Thursday, 1 April 1999
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. Haughey: I thank the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform for being present. He has had a very busy 48 hours or more at Hillsborough and I thank him for the work he was doing there on our behalf. Given the type of work they do, traffic wardens were never the most popular group. However, since the introduction of wheel clamping, motorists are beginning to realise wardens were decent people. They are the salt of the earth but have been treated very badly by two State bodies. A Government decision of 26 July 1995 transferred the traffic warden service to Dublin Corporation's director of traffic. The transfer is due to take effect on 12 April 1999. The traffic wardens are deeply unhappy about the negotiations which have taken place to date and they cannot seem to obtain basic replies to simple questions. They surely have a right to this information and are entitled to answers.
They merely want clarification on their future roles and they are entitled to this under the European Communities Safeguarding of Employees' Rights on Transfer of Undertakings Regulations, 1980. How many permanent traffic wardens will Dublin Corporation require? Will they carry out full duties as currently prescribed for traffic wardens? How long will they be retained as traffic wardens? What alternative work might they be offered? How many redundancies will be required? What is the legal position regarding existing contracts which they have with the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform?
It is a little daft to see the Department transferring employees to a local authority simply to make them redundant. The Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Environment and Local Government must get actively involved to sort this matter out, otherwise the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform will be obliged to reverse the decision of July 1995. His Department simply cannot abandon them and leave them to their own devices and allow Dublin Corporation to deal with the outstanding issue.
I hope the Minister will be sympathetic to their plight in his reply and endeavour to answer these basic questions and have their reservations clarified. Paragraph 7.1 of the European Communities Safeguarding of Employees' Rights on Transfer of Undertakings Regulations, 1980, states:
(ii) the transferee to the representatives of his employees in good time and in any event before his employees are directly affected by the transfer as regards their conditions of work and employment.
Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform (Mr. O'Donoghue): I thank Deputy Haughey for giving me the opportunity to clarify the position in regard to the transfer of the traffic warden service to Dublin Corporation. It is due to take place on 12 April 1999, and will give effect to a Government decision of 26 July 1995, which gives responsibility for traffic management in Dublin to Dublin Corporation. This was recommended to Government by the Minister for the Environment and Local Government as part of the Dublin transportation initiative plan.
The plan recommended the appointment by Dublin Corporation of a director of traffic to be employed by Dublin Corporation, who would take over responsibility from the Garda for traffic wardens, on the spot fines and tow away services, introduce wheel clamping and have overall responsibility for traffic management in Dublin city. The progress on the implementation of the Government decision is as follows: the director of traffic was appointed by the corporation in April 1997, wheel clamping was introduced in the summer of 1998 and the corporation took over responsibility for the tow away service in September 1998.
All 146 traffic wardens employed by the Garda Commissioner will be transferred to the corporation. They are State industrial employees and can, therefore, be transferred within the public sector. They will be transferred with the functions they discharge to a local authority such as Dublin Corporation. The transfer will bring the Dublin metropolitan area into line with the rest of the State whereby local authorities employ traffic wardens under the Local Government (Traffic Wardens) Act, 1975.
Traffic wardens and representatives from their unions, IMPACT and SIPTU, have been aware of the transfer since negotiations under the PCW pay agreement commenced in mid-1996. The Department of Justice, Equality and Law  Reform, the Garda Commissioner and Dublin Corporation have been involved in these negotiations and, as a result, joint proposals, which will enhance the traffic wardens' pay and conditions, were put to both unions last December. As recently as yesterday, my Department, together with representatives of the Commissioner, Department of Finance, Dublin Corporation, IMPACT and SIPTU, were engaged in prolonged and detailed discussions on the transfer and further discussions are planned to clarify arrangements and so on.
Furthermore, concerns were expressed that some traffic wardens are to be made compulsorily redundant following the transfer to the corporation. I completely refute this suggestion. As part of the PCW proposals, Dublin Corporation is prepared to offer the traffic wardens on transfer a voluntary retirement package for those who wish to avail of it. The transfer of the traffic wardens service will complete the transfer of traffic services to Dublin Corporation, thus fully implementing the Government decision.
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