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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 25 Jun 1946

Vol. 101 No. 17

Industrial Relations Bill, 1946—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. This Industrial Relations Bill was drafted after discussions with organisations representative of trade unions of workers and employers but I wish to make it clear that the Government alone is responsible for its provisions. While the discussions to which I have referred were of very great assistance in drafting the measure, it was well understood that the organisations which participated in them were not committed to the Bill either in principle or in detail. Nevertheless, I think that it is right to say that, without the constructive help afforded by the representatives of these organisations, the preparation of the measure would not have been possible.

As the House has been informed in the White Paper which was circulated with the Bill, it is intended to revoke the standstill Order on the date which is the appointed day under this Bill. The standstill Order was one of a series of measures which the Government put into force during the war with a view to limiting the inflationary effects of an expanding supply of money in a time of reduced supplies of goods. The complementary measures included control of prices, limitation of company dividends and directors' remuneration, increased income-tax and a special tax on company profits in excess of pre-war profits. These measures were not sufficient to prevent a rise in prices during the war, but it can, I think, be asserted that, in consequence of them, such increases in prices as occurred were, in the main, due to non-monetary causes—either to higher prices which had necessarily to be paid for imported materials or the effect of the policy of raising agricultural prices to stimulate the production of certain essential foodstuffs. The anti-inflationary measures adopted during the war, however justified they may have been in relation to the general national situation, were, naturally, not popular with the individuals and sections to whom the opportunity of increasing their remuneration was thereby denied. Opposition to the standstill Order was, of course, strongest in its application to workers' wages, although it was primarily in the interest of workers that anti-inflationary measures were adopted. In times of financial disturbance and, particularly, when the value of money is falling and confidence in money, as a measure of value, is undermined, it is always the workers who are hardest hit. The men who own no property, who earn their livelihoods by selling their skill and labour for money, whose ability to provide for their families depends upon what the money they earn can buy, have most to gain by monetary stability. Violent movements in prices, upward or downward, can mean only hardship for them. A rapid downward movement due to monetary causes is generally accompanied by trade depression and widespread unemployment, while rapidly rising prices mean a lower standard of living which cannot be recovered by wage adjustments without sending prices higher still.

The effect of war conditions on our price level during the early years of the war was substantial but price stability was achieved towards the end of 1943 and, since then, the prices indices remained practically constant until the fall recorded by the most recent figure—that for mid-May, 1946. That fall was not sufficiently substantial, however, to suggest that a general downward movement in prices has begun, nor is there anything in the general situation to support a conclusion that a rapid fall is to be anticipated in the near future. Increased production of goods to off-set increased purchasing power is not yet practicable on an adequate scale. The non-monetary causes which forced up our price level during the early years of the war are still operating. While it is reasonable to anticipate that, when stable conditions are restored in international trade, the prices of imported goods will fall and increased output and cheaper materials will bring internal costs down also, it has not happened yet. In these circumstances, the wisdom of removing the anti-inflationary measures adopted during the war may be questioned. In reference to the standstill Order, it may be contended that, as all the circumstances which were quoted to justify it during the war are still present, a change in policy is not yet desirable. It may even be suggested that, in adopting this change of policy, the Government is sacrificing long-term national interest in its desire to get quickly out of an unpopular position. The Government has given the matter very serious thought and in deciding to get rid of the standstill policy it has been largely influenced by the consideration that it is always wiser in such matters to endeavour to share responsibility.

During the war the Government was forced to take to itself powers which it would not ordinarily desire to possess and to assume sole responsibility for their use because circumstances were such that the general body of citizens could not have the information which would enable them to regulate their personal and sectional interests in accordance with the general interest even assuming that everybody was willing to do so. All Governments have to take such powers, and such responsibilities, in times of crisis but when the crisis is passed it is desirable as soon as possible to widen the field of responsibility so that the course to be followed, particularly in relation to a matter of such intimate personal concern to individuals as the wages of workers, will be not merely the responsibility of the Government but of everybody whose actions can affect it. That is especially true where, as in this country, the trades unions occupy a position of power and influence and, under responsible leaders, can fully understand the consequences to their members and to the community generally of any general trend that may appear.

The Government does not consider, however, that it would meet the requirements of the situation merely to restore the pre-war position and I think I can say that I found general agreement that the pre-war position was not satisfactory. We had not then suitable machinery for the prevention and settlement of trade disputes. I do not wish to convey that we had then a bad record as regards strikes. In fact, our record in that matter was better than in most countries which operate under a democratic régime. In the ten years prior to 1938 the number of working days lost as a result of trade disputes was not quite one-half per cent of the days actually worked during that period. We had, however, some very extensive and very prolonged stoppages.

Apart from the matter of adequacy of our pre-war organisation, it is generally recognised that there is a danger that the removal of war-time controls and the possibility that there may be a general desire amongst employers and workers to proceed at once to make adjustments in wage rates, and to reopen agreements, which could not be done while the controls existed, will cause numerous and wide spread industrial disputes involving stoppages of work which will mean real hardship for many workers and seriously impede the country's economic recovery. The timing of the revocation of the standstill Order has therefore been made to coincide with the commencement of operation of this measure which is designed to create new means by which industrial disputes can be satisfactorily resolved without stoppages of work. It may be that the pressure of events will be too great and that this new measure will not be effective during the coming autumn in preventing a number of disputes and stoppages which will cause dislocation of supply arrangements, and unemployment. There is no point in being over-optimistic. I believe, however, that we can place considerable reliance on the commonsense of workers' and employers' organisations who know better than anybody else that there is much to lose and not so much to gain by rushing into impracticable disputes and that if we provide a means by which immediate difficulties can be easily and smoothly adjusted while new long-term agreements are being worked out, the tendency will be to avail of it. That is what Part VII of the Bill is designed to do.

I will now turn to the details of the Bill. I wish to say first, however, that I do not regard this Bill as a Government measure in the ordinary sense. It is a measure designed to facilitate trade unions of workers and employers in adjusting their difficulties concerning wages and conditions of employment and I can say that, within very wide limits, it will be framed as they want it framed, subject to the willingness of the Dáil as a whole to accept what is proposed. I regard myself merely as the instrument for bringing the Bill before the Dáil, steering it through its various stages and bringing it into operation when enacted. I do not wish to force on anybody my personal views regardings its provisions. I have invited the organisations that are representative of trade unions to submit their observations on it, to suggest any changes which they think will improve it and generally to regard it as their Bill. It may be that there will not be agreement on some details but where there is agreement I shall certainly accept what is proposed subject only to being satisfied that it is workable. I ask the Dáil to approach the consideration of it in that knowledge. There are few issues which will arise which can be settled by majority vote because this Bill by its very nature will work and be effective only if all the parties concerned regard it as a useful measure. It is not proposed to make its provisions compulsory except to the extent that parties voluntarily and knowingly submit themselves to it in their own interests. I tell the Dáil frankly that I have had difficulty with some of its provisions and I am not yet satisfied that I have found the correct solutions. I will indicate some of the sections which have given me trouble and will invite the Dáil to help me in improving them. Deputies may regard the various sections as suggestions for consideration which will be willingly amended if something better is proposed.

I should like to begin with Part VII because the provisions therein are temporary and are intended to meet present circumstances. They will cease to operate when the circumstances have passed and form no part of the permanent measure. If I deal with them first and get them out of the way, the permanent measure can then be dealt with as such.

As the House is aware, the provisions of the Emergency Powers (No. 260) Order provided for the making of standard rate Orders and bonus Orders for many classes of workers. The effect of these Orders was to permit, but not to compel, employers to pay the rate prescribed and the appropriate bonuses. The Orders put a ceiling to wages but no floor, it being left to trade unions and workers to ensure the payment of the permitted rates by appropriate action. These standard rate Orders provide agreed and understood statements of actual rates of wages in various occupations and their existence will facilitate future negotiations, as well as providing a basis for legal enforcement where the facilities proposed in this Bill are adopted by the trade unions or the groups of workers concerned.

It is proposed that any trade union or body of workers may record a standard rate Order and the appropriate bonus Order with the labour court to be established by this Bill. The effect of such recording is to make the payment of the standard rate and the bonus a legal obligation on the employer. The ceiling will be changed into a floor. The trade union or group of workers which adopts that course undertakes the obligation of not seeking to obtain an increase in wages by strike action until it has made an application for such increase to the labour court. If the court awards an increase in wages, and such increase is accepted by the workers concerned, then payment of the new higher rates will also become a legal obligation on the employers so long as this part of the Act is in force. If the workers concerned are dissatisfied with the court's award, they can refuse to accept it, in which case the award is not enforceable. The original recording of the standard rate Order ceases to be operative and that rate is no longer legally enforceable either, and both parties become free to settle their differences by negotiation or otherwise.

That is, that the whole Order with regard to basic and bonus goes?

If the court's decision on an application for higher wages is not accepted. These provisions are intended to give scope for the adjustment of wage rates without stoppages of work during a time when conditions in many occupations will be abnormal, when employers may be unwilling to enter into long-term wage agreements or workers may be unwilling to press justifiable claims for fear of holding up an expansion of employment; but they offer to workers, whose remuneration requires adjustment, the prospect of increased wages by decision of the court, legally enforceable, while new long-term agreements are being negotiated.

I should like to express the hope that, if these provisions are enacted, they will be generally availed of in cases where the negotiation of new agreements for registration is likely to be protracted and, in all cases, as an alternative to stoppages of work. Their utilisation will ensure that in the occupations concerned no downward movement of wages can take place during the coming year, no matter what circumstances may develop in them, and increased wages will be made effective where the court so decides. A trade union or a body of workers can also regain freedom of action if, in its view, the decision of the court, on an application for increased wages, is not acceptable.

There is one point of difficulty on which I would like to have the assistance of the Dáil. In a number of occupations it was found, during the administration of Emergency Powers (No. 260) Order, that wage systems existed which were so complicated by traditional practice or individual variations that standard rate Orders could not be made. Under the Emergency Powers (No. 260) Order there was power to make bonus Orders in such cases without standard rate Orders, the bonus being paid to each individual over and above his actual earnings at the prescribed time. For such occupations the provisions of Part VII of the Bill, as they stand, would not be effective. I have considered the practicability of giving the court power, in effect, to prescribe standard rates in such cases or, on the application of the workers concerned, to fix rates which will not necessarily be related to previous earnings, such fixed rates to hold good with the same legal effect as recorded standard rates while Part VII of the Act is in operation.

I see difficulties in either course, but I intend to consider the matter further, and I will welcome any suggestion as to how that problem can best be met. There may also be a few cases where, because of special circumstances, no application for a standard rate Order or a bonus Order was received and no such Order is made, or cases where such Orders will not have been made before the appointed day under this Bill.

I will turn now to the proposed permanent provisions of the Bill. The Bill proposes to establish a labour court. The constitution of the court is a matter for consideration, but the proposal in the Bill is that the court should consist of a chairman appointed by the Minister, a workers' member appointed on the nomination of an organisation of trade unions and an employers' member appointed on the nomination of an organisation of employers. In effect, the whole scheme of the Bill is that the court will function and will have powers only in relation to parties which voluntarily decide to use it. It is not intended to provide for compulsory arbitration. I do not believe in compulsory arbitration imposed by law. Compulsory arbitration involves, in the last resort, State regulation of wages. It is meaningless if it does not include as a logical consequence compulsory enforcement of decisions and the prohibition of strikes and lock-outs contrary to such decisions. In practice, compulsory arbitration decisions are not in fact enforceable against a body of workers who are opposed to their terms, at any rate in a free society. Under this Bill, it will be open to any trade union of workers or employers to refuse to use the court and to rely solely on its powers of negotiation or on the old-time weapons of lock-outs and strikes. I am proposing the creation of this court, however, in the firm conviction that the great majority of workers and employers, the rank and file members and the elected leaders, will welcome the prospect of securing an adjustment of industrial differences in a rational commonsense manner and will readily and generally use the court established by the Bill provided that their freedom to take other action is not thereby impaired.

I think it can be said that there are three main causes of industrial disputes which lead to stoppages of work; first, failure to agree on wage questions which in this country caused 87 per cent. of the disputes which occurred in the ten years prior to 1938; secondly, union, inter-union and demarcation questions and, thirdly, what may be described as disciplinary questions. The Bill is based on the belief that an attempt to evolve a national wages policy, if it is to succeed, must take the form of guidance rather than of compulsion. It places its main emphasis on negotiation and conciliation. It provides that where an agreement is made for any trade or occupation, then provided the agreement is applicable to all the workers in the trade or occupation concerned and is not anti-social in its effects and that the parties who made it are representative, and so agreed, it can be given formal recognition and made enforceable by the court. When an agreement is voluntarily registered, then the parties concerned undertake to be bound by it but there is an escape clause providing for the cancellation of registration by general agreement or on the application of one party where the court is satisfied that there has been such a change in circumstances of the trade that the agreement is no longer suitable. Disputes on the interpretation of the agreement or concerning its observances by any party will be submitted to and determined by the court.

Judging by Press comments, there appears to be some concern amongst trade unions over the provisions which contemplate the imposition by the court of financial penalties on a trade union which promotes a strike contrary to the agreement into which it has entered and which is registered with its consent. It is clear, however, that a registered agreement must be binding on the parties who make it and that its breach should involve some adverse consequences. The particular proposal in the Bill is open to reconsideration but it would not solve the problem to leave registered agreements enforceable against employers only. The assent of both parties to an agreement is necessary for its registration and it may be assumed that assent will be forthcoming only if it is clear that some advantage is thereby secured.

At first sight, it would seem that inter-union and similar disputes can best be settled by an authority within the trade union movement and I have frequently expressed the view that the trade union movement should improve its machinery for dealing with such disputes, that it should establish within itself a central authority with powers of control. I am not now so sure as I was previously that that view is sound, that the influence of a congress of trade unions is not the greater because it does not infringe the authority of the constituent unions. The example of the divisions in the United States trade union movements which resulted from attempts at greater central control would support that opinion.

However, inter-union disputes and demarcation disputes involving stoppages of work are often hardest to resolve. The employer is usually helpless and, in fact, his intervention is often resented by one or both parties to the dispute. The proposed court may offer an acceptable method of having the issues in dispute thrashed out and a competent, authoritative opinion given on the merits. Such disputes are usually of a type that lend themselves to judicial determination. The proposals in the Bill contemplate this procedure. When a dispute is reported to the court by any person concerned, not necessarily an inter-union or a demarcation dispute but any dispute in a trade for which there is no registered agreement or joint industrial council, or where no other recognised method of settling a dispute exists, then the court will endeavour to settle the dispute by agreement through one of its conciliation officers. If that attempt fails, an effort will be made to find by agreement a temporary arrangement pending consideration of the issues in dispute by the court. The court may refuse to deal with it, if temporary arrangement to avoid a stoppage is not made. The court will consider the issues and publish its decision. That decision will not be binding, but it is hoped that, in the course of time, the growth of confidence in the fairness of the court, and in the practical and commonsense basis of its awards, will create a situation in which its awards will ordinarily be accepted.

The Bill provides that the court will consider the issues referred to it, on the basis of finding a solution of the dispute which will be fair and acceptable to the parties concerned. It has been suggested in some Press comments that the agenda of the court may be so crowded that it will find it difficult to deal promptly with disputes referred to it. Apart from the special circumstances which may prevail in the next year or so, the difficult disputes which will arise in normal circumstances are not so numerous as has been supposed. In any case, the provisions of the Bill contemplete reliance in the first instance on conciliation, and it is only when conciliation fails that the court will function. Conciliation will be undertaken on the spot by the court's conciliation officers and will, it is expected, resolve a majority of the disputes reported to the court without a formal hearing of the issues by the court at all.

Disputes relating to disciplinary matters have usually this peculiarity, that they flare up suddenly, and often stoppage has occurred before the trade union and employers' representatives can get together. The proposed court offers, in my view, a very suitable tribunal for dealing with such disputes, a solution of which will be facilitated by their removal from the heated atmosphere of the works where they arise, if the knowledge exists that a fair and sensible tribunal is there, to which they can be referred without delay, and I would hope that, in time, the habit would grow of bringing such disputes to the court and avoiding stoppages until dealt with there.

There is a proposal in Section 68 concerning what are called unofficial disputes, that is to say, disputes which no trade union is supporting or assisting. The provision of that section however covers both unofficial disputes, as they are called, that is to say disputes which involve workers acting against the advice of their union, and disputes involving unorganised workers. The problem of unofficial strikes is a very difficult one. The policy of the Department of Industry and Commerce in the past has been to support the authority of the trade union executive by declining to mediate in such disputes until work is resumed. The proposal in the Bill is to give the court the right to intervene at its discretion, to investigate the issues involved, to publish its opinion thereon or, if it thinks fit, to make an award which would bind the employers concerned to observe the conditions prescribed for a limited period—one year is suggested in the Bill. It is the only section in the Bill which enables the court to make a binding award other than with the consent of the parties concerned. If a more suitable method of dealing with unofficial strikes is suggested I will be glad to consider it.

There is another type of dispute which requires special consideration, and that is one involving only a small number of key workers, but which, it it leads to a stoppage of work by them may cause the disemployment of a very large number of workers in the same industry. There is no special provision in the Bill as introduced relating to such strikes. I framed it originally so as to bring such disputes under Section 68, but I deleted that provision when certain practical difficulties were pointed out to me. I would welcome any suggestion which may be made in relation to such disputes which, I know from experience, have given grave concern to trade union executives.

A substantial and very important part of the Bill deals with trade boards. It is proposed to transfer to the labour court the function of the Minister for Industry and Commerce in relation to trade boards, and to change their names to joint labour committees. The procedure relating to the establishment of joint labour committees, or for the alternation of their scope, is being improved, and specifically such boards or committees are being given powers to fix minimum remuneration, as well as minimum wage rates, and such committees may be established for any class of workers as well as for any industry.

From many points of view the provisions of Part IV of the Bill are most important. I wish to draw attention particularly to Section 34. It provides that a joint labour committee may be set up where machinery for regulating conditions is inadequate and existing conditions are bad. It has been urged by trade union interests that the provision of that section should be even further extended, so as, in effect, to give the court power to approve of the establishment of a joint labour committee on application, where the court thinks that is desirable, without having to be first satisfied as to the inadequacy of existing machinery and the unsatisfactory nature of prevailing conditions. It is a matter to which I will refer again in Committee.

It will be understood that a special feature of joint labour committees is that minimum rates of remuneration and conditions of employment are arrived at by majority vote of a committee which will contain an equal number of employers' and workers' representatives, and also representatives of consumers appointed by the Minister. Agreement between employers and workers is not an essential preliminary to the confirmation of the rates recommended by the majority vote. The rates and conditions recommended by the committee, when approved by the court, become enforceable by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, as existing trade board rates are enforced.

The Bill also proposes to give statutory recognition to joint industrial councils and to preclude the court from dealing with any dispute in an occupation for which a joint industrial council exists, unless the dispute is referred to the court by the council.

The Bill excludes from its scope persons remunerated by the State or by local authorities. It is not regarded as applicable to the circumstances of their employment. As drafted, it also proposes to exclude agricultural workers for whom minimum rates of wages are fixed by the Agricultural Wages Board. The position of agricultural workers is somewhat different from that of industrial workers. It is true that disputes may arise in which they are involved and which do not affect the minimum rates fixed by the wages board, but whether this machinery would be appropriate for dealing with them is open to doubt.

Perhaps the Minister will indicate why he is excluding manual workers employed by local authorities from the scope of the Bill.

There are a number of reasons which I could elaborate, but one which I can mention forthwith is I think, the proposed constitution of the court. Whatever case there may be for a similar court for dealing with the remuneration of persons employed by local authorities, it would have to contemplate a court constituted of different personnel and on a somewhat different basis from that proposed in the Bill.

They are given power to deal with unorganised workers.

It will be appreciated that, on the enactment of this measure, the functions of the Department of Industry and Commerce in relation to trade disputes will be transferred to the labour court, and that, in future, the conciliation service which the Department offered to parties involved in disputes will not be available. It does not follow, however, that the Government will not have a very deep interest in wage trends, or will be without influence in relation thereto. It will have no power to regulate wages in any industrial occupation, but its general responsibility for economic conditions will require it to operate its tariff policy, or whatever powers of price control it may have in normal circumstances, so as to promote employment and sound economic development as it considers best.

In present circumstances, the Government's view—and nobody will dispute its right to have a view and to express it—is that a general improvement of conditions of employment of workers should be the consequence of improved efficiency in production or increased output facilitated by greater skill or better organisation or improved equipment. It has found it necessary to insist that wage increases during the existing conditions of scarcity will not be reflected in higher prices of controlled commodities, and its long-run industrial policy will be based on affording assistance to industry on the basis of maximum efficiency, which includes keeping labour costs in relation to labour costs in comparable industries in countries with similar social conditions. The Government is naturally perturbed by the prospect of the repeal of the standstill Order being interpreted as meaning that it is no longer necessary to be concerned with the reaction of wage rates on price levels. It feels, however, that its responsibilities for keeping industrial conditions in relation to public interests can now, as I have said, be safely shared with workers' trade unions and with employers and it is in that spirit that it is proceeding.

Here then is the Industrial Relations Bill. Its success will depend on the willingness of workers and employers to avail of the machinery created. If successful, it can make a great contribution to the stability and security of workers' conditions and to the substitution of a rational and simple means for force and hostility in the prevention and settlement of trade disputes. If not successful, we will, no doubt, be able to try again. We will be forced to try again, because, at this stage in history, it should not be beyond the wit of man to devise some means of regulating the conditions of employment of workers, without constant recourse to strikes and lock-outs, which not merely cause widespread hardships to the workers concerned in them but can also be a serious impediment to national progress. I hope the Dáil will be able to approve the Bill in principle. The details we can settle by discussion, and, I hope, by agreement, in Committee.

It is refreshing to be invited to discuss a measure introduced by the Government, and I appreciate the opening remarks of the Minister in offering this Bill for discussion to the House, particularly when we think of the Trade Union Bill of 1941 for which the Minister was not responsible and which may have left him a legacy which he would sometimes wish to be without. It is gratifying to know that, in respect of an important matter like this, the House is, as I take it, genuinely invited to discuss, criticise and make suggestions.

I should like to say, first, that we can meet the Minister to the extent of saying that we approve generally the principle behind this measure. I see no reason at all for objecting to its Second Reading, nor do I foresee that, in Committee, anything is likely to arise that would prevent the Minister getting machinery of the kind he is looking for to bring workers and employers more directly and more closely together and settling matters related to remuneration and conditions. The Minister suggests, particularly in regard to the inflationary situation here and its danger, that the Government, with a certain amount of apprehension, propose to share responsibility with employers and labour for any danger of an inflationary kind which may arise, due to the raising of the standstill Order. If the Government's attitude in taking steps to share responsibility with employers and with labour also means that they are prepared to share the power of initiative with employers and with labour—and not keep the screw of Government control and Government restriction so tightly clamped down over employers and labour—then, I think that this is a matter which ought to be and shall be welcomed by everybody. I think that is something which will greatly facilitate increased production, on the one hand, and, on the other, help to offset an inflationary situation. It should be a tremendous asset in dealing with increased production if employers and both organised and individual labour were given to understand that they were being permitted the exercise of greater initiative in facing up to their work and, at the same time, sharing a greater degree of responsibility. I think that would help us to overcome our difficulties to a large extent. Generally, I welcome the idea at the back of the Minister's mind there. At the same time, I think it is rather a pity that this labour court is being designated a "court". When one reads through the Bill it strikes one immediately that the Bill itself is not very symmetrical in its lay-out. It is very difficult to avoid the conclusion that, whatever this body is going to be, it has something more than the functions of a mere court. But if we were to find ourselves outside the bounds of the present emergency situation, the court side, in connection with this particular type of work, would prove to be the smaller side. I feel that "labour tribunal", or some term such as that, would have been a happier choice. However, as we go through the measure and as we learn more about its implications in Committee, we may become clearer in our minds with regard to this matter.

This body is called a court and it is being vested with certain functions. It is something more than a mere court, but, at the same time, its functions are apparently very vague. I think it is a pity that these various functions are not clearly set out in some part of the Bill, so that we might have a better picture before our minds as to what this labour court is intended to be in the general scheme of relationship between workers and employers. Local authority employees, secondary and national teachers and State servants are not included within the scope of the machinery which is going to be set up and which will be available to other classes of workers. I think that is rather a pity in view of the present situation. We have to discuss this measure now with all the time at the back of our own minds the idea that local authority employees, civil servants and the other persons mentioned in Section 4 are not provided for under this Bill.

In the last resort conciliation, or arbitration, in their case will rest apparently with the Minister and, no doubt, a very exasperated Minister. I think it is a pity we could not have some kind of discussion in regard to that now. It may, perhaps, be possible to have some kind of discussion on Section 4 which, without spoiling our approach to the other sections of the Bill, will enable us to persuade the Minister that these other classes do require some sort of machinery for arbitration, or conciliation, just as much as any other category of workers requires it.

I have the feeling myself that the introduction of Section 7 into this Bill is somewhat unsuitable. Apparently, the functions that will more immediately fall upon the labour court are the more temporary ones, such as the fixing of wages. If they do fix wages, and the workers are not dissatisfied with whatever they have under the stabilisation Order, that function goes by the board. I think that is an unfortunate position in which to put the members of the court. That function is the most objectionable type of function from the point of view of both workers and employers. If that function is thrust upon them now it may have the unhappy result of prejudicing the position which the court will occupy in the general scheme of things in the future. I think it would be very desirable if Part VII were dropped entirely from this measure.

The scheme for inducing workers and employers to come together and discuss their joint relationship and their responsibility, both to one another and to the community at large, is, I think, something which every member of the Dáil will welcome. I take very little exception to the manner in which the Minister will bring this about. There is, however, a want of symmetry here again and, to my mind, a want of harmony. We shall need some further explanation as to what the Minister intends to do in order to clarify the position. In the earlier part of the Bill provision is made whereby there may be registered at the labour court an employment agreement which may refer to any class of employment, or may refer to any trade, or industry, or may refer to any area. Such an employment agreement can only be made between workers who are members of a trade union, with a negotiating licence, on the one hand, and employers, or an employers' union, on the other. That is one type of agreement which may be registered with the court. The court may also set up a joint industrial council; that council may deal with any particular class, or trade, or industry, or any particular area in the country. But its function, instead of being to register an employment agreement, is to promote general industrial harmony. In the case of both the employment agreement and the joint industrial council, if a dispute arises the court will not intervene unless it is especially asked to do so by a party to the employment agreement or by the joint industrial council. In the case of the joint labour committee, which is analogous to the present trade board, although its function is to frame or draft an employment regulation Order dealing with either conditions of employment or with wages, there is no suggestion that such a joint labour committee will be asked to assist the court or deal with a dispute, which may arise, without the intervention of the court.

I cannot understand why, in relation to a strike, the attitude of the court should be different in the case of a strike where a joint labour committee is concerned and a strike in any other instance. With regard to the general working of the court, it seems to me that its work in dealing with strikes and settling strikes generally will be one of the least important of its functions; its function in relation to wages, the control of wages, the direction of wages is perhaps a bigger function than its function in dealing with strikes.

I should like to ask the Minister what his general intentions are with regard to Sections 22 and 23. Section 22 says:—

"The court shall include in each annual report any observations it may wish to make on the trend of wages rates, the effect on employment and prices of such trend and other matters arising therefrom."

Section 23 says:—

"The court shall consider any matter referred to it by the Minister concerning the industrial conditions prevailing as regards the workers of any class and their employers and shall furnish a report thereon to the Minister..."

A previous section, Section 20, says:—

"The court may for the purposes of any proceedings before it under this Act do all or any of the following things:—

(a) summon witnesses to attend before it,

(b) examine on oath (which a member or the registrar of the court is hereby authorised to administer) the witnesses attending before it,

(c) require any such witness to produce to the court any document in his power or control".

Is it the intention that the court, in relation to its inquiries with regard to the trend of wages rates and with regard to the effect of them on employment and prices, or on any other matter that the Minister may refer to them for consideration in relation to industrial conditions generally, will have power to summon and examine witnesses on oath and require the production of documents? If that is so, then I think the powers will have to be made much more explicit and direct than they are here. If it is the intention that the court may in respect of these things have these powers, then I think it throws the proposals which are made in Sections 22 and 23 into a rather prominent and very important light and that they would appear to be much more important than they seem.

There are also some matters that I think would want to be taken into consideration, particularly in relation to saddling the court with responsibility under Part VII. In Section 56 it is stated that the court may, in certain circumstances, fix a standard wage and that they shall take into consideration certain things, including the most recent cost-of-living index number. If the new labour court, with its new function and its new work, is to have the powers and the responsibilities and the influence that it is being given in some of these sections, I think the cost of living is a thing which will want to be reviewed in the light of present conditions and circumstances. I do not think that the cost-of-living index number as it stands to-day bears any relation of any kind to modern conditions. If we are to have a thing that is to be called the cost-of-living index number, it ought to be related to the cost of living of a person who has to keep a family and run a home in 1946 or 1947 and the cost of living should be looked at with an entirely modern outlook and from the point of view of conditions that exist to-day.

Again, in relation to the difficulties which the court is likely to have immediately, the Irish Trade Journal of March, 1946, gives on page 4 particulars of wage earners according to wage distribution in all industries and services. When we look at the information provided there with regard to the earnings of males of 18 years and over for the last year for which information is available, that is 1944, we realise that one-third of the men working in industries and services, or nearly one-third, have less than 50/- per week earnings; that another one-third have 80/- or over, and that the remaining one-third earn between 50/- and 80/- per week. Certain increases or bonuses may have been given during 1945. But, looking back to 1944, when we see that one-third of our men working in industry and in services received less than 50/- per week, that another one-third received 50/- to 80/-, and the other one-third over 80/-, we realise in relation to the cost of living at present the difficulty and the pressure under Part VII which the court is likely to be up against, if that is to be used at all. I think it is a very serious blot on the proposals in Part VII and, if I may say so, on the Minister's bona fides with regard to Part VII, if when workers appeal to the court under Part VII to have their present basic and bonus figures reviewed and a more favourable rate is given them than the present basic rate and bonus, that is refused by the workers concerned. I think the whole fabric of agreement goes by the board. I think that is a blot on Part VII which ought to be got rid of. At any rate, I think the position with regard to the cost of living and with regard to wages in industry and services as indicated by the figure which we had last shows that it is wrong to put Part VII into this particular Bill. If you set up machinery by which a court or tribunal is being given prominence as an institution in the country for inducing employers and workers to come together and to frame, on the one hand, employment agreements and, on the other hand, employment regulations, or to come together as a general industrial council to promote industrial harmony, leaving as far as possible the bodies that are set up under these three sections to look after strikes and to carry out any adjustments or conciliation or arbitration that may be necessary beforehand, either to avoid strikes or to settle them without the intervention of the court, I think it is wrong to saddle it with the legacy that is over from the standstill Order or with the problem there is to-day of settling disputes by a definite award that will arise out of the removal of the standstill Order.

Generally, however, I subscribe to the ideas at the back of the Minister's mind. If the court is able to bring employers and workers together in a systematic way, then, just as the Minister seems to think that employers and employees can do their work well together, I also believe that they can do their work and that a considerable amount of good will flow from the measure.

The statement by the Minister that he was prepared to accept suitable amendments to this Bill on any section, subject only to one limitation, the workability of the particular section, makes it a little easier for myself and my colleagues in deciding the course we should adopt on the Second Reading. If it were not for that assurance—one which we will avail of fully on the Committee Stage—I am afraid we would have to challenge a division on the Second Reading, particularly as the Bill contains three or four sections which would have to receive our opposition.

The viewpoint of the trade union movement, as interpreted by the members on these benches, is that they welcome any machinery calculated to reduce the frequency of strikes. That is our viewpoint, too, always provided that such a result is not going to be achieved by imposing obligations that might be regarded as objectionable. There are three or four clauses which we place in that particular category. One is Section 26, which deals with the question of specifying members of a trade union in the registration of their agreement. The next is Section 30, our principal source of objection, which deals with the liability for damages under certain eventualities. The next is Section 64 (5), regarding the procedure to be adopted in connection with disputes; and there is also Section 73, which is a corollary of Section 30, on the question of liability for damages. Finally there is what we regard in its present form as rather unsatisfactory, the provision in Section 56 in relation to the standard rates of wages.

Before I pass a few comments on these particular sections, may I state, in so far as the labour court itself is concerned, that my personal viewpoint —for what it is worth—is that it could be improved regarding the number of its personnel? The Bill provides for a chairman and two members, one to be nominated from either side. I would suggest to the Minister, from my experience in the trade union movement, that it imposes too serious an obligation on one individual in a court of that character, particularly an individual who is not a trained lawyer, to take on himself responsibility to give his judgment in particular circumstances. I suggest that the court would be improved by adopting what is, I gather, the practice in other countries where labour courts have been established, that is, by strengthening the courts, either on the trade union side or the employers' side, if not to the extent of a member of co-equal standing, at least of one who may be designated as an adviser. I know there is provision for an assessor, but that provision relates only to a technical assessor. I have in mind a serious trade dispute where a man acting in a labour capacity would most certainly like to have the feeling that he could consult with a colleague and have the advice of that colleague on what might be technical matters to him. It would be rather difficult to get a member of the trade union movement who would be conversant with every phase of trade union activities. That is my personal view of the labour court, so I would like to see its composition extended.

We are particularly interested in the question of the exclusion of State employees, local employees, teachers and agricultural workers. Some time ago, I addressed a question to the Minister for Finance on arbitration for the Civil Service and he then intimated that he would give a decision on that subject to the appropriate organisations before the end of June. It is true that we have not yet reached the end of June, but we are very near it. I would like to hear the Minister on that point when he is replying. Since State employees are excluded from the provisions of this Bill, what machinery will be set up for the adjustment of their particular grievances and any disputes that might arise?

The same thing applies to the local authorities. I feel there is a certain amount of inconsistency in the exclusion of local authorities, in so far as the employees of harbour authorities are included under the scope of the Bill. The Minister has adverted to the question of agricultural labourers and has given reasons for their exclusion. I do not think he will get certain sections of the House to agree with the reasons he has given. If there is one set of workers to whom some of the safeguards in this Bill should be available, surely it is the agricultural workers.

In Section 26, there is provision for the registration of the agreement in regard to what is known as specified members of a trade union. The trade union movement is a bit disturbed that that may have a damaging effect on unions with headquarters at the other side, a number of which are still operating here. The section makes reference particularly to what is known as a determination under the Trade Union Act, 1941. The Minister will appreciate what is involved in that.

The important section is Section 30, dealing with liability for damages in certain eventualities, one of which may be a breach of conditions of service which might force employees out on strike, unofficially or otherwise. That would immediately bring in the trade union which would be associated in any way, even to the extent of a branch official; it would commit the union and render it liable to severe damages. No trade union will surrender its rights in that particular respect. Section 30 provides for the registration not alone of the wages agreement but of the conditions of service. We suggest it would be practically impossible to give the details and all the intricate matters that govern the conditions. If any one of those conditions is altered in any way and men go out on strike and a union gives any assistance whatsoever, they will find themselves subject to the penalties laid down in the Bill.

I put to the Minister a case like this, which might not be uncommon. A union, having made its agreement with the employers, registers it. It has details of certain headings on the conditions of the agreement, even to the type of sanitary conditions that may be provided for workshops and factories. In a particular workshop or factory, if it is found that the sanitary conditions become unbearable and the staff find they have no other remedy at their hand but to bring the matter to a head by leaving their work, then, simply because that type of thing is not recorded in the agreement, if the local branch official gives any assistance in any form whatever, the union comes within the strictures of this particular section. In other instances, you may have the case of a foreman in a particular works, who might goad the men into rebellion—and these instances are not infrequent—and the men, feeling that they have no other means at their disposal to give effect to their protest against the foreman, may leave the job, perhaps only for a short time. There again, if the branch official gives assistance or the union does so in any way, it comes within the question of penalties. While that particular clause stands, until it is completely eliminated, so far as members on this side of the House are concerned, we will have to oppose the Bill as a whole.

Then there is the question of 64 (5), which provides that a court may decline to investigate a dispute where a stoppage has occurred unless work is resumed on a temporary basis. It will be within the knowledge of members of the House that this is a bone of contention which has very frequently been paraded in industrial disputes—that employers will refuse to negotiate while members of a trade union are out on strike. I want to say that members of a trade union will not surrender that right. We have had recent cases of it in the country. I understand that it arose very recently in the case of the Cork bakers' trouble. In that case the demand was officially formulated that, until those on strike went back, there could be no question of negotiations. This Bill makes provision, in subsection (5) of Section 64, for a continuation of that objectionable practice. Our hope is that it will be possible to remove the bad effects of that particular section.

Finally, there is the question of the standard rate of wages for areas. Deputy Mulcahy referred to this. Section 56 relates to the cost of living index figure. I think the appropriate term would be the cost of living in a particular area. The cost of living index figure would mean absolutely nothing. The only way in which to get the appropriate rate would be to take the cost of living of, say, a man and his wife and three children. It should not be impossible to do that in the particular area where this section is intended to operate. We are particularly disturbed at the linking up of Section 56 with the minimum for agricultural wages. We regard that as ominous, because it assumes that the minimum for agricultural wages is a satisfactory foundation upon which to build a general wage policy. I do not think that anybody who knows what the conditions of the agricultural labourer are at the present time will agree that that should be so. If Section 56 cannot be altered on the lines that we suggest, then I think it would be better that it should be eliminated altogether.

As I have said, the Bill, in so far as it may provide for a levelling up of rate standards to an agreed figure, will be welcomed generally by the trade union movement. In that respect, may I point out to the Minister that certain advantages may flow to non-trade unionists because of the effects of this Bill? If non-trade unionists feel that they are going to get the benefits of organised action in this way, trade unionists may, naturally, ask, why not put a provision in the Bill whereby all workers shall become trade unionists? On the question of State employees, I did refer to the question of arbitration so far as the Civil Service is concerned. Again, I want to say there is no indication as to what the position of the teaching profession will be. I do not want to obtrude on the present position beyond saying that, if some machinery such as we find set out in this Bill were available at the present time, we certainly would not have the trouble which now obtains as far as the primary teachers are concerned. It would be disastrous, in my opinion, if they were to be excluded because of the particular category they are in, and if no provision were made to ensure that there was reasonable conciliation or arbitration machinery available to them. These are broadly my views on the Bill. My colleagues will deal with it in more detail. I want to intimate to the House that we are not opposing the Second Reading because of the assurances given by the Minister that it will be possible for us to have our viewpoints favourably considered in Committee Stage, at the same time pointing out what, in our opinion, are the real sources of trouble so far as the Bill is concerned.

I desire to welcome the Bill in principle. I welcome, in particular, the manner in which it was put before the House by the Minister. I think that if it is approached by the Minister and by members on all sides of the House in the helpful way in which the Minister has suggested we ought to be able to hammer out a rather useful measure. I do not think that anything is to be gained by going back on what has happened in the past, either in regard to lock-outs or strikes. Our aim ought to be to try to put through this House a piece of legislation that will reduce to the absolute minimum the necessity for either strikes or lock-outs. I am perturbed about this court that is to be set up because of the way in which it is to be established. In order to make my point clear, I have to refer to the conditions which exist, and which have existed over a number of years, in the trade union movement itself. In what I am about to say, I do not want to introduce a mischievous spirit into the debate, but I do not think that the Minister himself is entirely blameless for the position which, unfortunately, obtains in the trade union movement to-day—a position that has obtained for some years. However, I do not want to go very much further into that. I agree with the Minister when he said that, in the case of inter-union disputes, the intervention by employers is rarely fruitful. We had one outstanding example of that. I think if it had not the actual practical backing of the Minister, it had at least his blessing, and I do not think that the outcome of that intervention was very fruitful.

I am worried about this court which is to be composed of three persons. The chairman is to be appointed, or nominated, by the Minister. As regards the other two members, one is to be nominated or appointed by an organisation of trade unions and the other by the employers' organisations. We know that at the moment, unfortunately, there are two organisations of trade unions in this country. We also know from what has taken place that the Minister, to say the least of it, is very partial to one organisation of trade unions. I do not want in any way to discuss the merits of the dispute.

I do not want to put myself on the side of either one or the other organisation, but I am pointing out what is a very definite difficulty. If the Minister provides machinery for the setting up of this court, he will have to make up his mind to ask either one or other of these organisations of trade unions to nominate a labour member to this court That is the fatal weakness that I see in the Bill. I do not think that that court, the labour member of which has been nominated by one organisation—the other organisation being completely ignored for the purposes of this nomination—is going to bring to itself, or to its personnel, the confidence without which it cannot succeed. I am trying to put to the Minister and to the House a point about which I am genuinely troubled: a difficulty which I see there without, as I say, trying to go into the question of what led to, or what is continuing, this unfortunate split in the trade union movement. I should like if the Minister would deal with that because there is no use in our seeing the difficulty and then refusing to face it. I think that, if we do not face the difficulty, this Bill, when it finally emerges, will not be as useful a piece of legislation as we should like to see it. I do not want to push that point any further at the moment. It may be said that that is a matter for the Committee Stage, but I think it is the kernel of the whole Bill. In my opinion, unless the trade unions of the country have absolute confidence in the good faith of the court as a whole, and particularly in the person who is there to represent the point of view of the trade unions—unless he is in good faith with all the trade unions in the country—then the court is not going to be successful.

The other objection I have is to Section 4. I cannot understand why certain classes of workers should be excluded from a Bill of this description. If it be desirable, as everybody admits it is, to have disputes settled by way of conciliation, arbitration or mediation for one section of workers, surely it is desirable that they should be settled in the same way for all sections of workers. Without any intention, so far as I know, of providing alternative machinery, we are excluding from this piece of legislation a very large body of workers. The vast majority of the workers to whom I refer are not organised, in the sense that they do not belong to trade unions. They are, if not the lowest-paid workers in the country, amongst the lowest paid. I refer to the employees of local authorities and, in particular, to the employees of county councils. It is notorious that their standard rate of wages is about the lowest in the State. Those of us who are conversant with their working conditions know that, at certain periods of the year, they are fortunate if they receive, on the average, two-thirds of the standard rate of wages, small as that is. That condition of affairs is due to short and broken time. Those workers are practically helpless. They are not organised. No trade union is particularly anxious to organise them. There are certain difficulties in organising them and keeping them in an organisation because they are so scattered. Even when they have succeeded in inducing their immediate employers to give them reasonable conditions as regards wages and working conditions, the advances so granted have been turned down by the Minister for Local Government and Public Health.

I should be more enthusiastic about this Bill if not so many classes of workers were excluded from it, and if the most defenceless and poorest paid section of workers were not deliberately excluded from participation in any fruits which may flow from the working out of the measure. There are a number of other points on which I should like to have information and about which I am concerned, but they are points of detail and can be suitably raised when we are dealing with the sections in Committee. So far as the principle of the Bill and the Minister's intentions are concerned, they should receive the support of all sides of the House.

We have suffered severely from lock-outs and strikes. In the end, nobody suffers more severely than the workers themselves. We have to bear in mind, while the Government machinery for keeping wages at a certain level was fully effective, their machinery for keeping the cost of living close to the level of wages was not effective. I do not say that that was for want of trying on the part of the Government. I fully appreciate that, to a large extent, if not entirely, the increase in the cost of living was due to circumstances beyond the control of the Government. But I think the Minister will readily admit that there is a very wide gap between rates of wages and the present cost-of-living figure, which is calculated, as has been pointed out, on an unsatisfactory basis. So far as this Bill goes, I welcome it and I hope it will be the success the Minister desires.

While I cannot claim to be well informed with regard to the working of trade unions or industrial conditions generally, I have no hesitation in accepting the principle of this Bill as sound inasmuch as it seeks to provide some alternative to a clash and stoppage of work when any question arises between employers and employees. I am rather puzzled—this may be due to my ignorance of industrial conditions and industrial disputes —as to how this court will work and what procedure it will adopt. The Bill refers to the court registering agreements. Does that mean that the trade unions of employers and workers will first enter into an agreement and that the court will simply pronounce upon it and make it legally binding? Or will the court go into all the details of the dispute and give a decision upon the merits? Will such a decision be a majority decision? Will two members of the court decide any question at issue? That is a very important matter, because the court then becomes a court of arbitration and any trade union that goes into it, whether of employers or employees, will have to depend for a satisfactory decision upon the impartiality and justice of the chairman. A difficult and responsible duty will, certainly, be placed upon the chairman. I am in agreement, at present at any rate, with the Minister when he lays down the principle that this court should be voluntary—that unions shall not be compelled to accept it, whether they wish to do so or not. I take it that "voluntary" means that both unions must agree to accept the decision of the court.

If they do that, of course, they would have to be bound by its findings, and I will say that it would be too big a step, perhaps, in the direction of a totalitarian set-up if we were to make those courts compulsory on all unions and force them to accept the intervention of the court, whether they desired it or not. The force of public opinion and moral suasion will induce all responsible unions, whether of employers or employees, to have resort to this court if it is properly constituted. This brings us to the question raised by Deputy Morrissey. It is absolutely essential that a court of this kind should enjoy the confidence of employers and employees. Otherwise it will not be availed of. If the court is properly constituted there will be strong moral force brought to bear upon unions to avail of its services.

A good deal of contention in regard to this measure will centre around the definition of "work". There are many people in this country who hold that a civil servant is not a worker. This Bill would seem to confirm that opinion. Having regard to the large number of people employed by the State and by local authorities, some of whom are employed at very low rates of remuneration, I do not think such sections should be excluded from the operation of this Bill. I do not see any reasonable objection to having any differences of opinion that may arise between, for example, road workers and the county councils, referred to a court of this kind. The court will have to take all the facts into consideration, and all the circumstances, including the ability of the local authority to pay a higher wage, and will have to consider the relationship as between employees of the local authority and other workers, such as agricultural workers. Matters of that kind would have to be considered by the court and they could be as fairly and as justly decided by such a properly constituted court as by a Minister or anybody else.

The question of agricultural workers is also very important. The main function of this Bill is to prevent serious trade disputes holding up industry or employment.

There is as grave a danger at the present time of a serious dispute in agriculture as there is in any other industry. Everyone will recognise that a dispute in the agricultural industry in regard to wages, leading to a stoppage of work, would be the most serious and perhaps the most disastrous dispute which could occur in this State, particularly at the present time. If, for example, during the period of the harvest there was to be a labour dispute in agriculture it would be a national calamity and it might be one which would call for direct State intervention. It should in the first place be avoided, if possible, by such machinery as is provided in this Bill. If the machinery which it is sought to provide in this Bill is effective in other industrial enterprises, there is no reason why it should not be equally effective in agriculture. It may be said, and will be said, that agricultural employers and agricultural workers are to a very large extent unorganised. That is true. Nevertheless, there have been disputes in the agricultural industry during the past few months which have caused at least a temporary stoppage of work. That shows that at least the employees in the industry are becoming organised and it may be taken for granted that if employees in the agricultural industry become properly organised they will eventually force the employers to organise also. Nobody objects to employers and employees in agriculture being organised provided they are not organised to fight each other. The provisions of this Bill should be availed of in order to avoid a conflict between those two important sections of the community. If the workers and employers in agriculture become organised it is inevitable that a conflict will arise which may possibly lead to a stoppage of work unless some machinery is set up to avoid that conflict. I cannot see why the machinery of this Bill should not be invoked.

The position at the present time is that agricultural workers are provided, under the Agricultural Wages Act, with a minimum wage and that there is a tribunal set up to fix that minimum wage. But that tribunal does not undertake to prevent and has not been in any way effective in preventing a dispute between employers and employees in the industry. It is merely set up for the purpose of fixing a minimum wage. I think employers as well as workers in the industry would welcome some other type of machinery.

They would welcome a tribunal which would fix minimum and maximum wages and conditions. The fixing of a minimum wage, while it safeguards the worker to a certain extent, provides no safeguard for the employer and in matters of this kind there should be mutual advantages. If one section are benefited to a certain extent, there should be a corresponding benefit for the other section. If machinery was set up for fixing both minimum and maximum agricultural wages, it would have the advantage not only of protecting the employee, but it would also safeguard the interests of the employer and would ensure that no excessive demands are made upon him.

The present position is altogether unsatisfactory. The minimum wage was fixed mainly because agricultural workers were supposed to be unorganised, to have no trade unions to defend their interests. It now seems that in a number of counties they have trade unions to protect their interests. A situation arises entirely different from that which operated when the Agricultural Wages Board was set up and I think the way out of the difficulty would seem to be to refer the whole matter to a labour court such as is provided in this Bill, with technical advisers and others who may be required. The agreements entered into should be binding both on the employers and on the workers and we will thus avoid having the workers forced down to inadequate wages and having unjust or excessive demands made upon the employers. There is no valid reason from the point of view of the farm worker or the farmer for having the agricultural worker excluded from the provisions of this Bill.

I welcome the provision for the continuance and stabilising of conciliation councils and for the establishment of joint labour committees. Those bodies, I am sure, will render useful service in providing machinery for mutual discussion and conciliation as between employers and workers. I assume that their function will be to smooth the position between employers and workers and avoid matters reaching the stage when they become the subject of a dispute, which may be referred to the labour court. Such bodies must prove very useful and ought to be availed of to the fullest possible extent.

In common with other Deputies I want to compliment the Minister on the manner in which he submitted the Bill to the House and on the willingness he expressed to accept suggestions and advice as to the manner in which the Bill should be framed. The broad principles of the Bill are sound. I do not quite agree with Deputy O'Sullivan when he expressed very strong objection to the section of the Bill which deals with the enforcement of decisions of the labour court. If a court of this kind is to serve any useful purpose, it must have definite powers by which its decisions can be imposed upon the employers and employees.

In Section 30 the Bill provides fairly drastic powers by which the employer can be compelled to adhere to all points of an agreement entered into and registered by the court and it is only reasonable that the court should have the same powers in dealing with employees' unions. If we were not to provide the court with drastic power of this kind, I think it would be rather a waste of time and money to set it up. The important point to remember is that no union needs to avail of this court unless it freely desires to do so. Having availed of the court, I think unions cannot have any quarrel with regard to the power which it will have to enforce its decisions.

The Bill is sound, but I think the Minister should make some effort to extend is scope to the types of workers I have outlined—the agricultural workers and employees of local authorities. There is not much point in excluding employees of local authorities from the operations of the Bill when employees of statutory bodies, such as Córas Iompair Éireann, are included. All industrial and commercial bodies controlled by the State come under the Bill and I do not see why local authorities should be excluded. There does not seem to be any reasonable point in their exclusion. The Bill is reasonably good. It makes an attempt to deal with a very difficult problem and I feel sure it will be seriously and sympathetically considered by all sections of the House.

This Bill does not contain many vital principles. In general, it may be said to be a somewhat venturesome approach to the question of seeing in what way industrial disputes may be avoided by the provision of machinery which is intended to be utilised for the purpose of settling disputes or threatened disputes in a conciliatory way. The Minister was wise not only in the character of his speech this evening but in his personal relationship to the Bill. It was desirable for the Minister to say that this Bill is in the nature of an adventure into the realm of bringing peace into industry and, to facilitate that, he has indicated that be is willing to be guided by the collective view of the House, conditioned only by the desirability of making whatever suggestions are made work in the light of the practical problems with which we have to deal.

This Bill is one which a trade union or an employer has the right to use, if it or he wishes. If they wish, they can disregard its existence entirely. Members of a trade union will not be compelled to use the Bill, but they will be perfectly free to use the machinery if they think it is advantageous to them. A circumstance may arise in which, indirectly, they will be compelled to use the machinery. One particular union will be compelled to use the machinery because other unions, catering for the same class of workers, might use it and, therefore, automatically impinge upon the area of jurisdiction or activity of a union which did not originally desire to use the machinery. There is no compulpe sion on a union to use the machinery of the Bill and, if it uses it, it will do so because it will see some advantages. By the time the Bill leaves the House it may be a more acceptable Bill from the point of view of the unions.

The central pivot in the Bill is the board, which shall consist of a chairman appointed by the Minister, an employers' representative appointed by trade unions representative of employers and a workers' representative appointed by trade unions representative of workers. To that extent we shall get a board functioning of three members—an independent chairman, an employers' representative and a workers' representative. Unfortunately, if the board is composed in that way and is confined to three such persons, you may very well at the outset bump into difficulties which it is desirable to obviate. There are, unfortunately, two trade union congresses in this country. I lament the fact that there are.

I think that it is an appalling reproach to the movement that it cannot overcome these difficulties. I for one would earnestly hope that both congresses would be able to find ways and means by which these difficulties could be got over in the interests of a reunited movement, operating what should be and what always was, an effective, the only effective, instrument, for protecting the worker in the industrial field in this country. The situation which confronts us now may well coerce them into realising their responsibilities in that connection. In the same way as I have refrained from saying anything elsewhere, I do not want to say anything in this debate which would in any way tend to make a settlement of that dispute more difficult or which would prevent the reintegration of these two sections of the movement into a reunited movement at no far distant date. But the fact remains that there are two congresses in existence to-day.

I take it that both congresses will be asked to make nominations for the workers' representative on this board. Suppose both congresses do make nominations and suppose the Minister appoints a representative of the Congress of Irish Unions to the board, inevitably there will be complaints by unions affiliated to the Irish Trade Union Congress. Or if the Minister appoints a representative of the Irish Trade Union Congress, inevitably there will be complaints by the unions affiliated to the Congress of Irish Unions. I suggest to the Minister that from every point of view it is desirable to avoid that incipient friction, and the best way to do that is by constituting a panel of workers' representatives, so that a union which desires to go before the board could indicate what workers' representative it desired to sit on the board when the case was being heard. In that way, the State will pass over for the time being taking sides in this issue. You will probably make the board work more effectively and you will be doing nothing calculated to embitter a situation in which wisdom demands every effort should be made to avoid bitterness. I hope the Minister will be cognisant of that difficulty when we come to the Committee Stage of the Bill and that he will make an effort to remedy the position on the lines I have suggested or in any event, on lines which will not cause friction and which will tend to promote harmony between the two trade union congresses.

I notice that one of the functions of the board will be to deal with the registration of agreements. That is, the board will be entitled to register standard rates Orders and emergency bonus Orders. It will also be entitled to register agreements subsequently negotiated between employers and workers. It will register also agreements which are the subject of decision by the labour court itself. But there is a provision in this Bill whereby the board may, on a complaint by an employer, investigate to what extent a union has not adhered to an agreement. It can also investigate a complaint by a union that an employer has not adhered to an agreement. Having investigated a complaint by a union that an employer, who has complete jurisdiction over his own business, has not adhered to an agreement, the court is obliged to instruct the employer to do so and, if he fails, he will be fined £500. If an employer complains that a union has broken an agreement and has, in the words of the Bill, "engaged in promoting, inciting or assisting in the maintenance of a strike" to get conditions which are better than those registered by the court, then the court is empowered to award compensation against the union and the employer is entitled to go to the courts and to recover the amount of the compensation so awarded as a simple contract debt. I think that is a novel way of getting behind the jurisdiction of the courts. Firstly you are giving the assessment of compensation to a court of this kind. You know you cannot get legislation to enforce these conditions, but you say to the employer: "Take your reward of compensation into the courts and make the courts enforce it against the union."

You may very well argue that if you are going to penalise the employer on the one hand for breaches of the Act, the union should be made liable on the other hand for any transgressions of which it is guilty. The point I want to make is: what is a union for the purpose of the Bill? It seems to me that a union is a union registered under the Trade Union Acts or holding a negotiating licence under the 1941 Act. That is a union in the sense in which it is used in this Bill. That union may have a recalcitrant branch secretary in some remote area or again a recalcitrant branch committee may decide to embark on a strike which is thoroughly disapproved of by the union executive or by the members of the union generally.

If it is held that a union is responsible for the actions of its servants and officers, it may well be held that a branch secretary in some remote part of Connemara, Kerry or Donegal is in fact an officer of the union. That branch secretary may have a hold over some members of the union or a hold on the branch committee in his area. Every one of us who has got to deal with these matters from day to day knows of these difficulties. The branch secretary may be one of those types who can incite members to do what he thinks are laudable and heroic things, and by his powers of oratory in that respect, he may be able to induce a branch committee or the members of a branch to embark on a course of conduct which may constitute a breach of a registered agreement.

The employer affected by that may come along to the court and say: "Look here, I registered an agreement with this union providing for certain wages and conditions. The secretary of the local branch has called a strike as a result of which I have lost so much money. The strike was for the purpose of getting conditions better than those provided for in the registered agreement. I am entitled to come to the court and ask the court to award me compensation for the loss which I have suffered because of the action of this local officer of the union in inciting, promoting and assisting in the maintenance of a strike to get something better than was provided by the agreement." If the court says that is so and that this local officer is, in fact, an agent and servant of the union it can award compensation to the employer. The employer can then go into the local district court and say: "Here you are, just O.K. that cheque and I will present it to the union's bank and teach these people a lesson."

Is it fair that a union should be mulcted, seeing that the whole executive of the union may thoroughly disapprove of the action of the secretary, who may have embarked on a course of conduct violently in conflict with the policy of the union? It has been decided for a long period of years that the mere fact that one irresponsible person may embark on a course of conduct of that kind is not a reason why a union should be mulcted in damages in respect of a situation for which it has no responsibility whatever.

As an example, let us take a number of unions that cater for sugar workers. There are about half a dozen of such unions. Suppose a local branch secretary, at the start of the campaign season, when the machines are working at their highest capacity, and are full of sugar, says to some of the members: "This is the best time to have a showdown with the management over a grievance that affects us. We ought to have higher wages, and now when the vats are full of sugar is the time to have the shown-down." Suppose the union executive is strongly opposed to the action of the local branch secretary, and the machinery is extensively damaged, is it not possible for the sugar company to go to court and point out that the local branch secretary was an officer of the union, which was a corporate body, and that, as the machinery had been damaged, and a quantity of sugar destroyed, it would cost a certain amount for repairs and be awarded compensation? The court presumably will hold that the branch secretary was an official of the union, and that it had power to award compensation against it, although 99 per cent. of the union members would be opposed to the action of the local people in such circumstances.

If the Minister wants to do that, he will give the unions the greatest kick in the pants they ever got. No unions with any strength at all will register agreements under this Bill. If I have any influence, I will certainly advise them not to do so if the effect is to make them liable for the acts of irresponsible members of a union, who act in defiance of the executive. Where a union calmly sits down as an executive council, and deliberately chooses to commit an overt act, the consequences of which it is able to measure beforehand, they know what they are doing; that they may win or they may lose. They will have to put up with the consequences if they lose. To put an obligation on a union, for the irresponsible act of a branch secretary, or other people who might be alleged to be officials of the union, is the pivot of the Bill and my strong advice to the Minister is to reconsider it. Otherwise, no union will be registered. No industrial union will register, if it means accepting a liability of that kind.

The court is to be given power to fix wages in what I understood, in the first instance, to be small towns. It seems from the way in which the Bill is drawn as if it were to fix wages for Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Limerick, and places not in the category of small towns. I imagined that the intention was small towns where there was a miscellaneous collection of workers, with no strength in their various avocations, and that the intention was to fix rates of wages corresponding to the local rate of wages. Under the Bill, it seems to me to be possible for the court to do so, not merely for small towns but for Dublin and other places. I do not think that was contemplated, and the Minister should remove that possibility. It is provided, too, that in fixing the local rate of wages regard should be had to what is paid to agricultural workers, a phrase I thoroughly detest, because agricultural workers are grossly exploited, and also to the cost-of-living index figure, another unreliable barometer upon the basis of which to measure wage standards. I should have thought that in asking the court to advert to certain factors in fixing wages, someone would have thought of suggesting a wage, not of some exploited worker or according to a cost-of-living figure which is unreliable but based on what it costs a man, his wife and children to live.

The test of all wages is: Could they live on them? You might have a person with £1 a week enjoying a type of life that was better for him than if he had £5 a week. The court ought to be told what it costs a man, his wife and three or four children to live. That is the wage that ought to be paid. Anything less would be unjust. There is no use in pretending that you are acting in a Christian manner in accordance with social justice if the payment of a just wage is to be nothing but a distant memory. In asking the court to fix the wages intended here for small towns I think it ought to have the responsibility put upon it of seeing what wage is required for a man, his wife and three children to live on. It should be a family wage, one which would enable them to discharge their responsibilities. To allow them to be exploited by a lower rate, or to relate wages to an unreliable cost-of-living figure is not to deal with the matter in a Christian way, or in a way that complies with the principles of social justice. The Minister ought to find a happier collection of phrases than those used in the Bill to describe its functions in relation to the fixation of wages in small towns.

Section 64 deals with the question of the circumstances which the court may require before it intervenes in a strike. I do not know what the reason is for giving power so that it may not intervene to settle a strike if there is a stoppage of the work. That is the tune the Federated Union of Employers have been whistling for a long time. We had a statement from its secretary recently that no self-respecting employer would negotiate when a strike was in progress, as if the worker had not a perfect right to withdraw labour at any time. This gentleman said that in the new code of conduct and code of honour no self-respecting employer would negotiate when a strike was on. Our Constitution recognises the natural right of a worker to withdraw his labour. All the Encyclicals, as well as natural law, recognise the right of the worker to withdraw his labour, but an effort is being made by some gentlemen to say: "You should not negotiate with people who exercise their natural right to withdraw their labour; they are a kind of untouchable class." The phraseology of this Bill looks to me to be a concession to that mentality.

We had a laundry dispute during the past year, of which the Minister is well aware. The whole attitude of the employers was that they would not negotiate until the workers went back to work. In the long run, they did not go back to work until the settlement was negotiated, but the final settlement was one which had to be arrived at by devious paths. The strike lasted 14 or 15 weeks, but if that element of starchiness had been got out of it in the beginning, the strike might have been settled in a much shorter time. To arm this court with powers to say: "You must go back to work," means going back to a period 50 or more years ago, when employers contested the right of workers to withdraw their labour. The commonsense thing to do is to give the court powers of a wide kind to do whatever seems to be sensible and not powers to create new strata of starchiness, new codes of conduct of this kind, which may well operate as spanners in the machinery which the Minister is endeavouring to create.

The question as to whether this machinery will work or not will depend in very large measure on the kind of service the court gives. If this court can function expeditiously, if it can deal rapidly with all the problems with which it is likely to be confronted, in a short time, it may well work and many of the fears expressed in connection with it may prove to be groundless; but if, on the other hand, it functions in a sluggish way—and I use the word "sluggish" with no derogatory application to the personnel— if, because of the multiplicity of tasks assigned to it, the variety of things it must do and the procedures which it must follow, the court should find itself in arrears in dealing with applications for registration of agreements, the hearing of claims for increased wages or the investigation of disputes in respect of non-compliance, there will be an uproar against it, and there will be decisions by trade unions and members of trade unions that the machinery is too slow and they will scrap whatever agreements they have registered and go out in the industrial field seeking increased wages.

I think that would be a pity, without this method at least being given a trial, and the Minister might well consider whether he would not establish, as I thought was originally intended, local courts as well as a central court, the object of the local courts being to take away from the central court many of the small local claims which, when only one court is functioning, would probably have to come into that court. It might be found in time that we could abolish the local courts, when the central court has established itself and has given decisions which are broad in their application, but it would be a great pity if, at the outset, this central court managed to get itself into a position in which it was the target for considerable criticism, not through any fault of its own, but because it was expected to do things which it could not do. It would be a mistake if this court were to be a bottleneck which could become choked by the number of applications with which it had to deal and the number of duties assigned to it. The Minister might well discuss with both trade union congresses the question whether it would not be more desirable, certainly in the earlier stages, to go back to a scheme of a central court, with local courts for dealing with local cases and local applications.

I regret to notice that the Bill has no application to employees of local authorities, civil servants, teachers and agricultural workers. One might say that the State is responsible for the remuneration of teachers, as it is responsible in the case of other State servants, and does it not look strange that the State should advise everybody else to submit their disputes to an industrial court of this kind and should advise trade unions and employers to accept the judgment of a court such as that constituted here, while, at the same time, the State declines to set a good example to both employers and unions by undertaking to constitute a similar court for civil servants, teachers and the employees of local authorities?

If this scheme is good, if it is morally good and morally defensible, if it is economically and administratively sound, if it is the kind of machinery which ordinary commonsense people would evolve for resolving the difficulties of everyday life, surely the same principles ought to recommend it for application to State servants, such as teachers, civil servants, post office officials and employees of local authorities. There does not seem to me to be any great difficulty in doing that. All you have to do is to decide that they all come in, or constitute a separate tribunal to deal with cases in that special category. If the State advises everybody else that mediation, conciliation and arbitration of this character are highly desirable for vital industries and for industries less vital, how can the State decline to go the whole way and say: "And, in pursuance of our belief in its efficacy, we propose to see that it is made applicable to State servants and the employees of local authorities"?

I do not know whether this exclusion is a deliberate exclusion on the part of the Minister, or whether he has made it at the request of folk who do not like anybody but themselves to decide a dispute in which they are concerned, but I strongly advise the Minister that he ought to give evidence of his own faith in his scheme and of his own good intentions by asking the Government to make the scheme applicable to State servants and employees of local authorities and teachers. If it is sound nationally and economically in relation to outside workers, in relation to industrial and commercial workers, surely it ought to have the same qualities when applied to State servants and employees of local authorities. I hope the Minister will at least discuss with the Government the feasibility of applying it to those classes at present excluded.

The Bill, in the main, is a machinery Bill, and one which can be more effectively dealt with on Committee Stage, in the light of the discussion and the points of view revealed on Second Reading. In a matter of this kind, we are likely to make progress, not so much on the basis of votes recorded in the Division Lobby but on the basis of the clash of reason upon reason and the impact of mind upon mind. I am glad of the Minister's assurance that, so far as he is concerned, he will endeavour to fashion the Bill in a way which will express most closely the viewpoint of all Parties in the House and which will, at the same time, give him a tolerably workable machine to deal with the problems envisaged. In that connection, perhaps the Minister would agree to defer the Committee Stage for a fortnight so that Deputies may have an opportunity of examining the Bill in detail and also, perhaps, examining it after the Minister has indicated the character of his amendments.

I think one can safely say that there should be a good deal of sympathy with the Minister in having to introduce this Bill at the present time, because the review he has given us of what has occurred during the past six years in relation to wages, in relation to the living standards of the workers, and in relation to the difficulty with which employers have to contend indicates quite clearly that, of all the periods during which legislation of this character might have been introduced, the particular period now with us is not perhaps the most opportune if there was any choice of selection left to the Government or the Minister in that particular matter. It is quite true, as the Minister has pointed out in introducing the Bill, that there is on the part of the workers and on the part of the trade union movement a great deal of uneasiness and a feeling of having suffered much over a period of some years from certain oppressive measures introduced by the Government.

If the legislation which we are now discussing is to have any possibility of meeting with success and achieving its objectives one thing is essential. Right from the commencement of its operation there should be recognition and acceptance on the part of those charged with implementing this machinery— that is, the personnel of the court and its officers—that there is a background which they will have to take into consideration in dealing with the cases which come before them. The Minister has referred to the control of wages and the control of prices and he has spoken of the effect upon any tendency towards inflation of rapidly growing wage rates. There is a definite background which must be kept in mind and that is that for the great masses of the working people in this country, dependent on wages and salaries, there is a gap which must be closed. Whether that gap is to be closed by wage improvements or price reductions is not an important factor at this particular moment. The important thing is that the gap is there and that the masses of our people expect that that gap will be closed. That gap can be closed by effecting a rapid reduction in prices; if that is done, that is all to the good. But, quite definitely, so far as the masses of the working people dependent upon wages and salaries are concerned, they are not prepared to see their standard of living permanently reduced by the difference represented by that gap. In considering the cases that come before it the court must have and must take a sympathetic approach to the standpoint of the masses of the workers presenting their claims to it. During the period of six years—of which the Minister spoke— when this wage control machinery was in operation it has been said, time and again, that that machinery was instituted largely for the benefit of the workers. It might be argued by the Minister—I am not going to dispute on this matter at the moment—that if that machinery had not been brought into operation the possibility is that the gap between wages and prices might have been much greater. On the other hand, on the Government's own published figures the outstanding effect of the control of prices and wages has been that the relative position of wage and salary earners has worsened materially in comparison with other sections of the community.

Those sections of the community who live on their own investments, on the ownership of land, or on other sources of income have been able to maintain their position. The agricultural section of the community has improved theirs considerably. I explained before in this House that, so far as industrial workers are concerned, we not only have no objection to seeing our brothers and sisters engaged in agriculture improving their position but we sincerely hope that they shall continue to do so in the future. We do think, however, that it is most unfair and most objectionable that the second largest section of producers in this country—that is, the industrial workers and those engaged in commerce, transport and the distribution of goods—has been the section that has suffered a reduction in its share of the national income while other sections, which contribute much less to the national income, have been able to maintain their position. That is something that should be taken into account by this court. If that is not taken into account from the beginning the court will be handicapped in its work and will start working while there is a lack of trust and confidence in it on the part of the workers. Trust and confidence are two important elements in so far as the court is concerned.

The particular problem with which we are now trying to deal is one which has exercised the minds of men and nations all over the world. Nearly every country has made some effort to solve it. Nobody has yet been able to achieve a happy medium. In recent times all kinds of solutions have been put forward, ranging from those of the very mildest character to those with the most drastic possibilities. In this country there are many people who feel that, so far as the trade union movement is concerned, we should be dealt with in some kind of condescending fashion. Some of those who have tried the more drastic remedies have paid a severe penalty. In some cases they have, so to speak, ended upside down— we shall leave it at that. In so far as our problem is concerned, because of certain features in our legislation in recent years, a suspicion has been created in the minds of the workers that, while we have not reached the stage of taking the most drastic steps to put the trade union movement and the working class movement generally into harness, there is a process of nibbling going on.

In 1936 we had the Conditions of Employment Act, under which provision was made for the registration of agreements. We had that followed by the Standstill Wages Order; that was followed by the Trade Union Act of 1942. To-day we have this further legislation introduced. I myself do not suffer from that suspicious attitude of mind to which I have already referred. But it is well to keep before our minds that this Bill now before the House is not going to be considered in a vacuum. It is going to be considered by large masses of workers in juxtaposition with what has gone before. They are going to approach this and measure the goodwill of the Minister and this House towards the trade union movement, not merely in relation to promises but more particularly in relation to how this particular machinery will operate in the first few months of its actual life. It is as well that from our benches here somebody should make one or two very definite statements on this matter. The Minister has quite clearly expressed his own intention; he has made it quite clear that there is no intention to introduce compulsion in any way into this machinery and no intention of interfering with the workers. It is just as well that we, regardless of the intentions expressed by the Minister, should make it quite clear that the working-class movement has no intention of giving up or weakening in any way their right to strike. We make that statement for the benefit of the great masses of working-class people in this country. Some people forget that of all the types of organisation in our community the greatest organisation of all is the trade union movement, which binds and brings together the great masses of the people into a single union, actuated with a single specific purpose, and representative of the greatest and the broadest stratum of our population. What is achieved by that movement eventually and gradually filters down to the most backward and most unorganised sections. Therefore, on occasion, when we hear individuals speak in a condescending way of the trade union movement it is as well to bear in mind that, next to the political Party forming the Government, probably the most effective mode of expression in this country is the trade union movement; and in many cases it is more effective than the Government. While the Government has got its 500,000 or 600,000 votes, which charges it with authority, among those 600,000 there are widely divergent opinions which are only united on certain points here and there.

In the trade union movement, with all our divisions and with all our differences, there are certain fundamental ideas which weld us into a single unified camp. Irrespective of what our politics may be and irrespective of the individual opinions which we may hold, in dealing with the problem with which we are dealing to-day it will be very difficult—in fact, impossible—to cause any division amongst us. In connection with that problem one of our basic principles is our determination to retain our right and liberty of action. The Minister has stated that the Government believes in free enterprise; if the employer is at liberty to have his industry working, or not working, at his own will and pleasure, then equally the worker is entitled to exercise his right to work, or not work, as the case may be. It is as well that we should keep these matters in mind because, unless we keep them in mind, we shall not be able to approach this machinery in the proper spirit. So far as the proposals embodied in the Bill are concerned, the trade union movement has at all times sought and asked for effective negotiating machinery and has been at all times only too anxious to assist the Minister, or anybody else, in the provision of that machinery. Merely the offer to provide the machinery is not enough. The machinery must be effective; it must be speedy and it must, from the very beginning, maintain and establish the character of being fully impartial between the two sides. It is because certain provisions in this Bill are not exactly, if you like, in the middle of the path that there will be some necessity on the part of the Minister and those of us who are interested in getting the most effective machinery to try to find ways of improving some of the sections.

I do not want to go over all the points mentioned by a number of speakers from these benches, but there are one or two points which I think should be emphasised. First of all, so far as the court itself is concerned, it is quite clear that if the court is to be effective something more than a single court will have to be provided. The difficulties so far as industrial relations are concerned do not arise, in the main, between the large well-organised bodies on both sides of the industrial battlefield, if you want to use that word. Many of the most difficult and awkward questions to settle are those affecting small bodies of workers that break out almost spontaneously and without notice. Here we are having a court set up with great panoply and a great deal of procedure requiring a good deal of time to get in motion. Something more is required if we are to deal with these small and, if you like, sporadic industrial disputes that experience has proved to be the most difficult to settle.

There is a provision in the Bill for the appointment of conciliation officers. May I suggest that something more is required? We have conciliation officers in the Department of Industry and Commerce and I believe that it will appear to many workers that all that is proposed is the transfer of these officers from the control of the Minister to the control of the court. If that is so, it will not be sufficient. They must be able to start anew. I think a single official acting with all the difficulties an official has to contend with will not be able to meet and effectively deal with all the problems that will arise. I think the point put up by Deputy Norton should be considered by the Minister, namely, the provision of a small number of subsidiary courts in the main centres, either based on the provincial areas or on the main industrial areas, with a higher or primary court to deal with the larger questions of more national importance, such as national agreements or questions affecting national and more important industrial units. These local courts should be available. I also think that, even without having an invitation from any party, when they know an industrial dispute is about to break out or is in the course of coming to a head they should immediately, without a request from any party, offer their services and say that they are available.

In the section dealing with trade disputes as such there is a provision that the court cannot intervene until asked by one of the parties to the dispute. Anyone who has got experience of industrial disputes knows well that very often the lines are drawn so tightly and the balance is so precarious that neither party will take it upon itself to ask anybody to intervene, because that in itself is often regarded as an admission of weakness. It should be possible for one of these local courts to come along and say: "We believe you have a difficulty and you do not seem to be able to adjust it. We are available and we are prepared to act immediately. We will even be prepared to make inquiries on our own and see what the trouble is. We do not ask either of you to commit yourselves by asking us to intervene. We will do it on our own initiative and you are not bound to accept our recommendations or our help if you do not wish. We are ready to start to work." That, I think, would relieve the main court of a great deal of petty work which is very often a breeding ground of larger and more difficult disputes arising with a large number of workers.

So far as the composition of the court is concerned, I think that the point made by Deputy O'Sullivan that the number of members of the court might be larger, so that, in addition to the chairman, there would be more than one representative, is a very important one. He stressed the point that in connection with certain questions there is great need for an individual to consult with another colleague. You will not be able to get on the employers' side or on the workers' side a single individual who is all-knowing with regard to industrial action. He will often find it a bit ticklish to decide and it would be helpful to him to have another colleague with whom to discuss the matter. Although in the Bill there is a definite prohibition against any public indication being given of the manner in which the members of the court rule upon any matter that is before them, the ordinary worker expects the member of the court who represents the workers to take a certain viewpoint, and if the decision of the court is regarded by the workers affected as being very arbitrary and far from impartial, the tendency will be to place the blame on the person they regard as their representative. The workers' representative will be under a special difficulty in dealing with questions of a technical nature with regard to skilled workers and the intricacies of their craft when he realises that he has to make his decision on that and that possibly that decision will affect the decision of the court and not merely his contribution to it.

With regard to the selection of representatives from either side, I do not want to open up the question of the two congresses. I think Deputy Norton covered that very well. I think the contribution he has made will be very helpful. Even apart from the question of creating difficulties in regard to the court itself as to where the workers' representatives are to come from, I think it would be helpful in establishing, if you like, goodwill and confidence in the court and a feeling of impartiality if there was some limited choice at least in regard to the selection of the workers' representative on the court. If a panel of five, ten or 20 were available, the applicant union could indicate that out of that panel they would desire to have a particular person on the court. In that way it would appear to them that they could exercise some choice in regard to the person that they will regard as representing and safeguarding their interests on the court. After all, both on the employers' side and on the workers' side there may be certain feelings with regard to individuals, certain old frictions, old associations, that at times may give rise to discussion on the part of those going before the court. As the Minister said, the main purpose is to try to find, as a result of all contributions to this discussion, the most effective machinery. It seems to me that we should not stand on formalism or the niceties of procedure in trying to find the most practicable and acceptable form of court.

In Section 19 there is reference to the manner in which the court will arrive at its opinion. It is pointed out that if two of the members fail to agree the opinion of the court shall be the opinion of the chairman. That is an objectionable suggestion. There is an employers' representative and a workers' representative and, because of the whole background, there will be wide differences of opinion in their approach to the matters coming before them. The clause in sub-section (1) of Section 19 which states that the chairman's opinion shall be the opinion of the court brings us back to that most objectionable feature of the Agricultural Wages Act, in which the chairman is in effect the board.

Surely, we could leave it to the good sense of the board that the decision will be a majority decision. The chairman is there largely to see that the work of the court is conducted in a businesslike manner and that there is proper procedure and dispatch. He should not be given any greater powers inside the court than any other member. He is there representing the Minister. It is a question of getting agreement between the two sides and not of one side overriding the other.

There is one point mentioned by a number of representative trade unions, on which I myself do not feel particularly strong. It is in regard to the powers given to the board. Section 16 states that no appeal shall lie from the decision of the court, on any matter within its jurisdiction, to a court of law; but in Section 20, though we are dealing with a court of laymen, it is stated that a witness before the court shall be entitled to the same immunities and privileges as if he were a witness before the High Court. I do not know how a court of laymen will decide the questions of privileges and immunities. If they make unwise decisions, is there to be no appeal on pure matters of law, such as questions of privilege and the law of evidence, to any court of law?

This matter has been raised and, while I personally have a very strong objection to seeing lawyers come into this field of activity at all, there is something in the point which might be considered. I can see great difficulty of allowing any appeal from a purely industrial court on matters of law, as it is quite possible to nullify the effect of the court and its decisions by arbitrarily taking appeals on matters of law in order to bring its whole machinery as an industrial court to a standstill. Secondly, I think it would become very objectionable if it became not merely exceptional but common practice to have all the cases presented before the court by members of the legal profession. I have every respect for the legal profession, but I have not any more respect for them in matters of industrial negotiations than I have for any other man. The conduct of such industrial negotiations is a matter of experience, commonsense and knowledge of the practical lives of the people whose case one is arguing. While members of the legal profession may be helpful in drafting and clarifying agreements, the agreement is only the final act and, before you bring in the agreement, you have to adjust and settle the points in dispute. If the court is to become a place where highly paid members of the legal profession are all engaged in duels over the mass of the bodies of the trade unionists, the whole purpose of the court will be defeated.

There has been reference already to Section 30 and to the objectionable features embodied in sub-section (2) (b) of that section. That is, in effect, going back to the Taff Vale judgment, going back behind the Trades Disputes Act of 1906. If that is the Minister's intention, it is as well that he should say so and then we will know where we stand. If that clause remains as it stands now, it is quite clear that no trade union with any sense of responsibility is going to take advantage of that part of the Act dealing with the registration of agreements, since all they would gain through registration they would lose a thousand times because of the operation of that clause. One of the things the Minister is trying to achieve is to make workable the section in the Trade Union Act of 1936 in regard to the registration of agreements. It was put in for that particular purpose and it failed, not because of any failure on his part or on the part of the trade unions but because of the difficulty of satisfying legal experts in his Department regarding the definitions proposed to be put into certain of the agreements. In one particular case, an agreement was being registered and it was pointed out that the Act only allowed for registration of wages and not of conditions. Then there was a separate agreement to deal with conditions, but registration broke down because, I understand, no one could find a definition of "carpenter" to satisfy the legal experts. An attempt is being made to make that section of the 1936 Act workable and that is why many of the provisions of the present Bill have been put in.

In the 1936 Act, however, when an agreement was registered, persons who broke that agreement were not subject to the penalties now imposed, but subject merely to ordinary fines, as if they broke one of the legal formalities in respect to the registration of trade unions, such as the sending of returns. Why this sudden change? The Minister says it is clear that if the two parties enter into an agreement they should be penalised if they break the agreement. As far as I know, in the trade union movement there is very seldom a breach of an actual agreement, in a deliberate sense. Very often there is a misunderstanding of an agreement and difficulty in regard to interpretation. Surely, that could be met by requiring some reference to the court to get an interpretation of the agreement?

In this particular case, not merely are penalties attached to the trade union for deliberate breach of the agreement on their part—a breach occasioned by an official decision of an executive committee after consulting its members and the branch officers— but also the penalisation of the whole union membership because of the action of one individual in the union, holding a minor position.

Not only that, we go on, after penalising the union, to penalise the individual official to the extent of a fine of £500. I would like the Minister to explain the purpose and significance of that particular clause, sub-section (3). The court makes a decision and an order is served upon a particular individual who is acting as an official of his union. If he does not give effect to that order, he is subject to a fine of £500. It has always been regarded that an official is acting on behalf of a whole body of members. If, for argument's sake, the union does commit a breach of this section, but commits it on the definite instructions of the executive committee or possibly on the instructions of the members through ballot vote and, say, the general secretary carries out those instructions, is he as an individual to be mulcted in a sum of £500 for doing so? These are points that will arise, when a union is weighing up the advantage of registration as against its possible disadvantages. In so far as the Minister is anxious, as he said in his opening statement, to get machinery which will be acceptable and workable, it is quite clear that this machinery in Part III in its present form will be unworkable and will be completely nullified by trade unions refusing to take advantage of it. There is a definite obligation on the Minister to try to find a way out of the dilemma that faces him there at the present time.

In regard to Part IV, dealing with the establishment of joint labour committees, here again there is repeated the provision in the Act relating to trade boards, that a variation in wages or employment conditions shall not be made until six months have elapsed from the date of the previous order. I suggest that might be reconsidered. Not merely is there a period of six months from one order to another, but you have also to allow for the time it takes to go through the whole procedure laid down in relation to trade boards and now, presumably, in relation to joint labour committees.

It has been considerably speeded up in the last couple of years, but even still it is possible through unavoidable delays, to have a period of a year or 18 months elapse from the time the variation is made until the next variation can become effective. Where we see rapid changes in the conditions affecting the workers' standard of living, that gives rise to a great deal of uneasiness. While it is possible to some extent to explain the position to the workers, it often tends to create a lack of confidence in the particular machinery itself. Here we are going to deal, not merely with wages but also with conditions. Now, changes might take place overnight in regard to industrial methods which would render an immediate change necessary relating to, say, hours of work, overtime or other factors. It should, therefore, be possible to reduce this period to six months by making allowance for some of the delays which take place in regard to the actual working of the machinery itself.

There is only one other point that I want to touch upon, and that is the transitory provision to fill the gap between the end of the Standstill Wage Order and the normal functioning of the labour court. There is a reference in Section 74 to the position where an application is made to the court by a trade union following upon the recording of a standard rate or bonus order to have the rates of remuneration varied in respect of these orders. The section lays down that the court may refuse the application or may make an order. It goes on to say that the applicant union has 16 days in which to accept or reject the court award. If it rejects it, it regains liberty of action, so far as industrial action is concerned, but it also loses the benefit of legal compulsion in regard to the payment of the rates set down in the order by the employers.

What is to be the position in the event of the court merely refusing the application? On the one hand, we have the court making an award which is unacceptable to a trade union. Suppose the court refuses to entertain the application, does that have the same effect? It strikes me there is a slight difference there, in the sense that the court received the application, considered it and then decided that there were certain conditions which justified a variation in the rates of wages. The trade union may have been looking for 10/-, and the court decided to award 5/- which the union refused. The court did agree that a prima facie case had been made for some improvement. On the other hand, where the court refuses an application it is, in effect, saying that there is no case at all for any improvement, no matter how small. Will that mean that where the court refuses an application, the applicant union will regain liberty of action, that it can have recourse to ordinary industrial action, if it so desires, or will it continue to be bound by the recorded orders? Will the union be denied liberty in regard to proceeding by way of strike action or other methods that it may decide upon?

So far as the Bill as a whole is concerned, there are no very great principles involved in it. The Minister says that it is largely a machinery Bill and represents an effort to try to meet problems that we in this country, in common with most other countries, are faced with. I only hope that if the Bill, as we finally decide upon it, is not completely successful, we will not make the mistake of trying to remedy the defects in it which experience may show by attempting to deal in a more drastic form with what are regarded as the faults and failings of the trade union movement. If this legislation is going to be effective at all, then it ought, as the Minister has said, to be based on goodwill and mutual acceptance. If this machinery does not function, it will be because we in this House have failed to devise the proper type of machinery, or that, having got the proper type of machinery, it failed because of certain human failings in those who were constituted to operate it. As soon as we find that failings arise because of ordinary human weakness, we should rapidly try to remedy those failings in the spirit of the machinery that we put in force. We should not get it into our minds that this problem of industrial relations is going to be solved by forms of compulsion.

That would merely have the effect of driving whatever discontent there was in the workers' movement underground, so that when it did break out it would do so with a great deal more effectiveness and damage, if you like, than if allowed to show itself in an open and unlimited form. So far as the trade union movement is concerned, we are prepared to try to use this machinery to the limit of its advantages. Our hope is that it will be helpful, not only to ourselves but also to the community in general.

There are, however, certain positions which must be accepted. One is that the losses we have suffered during the past six years must be taken into consideration when we start to operate this machinery. If there is any feeling that we are going to suffer a permanent setback because of the conditions in the last six years, then already we are damaging, to a great extent, the machinery which we hope will avoid some of the conflicts that, possibly, will be an automatic outcome of the last six years and of the difficulties that we have to go through.

The Minister said that, as far as his own views and those of the Government are concerned, the question of improved wages and working conditions is one that must be related to improved efficiency and production. We welcome any efforts made to improve efficiency and production in so far as our national economy is concerned, but I want to make it clear that we are not going to be content to have our standard of life dependent solely on efficiency and production. We are not always going to have a certain small share of the national cake. We want a big share of it. Those who are engaged in agriculture and industry contribute most to that cake. If there is any suggestion that the working classes, those who contribute by way of service to the community, have got to accept a fixed place in the social and industrial life of the community in regard to their standard of life, then we on this side are not going to accept that. We look forward to, and hope for, an improvement in our standard of life. We hope for increased production and increased efficiency, but we are not going to be held back merely because that efficiency and that production are not forthcoming. We do not control industry. In fact, we have got little or no say in its control. Very often when our people do make suggestions in regard to production and efficiency they are quietly told that they have no right to intervene. So long as that is the position there will, naturally, be the determination on our part to see that we get decent standards, and that we shall try to secure these by our own unaided efforts.

In regard to industry, many of us have got a wider vision than the mere regulation of wages and conditions. Some day we hope that we can run industry ourselves. Very often we do not see any very great justification for those who control industry to-day. In every crisis that came upon our people —the same is true of the civilised world at the moment—private employers have always, in the main, failed to come up to scratch. That may not be a commonly accepted view in the trade union movement, but it is becoming accepted more and more as the years go by—the feeling that the trade union movement has got to look a little bit beyond its own feet, to raise its eyes up and to see whether the future holds for those who contribute, either by brain or body, to the life of the community should not have a larger and more responsible share in its civic and industrial aspects.

In moving the Second Reading of this Bill, the Minister very properly placed his cards on the table, told the House that the Bill presented many difficulties and intimated that he would welcome any suggestion, either on this stage or on subsequent stages, which would improve the measure. At the same time, he indicated that the Government accepted general responsibility for the Bill as it stands. The Minister admitted that many problems raised by the Bill might best be settled by an open and generous approach on the part of Deputies. Looking back a few years, the Minister must have felt that, if political considerations had not affected the trade union movement as they did, the approach to this measure might have been facilitated. The fact that there are now two distinct trade union congresses presents a problem, from the point of view of the workers' acceptance of this Bill, which might not have arisen if there had been a single trade union congress. In a small country, such as this, division amongst workers, as amongst any other class of community, is to be deplored, more particularly when such division has been shown to operate not so much to the advantage of particular unions as to the general detriment of the workers.

I do not pretend to be acquainted with all the intricacies of this trade union dissension but, no matter what type of worker is asked for his opinion he generally says—and I think this view is shared by people prominent in the trade union movement—that these disputes are more matters of personal disagreement than disagreement on policy. It that be so, surely it is time, in view of present legislation, that those in the trade union movement should come together and realise that, not only from their own point of view but from the point of view of the general good of the community, it would be advantageous to have these disputes and disagreements resolved. They should agree that, for the future, matters which were causes of dissension in the past should be relegated to the background. At least, they should come together with a view to finding if a more unified approach could be made to the problem from the point of view of trade unions as a whole.

So far as this measure is concerned, achievement will depend on the prestige which the labour court will enjoy. If workers and employers realise that the labour court is there with one object—to establish harmonious relations between employers and workers, based on satisfactory conditions of work and satisfactory rates of wages—the prestige which the court must inevitably enjoy will have good effects on the general industrial and agricultural position. I am forced to the conclusion that the prestige of the court will be limited by the fact that a number of categories of workers, set out in Section 4, will be excluded from the beneficial operation of the measure. Section 4 (2) refers to the exclusion of labourers employed by local authorities, and agricultural labourers. In sub-section (1) (a) there is reference to a person employed "by or under the State" and there is a rather subtle distinction in sub-section (1) (c) between such a person and a "teacher in a national school." Apparently, the Government have some doubts as to whether such a teacher is employed by the State or not. However, that is only a minor point.

I think that it is correct to say that agricultural labourers and road workers under the county councils are the worst organised section of workers, of large numbers, in the country. In and around certain towns, agricultural labourers and road workers have been organised in recent years. In certain respects, the organising of these workers has presented a problem. This problem came under notice in connection with the recent strike of agricultural labourers and road workers in County Dublin. After one section of those workers had been on strike, a settlement was arrived at. Subsequently, another section of those workers went out on strike. That demonstrates, in a small way, a problem which has been more significantly demonstrates in larger disputes. In this case, two unions were involved, one being a new union. Considerable confusion was caused by the fact that two unions were interested and that one union came to an agreement with the employers before the other union did so. That not only operated against the interests of the workers but it caused dissatisfaction and confusion with market officials and others dealing with farmers who brought their produce to the market. Some farmers also found themselves in a quandary. They made an agreement with a man only to find that an official—perhaps unauthorised—came along subsequently and, claiming to represent a different union, contended that the agreement made was not binding as it had been made without authority. I mention that to show that, so far as agricultural workers and road workers are concerned, the problem is aggravated by the fact that more than one union claims to speak on their behalf. Now is the time, from the point of view of the trade union movement and of the country, to have a generous approach from both sides to the dispute between the two congresses and to see if a wider measure of acceptance of an authoritative body to speak on behalf of the workers could not be obtained.

Reference has been made to the type of court which might be set up and it has been suggested that the number of members should be increased. The making of these suggestions is really due to the dispute between the different unions. While it might be advisable, in certain circumstances, to have a larger membership than three for a tribunal of this character, I think that a small body works more efficiently and more effectively than a large body. Under normal circumstances, I think that a court of three would work more efficiently than a court of five. While that is so, if it is felt that general acceptance of a particular nominee may not be obtainable, I think it would be wise to make provision for increasing the number of the members of the court, if circumstances should warrant that course, rather than providing for a permanent court of a particular number.

Deputy Larkin referred to the fact that this court in the normal way may be a tribunal and may not be considered to be a court of law and consequently would not require the powers to summon witnesses and to examine on oath which a court usually has. While that is so, I think it is true to say that if a court or tribunal of this character is empowered to deal with matters it must have power and authority to compel the attendance of witnesses and the proper swearing and examination of witnesses. In that respect I refer to Section 31, which says:—

"Any question arising in any proceedings (including proceedings in a court of law) under this Part as to the interpretation of a registered employment agreement or its application to any particular person shall be referred to the court whose decision shall be final."

If this court is a court of laymen it seems to me an extraordinary provision that a court of laymen are empowered to interpret an agreement which in the normal way would be interpreted by a court. In a court it is usually a matter for the judge to decide what the particular effect of a law or a provision of a law is and, if it is a judge sitting with a jury, for the jury to decide the facts. But, in this case where the court is sitting as a labour court and, if you like, as a labour tribunal, it seems to me an extraordinary provision in respect of a court of this character, particularly if it is a lay court, or even if it is not. Even assuming that the chairman is a person of legal training, it is a very unusual provision, and one which I think will work badly in practice, to give that court power not only to decide and to interpret an agreement which that court itself has responsibility for, but further that any proceedings in any court of law referring to the matters under Part III of the Bill shall be interpreted by that court. I think that is an unwise provision and one that requires amendment on Committee.

Section 56 deals with standard wages for areas. It appears to me that if a standard rate of wages is fixed in any area for unskilled work, while sub-section (4) states that there shall not be any obligation on employers in an area to pay the standard wage fixed under this section for that area, there is bound to be pressure brought on the employer to pay that wage. While in many cases that may be only fair, unskilled work varies so much in areas and in types of work that if a standard rate is fixed it may operate unfairly not only on the employer but on the worker. A man may be employed, say, cleaning ditches or cutting hedges. In the normal way that is the work of an agricultural labourer, but I can see circumstances in which a person may be employed to do that as repair work of a temporary nature. If the employer is put in the position that pressure will be brought to bear on him to pay a particular wage, in my opinion, it will operate unfairly on the man as much as on the employer. That is a matter which may be further considered.

There is another factor in connection with that section. Under sub-section (2) (c) the court would have regard to the statutory minimum wage for the time being in force for agricultural workers in that area. By and large it is a fairly safe level to take, that unskilled workers in an area should be paid the same as agricultural workers, but if we have regard to the last few years during which farm produce and everything connected with agriculture has risen considerably in price and consider agricultural wages in the light of the increase in prices, even allowing for recent increases, one must be struck by the fact that agricultural wages have been kept down but, at the same time, road workers have been pegged even at a lower level in many cases and in some cases they have been brought only to the same level as agricultural workers. While it may be good policy to base wages in a rural area on the standard of agricultural wages, unless agriculture is capable of paying better wages, I think the policy will have unsatisfactory results. The first essential in so far as the fixation of wages in a rural area is concerned is to put agriculture in a position to pay a higher rate of wages to agricultural workers. Otherwise, the fixation of wages in an area on the basis of the minimum agricultural wage is inequitable, particularly in view of the low level of agricultural wages during the recent emergency.

In regard to the Bill in general, it is fair to say that in the next 12 months or so most categories of workers will expect an increase in wages. The only hope that I can give expression to is that the enactment of this measure will make available machinery which will prevent serious dislocation or, at any rate, which will make the transition from emergency conditions to peacetime conditions easier and more capable of satisfactory solution than the procedure which has been adopted during the emergency was calculated to achieve. If this measure can do that then, while it may require amendment in future, it will be the basis on which more harmonious relations may be established between workers and employers.

Judging by the speeches which have been made the general principles of the Bill have the goodwill of every member of the House. The atmosphere in which the measure was conceived and the background to it give the Minister ground for optimism. Every Deputy has been looking forward to a Bill such as this, a Bill that may succeed in bringing to an end for all time strikes and lock-outs. The Bill has many good points but it has also many weaknesses. The first weakness in the Bill is that the court must be invited to intercede or the court can act on the Minister's recommendations when matters are submitted to it.

What is the position when employers and employees have been negotiating and when the first that is heard of the dispute is a lightning strike or lock-out? When that strike takes place neither side will climb down because they feel that if they were to approach the Minister it would be interpreted as a sign of weakness and would be used by the other side in the dispute as an opportunity to say: "We are on the road to victory." The Minister or the court should have power, when they hear that a dispute is threatened which might result in a lock-out, to step in and to say to both sides: "We want information about this dispute and we want to see whether you are justified or not." They would thus be taking action to prevent a lock-out or strike until the matter in dispute had been considered by the Minister or the court, preferably the court, and a decision has been given. If the decision is not acceptable, the workers are entitled to strike. The only thing the workers have to sell is their labour. They are entitled to strike. They are entitled to make the highest demand for their labour. Before anybody puts a maximum value on their labour or threatens to lock them out, I think the Government or the court should step in, or outside persons should be in a position, as they always were, to ask the Government to intervene. I think that is one of the weaknesses in the Bill.

It is a pity the conciliation provisions which are outlined in the Bill are not in operation this evening and that the exemptions mentioned here are not modified somewhat. We see here that the exempted people include teachers. Section 4 sets out that the word "worker" means "any person of the age of 14 years and upwards who has entered into or works under a contract with an employer whether the contract be for manual labour, clerical work, or otherwise, be expressed or implied, oral or in writing, and whether it be a contract of service or of apprenticeship or a contract personally to execute any work or labour other than—(a) a person who is employed by or under the State, or (b) a teacher in a secondary school, or (c) a teacher in a national school, or (d) a person who is employed by a local authority..." Why these exemptions? At eight o'clock to-night, in O'Connell Street, there will be a demonstration of parents because 50,000 of their children will not be attending school in Dublin for the next two or three months. These parents claim that under the Constitution their children——

The Deputy is going into the merits of a dispute.

I will be very guarded not to enter into the merits of the dispute. I merely want to draw attention——

What has it to do with this Bill?

There are certain exemptions and I want to know why certain workers are specially named in the exempted classes.

I thought the Deputy was proceeding to deal with the position of parents and children in Dublin.

No. I was merely pointing out that in the definition "worker" there are certain exemptions, such as a person employed by or under the State, a secondary school teacher, a national school teacher, or a person employed by a local authority. I was endeavouring to point out how necessary it is to include all. In the last few years our own municipal authority was involved in a strike, a lock-out, a dispute or whatever you like to call it, that very nearly injured public health in the city. I think the Minister should take all these people in and give everybody an opportunity of going before the court. I said that it is a pity that we have not such a measure in order to deal with the trouble in the schools, resulting in 50,000 children not getting the benefit of the Constitution.

That particular matter does not arise on this Bill.

It is a pity the Government could not bring to an end the unfortunate dispute in our schools. I am sure every Deputy has received a letter similar to the one which reached me to-day. It is dated 24th June, and it comes from the Civil Service Alliance, 27 Adelaide Road, Dublin. It is headed "The Industrial Relations Bill, 1946." The letter is not very long and perhaps I might be allowed to read it. It says:—

"In April, 1940, the Minister for Finance informed the representatives of the Civil Service staffs organisation that the Government, in furtherance of a national policy of stabilising wages, had decided to stabilise civil servants' salaries and so set a headline to outside employers. Accordingly, as from 1st April, 1940, stabilisation of civil servants' salaries came into force, but this had so little effect towards inducing outside employers to follow suit voluntarily that the Government subsequently felt obliged to legislate to achieve a general stabilisation of wages and salaries. In pursuance of this line of policy the Government, in May, 1941, 10 months later than in the case of the Civil Service, brought into force Emergency Powers (No. 83) Order——"

What has this to do with the Bill? The Deputy may discuss all that on a Vote that will come on to-night—the Office of the Minister for Finance—where it will be quite relevant.

There are only two short paragraphs left.

It has nothing to do with the Bill under discussion.

The civil servants are a very big body. They apparently thought this was the occasion on which to ask for the Minister's intervention so that they might get some of the benefits outlined in the Bill. However, I will not proceed any further with the letter.

The Deputy will have an opportunity of mentioning it later, on the Vote for the Office of the Minister for Finance.

When the Bill was mentioned here on another occasion, I asked the Minister would the court have power to decide about holidays with pay where employers had refused them. I think the court should have power to make a recommendation for holidays with pay for all workers in the country. I have in mind a harbour board, of which I am a member. That board quite recently made a peculiar order when an application came before them for a fortnight's holiday with pay. The order they made was that when holidays with pay became general or national they would consider the application. If a board like the Dublin Port and Docks Board can make such an order, do you not see the need for including that type of worker in this Bill? I hold that all these workers are entitled to the benefit of this Industrial Relations Bill. It has such goodwill behind it and such an atmosphere for the establishment of a conciliation court, I think it will prevent further trouble. The Minister should consider taking in all these people and allowing them to participate in the benefits outlined in the Bill.

I shall not detain the House further than to say that I welcome the principle of this Bill. I hope that it will have the effect of bringing to an end the unfortunate disputes and lock-outs which are frequently caused by the adamant attitude of leaders on both sides—sometimes by the adamant attitude of the chairman of a masters' federation and sometimes by the adamant attitude of the leader of a labour movement or of a union which has a strong membership. These people are sometimes so adamant and so definite in their refusals to submit the dispute to mediation or arbitration that they fail to see that at some later date they will have to reach a compromise. A strike or a lock-out may last three months but sooner or later the parties will have to come together and they will be forced to reflect: "Why did we not do that the first day we came out?" or "Why did we not think of that the first day we locked the workers out?" As a result of these ill-considered disputes many hardships have to be borne by the wives and mothers of workers.

I have already referred to the fact that in about an hour from now we shall hear protests from the mothers of Dublin about the fact that 50,000 of their children are being deprived of their constitutional right of education. I again welcome the principle of the Bill, but I would ask the Minister to go a step further and to use his good offices to bring to an end the present unfortunate trouble to which I have just referred and as a result of which 50,000 children are being deprived of education.

I understand that this Bill has been pretty generally accepted by the House, as far as the meagre amount of principle in it is concerned, and that it has been agreed that it is mainly a machinery measure which can be more appropriately discussed on the next stage. I welcome any approach to this matter. In 1941, after the Government had decided to steamroll the employees of this country by forcing a trade union measure through the House, I made an appeal to the Minister that he might forgo that particular scheme and take an example from the many bits of machinery of different types in their application to various countries throughout the world in relation to the settlement of disputes. At that time I referred to an article by a prominent ecclesiastic in this country recommending the modification of certain machinery which he had, in the course of his studies, discovered to be in operation elsewhere and which he thought could be adapted for use in this country. He did say that no machinery was worth anything unless from its very inception the whole matter was taken up, not merely with a sort of guarded hostility, not even with something approaching lukewarm support but with something amounting to enthusiasm by the various groups of people concerned, employers and employees. Now in 1946 we get this measure brought before us.

In so far as the Bill before us indicates any very effective way of dealing with industrial disputes, I think it is to be condemned for what it omits. As far as I can see there is nothing in the Bill to give the court any real power except in relation to the investigation of trade dispute and the passing of a recommendation in regard to it. As far as anything else is concerned, the court has to move in a particular way and one or other of the two contesting parties by failing to agree to the court can stop it operations.

That however does not apply to the situation which is described in the later part of the Bill where it appears the court will have power to inflict penalties on trade unions or on employers who promote or assist in the maintenance of a dispute in a trade which has been the subject of a registered agreement. Except in the matters referred to in these circumstances, generally with regard to making recommendations about a trade dispute the court has no power unless a trade union of employers or a body of workers makes a movement before it.

I wonder why the Bill is introduced at this stage or why it was not introduced in 1940 or 1939? One can understand, in so far as it is introduced now, that it is the Government's surrender to the repercussions of the situation that they themselves have created by allowing the cost of living to rise to the point to which it has risen, by preventing wages from rising and by dealing in a rather indifferent manner with the other weight in the balance, that is to say the question of profits. I assume the Minister here, in shelving responsibility for the situation which he himself has created, is really attempting through this court to prevent the workers getting the immediate all-round increase in wages to which they would seem to be entitled on any consideration of the facts. I think it is not going to be denied at this stage of the country's history that prices have here doubled. The Budget statement of 1945 stated that in comparison with the year 1938 retail prices showed a figure of increase which was some small pointage short of being doubled—something in the region of 99 per cent. That meant that unless some sort of bonus orders had been granted, wages would simply have lost half their purchasing power. Some little alleviation has been given by bonus orders granted but the effect is very small and I think it is true to say, in regard to industrial workers and the salaried classes, that they are in the position that they are getting paid in pounds, so many pounds per week, and that each pound is now purchasing only about 10/- worth of what it purchased before the war.

That situation has occurred in other countries but it has been met by granting at intervals all round percentage increases. The latest one I think was in England. In France the other day before taking office the new Prime Minister had to agree to grant an increase of 25 per cent. in wages. In America quite recently they have granted very heavy increases. They base their calculations on so many cents per hour, but there has been a very definite increase granted to workers generally. There have been at least four of these increases governing the main group of workers in America since the war ended. In England the situation revealed in the last Budget was that the earnings of workers were 80 per cent. above what they were getting in 1939, and the cost of living in England advanced by somewhere between 25 and 30 per cent. So great was the disparity between earnings and the cost of living as compared with pre-war, that the late Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1945 indicated as his policy that he was going to allow the cost of living to increase so as to bring about some better balance between wages earned and the cost of living. When I say that wages earned had increased by 80 per cent. I am speaking of wages earned under all conditions, including those paid on highly specialised work and those earned on a piece-rate basis, but wage rates on the average had advanced about 50 per cent. at a time when the cost of living had shown only an advance of 25 per cent.

The situation we have is that while the cost of living has advanced to the point to which it has been allowed to go, workers' wages are down on the whole by just half. One would have thought that the Minister on this measure would have announced some definite policy which he would inaugurate before he tried to get the workers to accept the sort of machinery that is in this Bill. I would have thought that we would, at least, have come to the point where the Government would make up its mind as what was the likely point in advance of 1939 at which prices might be expected to settle here in a year or two. I noticed that in the calculation the Minister made in regard to the cost of rural electrification he takes the simple method of relating that to prices in the year 1939.

It looks to me that when the Minister made a calculation of that sort he accepted the position that prices were not going to settle at anything like the 1939 figure, or anything even approaching it. The best calculation made in England was that prices would settle somewhere between 33? and 50 per cent. up, and calculations are now varying between 50 per cent. and 60 per cent. of an increase on prewar prices. Have we any conception in this country, through the Government or Governmental agencies' statistical department of what is the likelihood of the point at which prices will settle and stabilise themselves in the post-war period?

Nobody is foolish enough to believe that we will ever get back to the 1939 rates. Remember that wages of workers in this country, and certainly the salaries paid most of the salaried classes, have been stabilised more or less on the 1939 figure. It is with that as the background that workers are entitled to walk out into the freer period which will occur after the 1st September of this year and invited to take their stand in the queue before the labour court in order to have their conditions and wages rectified. The Minister must be aware of what his colleague, a former Minister for Finance, said in the Seanad a couple of years ago when challenged with regard to the other side of prices, as to the profits being earned. He said that millions had been tucked away by Irish industrialists and business people. He was challenged by a member of the Seanad as to whether he believed that, and his answer was that he not merely believed it but knew it to be true from figures put before him by the Revenue Commissioners.

The position, therefore, is that if we are to take official statements made in the haphazard way in which they have been made, the Minister opposite believes that costs compared with 1939 will be up by two, that they will be doubled. The Minister for Finance, in connection with profits made during the war, said that the employing section had made millions, and that he knew that was the situation, because he saw it from their accounts. So far as the workers are concerned they have had their wages based as nearly as possible—although there have been alleviations here and there—on the 1939 rates, and that on account of the increase in the cost of living gives them a purchasing power about half what it was.

I wonder will it be accepted that if wages are to be taken as some fixed percentage of the final price of any particular commodity, and if the price of that particular commodity is doubled, you have not made any effect upon the new price by labour costs until labour costs have also doubled? If the labour cost is some fraction of the final price charged consumers, and if we take other constituents, the cost of materials and overheads generally, say, in manufacture, transport or distribution, and add the fourth constituent, profits, and if wage rates are down in relation to the new price by half, some of the constituents must be getting an inordinate share of the final price. The former Minister for Finance appears to believe that profits were certainly getting an inordinate share.

One of the most prominent American economists recently said, when the question was discussed as to whether increased labour costs necessarily meant an increase in prices, that it could not possibly have that effect until the increase in the cost paid employees had gone beyond the point represented by the increased cost of living. It is clear that our wage costs have not got to anything like that point. The Minister, when introducing the Bill, would have generated some enthusiasm for its acceptance if he had announced a wages policy prior to introducing the measure. It is said that at a particular date the disappearance of the standstill Order is in contemplation and that an all-round increase of such and such a percentage on wages at present being paid would be regarded as normal, and that other increases could be sought through some of the organisations he might set up. He has not indicated, as I understand, that he appreciates the position we are in—except to say that there is the impact of the standstill Order and once the standstill Order goes he expects a fair amount of industrial strife unless employers do what I suggest he should ask them to do.

As far as the measure itself is concerned, I see that only in regard to a trade dispute is there any place in which the court will have any power of its own. Possibly it is the best thing in present circumstances that that should be the situation. One cannot feel that it is very helpful machinery, if it is the best that the Minister's discussions with employers' and workers' representatives can bring. I think Part VI is a Part which could be moved by the court itself, and in that connection I object to one feature. The court has to investigate any labour dispute at the request of a person concerned. Later, we come to the point that the court after hearing the evidence may

"make a recommendation setting forth its opinion on the merits of the dispute and the terms on which, in the public interest and with a view to promoting industrial peace, it should be settled, due regard being had to the fairness of the said terms to parties concerned, and the prospects of the said terms being acceptable to them."

I presume that being a decision of the court only one opinion can be pronounced, and it will not be lawful, say, for the workers' representative at the court, to disclose that the disagrees. If that is intended to be the law, that law will be derided right from the start. I cannot imagine that in regard to any recommendation this court makes in connection with a trade dispute, where there are varying opinions by employers' and employees' representatives, they will consider themselves bound to observe secrecy, even with regard to the simple point that there was a divergence of view with regard to the opinion of the court. Yet the Minister asks us to accept that a recommendation will be made and, I presume, he hopes that recommendation will be accepted.

I suggest that if it is a matter of only one opinion being expressed, and if it is to be illegal to disclose that another exists, you will have two bad precedents. A precedent was established with regard to the Constitution and a precedent in connection with a criminal appeal. There are two bodies of opinion. With regard to the constitutional development, it would be enriched and helped by the publication of a varying view. There is not the same point with regard to criminal matters. One knows, when it comes to the Court of Criminal Appeal, that the Government have exercised the prerogative of mercy, having considered whether there is a conflict in the court, and very often have given it effect. There, definitely, their decision is based largely on the fact that the court was not unanimous, that there was a divergence of views. I suggest that this is a wrong thing to bring into this matter, that it is a point upon which publicity should not be feared.

Let us consider the other situation which might arise. A trade dispute occurs and the court is called on to investigate. The court eventually promulgates a recommendation with a statement of its opinions on the merits of the dispute and the terms and conditions on which it thinks, in the public interest, it should be settled.

Is there any harm in letting it be known that the two representatives—let there be three viewpoints and let it be taken all the time for granted that the chairman's view is the view of the court, as will be the case under this legislation—have their varying points of view, in letting them state them, in letting them put on record the terms which they think should be accepted by the parties and which they think are fair? I do not see what is the necessity for attempting to cloak what everybody will realise to be a bit of a sham and a mockery, for the pretence that there is only one view, and here it is, when, on a great number of occasions, it will be the opinion of the chairman of the court, as will always be the situation when the other two parties are not able to agree.

The only other occasion—I am open to correction in this connection—on which the court can move on its own is in relation to Section 68, where there is no trade union of workers promoting or assisting the dispute. In these circumstances, we swing it over to the very exceptional results referred to in Section 69, and this is a matter which we shall have to discuss much more definitely on Committee Stage. Is the court again to specify by a majority opinion or by the single opinion of its chairman that there is no trade union of workers promoting or assisting? What are the matters which will be brought under analysis in order to come to that determination, because, only when such a determination is made, can the court move on its own and make an award, which award will thereafter become one which has to be obeyed under the stress of law?

So far as Part VII is concerned, we shall have to await its outcome, but I doubt if any of these wage Orders and bonus Orders will be registered. I cannot understand why anybody should ask any group of employees to register any such Orders. There is a bait on the hook and the hook is quite obviously protruding through. Once orders are recorded, no variation may be made in them, unless the court, so to speak, agrees to it. The threat in the background of this is that, unless a bonus Order is registered, it is not compulsory on an employer to pay it.

Does anybody think that in these days any employer will refuse to pay the wages Orders and bonus Orders granted during the emergency, everybody knowing that these bonus Orders made only a very slight contribution to helping workers to get back to their old-time wages? Does the Minister think that any group of sane employers would dream of disputing these wage Orders and bonus Orders which have been made? Yet, so far as I can make out, the only inducement to workers to register them is that, if they do not do so, it is not compulsory on an employer to pay them and he may deduct the bonus or may refuse to pay it. That is a threat which can be awaited with equanimity because, in present conditions, I fail to see how any employer would try to go back on these Orders which have been got in such a meagre way after so many years and with such difficulty.

The other matters which will be the subject of dispute in Committee have been dealt with to such an extent that it is not necessary to express a very definite opinion on them, except in a summary way. I understand that objection has been taken—and I certainly will take objection to them on Committee Stage—to these exclusions made in Section 4. Why, when we are taking this first step towards the establishment of some sort of court for the resolving of industrial disputes, we should decide that we will not allow anybody employed by or under the State to go before it, that we will not allow any teacher in a secondary or national school, anybody employed by a local authority and, finally, agricultural workers, to go before it, I fail to understand.

The Minister must have statistics. In the end, will this Bill, if fully accepted and fully worked by all the people who are not excluded, apply to any more than 40 per cent. of those who are described in statistical returns as gainfully occupied? I doubt if it will have even as wide an application as that. Will the Minister try to establish the point of principle upon which we say that we will have courts for the settlement of industrial disputes ordinarily in this country, but that we will not allow civil servants or teachers to bring their disputes before it? There must be some point of principle upon which that discrimination is made. I should like to hear it.

The matter to which Deputy Larkin referred with regard to the verdict of the court, which may often be that of the chairman, is one which I am leaving for the moment. Deputy Larkin, however, made the comment that he would rather not see lawyers interested in this court, in the sense of being members of it. Yet he questions whether a witness who wishes to claim privilege can properly claim privilege before a lay court. That is one of the difficulties which he may resolve for us at a later stage. It seems to me to point to the desirability, if not the necessity, of having somebody of legal capacity on the court, if only to rule on such a question.

I do not understand the effect of Section 23. The court is to be asked to consider any matter which the Minister may refer to it, and we solemnly work up to the violent conclusion that, when they have done that, "the Minister shall consider any report and recommendation so made." What is he to do when he has considered it? Is it just something which remains in his head as an addition to the sum of knowledge he has with regard to a particular dispute or does he take any action? Does he promulgate the recommendation? What is the intention of that section?

I want to finish on the matter of the court in Section 19. There are many types of machinery, as I have said, arranged with regard to the settlement of disputes as between workers and employers in different countries. I do not know—certainly it is not common—that there is elsewhere any court, or whatever the appropriate tribunal may be called, so limited in numbers as this court of three. Certainly the majority of the tribunals which one finds elsewhere are built on much bigger and more spacious lines. We are to have a court of three, composed of a chairman and one person roughly representing workers and one person roughly representing employers. There are no conditions and no qualifications, and there is no statement made by the Minister as to what he thinks are the proper qualifications in respect of the chairman. He is simply to be somebody appointed by the Minister who will hold office on such terms as shall be fixed by the Minister when appointing him.

So far as the others are concerned, there is what may be the valuable point that the person appointed gets his sanction, so to speak, from the appropriate body and that he cannot be removed during the term for which he was originally appointed, unless with the sanction of the organisation from which he got his nomination or by which he was nominated.

If the organisation through which that appointment is made, or with whose approval the appointment is made, be the appropriate organisation, well and good, but, if it is not, it may be an obstacle, and I suggest to the Minister that he should do as is done in other countries, that is, enlarge the court and make it a much more responsible and a much more representative body.

One of the courts I had under consideration recently was the court they have in Sweden, which consists of seven people, three of whom are nominated, not entirely at the discretion of but by the Government. The other four are so divided that two are representative of employers and two representative of employees. But of the three nominated by the Government, one of whom has to be the chairman, it is stated specifically that the other two are not to be chosen because they are representative either of employees or of employers, but are representative of something else. One finds that a lot of these industrial courts are built up without the necessary attention to the personnel of the courts. It is absolutely essential that proper representation should be given both to employers as such and to employees as such. Generally speaking, right through these industrial relations tribunals the chairman, who is appointed by the Government, has to have some legal training; but there are generally two or three others whose function it is to represent the other interests involved. I suggest that in this country we should at least have a couple of others. I would like to see on these tribunals somebody who could not be regarded primarily as representing either an employer, or an employing class, or employees, but somebody who could be regarded primarily as representing the consuming public—that is, those people who should have and who will have an important say in all these matters.

With regard to another appointment, could we not get a modern viewpoint and could we not make some effort to become at least Christian in this matter? A good deal of lip-service is paid in this country to Papal Encyclicals and to the standards of social justice which are therein laid down. In the Constitution we have a specific reference in relation to private property, and to the principles and standards of social justice. The full principle of the ownership of external goods is limited and has to be limited, according to the Constitution, by the principles of social justice. Are there such principles discoverable?

Is there anybody in this country who can be regarded as knowledgeable with regard to these principles? Is it not time, if we can discover these principles, that we should at least give life to one phrase from the Constitution and allow representation on this board by somebody who has a special knowledge of these matters and who will be capable and competent of dealing with such principles of social justice, and who will be allowed to throw his weight of opinion into the scales in order to bring about the essential balance? If you have a body with a chairman, a representative of employers, a representative of employees and two others, who might bring to bear some more modern and up-to-date ideas with regard to a just wage, there will be only one voice in five. Is the Minister afraid to permit one voice in five to be heard on this board, even behind the scenes and before the board approaches a final decision, or before the promulgation of the chairman's views? Would it not be much better to allow the chairman to be influenced before he comes to forming his own viewpoint by hearing the modern view as to a just wage and whether that wage, which is to be paid to various groups throughout the country, should be related to something more than the weight of the bargaining power, or the pressure, that either the employing section, or the employees' section, may bring to bear in respect of their representations at a particular time?

I suggest that we should now make some attempt to enliven our Constitution and we should try to bring into our legislation some of those very attractive principles of social policy which are embodied in the Constitution and which would be carefully protected by the cognisance of the court. Let us at least have recognition of one person who will be competent to lead the chairman in coming to a decision. If you enlarge the court, even more widely still than I have suggested, then the difficulty to which Deputy Larkin referred—but which at the moment is not capable of solution through any suggestion of his—might not be so serious. This difficulty is bound to exist if you have a court constituted of three persons, with a chairman appointed by the Minister and who may have a special point of view, together with one representative of employers with a distinctive point of view and one representative of employees with his particular and special point of view.

In that event what determination can be arrived at? If it is to be a unanimous decision the court will never be in a position to make such a decision. If it is going to be a majority decision, then from the workers' angle the employers' representative and the Minister's appointee can rule the roost; from the employers' angle, the Minister's appointee and the workers' representative can rule the roost. I presume that position would not be accepted. You cannot have unanimity in such a court; apparently, neither can you have a two to one majority. The Minister solved the difficulty by saying that if two can agree then their views will be upheld. As that will hardly ever happen then, in the main, the determining voice will be the voice of the chairman appointed by the Minister.

On the other hand, if the court were built up to seven one could have a majority decision of not less than so many; and if by that decision could not be procured, then possibly, in the last resort, you might have to have recourse to the voice of the Minister's representative, namely, the man who will act as chairman. I suggest that on the composition of this board, on its powers, and on the qualifications of the people and the knowledge they possess to enable them to reach a decision, together with the different viewpoints that they will bring to bear on the matters brought before them for decision, the whole value of this Bill depends. This is the first step. Nobody believes that it is going to be the last step in this type of legislation. It is rather a faltering step. It is one that should have been taken many years ago. Even now it lacks two essential fundamentals which are vital in order to preside enthusiastically at its delayed birth. One essential that it lacks is that it lays down no decent liberal policy in regard to wages. Secondly, as the Bill now stands, most people will take the view that it is the Minister's appointee—the chairman— who will be the dominating factor. Until we know who the chairman is going to be and until we have some knowledge of his qualifications nobody can approve of what is now set before us in this Bill. There are two or three changes which might make the Bill more welcome. I trust the Minister will consider these and that they will be considered without Party affiliations controlling the matter, and that we shall have in this House, at the instigation of the Minister, the freest possible voting with no Party discipline enforced upon anybody as to how he shall vote on any particular section of the Bill.

I shall not take up the time of the House very long. I welcome this Bill and I think the principles embodied in the Bill are very good. It is most essential that we should have in this country a court such as that set out in this measure. Moreover, we are now coming to the time when the standstill Order will be abolished. For that reason I think the majority of our workers will definitely welcome the principles in this Bill.

There are a few observations which I would like to make. The Minister has invited candid and constructive criticism from the Dáil in general. There are a number of workers throughout the country, such as those working for local authorities, forestry workers, and various others, who will be definitely disappointed to find that they have not been included within the scope of this measure in relation to the establishment of an industrial court. Perhaps the Minister, on the Committee Stage of the Bill, might seriously consider some action in regard to them. On the formation of the court I should like to make another observation. In order to give the court a broader basis and in order to incite the confidence of both parties to a dispute it would be desirable to increase the personnel. There is the possibility that if the court is left at its present number the chairman may be blamed for favouritism towards one side or the other. If the court were increased there would be more confidence in and there would be a greater feeling of respect for the court in general.

One Deputy referred to the wages that are being paid in England now. We, of course, are not discussing that particular point, but it must be remembered that, while, for instance, the ordinary manual worker in England is in receipt of a higher wage, quite a large proportion of that wage is taken back from him in the form of income-tax. That is what I have heard from a number of them.

A good deal has been said from time to time about the Agricultural Wages Act. It must be admitted by all sides of the House that only for that Act, which was introduced in 1936, we would definitely have a number of our farm labourers working for very little. I know a number of farm labourers who, prior to the coming into operation of that Act, were working for a very small wage. The Government have taken a step of this kind in order to establish a court under which employers and employees can agree that a certain wage should be paid. In industries where workers were receiving a certain wage in 1939, and where one particular firm may, as a result of the emergency, have been in a position to give the workers a fairly reasonable increase, while other firms, owing to the emergency, may not have been in the same position, I should like this court to have power to investigate the affairs of such concerns to see what is their ability to pay the workers a reasonable wage, taking into consideration the profits they made during that period.

I am also delighted that the Minister, in his wisdom, has left the workers free to strike, as he did under the standstill Order and the tribunals that were then set up. I think there is nobody in the country but will agree that a court like this is long overdue. It is up to the Dáil now, as requested by the Minister, to make the Bill acceptable to the country as a whole. I think the Minister deserves to be congratulated on introducing an original Bill like this with the co-operation, as he stated, of both the parties concerned. With some little changes here and there during the Committee Stage, the Bill, I am sure, will be acceptable to the great majority of the people concerned. I should like if something could be done in the near future for that particular section of the workers which has been left out so that they could have some arbitration court where their grievances could be gone into.

I informed the Dáil when introducing this Bill that I was anxious to proceed so far as possible by means of agreement in the perfection of its provisions. I think that any proposals that may be put forward for the amendment of the Bill in Committee must be primarily examined in relation to the measure of agreement which they will secure. I am assuming that the members of the Dáil will approach the Bill with the same anxiety to make it an effective measure and the same willingness to give constructive help in its completion as the organisations representative of the trade unions that I consulted when framing it. Some doubt as to that was created in my mind by Deputy McGilligan's observations, but the earlier statements by members of the Party opposite gave me reason to think that we would get the Bill examined in Committee on the basis of making it a measure which will be not merely acceptable to the interests that must use the Bill, but workable in every part.

As Deputy Norton and Deputy Larkin rightly pointed out, the success of this Bill will depend upon the confidence that is created as a result of experience in the court to be established under it. If that court functions in a practical common-sense way, there will be resort to it. If there is doubt as to the practicability of its decisions, doubt as to the common-sense basis of its judgments, or a belief that it is inspired by some theory or conception of the public interest which is not directly related to the interests of the workers, then it will be avoided. That is why the Bill specifically puts upon the court the obligation, when making an award upon the issues of a dispute brought to its attention, that it must have regard, subject to over-riding considerations of the public interest, to the fairness of its award to the parties concerned in the dispute and the likelihood that its award will be accepted by the parties. Deputies can easily imagine other obligations that might have been put on the court; but the Government decided that the primary obligation was to secure that industrial disputes should be avoided or resolved in a practical, common-sense way and it realised fully that the court would not function to that end unless it was so constituted and so obliged to work that parties would readily resort to it and that there was a reasonable prospect that its decisions would be generally accepted.

In framing the Bill, therefore, we must aim, first of all, at securing agreement. I do not necessarily mean Party agreement here, but agreement at least in regard to its important provisions by the organisations of trade unions that will have to use the Bill when passed. We must also endeavour to ensure that, subject to agreement, we accept only proposals which increase the value of the measure and proposals which will be practical in operation. I would sacrifice agreement for practicability. I think any person responsible for getting a measure of this kind enacted and brought into operation must take that line; but I do not believe that the two things are necessarily in conflict.

I have not attempted in introducing this Bill to formulate a wages policy. Deputy McGilligan regards that as a matter for criticism; I do not. The Government necessarily took powers to control wages during the war. It is proposing to relieve itself of these powers. It certainly does not contemplate retaining any measure of direct control of wages which would enable it to implement a wages policy. I expressed the view in introducing the Bill that a national wages policy must emerge as a result of agreement and cannot possibly be established by means of compulsion. The Government will not be powerless. As I pointed out, through its tariff policy, through its price control measures, and by various devices, including exhortation and criticism, it will be able to influence the views of others and the general trend of wage policy. But in the long run that must come as a result of a wider understanding of the national interests and, particularly, of the interests of the workers in relation to economic development. I think it would be foolish to do what Deputy McGilligan suggested and make a slap-dash decision in relation to wages, based on the assumption that existing wage rates are unduly low. I do not think it is true; I do not think it has been proved to be true by any comparison between wage rates here and earnings in Great Britain during the abnormal conditions which prevailed there in the war years, when overtime was regularly earned, continuity of employment was guaranteed and special bonuses were often paid for exceptional work. In the majority of occupations concerning which I have been able to get reliable information, the rates of wages operative here are not lower than the rates operative in Great Britain.

Does that apply to agricultural wages?

No, it does not, but it applies to most building trade wages and most rates for skilled workers. There will be some cases where the rates are higher than those in Great Britain and some cases where the rates may be a fraction lower; but on the whole the rates here are not lower than in Great Britain for industrial workers of the classes for which standard rates are established and recorded in official publications.

There is a big difference in the purchasing power.

When allowance is made for all factors, I think the purchasing power here is not lower than in Great Britain. Furthermore, we must not leave out of account that, while the price levels elsewhere are tending to be upward, here they are tending to be downward.

The price levels? The Minister must not have been buying anything.

The cost-of-living index figure has fallen as at mid-May compared with what it was since 1943. The Deputy may dispute that. I am not going to contend that the cost-of-living index is an exact reflex of price movements. It is quoted against us when it moves upwards, but it is discarded when it moves downwards. The fact is—a point which Deputy McGilligan left out of account—that the standstill Order, Emergency Powers (No. 260) Order, was made in 1943. There had been another Order applying to essential industries, made in 1941. Since 1943, the cost of living here has not increased. The cost-of-living index figure showed a stability of prices until May of this year, when a fall was recorded. It was not a very substantial fall, but it indicated some downward movement, a downward movement which did not take into account the reductions in the prices of sugar and turf consequential upon Budget changes. I am sorry I was led into this discussion by Deputy McGilligan's remarks.

The cost-of-living figure is 20 points above February, 1943. The Minister said it had not risen since 1943.

Since the last quarter of 1943. However, those issues are irrelevant. I think it would be unwise, in our circumstances, to come to any slap-dash decision in relation to wages. It is much better to proceed on the lines suggested here, to give freedom to different sections to decide their course of action for themselves, but create obvious advantages for those who decide to proceed in the manner contemplated in the Bill.

There is nothing compulsory in the Bill. If any section of workers or group of employers think their interests are better protected by ignoring this measure and not availing of its provisions, they are free to do so. They cannot be compelled to become subject to this court, either in respect of the registration of agreements or the resolving of such trade disputes as may arise from time to time. Employers can be compelled, under a temporary provision during the transition period, to pay standard rates now paid and to pay bonuses now paid, or compelled to pay such increases in those standard rates and bonuses as the court may decide, if the workers decide through the trade unions to avail of Part VII. These are transitory provisions to deal with certain temporary circumstances and will not form part of the permanent measure. The permanent measure is based entirely on the idea that organisations of workers and employers will find it in their interests to avail of this court and, because it will be in their interests, they will do so. If they find, through experience or otherwise, that it is not in their interests, then it is not proposed to compel them to use it. Everything will turn, therefore, as was said here, on the manner in which the court functions. There is, therefore, a particular obligation on Deputies who want to see a good Bill passed to examine its various provisions so as to ensure that there will be nothing in them which will impede the proper functioning of the court, either in respect of slowing down its functioning or inducing it to make unsatisfactory decisions.

Deputies of the Labour Party raised objections to various sections of the Bill. Some of them seemed to be objections which will have to be considered, while others struck me as being based on some misinterpretation of the Bill's provisions. As regards Section 30 (2), it is quite clear from what has been said that, irrespective of the merits of the proposal there, it has got to go out. Therefore, I am prepared to delete it, but I want to ask Deputies of the Labour Party to consider what should take its place. I think they will agree with me that something must take its place. If it is desired—and I believe it to be desired by most trade union officials—to have some machinery for the registration of trade agreements, so as to make them enforceable upon all employers in the trade or occupation concerned, there must be an inducement not merely to the trade union to register the agreement but also to the employer, since the refusal of the employers to registration can effectively block it, under the Bill as drafted.

That was one of the objections raised to the section of the 1936 Act concerning the registration of agreements. It may be that more agreements would have been registered but for certain defects in that section. The consent of the employer was not required: an agreement which an employer had already made could be registered on the initiative of the trade union alone. Many employers showed reluctance to make agreements in a form suitable for registration, because the effect of registration imposed an obligation on them alone and no corresponding obligations on the trade unions responsible for registration. If we are to provide effective agreements for the regulation of wages and conditions of employment, there must be some advantage to the employer as well as to the trade union in getting that agreement registered. The obvious advantage we can offer the employer is the assurance that, once he has made the agreement and registered it, he will not be subject to a demand for altered conditions, except in a regular manner and in accordance with the agreement. That is particularly true where there are collective agreements covering a number of employers in the same industry. The assurance there sought—and one to which employers attach considerable importance—is that no one individual employer will be picked out for a demand to pay higher wages or to maintain better conditions than his competitors in the same trade are maintaining under the registered agreement. It is agreed, I think, by trade union representatives that what the employer must get from registration is the assurance that the agreement will be observed, that any dispute as to its interpretation will be submitted to the court and that any complaint of its breach will be heard by the court, with some assurance that the court will have power to rectify the breach, if it finds that it has occurred. The section provides that, if the court finds that an employer has failed to pay to a worker the rates agreed upon, or fails to give him the conditions provided for in the agreement, the court cannot merely order him to pay the rates and observe the conditions, but also to repay the worker whatever the worker may have lost as a result of the non-compliance by the employer with the terms of the agreement in the past.

It may not be necessary to have a provision for compensation to an employer who has suffered loss by reason of action taken in breach of an agreement by a trade union. I see the force of the argument put forward by Deputy Norton as to the difficulties that might be created for trade unions that had a number of branches in consequence of a provision of that kind. It would, I think, be adequate—although I have not considered the matter fully as I would have liked before making the statement—merely to give the court power to ensure that the union funds, controlled by the central executive, are not used to support a dispute which was occasioned by demands contrary to the agreement made by that central executive. If I interpret Deputy Norton's suggestion correctly, his wish would be to have any penalty to be imposed on a trade union confined to the circumstances in which the central executive of the union, knowingly breaking the agreement, participated in a strike to make effective demands contrary to it. Perhaps that is not the best way to handle it. I would be very glad to receive from Deputies of the Labour Party any suggestions they may have to make, recognising, as I think they will recognise, that the effectiveness of the provisions with regard to the registration of agreements depends upon offering some definite advantage to employers to assent to the registration of agreements if that part of the Bill is to remain as it is at present.

Deputy O'Sullivan made an objection to sub-section (4) of Section 26 which provides that a registered agreement may contain a provision requiring workers employed in industry to be members of one or of certain specified trade unions. Many agreements, as Deputies of the Labour Party know, between trade unions and employers contain a clause of that kind. My aim in inserting sub-section (4) was merely to ensure that the court could not refuse to register an agreement because it contained a provision of that kind, and also to take precautions against the possibility of an agreement containing such a provision being registered in circumstances which would cause a conflict with a sole negotiating licence given under the Trade Union Act.

One or two such licences have been given, and there may be, subject to the constitutionality of the Act which is now being determined, some more given, but it certainly was not my intention that the sub-section should be used as an instrument directed against trade unions with headquarters outside of Ireland. In fact, it did not occur to me that that interpretation could be put on the sub-section until Deputy O'Sullivan referred to it. There are two things which it is necessary to secure. The first is that the possibility of a conflict with a sole negotiating licence will be considered, and, secondly, that the court will not refuse to register an agreement merely because there is a trade union clause in it. If, however, we do provide for the registration of an agreement containing a union membership clause we must, I think, be careful—and some amendment of this sub-section will be necessary to ensure it—that we do not put an impossible obligation on employers. I think that trade unions, as a whole, would much prefer to fight their own battles in so far as insisting on members maintaining membership and observing the union rules. I think it would be undesirable, as an indirect consequence of a membership clause, to make it an offence for an employer not to insist on persons employed by him maintaining their membership with the prescribed trade union. I am not quite sure yet of the way out of that difficulty, but I want to assure Deputy O'Sullivan that what I wish to provide there is for such clauses in agreements because I found them to be fairly common in such agreements, and, secondly, I want to provide against the possibility which I saw of a conflict with a sole negotiating licence.

Deputy O'Sullivan and Deputy Norton referred to sub-section (5) of Section 64. Again I want to say that they interpreted that sub-section in a manner which was quite a shock to me because it had never occurred to me that the interpretation which they put upon it could be held. It is certainly not intended to support the idea of having no negotiations in a trade dispute while there is a strike in progress. The procedure contemplated in the section is that if a request to investigate a dispute is conveyed to the court by a party involved in the dispute the court must do so. That is a primary obligation on the court under sub-section (1). The court is given, ordinarily, no discretion in the matter if it is clear that there is an industrial dispute in progress, and that the party which has requested its intervention is concerned in the dispute.

In that event, the court must intervene, but we create the possibility of the court declining to intervene in certain circumstances where it considers that a stoppage of work, which has begun, should be terminated while the court is examining the merits of the dispute. The sub-section provides that:

"The court may, if it thinks fit, decline to investigate a trade dispute unless a stoppage of work occasioned by the dispute is terminated, pending the decision of the court, on such temporary basis as may be agreed between the parties or decided by the court."

I mentioned to-day the procedure under this part of the Bill notification of the dispute to the court, a conciliation officer in the service of the court endeavouring to resolve the dispute by agreement, acting under this machinery in relation to the dispute and attempting to get agreement on the particular dispute so that it will not have to go to the court at all, so that the resumption of work, on the termination of the dispute, will be on a basis which has been completely agreed to by the parties. If the conciliation officer is unable to get agreement, then it is contemplated that he will endeavour to get some temporary arrangement which will hold good while the court is investigating the dispute and publishing its considered judgment of it. All that is merely to ensure that hardship to the workers concerned, loss to the employers concerned and inconvenience to the public will be avoided while the court has the matter before it. In some cases the court is given power to take the attitude of refusing to intervene in a dispute at all unless there is a temporary settlement. I think it is desirable that the court should have that power. I think that, in many cases where disputes are reported to the court, the fact that the court can decline to act will, in fact, result in some temporary arrangement being made which will avoid a stoppage of work while the court is considering the matter.

Take the type of case I had in mind when framing this section. An employer goes to the court and reports: "My men have gone out on strike and this is the issue." The court will say: "O.K., we will investigate it on condition that you restore the status quo.” There will then be a temporary arrangement which will be without prejudice to the court's judgment on the issues in the dispute and will enable a stoppage of work to be avoided while the court is considering the matter.

That is the type of arrangement I have in mind and, ordinarily, I should think, the court would endeavour to secure that, where a dispute was due to change of conditions, the status quo would be maintained until it had an opportunity of looking into the matter.

A number of Deputies referred to the provisions of Section 56, which relates to the fixing of a standard rate of wages for certain areas. Let me make it quite clear that the fixation of a standard rate here is not intended to do more than provide a yardstick by which variations in local rates can be related one to the other——

What areas has the Minister in mind?

Perhaps it will help the Deputy if I tell him the origin of the section. Under Emergency Powers Order No. 260, applications were made for local general labourers' rates in smallish towns in various parts of the country. As the House is aware, a standard rate Order, providing for a local general labourers' rate, was not in fact enforceable on the employer. That is to say, the making of the Order did not oblige the employer to pay the rate specified and, in the majority of cases, in these towns there was no effective trade union organisation and no real means by which the rate could be enforced. I found, however, and I think that trade unions which were directly concerned also found, that, once an Order was made, although it imposed no legal obligation on the employer, the standard rate prescribed in the Order was, as a general rule, paid in those areas to persons doing ordinary, unskilled, labouring work. I think it is desirable that there should be some such means of having declared a reasonable rate for unskilled labour in these small towns. I think that it will help to ensure the general improvement of working conditions in those areas which, in so far as unskilled casual labourers were concerned, were, on the whole, fairly bad. I should be prepared to contemplate making such a rate, fixed by the court, legally enforceable, but I should prefer not to have to do that, for the time being at any rate, until we try out the result of the moral force which would be associated with a court determination in this form.

Why did you not do that in the case of employees of local authorities in the towns?

The Deputy is introducing an irrelevancy at the moment. That local rate, if fixed by the court, must be related to something. Deputy Norton thinks that it should be related to the worker's needs. His idea and my idea and other people's ideas as to what an unskilled worker in a small country town may need might differ. I should not disagree with the Deputy if he were to mention a sum of £5, £6 or £7 a week but if the court fixed such a sum for unskilled labour in a country town it would mean nothing. Nobody would pay such a rate the smallest attention. It would not have the moral force which I contemplate a standard rate fixed under this section will have. Therefore, I think that the court should fix that standard rate with some relation to the conditions existing in those towns. Most of those towns have workers who are employed on agricultural work in the busy season and who find other employment about the town during the remainder of the year. I do not think that it is unreasonable to ask the court to take note of the minimum agricultural rate fixed by the Agricultural Wages Board. We are asking it also to take into account the local rate paid to skilled workers and, in so far as these two factors will enable it to arrive at a rate for unskilled work when performed in that town, it must, if variations in the rate are to take place from time to time, relate those changes to the cost-of-living index figure. Therefore, I think that the relevant factors to be taken into consideration are those set out in the section. If the Deputy is able to frame better terms of reference for the board, I am prepared to consider them. But owing to the device adopted here, of fixing a nonenforceable standard rate which, we hope, will, nevertheless, be generally accepted and used as a yardstick when determining rates for work involving some skill, in occupations where a skilled rate is not in operation, the rate must be one which is regarded as reasonable and, therefore, acceptable not merely to the workers concerned but to the employers concerned.

In that connection, Deputy Norton referred to the fact that the sub-section did not confine the court to the small rural towns. It was mainly in connection with the small rural towns I thought the section had value. The court could, conceivably, fix a standard rate for Dublin. I had not that in mind when framing this section. Listening to the Deputy as he was pointing that out, I was not at all convinced that it was desirable to change the section on that account. I cannot see the court setting out to fix a standard rate in the larger centres but I could see circumstances in which the court might deem it desirable to examine the matter and express its opinion, even though the rate was not legally enforceable. A number of workers might get improved rates as a result.

The agricultural wage would hardly be a good yardstick for that purpose.

The agricultural wage might not necessarily be taken——

It would have to be related to the wage in the same way as in the small towns.

The section was intended to relate to the small towns. Deputy O'Sullivan referred to the possibility of legislation requiring that all workers be members of trade unions. That might be considered but it would, obviously, involve considerable interference with the management of trade unions and their freedom of action in relation to political matters or in relation to individual members. For that reason, very close examination of the matter by the trade unions would be necessary before the State could legislate so as to require persons to be members of such unions. The State could not put that obligation on an individual without protecting the individual against arbitrary decisions by the union executive or without placing on trade unions, as a whole, certain obligations in relation to the conduct of their affairs, their relation to politics and matters of that kind. I, myself, think that we have hardly reached in this country the stage of development in which we could contemplate, by legislation, creating that situation. It is not a proposal with which I would disagree in principle. Any objections I have to offer to it are on practical grounds only.

Many Deputies referred to the exclusion from the scope of this Bill of employees of local authorities, civil servants and agricultural workers. So far as civil servants are concerned, I am quite certain that no organisation of civil servants would regard the proposals in this Bill as adequate to meet the demands they have been making. Their demands, so far as I understand them, have been for arbitration. These are not proposals for arbitration. Whatever suggestions or proposals the Minister for Finance is making to the Civil Service organisations—I gathered from Deputy O'Sullivan that he has undertaken to do so in the near future—will, I think, have to go further than the provisions of this Bill to find acceptance. They, probably, will not be accepted, in any event. The same thing applies so far as the employees of local authorities are concerned. It might be possible to consider the application of this Bill to temporary employees or wage staffs of local authorities but I do not think that would mean anything unless it was decided that the machinery of the Bill would be used by local authorities. I think that Deputies are leaving out of account the fact that the various parts of this Bill do not impose any obligation on the employer to avail of the machinery of the Bill. Even the trades disputes section, which can be brought into operation by one of the parties, does not involve the determination of an award which is binding on the employer. I doubt very much if it is suitable to the circumstances of local authorities at all. That is a matter that we can discuss further in Committee.

I feel certain that a proposal to apply the provisions of this Bill to agricultural workers would be strongly resisted, by many farmers certainly, on the ground that this trade union tribunal did not know enough about agricultural conditions to decide what was a reasonable settlement of a dispute concerning the wages or conditions of agricultural workers, and I am not at all sure that the agricultural workers would regard this machinery as applicable to their circumstances.

However, while it is not desired to amend the provisions of the Agricultural Wages Act or to relieve the State of its obligations under that Act to enforce minimum wages for agricultural workers, I mentioned already the possibility of disputes arising in relation to agricultural workers not related to the minimum wage rates, to which this machinery may be applied. I think myself it would hardly be regarded as suitable for the determination of disputes in relation to agricultural workers and, as I mentioned already, one of the main. factors in that connection is the constitution of the tribunal, which will be an urban tribunal, as we all know, and will be skilled mainly in handling conditions of urban workers.

The references that were made to the teachers' dispute are, I think, based on some misunderstanding. That is in fact a dispute between the teachers and the community. The Government pays the teachers, but it pays them as agents for the public and it is altogether wrong to assume that that is merely a dispute between the Government and the teachers. It is a dispute between the teachers and the public as taxpayers and there is no means by which a tribunal of this kind could possibly relate the demands of the teachers to the reasonableness of the present rates of taxation and arrive at a fair decision. I certainly would not regard my interest as a taxpayer, or anybody's interest as a taxpayer, as being properly safeguarded by a tribunal of this kind when a demand involving £500,000 of my money was being submitted by some organisation. When I say my money I mean the taxpayers' money.

Who do you think should settle it? What tribunal do you think should settle it?

This Dáil. We are here as representatives of the taxpayers.

What is preventing the Dáil from settling it?

The Dáil has, but not in the way the Deputy likes, that is all.

It has not settled it at all.

Of course, it has.

There are two members of your own Party on strike?

Always on strike.

Deputy Norton, Deputy Morrissey, and Deputy Cosgrave referred to one of the major difficulties in bringing this Bill into operation, namely, the existence of two trade union congresses. The ideal solution, from my point of view, is that the differences between the two bodies would be resolved before the operative date. If that is not practicable, then I should hope that it might be possible to secure agreement between them upon this one issue of who should be the Labour representative on this court. I do not think—and I say this with some knowledge of the difficulties—that it would meet the situation altogether merely to have a larger number chosen in some proportion from unions that are affiliated to each of the congresses, and I doubt very much if Deputy Norton's suggestion that we should have a panel of members is practicable. In any event, it seems to involve a fundamental change in the constitution of the court as I visualised it. This court will be, under the Bill, a unit. It is true that one of the members of the court will receive membership on the nomination of a workers' organisation, and another on the nomination of an employers' organisation, but it will speak and act as a unit and will, in the course of time, I should imagine, develop an individual view which would represent a balance of the views of the separate members of the court. If we adopted Deputy Norton's suggestion and had a panel of members with a provision that a union bringing a case to the court could designate the trade union representative it wanted on the court to hear its case, then that union representative would be not so much a member of the court as an advocate of the union. I think, in any case, the tendency would be for him to regard himself as an advocate of the case of the appellant union rather than as a member of a court giving a judicial and fair decision upon the union's application. I would regard this as a disimprovement of the Bill but I recognise, as we all must recognise, that the bringing of this Act into operation and getting it generally accepted by trade unions that are affiliated to rival congresses is not facilitated by the present position. I do not think Deputy Morrissey was quite fair in blaming me for the existence of that position.

He blamed the Taoiseach.

That is making it wider still.

What are you going to do about it?

If there is anything I can do to resolve the position, my services are available, as the parties know. I will arbitrate on the issue, if I am allowed.

Will the Taoiseach let you act?

Oh, I think so—on that issue. Deputy Norton also suggested the desirability of having local courts in addition to the central court proposed by the Bill. I had that idea in mind originally. I contemplated that the volume of business coming before this court would be so heavy that one single central court would be insufficient to handle it expeditiously. I was shaken in that point of view on examining the statistics of trade disputes notified to the Department of Industry and Commerce before the war. These were by no means so numerous that they would tax the time of a central court. There were, in fact, believe it or not, stretches of six weeks or two months at a time when no trade dispute existed and consequently no business would be available for the court under that part of its powers. When, however, I contemplated the idea of more than one court, I had in mind an arrangement under which all disputes would come immediately to the attention of the court. I decided that a better device was that contemplated in the Bill, which brings the conciliation officers into operation in the first instance and I contemplated that these conciliation officers will be located at various centres throughout the country. While the court would ordinarily meet in Dublin, it may meet anywhere else that its services are required but in any event there will be available in every important centre of the country a place to which the existence of disputes can be notified and there will be available the services of a conciliation officer who will in the first instance endeavour to get an amicable settlement of it. It is through the conciliation officers that action can be taken immediately a dispute arises.

It is not correct to say that the court can only function when a dispute is notified to it. The provisions of the relevant section require the court to function when a dispute is notified. It is not prohibited from functioning in relation to a dispute that is not notified but, in view of the observations that were made here, I will consider whether it is not desirable to give the court specific power to intervene in a dispute in such circumstances as Deputy Larkin referred to, where it is clear that the first step to secure the intervention of the court will not be taken by one or other of the parties concerned because of the possibility of some loss of bargaining power or prestige and that it is desirable that the court should be able to move on its own behalf. As it is desirable to have these things explicit rather than implicit, I shall have the possibility of an amendment examined.

Deputy Larkin referred to the provisions of Section 74 and inquired as to what would happen if the court, having received an application for an increase of wages under that section, declined to consider it. I think we shall have to deal with that. I agree there is a defect in the section. It must be clear that the refusal of the court to consider an application will restore to the trade union its liberty of action as contemplated, unless it considers that it is in its interest to maintain the recording of the Wages (Standard Rate) Order. I agree the section appears to be defective and some action will have to be taken in relation to it.

There were a number of other matters mentioned, but I think perhaps it would be better if they were left over for the Committee Stage. I shall have the various suggestions, as indicated in the Official Report, examined. I will agree to Deputy O'Sullivan's suggestion to fix the Committee Stage for this day fortnight. I will endeavour to circulate as early as possible the amendments to the Bill that I wish to have submitted to the Dáil in consequence of suggestions made here or suggestions made elsewhere.

The Committee Stage will be fixed for 9th July?

That was the suggestion.

Would it put the Minisster to any great inconvenience if we were to leave the Committee Stage over for three weeks? I do not press for three weeks, but some of our Deputies will be absent at the Trade Union Congress on the 9th, 10th and 11th July.

I am prepared to fall in with the wishes of the House in this regard. At the same time, I would like to mention this. If this Bill is to be passed through the Oireachtas, say before the end of August, we must make progress with it through the Dáil early in July, because it will have to go to the Seanad and probably it will take three or four weeks before it passes through the Seanad. Then it will take three weeks or perhaps a month to make all the arrangements necessary for bringing it into operation when it is passed. Certain powers cannot be operated until the Bill is passed. We must make arrangements to establish the courts, have officers appointed and carry out all the usual formalities necessary to bring an Act into force. I was hoping to get the court functioning early in September, as near to the 1st September as possible. That could not be done unless we can get the Bill out of the Dáil in the middle of July.

Perhaps it could be taken this day fortnight, but not before 6.30 in the evening?

At that time every evening?

In the evening on the 9th, 10th and 11th July.

There is the possibility that there may be no other business for that week. We have reached the stage in the Dáil when the reserve of business in the form of Estimates is almost exhausted and we will be occupied solely with Bills, which must be taken at various stages. It could happen that in that week there would be no other business for these days except the Committee Stage of this Bill.

If we come up against anything like that, we will try to meet you.

Then we will fix the Committee Stage for this day fortnight. I am undertaking to do what Deputy O'Sullivan suggested, namely, that whatever amendments I want considered will be circulated early. I propose to adopt the device of circulating some amendments which I do not agree with myself, but which represent suggestions made here and which I think the Dáil should have brought before it. They will not be Government amendments in the ordinary sense, that we will be anxious to get them carried. They will be merely suggestions which we would like the Dáil to consider. The Dáil will have to examine them and they will be inserted in the Bill only if there is no serious objection to them. These amendments will embody suggestions made here and suggestions initiated by organisations elsewhere.

Before we got to this interesting point, the Minister was dealing with the Second Reading discussion. Will he say something on why it is necessary to burden the labour court with Part VII of the Bill?

I regard Part VII as the most important part of the Bill so far as present difficulties are concerned. It is intended to provide a method of ensuring immediate adjustment of present wage rates during an abnormal period when employers may be reluctant to enter into long-term agreements and where in many occupations normal employment conditions will not prevail and workers will be reluctant to press even justifiable claims because of the fear of unemployment or the fear of retarding the expansion of employment. It seems to me the court is the most suitable institution for the operation of these provisions. I agree the function could be discharged by some other authority, but while the court is there, there is no point in not using it. I see no objection to using it. Many of the recorded standard rate orders will become, in practice, the basis of wage agreements in a number of occupations. There are many trades where the relating of one wage to another, for people employed in the same occupation, is a very tedious matter and it involves a great deal of negotiations. When it is done once, there will not be any desire to change it or to re-open the matter. Consequently, some of the standard rate, plus bonus orders, plus increases granted by court decisions will become registered agreements. Therefore, I see no objection to the court functioning under that Part of the Bill.

Reference was also made to Section 23, which empowers the Minister to request the court to hold an inquiry into industrial conditions prevailing with regard to any class of workers. I had in mind such matters as the registration of dock workers, the conditions of employment of sailors and specialised problems of that kind which have been engaging my attention and the attention of my officers for some time past. They might be resolved by putting on the court the obligation of examining them and reporting on them in much the same way as a committee of inquiry might report. These matters I have mentioned have been under examination and some progress has been made, but other similar matters may arise in the future and that section merely empowers the court to conduct such an inquiry if it is requested to do so and, while it may be difficult to indicate the circumstances under which the power may be used, what I have said will serve as an illustration.

Will the powers that are being taken under Section 20 apply in cases like that?

Has the Minister any particular qualifications in mind for the chairman of the labour court and will he indicate the terms under which the chairman will hold office?

The qualifications will include a general high level of common sense and some experience of the matters with which the court will have to deal. I know that the view may be held that the chairman should be a lawyer. I find strong objections to lawyers acting in this capacity. I am not saying that one could not get a person who has legal qualifications with the other qualifications required but, generally speaking, I think it is desirable that the main consideration in nominating the chairman should not be legal qualifications. The only thing I can say about the terms of appointment is that he will be appointed for a definite period and with a guarantee of immunity against removal except for good reasons during that period.

I hope the Minister does not think that I am an applicant.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 10th July.