Agricultural Workers (Weekly Half-Holidays) Bill, 1950—Second Stage.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

It is worthy of note that this is the first occasion, as Senator Hayes has stated, since the reconstitution of this House in 1938, that we have a Private Member's Bill. We now have two of them on the same day. The Bill before us now is entitled "an Act to provide for the allowance of weekly half-holidays to agricultural workers and for certain matters connected therewith." It is a simple Bill, but it is one of very great interest to the agricultural industry and to all engaged in agriculture in this country. Agriculture is our main industry. It is essential, in my opinion, if we are to maintain the supply of labour in that industry which is necessary to keep agricultural production at its maximum, that we should endeavour to make the conditions in that industry as nearly identical as it is possible and advisable with the condition which prevail in other, and, may I say, less essential industries in the country. It is obvious that the main, if not the sole, reason for this is that other industries and other countries offer greater remuneration for their services and better working conditions. Workers engaged in practically every other industry in the country have this privilege of the weekly half-holiday for a long number of years. It is statutory in most cases and one wonders why, after almost 30 years of our own Government, and in view of the importance we have always attached to the agricultural industry, it should be left to private members to introduce this very necessary measure at this late stage.

As we have seen since the introduction of this measure, there have been objections of various kinds to the proposal that a half-holiday be granted. I do not think anybody has said that the agricultural worker does not deserve a weekly half-holiday as well as workers in other industries. The objections are made on other grounds, but, in my opinion, when these objections are examined, it will be found that there is no substance in them and that in many cases they are unreal. No one has said, either, that the agricultural industry, the farmers, could not afford this, and, after the reports we have seen in the papers this morning, nobody will say it in the course of this debate. It seems to me that, in the main, the objections advanced centre around the inconvenience if I may put it that way, to the individual farmer and no doubt it may result in a certain amount of inconvenience, but, at the same time, that is not and should not be an insuperable objection.

It seems to be taken for granted that this half-holiday, when granted to the agricultural workers, will always be the Saturday half-holiday, that, at 12 o'clock on Saturday, the agricultural worker, no matter what job he is engaged on, will down tools and will not appear again until Monday morning. One of the speakers against the Bill in the other House asked: What is going to become of the cows from 12 o'clock on Saturday until 6 o'clock on Monday morning? I might ask what now becomes of the cows from 6 o'clock on Saturday evening until 6 o'clock on Monday morning. This Bill deals only with a period of four hours. The Bill does not provide that the half-holiday must be taken on Saturday— it can be taken on any other day of the week that may be arranged between the farmer and his workers. It has nothing to do with Sunday work or what may happen the cows between 6 o'clock on Saturday evening and 6 o'clock on Monday morning.

Everything is supposed to happen on Saturday. That is the day on which the hay has to be made up and the day on which the harvest will be lost, if it is not attended to. It is assumed that, in the midst of haymaking, the worker or workers will down tools and disappear until Monday. There is nothing in this measure which suggests any such thing. Let me say, first, that the normal relations which exist between the farmer and his worker or workers would prevent any such catastrophe happening. The worker, as a general rule, in 99 per cent. of cases, will not simply leave a crop unsaved, if it is in his power to help to save it on a particular day. There is no reason why he should and this Bill does not give him any authority to do so.

The farmer, at such a time as harvest time, has two alternatives. First, he can arrange that the worker will not have his half-holiday in the particular week, so long as he gets the double half-holiday the following week. That is provided for in Section 2. The second alternative is that he can pay him an overtime rate for the four hours he works on that day. It is an overtime rate inasmuch as it is a rate over and above his ordinary wage—I am not attaching any particular definition to overtime. It is an extra payment, if you like, if the man stays on voluntarily to finish his day's work when he should be taking his half-holiday. It is at the option of the farmer to give him an extra half-holiday the following week, or to pay him an extra amount, which, at the present rate of wages for agricultural labourers, would not amount to more than 4/- or 5/-

There will undoubtedly be inconvenience in particular cases, but it is a matter of arrangement. Surely a farmer, if he has a number of men employed, can arrange that there will be a rota and that there will always be somebody available to do the necessary work.

It is often urged, too, that this will not work out in practice. It has been in practice on most of the farms in County Dublin for a number of years. Quite a number of the men working on these farms have the weekly half-holiday and we have heard no great complaint of loss by the farmer. As a matter of fact, it is quite the other way about—it has been found, in practice and after the arrangement has been working for some time, that there are generally better relations between the farmer and his worker than previously existed.

Another objection that was made in the other House was that if this Bill came into operation the farmer would give up tillage and go back to ranching. Might I say that farmers, and I include myself among them, are not philanthropists? We do what we think is going to pay us best. The farmer does not employ men just for the love of giving them work, but because he thinks it is to his own advantage to employ them. If ranching is going to pay better there is nothing at the present time to prevent the farmer from going back to ranching. Some of the farmers, I regret to say, are inclined in that direction but if tillage pays better even by employing men and giving them a half day then the farmers will go in for tillage. Farmers are reasonable people and always do what in the long run pays them best.

This Bill and its history in the other House is somewhat similar to the Meath Hospital Bill. It was introduced by a private member and got its Second Reading, I think, unanimously, and was then referred to a committee which made certain amendments in it. The Bill as amended and passed by the Dáil is now a better measure and was passed on the Final Stage in the Dáil by an overwhelming majority. Many of those who voted for it are farmers while at least a third of those who opposed it have no connection whatever with farming.

It is a measure the purpose of which is obvious and it does not require any long arguments to recommend it to the House. It is one that is long overdue and I believe it will help considerably to keep people on the land and that is something which we in this House and the country generally are anxious to secure. I recommend it with confidence to the House.

I formally second it.

Having heard the speech of Senator O'Connell, I am no more convinced than I was before he made it that this Bill is a popular measure in the country. The one thing, to my mind, that is significant is that in the Dáil the Minister for Agriculture, who is supposed to be looking after the interest of farmers and farm workers, both spoke and voted against this measure. There was a considerable debate in the other House and I must say that, reading the debates and reading the list of those who voted, I was rather surprised in a good many cases. I think I know rural conditions as well as most people in this House and I say without the slightest hesitation that if there was a demand for this measure in the country, that demand did not become vocal, despite the fact that a considerable campaign was carried on by one Labour Deputy. He failed, if I may say so, to put his ideas across as far as the general mass of the workers in the country is concerned. I say without fear of contradiction that, up to a couple of weeks ago, the majority of the unorganised workers in the agricultural areas of the country did not know that such a campaign was taking place. You may say that these people did not read the papers, but they have been reading them and just did not grasp the idea. I cannot see any demand for the Bill and if there is, it certainly did not become vocal in rural areas.

I have discussed this measure with a good many people since it was first spoken of and I think I am right in saying that if and when it becomes law, the tendency will be for the farmer who was carrying on a policy of mixed farming in the country, not altogether to go out of production, but to slow down production. I am not inclined to be an alarmist and I do not say that as a result of this Bill the farmers are going back to ranching. I do not believe that will happen, but I do say the tendency will be to have less production on the land.

Senator O'Connell has said that the arguments against the Bill were, more or less, to the effect of what was going to happen to the dairy cows and other animals in the period from Saturday morning to Monday morning and his reply was, what is now becoming of them from Saturday night until Monday morning? Senator O'Connell then goes on to suggest that the farmers could have a couple of men off for a half-day on a Saturday and a few more on another day of the week. When I am thinking of the farmers in the country I am inclined to think of the smaller farmers, and if I am looking for something to go on in debate or argument for or against a Bill of this kind I think not of the man in a big way who is able to employ a large number of men but I am thinking of the small farmer employing one or two men. I think also of the widow who is left with a farm just large enough to be what is considered an economic holding in this country, that is, a 30-acre farm. She has a couple of men to look after her cows, sheep, horses and do other jobs. She has to give the men a half-day, which means that she herself has to go and do their work if her children have not reached the age to do it. I suggest to Senator O'Connell that there are many things that women cannot be reasonably expected to do on a farm. When this Bill becomes law women in that position will be forced into doing something which they would not normally do were it not for the introduction of this measure. It has been pointed out in the other House that men if they so desire can continue to work a half-day. I am well aware of that, but before we pass this Bill, and if we pass it, we must give every consideration to the fact that we are dealing with the agricultural community, which we all regard as a backbone of the country. Let us not be foolish. The man can, of course, be employed for the extra half-day or can go to another farmer for that half-day. If he is employed, he must be paid for it and paid overtime. That is a thing which it is all very well for us to pass over lightly here, but it means that the farmer's outlay on one man will be something in the region of 10/-.

As a minimum it is 5/- and it may be up to 10/-.

For the first time since I came into the House—and I am here a long time—Senator Baxter is coming to my assistance. Anything we do, let us do with our eyes open. This will increase the outlay on one man by 5/- or 6/-. Another Bill will be introduced in a couple of days, also to increase the outlay on one man, by what I think is 7/-, but that will be argued as 3/6. Before we have gone very far, we will have increased the outlay on the owner of a small farm for one man by something approximating to £1. That is a very serious situation. I would be the last to say that the agricultural workers should not be treated fairly, that they should not have certain facilities enjoyed by other sections of the community; but let us not do anything without knowing exactly what we are doing.

On most farms it has been traditional that if a man wants a half-day to go to a race meeting, there is not a word about it. He just goes to the boss and says: "Would it be all right if I go to the races to-day?" and the boss says: "Certainly; if you go, I hope you will back a few winners." His wages are not cut and when he comes back he is doing well if he is able to get into full stride by noon the next day. This Bill is seeking to introduce industrial conditions on the land. If we do that, we may get to the stage where efficiency will be whipped up to such an extent that we will have the clock in operation. So far as I know—and I know as much about the job as most other people—there is no such thing, as a time-sheet on a farm. It would be a bad job if there were.

The system of farming we have had for a long number of years is that there is very little difference between the employee and the employer. If the employee is cutting a ditch on the side of the road and the local T.D. or Senator comes along to try to find the way in his own constituency—and it might often happen—it is nothing unusual for the man cutting the ditch to turn round and have a long conversation on politics. There is no one checking how many minutes or hours he spends talking. The same applies in other directions. If a man wants a half-day to look after the tillage of his own cottage plot or to plant potatoes, he goes to the farmer and says: "I would want to be doing something about that crop of my own these days and when can I have the horses and the plough?" And the farmer says: "We will finish whatever we are doing now and then you can have the horses and do your own." That man takes away a pair of horses and a plough for a half-day, or perhaps two half-days, or even two full days, and there is never one mention made of it afterwards and the farmer does not feel that the man is under any compliment to him for that. That has been the tradition in this country and we are now seeking to change all that.

Senator O'Connell says "No". If he can find some method by which the farmer can afford to pay out money without getting it in, I am 100 per cent. in agreement with him, but I do not think he can. If we increase the outlay on each man employed in this happy-go-lucky way, if I might call it that, all this must gradually disappear. If we introduce industrial conditions into agriculture, we will find ourselves, in the not far distant future, at the stage where the farmer will say: "That is all right, that is the law of the land, and I have to pay you for overtime; I cannot regulate the price of my products at all, but must walk in and take whatever price is going for my produce in the fair or market; I must get money somewhere and if I have to pay for the half-holiday you must be reasonable and you cannot object if I charge you for the hire of the horses and plough." It will be found that it will come to the same thing in the long run.

Nobody would feel that they have a right to object to the agricultural workers getting a fair crack of the whip, but my opinion is that if we carry on with this and similar legislation which is being introduced we will finally kill the goose that lays the golden egg. These are my objections to the Bill. I think that there has been really no demand for a Bill of this kind.

The other objection I have is that while the Bill was introduced by a very prominent member of the Labour Party and while it is fairly obvious to me and to most other people that the various Labour Parties between them are practically running the Government at the present time—if they are not, I will be glad to hear what excuse the Government have for doing some of the things they are doing—it is amazing that the Government have not the courage to say: "All right, we would not be in power but for the Labour Party, and we will take responsibility for this measure." The Government did not take responsibility for it and the Minister for Agriculture, who should be the one man to father it, did not do so. It would be no trouble to him to say: "All the farmers will be millionaires in a short time." The Minister and other Ministers voted against the Bill. The Government had not the courage to take responsibility for sponsoring this measure, yet they send it along to us and will be surprised if this House does not pass it.

Senator Quirke's speech was very interesting up to the last chapter, and I would like to compliment him on the number of things he has said.

Senator Quirke will have to examine his conscience.

It may be said that he should. We all have to do that occasionally. It is a pity that his words of wisdom were not permitted to fall on the ears of his colleagues before they gave their vote on the Final Stage of the Bill in the other House, because if Labour succeeded in getting it through the other House it is thanks to the votes of the Fianna Fáil Party.

There were not so many farmers there maybe.

There were a number of Fianna Fáil farmers who voted for it. However, I am not going to discuss that aspect. That was the real issue with the Fianna Fáil Party in the other House; they made it a political issue and that is not the approach which should be made to this measure. To give Senator Quirke his due the major portion of his speech was not based on that premise at all.

Senator Baxter always goes on the assumption that this is a political House but there are no politicians in this House.

Each man may answer that for himself. I do not like this Bill; I am against it and I would be against it no matter who introduced it. Like the Bill with which we dealt earlier it is a Private Members' Bill and as on that measure we are free to vote as we like. So were the people in the other House and I am going to vote according to my beliefs and my understanding of the situation.

It is not the thing now to be old fashioned but one of the tragedies of our age is that we are all too ready to accept the new philosophy that people live well only when they are not working very hard or indeed not working at all, and in so far as any doctrine is enshrined in this Bill that is it. I hope that Senator O'Connell will not think I am too critical but I must speak as I feel because I think that our approach to the whole problem of work and labour is of fundamental importance to the people of the country and I do not agree at all that it is necessary that in order to live well the people who live by the sweat of their brow must have a half-day in the week on which they are to do nothing. While in other cases you may do that without any great upset to society, to production or to the wellbeing of a section of the community, when you come to the realms of agriculture and legislate that men may withdraw their labour from the farms for half a day in each week of the 52 weeks you are, in my judgment, attempting the unnatural.

Senator Quirke spoke the truth when he said that the relations between the farmer and his man have always been free and easy. It is also true that the first people who attempted to define the relations between them were the people who now form the Opposition. They started it and gave these people the bad example and see how it is being followed up. No farmer will attempt to follow his men throughout the day to see whether they are working for every hour or every half-hour. It is not done and anybody who knows anything at all about country life knows that not a week passes but the men have to stand out of the rain for as many hours as would make much more than a half-day if they were put together.

Frankly, I do not think that agriculture or the country can afford this measure. Our greatest difficulty to-day is that production is not up to the desired level and now we propose to withdraw, by legislation, the labour of thousands of men from the fields. The very people who will acclaim this measure will cry out about the cost of butter, bacon, potatoes, milk, vegetables, and everything else we produce on the farm. Commodities are generally dear when they are in short supply and a measure like this makes a major contribution to a lowering of production and an increase in the cost of the commodities which men require in order to live.

In the circumstances of the world to-day, this approach to the problem of agricultural production is all wrong. In the first place, I want to restate my belief that a man is not any happier when he is idle. In fact, I think the happiest people are busy people. People were on strike recently for weeks and months and I do not think it made them very happy. We may have other strikes and I do not think that the workers' happiness is increased when they withdraw their labour. This is not similar to a strike, but at the same time it bears some relationship in the minds of the men concerned to the conditions created when men were taken away from the place where their toil was of value.

I know that the employee can stay on with the employer if he wishes, but he is free to go and can insist on going whatever may be the conditions on the farm at that particular moment. That, in my opinion, is a very serious position. If a man leaves me on a day when his services are badly needed just because he has arranged with the fellow next door to go off somewhere, no matter where—and, mind you, he will do it—and leaves me with difficulties which I cannot overcome by my own unaided physical endeavour, there will be a reaction on my part which his return to-morrow will not alter. If the man goes off for his half day and I have to milk 13 or 14 cows and feed 12 calves, I may do it for that milking period but I will come to the conclusion that my economy must be altered, because I will not place myself in the position where I must undertake slavish toil which is beyond my physical capacity and depend on the will of a labourer. That is one of the great flaws in the Bill.

Senator O'Connell said that people talk about this Bill turning people to ranching. It may do that, but it could turn men to tillage. There is no problem at all about giving a half day to men who are engaged in tillage farming. You have your machines and the machines can stand idle and the crops will not call out for food. You can stop your tractors and your cultivators and let the men off until the next morning. The machine is not running, the oats will stand, the potatoes need not be sprayed or the beet need not be thinned until next day, but the problem is entirely different for the man engaged in animal husbandry, the man with cows and calves to feed or with ten or 20 pigs which need food. That is a problem for which I see no solution in the terms of this Bill, and because of that this measure will introduce into agriculture an atmosphere which is very unwelcome.

Senator O'Connell says that he does not think that anybody has thought that the agricultural labourer does not deserve a half-day. No one in the world has a greater admiration for the agricultural labourers than I have. With their employers, they are that salt of the earth. They are the people who keep civilisation together in every country. But for the farmer and his men we know that life on this earth would not be tolerable. I should have prefered that the people who considered this measure would have consulted with the people engaged in agriculture in an endeavour to discover how all of us can raise the level of production and improve the economy of Irish agriculture so that it would be possible for the people who work for farmers to get a better wage. This is a left-handed way of giving more to agricultural labourers and I do not like the way it is done. An agricultural labourer should be given things on his merits. He should be paid for his day's work in relation to his services and to the price that they would command when sold to the community. That is not what we are doing under this Bill.

I am aware that the level of agricultural wages is lower than that of any industrial occupation. I am aware that men are being drawn away from the land and I am satisfied that it is an undesirable trend. At the same time, I think it can be said that work on the land is not comparable to work in many other services where people enjoy a half-day. The idea originally was that people who were shut off from God's sunlight for 5½ days of the week should get a half-day. It seemed sense. It seemed that nature demanded that they should be given that half-day. This is an entirely different matter, and my judgment is that it is the wrong approach. People may refer us to what has happened in Britain. I still think that it is not wise for us to take this step yet. I know that we cannot avoid being influenced by these happenings, but it is not wise for us to follow the same course. I should prefer to concentrate on plans to raise agricultural production and agricultural incomes. I should prefer to concentrate on plans in relation to the application of methods to agriculture so to improve it that we would be enabled to release our men and give them, if needs be, leisure at a time which would fit in with the working day on the farm. I submit, however, that we have not reached that stage yet. If all our dairies were electrically equipped, if we had milking machines, running water and so forth, then the situation would be quite different. The amount of capital invested is a matter to which very little consideration has been devoted in the past. It requires planning over the years. We are getting on, no doubt. We are getting a little nearer to our objective, but it is going to take a long time. Therefore, we are seeking through this Bill to apply conditions in rural Ireland for which rural Ireland is not ready. I am not denying to the agricultural worker his right to leisure, but if that leisure can only be won by burdening the farmer even more than is the case to-day, beware that we do not alter the economy of Irish agriculture and puncture seriously many of the beliefs of our people in regard to the capacity of the Irish land to produce for the Irish people the essentials of life. I do not think that that point of view has been sufficiently stressed by many of those who approached this Bill sympathetically and who want to help the agricultural worker. I realise that the other House passed this measure. The Opposition in the Dáil did not discuss the Bill at all. They did not attempt, as Senator Quirke has attempted, to bring about a better understanding of the question. I dislike the Bill and I am against it. If it has to be amended, well, we shall face that, too. Nothing that Senator Dr. O'Connell or anybody else who speaks for this measure may say will convince me that it is wise legislation for the agricultural labourer, for whose benefit it is intended, or, above all, for the future of Irish agriculture.

When we consider that the agricultural workers are employed in the oldest occupation known to man, an occupation which began when Adam, in his fight for survival, thrust his first rude implement into the soil, it seems almost unbelievable that in the year 1951 these workers should be asking for a concession which all other workers have been enjoying for years, namely, a weekly half-holiday. And when we consider the importance of the agricultural industry to this country, and therefore the importance to the nation of these workers, it seems almost fantastic that their conditions of employment should be so much lower than those prevailing in other industries.

As Senator Dr. O'Connell has said, we all deplore the flight from the land and the fact that so many of our best workers have left the country, but unless we make more attractive the working conditions of the agricultural labourers, I fear the flight from the land will continue.

Enlightened employers are agreed on the beneficial effect on their workers of reasonable leisure hours. They have found that they get better production where they have contented workers. Unless workers have reasonable leisure hours they will not be contented, and the granting of a weekly half-holiday to agricultural workers could not be said to be unreasonable.

The argument has been put forward that the granting of the weekly half-holiday is not a practical proposition, that farm work could not be adjusted to permit of such a holiday, but we have evidence that it has been working satisfactorily to both farmers and labourers in County Dublin during the past six years, in certain parts of other counties for some time, and that it worked with satisfaction in County Waterford for many years.

While I would be willing to agree that inconveniences might occur in the initial stages, I am certain that given goodwill on both sides, it will be possible to make adjustments to meet the changing conditions and I think the farmers will find their men will not be unreasonable during the transition period. In fact, history tells us that these toilers are, in the main, reasonable, patient men: to quote an early social reformer:—

"Men employed in cultivating the soil, if suffered to enjoy a reasonable independence and a just share of the produce of their toil, are of simpler manners and a more honest disposition than any other class of men."

Again, it has been stated that at harvest time and in emergencies this half-holiday will cause dislocation of work and even loss to farmers. I believe that every farmer knows in his heart that if he treats his men with reasonable consideration they will not let him down. The labourer takes as much pride in a bountiful harvest as does the farmer himself and there is little fear that he will stand idly by when he is required to make a sacrifice to save the produce of his own and his employer's labours.

Farming is not the only occupation which has had to adjust itself to changing conditions but, perhaps, because the changes have come so slowly in agriculture it seems difficult to adjust the industry to embrace them.

Take, for instance, the drapery trade: not so many years ago it was considered essential that drapery establishments should open at fantastically early hours and close at equally fantastically late hours. It was also considered essential that entire staffs should live on the premises. But to-day drapery shops open at 9 a.m. and close at 5.30 p.m. and the living-in system is practically unknown to the present generation of shop workers. Yet drapery employers said these reforms would spell the doom of their trade, but drapery firms are still among the most flourishing in the country. As a further example of the great changes which have come about in shop employment, let me quote from an apprentice's indentures, drawn up 40 years ago.

Business suspended at 6 p.m. and resumed at 7.10 p.m.

"The apprentice shall work continuously from 7.30 a.m. until 10 p.m. each day with the exception of Saturday when he shall work until midnight.

In payment for the said duties he shall receive each Saturday the sum of 3/-. Further, he shall be regular in church attendance; he shall abstain from entering music halls and public houses; and he shall not divulge his master's secrets."

I do not think there would be many apprentices recruited to-day under those conditions.

As the drapery establishments adjust themselves, so, I feel sure, will the farms adjust themselves to changes necessary to the modern way of life. I would ask the House to pass this Bill so that the small measure of social justice contemplated by it, that is, four hours of leisure per week, will, in simple justice and fair play, be extended to agricultural workers, those key workers in the nation's most important industry.

I am not in favour of this measure. In the first place, I believe it is impracticable. I believe that, instead of doing good, it may do a lot of harm, both to the farmers and the workers. I do not think there is any Senator who has spoken who contrasted the conditions of agricultural people generally, small farmers, large farmers and workers, but rural conditions have been the subject of considerable argument in this House and elsewhere for many years past. Every Senator is interested in that aspect of the situation. If I could do anything by vote or by speech in this House to improve the conditions of the agricultural worker, I would not be slow to do it. I have always taken up the attitude that they were unconsidered, a section of the community that was in many ways wronged and slighted. Indeed, in the not very distant days, it was not uncommon to hear the agricultural labourer described as a serf or an unskilled worker. Thank God, those days are ended. I believe I was one of the first in the Oireachtas to take up that particular challenge on behalf of the agricultural workers and to improve their lot. Instead of being serfs as they were supposed to be, they are probably the most skilled of all workers, and it behoved every one of us to see that the wages they received were commensurate with the work they did. I am glad to say that, since those days, we have advanced a great deal on the road to putting them in a better position. There are some things we can never do and some things we ought not do. One thing I believe we cannot do is to upset nature, and any legislation tending to that effect will fail.

Another result of this or similar measures is that conditions, as we have known them for years, will probably be upset. Those are the conditions of give and take which exist between any agricultural labourer and farmer and which have persisted from time immemorial. So far as I remember, conditions of laissez faire, if you like, have persisted. I see no reason why the agricultural labourer should not get, where it is practicable, all the amenities and good conditions that the industrial workers receive. The industrial worker has a half-day on Saturday. Generally, he has on some day in the week a half-holiday with pay. The agricultural worker has several half-holidays throughout the year. No labourer that I have known in the agricultural world ever stuck steadfastly to the ordinary conditions as industrial workers know them. I have never known a labourer in my long association who said to me on a summer's evening: “I will down tools”. I never asked workers to work for me after six o'clock on a summer's evening, but they always volunteered and always were anxious to work as long as I worked because they knew that under the conditions that exist between the farmer and labourer in the agricultural world, what they did one day willingly for me, I would do willingly for them another day. If a man wanted to go to the races or take his wife and child to the neighbouring town once in a while or wanted the day off he got it. On to-morrow, Thursday, within two miles of my place, there will be point-to-point races, and practically every labourer in that district will be at that point-to-point meeting, all of them with pay.

Will Senator Davidson or any other Senator tell me that they get similar conditions in any industrial occupation? Practically every agricultural labourer gets free milk, and, if he does not, he gets what is tantamount to free milk. Nearly every one of them gets a considerable portion of his needs in firing and he does not have to go into the village every second day to get a half a cwt. of coal at £10 a ton, or 11/- a cwt., because the man who has to buy the half cwt. of coal must pay a higher price. He has a hundred and one concessions that the industrial worker does not get, and every Senator, I hope, will think about these facts before asking us to accept this measure, because every measure along these lines that is passed is helping to drive a wedge between the farmer and his labourer and to upset the conditions which, thank God, have existed for so many years.

The one bright feature in this country is the happy conditions that exist in rural life. There is poverty, if you like—great poverty, in some cases. One reads in the Press about the prosperous conditions in agriculture, but I leave it to men who know agricultural conditions better than most— I know them pretty well—men like Senator Tunney, on the one hand, and Senator Counihan, on the other, to judge. There are 150,000 or 160,000 farmers with farms of about 25 statute acres. Of these, 100,000 have farms of less than 20 statute acres and there are very nearly 200,000 people working on these farms. I am not talking of paid labour; I am talking of the farmers and their relatives who work on them. Will any Senator make a simple calculation, putting the price of produce as high as he likes, at whatever peak point he likes, and tell me that there is a sum of £2 per week for these people, that it is possible to secure more than £2 a week for them? If he can do so, he is a cleverer person than I think. Not more than one or two of these people can afford to go to the cinema two nights a week or enjoy any of the other amenities which the ordinary industrial worker enjoys.

These are all things we have to consider when discussing this matter of the conditions of agricultural labourers. If we get down to a question of rights, the agricultural labourer has no right to expect more than the average worker and my point is that he is getting more. If we take the farmer under 20 acres who is working for himself, he never had and never will have £2 to spend on himself. The most he can offer to his daughter is 20 years of hard work, and at the end of that period, perhaps a marriage settlement of £80 or £100—anybody who comes from the west knows that —and perhaps that daughter has seen three cinema shows or similar recreation in those years. You are asking for conditions for the agricultural labourer which farmers do not enjoy.

The other point I want to make is the point which I emphasised at the start, that you are going to break up the happy conditions existing between the better-off farmers, like myself and a few others who are not altogether at the £2 stage even if we are not millionaires, and their employees. None of us has any trouble with our labourers. We never had and we do not expect to have, unless some benevolent Government tries to impose legislation like this which compels us to do things which we are inclined to do voluntarily.

Senator Quirke, who made a very good speech against this Bill, said it would be impracticable for the small farmer in the dairying districts. That is a point that affects me most. This measure, as I said earlier, would be impracticable in most districts, and, if it was not impracticable, it would be undesirable, for the reasons I have set out, perhaps not as effectively as I might have done. In the dairying districts, it would be impossible to carry it out, and if this measure is passed, I can say straight away that it will not be complied with. It cannot be complied with, and not even if we were all to be put in jail could we comply with it.

Senator O'Connell spoke about the milking of the cows as between Saturday night and Monday morning, but, because of the conditions which exist between the farmer and his labourer, the spirit of give and take, the cows do not have to go without being milked. The labourer so far has been ready to come in on Sunday morning and Sunday evening to milk the cows, and, for goodness' sake, do not upset that situation. It you do, land will go derelict. Senator Quirke said with regard to dairy farmers that it would be all right for certain large farmers but that the small farmer could not do it. I say that it would be nearly impracticable for the small farmer, but, if it is, it would be impossible altogether for the large farmer, and my sympathies are more with the small farmer than the large farmer. The small farmer with five or six cows might conceivably get somebody to milk his five cows, if he gives this half-holiday, but the man with 40 or 50 cows and four or five milkers could not possibly get substitutes for them. Not even if he had the Munster and Leinster Bank and the Bank of Ireland at his back could he suddenly on any evening get four or five substitutes for his milkers to step in to milk the cows. They are not there.

Some Senators look at me with an expression of disbelief when I say that, but they are not there. We hear the cry about unemployment, but unemployment does not exist, and if I, to-morrow, were to look for three or four milkers, I could not get them within a radius of 20 miles. When you ask me to give every worker of mine a half-holiday and let the cows wait for the other day, I say that I will not do it and my labourers will not ask me to do it. Why ask me to support a measure which I know will not be carried out either by the farmer or the labourer? Senator Quirke rightly said that there is no demand for this. I am an old man of nearly 75 and I have been farming practically all my life. I never heard any demand for this up to this day, and, even though there has been talk about this Bill in the papers for the past six months, I do not believe that 5 per cent. of the agricultural labourers of my county know that there is any talk about it. They do not want it. I do not say they would not take it, human nature being human nature, but there is no demand and no agitation for it. It is an agitation which has arisen in County Dublin and in a few contiguous counties where practically industrial conditions prevail and when I am told that there is a demand for this measure amongst the agricultural community, I am being told something which I know is not true. If any man tells me there is a demand for it, I will tell him straight to his face that he is a liar.

I have talked at more length than I intended and I have spoken very strongly and some people may get the impression that I have no sympathy with the agricultural labourer. I have perhaps more sympathy with the agricultural workers than some people who give them so much lip-service. I learned my lesson in a hard school; there is no work that an agricultural worker is called upon to do that I did not do. There are few jobs any worker in this House or elsewhere can do that I did not do. I have the greatest sympathy with the worker and as great a sympathy as any member in this House for him. Where it is possible in any way to improve the conditions of the worker I will give every support I can to any measure to do it whether it be in increases in pay, conditions of living, or anything else, but I could not hypocritically vote for any measure which I know cannot be put into force, and which, if it is put into effect, will never be capable of execution.

Mr. O'Farrell

If I had been listening to speeches made 150 years ago I would have heard exactly the same speeches as I have heard from a number of people here to-night on this question of the workers' half-holiday. Similar speeches were made when efforts were being made to keep women and children in the mines; when children of six years of age were opening and closing the doors to let women almost naked haul on chains the trucks of coal which the men were digging out from the mines. I would have heard the same speeches as that made by Senator Bennett when efforts were being made to introduce the use of brushes in the cleaning of chimneys. The people were then told of the dire things that would happen if, instead of allowing children to die in chimneys in the course of a cleaning process, they built the houses and chimneys in a different form. Yet all the calamities predicted in those days never happened.

I am astonished when I hear so much talk of all the awful things this Bill is going to do. You would think that the people who wanted to do something for the benefit of the agricultural labourers wanted to do it not because they thought the agricultural workers should have it but merely because they hated farmers and wanted to spite them. The Bill is intended to bring benefit to people who are lower in the social scale than the farmers, who are always pointing out how low they are in the social and economic scale in this country. I almost wept when I heard Senator Bennett tell the House that some farmers could not afford £100 for a dowry for their daughters. I have worked as hard and in as many occupations in the course of my life as Senator Bennett and I did not have £100 or £80 for my daughters. The men who took them took them at their face value.

I do not know what Senator Bennett proposes to do in the future if he contemplates spending the rest of his life in jail, because if he has taken the trouble to read the measure he will see that in Section 4 (2) if an agricultural employer, and he is in that category, fails to allow a half-holiday to his agricultural worker, or to pay him in lieu of a half-day, he will be liable to a fine of £20 on conviction. Senator Bennett and others may very well speak of defying the Government and saying that he will never allow a half-day, but when threatened with a fine or imprisonment it will be a different story. I do not think it will be necessary to fine him or anyone for failing to give a half-holiday or pay in lieu of it.

No one wants to misrepresent the farmers because we all appreciate what they are doing and their difficulties, but some of us if we were farmers would know also that farmers have advantages. Senator Bennett says that he could not allow four or five men off from work on a Wednesday because he could not have his cows milked. There is nothing in the Bill which compels the farmers to give the same evening off. All that the Bill says is that within 14 days the farmer will be compelled to allow a half-holiday for every six days worked or to make a payment in lieu. There is no compulsion to give the day which a man might demand and there is likewise no compulsion on a man to take a holiday. He can if he so decides stay at work, and the only thing for the farmer to do is to pay him an extra half-day's pay for every six days worked.

I think the Labour Party members of the Committee which amended this Bill opposed the optional clause. I think that optional clause is a good one because it does not compel the man to take it. I am for as much goodwill as possible between master and men whether on the farm or in the factory. I notice that everybody who spoke on the Bill, whether for or against it, praised the farm labourer, but some having spoken on his qualities then denied him this extra benefit. There was never so much praise of the ability and the work of the agricultural worker, and there was a suggestion that the whole agricultural economy of this country will collapse if the farm labourers get a half-day or payment in lieu thereof, that the whole dairying industry will have to be wound up or bottled up. It is already sufficiently well bottled up, so I suppose it will have to be wound up.

How many agricultural labourers are there in this country? There are 94,295 as against 503,309 farmers and their families working on the farms, that is for every four farmers, their sons or daughters working on the farms, there is one farm labourer. That means according to some of the arguments; that if one-fifth of the agricultural working population gets a half-day a week or a few shillings in lieu it is going to cause calamity and ruin to dairying and other industries. The agricultural workers already have Sundays and Church holidays, and if men come in voluntarily to work at the milking of the cows on Saturday or Sunday, that is fine, and there does not seem to be any reason why they would not give the same facility to the farmers on other days. Nothing happened when it became compulsory to allow these workers off on Sundays or when Church holidays were enforced by law. If we go back in the history we find that Sunday became a holiday because it was a Church holiday. Where did the half-day originate? We did not have to go to Russia or wait for Stalin or anybody for it. It originated because the workers having to go to church on Sunday were allowed off on the Saturday afternoon so that they could prepare themselves for it in shaving, cleaning their clothes, and their boots. The half-day on Saturday came as a preparation for the holy day on Sunday and has its roots in Church history, so there cannot be anything bad in allowing it. Senator Miss Davidson has shown it did not cause a collapse of the drapery industry and I have shown it did not cause a collapse elsewhere. If the half-day had been allowed in the Manchester factories as it is allowed in the modern factories here, men like Michael Davitt would not have had to work under such conditions and others would not have had to lose life and limb.

This Bill does not compel any labourer to take a half-day, but compels the farmer to give it, if demanded, though neither at the hour nor on the day, but giving the farmer 14 days to adjust his work to the man's legal demands. I think many agricultural workers would prefer to work on the half-day. I say that, knowing exactly what I am saying. Many would rather have the extra half-day's pay. It may be that those who drafted this measure wanted, as Senator Baxter says, to increase their wages by a subterfuge, but the fact remains that the men will often prefer to obtain the extra pay than take the half-day off.

I am certain this will not cause any great difficulty to the farmers. It will cause a certain amount of inconvenience, but they will get over that. I fail to see the reason for the talk about increased production and more efficiency. Are the farmers alone responsible for that? What can the labourers do to increase production, that they are not doing at present? They can work harder at certain things on certain days, but no one can make the crops grow faster than nature intended. Both the farmer and the labourer are at the mercy of the elements and the laws of nature and I think they are co-operating more now than ever before. In the past, every farm labourer worth his salt had half a dozen trades at his fingertips. He knew something about cattle, crops, forestry, and so on, and he put that knowledge into operation. Nowadays, in addition to that, he has to be a mechanic and must know all about tractors, reapers, binders and even bulldozers. He is becoming a more skilled man every year and is entitled to more consideration than he gets.

I hate to see the law intervening between man and man, forcing one to do justice to the other. There should be no necessity for that, but when justice is not done the law must step in. There are many things one cannot do by law. One can make Senator Bennett pay a £20 fine if he does not pay for the half-day, but one cannot make him love his man or the man love Senator Bennett. They may do it already, but not because it is the law. If there were a law to make them love one another, there would have to be a new Department to see that the law was carried out, with inspectors to see the Senator loving his labourer and the labourer loving him. They would have to fill up forms before a Garda or an authorised officer, to show how many times they shook hands—but they would hate each other all the more by the end of the year.

I am against interfering between man and man by law if it can be avoided. I know the implications of what I am saying. The demand is there for the half-day because the rural workers are leaving rural Ireland, being attracted to the cities by the half-day, the Sunday off, the glamour and, apparently, the higher wages. If it is things like that that make them dissatisfied, they have a legal right to a half-day, just as other employees. In making it possible for them to obtain that half-day, we are not doing anything revolutionary, since the goodwill and the understanding that is there already between the farmer and his man will mean that very few will take advantage of these legal rights to try to upset the farm economy.

I am somewhat in agreement with Senator O'Farrell's speech, but it is an extraordinary one. I agree with him that no matter how far we go by law we cannot drive a greater wedge between farmer and labourer than has been driven. I can remember up to 40 years back, when people were very poor and about 75 per cent. of the farms were from ten to 100 acres. At that time the farmer, his wife and children and his labouring man were all slaves. However, we just pulled along and put up with it. Then we got our own Government and things boomed for a while. Then they became very bad and from 1927 to 1933, not alone here but in the rest of the world, there was a frightful state of depression. Farmers were never much worse off than they were then, and when they expended money they did not think that times would get so bad. Still, the farmer and the labourer cooperated and worked together, with hardly a word about wages or hours. The farmer's wife worked hard, and even when unwell or perhaps carrying her baby she milked the cows in the mornings. The farmer or his workman helped her. Things changed, however, and we started to legislate to improve the conditions of the labouring man, at a time when the farmer was broken to the ground and had not enough to pay rent or taxes. We set out to legislate for them then and drove the first wedge between the farmer and his labourer.

I am not talking now about Dublin farmers employing a dozen men, but about the country farmer with two or three men who has his wife a slave and who has his children working before and after school. We started to legislate then about conditions and wages and drove in that wedge. At that time, though the labourer had a small wage, he was satisfied; he got something for his labour; he ate at the one table with the farmer; if he had a cottage plot it was tilled by the farmer and there was never a grumble. The time came when it was said that the farmer was too well off and the labourer was told to loosen his belt, as he could not eat all the meat in the country. The labourer started to fall for that, and that continued down to the present day.

I am against this Bill. We know the revolution already brought about by the many legislative Acts passed here. Senator Séamus O'Farrell made a great case for the labourer. I hold that this half-day is the most extraordinary thing ever introduced here. Senator O'Farrell has shown us that it means an increase in wages, and I cannot understand for a moment why we should not bring a Bill into the Dáil giving another 10/- a week to the labouring man and let the farmer employ him or disemploy him. If the farmer wants to keep his man it means an increase in wages, so why not be honest about it? I do not want to see the labouring man a slave, but I do not pay any tribute to him because I think the labouring man of Senator O'Farrell's time has become too sharp; if the farmer does not keep a watch he keeps a watch in his pocket to see whether it is six or eight o'clock. This may be all right for the bigger farmer employing 13, 16 or 20 men, but it is not for the man about whom I am talking, the small farmer dragging the devil by the tail. Perhaps the farmer is in debt, he marries and tries to rear a family; he employs one or two men, and in order to pay them he must try and get a bill in the bank with another farmer going security. He is the real serf, not the labouring man. In the past there was co-operation and charity between them, but that has been all sabotaged by the legislation of the past 16 or 17 years. It has all been destroyed, and this is going to make it worse.

It is impossible to fix this half-day because we cannot fix climatic conditions and we cannot fix the day on which the barley, the oats or the wheat will be ripe. We cannot fix the day we are to thresh. I am leaving out milking the cows because that happens all the time, but you do not know what day you are to cut the oats, barley or wheat. My experience of the younger men is that they will not co-operate because, I am afraid, a spirit has been engendered by past legislation which causes them to say: "I am going to England and to hell with the old farmer. I will not bother my head about him." That is well known.

I was delighted to hear Senator Quirke opposing the Bill and I would congratulate him except for the way he finished up when he spoke of the Party that would not take responsibility for the Bill. He said he did not know why the Minister for Agriculture did not take responsibility for it, but the Minister opposed it and the Party he belongs to opposed it. I do not want men like Senator Quirke and his Party to have it both ways. They must take one side or the other and not come in with the appearance of a fair and free mind after they have had a discussion outside. Let us be honest; Fianna Fáil voted for the Bill in the other House. I am dead against it. It will not start a revolution, but it will hurt the small farmer and I am tired of people who come in here knowing what the popular feeling is in their own county, who take a certain line and then try to put the blame on some other Party. I admired that speech of Senator Quirke's to-day. I would have thought it the grandest speech I had ever heard if he had not tried in the end to make political capital of the fact that some Party did not throw the Bill out or that the Minister for Agriculture did not throw it out. I would have clapped him on the back but I despise that attempt to make political capital in a way which he knew would be popular down the country.

Senator O'Connell in introducing this measure to the House said that one of the greatest claims for the Bill was that it would stop the flight from the land as agricultural workers were entitled to the same facilities as their brothers in the industrial life of the country. I should like to ask Senator O'Connell one or two questions in this regard.

Senator O'Connell said that it would help to stop emigration; he did not say that it would stop it.

I put forward the view that it would help to encourage the flight from the land. We propose to make it obligatory on the employer of farm workers to give a weekly half-holiday but let us ask ourselves what the worker is going to do with that half-holiday. His position is entirely different from that of the industrial worker in town or city. Whether his half-holiday falls on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday, there is only one thing he can do, that is to put on his Sunday clothes and go into the nearest town.

What about working his own garden or plot?

Having gone there on a number of holiday evenings he will be induced to seek employment in that town or village in order to get the amenities which it might offer.

Senator O'Connell also suggested that the day could be arranged between the worker and the employer but that is not practical because while the worker might demand his holiday on Saturday, the employer might not consider Saturday a suitable day. Who is going to make the ultimate decision? It must be the workers.

No. The obligation is on the employer to give a half-holiday but not on Saturday.

It must be given to suit the worker.

That is not in the Bill.

That may be all right to say in support of the Bill but when effect is given to it you will find that the worker will decide on what day he will take his half-holiday. As many Senators have already pointed out that will be quite reasonable in the case of the large farmer who has a number of employees but in the case of the small farmer who has one or two employees it would be an entirely different question.

I regret the introduction of this Bill. I should be prepared to vote against the Second Reading of this Bill were it not for the fact that if the House, by a majority vote, decides against the Second Reading then the Bill as presented to us becomes law within a certain period. In order to give an opportunity to members of the House who are interested in this measure, I think the best thing we can do it to pass the Second Reading and to do what we can to amend the Bill so as to make it more like what the members of this House would like to see it.


Hear, hear!

I want to make my position quite clear. Personally, I should be quite prepared to vote against the measure as it is now before us were it not that that would mean that the Bill would become law, anyhow.

One or two Senators have referred to the fact that already in County Dublin, County Wexford and County Waterford, farmers have given a half-holiday to their employees. There is no doubt about that. Those of us who know rural Ireland know that not alone does the farmer give a half-holiday to his worker but that if the time were tabulated, as it is in the case of the industrial worker, it would be found that the farm labourer has every fair day, every market day and every Church holiday—and, as Senator Quirke pointed out, if he wants to devote attention to his own little plot his employer gives him the facilities to do so. Once we pass this Bill we make it obligatory on the farmer to insist that as far as he is concerned the worker will take his half-holiday and we make it obligatory on the worker to demand his half-holiday. We are driving a wedge between one of the things that is most near and dear to the people of rural Ireland. It is a bad day's work.

Taking the Bill generally, it will affect only a very small number of farmers because usually the farmer treats his worker as he treats his own son or daughter. There is that link between them. He gets his holidays. The farmer likes to see him thrive as well as himself. The worker, on his part, takes pride in the work of the farm and in its produce. Once you try to apply industrial conditions to the farming community of this country you will, as some Senator has said, encourage the ranching policy once more in this country.

I regret, as I am sure many other Senators regret, that the person who is responsible for the giving of a direction to the farming community of this country, the Minister for Agriculture, should have chosen not to give a direction on this occasion.

Mr. Burke

He voted against it.

If we are going to find employment for our people I suggest that the only way to do so is to develop our agricultural arm. The policy of the Minister for Agriculture is in direct opposition to that view. While such a state of affairs exists it will be very difficult for our people to have any confidence in any direction given to them. The last occasion on which this House met was when we passed a Bill which gave the Government emergency powers. That Bill was passed because we realised that we were still in an emergency. If we accept it that that is true, we must accept it that in order to bring us through the emergency there are certain things which we must have. The first essentials are food and fuel for our people. A statement has been issued at the public's expense encouraging our farmers to do certain things. If you examine the statement which was issued you will find that while there is encouragement to produce certain crops there is absolutely no direction or encouragement either from the Minister or from the Government to produce the very crop that is essential to the preservation of the Irish people, namely wheat. During the past few weeks a belated appeal was made for the production of more fuel to meet the wants of our people. I may say that some of us on this side of the House drew the attention of the Minister and of the Government many times to the fact that this position would arise.

It has been pointed out to me that while that appeal was made by one or two Ministers, the major Party in the present Government have not associated themselves with the appeal. For that reason it is taken generally down the country that there is no sincerity behind the appeal.

What is the appeal for—half-holidays for the agricultural labourers?

Yes. When you make an appeal at a particular time like this to the agricultural community to increase production and when, at the same time, you introduce a measure into this House compelling agricultural producers to lay off production for a certain period, there is something wrong.

Would the Senator tell us what is in this Bill about that?

This Bill provides that every person employed in agricultural production in this country must get a weekly half-holiday.

The Government have no responsibility for it.

That means that every agricultural producer, every farm worker in this country, must take four hours off per week. If you multiply that number of hours over a year you will discover that, taking it in general, it means some little contribution to agricultural production.

Not necessarily.

Senator Dr. O'Connell is one of those who believe——

You took the words out of my mouth.

——that the more recreation one gets the better the production will be.

That does not follow either.

I agree with Senator Dr. O'Connell on that. When we come to examine the Bill in detail, as I hope we shall do on the Committee Stage, we shall discover some of the snags. The Bill provides that where a person is employed for more than a period of one week it is mandatory that he be given a half-holiday in respect of each week worked by him. If we direct our attention to this matter we will find that we are encouraging the agricultural community to employ persons for a period of three or four days. Every farmer in the country who enters into an agreement with a worker to employ him for four days will defeat the purpose of this Bill. It would be much better if we left the position as it was and did not interfere with the harmonious relations which exist in rural areas between employer and employee. In that way we will get the things which are most essential to the Irish nation at present. We will get the production that is essential provided we get the proper direction, which we are not getting at the moment.

Captain Orpen

For once in a way, I am in complete agreement with about half of Senator Hawkins's speech. I am referring to that half where he talked about the Bill. Like Senator Hawkins, I feel that this Bill, though there may be a limited demand for it from the workers within the agricultural community, will carry with it a certain amount of serious disturbance in a certain sort of agricultural production. Of course, like any concession of this nature, it will slightly increase the cost of production, but that is so relatively small that that unfortunate feature may be more or less disregarded. Senators may work out for themselves what the increased cost per man per year will be, say, roughly 5/- a week. That is not the disturbing feature. First of all, you have the disturbing feature that was pointed out by many other Senators, that in the case of the small farmer, one man being away for the afternoon may create serious difficulties where there is a large number of animals to be milked or fed. This Bill, as it stands, allows the day of the week on which a worker takes his half-holiday to be settled by agreement. As Senator Hawkins pointed out, there is no obligation on either side to give way as to what day is agreed. However, we will leave that for the Committee Stage.

As time goes on, I foresee that in various areas all people entitled to a half-holiday will want it on the same day, whether it is a Thursday, or Saturday, or whatever day it is. The tendency will be for the holiday to be asked for on the same day of the week so that, in the normal course of events, amusements will develop in the country on that afternoon. That is all desirable—yes, very desirable—but it is going to have a paralysing effect. We will find one man having an afternoon off from a farm on which there is a farmer, his wife and one paid labourer. That labourer goes off one afternoon, and presumably that farmer or his wife will make good the deficiency. The large farm will get into more serious difficulties if all the workers go off on the same afternoon. Admittedly, under this Bill as it stands, they will not necessarily all demand their holiday on the same day, but that will be the ultimate development. How are we to meet that situation? I do not know. In the eastern counties, there is no surplus pool of labour which can help out that difficulty. Like Senator Hawkins, for many reasons I would oppose the Bill on the Second Reading but, as he very shrewdly pointed out, that would be a very ineffective method, because the Bill as it stands would then become law in 90 days. Therefore, if any of us feel that we can in Committee remove some of the disabilities which appear in this Bill, that is surely the function of the Seanad.

I am sorry that the Labour Party, or some members of the Labour Party, have thought it necessary to bring in this Bill, as I do not really believe there was any demand for a Bill of this nature. However, once it it brought in, I am sure that the demand will grow. It may be a good thing, if it does not seriously jeopardise the agricultural economy of the country. I think in the long run that the system of half-holidays may produce quite a considerable alteration in the economy of the small farm. I cannot see, under the present circumstances, small scale milk production surviving. It is fatally easy to bring in what appears to be a minor alteration. The introduction of a half-holiday into a machine like agricultural production may in the end make quite a profound alteration in the existing pattern of the economy. From what I hear from the small farmers, they rather fear this Bill from the angle that it may make things so difficult for them that they must make this alteration. I do not know. I can see that on the larger farms it will make a very considerable difference when the time comes, as it inevitably will, that all the workers will want to go off on the same day.

I am just making those points because I honestly feel that there was no serious demand for this statutory half-holiday. I am quite sure the demand will grow. Therefore, clearly we must do something about it and the best thing we can do is to try and amend this Bill in such a way as to make it more workable than it is at present.

Mr. Burke

I would like, first of all, to make some brief reference to a statement that was made by Senator Hawkins. I wish to quote Volume 124, No. 2, Dáil Debates for Thursday, 15th day of February, 1951. Senator Hawkins, while making his speech, was rather anxious to know what the Minister for Agriculture was going to do with regard to the production of food for our people. In view of a certain amount of uncertainty which he may cause in the minds of the public, I will read for him from page 378 of the Dáil Debates, the Minister's reply to Deputy Cogan:—

"He is a very important man in this context. The Deputy will have to look to his false prognostications as to what the acreage under wheat was to be, because his Leader put it on record in 1947, and his Leader advised the Government of the United States in the autumn of 1947, that he planned to have grown in 1950-51 247,000 acres of wheat in this country. That was to be the patriotic effort of the Deputy's Leader and that was what the Fianna Fáil Government intended to have. It was endorsed by every individual member of that Government which the Deputy now so eagerly yearns to follow. In fact, we produced, not 247,000 acres, but 366,000 acres of wheat and they were not Fianna Fáil acres of wheat either, because out of the 366,000 acres of produced as much wheat as Fianna Fáil had been able to produce out of 670,000 acres."

Almost 300,000 acres were devoted to the production of other crops, and we presume that the rate of production increased as much as in the case of wheat. It is a pity that these red herrings should be brought in and that we should have to go to the trouble of replying to them. Still, it is necessary that some of these bogeys should be laid occasionally.

This Bill has been approached in the Seanad in a way in which Bills ought to be approached. There seems to be an earnest desire on the part of Senators on all sides to find some solution of this problem and a solution must be found, because agriculture is as important to us as industry is to the people of Britain, and in dealing with agriculture in framing our policy, we should be guided by those who have worked in and near agriculture and who have experience of agriculture. It has been asked that this Bill be referred to a Committee of the House which will go into it in detail and try to find a solution, and I earnestly appeal to Senators to allow a committee to be set up and some solution to be found.

Mention was made of social justice for the farm worker. In my view, social justice for the farm worker and the small farmer cannot take the same pattern as social justice for the worker in industry which seems to be striving for the introduction of the five-day week. Under any legislative machine we could devise, we cannot produce a five-day cow or a five-day fine week. When we can do these things, we will be able to pass legislation to carry out the wishes of people who think that the problem is as easy as that. I should like to see, instead of a half-holiday on Saturday for farm labourers, some statutory provision, if you like, whereby the farmer would give his workers a day off every month, because, in actual practice, that is what is happening. In my part of the country, if there are races on or if the farm labourer wants to go shopping with his wife, he can get the day off. It is a matter of arrangement and a time-honoured custom. Is it then necessary to enforce industrial conditions on an industry which does not need them?

Senator O'Farrell spoke about conditions in Britain in the early stages of the industrial revolution and before the Chartist riots. That relates to a period over 100 years ago and I do not think he meant seriously to suggest that conditions in agriculture here were anything like the conditions in industrial England in those days. At present, every agricultural labourer is entitled to a week's holiday. The Bill making that provision was introduced and passed in the other House and it passed through this House without a division. It gives every agricultural labourer the right to six days' holidays, together with all Church holidays, with pay, and these conditions are certainly very different from the conditions in the coal mines in Britain over 100 years ago. It is very hard to suggest to farmers that the conditions which they gave, and which nobody speaking for them opposed, are anything like the conditions which obtained at the beginning of the industrial revolution in Britain.

I oppose this measure because I believe it will not make for goodwill between the farmer and his worker. There will be too much of the "I have a half-day off now and I will tell you when I will take it" attitude. That is not going to help getting on with the work and it is particularly not going to help in the eight or nine dairying counties. I do not think it is necessary to introduce legislation to apply this to Dublin, Kildare and Meath. There are any number of large farmers in these areas, and anyone looking up the statistics will find that the average size of the farms in these districts is three or four times that of farms in the rest of the country. Where a man employs six, eight or ten workers, it is easy for him to arrange to give a man a half-day, to arrange that one man will have a day off in the matter of milking of cows. Further, these large farms are mechanised, and, when a man has been sitting for eight or nine hours on a tractor, having a good smell of vaporising oil, he may want a half-day, and in fact it is a day off he would want. But these are not the conditions which exist in the dairying districts where a widow has one man, where most of the farms range from 25 to 50 acres and where two men at most are employed. You cannot arrange a rota of work in that case as you can in the case of very large farms or industrial activities.

It has been said that the Bill will tend to make ranchers out of the farmers. To some extent, it may tend to drive them in that direction, because the dairying industry is the bedrock of our whole agricultural economy, and if we drive the farm labourer and the farmer away from that industry, he will tend to go in for dry stock and to go in for tillage in a mechanised way, which means, if he goes into tillage, that he will be able to hire men to go in and do his work, and, if he goes into live stock, he and his dog will be able to do most of his work. With the other members of the Seanad who have spoken against the Bill, I suggest that the Bill be referred to a committee, and that, even at this eleventh hour, we try to find a solution of the problem and not have a doctrinaire urban constituency vote forcing a measure on the farmers and their labourers which will not be to the benefit of our major national industry.

I want to correct Senator Burke in one of the statements he made when he referred to Senators on all sides of this House. There are no sides on this House and there should be no sides. I was elected to this House to represent agriculture and not any political Party. I was elected as a representative of agriculture.

You were elected by political votes, of course.

To represent agriculture on the Agricultural Panel, and, for me, agriculture means the farmer and the farm labourer, because, without these, there would be no agriculture. It is a pity anything should happen which would bring about a division between the farmer and his labourer, because, if there is not wholehearted co-operation between farmer and labourer, agriculture cannot and will not succeed. On principle alone we should support this Bill. I would like to ask Senator Burke and others who have opposed this measure if they would take the same line in the case of other workers who now enjoy a month's holidays with pay, payments for sickness and pensions when they retire as they were taking in the matter of granting a half-holiday to agricultural workers. These people working on the land have to depend on the good nature of the farmers to pay them when they are sick and I am glad to say that many farmers do so. I say it is a reflection on the Government and on previous administrations if we cannot put our farmers into the position in which they can give a half-day and other Christian conditions of work to their employees in the same way as it is given by industrial employers.

We had quite recently a strike of bank workers and on the figures given during that period over 50 per cent. of the men on strike had exactly four times the salary of the agricultural labourer. While casting no reflections on the bank officials, because I am happy that they won, I want to say sincerely that if we had a crisis in this country whereby the farmers and farm labourers went on strike for six weeks we would all die of starvation. By their work and their skill these labourers from land worth probably £5 an acre can produce goods to the value of £50 or £60. Yet these are the men to whom some people would deny a half-holiday. The first concern of any Government in any country should be the people who work on the land for they are the people who produce the real wealth of the country.

Why did you leave the land yourself?

I left it because there was not a living wage to be got out of it and the people working on it to-day are not getting a living wage out of it. This Government and the preceding Governments should be ashamed of the fact that the farm labourers are only getting a bare subsistence wage.

That is not the reason why you left the land.

I would ask the Senator to explain this position. If two brothers are reared on a small holding and one decides to be a tradesman while the other remains on the land to produce food the tradesman can earn £7 16s. 0d. per week while the one who stays on the land does not earn half of that even though he, too, is doing a most important job for the country.

I will deal with that later.

I say that the man who remains on the farm has less than half the salary of his brother who went to be a tradesman.

But he has his assets and the tradesman has not.

If the tradesman is half as industrious as his brother who remains an agricultural labourer and is thrifty he ought to be ashamed of himself if he cannot maintain himself and his family in comfort.

And does the one who stayed on the land not come under the Social Welfare Bill?

For the first time in this country he does come under it and for the first time you have a Government that is making an honest effort to uplift the workers of the country. A widow in a certain district in Connemara whom Senator Hawkins should know, got 5/- a week from the previous Government to keep herself and three children and this Government is giving her 23/- a week.

Let us get back to the Bill.

We have had considerable improvement in the conditions of service and the standards of living of the workers in the last 30 years but it is a disgrace in those circumstances that we should still leave one section of our workers in the position of slaves, denying to them a half-holiday or improved conditions of service. Senator Hawkins has asked what would an agricultural labourer do with a half-holiday. We should remember that the majority of them are married men with large families and they have gardens to work or they must produce the fuel for their homes and how could they do that if they have not a half-holiday? In the end, that will be a great asset to themselves and their families. In view of the critical times we are in, there is an obligation on every farmer, if it were never in legislation, to allow a half-day to his labourer to grow potatoes and vegetables and to produce turf. Unfortunately, in days gone by, those people were forced to work on Sundays.

I hold that no Senator will vote against this Bill. As a member of the House for many years, I have felt proud of being associated with members on all sides and I feel that the greatest reflection that ever befell this House would come about if we reached the time when the majority of the members of the Seanad would vote against the betterment of the conditions of this most important and most downtrodden section of our people. I think it was Deputy Burke who asked why could they not go to England. It is a pity that any of our people should be forced to go to England. If the wealth of this nation were used properly, it would be unnecessary. I would close the ports and prevent anyone going. I am a great believer in freedom and I fought for the freedom of this country, but I believe the time has come to prevent the workers going. They should be put working on the land at decent wages and under good conditions of service. They should be put working on the bogs in the same way. In the end, we would be doing better for the people themselves and the nation, as we can never build up an agricultural nation like this on one big Dublin, but must try to keep as many as possible on the land.

Why should the man who grows and produces the wheat get £3 10s. 0d. while the lorry driver carrying it gets £5, the mill worker gets £6 10s. 0d., the baker £7 10s. 0d. and the breadvan driver earns an average of £7 10s. 0d.— and were it not for the farmer and his labourer there would be no wheat for any of them? No matter what Deputy Hawkins says, I know he would like to see the standard of the workers improved, as would every Senator here. Despite what Senator Baxter has said and how strongly he has spoken against the Bill, I know he will support it in the end, since there is no Senator who knows more than Senator Baxter himself the importance of the farm labourer. I agree with the latter portion of Senator Hawkins's statement. I cannot understand why any Minister for Agriculture or any Government will not give a guaranteed price for wheat.

Is this in the Bill?

I hold that a guaranteed price——


The Senator is speaking altogether against the rules.

The Chairman may correct me, but others have spoken far from the rules. I am in thorough agreement with Senator Hawkins that, in view of the world position——


In view of the world position, would it not be well to let the Bill go one way or the other and let someone else come on?

It is very seldom I detain the House, but I feel very keenly on this position. I speak from experience as a farmer and a farm labourer and as a son of an uneconomic holder, so I am second to none in experience. I hold that no Government yet has risen to the full height as to the way agriculture should be treated. In 99 per cent. of my actions I have supported the present Government. For what the farmer produces he should have protection and a guarantee. Why should we give a price for wheat——


Prices are not in the Bill.

Nevertheless they have a bearing on what the farmer can pay and on whether or not he can give a half-holiday to his workers. I have every respect for the Chairman's ruling.


Indeed, the Senator has not.

I say this in conclusion: if you tell me that the price the farmer——


The Senator says it in conclusion, I can tell him.

——the price the farmer receives for oats and farm produce has no bearing on the conditions——


That has nothing to do with the case.

If it has no bearing, I will sit down.

I am afraid I cannot follow the line Senator Tunney has taken. I cannot advert to how I came into the Seanad or justify my argument on those lines. I can approach this question only as a man from the country, knowing the relationships which have existed between the farmer and his workman and knowing the tradition that existed amongst their ancestors. When confronted with this Bill, I must ask myself why this indictment of agricultural employers should come before this House. Has there been any suggestion that our social life, our economic conditions or the health of our workers on the land, compelled this legislation? We must admit that the great bulk of legislation governing the relationship of employers and workers was sadly needed. It was long overdue for many years and there is a lot of such legislation still to come. We know, however, that in any legislature the actions of the legislators must be directed to the compelling needs for the introduction of any legislation.

In our case to-day, we have presumed that conditions of slavery exist on the farms of Ireland. Our friend, Senator Tunney, used the word "slavery" and he contends that to-day a condition of slavery exists in Ireland compelling this legislation. He has not made that case, but I gather that that is his case, by the implication of his argument.

We have not heard anything from the promoters of this Bill to justify with compelling reasons this type of legislation. We have heard many Senators to-day praising those who man agriculture whether they be employers or employees. I do not anticipate that the passing or otherwise of this Bill will seriously affect agriculture in Ireland in our time or any time. I do not subscribe to the view that a half-holiday for workers in rural Ireland will bring any catastrophe to dairy farming, tillage farming or mixed dairy and tillage farming. I do know that in effect half-holidays are being enjoyed by the workers. Such good fellowship exists between the farmer and his workers that one could not possibly describe their relationship as that of employer and employee as we know them in other industries. The people who man the land are more of the same kin than the workers in other industries. They are relatives, friends and neighbours who had a common ancestor within two or three generations, and we know that it is only an accident of our social life that some of the agricultural workers of Ireland are labourers and the others own the land. The one thing I object to in the Bill is that while it does not help the worker or destroy the farmer, it destroys something fundamental to our class in rural Ireland. It compels a farmer who is not indicted before any court to continue a condition of slavery in Ireland. It indicts him in effect by its very introduction. It makes it mandatory on him to give a half-holiday each week, but the shrewdness of the promoters of the Bill has in a subsequent paragraph left it to the option of the labourer whether to take that half-holiday. The tragic thing for the Irish farmer to my mind is that there is a penal clause in the Bill which makes it a statutory offence if he fails to comply with the section, and this destroys the relationship that has existed between the employer and employee, a relationship which all the world is trying to build up in other industries.

I subscribe to the view that if we refuse this Reading without sending the Bill to Committee it will become law, anyway, but I have sufficient confidence in the legislative ability in this House to think that its members will do the proper and the best thing for agriculture and I advocate that we should not allow the Bill to become law in its present condition. The harm I believe has been done by its very introduction and we can never go back and acknowledge that agriculture has something which the world needs, good fellowship between employer and employee, but we can negative the harm which the enforcement of the Bill, as it stands, would do to our rural community.

This Bill should have been introduced by the Government. In a matter of such very great importance to the whole agricultural community the Government should have decided whether the Bill was suitable or not, and if it was they should have introduced it and taken responsibility for it. This argument applies more to agriculture than to any other industry in which a holiday was being sought because the agricultural industry is unorganised. There is no organisation to speak for farmers and no organisation to speak for farm workers. If there were the question could have been decided much better between the two parties. Also the Government was in a position to find out the reactions of the farming community. They could find out through the Department of Agriculture where this system was being put into operation and how it was working. The Bill was introduced, however, by a single Senator, who naturally was interested only in one side of the question and who was not in a position to assess its reactions all over the country. If it had been brought in by the Government there would be less suspicion and less fear of it. I say that for no political motive in order to score off the Government, but because I think that it would be far better if they had taken definite action.

I have heard arguments from both sides, very good reasoned arguments, but we must not forget that the present tendency is to reduce the working hours of individuals. That is a very good thing and one of the advantages which humanity should gain from the work of scientists and the introduction of machinery. Human labour is being reduced to a minimum, but that is happening not so much in agriculture as in industry. There is a reason for that, and that reason should be kept before our minds. In industry workers are generally employed in large numbers in factories or shops. If a manufacturer or a large employer in a business establishment gives a holiday to his workers he can close his premises at the appointed time and open them up the following morning and everything will be the same as when they left off. If labour charges are increased, he can pass on the increase to the consumer, but in agriculture the situation is completely different. In general, only one or two men are employed, and the employer, far from being a capitalist, is generally a poor man, little better off than his workers. We must bear those conditions in mind and remember that it will be little use for us to try to introduce industrial conditions into agriculture. It can easily be understood that it is not an exaggeration to say that the more you introduce industrial conditions into agriculture in its present condition and at present prices the more unemployment you will create. That is quite clear. Consider the small farmer who is barely able to employ a man or two. If his expenses should be increased, his tendency will be to reduce employment. The larger farmer will probably be more inclined to go into grazing or to continue with less labour.

Let us examine the present situation and the effect which the half-holiday will have on farming. There is no reason why a man could not get a half-holiday if he is doing ordinary agricultural work such as ploughing, the making of fences, drains and so forth. Four hours would make very little difference. However, when you come to the question of dairying and the question of harvesting you will realise that four hours make a vital difference. Take for example a dairy farm in my part of the country—and it is the same in all the dairy counties. The size of the average farm would be about 40 Irish acres and it would carry about 20 cows. There are always men and women employed on it to help the farmer. The cows have to be milked at the very latest at 6 o'clock in the morning and they cannot be milked again before 6 o'clock in the evening, which is a very long day. On the occasions on which the worker would be due his half-holiday it would be very difficult for that type of farmer to give it to him because he would need help in the milking of the cows and it would be very difficult to get that help. For that reason the proposal would have the effect of reducing dairying considerably. We all know that the reduction in dairying in recent years was due to the shortage of labour, and so forth. People did not want to work at it when they could get some other type of job. The same applied in regard to the harvest. We all know that, especially with the type of climate we have in this country, great harm could be done if the work in a field of hay, a field of wheat, and so forth, had to stop at 1 o'clock on a Saturday. If provision is not made to meet those aspects of the question you will do harm not alone to the farmer but also to the worker.

I want to refer to a precedent as regards dairying which would apply also to the harvest. When the Agricultural Wages Act was passed many years ago it provided that the working hours should be, I think, 54 hours per week. That applied indiscriminately to all types of agricultural workers. The Act had been in operation only a very short time when it was found to be totally unworkable in so far as dairying was concerned. There was no possibility that the cows could be worked on a nine hours' day. Great difficulty was experienced and there were many disputes. Representations were made to the Minister about the matter and after some time a change was made. The Wages Board made a new Order under which it was permissible to hire a man for a fixed period of not less than five months, with the guarantee of constant employment. There was no limit to the number of hours he could work and the farmer had the advantage that he could work at dairying and so forth. The worker, on his part, was guaranteed fixed employment without any question of broken time, wet days and so forth. His term of employment was secure. For both the employer and the employee the system has worked satisfactorily in the dairying industry up to the present. I suggest that if this Bill is passed a similar arrangement should be made to cover the necessities of the dairying industry and also of the harvest. I suggest that an amendment should be inserted which would permit a farmer and his worker to make an agreement for a fixed period, under which the worker would work on his half-holiday and be paid the sum provided for. I think that, though it would mean an additional burden on the farmer, it would remove the great objection to this Bill so far as the dairying industry is concerned and the same would apply to the harvest. Those are the two vital points on which the Bill would do great harm and if those objections were removed we could all co-operate with the measure.

As I have said on a previous occasion in this House, I do not know anything at all about agriculture but certainly I do know something about half-holidays. Sitting here and listening to the case made against the Bill, I have felt that I was in familiar company. The very arguments that have been made here by the farmers have been put to me over the past 30 years in my negotiations in connection with industrial workers. With every reform that has been suggested there have been warnings of all sorts of calamities if the reform should be put into operation. Every reform creates problems.

As I put it to the House before, the agricultural labourer is the most depressed type of worker in this country. I am not going to apportion the blame. The most important worker we have in this country belongs to the most depressed class. It is all very well to say that there is no demand for this measure and to say that the relations between the farmer and his labourer are excellent. That is no argument that the man should not get his rights and have his half-holiday just the same as any other worker.

I do not like the clause in the Bill which permits a man to take money in lieu of his half-holiday. If a holiday is given it ought to be taken. I suppose, however, that there are good, sound and solid reasons why that clause was inserted. If farmers give a half-holiday to their workers at present—in some cases a whole holiday— as some Senators have said they do, if that system is already in operation, I do not understand why there should be alarm about the passage of this measure. In many cases the farm labourer is regarded more as a member of the family than as an employee on the farm and he co-operates to the best of his ability with the farmer. How and why he does it, on his wretched wages and the conditions under which he has to work, is beyond my conception. However, he does it, and more power to him.

You cannot closely relate the activities of an industrial worker with the activities of the farm labourer, but at the same time the farm labourer is entitled to his rights just as much as any other worker. Farmers as well as employers should realise that times are changing and that nowadays the working man is not prepared to accept what he had to accept in days gone by. The workman believes he is coming into his own, and by "workman" I believe that I can include the farm labourer. With all due respect, I do not credit all the statements which have been made about the calamities that will follow if this concession is given. I have lived for a fairly long period, and I know nothing about agriculture, but I have heard this tale of woe and of hard times about the farmer since I was a boy. The farmers were always in bad straits. When the farmers possibly were in bad straits we heard it bellowed and sounded often enough, but we heard nothing when the farmer was in good circumstances. I think I am correct in saying that there is no industry, no business, no concern in this country that has got the help from the Central Government that the farming industry has got. I am not saying that they should not get it. When they are asked to give a facility, which with a little organisation can be given, they should face up to the position and realise that the times are changing and that the workman believes he is entitled to some leisure and profits from the industry for which he is working. If they accept the position, they would be far better off. I am not too sanguine about settling this Bill during the Committee Stage. The position is that the half-holiday is asked for the agricultural worker and I hope that he will not be deprived of his right. It is an undoubted right, and a right that has been secured by law for the industrial workers. I think it should be secured by law for the agricultural workers.

I do not agree at all with the statement made by Senator Orpen that the Labour Party had no demand for this Bill. In 1948 there was a motion sponsored by Senator R. M. Burke on the very same lines, to grant holidays to farm workers. The very same objections were then put forward as have been put forward here to-day. At that time, the Minister for Agriculture opposed it, but since then the farm workers have got six days' annual holidays, so at least something came out of our motion on that occasion.

So far as this half-holiday is concerned, I, coming from the County Kildare, know that there has been a very big demand there for some years. In 1946 we had an unfortunate strike in Kildare, which lasted six or seven weeks, during the hardest period of the year. In 1947 we had a strike in South Kildare. The following year, in 1948, there was a threatened strike in South Kildare and, as a result, the farmers there gave the half-holiday, and for the past two years the farm workers in that very big tillage area, which is one of the best tillage areas in Ireland, have their half-holiday and the farmers are carrying on. There are more men than ever employed in that area. The only objection the farmers in that area have is that other farmers are not compelled to give the half-holiday. There has been no trouble since; in fact, the workers are very contented. I must say that in the rest of the county, for the last few years, since this agitation started, the workers are very discontented. I believe that if this Bill is not passed, there will still be this discontentment amongst the workers.

In our county, owing to a very big turf drive at the present moment, it is very difficult to get farm workers. Young workers will not go to the farmers. Some Senators spoke of similar conditions being applied to the agricultural labourers. After all, they come from the same class, farm workers, bog workers and housing workers. One section happens to work with the farmers and another with the county council who would have, in some cases, double the rate of pay of the farm workers. The others have no half-holiday with pay. As a result, the farmers find it very difficult to get labour. At a meeting of the county council in Kildare last Monday, this matter was discussed. The farmers were very perturbed that they would not get labour this year, owing to the fact that Bord na Móna are going all over the country looking for men. There will be thousands working in the bogs, and if the farm workers do not get their holiday, I think it will be difficult for farmers to get men.

I am glad that this Bill has been introduced and that the farmers will give the half-holiday to the farm workers and that farm workers will in some way be brought into line with the industrial workers. In my county, the farm workers in many cases are brought in line, nearer to the standard of the industrial workers. It will be very difficult to get the young to go on the land. We hear a lot about encouraging the people to go on the land, but the only way to do that is by giving them better conditions and improving the standard of the workers.

It was also asked what would they do with their half-holiday. They all have their plots and in our county the half-holiday will be very useful for them for the turf production. During the last emergency, in fact, we had clergy protesting against the men working in the bogs on Sunday. Those men had to work the full six days of the week. They got no half-holiday and they had to go out on Sunday and cut fuel. The same thing will happen if they do not get their half-holiday. If they get the half-holiday they will be able to put in a very useful time on their plots, in tillage and on the bog. There is no use in Senator Hawkins talking about them going into the towns, as they will go into the towns in any case.

There are rural workers working on the roads and working on the bogs. They get their half-holiday. Even those working on drainage are entitled to a half-holiday, but the most important man of all, the man who works on the farm, is not entitled to any holiday. I am very glad this Bill will give it to him. If there are satisfied workers, you will have proper production, but if you have dissatisfied workers there will not be proper production. By giving them this half-day and the annual week's holidays, I believe that you will satisfy them. Therefore, I believe that the farmers will even get better production. I am glad this Bill has been introduced and as the Dáil has passed it the members of this House should also pass it.

I approach this Bill in the belief that we can do nothing to prevent it becoming law and the prospect of a general election before it can become law leaves us with the question of improving it if possible.

I would like to say a word about the flight from the land, that we heard so much about to-day. All my life I have been hearing about the flight from the land. The people of property in any town I know of in rural Ireland are all either directly from the land or are the sons and daughters of people who came from the land. The people who leave the land are mainly the sons or daughters of farmers and, to some extent, the sons or daughters of rural workers. We had from Senator O'Farrell this evening some idea of the comparison in numbers. He said that over 500,000 people live on the land as farmers or farmers' children and that somewhere about 90,000 are employees, or, in other words, agricultural labourers. Consequently, the great majority of people who leave the land in this flight from the land to the towns and, perhaps, abroad, are from the farms direct and not the rural workers Senator Tunney talked about.

When a number of the people supporting the Bill were talking, it was brought forward as an argument in favour of the Bill that all the labourers—even Senator Smyth said it—have plots and could use this half-holiday to till these plots. Senator O'Farrell told us again that 36,000 of the particular rural workers lived on the farms on which they worked, which reduces the 90,000 to 54,000, and it is reasonable to assume that, of these 54,000, at least half would be the sons of these rural workers, so that in actual fact, if I were to go on the figures given by Senator O'Farrell, I would come to the conclusion that about 30,000 of the 90,000 odd workers employed by farmers would have the opportunity to till their plots on that half-day. We should forget about this flight from the land and not always be raising it as the kind of red herring which some of the people opposite object to. The flight from the land has continued all during my life and I believe that while there is not enough land in the country to cater for the large families produced on the land, there must, of necessity, be a flight from the land. The only hope I have is that in the future in our towns, as well as providing employment for these people in shops and as owners of shops, we will also provide industrial employment in factories, and so on.

Senator Tunney rather amused me by another point which he raised. He asked why should the men working on the land have a very small wage when 50 per cent. of the bank workers have a wage four times as great, when a baker has so much, a carpenter so much, and so on? He spoke both as an agriculturist and trade unionist. I suppose that is quite possible; I hope it is, anyway. I always understood that trade unions stood for a difference in the wage rates for different classes of workers. I myself have deep down within me a feeling that there should be such a system as Senator Tunney had in mind, that there should be a basic wage which every person would have, that merit should entitle a person to a greater wage over and above that, but that every person no matter what his calling, should have a particular wage. I should like to know if that is the idea Senator Tunney has, because, if it is, I would ask him to recommend it to his trade union organisers and to his trade unions generally as a doctrine they should examine, so that they could perhaps strike an average and give the farm worker the same as the bank manager, so that, instead of the bank manager getting four times as much, say, £12, he would get £6 and the farm worker would get £6. Maybe that would solve the riddle.

The Bill provides that, when a man works a full week, he will get a half-holiday of four hours. There are two points which arise in that connection. First, is it true that, if he works five days, he is not entitled to a half-holiday? I should like to have that point clear. If he works five days, as I read the Bill, he is entitled to no half-holiday. Somebody suggested here to-day that industrialists were heading towards a five-day week and, if that is so, if what I have suggested is so, it would seem that this Bill is also heading towards a five-day week.

And no half-holiday.

And no half-holiday. There is another question I should like to ask Senator O'Connell. They have already ten church holidays in the year and I do not know whether the Bill will preclude them from having a half-holiday in a week in which a church holiday occures, whether the church holiday would be reckoned as a working day. If the church holiday is not reckoned as a working day, it is again only a five-day week, but, if it is reckoned as a working day, there is a day and a half which the employee will have off in that week, and I can assure Senator O'Connell that that day and a half, plus the Sunday, would make the position very difficult for the widow with a young family and one employee during those ten weeks in the 12 months. I know quite a number of farmers and I visit quite a number of farms in my own county and in neighbouring countries. The average acreage would be about 50, but the strange thing I notice is that on only one or two of the farms I go to are farm labourers employed. In eight out of ten cases, it is the farmer, his wife and children who run the farm. These are the people who keep the 12 or 13 cows we have heard spoken of.

Senator Colgan suggested that it would be calamitous if this privilege were granted. I do not believe that at all, first, because of the limited number of employees and the great number of people who own the land and work on it, and secondly, because from my own knowledge, at least 80 per cent. of the farms of the country are manned by the farmer, his wife and children. I realise that quite a number of farms are run by the widow and her young children, and it is not possible for a widow on a 50-acre farm to employ more than one man regularly. She must, however, employ one, and, if he is to leave that farm for two and a half days per week during the ten holiday weeks I mention, I fail to see how she is to carry on. She certainly will have to give up dairy farming, if she is in that business, and I think she will also have to give up tillage, and she probably will have to try to go back to the man and the dog system.

I, like every other person who has spoken, have the greatest sympathy for every worker whether he works on the land or in a town. One thing I will take exception to however is this talk of the farmer being the sole life of the whole country and of the country depending entirely on him. I hold the opinion that every section of the community is interdependent. The towns cannot live without the farmers and the farmers would be very hard hit indeed if the towns were not there.

I know a little about Senator Tunney's county having lived there for some time and I know the farmers there are entirely different from the farmers in Tipperary, Waterford and Kilkenny and they are different from the farmers in Senator Smyth's county.

We cannot do anything to prevent the passage of this Bill into law and the best we can do is to try and amend it and I would like, if I might, to suggest that since it is possible that this Bill will become law that we should not take it for granted that the half-day must be given from 1 o'clock or 12 o'clock for the rest of the day. There is no reason why we should not argue at the proper time that the half-day should start at 10 o'clock and continue until 3 p.m. particularly in the dairying industry. I as a townsman may introduce an amendment of that description when the time comes.

I believe we are discussing a problem that only affects a minority of the farm workers. We are not dealing with a small farmer who works with his own family. I once asked a clergyman in Monaghan how the people got on during a bad harvest and he told me that everything went fine, that the farmers and their families did all the work and brought in the stuff to dry in the house. That may be greatly exaggerated but there was a whole lot of truth in it.

I think the Government has got used during the wars to sticking their noses into everything and they have got to get into, the farmers too. I remember hearing a man who was a candidate for the United States Presidency state after the first world war that it would take the American people 20 years to regain the freedom which they had lost. We have had another war since and I suppose it will take 50 years to get back the freedoms we lost in this country during those two wars. During the last war there were coupons and licences for everything and we had to have licences to sell tobacco or carry on farming or any other business. I would say it is not necessary for a Government to be interfering with business or farmers or anybody else. We thought when Mr. Dillon came into power as Minister for Agriculture that the farmer was going to enjoy some freedom but he, like the rest, under some influence, is going to stick his nose into the farmers' business and tell them what they are going to do with regard to their labourers.

Is not the Minister against this thing?

I am very glad to hear it and I agree with him absolutely if he is. We talk about increased production and yet in this Bill we are legislating to reduce production. You may say it is only the big farmer who will be affected but he can always turn to raising cattle and instead of keeping people on the land the tendency will be to drive the people off the land by this particular type of legislation. The farmer can always turn to cattle unless you are going to compel him, as was necessarily done during the emergency, to till a proportion of his land.

There is a great deal of talk about the increased cost of living but you are increasing the cost of living by this legislation and it is always the people in whose interest the legislation is being passed who are hardest hit. If you are going to have legislation such as this I do not see why you should not give the farmer some consideration, such at wet time, which other industrialists give to workers in the open such as builders' labourers. The farm worker does not work, as a rule, in the fields during wet weather and consequently has more time away from work in wet weather than will be given him in a half-holiday. If he gets the holiday on a Saturday the forenoon might be very wet and the afternoon very dry. That means that he would be off when he could be working and you are really legislating to let the harvest go. The farmer and the labourer were getting on very well and had no quarrel until organised labour began to stick its nose in and then the Government began to interfere.

There has been a good deal of talk about the farm labourer getting time to work his plot but any farmer who is any good always helps his workers to till their plots and assists them in the necessary ploughing operations.

With Senator Woulfe, I think the time is coming when we will have to legislate to protect the employer from the employee, not only in other countries but in this country. The wheel has turned completely and it is the employer who will need protection. I think this is a stupid Bill to introduce, and it will upset the good relations that have always existed between a farmer and his labourers. The last Government considered such a measure but very wisely rejected it. It only interferes with a small proportion of men engaged in agriculture, and the majority of them, as indicated by the last speaker, are men who do not want a scheme.

There are workers who can go on as far as possible in the available light. I remember working by moonlight on a farm during the harvest, and in those days the labourers were not getting as much as they are now. There were people who pointed out that the farmers were putting money into the banks, but they were the small farmers who worked their farms with their families and were not paying labour who were doing that. It is a great mistake for us to discuss this Bill at all, or any Bill like it.

I do not intend to oppose the Bill, but I think that is qualified by an apprehension about its effects. We should bear in mind that it is opposed by the Minister for Agriculture, who has a very responsible position at a very critical time. If we take it on ourselves, over his head, to interfere with agriculture, we are assuming a very grave responsibility. I assume the Bill will pass, and I do not think the Second Reading is to be opposed, which means that we are accepting the principle. Once it was introduced, I do not think anything else could be done, as rejection would leave the most important workers we have with a sense of grievance that they were being looked upon as not worthy of concessions granted to workers in industry.

This Bill was introduced, without due consideration, by a section of the community whose first loyalty is to the organised workers. I regret to say that it has been repeatedly shown in recent times that they have not had much consideration for the general good. In this House at least, and I hope in the other House, it is the general good we should bear in mind. If we pass this Second Reading, I hope that we will try to improve the Bill to such an extent that it will not have some of the ill effects which have been visualised by experienced farmers, who are good employers and who have great consideration for their workers, and who know that their own success depends on the loyalty of their workers.

Like Senator Woulfe, I regret that a penal clause has been introduced in the Bill. Perhaps all legislation involves penal clauses. That is the worst of legislation and of Governments interfering with personal rights to such an extent, that they have to enforce the legislation by penalties. Though I am not intimately connected with agriculture and was not born on a farm, I was born in a small village and my own father was a progressive farmer, so naturally we were all associated with his interests. I have lived so long away from that, that times have changed and at the present moment I could not give an informed opinion as to the exact effects of this legislation. We are taking a very grave risk in passing this Bill over the head of the Minister responsible for agriculture at this critical time in world history.

I do not think I can offer anything new in this debate, but I want it to be on record that I am not in favour of this Bill as it stands at present. Strangely enough, I am actuated in that view by my interest in the welfare of the workers. People might not be inclined to accept that, but I sincerely put it forward. I do not think the implementation of a measure of this kind will result in any benefit at all, but rather in a loss, to those whom it is intended to benefit. I have previously spoken about the harmonious relations between the farmers and the workers. Any form of legislation that might try to bring pressure to bear on the employer is bound to result in a little friction. There may be a number of people who would accept loyally the decisions of the legislature, but there may be one awkward individual who would lead to a lot of trouble and the harmony which now exists between farmer and employee could be completely upset.

At any rate, I think the present is an inopportune time to bring in a measure of this kind. Everyone knows that the main thing the country has to consider is increased production and that can be done only through agriculture. If we suggest now that the farm labourer should take a half-day every week, that does not make people believe we are serious about increasing production. I have heard the suggestion here from a source which rather surprised me that it would not mean a big loss to the farmer if a man took a half-day off in the week. That is an insult to the agricultural labourer, since it suggests that 26 days' loss of work will not mean a big loss in production. It suggests that he does not do a lot of work. That is not correct, nor is it fair to the agricultural worker. It will mean a serious loss in production if this legislation is enforced.

Apart from the loss in production, I regret this Bill more on account of the wedge which is being driven between the farmer and his employee, upsetting the relationship that has always been an example to the community. It has been said that you cannot compare industrial and agricultural employment. That is so, and there is no necessity for me to labour that point. Those who sponsored this motion have given no indication from the agricultural labourers that there is any demand for this legislation. I do not see why any man should set himself up to demand for a section of the people something which that section has never asked. I do not think there is any existing proof in the country— with the possible exception of County Dublin, where the people can relax on a half-day—that this is demanded. Senator Hawkins said wisely that this will tend to entice people away from the land, as on the half-day they will go naturally to the towns. In the long run, neither physically nor financially, are we conferring any benefit on the people whom we are seeking to benefit.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Senator O'Connell, to conclude.

I am afraid I could not conclude in the time left to me, were it not that I have anticipated most of the objections raised. Senator Quirke, the first speaker, made the point—which also was made by the last speaker—that no demand was made for this Bill and therefore, by implication, there was no right to bring in this proposal. The fact that it was carried in the other House by such an overwhelming majority justified the action of those who proposed it and, even if nothing else justified it, that justified those who exercised the right to bring in this demand for consideration by the Oireachtas.

One idea ran through this debate to which I would like to refer specially. It was put into words by Senator Woulfe who suggested that this measure was in fact an indictment of the agricultural employer. There is no such suggestion as that. On that reasoning it would be an indictment of the whole country to have any penal legislation at all because we are not all criminals. We legislate for people who are not doing what the general body of the community think the right thing to do. I am the first to admit that in the vast majority of cases there is no need for this, just as there was little need to enforce the six days' annual holiday for agricultural workers because a great many farmers gave it voluntarily but there were some who did not give it and it was for them the legislation was brought in.

It has been suggested that this will drive a wedge between the farmer and his employee, but why should it? Why should not the relationship which has existed between them continue? If, as Senator Bennett said, a man comes in voluntarily on Sunday, why should he not continue to do so? As a matter of fact there is no reference whatever to Sunday work although Senator Loughman spoke of two and a half days in the week counting Sunday. Only four hours are involved in this Bill.

I only asked what the position was. I am quite satisfied and I have my own idea.

I referred to this matter in opening. It is always assumed that the half-holiday must be on Saturday. Senators Orpen and Hawkins said that where a man employed four labourers the four of them would insist on taking the holiday on Saturday afternoon. There is nothing in this Bill to give them that right. Suppose that each of the four insisted that he would be the driver of the tractor. Who is to decide? Surely not the four men. If a man is an employer surely he has some right to insist what work should be done and when it should be done. This Bill does not interfere with that right and that is set out in black and white. There is no reality in these objections.

Senator Baxter regretted the old-fashioned ways when work was done from six in the morning until six at night. Judging from some of the things he said I am sure he would like if we were back in that time again.

I know the relations that exist between the worker and the employer particularly where only one or two men are employed. If the man wants to go off to the races he will still be let off and that will come within the provisions of the Bill. I am listening to Senator Bennett in the Seanad for a long time and I have never heard him so excited as he appeared to be over this Bill when, with tears in his eyes, he said: "For God's sake do not interfere with the man who comes voluntarily to milk the cows on Sunday." Nobody proposes to interfere with that position.

Everybody said that he had very great sympathy indeed with the farm labourer and was quite willing to give him a fair crack of the whip but when it came to interpreting the nature of a fair crack they were not so definite.

I do not think I will ask the House to adjourn this debate as I would prefer to leave some of the things to which I should like to refer to another stage if the Second Reading is passed. I anticipated in my opening speech most of the objections and I do not think anything was said during the debate which would convince me. There was an air of unreality about the whole matter. I am not speaking as a city man as I know perhaps as much about conditions in the country and the relations between farmers and their workers as any Senator here, and I would not allow my name to be associated with the measure if I thought for one minute it was going to do the things suggested by some speakers during the debate. I do not believe it will do any harm to give a legal right to a man to have a half-holiday which he may now be denied. That happens in some cases as was mentioned in the other House and instances were given by Deputies who had the experience of the half-holiday being denied in the same way as the week's annual holiday was denied until it was enforced by legislation.

I was intrigued to notice the newfound respect for the Minister for Agriculture on the far side of the House. I thought that because the Minister for Agriculture opposed the Bill Senator Quirke would support it. There was a free vote of the House, of course, and the Minister was entitled to vote as well as another. Senator Quirke also said that the present Government had not the courage to bring in this Bill but neither had any previous Government and it was left to private members to introduce it. I hope that the House will accept it.

Will Senator O'Connell answer a question? Does the Bill entitle a farm worker to a half-holiday in the week in which he gets a Church holiday?

That would be a matter for interpretation by whoever was called upon to interpret the Bill. In business or industry a Church holiday is a working day and I feel sure that if a farm worker got a Church holiday he would not expect to get another. That is my own opinion.

We should be told that.

I cannot tell you.

The Senator should put down an amendment.

If the Second Reading is passed and amendments are put down that would help to clear up any difficulties. I am sure they will be given the fullest consideration.

Question put and declared carried, Senator Baxter dissenting.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, March 14th.
The Seanad adjourned at 10 p.m. until 3 p.m. Wednesday, 7th March, 1951.