There are many features and implications in this Bill and some of them are more serious than others. To me, as a member of the Labour Party, the fact that a wages standstill Bill or Order is introduced by a trade union official, a fellow member of the Labour Party, the Minister for Labour, is particularly shameful and a particularly difficult thing to sustain. The fact that a Senator so closely associated with the Labour Party, Senator Halligan, should have made his defence of this Bill by trying to create the impression that there is some utterly bogus class position in this Bill is, again, particularly saddening.
I fought a number of these types of Bills as far back as the early 1950s when I was a Minister. An order was being made by the then Leader of the Labour Party in the Cabinet to help the banks to close the banks. That is the law. They have to get an order from the Government. I was the one Minister who declined to sign the order because to me it was effectively a lock-out and I would not be a party to a lock-out of any kind of worker. The order could not be signed. The then Taoiseach, Mr. Costello, had to go back and negotiate with Mr. Ganly, I think his name was, and they found some kind of a settlement. It is totally bogus and completely fraudulent of Senator Halligan to try to separate this group of workers simply because they are not members of a trade union.
Senator McCartin, a Member of the Fine Gael Party, put it very simply and bluntly. We operate under the law of the jungle. Normally I could talk about private enterprise, free enterprise, capitalist systems, monopoly, capitalism. That is what Senator McCartin meant. That is what I mean—the law of the jungle. Over the years these bank officials, in their wisdom, have decided that they will try to get the best deal for themselves through their association and not within the trade union movement. We cannot have it both ways. Do we allow them to have the right of free collective bargaining? This is one of the stars in the great democratic crown of the Western democracies. An amendment was put down by the present Tánaiste, Deputy Corish, in 1966, on a similar Bill in which he asked the Dáil to decline to give a Second Reading to the Bill on the ground that it deliberately abolished the fundamental right of trade unionists to free collective bargaining.
The Minister is now doing this on behalf of the Fine Gael Party of which the Labour Party are now, of course, total prisoners. I can well understand the position of the Minister for Defence, Deputy Donegan, who introduced the Bill in the Seanad today. I have no quarrel with him. This is his policy. This is what he believes in. This is the way he thinks workers should be treated. When capitalism is under threat, when capitalism is in crisis, turn on the workers and see that they make the sacrifices. That is his policy. I do not agree with it but he has always been very loyal to it, as equally have all the Fine Gael Senators. I have no quarrel with them about this at all. This is naked, unashamed, monopoly capitalism, conservative social thinking, conservative economic policy.
I have always taken the position that I do not believe in monopoly capitalism. I do not believe in private enterprise. I do not think it achieves the objective I want. I know it achieves the objective the Minister for Defence wants, but that is not the same objective I want. It has achieved its objective here over the past 50 years: approximately 5 per cent own 75 per cent of the wealth of the country. That is success all right for private enterprise. I do not deny it. But that is not what I, as a socialist, want. The 5 per cent have achieved this wealth at the expense of the workers. Money workers created in their jobs was taken over and used by this small 5 per cent. This is what I object to.
I do not believe the system can create the wealth. I do not think we can have a socially just order as a by-product of monopoly capitalism. Does anybody seriously hold that view now? If so, I will give way and allow somebody to tell me he does. How can anybody defend monopoly capitalism in the present state of the world? There is a terrible crisis all over the world, in the United States, in Great Britain, in Western Europe and here.
The dominating economic force is the force of conservative monopoly capitalism. There is the pathetic picture of the city of New York going bankrupt, one of the most wealthy cities in the world. The United States are in very severe straits now.
The Minister talked about forecasts. Unfortunately we cannot take his forecasts seriously because he even admitted in his speech that what had been forecast had failed to materialise and that things are going to be worse than they had thought. It is particularly important that the Government should not be allowed to continue with this kind of terribly dangerous day-dreaming—which is a substitute for serious political thinking, serious political analysis—in which they are indulging, in which they have indulged for the past two-and-a-half to three years and which has landed us in this crisis in which we are now turning to workers and saying: "In order to support our system, in order to maintain it, in order to keep it in operation, we want you to take a cut in living standards." Why should workers take a cut in living standards to support a system under which they do so badly? Why should they do that? Why should they make any sacrifices at all?
The Minister said the major economies of the world are beginning to show signs of improvement, and so on, what Senator Dolan called the live horse and you will get grass attitude which they have maintained for a very long time. I remember at the first conference after the Coalition was formed the present Minister for Industry and Commerce telling us that prices had reached a plateau— this lovely flowery language he uses. The general idea was that we had reached a plateau. That is two-and-a-half years ago—about 40 points on the cost-of-living index I suppose. Things were looking up at that time —looking up was right—and everything would be all right. This kind of fatuous and inane simplistic picture of how things happen or why things happen in a society such as ours is the most frightening thing about this Government. They are never short of a euphoric kind of bromide to placate the unfortunate public who are genuinely very very frightened now. I personally have never known our society in such a state of total apprehension and foreboding as it is at present. It is very, very frightening indeed.
Far from this upturn, the latest word from the United States is that the upturn will be a very transient one. It will go up and up through next summer, and then next winter, the Dow Jones average, the whole economy, will go right through the floor, down in the 300 mark, and the money poured in through a change in taxation a year or so ago, to cause a reflation of the economy, will cause a very transient upturn. For the first time I have read the terrifying word in relation to the American economy "hyper-inflation". In recent weeks this has tended to become more frequent in relation to the British economy which is tottering to its demise at a terrifying rate too. It is the first time I have heard it used in relation to the American economy.
It is in the context of this kind of thing that we see the hunting of these unfortunate bank officials who are ordinary Irish people, ordinary Irish men and women and this attempt by Senator Halligan to try to create a mini-class war against these unfortunate people who have negotiated these wages and salary increases on a perfectlybona fide basis. A case was put forward by their officials on their behalf, and then by the banks, and presumably they came to a settlement on foot of a perfectly legitimate case put forward on their behalf. There is nothing extravagant, nothing wildly out of line with reasonable expectations for people, in what they are getting.
This wage standstill has to be taken in the context of the other completely shocking attacks and assaults on our living standards which are happening every day. It is really quite an ordeal now to listen to the morning news and to hear the latest increases in posts and telegraph charges, increase in transport charges, the likelihood that, as Senator Lenihan said, women will not be given equal pay. There is the drop in the Government investment. All of these things are all in their own way assaults on living standards. This fits into the total all round assault on living standards by this Government, by this Coalition, the third Coalition, which seems to me to be likely to prove, of all the three disastrous Coalitions, the most disastrous. We are only beginning now. We have not really reached rock bottom. Everybody knows that.
I remember when 100,000 unemployed had us all out on O'Connell Bridge. There were baton charges, protest marches, and an astonishing amount of unrest. Apparently the figure is to be increased again, taking it up to 130,000 and then 150,000, not to talk about the poor youngsters who worked so hard in order to get their qualifications and now find themselves without jobs. It is a disastrous record. The general impression they are trying to create is that, in some way or other, it is the fault of the bank officials, that in some way they are to blame, that if these people do not take a cut in their living standards something terrible is going to happen. Something terrible is going to happen anyway, but it has nothing to do with the bank officials.
It is the total and complete irresponsibility of the Government who have been there for two-and-a-half to three years. All Governments take office on the assumption that they have the authority and the power to take certain steps in order to create a just society of one kind or another and to deal with matters like unemployment and inflation and control. This Government have totally failed to do that. They do not even seem to be agreed on this question.
The Minister made an extraordinary admission in his opening speech. He talked about after 1977. This is 1975 is it not? 1976 is coming up, and then "probably in 1977". This is an astonishing admission surely from the Government. With unemployment at 108,000, moving to 130,000 to 150,000 and with youngsters who have never registered, and so on, we will be touching a figure of 200,000 unemployed. How can the Government have the nerve to come in here and in any way denigrate any section of the community—and a person like Senator Halligan support that denigration—and suggest that if they would only play the game everything would be all right? Everything will not be all right even if we pass this Bill. All who support this Bill know that well.
This simplistic approach is the most frightening part, the simplistic assessment, and then the formula is produced. The formula does not work and they do not mind. They just ride on regardless and produce another formula. This is what they have been doing since they came into power.
In the recent by-election in the west of Ireland there was an obvious difference between the Taoiseach and the Minister for Industry and Commerce on whether, in fact, the problem was due to the world pressures which the Minister talked about or the specific pressures of excessive wage demands. The Taoiseach, naturally, came down on the conservative, capitalist side of excessive wage demands. If we could only control those, everything would be all right. It is much more serious. They will not be all right. The one factor which has been accepted by most people as a cause of the disastrous situation is the oil crisis. It is particularly important, not because of the disastrous changes caused in the whole of the western European economies, the response of feeding these increases in prices into the economy and the inflationary changes which took place, but because of the fact that there has been this wonderful— to me, anyway—awakening amongst these countries, the primary producing countries.
They have suddenly realised that they are very powerful people. The OPEC people were the first to understand that. They have banded together and they are holding together. I do not accept that they are holding us to ransom. They are simply saying that we must pay an economic price for the oil which we have been getting for next to nothing up to now.
What is even more important than that is the new development that the other primary producing countries know they have the West completely where they want them. There is little we have now in relation to these countries which they have not got except, perhaps, technological know-how and skills of one kind of another, which they are rapidly learning. So, we are left in this country, as in most of the western countries, in a position in which the copper producing countries are doing exactly the same thing— Zambia, Zaire, The Rhodesias, South Africa. Increases in prices in that regard will be fed into the economy.
The recent move by Morocco to take over the phosphates—another terribly important component of any western economy—represents a new position of monopoly prices which we will not be able to stand up to. There are other things like bauxite aluminium, mercury and iron ores which are very important to industry in which there is a total monopoly. This is an utterly new situation. It is not the usual "boom and bust" pattern of western capitalism. It is quite different. This is the terrifying thing about this Government. They do not see it as that at all. They just feel that with downturns, or Deputy Keating's U-turns, or Ministers' upturns, everything will be all right. It will not be all right. Silly little measures of this kind—hurting a number of people admittedly—do nothing at all to deal with the real position of unemployment.
Probably one of the ugliest features of this whole development by this Coalition Government, and only in respect of the Labour component—I exclude the Fine Gael Party because it comes naturally to them to do this kind of thing—is the fact that they are now party to a campaign carried on by the press, the television, the radio, to set workers at one another's throats. We saw a good example of it a few minutes ago from Senator Halligan when he tried to make one worker angry at another worker because he is a snob; there is class quality in his demand and not in yours. That is not true. He is a worker. He is earning his living by skill of hand, or mind, or whatever it is.
No worker has a right to turn on another worker under any circumstances. There are too many on the other side for workers to fight amongst themselves. These people are fighting for higher living standards for their families. What would this money go on, if they get it?—and they have every right to get it if they negotiate it by free collective bargaining. It would not go on trips to the Bahamas or Florida, or a bigger or better yacht, a new "Jag" or a Rolls Royce. It would go on food, milk, meat, vegetables, clothes, education, books, essentials for the ordinary, average Irish family. That is what it would go on.
If one set of workers within the banking industry are not as well cared for as another, whose fault is it? Why should the porter not get as good a deal as any other kind of worker within the banking system? Whose fault is it if the porter or the cleaner does not get as good a deal as the bank officials' association gets for its workers? Is it the banks? Is it the bank officials? Could it be the unions by any chance? This is a particularly pernicious development—the setting of workers against one another. It can be seen running through this speech and through all the speeches of all the Ministers of the Coalition Cabinet.
The suggestion is that those who are in work must make sacrifices for those who have not got jobs. Does not everybody see this trend developing now? "You are very lucky. The unemployed need your help. Take a cut in your standard of living for their sakes." Appealing to the average worker is an unanswerable appeal because of their classical, historic, never-ending generosity to one another. They will make sacrifices. Why cannot the other group make sacrifices? Why cannot the 5 per cent be asked to make sacrifices? What is wrong with sacrifices from the wealthy class in our society? Why should it always be the workers who are asked to make these sacrifices?
Make no mistake, the principle underlying this Bill—it can be seen in all propaganda being put out, in all the speeches—is the principle which will underline the approach to the trade union negotiations in the national wage agreement. There was the attack on the indexing system which was a fair system. The trade union leadership will be faced with an Act which has already been established and to which they have subscribed. Those who vote for this Bill will have subscribed to this pattern of wage freeze, wage control, a drop in living standards. Make no mistake, if these people do not get this increase—they looked for it simply to keep their standard of living at a reasonable level—they must suffer. Who must suffer? The men, of course, the women and the children will suffer. There is no doubt about that. Their families are the people who must suffer. Everybody knows that the average Irish men are concerned practically exclusively for their families. The majority of them are—how they are dressed, the kind of education they get, how long they go to school, the food they eat. These are the simple things bought by workers with the wages and salaries they get.
This is an attack on the living standards of these innocent people. The principle here is an attempt to introduce a very simplistic assessment of the causes of our present terribly dangerous economic situation. One part in the conflict between the Taoiseach and the Minister for Industry and Commerce is that the sources of our present disastrous economic situation are exclusively or predominantly exterior to the country and the other is that it is endemic to society or it is domestic pressures which are causing this present situation.
The latter part of it, of course, is true. Oil, as I conceded earlier, has obviously been a very important component in damaging the economies of all the western European democracies. But this other thesis which is now being put forward by the Coalition, that is, the control of wages—and this is supported by CII and all the other vested interests—is not correct. It is not as simple as that. I am always faced with this difficulty when talking on measures of this kind that with the facts as they are—the demand to damage in some way the interests of workers and at the same time the demand that we should defend the system which is responsible for damaging the interests of the workers—my case always is: if you believe you can make this capitalist system operate then do so. You had 50 years to do it here. What has happened to it? What has gone wrong with it? Why can you not make it work? Why can you not see that people get a good health service, good education, good care in old age, good housing? You failed on every one of these counts in the last 50 years, those of you who believe in monopoly capitalism. This is a scandalous society in regard to the cultural, social and educational content of the lives of the people and any other way you like to look at it. You have failed on every single count and now you turn to the simplistic analysis of it: if we could only deal with wages everything would be all right.
The Committee on Industrial Organisation sent us this report by survey teams on 22 industries. Most of you probably remember it. It was a most interesting inquiry initiated by the late Seán Lemass in the early sixties. It was interesting because the findings were particularly depressing. It showed that protection had provided us with an extraordinary incompetent level of industry. A few people made a lot of money. But, as far as society is concerned, were it not for the appalling level at which emigration continued for so long—one in three having to emigrate—we would have had a revolutionary situation here 20 or 25 years ago. However, let us not give up hope. We are, I suspect, rapidly approaching that happy situation.
I should like to quote from this report just to offset the emphasis on the question of the importance of wages in the establishment of a sound economy. In relation to management it says:
To some extent, all the shortcomings of the surveyed industries discussed in other sections of this report are also shortcomings of management. Without intelligent analysis of all industrial problems by management and initiative in the solution of these problems, no firm or industry can be efficient.
At page 19 the report says:
The present lack of well-trained management is reflected in the relatively low use of modern management techniques reported by the survey teams.
A summary on page 26, says:
Labour relations were in most cases good and there have been few strikes. Some recruitment difficulties arose in most of the industries. Chief problems have been with female labour mainly in the Dublin area.... But there was also difficulty in management, technician and skilled grades. The generally lower level of wages and salaries in Ireland compared with Britain appears to result in emigration which exacerbated recruitment problems. Training could generally be much improved and this would lead to an increase in productivity. There was considerable room for improvement in the use of modern managerial techniques in the industries surveyed.
Buildings and equipment were, in a number of cases, somewhat old and unsuitable. The type of machinery in use was generally not suited to modern mass-production techniques——