Thursday, 12 June 2003
Protection of Employees (Fixed-Term Work) Bill 2003: Report and Final Stages.
This amendment is being brought forward as a result of the acceptance on Committee Stage of an amendment proposed by Senator McDowell. I thank the Senator for his contribution in this regard.
Amendment agreed to.
Bill, as amended, received for final consideration.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass".
We have had a fruitful and co-operative discussion on the Bill on all Stages in this House. The process was aided by a number of substantial Opposition amendments which the House has seen fit to take on board in the version of the Bill before us today. A number of Government amendments were also tabled which Senators will acknowledge have improved the Bill. A small number of amendments tabled by Opposition Senators required further detailed consideration but, unfortunately, the period of time between Committee and Report Stages was not sufficient for me to bring back considered responses to this House. I have promised, however, to raise such issues on Committee Stage in the Dáil, which I understand will take place on Wednesday, 2 July, and report back to this House before the summer recess, on Friday, 4 July. I hope this will enable the Bill to be enacted by mid-July, thereby giving entitlements to some 70,000 fixed-term contract workers, particularly in the area of pay and pensions. I thank Senators, officials of this House and officials from my Department for their assistance in assuring a swift and effective passage of the Bill through the House.
I echo the words of the Minister of State and thank him and his officials for the work they have put into this Bill. I remind the House that much of the work in this area has been done as part of the partnership process. Representatives of both IBEC and the ICTU sat down with departmental officials to discuss this issue and worked at European level on the translation of the EU directive. While certain aspects of the legislation need to be sorted out, I acknowledge the fact that the Minister of State was so open to Opposition amendments. I am sure Senator Coghlan will support me in this regard. The Minister of State listened to issues of concern and both he and his officials were quite open to new ideas. This experience emphasises the importance of Seanad debates on these issues and the importance of initiating this type of legislation in this House, where changes can be made with less political conflict than is found in the other House. I thank the Minister of State and his officials once more.
I also record my appreciation of the Minister of State and his officials. I thank them for their careful and kind consideration. I concur with the remarks expressed by Senator O'Toole. The Minister of State has shown his respect for this House by considering the amendments brought forward by Senators. He has agreed to consider certain amendments before the Bill is examined by the Dáil and bring forward suggestions in that House. He will report back to this House after the Bill has been amended in the other House. It is important that we record our appreciation of the bodies mentioned by Senator O'Toole, IBEC and the ICTU. A great deal of work has been done by the social partners at national and European level, for example, by keeping an eye on the framework directive from which this legislation flowed. I express my appreciation of the Minister of State and his officials once more.
I join my colleagues in thanking the Minister of State for the attention he has given to this Bill. I thank the House for accepting amendments proposed by Senators on all sides of the House. The former Senator Pat Kennedy was a member of the Opposition when I was bringing through the Companies Bill as Minister of State. He expressed some most helpful ideas and thoughts in relation to the legislation at the time. I commend the Minister of State for his willingness to listen to others and assure him that Senators appreciate the fact that he is bringing so much legislation through this House. His attendance and that of his senior officials is also appreciated.
It is important that information is given to the public, as a great deal of legislation is being passed. We must ensure, for example, that the 70,000 who will benefit from this Bill are properly informed, for example, on a website or by e-mail. Perhaps the Department's website could provide a summary of the Bill to communicate the attractiveness of the new provisions to those who will be affected. The Minister of State and his officials, as well as IBEC and the ICTU, have put a great deal of work into it. The public may not be aware of the benefits to them of the legislation going through both Houses of the Oireachtas.
My colleague, Senator O'Toole, who is the 16th member of the Cabinet, is playing a very important role in Irish life. When negotiating with IBEC, however, I wonder why he did not ensure trainee nurses, trainee gardaí and members of the Army were not excluded from the remit of this Bill. He should have concerns in that regard. As a nominee of such organisations in the Seanad, I have a vested interest in this issue and must say I was very disappointed. I ask the Minister of State to speak to his colleagues, as I do not understand the reason members of the Defence Forces, trainee members of the Garda and trainee nurses are excluded from the benefits of section 17 of the Bill. They are the main employees at that level in the State.