Perhaps it would be advisable if the House would agree to recommit the Bill for the purpose of these amendments.
Vol. 39 No. 11
Perhaps it would be advisable if the House would agree to recommit the Bill for the purpose of these amendments.
I move amendment No. 1:—
In page 2, line 15, after the word "domestic", to add the words "nor a herd, namely, a person whose main work on the farm is the care and management of live stock, and who has no specified hours of work".
I hope the definition which I have set down in this amendment will meet with the approval of those Senators who objected to the amendment I moved on the Committee Stage because the word "herd" was not properly defined. I have set it down plainly enough in this amendment to enable any Senator to understand that he is a man with no specified hours of work on the farm. On the last occasion, Senator Orpen wanted to know how many persons would come within the category of "herd". It is not easy to make such an estimate, but we have 385,000 holdings in this country, 7,000 of which are of 200 acres and over and we can assume that any farmer with 200 acres will employ a whole-time herd. We have then a number of outside smaller farms on which a local man will be employed part-time, so that the number of herds would be about 8,000.
Herds are employed and paid in different ways. The old-time herd, as the most important man, a man with a couple of hundred cattle to look after, is paid more than the ordinary agricultural worker. There is then the man looking after 20 cattle, and, if that is the only job he has on the farm, he cannot expect to get the same pay as the man who looks after 200 cattle. I am surprised that Senator O'Connell should be unable to define a herd because the word is known to everybody and shopkeeper, farmer, professional man and even professor should know what a herd is. It appears that many of them are confused with regard to it. Senator Douglas, on the previous occasion, said that you cannot expect a man to get four hours off in the week when his whole week is only 18 or 20 hours. In many cases, herds are able to get through their work in 18 or 20 hours and sometimes in less time. At some seasons of the year, the lambing season and so on, their work may be fairly strenuous, but ewes are not lambing every day or every week, and bullocks do not get sick so very often that he would have a very strenuous time. The herd has the finest job on the farm and he is not confined in the matter of hours. His hours are his own and he can pick them, so long as he does his work. He can do it in an hour or in a quarter of an hour, or take the whole day if he wishes. I cannot see why he should be included. How are you to give the small farmer four hours off? As I mentioned on the Committee Stage, I have a man in County Wicklow herding a winterage for me. For six months of the year, there is not a beast on the land, except his own couple of cattle and a pony. Am I to be liable to give him four hours off when he has nothing to do but look over the fence to see that there is no trespass and no cattle grazing there but his own? This kind of legislation for farmers by people who know nothing about the business is the whole cause of all the upset, and I am certain it will adversely affect production and make farming a very unprofitable business, if it is persisted in. Of course, it all arises from the political angle.
Senator Counihan has not added anything to the arguments he put forward on the last occasion and I am no more convinced now than I was then that there is anything in his case. He said that there were 8,000 herds in the country. I do not know whether that is right or wrong, but, if there are 8,000 to-day, I am quite certain that there will be double that number if his amendment is inserted, because there will be all sorts of contention as to whether a man is or is not a herd, whether a man's main work is looking after cattle or whether he is engaged in some other work. The definitions in the Bill are taken word for word from the Agricultural Wages Act and I am quite sure that those who framed that Act made all the necessary provision for agricultural workers and they did not exclude herds.
I cannot quite understand why Senator Counihan is so anxious to exclude one particular worker—in his own view, one of the most important workers engaged in the industry—from the benefits of the Bill which provides a half-holiday or half-holiday remuneration for all agricultural workers. Not alone would Senator Counihan refuse him a half-holiday but he makes no provision for the extra remuneration provided in other sections for those who work during the half-holiday. He mentioned the man who is herding in Wicklow for him, but hard cases and special cases do not make good law. That man is not so much a herd as a caretaker. We are legislating for agricultural workers and I do not see why these workers—and on his own estimation there are quite a considerable number of agricultural workers who would be excluded from the Bill, if the amendment were accepted—should be excluded. I do not propose to accept it.
Surely there is a difference in conception between the man who receives a yearly sum of money in return for certain work and carrying certain responsibilities but who has no specific hours of work and the man who works—in my opinion, the true agricultural worker—a specific number of hours. The essence of the herd as compared with the ordinary agricultural worker is that the herd has the responsibility and is paid for carrying that responsibility—he continues to be employed if he discharges that responsibility satisfactorily—but has no specific hours of work. That being so, I cannot see how other sections of this Bill can possibly apply to a man who is charged with the responsibility of looking after animals or whatever the contract may be, and who has the right himself to determine when he goes and looks at the animals and when he goes away from them. If he is to have a statutory half-holiday, that may well come in at the time when he himself as a herd says: "This is the time when I must go and look after the animals."
Is there not a difference between a man working hourly for wages and a person who has a responsibility for overseeing something and for which he receives, possibly in the form of weekly payment, a yearly sum, such as was customary always in the case of a charge-hand such as a steward who looked after a farm? A herd is a man who looks after animals. I would agree with Senator O'Connell that if he were going to include as herds people who occassionally have to look after animals and who at other times do ordinary farm work it would be something quite different. So long as the individual concerned is a person who determines his own hours of work, it seems to me that he does not fall within the ambit of this Bill. I should like a little further information from Senator O'Connell, because the whole basis of this Bill is to give half-holidays to people who are continuously at work for whatever the period may be—54 hours a week or nine hours a day or something like that. A man who determines his own hours of work seems to be in a different position.
I support this amendment because I think it is ridiculous that a herd should ever have been included in this Bill. It is really immaterial to the ordinary agriculturist and the ordinary worker whether Senator Counihan's amendment is accepted or not, if we accept the term "herd" in the manner in which it is generally accepted throughout the country. In my county a herd is a person employed in a temporary capacity to count cattle or sheep or such animals, and if one should be sick he reports it to his employer. If a sheep has maggots in the summertime he attends to the sheep. Generally, any day of the week, such a herd is able to get off for four or five hours. He has a constant half-holiday all during the season. Only one possible viewpoint might be taken, and that is that the herd sometimes is a permanent agricultural worker. There are very few instances of permanent agricultural workers who have, as part of their duty, to count the cattle on their way to work and again in the evening. That type of agricultural worker is never called a herd. He is an agricultural employee. He is covered by this Bill, and he gets the benefits—if there are any benefits—of the Bill.
My principal reason for supporting this amendment is because I should like to see the term herd omitted altogether from the Bill, as it serves no useful purpose by being there.
I am inclined to agree with Senator Counihan in connection with this amendment. I was surprised that an amendment such as this, including stud grooms, was not introduced by Senator O'Connell because I thought we had convinced him 100 per cent. the last day. Senator Counihan was being very frank when he spoke of professors not understanding the work of a herd. I think there is something in that remark. Most people do not understand what a herd's job is. Only a man who has lived and worked on the land understands what a herd's job consists of. I defy anyone to put the clock working on a herd on any kind of a big farm. It is out of the question. You cannot do it. From time to time you have a man who calls himself a herd. Generally, the starting time on the farm is about 8 o'clock. He arrives about 9 or 9.30. If he is asked what delayed him he will say: "It was the luckiest thing I ever heard of. I saw a sheep on her back or a cow calving," or something like that. Maybe he was asleep in bed but you cannot check on him. The herd is not really expected to work a full day. Similarly, in the case of a stud groom. A herd may be expecting a cow to calve in the afternoon or a stud groom may be expecting a mare to foal. If the boss is going to town and finds the stud groom or the herd—the man who was looking after the cattle or the mares—in the local blacksmith's shop, he does not take the slightest notice of it. The boss does not think of asking him why he is there, because he realises that the man is only killing time and waiting to do the important job which he will have to do that day. I think that sufficient notice is not taken of the type of work that has to be done by these men.
Senator O'Connell, in objecting to the amendment, said that while Senator Counihan said that there are 8,000 herds in the country we would have twice that number if the amendment were accepted. I wonder what Senator O'Connell means by that remark. If he means that twice as many people would want to get away from the provisions of this Bill, I should be inclined to agree with him. This Bill is in reality an attempt to bring about industrial conditions on the land. If this Bill passes—as, of course, it is bound to pass—and when it becomes law I can foresee the time when the clock will find its place on the Irish farm. I can foresee the day when either the farmer himself or some member of his family will take notice of the time it starts to rain, the length of time a man takes to have a smoke in the cowhouse, and so forth, and check it all up against him in the week. Senator O'Connell is right when he says that probably we shall have twice as many people who will want to get away from the provisions of this Bill and get back instead to the position when they were not subjected to the timing of the clock. On a wet day they might chop some firewood or they might play cards but it would not be counted against them.
There have been no vocal objections in this House by any section against the principle of giving agricultural workers a half-holiday, but there is no reason why we should allow ourselves to be carried away just because we are in agreement with that principle and because we think that the results to accrue from this Bill will be beneficial to the workers and to the farmers. I do not believe they will. The Government have a majority in the House and can, therefore, carry the Bill. I think, however, that we are doing our duty in pointing out the weaknesses in it.
Although I have not a farm I think, nevertheless, that I can speak on this amendment. I think that everybody accepts the principle that agricultural workers ought to get certain benefits that they have not hitherto enjoyed and which are enjoyed by workers in the towns and cities. If you accept that principle, if you attempt to exclude any section of agricultural workers from the new concession—or call it what you will— it is very bad.
The man with the bowler hat.
The man with the bowler hat as far as I know is generally the owner of the farm while the man who is doing the work on the farm very often has a battered hat. This amendment is entirely in conflict with the title of the Bill and with the purpose of the Bill. The Bill is entitled an Act to provide for the allowance of weekly half-holidays to agricultural workers. An agricultural worker is already defined, as Senator O'Connell has pointed out, in other Acts and the word has never got the narrow meaning which it is attempted to give it here. If you look up the Statistical Abstract you find no special provision for herds. Although certain qualifications may be needed I do not believe that a herd is specially trained and classified. He does not have to learn the work as he goes along but begins as an agricultural worker and remains an agricultural worker. Agricultural workers have been dealt with in every Bill up to now and if you attempt a definition now you are going to make trouble. In this Bill:
"‘Agricultural employer' means a person who carries on the trade or business of agriculture and who employs other persons as agricultural workers for the purpose of such trade or business."
What is that business?
"‘Agriculture' includes dairy farming and the use of land as grazing, meadow or pastureland."
That means the raising of cattle or sheep. You are bringing in an amendment to make new definitions for the man with the dairy farm and the man with pastureland, with cattle grazing on it and you are saying that his employees do not come under the Agricultural Workers (Weekly Half-holidays) Bill.
I have heard and everybody has heard that farmers or agriculturalists, to use the broader term, and their employees generally have a more friendly and humane understanding with each other than employees and employers in town or factory. That will continue and no man just because he has the right to claim a half-holiday will walk off and abandon the farm; no man will see the animals neglected or his employer in considerable difficulty or put to loss or hardship just because he has the right to insist on a half-holiday.
This Bill has been already amended in the other House—and we accepted it here—so that a man may decide not to take his half-holiday or to postpone it. All we are doing is giving the right to a half-holiday, not insisting that the employee must demand it or insist upon it. If I have the right to a half-holiday or anything else that right is there if I wish to exercise it or whether I do not wish to exercise it. We all possess certain rights upon which we do not always insist. If a farmer and his man are on good terms the mere fact that the man has a right to a half-holiday in the same way as any other agricultural employee will not mean a hardship for the farmer.
I support Senator Counihan on this. His case was quite reasonable. There is no question of undoing the title of the Bill, of altering definitions or of altering even the meanings of definitions.
You are making new definitions.
That is permissible. When the Oireachtas is passing new legislation it is very important that we should be fully cognisant with the situation with which that legislation deals. Senator Counihan put forward a proposal for consideration and was supported by Senator Quirke, who put his case very well. It is for the Oireachtas to determine whether or not this section is applicable to the conditions set out by Senator Counihan. My opinion is that it is not.
If you wish to make a strict rule about the duties carried on by a herd on a farm it is just not possible. No herd is tied to hours. There is no question of a herd having a fixed number of hours or, as Senator Quirke said, having to start work at a fixed hour. He is not at all in the category of an ordinary employee on a farm. Where there are large flocks of sheep a good deal of his work is probably done at night in lambing time, not in the day at all, and from this season on a herd who is doing his job must be out early, much earlier than the ordinary worker. But if that be so he has all the day to himself unless an animal is ill and he must attend to it. In the evening he must go back to see his flocks again, and in that way his day is spent. You might perhaps fix it so that he could have a half-holiday in the middle of the day but really you are confronted with a situation for which you cannot legislate at all.
Let us assume, as Senator O'Farrell said, that the employee or herd will go the full length and demand his right to the half-holiday. It must be appreciated that many people demand more than their rights, but let us say that the herd just stands on his rights and says: "I am going to have a half-holiday". I submit to the House that it would be quite impossible to get another employee to take on his job. No one else is interested, as he is only there for one day and he cannot count the cattle or sheep, as he is not accustomed to them, and if one of them were ill he would not notice. A man looking after live stock must be trained; he must know each beast individually, their habits and appearance, for that is how he makes up his mind whether a beast is sick or not. You cannot dispense with that man's services and put another man in his place.
Generally, the herd's conditions are better than those of the other employees on the farm, and Senator Counihan has made a good case for excluding him from the Bill. I can give an example. A herd who is employed on a large farm adjoining mine came into my field the other day where some farm rehabilitation machinery was at work. He was able to spend hours in my place, where he was studying interestedly what was going on. He had not anything to do until the evening came; he had seen his flocks in the morning, and in the evening he would go back to his cattle and sheep again to count them and see what things were like, and these are the conditions under which he operates every day. When you have an example like that it is difficult to see how you can legislate to give such a man a half-holiday. I do not think it would be applicable to him and we should not legislate for him.
I am satisfied from the statement by Senator Baxter that we should have nothing more to say to this. There is no one who has made a better case for giving the herd some consideration and what he has said is perfectly true. From practical experience, I can say that no payment would induce a man to work as a herd. No one would, unless he had love for the job and was really interested in the stock as if it were his own. Otherwise a man would not work 18 hours out of the 24 for £3 10s. a week. If there is any section to which special consideration should be given, it is the herd. First and foremost, he is taken up with the principal industry, live stock. It is admitted on all sides that more wealth comes in through the raising of live stock than any other industry. Is it not a sad reflection on our national Parliament that we would not treat such a man the same as any other person?
I am quite satisfied that the herd can make arrangements with his employer to cover his absence. A genuine herd would not leave if a sheep were yeaning, if a cow were expecting to calve or a beast were unwell. In such a case he would feel such an interest in the stock that he would not attend even a race meeting in the next field. He is different from any other type in the nation. A successful herd has a job outside the ordinary; not alone do they count the stock and turn them in and out but there are many herds who, from practical experience every day in the year in treating different types of ailment, are as competent as any of the veterinary men coming out of the colleges. They are the greatest assets we have in the nation and they should get a half-holiday. I would appeal to Senator Counihan to withdraw his amendment and not to put it to a division, as if he does I will be forced to vote against it. I would not like the House to divide on such an important matter.
These herds up and down the country give such hours and such personal attention in the care and management of live stock which are not theirs, that they should come second to no one. The majority of farmers and employers will appreciate the value of such people. I can assure every Senator that in 99 cases out of 100 there will never be a clash, as the herd is a man you will not find every day but is a special class of person who works, not for the money—no one would work for it—but for love of the job he is doing.
I do not remember having heard a more inconsistent speech —I suppose I did, as we have heard some terrible ones—than the speech made by the Labour Senator Tunney, who I understand happens to be one of the largest cattle owners in North County Dublin.
More power to him if he is.
Is the Senator sorry to hear it?
No, I am glad.
When it is found that people differing so much and with such different political views as Senator Counihan, Senator Baxter and myself, agree on any one subject, it would be up to members of the House to consider the matter and say: "The fact that these fellows are agreeing is something that does not happen here very often; they must know a good deal about the subject." I was amazed to hear Senator Tunney's speech. He talks of what a wonderful man the herd is and you would imagine there would be only one in every county. In his excitement he goes on to explain that the wages he pays is £3 10s. He is a Labour Senator and surely if the herd is as good as he says he ought to be paying more than that.
I never mentioned what I was paying. I mentioned that £3 10s. was the wage of the agricultural labourer. I did not say I paid such a wage. I said that no money would be sufficient to pay a genuine herd. I do not want to be misquoted on the records of this House.
Both things will be on the record. I did not say that Senator Tunney said he was paying only £3 10s. 0d. a week. I did not say I believed he was one of the largest cattle owners, with probably as many as Senator Counihan. The position of herds has been completely misunderstood. Senator O'Farrell suggested that he understood it, but I think he was completely wrong. He said that the herd is in actual fact an agricultural labourer.
He graduates from being an agricultural labourer.
Of course he does. His actual position seems to be quite misunderstood. A proper herd in this country comes under the heading of a collar-and-tie man—make no mistake about that—and he is not expected to work.
He might never have had a plough in his hands in his life.
That is so. If a man happens to be a good herd, his son follows the same profession, and because the father is a good man, the son has no trouble in getting a job. It is impossible to put the clock working on a herd. Senator O'Farrell says he feels that no herd would go away if he felt that his services were necessary on the farm. I would like to point out, however, that if this Bill gets into action and if one man stays back then because a cow is going to calve or a mare going to foal, he will be regarded immediately as letting down the others. The position in Ireland is comparable only to that of the stud groom looking after foals and mares. We should consider it seriously and cut out the political ballyhoo.
I support Senator Counihan's amendment. Even in the case of industrial employment foremen are allowed more latitude and are paid more. They come in a bit earlier, they work more than 48 hours, and in most cases they do not look for overtime pay as they are paid a special sum for the special job. A herd is somewhat analogous, as he is the responsible man there, and to say he should have a half-holiday, considering his type of work, is ridiculous. If there were a special recommendation from the Seanad that he should be specially considered under the Agricultural Wages Act, we would be doing something. I think Senator Quirke and the others have covered the points fully and I will support Senator Counihan on this amendment.
Herdsmen have a very special responsibility on the farm and are, in fact, on duty all the time, day and night. A herd or any other agricultural worker should have the right to take a half-holiday in the week if he feels he needs it. The fact that the herd fixes his own hours should not be used to exclude him from the benefits which it is proposed to confer on agricultural workers by this Bill.
A somewhat similar amendment was before the House on the Second Reading and Senator O'Connell refused to accept it. If there were grounds for refusing to accept the amendment on Second Reading there are certainly very grave reasons why we should not accept it to-day. If this amendment were accepted, in my opinion, it would nullify the whole Bill as it is drafted. Exception was taken to Senator O'Connell's remarks and the exaggerated statement made by Senator Tunney that there were 8,000 herds in this country. I have some little experience and knowledge of farming and if I were to state that the actual number of whole-time herds was 80 and take off the last two figures of Senator Counihan's estimate I would be nearer the truth. There is a very old saying in this country that you can drive a coach-and-four through any Act of Parliament, but you could drive a threshing set through this particular Bill because every man would be classified as a herd. I think the amendment is more dangerous to-day than it was when put down by Senator Counihan on the last occasion.
The herd has been portrayed as a very important person, and, if he is, nobody should grudge giving him a half-holiday. If it is found that the service of the few whole-time herds who are in this country could be dispensed with, there is a special sub-section put in by a Special Committee in the Dáil for dealing with that type of position. They can be kept on, but they should be paid if they are. I think it is a mean amendment to introduce and deprive these people of the few hours' holidays they are entitled to or the few shillings they are entitled to as the Bill stands.
I would like also to support this amendment of Senator Counihan's. I do that for the simple reason that I supported the amendment of Senator O'Dwyer the last day. In agriculture, as we know it in this country, we cannot describe the workers by the general term of agricultural worker. In that, we are making a mistake in the different sections of this Bill. I think there is just as much specialised work on the farms in Ireland as there is in any industry in this country. We know that there are ploughmen who do nothing else but plough and look after their horses and tractor. We know also that there is a special class of people who milk cows.
The herdsman has been praised quite a lot. Every Senator can gather that he has a distinct job to do. It is a very important part of agriculture looking after cattle and sheep. The herd's hours are unspecified.
I would like to advert to what Senator Tunney said about the herdsman. Senator Tunney makes the case that the herdsman was the first person that should be considered under this Bill for a half-holiday in the week. That would be all right if Senator Tunney could devise some method by which a farmer would discover when a cow would calve. The character of this man's employment is such that he will be hours on end working, and for that reason no matter what you devise you cannot define the limits of his day. If you insert a break in his period of employment you are injuring the industry which he manages, and agriculture will have to devise some substitute. How is it going to do that? That is not accepted by the sponsors of this Bill.
The second point I would like to make is one that has been mentioned here in the debates on this Bill. It is that some of us have not been satisfied that the necessity arises for some provisions that are included in this Bill. The only case that has been made why the herdsman should get the weekly half-holiday is that made by Senator Tunney, and to which I have already adverted.
It is my view—I speak subject to correction on this—that until a concrete case is made for any provision in any statute or for the compelling necessity or the urgency of a provision, then legislators should be very slow in inserting such a provision. Senator Tunney is the only person we have heard who has adverted to that aspect. The general effect of the non-inclusion of this amendment in that definition, as I have already said, would be the necessity to find a substitute while the herd is taking his half-day. Undoubtedly, he can be paid for that half-day and there is no harm done. But I say to the members of this House that when you leave it entirely to a herdsman to claim a half-day it may be claimed that it would be always held as a big stick to wave over the head of his employer. I wonder whether the House intends that result? I do not think it does. If it wished, as has been said before on other sections of this Bill, to increase the pay a man receives, there is a simpler way of doing it. I would appeal again to Senator O'Connell to accept this amendment. He may answer and say: "If he does not take his half-day he will get paid for it."
Were this a Bill to compel the agricultural employer, on the one hand, and the agricultural employee, on the other, to give and take a weekly half-day, I would certainly support Senator Counihan's motion having regard to the importance of the position which the herd occupies. I doubt very much the figure, given by Senator Counihan in support of his amendment, of 8,000 herds. As we are all aware, that number may be reduced from time to time; but this is not a Bill to compel the agricultural worker to take a half-holiday or to compel the farmer to give his employee a particular half-holiday in each week, because there is provision in the Bill for a certain amount of remuneration in lieu of the half-holiday. If we accept the amendment, we are depriving that very important person, to the importance of whose position every Senator who has spoken has referred, of some little addition to his weekly allowance. If this were a straightforward Bill providing that every farm labourer must get a weekly half-holiday, I would support the amendment, but, having regard to the very important position which the herd occupies and having regard to the fact that, if we pass the amendment, we are depriving a very small section of the important workers in agriculture of that additional weekly remuneration which the Bill provides, I must vote against the amendment.
Many of the Senators who have spoken forget the fact mentioned by Senator Colgan that this Bill is designed to give a half-holiday of four hours to the agricultural worker. The agricultural worker's hours of work number 54 in a week and, in the case of the man working for 18 hours, how is he to get four hours off? Anybody who knows anything about herds knows that a herd's time in most cases is not more than 18 or 20 hours and we are doing a terrible injustice to him in not giving him four hours off. From what Senators have said about herds and from the description given by Senator Colgan, one would imagine that the herd was a sort of Irish toreador, with block hat, breeches and leggings, setting out to charge the bull on a white horse.
Why should I be blamed for something I did not say? I did not speak on the amendment at all.
The majority of herds I know would not be very complimented to know that people were trying to get a half-holiday for them on the basis of describing them as agricultural workers. If the herd is compelled to work the full number of hours and to take his four hours off, the position could be a lot worse for him. As Senator Tunney said, he goes around the country acting as a vet, castrating calves and lambs, dosing cattle and so on, and, if the farmer wanted to adopt a strict rule, he would make him stay on the land and do other work as well as herding for his 54-hour week, which he is supposed to work if he is to be classed as an agricultural worker. I do not think my Labour friends will do any good for herds if they insist on the Bill remaining as it stands and it would be much better for the herd if he were left alone. They will not thank those who call them agricultural workers, because they are not agricultural workers, strictly speaking, and, if they have to work 54 hours a week, it will be quite a different proposition.
The impression I gather from the discussion so far as it has gone is that those who spoke in favour of the amendment made the very best case for the retention of the section. We had references to the extremely long and uncertain hours which herds work. I do not want to suggest that I know nothing at all about agriculture. I know very little, but I have sufficient knowledge of it to know something of the herdsman's work. I agree with those Senators who pointed to the irregularity of his hours and to the fact that he may be called out at all hours of the night to attend a cow calving or a mare foaling. Senator Baxter made a very poor case for the amendment, particularly when he referred to the long hours of work which herds have to put in. He also called attention to the fact that they are frequently called out at night and we are all aware of the circumstances surrounding such occasions, but that is all the more reason why a man who works such long and irregular hours should have a half-holiday.
Some Senators must have lost sight of the fact that Section 2 provides that, where a worker, instead of taking the half-holiday, remains at work with his employer's consent, the employer shall be deemed to have allowed the half-holiday if he pays him in addition to wages the half-holiday remuneration. That should get rid of most of the objection to the section. If a herdsman finds it necessary to remain on the job for a longer period than would be deemed necessary in other circumstances, from my knowledge of the tradition which obtains in farm life, I have no doubt that it will be possible for him and his employer— employers, in the majority of cases, are very considerate and solicitous for their workers—to arrange amicably whether the half-holiday will be taken in certain circumstances. If he does not get the half-holiday, he is entitled to payment in lieu. So far as the discussion has proceeded, I cannot see that any case, any case that I could conscientiously feel I could vote for has been made for the amendment.
We have had at least half a dozen differing definitions of "herd." Most of them have been that a herd is a person whose only work is to look after cattle, to count the cattle, as one Senator said, and to look after them from the veterinary point of view and so on, as others said. Others spoke of looking after them from the veterinary point of view, and so forth. Let us leave these definitions and come back to what is in the amendment—a person "whose main work—not ‘whose sole work'—is the care and management of live stock." That can bring in all sorts of people. My fear is that it will give rise to all sorts of contention as to whether a particular man who milks the cows in the morning, who may perhaps look after them during the day, and who milks them again in the evening will be argued to be a herd and therefore excluded from the provisions of this Bill. Such types of contentious questions will arise. Senator Baxter says that we are not changing the definitions. We are, in fact, adding to them. We have excluded definitely "whose work is mainly domestic" and now a person who is described as a herd.
I was interested in what Senator Woulfe said. He supported this amendment for the same reason that he supported Senator O'Dwyer's amendment the last day. But there is a difference between them. I understand quite well what Senator O'Dwyer was aiming at. He had in mind the type of case where a contract is entered into. But Senator Counihan does not provide—as Senator O'Dwyer did—that the man will get remuneration for the half-holiday to which he is entitled. Senator Woulfe says that there are specialists on the farm just as there are specialists in industry. I agree with him. The specialist in industry is not denied his half-holiday and why should the specialist on the farm be denied it? Senator Counihan does not make any provision for paying him for the half-holiday.
How could you give him a half-holiday when he might work possibly only 20 out of 54 hours in a week?
Let us deal with what is in the amendment. There is no question of any number of hours— just "a person whose main work on the farm is the care and management of live stock". It is not suggested that he works a greater or a lesser number of hours on the farm. A great deal has been said about the importance of this matter. I wonder what would happen if, say, on a Monday morning the herd did not turn up for work because of illness or for some other reason. Surely the employer must make provision to have the work carried out. I have no doubt about it. I feel that if this amendment is accepted you will deprive a number of people who, all of us are agreed, are important people in the work of the farm. We are depriving them of an advantage which we are giving to others who, according to what we have heard, are less important people in the country. I ask the Seanad not to accept the amendment.
I have great difficulty in voting for this amendment. I am in sympathy with what Senator Hawkins has said. The definition of an agricultural worker in this Bill follows the definition in the Agricultural Wages Act. Apparently, when that Act was being framed, herds were not considered people worthy of a special definition. I speak in fear and trembling because nobody should rush in where farmers are allowed to talk, but I feel that it is alleged that herds are people who have a yearly remuneration. If they have a yearly remuneration they are not agricultural labourers at all—and if they are not agricultural labourers they are excluded from the scope of the Bill. That is one aspect of the matter.
Another aspect of the matter is that everybody in the Labour Party feels that he had to apply trade union principles to agricultural labourers and to rush in and oppose this amendment without considering its merits at all. If, in fact, the herd is remunerated on a yearly basis, I do not think he is an agricultural labourer for the purposes of the Agricultural Labourers Act or for the purposes of this particular Bill when it becomes an Act. I sympathise with the point of view expressed by Senator Hawkins that if the herd is so important and so worthy of praise, then Senator Counihan should have provided that if he does not get a half-holiday he will get a half-day's pay— but because he is indispensable he will get neither half-holiday nor pay.
Again—it may be that I am treading on delicate ground that I do not understand—does amendment No. 10 in the name of Senator O'Dwyer not meet the point about the herd? What is to prevent a farmer from making an agreement with his herd for a specific period not exceeding ten calendar months? If amendment No. 10 is accepted in some form surely it could provide that a person could make an agreement that over a particular period he would not have a half-holiday and be paid, and then it would be settled.
If we pass this amendment in this form either we are providing unnecessarily for people or else there are people who are so good that we cannot give them a half-holiday, and we will not give them a half-day's pay. It seems unfair to them. I am sure Senator Baxter and Senator Orpen will agree with me that if the man is paid weekly he is a labourer, and if he is paid weekly he should not be deprived of a half-holiday or of a half-day's pay. Senator Counihan's amendment makes no provision for a half-day's pay. If it did, I should vote for it.
I think this matter has been attacked from every possible angle. From the beginning I concluded that the real intention of this measure was to create a position whereby the agricultural wage would be raised. I concluded that that was the intention of the sponsors of the Bill, who are attached to the Labour Party. People who represent farming interests here and in the Dáil did not make any serious objection, and met this whole matter in a reasonable way. However, to take the sensible view, the real effect of this measure will be to ensure that the agricultural worker will get a higher wage. That will affect the mixed farmer, the tillage farmer, the dairy farmer and the small mixed farmers all over the country. They find it quite hard enough already to live in some areas that I am acquainted with.
I have mixed feeling about the Bill as a whole. I think that a really good case has not been made for this amendment so far. I do not see any sound reason why a particular section of the agricultural community should be specially singled out for ad hoc legislation. It may be argued that herds are agricultural labourers or otherwise. Why, however, should they be denied the privilage either of a half-holiday or of getting a few bob extra? So far a good case has not been made.
They might not be agricultural workers at all.
One Senator alleges that they only work a few hours a week while another alleges that they are indispensable and that they cannot be done without at all. Those two view points are not consistent. Senator Quirke suggested that they are white collar workers. All that Senator Counihan need do to achieve his purpose is to change the name from "herd" to "steward". In that way he can evade the provisions of the Bill as it can be successfully argued that stewards are not agricultural workers. So long, however, as they are in the same category and at the same salary level as the man who milks the cows and looks after cattle on a dairy farm or the man who works on a tillage farm nobody will suggest that they should not get a half-holiday.
These employees will in most weeks accept the half-holiday remuneration. There may be a week when they might want to go to a race meeting or something else but that would be the rare case. We know therefore that the effect of the Bill will be to give a few shillings extra per week to agricultural workers. So no good case can be made for the amendment.
I move amendment No. 2:—
In page 2, lines 24-25, to delete the words "of four hours".
In explaining this amendment I am afraid I will have to refer to amendment No. 5. First of all the question of four hours presents difficulty in remuneration except where payment is by the hour which, I understand, is only in a small minority of cases. One of the reasons pointed out to me for this amendment was that the section would penalise the good employer because in some cases, by agreement with the union or the workers, the full 54 hours a week are not worked but only 48, 50 or 52 hours as the case may be. If "four hours" were left in the Bill it would mean that the man who has now agreed that his men should work 48 hours would have to give four hours from that. That would put a penalty on him while the man who insists on the full 54 would only have to take four hours off 54. For that reason it was thought fairer to the good employer to leave out this provision and instead— here is where I wish to refer to amendment No. 5—to provide that the half-holiday be given after 1 o'clock so that the employer would only have to readjust the hours and the worker would have to work 48 or 50 hours as the case may be. That is why I am moving this amendment and later on will move amendment No. 5. I think there can be no objection, as it does not introduce any new principle.
I cannot follow Senator O'Connell's argument. There must be some definition of hours per day. That is mentioned in every Act regarding agricultural workers and usually it is 54 hours. He is cutting four hours off. Now he says they will work only 48 or 52 hours. If this Bill is passed, there will be no 52 hours. There will be 50 hours actual work. It could be considered that a man working only one, one and a half or two days in the week would be entitled to a half-day, to four hours off or four hours' pay, according to the way this is framed. The whole bill is a mixum gatherum which does not show up the great intelligensia of the Labour Party very well. I object to it but we will pass on to hear what the Senator has to say on the other amendments; and then I will move mine on the 54-hour week.
I would much prefer to see the four hours remain in the Bill. On the Committee Stage I had an amendment which proposed that these four hours could be taken at different times during the day, to suit the convenience of either the employer or employee. Since the Committee Stage, I have been chatting with a number of farmers and I know that it would suit them, and suit the worker also at times, that the half-day be taken in the morning on some occasions and in the middle of the day on other occasions. Since the purpose of the Bill is to provide the farm worker with holidays which would be convenient to him, I think that prescribing from one o'clock in the day would not be convenient all round. Generally, the half-day will be most convenient from one o'clock, but it might be more convenient to some employers and workers to get it at some other period of the day. For that reason, I would prefer to see this particular amendment not agreed to.
I support Senator Loughman's point of view. The more we try to tie up the farmer and labourer on paper, the more difficult rural life becomes. When you confine it in the definite way proposed here, you place restrictions on both of them. The one thing the ordinary man in the country dislikes is to have a benefit conferred on him in such a way that he cannot enjoy it to his satisfaction. I have no doubt whatever that people like Senators O'Connell, McCrea, Tunney and others, men who know country life perfectly well, want to make this a rigid, inflexible law that has to be obeyed and that there will be pains and penalties on those who break it. The value of this legislation will be the sort of reception it gets by both the farmer and his employer and the degree to which it will leave rural life undisturbed. Let it be permitted to continue the even tenor of its way. The more you try to insert definitions the more difficult it will be. What it will amount to eventually really is that some men and employers will go outside the law altogether and it just won't exist. I agree with Senator Loughman that it ought to be left as it is.
It is very hard to follow the mentality of the people who are speaking against this particular amendment. Senator O'Connell has given a reasonably fair explanation of it. The idea underlying it is something that should not be put down by the Labour Party. At the present time there are agricultural workers some of whom work 54 hours a week and others 48 hours a week. If the section is allowed to go through as it stands those working 48 hours a week will be working 44 hours a week. We do not want to penalise the good employer who is giving a 48-hour week. There is no subterfuge being tried here. There should be no hesitation on the part of the House in accepting the deletion of the words as suggested in this amendment.
I am little puzzled about the last speech. There seems to be a suggestion that there is something very beneficial in working 46 hours a week on the farm. Once you change the number of hours worked below 52 hours—I speak subject to correction—the Wages Act insists that you pay on an hourly basis.
As regards the minimum wage paid, that is only a matter between the employer and employee.
As regards this amendment to the Bill, it substitutes the words "one o'clock" for the four hours. There are difficulties both ways. First of all, what is "one o'clock" to the man in the country? That will want to be made quite clear. It will have to be official time. In the West of Ireland that might make it a little awkward. You would be nowhere near the midday meal. That is one little difficulty that might be got over.
The next difficulty I see is that, in certain counties anyway, the midday meal divides the day into four hours in the morning and five in the afternoon. That obtains over a large part of Ireland. As conditions of work are not uniform throughout the country, it is rather difficult to lay it down in a statute. I am rather inclined to favour the original form, where the half-holiday was left free, but a system of four hours unspecified leaves the greatest latitude for both employer and employee. I am inclined to think that, in its original form, the amendment, though it has inherent difficulties, is probably the least obnoxious to all parties concerned.
Senator O'Connell has made a case in suggesting that he is generous in recognising that there is in the agricultural community quite a large number of employers and employees engaged in a particular type of agriculture which of itself demands no greater employment period than 48 hours per week, while in other fields of agriculture—just as there are various fields of industry— it may demand a greater number of hours of employment. He puts forward this amendment in order to meet what some of those engaged in the various activities might term an injustice in their particular field. I think he has not really given us a clear definition or, at least, a clear picture of the field that it is intended to cover with this amendment.
As I have said on various occasions before, this is not a Bill to give compulsory half-holidays to the agricultural community. It is a Bill of another and a very different kind. It is a Bill where, by agreement, there can be given certain remuneration in lieu of the taking of the half-holiday. In this particular instance, whether it is 54, 48 or 68 hours a week, or whatever the hours work may be, I take it that, as the Bill stands at present, the remuneration which employees will be entitled to receive will be that in relation to four hours of his wages as an agricultural worker. By changing the hours of his half-holiday or his hours off in any way or by giving any facility to any particular section of the agricultural industry we are doing what Senator O'Connell might term a justice rather than an injustice. As the Bill stands, we are just doing the one thing all the time. We are compelling the employer of every agricultural labourer—and that covers a very wide field—to pay out every week-end or every month or every quarter or for whatever period the contract might be, a certain sum to cover the amount which that person would receive for his work and services within a period of four hours per week, provided he is employed for a full week's period.
The logic in this case is with the mover of the amendment. If we accept the principle that the average working day is a day of eight hours, the logic would rest with Senator O'Connell. The manner in which he proposes to substitute another amendment makes a difficulty for all of us, because, if we accept the amendment in this case, we would be bound to oppose the other, because, while the four-hour period would be fair in an eight-hour day, the point made by Senator Orpen has to be taken into consideration, that, in the majority of cases, there is a 54-hour week, as is general in my county, the worker working four hours in the first portion and five hours in the second portion, from 8 o'clock until midday and from 1 o'clock until 6 o'clock. We would be curing one evil and creating another by accepting the two amendments.
The Senator made the case that the remuneration for the four-hour day might be inadequate in certain cases and it would certainly be inadequate in the case of amendment No. 5 when the worker would work five hours in the latter part of the day and only four in the earlier part. In the case of a worker receiving £3 per week, he would get only 5/- for the five hours on that basis. I do not know how we are to meet the position, because neither amendment would seem to be particularly just. The Senator has created a bit of a dilemma for the House and I find myself in a difficulty as to which way I should vote. If we accept the later amendment in lieu of what is in the Bill, we create a position which, on the basis on which the hours are generally apportioned in a 54-hour week, four hours in the morning and five in the evening, as any Senator who has knowledge of farm work will agree, would be completely unjust.
Senator Bennett does not seem to have grasped the meaning of amendment No. 5. He has failed to advert to the fact that what is envisaged by that amendment is that on any occasion on which a worker is not required to work after 1 o'clock, he shall be deemed to have taken his half-holiday. There is no compulsion on the employer to give the half-holiday after 1 o'clock. I think both amendments are most reasonable and help the Bill, although my general approach to this Bill is that I do not like it. So far as the amendments are concerned, however, I think they do help.
I agree with Senator Woulfe. As Senator Bennett pointed out, the week is generally one of 54 hours. The day starts at 8 o'clock and finishes at 6 o'clock, with an interval for dinner. If we were to allow only a four hours' half-holiday, it would mean that the worker would have to resume work after 1 o'clock and work until 2 o'clock, which would be undesirable from everybody's point of view. The idea of a half-holiday is the afternoon, from 1 o'clock, and it would be more satisfactory to workers and everybody concerned if we adhered to that, because the common idea of the half-holiday is a cessation of work after 1 o'clock. I agree with Senator O'Connell that we should drop the question of the four hours.
For the benefit of Senator Bennett and Senator O'Dwyer, I want to say that there is nothing unreasonable in expecting a man who is getting his half-holiday to work until 1 o'clock on that day and then go to his dinner, even if the practice is to have the meal at 12 o'clock. On the day the worker is getting his half-day, there is nothing wrong in saying to him: "You are getting your half-day to-day and you work until 1 o'clock." That would be my interpretation of it. As Senator O'Dwyer rightly points out, the natural time for a half-holiday from the worker's point of view is the evening, because if a man gets a half-holiday in the morning or in the middle of the day, he cannot take his wife to the pictures or work his little plot for himself. It is natural to give a half-holiday at the time every other worker gets his half-holiday. I put the amendment down in consideration of the cases practicability and workability of the Bill and in consideration of the cases where employees work 48 hours. If the period of four hours is left in, we will be insisting on the employer having to cut the number of hours by these four hours.
According to the Conditions of the Employment Act, the half-holiday must be taken after 1 o'clock.
I move amendment No. 3:—
In page 2, line 25, after the word "week", to add the words "of 54 hours".
My only consideration in putting down this amendment was to make it clear that the working hours are 54 and that the half-holiday is to come out of that, so that the actual working hours would be 50. In spite of what Senator O'Connell says, I do not think there is such a great discrepancy between the hours worked in any part of the country. It is nearly all a 54 hour a week, and, in the majority of cases, there were four hours off, even before this Bill was brought in. A good many of us in County Dublin have had a 50-hour week for our agricultural workers for a considerable time. The object of my amendment is to make it clear that the week is a week of 54 hours, with four hours off. If it is not inserted, it will lead to confusion.
This is a very dangerous amendment. Senator Counihan states that some farmers give a shorter working week. I think I understand what is at the back of it. If a farm labourer is compelled to work only 50 hours a week it might be suggested that because he works four hours less than the recognised period in various parts of the country he had already got his half-holiday. This is an amendment which should not lightly be accepted.
The principle of this amendment was incorporated in the original Bill and after discussion by the special committee it was taken out of the Bill. In view of that—because of the very elaborate and full discussion that took place—I think it would be wrong to include this amendment. I think it would be a very dangerous amendment. As a matter of fact, it would be giving statutory force to the 54-hour week and that might create considerable difficulties. I do not think we should accept the amendment.
I move amendment No. 4:—
In page 2, line 29, to delete all words after the word "half-holiday" to the end of the sub-section and insert the following words:—
(a) a sum not less than one-twelfth of the amount of the weekly wage where the worker is paid a weekly rate of wages, or
(b) a sum not less than that payable for a period of four hours where the worker is paid an hourly rate of wages, or
(c) in any other case a sum not less than the equivalent of one-half of a day's wages at the ordinary rate.
The purpose of this amendment is to fix definitely what would be repaid by way of holiday remuneration. In the Bill as it stands we read "at the ordinary wage rate." There might be all sorts of discussions and disputes about the meaning of "at the ordinary wage rate." I think that everyone understands what it means: it is one thing to understand it, but it is quite another thing to have it enshrined in the Bill. I have tried to make provision for the different cases—(1) where there is a weekly wage the worker will get one-twelfth, that is a half-day, of the ordinary weekly wage; (2) where the worker is paid by the hour he will get four hours' pay, and (3) in any other case—and there may be other cases as we shall see later on when we come to amendment No. 10 which is in connection with a contract—a sum not less than the equivalent of one half of a day's wages at the ordinary rate will be paid. I am not very happy about (3) but that is the phrasing which was suggested by the parliamentary draftsman. These amendments were submitted to the parliamentary draftsman and he made certain alterations. Sub-paragraph (c) of this amendment is one of them. After considerable discussion, he decided that phrasing in that sub-paragraph was the best way of meeting cases that would not be paid by the hour or the week—cases where there might be a contract for five months or ten months. The purpose of the amendment is to make the matter definite, and to put it beyond the region of dispute.
There is one aspect of sub-paragraph (c) which I should like to put before the House. We know that in many parts of the country there is a system which will continue I suppose for many years whereby agricultural workers are employed on contract. That contract provides for the payment of a certain sum in respect of a particular portion of the contract period and for the payment of a greater or a lesser sum for the remaining portion of the contract period. If this amendment is accepted will it mean that the higher contract payment will be the sum that must be paid, or will it be the standard sum, in lieu of the half-holiday?
I am afraid that this is a matter that would have to be settled between the employer and employee. It refers to cases where there is a contract agreement for a certain period. I am not too satisfied with the sub-paragraph but the phrasing was suggested by the parliamentary draftsman.
I do not like it at all. I should prefer that sub-paragraph (a) be allowed to stand but that subparagraphs (b) and (c) of the amendment be deleted. As I understand it, to be entitled to the half-holiday an agricultural labourer must be paid weekly. The payment of one-twelfth of a week's wages will mean 5/10 in lieu of the half-holiday. Under sub-paragraphs (b) and (c), however, the worker gets only 5/2. I think that one-twelfth of the weekly wages is a fairer proportion.
Reference has been made to farm labourers being paid by the day. If they are paid by the day they will not come under the scope of this Bill because they are casual labourers. I estimate that under sub-paragraph (a) the labourer will get 5/10 when he works the half-day whereas under subparagraphs (b) and (c) he will lose.
I know that quite a number of agricultural workers are paid by the hour.
These are casual men.
The question arises as to whether an agricultural worker or a worker of any kind who is employed by the hour would be entitled to a half-holiday. However, that does not arise immediately on this section. In many parts of the country and particularly in that part of the country with which I am very familiar, what in olden times used to be referred to as a "hiring fair" takes place. There is an 11-months' contract between the farmer and the agricultural labourer. Probably the first five or six months of that period is worked at such and such a rate and the latter part of the 11-months' period may be worked for at a reduced or an increased rate. Take an employer who enters into a contract of that kind and who pays the equivalent of the amount that his employee would be entitled to under the lesser part of the contract. On the completion of the contract the former employee would probably take him to court, or whatever procedure is going to be adopted under this Bill, and say: "I worked for you for 11 months. My remuneration over that period was so much. I should be entitled to be paid for the weekly half-holiday at the higher rate at which I was employed rather than at the lower rate at which you paid me in respect of a particular part of that contract."
Surely provision must be made to cover that point when the contract is being drawn up? That is obvious.
No contract is drawn up.
There must be a verbal contract.
Do we want a solicitor at every hiring fair in order to have a legal document drawn up as between the landowner and his proposed employee? I think that that is not possible and I think it would be bad if it were given effect to. What we should try to ensure is that this be as elastic as possible with the greatest possible freedom. Advocates on both sides have told us about the comradeship and feeling which exist between agricultural workers and employers, so let us not do anything to tie these people down to hours or conditions. Let us avoid as far as possible any legal tangle or legal arguments which might arise as a result of an amendment of this kind.
I do not think any difficulty would arise in that way because the rate would naturally vary according to the different wages paid at different periods.
While I certainly appreciate the great value of the creamery industry, there are other interests in agriculture. There are conditions which are not at all similar to those obtaining in the creamery areas. In a portion of County Galway a system is growing up where workers go under contract for service in the richer and more highly developed parts of the country. These difficulties are bound to arise in those places.
Which are you objecting to—(c)?
Some provision must be made for the cases Senators O'Dwyer and Hawkins have in mind. I think that this is fair enough and the expert is of the same opinion. I would like it to be more definite, but he thought it was sufficiently definite and that whatever wages were being paid for the period would have to be paid.
I suggest that the whole thing is too elaborate. That is my objection. The following words should be put in: "A sum not less than one-twelfth of the amount of the weekly wage", and leave it at that. One-twelfth is the amount that should be paid in lieu of holiday.
You have to meet the other cases.
Experts are not always experts. We have had draftsmanship that has not always been altogether correct. We feel that it would be sufficient to specify one-twelfth of the wage in order to denote the amount which should be paid in lieu of half-holiday no matter how the weekly wage is paid.
Senator Hawkins has pointed out that one wage is paid for one period of the contract and another wage for the other period.
It is one weekly wage. If the employee cannot get his half-holiday he should get one-twelfth of his wages for that week.
I cannot see why there should be any mystery about these amendments. The idea is to make the definition as clear as possible. There are three different terms of employment—a weekly wage, a wage paid on an hourly basis and a contract of a month or over. The idea is to define the rate of wages for a contract, a weekly wage or an hourly wage agreed to between the employer and employee. There is nothing wrong in that.
The difference between us is that I am a practical and practising trade union official and I am trying to get as much money as possible for the worker. When he does not get his half-day, that is an imposition on him and I want him to get 5/10 instead of 5/2.
With all due respect to you as a trade union official and to your experience, is there anything in this to prevent a man getting the wage to which he is entitled?
He would get less under (b) and (c).
It would all depend on the rate per hour.
Senator O'Connell is trying to provide for contract periods and he referred to the necessity for some such provision in view of Senator O'Dwyer's amendment, but my view is that Senator O'Dwyer's amendment is complete in itself because that amendment says that the employer agrees to pay:—
"a sum equivalent to the half-holiday remuneration provided for in Section 2 of this Act in respect of each of the half-holidays to which he would otherwise have been entitled during the agreed period."
Senator O'Connell's amendment is really a duplication.
Senator O'Connell, in introducing this amendment, gave us to understand that its purpose was to clear up any arguments or complications which might arise when wages were paid in lieu of the half-holiday. There are three types of employment: (a) provides for the computation of the half-holiday pay where there is a weekly wage; (b) provides for payment by the hour, and (c) provides for Senator O'Dwyer's contract. Although some of us may not be satisfied with (c) I cannot see for the life of me how we can do better.
Senator Baxter pointed out that Senator O'Dwyer's amendment is complete in itself, but it is not complete unless there is a definite term in the contract specifying the sum to be paid in lieu of half-holidays. So clause (c) of this amendment is necessary.
Senator Colgan referred to the difference between 5/10 and 5/2. There is that point, of course, but I do not think that any Senator would agree for a moment that an employee who has agreed to work for one of these three types of remuneration should get 5/10 if he is entitled only to 5/2. Nobody could agree to that line of reasoning. So we should accept the amendment in its entirety. It is the best that can be done under the circumstances and there is no way that I can see of improving it.
I would like to assure Senator Baxter that the draftsman considered Senator O'Dwyer's amendment and insisted that this should go in.
I am satisfied.
Is it not a fact that agricultural workers wages are governed by the Agricultural Wages Act, and that the Wages Board fixes them from time to time, whether it is by day, hour or contract? Where you have a contract of the nature to which I have already referred and where, arising out of it, you have a weekly payment of a particular sum, not necessarily the 52nd part of the contract sum—it may be £100 a year and the pocket money may be 10/- a week —how will that fit in with the wording of this: "Not less than the equivalent of half a day's wages?" Can it not be argued that the amount given per week, 10/-, is the wage under the contract and that the balance is another agreement outside the weekly wage?
I think there can be no objection. If a person hires for a period, the allowance for the half-holiday will naturally vary. In many cases, workers hire for a certain period and are boarded and lodged. How will that affect it?
It would take a mathematician to decide it.
I think the Agricultural Wages Orders make provision in that case.
I move amendment No. 5:—
In page 2, before line 31, to insert a new sub-section as follows:—
(2) Subject to the provisions of new sub-section (5) inserted in Committee of this section an agricultural employer shall be deemed to have allowed a half-holiday on any day on which the agricultural worker is not required to work after one o'clock p.m.
I move amendment No. 6:—
In page 2, line 33, to add the following words after the word "consent": "or enters into an agreement with his employer that during any specified period he will remain at work instead of taking the half-holiday."
I put this down because of the discussion on the Committee Stage and the fears expressed by Senator O'Dwyer as to the possibility of misunderstanding or the lack of clarity in interpretation later on, when the Bill becomes an Act. We were not all satisfied that some employers making contracts for a period might not be put in an ambiguous position. I put the amendment down in consultation with Senator O'Dwyer, but I see also he has a similar amendment. As both propose to achieve the same thing, could we discuss them together?
We might shorten the discussion in this way. I have considered the two very carefully. In essence they are the same, but Senator O'Reilly's is in a simpler form and covers everything Senator O'Dwyer wants, and I would be prepared to accept it. It would be more easily understood by the parties concerned.
I agree, if the rest of the House considers it sufficient.
The amendment states "specified period". Is it necessary to have that in. We should guard against people having to get stamped and signed documents, which those words would suggest.
A simpler form is better than a complicated one.
I do not think Senator O'Dwyer gets in what he wants. This is not a condition of things that exists in my area or in that of Senator O'Reilly. It says "or enters into an agreement with his employer that during any specified period". He may enter into an agreement that it may be the whole period or part, but I take it that Senator O'Dwyer wants it specific that it will be the whole period, in other words, that there will be no question of a half-holiday during the term of the employment, that what will actually supervene will be payment in lieu of the half-holiday. I do not think that is as clear in Senator O'Reilly's amendment, and I suggest that Senator O'Dwyer get into the Bill what will meet his particular conditions.
I think the same as Senator Baxter, although the two amendments are near related. The wording of Senator O'Reilly's may appear simpler—it is shorter. The two Senators have this much in common, that they were giving utterance to the same idea, but from the draftsman's point of view or the point of view of any person who may have to deal with this Act afterwards in interpreting it, I think Senator O'Dwyer's is the more satisfactory. Has Senator O'Connell considered that aspect, when he was studying both amendments, to see which would be the more acceptable?
I am quite prepared to meet the case that both Senator Woulfe and Senator O'Dwyer made the last day regarding particular areas where contracts are entered into, but I still hold to the opinion I expressed then, that this is already covered in the Bill. If the Senators want to have it more specifically defined, I am not objecting. Senator Baxter agreed with me on that occasion that it was covered in the Bill. I expressed the opinion that Senator O'Reilly's amendment covered everything that Senator O'Dwyer wanted. My opinion was that Senator O'Reilly's amendment was a simpler form of words which met the situation in view. That is my opinion. However, I am in the hands of the Seanad in regard to either Senator O'Reilly's or Senator O'Dwyer's amendment, whichever is the most acceptable. My preference is for Senator O'Reilly's amendment.
In my original remarks I did not think really I was making a case for the amendment at the time. I want a direction from the Chair as to how far it would be wise to have both amendments taken together, because obviously one of them will have to be withdrawn. I am quite prepared to withdraw mine if the House considers Senator O'Dwyer's amendment a better form. It was Senator O'Dwyer's idea to provide a phraseology which would be acceptable to Senator O'Connell and at the same time meet the view point and the fears expressed by Senator O'Dwyer on the Committee Stage of this Bill. Both amendments are on the Order Paper. I think it would be better if both were taken together and have the House decide which form should be put into the Bill. Senator O'Dwyer's amendment has not been moved.
It is quite immaterial to me which of the amendments is taken. I am moving this amendment. The draftsman has altered it very much. It is much better than it was originally. The reason I moved this amendment was because the matter had not been covered. Senator O'Connell said it had been covered by a previous amendment in the Dáil. It was provided in the Dáil that if a man continued to work on a half-day he would have to be paid. That kind of provision would not suit the industry I was interested in, the dairying industry. The custom in the dairying industry is to hire a man in the beginning of the year for a period of ten months. During that period he could not very well be changed. It is absolutely necessary that the farmer, in hiring a man at the beginning of the year, would know whether he was to provide for the half-holiday or not. That was the reason I introduced the amendment.
I was very anxious to make sure that there would be no confusion. If the Bill were passed in the form in which it is here it would lead to the greatest confusion in the dairying industry. I thought it would be very much better for everybody that the matter should be made quite clear. I agree that either of the two amendments would do, but it seems to me that my amendment would make the matter more clear. It would ensure that there would be no doubt. We have accepted the principle of the contract, and I say that my amendment would make the matter more definite. The other amendment would be all right also. As a matter of fact, if the House were agreeable to take Senator O'Reilly's amendment I would be quite agreeable also.
In view of the fact that Senator O'Dwyer was mainly responsible for having the viewpoint accepted, I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.
I did not intend intervening in this particular discussion, but a new situation has been brought about. Again, we are directing our attention to one particular section of the farming community. In Galway, we have a particular tradition and that is the 11-months' contract system, both in the taking of conacre and meadow and also in relation to the employment of agricultural workers. The persons mostly concerned in this scheme of things are those from the Gaeltacht areas of Connemara who are employed on the east coast of Galway and whose contract is for a period of 11 months. That is so in order that the people would be probably at home for the Christmas or for the December period. If we accept Senator O'Dwyer's amendment we will cut the period of employment of that particular section of agricultural workers by a month. I suggest that that is a matter which should be taken into consideration. If we accept this amendment we will be encouraging emigration from these particular districts by cutting the workers' employment period by a month.
Does Senator Hawkins suggest that Senator O'Reilly's amendment would be preferable from his point of view?
When I put down "a specific period" instead of a ten-month period, I had that point in mind.
I think that Senator O'Reilly's amendment is better. It is wider and would deal with cases of the nature referred to by Senator Hawkins. There may be many other cases in the country too.
I think that the specified period mentioned in Senator O'Reilly's amendment is probably better than the ten months mentioned in Senator O'Dwyer's. I have in mind farm workers who are employed in the different beet factories for ten or 14 weeks and then go back to the farm for the rest of the year. Mr. O'Reilly's amendment would cover that, I think.
There is general agreement on Senator O'Reilly's amendment.
I move amendment No. 7:—
In page 2, line 41, to delete the word "twenty" and substitute therefore the word "ten."
I put down this amendment to meet an objection that was raised at the last discussion by, I think, Senator Hawkins. He thought that £20 was rather a fearful penalty to impose although that £20 does appear in other sections. I believe that was why it was put down. I am not tied to £20, and I put down £10 as a kind of compromise.
I move amendment No. 8:—
In page 2, fourth line of the new sub-section (5) inserted in Committee, to delete all words after the word "agreement" and insert the following words: "it shall be open to the employer to fix in advance in respect of a period of three months the week-day on which the half-holiday is to be taken."
This is merely a clarification. It was pointed out to me that, in the absence of agreement, the employer could fix the holiday on any day of the week, and this merely clarifies the position, providing that the employer, in the absence of agreement, may fix in advance, in respect of a period of three months, the week-day on which the half-holiday will be taken.
I move amendment No. 9:—
In page 2, to add after line 41, the following sub-section:—
(5) Where an agricultural employer in any week pays an agricultural worker for wet or broken time, this payment may be offset against the half-holiday remuneration in respect of that week.
Take the case of a man employed by the week who is to get his half-holiday on a Saturday. If he is running a tractor for a farmer and it is raining all day on the Monday, it would be hard to expect the farmer, having given him a holiday on that Monday, to have to give him a half-day on the Saturday. Often there might be two or three such days. The farmers I know in my part of the country pay their men for the whole year and that, I think, is universally applied. I do not think that any of us want seriously to give a man a half-holiday, if there are one, two or three days in the week on which he has nothing to do. The object of the amendment is to obviate ambiguity and to prescribe that where a man does not work his full time, he will not get a half-holiday.
I have some considerable doubts as to whether the amendment is in order, but I do not want to raise that point now. We have heard, and quite rightly, about the good relations existing between the farmer and his employee.
You are disturbing them now.
I could not conceive anything more likely to disturb these good relations than the insertion of this amendment. In the Agricultural Wages Act and the regulations made thereunder, there is no question of wet time. If there is a weekly wage, the man is paid the weekly wages, whether the day is wet or not, and he would be a very poor farmer indeed who would not be able to put his man to useful work, if the weather turned bad. This would lead to all sorts of contention as to how much was wet time, how much was disallowed and how much should be offset against it. I am surprised at Senator Burke proposing this amendment and I ask him not to press it. I do not think he was serious about it.
I look at it the other way. We have had enough wet days since last July and 99 per cent. of the farmers paid for them, and a man coming in on Saturday for his half-holiday with his pay after doing nothing for three or four days is something which will cause a lot of bad feeling. I think there is a point in the amendment. I suppose we have had three wet days every week since last July. I know that the weather is with me in this amendment.
That is all that is with you.
Farmers all over the country have paid for these wet days. The farmer gets £8 or £10 a year agricultural rates relief, but he will not get that small relief unless he pays a man full time. The least the supporters of the Bill could do is to let this half holiday business go in cases where there is wet time and, if the time is broken not to have the worker claiming the half-day.
I support the amendment. Senator O'Connell has talked about the good relations between agricultural workers and the farmers. The best way to maintain these good relations is to have each of them know where their rights are. That is the safest way in which to maintain them. Some of the supporters of the Bill do not want these good relations to exist and it was stated here on the Committee Stage that it was time to break the good relations existing between them.
Who said that?
I did not say it.
Look up the records and you will find who said it. You are not very far away from him. Senator O'Connell wants everybody's bread buttered on two sides, except the farmers. The farmer must meet everything—he must satisfy everybody, pay everybody and feed everybody.
I do not know why Senator Counihan blames me for a whole lot of things for which I am not responsible. Like Senator O'Connell, I am surprised at Senator Burke introducing such an amendment as this. In effect, it means penalising the farm labourer if the weather is bad. It will possibly ensure that he will be on his knees all the winter praying for good weather, so as to be sure of getting his half-holiday. Why should a man who is assured of a half-holiday, who possibly has an arrangement with his employer to get his half-holiday on a specified day, be at the whim of the employer if the weather is bad? I can appreciate that the employer may have to put up with wet weather and that it may not be possible to employ a man, but I suggest that the farm labourer should not be held responsible for that. If he is entitled to his half-holiday, he should get it. It would be very dangerous and very unfair to enshrine a principle like this in the Bill.
Would it be worse if he were cut for the broken time?
That is not a matter for me or for the Senator. It is a matter to be decided on the basis of the good relations between the farmer and the employer. If these good relations really exist, he will be paid as heretofore. The thing is fundamentally wrong, that, because the weather is bad, a man should be deprived of his half-holiday. He is either entitled to it or he is not, and, if we pass this Bill, we ought to give that half-holiday, without attaching any conditions about the weather.
I would join with Senator Burke in regard to this amendment. I would be one of the unreasonable people. There is quite a lot in the amendment. This relationship that has existed between farmers and farm workers is there. I should not like it to be thought that it was a relationship moving from the farmer to his worker only and stopping at that. I say that definitely that relationship moves from the worker to his employer. I contend that this Bill has driven a wedge in that relationship and that advantage will be taken of this Bill both by the farmers and by their workers—and as certain as that circumstances will arise there will be necessity for this amendment. That is the view I take. That is why I saw that there is great sense to this amendment by Senator Burke. If you want to the farmer to be reasonable and to continue paying whether it be wet or fine, he will do so. But if you want the farmer to give half-holidays and to pay on fine days then he can deal with that situation too— and he is entitled to do so. This Bill has originated not from employers but from employees—and what is good for one must be good for the other. It is unreasonable for Senator Colgan to laugh and to call this amendment nonsense. I think it is the most vital and far-reaching amendment that has been put down to this Bill. It is far more serious than any section or amendment that has come before this House.
If we were to be severely logical I think we would accept Senator Burke's amendment. I would ask him, however, to be good enough not to press it. There is nothing logical in the relations between agricultural workers and their employers. The conditions that exist between them do not exist in any other industry or any other form of work that I know of. It may be thought that I am speaking against agriculturalists but in reality I am not. There has been a tremendous amount of waste time in the past 12 months due to bad weather conditions. All of us who employ agricultural labourers know that there have been hours and hours when they did no work. None of us grudge it to them. I know well that if we get a fine summer this year, or that if we get such a summer that the harvest will be endangered, that just because the employer was somewhat lax in enforcing his rights when he might have enforced them the agricultural worker will, in his turn, do everything in his power to help his employer and that he will not put down his tools at 6 o'clock. I know that the majority of the workmen in my county will only be too anxious to stay on, perhaps supperless, to help the farmers.
My objection to this amendment is that it will damage the relations existing between the agriculturalists and their employees. A good deal has already been done to endanger that relationship and I hope that nothing more will be done to endanger it. Logical and all as this amendment may be, I think it will only pave the way to the driving of a wedge between the agricultural worker and his employer. It will endanger the good relations that, happily, have existed and that I hope will exist in spite of this measure.
Senator Woulfe has described this amendment as the most far-reaching amendment that has been put down to this Bill. It is because it is so far-reaching that I oppose it and that I believe everybody else opposes it. Let us read the amendment:—
In page 2, to add after line 41, the following sub-section:—
"(5) Where an agricultural employer in any week pays an agricultural worker for wet or broken time, this payment may be offset against the half-holiday remuneration in respect of that week."
—"pays an agricultural worker for wet or broken time..." There is not a week in the year when we have not wet time in this country. If a man is hired for a week by an employer— whether that employer be an agricultural employer or an employer in the cities or towns—it is the business of the employer to ensure that he will provide that man with a week's work. If the farmer cannot find a week's work for the man, that is the fault of the employer and not of the employee. I may say that I have never yet seen a farm where work had not to be done in wet weather and in dry weather. Farmers can find a job for a man on a wet day. If the work is there, let the worker do it and pay him for his half-day.
We have heard a lot about the good relations that exist between farmers in this country and their workers. I believe that these good relations do exist. It is because we want these good relations to exist that some of us are pressing for this legislation. If the relations are as good as we are told they are, and as they ought to be, there would be no need for us to step in and try to get for the agricultural labourers by law and legal compulsion what labourers in other industries are already getting. I realise that they are getting compensatory advantages, but when they see that the lot of certain other classes of workers in the cities and towns is different from theirs, they feel that these other classes of workers are getting preferential treatment and they feel that they themselves are a depressed class and are suffering from injustice. If we can remove the fear and the belief that there is an injustice being done to them, I think we will be doing something to help the working of the agricultural industry.
The farmers are not the villains they make themselves out to be. Anybody listening to the farmers in this House would believe that their ambition was to be as hard-hearted as possible towards their men. Anybody would believe that their ambition was to give the least possible wages and to make their men work under the worst conditions. No matter how Senator Counihan may howl, we can see that he is a sheep in wolf's clothing. He is no wolf no matter how he may howl. Senator Woulfe is a bit of a lamb too, perhaps. Senator Counihan would not be able to get a man for a week if he were to treat him as he tells us in this House he should be treated. I am sure that if I or anybody else worked for Senator Counihan we would get every possible concession that one human being could give to another, and that one could reasonable expect from another. I have never heard Senator Counihan and other representatives of the farming community speak in this House in the spirit in which they act towards their employees. He is not nearly so callous or hard-hearted as he pretends to be. He says: "Give them no legal rights: give them no half-holiday or compensation in lieu of half-holiday, and if it is wet send them home without any concession." Suppose that it is wet for three days in a week and that an agricultural labourer is sent home for those three days and is not paid for them. Does any man in this House believe that that labourer will continue to work for that farmer? He will not, if he can get a job with anybody else. If he continues to work with that farmer, through pressure of economic circumstances, is he being treated fairly? If he is receiving the minimum wage—and lots of them are receiving the minimum wage—and if through no fault of his, it rains and the farmer has no work for him and sends him home, is that farmer acting like a Christian when he says: "Go home. You will not get £3 10s. this week. You will get 30/- or 35/- and let you and your wife do the best you can. I have the whip-hand."
That is not the attitude any decent farmer would adopt, but if this amendment is passed that is what he must say if he pays his man for a wet day— and there will be wet days every week. By that subterfuge, he will defeat the object for which the Bill is designed, that is, to give the agricultural worker a half-holiday each week or compensation in lieu of that half-holiday. We know that it will rain in practically every week in the year and Senator Burke says: "If there is a wet day do not give the employee any pay, or if you pay him do not give him a half-holiday."
I did not say that.
Senator Burke can read no other meaning into it. That is what you are doing if you pass this amendment. No one can pretend that we are here to victimise the farmer. We are here to give a half-holiday to agricultural workers and to remove any real or imaginary grievances they may have; we are here to remove the idea that they are a lower order of society than other workers and that what is given to everyone else by law is denied to them. I cannot see any reason for this and Senator Burke can give us no reasons.
We are asked why we rise to talk about agriculture. We are told: "Look at the harmony between Senators who could not agree about anything else on earth, who had not a good word to say for each other for years, who could not agree on politics, but who, when it came to depriving the agricultural labourers of a half-day or a few shillings a week, can agree, whether they are auctioneers, cattle dealers or farmers, because they are all personally interested." Let us put it plainly. If I were a farmer I would be on the same side. I am not interested, I have not a farm and neither have the men for whom I am speaking. When a man employs a labourer he is not merely getting a slave——
Are we to continue?
As this is the last amendment we should continue. I might also say that the motions in Senator Counihan's name will not be taken.
If you want me to finish I will finish.
If one man hires another, he no longer hires a slave but takes a partner into business with him whether he likes it or not. No matter how big a farmer is and no matter how poor the man he is hiring is, they are partners and if the farmer does not act fairly towards him he should not be conducting that business at all.
I am one of those who have been elected to the House on the Agricultural Panel and I understand that Senator Burke is not. I do not agree that his amendment should be inserted in this Bill although a case could be made for it, but it has justified itself by drawing a statement such as the one which we have just heard from Senator O'Farrell. Apparently Senator O'Farrell has chosen this amendment to make an attack on people. Possibly he did it in jest, but I think that there was a little more than jest in his statement. I understand Senator O'Farrell to advocate through a certain organisation good relations between rural employers and employees but I think that a statement like the one we have just heard from him would poison the relations between employers and employees. He referred to auctioneers and cattle dealers. I do not think that the farmers in this House are trying to grind the faces of the poor and I do not think that the people representing farming interests in the House have met the Bill badly, unsought as it may have been. That being so, I do not think that Senator O'Farrell's statement was called for at all.
I agree with Senator Baxter on some things and disagree with him on others, but he has not met this Bill in such a way as to call for that poisonous statement. Although a good case can be made for it, I do not think that Senator Burke's amendment should be inserted in the Bill lest it bring about bad relations between people working in the country. Enough people are leaving the country, particularly the congested districts, without doing anything to cause more people to leave.
An attack was made on the phraseology of the amendment. It appeared that a joke was made of the words "wet time" and "broken time", but they are established phrases. From long usage a meaning has been given to them through the activities of trade unions and the activities of Senator O'Farrell himself and they are not open to Senator O'Farrell's interpretation of them. I am not here to defend Senator Burke who is well able to speak for himself but I do think that type of statement quite wrong.
Why should the farmer pay his worker for wet time—although he does it? He employs men when their labour cannot be economically or productively employed. What happens in the case of his counterpart, the businessman in the textile factory or the boot factory? If raw materials go scarce he puts his men on short time and good weather is the scarcest of the farmers' vital raw materials. Because of the system that has developed between trade unions and workers the factory worker will be put on short time when a vital raw material becomes scarce. That system in my opinion is not a good one for the worker and I would defer to no man in my desire for reasonable social justice which in my opinion is better than social security. The farmer does not follow that system. Senator Burke's amendment should be taken more seriously by Senator O'Farrell because his statement is the sort that poisons good relations.
I would like to end the matter, if I may. Senator Bennett has appealed to me to withdraw my amendment because he says it may cause a certain amount of dissension. One of the reasons which prompted me to put down this amendment was that I thought that the half-holiday should be specified, and I felt that there would be a grievance if the half-holiday were Saturday and the whole week before that were wet. In view of what I have been asked to do, however, I would prefer to withdraw the amendment. If the Bill does not work out in practice, someone can always move that the law be changed.
Before permission to withdraw is granted, I want to correct a statement by Senator O'Reilly, who in fact stated that as a result of agreement between employers and trade unions the people in factories were put on short time.
I hope I did not use the word "agreement".
Could the House not agree to permit Senator Burke to withdraw his amendment?
The House has not agreed as I have not agreed, and until I agree the House cannot. I withdraw the word "agreement", but he implied that, as a result of some arrangement or relations between employer and employee, the factories would go on short time. I want to say that the workers in factories and on building sites were never paid for the time during which they did not work. It was not a question of agreement, but was something that had grown up over the centuries.
May I pay a tribute to the manner in which this Bill has been received generally by all sides of the House. I am very well satisfied with the way it was met.
The Seanad adjourned at 6.15 p.m. sine die.