May I raise a point of order at this stage? Amendment No. 70 on the Order Paper seems to me to be an amendment of first class importance and one that is out of order. One of the outstanding principles of the Bill, as introduced by the Minister, was that an endeavour would be made to establish harmonious relations between the rights of employers and workers without interfering in any way with the right to strike were sections outside to take either strike action or lock out action. Amendment No. 70 seems to me to cut completely across that principle, and to introduce a principle which is entirely out of order in the light of the Bill as drafted. It proposes that, in Section 30, the court having made an order of a particular kind "may by order declare the said strike unlawful".
Committee on Finance. - Industrial Relations Bill, 1946—Committee.
Will the Deputy raise that point when we come to the amendment?
It is an alternative proposal to the provision in the Bill.
It is an alternative which introduces a principle contrary to what was implied.
We will discuss it when we come to it.
I move amendment No. 1:—
To insert between lines 27 and 28, after the definition of "prescribed", a new definition as follows:—
"the expression `registered joint industrial council' has the meaning given to it by Section 57 of this Act;"
This is a drafting amendment and is consequential on another amendment I shall move later. As introduced, the Bill contains the expression "Registered Joint Industrial Council" in Part V only. Now that the words will appear in other parts, it is desirable to have the definition in the definition section.
If a decision is actually taken on amendment No. 2 to this section, it may have the effect of preventing separate discussions on amendments Nos. 3 to 12, inclusive, where a separate decision is looked for in regard to different classes, such as civil servants, secondary teachers, national teachers and others.
Is not the amendment wide in its scope?
I will put the question in such a way that it will save the other amendments.
That is all I ask.
These amendments, Nos. 2 to 11, can all be discussed at the one time.
That is the most satisfactory way.
Deputy Costello is anxious to safeguard the position so that civil servants will be discussed separately and, if necessary, a separate decision taken.
The fact that all the amendments are discussed will not prevent separate decisions being taken.
I move amendment No. 2:—
In sub-section (1), pages 4 and 5, to delete all words after the word "labour" in page 4, line 42 to the end of the sub-section.
The section sets out the type of person to whom this Bill this refers. It defines as a worker
"any person of the age of 14 years or upwards who has entered into or workers 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..."
It goes on to indicate, however, that the term worker shall not include for the purposes of this Bill
"(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 in any office or employment, or
(e) an officer or servant of a vocational education committee, or
(f) an officer or servant of a committee of agriculture, or
(g) an officer of school attendance committee, or
(h) an agricultural worker, within the meaning of the Agricultural Wages Act, 1936."
So that, when considering the application of this Bill for the purpose set out in the Title, or when surveying the scope of this measure, and the classes which will be affected by it, we have to remember from reading this section that a large number of persons will be excluded from any resort to the provisions of the Bill, as a means of regulating wages and conditions of employment, which the Bill is primarily intended to deal with. It seems to me that in respect to agricultural workers especially, the Government are excluding from the scope of this Bill a class of workers who ought to be the first to be brought within its scope.
There is a large number of agricultural workers throughout the country. All the indications in recent months point to the fact that it will be necessary to provide some satisfactory alternative to the present unsatisfactory Agricultural Wages Board as a means of avoiding disputes in the agricultural industry. Yet, in face of what the indications are, this Bill is drafted in such a way as to exclude from its scope agricultural workers, who will be thereby denied the right of access to the machinery set up under this Bill. Similarly, civil servants are likewise excluded. Teachers of all kinds are excluded. Employees of local authorities, no matter how menial their employment may be, are similarly denied access to the machinery provided in this Bill. I do not know on what grounds the State can say to industrial workers: "We are going to provide machinery for the settlement of your disputes; we are not going to permit that machinery to be applied to our greatest sphere of activity, namely, the agricultural industry." Nor can we understand why the State, having recommended private employers to set up machinery of this kind for the settlement of disputes in respect of their employees and which arise out of their employment, at the same time denies to its own employees, the State servants, the right of access either to this or to some closely allied machinery. But that is, in effect, what the State is doing. It is saying to the very large class of State employees, such as civil servants, to teachers, to employees of local authorities, and to hundreds of thousands of agricultural workers: "You are not going to have any access to the machinery set up under this Bill." I do not know on what grounds the Minister can justify excluding such a large variety of classes from the scope of this Bill. Nor can I understand on what grounds he thinks he can morally justify a Bill of this kind to employers when he himself denies to his own employees—that is, the State servants—the right of access to this type of machinery.
I think the Minister would be on much stronger ground, and the attitude of the State would be much more justifiable, if, having declared that the Industrial Relations Bill was essential to the preservation of good relations in the spheres of activity covered by this Bill, the Minister also indicated that the Government was willing similarly to introduce legislation for the purpose of providing an equally satisfactory method of settling disputes in those spheres in which the Government is the employer. I move this amendment for the purpose of making it clear that the provisions of Section 4 ought not to deny access to the machinery of this Bill to the very wide categories of workers who are now excluded from the provisions of Section 4 because of the manner in which that section is drafted.
It appears to me that if this Bill is to be a success at all it should make no exclusion in relation to any particular section of workers. In relation to civil servants, I indicated the viewpoint of the members on these benches on the Second Reading. We understood then that a form of arbitration was to be made known to the Civil Service not later than the end of June by the Minister for Finance. So far as I am aware, there has been no indication that that has been done. We are discussing this Bill at a vital stage. Quite obviously, we cannot depart from that section of the Bill which excludes a large section of workers, rendering important service to the State, and leave them in the position in which they are now. When the Minister is replying to this particular amendment we should be glad if, in the light of the information which I am sure he has, he would clearly indicate what is to be the future position so far as civil servants are concerned. Their position is on all-fours with teachers. I cannot conceive the House departing from this particular section and leaving the teachers, whether they be primary, secondary, or vocational, in that position. I think we must all agree that if we had had machinery of this kind the present trouble in relation to the primary teachers would not have occurred. It is quite obvious that some measures will have to be taken to avoid a repetition of the present position.
There is, however, no indication as to what the policy is. The Bill deliberately excludes primary teachers from the scope of its function. If we are to make this Bill the success the Minister desires it to be, surely it must indicate some form of machinery for all types of teachers.
I happen to have experience of the vocational schools and there you have another section excluded from this Bill —schools attendance officers. As far as vocational officers are concerned it is true that they are organised into a trade union. But they have their grievances. They deal mainly with committees, which are, to a degree in any case, absolute in their jurisdiction except in matters appertaining to salaries and conditions of service, when they are subject to the overriding authority of the Minister for Education. I know that they have grievances in regard to their salaries and conditions of service. The members of the local authorities are inclined to be sympathetic towards their demands but there is, as I say, the veto of the Minister over which the members of the committee have no control whatever. I suggest that circumstances might arise where these vocational education officers would have grievances and where there would be no machinery to avert trouble. Apart altogether from any trouble which might arise, in common justice to the individuals concerned some machinery should be placed at their disposal in order to adjust disputes.
The section also excludes all workers under local authorities. The Minister was not present in the House during a discussion on a very controversial Bill. Had he been here on that occasion he would have got the reaction of the members of the House as a whole towards a system which has developed and which is known as the managerial system. The managerial system imposes certain restrictions on the local authority. One of them removes public representatives from all contacts with the staffs. To some people that may be a desirable state of affairs. From my own experience I know that so far as it relates particularly to the clerical staff the activities of the Department are hidden behind a veil of secrecy, so to speak. The local authorities are cut away from administration; the staffs have no right of appeal; they have no tribunal.
I always thought one of the great defects of the Managerial Act, as distinct from others, was the fact that it precluded anything in the nature of an appeals tribunal, composed of members of the local authorities. The individual members have no rights. No doubt they can make their applications or their appeals for consideration in the matter of increased remuneration or improved conditions to the county manager. Unfortunately, we have only too many examples of where, even when the county manager makes representations favourable to the staffs, the Minister concerned either delays giving effect to these recommendations or only carries them out in part. As a sample of that I can cite an example, which is within the knowledge of the Minister and which was given here only last week. Deputy Norton, in relation to Kildare County Council, found it necessary to raise a question about a man who was allocated to a particular grade some 18 months ago under that council; he applied for the necessary adjustment upwards on his allocation to that grade. It actually took a Parliamentary Question in this House by Deputy Norton last week to ensure that that man's grievance received attention—18 months after the application was made. No doubt, were it not for the fact that the individual in question had the means, through a Deputy of this House, to draw attention to this matter he might possibly have waited another 18 months. Behind that is another aspect which is worthy of consideration: that the Minister for Local Government in a recent circular intimated to the staffs of local authorities that they must not approach public representatives, particularly with regard to the question of promotion or favours that might be related to promotion. But there are other matters connected with the staffs of local authorities, such as the question of the right of transference from office to office, in regard to which they may feel justified in making representations.
I put it to the Minister that the present position in regard to local authorities is distinctly unsatisfactory. In the first place, a man may make application and the county manager may recommend it, and that is the last that may be heard of it for an indefinite period. There is no Deputy here who could not quote cases of that kind. So far as it refers to the clerical staff, this might lead to a very positive form of grievance in future, if the present policy is continued. I suggest that, if there is one section more than another which is entitled to be protected at least from the reactions of the managerial system, it is the employees of local authorities. The same thing applies to school attendance officers, although they are not so numerous as the other categories I have referred to. I want to underline what Deputy Norton said in order to indicate that we are anxious to have a declaration so far as arbitration for the Civil Service is concerned, that we are particularly anxious to see what machinery will be provided for the adjustment of disputes in the field of primary, secondary and vocational education in the future, and, particularly, that local authorities will have, if necessary, the machinery of this Bill to adjust their differences.
If this amendment were accepted by the Minister, it would meet various amendments in the names of members of this Party. Before we come to the discussion of these amendments, I should like to hear from the Minister why this series of employees are left outside any scheme of arbitration or conciliation machinery. If, as Deputy O'Sullivan seems to suggest, there is some kind of machinery planned or promised for the Civil Service, then we ought to have heard of it before this.
The Minister for Finance so indicated in this House.
Did he indicate it on this measure?
He said he would give a decision on the subject before the end of June.
June has passed, and we are discussing a measure from which they are definitely excluded. I think it is due to the House, before we proceed to the final discussion of this section, that we should have some indication from the Minister as to what plans are proposed in respect to civil servants. Beyond what Deputy O'Sullivan has said, I have not heard anything of them. The fact is that as long ago as 1932 the Government set up a commission of 17 persons to inquire into certain matters relating to the Civil Service. They asked the commission to make an interim report on how arbitration could be arranged for the Civil Service. The second paragraph of the report says:—
"The letters from your Department in which we were notified individually of our appointment, indicated that the commission was expected to `consider first and to submit an interim report on that part of the terms of reference relating to the application of the principle of arbitration already accepted by the Government.' "
Therefore, as long ago as 1932, the Government accepted the principle of arbitration for the Civil Service and the 17 members of this commission reported on it, 12 signing a majority report indicating the lines on which arbitration could be arranged, four signing a minority report saying that the majority did not go far enough, and the remaining member of the commission going still further in a minority report of his own. I think it is worth while giving the names of the persons who composed that commission—Mr. Joseph Brennan, the Governor of the Central Bank, Rev. J.E. Canavan, S.J.; Mr. J. R. Coade, Mr. Luke J. Duffy, Mr. J. Condren Flinn, Mr. A.M. Fullerton, Rev. Brother Galvin, The Right Hon. Lord Glenavy, Senator T. Johnston, Mr. Joseph Johnston, Senator Sir John Keane, Mrs. Mary Kettle, Professor William Magennis, Mr. D. O'Donohoe, Mr. J.J. O'Leary, Senator D.L. Robinson and Miss N. Ryan.
Now, when we are inducing employers and workers throughout the country to come together and set up machinery that will help them, by conciliation and arbitration, to avoid lack of harmony in the carrying out of their work and to avoid disputes which may lead to strikes, is the time for the Government to go back to their earlier enthusiasm and let us hear what they propose to do with regard to civil servants. I suppose the Government are right in claiming that civil servants are people whom they use as their own direct machinery of administration, that they control all their actions and work, and that in that way they can regard civil servants as being in a special position. Therefore, it is particularly desirable that we should hear what the Government have to say with regard to civil servants so that we may have a chance of arguing the principle of arbitration and conciliation with regard to civil servants.
Teachers in secondary schools are in a somewhat different position, although the case for arbitration and conciliation machinery is quite as strong in respect to them as it is in respect to any other section of workers. The same would apply to the other classes of workers who are excluded from the arbitration and conciliation scheme. If we are to pass legislation to see that employers and workers will be more harmonious in their working, then surely the State and the State's subsidiaries ought to show how to be model employers, and those who direct the State ought to indicate the lines upon which the best procedure can be adopted to secure harmony between workers and employers.
If, in these days, when Governments require more power than they ever required, and want to direct more things than ever Governments directed and are, therefore, tending to approach things in a more arbitrary and dictatorial spirit, they are going to take up the attitude towards their employees that no harmonising machinery will come between the State servants or the employees of a local body and the Ministerial direction from on top, then they are certainly acting against all the principles and all the human experience that they appear to appreciate and espouse. If it is necessary to get conciliation machinery between ordinary workers and employers who are much more close in human relationship than civil servants are to those who direct the Civil Service, there is a greater necessity for introducing some kind of machinery for conciliation and arbitration into Civil Service schemes or the schemes of local authorities.
It is desirable that this proposal should be related to the provisions of the Bill. There are three classes of workers excluded from the Bill, persons remunerated from public funds, employees of local authorities, and agricultural workers. What are the provisions of the Bill? Part III relates to registered agreements. Clearly, that part is completely inapplicable to Government employees of local government employees. The scheme there is to provide, by a system of registration of agreements, voluntarily negotiated between representatives of workers and employers, first, an assurance of good faith in relation to the agreement and, secondly, an arrangement by which a majority can ensure that equal conditions will apply to all. That does not affect the State or local authorities. There is no other Government employing public servants and, therefore, any arrangement made in relation to the remuneration of public servants by the Government does not have to be registered as an agreement under Part III of the Bill, in order to get compliance with the same conditions by other employers of the same class of workers.
Part IV deals with trade boards and is obviously inapplicable to the employees of the State or employees of local authorities. Part V deals with registered joint industrial councils and is equally inapplicable. Part VII deals with standard rate orders and does not apply at all.
The only part of the Bill that might be regarded as having any relationship to the conditions of employment of State or local government servants is Part VI, which deals with trade disputes—it could be said to deal with trade disputes of a minor kind. Major issues affecting the remuneration and conditions of employment of large classes of workers will be dealt with by means of registered agreements or joint industrial councils. It is mainly where disputes arise affecting groups of workers within a class, or individual workers, or unorganised workers who cannot benefit by registered agreements, that Part VI comes into operation.
It seems to me that none of the provisions of the Bill is really applicable to the conditions of employment of Government servants or local government officers. So far as civil servants are concerned. I doubt if there are any Civil Service organisations which will agree that the provisions of the Bill are suitable to their employment. I doubt if any Civil Service organisations will agree that the powers proposed to be given to the court to be established under this Bill are the powers that they want given to the conciliation or arbitration body which will deal with their conditions of employment. The Minister for Finance has under consideration proposals relating to conciliation and arbitration for Civil servants. He is committed to the introduction of proposals. These proposals are, I understand, about to be the subject of discussion and consultation with the staff associations concerned.
If the purpose of the amendment is merely to get information as to the position in that regard, that purpose is met. If it is intended to bring civil servants under the provisions of this Bill, the Deputy should consult the Civil Service organisations, because I do not think they would regard the machinery of this Bill as applicable to their conditions. Neither do I think they are applicable to the conditions of local government employees. Deputies might indicate which parts of the Bill they think should apply to local government employees. Part VII, dealing with the recording of standard rate orders, does not apply. Part V, dealing with registered joint industrial councils, does not apply. Part IV, dealing with trade boards, does not apply, and Part III, dealing with registered agreements, is hardly applicable. I cannot see circumstances in which it would be applicable. The only possible part that might be applied to the conditions of employment of local authorities is Part VI, dealing with trade disputes.
Turning to the agricultural workers, they are in a somewhat different position. The problem of bringing them under this Bill relates to the diversified nature of their employment and the variation in the conditions of their employment in various parts of the country. Four of these parts do not apply. Part VII, dealing with the recording of standard rate Orders, does not apply. There are no standard rate Orders for agricultural workers. Their wages have been regulated, in so far as the State has attempted it, by the enforcement of minimum rates determined by the Agricultural Wages Board. The provision relating to joint industrial councils does not apply; the provision relating to trade boards does not apply, and the registered agreement would be completely inapplicable to the circumstances of agricultural workers.
Part VI of the Bill might apply. I must agree there are possibilities of industrial disputes affecting agricultural workers similar in character to those affecting workers in other occupations. I see no objection to amending the Bill so as to make Part VI apply to agricultural workers and permit such workers to have access to the court in relation to any form of trade dispute, although clearly the Agricultural Wages Board must continue and the minimum rates prescribed by the board will in the future, as in the past, be enforceable by law.
Therefore, in relation to the amendment, I would say that to include all these classes of workers would be inadvisable. So far as civil servants are concerned, this type of machinery is not suitable. There are, in fact, proposals under consideration and about to be discussed with the staff organisations relating to conciliation and arbitration in the Civil Service. I am not going to say that the proposals of the Minister for Finance will necessarily be accepted without question by the Civil Service organisations, but I am contending that the position of civil servants and machinery for determining the remuneration and conditions of employment of civil servants must be considered separately from this Bill.
The same applies to local authorities. The law prescribes that the Minister for Local Government has certain statutory powers and obligations in relation to the remuneration of staffs of local authorities. There is nothing in the Bill which would be of the slightest assistance to the staffs of local authorities, even if the amendment proposed were adopted and local authorities' officials were brought within its scope.
When the Minister says that it could not apply to the officials of local authorities, is he suggesting that the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Local Government are considering proposals for conciliation with these officials?
I do not want to suggest that. What I am saying is that the proposals which the Minister for Finance is putting forward relate only to civil servants. I could not say, and I do not want to be taken as conveying, that they refer to other persons remunerated from State funds, such as national teachers. They apply only to those who are directly employed by the State. National teachers are remunerated out of State funds and secondary teachers are partially remunerated by the State, but they are not employed by the State; they are employed by the school managers. The position of local government officials has to be considered in relation to the provisions of local government legislation.
If the Minister is interested in harmony between employers and workers, does he not consider that now that the principle of arbitration is being considered in respect to civil servants, it should be extended to other classes under the Bill, such as the workers of local authorities?
I should not like to offer an opinion on that subject because I am not sufficiently familiar with the problems that arise to form a judgment.
Is the Minister not concerned with that?
I do say that the machinery of the court to be established under this measure does not apply or cannot effectively be made to apply to the case of civil servants or local authorities' officials.
We are considering the principle of arbitration as leading to harmony.
Precisely the point I am trying to make is that this Bill does not provide for arbitration.
It provides for conciliation.
It is conciliation which can be availed of voluntarily by the parties concerned. There is no provision in this Bill which provides in relation to the workers who will be concerned with it, a type of machinery which I understand civil servants' organisations want to have created for the Civil Service. I agree that agricultural workers are in a different position and that we have to reconsider the provisions of the Bill in relation to them. There are four of the five main parts of the Bill that do not apply to them. There is one part that does apply and in relation to that one part I am prepared to give the matter consideration.
It seems that in order to make a case against the amendment the Minister has chosen the course of putting up a number of Aunt Sallies for the purpose of knocking them down. The Minister proceeded to tell us that the Bill would not be acceptable to civil servants because the Minister for Finance——
I put it this way: what the Civil servants have agitated for is arbitration.
There is no proposal for arbitration machinery here. That is why I say that civil servants would not regard the establishment of a tribunal with the powers of the court under this Bill as meeting their demand.
Let us come to that. The Minister says that the Civil Service organisations have asked for arbitration, in other words, that they have asked for some type of tribunal to be set up whereby disputes between themselves and the Government may be adjudicated upon by some impartial tribunal instead of having these disputes adjudicated upon by the Department which is their employer or by the Minister for Finance who acts as a kind of super employer for them. What they want is some type of machinery which would adjudicate on these disputes from time to time.
This court can be had under Part VI of the Bill. If the Minister takes the trouble to look up Section 67 he will see there is a provision made by which matters in dispute may be referred to arbitration. Civil Service organisations have asked the Minister for Finance from time to time to set up some arbitration tribunal, an arbitration tribunal which will adjudicate on their grievances. Although, as Deputy Mulcahy has said, they were promised a scheme of arbitration before the election of 1932, although a similar promise was embodied in the election advertisements prior to the election of 1932, and although the Government declared in 1932 that it accepted the principle of arbitration, the position to-day, 14 year's after the promise was made in public advertisements, is that they have no scheme of arbitration at all.
Now, the Minister says that the Minister for Finance has a scheme of arbitration under consideration. The last I saw of this scheme was about six months ago. It was not a scheme of arbitration; it was a perfect fraud from beginning to end. The Minister knows perfectly well that he would not get a trade union organisation in the country to recognise in it any of the features which are properly and universally accepted as essential features of arbitration. The scheme which the Minister circulated gave him a prior veto over any matter which the staff wanted to have submitted to arbitration. In other words, the Minister says: "If a dispute arises, you have got to get my consent before you can submit it to arbitration and if I say that it is not to be submitted to arbitration there will be no arbitration." Again, the Minister says: "I am free to select whom I like to represent me at that arbitration, but you are not free to select whom you like to represent you." Then if the case does go to arbitration, the board has to treat its recommendations as a confidential document and send them to the Minister for Finance. That is what the Minister for Finance is calling arbitration. He called it a draft scheme of arbitration. I told the House before that it was a daft scheme of arbitration. In his own conscience the Minister for Industry and Commerce knows perfectly well that it is a fraudulent scheme of arbitration and did not try to put it over on intelligent people who see quite clearly it is not a scheme of arbitration at all, quite wisely having some knowledge of the boot rolled in the bouquet.
In lieu of that dud scheme, which the Minister for Finance has in his cupboard, I assert to the Minister for Industry and Commerce—and I challenge contradiction—that the staff service organisation will take this tribunal in preference to the Minister's dud scheme, in preference to his "no" scheme, because they see in Part VI, Section 64 and Section 67 that they can at least get somebody that is impartial or that we intend to be impartial to adjudicate upon whatever dispute arises. At the present time they can get no one to adjudicate on any dispute which they have. If the Minister does that, the Civil Service organisations will take this as a substantial advance on the present position. Let him offer it to them and I tell him the Civil Service organisations will take it because they see in it a vast improvement on the present unsatisfactory position.
Similarly, in the case of local authorities officials. There have been disputes as to road workers' wages throughout the country. Surely if a dispute arises amongst road workers, they have the right to get somebody to decide on the merits of the dispute?
We are going to say now to the agricultural worker that we will give him some machinery to do it. We are going to say to the carpenter, the plasterer, the builder's labourer, the docker and to every other class of industrial or commercial worker that if they have a dispute with their employers we will give them this tribunal to adjudicate on the merits of their claims, and that when the tribunal makes an award, that we will expect them to accept it and expect their employers to accept it as well. If you give that right to these classes of workers, why not give it to the road worker or to the carpenter employed by a local authority or to the people employed at the Curragh Camp, general labourers there who are paid by the Army Corps of Engineers? Why not give it to these classes of workers, seeing that you are prepared to give it to the workers employed by large and small employers throughout the country?
Is not the road worker entitled to get the same measure of justice from the State, if this is intended to be a measure of justice, and the same machinery for harmonising his relations with his employers as the carpenter and the docker and the other classes that I have referred to? That is all that this amendment seeks to do: to say to those people that, if they have got into a dispute with their employers, there is a court which has been constituted in such a way as to make it generally acceptable to which they can go to get the merits of their dispute adjudicated upon. In that court there will be sensible people to hear their case and to give a verdict upon it. Why not say to the civil servant, to the teacher, to the road worker or to the people employed by the Department of Defence at the Curragh Camp, that they ought to have a remedy of this kind? The Minister will not give it to them. If he wants to harmonise their relations vis á vis their employees, why does he refuse to do for them what he is doing in the Bill in the case of those who are in private employment? I submit that Sections 64 and 67 provide a means for having all these disputes settled amicably. Would it not be better to do that than have industrial disputes with perhaps strikes dragging on for a considerable time?
The teachers' strike has now been on for nearly four months. If this piece of machinery had been in existence the matter could have been dealt with by it, or when it does come into existence the matter could easily have been referred to it. The Minister, I think, has made no case at all for excluding the classes of workers set out in Section 4. I cannot conceive any valid ground for the Minister objecting to any class of worker in the community going before this court and saying "I have got a dispute with my employer; will you adjudicate on the merits of it as you would adjudicate on the merits of any other dispute in which an industrial worker or a commercial worker is concerned"? If there is any objection to that course being pursued, the Minister has not told us about it. He merely talked about the unsuitability of the machinery without showing that the machinery suggested here is something less satisfactory than what the position is at the moment. These folk that I speak of have no machinery at the moment. This Bill will give them machinery. Everyone agrees that it is an improvement on the present unsatisfactory position until something more substantial is put in its place.
The Minister replied to three or four of the main points made on the amendment: the question of the civil servants, the question of employees of local authorities and the question of agricultural labourers. He made no reference to the case that had been made so far as the teachers are concerned. He did not indicate that there was any machinery in view so far as that particular section is concerned. I mention that so that we may have his views on the subject. The Minister challenged the inclusion of certain workers under the Bill, particularly the employees of local authorities. He indicated that their inclusion would be in conflict with the provisions of the Bill, and asked what section they could be brought in under. I gather from the Minister that he said that these local employees were paid out of State funds. They are not paid out of State funds except in relation to certain grants and certain recoupments which the local authorities get from the State. They are mainly paid out of moneys paid by the ratepayers. I submit that their inclusion could come in under Parts V, VI or VII. I submit that they would come in under Part III which refers to the registration of agreements. Their inclusion would be quite compatible under that part of the Bill. They would also, I suggest, come in under Part VI, and, finally, under Part VII, where men have the right to seek an increase in their remuneration. So far, the Minister has not made any case to convince us that these workers should not be included under the Bill. I am particularly keen on the inclusion of the employees of local authorities because I know of no other section that needs the protection of these three parts of the Bill more than the employees of local authorities do.
The case that I make is this. So far as civil servants are concerned, there are proposals under consideration and, whether the proposals are good or bad, they are about to be discussed with the Civil Service organisations. Whatever will emerge from these discussions will, presumably, from the subject of separate legislation. I do not suppose that anybody given the responsibility of establishing a court to hear the grievances of civil servants, even with the limited power which it is proposed should be given to this court, would propose to constitute it in the precise manner set out in this Bill. In any case, civil servants are in a different position. The proposals in relation to them will, if they emerge from the discussions which are about to proceed in a form that requires legislation, be the subject of proposals to be submitted here.
I should not like the provisions of this Bill to be altered by reason of what is an accidental situation—the fact that a strike of national teachers in Dublin was in progress at the time the Bill was introduced. That might not have been the situation and the national teachers, if they had been wise, in my view—I am not going to press my view—would have accepted the offer that was made to them some months ago, and be now about to enjoy the very substantial increases in salary which were embodied in that offer. I do not think that anybody will seriously suggest that the Government, in relation to the national teachers or any other class of officials paid out of public funds, any more than a local authority in relation to its officials, is in exactly the same position as a private employer in relation to his workers.
The arguments relating to the difference in both situations, have been advanced before. I do not want to repeat them. A Government cannot go out of business. It cannot put itself in the position that somebody constituting a court, such as the court proposed here, can arrive at a decision that might involve £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 in extra taxation, and accept an obligation to impose that taxation even though it considered the net result of doing so was going to be widespread unemployment or some other disastrous consequence.
A Government cannot relieve itself of its responsibilities and pass them on to a body such as that proposed here. It, in fact, stands as an arbitrator between the national teachers or public servants and their employers who are the taxpayers of the country. It is in the position of a conciliator, an arbitrator, of one who has responsibility for deciding between their claims as against the claims of those who will suffer by any decision to benefit them. I am trying to avoid leading this debate into a discussion of the teachers' dispute. I disclaim any desire for such a debate on this Bill. I am anxious to confine the debate to the narrow issue of whether the particular type of court to be established here is a suitable tribunal for hearing claims, on behalf of a section of public servants, on the taxpayers' purse. I do not think it is. I do not think that anybody seriously believes that it is. This may be a suitable opportunity to ventilate grievances, but no one, I am certain, who had responsibility for framing legislation of this kind would seriously suggest that a tribunal of this kind could discharge that responsibility or would declare that the Government, irrespective of what that tribunal decides and of what the immediate consequences may be of its decision, must, never the-less, act upon it.
So far as the local authorities are concerned, the circumstances are precisely the same. There is no point in giving some external tribunal power to decide that the ratepayers are to pay more out of the rates. It is the representatives of the ratepayers who are elected to the local authority who are to decided that. You cannot relieve them of that responsibility by putting upon some body of this kind the obligation of considering these matters, and of deciding precisely how much the ratepayers should pay.
The only firm case made here for the amendment related to the agricultural workers. I agree that there is no logical grounds for excluding agricultural workers from Part VI of the Bill, and I am prepared to consider it.
Reference has been made to civil servants. Let us take a better term: "State employees." At one period in my union we had a person employed by the Department and we had complaints in regard to the wages he had at Collinstown.
There is no one employed at Collinstown in my Department.
Subject to correction, I will explain.
As far as persons are employed there, they are under this Bill.
I may be wrong, but I understood that this man was employed by your Department. Have we got to defeat the whole Government in order to get sympathetic and proper consideration for such men? It is obvious that State employees, generally called civil servants, have their own associations. I am not going to intrude on them. As to the general term "State employees" or employees of local authorities, whose conditions require attention, their claims are submitted periodically in one form or another to trade unions. If these claims are rejected by the State or by a local authority, for whom the county manager acts, there is no redress. There is no use in telling us that the State or the local authority stands between a group of employees and the ratepayers. Everybody is sensible enough to realise that, if bodies of State employees have grievances, and if they cannot get justice through a particular Government Department or a particular manager, either a city or a county manager, it is not a practical proposition to expect them to get a change of Government or a change in the control of a local authority. Elections involve a great many other questions than the particular employees of the State or a local authority.
We start off in this Bill by setting out to establish harmonious relations between workers and employers. It may be quite possible, as the Minister stated, that this particular machinery is not suitable for civil servants as a whole. If we could accept the principle, that these people, especially small groups, are entitled to the same consideration, if employed by the State or by local authorities as workers employed by private employers, then we could find agreement. At the present time we have the position, where we have two groups of workers employed by separate Government Departments, doing exactly the same work, where one is receiving the full bonus of 16/- while the other is in receipt of 10/-. Is there no way in which we could redress that situation?
When the Minister speaks of having arbitration machinery, and of having a claim heard before the arbitration court on behalf of employees of the State or of local authorities, and of having the State compelled to accept that decision, in practice there are two forms of arbitration. We who represent the workers go before the arbitration courts, and if we do not accept the decision we indicate our willingness to submit the case to examination. We then accept the decision of the court. I fail to see why the State should not be prepared to do the same. If the decision is such that they cannot logically give effect to it, then they can accept political responsibility. They should not deny to their own employees what they allow in the case of private employers. The Minister stated that the State cannot run business. The Minister was on sounder ground when he spoke of another aspect. In relation to the question of trade disputes, I think, even as to the practical application of the machinery, there is a good deal of argument on our side.
Leaving aside groups of what are called civil servants, and using the other term "State employees," large numbers of industrial workers are employed by Government Departments. The existing practice is to follow the rates of wages and conditions arrived at between employers and workers outside the Government service. Another practice has been growing up, more especially since the operation of the Emergency Powers Orders. There has been a lag between what private employers and the State are paying. In some cases we have had Orders, affecting private employers, granting an increased bonus to particular individuals and as long as ten months have elapsed before that increased bonus was given to the same set of workers employed by local authorities and the State and no retrospective effect was given to it.
There is ground there on which there could be inquiry before the court to determine whether, in fact, these workers were entitled to have applied to them what is in effect the result of an agreement. That was the custom that existed for years, but because of a policy which seems to have developed recently in Government Departments, and amongst local authorities, it has largely fallen into disuse, and has created a good deal of criticism and complaint amongst workers.
In so far as the registration of agreements is concerned, one of the problems that have to be faced with regard to Government Departments and local authorities is what takes place regarding conditions or wages as a result of the agreement. The evidence submitted is a copy of the agreement, and following upon that the Minister or city manager considers the matter. He then makes an Order applying to that particular employment. Very often the question arises, whether the terms of that agreement do, in fact, apply to particular workers. Here we have a proposal under which an agreement can be made, and we have also a court to which we can refer for interpretation of the agreement.
Again, on the same question, if there is a difference of opinion between one employee, or a thousand employees, of the Government or the local authority surely these employees are entitled to some opportunity of presenting their case before an impartial tribunal in the same way as the employees of a private employer. That is the only question and it seems to me in most cases, particularly in relation to the ordinary labourer, the skilled craftsman employed by Departments and the general run of manual worker employed by the local authorities, the machinery provided here would be most suitable and could be made available. Those of us who have the right to speak for the men and women affected by this would have no hesitation in utilising this machinery.
In so far as the local authorities are concerned, we are placed here in a most invidious position. It may be possible to change the Government to get a certain amount of equity granted to civil servants and teachers. That is a very different thing to changing the Government to get some amelioration of the position of employees in Grangegorman Mental Hospital. We are so removed from the centre of power in this country that those on the outer circles are left in an impossible position. Employees of local authorities and boards, such as the joint committee in a mental hospital or similar institutions, which come under the indirect control of the city or county managers should, at least, be provided with some machinery of this kind. As the position stands at the moment they have no other resource and they have no other way of having just consideration given to their claims. They are completely dependent on the arbitrary and single-minded action of either the manager or, in the final resort, of the Minister who is himself very far removed from their particular conditions of service. In this connection it is as well to point out to the Minister that, while we are setting up conciliation and arbitration machinery for large sections of the workers, outside of the employees of the State and local authorities, by the same stroke we are wiping out what small degree we already have of conciliation machinery in the form of a Conciliation Act and the Industrial Courts Act. That means that when this Bill is passed unless the worker, regardless of where he may be employed, comes within the scope of this Bill there is no other machinery available which he can utilise. I think we should pay due regard to that position.
Finally, in regard to the agricultural workers it seems to me that they are in exactly the same position as any worker employed in a trade covered by a trade board. It is correct that their wages and conditions can be fixed by the Agricultural Wages Board in the same way as a trade board fixes wages and, to a certain extent, conditions for the workers in certain trades. But the benefit of this particular Act is only for those who are employed under the schedule fixed by the trade board. The trade board rate is a minimum one. If any section of the workers wishes to improve upon that they can do so by registering an agreement under the Act.
The only difference is that there are certain measures preventing them utilising in a direct from the present Emergency Powers (No. 260) Order. When that goes there is nothing to stop them having agreements granting conditions over and above and better than what are provided as minimum conditions under the Trade Board Schedule. The same applies to agricultural workers. The board fixes the minimum rates. If any particular area, or group of employers, wishes to give wages or conditions superior to those fixed by the board there is nothing in the Bill at present preventing that being registered as an agreement for the particular area or the particular type of agricultural worker. There is, however, a distinction between that agreement being registered and the particular section of workers being brought under the Bill in the same way as any section of industrial workers governed by a trade board is at the present moment.
As far as this machinery in relation to trade disputes is concerned it has already been suggested that we will require more than one court. In arranging for the provision of subsidiary courts it should be possible to take into consideration the advisability of having certain persons available to constitute the subsidiary courts with ability, knowledge and experience to deal with agricultural problems. It appears to me, however, that the Minister is sympathetic to the suggestion that this might be extended to cover agricultural workers. We might accept the principle and then work out the ways and means of adapting the machinery to meet the demands of that very large section of workers. The very fact that they are working in isolation, without guidance or experience of trade unions, and to the extent that the trade union organisation may develop among them, it is possible that we may have a considerable number of situations in which machinery of this kind would be welcomed, not only by the State because of the vital part played by agricultural workers but by the men themselves and their employers because both sides would feel that, owing to their lack of experience in industrial organisation of this type, this machinery would be particularly helpful in bringing both sides together and helping them to adjust whatever claims may arise in the light of given circumstances.
Deputy Larkin mentioned the difficulty in regard to the grotesque situation in which one finds oneself when one sub-divides classes of people in different ways. I think he stated that there was one member of his organisation employed at Collinstown in respect of whom he felt he had a trade dispute with the Minister. It is clear to those who were listening to the discussion on the air navigation legislation this evening how difficult it is to know what exactly is the position of anybody at Collinstown from the point of view of an employee. We understand now, however, that a member of Deputy Larkin's union engaged at Collinstown is, in all probability, an employee of Aer Rianta Teoranta.
He is an employee of the Department of Industry and Commerce. If you call it a department of industry so much the better.
It becomes even more complicated then. Those of us who were here this evening would read it that he is an employee of Aer Rianta Teoranta, which acts as the agent for doing the work of administration at Collinstown but the actual cost for the doing of that work is paid over to the company by the Minister for Industry and Commerce from his Vote. Therefore, he may be an employee of the Minister for Industry and Commerce by reason of the fact that any money he gets comes from that Ministry.
He might also be an employee of Aer Lingus Teoranta.
In either case the Bill covers him.
But all the money is paid by the Government.
There is one matter to which I would like to draw attention in connection with this particular Bill. Under this Bill everybody affected by it will be able to pass on some portion of the burden. Now, I am anxious, and more than anxious, to see the lot of the agricultural labourer bettered. Every class in the community, let it be the manufacturer or anybody else, who comes in for the purpose of getting an increased price can pass on some of the cost to the article he manufactures.
If a contractor who is brought under this Bill gets his labour costs increased he can pass on that increase in his contracts and have it recognised and paid. But the farmer is controlled. One portion of the products of his industry is sold on an export market over which he has no control. The balance is sold to the home consumer. The farmer has no tribunal like the other industrialists before whom he can go to have his costings inquired into or his prices fixed. I think that these two things should go hand in hand. It is time that all industries should be placed on the one basis. The lot of the agricultural workers should be improved, but it cannot be improved as things stand. As Deputy Larkin stated, on the one hand we have the wages board fixing wages. On the other hand, you have a fixed Government price for the articles produced by the farmer which has not been changed, although there have been three successive changes in wages made by the Agricultural Wages Board. The farming industry, which is the biggest and most important industry in the country, should be dealt with side by side with the other industries. Speaking as a farmer, apart from any other interest I have in them, I am anxious to see the lot of the agricultural labourers bettered. But any improvement which applies to them, should apply also to the 400,000 who are not agricultural labourers but who work on the land.
The Deputy is developing that rather much seeing that their inclusion is not before the House at the moment, though it may be later.
A case has been made for their inclusion and I am pointing out that the particular class of employers covered by this Bill have a court to which they can go——
So the Deputy has stated.
——to pass on the burden, but this particular class have not, namely, the employers of agricultural labourers. They have no court to which they can go, although the burden is passed on to them. I suggest to the Minister that, if he is including agricultural labourers in this Bill, he should also bring immediately into this House some Bill setting up some tribunal before which the employers of agricultural labourers, namely, the farmers, can go to have their costings fixed so that they can get the cost of production, plus profit, the same as the other industrialists.
I have a point to put, not to the Minister, but to the House, because the difficulty I find myself in rather inclines me to the Minister's point of view. I wonder, in respect to the excluded classes of workers from paragraph (a) to paragraph (g), that is, all those, except agricultural workers, is the labour court which it is proposed to set up under this Bill a suitable one if we are to agree that these workers should be included, because none of the employers of these workers could be represented on the labour court as it is proposed to be set up and some of the workers' representatives, I think, would probably be excluded also? In other words, the court would not have the same relation in respect of these workers and their employers, that is, the State and the local authorities, as it would have in respect of private employers. It is not my intention to make the Minister's case, but I think there is a difficulty there and perhaps some of the Deputies who want to have these workers included might be able to clear it up.
The Minister, in an effort to show that it would not be satisfactory to have this labour court deal with cases referred to it by the State as employer said that one of the difficulties of the State in a matter of this kind was the fact that, if it submitted an issue to the adjudication of a labour court such as is envisaged here, it would have to pay the award and, instancing what he thought that would mean by a figurative expression, he said the State might have to go out of business, clearly indicating that the Minister contemplated that every time a labour court adjudicated upon an issue in which there was a dispute between the Government, on the one hand, and all or a section of its employees, on the other hand, this court, which is to consist of two representatives of employers, two representatives of workers, and a chairman appointed by the Minister, will go completely daft—once they have to deal with a claim in respect of some group of State servants.
The Minister will trust this court to deal with a matter affecting tens of thousands of people and will not worry about the decision. He is willing to let them deal with building workers. He is satisfied that every members of this court will maintain his normal ability when hearing such cases before the tribunal and he will be satisfied with their verdict. He does not contemplate any catastrophic consequences so far as employers are concerned. But he imagines that a tribunal, composed of two seasoned and sober representatives of employers and two representatives appointed by national trade union organisations, with a chairman appointed by the Minister, cannot be trusted to give a fair and impartial judgment in respect of a claim on behalf of State servants. Is it not ludicrous for the Minister to argue that that body can be trusted in respect of every one of these cases, but it cannot be trusted in respect of a case affecting a few hundred or a few thousand lowly-paid State servants? Why must he assume that the tribunal will go completely berserk in dealing with a claim in respect of State servants and maintain a normal condition of intelligence and mind when dealing with the claims of every other class? Of course, no such thing will happen. The State will not have to go out of business. The mentality behind the court's awards in respect of outside workers will also impregnate whatever verdicts they give in respect of claims submitted by State servants.
The Minister knows well, because the information can be got in his own Department or in the Library here, that the arbitration and labour court philosophy and ideology have been tried in many countries in the world between State servants and their employer, the Government. Not a single one of these countries went out of business. Every one of them is as prosperous as, and some of them are much more prosperous than this country. None of them went bankrupt because an arbitration or labour court functioned. In every single one of them that has had the arbitration principle applied as between the Government and State employees, Ministers of all political complexions have paid tribute to that machinery as a means of satisfactorily settling disputes between the executive on the one hand and State employees on the other hand.
This amendment simply proposes to have that scheme of adjusting disputes applied here. One obvious remedy against the possibility that the State might be put out of business by paying an award of the tribunal is the simple device suggested by civil servants' organisations to the Minister for Finance long ago, namely, that every award of an arbitration tribunal should be subject to the overriding authority of Parliament.
There is an arbitration scheme operating in Great Britain for State servants; there is an arbitration scheme operating in Northern Ireland for State servants. Every award is subject to the overriding authority of Parliament. The British Government has not gone out of business because of the Arbitration Board, and neither has the Six-Country Government gone out of business.
These Governments still exist; they are still in business, and are doing pretty good business here—we wish they would do more. The arbitration tribunals have not injured them or imposed upon the people burdens which the people were incapable of bearing. There is no fear that the award of the tribunal will put the State out of business here and, in any case, even if people fear that, if in 1946 there are people so simple as to imagine that will happen, you still have the device of stating that all awards of this tribunal in respect to State servants are subject to the overriding authority of the Oireachtas.
That suggestion was made to the Minister for Finance 14 years ago and never once was it pleaded by him that it was not an effective safeguard, if he wanted to utilise it. He said, in respect of local authorities: "You cannot have a court of this kind, dealing with the claims of a local authority and sending the bill to the local authority; you cannot put the responsibility on them." What other machinery is there for adjusting a dispute with a local authority? A local authority is composed of representatives of the ratepayers, but you will not allow those representatives to decide the scale of remuneration for their employees. You say to the members of the local authority: "It is not your business to fix the scale of wages for the persons employed by the ratepayers of the county; that is not your function. We will bring in a manager." He is usually not a native of the county, knows nothing about the temperament of the people and is not sufficiently long enough there to trouble even to learn the outlook of the people as regards the remuneration of their employees.
It is the manager and not the representatives on the local authorities who fixes the remuneration. When the employees become dissatisfied with the decision of the county or city manager and when they take action to express disapproval of unsatisfactory rates of wages, you say to them: "You cannot get a tribunal to adjudicate on the merits of the case." You say to the manager: "You, and you only, will decide this case." You will not allow the labour court to decide it. You want to thrust all the powers into the hands of a county manager. Surely, in all equity, if there is a dispute between a county manager and the employees of a county council, and if you will not allow the ratepayers to settle the matter, you ought to be willing to refer it to a tribunal of this kind and allow this tribunal to do, in respect of the employee of a local authority, what you permit it to do in connection with commercial and industrial workers.
The Minister says: "I will let the tribunal fix the wages of a carpenter or any other craftsman, but I will not permit it to fix remuneration of a postman or a roadman." What is the reason for the discrimination? The latter two workers probably need this tribunal more than the craftsman who, if he wishes, can ignore it and rely on economic strength as he has to enforce the payment of wages, which might be more satisfactory to him than he can get by reliance on this machinery.
The Minister made no case for excluding these categories of workers. He says says it is not possible to allow teachers to have access to this court. Are we to contemplate a situation in which county council employees will have nobody but the county manager to fix their remuneration? Most other classes in the industrial and commercial sphere can get a tribunal, but never will we concede that right to the roadman. Must we contemplate a situation where you will have periodic teachers' strikes for remuneration and we will never set up this machinery for them? Are we to visualise a situation where we can say to a commercial clerk: "You can go to the labour court?" But we will not allow the roadman to go there.
The Minister has given no reasons why such workers should not be allowed access to it. He talked about the type of arbitration that might be discussed for the Civil Service. Is it not obviously preferable to allow this machinery to operate until something more satisfactory takes its place? If you get that mutually acceptable machinery, then let it replace this tribunal. In the meantime, I do not think the Minister ought to deny access to this tribunal to State servants, employees of local authorities, and any other class of worker who says: "I want to use it the same as the generality of workers will be permitted to use it when it becomes law." I am willing to withdraw the amendment to give the Minister an opportunity of considering it, but I must have the right, of course, to resubmit it, if necessary, for the Report Stage. Quite clearly, there is a demand from all sides of the House for the general application of the principle of this Bill to a wider category of workers.
I assume that when the Minister and his colleagues thought fit to bring in this measure they considered the right of every employee engaged in agriculture, industry or commerce to the protection which this measure is bound to give. I cannot understand the reason for excluding from the operation of this measure such a large number of workers. It is proposed to exclude eight different classes. I hope the Minister will indicate the number of workers in agriculture, under local authorities, amongst teachers, civil servants and others who will be excluded from the operation of the useful machinery provided here. I am glad the Minister has given a sort of half-hearted promise to bring agricultural workers within the measure. I hope he will do that by introducing an amendment on Report. I think he will agree, if he has studied the working of the Agricultural Wages Board, that it has not given general satisfaction. I am glad Deputy Corry agrees with the Minister about bringing agricultural workers within the scope of the Bill.
Yes, and I am not saying that the conditions are unfair or cannot be complied with. The framework of the Agricultural Wages Board is out of date. The selection of representatives of farmers and workers is not on a democratic basis. It may be the farmers and the agricultural labourers are not properly organised for that particular purpose.
It is generally admitted or claimed in the country that this Agricultural Wages Board is constituted on a political or a semi-political basis. To that extent, it has not given general satisfaction. It has given decisions in recent cases that I cannot fully understand. In a case of an area board operating in portion of my constituency, a county board by a majority some weeks ago decided to recommend that agricultural wages in the County of Leix should be increased by 7/6 per week. That recommendation was sent to the National Wages Board, and the figure of 7/6 was reduced to 4/-, for some reason, so far unexplained to me or anybody else. I endeavoured to frame a suitable Parliamentary question asking the Minister for Agriculture to explain the reason why the National Wages Board refused to accept the recommendation of the area board.
The Ceann Comhairle ruled that that question was not in order because, he alleged, the Minister had no function in the matter. I know, and every sensible Deputy knows perfectly well, that the Minister for Agriculture appoints the Chairman of the National Wages Board and fixes the salary to be paid for giving arbitrary decisions. Yet I am told, in a letter, that the Minister for Agriculture has no function in a matter of this kind. I am bound to accept the ruling of the Ceann Comhairle given to me in a letter, but I shall take another suitable opportunity to establish that the Minister for Agriculture has a definite responsibility for answering in that case for the activities of the Chairman of the Agricultural Wages Board in matters of that kind. I think you could not have a more undemocratic board than the board which has been operating for some time.
I certainly think that the Minister for Industry and Commerce, having a much wider experience than the Minister for Agriculture in setting up trade boards and conciliation machinery, will be able to frame under this Bill a much more satisfactory type of machinery to deal with disputes in the agricultural industry. We are facing a fairly uncertain future in regard to world conditions, markets and everything else. I think that Deputy Corry, who reads his stuff, will agree that in any line-up of world conditions in the future there will be a keen demand in the export market and the home market for many years to come for agricultural produce. If the farmer shakes himself up and establishes a better organisation than farmers have had in the past, he should be in a better position to pay agricultural labourers a decent wage than he has been up to the present time. If agricultural labourers have not got a decent living wage up to the present, it is due to the fact that agricultural labourers and farmers have not been properly organised, but whether they are organised or unorganised, they are as entitled to the protection of machinery of this kind as any industrial or other worker.
I take it the Minister before introducing this section had a chat with the Minister for Agriculture and the Minister for Local Government, and as a result of conversations or inter-Departmental collaboration, he decided that the employees of local authorities and agricultural labourers should be excluded from the machinery of this Bill. We all know the reason why the employees of local authorities are to be excluded from that machinery—simply because the little dictator in the Custom House wants to maintain the right, so long as there is power vested in him, to dictate the wages that are to be paid on schemes operated by local authorities. I put it to every Deputy here that workers under local authorities have the same rights under the Constitution as every other worker who is going to get the benefit of this measure when it comes into operation. We are told sometimes—at other times we are told something different—that the representative of the ratepayers have one right and that is the right to strike a rate, that rate to include a sum sufficient to provide for efficient administration of local services and to pay the wages of the workers who work under local authorities. If the representatives of the ratepayers on local authorities still have that right, they should also have the right to fix the wages that are to be paid to employees of local authorities and that right should never be given to the Minister for Local Government. If the workers employed by the local authorities are not satisfied with their wages, they should have the right to appeal to some tribunal—the Minister for Local Government is not a tribunal—he is a dictator in matters of this kind—such as is provided for in the Bill, where their cases will get a fair hearing.
Deputy Corry seems to think that there is danger in going to a tribunal of this kind. I should like to disabuse his mind on that because the chairman of the tribunal will be appointed by the Minister and is bound to pay due regard to the public interest when he is considering the claims of people coming before him. In considering the public interest, he will consider also the ability or otherwise of the farmers to pay the rates of wages demanded by the organisation catering for the agricultural labourers. Deputy Corry overlooks one fact. I do not see how he could do so because he is a very active member of the Beet Growers' Association. He is one of the most eloquent representatives of the farmers in this House, and every time he gets the opportunity, he is well able with his colleagues to put the case in favour of a higher price for agricultural produce of any kind in order to meet the increasing demands that may be made on farmers, either for increased wages for workers or because of the increased cost of the raw materials which they have to purchase outside the country.
At any rate, the chairman of the labour court will represent the public interest and will pay due regard to these matters when he is making up his mind as to the wages to be paid. A clear case has been made for the inclusion of some of the groups of workers which the Minister is not prepared to bring within the scope of the Bill. When discussing rates of wages paid by local authorities on a recent occasion, the Minister for Local Government made it quite clear to the House that in exercising his authority in matters of this kind, so far as employees of local authorities were concerned, road workers and others, he wanted to relate the wages to the wages paid to agricultural labourers in the same area. The Minister for Local Government as such should have no dictatorial powers in matters of this kind. As the Minister for Industry and Commerce has seen fit—I think he has agreed—to bring within the scope of the measure agricultural labourers, I hope that for the same reason he will also see his way to bring in employees of local authorities and give such employees, whenever they feel they are not being fairly treated, the right to go to a court of this kind to get fair play.
I must confess in speaking to those amendments that I am somewhat bewildered in making any contribution to this discussion because while one may admire the motives that influenced the Minister in introducing this Bill, I am still strongly of the opinion that the more he interferes in matters affecting trade unions with a view to securing peace and harmony, the more chance there will be that disharmony and disunity will result. I do not attribute that to the Minister.
I have very strong views as to the propriety of introducing Bills of this nature. I say that from my experience of the trade union movement and of workers generally which goes back almost half a century, I find that the best way of settling disputes and of having peace and harmony is for the men concerned and their employers to sit down and to discuss their grievances. I think that where that is done a settlement is effected in 99 cases out of 100. When that was the practice we had not a Trade Union Act or an Industrial Relations Bill to guide us, but we had common sense. Having listened to the speeches here this evening, I must admit that this Bill has been introduced with a view to settling disputes and to creating harmony. My difficulty is to know the class of worker that the Bill really refers to. I think that if all its sections are examined one will have a difficulty in finding out the classes of workers that come within the scope of it. The local employees of such important bodies as the Dublin Corporation, the Cork Corporation, the Waterford, Limerick, Wexford, Sligo and other borough bodies as well as those employed by urban councils, plus agricultural workers, teachers and civil servants are all outside its scope. In view of that how are you going to have peace and harmony?
I admit that the Minister has so many duties to attend to that he could not be aware of all the pitfalls likely to confront him in preparing a Bill of this kind. He forgets that, long before any of these Acts were passed, a certain number of these employees that I speak of were members of the old craft unions which had been in existence for at least 50, 60 or 70 years. These included bricklayers, plasterers, carpenters and the old type of labourer who was attached to the old local union. Now, a great many of these will come under this Bill, but on the other hand a number of other employees of local councils will not. Therefore, when those who come under the Bill want an increase of wages and get their claims settled before the labour court—they may get an increase of a few shillings a week—a good deal of dissatisfaction is bound to prevail amongst those who are not entitled to the increase. That may result in a strike. That is one difficulty that I am afraid will confront the Minister and that at the moment he does not see. You will have other employees who will be affected in the same way. Therefore, I would suggest to the Minister that if he wants peace and harmony he is not going to get it while that situation obtains. I say the same with all respect to the Labour Party and to the leaders too of the various workers' organisations. The workers will say that they will agree to everything but that they must be in a position to strike. We had better be straight and honest about this. There is no use in going a bit of the road with everybody.
Deputy Corry wants an increase of 2/6 for agricultural workers provided he gets an additional 5/- for his agricultural produce. The one thing that came out of this discussion is that Deputy Corry has now admitted for the first time that there is such a thing as an export market to which he can send his produce. In all his speeches up to this he has been ignoring the export market and stressing the value of the home market.
But, if he is to get another 10/- to enable him to send his produce to the export market he will consent to give half of it to the agricultural labourers. We do not want that class of speech on a Bill of this nature. We should try to be honest and do the best we can in the interests of the country and of the working classes. I am prepared to say that the Minister, no matter what Act he passes, is not going to have harmony, human nature being what it is. We cannot control and regiment people. We cannot even regiment the members of our own households not to speak of regimenting hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens.
We know what has happened in relation to certain Acts passed by this House, what the decision of the Supreme Court was last week in regard to the liberty which a worker claimed as to the particular union he should join. I heartily agree with the decision of the Supreme Court. There are certain labour men in this country who do not agree that a man should have liberty in regard to the union he will join. I am glad that the Supreme Court came to that decision.
With regard to the various arguments put forward on this Bill, I hope they will have some weight with the Minister especially in so far as they apply to agricultural workers. Long before Deputy Corry spoke about agricultural labourers I was defending them in this House some 20 years ago. I maintained at that time, as I maintain now, that the genuine agricultural worker is a scientific tradesman, and as such should be given a decent standard of living. I said then, and I say now, that I never could see the reason why a man in a city or urban area should have £3 a week and an agricultural labourer only 30/-.
It may have been unpopular at the time to say that, but I said it then and I say it now. I think that the Minister would be wise in not excluding agricultural labourers from the scope of this Bill. He gave me the impression that his reason for excluding certain classes of local employees, civil servants, teachers, etc., was that the labour court might possibly agree to give these classes salaries and wages that would be out of all proportion to the work they do or that would impose an impossible burden on the ratepayers and taxpayers of the country. If that is his view, then apparently he does not mind what happens to private employers, industrialists and others, whose workers will have the right to go before this labour court. It can fix any wages it likes for these workers, but that does not appear to matter to the Minister. That seems to me to be inconsistent. I do not think the Minister was on very firm ground when he put forward that argument in favour of the exclusion of certain classes of workers as against others.
As regards the amendments that are before the House, I wish them every luck. I know what is going to happen—that we are not going to have the peace and harmony to which we all subscribed on the Second Reading. That can only come if we are all really in earnest. It will not come if the exceptions provided for in this Bill, which affect so many thousands of workers, are adhered to. You cannot have peace if certain sections of workers are to be excluded from its benefits.
The purpose of the Bill is to create harmony and understanding between employers and employees. I think it is acknowledged on every side of the House that, owing to the fact that so many sections of workers will not come under the Bill, it will not be a success. I am particularly interested in two sections, the employees of local authorities and agricultural workers. As a matter of fact, a motion was tabled in the House by this Party some time ago asking the Minister for Agriculture to set up a tribunal to go into the cost of agricultural production so that we would be able to come to some understanding as to the prices that should be paid for agricultural produce and as to what the producer could pay in return to his employees.
I am rather amused to think that Deputy Corry is now so interested in the agricultural worker when the Minister wants to include them under the Bill. If he does, it will be on condition that he will take into consideration the employers of these workers, and that he will take good care to see that, if the workers are brought under the protection of the Bill, their employers will also be protected. There is no other group so victimised as agricultural workers. If they come under this Bill they will be the first group to seek its protection. If the board is at all fair it will sanction a considerable increase in their wages. By doing so that will mean, I suppose, according to Deputy Corry, a burden on their employers—the farmers. It is for that reason Deputy Corry is seeking protection for farmers. Deputy Corry did not give much support to a similar proposal which was made some months ago. He voted against it.
I think the Deputy is getting away from the section.
I may be wandering, but little in comparison to Deputies who preceded me.
The Deputy has been doing so too long.
I am prepared to give full support to the amendment. Otherwise, it might be thought that the mover of the amendment was alone, as far as the grievances of agricultural workers and employees of local authorities are concerned. The Minister is aware that road workers and bog workers have been victimised. We must make every effort to see that they come under this Bill and are protected. We hope the protection they receive will convince the Minister for Local Government that they are not, as they were described a few months ago, a privileged section. For that reason every Deputy should make an effort to convince the Minister of the necessity of having employees of local authorities as well as agricultural workers brought under this Bill. I was rather amused at Deputy Corry's remarks and wish to congratulate him as far as his conversion goes.
I want to intervene now in the hope that we will be able to get some conclusion on this amendment to-night. A large part of the discussion had no very definite relationship to the actual position we are dealing with. Deputy Norton must not represent me as arguing against the principle of arbitration or conciliation for civil servants. That is not the issue. The issue is whether arbitration or conciliation for civil servants is to be provided under the machinery of this Bill or under separate proposals which are being considered. I am telling the Deputy that proposals relating to civil servants are being considered, and when completed will, presumably, be the subject of separate legislation, on which the House can express freely its opinion as to its adequacy or otherwise.
In the meantime some of them may come under this Bill.
I do not think that makes much difference. Apart from other considerations, the intention of the Government to repeal the Standstill Order on the coming into operation of this Bill, does not necessarily apply to the bonus stabilisation in the Civil Service. I do not want to introduce issues which are primarily ones for the Minister for Finance. The reasons why civil servants are not in this Bill is, because separate proposals are being considered for the Civil Service, and will be introduced in due course. Whether the proposals that may be adopted for civil servants will be applicable to the officers of local authorities I cannot say. I do not know enough about the particular problems of local authorities, to express an opinion as to whether the same type of machinery would be as suitable for them as for the Civil Service. I think, probably, it would be. If it should be generally agreed that that type of machinery is applicable to the employees of local authorities, then it is reasonable to assume that, having adopted proposals for civil servants, they would in due course be extended to local authorities.
Hardly to road workers?
So far as I know the proposals for civil servants do not exclude any classes of persons employed by Government Departments. It may be that certain classes are employed for specific jobs, and are not permanent officials of local authorities, in relation to whose employment separate considerations would apply. So far as civil servants or employees of local authorities are concerned, my argument is not against the principle of arbitration or conciliation by a special organisation in some form. So far as agricultural workers are concerned, as I informed the Dáil, they will be brought under the portions of the Bill applicable to them. A large part of the Bill does not apply to them in any case. I could not now, in reply to Deputy Norton, undertake to say that my answer would be any different on the Report Stage. This part of the Bill had of necessity to be discussed with other Government Departments and with the Government itself. The rest of the Bill, as I said on Second Reading, is open to amendment and I hope that we shall get agreement on its provisions and anything that tends to its general acceptance will be acceptable to me; but the scope of the Bill and its applicability to Government and local government employees are not so simple. Clearly, I would not be in a position to commit the Government in that regard. I can tell the Dáil what the position is, but that must not be interpreted as meaning that the principle of arbitration or conciliation for Government employees or local government employees is not accepted.
I think I have created something in the nature of an upheaval in advocating that, if the agricultural labourer is included under this section, the agricultural industry should at the same time be placed in the same position as industrial employers generally who will be affected by this Bill. Deputy Cogan, who is a rural Deputy, seems to have no knowledge at all of rural conditions or agricultural conditions, or as to the manner in which they might be affected by this Bill. Deputy Cogan, apparently, has lost sight of the fact that four years ago the price of beet was fixed by arbitration and conciliation with the Minister for Finance.
We are not dealing with rural conditions on this amendment.
We are not dealing with rural conditions, but the Minister has promised to consider this amendment whereby the agricultural labourers will be included within the scope of this measure. There is a definite proposal made in that regard. I am pointing out that in so far as we are concerned as an agricultural community we are in an entirely different position from the other employers affected by this Bill. A few years ago an Act was passed in this House for holidays for employees. The moment that Bill was passed every employer, let him be a flour miller——
The Deputy is wandering from the point.
I am not wandering.
This is a very simple amendment. I shall not permit any Deputy in this House to go on in the way the Deputy is going now. The purpose of this amendment is merely to include certain people within the scope of the Bill who are now excluded from it. That can be very easily argued either for or against without going into export markets or rural conditions generally.
I am putting the case that we shall be affected by this Bill. I am going into the conditions affecting one class in the community which it is proposed to include in this measure now.
I do not think the Deputy is entitled to do that.
I certainly am on this amendment.
I do not think so.
Then I shall take another line.
There have been quite a few Second Reading speeches made on this amendment already. The whole discussion is a little out of order.
There is a definite proposal which the Minister has promised to consider, namely, that the agricultural workers will be included. If the agricultural workers are included the employers in the agricultural industry must be put on the same footing as employers in other industries. I am more than anxious to see the agricultural labourers included. I have had an opportunity of examining the weekly budgets of the agricultural workers in my district. I do not believe any other man in the State could support a wife and family in the manner in which they are now striving to support them on the miserable wages which they get. I say that quite openly here. I did not have to wait until Deputy Cafferky came into this House to tell me what my duty is.
We are not discussing whether agricultural labourers can or can not live on the wages they are getting.
I am putting forward the argument that if this class are going to be considered for inclusion in the Bill the agricultural employers should immediately be brought into the same position as the other employers in industry and a Bill should be introduced for the establishment of a tribunal to fix the prices of agricultural products.
What has that got to do with the amendment now before the House?
Of course it has something to do with it. If those men are entitled to come before a tribunal——
There is nothing in this section about a tribunal. The Deputy is now introducing entirely extraneous matters.
Under this section there is an amendment whereby agricultural labourers will be entitled to come before this board.
On a point of order, if the agricultural labourers are brought within the scope of the Bill will the board fix the wages?
The board will be entitled to hear their case for improved wages.
On an agreement already, arrived at between the agricultural workers and the farmers?
Oh, far more than that.
Yes. My argument is that the Minister should then take steps to make the position of agricultural employers analogous to that of other industrial employers.
The Deputy is wandering on to another point now. He should deal with the matter before the House.
I am dealing with the matter before the House. It is ordinary common sense that one thing will affect the other. If you bring in a proposal here for changed conditions as regards the agricultural labourers——
There is no proposal in this amendment to change their conditions. It is simply a question as to whether they will or will not be brought in.
It is intended that they shall come in before a board.
We are not dealing with the board at all, or with the wages of the agricultural labourers. We are dealing with the principle as to whether they will be brought in under the Bill or whether they will be excluded from it.
Brought in for what? I do not take it they will be brought in for the purpose of having their conditions worsened.
If you read the Bill you might.
I read the Bill just as well as Deputy Larkin has read it. I have put my argument now. I just want to say that you cannot place the road worker of the local authority on the same basis as the agricultural worker. The road worker employed by the local authority as a rule gets from seven to eight months' employment in the year. He spends at least three months in the year completely idle, because during those three months no money is available to cover work on the roads. Therefore the road worker gets nothing. There is no analogy between the position of the road worker and the position of the agricultural labourer.
The agriculturists in the House would not agree with you in that.
Here, we are in the position of having an unfortunate employer crushed between the upper and the nether millstones. On the one hand, he has a fixed price beyond which he cannot go and, on the other hand, he has the constantly increasing cost of both labour and material. He should be placed on an equal footing with the other industrialists in this country. He should have a tribunal before which he can go in order to have his costs fixed. If a board increases his labour costs in the morning he should have the same opportunity as the other industrialists of going before some tribunal and getting for his products an increased price, comparable to the cost of production plus a profit.
The Deputy is off the rails again.
And the Deputy is quite satisfied with what he has said. He has been put to considerable trouble.
The Minister intervened in the debate a while ago and said that he was afraid that the House was losing sight of the purpose for which the amendment was being introduced. I am afraid that in all this discussion all of us, including the Minister, have lost sight of the express purpose of the Bill itself. I would invite the Deputies now, in considering Section 4, to read the title of this Bill. It is entitled:—
"An Act to make further and better provision for promoting harmonious relations between workers and their employers and for this purpose to establish machinery for regulating rates of remuneration and conditions of employment and for the prevention and settlement of trade disputes, and to provide for certain other matters connected with the matters aforesaid."
That is what this Bill sets out to do and that is a purpose to which every Deputy could subscribe. Why should any section of workers or any employers be excluded from machinery which seeks to promote more harmonious relations and to prevent or to settle disputes?
I move to report progress.