I beg to move:—
In Schedule 3, page 34, to delete in line 36 the word "five" and substitute therefor the word "three."
The object of the amendment is to secure compensation for the loss of employment to all employees with three years' complete service instead of five as at present. A similar amendment was turned down in the Dáil. I trust that the Minister will have softened from the adamantine attitude he adopted in the Dáil. The hardships involved in excluding all employees with less than five years' service from any compensation at all for loss of employment are great in some cases. Perhaps the hardest case of all is that of the clerical staff who entered by open competitive examinations. These clerks are almost invariably the sons and daughters of poor men, small peasant farmers and workers generally. To educate them up to the standard of being able to win a place in open competition at a fairly stiff examination is no small task for the parents of these children. Now, if a boy enters the railway service, he sits for an examination when he is at or about the age of sixteen. If he wins a place, it is in many cases a year after before he is called into employment. He is then seventeen years of age. He has four years' service at the time he becomes redundant. He is then 21 years of age and has passed the age at which he may compete for the Civil Service or any public service. He is thrown on the unemployment market, having got a specialised training which is of little or no value to him in other walks of life, because the knowledge of railway work, being of a specialised character, is of very little use to him in other employments. Sending that boy home when he has turned that age, after all that has been spent on him to educate him and to get him into the position—and, remember, he has spent a number of years in the position at a small salary—is a very great hardship indeed.
Under the Unemployment Insurance Act of 1920, an employee with three years' service is looked upon as being a permanent employee and the Minister for Industry and Commerce issues a certificate of exemption from Unemployment Insurance as a result. Therefore, it is clear that in getting rid of a man with three years' service you are getting rid of a permanent employee in the sense that permanent employment is understood. One of the arguments advanced against this is the fact that under the Civil Service schemes of pensioning for redundancy people with less than 10 years' service get no compensation. That is not correct, because they get a gratuity which is in the main far more generous than a man with less than 10 years' service gets under this Bill. Even under the Local Government Bill, which has been introduced in the Dáil, employees with less than five years' service, in the event of becoming redundant, get a half year's salary as compensation. Still it is contended that in the case of railway clerks no compensation whatever should be given to a man with anything less than five years' service. My proposal is an exceedingly modest one, and you will see that when I tell you what a man would be entitled to. Take a clerk with three years' service. He has then about thirty shillings a week. If a consequential amendment lower down is carried there would be one year added to that. He would then be entitled to four-sixtieths or one-fifteenth of his salary as an annual allowance. In other words he would have two shillings a week compensation if he had three years' service.
The amount is ridiculously small and the best way to meet that situation would be to give the man a lump sum as a gratuity so as to carry him over the period during which he would be looking for employment. In present circumstances it would take him a considerable time indeed to get employment. That is the position particularly as it affects clerical staffs, who would have to get a special educational training before they secure a position and who, during the three or four years in which they are in the service, have been specialising on a particular branch of business that would be no use to them in the world outside. If this amendment is not carried, I trust at least that the Minister will see his way to meet the position in some manner, such as is proposed in the case of public board employees under the Local Government Bill.