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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 9 Mar 1976

Vol. 288 No. 10

Industrial Relations Bill, 1975: Committee Stage.

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

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 2, between lines 10 and 11, to insert the following: " `the Act of 1969' mean the Industrial Relations Act, 1969;".

This is of a drafting nature and consequential on the proposed amendments Nos. 6 and 7.

Why the necessity for this amendment? If you read the Bill it is entitled "An Act to amend and extend the Industrial Relations Acts, 1946 and 1969". The Bill goes on to say "in this Act"— giving various definitions, the last of which is

"the Principal Act" means the Industrial Relations Act, 1946.

We have the amendment saying the Act of 1969 means the Industrial Relations Act, 1969. Why the necessity for spelling that out in detail when the Act of 1969 would appear to be adequate in view of the fact that the Act of 1969 would appear to be already in the Title of the Bill it is referred to us as being an Act to amend and extend the Industrial Relations Acts, 1946 and 1969?

This arises from the extra division we are going to have of the court, if we proceed towards that—that we should put in the title "Industrial Relations Act, 1969", because the Act of 1969 has provision for only three divisions whereas we are looking for a fourth division. That is why it is of a drafting nature, consequential on the proposed amendments Nos. 6, 7 and 8 which provide for a certain amendment or amendments of certain sections of the Industrial Relations Act 1969.

I accept that, but we have a title "Industrial Relations Act, 1969" yet we say in the amendment to section 1 "the Act of 1969 means the Industrial Relations Act, 1969". If in our Title we have already said it why do we want again to explain it? It is superfluous, surely.

Could the Minister be more specific in case there should be any doubt?

As I said, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, it is consequential on the later amendments that we have to put in this definition section in this amendment. My advice from the draftsmen is that it is essential.

The Deputy is making a case of the Long Title.

The draftsmen often suggest things that to the layman appear unnecessary, but I am assured that it is necessary that the actual Title be put in this fashion to ensure——

I find it hard to understand this technical draftsmanship.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 2, to delete line 20 and insert the following:

"for market gardens, private gardens, nursery grounds or sports grounds;".

This is the extension to market gardens, private gardens, nursery grounds and sports grounds. The definition of agricultural worker and agricultural employer in the Bill are the same as those previously employed in agricultural wages legislation. Suggestions have been made, mainly from trade union organisations, that certain groups of workers—gardeners employed in ornamental gardens, public gardens and those employed on golf links—should be included properly within the definition of agricultural workers. This amendment provides for the inclusion, within the coverage of the Bill, of workers engaged in agricultural work, what would be correctly described as agricultural work, but whose employers are either public authorities, who work in large gardens of a public character or on golf courses; there are quite a number of workers whom I would like to see included in these provisions. That is the purpose of this amendment.

I am not happy about the sports ground aspect. The Minister referred to golf courses. In many sporting organisations around the country the work is mainly voluntary. I am satisfied that some of the Government's colleagues are so unaware of the sporting world as to have offended the entire community, particularly the young, when one of them in a TV interview to our amazement condemned competition among young people from the sport point of view.

Why the necessity here for the extension to sports grounds? I would be interested to know if the Minister has any information on the number of people concerned, whether they are confined to Dublin, whether they are members of trade unions. I suspect that the Minister's thinking here was confined to golf courses. He may not be aware that many sporting organisations throughout the country employ a tremendous amount of voluntary assistance, otherwise they could not survive. Why the difference between Second Stage and now in regard to the inclusion of sports grounds?

Perhaps the Deputy could help me. I am at a loss to know what his problem is. He referred to voluntary workers. This Bill will not threaten voluntary workers. Perhaps the Deputy, who is very forthcoming in his objections to most measures, would enlighten me as to what his problem is in relation to the amendment.

First of all, I believe sport to be so important to the nation that I do not think any group should be singled out. One finds it hard to accept sports grounds being singled out here for inclusion. There are many types of hurling and football grounds and coursing stretches apart from golf courses in Dublin and elsewhere. Why are people like stable lads and those working generally with horses not included? My understanding is that that area needs control. They work a seven-day week in winter and summer and I am at a loss to understand why they have not been included. Groomsmen are not included. Is that because of a certain slant of this Government towards that sport?

I understand the provisions of this legislation will apply to stable lads and others in such occupations, and if there is a danger that that is not so we can consider legislation to deal with it. In some respects their work is different from that of agricultural workers but I am advised by the unions concerned, and we are proceeding on that basis, that they will be covered by the operation of this legislation. I am puzzled by the Deputy's worries about the reference to sports grounds. Voluntary workers remain voluntary workers and where they have full-time employment the agricultural rate will have to be paid.

I will read the section. It states:

In this Act—

"agricultural employer" means a person who carries on the trade or business of agriculture and who employs other persons as agricultural workers for the purposes of that trade or business;

"agricultural worker" means a person employed under a contract of service or apprenticeship whose work under the contract is or includes work in agriculture, but does not include a person whose work under any such contract is mainly domestic service;

Market gardens are already there.

"agriculture" includes dairy farming and the use of land as grazing, meadow, or pasture land, or orchard or osier land or woodland, or for market gardens or nursery grounds;

What is "Osier land"?

"Osier" has something to do with reeds.

Rods for making baskets.

It seems to belong to another century.

They would be taken over from the old agricultural wages legislation. The purpose of the amendment is to add to that. The Deputy questioned the extension to market gardens.

Why the addition of sports grounds?

Let me say this arose from discussions with the unions concerned with these workers. That is their suggestion and that is why it is included.

That is what I wanted to know.

Why are stable lads left out? They are notoriously badly paid. Most of the people included are skilled people and will be much better paid than agricultural workers. Even those engaged in osier plots, the growing of rods for basket and chairmaking and other wicker work, are very often paid far in advance of what would be claimed by agricultural labourers. Their inclusion might be regarded as superfluous but, although I do not live in Kildare, I have had complaints from stable workers who told me they were being exploited.

I had not finished my point. I cannot find in that section reference to stable workers or others dealing with horses.

I said that through the working of the agricultural wages legislation their rates generally kept pace with those of agricultural workers.

Deputy Bermingham could possibly know a great deal more about it than anybody else but, like Deputy Brennan, I have from time to time had many complaints about stable lads and groomsmen and why are they excluded?

The Minister said their work was different. All farm work is different from any other work because of the hours that have to be worked. I cannot see any point in excluding these. I think they should be included.

Stable boys should be included. I understood they were included under the old Act and they would be covered in the normal course and an amendment would not be necessary. If there is any doubt it should be removed.

I was proceeding on the basis that the old relationship would continue. Their rates went in close relationship with what was decided by the Agricultural Wages Board. If there is any doubt that a similar situation will not obtain under the new arrangement I will certainly take up Deputy Bermingham's suggestion.

The suggestion came from over here.

Deputy Bermingham is in a position to know the situation better than anyone else and I assure him and others that I will pay close attention to what he had to say. If there is any doubt about their being included I will ensure they are included.

I will come back on the Minister on that. There is a limit to play-acting by a responsible Minister, a Minister who is giving all the credit to a Deputy whose attention had to be drawn to this by this side of the House. It amazes me the Minister goes in for play-acting on this.

There would be no Bill if Deputy Bermingham had not sought it.

It amazes me to find we have a Minister for Labour who has never had a complaint about this section. There are also people, and Deputy Bermingham is aware of this, who may not be anxious to come within the scope of the Bill. I am concerned about the people who may suffer through not being included.

I do not know to whom the blame attaches, but this is the first Bill of its kind in 40 years.

I take it the people who would not be anxious to be included would be at the top of the scale. It is the others I am concerned about.

Deputy Brennan mentioned a very important point. Under the old system there was a minimum wage and people were paid only the minimum wage. These were skilled workers and entitled to be paid a proper wage.

There have been complaints. Deputy Fitzgerald said some may not want to be included. I do not think there is anything in the Bill to prevent people paying more if they want to. My experience in the past was that it was the minimum wage laid down that was invariably paid as the maximum wage. Let us not cod ourselves. There may be people who are not anxious to be included but I am anxious that people I believe should be included will be assured of a minimum at least. I understood this Bill was taking over from the old Act under which these people were included. However, if there is any doubt it should be resolved and, if an amendment is necessary, it should be made. I understood stable lads and people working on stud farms, and so on, were dealt with by the old Agricultural Wages Board and would, therefore, be included under this legislation. If they are not then I urge the Minister to ensure they are.

As I explained, it is our understanding that the same comparability that existed under the old arrangement will continue to exist under the new arrangement. That was the basis on which this Bill was framed. I received from trade unions and other organised workers specific requests to extend the definition of agriculture in the direction I outlined. That is why we have the change. Deputy Fitzgerald is worried about the effect where sports grounds and voluntary workers are concerned. Voluntary workers will not be affected but full-time workers will be affected. All full-time workers employed in a sports complex will come under the provisions of this Bill. Be it the GAA, the FAI, golf club, tennis club, or anything else, it will have to pay the going rate for the job. I have received no requests for an extension to stable boys from trade unions because they do not see any necessity for that. That is why it is not here. However, certain views have been expressed. I have been impressed by Deputy Bermingham because he represents a constituency which has a large number of stable boys and he can be assured I will look at this very closely indeed and will ensure there will be no room for doubt. There would be no difficulty in adding that category to this Bill.


I do not know who is indulging in play-acting. For 40 minutes the Opposition have held us up on an amendment and for 40 years when they were over here they did damn all for the agricultural workers.

The playacting of the Minister and the cheap way in which he is trying to score political points is unbelievable. I appreciate that he is confined to a Dublin city constituency and has been for a considerable time. His experience of the agricultural life of this country is very narrow.

East Cork and West Cork.

Cork city for a brief period after being out of nappies and then he moved to Dublin. I invite him to come back to Cork and contest a seat there in any constituency and see if he can make it.

The Deputy is in a very belligerent mood tonight.

Simply because of the Minister's pettiness and his failure to acknowledge that it was from this side of the House that the question of stable boys was raised. I have often heard Deputy Paddy Power asking questions here about the stable lads of Kildare, and of course we will acknowledge that Kildare is a county where most of this applies. He can probably speak with more authority on this problem than anybody else here.

Deputy Paddy Power is not in the House tonight when it counts.

For the Minister's sake maybe it is just as well that there is a vigilant Opposition here who saw fit to ask him the question, because we suspect that maybe one of his ministerial or horseriding colleagues advised him that certain sports should be included and certain others should not be included.

The Deputy began his contribution by objecting to the inclusion of sports grounds.

I beg the Minister's pardon. I did not.

That was the tenor of the Deputy's remarks.

That is an incorrect statement and it is typical of the Minister, who does not listen. I did not object at any stage. I merely questioned the matter. I fully appreciate that this Bill could in no way cover voluntary workers. I merely asked, and it took a very long time to get an explanation from the Minister. I agree that people working full time on a sports ground must be paid to a certain standard. The condition of grounds throughout the country depend on their efforts, and they are usually paid well above the standard rate, which they deserve because of the way they keep their sports grounds. It is amazing that the Minister, vigilant though he claims to be, should have made two additions here without including this section of agricultural workers. Maybe there is a valid reason for this, and all I asked the Minister to do was to examine it between now and Report Stage. We think it should be examined and if this category has to be included we will fully support the Minister.

In regard to market gardens and private gardens, would St. Stephen's Green be excluded by definition?

Included? I know I cannot deal with sections but paragraph (d) of that section mentions those who are employed by local authorities. The Minister says that the employees of, say, Dublin Corporation, in St. Stephen's Green, Fairview Park, or the Botanic Gardens are covered by "market gardens", "private gardens", "nursery grounds" and "sports grounds", because there are nurseries within those complexes as well.

They would be covered.

Is there not a conflict in that?

The Deputy is referring to the fact that nurseries and so on——

I am dealing with the amendment to section 1 in respect of market gardens, nursery grounds and so on. There are nurseries, for example, right beside us here in St. Stephen's Green with skilled workers. I know I cannot refer to section 2.

We should not deal with section 2 now.

The point is that in the definition section there is a grey area about who is involved in agricultural work. However, in a later section, section 2, we refer to people who would necessarily be excluded and therefore it would be incorrect to say that St. Stephen's Green would be included, because a person employed by a local authority would be excluded under section 2. Therefore, if we proceed to section 2——

That would not be in order.

That is what I mean, but as we go on to section 2 we will see that a person working under a local authority would not be included.

People employed in the Phoenix Park would not be under a local authority but under the Board of Works. Is that right?

We are not on section 2. We are on an amendment to section 1.

I am speaking on the amendment about market gardens, private gardens and nursery gardens. In the Phoenix Park, for example, there are flowers and so on raised by skilled people. Are those people covered?

They have their own scheme. They will not be covered, but that would be relevant to the next section.

We are dealing with an amendment.

There are nursery grounds included in these parks and they are not under a local authority.

Section 2 provides that people in certain employments are excluded, but we are running into section 2.

If the Minister thinks we are introducing an acrimonious note, he is more guilty than we are in that he said he was likely to pay more attention to one Deputy than to another. I do not think it is the Minister's duty to decide what a Deputy's knowledge of a particular subject should be. We might be just as familiar with the conditions of stable workers as Deputy Bermingham is, and I will not go further than that.

Would the Deputy come to the amendment?

This is entirely on the amendment. We are complaining that certain things were not added to it. It is quite obvious that public gardens such as St. Stephen's Green and the Phoenix Park are not included because they are public gardens and could not come under the definition of private gardens or sports grounds. Would the skating rink be regarded as a sports ground or the skiing slopes at Magillacuddy Reeks? The only issue I would join with the Minister in is that, while the extension is to some extent superfluous, there could be no objection to it. It is superfluous because it mostly relates to skilled people, but it is more noticeable for what is omitted than what it proposes to add. I refer again to a section of workers who would very much wish to be included and I am glad that because Deputy Bermingham has had a word in the Minister's ear it will now be included.

Amendment agreed?

Is the Minister promising us that he is looking at the stable boy situation?

I do not want to go over old ground again. I explained that my understanding of the situation was they were covered by virtue of their relationship with the old Agricultural Wages Board. If there is any doubt about this, they would certainly be referred to by an amendment which I would move. The reason why I specifically referred to Deputy Bermingham is that his constituency includes many such categories of worker. He would be in a better position to understand the problem than Deputies from constituencies that would not have such a deep acquaintance with the problem. That was the reason I valued his advice on this matter very highly and why in fact I would act on it.

I should like to inform the Minister that I have had complaints on many occasions about the manner in which these people are treated. Deputy Bermingham has never had a complaint.

Before we move on, I want to know if the Minister will, as a result of our raising it from this side of the House—as a matter of fact, I raised it specifically at the time he told me that he was not aware that it was not covered under the Bill and I sought to find out where it might be covered—look at the situation between now and Report Stage and find out whether there is a very good reason why it should not be included. I want an undertaking from the Minister that, because of our having raised it here, he will investigate the position regarding the horse world.

The category was not included because it was my understanding from trade union sources that it was not necessary to have them included. The same relationship that operated in relation to their wage rates under the Agricultural Wages Board would apply in the new legislative situation we are creating here. I have already given an undertaking to Deputy Bermingham that if it is necessary to have them specifically included in the Bill, since it was my understanding that they would be covered, and that if there is any doubt left then there will be no problem in having them included.

Further to a request made by me in this House tonight on the obvious omission in the Bill, there is a necessity for the Opposition to study closely any Bill introduced by this particular Minister. If we are inclined to be questioning and doubtful, can one blame us for being questioning and doubtful when we have in this country a Minister for Labour who is three years in office now, who was not aware that there had been complaints from that particular section of our community. I raised on amendment No. 2 to section 1 the fact that certain areas were mentioned in that. It may well be covered by the Bill. It appears that it is not covered specifically under the Bill. Maybe there is a very sound reason why it should not be covered by the Bill, and I want to know again from the Minister if he is prepared to give us an undertaking that he will investigate it between now and Report Stage.

The Deputy should stop being childish.

The Minister should stop being political. The discordant note was introduced by the Minister. Because I have raised this matter here as being what appears to me to be an obvious omission I expect an undertaking from the Minister in a gentlemanly way that he will now examine that and report to us at Report Stage whether or not he sees a necessity for it. I will accept his word if he tells me there is not a necessity for it and if he shows me the vehicle they can use in the event of it being necessary.

Amendment No. 2 agreed?

No. I am still awaiting an undertaking from the Minister on that particular point and will continue to do so.

I will put the amendment. Does the Deputy wish the amendment put?

Amendment put and agreed to.
Section, as amended, agreed to.
Question proposed: "That section 2 stand part of the Bill."

I want to speak on the definition of employer and worker.

I put the section and it was agreed.

I thought the amendment was agreed.

I put the amendment first and then I put the section as amended.

We are back to section 2 and the exclusions under subsection (1) of section (2). I understood the Minister to say—as a matter of fact, I think he did say incorrectly at the time—that the introduction in the previous section of private gardens was to cover places like the Phoenix Park and St. Stephen's Green. Is it not true that theses people are specifically excluded under this section?

I have already told the Deputy that they are excluded under section 2.

Are agricultural workers on State farms included?

They have their own schemes.

Have agricultural college workers got their own scheme?

And they are not included in this Bill?

That is right.

Section 2 is the principal section in the Bill and it has been adequately covered on Second Stage. It is the one that gives agricultural workers access to the Labour Court. Subsection (1) may require closer examination with regard to persons who are excluded. It does not include a person who is employed by or under the State. This is where the exclusion of public gardens comes in. It does not include teachers in secondary schools, teachers in national schools, a person who is employed by a local authority in any office or employment, and an officer serving the vocational educational committee. This section is very much bound up with the section the Labour Court will take, which is dealing with agricultural workers and the expertise and impartiality of that section that will be dealing with them. The Minister has frequently referred to his consultations with trade unions. It is very important also that the opinions of employers in these categories be taken into consideration but the Minister has not reassured us as to whether he has sought the opinions of these people. I assume that the question of these workers being admitted to the Labour Court will be influenced entirely as to its success on the knowledge which the relevant personnel in the Labour Court will have in relation to the whole area of agricultural employment.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.