global pandemic has highlighted, particularly for those of us who are trade unionists, is the need for workers to be organised and to come together to prioritise their own health and safety. The new section I propose in amendment No. 9 includes a right to access for trade union officials and activists to workplaces. Although we all have the right to join a trade union, sometimes it can be very difficult for trade unions to access workers at their places of work. Remote working will pose a challenge to the trade union movement, but I urge all workers who are not in a union to join one, get active, get organised and protect themselves if they are working at home or in a designated workplace. If this global pandemic has taught us anything, it is that sick pay is now a public health measure and that getting organised, being part of one's trade union and working with one's colleagues to improve one's terms and conditions at work has never been more important. At no time in our history has it ever been more important for people to be able to do just that and to safeguard their own health and safety. To do so, however, we need to ensure those who need it can get access to workplaces.

Of all the amendments I tabled, which I appreciate have all been ruled out of order, amendment No. 9 is the one I thought would be ruled in order. I am not a pessimist; I am an optimist with experience. I should have known it would be ruled out of order, but it is an important amendment nonetheless. It is my intention to table legislation to deal with this issue, and I hope that that will not be opposed by the Government because to do so would send a pretty awful message to workers and their representatives.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy Amendment No. 9 has been ruled out of order. The right of access requires consultation with stakeholders, and it is not appropriate to include it in this Bill. I will not make a confirmation or commitment to support any legislation in the absence of seeing it.

I wish to take this opportunity, however, to refer, as I did in my concluding remarks on Second Stage, to an assertion that was made about the HSA only having 67 inspectors. I wish to clarify this because it was raised in the Seanad and I promised Deputy's colleague, Senator Gavan, that I would revert on it. He made the same assertion, but it does not take account of or acknowledge that an additional 500 inspectors were transferred from within the Civil Service pool who are complementing the work of the authority. We, therefore, have more than 550 people looking at the protocols. To be fair to the Deputy, earlier she acknowledged the good work that has been done by the various stakeholders, including the unions, on ensuring that the return-to-work protocols are good and mean something. There are the required numbers of inspectors to enforce this. We should also take comfort in the fact, and acknowledge that of the inspections that have been carried out to date, 92% of companies are operating appropriately and adhering to the protocols that have been agreed with the unions and the representative bodies of business. They are being implemented well. The other 8% need to up their game and acknowledge that they have a responsibility to adhere to the protocols just as the vast majority of people are currently doing.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl   Question put and agreed to.

  Title agreed to.

  Bill reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly A message will be sent to the Seanad acquainting it accordingly.

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