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 Header Item Industrial Development (Continued)
 Header Item Flexible Work Practices
 Header Item Company Law

Thursday, 3 June 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1008 No. 3
Unrevised

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Dara Calleary: Information on Dara Calleary Zoom on Dara Calleary] There are many advantages to Ballina as an investment location and we have proven time and again our ability to deliver for any investor. What we need is for the passion of our employees and the passion of our community to be matched by IDA Ireland in terms of proactively developing this site for Ballina and then marketing it and ensuring that it is not be left on the shelf, as it has been, for nearly 30 years. We are a long way down the road on this and we still have no progress.

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy I reiterate my commitment to engage directly with IDA Ireland on behalf of the Deputy and seek assurances in relation to the plans for the site in Ballina. IDA Ireland, as part of its strategy for 2021-2024, has targeted 76 investments for the west region. No doubt part of that will include targeted investment for Ballina. I will work with both IDA Ireland and Deputy Calleary to advance this proposal.

Flexible Work Practices

 15. Deputy Colm Burke Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar the status of the national remote work strategy; the details of the implementation of the strategy; the progress being made to ensure that remote working will be a viable option post-Covid-19; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30177/21]

Deputy Colm Burke: Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke My question is in relation to the status of the national remote work strategy, the details of the implementation of the strategy and the progress being made to ensure that remote working will be a viable option post-Covid-19.

Deputy Leo Varadkar: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar My answer would be the same as the answer I gave to Deputy Carroll MacNeill a little earlier but if the Deputy has any supplementary questions, I would be happy to use the time to answer them.

Deputy Colm Burke: Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke I raise the issue of remote working. We now have a problem where we have new housing estates being built where we do not have connection to broadband for anything up to 12 months after estates are completed, and in some cases up to two to three years. If we are talking about remote working then surely when building estates we should be looking to have broadband connected at the same time as houses are completed. For instance, one will not get a broadband connection until there is a postal code and there is a gap of seven-to-eight months before a postal code is assigned.

Deputy Leo Varadkar: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar That has not been raised with me previously. In some parts of the country broadband is not available but I would have thought that anywhere a new housing estate or housing development is being built and if there is broadband in the area, it should be connected from day one. It is the fourth utility, as they say, water, electricity, sewerage, and telecommunications, and that is now broadband or fibre. It is something I can take up with the Minister of State, Deputy Peter Burke, or the Minister, Deputy Darragh O'Brien. Maybe it should be a planning condition that it is available early on or from day one, provided it is possible.

Deputy Colm Burke: Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke The issue raises the assignment of the postal code. Why does it take so much time to have a postal code assigned? Broadband will not be connected until there is a postal code assigned and the postal code is not assigned until the person physically moves into the house. Postal codes should be assigned before houses are completed. It is a simple matter to do. Once someone has signed a contract and the houses are substantially constructed, postal codes should be assigned.

Deputy Leo Varadkar: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The Deputy is correct. If I understand the technology correctly, there is no reason an Eircode could not be ascribed to a new home or a new building before it is occupied. It is a unique place identifier, not a person identifier. I do not see why that cannot be done.

It is not something that falls under my remit. It is under the remit of the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, but I will certainly follow up on it. It does not make any sense to me and perhaps it is something we can fix easily enough.

Deputy Colm Burke: Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke If we want to have remote working, then we must have all of the boxes ticked so that we can facilitate it in the fastest possible timeframe. I would urge that these technicalities would be resolved. They can be resolved.

  Question No. 16 replied to with Written Answers.

Company Law

 17. 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 status of the review by the Company Law Review Group of legal provisions on liquidations and the rights of employees in the context of company law; when the report will be published; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30198/21]

Deputy Catherine Connolly: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly It is a straightforward question on the status of the review by the Company Law Review Group of legal provisions on liquidations and the rights of employees in the context of company law.

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English The Company Law Review Group, CLRG, is a statutory advisory body charged with advising the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment on matters pertaining to company law. Its membership is broad and representative of all stakeholders, including employee and employer representative groups, the Revenue Commissioners, insolvency and legal practitioners as well as regulators. The members have an expertise in company law and provide a well-rounded analysis on the issues that come before them for consideration.

As part of the CLRG work programme, the Tánaiste requested they consider whether the legal provisions on collective redundancies and the liquidation of companies effectively protect the rights of workers as a matter of priority. A report was submitted to the Tánaiste, the Minister of State, Deputy Troy, and me on 5 March 2021, which included an Irish Congress of Trade Unions, ICTU, minority report. The recommendation included a revisit by the CLRG of some of the provisions of its previous analysis of the issue. The CLRG report has now been published on the group's website following its consideration by our officials.

I and the Minister of State, Deputy Troy, have jointly looked at the legislative provisions that deal with redundancy and insolvency from both a company law and an employment perspective which come under our respective remits. The report submitted by the CLRG along with the ICTU minority report were considered by our officials and both our community law unit and employment law unit as part of the development of a plan for action on collective redundancies following insolvency.

Both the Minister of State, Deputy Troy, and I discussed this plan with stakeholders last week. It was well received and we had a good long discussion on it as well. We intend for the plan to be published shortly after the Tánaiste brings it through Cabinet.

The plan details short-term and medium-term measures that will further enhance the protection of employees in a way that does not overly impede businesses and their operations. In preparing the plan, both the Minister of State, Deputy Troy, and I, and the Department officials, consulted with trade unions and business representative bodies in identifying gaps or deficiencies in company employment laws that could improve the position of employees who find themselves in a redundancy situation due to a company insolvency.

The Government stands ready to respond as the plan progresses, as we committed to both in the programme for Government but also in July last when the Tánaiste met with Mandate and some of the Members in relation to Debenhams. At the time we committed to, if we could at all, strengthening the legal position in relation to the protection of employees in these situations. That is what we are trying to do.

Deputy Catherine Connolly: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly I have the reply in my hand. I welcome that there is a plan and I welcome that it will be published. Perhaps the Minister of State can give a date. I will give the background to this. Duffy Cahill dates back to March 2016. Six years and a couple of months later, we witnessed the Debenhams workers. I managed to stand with them only on a few occasions. Certainly, they were the most impressive group, mostly women.

I ask the Minister of State, Deputy English, not to stand up and tell me it would not have helped the Debenhams workers because it arose from previous debacles in relation to Clerys and Connollys. That was the Duffy Cahill report. Perhaps it would not specifically have helped the Debenhams workers but it would have given some hope that the Government was serious about employee rights.

There were six recommendations then. All of them had to do with employment law, except one which was company law. The Government then got a review. What is the status of the review? Has it been completely published or are there parts still to be completed?

Deputy Damien English: Information on Damien English Zoom on Damien English The plan of action has been discussed with the unions and stakeholders and they are happy with our plans on this. Once it goes through Cabinet, we can discuss it fully here.

To be clear, we have had many discussions around Debenhams and the Duffy Cahill report. The authors of that report have not made the assertion that the Deputies keep making in here that it would have assisted or would have prevented the situation in Debenhams. The Duffy Cahill report was written in response to a situation in Clerys which is not the same as Debenhams. It is wrong that, repeatedly, Members come in here and make that link without any evidence or any connection. They are not similar situations.

Of course, we committed to the Debenhams workers and to many others to review this situation and to see how we could strengthen the legal position, not only to look at Duffy Cahill, although that was part of our work, but at the overall area from both a company law and employment law point of view, and we are making changes in that respect.

Some of the work from the CLRG is not yet completed. That will come forward in the autumn. We will act on that as well. We are in a position to strengthen the protections and certainly enhance the guidance there and work with all involved. The unions are happy with our approach on that as well and that is an important point.

Deputy Catherine Connolly: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly I tried to be careful with my words. I said clearly that it probably would not have helped the Debenhams workers.


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