I should like to make a final appeal to the Minister to abolish the ESB Act and, in doing so, having listened to Deputy Tully's comments, I should like to say that this unfortunate Act came into being as a result of the stupidity of the compilation of a claim by trade union officials who are, in some cases, responsible for some of the unrest in industry at the moment.
Industrial Relations Bill, 1966: Committee Stage (Resumed) and Report Stage.
What about the Deputy's stupidity in voting for the Bill?
On this occasion the claim was for parity between the fitters who are highly skilled technical men——
On a point of order. Is this in order on the amendment?
The discussion seems to have ranged over the dissolution of the tribunals, what they are to be substituted by, and conditions of employment. I take it the Deputy will relate his remarks to this.
When this Act came in and the result of——
The Deputy will relate his remarks to the dissolution of these tribunals which is envisaged in the section.
I have made representations and suggestions to the Minister on numerous occasions that the time has now arrived for the provisions of the ESB Act to be repealed. I should like him to say when he is replying if he is prepared to repeal them now. It is a matter I have felt very strongly about for some time, taking into consideration all the other factors which brought about the situation with which I did not agree, of course. The relationship between the employers and workers was one that could have been dealt with in a much different way, and the situation could have been relieved, and no legislation would have been necessary in order to protect the lives of many people and ensure——
The Deputy is now moving away from industrial relations to something that has passed.
It is a case of an eve of an election repentance.
This was one factor which disturbed industrial relations in the ESB over a period. It was not brought about by Members of this House. It was brought about by a collection of circumstances for which some of the trade union officials were responsible. I hope the Minister will now withdraw this Act and start afresh with new legislation which will give the industrial field confidence in the future, so that they will be able to approach their problems without previous legislation which would seem to have affected good relations between employees and management.
The Deputy walked into the Lobby to vote for that Bill. Eve of the poll repentance.
Not at all.
This legislation widens the powers of the Labour Court and most of the ideas have come from people who work in the Labour Court. I am wondering if the ESB unions or workers were to look for what is granted to civil servants in section 9, would the Minister say they would get a sympathetic hearing—if they looked for some system of arbitration or negotiation?
I should like to make it clear that I cannot impose anything on them or grant them anything. There must be some form of internal conciliation procedures. They should start to agree on them as quickly as possible. I am impressed by the argument that while the tribunals are there they will not work towards finding an alternative. Three years ago the proposal to abolish the tribunals was first published and, in those three years, perhaps because of the existence of the tribunals, no alternative has developed in anticipation of their going. When they go there will have to be some conciliation procedures in their place and there will be pressure to produce something. We cannot leave them with no procedures. I have been assured by the Minister for Transport and Power that the board is alert to the need for alternative conciliation procedures and that there will be some internal conciliation procedures. What they agree on between themselves is another question.
Surely the Minister must realise that if these boards are abolished and in the interim period they have no machinery for negotiations, there could be strikes or trouble in the ESB? Surely something is needed in the interim?
I have been going over in my mind what I could do. At the moment there is a Labour Court conciliation officer concentrating his time and energy on the ESB situation. I have also taken steps within the Department to encourage the board to set about establishing negotiating procedures. I have had meetings with the unions and I am meeting them again tomorrow. So, I realise the need for conciliation procedures to be established and I am setting about having them established.
Can the Minister say if there is a desire to inaugurate something more satisfactory in place of the tribunals we have at present, and if the only thing concrete we have is the dissolution of the tribunals with a vague expression of goodwill and the possibility of conciliation services arriving more or less ready-made in the future, and an equally vague reference to the goodwill of the Minister for Transport and Power in this direction?
I did not mean to be vague.
I am not blaming the Minister.
I did not mean to be vague. There is a conciliation officer dealing with it full-time at the moment. The Minister has told the board to negotiate towards agreed procedures. I have met the unions and am meeting them again tomorrow. I did not mean to be vague on any of the three points.
There is something vague when we talk about certain conciliation procedures. There is something definite in saying the tribunals are going. That is easily understood by everyone. What is not easily understood are references to meetings and possible structures for the future. What I am saying to the Minister is that we may arrive at a situation where people within the ESB who may be critical of the tribunals will in fact be turned into fanatic adherents of the tribunals if what is going to be installed in their place is not clarified.
The Labour Court will be immediately available. Conciliation procedures will be developed with the board. I believe, whatever the Deputy believes, that direct negotiations should be part of the procedures.
We are going to dissolve the tribunals before we know exactly, or even in any kind of outline, what we will institute in their place.
We are not instituting anything in their place. We are hoping there will be agreed procedures and there is already conciliation procedure which can be developed.
We are taking the definite action of dissolving the tribunals already in existence. That is definite action. That is demolition of what is there—whether it is good or otherwise is another thing. Some people say it is good and others say it is not.
The fact is that that is pretty definite action. These go and in their place we hope to have something else. I am suggesting that that seems to me an unsatisfactory procedure if we wish to see some kind of conciliation service grow up within the ESB. We must now work—before we dissolve them—on an actual substitute.
I am not quite clear. Does the Deputy want this House to impose procedures on them?
Why does the Deputy say we must do something?
We are imposing this definitely. We are saying they will be dissolved.
Does the Deputy want to impose procedures from here on them?
No. I am saying, however, that if we dissolve the tribunals before there is anything in their place growing up within the board——
There is conciliation.
No substitute machinery for the tribunals has grown up yet within the board. We are scrapping the tribunals.
Is the Deputy thinking in terms of other tribunals?
The manual workers.
What type of machinery?
I do not know, but we are taking definite action in the abolition of these tribunals.
Under the law the tribunals have to determine claims. That means a final decision has to be made, and while they are there this is so; no other person or body can determine claims except the tribunals. They have to be abolished before any other machinery can be effective. What we want to develop is conciliation machinery which is already there to some extent and which can be built upon, and the conciliation officer is working on this. It is three years since we had published the fact that in the view of the Government these tribunals should be abolished and nothing has happened. We must put some urgency into the development of internal conciliation machinery. It must be agreed; I do not think we can impose anything, because then we might as well leave the board as it is.
The Committee Stage of a Bill is deadly dull except for those who are interested in it and maybe even for them it becomes a bit trying, but many people who come to listen from time to time do not understand the language in the context in which it is being used here. That is not their fault. However, people like Deputy Dowling can come here for a few minutes and cry crocodile tears; he would cry longer if he could spare the time but he cannot. Here is something in connection with which Deputy O'Leary says quite correctly, we are demolishing something that is there. We are in the act of doing something for other people, a whole list of persons who hold positions in the Civil Service and the Government, members of the staff of the Houses of the Oireachtas, members of the Garda Síochána, sub-postmasters, people employed on committees of agriculture, secondary and national school teachers, people employed in semiState bodies. They have said: "We will not accept the Labour Court." The Minister, being very reasonable, says: "All right, if you do not accept the Labour Court we shall have to provide something else." The Minister therefore decides to hold the boards there for conciliation and arbitration purposes and put two Labour Court officials on them. Those are employers who, in the opinion of the Minister, apparently, were important people. He comes then to a group of ordinary workers employed by the ESB and for some extraordinary reason he makes a distinction—such as I have referred to on more than one occasion in relation to agricultural workers and other workers—that while it is all right for the people mentioned in section 9 of this Bill to hold on to their boards, the people employed by the ESB are not entitled to do so. Eventually the situation was reached where the Government and Fine Gael felt that there was only one way to settle the dispute and that was to put certain people in jail. That did not work out.
Could the Minister answer a question I asked earlier, and I do not ask it in any spirit of recrimination? When the matters referred to in regard to the other employees I mentioned were discussed with the bodies representing them and the decision given that they were not prepared to accept the Labour Court, it was accepted that they would have to be dealt with in a different way. Have these matters been discussed with the trade unions, with the ESB workers or with Congress? The Minister should be able to answer that question. If the matters were dealt with we have no objection to what is being done, but our information so far is that that is not so, and what I can see happening as a result is a new cause of dispute arising, the fact that the tribunals which were set up for the purpose of doing a job have been taken away and there is nothing being put in their place. The Minister says he has told an official of the Labour Court to devote his time towards trying to improve relations in the ESB and told the ESB officials: "It is your job to deal with this man and see if things can be ironed out." If they could not be ironed out before now, how does the Minister think, with much less facilities, they can be ironed out? I am saying this now because I do not want to hear in this House at a later stage the suggestion that the only way to settle an ESB dispute is to put a group of workers in Mountjoy; even if we have to bail them out and send them home in taxis in the small hours of the morning, that is beside the point. If the Minister has discussed this with the unions and cleared it with the workers' representatives concerned and they are satisfied, we are satisfied; if they are not, we are not.
As regards this matter of putting workers in jail, that is water under the bridge. This was a situation in which hospitals were shut down. You were not half as noisy then.
We were very noisy.
You were very frightened and very quiet.
Not at all.
There was more to it than people going to prison. They went to prison because they would not pay penalties, and this is one of the things about legislation that you have to impress on people's minds. When I was bringing in that law I brought it in in the context of the electricity supplies of the country being threatened, hospitals being shut down, thousands of workers being put out of their jobs.
No hospital shut down.
There was a breakdown in one of the hospitals.
No hospital shut down.
I met a surgeon who was trying to operate on a man who was on strike, and the current failed.
It must be a poor hospital if it had not an emergency supply.
First of all, the Deputy says there was no shut down and then he says it was a poor hospital——
And so it was.
We brought in legislation here to protect the community. I said at the time I had hoped that the trade unions whose existence depended on the law would respect the law. In other democracies they are in desperation to know sometimes what to do. They are trying to think of legislation that will be respected and not depend on penalties. This is the terrific problem facing any democracy. It is not a matter in relation to which we should be jibing at one another here. We could still be sickened in this House by the power of people outside the control of trade union officials or of the Labour Party or anybody else.
The jibing started there.
We have to protect the community. If we find legislation to protect the community is ineffective because of the lack of desire on the part of anyone in this House to see a worker in jail, again we are still at the mercy of people outside of the control of the trade unions, of the Labour Party, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael or anyone else. It is not a funny situation. Accepting that no Party in this House wants workers in jail, we must also remember that it is our duty to make laws to protect the community, to protect ourselves. If we do not obey those laws in sufficient numbers, then the laws cannot stand. I am quite satisfied that penalties forcing people to work are not on. I have said this before. Deputy Dowling has been at me since the first day this Act was brought in——
Since the day he voted for it, in fact.
——to repeal it. I want to warn those who are gloating that they themselves and their trade unions may find themselves powerless. I will repeal the Act, but I ask the trade unions to accept that they have as much at stake in this as I have. I ask them to accept that we must run this community in such a manner as not to endanger life or limb and in such manner as to ensure justice for all. That is the way of co-operation. On the Second Stage I offered to repeal the Act. No one in the trade union movement can come and say: "We will do a deal on that" because no one in the trade union movement is in a position to do that. I will repeal the Act and I expect Members of this House and trade unionists to work for the kind of co-operation which will protect the community. So much for the ESB (Special Provisions) Act. I have no more at stake in this than Deputy Tully.
The Minister does understand that trade union officials spend a great deal more time trying to stop strikes than starting them?
Let the Deputy not pretend he is living in a world in which he will not get hit; he will get a walloping like everyone else. Every trade unionist has a stake in the country.
We know that.
Will the Minister repeal the Act in this session?
I have said I will repeal it.
In this session?
I do not see the signficance of that.
I have told the Deputies I will repeal the Act quite soon.
But not in this session.
It depends. It might be this session or it might be next session.
Why cannot the Minister come out clearly and say: "I will repeal the Act in this session"?
Because I know it is no good as a bargaining point.
The Minister agrees the Act was a mistake. Fair enough.
I have not agreed to anything. If the Deputy could only take a responsible attitude and act as if he had a stake in the country.
The Act was a mistake. There is no point in saying otherwise.
It was not a mistake. Our approach should be to protect our community. It is the Deputy's community as well as mine. If one authority is undermined all authority is undermined. The Deputy will find that out. As far as the ESB tribunals are concerned, I propose to abolish these. I believe their presence is causing trouble. While they are there I do not believe one can get meaningful negotiation, as understood by practising trade unionists. There is always the danger of shifting the matter on to a tribunal for decision or to any other body that is there. When we think in terms of an alternative, the alternative must be similar, and what can we do then except try to get agreed procedures? I have met the Congress and they have discussed this with the officials of my Department. They have never objected to abolition.
Have they, in fact, said they have no objection to abolition?
I was not at the meetings and I do not want to make them responsible for what I am doing.
I am not trying to be difficult, but the Minister is stating something which is not according to the information we have got.
If the Congress want to have an approach through the Deputy as well as the approach they have through my Department, then there should be a label and the Deputy should state that the Congress told him to say something.
Did the Congress tell the Minister they had no objection to abolition?
They have not objected to the abolition of the tribunals. There were several meetings with my officials, not with me. I do not know what position we will be in if we spend two or three years discussing something with the trade unions to discover what is in their mind and then come in here and find their spokesmen here adopting an entirely different attitude. In such circumstances can one even begin to try to get order into affairs?
The Minister is not being fair. I asked him twice today if the Congress agreed to the abolition of the tribunals and I told him we would withdraw our opposition if he could tell us that the Congress had said, or the unions' representative for the ESB, that there was no objection to the abolition of the tribunals.
The Deputy wants Congress to decide whether this Dáil should decide to abolish something. That will not be done.
The Minister is changing feet. This was done on section 9.
The Congress had every opportunity of objecting and they did not object. The Deputy should find out the Congress mind.
What did the ESB workers and the trade union representatives think of abolition? We are curious to know what exactly those for whom the Minister is legislating think of his proposals.
Why does the Deputy not know that? He is a trade union official. Why do we have strikes? Because trade union officials do not know what their members want. Why ask me what the members of the Deputy's own trade union are thinking?
I asked the Minister what the employees in the ESB are thinking. They are in the Minister's constituency as well as in mine. They are in all our constituencies.
Why does the Deputy not ask his own members?
I am asking the Minister as the responsible Minister. The Minister has made one mistake already.
The Chair would like to point out that, if this cross-talk continues, we will not make very much progress. Would Deputies act on the basis of one Deputy speaking at a time?
In view of what the Minister has said we withdraw our objection to the particular section. The Minister says he has discussed this with Congress and they have no objection. That is not our information, but we accept the Minister's word.
This House is not a subsidiary of Congress.
We agree. It is not.
I have done everything I could to find acceptable legislation because, if a sufficient number of people do not approve a particular law, then that law will not work. That may be a cause of joy to some, but it should be no cause of joy to anybody in this House. I have tried over the years to find what will be permitted to work, taking into consideration the attitude of people towards this Legislature, the attitude of even those within the Legislature. Having found that, I am bringing this forward. I said a few weeks ago here that I am more concerned with legislation which will be allowed to work than I am with merely getting legislation. I could get all the legislation I liked, but I want legislation that will be allowed to work. I have consulted Congress and, having spent two or three years consulting, if I still have not got their mind then I do not know how we can approach towards order at all. Is there a trade union attitude I can interpret, or can it be expressed?
The Minister claimed he had it a few minutes ago— through his officials, he said.
I have the product of discussions over a long period. That is what I have. I have tried to find legislation that will be allowed to work. If members of this Legislature see joy in the prospect of legislation passed here failing to work——
That is cod.
——then I cannot see any hope at all for it.
That is certainly not the attitude on this side of the House.
It is the duty of legislators to pass legislation which will be effective and which will solve the problem under review. What we saw in the legislation referred to was the fact that it was not effective. As politicians we bear responsibility for the legislation passed here and, when it is successful, we can claim credit. When it is a failure, responsibility lies with those who made the mistake of passing the legislation. The ESB (Special Provisions) Act was a mistake; it is agreed by all sides now that it was a mistake. It would be very foolish of us to forget who made the mistake, the more so when we realise that these mistakes may continue to be made in other spheres of industrial relations. All I am saying in relation to this— we are not talking about the Congress of Trade Unions—is that the Minister proposes to abolish the tribunals and he has reported that this is the right course. Is the Minister satisfied, in so far as he can be satisfied—I accept that he cannot draw the last word on this —but is he himself clear in his mind that the vast majority of the employees in the ESB are agreeable or accept the idea that the two tribunals have outlived their usefulness? If the vast majority have not done so then I am suggesting that the hope for a conciliation system to arise and to grow in the ESB will be invalidated from the very start. We have the duty to find out not specifically what trade unions or anybody else thinks but what the vast majority of the employees in the ESB, in all constituencies, whatever political Party they vote for, think. If we are taking responsibility here for legislation to abolish existing tribunals, we have responsibility to find out the actual present position. The Minister has told us he has made investigations. Fair enough.
I am trying to help in this, not to be destructive—not that I think anybody else was trying to be destructive. My fear is that, if we abolish these tribunals and, two days later, they want to meet somebody, what is the position? The Minister mentions the Labour Court. The majority of these people do not want to go to the Labour Court; they have said they do not. Why not give them some alternative, such as is contained in section 9 of this measure? What will happen between the time of the abolition of the tribunals and the setting-up of new machinery? We could have the same trouble as we had here some years ago. We should make some provision for the interim period: I am not interested in whether or not it is a final solution. Could we not go as far as what is given in section 9? I do not know whether that can be done, but perhaps the Minister could give us an interim type of body which might sit, when needed, in case anybody happened two or three days after the tribunals are abolished to require alternative machinery. We must get some body to act in the interim period or else we are taking a terrible risk.
I tried to impress on the House that we cannot give them this. They have to agree—the employer and the worker—on some form of conciliation. I think it should be there. All I can do is to press the board and the unions.
Would what is contained in section 9 not be suitable as an interim measure?
I would accept this but I cannot hand it to them. I have not this power. However, if they agree to have a conciliation service of that nature, that is grand.
In other words, the Minister would not be against it and it is up to them to decide.
I imagine that, with three years with tribunals having this legal obligation to determine disputes and with those three years gone with nothing developing, the tribunals will go. CIE, Bord na Móna and these other bodies are not lost in the woods without a guide. It is absolutely essential to get conciliation proposals going for the ESB. You will not get them going while these tribunals are in existence. What Deputy Belton says is a matter for agreement. I cannot give it to them. It would be a form of conciliation that would be accepted.
Would the Minister agree to re-commit this section when it comes up again if there is no agreement?
It is a decision of the Government that they should go.
Would the Minister agree to re-commit the section if necessary?
I am trying to get it across that anything we impose from here will be like the tribunal and would cause more trouble than would justify it. We want to get normal conciliation going in the ESB. There are faults on both sides. We have had a thorough investigation. The trouble there will not be got over by a direction from this House——
We do not suggest that.
I was as averse as anybody over there to see workers imprisoned. It is not the way to run a democracy—to come into this House with a form of legislation which is only a substitute for people not doing their work and for employers not doing their work. We will not make them do it by having the machinery under which they can say: "Send that to the tribunals, send it to So-and-So."
It is a very big job and there are many facets to it.
There will always be people trying to find ways of getting industrial relations which are not filled with delay, flare-up and so on. There will have to be trial. But to say: "Leave it as it is" is not trying. My philosophy is to make them do their job. It is an important job. The way to make them do it is to take away the excuse for not doing it. After me, somebody may say that there is a better way of doing it.
There are 2,500 people, at least, outside Congress. I cannot see any quick solution. Can we have any machinery in the interim?
I agree. I do not think Congress should come into it.
Is amendment No. 14 agreed to?
I had an amendment to it to the effect that cases before the tribunal, when the Bill is enacted, will remain to be determined by the tribunal only if both parties agree; that, if one party objects, it goes on to the Labour Court—some form of conciliation agreed internally or in the Labour Court.
Can the Minister inform the Chair where this amendment is to be found?
It is in relation to the tribunals: Section 21 (2).
The Chair has amendment No. 14 at present. It is on the list of amendments and it concerns section 21. The Chair is not aware of any other amendment at the present moment.
That is the one the Minister is speaking about.
That is the one.
It is the same amendment.
We were dealing with the section but we were dealing with the amendment. The amendment was moved.
I move amendment No. 15:
Before section 22 to insert a new section as follows:
22. (1) The Labour Court shall establish a Joint Labour Committee to function in respect of agricultural workers as soon as may be after the passing of this Act.
(2) Any order made by the Agricultural Wages Board in force on the passing of this Act shall be deemed to have been made under the Principal Act.
(3) Any order made by the Agricultural Wages Board before the passing of this Act shall be deemed to have been made under the Principal Act.
(4) The Agricultural Wages Act, 1936, and the Agricultural Wages (Amendment) Act, 1945, are hereby repealed.
(5) The following provisions of the Principal Act are hereby repealed:—
(a) paragraph (h) of subsection (1) of section 4,
(b) section 66.
This, again, is another of these matters which we have been discussing for quite some time. It bears a relation to some of the others. This Bill is the Industrial Relations Bill and during the discussion, the Minister said to me that agriculture should not be included in this measure because it did not come under the category which he had intended, or words to that effect.
Agriculture is the primary industry and yet there is no representative of agriculture on the NIEC. There seems to be an opinion, despite the fact that we cannot get on without agriculture and agriculture cannot get on without agricultural workers, that these workers are a lesser breed. This is our problem. The Minister is legislating for industrial workers and leaving out agriculture. When a Holidays Bill was introduced around 1951 there was one Bill for workers and a special Bill for agricultural workers. We are trying to get rid of this idea of making a different race of those engaged in agriculture. They should be treated the same as everybody else.
This morning the Minister said to me that I should know that a joint labour committee could not be set up without the permission of the people concerned. It can be set up with the permission of the trade union representing the workers and the employers' organisations and there are both in agriculture. I suggest it is a relatively simple matter. The necessity for doing this is obvious. Agricultural workers work for 50 hours a week for eight months of the year and for 44 hours for the other four months. Up to the 21st of this month they were paid less wages per week than any other male adult workers. They are still paid the lowest amount per hour of any workers. If you divide their weekly wage by 50 you get what is paid to teenagers in other sections of industry.
There is no point in saying that the Agricultural Wages Board can do this, that or the other thing. The Board has pretty limited powers and it has used those powers very sparingly. For that reason we believe that the establishment of a joint labour committee is long overdue. The Minister may not be aware of it but the Agricultural Wages Board has no power to specify conditions of hours or specify overtime payments. Some years ago we had an extraordinary example of what could happen only on a board of this kind. The chairman constitutes a quorum and if a meeting is called and because of bad weather or for some other reason nobody else turns up, the chairman can make an order. This has happened only once because the agricultural representatives do their best to get to the board meetings.
There is a long procedure whereby five regional boards have to be asked for their advice and recommendations but no heed may be paid by the central board to the regional boards' recommendations, yet this procedure must be gone through. Even after the regional boards and the central board make their recommendation six weeks must expire before whatever is recommended can be put into operation. There are far too many faults in the board to explain in the limited time available and I believe there is only one answer and that is to abolish it by accepting this amendment and by setting up the proper machinery to deal with agricultural workers as if they were ordinary workers which they are, and to give them a fair deal.
I think this is one of the amendments already withdrawn on the basis of our having a study made of what can be done at a future date.
We only withdrew them one at a time.
The intention was the same. It fell into the category that would not allow me to make a decision now. I undertook to have consultations to consider the implication of all of them.
On that condition I withdraw the amendment.
I move amendment No. 16:
In page 9, line 38, after "order" to insert "made by the Government or the Minister."
This is to prevent a requirement to lay Orders on the Table of the House from affecting Orders made by the Labour Court under section 10. The amendment will make it clear that the Orders to be laid before the House are Orders made by the Government under section 17 and by the Minister under section 9. It would not be appropriate to require Labour Court Orders to be laid on the Table.
There is one point I should like to be clear about, that, having agreed to withdraw certain amendments on the condition that there would be a committee set up to go into the matters involved in the near future, we are not in any way preventing access to the Labour Court of State employees as a result of this?
It was the extended application of the 1946 Act in which the Labour Court is.
Of that particular section?
I move amendment No. 20:
In page 2, line 6, to delete "ACTS, 1946 AND 1955" and to substitute "ACT, 1946".
This is to amend the Title so that it will read "An Act to amend and extend the Industrial Relations Act, 1946" because the 1955 Act is, in fact, being repealed and its provisions incorporated in section 17 of this Bill.
In accordance with Standing Order 96 (3) I have to report specially to the Dáil that the Committee have amended the Title of the Bill to read as follows—
"Bill entitled an Act to amend and extend the Industrial Relations Act, 1946."
The only things that remain to be changed are the penalties in the different sections, the amounts of money which the House asked me to examine. Apart from that there will be nothing for us to deal with and I could introduce those in the Seanad, having examined them.
Agreed to take remaining Stages today.