Under the Trade Union Act, 1941, it is unlawful for any body of persons, with certain specific exceptions, to carry on negotiations for the fixing of wages or other conditions of employment unless it has been granted a negotiation licence. A condition precedent to the grant of such a licence was that the union should make and maintain with the High Court, a deposit of not less than £1,000 increasing to a maximum of £10,000 (according to membership).
Before the Act was passed it was foreseen that, on account of prevailing abnormal conditions, some of the Irish trade unions would be unable to make the full deposit. It was therefore decided to insert a relieving provision in the Act to meet such cases. Section 8 of the Act accordingly conferred on the Minister power to make an Order in favour of Irish unions reducing by a maximum of 75 per cent. the normal deposit, if it could be satisfactorily shown that, on account of abnormal conditions referable to the war, undue hardship would ensue by requiring the trade union to make the full deposit. This provision was due to expire on the revocation of the Emergency Powers Act, 1939.
Many reduction Orders were in force towards the end of the emergency and it was considered that the circumstances which necessitated the relieving provisions in the Act of 1941 had not materially changed. Consultations with representatives of the trade union organisations showed that the withdrawal of the concession at that time would impose hardship on many unions and, in some cases, might have the effect of disqualifying trade unions from continuing to hold negotiation licences.
The Trade Union Act, 1947, was therefore introduced. It repealed Section 8 of the Act of 1941 and reenacted the main provision of that section as from the 9th July, 1947. Again, in 1948, a new Trade Union Act was passed extending the concession for a further period of 12 months as from 9th July, 1948.
Circumstances in 1949 showed no substantial improvement and the Trade Union Act of that year was passed in order to continue these reliefs up to the 8th July, 1950. Upon reviewing the situation this year I am satisfied that there is a good case for the extension of the concession which is now operating to the benefit of 25 Irish trade unions.
The present Bill is intended to continue the relieving provisions for a further period of 12 months, that is, to the 8th July, 1951.
The question of a further extension after that date will receive consideration in the light of the circumstances and conditions then obtaining.