Trade Union Bill, 1971: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

In welcoming this piece of legislation for the improvement of industrial relations, I pointed out that its primary effect in practice would be to benefit and advance the interests of ordinary workers in trade unions. Members of the House become so preoccupied with their own problems of procedure and of trade union law, problems of industrial relations and the implementation of the 1946 Industrial Relations Act and recent trade union legislation that they tend at times to forget that primarily trade unions exist for the benefit and advancement of their members and that there are some 500,000 men and women rightly interested in how the movement works, its organisation and in the way statute law affects it. In the case of this legislation we can in honesty say to trade union members that it will make the movement more healthy, effective and positive in servicing and benefiting trade union members. This is one of the great virtues of the legislation.

The formation of a single trade union congress in the 1957-59 period and the amalgamations that have taken place are steps in the right direction. With the prospect of approaching entry to the EEC I should hope to see many trade unions, including some of the larger general unions, taking a very hard look at themselves and their role in the changing phase of Irish industry and consider whether or not the effectiveness of our trade union machinery can be retained on entering the EEC unless the further rationalisation of the movement is now undertaken so as to take into account pressures that will undoubtedly arise in that event. We have moved forward in trade union and industrial relations legislation. We have avoided the stupid excesses of the Industrial Relations Act in Britain which caused turmoil and great bitterness in industrial relations there. It is noteworthy that the legislation introduced here today generally has the support of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

One of the problems facing the trade union movement is that because it is a fairly large movement—not by international standards but in this country —because it has 500,000 members with 386,000 of them in the Republic, inevitably as in any human organisation occasions will arise when members will feel a profound sense of grievance and will allege that the servicing of their claims and problems is not being done as they would wish. Because of this the Irish Congress of Trade Unions set up appeals machinery which is in operation. It is not enough to say to workers: "This is how new trade unions may be formed." It is also important to point out that there is effective internal machinery in the movement itself which takes fully into account the democratic aspirations of members. I want to stress that there is already in existence in section 49 of the constitution of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions very elaborate and detailed provisions to determine the relationship between trade unions in respect of disputes arising over membership or transfer of members from one union to another.

At one time or another almost every union in the country has been involved with congress through the disputes machinery in regard to membership and the internal democratic system for dealing with such disputes has proved generally effective and has functioned fairly in regard to dissatisfaction arising in particular organisations. I think it has proved effective in dealing with the rank and file of the movement who may legitimately from time to time feel dissatisfied with the service they are getting or allege they are not getting. As a trade union official, I have been very much aware of the complaints that can arise in the trade union movement. Therefore, through the medium of the existing constitution of Congress and its disputes machinery, disputes related to membership which in many cases form the basis of break-away organisations, may be settled in a way that has been generally effective.

There is another aspect of the machinery on which I do not propose to speak at length at this stage and it is the innovation which came into operation a few years ago in congress, the setting up of an appeals board by congress. When one wants to contrast trade union democracy—to use a global term—here and in, say, Britain or on the Continent it is important to point out that we have the only trade union movement in the world, even including the AFLCIO or the LO in Sweden itself, which has established an appeal board which was, I emphasise, not established by the executive of congress but by the annual conference, the rank and file of the trade union movement. They elected their own appeals board to receive complaints from groups of members of lack of service within the movement. That appeals board has certainly proved quite effective. There has been a great deal of uninformed and voluble criticism directed against the trade union movement by those who know very little about the movement and who are very little concerned about the health or welfare of the movement. Down through the years many Deputies have advocated legislation as if such legislation could be the panacea for an effective trade union structure. What has happened is that there is now the desirable innovation that the trade union movement through their own democratic organisation have set up their own internal appeals machinery which is available to every trade union member and which, therefore, can deal effectively with many of the complaints that arise. I would urge trade unionists who might be tempted to form break-away organisations, or to set up their own introverted group, to endeavour to resolve these issues within the trade union movement and to retain the essential solidarity of working people in the trade union organisations. The membership of the appeals board consists of experienced trade unionists whose integrity and public influence have been of the highest order. These are people who represent the movement as a whole in any appeals hearing and who do not represent only their own individual organisations.

It is important to point out that the composition of the appeals board of this organisation made specific provision that no member of a trade union concerned with the appeal should sit on the board hearing of that appeal. Where a group of members submit a complaint to the secretary of the appeals board concerning lack of service, such complaints are referred in the first instance to the union concerned who are asked to indicate whether there is substance in the complaint and whether steps are being taken to remedy it. If after reference to the union concerned, the action taken by the union is not satisfactory to the complaining members, the appeal goes before the appeals board for a determination. This is one of the greatest internal safety valves of the trade union movement in preventing what one might call flash breakaways of a fragmentary nature within the organisation. It is also a useful method whereby if any officials of the trade unions become too high and mighty within their own trade union organisation, or where they may indulge in abuses, although these would not be tolerated for a moment by the rank and file of the trade union movement, such developments can be remedied. Therefore, the parallel developments of the appeal board system of congress, of the attempt being made by the ICTU to rationalise and fuse together like-minded trade unions and unions with a common personality of their own, augur well for legislation that is constructive and democratic, for legislation that will not be repressive, that will not dictate to the trade union movement how they should be organised but which in the public interest will prevent a diffusion of effort and that will prevent ineffectiveness; legislation that will be for the common good which, incidentally, is a term that is used rarely those days. It was always regarded as being a socialist term until it was adopted suddenly by Catholic apologists. The common good of the trade union organisation demands the introduction of this legislation and I have no doubt that many workers will welcome such legislation.

One of the final points I would make concerns a group of workers of less than 500 being involved. I notice that subsection (2) of section 3 reads: The High Court, after hearing any evidence adduced by the applicant, the Minister, the Congress and any other trade union, may at its discreation declare that the granting of a negotiating licence to the applicant would not be against the public interest.

The Minister might elaborate on this. This would prevent some of the more ignorant attacks which will undoubtedly be made on this Bill because here there is the essential "out," where, for example, in any group or category there would be less than 500 workers both the existing trade union organisations and congress may well consider it legitimate to grant such a licence although that group or category may not aggregate 500 members. Therefore, they could be accommodated. I would ask the Minister to confirm this so that we might be better equipped in interpreting correctly the provisions of the Bill. These then are my general views on the Bill and I hope that they reflect, too, the views of the Labour Party. I hope also that the Bill will be given a speedy passage through the House and that the remaining legislation concerning the facilitating of amalgamation will be introduced. It is my hope, too, that the long-promised legislation relating to the Educational Company of Ireland judgment which was promised by the Minister, shelved by the Taoiseach, then re-activated but shelved again, will be brought in during the lifetime of this Dáil. These are measures that would merit the support of the trade union movement and of the Labour Party and we look forward to supporting them.

I rise to support this Bill but there are one or two aspects of it with which I am in some disagreement. Nevertheless, the Bill sets out to tighten the conditions for the granting of further negotiating licences and I am glad that the right of free association and the right under certain circumstances to develop trade unions are being upheld. I agree that in order to get a negotiating licence a union should be registered in this country, but I disagree with the statement "or to be a trade union under the laws of another country". The trade union movement here should be a home-based trade union movement and we should be in absolute control of our own affairs without any dictation whatsoever from outside. At this stage we surely must be mature enough to conduct our own affairs and to control the destiny of the trade union movement. The words "or to be a trade union under the laws of another country" may be a little ambiguous. The backdoors must be sealed and at this stage we should provide that further negotiating licences would be given only to trade unions registered in this country. Down through the years we have had plenty of difficulty with trade unions outside the country.

Any new legislation we bring in should give us the exclusive right to these controls because we are mature enough and we have the necessary organisation to ensure that we can manage our own affairs without outside interference. There tends to be greater outside interference. There are a number of very responsible officials in the trade union movement but there are one or two who listen to the dictates of outside forces. Where they are controlled from outside they can be influenced to take certain undesirable actions. We must seal off any backdoor entry that would tend to disrupt the organisation which is set up here.

In relation to the question of the 18 months from the time of fulfilling the conditions before a licence can be granted, I think the period is somewhat long. While I agree that a waiting period is essential, I think a 12 month period might be more acceptable. This will only happen where there is a problem within the existing framework and once we have given them the right it should be a reasonable right and should not be made too difficult. The Bill is absolutely necessary and desirable at this stage but I think the conditions should not be made impossible. If people have set about organising a group there could be complete disruption within a union for a period of 18 months. It could be solved in 12. The Minister should have a look at this.

The Minister said there were too many trade unions in the country. Most people would agree with this but there are obvious dangers on the other hand. In countries where they have too few unions they have many of the same problems that we have. If we had too few unions we might have virtual dictatorship within the organisation. Mergers can take place and should take place. Possibly the idea of industrial unions is one of the solutions. Mergers should be encouraged and legislation is desirable at an early date to ensure that amalgamations can take place and the terms of the previous Trade Union Bill are absolutely necessary if we are to bring about any amalgamation. The 1964 Amalgamation Act in Britain brought about dozens of mergers because there were facilities and the necessary financial help was provided in that Bill. We had a merger here of two unions which went through the courts on several occasions, and when they merged we still had two unions. Nothing was achieved except that a greater number of people came together in one and then a splinter group broke away. Legislation to encourage mergers should be brought in at an early date. In that legislation certain lines of procedure must be laid down for mergers so that we will not have the messy situation that we had in relation to the IEI and ETU and the NEU merger about which we heard so much in recent times. I happen to be a member of one of these unions. To tell the truth I do not know which union I am a member of—whether it is the NEETU or the IEI and ETU.

The Auctioneers and Estate Agents' Association?

I will deal with you, too. This is the type of supercilious snob interruption that we have heard time and again from Deputy Desmond.


This supercilious snob from Mount Merrion has no interest whatever in the workers. I am an "in benefit" trade unionist, what Deputy Desmond possibly is not.

The Deputy will need the benefit soon.

I was a loyal trade unionist, unlike Deputy Desmond.

What union does the Deputy belong to?

The NEETU, I hope.

That is mine and I never met him there.

After that rude interruption from the so-called trade union official——

Former trade union official.

They got rid of you.

Where is Deputy Haughey, the Chairman of the Fianna Fáil trade union group? I think we should have a quorum for Deputy Haughey.

Deputy Dowling is in possession.

It is absolutely necessary that legislation should be brought in to deal with amalgamations.

The Minister said that there could be dissatisfaction between the existing trade unions and that they should be addressing themselves to the problems of particular group members. While the desire of the Bill is to curtail in some way the rapid expansion of splinter groups and to eliminate them if possible, nevertheless, there is a responsibility on the officials in command of the trade union organisation to display adequate control over the affiliated unions and sometimes this is not evident. There are problems and some of them are probably insurmountable and will need further legislation, but it is obvious at times that adequate control over affiliated unions, apart from splinter groups, is just not there. It is necessary that everybody should have a look—the trade unions, the members of the Labour Party who display an interest in trade union affairs and those who pretend to be interested in trade union affairs—at this aspect. They would be doing better work than by coming in here interrupting people who are trying to make a contribution.

Many problems are known to members of trade union organisations— problems in connection with the smaller unions, especially in the election of officers where it is by popular vote and where they are playing to the workers for support rather than paying the necessary attention to the problems of the workers. They are concerned about their own survival and this is an undesirable situation.

There are other pressures in the organisation which should be examined. There are problems which cause unrest in the minds of workers. One of these is the retention of the political levy. The political levy should be abolished. It should not be left in its present form or in any of the amended forms that have been suggested from time to time. There have been certain types of victimisation. There have been threats to certain workers who wanted to opt out. This aspect should be examined in relation to any further legislation that is being introduced so as to ensure that people have certain freedom as members of trade unions and will not be corralled or brought into the net of a political party by a variety of means, tricks, devices, statements or pressures.

It is certainly not true of Fianna Fáil trade unions.

If people are concerned to eliminate pressures and unrest, this is one point of unrest that is causing problems within the trade union organisation. I want to say to Deputy Desmond that there are just as good trade unionists in Fianna Fáil as there are in any other party.

Hear, hear. Why should not they have the right to join the Labour Party? You are denying them the right to join the Labour Party.

Why should Deputy Desmond, with the sneers he throws out, try to insinuate that we are something different in this party? I hope Deputy Desmond will say to the members of his own union that he does not want members of Fianna Fáil or supporters of Fianna Fáil in his own union. They are just as good and perhaps more effective and more loyal to the trade union organisation than possibly Deputy Desmond or other people who have made a good thing out of it. This cheap type of sneer is an indication of the mentality of the people who are guiding in some way the trade union organisation.

They will not depend on Charlie Haughey. I can tell you that.

It is rather pathetic to hear the voice of this supercilious snob coming in, when he has no interest in the workers, good, bad or indifferent.

If Deputies will address the Chair and avoid cross-fire we shall have more orderly debate.

The Deputy referred to an honourable Member of this House who is not here to defend himself. Deputy Desmond on many occasions uses this type of innuendo, ridiculing people who are not here to defend themselves. If Deputy Haughey were in the House, would Deputy Desmond have the courage to stand up and indicate that he should not be trying to help the trade unionists of this city and this country in the way he is? I admire any person who tries in any way to assist trade unionists or the workers. They are ridiculed in this House by a supercilious snob like Deputy Desmond who does not care about the workers.

The Deputy should not so refer to a Member of the House.

That is what he is.

What is wrong is that Deputies are indulging in cross-fire which is leading to other cross-fire and we are not having a debate as we should have.

I yield to the Irish Auctioneers' Association.

Again you have heard this man interrupting here in relation to the Irish Auctioneers' Association.

It is not a registered trade union.

I do not know whether Deputy Desmond regards this organisation as an undesirable organisation.

It is not a trade union.

Apparently he does. I will ask the auctioneers that he has referred to——

We had better get back to the terms of the Bill.

You would want to appeal to the gentleman on my left whose only contribution is interrupting.

The Chair has already pointed out that interruptions should not be made.

My apologies.

I would ask the Minister to consider the two points I have made. The first was in connection with the reduction of the 18 months period in the Bill and the other is the question of completely closing the back door to foreign trade unionists. While we do not object to having association with cross-channel, European or other trade unions, nevertheless we want to ensure that we will be masters in our own house. We have within the country officials capable of dealing with the problems of the trade union movement, capable of dealing with domestic problems. We should close the backdoor to outside trade unionists so that they cannot come in in a variety of guises. Trade unions with small numbers in Britain can be bought over at a much less sum than the £5,000 and can come in here with a negotiating licence and get in through the backdoor. I hope the backdoor will be sealed and that we will have the legislation that is desirable and necessary, even if it is on the basis of a small Bill to meet a particular need. We could have such small Bills in rapid succession so as to seal off the various gaps and improve the trade union organisation.

Deputy Desmond referred to ignorant comment which was bound to be made on the Bill. We have just had a very good example of it. I am sorry to have to pick up Deputy Dowling so quickly.

I think this is disgraceful.

I do not mind what the Deputy thinks. I did not know he was awake or I would not have spoken so loudly. We have unfortunately in this country people who are prepared to make comment on matters about which they know a little but do not know enough.

One matter that I will take up with Deputy Dowling is the question of the political levy. The political levy operates in this country and in many other countries and it is possible for a trade unionist to pay it or not to pay it.

They are blackmailed into paying it and well you know it.

I challenge Deputy Dowling to give any example of anybody——

I gave it.

I am challenging Deputy Dowling here to give the name and union where anybody has been blackballed—or any expression he likes to use—into paying the political levy because it is not true and Deputy Dowling does not know anything about it.

Deputy Dowling has being indulging in this little bit of a ruse in an effort to make some of the mud stick. This ruse has been used at every election and, when he thinks of it, he uses it between elections. It is not true. I am here and now challenging Deputy Dowling to give the particulars——

It is true.

——of any instance where he knows a trade unionist had to pay. I would ask him to put it down in writing. I have heard so much said in this House which was denied a couple of days afterwards on those benches that I do not want him to tell me now. I want him to give in writing to the Ceann Comhairle the names of the people he is talking about——

Workers have been blackmailed.

——and we will find out whether or not this is true. This is the sort of nonsense which has been trotted out so often and it is time to nail it and I am nailing it now. It is not true.

It is true.

I am challenging Deputy Dowling.

Interruptions are disorderly.

I can give you a list of 100 Taca names.

There is only one Deputy in possession.

The political levy is being paid by those who opt to pay it. If they do not want to pay it they do not have to and this is well known. There are many trade unionists who have opted out of paying the political levy and they are perfectly entitled to do so.

They have to pay it first.

They have not.

They have to pay it.

Interruptions are disorderly.

It is untrue for Deputy Dowling to say that the political levy has to be paid by somebody who wants to opt out. They sign a document. I understand Deputy Dowling has a supply of these documents which he carries around with him and if he can get anybody to sign it and send one in, then that person opts out. If he cannot, then he has to bring them home to wait for a more appropriate occasion to try again. Let us have an end to this. The big business associations have been pouring money into Fianna Fáil for years, up to this year, but they will not do it again. Maybe Fianna Fáil are now a bit annoyed because they know this source of income is gone and they want to try to take some of the income from the Labour Party.


Deputy Tully is in possession. Deputy Dowling will cease interrupting.

Let me put it on the record: the Labour Party received subscriptions from some trade unions. They are entitled by the law of the land to do this. Whether or not the subscriptions paid by firms to Fianna Fáil were allowed by the law of the land is something I cannot comment upon. Now that things are getting tight for Fianna Fáil, Deputy Dowling and others of his ilk would like to prevent those who want to do so from subscribing to the Labour Party.

Deputy Dowling should know what the position is. There was some question here about home-based trade unions. When ICTU was formed some years ago out of the Trade Union Congress and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions one of the conditions laid down was that Irish unions had complete autonomy and if they were not prepared to accept that, then they were not acceptable into the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. That is the position. We hear people talking about directions from London, about people being instructed, about strikes being caused by people living in Britain; the fact is that these people do not even know we are here. They have enough to do fighting their own battles. As far as British unions here are concerned, they must subscribe to the law of the land and to the regulations laid down by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions is doing a damn good job. Occasionally their efforts are sabotaged by people who do not seem to understand what the function of a trade union is. There are people who seem to believe —Deputy Dowling is not one of them —that the main function of a trade union is starting strikes. As a trade union official for 26 years, let me say we spend more time trying to prevent disputes than we do trying to start them, if we do start them. We spend most of our time trying to smooth relations between employer and employee and we have been very successful in this and, were it not for our efforts, there would be many more disputes.

Deputy Dowling talked about associations in one breath and trade unions in the other. A trade union is a registered trade union with a negotiating licence. There are trade unions which call themselves associations but, under the Act, they are trade unions. There are groups which call themselves associations which are not registered trade unions. They have no negotiating licence. Unfortunately, we have Ministers of State who do not seem to be able to differentiate between these groups and registered trade unions with negotiating licences. While they cannot negotiate—Ministers of State do not usually negotiate—they do discuss the matters under dispute and they occasionally agree that certain concessions could be given. This does not help the trade unions. It certainly does not help those who are trying to keep the agreement if someone comes along and makes a rash promise to a group, which calls itself an association, but which is not a registered trade union and has no negotiating licence.

This sort of thing happens and I would ask the Minister to settle this particular problem where groups of people in similar jobs come together and call themselves an association. They may be members of various trade unions or of no trade union; if they are members of various trade unions they try to set themselves up as a ginger group to force the trade unions to do what, in fact, they have been doing all the time to the best of their ability. Whether these people parade outside Leinster House, or anywhere else, makes no damn difference: trade unions are making the best bargain they can. It may be good publicity for certain people who are starved of self-advertisement on television and in the newspapers but it does not help the unions. I would ask the Minister, if he at any time attends a function of an association that claims to be a trade union, to make sure that it is, in fact, a registered trade union with a negotiating licence.

I would add my voice to Deputy Desmond's appeal that the educational judgment should be fixed up as quickly as possible. The late Deputy Seán Lemass gave a solemn promise that that would be done. This was gone back on on a number of occasions but, on the very last occasion, I think, on which he spoke in this House he did say that it should be done. Would the Minister in this Bill or in another Bill at a later stage fix it up? It is something which should have been attended to a long time ago.

This Bill will be received very well by organised trade unionists and particularly by the Irish Congress of Trades Unions which represents the majority of trade unionists. The Minister may have to do something about one or two matters. I do not agree with Deputy Dowling about the waiting period for a negotiating licence. I believe the period should be a fairly lengthy one. All of us have had experience of people who, for one reason or another, disagree with what we are doing or with some terms negotiated for someone else which they think should apply to them also and, if they find we have to stand by the bargain we made, they promptly sever their connection.

A trade union must keep to its word just as the employer must keep to his. Otherwise, trust between the two will go. To prevent groups, be they small or large, in the heat of the moment rushing out and forming some type of trade union, there should be a lengthy period; 18 months is laid down in the Bill. I see nothing wrong with it, particularly as the people concerned have the right to go to the High Court if they feel they are unfairly treated.

I am not in agreement with the suggestion that the deposit should be £5,000 for a new union in which the membership does not exceed 2,000. This deposit has to be registered for a negotiating licence. Let me make that clear because some people do not know what it means. The Schedule provides:

Where the number of members does not exceed 2,000, the deposit shall be £5,000.

Where the number of members exceeds 2,000 but does not exceed 5,000, the deposit shall be £5,000 together with £200 for each additional 300 members (or part of 300 members) in excess of 2,000 members.

I think that is wrong. Either we accept them as a trade union and there is a deposit laid down, they pay that and everything else is fixed up, or we are going to make a new set of regulations, regulations which will ultimately apply to everybody because, once it goes into the Statute Book, it is a lever which can be used by Ministers to force other people into doing the same thing; the precedent is there and will have to be followed. I suggest the Minister should discuss this with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. While the £5,000 may be all right, there should not be a higher figure after the 2,000 members than there is at the moment. It would be unfair to insist on this.

I would ask the Minister if he can in any way cover bodies which have become known as "house units". Their work is becoming well known. Some do not like the title "house units". The Minister knows that people in similar employment can negotiate without a negotiating licence. A neat little trick is being worked by some people who are employed in groups and negotiate at their own level. They attempt to come together at national level and pretend they are a national trade union when in fact they are no such thing. This is a matter which should be looked into.

If this Bill does anything to prevent the curse of the trade union movement—the unofficial strike—all of us will welcome it. No matter what we may say unofficial strikes are caused not by the people who are worst off, but usually by people who are reasonably well off, who are jealous of what somebody else has got and who feel that they, by using the strength they have got, may be able to twist somebody's arm and get that in addition to their own negotiations. Co-operation with the trade union movement by the Government and particularly by employers is the one way this can be dealt with.

When we are talking about trade unions let us get the facts straight. Deputy Dowling was correct in saying that there is a difference between the general unions and the other unions, I assume he was talking about craft unions. One of the most jealous groups, and rightly so, are the various craft unions. They have their own associations and it is not an easy thing to prevail on a carpenter or joiner to join with a bricklayer, painter, plasterer or somebody else because they all feel they are separate entities and their interests are not the same.

Over the last few years through the building trade group negotiations things have improved a great deal. When we talk about cutting down trade unions this must be done by persuasion, and by giving people the right to make their own decisions. If we try to force them to do this we shall reach a stage where they will be very dissatisfied and the cure will be worse than the disease.

A number of trade unions have been formed quite recently. Many were formed around 1910 and 1912 and some were formed in the last century when they were called "combinations". My grandfather was secretary of a combination which was formed in North Meath in 1857. They had a farm workers' strike because they were looking for something very unreasonable at the time. Wages were nine pence a week and they were looking for one shilling. I am glad to say they did strike and after a few days they were granted the shilling. The point I want to make is that at that time the Government decided combinations should be broken up and resolutions were passed by employers' bodies that the strongest possible action should be taken by anybody who was found to be a member of a combination. Thank goodness we have changed a great deal since then and we can now have a reasonable discussion at the negotiating level with most employers and even with the Government. The Government should not try to force anything down the combined necks of the trade union bodies because while they will accept something that they are asked to do they will not be forced to do something they think is wrong.

The general terms of the Bill do not appear to be very controversial. They do not continue the mistaken trend of the 1966 Trade Union Bill which, as the Minister said in his opening speech, lapsed with that Dáil in 1969. The 1966 Trade Union Bill contained a number of features dear to the official heart of the Department of Labour. That Department has not always been the wisest in its dealings with trade union legislation in general. There has been a tendency in the Department to more than flirt with ideas of tidying up what was regarded as a chaotic trade union picture by short-cut legislative means. It was said that the chaos of the trade union world would be reduced to order by a few timely measures carried through in a Bill and from then on we would deal with an efficient, well co-ordinated, well managed trade union movement.

As we said during that Dáil far from being the doctrinaire party that some people accuse us of being in the area of labour relations our advice in general has been to facilitate a voluntary association or combination or amalgamation of unions. We did not think the best wisdom lay in more legislation, a tidying up purely confined to the legislative field.

The principal task of Government in industrial relations remains one of management of the economy to provide conditions of full employment in that such successful management of the economy would in turn produce the conditions whereby trade unions themselves could voluntarily come together and tidy up their own affairs. That central task of Government has been the single failure of this Government over the years. That has been and remains the burden of the advice of the Labour Party in this particular area.

The Bill before us avoids the more controversial aspects of the 1966 Bill. It avoids the group negotiation licence clauses of the 1966 Bill which at that time were opposed by the trade unions and by the Labour Party. The principal measures of a deposit and the upward figure of 500 people being brought together before the union could be formed appear to be common sense and do not appear to strike at the fundamental liberty of any individual trade union member. There is recourse to the courts and this should be ample remedy for any person or group of persons who may feel their rights of association granted under the Constitution are infringed by any measure contained in this Bill.

The State made certain errors in the area of rights of association as far back as the 1941 Act. We need to keep constantly in mind when we are thinking of legislating for the good of the trade union movement that we do not infringe on the citizen's right of association with whom he chooses. Some of our trade unions were formed as off-shoots of unions formed in Britain during the industrial revolution. They are mainly craft unions. The more native Irish growth is the general union. Probably a higher proportion of our work force is in general unions than in any other State in Europe where trade union organisations exist. It is accepted that it would be better for individual members if there were fewer unions, because members would seem to get a better service from them.

We are dealing here with associations of men and women. Some of these associations have existed for nearly 100 years and are proud of their record, proud of the particular tradition of the group or association and who are jealous about amalgamating with another group. There is nothing the State can do except facilitate a voluntary coming together of the members of these unions. The acid test here is whether the general unions themselves wish to come together. This has to be a voluntary thing; it has to be decided by the unions and to be seen by them as being in their interests and to their advantage. Congress itself has done a great deal of work in recent years to help the unions to come together thereby cutting out overlapping and giving a better service to their members. It has provided a service whereby members who may have complaints about their union can report their discontent and follow it up to congress level.

Members have a legitimate fear about large unions, large structures where the old personal warmth of the smaller association may be absent. They may fear they will feel lost in the larger organisation, that since there is less competition as between one union and another catering for the same type of worker in the end the individual member will be the sufferer. The trade union movement have given ample evidence of being aware of this legitimate fear by constructing this inner machinery whereby the member may pursue a legitimate complaint he may have against a union decision in his own branch area. This is a healthy, logical and pragmatic approach to this problem. The unions are the best arbiters of their own improved organisation. The job of the State is to stand aside on this matter. It is the job of the State to facilitate, not to escape its major duty, which must be to help unions to organise themselves more efficiently. It is the job of the State to manage the economy, to provide full employment so that the question of overlapping, of apprentice grading and so on are eased out of the way because of full employment.

Why is there such a thing as craft rivalry between one group organising one craft and another? It is because the labour market is small, because the amount of jobs available in a particular area is limited, and the organisation involved must look after its own members. Therefore, because of the lack of employment this may lead in certain respects to restrictive practices. These things are unavoidable where the employment position is as bad as it has been in this country for so many years.

It means also that where a trade union movement have long experience of unemployment—and the Irish trade union movement are probably unique in Europe in having almost 50 years of unemployment—it is naive to expect such a trade union movement to welcome innovation in their organisation, to go forward with open hands to a State that has ideas on the reorganisation of that movement. The major characteristic of a movement faced with continuing unemployment is caution and this has marked the dealings, and rightly so, of the trade union movement regarding any ideas of reorganisation of their own movement.

I hope I do not read this into the Minister's speech. I hope the Department of Labour have banished some of the mistaken ideas of the 1966 Trade Union Bill. The Minister mentioned further measures that may be necessary. The Minister should banish from his mind the idea that the trade union movement is willing to do any deal on the basis of a settlement of the Educational Company question. The idea that there is any kind of bargain that could have as the quid pro quo a solution to this problem, or that the trade union movement could agree to other things, must be nailed. In fact it weakens the trade union movement in the matter of being able to ensure a full trade union organisation at the place of work.

The trade union movement are simply asking for a return to the previous position, the position won by the trade union movement as far back as the Taff Vale judgment at the start of this century. The trade union movement are not asking for any new concession by asking for a settlement of the situation after the Education Company decision.

There is a delusion in this country that trade unions are in the controlling position in our society. I do not believe this. Our trade unions are weak in regard to major decisions affecting their members; they have little influence over the kind of houses in which their members live, over the lives their members live, or the security of jobs. In many cases the denial of trade union rights exists in our capital city. In many firms employing clerical workers the employees must fight the good fight of trade unionists of former years to be recognised. It is a sorry admission to say that this recognition of trade unions is a contemporary struggle in Ireland. All our newspapers, our leading spokesmen, churchmen, politicians, even trade unionists, tell us that trade unions have been accepted in our society. In fact, they have not. The fight for trade union recognition continues. There are many employers, employing large numbers of workers, who obdurately refuse to recognise trade unions. The report of the Labour Court will show that recognition of the employee's right to join a trade union can be a factor behind a dispute in 1971. Let us get the perspective right before we think that all we have to do is simply to trim the sails of an over-powerful trade union movement. The trade unions still have a significant struggle before them before they can truly be said to have arrived.

Deputy Dowling spoke about the bad position, the bad effect, the tyranny involved, where members of trade unions must contribute to the Labour Party. As was said, no member is forced to make this payment. He may opt out and the fact that there is no deprivation of a citizen's rights under the Constitution in the matter of political levy is proved when one remembers it has not been contested in the courts nor has anyone thought it wise to do so.

I do not understand these accusations from the Government party, who are always very sensitive about the relations between the Labour Party and the trade unions. We are accused of introducing politics into the paradise of the trade unions where there are no politics. The Labour Party are classed as the villains of the piece. We have a Government party doing their utmost for the honest trade unionists of the country, never introducing politics into the blessed area of trade union relations. We have a Government party that have never evaded their task of helping the trade unionists by every means in their power. Everything that was necessary to bring the workers from their knees has been done by this Government and the latest act in that saga of help to the trade unionists is the trade unionist group formed recently in the Fianna Fáil Party.

The Labour Party faithfully carry out in this Parliament any suggestion or request made to us by affiliated trade unions. Bills relating to redundancy or social welfare bear the mark of our concern. The question might fairly be asked: Who are the people who play politics in the trade unions? I think of the squalid collection of names in the 1968 referendum when every local paper in the country was filled with pseudo names and false addresses of so-called Fianna Fáil trade unionists who attempted to subvert the trade union movement's campaign for the retention of proportional representation. The Government party were the party which interfered in the trade unions and attempted to introduce politics. Therefore, let us nail the lie that the party opposite do not seek politically to manipulate the trade unions. This has been their constant concern and is the reason they are so sensitive about the political levy. I realise this is a slight digression but I have made it because Deputies opposite have referred to it already. Perhaps on another occasion with another trade union Bill if the Minister sees fit to refer to it, we may talk about where the social concern of a political party comes from or who dominates the policy of a party. I think it could be said to come from the people who finance the coffers of that party and there is no secret about whom, up to recently, financed the coffers of the party opposite.

Apart from the Schedule section referred to by Deputy Tully, I fail to see that this gradual ascending penalty of cash deposits is necessary. I should like to hear that better explained. It may be necessary to put down one or two amendments but in general we welcome the Bill. We would like further information. The Minister would not find us co-operative on any basis of a deal being done on the more unattractive and controversial features of the 1966 Bill. We hope that has been finally interred in the Department and will not again see the light of day. If it does, we can promise opposition.

I welcome the Bill but I want to emphasise that we cannot legislate our way into industrial happiness or perfect industrial relations. One of the few things on which I agree with Deputy O'Leary is that I think it is mainly the trade unions' job to bring about a change in attitudes or organisation so as to reach a better system of industrial relations than we now have. This Bill, even though it is only a short one, will help to a great extent. We have about 400,000 workers and 95 trade unions, 20 employers' unions and also house unions or associations which are not strictly unions but which cater for some workers who will not join a trade union. Out of that dark picture let us record our appreciation of the fact that we have only one trade union congress. Long may that be so. Probably we are the only country in Europe with one trade union congress catering for all unions. Fifty one per cent of our workers are members of unions while in Britain the figure is 48 per cent and this drops to 23 per cent in some continental countries. So, our position is not as bad as we sometimes think. With legislation such as this we shall improve matters, not by any forcing of trade unions but by showing a general desire for co-operation between the Government and the unions and by emphasising that we fully support congress in their efforts to better the general position of the unions.

This leads to the question: have we too many trade unions? We certainly have sufficient. I do not think we would welcome any more. The Bill makes it more difficult for any group of workers who may be dissatisfied to leave their union and form a new one. I agree with Deputy Dowling that perhaps 18 months waiting time is too long and that 12 months would be better. The Bill mentions a minimum of 500 members resident in the State. Perhaps at a later stage the Minister would emphasise that any new trade union must have their headquarters in the State and must be purely Irish. At the same time we do not want to become insular in this matter. I urge trade unions to have all possible contact with their continental counterparts. I may say a word of praise for the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union which for some years past have adopted a policy of keeping in touch with continental unions. I believe they have contact with 11 different bodies and this is good.

When this Bill becomes law and we have checked the rise of new unions we might then suggest to the unions that they should think of some sort of federation or unification. The largest unions, the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union and the Workers' Union of Ireland are, I think, considering coming together. I hope this happens; if it does we shall be going back to the position in the 1920s when men like Jim Larkin and William O'Brien, before any split came, had one big union. Our aim now should be, having checked the rise of new unions, to try by all means to put the house in better order by amalgamating a number of unions. In saying "we" I mean the trade union movement. I think there are 12 unions with less than 100 members while on the continent there are six unions catering for millions of workers. We must face the fact that the Government cannot by legislation change trade union structure nor perhaps can trade unions on their own do it but with full co-operation between the Government and the unions we can bring about a much better relationship between management and labour and between Government and unions. On this side of the House, from the Minister down to the humblest backbencher, there is that desire to create conditions in which trade unions will thrive and where there will be strong trade unions. I believe that to have a good society we must have a strong and enlightened trade union movement.

Deputy O'Leary, I think, went outside the scope of the debate when he attacked the Fianna Fáil Trade Union Affairs Group. This group have set out not to supplant trade unions. We will not interfere in any kind of strike because we believe this is a matter for the trade unions, but whatever help we can give, whether through a trade union or through Congress or through workers, we shall certainly give. We make no apology to Deputy O'Leary or anybody else for this group. The group set out to fill a void in our society and felt they should help. At all times they have tried to help those who sought help but at no time did they interfere in any way with a trade union or their working in any industrial dispute, even though on two occasions at least we were invited to take issue in a strike in the hope of settling it. In the first case the trade union concerned had done everything humanly possible to reach a settlement but because of internal dissension they could not do this. For my own group I want to say that we flatly refuse at any time to become involved in strikes once they have started. If we can be of any help to any side in the dispute we certainly try to prevent a strike taking place or we would endeavour to have an agreement reached where a strike has already occurred but we will never assume the responsibility that is the trade union's. However, we reserve the right to criticise either employers or trade unions or to criticise legislation that may be going through the House if we think that such legislation would not help the trade union movement.

Every person in the State is affected in some way by legislation relating to trade unions. If, for example, the public are deprived of public transport, there is no use in telling them that the blame must rest with some unofficial group. The Minister is anxious to curb development of unofficial groups. This is a small Bill but perhaps there is more legislation to follow. Last week the Minister made it quite clear that he would seek the full co-operation of the trade unions and the other interests involved when he is preparing legislation. Surely it is not too much to ask that there would be the fullest co-operation from all sides, from the Government, from the trade unions and from the employers. In the national interest this co-operation is necessary.

Deputy O'Leary talked about full employment and suggested that unemployment is in some way responsible for hindering the trade union movement. All I can say is that if Jim Larkin and men like him had held that belief, they never would have become involved in the trade union movement. Through the trade union movement they saw the betterment of standards for workers and in the long-term they foresaw an economy that would give full employment. By bringing in this Bill the Minister has indicated that these, too, are his views.

It is a Bill that will rationalise at least one issue in the whole field of trade unionism. It is a step forward but we must not leave the entire job to the Minister because he can only do his part. Every trade union, every employer and, indeed, every Deputy in this House, has a duty to help in bringing about a situation whereby there would be free negotiation, and protection of workers and protection of society in general from unjust strikes. I support the Bill and I hope that the Minister will consider the points put forward concerning waiting time and also concerning the setting-up of any new trade union in so far as that any such union should have its headquarters in this country. With these two amendments, the Bill would be almost perfect.

Deputy Belton and others have expressed their general views on the terms of this Bill. There is a widespread recognition that any steps that can rationalise the trade union arrangements or that can bring some form of order into industrial relations are to be welcomed. Publications by such organisations as OECD, the ILO and other international bodies indicate that our record in respect of industrial relations leaves a lot to be desired. However, that is probably a matter for discussion on another occasion.

The proposals in the Bill are desirable generally but there is one small point I want to make in connection with the idea that large unions are necessarily the most efficient ones. In common with other Deputies, I have had experience recently of a strike that lasted for some time and which could have been escalated into a much wider strike. Part of the problem in connection with that strike was that the workers involved were members of a large trade union and that they themselves expressed great concern that they could not get through to the union because of the preoccupation of the higher officials of the union with other activities.

Because they were a small group and were a group that were among those at the bottom of the wage scale, the dispute was very near to escalation at one stage because this group were in a position to bring about the coming out of many other workers. Part of the delay in settling that dispute lay in the fact that the group were members of a large union but failed to get through to their union. That may have been an extreme case but many industrial disputes that we have had in the past could be attributed to a multiplicity of unions representing workers in the same industry or in the same type of employment.

However, I want to avail myself of this opportunity to raise one particular matter. This concerns a cinema proprietor in Glasthule, which is in my constituency. This man finds that films are being withheld from him because he employs non-union labour. I understand that the non-distribution of films to him is preventing him from running his business while cinema owners in other parts of the country who employ non-union labour are being supplied with films. In the circumstances this man considers that he is being victimised.

It seems to me that if this particular rule applies at all, it should apply uniformly and that there should be no discrimination. I do not know whether it is possible for the Minister to deal with a specific case of this nature but I have been asked to raise the matter and perhaps the Minister would direct the attention of officers of his Department to it in an effort to see if a settlement can be reached so that the man will be able to run his business.

The debate on the Bill was most satisfactory in so far as nobody disagreed with the terms of the Bill nor did anybody disagree with the need for legislation of this kind. Therefore, my reply need not be very lengthy but I would like to deal with some of the matters raised which related directly to the Bill. Many matters were raised that bear no relation to what is contained in the Bill and some suggestions were made as to what might have been contained in it. At the outset I would like to point out that this is an arrangement to deal with one situation, a situation that was regarded as having a certain urgency. The Bill was designed for the purpose of finding a solution to this particular situation without having a number of other matters tagged on to it which would inevitably delay it.

There was agreement on all sides that the process by which groups could obtain negotiating licences was much too simple and tended towards proliferation of unions and the fragmentation of existing unions, something that nobody would like to support. For that reason, having regard to the right of persons to form associations or unions as laid down in the Constitution, the Bill was framed to make it not just as simple a matter as it has been for persons who are suffering from pique for a time, or in panic circumstances, to form a new union. We arrived at certain requirements and these are as set out in the Bill—the £5,000 minimum deposit on an ascending scale which, like the 1941 Act, increases with the number of members, the requirement of at least 500 members and the waiting period of 18 months. These were carefully selected as being the minimal or reasonable figures and periods to be observed and I do not think anybody seriously questioned them.

Deputies Moore and Dowling suggested that the period might be too long. However much I would like to facilitate those members of my party I do not think they made any really serious case in favour of a reduction to a year. There is nothing sacrosanct about the year and a half except that one occasion on which a breakaway group may seek to establish a union is when an overall agreement is arrived at by the union of which they are members which does not satisfy some minority group. The only way they could seek to break the agreement would be to form a union of their own.

Agreements usually run for a year and a half anyhow. That was about the only thing I had in mind. By the time the year and a half would have terminated emotion would have subsided and tempers would have cooled off and perhaps the need for fragmentation might not then exist. It was just a reasonable measurement of time which was thought out. There is nothing sacrosanct about it but it is agreed by all that a definite period is essential.

Deputy Belton said that the Bill would not get rid of existing small unions. It does not purport to do that but it certainly will have the effect of preventing the coming into being of small unions.

I do not think I said that. I said it would get rid of small unions but it would not prevent a tremendous number of unofficial strikes. Maybe I did say it but I did not mean to.

This is another day's work. This Bill has nothing to do with it except that it may affect the situation indirectly by bringing about a certain amount of rationalisation and preventing further fragmentation.

The question of industrial democracy in the ESB and the Fogarty Report were referred to by a number of Deputies. Most speakers seemed to point the finger at me and say that I did nothing about it. If one reads the Fogarty Report one will find that he explicitly states that this should only come about after the union and the management have agreed that the way is clear and the preparatory work done. I will be glad to co-operate in anything they agree on in this respect. The initiative is not with me.

There was criticism of the exempted body status. It is laid down in the 1941 Act that a body must not negotiate unless it has a negotiating licence or has exemption by order of the Minister. A negotiating licence would not, of course, be required by a body whose members were all employed by the one employer but there have been cases where the exemption has been given and for the information of those who said that they have been too frequent I may say that there have been 18 granted since 1941 and these mostly referred to the type of professional class who did not want to assume trade union status and applied for exemption. It is understandable that that should be the case. However, I have not operated to encourage this in any way but as the law stands if a reasonable application is made and all the requirements are evident I cannot resist it. This Bill seeks to amend the provisions whereby I was obliged to give a negotiating licence when £1,000 was deposited by a group of more than seven members.

Deputy Desmond raised the question of the anomaly which will now exist where one set of unions will be paying higher fees than others as new unions are formed under the new scale. It would be unfair to seek in this Bill to bring up the existing deposits and it would, I am sure, be resisted. I would not be averse to having it raised later on if agreement was reached and people found that it was essential.

Deputy Tully raised that point.

Deputy Tully and Deputy Desmond. I know that if new unions are formed under this Bill they will be obliged to sustain higher deposits than those registered under the 1941 Act. To that extent there will be two scales of deposit. Deputy Desmond referred to the ascending scale which can go up to £15,000. There is an ascending scale in the 1941 Act which can go up to, I think, £10,000; so it is not an innovation.

Deputy Cosgrave raised the case of the one man protest at Dún Laoghaire —the cinema case. The only thing I can say about that is that I will have the matter examined since he saw fit to raise it here. Most of the discussion was on a rather conciliatory basis and played in a low key. Since I took over the Ministry of Labour I have always been rather careful not to tread on any acrimonious ground or enter into any aggressive discussions, particularly of a political nature. Deputy O'Leary did make charges that this party were seeking to undermine the trade unions. I do not think anybody could sustain that argument. I would be the very first to object to any such thing. One thing that must be agreed is that the trade unionist is free to belong to any political party he may wish. The political levy is operated in such a way that one must opt out. This has been changed here time and again, as it has been in England. At one time you were out and you had to opt in. As it is now, you are in and you have to opt out. The charge is made that sometimes it is not made pleasant for the person who wants to opt out but no definite case of that has been brought to my attention and I would take a very serious view if one were.

I am sure you would.

I often wonder if the political fund of the trade union is available for all parties. If Deputy Dowling is contesting an election as a trade unionist may he get the subvention from the political fund?

He has enough from Taca. He does not need it.

Which union is Deputy Dowling a member of?


Whether he gets it from Taca or any other association, there is one thing certain and that is that no political party these days can exist without very substantial funds.

You cannot opt out of Taca.

Why is the Deputy worrying about Taca? What does he know about it?

I have the list.

He knows damn all, as with everything else.

Would the Minister be allowed to make his speech?

It is my duty as it is that of any member of our organisation to stand in a particular place once a year to get money for the party. That has been the fundamental source of our income down through the years since 1926 and I have always found that the trade unionist subscribed as generously as anybody else when passing my table and I am very glad to say that last year that fund was higher than ever it was before.

What was it before that?

I do not want to say anything further about it.

The Minister has said what he wanted to say.

Deputy O'Leary made some reference to the political side. Reference was made to things that are not in the Bill and there was some suggestion by Deputy Belton that there might have been many other things in the Bill. The 1966 Bill which fell with the dissolution of the Dáil in 1969 did contain many other proposals, some of which were more controversial. One might say that the thing to do would be to deal with them as a package and get the lot through but I took the decision that we would take the very essential and less controversial proposals and have them put through, those things on which a reasonable measure of agreement can be reached. As I said the other day in a Press conference, I am still prepared to do that in relation to the remaining provisions of the 1966 Bill. There were in that Bill some very essential provisions which would be of mutual benefit to management and workers and would be in the national interest. On these things we can find some common ground and deal with them. Some of them have been referred to here already. I do not think it is necessary to say anything further at this Stage, particularly if the House will consider giving me all Stages tonight.

I want again to assure the House that this piece of legislation was taken out of the other Bill because it was regarded as a matter of some urgency on which a reasonable measure of agreement was shown. I welcome the constructive and very satisfying debate on the Bill. Although at times the debate went outside the scope of the Bill and matters not concerned with the Bill were brought up, they were all matters that I hope we will have an opportunity to discuss another day.

I want to ask the Minister a question, not in any sense of malice. I agree with the Minister that the debate has been on a nice even keel. We Irish are a very argumentative group and very independently-minded. In view of the equanimity of this debate, is the Minister satisfied that if some recalcitrant group of people take this Bill to the High Court and then to the Supreme Court on the basis that there must be a minimum of 500 members, it will be found to be constitutional? I am not saying that it is wrong to have a minimum of 500 members. Not at all. That is not the point. We have had experience in this House of a Bill being passed on which there was great unanimity and which was found to be unconstitutional and, since the Referendum Bill is not yet through, I am afraid the High Court and the Supreme Court still have a say in the matter. Now I come to the question. Is the Minister satisfied that, suppose some difficult group of people—as indeed did happen when two unions were joining up a few years ago—a very similar case— take this Bill to the courts on the basis that the Constitution does not provide for any number like 500—in fact you can form a trade union in the morning with five people in it——

We will say ten. I am not saying that it will happen, but suppose it does happen, has the Minister had any advice that, in fact, the Bill will stand up if it is challenged in the court under our Constitution on the basis of the figure of 500? I am not saying that his figure is wrong. On the contrary, I think there is a good deal to be said for it. I should like the Minister to tell us what he thinks of this.

The provision for appeal to the High Court should remove to a great extent any doubt about the constitutionality of the measure. I could visualise a small number of select people who could be deprived under this Bill of forming a union who could succeed in court on an appeal. Somebody said to me that if actuaries wanted to have their own union they would be rather thin on the ground. They might be entitled to go to court. I could see them possibly succeeding. That provision which is in the Bill does help to remove any doubt about the constitutionality.

That is in section 3.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 30th November, 1971.