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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 30 Oct 1935

Vol. 59 No. 1

Conditions of Employment Bill, 1935—Report Stage (Resumed).

Amendment No. 19 not moved.

I move amendment No. 20:—

In page 5, Section 6, to delete all from and including the word "in" in line 38 to the end of Section 6 and substitute the following paragraphs—

(a) where such person is a worker, to a fine—

(i) in the case of a first such offence, not exceeding two pounds, together with (where such offence is a continuing offence) a further fine not exceeding ten shillings for every day on which such offence is continued, and

(ii) in the case of a second or any subsequent such offence, not exceeding five pounds, together with (where such offence is a continuing offence) a further fine not exceeding one pound for every day on which such offence is continued, or

(b) where such person is not a worker, to a fine—

(i) in the case of a first such offence, not exceeding ten pounds, together with (where such offence is a continuing offence) a further fine not exceeding two pounds for every day on which such offence is continued, and

(ii) in the case of a second or any subsequent such offence, not exceeding twenty pounds, together with (where such offence is a continuing offence) a further fine not exceeding four pounds for every day on which such offence is continued.

Section 6 provides for certain penalties. Under the Bill as it was introduced penalties were provided for offences committed by persons employing workers. During the discussion on the Committee Stage, however, the opinion was very generally expressed from all parts of the House that wherever it was made an offence to employ workers to do certain things it was also an offence for the worker to do them. Consequently, a number of amendments have been introduced into the Bill to achieve that purpose. That being so, it was necessary to recast the section dealing with penalties and therefore this amendment is introduced. The effect of it will be that there will be lower penalties provided where the offence is committed by a worker than in the case of an offence committed by an employer. That is the only change the amendment effects.

Is this the kind of amendment that meets with the approval of the Labour Party? I think discriminations of that kind between classes in the community are extremely offensive. If an offence is prescribed by statute and two citizens are both guilty of the offence prescribed, I think it is a highly undesirable departure in a democratic State where you have got universal suffrage and where any man is free to take up any position he likes in this country, to provide that one citizen should be fined £10 and another citizen, for exactly the same kind of offence, should be fined £2——

Even though £2 might be a more severe penalty in the one case than £10 in the other?

That is just the thing the Minister does not see. The Minister has the profoundest contempt for the courts of this country. His assumption in every Bill he sponsors is that the judges are either deaf, blind, imbecile or senile. He wants to take every discretion from the courts and remove from them every case he can. He claims the right for himself and for his officials to decide every question that can, with any appearance of commonsense, be retained in his Department. The judges of this country are not fools. They are experienced, sensible men and they recognise as well as the Minister does, if they have two persons before them, one with an income of £1,000 a year and the other with an income of £100 a year that the punishment must be commensurate with the crime. While they would fine the one man £20 they would fine the other a much lesser sum with the knowledge that they were meeting out evenhanded justice. The precedent the Minister is seeking to set up in this amendment — that two citizens of this State shall be liable to two different penalties for the same offence, because they happen to earn their living in a different way is without precedent in this country.

What about the two incomes?

It is creating a precedent to take cognisance of the barely fortuitous fact of a man's income in a statute of this House. Legislation in this House should be equal for all citizens and the imposition of penalties described by statute here were always left to the discretion of the Judicature to fit the penalty to the crime they have before them. We say that a defendant should be fined a sum not exceeding £100. That means that the Justice may fine him 5/-, 10/- or £100, according to the circumstances in which he finds the defendant. I know of no other statute in this country in which the circumstances under which a man is living in the community are picked out for the purpose of differentiating between him and his fellow-citizens in the eyes of the law. If that sort of thing once starts, if we are going to introduce class legislation into the statutes of this State there is no end to it.

It is the modern practice in all countries.

I do not mind what is the modern practice in other countries. I am concerned with Saorstát Eireann where I live and of which the Minister is a Minister of State. I know of no statute operating in this country in which that is incorporated. I do not think the Minister can quote one. On its merits and regardless of what may be the case in other countries, does the Minister think it is a desirable think to establish a statutory recognition of a purely arbitrary class distinction of that character? I do not think it is.

I think it is a remarkably good innovation. I long ago suggested in this House that we should consider seriously adopting a practice which is now in operation in many Scandinavian countries of assessing penalties in the court in definite relationship to the income of the persons before the court. In those countries the practice of fining a culprit one day's income or a month's income is, I think, an excellent idea, and one that I would like to see adopted generally. This amendment is not intended to be a step in that direction. It is merely intended to deal with the requirements of this measure, but in so far as there is any principle raised in it, I think it is one that can be well justified. I think that if the Deputy consults with some of his colleagues in his own Party he will find that they also share that opinion. At least they did at the time the matter was discussed some years ago.

It gives me considerable satisfaction to find that I am diametrically opposed to the Minister because when I am in that position I usually find that I am right.

The Deputy is always right.

The principle defended by the Minister is not the one that I attacked. The one I attacked was an entirely different one. The principle of measuring a penalty and saying that a person shall be put to an arbitrary test is an entirely different thing to saying that because a man is a worker he will be liable to one penalty and if an employer he will be liable to another. That establishes a class distinction which should not exist in a Christian community.

Was not the class distinction there already?

I deny that. Of course, I am aware that it is the stock-in-trade of Deputy Norton to try to establish that and trade on it. That is his job.

Does the Deputy deny that some people are compelled to live in Gloucester Street, and that others can live in Merrion Square? Is not that class distinction? The workers live in Gloucester Street, and the people who do not work live in Merrion Square.

I quite realise that it is Deputy Norton's function in life to convey that kind of claptrap to the more gullible type of the community. But everyone knows perfectly well that there is no sincerity in that kind of talk. It is just that kind of clap-trap that the Minister is evoking by this proviso. It gives the opportunity to Deputy Norton to go down the country and say that, in fact, the capitalist tyrants in Upper Merrion Street differentiate between the exploiters and the exploited and all that blatherskite about all men being equal before the law. In a democratic State that is all nonsense. In this the Deputy wants to raise the red flag, and then we will get his equalitarian State in this country.

The Deputy does not believe that every man is equal. There is no one equal to him.

I am not going to pursue the Minister into one of his various bypaths, but fortune has provided me with an admirable example of the kind of evil that I foresee will arise from this kind of legislation. It will provide material wherewith the ubiquitous clap-trap merchant can go down and fool the more gullible sections of the people. You give him the opportunity to say that this Oireachtas recognises class distinctions and actually incorporates them in its statutes. This kind of legislation can be represented as enshrining class distinctions which do not and cannot exist in a Christian State and to which we should give no appearance of validity.

That is what I object to. I quite recognise that the Minister with his peculiar type of mind takes no cognisance of principles at all. He simply does not understand the meaning of the word principle, and consistency is abhorrent to him. Nevertheless, it is my duty to warn him when he starts off with this kind of apparently innocent section, that it is going to lead to the kind of claptrap that we have heard from Deputy Norton, and will eventually lead to grave deception being practised, a specious type of deception, on a considerable part of our people.

I was really pained to see the change that has taken place in Deputy Dillon since he lost his sparring partner. He has actually told us that all men are equal. Earlier in the day he announced that he would not presume to criticise the works of the Almighty. He must be ill. Certainly he is very different from the man whom we used to know when the Dáil was last in session. However, I will admit this, that he will probably recover in time. His ability to spin words, even though he may say nothing, seems to have remained unimpaired during his illness. The fact is that an offence committed under this Bill by an employer is a much more serious matter than an offence committed by an employee. There is a difference between an employer and a worker in every respect, both in respect to their responsibilities as well as in respect to their financial positions. The Deputy will, I am sure, appreciate that a fine of £2 on an ordinary workman is a much more severe penalty than a fine of £10 on the average employer. To insist that both should be fined the same amount for the same offence is to suggest that the worker should be penalised much more severely than the employer.

There are two factors which must be kept in mind. One is that there is much more direct responsibility upon the employer to see that the provisions of this measure are carried out than there is upon the worker, and that if an employer commits an offence it is a much more serious matter than if the worker committed an offence. The employer's offence may affect a very large number of workers. The worker's offence may only affect himself, and under these circumstances it seems clearly justifiable to have a higher maximum penalty where an employer is convicted than in the case where a worker is convicted. So far as Deputy Dillon is concerned, perhaps we may be able, with the combined help of Cumann na nGaedheal or Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil and Deputy MacDermot, in time to persuade him to realise that he may be wrong occasionally.

The Minister does not know the meaning of the word principle or consistency.

Deputy Dillon seems to have worked himself into a state of literary indigestion over this particular section. In his endeavour to recuperate himself, one is glad to observe that his health is not impaired.

I was ill for three weeks and if any other Deputy desires to comment on that and to say how well I am looking and trusts that I am getting better, I wish they would say it and get it over.

The trouble is that we are not aware that the Deputy is better yet.

The common courtesies of this House have not been observed in this matter.

The Deputy's speech was the cause of all the difficulty. He tied himself into literary black knots. He worked himself into a terrific passion, pretending to see bogey men where there are no bogey men. That is what has caused all this difficulty for the Deputy.

We are discussing Deputy Dillon now and not the amendment.

Deputy Beckett was not so alert some moments ago when we had to listen to Deputy Dillon on some abstract theory that he foolishly discovered. One might be able to congratulate Deputy Beckett if he had called Deputy Dillon to order then. Deputy Dillon has told us that he would like to see some principle accepted in this Bill by which all men are equal. The Deputy proceeded to give workers and employers equality before the law, but only before the law. They are all going to be equal in the cells; they are all going to be equal in the jails! They are all going to be equal in the policeman's arms or in the Bridewell, but that is the only kind of equality that Deputy Dillon wants to give them in relation to their employers. Do not give them financial equality, equality in housing, equality in wealth, any kind of educational or cultural equality; just give them equality in the dock! His protestation of standing for theoretical equality between the worker and the employer is just, as the Deputy himself described it, so much claptrap, because the Deputy does not want to give the workers any real equality. The Deputy belongs to the class who believe that the workers exist for the purpose of being exploited and for the purpose of making profits out of them and that, when they grow too old to make any profits out of them, then under the philosophy of the Deputy and his Party they are to be thrown on the scrap-heap.

There is no philosophy in this section.

There would be a considerable amount of that philosophy if the Deputy and his Party had their way. As I have said, it is only equality in the witness box and in the dock. The Deputy and his Party never believed in equality for the worker. He knows well that they reduced the old age pensions of the poor——

That has no relation to this amendment.

The Deputy's viewpoint is to give equality in respect of offences to the worker and that the man with the small income should be brought within the same category as if he had thousands per annum. It is only in the dock that equality is going to extend to the worker. I am sure that even the Deputy must see the absurdity of the contention he is advancing. I think the principle in the section is a good principle. I wish it were a principle of all Government legislation, and that it was not merely limited to the scope of this Bill.

Amendment put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 21.

In page 5, at the end of Section 6, to add two new sub-sections as follows:—

(2) A prosecution for an offence under any section of this Act may be brought at the suit of the Minister.

(3) A prosecution for an offence under any section of this Act may be brought at any time within whichever of the following periods latest expires, that is to say:—

(a) three months after the date on which it is certified in writing sealed with the official seal of the Minister that evidence sufficient to justify the institution of such prosecution came into the possession or procurement of the Minister, or

(b) six months after the commission of the offence.

It is necessary to have a provision such as it is proposed to insert here. It provides that a prosecution can be brought at the suit of the Minister and also that proceedings can be instituted within six months of the date of the offence or within three months after the date on which the Minister certifies that evidence has come into his possession of the commission of the offence. It is a provision which has been embodied in a number of statutes, where it is possible that information that an offence has been committed may only become available sometime after the offence itself has been committed and it becomes possible to institute proceedings. A similar principle is embodied in the Unemployment Insurance Acts and similar Acts. It is an obvious requirement of the Act that provision should be made for bringing prosecutions at the suit of the Minister.

Amendment put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 22:—

In page 5, to add at the end of Section 6 the following sub-section:—

Where a person convicted of an offence under this Act is a company the chairman and every director and every officer concerned in the management of the company shall be guilty of the like offence unless he proves that the act constituting the offence took place without his consent, connivance or wilful default.

This Bill provides for the imposition of fines in respect of certain offences under the Bill. My amendment is designed to ensure that where a person convicted of an offence under this Act is a company, the Chairman and every director and every officer concerned in the management of the company, shall be guilty of the like offence unless he proves that the Act constituting the offence took place without his consent, connivance or wilful default. We may be presented with a case of a company or a corporate body being guilty of an offence under the Act. The scale of penalties is not very high in respect to a wealthy corporation or company. It may well be that a company can commit an offence of a substantial kind and can run the gauntlet of paying such fines as may be imposed. I do not think that that brings home to those in the firm, who may be aiding and abetting the actual commission of the offence, the responsibility for their misconduct before the law. The object of the amendment is to ensure that not merely will the company be held responsible as a body before the law, but that those in the company who are responsible for its management will be deemed also to be guilty unless they can show that the offence committed in the interests of the company was not, in fact, committed with their consent.

I am afraid I cannot see the necessity for this amendment. If a person is employed by a company in contravention of the provisions of this Act, the Company should be charged with the offence and fined, if found guilty. I do not think it is necessary to go after the individual members or officers of the company. The company is the employer and it is upon it the responsibility of observing the Act rests and, consequently, the fine should be levied on the company. I think the amendment is not necessary. A provision of the kind Deputy Norton suggests is occasionally required in legislation of a particular kind, but I do not think this is legislation of the kind which requires it. Where we set out statutory provisions covering employment, the obligation should rest upon the employer, and the employer in this case is a company and, consequently, it becomes liable for the penalty.

If the circumstances should arise at any time in which a company would so flagrantly violate the law that continuos prosecutions would not make it mend its practices, but would prefer to pay the £4 a day or whatever maximum fine would be prescribed, then we would have to consider introducing other legislation to deal with it; but I think it is a most unlikely development, having regard to the odium that would attach under these circumstances to the company, and the effect of that upon its commercial successes.

I may say that the principal means of enforcing statutes of this kind is public opinion, rather than the financial penalty involved for breaches. But one of the difficulties in securing effective public opinion in these matters is that newspapers do not publish particulars of offences under existing statutes. I have had repeatedly to comment that when proceedings under the Factories and Workshops Acts are brought against firms sometimes for flagrant breaches of these Acts accounts rarely, if ever, appear in the newspapers, presumably because advertising revenue may be less on that account. That is a difficulty I would like to draw attention to. The importance of securing proper conditions of employment and safety and health in our factories is so great that due publicity should be given where firms are charged with and convicted of offences in such matters.

I wonder does the Minister consider taking power to impose punishment in such cases in the manner suggested in the amendment— in the case of frequent offences by the one company, frequent aggravated offences? I am willing to leave this matter over. I do not want it done normally, but rather in circumstances where the operation of the law will not cure the evil.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 23:—

In page 5, before Section 9, but in Part I, to insert a new section as follows:—

The Minister shall, in the exercise of every or any power of making regulations conferred on him by this Act, have due regard to the provisions of the several international conventions for the time being ratified by and binding on the Government of Saorstát Eireann.

It is desirable that the Minister's power of making regulations should be limited in a manner which will prevent him making a regulation which might be in conflict with any international convention for the time being ratified by the Government of the Saorstát and binding. We propose to insert this section, which places on the Minister the obligation of having regard to such conventions when framing regulations under the Act.

Is it necessary?

Will not the international obligations ipso facto override your regulations?

There is some doubt about that unless this provision is inserted.

I move amendment No. 24:—

In page 5, to delete Section 9, lines 54 to 58 inclusive.

This relates to amendments Nos. 46 and 44. Perhaps it might be better to discuss it when we come to them. They cover a fairly wide field and deal with important questions involved in the sections concerned. Meanwhile, I presume there will be no objection to this amendment being carried now.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 25:—

In page 6, Section 10 (2), line 4, to delete the word "acts" and substitute the words "employs a person", and in line 5, after the word "section" to add the words "and such person shall also be guilty of an offence under this section".

I mentioned that following the discussion we had on the Committee Stage it was decided, throughout the Bill, wherever the Bill makes it an offence for an employer to employ a worker under certain conditions, to make it also an offence for the worker to work under these conditions, so that there will be a dual method of enforcing the obligations of the Act. This is the first of these. It is the one in respect of which that power is least required. In this case it is unlawful for an employer to employ any person under 14, and it is supposed to make it equally unlawful for a person under 14 to accept employment. A similar change is being effected right through the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 26:—

In page 6, before Section 11 to insert a new section as follows:—

(1) It shall not be lawful for any employer to employ a young person unless or until a birth certificate or other satisfactory evidence of the age of such young person has been produced to such employer.

(2) Whenever a birth certificate of a young person is required for the purposes of this section, such young person or his parent or guardian shall, on presenting a written requisition in the prescribed form and containing the prescribed particulars and on payment of a fee of sixpence, be entitled to obtain a certified copy of the entry of the birth of such young person in the register of births under the hand of the registrar or superintendent registrar or other person having the custody thereof; and forms for such requisition shall on request be supplied without any charge by every registrar of births and by every superintendent registrar or other person having the custody of the register.

(3) If any employer employs a young person in contravention of this section, such employer shall be guilty of an offence under this section and such young person shall also be guilty of an offence under this section.

It was Deputy Norton who suggested on the Committee Stage that whenever a young person has been taken into employment it should be obligatory on the employer to require that person to produce a birth certificate as proof of age. This amendment is to that effect, with a further provision that the birth certificate can be secured for such purpose for the nominal fee of 6d. and it makes it an offence for the employer to employ a young person unless proof of age has been forthcoming.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 27:—

In page 6, Section 11 (1), lines 7 and 8, to delete the words "persons who are in his opinion representative" and substitute the word "representatives."

This is consequential on amendment No. 2.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 28:—

In page 6, Section 11 (1), line 9, to delete the words "persons who are in his opinion representative" and substitute the word "representatives."

This is consequential on amendment No. 3.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 29:—

In page 6, Section 11 (1) (a), line 11, to delete the words "any young person" and substitute the words "young persons."

This is purely a verbal change. The section empowers the Minister to make regulations prohibiting the employment of any young person. That might be construed to read a named young person, whereas it is intended to prohibit young persons from doing certain forms of industrial work. This amendment is inserted to effect that change.

Amendment agreed to.

I think amendments Nos. 30 and 31 might be considered together:—

In page 6, Section 11 (4), to delete all from the word "when" in line 29 to the end of the sub-section and substitute the words "does not include any apprentice who is employed under indentures whereby he is bound to serve as apprentice for a period not less than three years or is employed as apprentice under rules made by an apprenticeship committee under the Apprenticeship Act, 1931 (No. 56 of 1931.)"

Amendment to amendment No. 30.

To add to the words proposed to be substituted and inserted in Section 11 (4) by amendment No. 30 the words "or where an industry has not been designated under the said Act by an apprenticeship committee approved by the Minister."

I indicated on the Committee Stage I was proposing to extend the definition of young person in sub-section (4) of this section, so as to make it clear it does not include an apprentice employed under indentures whereby he is bound to serve as apprentice for a period not less than three years, or a person employed as an apprentice under rules made by an apprenticeship committee under the Apprenticeship Act, 1931. I do not think it is necessary to indicate the reason for that exclusion. In so far as it is desired to limit the employment of young persons, that does not extend to those young persons I have mentioned, those who are indentured or apprentices serving under the rules of the committee.

The amendment which Deputies Dockrell and Good have tabled is one which I would find difficulty in accepting because I am not quite clear what it is intended to do. If there is an apprenticeship committee, which might be approved of by the Minister, and if there are apprentices serving under that committee, the easiest way to deal with the situation is to have that committee constituted under the Apprenticeship Act. No difficulty would exist under these circumstances. I do not know of any case where there is an apprenticeship committee dealing with apprentices and making rules for the training of the apprentices of a kind of which I am likely to approve which could not, without difficulty, be brought in under the Apprenticeship Act, in which case the amendment would not be required.

I do not want to say a lot to the Minister on this question. Of course the Minister, possibly, is very well informed as to the class of apprentice who is in an industry which has not been designated under the Act, and if he thinks he does not wish to accept those, I do not wish to press the amendment. At the same time, I would like to submit that there may be cases where the apprenticeship machinery is not sufficiently clear. As the Minister knows, there has been a considerable delay in bringing these committees into existence, and perhaps the Minister will consider some scheme that would not exclude these people from the provisions.

The Deputy is, no doubt, aware the Apprenticeship Act had to be passed because of the abuses which existed and which had to be removed. We want, under this Act, to avoid a repetition of the abuses, and therefore we accept as apprentices only those who are clearly apprentices without a question of doubt, that is, those who are indentured apprentices or acting under the rules of an apprenticeship committee. I agree that there are not many committees constituted as yet. It is only, I think, last year, or even this year, that the first committees commenced to function. There were delays in bringing that Act into operation, but there is no reason why there should be delays in the future. I hope to see quite a large number of committees functioning under that Act, at an early date, and possibly the operation of this section in this form will facilitate the realisation of that hope.

Yes, but I do not want to leave these people out if there is not a provision inserted.

If they are not working under the rules of a committee, or if they are not properly indentured apprentices, I think we must regard them as coming within whatever restrictions it is decided to impose under this section upon the employment of young persons. The problems associated with individual cases can, of course, all be examined before regulations are made, and, as the Deputy is aware, regulations cannot be brought into operation until the interested parties have been consulted and it is at that stage that I would hope to have the Apprenticeship Act utilised, in order to get over difficulties that might be brought forward in the form of objections to the regulations, by having these committees constituted. In other words, under the operation of this Bill, I would regard the existing Apprenticeship Act as part of the code to be brought into operation at the same time that regulations are made under this Bill for the general improvement of the conditions under which young persons are employed in industrial occupations.

Amendment 31 withdrawn.
Amendment 30 agreed to.

I move amendments Nos. 32 and 33:—

In page 6, Section 12 (1), lines 34 and 35, to delete the words "persons who are in his opinion representative" and substitute the word "representatives."

In page 6, Section 12 (1), line 36, to delete the words "persons who are in his opinion representative" and substitute the word "representatives."

These amendments are also consequential on amendments 2 and 3.

Amendments agreed to.

I move amendment No. 34:—

In page 6, Section 12 (1), paragraph (a), line 38, to delete the words "any female worker" and substitute the words "female workers."

This is similar. It is a verbal amendment similar to amendment No. 29.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 35:—

In page 7, Section 13 (3), line 17, after the word "section" to add the words "and such outworker shall also be guilty of an offence under this section."

The purpose of this amendment is to put the obligation to observe the law equally on the worker as on the employer. Section 13 provides power to prohibit the employment of outworkers in certain trades and in certain districts. It makes it an offence for an employer to employ outworkers where regulations prohibiting such employment are in operation. It is now proposed to make it an offence for a worker to work in a manner contrary to such regulations.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 36:—

In page 7 before Section 14 to insert a new section as follows —

(1) Every employer who employs any outworkers shall keep in accordance with regulations made under this section, a register of all outworkers for the time being employed by him.

(2) The Minister may by order make regulations for the following purposes, that is to say:—

(a) prescribing the form of the register of outworkers to be kept in pursuance of this section and, if the Minister so thinks fit, prescribing different such forms in respect of different classes of industrial work, and

(b) prescribing the matters and things to be entered in every such register and, where necessary, prescribing different such matters and things in respect of every different form (if any) of such register.

(3) Every employer who is required by this section to keep a register of outworkers and fails to keep such a register in accordance with this section and the regulations made thereunder shall be guilty of an offence under this section.

It was Deputy Norton who made the suggestion, which, I think, is a valuable suggestion, which has resulted in this amendment. It provides for the keeping by each employer who employes outworkers of a register of all the outworkers from time to time employed by him and gives power to the Minister to prescribe the form of the register and the information to be set out in it. The amendment also proposes to make it an offence for an employer to fail to keep that register. It will, I think, result in a considerable improvement in the effective control of the employment of outworkers to have this obligation to keep a register imposed upon employers.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendments Nos. 37 and 38:—

In page 7, Section 14 (1), line 18 before the word "Every" to insert the words "Subject to the provisions of this section".

In page 7, before Section 14 (2), to insert a new sub-section as follows:—

(2) On the application of an employer, the Minister may, if he thinks proper so to do having regard to all the circumstances of the case, issue to such employer a permit authorising him, subject to compliance with such conditions (if any) as may be stated in such permit, to pay piece-work wages to workers and outworkers employed by him without complying with the next preceding sub-section of this section, and whenever any such permit is so issued to an employer the following provisions shall have effect in regard thereto, that is to say:—

(a) the Minister may at any time revoke such permit by notice in writing given or sent by post to such employer;

(b) so long as such permit remains unrevoked and such employer complies with the conditions (if any) stated in such permit, it shall not be obligatory on such employer to comply with the said next preceding sub-section of this section.

The existing Section 14 provides that an employer who employs workers at piece rates must, before the commencement of any work, give to each worker a note in writing showing in certain detail particulars of the rate of piece-work wages and of the work in respect of which such rate is payable. Representations have been made that in certain trades it is not necessary to have that provision, because the nature of the work to be done and the piece rates for the work are well known and have been established by custom sometimes running back over very long periods, such as in the coopering business and certain other trades of that kind, and that it is not necessary as a safeguard to have that obligation imposed upon employers in such trades. The amendments which I propose give power to the Minister to exempt a particular employer from that obligation wherever the Minister is satisfied that such exemption will create no difficulty in the matter of the enforcement of piece rates. It is really only in certain trades that the danger of abuses exists in consequence of the inability of the workers to understand the piece rates prevailing for certain classes of work. In some of these older trades, where the division of the work has been established by custom, which has sometimes existed for centuries, the danger of the worker misunderstanding what he has done and what he is entitled to receive for doing it is very slight.

Do I take it that there will be consultation with representatives of the workers before this exemption is granted?

I do not imagine there will be very many. I have only had one or two cases brought to my notice. It is not that it is impossible for an employer in any case to comply with the requirements of the Bill as it stands; it is that it is not really necessary in the interests of the workers to compel him to do so and it might be regarded as unnecessary red tape, even by the workers themselves.

I am not objecting to the requirement being dispensed with where it is agreed by everybody that it is unnecessary, but as the amendment is drawn by the Minister, on the application of an employer, the Minister may, if he thinks fit, do so. I want to make sure that the workers are consulted before that is done.

I think the Deputy may be fairly certain that that will be so.

Amendments agreed to.

I move amendment No. 39:—

In page 8, Section 15 (2), line 17, before the word "discloses" to insert the word "knowingly."

This is a matter which we discussed on Committee Stage, and I was hoping that the Minister would have seen fit to accept the amendment. There is not very much involved in the matter, but there is a danger that the section, as drawn, might be construed in such a way as to put a representative of the workers who might be present at a conference with his own employer and with other employers in a position in which he might be accused, through a strained reading of the section, of being guilty of an offence under the section. The section reads:—

If for the purpose of divulging a trade secret any person discloses any information derived by him from a piece work particulars docket... he shall be guilty of an offence... and shall be liable... to a fine not exceeding £10.

The object of my amendment is to make it clear beyond all doubt that the offence could only be committed where it is shown that he knowingly disclosed a trade secret for that particular purpose and to ensure that the worker will not be put in a position in which he might be afraid of arguing his case, or even of exposing an undesirable practice by the fear of the possibility of being involved in an offence under this section. There is not much in the point, but I think there is a better case for the inclusion of the word "knowingly" than there is for its exclusion.

I think the section goes even further than the Deputy suggests and certainly much further than the Deputy contemplates in his amendment. The difficulty always of putting a word like "knowingly" into a statute or into a section of this kind is that it places on the prosecutor the obligation of proving not merely that the act was done but that it was done knowingly. Here we are going farther. The words used are "for the purpose of divulging a trade secret." If that is done, then an offence is committed. That clearly throws on the prosecution the onus of proving not merely that information was disclosed but that it was disclosed for the purpose of divulging a trade secret. Nobody could disclose information for the purpose of divulging a trade secret without doing it knowingly.

If I were satisfied that the Minister would be the judge of all these things, I might not pursue the matter further.

That is the amendment.

That is what the Minister intends the amendment should do, but does he not visualise the possibility of a worker employed, say, in a clothing factory, attending a conference with representatives of workers of other clothing factories and representatives of employers in these factories. A worker in Factory A may say that he has a complaint against his employer because, in respect of a particular operation, he is only paid a certain rate. It might be held that an exposure of that kind was an offence under this section. I want to make sure that, where an exposure is made in that bona fide way, it will not operate against a representative of the workers unless it can be proved beyond all doubt that he knowingly disclosed the information for the purpose of divulging a trade secret. I want the word “knowingly” inserted, so that there will be no possibility of a worker, under these circumstances, being made amenable under this section.

It must be shown that he did it for the purpose of divulging a trade secret. That is going further than the Deputy suggests we should go —put in the word "knowingly."

Will the Minister put in the word "knowingly" before "divulging"?

It is not necessary.

I think it would provide a better protection.

This has been the law for 20 years, and no trade union official has either been hanged or put in jail under it yet.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 40:—

In page 8, before Section 16 (2), to insert the following sub-section:—

It shall be lawful for a duly authorised representative of a trade union of which any worker or outworker is for the time being a member to attend in or at an industrial undertaking where such worker is employed for the purpose of checking the reckoning by the employer of such worker of the amount of work done and the result of such reckoning and every person who obstructs or interferes with such representative as aforesaid shall be guilty of an offence under this section.

We discussed this matter on the Committee stage.

At length.

It is provided in the Bill that an employer shall make known to the worker certain particulars in respect of the work undertaken by that employer so as to ensure that the reckoning will be fair. That does not seem to me to go sufficiently far in protecting the interest of the worker. A worker may not be so intellectually equipped as to understand complicated arithmetical mechanism and he may not be in a position, in regard to some of these calculations for piece-work, accurately to ascertain how the calculation is arrived at or whether the elements that go to make the calculation are fair. Trade union officials do not want to be obliged to make a constant pilgrimage from one employer to another to ascertain how they arrive at their calculation in respect of a ubiquitous Mary Murphy. The question would only arise where there was a dispute in reckoning the amount of work done or in the calculation respecting the payment for the work done. In that case, it should be possible for the trade union representative of the worker to go to the premises and ascertain the method of calculating the work done and the reckoning of payment for such work. In that way, the representative of the worker could ascertain the information at first hand and the worker would be assured of adequate protection.

This amendment introduces no innovation. Many years ago — in 1887 — provision was made in a Mining Act introduced in Great Britain for the employment of a person known as a check-weigher. It was felt that those who engaged in the mining of coal were getting a raw deal from those supposed to pay for the work. So outrageous was the conduct of those who ought to pay honestly for the work that the British Parliament passed an Act which established the check-weigher system. The purpose is to ensure fair computation in respect of the coal produced. It is 50 years since that Act was introduced and the miners have had the advantage of it since then in Great Britain and, I think, here, so far as we have miners at work. When we ask to have a similar system introduced under this Bill, we are asking only for what is recognised as a valuable principle. The proposal can cause no inconvenience to the Minister's Department. It can cause no inconvenience to the employer. If he feels that he has a good case as regards his method of reckoning, he ought to be willing to disclose that case to a representative of the workers' union. These representatives would only investigate where it was evident to them that there was a good case for investigation.

This question was discussed on Committee Stage on a similar amendment by Deputy Norton. I have nothing to add to what I said then. I do not think it is desirable that this amendment should be inserted. I said so on Committee Stage. I have reasons for my opinion and I have heard nothing from Deputy Norton to induce me to change my opinion. Nor do I think that any analogy exists with the check weighers, to whom the Deputy has referred. If there were known abuses prevailing generally throughout an industry or particular branches of an industry, it might be necessary to have special provisions in order to remove them but that is not the case. So long as it is possible for a worker easily to compute what he is entitled to as a result of his week's work, the danger of abuse is largely removed.

Then the section must only be intended for emergencies.

No. The section is intended to ensure that the worker will have little difficulty in estimating what wages he or she is entitled to as a result of a week's work. It is intended to ensure that complicated methods of computation will not be used, to the confusion of the worker. I do not think it is necessary to bring in anybody to check on the employer's computation of the wages unless abuses are reported, in which case the inspection should be done by a factory inspector.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
The following amendments were agreed to:—
41. In page 9, Section 18, line 19, after the word "Act" to insert the words "and regulations".
42. In page 9, Section 18, line 21, to delete the word "or," and after the word "machines" to insert the words "or measuring instruments".
43. In page 9, line 28, Section 18, after the word "inspector" to insert the words "of weights and measures".

I move amendment No. 44.

In page 9, Section 19 (1), to delete all words from and including the word "employment" in line 37 to the end of the sub-section and substitute the words "complete employment year of such worker during which he has been continuously in the employment of such employer and has worked in such employment not less than eighteen hundred hours.

One of the problems which gave Deputies considerable concern, in relating to Section 19 of the Bill, as well as Section 20, and which was discussed for a considerable length during the Committee Stage, was the method by which continuity of employment was to be determined. The Bill provides that a worker, who has had a year's continuous employment with an employer, is to be entitled to receive a minimum week's holiday with pay, and, also, provides that workers who have continuous employment for lesser periods will receive additional pay in lieu of the holidays which only becomes due if a year's work is performed. Every Deputy saw circumstances, under which the continuity of a worker's employment might be interrupted, perhaps deliberately interrupted by unscrupulous employers for the purpose of evading the obligations of the Act. At the same time, such difficulty in the way of providing a satisfactory definition of continuity, which would preserve the essential principle that a year's work should be done, before the obligation to provide holidays arose, was very considerable, and no Deputy had a suggestion as to how that could be overcome. I have given the matter very considerable attention since I believe the best way to meet all points of view is to allow a certain amount of latitude in the matter of determining continuity by defining a year's work as the performance within that year of so many hours of work; a number of hours which will permit a certain amount of broken time, to a certain extent interruption of the day to day continuity of the employment, but not of sufficient length to actually break that continuity. We are proposing, therefore, to amend sub-section (1) of Section 9 in a manner which will impose upon each employer the obligation of giving one week's annual holiday, with pay in the case where the year's work has been performed, in each "complete employment year of such worker during which he has been continually in the employment of such employer and has worked in such employment not less than 1,800 hours." Deputies well know that in the other amendment continuity of employment would be periods as calculated in the same way; in other words, there must be 75 per cent. continuity in order to qualify for the week's holiday or a day's pay for a period of two months.

The next amendment deals with the shorter periods. That particular method of determining what constitutes continual employment is one that will cause less difficulty. I do not say that there will be no difficulty, but it will be a case of less difficulty than in any of the other methods suggested. If a worker is employed continuously by an employer for a year, he is entitled to holidays and by continuously employed is meant employed for 1,800 hours during the course of that year. That, as I explained, will preserve the right of the workers to holidays even though because of slackness the work was interrupted during the year or because of reasons of one kind or another the workers' employment may have been interrupted by a day or two, or a week in the course of the year. It also will enable the worker to protect his right to holidays, though in periods of trade depression, such as certain industries have known in the past, that worker was only employed for a certain number of days in the week rather than a full week, and so forth. The amount of employment we think that should be required to enable the worker to prove his claim of being continuously employed, is 75 per cent. of the normal hours any worker might be employed under the other conditions of the Bill. In the following amendment we propose to employ the same method to determine what constitutes continuous employment for the shorter periods, and in each case the same percentage is being observed.

I am sure the Minister is attempting to do the best possible in the circumstances; but I am afraid the method defined here is not going to be as equitable as he, possibly, intends. I think a considerable section of workers who have 75 per cent. continuity may not have the necessary number of hours. I am speaking of one section of workers with whom I am conversant. There are others who will have only periods of 50 per cent. or three-quarter time, through no fault of their own. Because of the exigencies of the work there will be considerable slackness through no fault of theirs. I am talking of the engineering section of the Great Southern Railway, of which I am a member myself, and they have been on three-quarter time since May, 1935. They work a total of 1,768 hours. Their week consists of 34 hours for each of the 52 weeks. Some of those men have 25, 30 or 40 years' service with the company. There is no question of the continuity of their employment. They have 75 per cent. of the available employment, but not the number of hours which the Minister specifies. I presume that if this amendment is put in they will be definitely out of court for the week's holidays. I am sure the Minister does not contemplate that, and I ask him to reconsider the position. This is a typical case I am quoting. There may be others, but I can speak intimately of that one. Those men will have a very hard case if the 1,800 hours are insisted on.

What is the normal working week in that case?

47 hours. They have been allowed to work only 34 hours since May, 1935. Notwithstanding that considerable transport came to the railway since then, those men still work three-quarter time, finishing on Thursday night. They have come to me in connection with this matter. They have a total of 1,768 hours, and 1,800 hours would put them definitely out of court. Even if there were only that one case in the country it would be unjustifiable to exclude them from the Bill. I might also remind the Minister that at the present time there is a tendency towards the reduction of hours. I am sure we all contemplate a considerable reduction in the working week in the near future; in any case we are not contemplating an advance. If we want to give consideration to the vast number of unemployed it seems that we must have a reduction. That 1,800 hours is a very high figure to fix. I certainly think that if the hours penalty is to be inflicted it ought to be less than 1,800; otherwise there will be considerable hardship to a great number of people.

Deputy Keyes has given one instance, but I should like the Minister to consider another aspect of the matter. I take it that this is a section above all others in the Bill about which there should not be ambiguity. It says here:

"....during which he has been continuously in the employment of such employer, and has worked in such employment not less than 1,800 hours."

Which is the Minister relying on? I can imagine, under this section, a discussion between an employee and an employer on something like the following lines. The employee presents himself and says: "What about my annual holiday? I have worked more than 1,800 hours." The employer might say: "But you have been out of my employment for two months." That might easily be the case. In an instance such as that I should like to ask the Minister which he is going to rely on — the continuity of employment or the 1,800 hours? I think this section has been drawn up by somebody who had his eye more on the question of reduced time in a factory, and that the idea he had in mind was that when a person fell below 1,800 hours he possibly was not entitled to the week's holidays. I should like to ask the Minister what is the position of an employee who has over 1,800 hours, but has had definite long periods in which he has been in other employment.

If the employment of the employee by the employer was definitely terminated, the employer became liable to pay to that employee under another section of the Bill——

A part of the six days?

Pay in lieu of the holidays to which he would have been entitled if his employment had lasted for the full year. An employee, therefore, might have worked 1,800 hours and then stopped, and have left the employment of that employer. He would not be entitled to the annual holiday with pay; but he would be entitled to receive from that employer one day's pay in respect of every two months during which he had been in the employer's service. In other words, he would be entitled to receive, on termination of employment, that pay in lieu of the holidays.

In other words, on each definite break the employer will have to settle with him?

Yes. If there is no definite break, but merely interruptions in employment, then the obligation to give a week's holidays arises only if 1,800 hours have been worked.

I understand that the Minister stated that in fixing the period of what constituted the worker's right to a full week's holidays he had in mind approximately 75 per cent. of the normal time during which the workers would be employed in that undertaking, assuming they were doing a normal week's work, and that, consequently, he came to fix the period at 1,800 hours, the normal period being 2,400 hours. The point which Deputy Keyes has made is one which I think the Minister should make some effort to meet, and I suggest to him that he can do it quite conveniently if he does not fix the number of hours as high as 1,800. In any case, 1,800 hours is a period something higher than 75 per cent., because many workers are on a 44-hour week. If you fix 1,800 hours as the qualifying period for a full week's holidays, then, I think, you are fixing definitely more than 75 per cent. attendance at work. The Minister's 1,800 hours period is arrived at by assuming a 48-hours week. That is the legal maximum period provided for in the Bill, but the Minister has already given expression to a hope that when the Bill became law steps would be taken to reduce the hours worked below 48.

I think it will be necessary to have power to vary the provisions of this section which it is now proposed to insert, where such circumstances arise, but we must be careful about not going too far. Deputy Keyes' complaint about the engineering staff of the railway is that they are getting too many holidays at the present time.

Too little pay!

Put it either way; they are not working enough. As the working week is reduced, I think we could reasonably be expected to be either stricter in defining what constitutes continuous employment, but power to vary that number must be there, because conceivably we might, under another section of the Bill, make it illegal for a worker to work 1,800 hours in the year, if we were to reduce the maximum working week sufficiently.

Would the Minister undertake to meet Deputy Keyes' point by fixing the period of service to be rendered by the worker at something less than 75 per cent. of whatever is the normal week's work? In this case where the men are working 75 per cent. of their time, if the figure is fixed at something marginally less than 75 per cent., we would automatically have those workers brought within the scope of the Bill.

I would be hesitant about taking the case which Deputy Keyes has mentioned and framing legislation on the basis of that case, because it is an unusual type of circumstance, but I think there should be power to have that figure of 1,800 hours reviewed in relation to the maximum working week permitted for the class of workers concerned, because obviously if the maximum working week is reduced that figure must also be reduced, if not proportionately, at least to some extent. You might conceivably get, in relation to some industry, a maximum working week of, say, 36 hours; in which case that number would become meaningless, because that number of hours could not be worked by such a worker.

At the moment the Minister is providing for workers being employed for 1,800 hours in order to qualify for a full week's holidays, but he arrived at the 1,800 hours by assuming a normal working week of 48 hours, whereas if he would assume, and as is the case in many industries, a normal working week of 44 hours, he would get a much lesser total and might, to a certain extent, meet the point made by Deputy Keyes.

Taking 75 per cent. as possible.

That would be somewhat difficult. It might be that a dispute might arise as to what was the normal working week. It might be all right if the maximum working week was fixed, but if it was only fixed from district to district it would be a different matter. I have power to vary down the hours fixed, but where regulations have been made reducing the maximum working hours I would like to consider the matter further.

Progress reported.
The Committee to sit again to-morrow.