Wednesday, 20 May 1992
Dáil Éireann Debate
2. Mr. Farrelly asked the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications if she has satisfied herself with the arrangements made by Bord Fáilte regarding the terms of employment for all of their staff who work at home and abroad; if she has any plans to enter into negotiations to review the present system.
Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications (Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn): I consider that the terms of employment for staff of State companies located abroad should provide for regular rotation of such staff in order to ensure that they do not lose contact with their home base.
Staff of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the IDA are regularly rotated and it is my desire to see similar arrangements introduced for foreign based staff of bodies under the aegis of my Department. I will be raising this matter with individual State bodies.
Mr. Farrelly: The Minister did not say whether this system was working in her Department. Is the system working in her Department? Did it ever work there or is there a need for its introduction? Does the Minister intend to pursue this matter?
Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: I have asked the two semi-State companies to which the Deputy is probably referring, Bord Fáilte and Aer Lingus, to provide details to my Department and myself in relation to the staff located abroad, the extent of their contract, whether they are under contract and how often those staff are rotated. In the case of Bord Fáilte it used to be the policy — I understand it may well still be the policy — that staff should be rotated. Whether that policy is implemented as rigorously as I or the Deputy might wish is another matter and that is what I am anxious to find out from the State bodies.
Mr. Farrelly: Is the Minister in favour of the staff being allocated to different countries on a five year contract? Will the Minister ensure, on the basis of the commitment and effort by these staff, and the increase in the number of tourists from the countries in which these staff work, that their annual budget is increased by a percentage equal to the percentage increase in tourists? This would give the staff the incentive to work harder. They should receive a reward in real terms.
Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: I am not sure it would be necessary to give them a financial reward. Rotating staff, such as is done by the IDA on a regular basis and is being done consistently by the Department of Foreign Affairs in embassies and consulates abroad every four or five years, is enough of an incentive for any employee of a State company to go out there and work very hard. The first year would be spent in getting to know the market; the second year would be used to push out the boundaries that existed before the staff member took up  duty and the next two years would be used to improve on that effort. For anybody it is good, if possible, to have a change every four or five years. It would be very good for the morale of staff located at headquarters if they knew that at some stage they would get an opportunity to go abroad to a different market, return to headquarters, renew themselves and then, perhaps, go to a different market abroad.
Mr. Farrelly: Will the Minister accept there has been a continuous reduction in the past five years in the allocation by Bord Fáilte to those working abroad? Would the Minister consider increasing the allocation on the basis of performance to promote Ireland?
Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn: As the Deputy is aware the Government decide towards the end of each year the budget requirements of each Department and that includes semi-State bodies under the aegis of those Departments. It is a matter for the semi-State companies to decide how they will divide that allocation each year. Despite severe economic recessionary times since 1987 Bord Fáilte have done reasonably well. I accept, as I am sure all Members do, that they could never have enough to do all the work we would like them to do abroad but they are certainly getting their fair share.
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