Need for more Resources to Investigate Unscrupulous Work Practices

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Dáil Issues, Jobs

In light of the revelations about work practices at Greyhound I asked the Minister about increasing resources to the National Employment Rights Authority.

To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the number of staff currently employed in NERA; his plans to increase that number and particularly to strengthen the numbers and powers of those working the inspectorate/investigating division.

– Clare Daly.

For ORAL answer on Thursday, 10th July, 2014

      Ref No: 29854/14

R E P L Y

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Mr Bruton)

In line with Government policy to reduce the overall staffing numbers in the public sector, staffing levels of my Department, its offices and Agencies, including NERA, are managed within the context of challenging staff reduction targets contained in the employment control framework managed centrally by the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Staffing of all business units is managed in that context, utilising available resources in the most effective and efficient manner as appropriate to business needs.

At end-January 2014 there were 795 FTE staff in DJEI, of which 101.43 full-time equivalents (FTE’s) were assigned to NERA. This represents a significant commitment of resources by the Department to maintaining the standard of service by NERA in an effective and efficient manner. This includes a team of fifty seven inspectors, including seven managers. Two of these inspectors are assigned other duties.

As the Deputy may be aware, I am currently implementing a programme to reform the State’s existing workplace relations structures. My objective is to deliver a world-class workplace relations service which is simple to use, independent, effective, impartial, cost effective and provides for workable means of redress and enforcement, within a reasonable period of time.

A new two-tier Workplace Relations structure will be established comprising two statutorily independent bodies replacing the current five (including NERA). We will have a new single body of first instance to be called the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) and a separate appeals body, which will effectively be an expanded Labour Court.

A significant amount of work has been completed on the preparation of the legislation which will give statutory effect to the new structures and associated processes. The Workplace Relations Bill will provide for a robust consolidated restatement of the powers of NERA inspectors that are currently provided for across a range of enactments dating back to 1946. The restatement of the powers of the inspectorate will provide a unified and strong statutory basis to all aspects of its work as part of the WRC, including the detection and, where necessary, the prosecution of employers who fail to comply with their statutory employment rights obligations to workers.

The Bill will also provide the inspectorate with a range of new and effective enforcement measures, including Compliance Notices and Fixed-Payment Notices. I am confident that the introduction of these measures will provide for more proportionate, efficient and effective enforcement of employment law.