I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. The Trade Union Act of 1941 made it unlawful for any body of persons, with certain specific exceptions, to carry on negotiations for the fixing of wages or other conditions of employment without a negotiation licence issued under the Act. For the first time, trade unions engaged in such negotiations were required to make and maintain large deposits with the High Court. This is a condition of the grant of a negotiation licence and the amount of the deposit depends on the numerical strength of the trade union concerned. The scale of deposits is laid down in the Schedule to the Act. Where the number of members does not exceed 500 the amount prescribed is £1,000; the appropriate sum for a trade union having 1,000 members is £1,400, and the scale gradually ascends to a maximum of £10,000 for the largest organisations. It was foreseen in 1941 that, on account of the prevailing abnormal conditions, some of the Irish trade unions would be unable to make the full deposit, specified by the Schedule to the Act, and it was therefore deemed necessary to make provision for a variation of the requirements in favour of such cases. Accordingly, Section 8 of the Act conferred the necessary power to grant temporary relief to trade unions registered in this State where it was established in any particular case that, on account of abnormal conditions referable to the war, undue hardship would ensue if the trade union were compelled to make and keep with the High Court the full deposit. This relief extended to a maximum of 75 per cent. of the sum mentioned in the Schedule but the power to grant it was exercisable only while the Emergency Powers Act, 1939, was in force.
Reduction Orders in pursuance of the provisions of this section had been made in several cases. These Orders however would have expired on the 2nd September, 1947, and the trade unions concerned would then have been required, under the Act of 1941, to raise their deposits to the appropriate sum mentioned in the Schedule. Moreover, since the repeal of the Emergency Powers Act, any trade union applying for a negotiation licence would have been required to make and maintain the full deposit whatever its circumstances may be.
After conversations with the representatives of the trade union organisations it was held that the circumstances which necessitated the relieving provisions in the Act of 1941 had not materially changed, and that the withdrawal of the concession, at that time, would impose hardship and in some cases might have the effect of disqualifying trade unions from holding negotiation licences already granted.
Accordingly, the Trade Union Act, 1947, was introduced and enacted. It repealed Section 8 of the Act of 1941, and re-enacted its provisions for a period of 12 months as from 9th July, 1947.
As the circumstances which necessitated these relieving provisions still existed in 1940, the Trade Union Act, 1948, was enacted in order to continue these reliefs up to 8th July, 1949. It is now considered desirable to continue to meet the difficulties of the Irish trade unions, of which 24 have received reduction Orders, and I am satisfied that there is a case for the extension of this concession.
The Bill, accordingly, continues the relieving provisions for a further 12 months, that is, to the 8th July, 1950.
The question of a further extension after that date will be closely examined in the light of the circumstances and conditions then obtaining.