Hundredth Anniversary of 1913 Lock-out: Motion [Private Members]

I move:

That Dáil Éireann:

on the 100th anniversary of the 1913 Lock-out, salutes the titanic struggle of the working class of Dublin for workers’ rights, trade union rights, and a decent and dignified life;

notes:

— the brutal methods of the employers of Dublin, led by the then owner of Independent Newspapers William Martin Murphy, as they attempted to protect their profits by smashing the Irish Transport and General Workers Union, ITGWU, through starving its members into renouncing their union membership;

— that the employers commanded the full support of the State including the Dublin Metropolitan Police and Judiciary;

— that the employers had the full support of the Catholic Church, which sought to stigmatise striking workers and used the pulpit to denounce workers’ leaders like James Larkin and James Connolly and the socialist ideas that informed their struggle;

— that the capitalist and right wing press of the day was relentless in its support for the employers and rabid in its campaign of vilification and slander against the workers and their leaders; and

— that the hostility of the employers to the ITGWU members arose from the militant and effective tactics advocated by Connolly and Larkin and embraced by unskilled workers in the years preceding 1913, in particular, the sympathy strike which was a powerful expression of working class solidarity summed up by the concept that "an injury to one is an injury to all";

recognises that, irrespective of the difficult circumstances in which the Lock-out finished for workers, their sacrifices and struggle were a vital foundation stone for the development of the Irish labour and trade union movement and workers’ rights in subsequent generations and up to the present day;

further notes that:

— in 2013 the ethos driving the bailout of the financial markets system and the austerity agenda is exactly the same as that driving the Dublin employers, that is, the protection of corporate profit and the profit system;

— the socialist ideas espoused by Connolly and Larkin as an alternative to the capitalism of their day are as relevant in addressing today’s economic crisis;

— in enacting the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Bill 2013, the Government employs William Martin Murphy style blackmail in that, while he demanded workers sign a pledge to disavow the ITGWU, the Government demands that unless public sector workers sign up to a programme of cuts to wages and conditions, the Government will inflict even worse on them;

— the Labour Party, which came into being as a result of workers’ struggles in the years preceding 1913, is guilty of abject betrayal in driving the austerity agenda at enormous cost to working people, the unemployed, pensioners and the poor;

— those trade union leaders who try to justify recommending an acceptance of more austerity to their members by claiming they are defending them from worse, are in fact guaranteeing that conditions will worsen in the years ahead and, in this collusion with the austerity agenda, dishonour the men and women who waged the 1913 struggle and it’s leaders like Larkin and Connolly;

— today, efforts made by the trade union movement to organise, particularly in the private sector, typically meet with employer resistance and hostility;

— employers resisting trade union recognition today enjoy the protection of current laws and the courts;

— registered employment agreements and employment regulation orders providing certain important legislative protection for workers have been struck down;

— employers seeking to impede effective picketing can typically with ease obtain injunctions from the courts which are then enforced by the Garda thus enabling strikebreaking operations to take place;

— employees seeking redress for unfair dismissal at the Employment Appeals Tribunal have an average wait of more than a year;

— awards made in favour of employees by the Employment Appeals Tribunal, under the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977 to 2007, the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Acts 1973 to 2005 and the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997, for unfair dismissals, non-payment of wages in lieu of notice and non-payment of holiday pay respectively are often unenforceable when the offending company ceases trading or goes into liquidation; and

— similar delays and problems with enforcement of cases successfully brought to the Rights Commissioner under the Payment of Wages Act 1991 also occur; and

resolves:

— that a trade union recognition bill be passed this year to make it mandatory for employers to recognise trade unions;

— that sections of the Industrial Relations Acts 1969 to 2001 that impede effective strike action, including solidarity or secondary action, should be repealed;

— that adequate resources are made available to the Employment Appeals Tribunal and Rights Commissioner that will allow cases to be heard within four weeks;

— that legislation be enacted to place employees owed wages, redundancy pay and Employment Appeal Tribunal awards by firms that have ceased trading or entered liquidation, first in the hierarchy of creditors;

— that a scheme of financial and other State supports be made, with immediate effect, to assist communities in Dublin and elsewhere to mark the centenary anniversary of the 1913 Lock-out with appropriate commemorative and educational events;

— that an appropriate memorial be established to commemorate the 1913 Lock-out, recognising the sacrifices made and, in particular, the five workers who lost their lives in the struggle; and

— to encourage workers and trade unionists to resist austerity in 2013 with the same solidarity and fighting spirit displayed by their predecessors during the 1913 Lock-out.

I will share time with Deputies Joan Collins, Finian McGrath, Luke 'Ming' Flanagan, Mattie McGrath and Patrick Nulty.

On this, the 100th anniversary of the great Dublin Lock-out of 1913, we salute the titanic struggles of the working class men and women of Dublin city and county against the barbarism inflicted on them, their families and communities through the agency of the ruthless capitalist forces of the day. An Irish capitalist class existed which saw no contradiction between on the one side Irish nationalism, support for Home Rule government and allegiance to Christianity in the form of the Catholic and Protestant religions and on the other side being responsible for keeping hundreds of thousands among the working class on the island of Ireland in abject poverty with slave wages and appalling living conditions.

This Irish capitalist class, when workers stood up to demand justice, fair wages, better living conditions and a decent life, did not hesitate to use all its powerful armoury of political, judicial and police repression to ruthlessly and literally attempt to starve the workers into submission in order to maintain its profits and the power and privilege these profits guaranteed. To understand how criminal the capitalist exploitation was in 1913 we need only look at contemporary reports. A September 1913 parliamentary inquiry into housing conditions found 25,800 families were living in inner city tenements, and 20,100 families were each crammed into one room. With family size ranging from three or four to seven, eight or nine, we can only imagine the deprivation and cruelty involved. The same inquiry concluded that 60,200 people were living in dwellings "unfit for human habitation and incapable of being rendered fit for human habitation".

These appalling conditions contributed to a very high death rate, with Dublin up there with some of the most economically depressed cities on Earth. This led the great socialist and key leader in the Lock-out struggle, James Connolly, to declare the high death rate in Dublin was in exact proportion to the class which the victims belong, falling with the wealth of the people and rising with their poverty.

Sometimes death came to Dublin's poor with shocking abruptness when the rotting tenements in which they lived came crashing down, as happened on Tuesday, September 2, less than one week into the Lock-out. No. 66 Church Street collapsed, killing three adults and four children, showing how workers were oppressed from all sides. One of the victims was 17 year old Eugene Salmon who died trying to rescue his eight year old sister. That very day he had been sacked from Jacob's biscuit factory for refusing to resign his membership of the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union.

The rack-renting landlords responsible for atrocities such as this were an integral part of the Dublin business elite. They were represented prominently among the Judiciary and included Dublin's leading capitalists, among them William Martin Murphy who owned the Irish Independent and Evening Herald newspapers. Murphy of course controlled Dublin United Tramways Company which ran the key tramway system in Dublin and was a notorious exploiter of labour. The tramway workers' working day ranged from nine to 17 hours, with one day off in ten. These were oppressive working conditions with massive fines for minor infringements of the company rules and pay was lower than for the workers' counterparts in Britain. It was no wonder Big Jim Larkin, a great leader of the struggle in the Lock-out, described Murphy as "a creature who is living on the sweated victims who are compelled to slave for this modern capitalistic vampire".

On Saturday 19 July, 1913 William Martin Murphy called a meeting of the tramworkers. He warned them against taking strike action, verbally parading his power, and asked "what chance would the men without funds have in a contest with the Company who could and would spend £100,000 or more". This was an enormous sum in those days. With great callousness he went on to declare, "the shareholders ... will have three meals a day ... I don’t know if the men who go out can count on this". This warning of depriving workers of their food was made brutally real during the Lock-out which Murphy orchestrated a month later when an attempt was made to starve the Dublin working class into submission.

When Big Jim Larkin arrived in Belfast in 1907 this was the kind of worker exploitation he set out to redress, as did James Connolly when he returned from the United States in 1910 to join him. These men became heroic champions of the downtrodden working class. They had great energy, unending courage and masterly tactical abilities. Critically, they also had a socialist analysis of the economic and social system and set their tireless day to day work of trade union organisation in the context of an overall struggle for socialism which was, as they defined it, the expropriation of the exploiter's wealth and the re-organisation of society as a democratically-run socialist commonwealth where the needs of the majority superseded the greed of a very few.

The new trade unionism extended by Larkin and Connolly, along with many great men and women whose names we do not know today, was correctly seen by Ireland's nationalistic capitalist bosses as a major threat. They looked forward to home rule to assume political control to match the economic power they already wielded. They quaked at the emergence of a new force onto the stage of history, the organised working class determined to secure their rights which threatened the profits of the employers, and the capitalist class saw a mortal threat to their plans to continue to dominate society in a home rule government. It was little wonder then that they set out to exterminate the threat.

In the months that followed, with great cruelty they attempted to starve the working class of Dublin, not only the workers but their children also, in their determination to smash effective trade unionism.

The effective trade unionism that particularly drove them to despair was the sympathetic strike action that had been developed with great effectiveness, leading to great results for workers in the preceding years, when workers in many different enterprises stood together in solidarity on the basis that an injury to one was the concern of all.

During the Lock-out, all of the institutions of the capitalist establishment backed up the brutal onslaught on the workers of Dublin. As alluded to in the Socialist Party's motion, members of the Dublin Metropolitan Police, DMP, became the hired thugs for the employers. The judges, among whom were many capitalists, shareholders and rack-renting landlords, sent hundreds of workers to jail. The Catholic hierarchy and clergy denounced the struggles, its leaders and their socialist ideas. The Irish Independent and the Evening Herald, owned by Murphy, poured out a daily dose of bile and viciousness, attacking the working class struggle for justice and slandering and smearing Larkin in particular. The Irish Independent appeared as usual on Tuesday, 2 September 1913, three days after James Nolan and John Byrne were killed by a brutal baton charge on Eden Quay by the police and two days after hundreds of workers were brutally beaten on the streets of Dublin on Bloody Sunday and another worker, John McDonogh, was murdered in his home by the police. On Tuesday, 2 September, a tenement building collapsed on Church Street, yet we find in the Irish Independent not a denunciation of rack-renting landlords and exploitation or a diatribe against the police violence, but a diatribe against the struggling workers. Denouncing the sympathetic strike, the article reads:

Was ever grosser tyranny attempted to be set up in the name of freedom of combination? Yet this is what Larkinism means and stands for... It is this attempt at despotism that the Tramway Company, Independent Newspapers, Messrs. Shackleton of Lucan, Messrs. Jacob and others are now out to overturn and destroy... It is infinitely better for Dublin and the prosperity of trade and its too few industries that whatever suffering and loss may be involved should be endured for a few weeks at most than that the city should be left helpless in the toils of Larkinism for an indefinite term of years.

The Lock-out ended in 1914 in difficult circumstances for the working class of Dublin. It could have been won had the magnificent solidarity of the British working class been embraced by the leaders of the British Trade Union Congress and action taken on their behalf. It stands as a lasting monument to the people who fought and the gains that came as a result in terms of workers' rights and trade union rights.

The anniversary of 1913 will be commemorated by leaders of ICTU and the Labour Party, but the latter dishonours and shames the heroes of 1913. Only a few weeks ago, the Labour Party pushed through the Dáil a Bill threatening to slash public workers' wages and conditions unless they accepted in a ballot slightly less onerous but equally repugnant cuts. How reminiscent this was of the methods of William Martin Murphy in demanding the signatures of workers to disavow the ITGWU or be sacked. The Labour Party in government drives the austerity agenda with Fine Gael. Attacks on workers' living standards and conditions and public services are at the diktat of the dictatorship of the financial markets, the same vulture capitalists, bondholders and big financiers denounced by Connolly and Larkin as the origin of the suffering of workers in their day. Their profiteering caused the financial crash, yet it is now on the backs of the working class, with the connivance of the Labour Party in a Fine Gael-dominated Government. Pathetic excuses cut no ice.

There is an alternative: to mobilise the power of working people in opposition to this dreadful austerity. Build a monument to the heroes of 1913 by campaigning for a socialist alternative. Taking major wealth, finance and major industry into public ownership and putting them under democratic control is what socialism means and is what is needed. Unfortunately, ICTU's leaders - with one or two honourable exceptions - also capitulated utterly to the austerity agenda, equally shaming the men and women of 1913.

A fitting tribute to that massive struggle, those who pursued it and those who suffered for justice would be to pass a trade union recognition Bill this year, releasing the chains that deliberately make it difficult to organise effective strike action. Resources should be provided to industrial relations machinery, such as the Employment Appeals Tribunal, so that disputes might be heard immediately. As a particular monument, we should also assist communities and bona fide groups in marking and bringing alive the events of 1913 in Dublin with educational and commemorative events. We should have a memorial to the five workers killed - James Nolan, John Byrne, John McDonogh, James Byrne and 16-year-old Alice Brady, a Jacob's worker who was shot by a scab. We need a fitting monument to the heroism and importance of this seminal event in the history of the Irish working class. Above all, we need a fighting response to the disastrous strategy of austerity and a mobilisation of the significant power of working class people to overturn it and to achieve a democratic and socialist strategy instead.

I support the Private Members' motion and concur with Deputy Higgins's points. One hundred years on, the attitude of Dublin employers and William Martin Murphy in particular are alive and well among the Irish boss class. Earlier this year in my constituency, ten workers of the Gleeson Group were sacked from the company's distribution centre in Ballyfermot for joining SIPTU. The boss got wind of their joining and sent his middle management to ask all of the workers clocking in that morning whether they had joined the union. The ten who had were made redundant practically the following day. The Gleeson Group is not a small company led by a maverick employer. The company, which employed 750 people at that time, distributes Tipperary Water and Gilbeys Wines and made a profit of just under €5 million last year. The owner, Pat Cooney, threatened to sack half of his workforce in a depot in Borrisoleigh two years earlier when a group of workers joined a union. One of the drivers who joined the union was replaced by an agency driver the day after he was made redundant. Agency workers earn €80 per day and can be taken on and let go at will.

This is not an unusual case in the private sector, where employers maintain a non-union core workforce and casualise the rest of the workers at much lower rates. The 2009 figures on union density showed that only one third of workers were unionised, including 20% of part-time workers. It is clear that there would be higher levels of union membership if workers were not afraid to join unions and were confident that the trade union movement would fight for them.

Last week, ICTU formally requested the assistance of the International Labour Organisation, ILO, in ensuring that the Irish Government made good on its commitment to the ILO and under its programme for Government to introduce legislation to give workers the right to bargain collectively with employers through trade unions. The ILO is the UN's agency for labour affairs. Ireland is a member of it and is subject to its rules and regulations.

As usual, the Government's amendment is to delete all words after "Dáil Éireann". The text to be substituted includes the following: "a phase of consultation with key stakeholders in the context of the Government's commitment in its Programme for Government to reform the current law on employees' right...". If this is the case, why did ICTU need to ask the ILO last week to force the Government to act on the basic right of trade union recognition?

In 2011, congress submitted a formal complaint to the ILO about the lack of legal effect to the right of collective bargaining in Ireland. In response the Government gave a commitment to conduct an independent inquiry, as requested by the ILO. This has just finished, but there has been nothing on this issue since May. More worrying is the statement from the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Bruton, to an employers' conference on 12 June in which he stated there is no plan for mandatory trade unions and collective bargaining will always remain voluntary. What is going on? It would appear the Fine Gael wing of this Government will stand over the Supreme Court ruling that although there is a right to join a trade union there is also a right on the part of employers not to recognise the union.

Although they fully support the need for legislation as sought by ICTU, unions need to be much more proactive and militant. They should not merely ask for this right, hoping that the Labour Party will not break yet another promise. They should draw on the lessons of 1913 and agitate and organise trade union rights for workers. Trade unions fought for rights for unskilled workers under the leadership of Connolly and Larkin. That is the historical lesson they left behind - try to organise through solidarity action and fight for those rights rather than meekly request them. That is crucial.

Although the fall in trade union density is a result of aggressive, anti-union bosses' policy, it is also the consequence of 30 years of social partnership. This has undermined democracy in the unions and control over those unions by their members, and has decreased shop steward activity even where workers are organised. During the recent debate on the so-called financial emergency Bill in respect of public sector workers the point was made by a long-standing trade union member that it was a legislative lock-out, 100 years on from the General Lock-out.

I thank the Chair for the opportunity to speak in this Private Members' debate on the 1913 Lock-out and workers' rights in Ireland of 2013. I thank and commend my colleague, Deputy Joe Higgins, for introducing this motion and this debate. It is an important debate as it allows all of us time to remember the men and women of 1913 and their great struggle and also shows how we can learn from the experiences of history. James Connolly and James Larkin should also be remembered, and the huge sacrifices they made for the people of this island.

Some will say we have come a long way and in many ways we have. However, the vision and experience of the struggle should also be a reminder that in Ireland of 2013 - the world of 2013 - we must still fight, not only for the 400,000 people unemployed and those living in poverty but also for those on low wages. Tonight's motion is about the vision and leadership mentioned in the text of the motion. It is also about the rights of workers, disabled people, the carers and people struggling with mortgages and on low incomes. Connolly and Larkin would be horrified by the Ireland of today where so many people are suffering amid all the wealth around us.

It is an honour for me, as a former branch secretary of Dublin City North INTO, and a former delegate to the Dublin Council of Trade Unions, to address this Dáil. These organisations have played a major role in Irish society and in creating activists and leaders in the trade union movement. Many of those activists have been elected to this Oireachtas which is a great privilege and honour. When I heard the motion would be about the 1913 Lock-out I wanted to mention one person in particular. I immediately remembered my late colleague, former Deputy Tony Gregory, who was also very proud of his own local history, in particular that of Dublin's north inner city. I wish to pay tribute to and commend him. I have fond memories of Tony being part of the celebrations in the city when he used to dress up in his Irish Citizen Army uniform, and the great fun and enjoyment he got from that. That was a tradition carried out in the inner city which links into tonight's motion. I know my colleague, Deputy Higgins, will also be aware of this.

In 2013 the ethos driving the bailout of the financial market system and the austerity agenda is exactly the same as the one that drove the Dublin employers of 1913, namely, the protection of power for profit and the profit system. The Labour Party, which came into being as a result of workers' struggles in the years preceding 1913, is guilty of abject betrayal in driving the austerity agenda, at enormous cost to working people, the unemployed, pensioners and the poor. We should look closely at what is going on in Ireland in 2013, where the expenditure of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in direct assistance to households has increased by 56% between 2008 and 2011. In 2011, the society spent more than €22 million on food and cash assistance. More than €10 million was spent on helping households with their energy costs, those who were let down by the State and broader society. Those who were least well off before the economic crisis remain the same. Their struggles have worsened due to cutbacks in the support and services on which they rely. Those who have lost jobs, had business failures, have seen significant falls in their income or are affected by over-indebtedness require short and medium-term to longer-term support to ensure they are prevented from falling into long-term unemployment and poverty.

The cumulative impact of austerity measures to date on individual families and communities has been devastating. I strongly oppose any further reduction in social expenditure because the people we assist, those who are struggling in Ireland, have suffered enough. I strongly support the motion. Let us remember the men and women of the 1913 Lock-out and James Connolly and James Larkin. Let us also remember the late and great Tony Gregory. Let us remind ourselves we all have a duty to stand up for the men and women of no property in 2013.

I commend my constituency colleague in Dublin West, Deputy Joe Higgins, on tabling this motion. One hundred years ago Dublin was a place of poverty. There was a housing crisis and malnutrition and overcrowding were the daily reality. The State did little or nothing to alleviate the conditions for workers. This year we recall that struggle in 1913 where Irish trade unionists and workers commemorate the courage and vision of working people in that year, at a time when again we face a crisis and a difficult challenge.

A full 100 years on from the 1913 Lock-out, austerity policies are hitting the poorest and most vulnerable hardest. There are renewed and sustained attacks on workers. Their right to collective bargaining through a trade union is still not recognised. In that context, I ask the Minister of State, Deputy John Perry, when Ireland will ratify the convention to protect domestic workers, something it still fails to do. Will he remind his colleagues at the Cabinet table that Ireland has given a commitment to legislate to give effect to the European Court of Human Right's ruling on the right to collective bargaining through a trade union? This is set out clearly in the programme for Government but several times when I have raised this matter with the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste on the Order of Business, the response I have been given was a mixture of lack of interest and flippancy about an essential piece of industrial relations legislation required in this country. Where does the Government stand on the commitments given to the International Labour Organisation which is meeting this week, attended by ICTU vice-president John Douglas and others? It has committed that Ireland will bring its laws in line with the ILO conventions and will not continue to undermine the conditions of workers.

Let us examine the context of modern Ireland. Although many things have changed in our society during the past 100 years, regrettably the deep-rooted inequalities remain. In 2011 Crédit Suisse showed that the richest 1% in our society owns more than 25% of our nation's wealth and the richest 10% owns more than 60%. Income distribution has become more unequal than it was in 1980. Social Justice Ireland notes that since 2008, 100,000 more of our fellow citizens are at risk of poverty. Housing waiting lists have soared to a point where almost 100,000 households are waiting for homes, while in 2008 the number was only 56,000. Why is there no attempt to have a stimulus plan to build and provide social housing for people? Any public representative in this House knows there is a crisis in housing need in this country but the political establishment refuses even to acknowledge or debate this.

Some 78% of people waiting for social housing have incomes of less than €15,000 per annum. One in four of our fellow citizens has literacy difficulties, compared to just 3% in Sweden. Let us not forget the shameful abolition of the Combat Poverty Agency by the previous Fianna Fáil Administration in order to prevent analysis and discussion about poverty and inequality.

The motion uses the language of betrayal. I prefer to use a different type of language because I believe in the politics of persuasion. A more equal society is in the interest of everybody and we can convince everybody to support progressive policies. I am reminded of the words of Martin Luther King, who said: "Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred."

No progressive Member of this House has a mandate to cut child benefit, respite care grants, the fuel allowance, maternity leave or the Sunday premium for security and other workers. Where were these policies in the election manifestos? The former British Labour Party MP, Tony Benn, said:

It's the same each time with progress. First they ignore you, then they say you're mad, then dangerous, then there's a pause and then you can't find anyone who disagrees with you.

This Government has a majority in this House. Fine Gael and those who support it will defeat this motion, just as they defeated many progressive proposals. Let us be clear, however, that despite five years of austerity, working people will not be defeated. The last word has not been spoken. Things will change and we will continue to fight relentlessly for an Ireland of equals, based on the principles of progressive democratic socialism. That is the mandate I was given by the people and I will continue to represent them in this way until we overcome the obstacles to building a society based on equality and justice. I support the motion.

I thank Deputy Joe Higgins for an excellent motion, which I will be supporting. The 1913 Lock-out achieved something massive by establishing that ordinary people have power if they flex their muscles. They still have this power. It also established that the media, if left unchecked, can act as an instrument that destroys democracy and the people’s right to choose their own leaders.

The same muscle that was used by unions over the decades with varying degrees of success became atrophied during the so-called Celtic tiger period or disaster. When this muscle needed to be flexed once again after the collapse of the economy, unfortunately it had become limp, like an arm taken out of plaster of Paris, when it should have been ready. One of the reasons we are told the unions did not take the radical action for which they had a mandate is that of the risks involved. For example, an ICTU conference mandated a mortgage strike but it was seen as too risky. The people of 1913 took risks that were bigger than losing the right to go to the cinema for a month. They lost the food from their mouths and they went through hellish pain to leave behind their legacy. Some might say they did not win in the end but they established something. The most important thing to remember is that it is sometimes necessary to go through pain and to take risks to change things.

I am critical of the unions because they have the ability and people power to bring change if they want to do so. I credit the INMO for showing more resolve than many unions since the collapse of our economy. When in 2011 it passed a motion calling for a mortgage strike, which was then brought to ICTU, it presented an opportunity to consider workers’ rights from a different angle in terms of the money going out in debt as well as that coming in. If that idea had been pursued it would have saved us significant hardship because we will end up in a big hole anyway. We will have to make big decisions of this nature.

If unions had used their firepower and acted as bravely as the people of 1913, we would not be in our present hole. Regardless of how we dress it up, we are in the middle of a new lock-out. People are being locked out of basic services because of the banking debts. Hundreds of thousands of people could have been mobilised fairly easily because they are union members. However, the unions failed to act. People would have had more money in their pockets because they would not be paying crazy mortgage payments. We would have fought the ECB and the Government could have claimed these terrible people were forcing its hand in calling for the debt to be written down. That can still be done and it has to be done.

When one thinks of the power these unions could show if they wanted to flex their muscles, it is sad that a little group from Ballyhea that is growing all the time can have a greater impact and has not yet given up. Why do the union leaders not show similar bravery? One would have to suspect they are too comfortable. Surely their ideas cannot change that much, from pegging stones at pickets to being union leaders who no longer give a damn. People need to learn something from what happened back then. There are times when we have to take a risk. What risks are the unions taking anymore? People are going through hell. Things are so bad that people cannot get into a mental hospital when they are on the verge of suicide. I was told to go away.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this motion, although I will not support it and do not agree with most of it. It offers a very selective reading of history, as does the majority of Deputy Joe Higgins's interventions. The motion suggests that the Catholic Church was against the workers in 1913 when since 1891 it had expressly condemned the misery and wretchedness pressing unjustly on the majority of the working class. The church supported the right of labour to form unions, rejected communism and unrestricted capitalism and affirmed the right to private property.

In delivering the keynote address at a conference celebrating the centenary of the 1913 Lock-out last Saturday, President Higgins, who has a huge mandate from the people, stated that it shone a light on Dublin that could never again be denied. The conference reflected on the years from 1912 to 1923, a decade of war and revolution in Ireland.

I support much of what my colleague, Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan, has said about unions and rights. Unions have abandoned the ordinary people. They got cosy with the last Government, IBEC, the IFA and many others, and forgot about the ordinary people. As an employer, I respect workers. I wonder how many more employers are in the House other than the Minister of State at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Perry. It is a two-way street. I do not agree with some of the shenanigans that are happening.

I recently received a letter from a businessman in my own county whose father had been in business for 50 years. He complained about the way some employees submit claims to rights commissioners under employment legislation. The vast majority of employees work diligently to create a living for themselves and to support their families and the companies for which they work. Complaints about the working time directive, payment of minimum wages, unfair dismissals and racial discrimination have become a charade. I will not name the individual who takes most of the cases but he is a solicitor on College Green. He threatens people and then he goes to the employers in advance of the court case offering to settle for €7,500.

This is the position in which we have found ourselves. It is outrageous that good employers are being extorted by employees. Claimants can make whatever allegations they wish at the various hearings and the onus is on the employer to prove them wrong. We find ourselves in this sad and despicable position 100 years after the founding of our so-called democracy and the establishment of so-called union rights.

I salute employees and employers but not those who wish to milk the system and try to create havoc by accusing employers of all types of things. These employees leave others to pick up the pieces when gardaí and ordinary people are attacked by Éirígí outside the gates. We need balance because the current situation is appalling.

Small employees are being treated in the same manner as factory workers. While clocking in and out is not a problem if one works in a factory where it is easy to maintain records relating to breaks, hours worked and so forth, this is not an easy task for a haulage company with 50 international, long-haul drivers who all start and finish work at different times and deliver different payloads. It is not simple to have one system covering all types of company. It is compulsory for all articulated lorry drivers to complete certificate of professional competence, CPC, courses annually. These courses are supposed to educate drivers on all aspects of the haulage industry. My constituent, in his letter, states that his company has been asked at Labour Court hearings to demonstrate that a driver was told to take a break after four and a half hours and was informed when his break was over. The company has also been asked if it has informed drivers that they must receive 24 hours' notice of routes. It is not possible to do this in business.

The Labour Court thinks nothing of handing out compensation awards of up to €10,000, some of them to people who may have been in employment in this country for only six months.

The Deputy should be careful.

That is a fact, even if Deputy Nulty may not wish to hear it.

I support my employees and my record can be judged by everyone, but reason must prevail. Employees in the company to which I refer have abandoned loads and walked away, leaving the company to cover the significant cost of recovering vehicles and causing a great deal of grief to customers. The company does not have recourse to recover the costs other than to go to court and run the risk, even if it were to win, of not being paid. My constituent states that some, albeit not all, employees breach their contracts of employment on a regular basis, yet the Labour Court and the Labour Relations Commission are not interested. The company has been told on a number of occasions that these are civil matters. As everyone knows, civil matters generate even more costs.

The country is experiencing difficult times. I do not agree with much that the Government is doing. We need to strike a balance, because we have moved too far in one direction. The National Employment Rights Authority and many other agencies are sending legions of staff out to companies to persecute, frighten and upset employers. Most employers have a good relationship with their staff. While the events of 1913 were wrong, it is also wrong to make the accusations Deputy Higgins has made. I will vote against the motion.

I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute the following:

“at the start of a centenary of commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the 1913 Lock-out, recognises the landmark struggle for workers’ rights as a significant milestone in a decade that saw enormous convulsion in the emergence of an independent nation;

recognises the positive transformation in living and working conditions in Ireland, most recently reflected in the UN Human Development Index that, for 2012, ranks Ireland 7th out of 187 countries and territories based on measures of a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living;

further recognises the legislative changes introduced by this Government to protect workers’ rights, especially the most vulnerable workers in our society, and in particular:

— to restore the cut in the national minimum wage, thereby reaffirming that a statutory minimum wage is a statement of core values, providing a threshold of decency under which society agrees that workers’ wages should not fall;

— through the enactment of the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2012, to reinstate a legislative framework to support wage setting in sectors where workers are poorly organised and vulnerable; and

— to enact legislation - the Temporary Agency Workers Act 2012 - to protect temporary agency workers through a legal framework in which agency workers are afforded equal treatment in respect of their basic working and employment conditions;

acknowledges the Government’s:

— commitment to providing for statutory wage setting mechanisms and, in this context, to conclude, as matter of urgency, its considerations of the implications of the recent Supreme Court decision relating to registered employment agreements with a view to providing for a constitutionally robust legislative framework governing registered collective agreements;

— resolve to continue to develop the voluntarist system of industrial relations which has yielded great progress for workers over the years and, in particular, welcomes:

— the reform of the employment rights and industrial relations framework that is under way, and presented to this House, and aimed at establishing a world class workplace relations service which will promote better relations in the workplace and facilitate speedier and more effective resolution of disputes which arise and highest compliance with employment standards; and

— the completion, in May this year, of a phase of consultation with key stakeholders in the context of the Government’s commitment in its programme for Government to reform the current law on employees’ right to engage in collective bargaining - the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2001 - so as to ensure compliance by the State with recent judgments of the European Court of Human Rights; and

— efforts to tackle unemployment and stabilise the employment rate through the twin strategies of Pathways to Work and the annual Action Plan for Jobs, which engages every Government Department in delivering on employment supporting actions and monitors their delivery on a quarterly basis; and notes that the private sector has added an additional 2,000 jobs per month since the launch of the first Action Plan for Jobs in February 2012."

I have 15 minutes' speaking time and I understand the Minister of State, Deputy Perry, has ten minutes.

That leaves five minutes in the slot for another speaker.

For clarification, with whom is the Minister sharing time?

The speakers in the slot are the Minister, Deputy Coveney, the Minister of State, Deputy Perry, and Deputy Michael McNamara.

I thought the Labour Party had disappeared.

Members of the Labour Party will speak.

I would not be surprised if they were too ashamed to appear.

I ask the Minister to proceed.

The centenaries of several momentous events will take place during the coming decade. The Dublin Lock-out began on 26 August 1913 when all the trams on O'Connell Street stopped as workers sought pay rises ranging from one to two shillings a week. In response, the Dublin Tramway Company locked out members of the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union who refused to sign a pledge to leave the union. A general strike was called and, in the disputes that followed, more than 20,000 workers were either locked out of their jobs by their employers or went on strike. In saying that, it is important to recall that not all employers took part in the Lock-out and some still have a major presence in the city.

The Lock-out continued for six months, with the strikers and their families suffering ever-increasing hardship, despite assistance from trade unions and charitable institutions. By early 1914 the Lock-out wound down as their worsening personal circumstances forced the strikers back to work. While the Lock-out was seen by some at the time as a defeat for the trade union movement, history has shown that it set in train events that led to the improvement and protection of working standards.

The 1913 Lock-out will be the subject of a programme of major events supported by the State in co-operation with many organisations, including Dublin City Council, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, and the national cultural institutions, universities and vocational education committees. While many of these events are still being finalised, the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Jimmy Deenihan, has indicated he has provided funding to The Irish Times to facilitate the production this year of a special edition supplement on the Lock-out, a copy of which will be provided by the Minister to every school.

I will now address the Government's record on the economy and workers' rights. On its election, the Government was faced with an unprecedented economic crisis domestically, including an unemployment rate of more than 15%. The economy had endured three consecutive years of negative growth, more than 250,000 people had lost their jobs and the unemployment rate was at a level not seen since the mid-1980s. The banking system was teetering on the edge of collapse and we were locked out of international bond markets. We had recently obtained the EU-IMF bailout, an appalling scenario never before experienced by this country. Faced with this, the Government had a very clear idea of what needed to be done. We needed to reinvent and rebuild the economy, exit the bailout and get people back to work.

Such a catastrophe was always going to be extremely challenging and people had to take difficult decisions. However, the results of these decisions are becoming apparent. The economy has returned to consistent growth and is predicted to grow steadily next year and thereafter. Private sector employment levels have grown by an average of 2,000 per month since the first Action Plan for Jobs was launched, notably in some sectors of the domestic economy. The unemployment rate is below 14% for the first time in three years and is predicted to decline further as the domestic economy begins to recover. I remind Deputies that in the three years before the previous general election, 7,000 people on average lost their jobs every month. Ireland is now ranked by independent studies as the second most attractive country globally for foreign direct investment, which continues to deliver benefits for the economy.

The Government is also working hard to correct the public finances. Long-term Government bond yields now stand at less than 4%, down from 14% not long ago. Moreover, the bailout agreement has been renegotiated to reduce its cost, which will save approximately €9 billion in repayments. The promissory notes have been eliminated and we have cut our borrowing requirements by €20 billion over the next ten years. We are also on track to leave the bailout by the end of the year.

Despite the macroeconomic gains hard won over the past two years, it is perfectly understandable that people believe the burden is weighing heavily and the road is too long. Having achieved stability, the Government is now focused on measures that will return appreciable growth to the economy. It is these that will ultimately bring a lasting easing of the financial burden being experienced by so many. To do this, we must continue working to bring our national finances under control; work out the legacy of personal and mortgage debt; do everything we can to create more and more jobs; and make Ireland the best country in the world in which to do business by 2016, in line with the mantra of the Taoiseach.

The Government's annual Action Plan for Jobs is a firm focus for the Government in driving this recovery. Last year, 92% of the 270 actions designed to make it easier for employers to protect and create jobs were implemented. The plan for this year continues the targeted approach for our industrial policy in encouraging key clusters and sectors and we have implemented strategies in the areas of manufacturing, cloud computing, health care and life sciences.

The agrifood sector, with which I am most familiar, is an integral element of the Government's 2012 Action Plan for Jobs. The Food Harvest 2020 strategy has the capacity to deliver an additional 25,000 jobs if we meet the targets set out in the plan. Achieving these objectives is my priority as the chairman of the Food Harvest 2020 implementation committee.

The protection for vulnerable workers is particularly important during a recession. While job creation is our primary focus, the Government has also been very active in protecting the lowest paid, the most vulnerable workers in the economy. One of the first decisions taken by the Government was to reverse the cut of €1 per hour in the national minimum wage that had been introduced by the previous Government in January 2011. In addition, the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2012 provided for a series of reforms aimed at transforming our statutory wage setting mechanisms - REAs and JLCs - modernising them and making them fit for purpose.

As Deputies will be aware, a recent Supreme Court judgment held that Part III of the Industrial Relations Act 1946 - the legislation providing for the registration of collective agreements - was invalid. This is a significant judgment which has raised a number of important questions, including possible implications for the 2012 Act. In this regard the Minister, Deputy Bruton, has sought legal advice from the Office of the Attorney General on the various issues arising. The Government intends to conclude its considerations of the implications of the Supreme Court decision as matter of urgency with a view to providing a constitutionally robust legislative framework in this area in the not too distant future. It is just over a year since the Protection of Employees (Temporary Agency Work) Act 2012 came into force. With the exception of pay, the provisions of the Act came into effect on 16 May 2012. The Act applies the principle of equal treatment in terms of basic working and employment conditions for agency workers as applies to employees recruited directly by the hirer to do the same or a similar job.

Regarding workplace relations reform, in 2011 the Government inherited a complex system dealing with enforcement of employment rights that was no longer fit for purpose. It was frustrating for employers, employees and professionals representing them. There were real issues involved including long delays, a confusing array of methods to process cases, an overlap of functions between the bodies and different appeal avenues for elements of the same case.

Substantial progress has already been made in reforming the system, including a new single workplace relations customer service portal which is now fully operational. A new workplace relations interim website is now in place, a single complaint form that deals with over 100 first instance complaints has replaced the 30 forms previously in use and complaints are now acknowledged and employers notified, on average, within five working days;.

The next major step in this reform programme is to establish a two-tier workplace relations structure where two statutory independent bodies will replace the current five. We will have a new single body to be called the workplace relations commission and a separate appeals body, which will effectively be an expanded Labour Court. While considerable progress has been achieved to date, completing the proposed reform requires legislation. The Government is committed to enactment of the legislation at an early date, with a view to having the proposed new structures in place from 2014. Social dialogue continues to play a critical role in policy making and in the management of the Irish economy at what is a very difficult time for many citizens. This has been evident in addressing public sector pay. The Government has sought to deliver the necessary savings by agreement and this has been the basis for engagement with public service unions over recent months. I hope this process will be successfully concluded. A number of unions have been balloting in recent days.

It has been the consistent policy of successive Governments to promote collective bargaining through the development of an institutional framework supportive of a voluntary system of industrial relations. In the context of the programme for Government commitment, the Minister, Deputy Bruton, has written to all social dialogue actors about reviewing collective bargaining against the backdrop of industrial relations legislation. Submissions have been received and discussions have been taking place between stakeholders' representatives and departmental officials.

The Minister expects to be in a position to conclude this consultation shortly and to report to Government in the autumn on the outcome of that process and what proposals to improve the system of industrial relations might be brought forward in 2013. In this context, I am certain that satisfactory arrangements can be put in place that will reconcile Ireland's constitutional, social and economic traditions, and international obligations, while at the same time ensuring continued success in building Ireland's domestic jobs base and in attracting overseas investment into the economy.

The Government has had to make many hard choices in putting this country back on track and our work is far from done yet. It has negotiated - and will continue to negotiate - constructively with the trade unions, most of which know that sometimes it is necessary to take a step back in order to preserve the long-term interests of their members. Hard choices are a part of leadership the Government has shown. We have some way to go before we see full economic recovery but I am confident we are on the right road and are doing what is best in the interests of our country and our people.

I thank the Deputies opposite for tabling the motion. The Government will not support it and has tabled an amendment which is self-explanatory. It has provide me with the opportunity to outline in some detail, on behalf of the Government, what the Government is doing in not just talking about workers' rights but also introducing the reform and modernisation needed to balance workers' rights with the need to create a competitive environment in which to set up, do and grow business in Ireland and out of Ireland. The Government is achieving that balance and the evidence is there in terms of meeting job creation targets, but we have a long way to go.

The Government is only half way through its term. We have considerable reform to introduce in this area as well as in many other areas. We will continue on that reform agenda for the next two years and at the end of that process I hope we can be judged as a Government that has reversed the fortunes of Ireland - an Ireland that was collapsing when we took over but an Ireland that will be growing and expanding in a way that respects both workers and employers, and puts a legislative framework in place to back that up by the time we go to the country in two and a half years.

Ireland has a comprehensive and strong corpus of current employment rights legislation. The evolution of the main elements of labour law relating to employment rights, employment protection and non-discrimination, reflects a strong focus on the enactment of legislation based on clearly identified needs at national level and arising from wider European developments. In the formulation of labour law there has been a clear policy focus aimed at finding the appropriate balance between the security which employees require in terms of working and employment conditions, and the flexibility required by employers in terms of organisation of work, work practices and the mobility of the workforce.

Despite very challenging circumstances, the past two years have seen the introduction of a generation's worth of landmark reforms in the labour affairs area. We have initiated the most significant reform in the history of the State of the workplace relations machinery for the vindication of individual employee rights; levelled the playing field for agency workers by bringing their wages into line with their full-time counterparts; enacted the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2012 after the High Court found employment regulation orders to be unconstitutional; renegotiated the EU-IMF agreement and restored the minimum wage to protect vulnerable workers; and concluded the first round of consultations with stakeholders in line with the programme for Government commitment in the area of collective bargaining.

Through all these reforms, though some are contentious and the Government took criticism from all sides, at all times our focus was clear and consistent.

The Government has been determined to strike the right balance between protecting vulnerable workers and providing reforms that would make the systems more responsive and more flexible to allow for the creation of jobs. Anyway, there is more to be done.

In the judgment, delivered on 9 May last, the Supreme Court held that Part III of the Industrial Relations Act 1946 was invalid having regard to Article 15.2.1° of the Constitution. The article provides, in effect, that the exclusive power to make laws is vested in the Oireachtas. The Supreme Court took the view that registered employment agreements were instruments having the status of laws made by private individuals subject only to a limited power of veto by a subordinate body. While the Constitution allows for the limited delegation of lawmaking functions, the provisions of the 1946 Act went beyond what is permissible under the Constitution. The effect of the decision is to invalidate the registration of employment agreements previously registered under Part III of the 1946 Act. This was a significant judgment that requires careful consideration having regard to the amendments to the 1946 Act contained in the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2012 as well. The Attorney General has been asked to supply advice on potential implications of the judgment for the 1946 Act as amended by the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2012. The Government intends to conclude its considerations of the implications of the Supreme Court decision as a matter of urgency with a view to providing a constitutionally robust legislative framework in this area.

I am mindful in particular of the significance of the issue of collective bargaining in the context of the centenary of the 1913 Lock-out. It has been the consistent policy of successive Governments to promote collective bargaining through the laws of the country and through the development of an institutional framework supportive of a voluntary system of industrial relations, premised upon freedom of contract and freedom of association. There is an extensive range of statutory provisions designed to back up the voluntary bargaining process. The freedom of association and the right to organise and bargain collectively are also guaranteed in several international instruments which the State has ratified and which it is, therefore, bound to uphold under international law.

The 2007 decision of the Supreme Court in the Ryanair case cast doubt on the mechanism that had been established in the industrial relations Acts of 2001 and 2004 to resolve problems between employers and workers on employee representation issues in cases where that could not be done through existing procedures. Prior to the outcome of the Ryanair Supreme Court case, the original legislative arrangements had been seen as a workable compromise. The legislative model for resolving issues relating to employee representation had reflected a shared commitment that, where negotiating arrangements are in place, the most effective means of resolving differences that arise between employers and trade unions representing employees is by voluntary collective bargaining. In the absence of a practice of voluntary collective bargaining, subject to agreed qualifying criteria, the industrial relations Acts from 2001 and 2004 provided a mechanism by which the fairness of the employment conditions of workers in their totality could be assessed.

In a related issue, in 2012 the committee on freedom of association of the International Labour Organisation issued several recommendations arising from a complaint referred to it by ICTU and IMPACT. It arose as a direct result of the Supreme Court judgment in the Ryanair case. In its findings, the ILO committee did not uphold these complaints but made several recommendations to the Government. I welcome the fact that the ILO report did not find Ireland to be in breach of its obligations under ILO conventions in respect of collective bargaining rights. Further, I note that the ILO did not find that a resolution of the difficulties arising from the Ryanair judgment would require the introduction of a legal regime of mandatory trade union recognition. Rather it referred to promoting machinery for voluntary negotiation between employers' and workers' organisations for the determination of terms and conditions of employment.

There is a commitment in the programme for Government to ensure that Irish law on the rights of employees to engage in collective bargaining is consistent with recent judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and, to this end, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Bruton, recently concluded a first round of consultations to hear the views of employers and trade unions on the matter. The Minister, Deputy Bruton, expects to be in a position to come forward with proposals to reform the law, as appropriate, during 2013. I am certain that satisfactory arrangements can be put in place which are suited to our constitutional, social and economic traditions as well as to our international obligations. I am also convinced that they can be framed to ensure continued success in attracting investment to our economy.

Social dialogue continues to play a critical role in policy making and in the management of the Irish economy at what is a difficult time for the majority of citizens. I was heartened to hear that when the director general of the ILO was in Dublin last February he commented during his visit that he had seen at first hand that social dialogue in Ireland was very much alive. The Government values dialogue with the key representatives of civil society and recognises the contribution that social dialogue makes in maximising common understanding of the challenges facing all sectors of society. In addition, regular contact takes place on issues of concern through bilateral contacts or consultation structures across Departments. Extensive discussions and consultations have taken place and in some instances are still ongoing.

One recent and significant example of how social dialogue is helping to address Ireland's priority needs is in addressing the public sector pay bill. The Government has sought to deliver the necessary savings by agreement and this has been the basis for engagement with public service unions in recent months. If accepted, the agreement will deliver an unprecedented increase in productivity throughout the Irish public service and a range of other efficiency and reform measures. Therefore, the value of the potential agreement to the country at this time is most significant and I acknowledge the efforts of all those currently involved in this crucial effort to deliver industrial peace in the public service at a critical time on our path to economic recovery.

Beyond the public sector, IBEC and ICTU have agreed two national protocols for the orderly conduct of industrial relations and local bargaining in the private sector and I salute them in their efforts. As I have already noted, the Minister, Deputy Bruton, has been engaged in consultations with employers and trade unions in terms of reviewing collective bargaining against the backdrop of industrial relations legislation.

We are all aware of the scale of the jobs challenge facing Ireland and the global economy at present. Behind every job that has been lost there are families and businesses struggling to cope with the impact of the downturn. That is not what we want for the economy or for society. That is why in Ireland the Government has put the jobs and growth strategy centre stage and made job creation its key priority. However, transforming the economy is not only a matter for central Government. The Government recognises that local government, local businesses and local communities all have a part to play in supporting our companies, encouraging growth and gaining competitive advantage while maintaining and creating jobs.

The Government has put in place the Action Plan for Jobs with the dual mandate of encouraging growth and creating and maintaining jobs in our economy. The intention is to transform the Irish economy from a failed system that was based on property, banking and debt to an economy built on supporting enterprise, building new export markets, creating access to finance for small business, improving competitiveness, driving innovation and growing successful businesses to win new markets. The Action Plan for Jobs has the stated aim of making Ireland the best small country in the world in which to do business.

The Action Plan for Jobs does not purport to be a silver bullet to change our economic fortunes overnight. Rather, it is about getting to transform how we support businesses one by one to make Ireland a better place in which to do business. The Action Plan for Jobs is a national plan but its effects will be felt throughout the regions. The focus on SMEs in particular can help employment growth in all regions.

One year into the Action Plan for Jobs process, we can see evidence that the strategy and architecture are working. There were 270 individual actions committed to last year to improve the operating environment for businesses, provide an impetus for emerging sectors, support export growth and remove barriers to employment creation. More than 90% of these actions were completed during 2012. More important, there has been a stabilisation in job numbers in the past six months. The quarterly national household survey for quarter 4 of 2012 showed the first annual increase in employment since the middle of 2008. Let us compare that to the 250,000 private jobs lost in the three years before this Government took office. Enterprise Ireland and IDA client companies created almost 10,000 net jobs between them last year through their focus on enterprise, innovation and exporting. This was the best performance of the agency client companies in many years.

I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for the opportunity to speak on this Private Members' motion which, I believe, is a shameless attempt to hijack the 100th anniversary of the 1913 Lock-out to promote a range of agendas as colourful and meaningless as the Technical Group collective. The 1913 Lock-out has an honourable place in Irish history and the terrible events of that tumultuous period undoubtedly influenced and shaped the Ireland that evolved in the subsequent years and up to today. When I think of that period I think of people like Paddy Hogan, a Labour Party Deputy from County Clare who was involved in the initial setup of trade unionism in Clare at the beginning of the 20th century.

As a young man he joined the Gaelic League and the Irish Volunteers and was involved in the 1913 strike. He was arrested and jailed before being deported to England. Returning home, Paddy Hogan fought for union recognition in Clare and continued to fight for union recognition throughout his life, particularly at Shannon Airport following its establishment. He was a major contributor to the Irish Worker Union publication in 1913 and was acknowledged as a major strategist for the union in the republication of the magazine earlier this year.

When the Ennis United Labourers Union was brought into the Irish Transport and General Workers' Union, ITGWU, in 1919 Paddy Hogan demonstrated his leadership and pragmatism. He favoured rights of workers over the ego of the individual and he favoured amalgamation with larger unions. He continued to support trade union amalgamation throughout his life. That is not something that would be supported by the proponents of tonight’s motion who would instead prefer to see the splintering of the trade union movement, the weakening of congress and with it the weakening of workers’ ability across this State to bargain their labour against powerful economic forces. Those economic forces are stronger now even than they were 100 years ago due to the globalised world in which all nations, with the possible exception of North Korea, must operate. While I appreciate that the ideological purity of North Korea, if not the downright misery of the place, might appeal to Deputy Higgins it is not a state that we in the Labour Party would like to see replicated here.

Deputy McNamara is making a show of himself.

Paddy Hogan was a major player in the trade union movement on a national level and his passion for workers’ rights meant that he stayed to fight for workers’ rights throughout the bitter Civil War in which he did not partake. During the Civil War there was a blockade of Ennis and Hogan reacted by appropriating supplies for distribution among the labourers of the town who could not acquire food elsewhere. Of course, caught up in the demagoguery of the Technical Group, Deputy Higgins probably only remembers him as the Ceann Comhairle who met President John F. Kennedy at Shannon Airport. No doubt he would probably criticise him for having greeted President Kennedy because, regardless of President Kennedy's achievements for the poor that he and the Democratic Party represented in the United States, he was not perfect. I am sure many in the Technical Group would rather have seen Pol Pot arrive in Shannon Airport than President Kenney. That is Pot, the Cambodian dictator, as opposed to any contraband substance. That is the reality of the colourful group that proposed tonight’s motion.

It is a Socialist Party motion only.

I thought there were a lot of signatures of Deputy Higgins's Technical Group colleagues. President Kennedy did many bad things but he also did some good things and it seems that Deputy Higgins and some members of the Technical Group are completely incapable of seeing any good wherever it arises. They only see the difficulties, unless of course in an ideologically pure state, North Korea perhaps.

Deputy McNamara should tell us a few of the good things about William Martin Murphy as well.

If Deputy Higgins does not mind, I am speaking about Paddy Hogan. He was my predecessor in the Clare Labour Party. I think of Hogan as a practical man who provided good and responsible leadership in times of great hardship. He was not a reckless demagogue who misled people with false promises of an El Dorado that simply could not be achieved.

The proposers of the motion seek to cast themselves in the heroic mould of the tragic characters of Plunkett’s Strumpet City. They rant and rail against the world in very general terms and against the Labour Party in particular. Their shrill voices and empty rhetoric are not only useless, but are dangerous.

Deputy McNamara should not-----

Like bad generals they lead their troops to the top of the hill and promptly abandon them and scatter for the officer’s mess. Decent turf cutters have been brought into conflict with the Garda and the courts. Unfortunate householders who listened to the false gods now face higher household charge penalties and possibly court action. Responsible trade unionists who negotiate long and hard on behalf of their members are demeaned by these fantasists and accused of selling out 1913 when in fact they continue to fight for exactly the same thing which Larkin and Connolly wanted the opportunity to fight for in 1913, namely, to be able to sit down and argue for workers’ rights in the face of strong economic forces.

Instead of taking the easy road of castigating every possible proposal which comes out of the Government, instead of never seeing the good in anything, the Labour Party took the harder road of going into government. I have no doubt that had the Labour Party not gone into Government we would not have seen the restoration of the national minimum wage so soon in the first term of the Government, we would not have seen the replacement of the JLC system with an equally efficient and effective system and we would not have seen 330,000 low paid workers taken out of the universal social charge net. On that basis alone I oppose the motion which is merely rhetoric from the Technical Group.

I have much personal respect and regard for Deputy McNamara but it is a little bit dangerous for any Labour Deputy in the current Dáil to accuse any other Deputy of misleading people with false promises. I could pick him up on a number of other issues but I will not. However, the first point resonates in particular with those of us who were Members of the previous Dáil.

Property prices only go up.

I have listened to Deputy McNamara and his party’s deputy leader criticising people for castigating others and never seeing the good in anything. I remind him to look at the records of the previous Dáil.

I commend Deputy Higgins on introducing a motion that allows us to discuss 1913 because despite Deputy McNamara’s barbs, without him this Dáil would not have had the opportunity to discuss the centenary of 1913. It is the second part in a number of celebrations and commemorations we will undertake over the next decade after last year’s Ulster Covenant. It was forgotten about and would not have featured in discussions in Dáil Éireann were it not for the motion this evening.

While I disagree with much of the motion, at least Deputy Higgins has given us the chance to reflect on the centenary in the Oireachtas and its impact not just on the industrial relations tradition and history of this country but on independence generally for the country. It was the spark that ignited a flame in 1913 that showed people they could stand up and collectively organise not alone for workers’ rights but for the rights of our nation. It was unfortunate and ironic that even with the Labour Party in government – Deputy McNamara might take the opportunity to raise the matter with the Whips to give us the chance to reflect on the centenary at some stage during the year – nothing was formally tabled in the House. At least Deputy Higgins deserves the credit for doing that.

If anybody is serious about looking at that period of Irish history at the weekend we had the honour of the Taoiseach being in my home town opening the Jackie Clarke Library, which is the most extensive repository of all things to do with Irish history over the past 200 years, even more so than any of the museums in Dublin. There are elements of the library that relate to 1913 but more material on the struggle that followed. I would recommend anyone to visit the library and if people have material to add to it then I am sure Sinead McCoole, the curator, would be more than happy to discuss it.

It is ironic that as we start on the commemoration, the Minister for Education and Skills is considering reducing the status of history at junior certificate level. At a time when we are commemorating the most important decade in the formation of the nation, history is being downgraded to an AOB item in the junior cycle which means people will not have the chance to get an appreciation of the impact of the period and the various things that happened – the First World War, the Rising, the War of Independence and the Civil War. They will all be downgraded and the only opportunity to hear about it will be at national school. It would be horrific if during the commemoration one of the marks of the decade of commemoration was the further downgrading of history. As someone with a sense of history I hope Deputy McNamara will oppose that within the Labour Party. Deputy McNamara can go now.

It is not up to me to decide whether he goes or not.

He is hanging around waiting to go.

It is up to himself.

There is agreement generally that the conditions of 1913 were appalling and they were rightly the cause of social unrest. Those who took up the cause of downtrodden workers are rightly and properly lauded by people today, but it would be wrong to equate the difficulties faced in the labour market today with those experienced during the Lock-out. We have a lot to be proud of as a State in terms of the evolution of labour law during that 100 years. My party was in government for many of them. I refer to the Adoptive Leave Act, the Carers Leave Act, the Employment Equality Acts, the Industrial Relations Act from 1946 onwards, the Maternity Protection Acts, the Minimum Notice and Terms of Employment Act, the National Minimum Wage Act, the Parental Leave Act, the Payment of Wages Act, the Protection of Employment Act and the Redundancy Payments Acts and the Unfair Dismissals Act. The legislation, together with bodies such as the Labour Court, the rights commissioner service, the Labour Relations Commission and the Employment Appeals Tribunal exist as a bulwark against the worst excesses of employer abuse such as what ignited the flame of 1913.

Moreover, they represent a significant body of labour law and labour institutions, as well as substantial protection for employees and rightfully so. It is important that in drawing parallels between 1913 and the present, one acknowledges this progress and that protection, which forms part of the law. It is recognised that Ireland's employment law generally is perceived as being more employee-friendly than that of many of our European partners and in particular in comparison with its United Kingdom equivalent. The Workplace Relations customer service is a forum for workers to gain access to employment legislation, their rights and the making of a complaint. It is an amalgamation of several former bodies and there is no equivalent body in the United Kingdom. One also should recognise the importance of Bunreacht na hÉireann in this regard. While the present Administration tends to disregard Bunreacht na hÉireann when that suits it, Article 43 has a significant role in respect of unfair dismissal.

It also is important to point out that the spirit of this motion appears to put forward an idea that all employers in Ireland are reckless and that each employer is in the tradition of William Martin Murphy, which is patently untrue and unfair, as 95% of Irish employers are good, decent employers who work with their employees, keep within the law and run very good ships. In the current climate, many owners of small to medium-sized enterprises, SMEs, in particular will pay their employees before paying themselves, in order to maintain the job and the business, as well as a sense of being able to grow that job and employment. It is important to put such struggles on the record of the House as well. In the SME business that is finding it hard to access bank finance or is finding it hard because of sales issues or is finding it hard to get paid, workers generally will get paid but the owner may not. All Members, regardless of the views they hold in this House, have met such people and they certainly are not William Martin Murphys or anything like it. They are good, decent employers and represent the majority of Irish employers, who are trying to keep the business going in spite of it.

There also are times of mixed messages from the Government towards employers and towards small employers in particular. I acknowledge the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Bruton, and the Ministers of State at his Department, Deputies Perry and Sherlock, are doing a difficult job in trying to promote employment culture and a business-friendly culture. However, I suspect the motion tabled by Deputy Higgins encouraged some of the headlines from the Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, that appeared in The Sunday Times at the weekend pertaining to minimum wages. The Minister has come out and suggested raising the minimum wage at a time when many employers are struggling to keep open their doors. She regularly has a go about sick leave and suggests there will be a change in this regard, having completely abolished the redundancy rebate. These two kites she regularly flies, namely, threatening to increase the cost of employing people and preventing jobs from being created, seek to undermine the worker, the employer and the culture of employment. Fianna Fáil seeks a single approach from the Government and not a sideline speaker who may appeal to a different audience. She may appeal to the Labour Party membership for some struggle down the line and is using Irish employers as her canvas card for so doing. However, the Government must have a single approach, which supports employers, including those who wish to create jobs and to maintain jobs.

Earlier, I listened to the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Coveney. There appears to have been a Government takeover, in that there has been a one-man Government for the day. He acted for the Taoiseach earlier and is the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and for Agriculture, Food in the Marine. I do not know whether this is some sort of political reform, whereby there now is a single member of Cabinet, but he spoke about the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2012. While he mentioned the reform of the employee rights bodies, he declined to mention that much of the blueprint for those reforms was in place and was ready to roll when the Minister, Deputy Bruton, came into office. The Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2012 is based on the Duffy Walsh report, which was commissioned by the previous Government. Moreover, subsequent events in the courts have shown that further changes are needed in that system and it is important that some sense of urgency be injected into consideration of the recent Supreme Court appeal because I do not imagine Members will have sight of legislation before the autumn. There are employers, albeit probably in the main not employers based in this country, who will use the lacuna that is there at present, in terms of paying wages and in respect of differential wage rates in these sectors, to come in to tender for jobs, such as some of the new capital projects announced last week, while the Irish employers still are subject by law to the existing arrangements. The Government appears to be rather hesitant in dealing with this matter. It was not as though this decision came as a surprise. It was known that this judgment could have happened and a greater sense of urgency is required. Deputy Higgins championed the cause of the Gama workers in 2005 and I genuinely believe we again have a lacuna in which another Gama could happen while there still is a legal doubt over the Supreme Court judgment. A Gama-type company can come in and tender for a Government job and we will be back to a position in which such companies will be within the law. This is because all they must do is pay the minimum wage and they will not be obliged to pay the rates that are being paid to operatives at present.

While some sort of hesitancy on the part of the Government to act persists, there will be a Gama or a son of Gama case. All the National Employment Rights Authority, NERA, which was established as a response to the Gama case at the time, will be able to do is to implement the basics of labour law. Consequently, far greater urgency is required in this regard. I listened to how the Minister, Deputy Coveney's speech suggested the Government has brought so much to the table but it has not. It is quite extraordinary for a Labour Party in government that its members have disengaged themselves from the entire area of employee rights and are satisfied to sign up to the line that this or that was done. I acknowledge the minimum wage was restored and that its reduction by the previous Government was a mistake. The restoration was carried out and Fianna Fáil welcomes that. However, one must also consider the other things the Government and the Labour Party in particular have not done. In this context, I note several ex-SIPTU officials in its parliamentary party have gone very quiet in the whole area of pushing for ongoing reform of labour law.

The reforms in respect of the employee rights bodies are to be welcomed but again, they are dragging on. A far greater sense of urgency in delivery is required in this regard. The single form is particularly to be welcomed because the confusion as to where one went to pursue one's rights was not helpful and again created a vacuum in which people could be abused. People were sent in many different directions to look for their rights in the hope that if one delayed and confused them within the apparatus of the State, they might not get those rights. I reiterate the single form and one-stop-shop approach is welcome. Equally, however, something similar must be done in the case of small businesses. They must understand, through a single form or one shop, what are their responsibilities as employers, because the majority of labour law violations or NERA violations pertain to the mishandling of a situation, not for purpose but because of a genuine misreading or misunderstanding of the law. I refer in particular to the role of the Minister of State, Deputy Perry, in the rolling out of the local enterprise offices, LEOs, and the one-stop-shops. This should be a specific part of that roll-out and people within the LEOs should be trained up in this area. There is no sense in having generalists doing this job, as people who understand labour law both from the point of view of the employee and employer are required. The LEOs will be judged on their ability to assist employers in dealing with this whole area. Ireland has a huge corpus of labour law. It is being undermined by court decisions and is being fought and various court decisions have resulted in the strengthening of some law and the ignorance of others. However, one cannot take it for granted. Employers, particularly large multinational employers, are changing and in recent weeks in various debates, Members have seen what that means. Consequently, one must continue to be aggressive in the protection of workers. However, propagating an idea that all employers are in the spirit of William Martin Murphy is patently wrong and is unfair to the majority of people who are pursuing a dream and employing others. Moreover, enforcing legislation that will restrict the ability of people to create employment and to create jobs also is wrong because there is no sense in having absolutely armour-plated employee protection legislation, while not having any employees.

Tonight's Private Members' motion on workers’ rights reminds Members yet again of the power of capital and the willingness of the business class, supported by other conservative elements, to use State violence, excessive force and the law when, in its estimation, its class interests are under threat. William Murphy was particularly vicious and his intransigence and basic lack of humanity still has the power to shock. Murphy was unyielding despite the fact that the working men and women who were active during the Lock-out were living in some of the worst conditions and in the most abject poverty imaginable. Indeed in 1913, Dublin had the highest rates of infant mortality in Europe and the worst slums in the British Empire.

Fast forward to today, and crucially, as a modern State, we have dealt with the premature deaths of babies and very young children due to diphtheria, bad housing and malnutrition. However, when it comes to the issue of workers' rights, we still lack fundamental safeguards that are enshrined in law. For example, Ireland is out of step with other countries in that we still lack any form of protection for collective bargaining, and there is no requirement in law for an employer to recognise a trade union in a specific workplace or to engage with it. In that regard the Irish State is out of step with judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and with International Labour Organisation conventions.

Before the last election the Labour Party gave a commitment to introduce legislation that would address these important issues. Indeed, the programme for Government committed to "reform the current law on employees' right to engage in collective bargaining so as to ensure compliance by the state with recent judgements of the European Court of Human Rights". Thus far, nothing has happened with regard to that commitment. On the contrary, a number of forms of collective bargaining have been struck down in recent years, including joint labour committees, JLCs, in 2011 and registered employment agreements, REAs, this year. What is especially worrying is that in the case of the latter, the Supreme Court described collective agreements as "giving rise to the prospect of burdensome restraints on competition for prospective employers". Even more worrying, it went on to describe such agreements as "intrusive paternalism for prospective employees". As mentioned earlier, the right to collective bargaining was judged by the European Court of Human Rights essentially to be a fundamental and basic human right. It is exceptionally worrying, therefore, when the Irish Supreme Court describes such rights as intrusive and not in the interest of employers.

Unfortunately, one could cite an endless list of abuses against workers in the Ireland of today. Long hours, low pay, poor working conditions and abusive and exploitative employers are still very much part of the everyday landscape of work in Ireland. We need only think of the Lagan Brick workers, the Vita Cortex workers in Cork and the thousands of women and men who work long and hard in endless repetitive jobs for which they receive low pay, limited personal satisfaction and virtually nothing in terms of societal status and respect.

In keeping with the struggles of the workers in 1913, contemporary Ireland also has a chronic housing problem. However, that is not due to capacity or the state of the housing stock but to speculation, greed, bad planning, Government policy and corruption. We now have more than 100,000 people on the public housing waiting list throughout the country. That is an appalling indictment of the policies and priorities of this and the previous Government.

Sinn Féin supports this relevant and timely Private Members' motion and we endorse and acknowledge that the struggle for workers' rights is an ongoing one, especially in the current political climate where neoliberalism reigns supreme and the market and individuals take precedence over collective rights and the common good. In the Ireland of 2013 the poor are still with us, and issues to do with injustice, inequality and the general welfare of the working class are as pressing and as relevant as they were 100 years ago. Unfortunately, the William Murphys of this world are alive and living and they are as embedded in the political and social establishment, and just as willing to use the law or force to maintain their privilege, as they were in 1913.

Debate adjourned.