May I ask if the Mini ster is agreeing to recommit the Bill?
Industrial Relations Bill, 1946—Recommittal.
For the amendments, yes.
May I ask if all the amendments which have been circulated on this sheet have since been incorporated in the final green paper containing the amendments?
All but one.
And that is a Ministerial amendment.
Which has been circulated on a separate sheet?
I move amendment No. 1:—
In page 4, Section 4 (1), line 38, to insert after the word "Act", the following words and brackets: "(except Part VI").
This amendment is consequential on another amendment which I am moving to Part VI of the Bill, an amendment designed to bring agricultural workers within the scope of that Part.
I move amendment No. 2:—
In page 5, Section 4, after the word "person" in line 2 to insert the words "other than a manual worker".
This amendment has its roots in the discussion which took place on the Committee Stage of the Bill. We then urged that, so far as the employees of local authorities are concerned, the provisions of this measure should be extended to them. That matter was argued at considerable length, and, finally, a last plea was made that, in respect of the manual employees of a local authority, there ought to be provision whereby any dispute between them and their employers could be dealt with under the provisions of this Bill. The position with regard to craftsmen employed by a local authority was put to the Minister on the Committee Stage of the Bill. Craftsmen in private employment will have their claims or disputes decided under this Bill, but it would be impossible to have such disputes so decided if the craftsmen were employed by a local authority. The purpose of the amendment is to make it possible to bring within the scope of this Bill manual employees of a local authority so that they can have access to this court in the same way as if they were manual employees with a private employer, or in some semi-State undertaking which was covered by the provisions of the Bill.
We discussed this matter at considerable length on the Committee Stage of the Bill. I have little to add to what I then said. There are practical difficulties in applying this particular measure to the employees of local authorities. I do not think that you can get round these practical difficulties by an amendment of this Bill. I think it is correct to say that the court established by the Bill could act in relation to any industrial dispute with the consent of all the parties concerned, but it would not be suitable to provide for the power of that court being invoked by the employees of a local authority on their own initiative, having regard to the provisions in local government legislation. I think that if at any time the principles on which this Bill is based are to be applied to the conditions of employees of local authorities there will have to be an examination also of the consequential changes required in other legislation. On the specific point referred to by the Deputy, I would point out that it is the practice of local authorities to remunerate craftsmen in their employ upon the same basis as craftsmen employed by private employers, and I assume that that practice will continue.
Would the Minister say at this stage, before any further discussion on amendment No. 2, what his intentions are on amendment No. 4?
I could not agree to amendment No. 4.
On the last occasion when we were discussing this, the Minister's main argument in favour of non-acceptance of this particular type of amendment was the difficulty, from his point of view, of getting representation from the local authority before the labour court. I think, by referring to the discussion on that particular occasion, the Minister will find that that difficulty is more apparent than real and that no trouble should, in fact, arise in that particular direction. I want to reiterate the point I made on Committee. On that occasion I pointed out that these workers at the present time have certain rights under both the Conciliation and the Industrial Courts Acts, both of which are being revoked under the Second Schedule here. As I pointed out on that occasion, you are revoking those Acts and all that they imply so far as the workers are concerned and you are replacing them by no other machinery of any kind. I did think we had succeeded on the last occasion in impressing on the Minister that whatever about the officers or the clerical staff, a genuine and a very good case was made for the inclusion of the manual workers. From these benches here we would like to press that amendment as strongly as we possibly can.
The revocation of the Conciliation Acts does not, in my opinion, affect the position at all. The Industrial Disputes Act has, in fact, not been in operation here—at least, not the main part of that Act which provides for the creation of a permanent industrial court. Only Part II of the Act, which provided for the setting up of an occasional court, was in fact utilised. In such circumstances in the future it would not be impossible for the labour court established under this Bill to be similarly utilised. The establishment of an industrial court in the past was an act of the Minister; action was taken by him generally with the consent of the parties to an industrial dispute. I have said that the labour court established under this Bill is not debarred from acting in a similar capacity in relation to an industrial dispute where the parties concerned desire it.
I did not catch the Minister's reply to Deputy Norton as to what his attitude is going to be on amendment No. 4.
I could not agree to that. It is at least the same principle. It would be misleading to indicate acceptance of that amendment because the power which is presumed to be conferred under it could not be utilised for the reasons which I gave for not accepting amendments to the Bill. I think it would be wrong to imply, by accepting that amendment, a change of attitude which has not in fact taken place. If this question comes to the stage at which it is decided that legislation in relation to the employment of staffs of local authorities is required proposals should be submitted to the House in the form of a Bill rather than action by way of Ministerial action.
We have now reached the stage where the only manual workers in this country excluded from the scope of this Bill are the manual employees of local authorities. I must confess I cannot see the force of the Minister's insistence on his present attitude.
How is that going to affect them?
It is going to affect them adversely.
It will affect them. I am speaking now in particular of employees of local authorities outside the city area; within the city area the trade unions are strong and active and they assert themselves effectively. So far as the general body of manual workers employed by the local authorities are concerned, they are at the moment undoubtedly the lowest paid workers in this State.
The Deputy has not answered my question: how are they affected, adversely or otherwise, by their non-inclusion in this Bill?
Of course, they are. If there is a dispute they will be.
Is the Minister contending there is no ground for bringing the manual workers of the local authorities under this Bill?
It cannot affect the conditions of their employment.
Or their wages.
Or their wages.
It can affect the conditions of any other manual workers in the country except those employed by local authorities.
That is the fact.
Let me for a moment accept the Minister's contention. Is the Minister satisfied then that he is fulfilling his obligation in the matter by leaving the largest section of manual workers in the State without any machinery of which they may avail to have their conditions bettered, or secured, or to bring about harmonious relations? The Minister has most emphatically stated that they cannot be brought into this machinery and that such machinery cannot be made effective in their case. If that is so, surely the obligation is on the Minister to provide alternative machinery and surely the obligation is all the stronger. I take it from what the Minister has said that he is satisfied that he cannot fit that particular class of workers into the machinery of this Bill. Surely the obligation is on him then to frame machinery which will give them benefits at least as great as those which are supposed to be conferred by this particular measure when it comes into operation. Surely that obligation is on the Minister. Why should this particular section of the workers be treated as outcast?
On the last occasion on which we discussed this matter I rather thought the Minister was sympathetic in his attitude in relation to improving the position of the manual employees of the local authority. We have discussed the position of officers and clerical staff of local authorities and I understood from the Minister's general attitude that he was considering the question of including, within the scope of this Bill, the manual employees of local authorities. I am rather surprised at the attitude the Minister is adopting now. Speaking from recollection, I think he said on the last occasion that a further examination might disclose some grounds for including them and this might be the best way of extending the principles of this Bill to the manual employees of local authorities. I cannot see on what grounds the Minister contends that these employees should not be included under this Bill. On the last day I quoted possibilities which might make it highly desirable for local authorities to apply the principles of this Bill to their manual employees. Perhaps I might briefly advert again to the circumstances.
It frequently happens during the summer time that the road workers employed by the local authorities are transferred to the cutting of turf on the bogs. The employees of Bord na Móna are likewise employed in cutting turf on the bogs. If the employees of Bord na Móna have a dispute with the firm employing them they can have the dispute referred to the labour court under this Bill. If the employees of the local authorities have a dispute with the local authority as to their rates of wages, or the cubic capacity of the turf which must be cut in a particular way, then there is no means of having the dispute referred to this court. Consider a situation which might arise. You have a particular bog or group of bogs. On the right hand side of that group a dispute arises between the turf cutters of the semi-State organisation, employing them with money provided by the State through the medium of this House. That dispute can be referred to the industrial court set up under this Bill. If there is a dispute on the right-hand side, where the workers are employed by the local authority, that dispute cannot go to an industrial court. All the workers concerned are producing a national fuel. In the one case the State has provided the money. In the other case it is the money of the local ratepayers which is at stake. The Minister on the last occasion said that the reason why the employees of the local authority could not go before the court was because the local authority had no representation on the court. It was demonstrated to the Minister that there was no real substance in that argument since Bord na Móna would likewise have no representation on the court and, therefore, that special employer of turf workers will be at no greater disadvantage, or no special advantage, in having its case decided by an industrial court any more than the local authority.
Now, that is something which could easily happen in County Kildare, or in several other counties. Why, in a case like that, can we send one dispute to the court and why must we keep another dispute away from the court? It is not good sense. If there is likely to be a dispute which may last for a considerable period the obvious thing and the sensible thing to do is to take it to the courts and get a judgment as soon as possible. By excluding the employees of local authorities from this Bill the Minister has made is impossible for such a dispute to be referred to the court on a complaint being made by the employees. That is undesirable procedure from the point of view of the Minister. I am not sure that the local authority will be bound to pay the rate of wages fixed for turf workers by an industrial court if the employees of Bord na Móna, working on the other side of the road, go before the court and secure an award. Could chaos go further? If we were setting out deliberately to muddle affairs, we could hardly reach a higher state of perfection. That is what will happen if we allow this situation to develop. Take the case of water and sewerage schemes. Not infrequently, local authorities carry out these schemes by direct labour. Local authorities may carry out some of the schemes by direct labour and others by contract. If a dispute arises with the employees of a private contractor engaged on a water and sewerage scheme, they can go to the industrial court, but if a dispute arises in the case of the employees of a local authority engaged on a water and sewerage scheme, they cannot go to the industrial court. Does not commonsense suggest that their case should go to the industrial court? What is the case for excluding manual employees of local authorities from the provisions of this Bill? The only case the Minister made was that local authorities were not represented on the court, but other bodies whose employees can go to the court will not have representation either. The next reason the Minister gave was rather obscure—that there would be some technical difficulties in the way.
Technical difficulties will arise under this Bill in a very large number of cases and they will have to be dealt with. I think that the Department of Local Government could well adjust its legislation, if it impedes the application of this Bill to local authorities, so as to bring manual employees of local authorities within the provisions of the measure. They should consider it good business to do so because of the assurance that, in the future, they would have machinery for smoothly adjusting differences which may arise between the employees of a local authority and that local authority. On reconsideration, I think that the Minister should accept the position that this court be entitled to deal with disputes between the manual employees of local authorities and the local authorities. If, at a later stage, more appropriate machinery is evolved for application to employees of local authorities, then they can be switched from this Bill to whatever other Bill is introduced, but, in the meantime, I think that the Minister ought to put the local authority in possession of the useful piece of machinery provided for settlement of disputes in this Bill. The Minister may say that he will not do that. That is not reasoning. The Minister has not reasoned so far as the manual employees of local authorities are concerned. He has simply said: "I do not want to do that". That is not an argument.
That is not so. The argument I advanced concerning the suitability of this court in the matter of disputes affecting the classes of persons named in Section 4 applied, I admit, much more forcibly to salaried, pensionable staffs than to manual workers. In the case to which the Deputy refers, where turf workers might be employed on adjacent bogs by a local authority and Bord na Móna, there is this fundamental differences between Bord na Móna and the local authorities: Bord na Móna can decide of its own responsibility to adjust the remuneration of these employees or their conditions of employment, or to negotiate with them and arrive at an agreement concerning their conditions or remuneration or, if the matter goes to the court, accept the verdict of the court on these issues. The local authority is not so free. Deputies may argue that they should be equally free. That, I submit, is a separate contention. The fact is they are not free and, consequently, there is a significant difference between the position of a local authority and the position of Bord na Móna or any other employer of turf workers. It was that I had in mind when I referred to difficulties—not to technical difficulties of the kind that Deputy Norton understood me to mean.
An amendment to this Bill alone would not alter the position of the staffs of local authorities. If the Deputy intends that the position of turf-working employees of local authorities should be the same vis-à-vis the local authority as that of employees of Bord na Móna vis-à-vis Bord na Móna, it would be necessary to have consequential amendments to Local Government legislation. It may be that the view I expressed in Committee, that when this court will have been established and its method of functioning is known, when the position of local authorities in relation to their staffs is re-examined, there may be a decision that this court is as suitable as any that could be established but that decision has not yet been made. So far as Deputy Morrissey's argument is concerned, he advanced the view that, if local authority staffs do not come under this Bill, they should come under some corresponding legislation. That is an arguable view but what I shall contend in relation to amendment No. 4 is that, if they are to be brought under this or any other legislation, it should be done by a separate Bill which the Dáil would have a full opportunity of examining, rather than by order of the Minister. I do not want to traverse the ground we covered so fully in Committee. I have given this matter a great deal of thought. It seems to me that the wiser course is to leave the Bill with Section 4 as it stands, and not attempt to extend its scope to cover classes of persons which it was intended to exclude when all the provisions of the Bill were being framed.
The Minister has, at long last, made perfectly clear the objection to including manual employees of local authorities in this Bill. The objection resolves itself into the Minister for Local Government.
I have not said so.
The difference between a local authority and Bord na Móna or the Electricity Supply Board or any State or semi-State body which is employing persons is that they can determine the wages to be paid and have power to accept a decision made by the court. That applies to the Electricity Supply Board, Bord na Móna, the Sugar Company and all other bodies except those which are under the heel of the Minister for Local Government.
The Minister for Local Government has functions under the law—the law as passed by the Dáil.
We are wiping out and changing a great many laws in the Schedules to this Bill. I take it we are doing that because we think it is desirable to have harmonious relations between employers and employees and so prevent strikes. All we are asking is that that should be applied to the only section of manual workers which is not already within the scope of the Bill. We are now told that the sole objection to that course is the overriding authority which the Minister for Local Government has and which cannot be removed. That is the Minister's case in a nutshell. He has mended his hand somewhat inasmuch as he no longer contends that these workers cannot be fitted into the machinery of the Bill before us. The only reason, so far as I can follow the Minister, for his refusing to accept the amendment is that to do so would necessitate the amending of existing local government statutes. If that is the only difficulty, that is a difficulty we are getting over in relation to Bills every day in the week. I want to put this point. Employees of local authorities have to man and are responsible for the functioning of various essential services. Are we to wait until something similar to the teachers' strike arises? Supposing there is a dispute between the employees of a local authority engaged on some essential service, such as fire-fighting, or a waterworks, and the local authority, as a result of negotiation, are prepared to give them an advance or go some way to meet their demands, but the Minister will not allow them, as he has done, and a strike ensues, are we to stand by helpless with nobody able to do anything in the matter, the Minister digging his heels in in the same way as the Minister for Education is doing and the employees digging their heels in in the same way as the teachers and the community suffering between the two?
There is no statutory bar to this court functioning as a medium of negotiation or arbitration between the parties if the parties are agreed that it should do so.
That is trying to evade the question.
It is not. It is something more than I said before.
I suggest that this is something more important than the mere matter of continuing the Minister's veto in its present form.
That is another issue. That is the only point I am making on that. It is an issue which cannot be settled on this Bill.
Why could it not?
The Deputy knows that as well as I do.
I do not. We could put more Acts into the Schedule or we could have another Schedule.
Is the amendment being pressed?
Unless I get a positive assurance from the Minister that new legislation will be introduced.
I cannot undertake that new legislation will be introduced. I expressed the personal view that the effect of this Bill and of a corresponding measure in relation to civil servants will, in due course, necessitate the examination of the applicability of the principles of either to local authorities. That is a matter which has to be decided and which has not been decided yet.
I feel that the Minister is arguing this matter partly muzzled and partly handcuffed as well, inasmuch as the Minister for Local Government seems to be the shadow behind this particular section. It is quite obvious that he wants to retain whatever powers he has over the employees of local authorities.
In fairness to myself, I do not want to give the impression that I am in disagreement with the Minister for Local Government. The legislation which gives the Minister for Local Government that function in relation to the remuneration of local authorities' employees was approved by the Government and passed by the Dáil.
Surely it ought to be brought into harmony with the provisions of this Bill. Just look at what we are doing. I referred on the last day, and Deputy Morrissey on this occasion, to the fact that employees of a local authority engaged on various essential services, such, for instance, as the control of a water supply in a city or urban area or fire-fighting activities, will be excluded from the scope of this Bill. There may be a fellow carrying a sandwich board in O'Connell Street for some firm. It does not matter to the community whether or not he carries a sandwich board. It is not an urgent public service. In fact, it is a type of employment which ought to be prohibited. But a person carrying a sandwich board in O'Connell Street, if he has a dispute with his employer, can go before this court. If a person picking up race cards on a racecourse after a race meeting has a dispute with the racecourse executive, he can go before this court if he has a dispute with his employers. But if a person is responsible for putting out fires in the City or Dublin, or for ensuring that Dublin gets a proper sewerage and water service, he cannot go before this court.
The circumstances are not comparable.
A dispute of that kind can continue, just as the teachers' strike has continued, simply because there is no suitable machinery for bringing a dispute of that kind into an atmosphere in which the matters in dispute can be settled by reference to an industrial court of this kind. The only objection is that the Minister for Local Government has some kind of control which makes it desirable to keep them out. But, if a dispute arises between the employees of a local authority and the local authority, in order to avoid the prolongation of that dispute the Minister for Local Government could consent to accepting the award of the court and in that way save whatever majesty he desires to save under existing legislation. I feel that the Minister is not acting wisely in excluding these employees. I would not press the amendment at this stage if we got a definite promise that a Bill to provide similar machinery for employees of local authorities would be introduced at an early date. But, apparently, the Minister is not in a position to give that assurance and the only course, therefore, is to press the amendment.
May I have a last word with the Minister on this particular amendment? I should like to remind him that from the inception of this Bill he has set out to get a measure of agreement from the House as a whole on its various sections. I think he will admit that, from this side of the House in any case, he has got a response, so far as it could be made, to make the Bill better than we found it on introduction. On the Minister's side, I am bound to say that I checked up so far as I could the number of undertakings the Minister gave on the Committee Stage and I find that he has implemented them all in the series of amendments which he has produced for the Report Stage. Throughout all this discussion there was, obviously, a desire on the part of the Minister to ensure that he would get the co-operation of those on this side of the House so that the Bill would be a workable and a good Bill.
From our experience of the work of local authorities, particularly in the rural areas, during the last five or six years and the scandalously low rate of wages and the bad conditions, we are unanimous that if there is any section of the community that should be brought within the ambit of this Bill it is those rural workers. I would say to the Minister that, if this amendment is not acceptable to him, then he will have to understand this particular section will be a blot on the Bill so far as those of us who understand local conditions are concerned.
I understand that.
As I pointed out in Committee, the County Wicklow local authorities are the largest employers of skilled and unskilled labour in the erection of houses. I understand the Minister pointed out that the local authorities always follow whatever award is given in the area. But it is probably six months before the county manager agrees to give the wage awarded by the tribunal set up for private employers and another four months or six months before the Minister sanctions it. In a case like that, where you have contractors engaged in the erection of cottages and they pay a higher wage than the county council and the county council workers go on strike, what remedy have we? There is no court to which they can go and they may remain on strike while the workers engaged by ordinary employers will continue their labours at higher wages. I appeal to the Minister to bring manual workers under this Bill and not allow the county councils, in their cottage erection programmes, under direct labour schemes, to have a preference over ordinary contractors.
The Minister for Local Government made it clear to me that it is his policy, whatever the attitude of the county managers may be, that the payment of wages to craft workers should be related to the wages of such workers fixed under ordinary commercial agreements in the same area.
Will you bind the Minister under this Bill to pay to the employees of local authorities the same rate as is paid to employees in private employment?
I could not do it; it would not be in order.
- Bennett, George C.
- Byrne, Alfred.
- Cafferky, Dominick.
- Cogan, Patrick.
- Commons, Bernard.
- Coogan, Eamonn.
- Corish, Brendan.
- Cosgrave, Liam.
- Dockrell, Henry M.
- Dockrell, Maurice E.
- Doyle, Peadar S.
- Everett, James.
- Halliden, Patrick J.
- Keyes, Michael.
- Larkin, James (Junior).
- MacEoin, Seán.
- McGilligan, Patrick.
- McMenamin, Daniel.
- Morrissey, Daniel.
- Norton, William.
- O'Driscoll, Patrick F.
- O'Leary, John.
- O'Sullivan, Martin.
- Pattison, James P.
- Spring, Daniel.
- Aiken, Frank.
- Allen, Denis.
- Bartley, Gerald.
- Boland, Gerald.
- Brady, Seán.
- Brennan, Thomas.
- Breslin, Cormac.
- Briscoe, Robert.
- Buckley, Seán.
- Burke, Patrick (County Dublin).
- Butler, Bernard.
- Childers, Erskine H.
- Colley, Harry.
- Crowley, Honor Mary.
- Derrig, Thomas.
- De Valera, Eamon.
- De Valera, Vivion.
- Fogarty, Patrick J.
- Harris, Thomas.
- Healy, John B.
- Hilliard, Michael.
- Killilea, Mark.
- Kilroy, James.
- Kissane, Eamon.
- Lemass, Seán F.
- Little Patrick J.
- Loughman, Frank.
- Lydon, Michael F.
- Lynch, James B.
- McCann, John.
- MacEntee, Seán.
- Moran, Michael.
- O Briain, Donnchadh.
- O'Grady, Seán.
- O'Reilly, Matthew.
- O'Rourke, Daniel.
- Rice, Bridget M.
- Ryan, James.
- Ryan, Robert.
- Sheridan, Michael.
- Smith, Patrick.
- Traynor, Oscar.
- Walsh, Laurence.
- Walsh, Richard.
Would the Minister like to make a statement in regard to the effect of amendment No. 1?
The effect of my amendments—Nos. 1 and 61—is to bring agricultural workers within the scope of Part VI of the Bill.
They are being brought in for the purposes of Part VI only?
I move amendment No. 4:—
In page 5, Section 4, line 10, before sub-section (2) to insert the following new sub-section:—
(2) The Minister may by regulation made under this sub-section declare that any class of worker mentioned in paragraphs (c) to (h) of sub-section (1) of this section is a class of worker to which this Act applies and thereupon the provisions of Part VI of this Act shall apply and have effect accordingly.
I do not want to traverse the ground already covered in relation to amendment No. 2, or to repeat the practical argument that has been put forward in favour of the inclusion of certain workers that are now excluded. In the course of the debate, it appeared to me that in relation to one particular section, namely, manual employees of local authorities, the Minister was setting up straw men to knock down. The two points he made were, first, that the inclusion of this class of workers would require the amendment of existing local government legislation and, secondly—the point he made in his final statement—that he would not like to give effect to the purpose of amendment No. 2 without having afforded the Dáil an opportunity of considering it.
The whole point of amendment No. 4 is to provide rapid machinery by which the Minister could give effect to some of the undertakings that he has given to the House, namely, that on having experience of the working of the court that it is proposed to set up under this Bill and of its applicability and suitability to certain classes of workers, it would be considered then whether it would be practicable to extend the functions of the court to include these excluded classes. The purpose of amendment No. 4 is to give the Minister that power by regulation. That means that the Minister is not being coerced to do anything that he is not desirous of doing and, if he does so order by regulation, the Dáil will have an opportunity of discussing it. The only point of difference is whether we should wait until such time as the Minister or some other Minister may make a decision in relation to some of the excluded classes and then await the introduction of the necessary legislation or whether the Minister should be provided with machinery in the present Bill which could be availed of as and when a decision may be taken either by the Government or by the responsible Minister. I do not think that the amendment in any way imposes any strain or coercion upon the Minister. It merely affords a rapid means of giving effect to such decisions as may be taken either by the Minister, the Minister for Local Government and Public Health or by the Government as a whole in regard to any of the excluded sections. I cannot see that any principle is involved and it would afford Deputies on these benches an opportunity of addressing queries to the Minister or to other members of the Government from time to time as to the progress that has been made in considering the working of the labour court in relation to its applicability to these excluded sections and as to when they might be in a position to give effect by way of decision to such conclusions as they had arrived at. Then this machinery would be available at short notice to bring into effect what we have been trying to do in seeking for direct conclusion in the Bill.
I do not imagine the Deputy will have any difficulty at any time in finding occasion for addressing questions to members of the Government. The main objection I have to this amendment is that its acceptance by me might be interpreted as conveying the suggestion that at any time such an Order might be made. I think the Deputy can take it as certain that such an Order would not be made and, therefore, it would be wrong, even by implication, to convey otherwise. The arguments I advanced on amendment No. 2 hold good. If it should be decided at any time that legislation of this character should be applied to any of the classes of persons named here, it would be a major decision of policy. It should, therefore, be given effect to by legislation rather than by Ministerial Order. Apart altogether from that aspect of the matter, I think it is quite clear that the application of these principles to these classes of persons would require special consideration as to details and it is possible, and also probable, that in many respects the details of the measure which would apply the principles would be different from the details of this Bill.
I am not convinced by the Minister's arguments against this amendment. It really asks that the machinery that is being set up for the preservation of industrial peace should cover a wider area. The Minister has expressed objections to the inclusion of certain types of workers. He has expressed confidence in the ability of this machinery to preserve peace in the industries that are covered by it. I cannot understand why he will not take to himself the potential powers conveyed by this amendment which would enable him in certain eventualities to avail of this machine which it is hoped will be functioning successfully in other industrial spheres. The Minister is not coerced into using the machinery at any time or place but if a serious dispute should arise there is not a suitable machine available at the moment to deal with it. If the Minister were to accept this amendment he would have a machine standing by, in perfect running order. He refuses to take power to make it available for him in order to prevent disputes developing and continuing. I cannot advert to present disputes, but if such a machine were available, a notable dispute that has taken place would not be able to continue in its present form. Similar disputes may arise, and all the Minister is being asked to do is to leave it open to himself to apply the machine to a particular dispute, if, in the wisdom of the Government, it appeared that the time had come for applying it. It is merely arming the Minister with powers which he ought to be glad to have to enable him to deal with these disputes. I cannot see any major issue as grave as that which may arise in relation to the serious dislocation which might be caused, and this proposal might be the means of enabling him to wind up a particular dispute. The Minister should seriously consider taking this power, which is to be used at his own discretion. That is all he is asked to do.
The point put in the amendment has not yet been answered by the Minister. What is it that is required if the amendment is passed— merely that the Minister would have power from time to time by regulation to bring in certain of these excepted classes who have been deliberately excluded. It is proposed to give the Minister power to say by regulation that the provisions of this measure shall apply to any of these groups of excepted people. There are six of them—possibly only five now. What is it that would be applied—resort to a court which, in the end, is asked to say, when a trade dispute arises, what are the terms upon which the dispute should be settled, having regard to the fairness of the terms proposed and the prospects of these terms being accepted?
What is there in principle to distinguish these people from a measure which only, in the end, relates to them and does not provide anything in the way of compulsion? It simply means that if there is a dispute between any of these classes of workers and the people who employ them, a body, recognised as a statutory body under this measure, would be asked to examine into the merits of the dispute, to report on these merits and to say what, in their view, would be a fair settlement. The two things which they are asked to pay attention to are the fairness of the terms proposed and the prospects of these terms being accepted. I cannot see why, the result being so small in a sense—certainly a result not reached by compulsion—the Minister should object to agreeing that he might find it possible, in relation to a particular dispute, to say that some of these classes would be brought in from the point of view of having the dispute examined into and a recommendation made as to the terms considered fair. Why should the Minister think it is impossible? Why should he now say that he cannot conceive any circumstances in which it would be fair, possible and just to have a dispute considered by this court and a recommendation made as to terms of settlement?
I have explained that there is nothing in the Bill which would prevent the court being utilised, with the consent of the parties concerned, to investigate and report on any dispute. That is not the suggestion, however, in the amendment. The suggestion is to bring Part VI of the Bill into permanent operation in relation to any particular class.
When the regulation has been made.
When the regulation is made. Without traversing the arguments I used in that connection in Committee, I would point out that there are practical objections, both as to the nature of the court and the procedure of the court, as well as to the responsibility of other Ministers under other legislation.
Even if there may be objections in a general way, the Minister here is only asked to take power, which will operate only when he decides to operate it, to apply the provisions of this Bill to the categories of workers set out in sub-section (4), or, rather, to certain of these categories. There is, therefore, no compulsion on the Minister to apply the provisions of this Bill to these classes of workers, nor is he being put in the position of compelling workers to accept the provisions of the Bill. The whole thing is a purely voluntary operation. The Minister is being asked to take power to make regulations which will enable him to bring these workers within the scope of the Bill (1) if they desire to operate the Bill, and (2) only for the purpose of having whatever dispute exists adjudicated upon by this industrial court or by an arbitration court, the adjudication being in the form not of an award which must be accepted compulsorily but of a recommendation.
The Minister is simply being asked to avail of this piece of machinery if, at any time, the circumstances require the application of this Bill to the types of employment set out in sub-section (4). The Minister is not being committed to a course of action or a course of conduct which he does not himself initiate, because he is not compelled to do any of these things, unless he himself makes the regulation. If he does not make the regulation, he has not to bring these workers within the scope of the Bill; but if he does make the regulation, he will presumably make it only after careful consideration and only because he is satisfied that it is desirable to make it and because he has no other machinery which would serve the same purpose as this machinery when he makes a regulation from time to time bringing these grades of workers within the scope of the Bill.
Nothing is being foisted on the Minister by the amendment. It merely gives him a power which he need never use if he does not wish to do so, but which, if it should prove to be useful next month or next year, will be at his disposal. If, after careful consideration, he says: "I think it is desirable to use it", he can do so, instead of having to come to the House for a new piece of legislation and having to get it through all its stages here and in the Seanad. This is a handy piece of machinery in reserve which can be utilised if the Minister ever so desires. He cannot be compelled to use it—the initiative rests with himself all the time. Why will he not take this power? It seems to me to be something for which the Minister ought to be asking rather than something which we should be offering to him.
I seriously believe that, if that change of policy were decided on by the Government, it should be the subject of proposals for legislation.
This is legislation.
The proposal is that the Minister should do it by Order.
We are trying to put it into a piece of legislation.
The making of that Order would be a reversal of policy, as I explained it on Committee Stage, and, if there were such a reversal of policy, I think there should be legislation to give effect to it.
Is not the policy in this Bill a policy of giving disputants something other than a strike for the resolving of disputes?
The Minister is simply saying, with regard to national school teachers, local authority employees and so on: "You still go on striking, if you want to have any disputes resolved. We are providing machinery for promoting harmonious relations between employers and employees in respect of everybody but the classes excluded". It is surely a very big decision in the way of policy to say that that should be the situation, that these people should be left merely to the operation of a strike. I cannot understand why.
You may well get a new type of striker when this Bill comes into force, because the strikers of the past will have retired to the industrial court and their successors will be those set out in sub-section (4), because there is no industrial court for them.
But their position will not be changed and the possibility of new legislation has not been ruled out. On the contrary, I indicated that it would be considered.
In future, these folk will be on strike when the others will be in the industrial court.
The position is being changed for everybody else.
I move amendment No. 5:—
In page 5, Section 10 (2), line 49, to delete the word "four" and substitute the word "two".
I move this amendment for the reason that I consider that the members of the court are not applicants. They listen to the case put forward by each party. If you have four members on the court, you may have the two employers lining up with the two employees' representatives and, instead of deciding the case on the facts as submitted to them, they may decide on what may happen outside. Under the Bill, the members of the court must not be officials of a trade union. Why have a trade union to instruct the other man, who may not be an official? My experience of tribunals is that you get a speedier decision from three members, and there is very little objection or unnecessary delay. If you have two employers or two employees retiring to a room to consult one another, I do not see how there is to be harmony in the court. I take it the Minister is going to select the best representatives from either employers' or workers' side. Certainly the man selected should not require the assistance of a colleague. If it is necessary for him, after hearing the facts and the evidence, to have the assistance of some colleague, I say that man should not be selected for the court. If an individual is unable to make up his mind on the case submitted, after hearing the evidence from the workers and from the employers, he is not fit for such a judicial capacity. I think it would detract from the harmony of the court to have more than three representatives. We have had experience of many thousands of cases coming before the Wages Tribunal and these would be the first cases that might come before a labour court. Under this Bill there will be two representatives from each side. My experience, like that of other Deputies, is that there would be speedier decisions and more harmony by having three men who are detached from any organisation and by letting them decide the case on the facts submitted.
As the Deputy will remember, when I introduced the Bill, it provided for a court of three members. I had formed the view originally that a court of three would work more expeditiously and possibly more harmoniously than a larger court. During the course of the discussion in Committee, however, it appeared there was some likelihood of agreement on the basis of a larger court and some practical arguments of considerable weight were advanced in favour of a larger court. I would refer particularly to Deputy O'Sullivan's argument concerning the desirability of having two people of like mind on each side who would consult with each other wherever cases of particular intricacy or difficulty might arise; and to the possibility that each worker or employer member would arrive more confidently at his decision if he found it was confirmed by a colleague of his own rather than if he had to act entirely on his individual judgment.
Furthermore, in consequence of the apparent agreement in favour of a larger court, I decided to use the fact that the court was to be five instead of three members to incorporate in the Bill a device to meet the admitted difficulty of ensuring expeditious disposal of business at a time when business might be unduly heavy. The device, which is provided for in an amendment, provides for dividing the court into two parts, in such temporary circumstances. Of course, that would not be practicable if the court were of smaller size and, admitting that that difficulty exists, elaborate alternative provision would probably have to be made to meet it. On the whole, therefore, I think it wiser to leave the Bill as it is.
I do not think the loss of expedition and possible loss of harmony in consequence of the larger court will prove to be serious. In fact, in time of exceptional pressure of business, the larger court will permit of expedition and I think there should be little risk to harmony to an extent that will not be resolved by the proposed method of arriving at decisions. We do not expect that all the members of the court will agree on all questions. They might disagree on some questions, but there is a provision that will ensure that the persons coming before the court will get a decision, even if there is a difference of views among the individual members. On the whole, it seems to me that the balance of argument is in favour of the larger court.
Would Deputy McGilligan like to discuss his amendment now?
Mine is a different amendment altogether.
If a decision is taken on four, the Deputy will not be able to move it.
Could the Chair not put this amendment in another way, so as to leave it open, leaving the structure there to permit of another amendment being moved?
I am also one of those proposing to go back to the original structure of the Bill, namely, two representatives. This is a court and three judges—that is what they really amount to—will quite easily be able to ascertain the facts. The Minister said he was struck by the argument that people could consult one another, but having five will enormously increase the difficulties of the court in getting one mind on a problem. Where any dispute is submitted to the court, no doubt there will be some sort of argument as to the merits of the dispute and if there is any doubt about any question the facts can be easily ascertained and witnesses or documents could be called for. The Minister has said, quite rightly, that if this amendment is accepted, he will have to undertake redrafting the Bill as far as substitutes for these people are concerned. I do not think that would be a bad thing at all, as there is a possibility that there might be sickness or other trouble in connection with some of those representatives and he might very well find himself at a time when he could not get his court established. I would suggest to him to go back to the original wording. When you have five, it is getting up to a rather large committee, in which the debates will go on even amongst the members, and I suggest that he should accept the amendment.
In the various courts established under other statutes in no case was more than three required to constitute a quorum. As I understand it, this court will consist of three independent persons. Before being appointed they will have to sever connection with their organisations. If a representative of wage earners has, at the present time, any official trade union position he would have to resign, so as to be independent, and to be able to exercise his private judgment. I think a smaller number is best. In the opinion of a good many people who were consulted, apparently the court, as constituted in the original draft of the Bill, was considered to be the proper constitution. I intend to support the amendment.
Deputy Pattison has referred to the position of other tribunals. One board that comes to my memory is the Trade Union Tribunal, consisting of a chairman and four ordinary members. It can be admitted that, in the main, a board of three is regarded as a more ordinary board. I am swayed by the argument of Deputy Dockrell that if there were five members there would be more discussion, that it would be a debating society where matters could be worked out by argument. As long as it would not be too prolonged I would be in favour of having considerable debate behind an industrial court before any decision was come to. For that reason I would be in favour of a board larger than is now proposed. On the other hand, we have to realise that it is a rather painful thing that there is disunity at the moment and that the Minister set out—he still adheres to it—so that in the organisation of the court he would apply to an organisation representative of workers to give him a member.
The various groups might be asked to nominate, and the Minister will make an appointment from amongst those nominated. That from the trade union angle could not be considered as desirable as the method by which a representative body would send forward a name. However, the situation being as it is I cannot see what other solution there is at the moment than to set up two—two—one. The safeguard with regard to this arrangement is that this measure could only work if those forming the court agreed not merely to the fact of a court being established, but to the personnel. If the personnel of the court is not very fully agreed upon, to step it up in its operations, I do not see any harm in having this method. Those who will be asked to send representatives from the employers' side will not suffer from the particular weakness that is on the other side at the moment. In face of the situation prevailing I do not see how anybody could ask the Minister to have a set up of three. I think we should stick to the enlarged court. On the present basis I want the enlarged court.
While it is agreed that a small court makes for expedition, it is necessary, in view of the important matters to be considered, that some variety should be brought to bear on the questions at issue. The difficulty with regard to labour has been emphasised. If that difficulty continues it can be got over only by having two representatives. There is also a difficulty with regard to employers. In view of the fact that employers are not united in one big organisation it would be difficult to find one representative with a grasp of all the problems which employers in many industries have to face. It would be very difficult to find one representative of employers who understood the problems of industrial and commercial employers who, at the same time, would have a good grasp of agricultural matters.
I am strongly in favour of having at least two representatives of employers' interests, as well as two representatives of labour. I am also in favour of having one of the representatives of employers a person with a knowledge of agriculture. I do not want it to be taken that such representatives should be regarded as employers' representatives in the narrow sense. We will have to regard them as judges, inasmuch as they should have personal knowledge or some grasp of the problems with which they will have to deal.
I will put the question: "That the words proposed to be deleted stand."
Why not put: "That the word `two' be substituted for `four'." That could be negatived. Otherwise I will speak to my other amendment. Is it the ruling of the Chair that it is not possible for this amendment to be put on the question: "To substitute the word `two' for `four' "?
The Chair has decided that if this amendment falls, amendment No. 6 will go.
Some people would prefer a court of six. I am rather amazed at this. I am not questioning the decision as a matter of order, but I cannot understand why it is not possible to negative this amendment, proposing to put in "two" instead of "four".
Where some amendments were asking less than others the Chair has put them in such a way that the lesser amendments were saved by the defeat of the first amendments. Is it not possible to have that moved at this stage and to suggest, for instance, that "two" should be substituted for "four"? If "two" is not substituted for "four", four is still there for somebody to argue. You are rolling two amendments, which have an entirely different inspiration, into one.
The motion is to delete the word "four".
That is a departure from the previous ruling.
I do not think so.
I shall, therefore, move amendment No. 6:—
In page 5, Section 10 (2), line 49, to delete the word "four" and substitute the word "six".
Later I have amendment No. 10 which, though not drafted in the way which I consider ideal, is the best thing I could get in a hurried week-end. It gives me the ground for arguing my point on this amendment. I suggest that the Minister will be able to build up support for the chairman and the two representatives on each side in the way here indicated. I want to add two extra members and I suggest that the Minister should consult these organisations or groups of individuals, receive from them nominations and take from among the nominees of these two other members—one who would be a person knowing something about certain matters and another who would have a knowledge of certain other matters. I mentioned this matter on Second Reading, but I have no hope yet that it will be carried. It has been said in regard to proposals of this sort that they pass through three stages, the first being that in which they are laughed at, the second that in which they are received with a certain amount of hostility and the third that in which they are seriously discussed. I do not believe that this will be even seriously discussed; whether we have even got to the laughing stage I do not know.
I asked that this court should be made a court which would make some new approach to the question of conditions of employment. I suggest that we should try to get a body which will endeavour to move away from the discredited ideas of the last quarter of a century in regard to terms of wages when wages were viewed as something which had to be subtracted from what would otherwise be regarded as a just gain by the employer. New methods of fixing wages have been evolved in recent years largely through the influence of encyclicals and nowadays in fixing wages we think of the purchasing power of the rest of the community, in terms of what will be effected by the new money on the communal life of the workers by helping to raise the whole standard of living. I should like to have the court built up on the lines Deputy Pattison suggested in the last amendment but to apply it only to certain representative people. I do not know whether there are individuals on whom two likely disputing parties would ever agree, whether one could get a group of people who would not be simply actively interested or advocates for either side but who would be people who could take a broad liberal conception of the relations that should exist between workers and employees. It would be far better to have such a court with assessors added. We have got representative bodies but we hope that both workers and the trade unions will think in terms not merely of advocates but will think along broader lines. I must say in answer to myself on that issue that both will start off on the representative side.
I went to the Constitution to see what assistance I could get in framing these amendments and I found in Article 45 these directive principles on social policy. It is stated that the application of those principles shall not be cognisable by the courts. The attention of the Oireachtas is directed merely to the Article and we are asked to promote legislation along the lines of the social views which are developed in Article 45. We are asked to see that—
"the State shall strive to promote the welfare of the whole people by securing and protecting as effectively as it may, a social order in which justice and charity shall inform all the institutions of the national life."
Then it is stated that—
"the State shall in particular direct its policy towards securing that the citizens (all of whom, men and women equally, have the right to adequate means of livelihood) may through their occupations find the means of making reasonable provision for their domestic needs."
I cannot think but that that is an echo, but put in another term, of what has been urged in numerous encyclicals in the last 50 years. At the same time, we are asked to make provision for things for which the majority of our people could not make any adequate provision. The matter of credit would have to come into this and would certainly have its influence on the background of the discussions that will take place in the court. In addition to that, when we come to the private property Article, while the State here acknowledges that men have the natural right to the private ownership of external goods, in sub-section (2) of the Article it is laid down that—
"the State recognises that the exercise of the rights mentioned in the foregoing provisions ought, in civil society, to be regulated by the principles of social justice."
What these principles are I do not know. That phrase has in one case come before an ordinary court in this country for interpretation and evoked the view of one judge that the phrase had no meaning, that it was merely a political shibboleth and that there were no standards by which these principles could be tested, certainly that the principles could not be brought down to any such level as enabled him to find standards which objectively he could apply in particular cases. That is not the last word to be said on the principles, and I do not imagine that the phrase was put into the Constitution merely to have a decision of that sort given so that the matter might rest there.
I take it that those who framed the Constitution had some idea of social justice and of the principles upon which social justice might be established throughout the country, particularly in relation to the ownership of private property. When the Minister proceeds to set up this court, we suggest that he should add two other people to it, one of whom would be taken from amongst a list of people sent in who have a knowledge of the principles of social justice. I can well imagine to whom I would go if I wanted to get suggestions as to where to find people who might be regarded as having some knowledge of social justice. The other phrase I do not like. What I have asked is that the Minister would invite organisations who have knowledge and practical experience of social services to submit a list of names. This is also from the Constitution. Of course it is a peculiar paragraph of the Constitution but it is now the build-up of the Seanad—the administrative panels of certain people having knowledge and experience of public administration. That is the text of the phrase I have quoted.
I do not like the phrase. It does not completely express the view that I hope to put before the House. In a hurried week-end, it was the only thing that came to my hand to give me a foothold on which to argue the point here. I really would like to find out if there are not people in this country who could be put on this court, people having some idea of the effect of wages on the community as a whole, say, as consumers. I want to avoid misconception when I speak of consumers. When I do so I do not mean those who will always be frightened by any increase in wages. I am rather thinking of the consuming population of people who, while being consumers, will have to live, either themselves or their sons or daughters, by getting occupation in some line of work, and who will be able to appreciate the other point of view that I mentioned earlier—of not thinking in terms only of some possible small rise in the cost of a commodity. I do not at all accept it that any increase in wages necessarily means an increase in the cost of the commodity. When I speak of consumers, I am thinking of those with views with regard to a better standard of living and a better status for employees generally —thinking of better production as leading to a better life for the whole community. It is that viewpoint that is at the back of the new ideas that we will be discussing to-morrow in connection with U.N.O.
I would like to try to make the Constitution real. We have there expressed the view—it was certainly implied in the passing of the Constitution—that there is something called social justice, and that there are principles which regulate it. If that be the case, and I accept it as the case, then there must be people who will be able to tell a court of four or five persons what is social justice in relation to the particular matter that is being discussed, and how the principles which underlie it and as known may be applied to the dispute. In that way, one may be able to have this whole matter of the conditions of employment and of wages considered away merely from the pressure and the counter-pressure of employees and employers, and arrive at decisions to make modern the medieval conception of the just wage, measured by some standards of objectivity in dealing with any disputes that came before the court.
In other countries where arbitration courts either of the compulsory or voluntary type have been established, there has been an acceptance of the view that prior to the setting up of any court, there is required, as a definite condition precedent to that, the establishment of certain social legislation, legislation which would accept the sort of thing that we have accepted in the Constitution. We have at least accepted the headlines, though we have not yet worked out the details. Is not this an occasion on which the details might be worked out in respect of disputes that may come before this court? If we are to have this court, would it not be a good thing to have two people on it with minds better informed than those who might be thrown up by the conditions leading to individual disputes, whether in regard to wages or conditions of employment: by people who might be able to put the whole matter into a bigger framework and who would look at it in a more liberal way? When one reads about social justice, wage standards and the just wage, and when one thinks that these are matters to be determined by the court, I cannot conceive any employees who would not willingly accept this as an experiment, and would not feel that it would be a good thing to have such views expressed in the case of a particular wage dispute.
I think it will be agreed that no wages in this country have for years measured up at all to what would be regarded as the ordinary standard to enable people to make provision for domestic needs, not merely to live, and not merely to live in frugal comfort, but to be able to do something more than that—to be able to acquire, in the words of one of the encyclicals, some private property or some private sustenance of their own. I could imagine people being scared at this. I could imagine all sorts of cranks parading themselves as being knowledgeable along certain lines. There is the safeguard that the Minister will have to be satisfied. He will get nominations and will have to make his choice from amongst the names sent up. There is the bigger safeguard that, if the court is not built up in a way which appeals to the likely disputants, then the court may be brought to a standstill. I suggest that the court would be liberalised by having people on it who could lend their assistance in that way. The proposal is that there would be only two out of seven. Therefore as regards the people who could lend their advice in the way that I speak of, one could hardly say that their voices would be the determining voices in any dispute. They might lend weight to one side or the other but will anyone say that they would not like to have weight lent on the basis of this being practicable? If it is practicable, and if it is possible to get people who are able to discover what social justice is, and what its principles are, will anybody object to having the principles of social justice applied to a wage dispute in this way? I do not think that anybody would be brave enough to say "no" to that.
Deputy McGilligan has raised some very wide issues which can hardly be adequately discussed at this stage on this Bill. Let what we are doing here be quite clear. Wage rates for all classes of workers in this country have been determined largely by a process of bargaining. This Bill is based on the assumption that they will still be determined largely by a process of bargaining. In the past, however, the process of bargaining was not always successful in settling particular issues without resort to strikes or lock-outs. The sole purpose of this Bill is to try to minimise the possibility of disputes about wage rates leading to strikes. It is framed on the assumption that the process of bargaining will, however, be the primary method of determining what the levels of wage rates are to be. I am quite prepared to agree that a process of bargaining may not produce rates of wages in any occupation which would be considered best on the basis of some theory of economic policy or of social policy. If, however, we are to endeavour to secure that wage rates are related to some economic or social theory, we cannot do so by the machinery proposed here. We would have to take powers of control over all wage rates and over all forms of remuneration if we were to get the desired results. This court is to be a voluntary court. It will be used by those engaged in the process of bargaining when they have reached difficulties which cannot be resolved except by some such machinery as that set out in the Bill. My objection to the amendment is that it is an attempt to introduce into this machine something that does not fit. If we were to put responsibility on the court to relate wages to economic and social theories, then this court would have to be given powers that we are not proposing to give it. If, on the other hand, we appear to give this court responsibility in relation to social and economic theories we take the risk that people will not use it because it cannot have such responsibility and relate it to the process of bargaining which is a necessary concomitant of such a court. I shall not dispute with Deputy McGilligan the point that employment and prosperity are conditional upon adequate purchasing power being available amongst the people. I shall not, however, agree that the best way of ensuring an adequacy of purchasing power is by altering the wages paid to workers in employment. There are other ways in which that can be done and in circumstances much less productive of practical and social difficulties.
Like what? Social services?
The promotion of additional employment is one method.
At low wages.
At any wage.
All right—at any wage, then.
By a reduction of taxation, thereby leaving more purchasing power in the pockets of the people is another way. There are a multitude of ways by which a deficiency in purchasing power can be assisted. Other kinds of difficulties might arise which would affect purchasing power. In other countries difficulties have arisen because of too much purchasing power. If we contemplate adjusting wages to rectify such a situation we shall find ourselves in difficulties which cannot be resloved by a court of this kind. My main objection to the amendment is that it is trying to do something which this instrument is specifically designed not to do. We are trying to complete the process of bargaining by which wages are regulated at the present time in a manner which will minimise, if not altogether avoid, the ultimate risk of a strike or lock-out. If we give this court responsibility for the social and economic consequences of the wages actually applied in particular occupations, then we shall have to go much further than is proposed here. We shall have to give the court coercive power and we shall have to ensure that every form of earned remuneration will come within the ambit of the court. My main objection, therefore, to this amendment is that it would give to this court responsibilities and functions which, if the people believed that this court possessed such, would result in no application ever being made to the court and we would thereby nullify the purpose for which the court is established. I think we ought not to adopt this amendment, but that we should rather confine the court within the narrow, practicable and limited sphere which it is proposed to do under this measure. We should constitute the court in such a manner as will make it quite clear to those who will use it what its limited functions are.
The Minister has not met my case. I have not introduced anything in the nature of social or political theory. We here talk about the principles of social justice as an economic theory and as a political theory. If that is the state in which we are, then the Minister walks away with the argument. I thought we were on a different level. If principles of social justice are going to be relegated to the category of a social theory, then I part company with the Minister. I believe that I am on a higher level than he is.
The Deputy says he does not know what the principles are.
I do not. I never asserted that I did. I would never put myself on that court to adjudicate on such matters, but there are people who do know and there are people who are competent to adjudicate on such matters. We have stated in our Constitution that the principles of social justice are to regulate the provisions of a certain Article; are we to take it that nobody knows what those principles are?
No. There are authoritative sources of information.
There is such a thing as social justice and there are principles relating to social justice which are known to somebody. I do not think we are so devoid of intelligence or information in this country that we will agree to the suggestion that there is nobody in this country competent to adjudicate on matters of social justice. Was it to be interpreted, when this Article was introduced, that we were going to call in an outsider to help us? I did not ask to have the service regulated by principles of social justice. I merely asked that on the court to be set up there should be one man out of seven who would know what the principles of social justice are and who could inform his colleagues in relation to the matters under dispute. I have another amendment in which I ask that one of the things to be considered should be the principles of social justice. In this amendment now under discussion I merely ask that one man out of seven would be a man well informed as to the principles of social justice. The Minister says wages are built up by a process of bargaining. Very good. Let them continue to be so built up. But let us give them a new touchstone; let us give them a new higher level, namely, the principles of social justice which are referred to specifically in our Constitution. Let us have one man who will advise the other six when any dispute arises as to what the principles of social justice are. Let the bargainers thereby know that their demands are below the principles of social justice or that they are too high. That is all we want to do here in this amendment. Let us have the bargaining process but let us also have the application of those principles of social justice which are sanctioned in our Constitution.
The Minister made one point that too much purchasing power might be bad for a community. Of course it might. I hope I have not said anything in any speech of mine here to-day which might be interpreted as approaching this matter from only one angle, namely, always and ever-increasing purchasing power. There is a time when too much purchasing power might be very bad. Too much purchasing power in relation to too few goods would be disastrous. The people I have in mind would realise that and they would be the very people who would have their minds attuned to every phase and would be competent to advise this court, or to warn it.
That is an important point, but my point is that the situation cannot be adjusted by this court.
I think this would be one way and I think it is the best way. I think the tendency which has developed throughout the world of trying to regulate the whole economic system through the medium of social services is not the proper way. Neither do I think that such regulation can be brought about through a multiplicity of industry. It think it is much better to have fewer and well paid industries, by means of which the people are given control of their own lives and an opportunity of rearing up dignified, responsible citizens by giving them wages which they can spend on the provision of their domestic needs, putting on them the responsibility of wise spending. I think that is the proper way rather than by means of social services or a reduction in taxation. A reduction in taxation is a good thing if it means that the cost of living is going down for certain people. The imposition put upon the people is akin to a wage reduction.
The Minister made another point that if we give this court this power we would have to give them control over a lot of other things and that we would be giving them power to coerce the people into this, that and the other. That is only true if the Minister's preamble is accepted as correct. What I am urging here is some idea of an economic theory. I introduced the question of full employment as one matter. I merely gave that as an example and not as an inherently fundamental argument. There is no necessity for anything in the nature of control under this amendment of mine. The only things which the court will have to consider are the people themselves, their strength, the part they play in the life of the community, the trouble they may cause if a dispute takes place and continues for any length of time, the strain—either physical or mental. Under my amendment the net result is that in this court there would be one man out of seven who could say to them, "Remember, gentlemen, these demands fall far short of what social justice demands in this country." That does not entail any crippling of the functions of this court. It simply means, in relation to a particular dispute as to conditions of employment or as to wages, there will be one mind on the new court informed by the teaching of the Catholic Church which can interpret the principles of social justice for the other six. I think when we have this pious Constitution we ought to implement it when the opportunity arises.
Amendment put and negatived.
I move amendment No. 8:—
In page 6, line 4, Section 10 (4), to delete the word "The" at the beginning of the line and insert the following: "Subject to sub-section (5) of this section, the".
This amendment relates to amendment No. 12. I do not know if it is desired to discuss the principle of amendment No. 12 on amendment No. 8. I mentioned in the course of the Committee Stage discussion that I would produce this amendment, which provides an alternative method of selecting workers' members of the court in circumstances where the Minister considers it undesirable to take the procedure which would be the normal procedure under the Bill and more than one organisation of trade unions of workers is in being. The proposal in the amendment is that, in such circumstances, the Minister will invite nominations from representative trade union organisations of workers and appoint two members from those so nominated, the members so appointed to hold office for whichever is the shorter period—the period of their appointment or until the Order bringing that provision into operation is revoked. The intention is that the Order would be revoked if circumstances arose which would permit of both nominees being appointed on the nomination of the one trade union organisation without any dispute.
I move amendment No. 9:—
In page 6, Section 10 (4) (a), line 10, before the word "to" to insert the words "which shall be a trade union".
My object is to increase the circle from which the Minister can, ultimately, draw people for this court from the employers' side. Possibly, the Minister will say that I have taken a strange way of bringing that about, because the effect, at the beginning, might be rather to limit the scope of the Minister's choice. I believe that it would be for the ultimate good of everybody if the employers were, to an increasing extent, organised in various groups. Of course, nobody thinks that an employer's representative chosen from a trade union would fail to do justice to unorganised employers. I merely wish to increase the power and prestige of the court by inviting employers to organise more and more as trade unions and be more and more able to give an effective, united and representative opinion to the court on matters concerning industrial disputes. Accordingly, I ask the Minister favourably to consider this amendment.
I have no objection to the amendment if it is the desire of employers' organisations generally that the change would be effected. If the Deputy tells me that that is so, I am quite prepared to accept the amendment, which means that the Minister would be limited to trade unions of employers as distinct from organisations of employers, which might not be registered as trade unions. The amendment should be: to delete "an organisation representative" and substitute "a trade union", so that it would read "a trade union of employers".
It is with the principle I am concerned.
Perhaps the Ceann Comhairle would accept the amendment I suggest now—to delete the words "an organisation representative", in lines 9 and 10, and substitute therefor the words "a trade union" so that the paragraph would read ".... designate a trade union of employers".
I understood that the object in the word "representative" was that the Minister might not choose any backroom organisation, that he would have to get an organisation which was really representative of employers. You might have a trade union of employers which would not be really representative of them.
Force of circumstances will compel the Minister to designate the most representative trade union of employers because he will have to get approval for his court. There is no organisation of trade unions of employers such as exists in the case of workers.
Why not provide for "a trade union representative of employers"?
I do not think that it would make any difference.
Amendment amended as suggested.
I move amendment No. 11 which is in my own name and that of Deputy Pattison:—
In page 6, Section 10 (4) (b) to delete all words after the word "organisation" in line 14 to the end of the sub-section in line 16.
This amendment is intended to meet a point which was raised on Committee Stage as regards the right of the Minister to turn down nominations made by the trade unions. I pointed out then that no trade union would continue to send names to the Minister if they were to be turned down. I suggest in this amendment that whatever nomination is made should be accepted automatically by the Minister, so that we shall not have a handpicked body which would be representative of the Minister rather than of the workers.
What is the purpose of taking this power to decline to appoint a person nominated?
This provision was the result of a suggestion from trade unions consulted in connection with the Bill—that the Minister should have some responsibility for the persons who actually constitute the court. I am not very keen on maintaining the provision because I think that, in practice, it will prove to be inoperative, that Deputy Everett is right in this regard—that, if the Minister turns down the nominees of trade unions, he will cause a row but may not succeed in getting a second nomination if the rejection be on general grounds. There are provisions for removal of a member for special reasons which, I think, would be adequate. My main dislike for the provision is that it will prove impracticable.
The removal of a person nominated by an organisation can take place only with the consent of the organisation.
Yes. I was thinking of the case in which, by reason of illness, or getting into bad repute for some personal reason, a member could be removed. The Minister would exercise the power in (4) (b) for some different reason—on the grounds of unsuitability of the member from the point of view of his standing in Labour circles or something of that kind. I cannot see any organisation of trade unions, having their nominee rejected in that way, not protesting very strongly and, possibly, refusing to make an alternative nomination, which would bring that whole section to a standstill. That is why I would not be averse to the principle of the amendment, but I should like to get some guidance from others who would be concerned in the operation of the court. The theory underlying this provision in the Bill is that the Minister should have some responsibility in relation to the persons constituting the court; that, even though the primary right of nomination rests with the organisations of trade unions, the Minister should have a function which would give him responsibility in relation to their general suitability or their suitability having regard to the circumstances at any time. On consideration, I think it is desirable to leave it out, because I cannot see the circumstances under which there would be one organisation of trade unions in regard to which the Minister would exercise that function. Perhaps, it may be agreed that the insertion of the new sub-section (5) does in fact remove the primary argument advanced in favour of this provision. If there is no objection, I am prepared to accept the amendment.
I do not see any great argument in favour of it. So far as the present wording is concerned, I think it is beneficial to a certain extent to leave a certain responsibility on the Minister and not to place him in the position, if the court, say, did not prove satisfactory to all parties concerned, to be able to say: "This is your court; I have no responsibility for it." Secondly, while I am as ready as anyone to defend the trade union movement, we are only human beings and we may make mistakes as well as anyone else. As the section stands, having made a mistake, we could not rectify it. If our attention is called to the fact that a nomination might be given further consideration, further consideration might be given to it and a change might be made in the nomination. It does not in any way imply that every time a nomination is made there will be a sending back of the nomination. It is a proviso that may be availed of in circumstances that might arise. The most important argument, I think, in favour of it is that it will not divest the Minister of all responsibility.
That is a good argument. The argument is really this: That, while it is highly improbable that any Minister would attempt to use this power, except in very exceptional circumstances, if the exceptional circumstances did arise, he would have the power, and, in the absence of the power, he could do nothing. I think it is wiser to leave it as it is.
May I separate the arguments? The argument so far has proceeded on the basis that the man nominated may prove to be unsuitable. This is met by sub-section (6).
Of course, this is not applicable to the conditions to which sub-section (6) is to apply. This means the original nomination. The situation you are contemplating is that of a representative trades union being asked to nominate somebody, that the Minister will find objection to him, and the trade union will bow to that and say: "We will nominate somebody else." I can imagine a situation in which a person, on any consideration that may be thought of, may be considered desirable and he might afterwards prove not to be a suitable nominee. Surely this sub-section (6) is sufficiently wide to allow such a situation to be dealt with.
Even under that sub-section consent is required.
I am really thinking in terms of Deputy Larkin's remarks— of an appointment being made and, so to speak, regretted; that is made and regretted after trial within the organisation. They could agree to the removal under sub-section (6).
The phrase, "for stated reasons," is all-embracing. It may mean anything.
The organisation must consent.
I agree. In the Constitution it is "misbehaviour and incapacity" in relation to judges. This is, "for stated reasons." It could be that the Minister and the trade unions concerned did not like the man.
Perhaps I might give an illustration of what I have in mind. I can see a Minister deciding that, because of experience or some view of his own, a member of the Oireachtas should not be nominated. That is the best illustration I can get at the moment. At present members of the Oireachtas are not debarred from being nominated as members of the court. I think there are good reasons why a member of the court should not be a member of the Oireachtas. The Minister might have a member of the Oireachtas nominated by an organisation and say, "I decline to accept him; not that I do not think he would be an excellent member, but for the reason that he is a member of the Oireachtas". If I had time, perhaps I might think of some other illustration.
Membership of the Oireachtas might be regarded as employment which would prevent him from being a member of the court.
I do not think so. It is a matter of opinion.
Under sub-section (6), we are dealing with the case of a member of the court being removed after appointment and there we will require, as I think we have, very careful safeguards, because the removal of a member of the court who occupies such a position publicly would have wide repercussions. Under the section we are dealing with now and which we propose to amend we are in fact dealing with what is a private recommendation from a trade union body sent to the Minister and probably it will be dealt with privately between the Minister and that body. At that stage, there might be certain reasons which would urge the Minister to suggest reconsideration. In that case, there would be no question of hurting the dignity of the trade union, and, very possibly, of hurting the dignity of the individual involved. It would be a question of reconsideration. Sub-section (6) is dealing with an entirely different question.
On the whole, it is probably wiser to keep the power.
We are getting into the realms of diplomacy in this. Surely the situation will be met by the trade union consulting the Minister before mentioning the name. Supposing the trade union finds the Minister does not want a particular man and they do, should the Minister have the right to refuse the nomination? That is the power that is being given under this.
That is why I think the Minister would not exercise the power if the circumstances were likely to develop into a refusal of the trade union organisation to nominate another person. It would be only in a case where he thought the trade union would accept that he would exercise the power.
I support the amendment. Too many trade unions have suffered from all kinds of insults being hurled at them. Time and again, they have been accused by various people of being irresponsible bodies and all the rest of it. I am surprised to hear anyone in this House defending this provision which would give the Minister the right, in the long run, to select the representative and not the trade union organisation.
This applies to trade unions of employers as well as to trade unions of workers.
That is worse.
Even so, I certainly would not agree to it.
I cannot imagine any responsible trade union selecting any person to be its representative who would be unworthy of the position. The trade unions will have as much information with regard to the nominee as the Minister will have. I would not deny to the Minister the power to remove afterwards, but I do object to this. When a trade union organisation, on the invitation of the Minister, nominates a member of the court they will nominate him because they believe he is the most suitable man in their organisation to represent them on the court. That man will not allow his name to go forward if he knows that he may not be appointed by the Minister. If such a person were not selected by the Minister, I do not believe any other man in the organisation would allow his name to go forward and the Minister would have endless difficulty. I cannot see any responsible trade unionist allowing his name to go forward, believing that he will be at the mercy of the Minister. Once a union with full responsibility selects a person, he will be in duty bound to accept.
I think the Deputy's argument amounts to this, that the Minister should never use the power.
There may be reasons other than suitability for objecting to a nomination.
You have the power to remove if a man is found unsuitable, and you have the accommodation with the nominating body to get a man to resign. What more do you want?
You cannot remove him unless with the consent of the nominating organisation.
I thought all the time we were discussing this in the mood in which the organisation nominating would accept the view that a man was unsuitable and would withdraw. I thought that was the atmosphere in which this argument is proceeding.
That is true.
On that basis he could be got to resign or he could be removed.
I think the wisest course would be to leave the wording in the Bill. Perhaps between this and the time when the Bill comes before the Seanad I might be able to meet the various viewpoints put forward.
Is the amendment being withdrawn?
On the assurance of the Minister——
I am not giving any assurance to amend it, but I shall look into the matter in order to see if there could be a modification of the section to meet the various points of view.
I move amendment No. 12:—
In page 6, Section 10, to insert before sub-section (5) a new sub-section as follows:
(5) If, when a particular appointment of workers' members (or, in the event of a casual vacancy, a workers' member) is to be made—
(a) more than one organisation representative of trade unions of workers is in being, and
(b) the Minister is of opinion that it is undesirable that the appointment should be made under sub-section (4) of this section,
he may, by regulations, declare that the appointment, instead of being made under the said sub-section (4), shall be made under this sub-section, and thereupon the following provisions shall have effect:—
(i) the Minister shall invite trade unions of workers and organisations representative of trade unions of workers to nominate persons for appointment, and
(ii) he shall make the appointment from amongst the persons so nominated.
The amendment gives effect to the line of discussion we had on the Committee Stage to the extent that, if the two organisations still remain when the Bill comes into force, the Minister can go a shade wider than the ordinary organisation of trade unions and give to individual trade unions, if necessary, other nominations. So far as we are concerned, we think that is a very good course, and the amendment is acceptable. On the point when the Minister comes to make his selection, I observe this in the final paragraph: "He shall make the appointment from amongst the persons so nominated." Are we to understand that in the final selection the two nominees will be representative of the two organisations which are in existence?
Not necessarily. One reason why I included trade unions in addition to organisations of trade unions is because it may be found by experience that the best solution is to have somebody nominated by a trade union not affiliated to either Congress. I do not want to exclude that possibility. I have no particular person in mind and I have no idea other than working on pure theory in this matter. That is why I drew the section as widely as it is drawn. If we cannot get a court constituted by agreement between existing organisations, the only solution is to give the Minister fairly wide power so that he can contact the various interests concerned and proceed as appears best to him. The Minister will have the compelling necessity of getting a court that will be acceptable.
I quite understand the difficulties the Minister might be faced with, but in his final selection will he keep before his mind the cardinal principle that the two nominees selected will be very definitely acceptable, one to each side?
My idea is to get members who will be acceptable to all organisations of workers.
How wide a range does the Minister consider he will make with regard to inviting representatives of trade unions and organisations representative of trade unions?
I do not see how any limiting factor could be put in. The Minister will have to confine himself to the main trade union, representative of large numbers of workers, rather than go to local unions in different parts of the country. I thought of the possibility, but I could not devise any form of limitation that would be acceptable.
I do not want to scare the Minister off.
I move amendment No. 13:—
In page 6, Section 10, to delete sub-section (5), lines 17, 18 and 19 and substitute the following:—
( ) An ordinary member shall, unless he dies, resigns or is removed, hold office—
(a) if appointed under sub-section (4) of this section, for such period, not exceeding five years, as shall be fixed by the Minister when appointing him,
(b) if appointed under sub-section (5) of this section, for five years or, if the regulations, by virtue of which he was appointed, are sooner revoked or annulled, until such revocation or annulment.
This amendment is consequential, the intention being that the persons nominated under sub-section (5) by the Minister will hold office only so long as the circumstances that compel resort to sub-section (5) exist.
I move amendment No. 14:—
In page 6, Section 10, to delete sub-section (8), lines 26 and 27, and substitute the following sub-sections:—
( ) The chairman shall devote the whole of his time to the work of the court.
( ) An ordinary member shall not hold the office of trustee, treasurer, secretary or any other office in, or be a member of any committee of, a trade union, or hold any office or employment which would prevent him from being at all times available for the work of the court.
This is an amendment about which I have some little doubt. The Bill provides that the members of the court will devote their whole time to the work of the court. That is not altogether essential, and it may constitute a difficulty in practice. I devised this amendment to express what we want to secure; first, that the members of the court will cease connection with trade unions of employers or workers and act as members of the court other than as representatives of these organisations, and, secondly, that they will always be available for the work of the court.
I would not press the amendment if there is any objection, but it seems to me it is desirable not to make the sub-section too restrictive in its effect. If we achieve the purpose set out in the amendment it will be sufficient. There may be difficulty in getting employers' representatives who will be accepted as such and who, at the same time, will be able to devote the whole of their time to the work of the court. Amendment No. 14 would permit of the possibility of a person being nominated as an employers' representative while remaining as director of a company or in some post of that kind which would, nevertheless, leave him available at all times for the work of the court.
That is the purpose of the amendment. It has been suggested there may be some practical difficulty in getting two employers' representatives prepared to give all their time to the work of the court and have no other form of employment and, consequently, it was desirable to limit the sub-section to the precise purpose.
The chairman is a big gentleman in all this outfit. He is bound to devote all his time, but there is no obligation on him to resign directorships. If some good type of employer was elected chairman, he could remain in full control.
It is intended that the whole of his time will be devoted to the work of the court, that he will have no other employment.
Can he be associated with companies and have such a hold in a company as would entitle him to draw fees?
I would not say so. The terms will be fixed by the Minister when appointing him.
That gives the power to the Minister, but the legislation does not involve the resignation by the chairman of a post that he might hold in industrial concerns. That should be amended.
That is the usual form adopted in other legislation and it is interpreted as having that effect.
As regards the Electricity Supply Board, I am pretty certain they have to give up affiliation with any company.
Not under the Act— under a warrant of appointment.
I think under the Act—I am pretty certain that is so.
One whole-time member of the Electricity Supply Board was appointed by me to another remunerative office. I did that by merely altering his warrant.
Had he not to resign any touch he had with electrical undertakings?
That may be so, but he is not precluded under the Act from having other remunerative employment.
The phrase is "devoting the whole of his time." I do not know whether the phrase could be turned to another interpretation. I know a whole-time officer has been defined as a person who gives the whole of such time as he thinks necessary to the work of the office.
My intention was that the chairman should have no other employment.
Why not say so? It is stated, for instance, in the Constitution, with regard to judges, that they are not to hold any other office of profit or emolument. Could not the same thing be said about the chairman? The situation with regard to an ordinary member is that he shall not hold the office of trustee, secretary, treasurer, or any other office in, or be a member of any committee of, a trade union, but apparently a man could be overloaded with business affiliations, all bringing him in profits and still be a member of this court.
If the phrase "The chairman shall devote the whole of his time to the work of the court" does not mean that he may not hold any other form of employment, then there is no need to amend sub-section (8) which says "The chairman and the ordinary members shall devote the whole of their time to the work of the court". It is because sub-section (8) might be held to exclude from membership of a court a person who had some other employment than that which did not interfere with his membership of the court that I thought the amendment was necessary.
I think we have got to a point that requires consideration, although it has to be left largely to the Minister's good sense to avoid difficulties. We have three parties— the chairman, the employers' member and the workers' member. It is, therefore, essential, to get an equal balance. In so far as the workers' members are concerned, they may be a member of a trade union but they may not be a member of the committee or hold a minor office as secretary, trustee, and so on. Yet, so far as the individual is concerned, there is no pecuniary benefit accruing from the holding of such office. The trustee is an unpaid officer and, while he may have a sentimental interest in the welfare of his union, there is no personal gain to him from it. Take the position of the chairman of the court. I move to report progress.