Thursday, 12 July 2012
Industrial Relations (Amendment)(No. 3) Bill 2011: Committee Stage
David Cullinane (Sinn Fein)
Then the Minister will fully understand the point I shall make. I was part of group that developed the housing policy for Waterford City Council. We developed a scheme of letting priorities by setting out the parameters under which people were entitled to housing and the housing officials were then given the power and responsibility to implement the policy. They decided to whom and how people were allocated houses without political interference. It was prescriptive and stated what the local authority housing officers needed to abide by. The political oversight is where we would decide policy. That is right and appropriate because there should not be interference in decisions made by a housing officer because then it would become a difficult situation where a person's political priorities came first.
I shall make the same comparison to what is happening here because the provision is similar and I disagree with it. We could have a Minister who is minded and guided by a certain ideology and could disregard a recommendation or not make an order. I accept the point made by the Minister that it is the function of a Minister to make an order. He or she should only do so on foot of a recommendation by a court. I shall quote the Minister when he published the Bill. He said: "I have been determined to strike a balance between protecting vulnerable workers and providing reforms that would make the systems more competitive and more flexible so to allow for the creation of jobs in these sectors." In so doing he is creating a false dichotomy because, on the one hand, the creation of jobs must be done or is in some way in conflict with workers' rights. That is the connotation of what has been said here and that is why many people have a difficulty with a Minister who holds that view and mindset and wants the power to set aside decisions made by the court. That is the reason my party is concerned about the amendment.
I have made one analogy but there are many other analogies such as the planning system. Our local authority members and legislators provide legislation for planning whether it is national planning guidelines, regional planning guidelines or development plans crafted by councils. They draft policy. The planners are the experts and have the devolved authority to implement the guidelines that have already been laid down. That is political oversight and I argue that the same thing should happen here. We are the legislators and my party has set out the parameters contained in the Bill. The Labour Court is the body that can adjudicate on such matters and make a recommendation. The Minister should simply have regard for that system and make the order. He might call it rubber stamping but that is fair enough because that is the process. There should be no political interference or a perception of same.