Wednesday, 30 January 1985
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Flynn: asked the Minister for  Industry, Trade, Commerce and Tourism if he will give details of information available to him on the level of absenteeism in the manufacturing industry sector; if he is satisfied that all possible action is being taken to reduce the levels of absenteeism; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Mr. J. Bruton: There are no comprehensive statistics available to calculate accurate absenteeism levels for Irish industry. The available evidence would suggest a general absenteeism rate of the order of 8 per cent to 13 per cent. International comparisons are equally difficult but Ireland's position would seem to be close to the West European average.
I have been very concerned at the effect of absenteeism on our industrial competitiveness and I believe that action can be taken to reduce the levels of absenteeism. In order to see what positive action could be undertaken by Government to improve the situation, I established in 1983 a ministerial task force to investigate the issue and report back to me. I now have their report and recommendations and I hope to be in a position to present them to Government shortly. At this stage, however, I should stress that, while the Government may initiate certain action to combat absenteeism, it is primarily a function of management to tackle absenteeism at the level of the individual firm.
Mr. Flynn: The Minister says that the absenteeism rate is between 8 per cent and 13 per cent, but would he confirm that there are certain sections of industry with absenteeism rates in excess of 20 per cent? Could he give a breakdown in regard to the various types of industries? Will he make available to the House a copy of the report from the task force concerning this matter?
Mr. J. Bruton: Unfortunately there is not sufficient statistical information available. Any information I could supply would not be sufficient to be of scientific value for policy purposes. I cannot give the House an undertaking that this report  will be made available until the Government decide on both the recommendations and the issue of whether it should be published, but what is really important are the recommendations and acting upon them.
I have asked the IDA to obtain information in respect of absenteeism from all firms applying for grants and from all firms above a certain size. That request was made some months ago and has been effective for the last two months. I hope that in due time that request for additional information will influence the firms towards a better performance.
Mr. Flynn: Since the Minister has established a task force to look into this matter, it must have been part of their terms of reference to carry out a scientific analysis of absenteeism so far as it affects the various sectors.
Mr. Flynn: Would the Minister clarify his reasons for saying that he is not in a position and cannot give a commitment to the House to make this report available to us? The level of absenteeism in manufacturing and other industry is of grave public concern and this is the kind of report which should be available to the House.
Mr. J. Bruton: My own preference would be to publish, but I cannot say that until the Government make their decision. I can go no further than that. The report contains 13 major recommendations which, in my view, are very much to the point. I hope the report, whether published or not, will have a very important and benficial influence on the State's contribution to improving this situation. I have taken steps to improve the monitoring of absenteeism in all State agencies and companies under my aegis because it is important that Government should set an example.
Mr. S. Brennan: Has the Minister on file any indication of what that level of  absenteeism might be in the State agencies under his control? If that information is not readily available I will understand, but I would like to look at the figure. Has the Minister any indication if it is better or worse than the average?
Mr. J. Bruton: No decision has been made on that point yet. Therefore, it would be premature to give reasons for or against but when we have taken a decision I will explain what we are doing and why we are doing it.
Mr. R. Burke: The Minister has whetted our appetites regarding the 13 major recommendations involved. Will any of these recommendations need legislative action or will they be on a day-to-day basis of encouragement?
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