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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 132-141
 Header Item Registered Employment Agreements
 Header Item Pension Provisions
 Header Item Family Income Supplement Eligibility
 Header Item Social Welfare Appeals
 Header Item Social Welfare Offices
 Header Item Social Welfare Appeals
 Header Item State Pension (Non-Contributory) Appeals

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 830 No. 3

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Written Answers Nos. 132-141

Registered Employment Agreements

 132. Deputy Terence Flanagan Information on Terence Flanagan Zoom on Terence Flanagan asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the background and content of the framework document he has issued which is aimed at reinstating the registered employment agreement and wage-setting mechanisms in the lower-paid sector of the workforce; and if he will make a statement on the matter.  [7415/14]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton In the judgment delivered on 9 May 2013 in McGowan and others v The Labour Court, Ireland and the Attorney General, the Supreme Court held that Part III of the Industrial Relations Act 1946 was invalid having regard to Article 15.2.1 of the Constitution.

  That Article provides, in effect, that the exclusive power to make laws is vested in the Oireachtas. The Supreme Court took the view that REAs were instruments having the status of laws made by private individuals. While the Constitution allows for the limited delegation of law making functions, the provisions of the 1946 Act went beyond what is permissible under the Constitution.

  The effect of this decision was to invalidate the registration of employment agreements previously registered under Part III of the 1946 Act. As a result, all such agreements no longer have any application beyond the subscribing parties and are not enforceable in law.

  However, existing contractual rights of workers in sectors covered by Registered Employment Agreements were unaffected by the ruling. Contractual rights can be altered only by agreement between the parties involved.

  The striking down of the REAs means that new employees in these sectors can be hired at a rate agreeable between workers and their employers. This is subject only to the provisions of the National Minimum Wage Act, 2000.

  From the parties’ perspective, the primary objective of REAs was to provide them with a sense of certainty around terms and conditions that would apply when the employer is tendering for and working through contracts and to have in place agreed grievance and industrial peace provisions. The agreements also had the effect of ensuring that the industry terms and conditions were recognised and maintained. In addition, the existence of these legally backed agreements was recognised under European Union law and ensured, in accordance with the Posted Workers Directive, that contractors from outside the jurisdiction, who may be using employees from lower wage economies, did not obtain an advantage over local contractors in terms of wage costs.

  Having considered the legal advice from the Attorney General on the implications of the Supreme Court ruling, and given the importance of the issue for employers and their employees, particularly in relation to rates of pay and tendering for contracts, I undertook to bring forward legislation to address the ruling and to provide for a revised legislative framework that would be fully informed by the Supreme Court judgment and be expected to withstand constitutional challenge in the future.

  To this end, on 7 February last, a draft framework document was circulated to relevant stakeholders for consideration. The new framework proposes a mechanism whereby, in contrast with the previous REA system which provided for employment agreements made between trade unions and employer representatives being given general application by means of a statutory order, groups substantially representative of workers and employers may jointly or separately request the Labour Court to undertake a review of the pay and/or pension and sick pay entitlements of workers in a particular sector and make a recommendation to the Minister on the matter.

  It is proposed that a trade union and/or employer body that is substantially representative of workers or employers of such workers in a sector may make the application to the Labour Court to initiate the process. Interested parties will be given an opportunity to make submissions to the Labour Court in the context of a review.

  The new legislation will provide the Labour Court with specific principles and policies that it will be obliged to take into account when considering whether to make and, if so, what recommendation to make to the Minister in relation to pay and/or pension/sick pay terms in a particular sector. If satisfied, the Minister will give effect to the recommendation by Order. The Order must then be laid before the Oireachtas.

  In addition to the proposed new sectoral framework, it is proposed to reintroduce the facility for the registration of employment agreements to which there are only two parties i.e. individual employer and trade unions. As such agreements are not legally binding beyond the subscribing parties, it is not considered necessary to provide for the same level of principles and policies that would apply in the case of agreements that would have sector-wide application. Neither, for the same reasons, is it considered necessary for the registration of such agreements to be confirmed by Ministerial order.

  It is proposed to have discussions on the draft framework with relevant stakeholders shortly with a view to bringing proposals to Government as soon as possible.

Pension Provisions

 133. Deputy Peadar Tóibín Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the position regarding community employment supervisors' entitlement to a pension scheme in view of the fact that the Labour Court recommended that FÁS implement a pension scheme in 2008 and some CE supervisors who have finished work still have no pension scheme in place.  [7219/14]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I would like to refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions 99, 89 and 102 dated 1st December 2011 on this matter. The position remains unchanged.

Family Income Supplement Eligibility

 134. Deputy Robert Dowds Information on Robert Dowds Zoom on Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the degree to which family income supplement is paid to persons supporting families who live abroad.  [7229/14]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Family Income Supplement (FIS) is a social welfare payment which provides an income support for employees on low earnings with families. To qualify for FIS the applicant(s) must be employed in the Republic of Ireland and their weekly family income must be below the set income limit for their family size which is based on the number of qualified children in the family.

As FIS is a family benefit under EU regulations, the residency of the qualified children within the EU does not affect entitlement. FIS is currently in payment to approximately 44,225 families and, of these, approximately 755 families (or less than 2% of total families) have children resident in another EU country.

  Question No. 135 withdrawn.

Social Welfare Appeals

 136. Deputy Tom Fleming Information on Tom Fleming Zoom on Tom Fleming asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will expedite a living alone allowance appeal in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kerry, taking into consideration the findings of the Ombudsman; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [7243/14]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that the file of the person concerned was received from the Office of the Ombudsman on 07th February 2014. The appeal in question has been referred to the Appeals Officer dealing with this case. The Appeals Officer will be in contact with the person concerned as soon as the review of her appeal has been finalised.

  The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements.

Social Welfare Offices

 137. Deputy Robert Dowds Information on Robert Dowds Zoom on Robert Dowds asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will provide an update on the provision of Intreo offices in Clondalkin, Dublin 22, and Lucan, County Dublin. [7244/14]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton A total of 44 Intreo offices have now been opened. The Department is working closely with the OPW on the rollout of the service (including the refurbishment and where necessary the acquisition of offices).

It is expected that the remaining 16 offices, including Clondalkin will be delivering the full Intreo service by the end of 2014. The Department is also actively pursuing accommodation for a new office in the Lucan/Adamstown area.

Social Welfare Appeals

 138. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when a file will be sent to the Social Welfare Appeals Office from the disability allowance section in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Limerick; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [7264/14]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was registered in that office on 21st November 2013. It is a statutory requirement of the appeals process that the relevant papers and comments by or on behalf of the Deciding Officer on the grounds of appeal be sought from the Department of Social Protection. These papers were received in the Social Welfare Appeals Office on 10th February 2014 and the case will be referred to an Appeals Officer who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

  The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements.

State Pension (Non-Contributory) Appeals

 139. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the progress made to date in respect of an appeal for a State pension in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter.  [7266/14]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised me that an appeal by the person concerned was referred to an Appeals Officer on 23rd January 2014, who will make a summary decision on the appeal based on the documentary evidence presented or, if required, hold an oral hearing.

  The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions in relation to social welfare entitlements.

  Questions Nos. 140 and 141 withdrawn.


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