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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 21 May 1969

Vol. 240 No. 10

Agricultural Workers (Holidays and Wages) Bill, 1968: Committee and Final Stages.

Question proposed: "That section 1 stand part of the Bill."

We have not got an amendment down but has the Minister considered the question of extending the scope of the Bill in view of the fact that there are quite a number of people who are employed in agriculture and who, in fact, have agricultural stamps put on their insurance cards, but who, nevertheless, are not covered by the scope of the Bill? These people are usually in areas where it is difficult to get trade unions organised. The result is that in some cases they are not even paid the minimum rate. I gave a few instances to the Minister yesterday when we were discussing the Second Stage. Would the Minister consider them and, if necessary, would he consider amending the Bill in the Seanad?

These people are doing work which is recognised as agricultural work and they have to put agricultural stamps on their card, but they do not come within the scope of the Agricultural Wages Board. For instance, there are people employed in racing stables. They are doing agricultural work attached to racing stables. In many cases they are paid very much more than the minimum wage, but there are some cases where they are not even paid the minimum rate. Although agricultural stamps are put on their cards, if the matter is reported to the Agricultural Wages Board they cannot recover the arrears due.

There are others who are employed on golf links. There is another example of people employed in pleasure gardens. If they are employed as market gardeners they are agricultural workers but not if they work in pleasure gardens. There are also people looking after some church building or the church grounds. Even if they are regarded by everyone except the employer as being engaged on agricultural work, they have not got the protection of the Agricultural Wages Board. There are other categories too numerous to mention. Perhaps the Minister would consider introducing an amendment in the Seanad to cover this point.

I agree with Deputy Tully on this because I know from my experience that what he says is correct. As he says, in some racing stables people are paid much more than the normal wages, but there are quite a number of young people particularly who are being exploited in some of these places simply because they would work with horses if they were to starve. Advantage is taken of this. It would be a good thing if the scope of the Bill were widened to include them. I am sure it would take quite a small adjustment in the drafting of the Bill to have them included.

I am not aware that there is similar exploitation in other occupations, but I remember some years ago asking in the House whether, in fact, there was any minimum wage for industrial workers generally, and there is not. We have a minimum wage for farm workers, but no minimum wage for people otherwise employed. That is an extraordinary thing, and that is what leaves the situation wide open to exploitation. I have no doubt that in a limited number of cases there is exploitation.

It does seem that there may be some reasons for the Deputies raising this matter but, on the other hand, as I see it at the moment if there are people who do not come within the Agricultural Wages Acts in one way or another, presumably they come under some wing of some other legislation and/or arrangement. These people about whom the Deputies have been talking are organised, so far as I can understand the matter.

Some are and very many are not.

It is unclear whether, in fact, they are excluded from these Acts, but I see no reason why the Agricultural Wages Board should not investigate cases of this nature and, perhaps, by doing so highlight the gap, if there is a gap, and discover whether it is organisational or legislative. In the type of circumstances which Deputy Tully has mentioned I cannot see why the Agricultural Wages Board could not investigate them.

They do investigate them and they send to me, as the trade union secretary, or to the individual concerned a notification that they regret that they can do nothing about it because of the fact that those people do not come within the scope of the Agricultural Wages Board. It would help if the Minister would get his colleague, the Minister for Social Welfare, to check on the type of insurance stamp which many of these people put on their cards. I believe some very wealthy employers have it both ways. They put on the cheaper stamp on the grounds that they are agricultural workers but they do not want to pay the minimum agricultural rates. It is true, as Deputy Clinton says, that there is no minimum rate in industry outside of the Joint Labour Committees or the Joint Industrial Councils who fix minimum rates in some cases. Apart from that there are no minimum rates.

In so far as this anomalous practice, to say the least of it, may obtain I would be very glad to take it up with Social Welfare and see whether, in fact, even at that level it could be straightened out and if we could find out exactly who is entitled to put on these stamps and what benefits they may expect to derive from them if and when the time should arise. I have a fair idea about this business of the anomalies that arise from time to time not only in that occupation but in some others as well. People find that while they are stamping their cards for a particular purpose when it comes to a question of a claim it is the wrong stamp. I will certainly take this up with Social Welfare. I would be glad to get it cleared up because it does arise in some categories—some isolated categories, but nevertheless they are genuine.

So far as the overall problem as enunciated by Deputy Tully and Deputy Clinton is concerned, I will certainly go into this and see whether, in fact, there is any way, in addition to the councils, industrial or otherwise, and/or the Agricultural Wages Board, in which we could get some clarity on this matter. I will certainly promise to do that because if such anomalies arise and exist we should try to eliminate them as fast as possible.

The minimum agricultural rate in a country district was, say, £10 2s per week for 50 hours in the summer and 44 hours in the winter for four or eight months until 21st April, when there was an increase of 30/- per week in wages. Suddenly people, who had been told when they were being employed that they would be paid the agricultural rate, found that they ceased to be agricultural workers according to their employers, because they did not want to pay the extra 30/- a week. This occurred to my knowledge in racing stables in some isolated cases and in regard to people looking after pleasure gardens and attached to hotels—very wealthy employers—and I regret to say there was at least one clergyman who said he could not afford to pay it.

The Chaplain to the Forces?

No. The man who did not get the 30/- was asked to pay 30/- into the church fund while his wealthy neighbour put 6d or 1/- on the plate. That is what it amounts to.

We had 18 amendments down and we withdrew them all except two. This was one of them. I want to make it very plain that this is what we would like to have done if at all possible. Frankly, we think it would be better to change the present system under which the Agricultural Wages Board operates and get an up-to-date system under which all these cases could be caught. After the election this might be done.

Regardless of the intervention of an election, this point Deputy Tully has raised is one I would have raised later on some other sections. Circumstances have changed to such a degree that the possibility of a completely new approach to the whole question must be in prospect. Therefore, some of the things we wish to tease out here and try to add to this amendment might be done much better through a complete review legislatively of the whole concept of the Agricultural Wages Board, taking into account the change in circumstances generally since the Agricultural Wages Board started off. As I say, this was something I intended to mention, but since Deputy Tully has raised it, it is as well for me to say now that it is something I feel is necessary anyhow.

Everything is uncertain at the moment.

I am giving the Deputy my belief that this is necessary, and this arises from our examination of what has come before the House. Therefore to some degree it is based on what we have gleaned from this investigation. If the House feels that this is the better way to go about it, then I would be prepared to continue the investigation and the discussion on the whole concept so that, if new legislation in a wider context is needed, it would be set in train.

I would prefer if it could be dealt with in that way. Unfortunately, the Minister cannot bind his successor, and there is very little hope of getting a Bill before the House and passed before the election takes place. However, if the three of us, including Deputy Clinton on the other side, are of the one mind and the Minister makes a statement of intention that this should be done, I can see no reason why it should not be possible to pass this Bill and then to make the necessary arrangements as soon as possible to have what is required done.

Farm workers consider they are being treated as second-class citizens. Legislation is proposed for other workers and then for farm workers, and I do not agree that that should continue. The Minister said yesterday he agreed with me that farm workers were skilled. Now they have to repair machinery on the spot as well as doing the ordinary work, but even before they had to do that they did things that the city man or the skilled man outside farm work could never do in 100 years. This was never recognised and I am glad the Minister now says there is a prospect of this type of skill being recognised.

I should be quite happy if it could be agreed that the idea of the House was to introduce legislation to have a new type of wage fixing machinery for farm workers. The original Agricultural Wages Board was set up during the First World War and it continued quite well until the change from British to native Government. However, this present board was set up some time in the mid-'Thirties when the minimum wage was 24/- a week, which was supposed to be a floor under farm workers' wages, but believe it or not it was then a very big step forward because there were people working for half that amount. The war intervened and upset the whole thing, but up until last year and this year no attempt was made to realise that farm workers were being atrociously treated. This extra 30/- has brought them within striking distance of industrial workers, and I personally feel that farm workers should not get less than about £14 per week, which is what the average industrial worker would be getting. However, if the Minister gives notice of intent to introduce a further Bill if he is still there, I should be quite happy with that.

In making suggestions for reform the Minister is obviously trying to read into the mind of the new Minister for Agriculture very shortly to take over. Like Deputy Tully I think this whole thing needs to be looked at and changed, and I hope that, whoever is there, it will be completely overhauled before very much longer. At the same time it would be wrong to delay the passage of this Bill which represents certain improvements which are worth making and we should let it through the House as quickly as possible.

Question put and agreed to.
Sections 2 to 6, inclusive, agreed to.

I move amendment No. 1:

In subsection (1), page 7, between lines 17 and 18, to insert the following paragraph:

"(c) such recovery may also be effected by an official of a trade union of which such worker is a member in the name and on behalf of the worker".

The reason we suggest this amendment is that this is normal practice under legislation dealing with industrial workers where there is a minimum rate laid down, and it should also be possible here. While the Agricultural Wages Board officials are very cooperative with the trade union officials, there is a certain amount of trouble which could be avoided if this paragraph were added.

I do not think Deputy Tully is quite correct in saying that in industrial legislation trade unions have the power to act on behalf of the worker in this manner. What I understand is that in industrial employment and under some of the Industrial Acts the trade union officials have, as indeed also has the worker, the right to prosecute for the offence of non-payment of wages due, and that if there is a conviction the court may order the employer to pay any moneys due as distinct from what Deputy Tully's amendment proposes to do. I do not think that is in industrial law at the moment, nor do I think it is something we should contemplate at this stage in this sort of Bill. I should say that at present recovery proceedings for wages due may be taken by the worker or by the Agricultural Wages Board on his behalf, and, by and large, as far as I can ascertain, that is working reasonably satisfactorily. Apart from the amendment, I am not aware of any particular demand existing for the proposal in the form in which Deputy Tully has presented it, and perhaps the reason for the amendment is mistakenly on the basis that this sort of thing is available under the Industrial Acts, whereas I understand it is not so available.

The Minister seems to have misunderstood the amendment. In the Conditions of Employment Act, 1944, the provision the Minister has suggested appears in that Act. The money can be recovered if, in fact, a prosecution takes place. If the prosecution fails there is, of course, no question of the recovery of the money. This is exactly the same. Perhaps I should have read the full section, but I was trying to save the time of the House. The section provides:—

(1) Where there has been a failure in compliance such as is referred to in subsection (1) of section 6 of this Act, then, whether proceedings have or have not been brought under that section—

(a) the worker may recover from the employer a sum equal to the amount not paid in relation to the public holiday or, where appropriate, equal to the sum improperly deducted from wages, and

(b) such recovery may also be effected by an officer of the Board by proceedings taken by him in the name and on behalf of the worker.

(2) Notwithstanding anything in any enactment proceedings under this section shall not be commenced to recover any sum unless—

(a) if the worker has at the date of the commencement of the proceedings ceased to be in the employment of the employer—

(i) the proceedings are commenced within twenty-four months of the date of such cesser, and

(ii) the failure in compliance occurred within the twenty-four months immediately preceding the date of such cesser, or

(b) if the worker is in the employment of the employer at the date of the commencement of the proceedings—the failure in compliance occurred within the twenty-four months immediately preceding the date of the commencement of the proceedings.

(3) Nothing in this or the immediately preceding section shall be construed as enabling any sum to be recovered more than once.

What the amendment proposes is that we should be able to do exactly the same as a trade union official can do under the Conditions of Employment Act, 1944. If the employer does not agree to pay the arrears then we should be empowered to initiate legal proceedings for recovery. I do not think there should be any objection to that.

But they are entitled to institute proceedings. In fact, as compared with industrial workers, we are somewhat in advance in that the Agricultural Wages Board is authorised to recover and, irrespective of whether or not there is a conviction, there can be recovery on behalf of the worker. I think we are ahead of industrial workers in this regard. In regard to the specific point raised by the Deputy, the trade union may prosecute in relation to the offence of non-payment and, whether or not they succeed in that prosecution, the court may order the moneys to be paid.

The Minister has not got it quite right. What is provided is that the Agricultural Wages Board can initiate proceedings and the aggrieved worker can initiate proceedings, but there is no provision to enable a trade union to initiate proceedings on behalf of the worker and that is the specific matter we are dealing with under this section.

But that is not available on the industrial side at all.

It is. A trade union can initiate proceedings to recover wages.

They can initiate proceedings for the offence of non-payment.

Under this we cannot except in the name of the worker, not as a trade union representing the worker. If the Minister is prepared to consider this further I will withdraw the amendment now, but I am most anxious to get something into the Bill.

The Agricultural Wages Board have always been very co-operative. They have the power and, immediately they are approached, they proceed. On that score there does not seem to be any great importance in it.

Do I understand the Deputy now to be asking for the right of the trade union officials to take a prosecution for the offence of non-payment rather than for the recovery of moneys due?

If we have the right to take proceedings for the offence of non-payment we have, under the original Act, the right to recover the moneys due.

I shall be more than happy to look further into this.

Good enough.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 7 agreed to.
Sections 8 and 9, inclusive, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 10 stand part of the Bill".

Would the Minister explain this section: "Holidays under this Act shall not be reckoned as holidays for the purposes of the Act of 1950"? Two days have since been added by order of the board, St. Patrick's Day and Christmas Day. Does this simply mean that they shall not be reckoned as annual holidays?

That is correct.

Question put and agreed to.
Section 11 agreed to.

I move amendment No. 2:

To add to the section the following subsection.

"(2) Section 17 of the Act of 1936 is hereby amended by the insertion of the following subsections after subsection (2):

‘(2A) Where the Board in fixing a minimum rate provide for a differential rate in the case of overtime they may determine what employment is to be treated as overtime employment.

(2B) The Board may also fix minimum rates for all other payments, including sick pay.

(2C) In this section (and in section 19 of the Act of 1936) "wages" includes overtime, sick pay and holiday remuneration'."

This is something the board have been operating for a number of years. They have in fact been getting away with it, except in the odd case in which the individual being questioned knows too much about the law. They have got away with defining what is overtime and the inspectors have been able to collect arrears of overtime, but now the board have been informed by a legal adviser that they are not entitled to do this.

In order to put the matter down correctly we suggest that it can be dealt with in this way: to provide a minimum rate for a differential in the case of overtime and determine what overtime is and that it may also fix the minimum rates for all other payment including sick pay. There is a large number of agricultural employers who pay employees when they are sick for a short or perhaps for a long period, but there are others who do not give sick pay at all. The position is that a man, or a woman, may be employed for 10 to 20 years and if he is unfortunate enough to become ill and be sick for a few days or a few months he will receive no pay from his employer who will say that the Department of Social Welfare is responsible for paying his sick pay. We know that the Department of Social Welfare pay a rate which in most cases is not anything like what is paid as wages and therefore we have numerous examples of farm workers being forced to go back to work before they have fully recovered because they were unable to live on social welfare benefit and because the employer would not give them sick pay. We feel that some regulation, therefore, should be made to entitle them to sick pay.

It is interesting to note that when sick pay was introduced in other types of employment the incidence of long illness dropped considerably. The result now is that people who did remain at work even though they were ill because they needed the money, are able now, if they find themselves becoming ill and see a doctor, to stay out for a few days or a week and are then able to resume, whereas before they might have had to stay at work until the last minute and then remain in hospital for a couple of months. If possible people who have been employed for a certain period should be entitled, on production of a doctor's certificate, to receive sick pay from their employers.

I think in regard to the three elements of these amendments that what is not fully appreciated is that the board was constituted to ensure minimum payment or minimum wages for hours worked and that unilaterally to set out what those hours should be does not come within its constitution or authority. I am not talking about the number of hours in the week; the number, yes, but to be more definitive as to what hours in what days should be worked. This is not within the jurisdiction of the board nor was it originally intended as part of the board's functions. It is probably true to say that the board cannot make an order fixing the number of days or the number of hours in which a worker may work. I think this is the actual case and therefore in trying to determine or provide for that which is encompassed in these amendments we are without doubt going beyond the scope of the actual purpose of the board.

Earlier I mentioned that these are matters of wider impact and it is not appropriate to deal with these changes in this sort of Bill, because they could be regarded as a radical change in the role of the board as we have known it and as it was constituted. For that reason I cannot see that we can usefully or properly accept these amendments on this measure. These are the type of matters of broader application and greater general application that should be considered in the review which I say I am agreeable should be continued, and which we had already instituted in regard to these relatively smaller matters, and which Deputies opposite are satisfied should be proceeded with. This review should take place and the matters raised in these amendments are appropriate to it.

I am afraid the Minister is not quite correct. This little booklet "Agricultural Wages Board— Memorandum of 21st April, 1969," which is a "Summary of legislation relating to prescribed minimum rates of wages, annual leave with pay and the weekly half-holiday for agricultural workers," starts off by giving the rates for each group. At the top of Group A it gives the rate per week in which 44 hours' work is done during the winter period and the rate per week in which 50 hours' work is done during the remainder of the year (exclusive of work on Sunday or weekly half-holiday). At the bottom of the page it says that the winter period is the period from 1st November in one year to the last day of February in the following year. The rate per hour for work done in any week in which less than 44 hours' is done (exclusive of work on Sunday or weekly half-holiday) during the winter period is 1/44th of the appropriate weekly rate and the rate per hour for work done in any week in which less than 50 hours' work is done (exclusive of work on Sunday or weekly half-holiday) during the remainder of the year is 1/50th of the appropriate weekly rate. Then it lays down the two wonderful holidays which are to be paid for, St. Patrick's Day and Christmas Day.

How can the Minister say that the board are charged with fixing rates of wages and not hours of work when in fact they are charged with both? At one period when the Minister was not in office—and as a matter of fact I made a comment the other day to Deputy Dillon which some people thought was unkind — when Deputy Dillon was Minister for Agriculture the 50-hour week was first introduced, but somebody must have whispered in his ear because he made it an optional 50-hour week. If a man worked for 54 hours he got a full week's wages but if he dropped to 50 hours he lost four hours' pay. He could have his weekly half-holiday but he lost four hours' pay.

However, that was 19 years ago and things have changed very much since then; but it does not get away from the fact that an overtime rate is laid down which I understand is not strictly enforceable and this is what I am trying to get at. If the Minister can think of a better way of having this matter dealt with than the way suggested in the amendment then I am prepared to agree with his suggestion, but it would be very unfair to allow this Bill to go through without at least trying to stop this little loophole. I assume the Minister meant that the board were not supposed to deal with absence through sickness but something should be done about this also, particularly as a break of four days in a month deprives a farm worker of one day's annual holidays. If he is sick for four days not alone does he now, according to the board, be entitled to lose four days' pay but he loses a fifth day because he loses one day's annual holidays.

As I say, there are thousands of agricultural employers who do not stick to the minimum and pay very much better wages and give better conditions. Those are fixed for the people who want to give the least possible to agricultural workers. For that reason the Minister should try to tighten up this section.

There is another group in the country who may not exactly be tarred with that brush but who, in fact, refer not to the minimum rate but to the standard rate and they take anything that appears in this booklet as being gospel and, therefore, give exactly what it says and nothing else. For that reason, even at this stage, there should be some effort made to improve the matters referred to in our amendments before the Bill goes through the two Houses. Otherwise we may have to wait a long time for any further change in the law.

Broadly speaking, I would be prepared to support these amendments. There are in the booklet that Deputy Tully referred to rates of overtime laid down for various groups —A, B, et cetera. It is a revelation to me that these overtime rates that are specified by the Agricultural Wages Board are not, in fact, enforceable in law. If this can be secured by altering the Bill, it should be done because if an employer is compelled by law to pay a certain rate per week for work done and if it is fair to do that, it should also be fair to insist that if a man works overtime his employer should pay whatever is the prescribed amount for that overtime. That is fair, I think.

In the case of road workers who are now doing a five-day week and who in my view are not doing nearly as important work as the man working on the other side of the ditch, there are sick pay arrangements. It is not unreasonable to expect that something similar should be provided for farm workers. It is all wrong that farm workers should be so terribly discriminated against. I know there is always the possibility, certainly in the case of prolonged illness, that a farmer who has a man employed would not be able to keep paying him if he was not able to do his work. That would be an isolated case. Some provision should be made. It is easy to say that it is done in the county council and why not insist that everyone else do it. There could be a case where it would be a considerable hardship. Even in the case of a county council, the period during which a man will get full pay is not very long.

Twelve weeks.

Having to pay for 12 weeks could represent a hardship in the case of a man who was struggling to keep one man employed and if he had to get somebody to replace the man whom he would also have to pay it would be quite a lot to expect.

I think there is a slight misunderstanding here as well in so far as the powers of this board are concerned, even as read by Deputy Tully from the Agricultural Wages Board memorandum. What did emerge clearly there and which I think was missed by the House is that it refers to the hours in which work is done. This is, in fact, the distinction. In the board's minimum wage-fixing structure and its related overtime-fixing structure there is an emphasis on the hours in which work is done. This is what the board, in fact, is entitled to determine the minimum wages for—the hours in which work is done. This is a very clear distinction as between what their powers are and what Deputy Tully attributed their powers to be as read out from this memorandum.

Perhaps, what I should say in the positive sense is what the Agricultural Wages Board does and is entitled to do. Under our existing legislation it prescribes the minimum rates of wages for a week in which a certain number of hours of work are done. These at present, as has been said, are 44 in the winter and 50 in the summer. They also prescribe an overtime rate per hour for any time worked in excess of 44 hours in winter and 50 hours in summer. In practice what the board does is, it relates its minimum rates to the hours which it finds to be prevalent in contracts already entered into in given areas between employers and employees. Indeed, it is true to say of it that the board cannot unilaterally decide to take the lead and reduce the working week. It must follow actual trends. We are dealing with an instrument, namely, the board and, perhaps, through misunderstanding of the emphasis that is on the words "hours in which work is done", which is a very important distinction here, we are, in fact, trying—no fault in trying—to attribute to the board a role which in its legislative form and practice up to now it is not, in fact, suitable or capable or, indeed, in some cases entitled to have, strictly speaking, in the legal sense.

I would refer again to those words— and they are very important—"the hours in which work is done". This is the distinction that really emerges and it is a distinction which makes this board not the vehicle by which we might reach some of the obectives, however desirable they may be and again reverting to what I said, would call into question the necessity of a complete, broader review with, possibly, coming at the end of it, a new legislative code relating to the new circumstances. Undoubtedly, circumstances have changed a great deal since this concept was not only first instituted but was re-constituted—all quite a long number of years ago. This is a situation in which Deputy Tully and Deputy Clinton should take particular note of these few little words—"the hours in which work is done". They do alter very much, as I have been advised, the type of machine we are dealing with in this board as distinct from what we might wish it to be.

I cannot agree with the Minister. It is a distinction without a difference. The trouble is that as the Agricultural Wages Act is at the present time a man may start work at 8 a.m. and work all day and, because of the fact that there is some type of work for which he is needed, may work until 10 or 11 p.m. The following day he may go to work at 8 a.m. and some time during the morning it may start to rain and he may not be able to work for two or three hours. Would the Minister tell me in what other employment is an employer entitled to pay at a flat rate for hours worked, even on occasions, right through the night? Would the Minister care to comment on the situation where a man is working at some particular job, for instance, if there are cows calving, pigs farrowing, and what have you? Men are required to work during the day and to stay up almost the whole night and yet they are paid at a flat rate: no overtime rate is laid down. In every other legislation, even in the Conditions of Employment Act, it is laid down that any work done I think originally it was after 48 hours in any week or nine hours in any day shall be paid at overtime rate. This does not exist in the Agricultural Wages Act. Again, it is a question of differentiation between the industrial worker and the farmer. I am talking about the people who are scattered all over the country and who, in the main, are not in a trade union.

Consider the man who milks the cows in the morning and who works until 9 or 10 a.m. and is off then for a few hours and comes back in the evening. He works longer than the recognised working hours in any day but, for one reason or another, if he does not complete 44 hours in the winter or 50 hours in the summer he is not entitled to be paid overtime rate. It is particularly hard on the man who, for one reason or another, has to work his whole 50 hours in maybe three or four days in one week. If the employer gives him time off or, alternatively, makes a reason why he should not be employed, due to inclement weather or anything else, he does not get anything extra for the hours he worked, right until midnight, maybe, except the ordinary flat rate. There is something radically wrong with that kind of legislation.

I agree that a wholesale change of legislation is needed and that that is not proposed in the Bill. However, in view of the fact that those changes can be made in this Bill, I believe the Minister should make an effort to have it done.

There is one other point. The weekly half-holiday is paid for at time plus one-third. The Sunday rate is time plus two-thirds. Where would any other employer get any other type of worker for such rates? I am aware that the Wages Board themselves can reduce the hours of work. If the Minister is setting up a working party—I think this is the best way to go into this particular item—he might, as an interim measure, suggest to the Agricultural Wages Board that, before any legislation is passed, the time is ripe to reduce drastically the number of hours worked by farm workers. Years ago, when we first tried to get a 5½-day week for farm workers we were told we would have to get a 5½-day cow. The farm workers now have a 5½-day week and that has been the position for many years. Even if we do not immediately come down to the five day week, it should be possible to bring the hours of farm workers down to a rate comparable with that of other workers. A rate of 42½ hours per week as against that of 50 hours per week which is worked by farm workers is very different and, in addition, farm workers are being terribly badly paid. I would ask the Minister to look at this whole question of overtime. No matter how many hours a man works in a day, if he does not work more than 50 hours in the summer and 44 hours in the winter, the farm worker cannot be paid more than the weekly rate.

Farm workers are in a context that makes it quite a radical departure to talk about doing these things on this particular amendment Bill.

The Minister would not object to being called a radical, would he?

It is not so much that. The Minister does not object much to what he is called: he bides his time and calls back. The Agricultural Wages Board and the legislative authority that it has was designed to cater for employment that is, without question, different from the run of work, for instance, in an office or a factory which starts at a certain hour and finishes at a certain hour. This cannot reasonably be done in so far as agricultural pursuits in general are concerned. Nobody can wish this difference away. Time will not alter it. The Agricultural Wages Board, which is the instrument for doing these jobs of minimum wages, the total hours in a week that should be worked, the holidays, and so on, that should be prescribed was set up quite a while ago. Whatever cribs we might like to make and whatever comparisons we might like to make between those who work on the land and other workers, there is a fundamental difference between farming occupations and the general run of other occupations. We cannot, therefore, here and now, on amendments such as these, wipe out the whole intention of specially catering for a special situation and a special category of people. No matter how desirable it might appear to be, we cannot do that without much wider, much greater and much deeper thought and investigation than it is possible to give it here at this stage. This should be investigated.

In the investigations that have gone into the production of what is before us now, there are, indeed, indications that further talk, study and, perhaps, discussion will be needed to try to update as far as possible the role of our agricultural workers. I can only offer the Deputy and the House my belief and my undertaking that in so far as investigation, review and discussion are concerned and are required, I believe this should be done with a view to updating, in the special circumstances of this category of workers in this country, the special calling that they have. We should go ahead with this deeper and wider investigation and discussion to try to find newer and better ways to give these people in their occupation, which differs so much from most occupations, comparable rights to those enjoyed by workers in other walks of life, keeping in mind that they are in a special separate sort of category in the generality of things throughout the country and that we cannot ignore that fact any more than it could be ignored in legislation passed through the Houses of the Oireachtas in various years in the past.

I am satisfied, the more I look at it, that this does need review, further investigation, more thought, discussion and, perhaps, the benefit of experienced minds applied to it if we are to bring into being something that will serve us better and serve the agricultural workers as a whole better in the future. As far as I am concerned, for what it is worth, this is my view and this is what I feel should be done and that in the meantime we should go on with this and then go back to the general, wider concept of investigation that I think we all accept is, in fact, needed.

The Minister seems to be favourably disposed but I wonder what he means when he refers to the question of the special place of agricultural workers. My experience over the years has been that agricultural workers, and, indeed, agriculture generally, particularly small farmers, many of whom are agricultural workers, have been given a special place, not at the bottom rung of the ladder but somewhere further down nearly out of sight. I do not want to quarrel with the Minister at this hour of the evening but he knows that when legislation was going through this House for as long as I can remember there has always been a tendency to deal with everybody in the country, particularly those who are not engaged in agriculture, and then as an afterthought the people engaged in agriculture were dealt with.

The week before last there was an Industrial Relations Bill going through this House. The Minister may have heard the comment I made to his colleague when he promised another Bill to deal with agricultural workers. I asked him if it would be called the poor relations Bill. The tendency has been to make agricultural workers the poor relations of everybody else. This seems to have been a feeling in this country for many years.

Even in the trade unions.

The trade unions, God help them, have been doing everything they could but there is a difference which the Minister would not appreciate——

He does.

——between organising 1,000 workers at a factory gate and trying to organise one-third of that number scattered over the fields of Ireland. Nobody knows that better than I do because I have done both. For that reason I know that there is a special problem here.

The Minister on the previous amendment agreed to have another look at it before the Bill goes to the Seanad to try to do something about it. May I ask him to have a look at the question of overtime and sick pay? The sick pay question may be too big to be taken in here but he could have a look at the overtime. If he is prepared to do that and to see if he can do something about it between this and the Seanad, I will withdraw my amendment.

Perhaps, the Minister does not know whether or not the Dáil will be dissolving this evening. We believe it will, but whether it does or not some Government must come back here maybe the Government of which the Minister is a member. May I get a promise from the Minister that if he is returned as Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries——

He might be Taoiseach.

——that he will see to it that some type of committee will be set up to investigate the problems which have been discussed on this Bill? If he does that I will have to be satisfied with it.

In fact, I will do better than that. I will agree to set it up before the new Government is elected.

Even though the Minister could be doing it for a particular reason I welcome it.

No, fair play. I have agreed to set up a committee to investigate these things. Deputy Tully had a certain amount of sense on the side but at the same time he cannot help using the phraseology which I was compelled to use, this special sort of phraseology in regard to farm workers. It is because of the special circumstances of their calling that I talk about them having to be dealt with in a special way. When I talked about dealing with them in a special way Deputy Tully was half inclined to feel that I was saying this in a sort of derogatory sense. I would ask the Deputy to think of it this way: I might well be thinking about farm workers being treated in a special way, better than other categories of workers.

I hope the Minister is.

This is, in fact, the possibility in so far as what I think about it goes. I feel quite strongly about what we were talking about yesterday, the special skills and knowledge required by farm workers and those who work on the land. There are special difficulties that apply to them, such as the one the Deputy told us about, the difference between 1,000 workers in a particular industrial estate and 250 scattered in different fields over half a county. This is so.

This only highlights the difficulties of paralleling in every sense what can be done for the industrial worker and the agricultural worker. The solution applied to the problem of the industrial worker may not be applicable and may not benefit the farm worker even if it could be applied to him. There is a difficulty about applying parallel benefits or regulations to farm workers as distinct from others and that we must keep in mind. There are special difficulties, special problems in relation to the farm workers and those who work on the land but that is not to be regarded as it may well have been regarded over the generations that, because they were in special circumstances and because their problems were difficult of solution that the solution should be less beneficial to them. Perhaps, this has been a historical, traditional thing but we have been changing it. However, there are other changes that still need to be made. I am quite conscious that these must be made but I still want nobody to believe that the solution is easy and that one can do the same for farm workers as you would do for industrial workers. This is a fallacy and one which we should be aware of. It is a fallacy that solutions that have been good and useful in industry must work beneficially to the farm worker and to the industry in which he works. Remember if it does not benefit the industry it will not ultimately benefit the worker. Therefore, I undertake to set up a committee to investigate this while we are still in Government. While I am still in agriculture, I will set up this committee.

The Minister will be there for three weeks.

The Minister is not giving himself much time.

One of my colleagues may be in agriculture after the next election.

The Minister expects to be Taoiseach.

They will have the committee working. They will have my undertaking. They will have the agreement of Members of the Opposition now, which some of them will carry through as the Opposition later. They will not all be beaten at the election. Everyone will be agreed that it must go on. Therefore, I feel it is important to say that I will set it up before this Government are replaced by another new Fianna Fáil Government after the next election. Therefore, I am saying I will set up this committee while this Government are in office, and while I am Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. There will not be any danger of anyone either falling down or messing it up whether they be next door to me or on the Fianna Fáil backbenches. There is no danger of you people messing it up because you will not be around.

Is there any reason, historical or otherwise, why people who work in agriculture should be required to work 50 hours, while members of their own families work 42½ hours or 40 hours for higher wages. That comparison must be made. Does the Minister agree that when the 5½-day week was introduced in agriculture, the farm workers made more use of their weekly half-holiday than any other type of worker? Would he agree that when the five-day week is introduced many of them who have small pieces of land will be able to work them on their day off? It all makes money.

It was not thought possible to give the 5½-day week until it was introduced. If someone, because of care of stock, or milking, or feeding, or what have you, cannot give the day off on a Saturday, there is no reason it could not be arranged for another day of the week where there are more than one or two men employed on the farm. All that is needed is to get down to it. No one appreciates this as much as the farmer himself who works with his workers. At the moment there are many good farmers who are operating the five-day week without any difficulties, but there are others who will not give anything unless it is the law, and it is for those that I should like to see a minimum introduced so that they will treat their employers like Christians. That is all we are asking for.

I promised the Minister that if he would agree to a suggestion I would withdraw the amendment, but I would appeal to him before he goes to the Seanad with the Bill to have another look at this question of overtime. I believe something could be done to tie it into this Bill now.

I will have another look at it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 12 agreed to.
Section 13 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.