CEISTEANNA (QUESTIONS).

To ask the Minister for Finance whether it was on his instructions the Secretary of Dáil Éireann questioned my right to maintenance allowance for the period of the last Dáil meeting.—Seamus Mac Gearailt.

There was no question asked any Deputy as to maintenance allowance on my behalf. The Secretary of Dáil Éireann acts on his own initiative in such matters. He is responsible to the auditor for any sums he gives out under this heading and any questions he may have put are with a view to safeguarding himself in this regard.

(b) Chun an Aire um Rialtas Aitiúil.

(To the Minister for Local Government).

To ask the Minister for Local Government whether—

(1) It is the intention of the Local Government Department to withhold from the grants payable to Co. Councils any sums in respect of Irish Land Commission Annuities which have not been paid;

(2) If that is the intention of the Department whether due consideration will be given in respect of areas where non-payment has been ordered by the I.R.A.—P.J. Ward.

In reply to the first question, as all Local Taxation Grants are security to the Irish Exchequer for the payment of Land Purchase Annuities, it follows that where in any county there are arrears or losses in annuities there must be corresponding deductions from grants, either of a permanent or of a temporary character, as the case may be. Such deductions onerate the general body of ratepayers.

In reply to the second question, special discrimination cannot be made in such cases. Ratepayers, individually and collectively, should in their own and in the general interest co-operate in securing the prompt discharge of legal and moral obligations. I have not been able to secure any assurance from the Minister for Defence that non-payment has been ordered by the I.R.A., and I believe there is a misconception with regard to such an order. No order, as far as I know, has been issued by the I.R.A. to stop the payment of sums due to the Irish Land Commission. I am informed by the Minister for Agriculture that the sum outstanding amounts to £147,000. It exceeded £400,000 three months ago. I think he dealt with the question already and I need not amplify anything he said in regard to immediate payment on foot of the contract entered into when the lands were sold.

(c) Chun an Aire Oibrechais.

(To the Minister for Labour).

To ask the Minister for Labour what is the cause of dispute between Messrs. Cleeves and their employees and if it is a fact that several creameries have been taken over by the workers. P.O hAodha.

My report which was read here a fortnight ago, dealt with the negotiations up to that particular point. The point at which they broke up was where a temporary arrangement had been come to whereby a reduction of ten shillings a week was to take place. My report stated:

"The matter was very fully considered, and the discussion centred mainly on the Condensed Milk Co. of Ireland's application for a reduction of wages, the main grounds advanced being that the condensed milk portion of the business was being run for the past two years at a substantial and increasing loss. The representatives of labour view the Company's case with considerable suspicion, and with a view to arriving at an impartial opinion on the matter it was arranged that the Council should adjourn to the 22nd March, and that in the meantime the Chairman, with the assistance of an accountant and auditor to be appointed by the Department, should investigate the Company's books, and report the result of his investigations to the Council.

"When the Council re-assembled, the Chairman's report was read, and bore out the Company's contentions. The matter was very fully discussed during a two days' session, and the various schemes considered with a view to giving labour an interest in the business. Finally, it was arranged that a proposal to reduce wages and carry on the business as at present for a period of two months should be submitted to a ballot of the workers, and that the Chairman should prepare a statement of the whole question for circulation by the Trade Unions, so that the workers should be in possession of all the facts when the ballot was being taken. The Council adjourned to the 31st March to allow these arrangements to be carried out.

"The examination of the company's books and the circulation of the Chairman's statement referred to above are interesting as evidence of the value of the Council, after less than two months' existence, in the removal of that distrust of Capital and its statements by Labour, which is such a fruitful cause of friction between two elements in industry, whose interests are not in their essence antagonistic.

"The Council re-assembled on 31st March, and the result of the ballot—a very large majority against the proposal—was announced. The proceedings of the Council, however, had raised the matter from the level of a mere trade dispute, and the parties had come to look at the question as a matter of national interest involving not merely the Company and its workers, but thousands of farmers who supplied milk to the Company through the south and west of Ireland, and who would be forced to a radical alteration of their system of farming if the Company closed down. Strenuous efforts were accordingly made by both sides to prevent a breakdown of the negotiations and after a long discussion it was arranged that a proposal, of which the following is a summary, should be recommended by the Company's representatives to their Board, and by the Labour representatives to the workers:—Wages should be reduced for a period of a month during which time Labour would negotiate with any parties interested for the purchase of the Company's properties and interests. If the negotiations resulted in a purchase, the amount of the wages reduction should represent part of the purchase price, and if not, the amount should be refunded to the workers unless otherwise arranged by the parties.

"The result of the ballot of the workers shows a small majority in favour of the acceptance of this proposal. Save for a difficulty at one of the Company's establishments where the workers threaten a strike if the reduction in wages is put into operation, the matter is now proceeding smoothly and steps are being taken with a view to organising the parties who would be likely to take part in the purchase negotiations."

It was arranged, after negotiation, to have an examination of Messrs. Cleeve's accounts, and the result of the investigation bore out the Company's contention, that unless a substantial reduction in wages took place, the business could not be put on a sound footing. Even with a reduction of thirty-three and one-third per cent. in wages, the company would still work at a loss unless the cost of materials came down substantially. The Company was prepared to carry on for a time with a reduction of 10/- per week, but the workers were not willing to accept that and several proposals put forward by the Council with the consent of the Labour members, were rejected by the workers. Apparently the workers could not be convinced of the real state of the industry.