Thursday, 28 January 2016
Topical Issue Debate
I wish to raise with the Minister of State, Deputy Humphreys, the appointment of a liquidator to Xtra-vision yesterday and the impact this has had on the staff of the company. It was announced before Christmas that a number of stores would closed and that staff would be let go. Staff understood they would receive their redundancy payments immediately. The appointment of a liquidator means the situation has changed.
Staff are worried about how long they will have to wait before they receive their redundancy payments. I understand some staff learned only yesterday that stores would close and did not have advance notice. It was a major shock for them. The issue has been raised with me and there are other such cases. I am concerned about how staff in such situations are treated. The appointment of a liquidator can lead to fear and uncertainty on the part of staff at a time when they need to be informed in advance of what is happening, told about their entitlements and so on.
I would like the Minister of State to outline the entitlements of the staff in terms of redundancy payments, the timeframe involved and whether anything can be done to expedite their payments. If there is any delay in payments, it could have a major impact on families' outgoings. Will the Department of Social Protection, in particular through local offices such as those in Clondalkin which is based in my constituency where there is a store, make arrangements to give assistance and advice to the staff concerned? Will their jobseeker's allowance claims be expedited in any way or will supplementary welfare payments be made in cases where the need arises? What special arrangements are being made to assist the staff in this situation?
I thank the Deputy. This issue arose on Leaders' Questions and the Order of Business today. It is a very difficult time for the staff who have lost their jobs in this manner. My heart goes out to them. It is always very difficult for families when redundancy crosses the doorsteps. I thought of it very clearly today, when I read in a newspaper what had happened to the workers.
My colleague, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Richard Bruton, has responsibility for all matters to do with company law, the appointment of liquidators and the execution of the liquidation process. The priority of my Department is to ensure workers receive their statutory entitlements. Employees who lose their jobs due to the liquidation of their employers are entitled to statutory redundancy payments and other wage related payments due at the time of liquidation. In the first instance, the staff of Xtra-vision who have lost their jobs as a result of the closure should contact the liquidator to ensure they receive their statutory redundancy and wage related payments.
My Department will deal promptly with applications to do with redundancy and insolvency payment schemes in respect of the former employees of Xtra-vision when they are received from the liquidator.
The employees should also contact their local Intreo office where Department staff will advise them on jobseeker's payments and other supports. They will also provide advice and supports on returning to work to all those affected by the closure of Xtra-vision. If the Deputy is aware of individual cases that have fallen through the cracks, so to speak, she should not hesitate to contact the Department directly but I have found that in such cases, the Department reacts swiftly and deals sympathetically with the applicants who are going through a difficult time in losing their jobs. Some of them may have been working for Xtra-vision for quite some time and, therefore, it is a difficult situation for them. Many of them may not be sure of the benefits they are entitled to but the Deputy can rest assured that my Department will respond appropriately.
Unfortunately, within the Dublin region, many of the employees may be located across the city. In rural areas outside Dublin, we can deal with these cases on a one-stop-shop basis but in a major urban area like Dublin, the employees are located across the city and, therefore, it is much easier for them to access their local Intreo office. In the first instance I would encourage them to submit their applications and discuss their situation with the staff in the Intreo office. The Deputy will find that the staff in the Intreo offices will respond appropriately and do everything they can to assist. They will explain clearly all the benefits to which these employees are entitled. We will do our best to ensure that any issue is resolved in a speedy manner but if there are particular issues that are not being resolved or cases of someone falling through the cracks, the Deputy should not hesitate to come directly to my office.
As I will not have an opportunity to speak again, I want to take the opportunity to thank the Acting Chairman, the Ceann Comhairle, the staff and the broadcasting services. I wish my party colleagues and all Deputies the best of luck in the future, including in the upcoming election.
I thank the Minister for his reply, which I did not get a copy of, but is there a timeframe in terms of people submitting their application for the redundancy payment? What is the normal timeframe for processing those applications? I appreciate what the Minister said about the individual cases. That should happen in practice but it does not always happen. I know that great assistance is generally given by staff in Intreo offices but can the Minister do anything to raise awareness among staff in the offices closest to the Xtra-vision stores that are closing that there will be a need to give assistance to the former staff of the stores? I accept there are many stores involved but it should be possible to identify particular social welfare offices whose staff could be informed that people will be in need of assistance. It is to ensure there is an awareness among the Department of Social Protection staff that this will happen and to be prepared for it.
I thank the Deputy for her question. She can rest assured that there will be an awareness of that within the Intreo offices, certainly of the 350 people who lost their jobs in the Xtra-vision stores. The priority of the Department is to ensure that the workers receive their statutory redundancy and other wage related payments due at the time of liquidation. I give the Deputy an undertaking that we will make sure that the staff in the local Intreo offices across the city are aware of Xtra-vision's situation and we will work as best we can in that regard. I cannot give the Deputy an exact timeframe for processing the applications. Every application can differ slightly in terms of the speed with which the information is provided by the client but she can rest assured we will do everything to speed up the process to ensure they get what are their statutory rights.