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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 147-162
 Header Item Programme for Government
 Header Item Planning Issues
 Header Item Departmental Staff
 Header Item Health and Safety Authority
 Header Item Workplace Relations Commission
 Header Item Trade Agreements
 Header Item Work Permits
 Header Item Sick Pay Scheme
 Header Item Job Losses
 Header Item Enterprise Ireland
 Header Item EU Directives
 Header Item Industrial Development
 Header Item Action Plan for Jobs

Tuesday, 6 October 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 998 No. 5
Unrevised

First Page Previous Page Page of 120 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 147-162

Programme for Government

 147. Deputy Paul Kehoe Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe asked the Taoiseach Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin the status of the establishment of the Future of Media Commission outlined in the programme for Government; the timeline for progression of same. [28281/20]

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin On Tuesday 29 September, Government approved the terms of reference and membership of the Future of Media Commission.

  Professor Brian Mac Craith has been appointed as Chair of the Commission. Other members of the Commission include:

  - Sinéad Burke, Director of Tilting the Lens, writer and academic active in social media, and member of the Council of State

  - Alan Rusbridger, Chair of the Steering Committee of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford, and former Editor-in-Chief of Guardian News and Media

  - Lynette Fay, freelance broadcaster (broadcasting as Gaeilge and in English on BBC Radio Ulster) with an academic background in applied communications

  - Nuala O’Connor, co-founder of South Wind Blows, writer and documentary filmmaker in the areas of music and the Arts

  - Gillian Doyle, Professor of Media Economics (Theatre, Film and Television Studies), University of Glasgow

  - Mark Little, CEO and co-Founder of Kinzen. Founder of social news agency, Storyful

  - Stephen McNamara, Director of Communications, Irish Rugby Football Union

  - Dr Finola Doyle-O’Neill, Broadcast Historian, University College Cork

  - Two further proposed members have agreed to serve, subject to approval by their employers, and their names will be announced once this is obtained.

  The Commission has been constituted as an expert group, rather than a representative body. Members have a broad range of expertise and experience as journalists and/or academics in broadcast, print and online media at national and international level, including at senior editorial level.

  It is envisaged that the Commission will have extensive engagement with key stakeholders, including journalists and their representatives, publishers, regional media, and the wider public to inform its deliberations.

  The Future of Media Commission is tasked with:

  - proposing how public service broadcasting aims should be delivered in Ireland over the next ten years;

  - how this should contribute to supporting Ireland’s cultural and creative sectors;

  - how this work can be funded in a way that is sustainable, gives greater security of funding, ensures independent editorial oversight and delivers value for money to the public;

  - making recommendations on RTÉ’s role, financing and structure within this framework;

  - how this is overseen and regulated, having regard to our EU obligations including the requirements of the revised Audio-visual Media Services Directive.

  The Commission is to report within nine months on the necessary measures that need to be taken to ensure that there is a vibrant, independent and sustainable public service media for the next generation.

Planning Issues

 148. Deputy Louise O'Reilly Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly asked the Taoiseach Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin if the group of experts from the public service, academia, NGOs and the private sector has been convened as committed to in the programme for Government to devise a set of non-economic-based indicators to measure wellbeing and progress; if so, if a list of those on the group will be provided; and if not, the reason. [28075/20]

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin There is a recognised need for more comprehensive and holistic tools to better assess well-being as an aid to policy and budgetary decisions. We are committed to developing such new measures of well-being and progress as envisaged in the Programme for Government.

Much work has been done in this area which we can learn and build upon. The Department of Finance has conducted research exploring the best approach for the development of a new measure of well-being, drawing on the OECD framework and international approaches, and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform has done significant work on progressing Performance and Equality Budgeting over recent years.

Developing a comprehensive set of well-being measurement tools, building on this work already underway, will be taken forward as part of the work on developing a National Economic Plan, and will be one of the workstreams flowing from the Plan over the coming months. I anticipate that a Group of experts, as set out in the Programme for Government, will be convened to help guide this work following publication of the Plan.

  Question No. 149 answered with Question No. 6.

Departmental Staff

 150. Deputy Catherine Murphy Information on Catherine Murphy Zoom on Catherine Murphy asked the Taoiseach Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin the number of staff in his Department on sick leave between March and September by month in 2019 and to date 2020; the pay arrangements that exist for staff on sick leave for an extended period of time; the number of sick days accounted for by his Department over the period. [28943/20]

The Taoiseach: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin My Department takes an active approach to managing sick leave consistent with the relevant Department of Public Expenditure and Reform sick leave circulars. These also set out the sick leave entitlements of staff across the Civil Service including various limits which apply.

The most recent validated sick leave statistics for my Department relate to 2018.   My Department's Lost Time Rate for 2018 was 2.09% and the average number of working days lost per WTE in my Department in 2018 was 4.78 days. This compares favourably to the Civil Service averages for 2018 which reflected a civil service average rate of 4.4% Lost Time Rate and 10 working days lost per WTE.

  The details requested by the Deputy in respect of 2019 and 2020 are set out in the table below. It should be noted that these figures have been provided by the National Shared Service Office and will not be fully validated until later this year.

Month Year No. of Staff on Sick Leave
March 2019 17
  2020 10
April 2019 21
  2020 1
May 2019 24
  2020 2
June 2019 19
  2020 3
July 2019 16
  2020 3
August 2019 14
  2020 3
September 2019 14
  2020 3

Health and Safety Authority

 151. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the number of workplace inspectors in the employ of the HSA; the estimated full-year cost of their employment; and the percentage of businesses inspected by them in 2019 and to date in 2020. [28186/20]

 155. Deputy Bríd Smith Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the number of workplace inspectors in the employ of the HSA; the estimated full year cost of their employment; and the number of businesses inspected by them in 2019 and to date in 2020. [28192/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take Questions Nos. 151 and 155 together.

The staff of the Health and Safety Authority is comprised of both administration and inspector grades. The inspector grades comprise of Grade I (senior inspectors) as well as GII and GIII inspectors. Inspectors operate across all mandates of the Health and Safety Authority including occupational health and safety and market surveillance of products and chemicals. They may also be involved in either general inspection, specialist inspection, investigation or implementing policy developed at national, European and international level.

At the end of 2019, the Health and Safety Authority employed 181 staff, including inspectors, professional and technical specialists, administrators and clerical staff. Of the 181 staff, 105 were employed in inspector grades. Payroll costs for 2019 amounted to approximately €10M. The payroll costs for those in inspector grades was approximately €7.5M.

At the end of August 2020, the Health and Safety Authority employed 181 staff, including inspectors, professional and technical specialists, administrators and clerical staff. Of the 181 staff, 109 were employed in inspector grades. The total Exchequer pay allocation for the Health and Safety Authority in 2020 is €12m. Full year pay costs are not yet available.

In 2019, the Health and Safety Authority completed 10,302 inspections and investigations under its occupational health and safety, and chemical mandates.

From the beginning of 2020 to the end of August 2020, the Health and Safety Authority has completed 6,780 inspections and investigations under its occupational health and safety, and chemical mandates. Of these inspections / investigations, 3,265 addressed COVID-19.

Workplace Relations Commission

 152. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the number of workplace inspectors in the employ of the Workplace Relations Commission; the estimated full-year cost of their employment; and the percentage of businesses inspected by them in 2019 and to date in 2020. [28188/20]

 156. Deputy Bríd Smith Information on Bríd Smith Zoom on Bríd Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the number of workplace inspectors employed by the Workplace Relations Commission; the estimated full-year cost of their employment; and the number of businesses inspected by them in 2019 and to date in 2020. [28195/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I propose to take Questions Nos. 152 and 156 together.

  The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) is an independent, statutory body under the aegis of my Department, established on 1st October 2015 under the Workplace Relations Act 2015. The WRC’s core services include the inspection of employment rights compliance, the provision of information, adjudicating on complaints under employment protection, equality and industrial relations legislation and the provision of mediation, conciliation, facilitation and advisory services.

  1. Number of Inspectors:

  The WRC Inspectorate is staffed by civil servants of my Department. As at 30 September 2020, there are a total of 48 WRC Labour Inspectors. Table 1 attached provides details of the grade, number and regional location of these inspectors. In addition, there are panels in place for the assignment of 5 further inspector grades and, working with the Public Appointments Service, new regional panels will shortly be established.

  Table 1 number of inspectors

  2. Number of inspections 2019 and to date 2020:

  The aim of the WRC Inspectorate is to achieve voluntary compliance with employment law through the provision of education and awareness, inspection of employers’ employment records and enforcement where necessary. While every effort is made to secure compliance, some employers either refuse or fail to rectify the breaches identified and/or pay money due to their employees. These cases are referred for prosecution.

  The Inspectorate Division of the WRC carries out inspections of employer records with a view to determining compliance with employment rights legislations. These inspections arise:

  - In response to complaints received of alleged non-compliance with relevant employment rights legislation;

  - As part of compliance campaigns which focus on compliance in specific sectors or specific pieces of legislation; or

  - From routine inspections (announced and unannounced) which act as an overall control measure.

  In 2019 WRC inspectors carried out 4,804 inspections or compliance checks with €3,929,840 unpaid wages recovered. The draft figures for 2020 to date indicate that 5,166 inspections or compliance checks have been carried out with €1,323,913 unpaid wages recovered. Since early June, all inspectors and inspector team managers of the WRC have also been engaged in compliance visits on behalf of the HSA to ensure that Covid-19 Return to Work Safely Protocols were being observed by businesses in specific sectors. Of the total number of inspections in 2020, approximately 3,500 inspections included checks on the Covid-19 Return to Work Safely Protocols.

  3. Cost of the WRC Inspectorate 2019 and to date 2020:

  As an office of my Department, the WRC is funded through my Department’s Vote. In 2019, the basic pay cost for the inspections services of the WRC was €2,427,500. Travel and subsistence costs amounted to a further €381,477 in the same period bringing the total cost of the WRC inspections services in 2019, to €2,808,977.

  Up to 2nd October 2020, the basic pay cost for the inspections services was €1,917,442 with expenditure of €171,377 on travel and subsistence incurred up to the 29 September 2020.   It is anticipated that these costs will increase by 25% over the remainder of this year. As such the estimated total expenditure in respect of the inspections services on basic pay in 2020 is €2,396,803 and €214,221 on travel and subsistence, totalling €2,611,024 estimated for full year 2020. This is slightly less than last year as it includes the Covid-19 lockdown period when most businesses were closed and travel was severely restricted.

Trade Agreements

 153. Deputy Eoin Ó Broin Information on Eoin Ó Broin Zoom on Eoin Ó Broin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the status of the publication of a report commissioned on the economic and sustainability impact assessment for Ireland of the EU-Mercosur Trade Agreement. [28112/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar In January 2020, my Department, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, commissioned independent consultancy firm, Implement Consulting, to undertake an Economic and Sustainability Impact Assessment (ESIA) of the EU-Mercosur Agreement following a competitive tender process.

The ESIA will consist of two equally important and complementary components, namely a comprehensive analysis of the potential economic benefits as well as a robust sustainability impact assessment (including social, human rights and environmental impacts) that the trade Agreement could have in Ireland and the Mercosur countries of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Similarly, a wide-ranging consultation process will ensure the engagement of all relevant stakeholders in the conduct of the Impact Assessment.

In line with commitments in the Programme for Government, the ESIA is designed to assist Government in formulating its position on future ratification of the Agreement and it is my intention, working in conjunction with the Minister for Agriculture Food and the Marine, that Government will have the ESIA available to us to assist our decision-making on the Agreement ahead of the European Commission presenting the Member States with the legally-proofed texts of the Agreement.

Work by the Consultants on the ESIA is well advanced with my Department informed that the bulk of the research has been completed. It is my intention that the Report will be published once it has been received and considered by the Government.

Work Permits

 154. Deputy Niall Collins Information on Niall Collins Zoom on Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if a person working in Ireland under the work permit programme can transfer to another employer in the same specific sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28143/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Ireland operates a managed employment permits system maximising the benefits of economic migration and minimising the risk of disrupting Ireland’s labour market. The system is designed to facilitate the entry of appropriately skilled non-EEA nationals to fill skills and/or labour shortages, however, this objective must be balanced by the need to ensure that there are no suitably qualified Irish/EEA nationals available to undertake the work and that the shortage is a genuine one.

The system is, by design, vacancy led and managed through the operation of the critical skills and ineligible occupations lists which determine employments that are either in high demand or are ineligible for consideration for an employment permit. An employment permit may be granted for an eligible occupation where there is a direct contractual arrangement between an employer and an employee and are not sector specific. Once granted, the employment permit allows the non-EEA national to commence employment in the State in the employment, with the employer, and for the period as stated on the permit.

Under the Employment Permits Acts a permit holder on their first employment permit in the State is expected to stay with the initial employer for a period of 12 months. An application for a new employment permit for a different employer, submitted within that period, will only be considered in certain circumstances such as where the employment relationship has fundamentally changed or where the permit holder has been made redundant. This attempts to strike a reasonable balance between, the employer’s expectations that the permit holder remain in his or her employment for a reasonable period of time given the costs involved in recruiting the permit holder and, on the other hand, not unduly binding the permit holder to the employer.

After 12 months the permit holder may move employer subject to a new application for an employment permit and subject to the relevant criteria.

  Question No. 155 answered with Question No. 151.

  Question No. 156 answered with Question No. 152.

Sick Pay Scheme

 157. Deputy Holly Cairns Information on Holly Cairns Zoom on Holly Cairns asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if his attention has been drawn to reports that an organisation (details supplied) is refusing to engage unions on issues relating to sick pay for workers in meat plants; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28252/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Industrial relations are based on voluntarism. The Minister has no power to compel parties to engage with one another. Should parties wish to explore collective bargaining in an impartial environment the conciliation services of the WRC are available.

I have publicly stated my intention to establish a Statutory Sick Pay Scheme in full consultation with employers and unions. This will build on the various improvements that have been made to social protections for workers over the last five years, including paternity benefit, parental leave benefit and the extension of social insurance benefits to the self-employed and those in the gig economy. In addition, further significant benefits, including enhanced illness benefit, have already been introduced by the Government in response to Covid-19. The introduction of a statutory sick pay scheme will guarantee horizontal sick pay protections for all employees regardless of the sector in which they work.

Job Losses

 158. Deputy Holly Cairns Information on Holly Cairns Zoom on Holly Cairns asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will intervene in situations in which employees of meat processing plants are laid off due to the fact they live in direct provision. [28253/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Ireland’s employment rights frameworks are horizontal, meaning that any statutory employment right must protect all workers and cannot discriminate on a sectoral or other basis, such as where a person lives.

  Ireland has a comprehensive body of employment legislation, in respect of which the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) is mandated to secure compliance, and we have a strong track record when it comes to protecting the rights of workers. Ireland’s employment rights legislation protects all employees who are legally employed on a contract of service basis.

  When selecting employees for lay off or short-time working, employers must apply the same criteria for selection as for redundancy. The criteria should be reasonable and applied fairly.

  Under employment equality legislation selection for lay-off must not discriminate against employees on any of the 9 grounds. Any worker who feels they have been treated unfairly may pursue their case with the WRC.

  Similarly, any workers who feel they have been unfairly dismissed can pursue a case with the WRC under various pieces of legislation such as; the Unfair Dismissals Act or Protection of Employees Acts for Fixed-Term and Part-Time workers.

  A complaint or multiple complaints can be submitted to the WRC by completing the online form available from on the WRC website at www.workplacerelations.ie.

  The WRC Information & Customer Service centre can also be contacted at 1890 80 80 90.

Enterprise Ireland

 159. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if he will authorise Enterprise Ireland to release some funds granted under the disruptive technologies programme to companies such as a company (details supplied) without the venture private capital being in place first in view of the impact of Covid-19 on the venture capital markets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28572/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund (DTIF) is a €500 million fund, running from 2018 to 2027, established as part of the National Development Plan under Project Ireland 2040. It is administered by Enterprise Ireland on behalf of my Department.

The Fund is available for collaborative projects seeking investment in the development and deployment of disruptive innovative technologies and applications, on a commercial basis, targeted at tackling national and global challenges. SME participation is a requirement of all consortia.

One of the eligibility criteria for DTIF is the requirement for all enterprise partners to provide matching funding, equal to the amount they are seeking from the Fund. This is in keeping with the EU State Aid rules under which the Fund operates, and which are aimed at preventing the use of State resources to distort competition in the marketplace.

Enterprise Ireland is engaging with all the project partners as part of the DTIF portfolio management process and provides special attention to SME participants. A number of small companies, awarded funding in principle from DTIF (subject to meeting drawdown requirements), have received advice on private funding options available to help them meet the financial capacity requirements under the Fund and Enterprise Ireland will continue to engage with such companies in this regard. While providing as much flexibility as possible, there are key drawdown requirements that must be observed.

The Fund is an important mechanism for facilitating SMEs to grow, to scale-up and to attract investment. Indeed, there have already been several notable successes where SMEs involved in DTIF projects have attracted significant additional private investment even beyond what they have already invested themselves.

EU Directives

 160. Deputy Catherine Connolly Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the cost to his Department to date of all fines paid by Ireland for non-transposition of EU directives into Irish law; the breakdown, by directive of the lump sum cost and the daily cost of each fine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28609/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar My Department has not incurred any costs in relation to fines for non-transposition of EU directives into Irish law.

Industrial Development

 161. Deputy Brendan Griffin Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar his views on a matter (details supplied); and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28698/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The property that the Deputy is referring to is not owned by IDA Ireland. However, the Agency has included this building in its database of available property solutions for prospective clients looking to invest or expand in County Kerry.

More generally, County Kerry has witnessed a number of significant announcements from IDA client companies in recent years including investments from JRI America, Central Pharma and Sigmar. There are now 18 IDA client companies in the County employing nearly 2,200 people. The enterprise agencies under my remit will continue to engage with their clients and with one another to secure further investment and job creation for Kerry and the South-West region.

Action Plan for Jobs

 162. Deputy Louise O'Reilly Information on Louise O'Reilly Zoom on Louise O'Reilly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar if his Department will be producing an action plan for jobs in 2020 or 2021; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [28715/20]

Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Deputy Leo Varadkar): Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Building on the extensive enterprise and employment supports that had already been deployed, the €7.4 billion July Stimulus Package was, as promised, a package of measures of sufficient scale that demonstrates the commitment this Government has to stand behind enterprises, limit the damage to our economy wreaked by this pandemic and get our people back to work. Indeed, it is bigger in scale than most budgets and it is being deployed at speed.

Having come through the initial economic shock with unprecedented levels of State intervention stabilising the economy, the focus is now on sustaining the recovery in the face of uncertainty and disruption while seeking to minimise permanent loss of economic activity and employment. As such, the next steps in our recovery journey will be mapped out in the October Budget and the subsequent National Economic Plan.

The National Economic Plan will set out a vision for what our post-COVID economy will look like. The plan will set longer term objectives for the economy post crisis and identify policies and strategies to achieve those objectives. While the focus of Government action up to now has been on protecting workers, households and firms, the plan will need to look to the future and show how our economy can be positioned to exploit opportunities for growth in emerging sectors and in areas such as new ways of working, while also addressing how we will prepare for the transitioning of enterprises and workers in response to technology and climate change developments. Ireland’s flexible and skilled labour force has traditionally been a strength of the country and reskilling and upskilling of the labour force in response to anticipated future skills needs a core element to be progressed under the plan.

The plan will be progressed over the coming weeks and I would expect it to launch in November.

In 2019, the Action Plan for Jobs series was replaced by Future Jobs Ireland, a whole-of-government framework to prepare Ireland for the challenges and opportunities ahead in terms of the transition to a digital and low carbon economy. Future Jobs Ireland was designed with the aim of integrating innovation and resilience into our economy and ensuring our enterprises and workers would be well positioned to adapt to the twin transitions.

The Programme for Government commits to updating the Future Jobs Ireland framework and will be taken forward as part of the implementation of the National Economic Plan.


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