Apprenticeship Bill, 1931—Report.

Cathaoirleach

Government amendment 1:

Section 8, sub-section (1). After the word "wages" in line 19 to insert the words "(other than wages for overtime)."

I second the amendment.

Perhaps it would be as well, just at this point, to say that the amendment proposed by the Minister meets the points that I submitted on a previous occasion and I do not propose to move the amendment in my name touching this particular subject.

I was about to make practically the same remarks as Senator Johnson. The proposed amendments by the Minister entirely meet the suggestion made and I think it will be agreed that they are an improvement.

Amendment put and agreed to.
Amendment 2 not moved.

Cathaoirleach

Government amendment 3:

Section 8, sub-section (2). To add at the end of the sub-section a new paragraph as follows:—

(f) rules (in this Act referred to as rules regulating the minimum rates of overtime wages) in relation to the minimum rates of wages for overtime to be paid to persons employed by way of apprenticeship in such trade in such district.

I second.

Amendment agreed to.

I might say that the proposal of the Minister in amendment 5 and subsequent amendments regarding age quite satisfies me. I did not imagine that it would be necessary to make all these amendments to carry out the intention. I would have thought that the deletion of the last three lines would have met the point. However, the intention is fulfilled and I am not intending to move my amendment on this section. I intend to support the amendments that are put down in the name of the Minister.

Amendment 4 not moved.

Cathaoirleach

Government amendment 5:

Section 12. To delete the words "with the consent in writing of the apprentice or his guardian" inserted in Committee after the word "or" in line 48 and to substitute therefore the words "with the consent of, in case the apprentice has attained the age of eighteen years, the apprentice, and, in case the apprentice has not attained such age, the parent (if any) of the apprentice."

I second.

Amendment put and agreed to.

Cathaoirleach

Government amendment 6:

Section 12. To add at the end of the section a new sub-section as follows:—

(2) In this section the expression "parent" in relation to an apprentice who has not attained the age of eighteen years means the individual having the legal custody of such apprentice and, where owing to the absence of such individual or for any other reason such apprentice is not living with or in the actual custody of such individual, includes the individual with whom such apprentice is living or in whose actual custody such apprentice is.

I second.

I would like to repeat a question that I submitted to the Minister on the last occasion to find out whether it is the intention of this section that when rules have been made setting up the Apprenticeship Committee and when any employer takes into his employment apprentices —I am referring more particularly to those trades where the apprentices have been hitherto called learners—it is to be assumed that this section will make it obligatory on that employer to keep in continuous employment the apprentices for such period as is fixed by the committee. We had a statement from Senator Comyn giving us authoritatively, or at least what purported to be an authoritative interpretation, the meaning of this section. I am not quite convinced of it. If I were, I think the attitude I would adopt to the Bill would be very different, but as it appears to me, under this section when we have designated a trade any persons employed in that trade will be obliged to serve the employer for such period as is fixed and the employer will be obliged to retain in employment such persons for the period that is fixed.

Hitherto, in numerous trades such as some of those which one would hope and expect to be brought within the scope of the Bill, it has been the practice to pay off in slack times a certain number of apprentices and a certain number of adults. Rather than have to pay off all the adults it has been customary to pay off an understood proportion of the learners. Henceforth, it would seem that the obligation will be to keep the learners in employment and to pay off the adults. That is to say, the adults who will be paid at the higher rate will be paid off. Those who will be paid at the lower rate will be kept on. One might assume that will be the normal practice. As a matter of fact, by arrangement with the representatives of workers generally, it has been fairly regular that a proportionate number of learners only should be paid off with a proportionate number of adults. If we are going to make it obligatory on the employer to keep in employment all the learners, then it will mean the disemployment of adults to the advantage of the firm no doubt, but to the disadvantage of the employees. If one firm has a larger number of learners than another, obviously that firm will have an advantage over its rival in the same trade which may have a small proportion of learners.

There is nothing in the Bill to make it obligatory upon the Apprenticeship Committee to fix the number of learners in any particular establishment. It is optional in the clause dealing with the rules. I can see very considerable difficulty arising out of this clause from the point of view of the continuous employment of learners when a slack time comes. It is only the adults who will be dismissed. That is a most undesirable development. As the clause stands—I do not know how it can be amended now—I think it constitutes a very considerable danger to the working of the section and to the working of any trade to which it is hoped the Bill might apply.

The difficulty which the Senator foresees is not in the section at all. Section 12, about which the Senator has been mainly speaking, refers to the period of apprenticeship. The Senator brought into his argument a point as to the number of apprentices. The gravamen of the Senator's case was that the number of adults might be very considerably reduced while apprentices were kept on in certain circumstances in slack time. I refer the Senator to Section 8, sub-section (2), paragraph (d): "The committee, when fixing the number of apprentices, may fix it as expressing the proportion of the number of persons of any class or classes employed from time to time," and so on. Of course it is optional, and always will have to be optional. There are trades where that would clearly not be the proper thing to do. Section 12 contains the answer to the Senator. Under that section the committee may "release both parties from their respective obligations under the agreement implied by this section or modify such agreement." That gives a way out if a difficulty supervenes at all.

I think the Senator will agree that if we are going to consider apprenticeship at all it must be considered in relation to the number of apprentices. The number of apprentices must be fixed up in such a way that it will be in proportion to the number of adults employed. The period of time must also be envisaged. Every conceivable case cannot be met by a special subclause. Where, say, a factory was burned down, does the Senator imply that in such a case the employer would have to keep a body of employees to teach a certain number of apprentices? I refer the Senator again to the concluding portion of Section 12, where the committee in such circumstances, or other equally good circumstances, may arrange to release both parties from their respective obligations under the agreement or establish a proportion in accordance with the new circumstances.

Amendment put and declared carried.

Cathaoirleach

Amendment 7: Government amendment:—

Section 13. To add at the end of the section a new sub-section as follows:—

"(3) In this and the next succeeding section the word ‘wages' does not include wages for overtime."

I second.

Amendment agreed to.

Cathaoirleach

Government amendment:

New section. Before Section 22 to insert a new section as follows:—

"22.—(1) Where any rules regulating the minimum rates of overtime wages made by an apprenticeship committee are for the time being in force, every employer carrying on in the district of such committee the designated trade for which such committee is established shall pay to every apprentice employed on overtime by him overtime wages at not less than the rate or rates payable under such rules and for the purpose of civil proceedings by any such apprentice to recover overtime wages there shall be deemed to be a valid and effective contract by such employer to pay to such apprentice whenever such apprentice is employed on overtime overtime wages at a rate or rates not less than the rate or rates payable under such rules.

(2) If any employer fails to comply with this section he shall be guilty of an offence under this section and shall be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding twenty pounds, and on such conviction the court may order such employer to pay, in addition to such fine, such sum as appears to be due to the person employed on account of overtime wages, the overtime wages being calculated on the basis of the minimum rate or rates payable to such person under the rules regulating the minimum rates of overtime wages applicable to such person, but the power to order payment of overtime wages under this sub-section shall not be in derogation of any right of the person employed to recover such wages by any other proceedings.

(3) In this and the next succeeding section the words ‘overtime wages' mean wages for overtime."

I second.

Amendment agreed to.

Cathaoirleach

Government amendment:

9. New section. Before Section 22 to insert a new section as follows:—

"22.—(1) Where any rules regulating the minimum rates of overtime wages made by an apprenticeship committee are for the time being in force, it shall be the duty of every employer who carries on in the district of such committee the designated trade for which such committee is established and employs any apprentice in such trade to keep such records of overtime wages paid and of time worked on overtime as are necessary to show that such rules are being complied with in relation to such apprentice.

(2) If any employer—

(a) fails or neglects to keep such records as are required by this section to be kept; or

(b) wilfully or negligently makes in such records any entry which is false or misleading in any material particular,

he shall be guilty of an offence under this section and be liable on summary conviction thereof to a fine not exceeding six pounds and also, in case of failure or neglect to keep such records, to a fine not exceeding three pounds for every day during which such failure or neglect continues after conviction."

I second.

Amendment agreed to.

Cathaoirleach

That disposes of the Report Stage of the Bill. I think, as the Minister for Industry and Commerce has met the House in an admirable way on this Bill, Senators might agree to allow the Final Stage to be taken now.

Agreed.