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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 24 Apr 1969

Vol. 239 No. 14

Committee on Finance. - Industrial Relations Bill, 1966: Committee Stage.

Section 1 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 2 stand part of the Bill."

Section 2 as it stands reads:

The Court shall consist of a chairman (in this Act referred to as the chairman) and, either, as the Minister may from time to time in his discretion determine, four or six ordinary members (in this Act referred to as the ordinary members) of whom (if there are four ordinary members) two shall be workers' members and two shall be employers' members and (if there are six ordinary members) three shall be workers' members and three shall be employers' members.

Does the Minister not consider that he should give himself authority to further extend the court? We have from time to time found ourselves in the position that for no reason except that too much business was being put before too few people, the courts have been held up and cases which may appear to be unimportant to the court but are important to the people concerned have been held up for a considerable length of time. I am not blaming the court. They could do nothing about it. I feel the Minister should have left himself a bit more scope there so that he could extend the court further if he thought it was necessary.

Six is based on the experience to date and it is an assessment of what will be required in view of the experience of the court to date. The court is not always that busy.

Not always but the Minister does appreciate that from time to time over a period of months when wage rounds are being negotiated there can be a whole clutter of cases one after another. One of the annoying things is that cases can be heard and it can be literally weeks, in some cases longer, before the court gets an opportunity of considering the evidence and giving a recommendation.

As the Minister knows there are proposals in the Bill, and particularly in some of the amendments, to widen the scope of the court considerably. This will mean additional work. The Minister seems to be happy that three courts will be sufficient to deal with the volume of business. I agree with him that there are times when there is practically nothing to be done as far as ordinary court hearings are concerned but there are times when double the number proposed here would not be able to deal properly with all the matters that come before the court. Let the Minister not tell me that it is a question of cost because in a case like this the cost to the country often is very great because of the fact that the court is not available to hear a case.

There was a school of thought in the Labour Court a few years ago, which appears to have disappeared now, that a dispute should be allowed to mature, as if it were a boil and you were waiting for it to come to a head, as they used to do in the country long ago before it could be treated. Some of those boils were left too long and they caused considerable upset to everybody including the workers in the industries concerned and the industries themselves. For that reason I would ask the Minister to consider whether or not he is sure that he is doing the right thing by limiting the number to three rather than saying that the Minister may add courts if he considers it necessary.

This has been considered in consultation with the people using the court, with the people concerned, and from the experience to date the suggestion that arises is as embodied in the proposals, that there be provision for three sections to the court. I would leave it to the discretion of the experienced officers of the court to decide the question of whether it is comparable to a boil maturing or not but I understand that lack of sufficient staff is not as big a problem as the Deputy considers it to be. This provision does cover what are thought to be the needs of our circumstances.

Surely, on that point, up to date we have wage agreements at different parts of the year? The tendency is to try to get them into one period, to prevent leap-frogging. If this were to happen, would you not need a lot more than three courts? At the moment there are wage agreements in January, February, March and so on, but the tendency is to bring them into one period, one month or, if necessary, one week. At that stage would you not require more than three divisions?

I can see the need for an extra service but I believe this would be at conciliation level—a conciliation officer or industrial relations officer, as we call him.

On that point I agree but, if we are going to try to concentrate the demands into a period, which is a better way than leap-frogging, with an increase of £1 in January, 25/-in February, and 30/- in March, there will be a tremendous demand at one particular time. I agree with Deputy Tully that we might want six divisions in one month and for the rest of the year one would do. If the Labour Court delay it, this will extend the wage increase which will again start the leap-frogging.

What I had hoped was that the accent would be more and more on the conciliation aspect of the court's work rather than on decisions by the court. If we are to appoint people and they are to be paid from public funds, we will have to have some consideration of what we think will be the work available and, while I can see what the Deputy says about work coming together; I think this work will come to the conciliation service——

Most of it.

——rather than decisions having to be made by the court. The extra division made possible by what is proposed here is the estimate of what will satisfy the needs. If we go beyond what I am told by the people involved is sufficient, where do we stop?

Why not have the power to do it if required?

I had in mind that from time to time there would be amending legislation. As I have said, from 1946 to now is much too long. In future legislation will have to be introduced more frequently according as we discover what the needs are and as the trade unions and the employers discover what their needs are.

Yesterday during the discussion on the Criminal Justice Bill I was here and I was rather at a loss because all those debating that Bill, with the exception of myself, were practising lawyers. There were points which perhaps I was not able to appreciate for that reason. In this case the shoe is on the other foot. I have been a practising trade union official for 22 years. I grant that Deputy Belton on his side of the fence has experience of wage negotiations.

What the Minister says is correct, All of us would love if disputes could be settled at conciliation level because usually there is a better spirit there and eventually it is a matter of cooperation between different groups. The big trouble is that the Labour Court of itself has done what I consider to be an amount of harm, because it has been insisting on disputes which have no hope whatever of being settled at conciliation level being referred to a conciliation officer, and this is simply a matter of stalling.

It seems ridiculous if I have a dispute with an employer in Cork or Kerry that, after I have gone half a dozen times and discussed the items concerned and found we cannot reach agreement, I must go down there and go over the same ground again with an officer sitting there who will admit that there is no hope of reaching agreement at that level. He will say: "I think it is a matter that should be referred to the full court", or: "I will make a recommendation to the full court." This is one of the problems. People concerned with disputes should be the judges of whether or not conciliation is the answer to the problem. If they are satisfied that conciliation will not produce a result, then there should not be any necessity to have conciliation. It is expensive; it is timewasting; and it is terribly frustrating when one has to go over the same ground again and again.

A typical example of this is local authority disputes. Suppose we have a dispute over differentials for supervisory grades with a local authority and the county manager says: "Well, I cannot agree. This should be settled at national level." You go to the next local authority and it is the same. You refer those cases to the Labour Court and the Labour Court will arrange conciliation conferences with each local authority from Donegal to Cork, and we must go around to each one of them and do exactly the same as we have done before. We have already been told they will not agree and that it must be settled at national level. We must go to the trouble and expense of doing the same thing again. We are wasting the time of the Labour Court as well. The proceedings could be shortened if the advice of the employers and workers were taken on whether it was likely to be settled at conciliation.

The Minister says many of these matters could be settled at conciliation. That may be so, but I still think it is not the answer. I am not going to press the point but the Minister should leave himself the right to appoint two or three more courts if a volume of work builds up and the only way of settling it is either to have court cases and have them cleared quickly, or have strikes scattered all over the country.

The very existence of the Labour Court has tempted a big number of employers not even to negotiate. While Deputy Tully has deep experience in his field, my own experience over the wide field of trade union consultations is that many of them think they are dragged to the Labour Court as a substitute for meaningful negotiations. This is a fault they find in the employers' attitude to negotiations. I am certain that the Labour Court is not over-taxed with cases at that level of court sittings. I am satisfied that to provide more than we have provided in the proposal would be going beyond the estimate of those who are equipped to say what is wanted, and would be moving away from the idea of getting people to negotiate meaningfully in their own area. If they need the help of a conciliation officer or an industrial relations officer his services will be available. I think the whole movement should be towards negotiation.

I appreciate that the Minister has experience in his Department. I am quite sure he knows that quite a number of people who negotiate on behalf of firms represent the firms on whose behalf they are negotiating. If that representative makes an agreement which he thinks is reasonable there is always a chance that he will be turned down by his principals who will say: "It is not reasonable. You should have been able to get a better settlement." The temptation in that case is to go to the Labour Court and have a recommendation made by someone outside. The firm will probably accept it if it is made by an outside body, and may not accept it if it is made by one of the employees or colleagues. I do not think there is anything wrong in that case in having the matter dealt with by the court rather than having it dragged over a long period, and if this prevents an industrial dispute I think the Minister will agree with me.

I still think that three sections of the court will meet the need.

What is wrong with having the power to have four without using it?

You would be always under pressure to appoint more and more.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 3 and 4 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, line 31, to delete " prepare" and substitute "make".

The Parliamentary Draftsman considered that the word "make" would be better than the word "prepare".

I agree this is a good amendment, because as it reads the Minister could prepare something and do nothing about it.

I think Deputy Tully is drawing from a long, melancholy experience not applicable to this scheme.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 3, after subsection (5), to insert the following subsections:

"(6) The Minister shall grant and pay to Cathal O'Shannon, upon his retirement without reappointment from membership of the Labour Court, a pension for his life of one thousand, one hundred and twenty-five pounds per annum and a gratuity of one thousand six hundred and eighty-eight pounds.

(7) The Minister shall grant and pay to Ernest Edmonson Benson, upon his retirement without reappointment from membership of the Labour Court, a gratuity of three thousand pounds.

(8) The Minister shall grant and pay to Joseph Stapleton Quigley, upon his retirement without reappointment from membership of the Labour Court, a gratuity of three thousand pounds".

This is a special provision in respect of three serving members of the Labour Court who are now over the normal retiring age. It is proposed to provide for them under the pensions scheme which I shall submit to the Dáil in due course. Mr. O'Shannon is a workers' representative and has been a member of the court since 1946. On retirement he will be paid a lump sum of £1,688 and a pension of £1,125 a year. Mr. Benson and Mr. Quigley are employers' representatives and on retirement will be paid a lump sum of £3,000 with no pension.

What is the service of the other two gentlemen?

I can get that for the Deputy. Mr. O'Shannon is getting special consideration which I think is justified, and I was justifying it.

I am not querying the fact that Mr. O'Shannon is entitled to special consideration. If I had thought of it in time I would have recommended that he should receive a gratuity of a much greater amount.

Mr. Benson has 12 years' service and Mr. Quigley six years' service.

Are the three of them retiring in the near future?

The nominating body can put them forward again if they so desire. They are beyond the retiring age and if they retire they will get whatever is provided in the legislation.

Mr. O'Shannon has many years' service.

Since 1946.

That is 23 years' service.

There has to be a special provision because a pension within the scheme would be inadequate for him.

I would say the House would not cavil if the Minister had made the gratuity a much higher one than is mentioned here.

This has had a very thorough thrashing out with the Congress and the other people concerned.

I appreciate that, but I am just comparing six years' service with 23 years' service.

There will not be a pension in the case of the others.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 5, as amended, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 6 stand part of the Bill."

This relates to changing "conciliation officer"?

Yes. Would the Deputy like me to explain it?

There is not very much to explain. Maybe the Minister could explain if I have taken it up wrongly. It appears to me that this does nothing except change the name. Could the Minister tell me if it is proposed that the industrial relations officers who are referred to here should operate within the system of promotion for civil servants? Are they people who will be in a section in which the first step in the line of promotion will be into the Labour Court as industrial relations officers and who, no matter how good they are at this work, when the opportunity arises for further promotion, will just step out again? Is it intended to continue that arrangement?

What I am trying to arrange is a flexibility of procedure which would make it possible to appoint people who are good at this type of work. This is a very special talent which cannot be discovered beforehand. I do not know of any aptitude testing that would show beforehand whether a person is good or not at this. As far as the law is concerned, the field is completely open on the number who may be appointed and how they will be selected. I am flexible in this regard. There are advantages in this movement through the Civil Service in so far as we may get a good officer who is not particularly good at this work and who can be transferred to other work to which he is suited. I discussed this in the Dáil before when the question was raised about the appointment of people from outside who may not fulfil expectations. It is hoped to make the conciliation service worthwhile and to get people in it who are good at this work.

It is very important to get suitable people. There are two things which affect it. One is that if a person is good he should not be left at the rate which is applicable to the job; in other words there would need to be promotion within the grade in the Labour Court.

This can be overcome.

It is a pity some effort was not made to do this before now. This has been dragging on for a long time.

There has been promotion within the service without the moving of personnel, and there have not been many losses in recent years.

There have been a number of losses where very good officers suddenly disappeared. On the one hand you will have the officer who will sit in at conferences, listen to both sides and say nothing, and, on the other hand, you will have the officer who will put in a suggestion at the right time. The officers who are good at the work suddenly disappear because they are due for promotion and it would not be fair to deny it to them. There should be promotion within the service so that these people could be kept rather than allowed to move to something else.

I am aware of this and the administrative procedures for making it attractive to people to stay are being applied. It can be done better administratively than by making a provision in law for it.

It can be done without making a provision?

Yes, my intention is that it will be done.

It is as important to have a good relations man here as to have him in business, more important in a way.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 7 stand part of the Bill".

Is this decision binding in relation to the interpretation of agreements?

It is only an interpretation. It is not binding.

The judge gives a decision, but the Labour Court can make recommendations.

It is a decision on interpretation. It will arise only if the Labour Court is asked to interpret.

I do not know if the trade unions would agree to that but, if it is only a matter of interpretation, I see no objection to it.

The trade unions do not even like the word "decision".

It is only an agreement.

There is no harm at all in the Labour Court's saying what they meant. If that is the idea, then we have no objection; if, however, they say: "This is what must be done; this is our decision" that is a different matter altogether.

They decide, on request, on the interpretation of the agreement or on its application.

It would be their interpretation of what they said.

If two parties come to an agreement and later they cannot decide what some particular part of that agreement means they can go back to the Labour Court and ask the Labour Court what it means. If they go and ask for a decision then I presume they would have it in their minds to accept.

This could be very dangerous.

It is not binding. It is a request to interpret.

Suppose two parties had a dispute before the court and the court made a recommendation that there should, for instance, be a substantial wage increase and the unions interpreted that increase as operating from the date of the commencement of the dispute and the employers, because of some earlier agreement, argued that it should be 12 months' hence and they went back to the Labour Court and the Labour Court said: "It was our idea it should date from 12 months' hence" that would not be binding because of the fact that the unions did not agree with it.

This section refers to an agreement already in existence between unions and employers. One part of that agreement needs to be interpreted as there are different opinions on it, but it is their own agreement.

But the agreement could be based on a misunderstanding. The Labour Court would have had to come into it somewhere. So long as it is only a matter of interpretation and so long as it is not binding, that is all right.

Suppose Deputy Tully and Deputy Belton make an agreement between them and, at some stage, they find they are not at one in the interpretation of some particular part of it, the Labour Court can then be asked to give an opinion on how it should be interpreted. That is the intention of the section.

I disagree with Deputy Tully. I think this decision should be final because it will be given by an independent body. It is not like looking for a wage increase. This should be final because, if it is not, everything will have to start all over again and eventually somebody will be unhappy. It should be a final decision.

This is one of the things that could cause one of the biggest rows that ever occurred in industry. If an agreement is made and there is a doubt about one section of it and the parties involved go to the Labour Court and the Labour Court say that the employer is right, the trade unions will not at any point of time hand over their right to take certain action and all that could be done, therefore, if Deputy Belton is right in what he is asking the Minister to do, is for the Labour Court to declare that their interpretation is binding, whereupon they do not come into the matter any further. Now, if a dispute occurs, the Labour Court would be precluded from investigating because they had already given a decision. That is why I stress that this should be only a matter of opinion on the part of the court; it should not be binding.

That is what is in the section at the moment. Deputy Belton's suggestion could be achieved by writing it into the agreement.

That is a different thing.

I am approaching it as a matter of interpretation.


It is not arbitration.

Both the trade unions and the employers would be scared if they thought they were going to get an adverse decision.

Question put and agreed to.

I move amendment No 3:

In page 4, line 20, to delete "may, at its discretion" and to substitute "shall".

Under the 1946 Act the situation is that the Labour Court may hold any sitting or part of a sitting in private. The matter is in the exclusive discretion of the Labour Court. Under this section the sittings will be in private but, if a party to the dispute asks for a public hearing, the court, at its own discretion, can hear in public. In the amendment I propose that a request for a public hearing will be granted at the discretionary consideration of the court. That would, I think, be a more clearcut procedure and would remove grounds for friction. The court may go into private session to deal with matters which are regarded as confidential.

I have had personal experience of this. Very many employers, who are prepared to negotiate behind closed doors because wages are so low and conditions so bad, would be scared to death of a public hearing at the Labour Court because, if the press are present, the world at large will learn what the dispute is about and, because of that, it is often very easy to make an agreement without going to the Labour Court at all. At the mere mention of the Labour Court these employers will say: "I think we can do a little better". Now, suppose there is a dispute at hearing before the Labour Court and the employer produces what he calls confidential documents and gives them to the court, saying that they are confidential and he does not want the other side to see them but is prepared to make them available to the court so that the court can see what the position is, a certain danger arises. I had experience of this: in the documents given to the court privately there was a suggestion that there had been a tremendous increase in overheads in the previous 12 months which had resulted in quite a loss and the firm were not, therefore, in a position to meet demands. In all innocence, the court said they did not think the union should press for an increase at that particular point of time. We could do nothing about it. Subsequently, because some member of the firm was a little indiscreet, we discovered what the facts were: he related how the firm had got away with it because the increases in the overheads were, in fact, increases in directors' fees, and nothing else. They succeeded in beating the claim by the union on what was, in fact, unfair evidence. Because it was alleged the information was confidential the court said: "It might do the firm harm if this information were published and we feel you should accept our word for it". I am not saying the court were remiss, but we were not in a position to refute the evidence. This happened a good many years ago. I understand the system has changed since but, if confidential information is provided, that information should be given in confidence to the chief negotiator at least on the other side. That is the only way in which such information can be checked. Now the Minister cannot write that into the Bill, but he is writing in that a public hearing should take place and I am in entire agreement with that.

Is it the employers who object to the public hearing?

My own thinking on this was influenced by the fairly remarkable success of the conciliation procedure, which is private, and by the fact that so much time is lost in going to the court for a public hearing; the whole thing has to be thrashed out then for the benefit of the public when it may be only a very small point that separates the two sides at the finish. There is also the behaviour of people on both sides who have to strike attitudes—a party line, if you like—in public. These can be perfectly intelligent and reasonable people in private but, when exposed to the public, they put on an act that is totally unrelated to the work they are doing.

The Minister is talking about employers.

They are to be found on both sides. They can create a lot of damage when they come out scream-ing that the proper machinery is not there—as happened last week. There can be posturing. In private, people behave more like human beings. It is not pressure from either side——

This has come from the officers of the Labour Court on recommendations of the unions or employers.

It is not one side or the other.

There is nothing mandatory that the hearing be held in private. There is discretion. If it is the request of the parties that it be held in public if they so desire it——

The starting point is private.

Labour Court proceedings might be shorter if more cases were heard in private. Can the Minister clear up a reservation I have in regard to subsection (2) of section 8 which reads as follows:

Where an investigation of a trade dispute is being carried out by the Court in public, the Court may, if it is satisfied that any part of the investigation concerns a matter that should, in the interests of any party to the dispute, be treated as confidential, conduct that part of the investigation in private.

Are we not back here to what we changed in the original part where, at the request of the parties, they wish it to be in public? Is the court not still left with a great deal of initiative to decide which part of a case should be in private and which part should be in public? In other words, I have in mind what Deputy Tully was referring to: the court could put an embargo on perhaps a vital part of a case to which, possibly, one of the parties to the dispute consider it essential to the success of the case that public opinion be alerted. Under subsection (2), the court could still decide that part of the case must be heard in camera. Therefore, there is still something unsatisfactory in subsection (2). The court is still left with a great deal of discretion concerning which part of a case should be held in private and which part of a case should be held in public.

I can see that in a perfect world, everything should be open to the public. However, there are parts of a businessman's affairs that cannot be exposed to his competitors and certainly, in the case of individuals —who may be considered as individuals—I think the court itself should have a discretion to hear things about them in private. I suppose there is an onus on the court to satisfy the side which wants everything in public. In any particular case that the court decides that part of it should be heard in private then that part should indeed be held in private. I can see that there is a need to have some discretion and I think the court should have it. If everything were held in private, we would not have half the troubles. Much of what goes on is done for the stage.

All you would have would be industrial relations backbenchers——

I do not think so. The conciliation service is remarkably successful and it is in private.

I do not think——

I do not say that they go for that purpose but they end up posturing.

You will have the representatives of the people concerned in the court and they will carry back their version. Therefore, if they posture in public, there will be posturing in private also. Maybe it is more necessary in order to make one's case stronger because the newspapers are represented there to report what was said or what happened. Deputy O'Leary is perfectly correct, in my opinion, because subsection (2) looks to me very much as if one went to the pictures to see a thriller only to find that the bit where the murder occurred is left out and therefore one has only the two ends of it.

As far as the case itself is concerned, those who are interested in it, unless they are present, will not be able to know what was the kernel of the dispute.

There will have to be areas where somebody uses discretion to protect with privacy certain information.

There has been an unwritten law that, if somebody hands in certain documents, they are treated as confidential.

I cannot imagine the court's functioning at all if somebody demands that everything that comes before it is for the public press.

Where an investigation of a trade dispute is being carried out by the court in public, that means that both parties to the dispute have agreed that it should be in public——

One party——

At any rate, it means that a request has been made that it be held in public. Therefore, there is disagreement obviously amongst one of the parties at least. If the court decides that some aspect of the case should be held in private so that——

We are talking about those few cases in which trouble of this kind may arise and it will be a matter of interpretation by the court——

One party wants it in public and then, as the case proceeds, something crops up about which the court says, in effect: "I think that is rather confidential. Can we close it for a moment?"

Before parties go to a court there is exhaustive investigation of practically every factor involved in the actual case under investigation.

Holding the hearing in private does not mean excluding either side from the evidence.

We know that. It is the press.

One can imagine certain situations where a person's personality may be so discussed or a person's business may be so exposed that it would not be desirable for those people to have it published in the press. Therefore, the court would have discretion to protect them.

The Minister is leaving it very wide.

As it is written in now, it is encouraging people going to the court to behave in a certain way. But I can see Deputy Belton's point of view as far as his side would be concerned: it is mostly from that side that the complaint would come. It does tend to encourage an employer going to the court to say to the court: "I think this is a private matter and should be discussed in private." I do not remember half a dozen cases in which I have taken part where, on one side or the other, I could not say: "These facts affect the personality of a worker or the personnel manager's attitude and, maybe, if it is in public, it might affect him again", and so on. Any kind of confidential data are entitled to be treated as confidential but I think it would be a great mistake if the tendency is to close every court for a period in the middle of a case and to say: "This is something we should discuss in camera". I am afraid we should soon find a worse position than that which obtained at the start.

Can the Deputy propose an alternative?

I think there is a feeling on the part of Deputy Tully and Deputy O'Leary that part of the function of the court is to be a sounding board of public opinion. I think Deputy Tully himself said so—that we can make sure we get a proper decision. This is an entirely wrong conception of the court. A court should surely reach its decisions on the facts put before it and should never be influenced by whether there is a leading article in a newspaper or whether there has been adverse comment by a columnist, and so on. The main trouble always seems to be, and this applies to both sides, the employers' side and the trade union side, that far too often they are uncertain of their own position, they are both a bit on the defensive. Both sides have to realise that the court as constituted is well qualified to reach an objective and fair decision on the facts as disclosed.

Once we start what the Minister has called "posturing", which is a natural human failing, once we try to influence public opinion through the evidence given before the court, the evidence will be heavily weighted on our own side. For that reason it is very much better that on all possible occasions the hearings should be in private. My own experience has been that when two sides get together before the court or a conciliation officer there is an atmosphere of more flexibility because nobody outside the parties concerned will know whether an attitude adopted in the first place has now been abandoned or compromised in some way. This gives a much greater flexibility. I do not feel that this provision in subsection (2) of section 8 weakens the position in any way. I have sufficient confidence in the court that they will not allow anyone on either side, employer or trade union, to make gratuitous and irresponsible applications for hearing in camera. You have to remember that many cases that come before the court involve public companies whose accounts have to be published anyway, their overall accounts, but there may very well be small details which cannot be disclosed without giving away vital information to a competitor.

You have to remember that once one party has said they want the hearing in public, and the court finds itself bound to hold it in public, it will be difficult to persuade the court that this matter complained of by one side is really confidential. I have sufficient confidence in the court to believe that Deputy Tully's fears are without foundation and that in actual fact the court will be very slow to close the proceedings to the public once it has opened them. It would put itself in a very difficult position. However, there can be cases where they should and we have to leave that discretion in the hands of the court. On the whole, I would hope that decisions would be reached by the court in private without any reference to public opinion at all. Public opinion does not come into the decision of a court. The decision of a court is purely a matter of a decision on matters of fact or of law and it should be kept that way and it would be far better

That explains our whole difficulty in bringing in amendments to this Bill. We have been attempting to drum into the heads of Deputy Booth's Party just what the Labour Court is and what industrial relations are but the Deputy stands up and shows that he does not understand what it is all about or what the Labour Court is. He persists in confusing the Labour Court with the Four Courts and of course there is a vast difference between the two. Industrial relations are not concerned with facts of law as in the civil courts. They are concerned with how much profit you want to make as an employer and how much wages your workers want. Despite what the Deputy says, public opinion plays a fantastically decisive part in deciding what justice should be given in this area.

Not in the Labour Court.

It is not a court in which individuals can preside and make out to the last particle what justice dictates. This is a question of income and nobody yet has devised the last word of what should be the basis of an incomes policy. Therefore, the Labour Court must, to some extent, be guided by and be sensitive to public opinion on the issues before it. Obviously, if two parties to a dispute are doing their best to achieve a settlement, and some aspect of the case comes up which is palpably one which should not receive public attention, or which they did not feel was necessary to the solution of the case, it would not be unreasonable for them to stick to their guns and refuse to have the hearing in private. It would be a mistake to think of the parties in a dispute being, at that stage, in any way antagonistic. You have the three sides involved, the employers, the trade union and the court, all attempting a settlement.

However, there is a loophole left here and which we sought to close, where the court can itself decide to close a case to public opinion. The Minister need not think that we are trying to make a mountain out of a molehill but after we pass this it will stand as law and every last clause of it could be a serious matter in future for interpretation. Therefore, we are not kicking up a dust over something trivial but attempting to avoid trouble in the future. It appears that a loophole still remains in regard to the opening of the court's proceedings to the public. There is still a large loophole for mistakes to occur and what we are trying to do is to rule out the possibility of mistakes occurring. Obviously mistakes will occur and there is no need to stop up these loopholes if you have an opinion of the Labour Court, such as Deputy Booth has, that it is just a suboffice of the Four Courts, but Deputy Booth has not got a clue in the matter.

I am grateful to Deputy O'Leary for putting the matter so clearly but I do not agree with him for a moment. I do not regard the Labour Court as a court of law or a subsidiary of the Four Courts but I regard anything which is called a court as a body which is trying to take an objective view of facts put before it. I do not agree for a moment with Deputy O'Leary's conception of the Labour Court's being something like one of these "people's courts" in the Iron Curtain or Communist countries——

Do not forget Cuba.

——where those courts are not dealing with fact but are there to express the opinion of the people, so called. I do not accept that the Labour Court is something which was set up to interpret and enforce public opinion. That, to my mind, would be an intolerable situation and something with which I could not agree for a moment. It has to deal with the facts as put before it and reach a decision or a recommendation to the best of its ability. I would resist to the limit any effort to switch the Labour Court from that line of action and merely make it a mouthpiece of a very vague public opinion. That is just asking it to be the victim of propaganda. We do not want to have the position that it would be influenced by the FUE or the decissions of the Federation of Irish Industries, or any of the other bodies, or of the Trade Union Congress. It must be an independent body dealing with the facts as put before it.

Before we go too far away from the section let me just point out one thing. Deputy Booth says that the question of having publicity given to it is not important and should not have an effect at all. Actually, this is where I disagree. The Deputy is reading up the next section; there is a comment on it in the Press today.

Is the Deputy converted?

We like to see cases published fully as heard in the Labour Court because if I have 100 similar cases and one goes to the Labour Court and the discussion on it is published widely there would be very little difficulty in getting agreement on the other 99 without going to the Labour Court with each one.

I agree with that.

For that reason, a public hearing is very important. If I tell the employer that this is so or tell him that something is definitely correct he may not accept it from me but if it appears in the Irish Press, the Irish Times or the Irish Independent on the following day as having been discussed in the Labour Court he will not even wait for the recommendation to come. When he sees it in black and white he seems to understand it in a different way and usually we find that publication of a case heard at the Labour Court settles very many more cases than go before the court.

That is the purpose of the amendment as I put it down—to permit a request to be effective to have a case heard in public. The portion with which Deputy O'Leary has trouble is where it allows discretion to the Labour Court. I can see that the Deputy's mind on this matter, perhaps, is that everything should be thrashed out in public but there are cases which we would agree should not be held in public—not the whole case at any rate.

I would agree.

The disputants might not agree on this and somebody must have discretion. I think the court should have this discretion which actually has been in practice since 1946. I see no alternative. It may not be the perfect solution but it is as near to doing the job properly as we can get in law.

Amendment put and agreed to.
Section 8, as amended, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 9 stand part of the Bill".

This is an entirely new provision which I mentioned on the Second Reading. It relates to the conciliation and arbitration schemes throughout the public sector. There are different arbitrators for these claims and they always act in isolation from each other. They apply varying considerations, I think, to cases brought before them. The result has been discontent produced among different groups of workers because of different findings by different arbitrators. There has been an element of what has been called "leap-frog" introduced into the settling of wage and salary levels. I thought that both from the point of view of discontented people who came out less well-off than groups in other arbitration schemes and also from the point of view of the economy generally the arbitration part of any scheme should be done by the Labour Court. That was my original proposal.

I had intended that the Labour Court in acting in that sphere would be suitably augmented by people with all the necessary qualifications, economic and otherwise, and, if something was not resolved at conciliation, it would go to this extended Labour Court. This was not acceptable to the staff associations and unions dealing with the public sector. They objected strongly to having the arbitrator replaced by the Labour Court and what is here proposed now is a compromise which is as near as I can get to having some relationship between the decisions made in the different arbitration bodies and that is to have members of the court sit on each arbitration board. When I was introducing the Second Stage I said that I hoped those concerned would come around to my original way of thinking but I have no evidence of that as yet.

This is rather wide. I did not study the section until now. When I first looked at section 9 (b) I felt that "the staff of" might be taken out and it would save a lot of trouble at a later stage. The section reads:

The membership of any board established either before or after the commencement of this section to report on claims in relation to the pay and conditions of service and matters relating thereto of any person——

it does not say "officer," but "person"— who—

(a) holds a position in the Civil Service of the Government or the Civil Service of the State,

(b) is a member of the staff of the Houses of the Oireachtas,

(c) is a member of the Garda Síochána,

(d) is a sub-postmaster,

(e) is employed by a county committee of agriculture, a vocational education committee or a local authority for the purposes of the Local Government Act, 1941,——

I do not know exactly what this Act is concerned with—perhaps the Minister would say. This qualification means that the Local Government Act, 1941, must have a certain limitation as otherwise everybody who already has the right to go to the Labour Court would be included in this. The section continues:

(f) is employed as a teacher in a national, secondary, vocational or comprehensive school or in any similar school, or

(g) is employed by any such body established by or under statute and financed wholly or partly by means of grants or loans made by a Minister of State or the issue of shares taken up by a Minister of State as may be designated from time to time by the Minister for Finance,

shall include one workers' member of the Court and one employers' member of the Court who shall be selected by the chairman.

(2) Subsection (1) of this section shall come into operation on such day as the Minister may appoint by order.

Reading that without the Minister's explanation, which may clarify it, it appears that many people who are already entitled to have their cases heard solely by the Labour Court are included in this provision.

No. The list is in fact the list available to me of schemes covering persons already covered by schemes of conciliation and arbitration. It is put in that way to identify them as people who have their wages, salaries and conditions of service determined in this type of scheme. They are not people who go to the Labour Court. It is a list of people having conciliation and arbitration schemes.

The employees of local authorities, employees of vocational education committees and members of my union have a right to go to the Labour Court as of now. Does the Act of 1941 affect them in some way? I am referring to paragraph (g) of the section "is employed by any such body established by or under statute and financed wholly or partly by means of grants or loans ...". Does that not mean State and semi-State bodies? Many of these employees are already entitled to go to the Labour Court as things stand. How do you differentiate between those who go and those who do not? This is the sort of thing that may complicate matters later on.

I shall have to get a copy of the 1941 Act but what is intended is to identify the people who now have a scheme of conciliation and arbitration and thus are not entitled to go to the Labour Court.

"Officers" might. If the word "officers" were included——

But an officer is a person.

And a servant is also a person.

I think the drafting is correct. We have named here all the schemes covering persons and those covered by these schemes are not entitled to go to the Labour Court because they have arbitration and conciliation schemes. What we are doing is bringing into their schemes the idea of a member from the employers' side and a member from the workers' side of the Labour Court sitting in for arbitration.

I am not objecting at all to the idea. You want to have a certain amount of levelling off——

Not to have them acting in isolation. These are schemes already in existence and we are introducing the Labour Court——

On that I am with the Minister. Those people who have access to the Labour Court, because they are servants of a local authority or a vocational committee or are servants or minor officers employed by a State or semi-State body at present have nothing except the Labour Court, no arbitration or anything else, and, indeed, some of them have not even the Labour Court but only indirect negotiation. We are hoping that this Bill will bring them in. By putting them in this section the Minister is, in fact, blocking the hopes of these people and what they have might be taken from them. Arbitration and conciliation does not apply to them.

People mentioned here are people who already have a scheme.

It does not affect existing conciliation procedure. It affects only boards already set up to deal with those particular people.

That is not at all what the section says.

I can assure the Deputy that no rights are being taken away. It is introducing members of the Labour Court to boards already in existence.

It just adds two members to the existing board.

So long as it does not mean that at a later stage somebody will say to a person that he is not entitled to go to the Labour Court because of the fact that he is excluded under section 9 of this Bill——

No, it does not.

I have been in this House for long enough to know that quite innocent sections put in through error have had rather peculiar results but if the Minister can give me an assurance——

The accidental interpretation of the law of which the Deputy is thinking could not come from what is in the section. What is listed there are the schemes already in existence into which we are introducing members of the Labour Court.

I agree with the Minister that everybody, including all these people, should come under the Labour Court. I do not see why one section of workers should go to one place and another section to another place. Perhaps the Minister is making this as an interim measure. I would hope that, in future, when the Act is in force, they would come to the Labour Court. What about the ESB who have their own tribunals?

I intend to deal separately with the ESB.

The ESB are another section but how do we know that industrial relations in these places are not just as bad as in the ESB?

The ESB tribunals are established statutory tribunals and the nominations to them are made by workers and employers. This Bill proposes to abolish the ESB tribunals and to put the Labour Court in their place. These schemes which exist in the different places mentioned are agreed schemes which can be terminated on six months' notice from either side and they can be changed by agreement. I had hoped that by discussion we would get agreement to having the Labour Court as the arbitrator. They were totally against this but I hope that some time they will come around to my original view that the Labour Court should be the arbitrator.

Question put and agreed to.

I move amendment No. 4 which is in my name and that of Deputy Corish:

In page 5, to add to the section a new subsection as follows:—

"( ) In Part III of the Principal Act `worker' shall include—

(a) an agricultural worker,

(b) a servant of a local authority,

(c) each class of officer of a local authority specified in the Second Schedule to this Act."

This is the first of a series of amendments that we have put down. The amendment to section 10 suggests the addition to the section of a new subsection. Section 10 reads:

(1) If an employer or a trade union representative of employers affected by a registered employment agreement complains to the Court that an employer affected by the agreement has failed or neglected to comply with the agreement, the following provisions shall have effect—

(a) the Court shall consider the complaint, and shall hear all persons appearing to the Court to be interested and desiring to be heard,

(b) if, after such consideration, the Court is satisfied that the complaint is well founded, the Court may by order direct the said employer to do such things as will in the opinion of the Court result in the said agreement being complied with by the said employer.

(2) If, where an order is made by the Court under subsection (1) of this section, the direction contained in the order is not carried out, the person to whom the direction is given shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds, and, in the case of a continuing offence, a further fine not exceeding ten pounds for every day during which the offence is continued.

(3) If a person affected by a registered employment agreement fails or neglects to comply with the agreement, the person shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds and, in the case of a continuing offence, shall be liable on conviction on indictment to a fine of one hundred pounds and a further fine not exceeding ten pounds for every day during which the offence is continued.

We put down the amendment because we seem to try to differentiate between different types of workers in this country and one such type of worker who, on every occasion that I know of, to put it mildly, has been treated as a second-class citizen is the agricultural worker. He has not been included in the Employees Holiday Act. There is an Agricultural Workers (Holidays and Wages) Bill before the House which proposes to give these people four extra days' holidays. We were to get that Bill before Easter but it has not been introduced because agricultural workers, according to the present Government, do not count.

Looking at section 10 of this Bill we see that agricultural workers are being left out. There is an Agricultural Wages Board and their job is to fix minimum rates but they have fixed minimum rates so low that even the Government themselves have stated that the rates of pay of lower paid workers are far too low. They pontificate on the necessity to have these rates increased. If the Government wanted that, they could go to the Agricultural Wages Board and tell them that they are not doing their job; that the rates are far too low and that they will find another way of fixing rates and that would be the same way as industrial workers' wages are fixed.

It is necessary that agricultural workers' wages should be included in a Bill such as this. There is no reason why agricultural workers should not be included. One may say that servants of local authorities should not be included but we have, in local authorities as, indeed, in some State employment, productivity agreements. Is there anything wrong with asking the Minister to include in this Bill the servants of local authorities so that productivity agreements could be made legally binding and so that we could ensure that they would apply all round and that the local authority employee would be treated in the same way as anybody else?

I am not quite sure why the Deputy came in on section 10 but I will, with your permission, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, deal with the amendments tabled by Deputies Tully and Corish in a general way. Their amendments seem generally designed, if they are taken together, to bring some provisions of the 1946 Act to bear on agricultural workers and certain workers in State and local authority employment.

Even one amendment would dissolve the Agricultural Wages Board in favour of a joint labour committee. I suppose I should mention that a joint labour committee cannot be set up merely by stating that the Labour Court can set it up. It has to come together.

The implications of amendments to deal with this matter would call for a great deal of thought and of consultation with other Ministers. In fact, I do not think it could adequately be dealt with by way of amendment to this Bill at all. I intend having discussed the matter with Deputy Tully in private session in the Department of Labour, to consider this departmentally and to have consultations with my colleagues about it.

As I said, when I was introducing the Second Reading of the other Bill, I would see this Bill as one of a series of measures designed to improve industrial relations stage by stage. As we reach the various stages, we can make certain proposals. The provisions in the Bill represent, after two years of consideration and discussion, the distance which I am willing to go at this particular time. It does not in any way represent a limit to the statutory improvements which could be and will be effected.

The amendments, if I may deal with them all together, to abolish the Agricultural Wages Board in its entirety and to provide for joint labour committees would be a fundamental change after years and years. We just could not consider this in a very short time like this.

At this time, having raised it now. I think it may be that close examination would indicate that there should be some changes in the method of determining the wages of agricultural workers. The House will appreciate my colleague, the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, will be very much involved in this consideration, and I could not lightly make the changes proposed by incorporating the amendments. This is why I asked if I could deal with them in general. They represent a fundamental, substantial change and warrant special examination. I would undertake to have this special examination carried out fairly quickly. As I said, I would regard it as one step only. I do not see anything wrong with a series of Bills to deal with specific situations according as they are teased out, examined and some measure of agreement is arrived at.

At the same time, I would ask Deputies to recognise that the Bill is a product of long consultations and slow progress. Anything new added to it would have to go through the same procedure of consultation and examination. In asking the Deputies to withdraw those amendments I am only asking them to go back to what we have before the House now. If they want it, machinery can be set up quickly to examine the proposals. I would ask them to wait for another time to bring in those proposals as the product of our consultation and thinking on the matter.

I have the same feeling about the other amendments, which are designed to extend the whole of the 1946 Act to local authority employees. At the moment they only come under the part relating to access to the Labour Court. This is something new. I could not come to a conclusion on it without full consultation with everybody concerned. Those involved would be the Minister for Health, the Minister for Local Government, hospital authorities, health authorities and county managers. I am not rejecting out of hand the principle involved in the amendments. I am just saying I could not accept them without giving full weight to the views of the people involved. Again, I am prepared to do what I have done up to now—to find agreement on proposals. I am prepared to enter into consultations with the parties involved at once if the Deputies will accept that anything arising out of those consultations will be the subject of legislation at a later date.

There are a couple of things I would like to go back on. First of all, when we were dealing with the additions to bodies in section 9, one of the bodies to which it is not proposed to add a member on the Labour Court is the Agricultural Wages Board. It would seem to be a natural thing to put one of their members on the Labour Court but there is a very good reason why it is not done. It is because of the low wages and the hours of work. When we come to talk about the establishment of the 40-hour week, we find people in agriculture with a 50-hour week for eight months of the year. Therefore, the Minister conveniently leaves the Agricultural Wages Board out of the list of bodies whose members he proposes should sit on the court.

If the Minister was really interested in doing something for low paid workers here was the best opportunity he could get. If he was not prepared to go the whole way with us, at least he could take this step of putting a workers' and employers' representative from the Agricultural Wages Board on the Labour Court. We might get somewhere with hours and have some comparison with industrial wages then. The Minister says he is prepared to set up some type of body to discuss these matters. He says the amendments introduced by us should get the same attention and scrutiny as the other matters in the Bill. I agree with him, but he seems to forget that about two years ago he was kind enough to meet the president of my union and myself. I think the Minister cannot complain about the information and details which we gave to him and his private secretary. It is doubtful if any other union would go to the trouble we did to give him the facts of life so far as lower paid workers are concerned— local authority employees, agricultural workers and State and semi-State employees. Not alone did we give this to him verbally but we gave him as much detail in writing as we could and we have been keeping him up to date in regard to what is happening and what is not happening.

I was not saying the Deputy did not keep me fully informed. He did. But there are other people who have to be consulted and it is slow going.

Is it not unreasonable, after two years of discussing this and having given all the information, for the Minister to say he is looking after the workers of this country but that, in regard to the poor relations, he will introduce a Poor Relations Bill at a later stage for the fellows who must be left out of this now? Farm workers, road workers, certain other sections of workers we have mentioned in our amendments, certain workers of local authorities and non-nursing personnel all come into this. They are not included in this still. I am sure that the Minister will, if he can, persuade his colleagues in the Government—if he can get them all on talking terms—to discuss the matter of including those less fortunate sections of the community. I do not want to wait another two years for the Poor Relations Bill. I should like to have it now. If the Minister says he is prepared within a reasonable time, which I would say would be before the Summer Recess, if there is one—if there is a Dissolution it will not be entirely his responsibility —to implement his suggestion of some committee to go into this matter, I am prepared to withdraw the amendments on that understanding.

I do not know whether we will call it a committee or not. There will be some form of procedure for consultation with the people involved. We will do that. The Agricultural Wages Act will have to be changed.

I could tell the Minister what to do with that but I will not.

As I say, I do not reject these things or the consideration involved. We will have legislation incorporating the product of these consultations. It might not be everything the Deputy or others want but we will have legislation and I will set up whatever procedure is needed.

What does the Minister mean by "consultation"?

Up to now we have had consultation between my chief advisers in the Department, the Congress of Trade Unions, and the employers' body. This might or might not be what the Deputy would think right. There was a series of meetings going on.

This might meet the situation. The Congress of Trade Unions are sending representatives, and naturally they will come from unions. I do not want what is to happen with regard to agricultural workers' wages and hours decided by the employers' representatives or by the Agricultural Wages Board as set up. Nor do I want conditions of employment of local authority employees to be the subject matter of advice from people who are employers or who claim to have experience but who do not represent these people. That is what I am trying to get the Minister to understand. If we are to try to improve conditions for the workers concerned we should at least have the advice which the Minister has already got. He should have the advice and information he requires from the people who represent this type of worker. Forgive me for using the phrase but, having introduced an Industrial Relations Bill to cover workers, and having left a certain set of workers out of it, it appears that the appropriate description for the Bill would be the Poor Relations Bill. I object very strongly to the attitude which the State has adopted all along that there are two types of workers— workers and others. The "others" usually can be ringed around as agricultural workers, local authority employees and the lower-paid State employees. They are left in one category. One has only to compare their wage rates with the wages of others covered by this Bill. The wages of others covered by the Bill are not wonderful wages, but they are princely compared with those of the unfortunate people who are being left out of every Bill to improve conditions, including the Bill we are now discussing. If the Minister says he can, within a reasonable time —and I specify before the Summer Recess and I will not blame him if there is a Dissolution because it will not be his responsibility then—set up a committee to go into the matters and present a report in a reasonable time I will be satisfied.

The Deputy is as well aware of the factors and the pressures involved as I am. There would be difficulties but I can undertake to have this examination started in some form before the Summer Recess.

I withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 10 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 5, to delete subsection (1) and to substitute the following subsection:

"(1) The Court may, after consultation with organisations which, in the opinion of the Court, are representative of any class, type or group of workers and of their employers—

(a) make rules which apply to, and which, in the opinion of the Court, provide for fair employment conditions for, that class, type or group of workers and are approved of by organisations representing a substantial number of the workers of that class, type or group and organisations representing a substantial number of those employers,

(b) make rules which amend any such rules and which apply to and, in the opinion of the Court, provide for fair employment conditions for that class, type or group of workers and are approved of by organisations representing a substantial number of the workers of that class, type or group and organisations representing a substantial number of those employers, and

(c) make rules which revoke any such rules."

The use of the word "industry" in the subsection as printed would give rise to arguments as to whether this or that type of employment was an industry. I would like the Labour Court to have as wide a field of action as possible in this matter and I think the amendment would achieve that.

The only thing is that it is rather a pity we have a very long section here. We have an equally long amendment moved by the Minister. It is pretty difficult to understand why, after two years' churning, we have a section like this and how the necessity arises to amend it so quickly.

It is a drafting amendment really.

That makes the matter worse.

We always have drafting amendments. The Dáil would not be the same without drafting amendments. It is to get away from the idea of "industry" where you might have a limitation on what the Labour Court can take as a class of workers. It gives more flexible interpretation.

In various Acts workers have been described in a certain way. I, however, have an amendment to this section which suggests that "worker" should include people who are not included in this. It does not do at all to have people left out. Since my amendment has not been moved I cannot deal with it but, if the Minister would have a look at it, he will see mentioned people who are workers but who are not included in the section.

May I ask the Minister how the fair employment rules here work? What relationship do they have to the old minimum legislation involved in the old Joint Labour Committee and may I ask whether this is an extension in theory of the Joint Labour Committee idea or whether in fact the Minister hopes to see fair employment rules embodying far more than the old minimum rules? Could the Minister give us any idea of what he expects to get from the fair employment rules so far as wages, hours and general conditions and incomes are concerned? In other words, will they try to set up better standards in industry? Obviously the overall concern of this section is for workers who are not members of trade unions. As we know, in many parts of the country there are industries which the trade unions have found difficult to organise, possibly because of the small scale of many of the units making up the industry. In Dublin there are many backstreet textile and hosiery factories. We know ourselves of very inadequate work places for juveniles and girls in the city of Dublin which trade unions have been unable to reach and organise. They can only be called sweat shops because they do not, so far as one can see, live up to standards that should be in vogue in 1969. Mainly they employ young people, girls and juveniles, and while they may comply with the actual minimum conditions under the Factories Act we suggest that the Factories Act should be updated to take into account what we expect of conditions today. I would like to ask the Minister if this fair employment rule means something more far-reaching than what we have had up to now under minimum conditions. Of course, if he wishes it to be a far more extensive thing than the old minimum regulations, then obviously it will call for a very wide increase of his factory inspectorate. The Minister can come in here with the figures but we are convinced that the actual work situation in this country is insufficiently investigated, insufficiently known. We all know of back street factories in which people are working in very bad conditions and are not organised by the trade unions. There are also hotel workers who are not organised by trade unions and it is no exaggeration to say that in some hotels that are not organised by trade unions there are employees working a sixteen-hour day. This is occurring.

The type of employee who is exploited in this situation is very often a juvenile just left school. This is one of the biggest problems I want to bring to the Minister's attention. The most exploited section of Irish labour is the juvenile section. The section between 14 and 17 years of age are now the most sweated and exploited section in the Irish work force. The fact is that as a result of our low school-leaving age we are giving an open invitation to employers to exploit this section of our society which very often, not being involved in a trade union, is unable to answer back or in fact does not know its rights. It works very long hours at very low wages in very poor conditions. I would ask the Minister to enlarge his inspectorate and to begin a pretty thorough examination or inventory of these newer industrial establishments which emerge in city areas especially and where young people work in very poor conditions at a period in their lives when healthwise it cannot do them any good for their future adult lives.

Another section which must be looked at is juvenile employment in garages throughout the country; we notice a tendency to employ young people nowadays in dead-end jobs, attending petrol pumps, and so on. This must be looked at. The overall idea of the fair employment rule should be to root this out.

Perhaps unsatisfactory conditions have not yet been ruled out but certainly totally unjust conditions for certain sections of adult labour have been eliminated. The new problem which is now emerging and which the trade unions as yet have been unable to deal with adequately is the problem of sweated juvenile labour, a problem the full extent of which we do not know but, most certainly, parents and others, who may perhaps belong to trade unions themselves, have a job to bring the attention of their trade unions to this growing problem.

In answer to the quescer tion of safety at work I am not sure whether I have publicly announced or told the Dáil that I have given financial sanction for a greater number of inspectors, for the restructuring of the inspectorate, which is proceeding. Naturally we have to go at the speed at which suitable personnel are available to employ them but we have made all the financial and the administrative arrangements for a muchextended factory inspectorate and therefore more extensive activity on the part of the inspectorate.

The section here is in the nature of an experiment. In the case of registered employment agreements and joint industrial councils and joint labour committees the initiative now comes only from people who are interested. I want to get the Labour Court taking the initiative. Deputy O'Leary asked whether they would do more than the joint labour committees. I think these may have come to the stage of dealing always with the wages and I would like to see the court actively encouraging groups of workers and employers in different employments to work out agreed basic conditions of good employment, that is, in the various matters which would affect both the worker and the employer. This should lead to a work basis where people would have a better understanding of their rights and of course of their obligation in areas outside the area of wages already dealt with, in areas such as discipline, dismissal, complaint procedures, demarcation and so on.

If fair employment procedures are established on a voluntary basis by representative parties in a particular employment and if these are substantially approved by those concerned, they can be converted into statutory fair employment rules by the Labour Court and made legally binding. I think the difference here introduced is that the Labour Court will have the initiative to seek to make clear to every worker his rights in relation to dismissal, discipline, complaint procedures and in general have initiative to improve the position of workers in any type of work.

Suppose a Fair Employment Order were brought in in the case of a particular industry and was agreed by the representative organisations of employers and unions involved, there would still remain a section which would not be organised by unions. What investigation can we make into an area in which there is no check as to what is happening? We draw up the rules and we say: "This is the fair employment rule" but what do we do for the ten, 15 or 20 per cent which accounts for the real injustice and exploitation, the people who are running small industrial units in upper rooms in city streets, in back avenues, mainly employing juvenile labour— girls and boys? It is an especially big problem in the city of Dublin.

The Minister referred to extending the inspectorate. Would it be true to say that he is also considering extending that section of the inspectorate which would deal solely with conditions of young people at work?

The inspectorate, I know, has been overworked already. Many times the Minister has been asked in this House to increase the number of female inspectors to deal with women at work. I would ask the Minister to consider extending the interest of the inspectorate to young people of both sexes between 14 and 17 years of age at work. This is a growing problem in Dublin and one that has not received much attention, as far as I know, so far.

Can the Minister give us any further information? When we draw up the Fair Employment Order and it is agreed upon by the representative organisations of employers and the Court certifies it, what action do we take then to see that it becomes a reality in this ten or 15 per cent of work places which may or may not be living up to the spirit of this legislation?

I should like to ask the Minister whether he is satisfied that, at present, sufficiently close scrutiny is maintained on anonymous workshops where the practices I have referred to are carried out and where Irish youth is being exploited; whether he is satisfied that there is sufficient surveillance. When the Fair Employment Order is issued, can we be satisfied that such workshops will carry out the spirit as well as the letter of the law?

There is another section which should be dealt with under this and I am wondering how the Minister will deal with it. He may remember that some time ago an effort was made by the people engaged in quarrying for road materials to get a registered agreement. Firms employing men, paying them decent wages and giving them good working conditions found themselves in difficulty because a number of other people who could be referred to as pirates were undercutting them and could supply materials at lower rates simply by having men who could not otherwise get a job working for them and working long hours. I know some of them myself who start work at 7.30 or 8 o'clock in the morning and are still working, particularly in the summer time, until 10 or 11 o'clock at night, even on Saturday nights. They are not paid overtime. The employers say: "You are getting £17 a week which is more than a driver gets in a neighbourning firm."

So far it has been found impossible to get a registered agreement, even though a big section of the employers and the unions want one. I should like to see this practice stopped because, when an effort was made by a trade union to organise the employees of a pirate firm, what did they do? They closed down. They stopped work in that area and moved off somewhere else. They left their employees in the position that they had to go elsewhere looking for employment, and they were able eventually to resume as a nonunion firm and pay the scandalously low wages and give the bad working hours and bad conditions which they had been giving. If this section of the Bill succeeds in catching people like that, as well as those referred to by Deputy O'Leary, it will be doing a good job for everyone concerned. It is most unfair that firms giving good employment and good conditions, and paying good wages, should be put out of business by the antics of those people who are there for a time only to get the best they can out of it, and who get out when the going gets a bit hard.

The implementation will be done by the staff of the Department of Labour. They will be nontechnical officers. I do not see any problem in making them available as we observe the needs. The needs will arise as the orders are made and fair employment rules are accepted by the Labour Court. Once the Labour Court is satisfied that the rules are accepted by a substantially representative number of the workers concerned, then it can be made statutory, and then it becomes the duty of the Department of Labour to implement it. It does not require technical staff.

Is the Minister satisfied that he has the resources at present?

It is hard to say. I assume I will have the co-operation of Deputies and the trade unions and other people.

The unions will admit frankly that there is this uneasiness that in many of these small units starting up it is impossible to keep an eye on all the areas, that is, where there is a small shop employing ten or 15 people it is impossible to keep an eye on them all. Can the Minister say has any survey or any examination been made of this kind of problem? We may draw up fair employment rules and they may be observed in employment where there are trade unions, and where there are employers who have been civil enough to deal with trade unions, but what about the maverick employers who may be living in 1913—and there are such employers, regrettably, still in this country? It is all right for the employer to live in 1913, but the employees are living in 1969. He may insist on dealing with them in this way, as many of them do at present, many of the employees being young people who do not know, perhaps, what their rights are, and who put up with pretty bad conditions. We are permitting grave injustices to continue under our noses. We may have fair employment rules which look very elegant and full of the spirit of social justice but, in fact, there are still not only pockets but large areas in which very harsh conditions prevail.

I will examine it on the basis that the problem exists. All these people will have to register at their places of employment. Co-operation between the Department of Labour and the trade unions would be welcome and useful.

In the example which I gave to the Minister, would he consider that where you had a large volume——

That is the quarries? I do not know how you would handle that.

A large volume of employment is given by people like Roadstone who pay reasonably good wages, or at least negotiate on them, and give good conditions of employment. Then there is this swarm of small people who gradually build up. I have in mind two firms, but I will not name them, who have been cutting in. We go to the good employers and, rightly so, they say: "What are you going to do about So-and-So? He has taken this contract off us, and that contract off us and the other contract off us." Check back to find out how he took the contract and you will find he did it because he undercut the firm, and could do so by having men working for him for perhaps a couple of shillings an hour less, and working long hours.

There is no point in asking why do the men do it. There are still big areas where there is no other employment and the position is either to go to the labour exchange or work for those people. It is the standard of living of the worker and his family that is depressed as a result of the actions of these people. It is criminal, in my opinion. Indeed, I believe the Department of Justice should step in because when a man is driving a lorry from 7 or 8 o'clock in the morning until 11 o'clock at night he cannot be in the best physical condition. I believe the Minister should have this section of the Bill so framed that these people will be caught. I know that the better employers and the trade unions have applied to have an agreement registered.

If they had a registered agreement——

They could not get it registered because there were not enough of them involved. The Labour Court said: "What about Mr. So-and-So who is employing 50?" All over the country there might be 4,000 or 5,000 employees which would be more than there are in the bigger firms who are giving good employment and good wages. Because of this they refused to register the agreement. We had a lot of this in the building trade for a good while and eventually reason seemed to prevail there and it was settled. We have not now got the man we call the house sparrow who carries all his tools on a bicycle and can undercut everyone else. If the Minister can improve this by insisting on this type of people being included he will be doing a good job. It is not a job which cannot be done.

I do not know what can be done.

Deputy O'Leary was talking about these things being done in the back rooms in the cities but there is a new racket. When they found they were not getting youngsters in and around the cities they moved down to the country towns. It is usual for someone like myself to be approached by someone who wants to start an industry. We got very "ikey" about these things and we started looking for the details of the industry. We are told: "We are going to employ 50 people" but eventually after making inquiries we find that the 50 people must be between the ages of 14 and 16 years, and there is no guarantee of employment after the age of 17 years—and they are female. I do not need to go any further. They are simply stitching or something like that.

One employer told me the reason he employed that type of person was: "You know, their fingers are more nimble and their eyes are far more accurate at that age." I said: "The fact that they would be satisfied with a very much smaller wage packet would not have anything to do with it?" I do not think he is a friend of mine any longer. This is the sort of thing which happens not only in the cities but has to be pursued right down the country. Quite a number of inspectors will be needed.

Can the Minister say whether the fines for contravening the fair employment rules have been altered, or are they a continuation of older fines which we had previously for breaking registered agreements?

It is a continuation of the old fines.

The cost of living goes up every year. If you park a car now for 10 minutes in any part of the city of Dublin it is £1 immediately. Those vigilantes who are now clearing streets and avenues have acquired an enviable reputation for efficiency in planking their tickets on the cars of the citizens of Dublin. That is £1 for 10 minutes' contravention of the law. Other matters have been updated but we do not believe we should update our legislation in regard to the penalties being inflicted on an employer who is guilty of anti-social activity. He is guilty of a serious crime against the community in that he ignores rules drawn up by representatives of employees and employers. Would it be correct to say that the fine would be the same as was imposed, say, 20 years ago?

This is the 1946 fine exactly.

If we have the same fine on an employer who contravenes an order in 1969 as obtained in 1946 we are not being serious about ensuring that the Act is a reality for those employers who wish to ignore it. Subsection (4) says:

A person who contravenes a fair employment rule shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding one hundred pounds and, in the case of a continuing offence, a further fine not exceeding ten pounds....

Could the Minister tell us how many employers were brought to book under the old code for contravention of an order? Does the Minister not think that a more realistic figure commensurate with the offence should be imposed? I would suggest that this subsection (4) of section 11 is merely a pious finish-off to this legislation and is never meant to be implemented. Would the Minister not consider that a fine of £500 would be more in line with what is required?

It seems to be ridiculous that the same fine should be provided for in an Act in 1969 as was provided for in the 1946 Act. The same thing occurs in subsection (3) of section 10. Where there are penalties provided the Minister should look at them generally and upgrade them just to keep in touch with reality and, if necessary, bring in a subsection amending the old section of the 1946 Act.

I shall examine that. I have not the information Deputy O'Leary sought about the number of convictions. I shall have a look at that, too.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 5, to add to the section a new subsection as follows:

"( ) In this section `worker' shall include—

(a) an agricultural worker,

(b) a servant of a local authority,

(c) a person designated for the purpose of section 17,

(d) each class of officer of a local authority specified in the Second Schedule to this Act."

Could the Minister say whether or not it was his intention to include these types of workers in the Bill? The fair employment rules are confined to industry. It would be better if the Minister put in the word "business" instead of "industry". In the Redundancy Payments Act, 1967, it was not the word "industry" that was used but the word "business".

What I have done here is to refer to a class of workers engaged in industry. I have proposed an amendment to that.

What amendment is the Minister talking about?

We are on section 11, and my amendment No. 5 changes the word "industry" to "class, type or group of workers" so as to make the field wider for the Labour Court.

I still think he would have covered it much better if he had deleted "industry"——

And called it "business"?

It would be a much tidier provision and would have included all these people I am talking about. At least it did include them in the Redundancy Payments Act and, if it stood up there, there is no reason why it should not stand up here. Another point is that we have been hearing in this House for a long time from the Taoiseach's predecessor, from the Taoiseach and from the Minister of the desire to bring certain sections of workers under the Industrial Relations Act, including particularly State employees. Does the Minister intend to include them or does he not?

We intend to give them access to the Labour Court.

That is a great step forward since 1946.

The Deputy would be surprised how hard it is to get people to change.

I know; I have experienced it here this morning.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Question proposed: "That section 11, as amended, stand part of the Bill."

I should like to draw the Minister's attention to subsection (3) (a) which says:

Before making fair employment rules the Court shall cause to be published in such manner at it thinks fit....

I do not think we should give so much discretion to a creature of the Legislature. These fair employment rules are going to be important and we should give explicit directions to the court that it shall publish fair employment rules at least twice in each daily newspaper published in the State, or something to that effect. Under this provision the court would be carrying out a statutory obligation if it published these fair employment rules in Our Boys. The Minister should, accordingly, direct the court to publish these rules as widely as possible through the daily press and through Iris Oifigiúil.

They have been there for 23 years and I have had no record of any complaint about inadequate publicity.

That may be so, but I do not think it is sufficient to say it has been there for 23 years and still give the court discretion to act as it wishes.

The Deputy wants it drafted in such a way as not to limit them?

Would the Minister agree with me it would be desirable to do something like that? The fact that we have not done it for 23 years does not mean that we should not do it now when we have the opportunity.

We have not had anyone saying there should be better publicity and anything written in might limit.

I do not suggest we should limit, but we could give a direction specifically in regard to the daily papers and we could go on and say "in such other manner as it thinks fit give notice of its intention". One is not limiting in doing that, but one is making sure they give at least reasonable publicity to their intentions and that is very important and highly desirable.

It is not often I find myself in agreement with Deputy Barrett but, when I do, it is a pleasure. The Minister says he does not see any need for this but all of us are aware of employees who are puzzled about the actual details of the conditions governing their work. Unions do their best to inform members of employment regulations but there still remains in many employees' minds an ignorance of their conditions. What we should do is go to the actual point of presenting each individual employee with a copy of the conditions appertaining to his place of work. The Minister may not be aware of complaints, but there is a good deal of confusion. Bad feeling can be caused by ignorance about conditions. If we have fair employment rules we should ensure that each employee will have a copy of those rules so that he or she will be aware of both obligations and rights. I agree need has not arisen but, from my knowledge of factories and so forth, I know there is a good deal of confusion on the part of employees about rights and obligations.

I think Deputy Barrett and Deputy O'Leary are actually agreeing about two different things. One is the question of the publication of the agreement by the Labour Court in order to allow people to make representations before it becomes law. Now I shall have to examine this to see what we should do. I have an open mind. The Labour Court is a responsible body. It has been operating for 20 years now. With regard to publicising the rights of workers, we dealt with that adequately, I think, in the Redundancy Act. If these statutory rules come into operation it might be a good idea to see in what way the Department of Labour can help.

Will they be posted up in the factory?

That is not required, but I will see what we can do in the line of publicity to ensure workers are aware of their rights. From both the employers' and workers' point of view it would be very important that they should know their rights.

The Minister is satisfied because the Labour Court is a responsible body, but sometimes responsible bodies act irresponsibly. I instance the case of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and the farmers' publication. The Labour Court might react in the same way as the Department of Agriculture did on a certain occasion.

If the journal mentioned in the Act had gone out of publication and they were required to advertise in it that would put them in an awkward position.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 12 stand part of the Bill."

I should like the Minister to have another look at subsection (1) (c). The Minister will tell me this was in the 1946 Act but the fact that it appeared in the 1946 Act should not make us complacent about it and accept that it is right. First of all, there is a different personnel here in this House today. There is different thinking on these matters. There are, in fact, different conditions. The inspector can walk in at what he considers to be a reasonable time to almost any place and examine any person whom an inspector has reasonable grounds for believing to be or have been a person affected by a registered employment agreement and require such person to answer such questions, other than questions tending to incriminate himself, as the inspector may see fit to put to him. It was iniquitous to incorporate this into the 1946 Act.

Speaking from memory, I think that Act created only summary offences. This Bill creates, in addition, indictable offences. We are now in the position of telling a citizen that he is under an obligation to answer any questions put to him by another citizen, dignified by the name of inspector and fortified with a certificate to that effect. That is contrary to natural justice. It is all very well for the Minister to say the person questioned need not answer questions tending to incriminate him, but who will judge what questions would incriminate? If an inspector asks another person questions and the other person says that the answers to the questions would incriminate him, will the inspector be satisfied or will the man who refuses to answer find himself in the position of committing an offence under this Bill when it becomes an Act? The average person questioned by an inspector is not in a position there and then to decide whether the answer to a question is likely to incriminate him. If the Minister is not prepared to alter the subsection drastically, he should at least alter it to the extent of adding that the person need not answer the questions put until such time as he has had the benefit of legal advice. It is highly desirable that the citizen questioned should be able to say, when the inspector tells him that he must answer certain questions and, if he does not do so, he will be committing an offence: "Go to hell. I will not answer until I have had legal advice." At least give the citizen the freedom of being able to say he will not answer until such time as he has had legal advice. By modern standards this is an oppressive section and we should not be oppressive where any of our citizens are concerned, whether they be employers or employees. I appeal to the Minister to have another look at this.

I do not think it could be taken as a refusal to answer questions if one insisted on not answering until one had seen one's legal adviser.

As the section stands, the inspector would be within his rights in saying: "I went to the house. I produced the certificate and the citizen refused to answer."

The Deputy is saying that a man, whose job it is to protect the interests of both workers and employers, will act like a bullying drunk.

Would the Minister not agree that one must always presume one is dealing with the lowest type of inspector? He may be up to his tonsils in drink. He is the fellow against whom the citizen must be protected. Ninety per cent of them may be the finest fellows in the world but, for the purposes of this legislation, one must legislate against the oppressive fellow, the bully, the drunk, the objectionable fellow and say: "I shall look after the citizen and I shall protect the citizen against that sort of fellow."

You must remember that we are dealing with a citizen and that the inspector goes to some place where he has reasonable grounds for believing that a person affected by a registered employment agreement or fair employment rules works. He is going somewhere where he has grounds for believing that the employer concerned has flouted an order by the Labour Court in regard to some matter as between employer and employee. My sympathy would not be with such a person. If our penalties mean anything the inspector must have the right to call on that man who is more than a private citizen. By flouting the rules that have been drawn up by his fellow employers and employees, he is depriving his employees of their just rights in the situation.

He is suspected of it.

Right—he is suspected of it. It seems to me that to base the whole case almost in the style of the Soviet invasion of Prague is to overstate the position. We are dealing with a very small number of employers, namely, those who are living in the atmosphere of 1913. I am sure such employers are scarce in the country. I am sure, likewise, the inspectors conjured up who may be going out drunk to call on such employers are non-existent. Some of my best friends are inspectors. I therefore think the Deputy is exaggerating the case here.

I am more worried about the fact that we are dealing with a very small number of employers, we would hope, who do not live in our age or in our world, who cause a great deal of trouble, who do not wish to live in our age or in our world. My only worry about this section or about the previous one, with which it is connected, is whether the penalties involved are commensurate with the offence. The drafting here is "...enter at all reasonable times any premises where he has reasonable grounds for believing..." Presumably he will enter premises only on the basis of some kind of report, some kind of prior information. It appears to me, as we are legislating here, that what he can ask for is the minimum. I do not agree that any citizen's rights are impaired under the section.

I am pretty horrified to hear Deputy O'Leary talk as he has been talking. I hope he will never be in a position to introduce legislation of this type if this is the view he takes. He says, in effect: "This does not matter because they are only a very small section of the community and, in addition, they are employers. Therefore, their rights can be clipped and it does not matter". We are supposed to cherish all of the children of the nation equally. The fact that they are employers does not in the view of Deputy O'Leary, entitle them to protection. We have here a reference that an employer is convicted under fair conditions. I would appeal to Deputy O'Leary to think twice before he says that, because they are a small number and only employers, they are not entitled to the same treatment as I am entitled to, as Deputy O'Leary is entitled to and as everybody else is entitled to.

I think it is unfair of Deputy Barrett to make the comment he has just made. Deputy O'Leary gave a third cause. They are a small number, they are employers and they are people who are not treating all the people of the nation equally. They are people who are——

——suspected of that.

——and there must be good reason for the suspicion.

This is wrong. You cannot presume that this is so. They are only investigating an offence at this stage.

Deputy Tully is in possession.

They are people against whom a complaint has been made either by individuals or trade unions for not doing what they should do with regard to wages or conditions. In fact, they would be people like some of the people I have referred to here and who, in my book, are in fact stealing money out of the wages of their employees. If the wage is fixed at £12 a week and they pay £8; if it is fixed at £16 and they pay £12; if it is fixed at £20 and they pay £16, they are stealing £4 a week. We still have some of them in this country who are doing that. I do not believe we should be a bit chary about whether or not we knock on the door and say: "Please, can we come back in a week's time to see your books?" because, by that time, a damn good job will have been done on the books.

My respect would be more with the bank robbers, the housebreakers, and so on, than with people who act in breach of these agreements.

I am saying that you should not be able to walk into the premises of any citizen. In fairness to Deputy Tully, he thinks that, no matter what a person's status is, you should not be entitled to walk in and to say: "I am not leaving until you answer questions." An inspector is not entitled to walk in and to say: "I am telling you that you must answer these questions. This question is not intended to incriminate you but you will not get advice as to whether it will incriminate you."

Then the bank robber who escapes into his own house, although he has been followed there by the Gardaí from the bank, should not be interviewed?

This is wrong and woolly thinking. In section 12, you are taking steps to prove that the man has not committed an offence. In doing so, you should approach him fully cognisant of the rights he has resident in him because he is a citizen. I think Deputy Tully and Deputy O'Leary are stating an outrageous principle when they say an employer is guilty because some of his employees have complained against him. An employer is innocent until he is proved guilty. Anybody who proceeds on any other premise is negativing justice in this country.

I think you are saying that you proceed with all gravity against a man but you make sure you cannot catch him.

No, I am not doing any such thing.

No rights are being taken from a man here. If you are entitling an inspector to ask a question and if the man refuses to answer or obstructs the inspector, the inspector goes home and, if convinced that the refusal was a real obstruction to the carrying out of his duties, he can go to court and it will be the court that will decide whether or not the man was guilty of an offence; it will not be the inspector. This is not a question of tanks moving in on anybody. It is a matter of whether you are able to investigate and, if you are obstructed, then you must have some punishment which will be applied by the courts, not by an inspector. If you cannot investigate then you might as well not have any law at all.

Look at the subsection. At the moment, if he does not sign the declaration of truth, then, there and then, he has had it; he has committed an offence.

The attitude of inspectors up to now has been not to get to the court but to make a man, by persuasion, apply the rules to the workers. Naturally, the thing is to try to get workers properly dealt with by their employers rather than to seek punishment for an employer and let him carry on as he was. The inspector seeks to get the agreement and co-operation of employers to apply the rules.

Would the Minister have another look at it?

I will examine it. There has been no trouble up to now.

I think my apprehensions are reasonable enough.

The section says that a person who shall be guilty of an offence shall be liable to a fine not exceeding £20. In fact, he may be saving three times that amount by not carrying out the regulations.

We will look into all these penalties.

Put two noughts on and we will be satisfied.

Question put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 13 stand part of the Bill."

This is an entirely new provision and one on which I touched on Second Reading. Disputes can arise in regard to matters other than pay, hours and holidays. An example would be a dispute in regard to discipline or the dismissal of a worker or indeed in regard to a variety of things which have come to be regarded by workers as their right, whether they are written down or of long standing practice and custom. They can develop into a dispute situation with strike action being taken and the Labour Court being involved. Often the dispute leads to widespread action, although it relates only to one person. If we could remove these cases from the Labour Court and try to have a new system, to have a rights commissioner, we would be making an advance. From the text of the provision it will be seen that the whole concept is based on the voluntary acceptance by the parties of the commissioner and there is no crossing of lines in regard to what the rights commissioner would do and what the Labour Court would do. If the court has heard a case and issued a recommendation, then the commissioner could not hear the same case. If the commissioner has heard the case and issued a recommendation, then the Labour Court can be brought in only by way of appeal. With a view to encouraging acceptance of the commissioner's recommendation it is provided that if his recommendation is appealed to the Labour Court it will be on the basis of a moral commitment to accept the court's decision.

We have often seen a rejection of the Labour Court's recommendation and people have said "We were dragged before the court and we did not want to go". They cannot be dragged before the commissioner. The idea is to have the third man who is an experienced officer come in and make recommendations in a rights issue which could lead to a strike. I think in this way we would solve a big number of cases. If one of the parties is opposed to this the commissioner would not be able to come in at all. It is experimental and I could not say how the idea will work out.

It is proposed to appoint a commissioner in Dublin for a start and to appoint others in various centres. We may need a big number of them and they may be a great success. I hope they will be. It is one thing that we should try out in order to deal with disputes arising out of rights issues rather than conditions of employment or questions of wages.

The Minister is saying something which we have always held. He will be aware of what we have said in our publication Workers' Democracy—it refers to this matter— that many problems in industry are far deeper and more widespread than purely wages issues and are caused by resentment against the whole work situation. We have expressed this view in this document. However, it is not before the House now and it may take some years before it does come before it. In regard to recruitment of these rights commissioners there has been a tendency when dealing with industrial relations to concentrate exclusively on recruitment from the legal profession. The legal profession is an august body but we want to be careful in this area of industrial relations. I have repeatedly stated that if we really wish to tackle the problem in a realistic fashion, we must understand that the ordinary lawyer, with his common law background, and all the judicial training with which he is equipped, has possibly a mental attitude which is not attuned to the realities of industrial relations, and the valued judgments that are involved in mediating in industrial relations. We have to realise that in regard to the whole idea of industrial relations between employer and employee there may be several political philosophies with regard to how those relations should be solved. The whole period of industrialisation over the last 200 years, since the industrial revolution, has not given us any final answer to what the exact balance of power should be. Since we came to know the exact situation we have not been pragmatic towards the problems which cropped up and certainly we cannot be accused of being doctrinaire in this situation which is one of a shifting balance between important forces in our society.

Therefore the recuitment of these rights commissioners should not be concentrated exclusively on the legal profession, many of whose members may have professional limitations in dealing with problems in this area. The Minister should get men of goodwill from the business world and the trade union world to act in the capacity which he has outlined. He should not simply comb the legal profession for commissioners. I am not saying that we will not need people from the legal profession, of course we will, and many of them have made a pretty good contribution in this area, but we must not recruit commissioners exclusively from that profession. We must go into society and get business men who have ideas, who are of acknowledged goodwill in this area, practical industrialists who have day to day knowledge of dealing with employees, who have grown up dealing with employees, and also people in the trade union movement who also have first hand knowledge of the problems. The Minister, indeed, should cast a wide net.

I do not know if the idea of appointing regional commissioners is a good one, that it would be a good idea to appoint fixed commissioners for certain regions. However, the Minister certainly is on the right track in one regard and that is that we must keep amateur mediators out of industrial disputes. Too many amateurs have been interfering in the past. The Press itself at all times has a habit of looking for a Galahad who will, by a miracle, solve an industrial dispute when the people in the dispute cannot do so themselves. Miracles do not occur in the resolution of industrial disputes, either at the rights level or any other level, and it is no inhibiting factor at any stage to have a knowledge of the facts of industrial life. The Minister has taken a first and a healthy step towards eliminating these amateur mediators.

In the past few years we have seen false hopes being raised on three or four occasions that disputes were about to be settled either by some municipal figure or a prominent figure in the community, men who may have many qualities but who are not possibly bestequipped to deal with these thorny questions. Some fingers have been burned in the process in the past few years. The whole status of the Labour Court has been devalued where it can be suggested that somebody emerging from the sidelines has settled a complicated industrial question. It is the bane of those who are involved in a dispute from first to last suddenly to discover that a deus ex machina has arrived on the scene to settle the matter and, without any prior study or any knowledge of the underlying tensions at work, suddenly a solution is reached. It obviously means that respect for the reputation and status of all the existing institutions is devalued. Therefore, I think the rights commissioners could certainly ensure that industrial relations are left where they rightly belong, in the hands of those intimately involved.

The rights commissioner investigates the matter and then goes to the court and on this and other occasions where the court hear a case no time limit is set within which they must give their recommendation or decision. Surely there should be a seven-days or 14-days period in this case within which they must give a decision? This is very desirable rather than that the decision should be held over for two or three weeks.

I had not thought of seven days or 14 days.

No, but we could set a limit. We might settle for a month or two months.

I do not like the term "rights commissioner." Perhaps mini-ombudsman or something like that would be appropriate. Rights commissioner is a big mouthful for what might be a pretty small man. I agree entirely with what Deputy O'Leary said about the question of the amateur who dashes in to settle a dispute. It always reminds me of the story told of two men employed in a quarry. All morning they had been banging a very big rock with two heavy hammers. They did not appear to be making much impression on it. Towards lunch-time, the foreman came, took one of the hammers, hit the stone in the middle and split it in two and said: "That is how to do it." One man said to the other: "We were softening it all day for him." That sort of thing happens in these disputes where often people have been attempting to find a solution by direct negotiation for weeks and when they have almost reached a solution somebody steps in and succeeds in getting credit for much hard work. On occasion all of us have cursed the foreman who hits in the right place or arrives at the right time. It is regrettable that these people take some of the credit which is due to the Labour Court conciliation officers particularly.

This seems to me to be simply a continuation of the arbitration which the Labour Court operate at present. On a number of occasions where a single worker was involved in a dispute I have asked the Labour Court to provide an arbitrator. They produced one man and we agreed to accept the recommendation if it was one that could be accepted and the decision was given pretty quickly, in a matter of days rather than weeks as is the normal practice in the case of the Labour Court itself. I should like to know a little more about this proposal. Is it proposed that this rights commissioner should sit in Dublin? Will his only function be in the Labour Court? Will he go out to investigate disputes? Will he travel around the country? If he does, one would be very little use because the time spent travelling, unfortunately, unless we provide a helicopter service for the Labour Court, is very considerable as far as the Labour Court is concerned. If somebody must drive from one end of the country to the other it takes a good deal of time. I think it would be necessary to have more than one and perhaps they should be interchangeable. We find that while it is nice, if you are covering a particular district in the country, to know the officer you are getting and the side to approach and the side not to approach, at the same time this is equally evident to employers and others concerned and for that reason the fresh approach might be the better one.

I am intrigued with another matter here. Subsection (8) says:

An investigation by a rights commissioner shall be conducted in private.

That is fair enough, but subsection (9) says that a party to a dispute in relation to which a rights commissioner has made a recommendation may appeal to the court against the recommendation and subsection (9) (c) says that a hearing under this subsection shall be held in private. Why? I do not understand that. In the case of the hearing by a rights commissioner it might be a good idea to have it in private; but if it goes to the Labour Court is it not an ordinary case and why should it be decided that in this case it should be dealt with privately?

It is an appeal——

"A rose by any other name...." As far as we are concerned as working trade unionists, it is simply another case going to the Labour Court for investigation, just as if we had taken it to a conciliation conference and had made no headway. That was in private and we handed it over to the Labour Court. I think this is a restriction which should not be included. There should be the right to have the case in public if necessary because it may affect just one person and it may appear to the Labour Court to involve only a small matter but, in fact, it might have very great repercussions. I am all in favour of letting the general public know what is happening when cases between workers and employers have to be investigated, if that is possible.

I am quite convinced of the benefit, from the point of view of speed and normal commonsense, in having the business done in private. It is an experimental idea to have rights commissioners. I would hope they would act speedily and give their recommendations and that, if there were an appeal to the Labour Court, it would be heard quickly and decisively.

But you are finished with the rights commissioner as soon as his recommendation has been rejected. From that point on is it not the same as if the Labour Court——

Yes, on the assumption that they will accept the recommendation of the court. I still think we should try this method of doing things quietly and quickly in small cases that could escalate into big disputes. There should, I think, be regional rights commissioners. Deputy Tully thinks we should have one as distinct from Deputy O'Leary——

Not one—many.

The number depends on whom we can get.

There are many people unemployed.

I do not think that there should be one, say, in Cork to deal with the people who are still down there. I did think at one stage that it would be no harm if we had a section of the Labour Court in Cork to deal with cases in the Munster area. Certainly, a dispute arising suddenly out of a question of some right which is being infringed should have a quick service if the service is to be successful.

So long as the Minister does not move the Department to Clare we shall not mind.

We might do that also. I was referring in the case of Cork to Deputy O'Leary when I mentioned the people who are still left there.

Have we not the best mediator in the country in Cork —the Taoiseach?

To return to the question of the number, this will depend on the success of the idea in the first instance and also on the availability of people who can perform this service. We are in an area where talent and acceptability must be combined and I would ask people in the field to let me have suggestions about how this should be done. I had in mind fulltime rights commissioners resident in certain areas. Deputy O'Leary was thinking, I think, in terms of part-time operators on a panel accepted by trade unions and employers, who could be called on to serve when required. This is an idea that emerged while we were discussing the section.

The Minister is going back into the field of the amateur again.

No. I am talking of acceptable people. I am not doing it; I said that Deputy O'Leary had proposed it and if the Deputy wishes to argue he should argue with Deputy O'Leary. There are people in the trade unions who could not be regarded as amateurs and who might be good at this job on a part-time basis. They are not amateurs. There are also business people, who have not neglected the personnel function, who could be good at this task and would be acceptable to the trade unions. The animal whom it is difficult to find is the neutral one who has the talent and acceptability; but no one is quite sure how neutral one can become. Time and again I have been pleasantly surprised to find a lot of employers who were acceptable to trade unionists as people who would give a fair opinion on a trade union question. There is a problem in finding people who can do this job but, if we do find them, they can make a success of it and create a demand for more people of the same kind. I would ask people in this House and in organisations outside, if they have any suggestions to make, to send them to me because this problem of selection is a very real one as far as my job is concerned.

It is stated under this subsection that the hearing shall be in private. In view of the fact that the decision has to be accepted, and, more important, that the facts on which the decision was made should be understood—because the result of the hearing would almost certainly be publicised; this is something that might be misunderstood by workers—the right to have it publicised would be a good idea.

I am quite certain, although I may be wrong, that we should try to get away from appealing to public opinion. We have no way of hearing clearly what public opinion says in reply. If this were to be done, money would be spent by one side, an advertisement would be placed in the papers, and then the other side, if they had the money, would put in another advertisement.

I am not talking about advertisements. I am talking about the Fourth Estate.

If those involved in a dispute were to appeal to public opinion they would be likely to be rebuffed. There is a great case for appealing to somebody who can answer back, such as the Labour Court. Let them give a decision. If we had some way of knowing what public opinion was, there would be something in this argument. But, since we have not, this idea would be only frustrating to the people concerned in trying to solve the dispute and irritating to the general public who, themselves, often suffer by disputes.

Those involved in a dispute at this stage would not be eager to worsen the situation and they themselves are the best authority about whether they should be conscious of public opinion. Public opinion certainly plays a large part in this area of industrial relations. I do not know if the Minister gets public opinion loud and clear but I do know that we are all in a profession in which, if we do not hear the tune, our deafness will prove mortal in the long run to our continued presence in this House. That is something which we must understand.

The trade unions are getting the tune loud and clear. I agree with Deputy Tully that we should not rule out the possibility of public opinion as playing a very constructive role in this area. I am not suggesting that we have a Seven Days programme on it immediately, but I am saying that public opinion should not be placed in the position of being an obstruction in this matter and something to be avoided.

We are covering a wide area. We talked about this earlier. I brought in an amendment to make it possible to have, at the request of either party, a Labour Court hearing in public. This is where the Fourth Estate, as Deputy Tully calls them, would come in. He was not so nice to them the last night we were here.

I am sure that, if I called them something, they called me something much worse.

I think that, if this information is not available, very often the workers will be blamed for going on strike; but, when the facts come out, the public often realise that it was necessary for the workers to strike. I am talking in this particular section about experimentation. I am quite sure that in disputes affecting one man a quick and quiet decision could be made by the Labour Court who, in this case, would be an arbitration board. In such a case there would be no point in asking the public to decide if it is the employer or the worker who is right. If such appeals are to be made to public opinion, the arbitration body will be pushed out of the way again.

I am afraid that Deputy Booth's remarks of this morning have had more effect than I thought they would have.

I had this in before Deputy Booth spoke. I am sure the House will agree that disputes which very often affect only one individual could be solved quickly without any extraneous motivation being brought in.

The Minister seems to be under the impression that a dispute in which one man is involved affects only the one man. I had a case where there were 150 workers involved over the driving of a lorry. In that particular case, a relatively junior man got the driving of the lorry and 149 people said they would go on strike unless another worker, who had 20 years' service and who was entitled to get the job, got it. Could I reasonably say that this was only a minor case?

I did not mean to make cases of that sort minor ones. I am saying that the public cannot give a quick decision.

If a case is taken to the Labour Court which affects even one man and if the case and the result are published in the press and read by employers all over the country, the publication of that one decision could prevent many other disputes all over the country. It could affect not only my own union but dozens of other unions as well. I see no reason at all why, if it is an ordinary Labour Court case, it should not be possible to have it held in public on request.

I would not be against publication of the Labour Court findings.

If the Minister wishes to conduct an experiment which would be valuable, let us have it. The Minister's point that you would have a rights commissioner who would concern himself directly with matters relating to incomes and wages, is a good one. Leaving aside the possible attractions of explaining one's case in all its detail in public, the temptation will always be there, when proceedings are held in public, to say that, in fact, more speedy results could be achieved by holding them in private. Against that, why can the same latitude not be given at the commissioner level as was sought to be given in the previous part when we were talking about the Labour Court and cases held in public? Why can we not say that an investigation by a rights commissioner may be conducted in private? Why must we be completely rigid in this area and say "It shall be conducted in private"?

Much educational value attaches to Labour Court proceedings if they are properly reported. When the facts of any dispute are revealed by good reporting, it is of great educational value to the public. We then have an early warning system instituted for the public, letting them know that a problem is beginning to grow and increase. I suggest we should not be very rigid about this section here. We should say, even at this level, that an investigation by a rights commissioner may be conducted in private. In other words, he would still retain the right to hold it in private if necessary. But we would not have the present straitjacket situation, where the commissioner has no choice. We are saying to the commissioner: "You shall hold all cases in private". I believe that is against the spirit of the experiment the Minister wishes to conduct.

I cannot change my mind. We have had 23 years of publicity. I have amended the early sections to allow for matters of wages and conditions of employment to be still held in public at the request of a party, whereas in other areas you appoint a rights commissioner. We hope he will succeed. We hope to be able to get the people to do this job well. He may hold his inquiry at the plant, at his own house or he may hold it at the house of an employee. It will be privately held and he will make his recommendation. Then if the employer, the employee or the trade union want to appeal against this, if they do not accept it and think the Labour Court might act differently, they can go to the Labour Court with it. My feeling is that you get down to solid business if you go into the Labour Court without publicity. If you have publicity, you will get the people concerned appealing to public opinion instead of trying to adduce arguments and accept decisions. It is an experiment in procedure which is worth carrying out. It may very well fail. If it does, we can always have public hearings of the Labour Court as our first procedure. But I have a feeling it is worth trying in those areas where wages and salaries are not involved.

Will there be any tendency, could the Minister say, if a case is heard in private at commissioner level and it is finally not resolved there and goes to the court, that the court will be predisposed to hearing the case again in private? Will there be any tendency for the court, having seen that the matter was already heard in private under a commissioner, to consider that the same conditions prevail and there is no need for publicity?

This is in the thing. As far as the rights commissioner appeal is concerned, this is in private. It is an experiment which should be tried and probably will work.

I am talking about the decision where we have failed at commissioner level. Would the appeal to the Labour Court be in private?

Things could never be held in public?

I did not appreciate this. Are we not building up a total chain of secrecy? This certainly is more serious than I thought. In other words, the case which was held at commissioner level in private must continue behind closed doors to the very end.

It is an experiment. A new type of person can make a quick examination and a quick recommendation. I think it would all be done very quickly. If people want, and both sides agree, to have the rights commissioner, that is all right. If they do not want to have that, they can go directly to the Labour Court then and have all the arguments and appeals to public opinion. As I say, I feel effective action in some cases has not been taken on decisions because people were appealing to public opinion and public opinion cannot make the decision for them. The Deputy mentioned in this House that we are responsible to public opinion at election time; but, in the case of disputes quickly flaring up which need quick solution, I believe they are better conducted in this way. What I want to introduce here is a third person who will make recommendations on a rights issue. I think it is something worth trying.

I thought, on my reading of this, that if the investigation was held in private at commissioner level it could be held in public afterwards if necessary. There may be virtue in what the Minister says for having a case held in private, but it should be at the discretion of the commissioner to hold it in public if he so desires or if any of the parties so desire. In the case the Minister referred to, I think most parties would prefer to see it held in private, but I do not think we should deprive them of the right of holding it in public if necessary. We now have the situation where, in cases of victimisation or, as Deputy Tully says, in an individual case which could be a flashpoint for a larger confrontation at the place of work, the individual concerned can have his case referred to a commissioner, but, if no solution is reached and he wishes to utilise the Labour Court, he can only utilise it behind closed doors.

If they want to do so.

If they do not go to the rights commissioner?

On the very first day they can go direct to the Labour Court.

Wait a moment. Are we not contradicting ourselves if the whole idea is to have an experiment?

This is only for people who are willing to settle their problems in this way.

I hope everybody who uses the Labour Court will be willing to settle their problems.

The Deputy will know that people will want everything settled their own way. This applies both to employers and employees.

I hope this prophesy does not come true. I rather think what may happen here is that the rights commissioner will be dealing with very few cases indeed.

This could happen.

What could easily happen here is that the rights commissioner avenue, since it does not allow of cases being published, will become a cul-de-sac used by nobody.

It could happen, but the idea is that it will lead to solutions rather than justification. If they do not wish to use it, we cannot help it. But I think we should put this in.

If they do not have a clientele for solutions, then they will not have any solutions.

They can go direct to the Labour Court.

You would have no solution.

You would have the solution the other way if they were available.

All your arms in this voluntary system depend on a market. If you do not cater for the existing market then your solutions here are interesting but——

I do not want to provide another stage for performance. I want to give those who want solutions a way of getting them without this extraneous appeal and self-justification in public.

If the Minister wishes to tempt people or to improve an existing situation then he cannot be too theoretical in the solutions he proposes. It is interesting for me to accuse the Minister of being over-theoretical. From the commissioners here up to the court he is, in fact, following rather rigidly a theory in which he believes. He has made up his mind that public opinion is, in fact, a stumbling-block or that the proceedings being held in public is a stumbling-block in arriving at a solution.

——at a quick solution for the particular type of case. The other way is still open.

There are sections of the old Industrial Relations Act which are now for the birds, and which never operated, never grew or developed. It appears to me that there is a grave possibility of this again because of the rights commissioner dealing with an extremely sensitive area of the interpretation of the law, a potential flashpoint area for the further spread of a particular dispute, perhaps one that refers to relations between employers and employees, dismissals, or questions of interpretation or possibly of resentment. The Minister says the whole point is to ensure informal proceedings which can be held in secrecy. There is a side to that particular viewpoint but I am suggesting also that if the Minister wishes this service to be really availed of he should not close the door to the idea that the proceedings can see the light of day even at Labour Court level. Once one participates in the rights commissioner's hearing and once one goes before him, one is cut off from outside opinion. From beginning to end that is going to be the last public view of the justice. One must take it just as it comes within the four walls of the place within which the case is being heard. The Minister's answer to that is "go to the Labour Court in the first place". In other words, take your case straight away to the Labour Court. This would probably continue the tendency to use the Labour Court initially in a particular complaint which was not properly processed and which did not need that solution at that period. It seems to me that the Minister is being over-rigid and over-doctrinaire in his approach to this matter by suggesting that he is trying to divide industrial relations into those in need of rapid solution and who must get rapid solution in secret, and those who wish to go to the Labour Court and have the solutions in public. He is being needlessly coy about public opinion in this. I do not see proceedings being held in public in the same light as the Minister does. Proceedings held in public have a constructive part to play in the forming of public opinion and in educating the parties involved.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 14 and 15 agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 16 stand part of the Bill."

The purpose of this section is to shorten the period to 21 days instead of 30 days. When a joint committee makes a proposal in the Labour Court for fixing a minimum rate of pay or regulating the conditions of employment of workers the court must publish the fact and give to interested parties an opportunity to make representations about it. The provision in the 1946 Act allowed for 30 days within which they would receive representations. I am reducing this to 21 days which appears to the people concerned to be sufficient.

Have any representations been made to the Minister in this regard?

I had representations to have it shortened.

I might ask just one simple question about this. The report goes to you in future as the Minister. What does that mean?

Just that we have a Minister for Labour now.

What do you do with it?

It comes to the House. Up to now it went to the Government.

Question put and agreed to.

There is amendment No. 7 in the names of Deputies Corish and Tully.

This again is influenced by things which went before.

Amendment No. 7 is not moved.

Deputy Tully withdrew them.

Previously disposed of.

I had a general arrangement with Deputy Tully that if he withdrew these amendments we would set about studying their application.

I suppose he will tell the spokesman for Labour some time what he proposes doing.

Amendment No. 7 not moved.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 8, line 11, to delete paragraph (e).

A health inspector is mentioned as a worker for the purpose of Part VI of the 1946 Act, so he has access to the Labour Court in the event of a trade dispute. The trade union representing health inspectors have told me that inspectors wished to participate in the scheme of conciliation and arbitration available for local authority officers. This scheme does not apply to local authority officers who have access to the Labour Court. They have asked to have their name removed from paragraph (e), section 17, subsection (1). It is to meet the wishes of the health inspectors themselves which were conveyed to me by their union that I propose to delete paragraph (e), section 17, subsection (1).

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 9:

In subsection (2), page 8, line 19, to substitute "shall" for "may".

All we seek in this amendment is that the Minister for Finance "shall" do what is in the section. We wish to make it "shall". Whatever the intention, there was a loophole that the Minister might not designate from time to time and we wished to ensure that the Minister for Finance would live up to the intention of the section so we propose "shall" instead of "may" and hope he will act accordingly. There is nothing like a little help.

I can see the point but I have a problem in this. If everybody who could be designated has been designated, what happens then?

I see what the Minister means.

It is just a matter of trust, is it not?

All we sought to do was to ensure that where from time to time all were not designated, if there was any new category we wished to involve, we would do so.

It is just that there is a lack of trust, is it not?

It is not necessarily that we do not trust the present Minister for Finance—he is a respected member of an adjoining constituency —but what we sought to do was to ensure that legislatively there was a compulsion to make sure that all were involved in the particular designation. I do not know how the Minister sees that that will land him in a difficulty.

I am told that "may" is better drafting than "shall".

Does the Minister see our point?

I see the point and the intention is that they will be designated from time to time as they come up.

I do not know if I am authorised to ask for a division on the words "shall" and "may".

I am advised by the people who did the drafting that "may" is a better way of doing it. It is a matter of trust. The Deputy wants to force the Minister to do it.

The Minister does not feel like being forced?

If I did not think I was doing violence to the Bill it would not bother me at all but I am not an expert on drafting and neither is the Deputy.

Would the Minister consult again with the drafters?

I will consult with the draftsman again but I was advised that "may" is better for the purpose of getting the Minister to do this. Whether an assurance here that it is intended to carry out what the Deputy wants would satisfy him I do not know.

"Shall" appears to me to be slightly stronger than "may" but still it does not seem to me to be totally comprehensive. Even with "shall" the Minister could still slip out without cutting his own throat.

"Shall" is a term that has a meaning in law, that has a compulsion of some kind attached to it.

I think it is really a matter of semantics as far as the Deputy is concerned, not as far as the Minister is concerned.

For God's sake grow up. This is a serious question. Would the Minister consult with his advisers?

Is amendment No. 9 withdrawn?

Has the Minister promised that he will consider this problem?

I will have a look at it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 10 and 11 not moved.
Section 17, as amended, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 18 stand part of the Bill".

Section 18 says:

... Subject to subsection (1) (b) of this section, the Court shall not investigate a trade dispute unless—

(a) it receives a report made by an industrial relations officer who has acted as mediator in the dispute stating that the parties to the dispute have failed to arrive at a settlement of the dispute through conciliation, and

(b) the parties to the dispute have requested it to investigate the dispute.

What exactly could the Minister say would be the exceptional circumstances where the court may investigate a dispute irrespective of the foregoing provisions?

The 1946 Act which invests the Labour Court with general power to investigate disputes, has specified restrictions on this general power. These provide that the court will not investigate the following types of disputes except on certain conditions: (1) a dispute involving persons on a registered joint industrial council, that is unless the council asks for an investigation or the court thinks a stoppage of work is imminent; (2) a dispute involving the ESB Tribunals, that is unless the tribunals ask for an investigation; (3) a dispute involving an agreement between the parties which provides for other methods of determining the dispute, that is again unless the court thinks the dispute is likely to lead to a stoppage of work; (4) a dispute involving matters dealt with in registered employment agreements, again unless a party to the agreement asks for an investigation or the court thinks the dispute is likely to lead to a stoppage of work.

That is the general situation in regard to the power of the Court to investigate disputes and the intention of section 18 of this Bill is to provide on a formalised basis that before the court will investigate a dispute, the conciliation procedure will first have been tried and if conciliation fails then the court may investigate the dispute if the parties ask it to do so and if the industrial relations officer who had acted as mediator at conciliation reports to the court that the parties failed to settle at conciliation. This should be normal procedure and I hope will be normal procedure but it would be unwise to set up rigid, unqualified machinery or statutory procedures. Accordingly, it is being provided that the court may investigate a dispute which has not gone through the conciliation service and for which it has no request from the parties if the court thinks there are exceptional circumstances which would warrant an investigation.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 19 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 12:

In page 9, line 7, after "request" to insert "or requests".

Amendment No. 12 is a grammatical amendment to the second line of subsection (1) and amendment No. 13 is an amendment to subsection (3) to remove a possible source of conflict with section 8 which we dealt with already as regards the public and private investigations by the Labour Court.

The Minister talks about the arbitration aspects here. Where both parties agree in advance to accept the recommendation of the court in a particular case, he talks about this being given priority presumably on the basis of a speedy solution being arrived at. Could this in any way be taken to take priority over a rather serious case in which the parties have not agreed to accept the recommendations as binding? As the Minister knows, a complaint of the court in the past has been that cases have not been heard rapidly enough. I know we have taken steps to ensure that the court may more readily involve itself and deal with cases but where there is obviously a declared preference for arbitration or where such is acceptable to both parties is there a possibility that such cases may take precedence over other cases in which the parties have not agreed?

The possibility is there but I do not think it would happen to the detriment of the public interest.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 13:

In page 9, line 25, before "An investigation " to insert "Notwithstanding anything contained in section 8 (1) of this Act,".

Amendment agreed to.
Section 20, as amended, agreed to.

I move amendment No. 14:

In page 9, line 37, after "deemed" to insert ", unless a party concerned in the matter objects to its being determined by the tribunal to which it is referred,".

There are two tribunals in the ESB. The first one, which is popularly known as the manual workers tribunal, was established in 1942, and the other, known popularly as the employees' tribunal, was established in 1949. They are the only statutory tribunals in the public sector charged with the task of determining disputes between the employing body and the workers. There is no such machinery in CIE, Aer Lingus or Bord na Móna.

The statutory provision dealing with the determination of disputes in both the 1942 and the 1949 Acts is quite rigid, that is, that disputes between the ESB and its workers shall, at the request of the board, or of the other parties to the disputes, be referred to and determined by the tribunal. There are further statutory provisions, one in the Industrial Relations Act, 1946, and one in the 1949 ESB Act which prohibit the Labour Court from investigating a dispute in the ESB, except at the request of the tribunal, whichever tribunal has the dispute before it.

This again is further complicated by the fact that investigations by the Labour Court, if asked for, still leave the tribunals with the statutory obligation to determine disputes so that, in fact, recommendations by the Labour Court would not be made to the parties of the dispute, but handed back to the tribunal to enable the tribunal to determine disputes as laid down by law. While the tribunals have a statutory obligation to determine disputes, there is no obligation on the workers to accept that determination. It is an unusual situation to say the least of it.

I wanted to change this rigid procedural pattern and allow the ESB and its employees to set up whatever procedures are mutually acceptable to them, so that they can negotiate pay and conditions in a flexible manner, with the possibility of suitable conciliation procedures. I do not intend imposing any procedures on the parties. I think these will come from their own decisions to set up their own procedures. My proposal will have the effect of making the Labour Court available to the parties, without the present circumscription whereby the court investigates only on the request of the tribunal, leaving the tribunal to make the determination. So that the situation as I see it evolving now would be that in the ESB the board and the workers will have to come together and set up procedures and agree on procedures to replace this rather rigid system, and they will have procedures at conciliation, with the Labour Court available to them for any situation in which they want an opinion and a recommendation from an outside body or third party.

Can the ESB opt for the same system as the Garda or the civil servants have got?

Conciliation and arbitration?

Can they opt for that as an agreement?

They could negotiate this with the Board.

That is what I mean. The Minister wants them to meet and try to get agreement. Does he not think that the relationship has been so bad there to date that for them to get some agreement now would be quite difficult? Why not let the tribunals run on for a period until something concrete is arrived at? What will happen between now and such time as they come to an agreement? It might take them six months to come to an agreement. So far as I know, the engineers in the ESB have refused to accept the Labour Court the same as other bodies such as the civil servants. There are various factions in the ESB who are not willing to go to the Labour Court. In the white-collar workers, if you like to call them that, there are 2,800 members and 2,000 are outside Congress. There will be trouble there.

The final report of the Committee on Industrial Relations recommended the abolition of the tribunals but recommended that for the white-collar workers there should be some special arrangement, and that thought should be given to their situation. The interim report on the ESB said that a body of this size should have an adjudicating body inside its own framework. It is so big that it is completely different from the normal situation. We have here also a multiplicity of unions. Will they work the old system: one union, one vote, or will this be fixed up between themselves? In the case of the ESB, what will happen between now and when this is fixed up? Will they sit back and do nothing or have they no way of working at all?

I mentioned earlier that there are many groups at the moment, like the Civil Service, who will not go to the Labour Court. What will happen there? Will not that lead to more disputes? If the tribunals were allowed to run on until such time as they got agreement it would be better, or the Minister might give them something to work on in the meantime, even something similar to what the Civil Service have, and that could be there until they get some agreement between the ESB and its workers.

I realise the problem is there, but it is very difficult to get anything done until we change the present situation. What I am trying to promote, and I think it is happening, is to have direct negotiations between the board and the employees. The interim report on the ESB recommended setting up machinery. The final report, having heard all the evidence, recommended that there be no formal rigid machinery set up instead of the tribunals, and that they should be encouraged to develop procedures by agreement. I have met some of the trade unions concerned and I am meeting them again, but I think it is desirable that the tribunals should go. It is also desirable that useful agreed procedures should replace them. The difficulty is to know whether this will happen while the tribunals are still there, or whether the fact that we are legislating here will encourage both sides to greater efforts to produce agreed procedures themselves. I do not want to impose any and I cannot impose any procedures on them.

Would the Minister not say it is strange to find this section in this Bill? We are now dealing with industrial relations in general. This is a large semi-State concern and it has an unenviable record of fraction and strife over the past few years. The two reports published on the situation make interesting if pretty sad reading.

Exactly what kind of consultation has the Minister in mind? Is he satisfied that this represents the overall opinion of the employees of the board? Does he think the present situation is being improved, the rather sad relations which have existed between the majority of the board's employees and the board? Can he tell us on what information he is acting in the suggestion to abolish them? In fact might he not be disimproving the situation with this idea that they should be abolished? There has been in the past some tension between the manual tribunal and the other tribunal under the board. Whether the situation is being helped by dissolving the tribunals with a stroke of the pen remains an open question. I think the Minister will agree that he is taking a step in the dark and does not know whether he will be confronting a piranha in the process of going into the dark. It is a South American fish.

A very exotic analogy.

What happens to you when a piranha gets hold of you is not very exotic.

I read my James Bond, too.

Could the Minister tell us what espionage activities led to his decision to dissolve the tribunals?

There is a recommendation from the committee which examined the ESB situation. I am not quite clear on the date but there was also a fairly thorough criticism of the tribunals by the employees after the last ESB strike. The general rigidity of the procedure seems to have made it difficult—not that industrial relations are easy at any time—for decisions to be made. Even if the Labour Court were to come into the picture, it had to be invited in by the tribunal and could give its answer back only to the tribunal. At one stage we had a case going from one to the other. All in all, apart from the discussion which I had with the trade unions at the time of the dispute, the setting-up of the committee to examine the question shows our anxiety to help the ESB and its employees to have better procedures. The ESB may be regarded as having bad industrial relations because of the massive anxiety caused when there is any dispute. The unions and the Government now have a fair body of information on which to base further action to improve relations, and we should be able to get away from the idea that the ESB will always be in a bad industrial relations situation.

I believe from what I have been told all round that the tribunals were an obstruction to normal procedures and that their removal will allow a more natural type of negotiation between the board and its employees. The trade unions have complained that because there is a determining body at the end of the road there is a tendency to let the case off to this body. In some cases this could be used intelligently; in some cases it might be helpful to a personnel officer so that his employers would not be saying he gave too much. This tendency I have spoken of is militating against proper industrial relations and proper negotiation. It has led to rigidity in procedures and has frustrated trade unions, workers and employers. If we could move away from rigidity and give much more attention to the personnel aspect of management, we would get an all-round improvement. It is part of that general thinking that leads me to believe that we should abolish the statutory tribunal. As regards the setting-up of other machinery it is easy to see, if we think it out in connection with the report of the committee, that the same objection that arises in the case of statutory tribunals is there in the case of any formal, rigid machinery. That is the main objection, that it moves people away from meaningful, direct negotiation and conciliation.

Can the Minister say whether there are any grounds for believing that the vacuum created by the two tribunals will be filled by something else? One can see that, if the ESB has had a bad industrial relations record in the past few years, we in this House have not helped in our own dealings with the ESB. Witness the monumental blunder with the ESB (Special Provisions) Act. I cannot understand why we did not get a section in this Bill to abolish those provisions, seeing that the Minister time after time has announced his willingness to remove that Act from the Statute Book. This is a time for admitting mistakes. The Minister for Labour and the Government have some mistakes to their name in the matter of the ESB (Special Provisions) Act.

If the Minister abolishes these tribunals he should not leave the ESB without some method of negotiation. I suggest that he should give them, in the interim period, the same machinery as is available to the guards and civil servants, as the Minister mentioned in connection with section 9.

I should like to appeal to the Minister to consider the abolition of the ESB Act. This would assist in bringing about better relations between the workers and the ESB. This is not the first time I have asked the Minister in this House to repeal this legislation. With the introduction of this Bill the time has come when the Minister should reconsider the situation in the hope that the elements making up the different groups who negotiate will get a better grip on their members and, in that way, create more satisfaction and better agreement between people who are more fully and more comprehensively represented and with a greater degree of responsibility. I would ask the Minister to consider the repeal of this enactment. Such repeal would serve a useful purpose and would inspire greater confidence and engender better industrial relations.

I understand that when the last war was nearly over a number of the guards in the concentration camps in Germany took off their uniforms and put on the prisoners' rags in the hope that they would not be recognised for what they were, that the invading forces might think they were prisoners and treat them well. That would almost seem to be the position now where some Members of this House are concerned. Deputies who were not so sympathetic to the ESB when the Act was being passed and who voted for the Bill now say, on the eve of a general election, "I am not in favour of it now and we should never have put it on the Statute Book. It should be taken off now."

With regard to the abolition of the tribunals, I do not know whether or not the Minister has fully considered this. He seems to be playing with fire. He and the country may get a shock if he proceeds with the proposals in this Bill. Deputy Belton is correct: what is sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander. If certain people can say they will not go to the Labour Court and, because they will not go to the Labour Court, the Minister decides that is all right, they can keep their method of arbitration or conciliation and the Labour Court will put on a workers' and an employers' representative to keep in line with what is going on, then I cannot see why the ESB employees should not be treated in the same way. If others have the right to say they will not go to the Labour Court is there not a danger that ESB workers will also say that they will not go to the Labour Court, that they have their own system and want to retain it?

The Minister referred to the fact that there was some dissatisfaction expressed with the ESB tribunals some time ago. There was, but I do not think all the adverse comment came from the workers. I distinctly remember dissatisfaction being expressed by Government supporters because there was an award made with which they did not agree. It is freely rumoured— the Minister must know this—that this is one of the main reasons why the tribunals are being abolished; it was felt that at least one of the awards made should not have been made. Apparently, if someone steps out of line and gives the workers what is considered to be too much then they must be dealt with in the only way the Government know and that is by abolishing them completely. That seems to be the approach.

We are asked to accept this for the good of industry. The Minister said, fairly enough, that because the ESB was such an important industry we tended to give it more attention than would normally be given to other industries of its size. Of course it is an important industry. The entire industry of the country depends on it. This is the extraordinary thing—despite complaints that it has a bad industrial relations record, and a number of Deputies commented that it had, that is not actually true. If we check we will find that the record is not at all bad. It is, in fact, reasonably good and it would be unfair that it should go out from this House that we consider the industrial relations record bad. However, I do not think the Minister will improve the record by removing the tribunals set up for the purpose of settling disputes and putting nothing in their place. At the moment ESB employees have the tribunals and they have the Labour Court as a last resort. Under this they will lose the tribunals; they are told: "You can take it or leave it. If you do not take the Labour Court you will get nothing."

On serious consideration, I am sure the Minister will agree that he is experimenting here. He said earlier on in another connection that he was trying an experiment. Here he is trying an experiment which may explode into his own face. The Minister will offer ESB workers the Labour Court as a means of settling their disputes. Without in any way decrying the Labour Court, I suggest the Minister is trying a very doubtful experiment. If he said there would be a particular section of the Labour Court, with specialist knowledge, to deal with disputes and that they would investigate ESB disputes, then I could see some slight merit in the proposal but, as it stands, I cannot see any merit in it at all. This is very dangerous. I am sure that in the two years during which the Minister has been discussing this matter with the trade unions and the employers he has time and again had advice as to what should be done. Perhaps he would tell us if some of that advice was that he should abolish the tribunals. Did the advice come from the workers' representatives? Have the unions at any time suggested it would be a good idea to do away with the tribunals and give these workers access to the Labour Court? If that advice was given I certainly am not aware of it.

The Minister is not being fair to the workers concerned and he is not being fair to Members of this House when he asks them to agree to the passing of a section like this. It is no use saying it will prevent duplication because people will know they can go eventually to the Labour Court if all else fails. That is not the answer. The Minister has got it into his head that he will lump the whole lot into the Labour Court and that special consideration will not be given to the ESB employees. I claim these employees are entitled, because of the important work they are doing, to special consideration. It is quite a common thing here for people to decry the claims of those who are doing special jobs with special rates. People doing special jobs are entitled to special rates. They are entitled to be adequately paid for the work they are doing. It is not sufficient to say there is a court to deal with everybody else and it should be good enough for them. It is not good enough for the people concerned here and they will not take it. Before the section is passed the Minister should reconsider it. The matter is too serious to have the section as it is. Perhaps the Minister will tell us whether or not he will give further consideration to this particular section before the Report Stage?

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.