Tuesday, 19 April 2005
Dáil Eireann Debate
296. Mr. Rabbitte asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment if a formal complaint was made to the labour inspectorate during the course of 2001 regarding the treatment by a company (details supplied) of its employees; the action that was taken on foot of any such complaint; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [12007/05]
Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Mr. Killeen): In October 2001, a company complained to the Department that a successful rival from overseas had been granted employment permits to bring overseas workers into the State and that the use of such labour was prompted by lower labour costs. Officials of the Department met the complainant and in the course of a detailed discussion it was alleged that the company in question could not have won a particular contract if they were compliant with the pay norms for the sector. No evidence was provided to support this assertion. In subsequent correspondence the complainant repeated the claims and referred to the registered employment agreement, REA, for the sector, in particular.
In view of the growing international involvement in the construction sector, the Department decided, as an initial step, to request evidence from the company in question as to its rates of pay. The Department requested that the company’s auditors provide confirmation of the hourly rates being paid to the company’s overseas workers in Ireland. This information was supplied in January 2002. Following examination of this information within the Department, the company was requested, in March 2002, to have its auditors provide a certificate to the effect that the rates of pay applying to the overseas workers complied with the terms of the relevant REA.
As a result of the Department’s request, in April 2002 the company’s legal advisers and its auditors carried out a joint exercise, based on a representative sample of employees, whereby the basic hourly rates of pay, in euro, of the employees in question were compared with the payslips of the same employees and their letters of secondment. The results of this exercise, together with supporting documentation were submitted to the Department in April 2002. The auditors made clear that this exercise did not constitute a formal audit. The Department also received confirmation from the company’s legal adviser that the hourly rates applied to the overseas workers were in accordance with the REA and that the workers in question each received a pay slip which complied with the provisions of the Payment of Wages Act.
The documentation received from the company’s auditors and legal advisors was examined in the employment rights division of the Department, which includes the labour inspectorate. This examination raised a number of questions and, later in April 2002, the company was asked for written clarification of the issues identified. A detailed response of these questions was received from the company’s legal advisers in May 2002. Examination of this response indicated general compliance with the various aspects of employment law in question.
The Department wrote to the original complainant in May 2002 informing them of the outcome of the Department’s enquiries in this area and advised that, with regard to the construction industry registered employment agreements, it is always open to a third party such as the trade union representative of the workers or to an employer or to a trade union representative of employers to complain to the Labour Court that an employer is in breach of a registered employment agreement. Complaints regarding alleged non-compliance with any legislation should be supported by evidence. In light of the available information, and the original complaint, the Department had no further issues to raise with the complainant at that time.
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