Ahern's Bills

It has probably been forgotten that during his tenure as Minister for Labour, Bertie Ahern introduced the following Bill:

PAYMENT OF WAGES ACT, 1991

The Act, it appears, was badly needed as a replacement to the Truck Acts. But what the Minister for Labour said is very interesting. Especially for a man who says he was cashing all his cheques and who appears to have only dealt in cash between 1986 and 1993 at least, and saved £50,000 cash in those years. On May 23, 1991, Ahern said:

My own interest in the Truck Acts is of more recent origin, prompted by a variety of modern-day concerns about effective and cost-efficient methods of wage payments. Throughout Europe, there has been a clear move away from cash wages. Of the countries where figures are available, Denmark appears to have the highest level of non-cash wage payment, with 95 per cent of employees paid otherwise than in cash. Some other European countries, including Spain, Belgium, and the former West Germany, all report levels of non-cash wage payment in the range 75 per cent to 90 per cent. In the United Kingdom, the percentage of employees paid wages, otherwise than in cash, is around 65 per cent. Ireland is at the bottom of the league. An FIE survey some years ago showed that just under half of all employees in this country were paid by a mode other than cash.

Or:

The Bill will facilitate the movement from cash to cashless pay which has advantages for employers and employees alike. For employees there are advantages in being paid through a bank account, through having less cash at risk of theft or loss and in having access to other services, such as a facility to pay bills by cheque or standing order, etc. For employers there are considerable savings arising from administrative efficiencies. Staff are not longer needed to make up [79] pay packets and security and insurance requirements are diminished.

Some employee interests have suggested that the Bill should include a right for employees to time-off for the cashing of cheques. I think this is an issue best left for discussion and arrangement between employer and employees at local level, depending on the circumstances, like the location of individual firms the distance to travel and local services. The prospective savings of a move to cashless pay may encourage some employers to offer other incentives to their employees to opt for a change-over to some form of cashless pay. Initiatives by employers, in co-operation perhaps with banks and other financial institutions and in consultation with their employees and their unions, could in my view go a long way towards providing the necessary momentum for change.

But Ahern never did what he lauds in the Bill, which was enacted in July 1991. No, he would cash his cheques. Every one. For seven years at least. What on earth was he doing that for?

Or this gem from 1999, Bruton versus Ahern concerning the Gilmartin allegations:

Mr. J. Bruton: The Taoiseach said last night he regarded some contributions made to parties and politicians as appropriate and others as inappropriate. From what he knows about it, does the Taoiseach think the contribution made by Mr. Gilmartin to Mr. Flynn was appropriate or inappropriate?

The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern

The Taoiseach: I have no information on whether the contribution was actually given but as I have said previously in this House if people take contributions of £30,000, £40,000 or £50,000 it is very hard to explain and for that reason I do not think people should do that. Contributions of that order cannot ever be explained to the ordinary man or woman in the street. For that reason I do not think they are appropriate.

Mr. J. Bruton Mr. J. Bruton

Mr. J. Bruton: Was the Taoiseach shocked when he heard of this allegation?

The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern

The Taoiseach: Yes.

Shocked? No way. Ahern was well used to contributions of this scale.

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