Sul a dtógaimid suas an céud abhar rúin eile, ba mhaith liom a rá go bhfuil cead ag teastáil ó Theachta chun abhair rúin do chur os cóir na Dála. Before the next business is taken up Deputy Darrell Figgis seeks special leave to move a Motion without notice. The Motion is:—" That this Dáil appoint and hereby does appoint, a Committee to enquire into the present state of the Postal strike, with a view to discovering whether terms of settlement can be arranged, and to report to Dáil Eireann, and that the Committee consist of the following deputies:— William Magennis, Michael Staines and Alfred Byrne." Those who are in favour of taking this Motion will now put up their hands.
POSTAL STRIKE. - SUGGESTED INQUIRY.
May I ask one question? Have these three gentlemen agreed to their naines being put forward ?
I have no knowledge, but I presume the essence of the motion is not the names suggested.
Propose it without names.
Have the Deputies been consulted?
On a point of order. Is not the Motion that the question should be allowed to be discussed?
Yes; but the Dáil before voting on the question must know what the question is, obviously. Have the gentlemen whose names have been suggested been consulted?
Is this the Motion. I was suggesting? I ringed those three names when the Clerk of the Dáil asked me for a copy of the Motion. I had intended putting these names forward merely as a suggesition, and they should not have been included on the paper. They were just merely to be suggested, and not to form part of the Motion, as a Motion.
The Motions therefore is:—"That this Dáil appoint and hereby does appoint a Committee to enquire into the present state of the Postal strike, with a view to discovering whether terms of settlement can be arranged, and to report to Dáil Eireann." The Dáil agrees to take the motion.
I do not think a Motion of this kind requires many words in its favour, because the Postal Strike is a matter that is holding up the life of this country, as we know, and I think it is quite clear that there must come some kind of daysman between the two parties. There is something like that to come about, prior to settlement —some person comes in between the two contending parties and seeks to discover if there could not possibly be arranged some means of peace where up to that moment there had been war. Obviously, if this is going to be done, as it will have to be done sooner or later, the sooner it is done the better. When this proposal was made yesterday by Deputy Byrne, some Deputy behind me I heard use the word "compromise." If that be an impeachment, it is an impeachment that I will at once frankly admit. The nature of the circumstances are such that they are only amenable to the conditions of compromise. There is no principle involved in the actual conditions of the strike. I am not now referring to events subsequent to the strike where a question of principle has been raised, and where, in my judgment, the question of principle is rather more, if I may say so, against the order issued from the Ministry for Home Affairs, than with it. But that is a matter which does not concern the strike actually itself. The strike is a strike with regard to conditions of service in the widest application of the term. There are certain proposals put forward from one side and certain proposals put forward from the other, and I think under any conditions it would be infinitely deplorable if it became as strikes in this counttry have become in the past, a fight to the finish. If it were to last for any protracted length of time, it is obvious that the business of this country would be seriously impeded, even as it has already been seriously impeded with grave loss, as at the present time. Particularly it necessary that this strike should be brought to an end, because the general conditions of unrest and strife and other matters make it very desirable that the general territory of strife, the territory of warfare, should not be extended, but should rather be narrowed as far as possible. Directly we get then to this ultimate question that is bound to arise as to under what conditions a strike is to be settled we come within the region of compromise. In order that there should be compromise between two contending parthes, it is essential that some person should come in between them and laying a hand upon each seek to discover how far each side is willing to come to a way of life in the matter that is under, dispute. Since it occurred to me to bring forward a resolution of this kind I received just this moment a letter which came to me here, and it is from one of the two contending parties in the Postal Workers' strike. Since it did not come from the Government side it must have come from the other side. It is a suggestion put forward from one of the Postal Workers who happens to be a constituent of mine. He puts forward a table of conditions which he believes should form a possible basis of peace. I am not sufficiently cognisant of the details of the issues which led to this conflict to know whether these conditions can be made a basis as he suggests is possible. The letter is written in very moderate terms, and is evidently written by someone who is not anxious to put an ex parte case even though he may be involved on one side of the two in the dispute. If therefore finally it is inevitable that compromise has to be made, and if before such a compromise can be made it is necessary that a third party, should step in between, the two contending forces in this contest, then obviously I would say there is no higher authority in this land that could appoint such a body than this Constituent Assembly of Dáil Eireann, and I therefore move:—“That this Dáil appoint, and hereby does appoint, a Committee to enquire into the present state of the Postal strike, with a view of discovering whether Terms of Settlement can be arranged, land to report to Dáil Eireann; and that——
That is the end of the Motion.
I have three names here that have been distributed; they were merely a suggestion. I was going to put forward, but I will leave the matter at that.
We are extremely glad that an opportunity has arisen to put the merits of this case before the Dáil. The Dáil will remember that they have not been discussed up to this. We discussed the right to strike and the right to picket.
On a point of order, do the terms of the Motion allow the right of a dispute to be discussed?
Can you not leave that to me?
You will notice that some of the Deputies on the Labour benches are exceedingly anxious that the merits of the case should not be discussed. ("No, no.")
The merits of the case cannot be discussed on this Motion.
That may or may not be fair comment. The Dáil can judge for itself. We discussed the right to strike and the right to picket. We discussed this subject from every angle, but we never discussed the merits of the strike itself, and I think I am in order in drawing your attention to the merits of the case.
No, you are not in order. This is a proposal to appoint a Committee to enquire into the present state of the Postal strike.
I suggest this is a proposal to appoint a Committee of the Dáil to go into the merits of the dispute.
It would be obviously the work of the Committee to go into the merits of it.
My case is that the merits are perfectly clear, and that there is no necessity whatever to appoint a Committee to go into the merits of the dispate. That being so, I think I am entitled to relate to the Dáil the various steps that have been taken to settle it up to the present.
May I be allowed to say I really brought this Motion forward in order to remove the question from the sphere of any discussions of this kind or any displays of recalcitrancy.
Oh, I see we are a Sovereign Assembly with limitations.
The Speaker has ruled——
The Speaker has ruled against you.
The Speaker has ruled, and I think the ruling should be left to the Speaker.
What I said was, this Dáil cannot discuss the merits of the dispute, but we can hear what efforts have been made so far to settle it.
Can anyone speak on the matter? If the Minister speaks, we all want to speak. We want fair play for private Members.
The Deputy will have an opportunity of speaking on the Motion.
All right; that settles it.
It was on the 1st March that the Postal Officials for the first time threatened to strike against the wages and salaries that were being paid to them. There had been a cut in their bonus on the 1st September, and that cut was made in the operation of the figure found by the English Board of Trade. That cut took place, on the 1st September, and there was no threat to strike. There was no threat to strike, I suggest, because it was the English Government that was running the country at that time.
I suggest the Minister must keep to the question of the Terms of Settlement suggested and accepted or rejected. What we are here to discuss is not the merits of the Postal strike, but an attempt to settle it. It would be open to the Minister, for example, to suggest that such a Committee would be of no avail.
I submit, with great respect, if I may say so, the position is this: That a certain Member stands up here and produces a Motion to effect a certain settlement, and he indicates his own absolute ignorance of the case. Members continually object to and criticise and indict the Government for certain action that the Government has taken in connection with this matter, and when the Government's side of the case is to be stated and an explanation given we are to be muzzled. I submit, Mr. Speaker, with infinite respect, it is rather hard on Ministers that the actual circumstances, or the actual details of the various steps we have taken on this side, are not to be stated, and the Dáil put in possession of the actual circumstances for which the Dáil, as well as we, are responsible.
I quite agree.
The Committee will have to be formed from this Dáil. Dublin is not Ireland.
Unfortunately Dublin is made the cockpit for Ireland at the moment.
The point in my mind is, that if we are going to discuss the whole question of the strike it will be out of order, but the recounting of the steps taken in connection with the strike could be gone into.
I only asked to be allowed to recount the steps taken from start to finish, and I am entitled to do that. As I have just stated, there was a cut in wages on the 1st September, and the cut took place under the operation of the English Board of Trade figure. The next out was due on the 1st March, and on the 1st March the Postal Officials who had no objection on the 1st September threatened to strike and to strike-for the first time. Now that is rather a peculiar circumstance and I ask the Dáil to give full weight to it. In order to meet them the Government set up a Postal Commission, and on that Commission there were two Representatives of Labour. I am not sure of what particular body, but there were two Representatives of Labour on that Commission, which was asked to enquire into the following matters:—
"That an independent Commission of five members be set up to inquire into the Wages and Salaries, Organisation of Work, and Conditions generally in the Post Office, and to report what alterations, if any, are desirable.
"That in the cases of the principal classes of Post Office Servants, and of such of the other classes as the Commission may think necessary, the first task of the Commission shall be to determine whether the present basic wage can bear the recent cut, this to be determined by the 15th May, 1922, and that the Commission shall be empowered to recommend in the case of Classes where the cut is regarded as not being justified, an increase of the basic wage as from the 1st March, without prejudice to the general findings.
"That the Commission shall then consider the general question of Wages and Salaries, Organisation of Work, and Conditions generally.
"That the Commission shall have the right to determine what subjects may properly be regarded as coming under the terms of reference, and what evidence is admissible."
The Commission was asked to report, and this was their finding:—
"(a) That the British Board of Trade index figure does not accurately apply to Irish conditions, and that an Irish cost of living figure should be prepared by the Government as soon as possible.
"(b) That while on the figures supplied to the Commission it would be impossible to estimate the relative cost of living in Ireland as compared with Great Britain, the Post Office staff in Ireland have found it extremely difficult to adjust their living expenses to the reductions in their bonus.
"(c) That this has caused certain hardships in the lower paid classes, especially in the case of married men with families.
"The Commission, therefore, recommends temporary additions to basic wages of certain permanent classes of Post Office servants and to the consolidated wage of certain temporary classes. The Commission recommends that these temporary additions should date as from March 1st last, and that they should be continued until an official Irish cost of living figure is agreed on for use in the calculation of bonus, or until the adoption of the final report of the Commission."
In others words, the Commission stated that they could not state whether the basic wage could bear the cut until the Irish cost of living was agreed upon. Now the Postal Workers themselves put forward the case and keep up the case that the Irish cost of living should be found. Consequently Departmental Committee was set up to find the cost of living figure. It was under the Ministry of Economics, and was immediately after the Ministry presented the Report of the Commission making these temporary conditions of wages until the figure should be found. This letter was written to the Secretary of the Postal Union:—
"The Provisional Government have given the most careful consideration to the recommendations submitted by the Commission in their Interim Report of the 11th May, 1922, a copy of which is enclosed.
Pending the production of an official cost of living figure for Ireland, and without prejudice to the adjustment of the remuneration failing to to be made when this figure is known, the Government are prepared to give effect to the recommendations of the Commission, subject to the condition that in no case shall the total remuneration, inclusive of bonus, of any Officer resulting from the application of this decision, exceed the remuneration which he would now enjoy if the reduction in bonus which took effect as from the 1st March last had not taken place.
It must be clearly understood that the increases of remuneration resulting from the decision are purely temporary and provisional and will operate only until the official cost of living index figure has been produced by the Government."
They were told that this 12½ per cent. added to their wage was only to remain on until the official cost of living index figure was found, and they made no demur. This Committee, which was to find the cost of living figure, found the figure. It was a Departmental Committee—a Committee of the Ministry of Economics. They found that the figure was 90 per cent. increase in the cost of living over 1914. The figure for England and the North of Ireland was 85 per cent., and the result of the application of this figure of 90 per cent. to the bonus of the Postal workers will be that the salaries of postal workers in the 26 counties will be higher than the salaries of postal workers in England or in the six counties. That cannot be contradicted. The figure was found before the 1st September, and the Government wrote to the Postal Union and told them that the figure would be applied, and the Postal Union took up the position that there was to be no reduction whatever until the whole question of the basic wage and re-organisation was inquired into. They took up that position notwithstanding the Report of the Commission, and that they were specifically told by the Government three months before that their remuneration would be dependent on the official cost of living figure, and they then made no demur. They said in general terms that this index figure that was found was incorrect, and that case has been made for them here. They have published leaflets quoting certain figures from the Report of the Committee that found the index. Now our position in that is quite clear. That figure was found by the Minister of Economics, and he is prepared to receive any evidence whatever that that figure is wrong. He is ready to consider it and is ready to revise the figure if it is wrong. If anybody can prove it is an incorrect figure, the right figure will be applied. But what is the attitude of the postal workers? They were not so very much concerned whether the figure was right or not. Their attitude was that there should be no reductions in wages until a later date—until the whole question of the re-organisation of the Post Office should be inquired into. Now that is a position which we cannot stand for and which we will not stand for. In order to meet them we made this proposition which, I put it to you, is perfectly fair. We said that the figure first of all must apply. It has been accepted and is applied to the rest of the Civil Service. It is higher, as I pointed out, than the scale in England and the six counties. In order to meet any possible grievances they might have, it was decided that the reductions should take place in two cute, one cut now and one cut at a later date, between, this and the 31st December. They made the claim that their basic wage was not sufficient. The fact is their basic wage is exactly the same as the corresponding class in England, and in order to meet them, and to make ourselves absolutely right and put ourselves in an absolutely fair position we offered to take off this out of 12½ per cent. in two cuts, one now and one before the 31st December, and by that time this Postal Commission, which is still sitting, and still in operation, will have reported, and said whether the basic wage they complain of is right or wrong. But they refused that, and they refused it because they knew—they realised that they had a condition—circumstances outside made the present a very suitable time for a strike. They realised that they were administering a key service, and that by striking they could hold up—or they thought they could hold up—the whole Postal service of the country. I call that blackmailing.
I am endeavouring to keep this discussion under certain limits and I think that by recounting the history of the dispute without going into motives it would enable us to get on with the business more rapidly and give me more power to keep subsequent speakers to the point.
Very difficult now.
I think I am entitled to say that the strike all the present time is motived not I by any consideration of wages, but belief of the Postal officials that this is the proper time to strike—(Shame)—and that this is the proper time to get concessions whether they are concessions they are entitled to on the merits of the case, or not. That is the position. The Government will not deal with these men while they are on strike. The Government cannot deal with these men while they are on strike. They have made an offer— a perfectly fair offer—and cannot and will not go back on it or modify it in any respect. I put it to the House that they ought to weigh these considerations very carefully. We are not going to make any money. The Government are not going to make any money out of the strike. The wages of these officials will be paid out of taxation; out of the taxation of you and myself, and the man round the corner.
And themselves. He will have to meet a great many calls between this and this day six months, and the money which you vote out now should be voted out very carefully, that the wages and salaries the Government have to pay its servants should be only paid after due consideration and after weighing all the circumstanoes of the case. Comparing them with the wages and salaries that are considered fair in other countries that are a lot better off, we have offered to pay them higher wages than they are paid in England or in the North. We are a poorer country and have far more calls to meet, and that is a consideration. You are the trustees of the taxpayer, just as the Government is. You have no right in a moment of generosity to give away money to Civil Servants or other bodies that they are not entitled to on the merits of the case. The Government set out its position and the terms which they would give Civil Servants. They are terms accepted by the rest of the Civil Servants, and I ask this Dáil to give its support to the Government in that attitude which they cannot and will not alter.
In spite of your ruling the Minister of Agriculture has got in quite a good deal beyond the merits of the strike, and I think I am entitled to refer to some of his statements. He began by detailing the history of the strike, in September, 1921, and wishes this Dáil to draw as a conclusion from his statement that the Postal workers did not strike then because the British Government were in power or they were the servants of the British Government. I do not think there is any justification whatsoever for that inference, in view of the fact that we remember the Postal workers did actually strike while in the service of the British Government, and struck on a matter that it was more dangerous to strike on, than the question of wages. When the next cut came due in March the Postal workers threatened to strike, though they did not threaten in September. It may be just that it was the last straw, that they had reached the limit their wages could bear. A Postal Commission was set up, and went into this matter, and as a matter of fact it did bear out the contention of the Postal workers, in the main, that their wages were such that they could not bear the cut that was made in March. The findings of the Commission have been mentioned by the Minister of Agriculture, and I think he led the Dáil to believe that the Government had accepted the findings of that Commission and put them into operation. Subsequent events have proved apparently that this is not the case. The Commission recommended temporary additions to basic wages and recommended that they date as from March 1st, and that they should be continued until the Irish cost of living figure was "agreed to" for use in the calculation of bonus or until the adoption of the final report of the Commission. I want to draw the attention of the Dáil to this phrase "agreed to," because in sending a letter to the Union the Postmaster-General used the words "until the Irish cost of living figure is produced." There is an immense difference, to my mind, between the two phrases. I would like to ask the Postmaster-General or some member of the Government to say if the interpretation of this phrase "agreed upon" has been referred to the Commission, and, if so, will he tell us what the reply of the Commission has been? It is important, I think, that the Dáil should know that, because a good deal will depend upon that particular phrase, but I would like to point out this, that the Minister of Agriculture lays great stress on the fact that these temporary increases were to continue until we had the entire cost of living figure produced, or agreed upon. But what seem, to have been forgotten altogether is this—there was another alternative in the findings of the Commission; it was that they should be continued until the adoption of the final report of the Commission. It was just as right and proper that that alternative should be taken as the other alternative, for it is not stated that the words which might have been included, "whichever of these occurs first," are not there, and I say they are not there deliberately. Now I don't wish to go into the question of the cost of living figures for the very good reason I do not feel competent to do it. I have only received the document this morning. It was produced or appeared a day or two before this strike was called; and when we are challenged here with not producing evidence to show that the other evidence was wrong, it must be remembered we had not an opportunity of producing evidence to show it was wrong. I understand when some of the civil servants heard that this private committee of the Departmental officials were sitting they asked to be represented upon this in order to put their point of view before the Committee to find a cost of living figure that would affect their future status, and they were deliberately turned down. I make that statement subject to correction. If it is not true, the Ministers will say so. I am informed by my colleagues that the Labour party also asked that they should be represented, and they too were also turned down. Therefore I don't want to dwell on the cost of living figure at all, but I say it was a manifestly reasonable proposition that the postal workers should say that the other alternative should be accepted in view of the fact that the agreed cost of living had not been found from the workers' point of view and also from the public point of view. The Commission issued this report last May, and it was a reasonable assumption that the final report would be ready before 1st September, and if it is not available, the fault does not lie either, with the Commission or with the postal workers. I would like to say this—the Commission to go into the whole question of the wages of postal workers is actually in being at the present time, and I would like to ask did the Government before the strike was precipitated refer the matter of the strike or the question at issue to the Commission. Men of ordinary commonsense would think that would be a reasonable attitude for the Government to take. It set up a Commission, to go into the whole question of wages in the Post Office. Here was a dispute in which the whole country would be involved, but it was never referred to the Commission to see whether anything could be done to prevent the strike or not. The Minister for Agriculture has said that this strike has other motives behind it rather than what appears on the surface. In my humble opinion there is absolutely no justification for that statement. It seems to me he has taken up what I can only describe as a diehard attitude. He says that they cannot deal with the men while they are on strike. This is not the first time that a statement of that kind was made and had to be withdrawn. It reminds me very much of a Btatement made in another Parliament regarding other matters, but displaying the same spirit; and I think his statement will meet with the same answer.
Deputy O'Connell has practically covered all the points I intended to make but I wish to draw the attention of the Dáil to the words, "the terms to be agreed upon." No terms were agreed upon. We hear a great deal of men in employments breaking agreements, and here we have a case in which the Government represented on the Commission entered into an agreement with another body of men to wait until the scale of the cost of living had been agreed on. Then they broke that agreement. Neither the Postmaster-General nor the Minister of Agriculture told us where they got the cost of living scale and how they arrived at the figure. I am informed that last June the Government sent out 3,000 forms to the body of men Deputy O'Connell represents and these men were told that this form was to be used in accordance with an agreement. They were told that the individual returns would be treated as strictly confidential and they would be used only in totting them in figures with the returns of a large number of other bodies in order to arrive at averages. These forms were sent to small places in the West of Ireland trying to find out how the people lived and what rents they paid, and cost of food and other things. The rent which was paid for a small cottage in some far off village in the West of Ireland by a cottager might be either a shilling or two shillings per week, and these figures were taken in order to average with rents paid by postal employees in Dublin and other large centres where the rent of a similar cottage was from twelve to fifteen shillings. They lotted these together and divided them with an imaginary figure, and then tried to impose them on the postal workers.
That is dangerous ground you are on.
I notice they did not tell us where they got their figures. They do not deny the accuracy of the leaflet which has been given out showing the rents of houses at 5s. 2d. per week and foodstuffs at prices which cannot be purchased in Dublin at less than 75 per cent. over the figures suggested by the Postmaster-General. I am not going to go into the merits or demerits of the strike, but suggest that we ought to adopt the motion which has been proposed by Mr. Darrell Figgis, and let us get some sane business men, other than politicians, look into this scale, and evolve some reasonable figure which can be established as an Irish cost of living. I support the motion.
There were a few points in the speech to which we have just listened that I would like to refer. I do not want to say very much, but as the Dáil may regard me as being one of the parties to the dispute which has occupied the attention of the Dáil for the past week, my silence might be open to misconception, seeing that my name has been so often introduced and that certain decisions or conclusions have been not quite accurately associated with my Department. Deputy O'Connell, who happens to be more closely versed in the rights and wrongs of the Post Office position than anybody else—I venture to say—in this Dáil, because of the active part he took in these matters, has stated here that this Commission itself was not consulted prior to the precipitation of the strike. The Commission was consulted in regard to its interpretation of the words "agreed on," and it is well that the Dáil should know that, at least, one member of that body was in a position to give an opinion as to what was in his mind in regard to these words. I will read the reply from the Secretary to the Commission. He says: "In making these recommendations the Commission did not mean to suggest an agreement between the Post Office staff and the Government before an Irish figure was applied, but they had in view the production of a carefully prepared index figure by the Irish Government which should be generally accepted by the people of Ireland, more especially by representatives of Commerce and Labour in much the same way as the English Board of Trade index figure is agreed on for use in England. The Chairman and Mr. Friel, having read the report of the Committee on the Cost of Living, expressed their personal opinion that it had produced a figure such as the Commission had in view. The other members, not having read the Report, could not express any opinion, and, in any case, the Commission as a whole does not feel competent to express any opinion as to the accuracy or not of the result." That may not be very conclusive, but it was my duty to further probe the ideas of the interpretation of these words in the minds of those members of the Commission available, and I may say here, for the information of the Dáil, that certainly Mr. Friel was satisfied that if this figure was to be applied by the Government to the Civil Service, and if it is the intention of the Government to apply the index figure, it was his desire that the figure should be applied to the Post Office. I do not think that I misrepresent the Chairman of the Commission also when I say that that very clearly approximates to his view. There is another point I cannot permit to pass unchallenged. It is this, that in the final stages of the dispute the Commission ought to have been consulted. That is quite right. It is only right that the view of the Commission should be taken in some respect or another, and appreciating that view point the Chairman of the Commission interested himself in the dispute and made himself responsible for proposals on the lines of the Government's proposals, but the Union rejected them. Whether the Chairman had the support of the other members of the Commission in mating these proposals, I cannot say; but, at any rate, he was available for us to consult and he made certain recommendations, and it could not be said, therefore, that he was not consulted.
Will the Postmaster-General tell us whether the Government approached the Chairman of the Commission or whether the Chairman, in the interests of peace, approached the Government.
As a matter of fact, there were several approaches. I cannot say that the Government approached the Chairman of the Commission, but I certainly took it upon myself to approach the Chairman, and I take the responsibility for so doing. A very wide field has been covered here, and I think it is right we should all have our say. We have time enough to discuss the merits of the introduction of a Special Commission, but the underlying fact which forces us to proceed very carefully in determining the wages of our employees in the, Post Office is the fact that the Irish Post Office is being run at a very great loss. The present financial year will result in a debt to the taxpayers of this country to the tune of, at least, one-and-a-half million pounds; while, in the case of the Post Office in England and in East Ulster, it will result in a profit of at least ten millions. In view of this very serious loss, when the proposal is made, as it has been made, that higher wages should be paid in this country than in England, we are justified, we are bound, in fact, to examine the facts and the figures associated with that application and to satisfy ourselves that any variation of the existing figures mast be based upon solid grounds. The Postal officials are displaying certain figures through town, and it is stated that these officials are already underpaid. Well, there are no officials or people in this world—at least I have not yet met them—who do not believe they are underpaid.
Yes, even Ministers. But we must compare these figures with those, paid for similar work in other employment in order to arrive at a satisfactory conclusion. We have here in Dublin men engaged in the simple work of sorting being paid a present wage of over £6 per week. It is no exaggeration to say that the work that these men are doing—and I think Deputy O'Connell will agree with me—is of so simple a character that a sufficient knowledge of some phases of it could be secured within the brief period of three or four weeks.
Am I to understand from the Postmaster-General that there are sorting clerks and telegraphists at present paid £6 per week?
That is accurate, prior, of course, to the application of the cut.
Have you any more jobs like that going?
Yes, there are. When I used the word wages, I meant to include basic pay and bonus, and in the case of certain clerks and telegraphists at the maximum that wage represents over £6 per week before the cut. In the case of female telegraphists, they receive after the cut at their maximum a basic wage and bonus running into the tidy sum of 73s. 2d., and it is because the Government decided to make the ordinary normal cut which fell due through the application of these figures, and which did not reduce these wages by a very appreciable figure, that the postal people went on strike.
A pound a week.
Not a pound a week; that is an exaggeration. In one particular case the reduction would be, I believe, about 16s. per week, and in the second case quoted it would be about 7s. a week. Now railway clerks in Dublin——
God help them.
Railway clerks in Dublin, called upon to do much more difficult work than sorting clerks, are paid at least £70 a year lower wages, and £70 a year lower wages than the sorting clerks will receive when the bonus is fixed at £90, the cut which the Government proposes to enforce. As regards postmen, a postman in Dublin receives in bonus and basic wage after the cut 73s. 7d. per week. You may compare these wages with, say, the wages of a man employed on the railways in a similar capacity. What do we find? We find that the traffic porter is receiving 50s. a week as against the postman's 73s.—73s. after the cut has taken place—and the goods porter who has got to do hard physical work receives 53s. 6d. per week, and the ticket collector who, it will be admitted, has got to face a reasonable amount of responsibility only receives 57s. per week and they have got to live in Dublin, and they have got to meet the high prices that you allege exist in Dublin. Now, a point was made by Alderman Byrne a little while ago that the cost of living figure was largely secured from the West of Ireland. The cost of living figure was secured from 500 different places in Ireland, and included every part of Ireland, Connemara as well as Dublin, and an average was taken, and an average was taken in 1914, and there was no difference in the two methods. And if a house is cheaper in Connemara than it is in Dublin, so also are the wages of postal officials in Connemara proportionately lower than they are in Dublin. That point should be remembered when quoting the cost of living figures. There is a great deal of capital made out of a Leaflet that has been issued in regard to houses which can be had at 5s. 4d. per week.
Yes, 5s. 2d.
I stated a while ago this cost of living figure, has been produced on the very same lines applicable to the original cost of living figure. That included, for instance, what labourers, fishermen, merchants, servants, barmen, carpenters, and a series of others are paid. It also included the postal officials. I daresay the originators of the cost of living method had in mind the fact that the postal official paid something higher than other classes in the way of rent, but that does not alter the situation, for the simple reason that if we take a higher rent and add the increase in the interval, we do not necessarily produce a higher cost of living figure, as you will find, if you take the trouble to work it out. The fact is that the rent of a Postal Official and of all other workers has been made out on the one common plane, and if it happens that the postal official pays a higher rent than others, it does not affect in the slighest the final result. Naturally we feel that the disturbance in the communications of the country is an unfortunate thing at this stage. We did all that was humanly possible to obviate the trouble, but there was a limit, and we were faced with that limit when we were faced with a statement that the postal officials would not now, or at any other time— this is our reading of their attitude— tolerate any reduction in their wages, tolerate any applications of the cost of living figure; then the end of negotiations came. I agree with the Minister for Agriculture in what he believes to have been the frame of mind of the leaders of this Association. I do not wish to raise what one would consider bad blood in this trouble at the present time, but I do feel this about it, that the ordinary worker in the Post Office was not a free agent in deciding whether this strike should take place or not.
That is what all the employers say.
That in fact the-ordinary Post Office worker got no option, or something equivalent to that, in deciding whether the strike should take place or not. In fact the ordinary worker did not get an opportunity of deciding by ballot whether the strike should take place or not, and I would like to refer the Dáil to an incident that occurred in March last when a similar question was considered by this Union. A particular person named Connolly, a prominent Associationist——
Are we now discussing the merits? Surely we are not going back on past history?
We are discussing everything.
We are not going back on this.
It is too disagreeable.
It is agreed that we are not discussing the merits of the dispute.
It would appear there is no desire to discuss the merits.
Make it as wide as you like.
I want to impress on the House that the ordinary Post Office worker was not a free agent in deciding whether this strike should take place or not. The speakers at a certain meeting here in Dublin, when the question of a strike, or no strike, was being discussed, threatened certain physical consequences to those who failed to own up, and failed to go on strike. And it is because of that threat, and because of the application of that threat in the interval by the picketing of the private houses of members, and by threatening them through letters or by howling at them——
I am afraid you are going a bit wide of the terms of the Resolution.
It is quite possible I am going a bit wide of the terms of the Resolution. Evidently there is no desire to go too deeply into it. If I continue, I am going to keep you here until 10 o'clock.
The strike will be over.
At any rate, I wish to make it clear that, as far as we are concerned, we had no desire to precipitate this trouble. We were satisfied it was essential for the wellbeing of the community that peace should reign in an important industrial concern, and were also satisfied that we went to-the utmost lirait to maintain that peace; but when it is put up to us that a figure which is being accepted by Civil Servants generally, and which the Government intends to enforce, is not going to be accepted by the Post Office, well, we have no alternative.
This has been an illuminating discussion. I noted while your predecessor was in the Chair, and while Deputy O'Connell was protesting vigorously against the allegation that there were political motives behind the strike, that the Minister of Agriculture more than once attempted to rise in his place, and I wonder if I am interpreting his mind rightly in thinking he was calculating on the possibility of the Chairman declaring him out of order if he were to repeat that solemn asseveration that he had evidence to support what he said. However, I know now without speculation and as a matter of fact from the Postmaster-General himself, that several Ministers are genuinely and sincerely convinced that they are not face to face with an ordinary strike, but with what wears the outward appearance of a strike, and is in reality a political movement intended to paralyse the work of the Government and to hinder the business of the country, and to aid the rebels in the field. Now, that is a fair account of the mentality of the Government, or of the major part of it concerned in this dispute. I think it is very clear that no arrangement can be arrived at, that no machinery of settlement will be useful. What is demanded is instant absolute and unconditional surrender of the Postal servants.
Arrest them all and intern them.
On the other hand, let us consider the mentality of the strikers. There is an obvious dissatisfaction on the part of those people with the procedure of the Government as outlined by the two Ministers—absolute dissatisfaction on the, part of the Postal workers with the procedure of the Government. It must, indeed, seem to the ordinary plain man a very unhappy thing that, while the Commission appointed by the Government was investigating this very question of wages, a dispute of such magnitude and of such serious character should be precipitated. It seems to me that the point in dispute is really one which turns upon this question of figures regarding the cost of living. Now, I found it hard to believe, until I was assured of it by the Postmaster-General himself, that this estimate of the cost of living was arrived at in something like the fashion in which a cricketer's average is calculated—by adding together his entire score and dividing it by the number of innings in which he batted. Surely Ireland, though predominantly an agricultural country, has in it a few towns, and the cost of living in the towns of the Eastern seaboard in connection with Great Britain is notoriously high because of that geographical fact. The cost of living is lower in the country than in the rest of Ireland, and it should occur to any administrator of sanity to consider these two classes of cases apart—that the case of the country worker and the case of the city worker should be separately considered. There should be two estimates of living for a country so peculiarly circumstanced. Now, here is the state of fact at the present moment: you have a non-possumus attitude on the part of the Ministry and an equally obdurate and determined attitude on the part of the men. Meanwhile, the whole economic fabric is in danger of destruction, and business is at a standstill, and ail sort of uncertainty is rife. Surely this is a moment then for the interference of the public, who are even more vitally concerned in the matter than the Government or Postal servants, because it is their interests that are at stake—the vital interest of the community. I fear that, is the desire to be brief, I am not so clear as I would desire. When Deputy Darrell Figgis proposes to have the matter investigated by Committees composed of Members of this Dáil it seems to me he is proposing the wrong machinery. He Is setting up the wrong sort of Committee of Conciliation, because it has been declared repeatedly since we began to sit here that this Dáil is the Government of the Nation, and the Ministers are the servants thereof. And this is a dispute between the servants of a Minister and the Ministry who are the servants of this Dáil. Consequently, what I would suggest to Deputy Figgis is that instead of going on with this proposition that he should satisfy himself with a resolution to have some body of men with a view to conciliation appointed, and let them be citizens of standing—representative of the various business elements of Ireland, and not Members of this Dáil.
I move that the question be now put.
I second that the question be now put.
As a matter of information for the Dáil I may mention that the gentlemen who compiled this cost of living figure will themselves suffer by reason of their activities.
They deserve to suffer.
Question:—"That this Dáil appoint, and hereby does appoint, a Committee to enquire into the present state of the Postal strike, with a view to discovering whether terms of settlement can be arranged, and to report to Dáil Eireann."
Put and negatived.