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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 30 May 1967

Vol. 228 No. 13

Redundancy Payments Bill, 1967: Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time.

The main purpose of this Bill is to provide financial help to workers who lose their jobs on account of redundancy and financial help to unemployed workers who have to move from their home areas to secure employment.

The first thing I want to stress is that I have not prepared this Bill because of fear that the future holds the prospect of large-scale redundancies. A basic fact of economic life which we must accept is that a certain degree of redundancy is an inescapable feature of a dynamic economy. But although only a small proportion of workers may be affected by redundancy, it is cold comfort for those who are affected to know that.

Redundancy has serious and distressing implications for the workers involved. It can have a shattering effect on a man with family responsibilities who thought his job was secure. It is understandable, therefore, that many workers are suspicious of economic or technological changes which threaten their sense of security. Yet change is the lifeblood of progress and fear of change and resistance to it can be a formidable obstacle to economic and social advancement.

The problem posed by this situation requires to be solved if our hopes and aspirations for the future of our country are to be realised. A more realistic approach than an indiscriminate resistance to redundancy is required. A policy of job maintenance at all costs will not do. This would be tantamount to a policy of economic stagnation. In the long term—and not very long term at that—such a policy would have disastrous results for workers and for the community as a whole. The Government's policy is to promote economic expansion. It is policy for the welfare of the nation and the nation is largely composed of workers and their families. It is essentially a policy which accepts the need for change involving some redundancies and displacements. The dictates of social justice demand that, in implementing that policy, we should strive as best we can to protect the interests of individual workers and their dependants.

While the primary purpose of this Bill is to provide a solution for the human problems associated with redundancy, there is a second aim which is also of major importance. This aim concerns the relationship between redundancy and economic progress. We are all anxious for the welfare of our economy; for more and better jobs and for higher living standards. The necessary economic growth which will provide these improvements is being fostered by the Government through a variety of measures. The ultimate success of the Government's measures will depend to a large extent on the capacity and the willingness of individual businesses to adapt themselves to new and changing demands; to avail themselves of the most modern techniques for improving their efficiency; and to accept change as a prerequisite for increased productivity.

Because of past experience change has, in the minds of many, carried with it the threat of the loss of job; the threat of long-term unemployment. A built-in resistance to change has thus been created. Apprehension on the part of workers is understandable. It cannot be dispelled merely by holding out a prospect of a better job at some undetermined date in the future. Something more is needed. The worker feels entitled to some compensation for the loss of his job and he needs protection for himself and his family in the interval that may occur before he finds other employment. The Bill is intended to meet this situation and so give the worker a sense of security, even when confronted with a threat of redundancy. The weekly payments for which the Bill provides are very important in this context.

I want to make it clear that I do not regard this Bill as providing the answers to all the problems associated with redundancy. It is an essential part of our manpower policy, but it is only a part and it should be clearly seen as such. The main purpose of the Bill is to provide financial help for redundant workers in the difficult period between the loss of one job and the securing of another. It is not enough to compensate a worker for the loss of his job. Positive steps must be taken to secure suitable alternative employment for him. That is why the placement and guidance functions of the Employment Service are being strengthened. That is why proposals for the training and retraining of redundant workers are now being considered by An Chomhairle Oiliúna under the Industrial Training Act, 1967. That is why this Bill contains provision for a scheme of resettlement allowances to enable redundant workers to move to new areas to secure employment.

Employers should not feel that, by meeting their obligations under this Bill, they are absolved from all responsibilities in regard to redundancies. They should plan their manpower requirements as far ahead as possible, and they should introduce schemes of early retirement, of transfers and of retraining to keep the number of redundancies to the minimum. There is little prospect, however, of employers being able to do this unless they appoint personnel managers, whose training and experience fit them for these specialised tasks. I should therefore like to take this opportunity to again ask employers in their own interests to consider appointing personnel officers. Where some redundancy is unavoidable, employers have a responsibility to co-operate fully with the Employment Service in an effort to secure suitable alternative jobs for the workers concerned.

Before coming to deal with the important sections of the Bill, I should like to refer briefly to another aspect of what I might term its secondary aim. With the coming of free trade and an intensification of competition, the outlook will be bleak for any industry or business that does not strive for maximum efficiency. Two practices which greatly militate against the achievement of maximum efficiency are underemployment, that is, overstaffing or under-utilisation of skills—and a reluctance to keep pace with modern methods and techniques. The preservation of jobs is frequently advanced as a reason for such practices, but the real interests of a business and of the workers engaged in it cannot be served in this way. Nor is it the way to protect employment. It is my hope that the introduction of the redundancy payments scheme will enable both managements and trade unions to adopt a more realistic approach towards practices which militate against efficiency and adversely affect the competitiveness of many of our products.

As Deputies are now aware, this is a very complex piece of legislation. We decided that, before the Bill was drafted, the proposed scheme should be discussed with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the main employers' organisations. The discussions have been long and detailed and have involved some delay in the introduction of the Bill. However, I am satisfied that this has been worthwhile, because the scheme which has emerged has benefited considerably from the useful contributions of both sides. There were, of course, some areas in which agreement was not possible. In spite of this, I believe that the main structure of the scheme provided for in this Bill will be acceptable to both employers and workers. I would like to thank all those who were involved in the discussions and to pay tribute to their constructive and responsible approach to the many problems involved.

To turn now to the actual provisions of the Bill the basic proposals are:—

(1) A qualified worker who is discharged because of redundancy will, if certain conditions are fulfilled, be entitled to redundancy payment, and this will consist of

(a) a lump sum payment, and

(b) a weekly payment.

(2) The lump sum will be payable by the employer direct to the worker and the amount of the payment will be related to the worker's length of service with that employer and to his normal earnings prior to redundancy.

(3) The maximum lump sum payment will be the equivalent of 16 weeks' pay.

(4) The weekly payment will be contingent on unemployment and will be paid out of a special fund which will be financed by contributions payable by employers and workers.

(5) An employer who makes a lump sum payment to a worker will be entitled to a rebate of 50 per cent, which in certain circumstances may be increased to 65 per cent of the lump sum. These rebates will be paid out of the fund.

(6) The qualifying period of service for a redundancy payment will be four years with the same employer.

The scope of the scheme is set out in section 4. It will apply to all workers who are insured for all benefits under the Social Welfare Acts. This means that almost all manual workers and clerical workers with incomes of less than £1,200 a year will be covered with the exception of part-time workers and workers under the age of 18 years or over 65 years of age. There are, of course, some workers below the £1,200 limit who, because of the permanent and pensionable nature of their employment, are not insured for all benefits under the Social Welfare Acts. These will not come within the scope of the scheme. I think it will be agreed that, with the emphasis on weekly payments, it is realistic to tie the scope of the scheme in with the scope of the Social Welfare unemployment benefit scheme. We recognise that there may be some classes of workers for whom the general scheme would be unsuitable. The Minister for Labour will have power under the Bill, following consultations with the employer and worker interests concerned, to introduce special schemes more suited to the needs of any categories of workers for whom the general scheme may be found to be unsuitable.

Representative committees are already considering the possibility of preparing special schemes for building workers and for dock workers. I intend in the immediate future to open discussions with appropriate interests in agriculture on the question of whether a special scheme should be prepared for agriculture workers. We have to recognise, however, that there are many workers in the classes of employment to which I have referred who would, in the event of redundancy, qualify for benefit under the general scheme. I feel that the most equitable arrangement, in the circumstances, is to include all such classes in the general scheme until such time as a special scheme may be ready to be put into operation. If and when a special scheme is ready for any particular class, I can at that stage exclude that class from the main scheme, with effect from the date of introduction of the special scheme.

Having discussed the scope of the scheme, I think I should next look at the provisions dealing with the circumstances in which redundancy payments are to be made. Redundancy is defined in section 7. In effect, it means that an employer is required to make a redundancy payment to a qualified worker if he is dismissing the worker because he no longer requires his services. It is immaterial whether the dismissal is due to a change in production methods, falling off in demand for products, complete closure of the firm or its transfer to another area. Dismissal due to misconduct or some other fault of the employee would not, of course, rank as redundancy.

The provisions of section 15 are very important in regard to the question of entitlement to benefit; a worker who unreasonably refuses to accept an offer of suitable alternative employment by his employer will not be entitled to a lump sum payment. This applies only where the alternative employment is in the employer's own business, or, in the case of a company, in the business of a parent or subsidiary company. The same section also provides that a person who unreasonably refuses an offer by the Employment Service of suitable employment will be disqualified from receiving weekly payments.

There are several rather complex sections dealing with entitlement to redundancy payments arising out of lay-off or short-time working. I do not intend to deal with these provisions in detail on this stage, except to say that the intention is to provide that an employee will be entitled to redundancy payments if he is laid off or kept on short-time working for excessive periods. At the same time, it would be unreasonable to expect an employer to make redundancy payments because of a temporary lay-off, and this is recognised in the Bill.

Special arrangements are made under section 8 to deal with the case of seasonal workers who return to the same employer year after year. What we propose here is that, in the case of workers who are laid off for an average period of more than 12 weeks during the four years prior to redundancy, the provisions relating to lay-off in the Bill will not apply until the end of that average period. In the case of a seasonal worker, therefore, there will normally be no question of redundancy until the usual commencement time of his seasonal work. If he is not then re-employed, the question of redundancy arises, but not until then.

This Bill recognises the principle that, over the years, a worker builds up certain rights in his job, and if he is deprived of these rights by circumstances outside his control, that he ought to be compensated. This will, I believe, give the worker a new status in relation to his job and in the long run, will make for better relations between managements and workers. It is necessary to say in the Bill after what period of time this right commences to operate. There can be divergent views on this but I consider that four years is a reasonable measure of the length of time that must elapse before a worker can be said to have established a right in a particular job. I have decided, therefore, that to qualify for a redundancy payment a worker must have had at least four years' continuous service with the employer by whom he is declared redundant.

As I have mentioned, the Bill provides for redundancy payments in two forms, a lump sum payment to be made by the employer at the time of dismissal and weekly payments which will begin four weeks after that date. The amount of the lump sum and the amount and duration of the weekly payments will be related to the worker's service and to his normal pre-redundancy pay.

In deciding the scale of benefits, there are a number of factors to be considered. Firstly, the benefits must be sufficient to enable redundant workers to maintain standards relatively close to their pre-redundancy levels while they are being placed in, or retrained for, alternative employment; secondly, they should be substantial enough to effect the necessary change in attitudes towards redundancy; and, thirdly, they must not be so high as to add significantly to production costs or to act as a disincentive to the seeking or accepting of alternative employment. This last mentioned point has particular significance in relation to the weekly payment. I believe that the benefits proposed in the Bill achieve the necessary balance between these various considerations.

The scale of payments and methods of calculation are laid down in Schedules 1 and 3 of the Bill. The lump sum will be calculated on the basis of half a week's pay for each year of employment between the ages of 18 and 41 years and one week's pay for each year of employment over the age of 41 years. The maximum payment will not exceed the equivalent of 16 week's pay.

As I said earlier, one of the aims of the scheme is to try to maintain the worker's living standards as close as possible to the pre-redundancy level. For this reason the emphasis is on continuing weekly payments rather than on a large lump sum payment. The weekly payments, which will be contingent on unemployment, will be the equivalent of 50 per cent of the worker's pre-redundancy pay. The payments will be payable in addition to social welfare benefits and will continue for a period of one week for each year of employment. For the purposes of this calculation each two completed years of employment over the age of 41 years will count as three completed years. It will be noted that the benefits are weighted in favour of older workers with long service and I think Deputies will agree that this is a just and reasonable approach.

I have mentioned that the weekly payments will be paid in addition to any unemployment benefit or assistance or other social welfare benefit to which the worker concerned may be entitled. However, because of the disincentive danger to which I referred earlier, it is proposed that the total amount of the weekly redundancy payment and the social welfare benefit payable should not exceed 90 per cent of a redundant worker's pre-redundancy pay.

Another important point in connection with the weekly payment is that, while it is payable only if the worker is unemployed, the worker will not lose his entitlement to the balance of the payments due if he accepts employment before exhausting his entitlement. The proposal is that the unexpired balance will be placed to his credit and may be drawn by him in the event of future unemployment. This will involve administrative problems, but I believe that any other course would be unfair. Besides, the fact that his entitlement to weekly payments will be kept open should encourage the worker to accept alternative employment, even if it is only of a temporary nature.

Before I leave the question of weekly payments, there is one point I should like to make. There is a strong link between these payments and certain social welfare benefits and, consequently, any adjustment or other developments in regard to the social welfare payments will inevitably involve a review of the weekly payments under the redundancy scheme. My colleague, the Minister for Social Welfare, is at present considering the feasibility of introducing a wagerelated social insurance scheme. The introduction of such a scheme would make it necessary for us to re-assess the benefits payable under the redundancy payments scheme. Any changes or adjustments that may be necessary in such circumstances will, under the provisions of the Bill, be subject to an appropriate resolution of both Houses of the Oireachtas.

Since the amount of the lump sum payments and the duration of the weekly payments are related directly to the length of the workers' service with the employer concerned, it would be relevant at this point to comment briefly on the provisions for calculating length of service. The first thing to be noted is that the service must have been continuous, and rules for determining whether service was continuous or not are set out in Schedule 3, Generally speaking, service can be taken to have been continuous unless it was broken by the worker being discharged or voluntarily leaving the employment. However, discharge due, say, to recession in business or to illness of the worker which proved to be only a temporary break and did not exceed 26 weeks in duration would not be regarded as breaking continuity. While certain absences from work will not break continuity, the periods may not be reckonable for the purpose of calculating length of service. Rules in regard to this aspect of the matter are also included in Schedule 3.

I might mention that under the proposed rules in Schedule 3 strikes will not break the employee's continuity of service, although neither will periods spent on strike after the commencement date of the Act count as reckonable service: periods of strike which occurred prior to that date, however, will count.

Part III of the Bill deals with the establishment of the redundancy fund. This fund will be financed by contributions from employers and workers. The employer will pay 8d a week in respect of men and 6d a week in respect of women. The workers' contribution will be 4d a week for men and 3d a week for women. The main purpose of the fund is to spread the major part of the cost of redundancy over the widest possible area of employment. I think the idea of a special fund will meet with general approval. I believe that the proposed contributions will be sufficient to meet the likely outgoings from the fund. This opinion is based on the best information available to my Department at the moment. There are too many imponderables involved at this stage—the likely incidence of redundancy, the average age, length of service, and pay levels of workers becoming redundant —to enable us to estimate with any certainty what the outgoings from the fund will be. Experience alone will show whether adjustments in the contribution rates or the benefits are necessary. If they are, I will have power under the Bill, subject to affirmative resolution of both Houses, to make the necessary changes.

The weekly payments which I referred to earlier will be paid out of the fund. In addition, where a worker is unable to obtain from his employer a lump sum payment to which he is entitled—for example, if the employer is insolvent—the full amount due to the worker will be paid from the fund. Steps will then be taken to recover for the fund the part of the payment which should have been made by the employer.

An employer who makes a redundancy payment for which he is liable will be entitled to a rebate from the fund equivalent to one-half of the lump sum paid. This rebate will be increased by an additional 2½ per cent bonus for each extra week of notice which the employer gives in excess of the minimum notice of two weeks required under the Bill. The maximum rebate will be 65 per cent of the actual lump sum payment. I hope that this added incentive will encourage employers to give early notice of impending redundancies. This will enable the Employment Service to take steps in good time to seek suitable alternative employment, after a period of retraining if necessary, for the workers about to become redundant.

In discussions it has been suggested that the fund should bear all or, at least, a higher proportion of the lump sum payments. I do not agree. It is essential that a substantial part of the cost of redundancies should be met by the employer who is declaring the workers to be redundant. This will help to safeguard the fund from possible abuse and will ensure that employers adopt a responsible approach to redundancy. If employers could declare workers redundant at little or no cost to themselves the scheme would be open to abuse. But apart from this, I believe that it is right in principle that an employer should meet a reasonable portion of the redundancy payments for his workers directly from his own resources.

It has been argued too in discussions that there should be a State contribution to the scheme. I cannot accept this. It is clear from what I said earlier that this scheme will be of direct benefit to both workers and employers, and it is only right that they, and not the public in general, should bear the cost. It has to be borne in mind that a whole range of manpower services are being provided— new training and retraining schemes, an improved and expanded Employment Service, a manpower forecasting service and a scheme of resettlement allowances.

The taxpayer will be bearing the major part of the cost of providing these services. In these circumstances it would not be reasonable to expect the taxpayer to contribute also to the redundancy payments scheme. Having regard to the relatively low contributions, it is only fair that employers and workers should share between them the cost of this scheme.

The Bill has been drafted on the basis that contributions will be collected by means of a special redundancy stamp. The possibility of having contributions collected by means of a surcharge on the existing Social Insurance stamp is being examined but there are serious administrative and other problems involved which it may not be possible to overcome. I will have power under section 33 to make regulations providing for the collection of contributions by means other than by a special redundancy stamp and the merits of alternative methods of collection will be fully investigated before I come to a final decision on the matter.

If a worker is dissatisfied with an employer's decision regarding a lump sum payment, he may ask to have the question resolved by the appeals machinery of the Department of Social Welfare. A worker may also avail of the same appeals machinery if he is dissatisfied with a decision of a deciding officer. Likewise, an employer may appeal against the decision of a deciding officer on matters relating to scope and contributions. Reference to the High Court may be made where a question of law is involved. In some respects, separate machinery for redundancy appeals would appear to be desirable, but if we are to have a scheme which provides for continuing weekly payments tied in with certain social welfare benefits the only practical arrangement is to have appeals under both schemes dealt with by the same appeals machinery.

Special arrangements are proposed in relation to CIE workers. This is necessary because, under the Transport Acts, certain CIE employees might already be entitled to compensation in the event of redundancy. It is proposed under section 48 that all CIE workers will be covered by the provisions of the Bill. If, however, a worker should qualify for redundancy payment under the Transport Acts, he will not be entitled to receive, as well, payments under the Redundancy Payments Act. In such circumstances redundancy fund contributions will be refunded. New entrants to CIE will not be entitled to compensation under the Transport Acts. They will be insured under the Bill in so far as they come within its scope.

I will have power under section 46 to introduce a scheme of resettlement allowances. The cost of this scheme will be borne by the Exchequer and will not be a charge on the redundancy fund. The purpose of the scheme is to provide financial assistance to unemployed workers who must leave their home areas to secure employment. I do not want anyone to get the impression that the introduction of such a scheme would represent a major shift in the Government's policy in relation to undeveloped areas.

It has been and it will continue to be Government policy to stimulate economic activity in such areas and, in particular, to do everything possible to facilitate the establishment of new industries which will give much-needed employment. The resettlement allowances scheme is designed to promote a desirable degree of geographical mobility of labour within the country as a whole. Its main value, however, is likely to be in assisting the establishment of development centres in undeveloped areas by helping workers within these areas to move to jobs in the development centres.

The resettlement scheme will provide for payments to meet part of the cost of household removal, travel allowances, lodging allowances and part of the legal costs involved in selling a house in the home area and buying one in the new area. It is the intention that the scheme will apply to unemployed workers over the age of 18 years who have no immediate prospects of re-employment in their home area. The payment will, of course, only be made if employment of a reasonably permanent nature is available in the new area and there are no suitable unemployed workers available in that area.

Both the redundancy payments scheme and the resettlement allowances scheme provided for under this Bill are largely experimental. Experience alone will show whether they are financially viable. Experience alone will show whether they are suitable to achieve the social and economic objectives at which we are aiming. I want to assure the House that the operation of both schemes will be kept under careful review and that I will have no hesitation in promoting any improvements or amendments that may be shown to be desirable. I think the only sensible course is to introduce the schemes as quickly as possible, to learn what lessons may have to be learned from their own operation, and to be ready and willing to make whatever improvements or modifications that time may reveal to be necessary.

Before I conclude, I want to emphasise once again that in introducing this Bill the Government are in no way pessimistic regarding the future of the economy. We are confident that the measures in this Bill will strengthen the economy and that whatever future redundancies may occur will reflect the success of the Government's programme for economic development and expansion and not economic recession or malaise.

The type of redundancy that must be envisaged is that associated with the transfer of surplus workers from contracting industries to new or expanding industries; the release for retraining of workers whose skills have become obsolete in consequence of advances in technology; and the re-training or resettlement of workers who may become surplus to a business because of mergers, and readaptation or other measures designed to promote efficiency. Workers, however, cannot be expected to accept the hardships of disemployment even in such circumstances unless their personal interests are protected. This is precisely what the Bill attempts to do and I commend it to the House for adoption.

At the outset I should like to describe this Bill as an audacious piece of legislation. Here the Government are exacting contributions from employers and employees, without their making any contribution. Despite what the Minister says in regard to the interest of the Government in workers, I think it is rather a reflection that the Government, who could find ways and means to assist some sections of the community, feel in this instance when, as the Minister says, the workers are under the stress of having lost their jobs, that it is the workers and the employers alone who are to deal with this unfortunate happening.

It is also audacious from the point of view that in regard to the fund which is being created, the Government and the Government alone are to have a say in its distribution. Neither the workers nor the employers are to have any say in regard to this fund which they are going to create by their contributions. Generally speaking, there are quite a number of firms—and I am sure the Minister knows this— that operate welfare schemes and pension schemes and even redundancy schemes at the present time. These firms have been operating these schemes over the years and have been making contributions themselves to funds which provide for the kind of circumstances of which the Minister is now speaking. In a good many cases, these are completely non-contributory schemes, provided in whole by the employers who make contributions through some kind of insurance funds and there are pension consultants who devise such schemes for the benefit of employees in industry.

The Minister has missed a golden opportunity in introducing this legislation. Everyone is aware of the difficulties in the kind of negotiations upon which the Minister has been engaged. Surely here was a golden opportunity to bring both sides together and to obtain from them some kind of advisory body or advisory council to administer the fund which the Minister proposes to set up under this Bill. It is not very often that these opportunities present themselves and the Minister might have seen that this was an opportunity for him to engage in this exercise.

Throughout this Bill from start to finish we find sections which give the Minister power to make regulations of various kinds. That is particularly true of sections 4, 19, 28, 30 and 47. Here is a piece of legislation dealing with a subject which can be a difficult one. Surely the Minister should have taken this opportunity to set up a joint advisory council to deal with the kind of regulations about which the Minister talks in these various sections? A joint council of workers and management would be of inestimable benefit to the Minister in his approach to the problems which will come before him in relation to questions of redundancy.

The Minister spoke of making orders and putting them before the House. I approve of these draft orders being brought before the Oireachtas before being confirmed by the Minister. If this had happened in relation to previous legislation—the planning legislation, for instance—we would not now find ourselves in some of the difficulties in which we are. If the Minister in that case had been prepared to lay the orders before the House before they were made, some of the difficulties would have been eliminated. Therefore I commend the Minister for Labour on the fact that he is prepared to do this.

One is struck by the thought at this stage that here is legislation in respect of which workers might well say to the Government: "Thanks for nothing", because the Government are not contributing anything to it, one way or the other. Another thought that strikes me has been provoked by the Minister's statement that change is the lifeblood of progress.

Here is a piece of legislation in which I deprecate the change in departing from well-established principles of social welfare legislation. In such legislation, as it has existed here since its introduction in 1952—and, indeed, in regard to legislation which it superseded—the State made a contribution of one-third towards the welfare of the community. I deplore the departure from that principle.

Indeed it may be a dangerous precedent inasmuch as here we are reaching the stage where we impose indirect taxation by the type of precedent we are now creating. Once we have moved in that direction one could think of schemes of a like kind through which individuals in the State would find themselves compelled to contribute to measures for their own supposed benefit outside the ordinary forms of taxation to which they, in common with everyone else, already contribute. A further question strikes me in this respect and I put it to the Minister: will the contributions made by workers under this legislation be allowable for income tax purposes?

Another factor that strikes me about this legislation is the anomalous position in which the Minister is being put. The Minister has a most important function in the State. When this new Ministry was being set up, it was realised that on its success would depend not only the future prosperity of the country but the more harmonious working of both sides in industry. What do we find? In regard to matters which are in dispute—for instance, in the matter of appeals—immediately an appeal lies to the Minister, the question will be decided in another Department over which the Minister for Labour has no control whatever. He passes his responsibility over to the Minister for Social Welfare.

I suggest that this is something the Minister should not do. He should stand on his own responsibility in regard to appeals made to him as Minister for Labour and should not pass them on for decision to the Department of Social Welfare. I hope to illustrate the importance of this for the Minister. The appeals officers are supposed to be independent officials. Their status will be set by the Minister who appoints them, but in this case it is not the Minister for Labour who decides the status of the appeals officers in regard to the various matters mentioned in this Bill—redundancy payments and so on. This will be determined by officers in another Department and it is the Minister for Social Welfare who will decide the status of these officers.

Once this legislation leaves this House and goes to the Seanad and is dealt with there, the Minister for Labour will be powerless to do anything about this matter. His power will then have been transferred and I suggest that he is willingly transferring it and that he is unwise to do so because at a later stage the Minister for Labour will be answering questions in regard to these matters though he will not have responsibility for them. For instance, if the Minister is not satisfied in his Department in regard to the quality of a decision which has come from these deciding officers, what power will he have to remove these officers or to vary that decision? What power will he have to supervise these officers who are in another Department?

This is a crazy trend and I hope the Minister will forgive me if I refer to other pieces of legislation which we recently have had before us and which clearly revealed a crazy pattern in regard to supervision and responsibility as between Ministers. The Minister for Labour will recall that a week or so ago the Minister for Local Government introduced a Road Traffic Bill, the responsibility for whose administration will lie with the Minister for Justice. Then we had the corollary of the Minister for Justice introducing a Bill dealing with ground rents, the availability of housing and of sites and so on. That is surely in the province of the Department of Local Government and it seems to form a strange kind of pattern.

I have no doubt we shall be told there are reasons for this. In this case the Minister justifies it by telling us that social welfare payments are tied up with redundancy payments and lump sums in regard to redundancy. I have seen these sections in the Bill and I do not think it is beyond the compass of officials in the Department of Labour, who will be dealing with these payments, to ascertain at any stage from the Department of Social Welfare whether a prospective recipient is receiving benefits under the social welfare code. Every applicant for benefits, whether social welfare or otherwise, must, first of all, make a statement as to whether he is in receipt of payments or benefits of another kind. This is a standard pattern in regard to social welfare at the present time.

The Minister, therefore, should not hand over his responsibility in this way. Decisions in regard to lay-off and part-time employment should be decided as it is stated in section 37 by such and so many persons as the Minister thinks proper to be deciding officers. The section also says that these officers will hold office during the pleasure of the Minister. I take serious objection in principle to this kind of status being conferred on these officers, whoever they may be. What does the phrase "hold office during the pleasure of the Minister" connote to the ordinary individual? I suggest it immediately creates doubts in the minds of the people looking at it. I put it in this fashion for the purpose of highlighting a matter which I think the Minister should look at very seriously. If deciding officers decide matters in a certain fashion, would the Minister be empowered, at his pleasure, to dismiss them? I should like the Minister to have the power——

But not to use it.

If the Minister for Social Welfare had the power, could the Minister for Social Welfare remove them? In the main, this will be a Committee Stage Bill and on Second Reading, I do not want to go into these matters unduly. Why should these officers not be appointed on terms and conditions laid down by the Minister, terms and conditions which will be open to inspection and, if necessary, criticism by any Member of either House of the Oireachtas? Leaving such matters as the conditions in regard to lay-offs and redundancy payments to those I have heard described as "faceless individuals" is not the way it should be done. We ought to know about these officers and their terms and conditions of employment.

If we are to allow decisions to pass over to Social Welfare, I am sure the Minister, both as a Minister and as a Deputy, has as much experience as any Member on any side of the House of what happens to appeals in the Department of Social Welfare. We are all aware of the decisions given by deciding officers at local level. The most exasperating situations are created for the people directly involved, the applicants, who get stereotyped replies telling them that under section 53 of No. 57 of 1934 or 1953, or whatever it is, they are turned down. The applicants do not know where they stand or what are their rights.

Written into that kind of legislation —and indeed into this legislation—is an appeal to the High Court. I challenge the Minister to say whether from 1952 to 1967 there have been even six or ten cases of appeals to the High Court under the social welfare code. The Minister will find that there have not been because a person can appeal only on a point of law and not on a point of fact. He cannot have a decision stated on which he may argue. This raises the whole question of appeals to an appeals officer. I recently raised with the Minister for Social Welfare a case of whether or not a person should get the extra 5/-social welfare payment. The old lady in question was turned down. That was communicated to her, but she was not told why. When a question was asked in regard to it, it transpired she was obtaining benefit from a plot of ground on which there were some cabbage plants. I do not have to bother the Minister with these cases because I am sure he has as many of them as any other Deputy and that he has made representations on them to the Minister for Social Welfare.

To come back to these deciding officers and appeals officers, I would expect the Minister, in the appointment of these officers, to have regard to certain facts. I would suggest to him that he appoint his own. Somebody might say to me: "You are going to create more jobs." I am prepared to create more jobs if I believe it means the persons affected will get a better, a more ready and more logical decision. I notice in today's paper that a body of officers are complaining they are very often decried because of decisions they have to give under legislation. I have admitted in the House that I think it is we, the Members of the House, who are crazy in that we have not spelled out the type of regulations under which these officers are expected to work and have not given them that measure of freedom of interpretation which ought to be their due if they are to discharge their responsibilities in a humane fashion, as it was meant they should when the legislation was going through the House.

I take it that the Minister wants the decisions to be taken by these men to be taken in that fashion? To that end I want to put a number of questions to him in regard to these officers. First, what does he think ought to be their rank? Secondly, are they to get any preliminary training of any kind? Will they be experienced in any way in regard to conditions in industry? Will they be capable of understanding the outlook of workers in industry, particularly workers under the stress of a threat of redundancy? Will their decisions be given in writing for reasons stated? This is all-important. When they do give decisions, they should be given in writing for reasons stated. You cannot challenge a decision when you do not know the basis on which it is made.

If the Minister agrees with me that these are valid points in regard to these officers, I think these matters should be written into the legislation. I do not accept that decisions should be given in the stereotyped fashion in which decisions have been given by Social Welfare, whether on questions of unemployment benefit, the latest form of farm assistance or old age pensions, widows' pensions, orphans' pensions and so on. Stereotyped replies are given which convey nothing to the individuals receiving them.

Another question is: within what time limits will decisions have to be given? I raise these matters now so that when we come to the Committee Stage, the Minister may have the answers for me. I would be very pleased to hear them at that stage. I want to put another query to the Minister, arising from the decision to allow it to pass over to Social Welfare. We are all aware of the long list of cases awaiting decision by Social Welfare down in Aras Mhic Dhiarmada. The Minister has given answers in the House time and time again that there have been delays of three months or six months or some other number of months. Delay should not occur in regard to decisions under this Bill.

I want to ask the Minister quite seriously if there is this long list of appeals, is it not quite clear that the Minister for Labour will be powerless to get rid of the backlog? If I may be facetious, the Minister can open a file and the file can go from the Minister for Labour to the Minister for Social Welfare asking him would he consider appointing a few more deciding officers. This highlights the fact that in any legislation which is the province of the Minister's office he should keep the decisions within that office and they should not pass from him. No matter how willing officials may be, the machine of officialdom is so geared that files will be created and will grow because a file must pass from one to another and everybody adds a little bit as it goes along. I would suggest to the Minister that it would be much easier to expedite matters in his own Department rather than try to deal with them through some other Department.

There are, as I have said, a number of points which will require clarification on Committee Stage. There are quite a number of points of interpretation that we will have to raise. For instance, we would like a definition of "employee" and whom this is supposed to cover. There are phrases like "expressed or implied". Again it will be a question of who is to determine what is expressed and what is implied. For instance, who will determine between "a contract of service" and "a contract for service". Section 4 appears innocuous but the phrase is used "insurable for all benefits". The word "all" is a very significant word in the context in which it is used—"all benefits under the Social Welfare Acts". What about clerks who happen to have an income of £1.201 and who make contributions in relation to the widow's pension? What will be their position? Will they be outside the section? Take manual labour, clerical work or otherwise. What will be the position of, say, analysts who may have an income of £1,250? These are points that I mention to the Minister as falling for discussion on Committee stage.

As to the question of working for the same employer for less than 25 hours in a week, what is the position of charladies or part-time waitresses? The Minister has mentioned that there are various classes of workers whom he will be thinking about later.

This Bill is not to apply to a person who attains the age of 65. What is to happen to persons between the ages of 65 and 70? What is to happen to these persons at this most defenceless period of their lives? There are no pensions for them at the age of 65. At 65½ years they are not going to be redundant. They will have to carry on until they are 70 years of age, until such time as the social welfare pension is available.

The Minister did say that he will have discussions with the agricultural community in regard to the application of this Bill to persons engaged in the agricultural industry. That will be a very big problem. The Minister is aware that according to projections being made there will be approximately 70,000 persons coming off the land in X years. Will any provision be made for that situation? I realise that it is a large problem. It is another matter that is not at the moment written into the Bill.

In section 4 subsection (3) (b) it is provided that the Act shall not apply in respect of employment where the employer is a relative of the employee. Certain relationships are mentioned. Has the Minister thought in terms of brother-in-law and sister-in-law? Under the social welfare code, an employer is not allowed to stamp a card in respect of a relative unless that relative is living in a separate house. These are additional matters that can be discussed on Committee Stage.

As to the question of entitlement to redundancy payment and this matter of 12 weeks, I am sure that the Minister, being a rural Deputy, is aware of the special position in which road workers may find themselves in this modern age when machinery is eliminating this type of employment. I listened to the Minister for Industry and Commerce here today expressing his concern for places like Limerick. I did not want to interrupt at that stage but I should like to say now that I wish there were special regard for people in the West Limerick area where, despite the fact that there are four large towns, one of them, Newcastlewest, the premier county town, there has never been an industry and where even shops are shutting down. The application of this Bill will not be confined to the larger centres but will vitally affect even the rural areas.

It seems strange that a Redundancy Payments Bill should be introduced at a time when, according to published information, there is a shortage of skilled labour in certain sections of industry. I am sure the Minister has seen the Quarterly Industrial Survey issued by the Economic and Social Research Institute in January 1967. Statistics are given on page 3 of that survey as to the availability of skilled labour. Three headings are used: "easily", "sufficiently" and "with difficulty". The following percentages are given as to the industries in which skilled labour can be obtained with difficulty: total manufacturing, 48 per cent; food, drink and tobacco, 25 per cent; textiles and clothing, 78 per cent; metals engineering and vehicles, 39 per cent and other industries, 48 per cent.

These statistics are borne out by the Joint Industrial Survey of April, 1967. For instance, in regard to the industrial group and all manufacturing, where the question was put to firms: "Could more be produced with present resources?", where firms replied "no", they gave the reason as to why more could not be produced and in 17 per cent of the cases, shortage of manpower was the reason given. In regard to industrial textiles, under the same headings, in 38 per cent of cases, the shortage of manpower is the reason why these firms could not produce more. In regard to clothing and footwear, it is 35 per cent.

This would seem to suggest that we ought to be concentrating on industrial training. This would seem to be part of the answer to the kind of problems which the Minister is not afraid of but which are going to arise. He is not, he said, unduly pessimistic in regard to redundancy, but these are the problems which it is feared moving with the times will bring this country and other countries.

Therefore, we cannot be too early or too radical in providing the necessary skilled manpower. The urgency of industrial training extends downwards even to the section with which the Minister for Education is dealing, those who are leaving school. That combined with the intention of the Government to move into the Common Market and the exploratory missions which the Taoiseach is about to undertake, highlights the urgency of industrial training schemes. The Minister is well aware of the position from the office of Minister for Education which he has held; he has figures in his mind of the number of young people who are school leavers seeking work. It will become increasingly difficult for them to find work if they have not got the kind of training, industrial training, which will guarantee them a job in the world of tomorrow.

The Bill, as I say, is one which will need close examination on Committee Stage. There will be quite a number of points to be elucidated. I hope the discussion will be helpful to the Minister and that it will lead to the clarification which is needed on certain points so as to ease people's minds. As to the Bill as we have it at the moment, as I said at the outset, I do not think the Government can take any great credit for it; they are not contributing to it at all. Indeed, one might say that if there had been more attention given to the question of re-training and the question of getting industry going, the need for the Bill would not be as great as it is.

At the beginning of his speech and at the finish, the Minister created an air of optimism on the question of redundancy. I hope he is fully justified in his optimism. I hope the kind of things he has in mind for the undeveloped areas will come about. I hope the projection of 77,000 leaving the land will not come about, because if it should, it would throw a grave burden on the Minister's office. With the modern trend of getting young people to remain on longer at school and to engage more in this kind of training, the opporutnities should be available for expansion if we can get industry of the type into the country which needs the kind of manpower we have for it.

There is one other matter, a detail of the Bill, which I am sure the Minister will have in mind. It is the question of employees within the State and without the State. I hope this does not recognise a barrier. There are people in this State who have part of their industry up across the Border at the moment. I hope we can keep the country as a unit so far as our nationals going up there are concerned.

The people for whom this piece of legislation is intended to provide will naturally be concerned at the threat of losing their work and at the prospect of the wage packet suddenly going and being left with nothing. I mentioned this question of the time-lag in these matters. I hope there will not be any time-lag when the Minister comes to administer this scheme, that workers who do unfortunately find themselves in that position will enjoy continuity of their wage packet, even to the extent of 90 per cent, and that there will not be this break for inquiries, decisions, appeals, and so on. This is something that should not and must not happen with this legislation.

I want again to say to the Minister that I hope he will take a very serious look at the question of letting responsibility pass from himself to Social Welfare. Even given the best will in the world on the part of the Minister for Social Welfare, the Minister for Labour is the person who must deal with this legislation. I would ask him earnestly to keep the working of this measure within his own Department where he himself will be able to clear the bottleneck, so that there will be quick decisions and those who will be undergoing a period of stress will be helped as soon as possible.

When we come to Committee Stage, we on this side of the House hope to be helpful to the Minister, but in the meantime we offer these criticisms of the legislation. We do so with the best intentions in the world and with best wishes for the success of the kind of legislation the Minister would like to see.

We on this side of the House have been waiting impatiently for this Bill, because we have been convinced for some time that legislation of the kind we are offered here was necessary. We could see that Irish workers being displaced, because of technological advances, or becoming redundant if they were to have any protection, needed some statutory minimum below which their earnings would not fall in times of disemployment as a result of freer trade, competition and so on. As I say, we have been waiting a long time for this. At different times the Minister has offered different excuses for the delay in the production of this Bill. Looking over the Bill, I cannot see that the end-product offers much in the way of meeting the objections put by our side in the discussions that took place prior to the formulation of the Bill. It certainly does not approximate in any degree to the advantages enjoyed by our fellow-countrymen who find themselves in a similar position in the North. If the excuse is put forward that a great deal of drafting was necessary, then one can reply that the British Government under Wilson has done all the drafting necessary and all our civil servants had to do was to have a look at the provisions in the British Bill in order to get over some of the difficulties, at least, that might be involved in drafting. Our fellow-countrymen in the North enjoy far better conditions also in terms of retraining and from the point of view of the other provisions essential if industry is to have proper legislation governing provision for training and retraining of workers, and so forth. We shall be discussing this in detail on Committee Stage.

At the outset, we must clearly understand that this Bill takes second place from the point of view of the provisions obtaining for those workers who are ground under the tyranny of the Stormont regime. They have, in fact, a far better deal from that Government than we are getting from ours in this Bill. We have been calling for the introduction of some kind of minimum legislation because we appreciate that the kind of social welfare provisions we have here are quite inadequate and constitute in no degree a protection for the worker who is out of work. It has always been extremely unfashionable to refer to this kind of thing because, down the years, people did not consider that society ought to be just. We, in the Labour Party, have all down through the years been drawing attention to the inadequacy of our social welfare code. So bad has it been that at no stage did it allow us any excuse for inactivity in bringing in legislation of the kind now offered here.

Building workers and dock workers are excluded from this Bill. The Minister referred to the setting up of special working parties. The setting up of working parties has always operated to delay. The Government set up a working party when they cannot come to a decision or when they do not want to bring about some desired result for a number of years. I query whether the setting up of a working party in relation to dockers and workers on building schemes——

Until they get the special scheme, they will be in the main scheme.

What is the working party then involved in?

It makes a special scheme because some feel they are not suitable for inclusion.

But there is a difference, is there not, in the case of those working on building schemes and in the docks?

There is a difference. They are in the main scheme until such time as a special scheme is produced for them.

There is a proviso with regard to four years' continuous service; it is the rare building worker who will have four years' continuous service.

He will have a special scheme.

The Minister will agree that quite a number will be excluded.

That is so.

That is what I want to establish. At any rate, we will have a working party to look after the matter and we will, I hope, have a special scheme. We will deal with all that on Committee Stage. Over the years we have called attention to the inadequacy of our social welfare payments and we have waited impatiently for this legislation. This is not a new deal for workers who are declared redundant. This is minimum legislation. The Minister has warned about not opposing change and the obligation of seeing redundancy as part of the necessary changes in our society, changes intimately associated with economic development and economic prosperity. I wonder if we have not missed the real meaning of redundancy. I wonder if a number of employers have not, in fact, fallen into the trap of disregarding the grave import of redundancy to the individual worker. I fail to see the progress involved in certain workers being declared redundant over the past year or two. There have been all too many unfortunately declared redundant. The man who loses his employment in the cause of progress will not feel too happy in his position in the onward march.

The regrettable thing is that representations were made to the Government in 1963 by the unions in relation to redundancy. This is 1967, four years later, and all we have had in the interim is hot air and special working parties. Now we have this legislation. When we did make representations, there was a kind of euphoria in official Government circles. That was the time when we were looking forward to 86,000 extra in the labour force by 1970. That date has now been advanced another decade to 1980. It is more a matter now of television programmes rather than actuality or practicality. The anticipated increase in 1963 was 86,000. This is 1967 and our targets are set considerably lower. In fact, our targets have tumbled. They are reserved now for television programmes.

If I remember rightly, the CIO at that particular period, having examined the jobs of 105,000 workers in manufacturing industry in the country, considered that if all adaptation measures were taken—if you remember, I think there were 15 reports over each industry—and if we topped up the number of measures that they requested on Irish industry, the number of adaptations that were necessary, ranging all the way from the changing of management structure itself down to the installation of new machinery—we would certainly get a most formidable list of changes that were essential in Irish industry—and if Irish management were good enough to take the tax concessions a benevolent Government is pleading with them to take to improve their industry then there would be only 11,000 redundant in Irish industry in the jobs of those 105,000 workers that were examined. If these measures were not taken the CIO said we could imagine redundancy in the region of 23,000 workers in the jobs of those 105,000 workers that were examined. Admittedly, at that period, such was our optimism for the future — we had a man who was certainly gifted in public relations in command of the Government at that period—that we believed that, to offset these dangerous figures produced by CIO, there was a possibility that by 1970 we would have 86,000 new jobs in Irish industry. Now, in 1967, the weather being a little bit damper, our figures and our targets are a little bit more modest.

We must see this Bill against the more alarming picture exposed at this time of the future of our economy and against the kind of picture exposed last year and what we can see of it this year. It is against this kind of background that we must measure the effectiveness of this Bill. I do not think —CIO have, in fact, referred to this already also — that this Bill deals with the financial aspect—admittedly inadequate financial aspect—but deals with the purely financial aspect in the name of redundancy. We cannot isolate the aspect of a man's losing his job and also of his possible re-entry into the work force, re-training and the provision of an alternative job. It is against this background and the failure of the economy to come up with sufficient jobs that we must see if this Bill will provide any real improvement for the people who will be concerned with it.

Again, we heard today, at the end of Question Time, that the Taoiseach is arranging to pass through some European countries to find out what is happening to our application to enter the Common Market. I think it shows the lack of a sense of urgency in official circles that on the same day we are discussing in its Second Stage a Bill concerned with redundancy against the kind of figures we can expect in Irish industry in redundancy in the years ahead. The Taoiseach will be going on his trip through Europe next month and today we are discussing how we can introduce redundancy legislation in this country.

The Minister has been at pains to inform us that the discussion of redundancy does not mean that the economy is going backwards. The figures are there for all of us to see. The redundancy Bill is with us. There is as yet no practical programme of training or re-settlement of workers in evidence in the country despite the fact that we are up to our necks in negotiation for entry into EEC. Whilst many speeches have been made over recent years on the challenge, as it is called, of the EEC, little in fact has been done on the home front; little in fact has been done by this Government to prepare this country for what the late Deputy William Norton called many years ago "an excruciating experience for Irish industry" if we enter this Common Market competitive jungle.

The Bill here expresses that—in considering eligibility—we must look for people with at least four years' continuous service with the same employer in the case of workers who would hope to come under this and the service of a worker under 18 years is to be disregarded and all eligibility is to cease at the age of 65. There is the difficulty that has already been mentioned in regard to dock workers and building workers. Surely a fairer continuous service period and one more in conformity with the kind of industry we have in this country would be to put it, say, at a two-year continuous service period? Surely this would approximate more to the kind of industry we have in this country?

There are quite a number of jobs in Dublin where a worker does not have more than a very short period of continuous service. We can see the position in Irish industry where, through no fault of his own, a worker may have to change jobs many times over a period of a few years. The terms of this Bill are more suited to a heavier and more industrialised country than in fact this is. The average experience of many workers would suggest that, in fact, their period of service with a particular employer must be far shorter than that of the average worker in most other more heavily-industrialised European countries. There are many jobs with large firms in Dublin where a worker reluctantly takes up employment for a period in between jobs. There is quite a number of that sort of thing. It would surely more truly approximate to the problems of this country if we had specified a shorter period of continuous service for eligibility for a worker to come under this scheme.

Again, we would have thought that the lump sum payment should at least have been put down to a maximum, say, of five years' continuous service. This surely—again following the same argument—would have applied to the workers who had been fortunate enough to get employment in Irish industry. Five years' continuous service would be pretty high by comparison with the periods of continuous service that workers in other countries in Europe might enjoy, in Britain especially. The lump sum redundancy payments in the Bill are half a week's pay for each year of employment between the ages of 18 and 40 and one week's pay for each year of employment over 40 years subject to a maximum of 16 weeks' pay. Here, surely, there should have been a shorter period. Just consider half a week's pay for each year of employment between the ages of 18 and 40. In Britain, they offered half a week's pay for the years between 18 and 21—I suppose on the basis that, at that stage, the worker involved would have been unmarried. Here, however, the cheese-paring went to the extent of half a week's pay for all the responsible years of the normal adult worker's life between the ages of 18 and 40. The British legislation, which applies in the North of Ireland, refers to 1½ weeks' pay for those over 40. I just mention these figures to show that the Government have been guilty of cheese-paring in this legislation. This legislation does not truly answer the problem of industry and the people who will be affected.

I know that later today we will have the brass band of Fianna Fáil Deputies parading and thanking the Minister for the great work he has done in bringing in this legislation. We will have the showpiece trade unionists of the Fianna Fáil Party talking about what a great job he has done. I know the Minister will be as embarrassed as many more of us will be when he hears the comments of these showpiece trade unionists on this legislation. What we want on this Bill is honest discussion about whether it is to mean any improvement for the people who will be suffering. We can see some of the cheese-paring when we look at Schedule 3 where it refers to "Normal Weekly Remuneration". Care is taken to exclude overtime for the purposes of calculation.

One is worried about the kind of deciding officer who will preside over the interpretation of the Bill's provisions. It is well known that it is not the common experience that officials know the facts of industry here and one is worried about the possibility of a man who has worked at a certain routine all his life being asked to decide, in relation to such matters as shift work and so on, whether a man is applicable for this kind of payment. At any rate, when one reads this Part of the Bill, one sees that care is taken in relation to things like overtime and the qualifications surrounding bonuses not to err on the side of generosity to the workers who will be at the butt end of this Act.

It is suggested that there should be weekly redundancy payments of 50 per cent of previous payments. Representations have been made in regard to the weekly redundancy payment that we should at least have seen the kind of problem of a worker who is out of work as a result of things beyond his control and that we should at least look for 75 per cent of the average weekly earnings for the best of the previous three years' earnings and also that payments should have been made for a minimum period of six months. We are being over-confident if we think that a person put out of work as a result of technological changes, or more competition, is not going to be out of work for a much longer period than this legislation anticipates. Certainly that is true from what we can see in regard to new jobs coming up.

Whilst this legislation—leaving aside the financial aspects which are unsatisfactory—might answer the problem in an economy which had an increasing number of jobs coming up, it does not answer the problem in an economy such as ours, which is on the down-grade and where the number of jobs is decreasing rather than increasing. In this situation we need a longer period of protection and security of earnings for employees than would be the case if we had an expanding economy. It is also true to say that the workers themselves will be contributing heavily to the cost of this scheme. Male workers will contribute 4d a week and female workers will contribute 3d a week. We see that there will be a sugar coating for those employers who will be good enough to give the necessary notice to their employees. There will be a 2½ per cent increase on the lump sum added to a rebate in respect of each extra week of notice given in excess of the minimum period of two weeks. Therefore, to the employer who is good enough to accept that in 1967 he should give at least two weeks' notice, we will give him a monetary reward.

He has to give two weeks' notice. He does not have to agree to it.

The point I am making is that we give him a little reward.

We encourage him to do more.

The rebate will be one-half of the lump sum paid but a bonus of 2½ per cent of the lump sum will be added to a rebate in respect of each extra week of notice given in excess of the minimum period of two weeks.

In excess.

The State will give a rebate of 2½ per cent to an employer who gives more than two weeks' notice and says to his employees: "You are out of work; there will be no further work for you in two weeks." Presumably this principle of industrial good behaviour can be applied to both sides in industry. I do not see any rewards for the worker who is doing a good job. Throughout the Bill we see the cheeseparing when it comes to the unfortunate individual who with his family will have to survive for months while he looks for a job, while the employers who are already stuffed to the gills with tax concessions and so on, and with whom the State is pleading to adapt their industries, will be given this rebate. As well as the Fianna Fáil trade union lobby, we have the Fianna Fáil employers lobby here. The employer lobby of the Fianna Fáil Party have had plenty of formidable experience of firing workers without consultation or notification. Perhaps there will be the possibility of some dialogue between that element and the trade union brass band in the discussion on this legislation.

Perhaps the Deputy would like to expand on that?

The employer members of Fianna Fáil who do not believe it is necessary to inform workers that a lay-off will occur——

To whom is the Deputy referring?

To employer members of Fianna Fáil.

That is gorgeously slanderous.

In the motor car assembly industry, we had the unhappy experience of many hundreds of workers being laid off without notification.

Was that done by the Fianna Fáil lobby?

By employers in Dublin. Certain Fianna Fáil employers know what the conditions are.


Order. The Deputy should be allowed to make his speech without interruption.

He should not be slanderous.

I am talking about facts which are known to many hundreds of workers who were laid off.

The Deputy should come out in the open and say what he means.

They are picketing trade unions now.

I missed that one.

I said that the workers are picketing the trade unions now.

Very early the organisation representing workers, in looking at this matter of redundancy, sought as one of the most important things from the employers, that adequate notice be given of the employer's intention in regard to laying off workers. Experience of the past year or two was that many Irish employers still felt it was not necessary to tell the people who work for a living what were their plans for future employment. There is still a number of workers in the car building and vehicle assembly industry who do not know if their jobs will be there next year. Of all industries in Dublin I should say there is very little evidence of any real serious intention on the part of employers in that industry to consult the workers. This is not good enough in the circumstances of our time. If there is to be true consultation, employers must be prepared to come out openly and talk to the workers about the state of the industry and whether jobs will be there for them next year and where they will fit into the general scheme of things. Employers must get away from the practice of saying to workers on a Wednesday evening: "Take your cards on Friday as we will not need you here for the next few weeks at any rate." That has occurred in industries where overtime has been the order of the day up to two or three weeks before this lay off.

This Bill understands the psychology of such employers because it says that if they are good enough to give an extra week's notice, in addition to the statutory two weeks' notice in the Bill, there will be a bonus of two and a half per cent in respect of each extra week's notice. It understands the policy of these cash register merchants and cash appears to be the only consideration——

The State does not give the two and a half per cent.

Do they not get a rebate from the State, from the legislation prepared by the State?

The Deputy is giving me all the credit.

Let us say that this Bill gives that rebate and I am sure the Bill has some relation to the Minister's wishes in this respect. I think the Minister will understand my function here. He knows the discussions that have taken place and I am here merely to counteract the rather embarrassing bouquets that will be thrown at him for the remainder of the evening by the brass band of trade unionists in his own Party.

What is the Deputy worried about?

I am not worried about it; I know there will not be one fact in the whole thing. I have seen examples of these plaudits earlier. My function here is to bring up as far as possible the position of the people who will be at the butt end of this legislation, those who will have to make do on the rather meagre financial concessions given in the Bill. I have pointed out that this legislation is very much a second runner to legislation brought in by the rather dyed-in-the-wool Tory administration in the Six Counties.

There is provision in the Bill for redundancy payments subject to a maximum of 16 weeks' pay. This may mean for many Irish workers merely £160, because many such workers are still living on £10 a week. I wonder if there has been any realistic thinking in the Department about the duration of unemployment workers may face. Admittedly, the Minister says we shall learn by experience and that he is ready to change it if experience is one way or the other but the initial production of this Bill suggests there has not been a great deal of realistic thinking about the period for which workers can expect to be unemployed between jobs. Expansion in Irish industry is not such as to suggest that this period will be short—rather the contrary— because jobs are not there and presumably for many workers there will be a pretty long wait.

From the outset we have said that even if we had the most wonderful provision for workers out of jobs, the really essential thing so far as they are concerned is to obtain alternative work and in so many cases this is not possible. In the past year we have seen a brewery close down in Portlaoise and many workers thrown out of their jobs. Later, some kind of chicken farm was started, although I could not see very much connection between a brewery and a chicken farm, but this chicken coop has now closed down. When we talk of the transferability of a worker, this is only possible where there is some link between the job he leaves and the one to which he goes. Where that does not exist, the possibility of transferring does not arise. We talk about geographical mobility and transferability but so far as the choices facing workers in different parts of the country are concerned, I believe the pattern of emigration has been set from time immemorial, in certain places, emigration to Liverpool, Manchester and other industrial towns in Britain.

These are some of the drawbacks of the present situation, and they are drawbacks which should put in perspective the frenzy of diplomatic activity of the Government in tours to Europe and so on and their complete inactivity on the home front where such activity is essential in the workers' interests. We have mollycoddled inefficient Irish industrialists for years and we have now discovered that they are not up to the standard required to meet competition, that they have no intention of adapting, that they do not give a curse about their workers and will lay them off. In this legislation we actually understand this and suggest there will be a rebate for the good boy of an employer who will give an extra week's notice.

This is a very alarming situation, irrespective of Party considerations and it may even sink through the rhinoceros skin of the loyalty of trade unionists in Fianna Fáil that this Government are not truly concerned with the people who work for a living, that they are not a Government who can be applauded for the kind of legislation produced in this case. The trade unions that are attacked by some of the trade unionists opposite first brought forward their proposals on redundancy in 1963. Let them answer that one. They made proposals for redundancy compensation. This is 1967 and we now have the first piece of legislation in that connection. Later this month the Taoiseach will go to the continent of Europe to see whether we are being allowed into that particular club. I think this is a class of non-activity by the Government, a lack of concern for the real problems of the working people, that will need a good deal of answering. The real tragedy of the situation facing us is that people are waking up too late to the kind of laziness that has existed in Government circles and the lack of activity in preparation that should have taken place.

I do not know if there is any thing else I can have a shot at in this Bill at this stage. Yes—No. 8, which states:

An employee will not be entitled to a redundancy payment if he unreasonably refuses to accept an offer of suitable alternative employment by his employer.

We have often in this House spent a number of days on clauses in some minor Bill which might have something to do with whether £100,000 which a man had to leave was to go to his daughter or his son. The plain concern of the Deputies who spent such time on this particular clause was to whom the money was to go. I wonder how much time will the House, these Deputies who had so much time to spend on that £100,000, have to devote to whether the freedom of an employee is being impaired if he reasonably refuses to accept alternative employment by his employer. We will have, presumably, a deciding officer who will decide whether in fact the employee has reasonably refused.

I am not a trained lawyer but I would say that any trained lawyer could run a coach and four through this. In circumstances such as these when an employee is offered employment, it could be employment which is completely unacceptable to him. It might not even be suitable for him. He might be offered a lower rate of pay or there might be many other disadvantages attaching to it. Despite this, we leave this wide open and say: "If he unreasonably refuses to accept an offer of suitable alternative employment". Are we quite sure that if the worker refuses this employment, it would constitute an unreasonable refusal in respect of the loss of pay involved? Such a person could be offered employment in a firm which might not remain in operation. It could be closed down after a short time. Are all those elements to be considered as unreasonable?

I want to tell the Minister this. We propose to go through every provision of this Bill with our viewpoint as representing the workers' attitude to it. Any amendments we bring forward will show up the deficiencies of this Bill. I shall await with great interest the comments of the trade unionists in the Fianna Fáil Party. I do not mean their comments this afternoon because this afternoon will be a stage curtain raising by those individuals. I hope they will be prepared to discuss the amendments we bring forward.

You will need some help.

When we come to the amendments, we will have ample time to hear the Party over there and what their comments are, quite apart from congratulations, or that type of nonsense, to the Minister, which we will hear this afternoon.

I never said a word.

I am just anticipating the Deputy. I want to say this. I know the Minister is one of the adults of the Government and will be embarrassed as I would expect any reasonable man to be by the comments we hear from those Deputies over there. There will be room for serious discussion when we come down to the amendment stage and when we bring forward some of the reservations we feel.

We have waited a great number of years for this legislation. While we were waiting for this Bill, many workers, not defended and protected by unions, have in fact passed out of Irish industry with not so much as a "thank you" from the Irish employers. Quite a number of industries closed down during that time for some of the reasons which this Bill seeks to withstand. The workers involved in many of those industries which closed down were not in trade unions and did not receive anything from their employers. Having waited so long, it can be understood that we want to protect the workers in regard to the deficiencies in this Bill.

As far as we are concerned there will be serious criticism from this Party of this Bill. It will be purely on behalf of the workers and will not be made for any partisan reason. The overall thing is that this legislation is absolutely necessary. There can be no doubt about that but the provisions of this Bill are rather the product of cheese-paring by the official mind with no reasonable concern for the people who will be at the butt end of this matter.

At the receiving end.

At the butt end. Let us not quibble over this. We must not leave out of sight the fact that there will be many families in this country who will have no other defence or security of income for a long period of time in the years ahead and it is important that in this House we intend to bring in legislation which will truly protect those families in the years ahead.

The situation which we find in the economy is not good. When we first looked at this redundancy matter many years ago, we thought, as I said at the outset, in terms of the jobs examined in Irish industry—105,000 jobs were examined—that if all the adaptation measures were taken, 11,000 might be declared redundant and if these measures were not taken, 23,000 would be declared redundant. The measures recommended by the CIO in that period aimed at the large scale sacking of a great number of people who graced directors' chairs in Irish industry, people who do not have any particular knowledge of Irish industry, who apparently have no regard for the workers, and were designed to end that situation. It has not ended, and unfortunately this Bill does not appear to set down any serious approach to it, unlike some countries on the Continent where people in private industry who were not doing their job in the way the Government considered they should, were cut off from tax concessions and other steps taken to see that the policy of those firms was changed. This has not been done here. The different provisions of this will have the greatest attention from the Labour Party.

As a trade unionist of good standing, fully paid up to 31st December of this year, which is probably more than many of the people on the opposite benches can say, I want to sympathise with Deputy O'Leary. If his is the best the Labour Party can do in relation to this Bill, the Minister will have an easy time. Deputy O'Leary for the past halfhour or so dealt with a variety of matters, some related to the Bill and others to other Bills. I shall deal with this as time goes on.

First of all I want to congratulate the Minister on introducing this Bill. It is just another step along the long road which is paved with various aids to the workers, starting away back when we came to office in 1932. Those various aids to workers, whether holiday pay, conditions of employment or matters such as are in this Bill or other Bills going through the House at the moment or have already gone through the House, have all been the work of a Fianna Fáil Government.

As a worker, I understand workers to a greater degree than Deputy O'Leary who never had to dirty his hands. It is only the people who have to work in the workshop who can really understand the ordinary workers. The approach which Deputy O'Leary has in regard to them is whether they, as trade unionists, pay their contributions. That is as far as he is concerned about what he can get for them. He shed a lot of salty tears today for the unfortunate workers. If he wants to do anything for the workers he must be completely in touch with them. If he wants to be their mouthpiece in Dáil Éireann, he must show that he is interested and keep in touch.

As distinct from mouth.

The question of redundancy will not arise in future. It has arisen on many occasions in the past. Redundancy in CIE was tackled by Fianna Fáil not so long ago to the satisfaction of all the workers. They were satisfied with the amounts they received and they were entirely satisfied with the industrial state of the country. There were occasions in 1956, 1957 and 1948 when the people were scattered. There was no question of redundancy payments then. There were aircraft technicians and people in the industrial and building trades who had to emigrate in 1956 and 1957. There was no regard for their future employment in industry when the shutters were put up by the Labour Party and their associates in that period.

This Bill gives the worker a sense of justice and a feeling of security for the future. He will also be able to meet his commitments in the period when he is awaiting further employment. There is recognition in the Minister's statement of the worker's rights in his job. If he is deprived of these rights through circumstances outside his control, he ought to be compensated. This will give the worker a new status and will mean better relations between management and workers. This is a recognition of the rights of the worker by Fianna Fáil and by the Minister for Labour. This will give comfort to the worker, knowing that if he becomes disemployed through circumstances outside his control he will receive redundancy payments. This Bill is one of the various measures to consolidate the worker in his job, in relation to conditions of employment, holidays and other matters, which this Government, on examination of the rights of the worker, have seen fit to introduce down the years.

There were two occasions when the Labour Party, in conjunction with their friends, had an opportunity to introduce legislation to meet these requirements, which were necessary then, and on no occasion have they done anything about it. Such action was necessary in 1948 when the Labour Party went into power and when they dispossessed hundreds of workers, but they did not think of the workers then. Redundancy was a dirty word when they scattered the workers who were in sound employment on a fortnight's notice—indeed, on a week's notice in 1948. These workers got no redundancy payment.

Again, in 1956-57 the Labour Party were in power for another three years and there was nothing but disaster. At that time we had 97,000 people on the labour exchange. In fact, the labour exchanges at that time were not big enough to cater for the volume of unemployed people who were knocking at the doors. There was no question of redundancy payments then and the Labour Party had been in power for two periods of three years.

Deputy O'Leary said that the Labour Party have always used pressure with regard to social welfare benefits. Of course, they have been speaking about this but they did not do anything about it when they were in power. Perhaps Deputy O'Leary would tell us what social welfare benefits he was talking about.

The Labour Party have never been in power, in case the Deputy does not know.

You had an opportunity of doing this. This is an admission that Fine Gael were in power and that you were as quiet as mice. That has already been said by Deputy Dillon —that you were as quiet as mice. You were, because during the period you had no opinion to offer and it is the only occasion in the history of the Party that you will have a chance of putting forward an opinion.

Your tears are even more salty now.

It is very easy to blame Fine Gael now.

I am not blaming Fine Gael. I am just saying that the Labour Party were not in power.

You just did not do anything. You did not think of the workers. The only contribution you made to the workers was to take away their employment and close the factories where some of the people could have been readily placed.

It is easy to speak on a redundancy Bill and the extent to which it should go when you are sitting on the opposite side of the House. You will have plenty of opportunity in future to sit on the opposite side and discuss the many Bills which will go through this House in relation to further improvements for the workers. I am sure the capable Deputy Hillery will ensure that the problem of the workers will be corrected to their satisfaction, and to the satisfaction of the nation as a whole, and that he will ensure a balanced sense of responsibility between management and labour.

This Bill is just another milestone on the road to ensuring that the workers will have the necessary protection during any crisis that may arise from time to time. With regard to employment, mention was made of the reluctance of some employers to keep pace with modern developments and modern techniques and methods. We should impress on those people who are at the helm in industry that it is necessary to ensure that they adapt themselves in the interests of the nation and the workers to ever-changing circumstances and be ready to meet new circumstances and new competition from outside. It certainly will not come from any laxity on the part of the Government, in so far as assistance is concerned, if the jobs which are anticipated or the industries which are in operation have not equipped themselves to meet new and changing circumstances. This assistance was criticised by Deputy O'Leary today; that people are getting all sorts of handouts in order to adapt themselves. This is necessary and desirable. I am glad to know that the Labour Party have gone on record as being opposed to the adaptation necessary to meet new competition.

I did not say that. The Deputy did not go to the trouble of listening.

Once there is a problem at all, you magnify it out of all proportion and then blame the Government—a very simple matter of putting across your point of view. But you can be quite sure that whatever the problems may be we have the men capable of tackling them. They will tackle and solve them in a manner which is just and in the best interests of the nation as a whole.

The Minister mentioned also the question of personnel managers. To my mind, this is something which is absolutely necessary and desirable. We have trained personnel managers who can assess the situation in relation to the industry in which they operate— assess the capacity of their workers for interchange and acceptability in other departments. They would have at their fingertips an assessment of the future development, which is something which would ensure harmony among the staff and better relations between management and workers, so desirable and necessary in many industries. We should applaud those people who have introduced personnel managers, who have accepted all the aids made available throughout the years in order to adapt themselves to meet these new conditions and so increase production and their personnel, and, in that way, assist not alone their workers and themselves but the nation as a whole.

As I said before, this Bill is the Government's answer in concrete terms. Whatever may be the limitations of this Bill, I am quite sure that if the Minister said that the period should be ten years Deputy O'Leary would say it should be five years; if the Minister said it should be four years, Deputy O'Leary would say it should be two. It is not merely today that happened; it happened for a period in the past when in relation to measures introduced here in regard to workers or to benefits given at Budget time, we were told they were only half as good as they should have been or, as on this occasion, the Minister's period was too long. That is one of the ways to put across to the people they are being fooled.

The Deputy surprises me with his cynicism.

There are quite a few items in the Minister's speech on which I should like to comment. Deputy Jones and Deputy O'Leary criticised the question of the contributions of workers and employers. Of course, the money could be got in other ways, by taxing the housewife and the unfortunate child who would have to pay their contribution towards the redundancy of the worker. The Minister's assessment of the situation is a realistic one and will meet with general approval, rather than taxing other people who would have to pay one way or another.

Going through the Minister's statement, we see there are some items which will be met by taxation—borne by the Exchequer—the provision of financial assistance to unemployed workers who must leave their homes early in order to secure employment. This is a step forward. In the past all too many people had to leave one area and go to another without any assistance from anyone. We have in this Bill the necessary means of assisting people who have to travel. The resettlement scheme will provide for payments to meet part of the cost of household removal, travel allowance, lodging allowance and part of the legal cost involved in selling a home in the area in which a worker resided to buy another.

These are very substantial assets to any worker and probably something which the Labour Party—or Fine Gael Party for that matter—never believed possible from any Government. It surpasses their understanding that the workers could get this type of treatment. Deputy O'Leary did not mention those points. He spoke about cheese-paring. This cheeseparing reminds me of a fellow setting a mousetrap and trying to decide how much cheese to use. Well, the mice have all gone; Deputy O'Leary had trapped them already.

We have here in realistic terms our assessment of the situation as a step on this road to progress so that the worker can exist in comfort, in understanding, and will have such a sense of security in the future that when the time does come when he is redundant, he will have a scheme to meet this travel allowance, lodging allowance or even legal costs involved in buying or selling a house. These are very substantial advances and the Minister is to be congratulated on them.

There are a few items in the Bill with which I am not terribly satisfied. The Minister refers to the lump sum payable by the employer direct to the worker. The amount of the payment, he says, will be related to the worker's length of service with that employer and to his normal earnings prior to redundancy. It may well happen—we have very cute employers in this country, as Deputy O'Leary pointed out——

Deputy Booth is looking at the Deputy now.

I suppose it grieves members of the Labour Party that we have people here who give good and valuable employment. It would seem to me that Deputy O'Leary is perturbed that we have people of this capacity in our ranks.

Good men in Taca!

We can talk about Taca too. We do not rob the workers to get our funds; we do not blackmail them into paying.

Will the Deputy give us his objection to the Minister's proposals?

I shall come to that. Under this Bill it will be no longer in the hands of trade union officials or others to see that their friends are retained and someone else goes. That was the position in the past. Many a man was pushed out the door because of a phone call between one office and another. It will mean now that every worker, irrespective of who he is, will have some security if, through redundancy of one type or another, he finds himself without employment.

With regard to the breaking of service, many employers have from time to time in the past in relation to holidays with pay deliberately broken the service of their employees in order to evade their responsibilities and this could very well happen under this section. I would ask the Minister to see that the necessary safeguards are there so that there will not be any succession of breaks in a man's service in order to deprive him of this lump sum the employer may have to pay. One of the things I fear is that there are employers who would continually break a man's service. The necessary safeguards will have to be there to ensure that workers are not victimised in this manner. There may or may not be something in this but I would ask the Minister to keep it in mind.

With regard to dismissal, the Minister says:

It is immaterial whether the dismissal is due to a change in production methods, falling off in demand for products, complete closure of the firm or its transfer to another area. Dismissal due to misconduct or some other fault of the employee would not, of course, rank as redundancy.

When it comes to paying out lump sums, I can well understand a lot of headhunting going on with some of the employers in this country. They will look for some opportunity to dismiss a man on the ground of misconduct in order to evade their responsibility. I would ask the Minister to ensure that this matter is kept under review in order to prevent such action. I know it has happened in the past. Misconduct is the reason that has been given when there was no answer at all to trade union or other representations on behalf of an employee. I would ask the Minister to ensure that this head-hunting that does and has taken place will not take place in the future.

The Minister says:

However, discharge due, say, to recession in business or to illness of the worker which proved to be only a temporary break and did not exceed 26 weeks in duration would not be regarded as breaking continuity.

This seems to be a reasonable period but I would ask the Minister to take into consideration the case of men who are in employment for a number of years and because of TB are forced to take long-term hospital treatment. I can readily see that some men due to the type of employment they are in are more likely to contract TB. In regard to a temporary break of this nature where TB is the factor and where there is long-term hospitalisation, the Minister should take into consideration the question of reckoning this period as service because this is something over which the man has no control.

I am at a loss to know whether Deputy O'Leary wanted men to get a week's, a fortnight's or a month's notice or whether there should be no incentive at all in the Bill to ensure they get longer notice. My only fear about this section is that an employer might give notice every week—whatever the period may be—until he intends to let them go. He might start dishing notices out every week in order to ensure that he will get the 65 per cent and while the employee would get reasonable notice, in that case, there is many a crafty employer here who will examine this Bill in great detail and if he thinks he can get an extra percentage out of it, he will look for it. I am sure there will be notices flying around like confetti at a wedding when some of the employers get their hands on this section.

I ask the Minister to safeguard against that. It is important that such a provision be used with discretion and to assist an employee rather than the other way around. I can well visualise that some of the employers will read this in relation to themselves. I know it is the Minister's intention to safeguard the worker and that that is his trend of thought, but where there are loopholes, I would ask him to see that they are sealed off and that unscrupulous individuals will not be able to avail of them.

Another Deputy mentioned that there were firms who have introduced schemes of one type or another and some of them have introduced redundancy schemes. However, you will find that in the firms where redundancy schemes have been introduced, there will never be any redundancy. This is one of the concessions that is held up to men which they can never obtain. You will find that in firms with redundancy schemes, redundancy is not in view at all. This is something to attract a worker and when they get him, if he is not suitable he goes within the prescribed time, six or 12 months, but you will find that he will not qualify and that many a worker has been allowed to go who has not been able to avail of the scheme.

I regard some employers with the same suspicion as does Deputy O'Leary. We have some very good employers, people who give thought and consideration to their workers, but on the other hand we have the other kind. There are many schemes in operation that must be commended, schemes developed by employers who have the interests of the workers at heart and under which there are definite benefits for the worker which the worker can obtain. They must be applauded and every assistance must be given to them to ensure that they can carry on with their development and make their businesses and industries more attractive to the better type of worker.

Deputy O'Leary covered so many points that it would take too long to deal with them. I want to leave something for some of the other trade union members of the Party to answer. I am sure Deputy Moore will deal with some of the items I have not covered. As this debate is to be adjourned at 7 p.m., I want to give other members an opportunity of saying a few words this evening so that they will get their names in tomorrow's paper which seems to be the order of the day. Deputy O'Leary, when speaking, was not so interested in the provisions of the Bill as in flowery phrases and after everything he said, he looked up at the Press Gallery to see that it was being noted. Those tactics can never last. People will find him out. I am sure that if he got the report and read it in detail, he would see that a lot of the nonsense he dished out here for three-quarters of an hour would not impress many of the workers.

In conclusion, I should like to congratulate the Minister and the Government once again on this measure which covers not alone redundancy but a variety of other matters. Other measures have gone through quite recently in relation to the training and retraining of workers and now we have the measures here providing for, in addition to redundancy payments, movement from one town to another and the necessary aids that will be given. This proves beyond doubt that we have the interests of the workers at heart now as we had in the past when we brought in various other measures. My only regret is that the Labour Party and the Fine Gael Party did not think about redundancy when they were dispossessing so many engineering workers and skilled workers from satisfactory and sound employment in an industry which is due for considerable expansion. We now have very many thousands employed in it as a result of the efforts of other Ministers for Industry and Commerce in successive Fianna Fáil Governments, and never again will there be redundancy in Aer Lingus or elsewhere. The workers in those industries will not have to avail of the redundancy payments as envisaged in this Bill, and they will have sound and full employment for the remaining years of their working lives.

I will give credit where credit is due. Deputy Dowling has done his best here today. It is comforting to know that he now believes that there should be an end to what he called colourful phrases, and that no more will television audiences hear such phrases as "thousands who emigrated to die and lie in lonely graves in Pakistan". I fear for the Deputy's reputation. He may not go down in history if he so lightly abandons his facility for colourful phrases.

I thought I understood the provisions of this Bill, and I believed that my understanding was the same as that of the Minister, but having listened to Deputy Dowling, I am more confused than ever, and I suspect that the Minister and his advisers feel the same. The idea that this Bill could be used by unscrupulous employers to get 65 per cent of the redundancy grant paid to them ad nauseam by the dismissal of workmen seems to cause a certain amount of alarm to Deputy Dowling. Why anyone should do that and lose on the transaction is beyond the understanding of reasonable people.

I must say I was also glad to hear Deputy Dowling say that he was a worker because he has now announced himself to the people of Dublin as a non-worker. I was looking at his nomination papers in connection with the forthcoming local elections and in the "occupation" column, he does not call himself a worker; he calls himself a P.C.

Could we not leave that over until next month?

I am trying to do justice to Deputy Dowling. If he wants to call himself a worker, let him go before the electorate as a worker.

That hardly arises on this Bill.

He did not profess to be a worker in his nomination papers in the City Hall. It is difficult to follow his line of thought when he professes one thing in one place and another thing in another place. He shares my constituency and it is my duty to see that my constituents are not misled.

Deputy Dowling was rather unfortunate in some of the examples he took to justify this Bill or to explain the excellence of its provisions. He referred to redundancy in CIE and said that the redundancy scheme was satisfactory to all concerned. He said that everything was in perfect order because of what was done under Fianna Fáil Governments. The strange thing is that the redundancy in CIE to which he referred has nearly closed our oldest engineering works. This was the redundancy which was brought into operation in the Inchicore Engineering Works when CIE declared several craftsmen redundant and said their skills were not required. Several men were retired before they reached the age limit. Now those works are in danger of closing because they have not got the craftsmen they declared redundant. These men will not come back into the employment of CIE no matter what CIE offer them. They advertised in the newspapers and when that was unsuccessful they advertised in their buses and trains trying to entice those men to come back, but they have not come back.

We in Fine Gael are most anxious to have a proper redundancy scheme with safeguards so that the fund which will be created by the workers and the employers will not suffer at the hands of the clumsy managers of State-sponsored companies like CIE, or at the hands of any clumsy managers who make mistakes in their decisions and declare people redundant and a few years later there is a danger of the whole labour force being thrown out of work because of the mistakes the managers made. It seems only proper that if wrong decisions are taken the redundancy fund should be compensated by those people in respect of the mistakes made by them. We are all too well aware that when mistakes are made by State-sponsored bodies it is the taxpayer who has to pay for those mistakes. It might assist management generally in making right decisions if they undertook that they would not get a contribution from the redundancy fund in respect of wrong decisions, or that if subsequent events proved them to be wrong in a declaration of redundancy they would be required to refund to the redundancy fund the money which had already been paid out of the fund.

Of course, the Minister in a typically modest way made no claim to the vice of extravagance of which Deputy Dowling said he was guilty although he seemed to regard it as a virtue. He said the Minister was almost too extravagant in this measure. Of course, no cost is involved to the State, none whatsoever. The Minister went out of his way to justify as best he could why the State makes no contribution to the redundancy payments. We in Fine Gael consider that he has failed completely to justify it. Worse than that, in section 55 of the Bill we find that the State takes care to provide that not only will it not contribute to the fund but it will also take from the fund any cost, good, bad or indifferent borne by the State in relation to labour matters. In the Department of Labour at the moment there are and in the Department of Industry and Commerce for years there have been sections dealing with labour matters in one way or another. In the past the State has carried a certain proportion of the cost of the administration of those offices; in the future the redundancy fund is to be raided to make these payments. The Minister may shake his head if he wishes to but section 55 (2) provides:

There shall be paid to the Minister for Finance out of the Redundancy Fund, at such times and in such manner as the Minister for Finance may direct, such sums as the Minister may estimate, on such basis as may be agreed upon between him and the Minister for Finance, to be the part of the said expenses of the Minister or any other Minister and any sums so paid shall be appropriated in aid of moneys provided by the Oireachtas for carrying this Act into effect.

The Deputy said that this function was already carried out in the Department of Industry and Commerce. How can that be when this Bill has not yet been enacted?

I am aware and the Minister is aware that there are in the Department of Labour now, and there have been in the Department of Industry and Commerce for years, men who were concerned with the redundancy of workers. Some of those people will be transferred, as it were, to this new office, to this new Parkinsonian cell to operate this Act. At the moment their salaries and pensions, all their benefits and emoluments, are paid out of the Exchequer. In future, every thought they think, every word they write, every breath they breathe during official time will be paid out of the redundancy fund. Not only is that cost to be imposed but in estimating expenses for the purposes of subsection (3), there is being included such amount as, in the opinion of the Minister for Finance, represents the amount of the accruing liability in respect of any superannuation or other retiring allowances, lump sums or gratuities accruing in respect of the employment of any officer or other person for the purposes of this Act.

So their salaries and lump sums, their gratuities and emoluments and superannuation will be paid out of a fund which will be created not out of any funds of the State but out of contributions of workers and employers at an annual rate of about £3 per head. Therefore, the extravagance of which Deputy Dowling spoke evaporates in a bottle of smoke when we find that the State will levy the redundancy fund in future. I do not think it would be too much to ask the State, at the very least, to administer this fund. It is the least the State can do.

We in Fine Gael are quite adamant in asserting that the State should make a contribution to the redundancy fund of at least one-third of what is needed to provide a proper scheme. There are two reasons for that. One is that it has been the practice over the years for the State to pay in relation to social welfare and other similar payments roughly one-third the cost of financing such schemes. But in relation to this redundancy scheme for which provision is now being made, the redundancy which is contemplated in the future will arise out of deliberate State decisions in the main, not out of individual inefficiencies. We have had those in the past and we have not had redundancy schemes for them. If we were not at the moment contemplating redundancy of far greater proportions, we would not be changing the arrangements and making these new provisions. It is because we all acknowledge the colossal problems which will be foisted on us by new trading arrangements, new agricultural and industrial arrangements, that we expect there will be substantial redundancy and that some kind of compensation, some kind of protection must be given to the people who will suffer during this time of very great change.

We all hope that, because we have no option in the matter, it will be a change for the better; but even if it is a change for the better, there will be a temporary period of hardship and the purpose of this scheme is to provide the necessary lifeline for men between the period of their unemployment and the period of new employment after they have been retrained.

We must always remember that this is coming about as a result of a deliberate decision on the part of the Government. This is State policy. It is the policy to go into the Common Market. The decision was taken to enter into a new free trading agreement with Britain which has had some effect and will have greater effect on Irish industry in the future, with consequent serious unemployment. If the word "unemployment" smacks of the hard times of the 1930s, they can use the currently acknowledged word "redundancy". If ever there was an obligation on the State to provide money to assist unemployed people, it arises here because it is as a result of deliberate State action that this problem is arising.

The State says: "We made the decision to go into the Common Market, into a free trade arrangement with Britain, and we tell you as we have been telling you during the past five years that the result of our decision will be redundancy and unemployment for Irish workers but we will not pay for it; you will pay for it—you whose lives and fortunes we are affecting will pay for your protection and safeguards. We, the State, who are making the decision to make or break you, will not do anything to protect you".

That is what the Government are saying here. It is entirely wrong and it must be rejected as such by anyone who has any conception of the obligations of the State to the community. The whole purpose of the State is to make life possible and bearable for the largest number of people, to allow people to make the most of the short period they are given in this valley of tears. If the purpose of the State is to create hardship and unemployment and at the same time wash its hands, Pontius Pilate like, and say: "You pay for it", we think that is a most unjust conception of Government, far removed from the just society to which we in Fine Gael are so vitally pledged. That is why we find the basic approach in this Bill to be so completely and utterly unacceptable.

We have been preaching for years that there was vital need to have an adequate redundancy scheme. That situation existed in the past. Deputy Dowling facetiously tried to make play of the fact that it was not done ten years ago. There is no point in 1967 in facetiously criticising our antecedents. We are here, sent by the Lord, to do our duty now, and now is what matters. It is not what any Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael or any Labour Government did in the past that matters, that is of concern to the man who will be unemployed in the future. What matters is that we should all bear a share in decisions taken, and where a decision is taken by a Government the Government must take a financial share in providing redundancy payments.

We have been advocating during the years that we should have wage related insurance. This is something which is long overdue. It is because of acceptance of the Fine Gael view on this that we now have the Minister, through this Bill, indicating that the benefits will be related to the wages received. This is the right approach. It is the correct thing to do because it is the just thing to do, the proper thing to do, so as to make hardship, to make unemployment easier to bear, to let it have some relationship to what the person affected was earning. The acceptance of this principle has been difficult for some people but now the gimmick with which to sell everything is to say: "This is being done in Europe". Like something with threepence off, this is the thing which makes people grab it off the shelf. This has been done in Europe for decades past. They have had wage related insurance. We are quite confident that everybody in this country, be he employee or employer, is prepared to have an adequate wage related insurance scheme and we hope the Government will take the necessary action to bring it into operation.

I am only too glad to support what Deputy Jones said in relation to the use of social welfare appeals machinery for the purposes of determining differences of opinion or difficulties which may arise under this Bill. As he so clearly pointed out, the present machinery in the Department of Social Welfare, to put it mildly. is not working efficiently and untold hardship is caused to people who are deprived of benefits of one kind or another while awaiting determination of their appeals. As Deputy Jones said, we saw in the past few days a statement from the social welfare officers organisation complaining of the invidious position into which these very capable officers are being put in endeavouring to interpret the law as it is stated to them. Not only are these honourable men put in an invidious position, but I think also the Members of the Legislature of this State are put in an invidious position, because most of the laws and regulations they have to interpret and apply are not made in this House and are not made upstairs either but are made by the Minister and his advisers in the most incomprehensible language. We who are, relatively speaking, experts and masters of the intricacies of regulations and statutory instruments frequently find these things incomprehensible. The general public—the people who are intended to benefit by them— certainly find them far beyond them.

The safeguard provided of allowing a final appeal from a decision of an appeals officer on a point of law to the High Court is entirely valueless. This is not the time to advocate, nor am I going to advocate in this debate, Sir, free legal aid. But of what use is the right to go to the High Court for a man who is unemployed, who is denied his redundancy payments, who is on his uppers, who is receiving perhaps in unemployment benefit a sum equal to 20 per cent or 25 per cent of what he was getting when he was earning? Such a man cannot avail of the notional right to go to the High Court on a point of law. The right in the Bill may appear to be the proper thing to do—and in theory it most certainly is—but, without making money available to people so that they can avail of this machinery, what you are doing is conferring on them an non-exercisable right.

Suppose the worker does come to exercise this right, what will his position be? We have a perfect example of it in relation to insurance agents, who under the holiday Acts have been claiming they are entitled to annual holidays. Their claim has been denied and rejected by their employers, the insurance companies. They have appealed for several years past to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. The Minister for Labour is aware of this because I am sure he had the matter on his desk on innumerable occasions. They were unsuccessful in getting a decision in their favour and were told they had better take the matter elsewhere. Simply because there is a large number of them and they had the means, they brought the matter to court. Again, as the Minister for Labour knows, it was some 18 months or so before the matter was lodged in court. Finally, it reached the court within the last fortnight. The learned judge had learned arguments from both sides as to what was and was not a contract for service or a contract of service, and he reserved his judgment. I was glad to see the Minister endorsed my disappointment that the matter had taken so long. But that is just one of the things that can emerge under this Bill. Can you imagine any poor unfortunate man, having run out of his period of unemployment benefit, trying to survive on unemployment assistance and home assistance, availing of this mighty, magnificent generosity we confer on him in this Bill to take his little problem to the High Court on a point of law?

Does the Deputy think we should not put it in?

No. All I am saying is that it is no use doing it unless we also provide the means to exercise the right. If the Minister for Finance can make his estimate of what he ought to be able to get as a rake-off from the redundancy fund to pay for the several people operating the Parkinsonian cell, I think it is proper that some group of advisers or adjudicators should consider whether or not a complainant has a reasonable case to take to the High Court. If such advisers or adjudicators felt there was a good reason to bring the matter to be decided to the High Court, I think it proper that the redundancy fund would provide the means necessary to float the litigation that would be necessary.

I think the Minister sees my point and is not unsympathetic. I can certainly see the horror on the faces of some people in this country if we were ever to start such a system. I assert again there is no use in conferring a right unless you give the person the means to exercise it. It is valueless and all you are doing is pretending you are conferring freedom. You are not conferring freedom if you do not give the person the means of exercising the right in question.

There are a few other matters, which perhaps would be more relevant on Committee Stage, but I mention them now because the Minister might be good enough to give us some guidance on them. The Minister proposes to provide for a qualifying period of service for redundancy payment of four years with the same employer. The Minister said there would be differences of opinion as to what should or should not be a proper qualifying period. Quite frankly, I think the qualifying period of four years with the same employer is not good enough. There are many people whose periods of employment with individual employers are much less than four years. The Minister mentions in his opening statement building workers and dock workers as a class apart who have peculiar individual problems which might best be dealt with by a separate scheme outside the general scheme provided for in this Bill. But there are other people who, like building workers and dock workers, have short, intermittent terms of employment with an employer but who may spend a lifetime going from one employer to the other, working for three months, six months, two years or three years. It seems utterly unfair, if the State takes a decision to enter the Common Market or any other trading arrangement which causes substantial redundancy in their particular activity, that these people should not get benefit from the redundancy scheme proposed. It is terribly important that they would.

Again, there will certainly be cases in which people will change their employment. Take a young man who enters the employment of one firm. He may stay there for three years. Then, to better himself in order to get promotion, he may change from the firm in which he started off to a second firm. He may stay there for another three, four, six or seven years and then, in order to get further promotion, transfer to yet a third employer. During all this period such a worker might well be at a certain kind of activity, following the one vocation, doing the same type of job, but acquiring extra skill and additional responsibility. If he is unlucky enough to be with the third employer who has cause to declare redundancy, he is not going to get any benefit under this scheme, although from the day he began work he would have been contributing towards the redundancy fund. His first employer, second employer and third employer would also have been contributing towards the redundancy fund but if he were unlucky enough to have been with the third employer only three years, 11 months and 29 days he might find himself utterly and completely disqualified.

It is no answer to say that hard cases make bad law and that these will be rather rare cases. I do not think they will be all that rare. It is not an infrequent occurrence for people to change their employment to better themselves and it is terribly important, if we are going to have redundancy schemes, that we dovetail them in such a way that one employment will dovetail into the other so that the benefits will be transferred from one employment to the other. Particularly should this be so where a person is enticed from one employment to go to the employment of another.

One of the dangers of the particular scheme which the Minister has is that it will discourage people from showing initiative and enterprise to a degree which would cause them to change from one employment to another. The danger is that people, in order to avoid being caught by this four-year rule, may stay in a rut in a particular firm, may fail to improve themselves, may fail to avail of opportunities which are opening to them in other companies and with other employers. It is vital, therefore, that the Minister would take the steps necessary before this Bill becomes law to ensure that such people are adequately protected and that this rule of four years with the same employer will be modified in some way or another.

I think, Sir, that this certainly cannot by any stretch of the imagination be regarded as a Money Bill and while I do not intend to anticipate what you may or may not do, this does appear to be a Bill on which we can put down any amendments we like because it is not going to cost the State one penny or one farthing. If we decided to quadruple the redundancy payments and if we decided to give redundancy payment to a man who was working for only one week, our amendments could not be ruled out of order. The Minister can expect that he will get a generous number of amendments before this Bill becomes law.

Surely you would be reasonable, apart from what the Ceann Comhairle would mention?

The Minister is aware, on account of having been on these benches but will have occasion to be reminded of it, that members of an Opposition are not entitled to put down any amendment which will cause a charge on the central Exchequer. This is not going to cost anything. The Minister has seen to that.

When the Deputy says that he can put down any amendments he likes, I am sure reason will guide him.

I am grateful to the Minister for assuming that I would do only that which was reasonable. He is quite right in that.

There is a provision in the Bill and, I think, a fair one, that if a person unreasonably refuses alternative employment the redundancy payments may be withheld but it is terribly important that that provision be very fairly interpreted and that all relevant factors, including the schooling of children, location of employment, and so on, be taken into account and that these things be regarded as being reasonable.

Listening to Deputy Dowling, one would think that he was not a member of Dublin Corporation. He showed an appalling ignorance of housing matters. He referred to the liberal provision of compensation in this Bill so as to provide a person with the money to pay somebody to move the furniture by lorry from one place and to set up home elsewhere. There is no provision in this Bill to get over the various residential qualifications which apply. A man may well be down the country in a house at 7/6d a week and be declared redundant and be given under the Bill, not by the Minister but by the redundancy fund, sufficient to move his furniture from Ballydehob to Dublin but he will not get a home for love or money in Dublin, certainly not from the local authority until he is four years in residence and that residence may well be a caravan. I am certain there is no provision at all in this Bill to provide for that kind of certain eventuality.

We have had this very frequently in relation to CIE men where railway lines were closed down. Men who lived in a cottage at a nominal rent of 1/ - or 2/ - a week, surrounded by an acre or half-acre of land on which they could cultivate vegetables, found themselves hooshed up to Dublin where there was a nominal increase in their wage and having to occupy a flat at £3 or £4 a week for at least three years and, if necessary, breed like rabbits in the meantime in order to have the necessary number of children to qualify under the overcrowding rules of Dublin Corporation. Some people think it is not nice to mention these problems. There is no point in drafting fancy theory in legislation. It is the acute problems which will face thousands of people when redundancy becomes a horror in this country that we need to tackle. We do not think they are being tackled in this Bill.

At present there is some cause for concern amongst workers that they are being laid off or they are under threat of being laid off and as we are discussing this and as this legislation has now become public knowledge there are clear indications that some employers are jumping the gun or are considering jumping the gun. It is terribly important that the Minister would ensure that the benefits of this legislation would be made retrospective because that is the only way in which we can protect people who may be declared redundant before this Bill becomes law. There is plenty of precedent for it. There are cases under various types of legislation where a section is put into the Bill that it will be operative from a date prior to the passing of the Act. If, say, for the last year or two people have been declared redundant because of changing market situations, particularly situations which have arisen since the talk of the Free Trade Area Agreement with Britain and of the Common Market, it is terribly important that we would provide adequate protection for such people. I would like the Minister to answer that particular problem because I am sure he must be acutely aware of it.

Apart from that kind of thing of declaring people redundant there are cases of people who have had long service who have been put or who are about to be put on short time. It may well be that this is also being used by people as an escape hatch, that they may be able to point to the fact that people were on short time prior to the passing of the Act and if they are declared redundant ultimately that this is only a deterioration in their situation but not a new situation. I would like the Minister to give us some encouragement here and to give the workers affected some confidence that their position will not be worsened and that that will not be allowed.

The Minister says also that redundancy payments will be available to people if they are on short time for excessive periods. I do not think he has given us any indication in the Bill or in his opening statement as to what he considers to be an excessive period and I would ask the Minister to clarify this. While we acknowledge that it is not an easy thing to state what may be put into regulations later on it would be helpful to members of the Dáil and Seanad if Ministers would indicate in whatever detail is possible to them at the time something which would give us a lead on what they have in mind. We should certainly like to know what he has in mind when he uses the phrase "excessive periods".

We notice also that the Minister does not propose to have the weekly payments made out until four weeks after the unemployment begins. I think this is a wrong thing to do. The argument, I suppose, is that the worker will receive a lump sum payment at the time of dismissal and that this ought to last him out for the following four weeks. Am I right in that?

The last point is in section 7.

The point I was making before the one I am now making?

I shall look at that when the House is considering Agriculture on which I shall not be making any immediate contribution.

Debate adjourned.