Seanad debates

Friday, 27 March 2020

An Bille um Bearta Éigeandála ar mhaithe le Leas an Phobail (Covid-19) 2020: Céim an Choiste agus na Céimeanna a bheidh Fágtha - Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Covid-19) Bill 2020: Committee and Remaining Stages

 

12:00 pm

Photo of Alice Mary HigginsAlice Mary Higgins (Independent) | Oireachtas source

I will be very brief. I would not have pressed my amendments; I would have withdrawn them. I hope the Minister will be able to address my concerns. The language used in the Bill is not strong enough. For example, I had sought that the "ability to pay" be used as the language in the provision because we have a mechanism for asserting inability to pay rather then reasonable efforts or best efforts. That language is vague and does not give assurance. It is unusual to include in legislation something that is to drift into the mind of an employer and what the employer might mean and what the employer might regard on balance when we have those mechanisms. Insolvency and bankruptcy have been discussed, but potentially more relevant to the issue is ability to pay.

If there are organisations and companies where the subsidy is being exercised, and I urge companies to exercise this provision in respect of protecting their staff, it should not be regarded as a subsidy that allows the company to continue to increase the wages of the highest paid in the organisation or to give share dividends or other bonuses. My amendment simply sought to provide that we would not have a situation where there are bonuses and wage top-ups at the top level if the State is effectively subsidising the wages at the lower levels. I had hoped that it might have been possible to have a legislative provision on that. We might have to revisit it in future extensions, but the Minister might give me an assurance on how he plans to address both issues.

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