Regulation of Banks (Remuneration and Conditions of Employment) (Temporary Provisions) Bill, 1975: Second and Subsequent Stages.

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

I am taking this Bill because of the presence of the Minister for Labour at the meeting with the Social Conference. This is the second occasion on which the Minister for Labour has come to the House with a measure to control the salaries of bank officials. The previous occasion was in 1973. That Act expired by Order on 14th December, 1973.

In June last, the Government, with the twin objectives of combating inflation and maintaining employment, took certain budgetary action. The measures included the removal of VAT from clothing, footwear, electricity and all fuel (except road fuels), the introduction of subsidies on most CIE rates and fares, bread and flour, butter, liquid milk and town gas. As a result of those Government initiatives, the cost-of-living was reduced by 0.8 per cent in the period mid-May to mid-August, 1975. As a Government we sought that, in return for a slowing down of price increases, there should be a corresponding slowing down of income increases. Such voluntary agreement with trade unions was secured in that the third and fourth phases of the 1975 national agreement were revised to link them directly to changes in the consumer price index. The immediate effect of the revision was to cancel the increases due to workers under the third phase of the 1975 national agreement. The Government's subsidies of June to reduce prices were designed to reduce the cost of living for all—including bank officials. That is why the Minister for Labour requested the banks staff relations committee on 30th September, 1975 to advise as to what proposals the banks had for a comparable revision of the terms of their agreement bearing in mind that all other workers had revised their existing agreements.

The Minister for Finance and the Minister for Labour met with the bank employees on 27th and 31st October, 1975, in the hope of securing from them a revision of the third and fourth phases of their pay agreement, in line with the amendments effected in the national wage agreement.

In the discussions with the employees' representatives, we did not seek any sacrifices from them or anything beyond what other workers had accepted voluntarily. The bank employees, however, did not indicate that they would be prepared to amend their agreement in a manner likely to bear comparison to the amendment made by the majority of workers in the national wage agreement.

At a meeting of the banks' joint industrial council on 13th November, a proposal for the modification of their current pay agreement was considered by both sides. This proposal was subsequently balloted on by the employees but was rejected.

Last Friday the Minister for Labour met representatives of the Irish Bank Officials' Association in an effort to avert the need for legislation. He said that if at any time an acceptable voluntary agreement could be reached the legislation would not be activated. He undertook to withdraw the Bill now before the House on the understanding that he would refer the 1974 and 1975 bank pay agreements to the Labour Court to report on whether these agreements conformed with the 1974 and 1975 national agreements as revised; for their part, the Irish Bank Officials' Association would agree to the deferral of payment of the third phase increase of their current pay agreement pending such Labour Court recommendation and that they would agree to accept the recommendation. Regrettably these proposals were not acceptable to the representatives of the Irish Bank Officials' Association.

We accept that bank officials are not parties to the national agreement, and in our efforts to achieve voluntary agreement on this matter we respected their wishes that they need not conform with every detail of that agreement, but their settlement must bear some comparison with that of the majority. Other employees in the banks—apart from the bank officials—who include porters and cleaners in the banks have, in line with other workers accepted a moderation of their pay agreements on a voluntary basis. Dáil Members, the judiciary and many others who are not formally bound by the agreement keep in line with it. This principle appeared to have gained the acceptance of responsible bank employees, but their refusal to accept an amendment to their present agreement as other workers have done compels the Minister for Labour to ask the House to pass this legislation. If any interest group choose to go their own way they make a mockery of the restraint practised by others, many of whom are suffering much more immediately from the effects of the recession in terms of job insecurity and unemployment.

We would hope that, on passage of this legislation, if any savings accrue to the banks as a result of the Labour Court adjudication, the benefits will be passed on to members of the general public. We have already suggested that consideration should be given to the abolition of bank service charges to personal current account holders.

The present recession is longer and deeper than had generally been forecast. Last June the Economic and Social Research Institute predicted a fall of 1½ per cent in GNP for this year. By October they felt the situation had deteriorated still further than had been expected so their revised forecast was for a drop of 3½ per cent this year.

The major economies of the world have begun to show signs of improvement, and it is now expected that by early 1977 a general recovery will be under way. We will be in a weak position to participate in this recovery if we find ourselves with inflation and its counterpart, unemployment, at levels above those of our trading partners. In 1976 we must devote our resources not to consumption but to investment; we must prepare our physical and human assets for a quick return to high growth rates and full participation in an expanding pattern of world trade.

The Bill is on the same lines as the legislation governing pay and conditions in the banks which was enacted in 1973 and we hope, therefore, that all stages can be taken today. The present measure will come into operation and expire on days to be appointed by order. The Bill contains provisions whereby the Minister for Labour could, should he consider it necessary to do so, impose a stay on the salaries and other conditions of employment in the banks.

The Bill also contains provisions which would enable the Minister for Labour by order, to prevent the banks from offering increases in wages or improvements in other conditions of employment in excess of those which the Labour Court would determine as appropriate in the light of the provisions of the national agreements. Contravention or failure by the banks to comply with the terms of such an order would constitute an offence which would render them, on conviction, liable to fines but not imprisonment. There are no penalties of any sort directed against the representatives of bank officials.

I commend the Bill to the House.

The important point that we would like to make on this side of the House is the situation that has given rise to the need for this legislation at this stage. I quote from page four of the Minister's script:

The present recession is longer and deeper than had generally been forecast.

That is basically the trouble with the present Government. They were advised by us on this side of the Seanad and in the Dáil that this is a serious economic recession which the Government did not appear at an early stage to be tackling, and they now appear, at a very late stage when the horse has gone, to be seeking to bolt the stable door. The Taoiseach is going on television tonight apparently to explain the real depth and nature of recession to which the Minister has referred.

This was obvious, to us certainly and to any intelligent observer, two years ago. Yet the ultimate in failure to grapple with the problem arose in relation to the wage agreement to which the Government, as the largest employer in the State, were a party in May of this year. In April-May of this year the national wage agreement was entered into with the Government as the major interested party both as employer and as guardian of the economic welfare of the community and yet within one month of that wage agreement being entered into, the Government have been seeking in various ways to backtrack— the Minister for Labour in particular, as the Government agent in this area —on a situation into which they had blindly entered on the basis that the recession would not be as long and deep as it is turning out to be.

It is altogether wrong for the Minister to say that the recession is longer and deeper than had been generally forecast. It was forecast and forecast in very clear terms by us on this side of the House and in the Dáil. I have articulated on numerous occasions in this respect, that the recession in which we now find ourselves and the inflationary spiral, combined with unemployment, called "stagflation", was evident at a very early stage before the oil crisis. Were it not for the expectations raised by the Government in the first budget introduced by them in 1973, our stagflation would not be anything like it is today. Let us face it, every other member country of the EEC is more positively successful in getting out of this situation, despite the oil crisis which affects every member country, than we are. These are basic facts, and it is for this reason, in order to cope in a desperate way with a small area of the problem, that this legislation is now before the House.

We are not going to oppose the legislation because we recognise that, even though the horse has gone, bolting the stable door in the absence of the galloping horse of inflation does indicate somebona fides, some evidence of reality on the part of the Government that they now, at least, appreciate the situation. To that extent this Bill is welcome as evidence of the appreciation of a situation that should have been faced up to years ago. It should certainly not have arisen within a month or two of the national wage agreement when the backtracking started. This is further evidence of the backtracking at a very late stage.

The facts are, of course, that bank employees, like everybody else in the community, were conned by the Government's attitude of euphoria towards the whole conduct and management of our affairs. The bank employees, in good faith, made their own agreement last May, outside the context of the national wage agreement, with their employers. As in previous years, they were not a party to the national wage agreement and therefore had not the benefit of the cost of living escalation clause. They made their own agreement with their employers. In recognition of the fact that the Government are now trying, though at a very late stage, to rectify the situation we are supporting the Government, but certainly as regard the bank employees concerned it is, to put it mildly, very bad handling of the problem. Their case rests on the fact that they have been outside the wage agreement structure, have benefited less than other sections in the past by reason of not getting the cost of living escalation clause written into the wage agreement. They made their own arrangement with the bank last May and now find themselves under this draconian legislation being frustrated in achieving what they agreed upon with their employers outside the wage agreement structure.

They are the basic facts prolonging this issue, and, with the greatest reluctance, we are not opposing this Bill because we appreciate the dire situation in which our economy now finds itself; we appreciate that the Government must, even at this late stage, take at least some measures that appear to be tackling the problem—and that is all this very minor attempt to deal with the economic problem does—in the sense that it gives evidence of the intentions of the Government to tackle the problem to that extent. They now seem to be getting down to the business of governing which has been neglected for nearly three years. That, of course, is of very little assistance to this section of young people, male and female employees at clerical level, who—and I am told that at the voting these are the people who were predominant in their attitude—were misled by the Government and who I am reliably informed are people who are standing in this matter on principle, not on a question of getting the particular increases involved. They feel they were greatly misled in regard to an agreement made by them in May last outside the national wage agreement structure when they now find the Government trying to incorporate them into the overall national wage agreement sector. Basically, their problem is the problem of our community, a community that has been misled and conned by the Government, not just in this area but across the whole area of economic development and progress.

I should like the Minister to advert to the apparent contradiction between the provisions of this Bill particularly sections 3 and 4, and the provisions of sections 2 and 3 of the Anti-Discrimination (Employment) Act of 1975 in which the benign light of Women's Year was announced with great public relations éclat by the Minister for Labour. Section 3 of this Bill deals not only with the amendment or variation of wages in regard to reference to the Labour Court and power to prohibit, temporarily, increases in remuneration paid by banks, but also with power to "vary any other terms or conditions of employment".

The Anti-Discrimination (Employment) Act is basic legislation dealing with women's rights in regard to conditions and terms of employment. The question I would like to ask the Minister is, what is the position of the Statevis-à-vis the permanent legislation, which is the anti-discrimination legislation. The Minister and the Government hope—and rightly so—that this legislation will be of a temporary character. The side headings to sections 3 and 4 do not give the whole story. If one did not read sections 3 and 4 fully one would tend to think that the sections deal with remuneration per se, because the side heading to section 3 says:

Reference to Labour Court and power to prohibit temporarily increases of remuneration, etc. paid by banks.

The side note to section 4 says:

Power to prohibit increases of remuneration paid by banks.

The sections themselves refer to the other area I have mentioned, apart from remuneration, and again I refer to subsection (1) of section 3—

Where any banks, whether before, on or after the commencement of this Act, pay or agree to pay increases of remuneration to any of their employees or amend or vary or agree to amend or vary any other terms or conditions of employment of any of their employees....

Again in section 4 the side note would lead one to think that the only provision of section 4 was the power to prohibit increase of remuneration. Section 4, subsection (1)—this is the penal section as far as the banks are concerned—reads:


(a) any banks, whether before, on or after the commencement of this Act, pay or agree to pay increases of remuneration to any of their employees or amend or vary or agree to amend or vary any other terms or conditions of employment of any of their employees so as to provide improved or more favourable terms or conditions of employment for them.

Therefore, sections 3 and 4 of this Bill are not just dealing with remuneration but also with terms or conditions of employees. Section 2 of the basic piece of legislation passed by this Oireachtas, the Anti-Discrimination Act of 1975, states:

For the purposes of this Act, discrimination shall be taken to occur in any of the following cases—

(a) where by reason of his sex a person is treated less favourably than a person of the other sex.

The terms and conditions of female employees in the banks may be improved in accordance with the legislative directive in section 2, in particular, of the Anti-Discrimination Employment Act, and the other sections which actually prohibit discrimination on the part of employers, for instance under section 3 of the same Act. It goes on into further detail, but section 2 defines discrimination, where the female sex is treated less favourably than the other sex, in regard to terms or conditions. Then section 3 prohibits an employer from discriminating in such a manner. We have a situation where the banks are prohibited, under this legislation, from improving the terms or conditions of their female employees and penalised under section 4 of this Bill if they so attempt to do. This is ludicrous. Under the legislation before this House the banks, as employers, can be heavily penalised if they observe the directives contained in the Anti-Discrimination (Employment) Act in regard to their female employees. The Bill before us not alone deals with remuneration but also deals with terms and conditions.

In dealing with terms and conditions, if the banks decide by way of agreement to deal with their female employees as directed to deal with them in regard to terms and conditions under the Anti-Discrimination (Employment) Act, they are committing an offence under the Bill now before this House. This is, in my view, a very serious position and one that should be examined in a serious way.

Does it not depend on the time of commencement of one of the Bills and the time of termination of the other, as to whether or not what the Senator is saying is correct?

We do not have any time apart from the Minister's word in the other House. We are talking about legislation before this House. As far as the Bill before the House is concerned there is no question of limitation in regard to time of operation. We have the Minister's word that this will not be a continuing measure and will be suspended if the matter is settled. I am talking in terms of legislation that is being rushed through the Houses of the Oireachtas without proper attention. It appears ludicrous in the extreme that we should be penalising employers for observing the directives contained in a Bill, solemnly passed by this Oireachtas with greatéclat, with great speech-making to women's organisations all over the country, with mutual congratulatory remarks, various seminars, senaces and sessions. We have a situation where, in women's year of 1975, the major stroke in this direction of the equal rights for women and men was the Government's Anti-Discrimination Act of 1975, and we have now a legislation which makes it a penalty for employers, i.e. bank employers, to equalise the terms and conditions of female employment in the banks. These are the basic facts, and I would like to hear in a substantial way from the Minister on this aspect because I think it is a substantial point. If the Minister is really concerned about passing legislation that is related to the problem at hand, then he could pass the legislation and have in the section, as is set out in the side note, that the basic sections 3 and 4 of the Bill, refer to remuneration.

Et cetera in No. 3?

Et cetera in No. 3 and not referred to in No. 4. To be consistent with the existing legislation of this Oireachtas, the two sections, properly drafted should confine themselves to remuneration and not include terms or conditions. If terms or conditions are improved by the banks in regard to their female employees they are observing the directives contained in the Anti-Discrimination Act and are being penalised under the legislation we are now proposing to pass.

Those are the facts of the situation. I have checked out the matter. This Bill is urgent and necessary because of the general economic climate, and the importance of having an overall balanced wages and incomes policy. That fact that that is agreed, by all responsible people, to be necessary in the present economic climate does not excuse the Government for bringing in legislation which is at variance with their own previous legislation which was passed solemnly, and was one of the jewels of their legislation in the current year of 1975, Women's Year. That is not the way Government should behave. We are not here to allow to pass unheeded slovenly and contradictory legislation of this kind, legislation negativing existing legislation. We are not here to do that in a serious House of Parliament. We are here as a responsible Opposition to help the Government out of the terrible mess in which they have got themselves. We are not going to oppose the Bill for that responsible reason. We would like to point out that that is no excuse for preparing slovenly legislation and enacting it as a solemn Act of this Oireachtas, legislation that is in direct conflict with their own existing legislation passed some months ago.

I do not believe it necessary for a Member of my Party in particular to be lengthy in speaking on this Bill, in support of it. The principle behind the Bill is one of defence of the national wage agreement. Workers other than bank staffs in the first place voluntarily accepted the overall agreement, and secondly, at the invitation of the Government, accepted the voluntary revision of the terms of the agreement. It is quite indefensible that some workers should benefit at what quite clearly would be the expense of others, were the bank officials to be permitted to proceed along the lines currently indicated by them.

Other workers in the banking system, as the Minister has stated, are bound by the terms of the agreement, and have voluntarily accepted what is in effect a downward revision of their pay and salary expectations, because of the success of the Government's anti-inflationary packet of June of this year. It is inequitable that a man who works in a bank, and who happens to be a cleaner, or a porter, should be bound by one set of rules. and another who stands behind a desk with a white collar should be bound by a different set of rules. It is inequitable that the workers within the banking system should not be bound by the same overall general rules in relation to pay and salaries as others within the industry, when the great majority of workers who service and support their industry are also trade unionists, voluntarily bound by a national set of rules in relation to pay and salaries.

I believe the reason why this Bill is before the House is that we have here an example of the dangers which are attendant upon worker snobbery. The bank officials should be part of the overall trade union movement. There is no justification for the fact that they are outside the movement and that they regard themselves as being, I would not say superior to, but in some way different from the rest of workers within this country. Had the Bank Officials' Association been a part of the trade union movement this Bill would not have been necessary because, like the great generality of workers they would have accepted the majority decision of Congress and would have been bound by the terms of the revision of the agreement. There are many workers in trade unions and many trade unions who do not accept the principle behind the national wages agreement. There were others who, while accepting the principle, did not accept the necessity to revise it last June. Nonetheless as democrats and good trade unions they accepted the majority decision of Congress on both occasions. If the bank officials had been and were now members of the trade union movement they would have acted in concert with those who support their current position and accepted the overall majority decision of Congress. I, therefore, repeat that this legislation is an example of the dangers which are attendant upon what is nothing more than worker snobbery. Those who are organised within associations and trade unions in defence of working class interests have an inescapable obligation to be part of the overall movement and to be loyal to the Trade Union Congress.

The Minister has said that the savings which will arise from this legislation should go towards a decrease in bank service charges. I would not like it to be thought that this legislation would result simply in the saving of labour costs to the banks and therefore an increase of their profits. The money which is saved by the passage of this legislation, should be devoted to subsidising the high mortgage interest rates, which the banking industry as a whole is partly responsible for by its raising of the price of money, and the attendant effect of that on building societies.

The long-term solution to this type of problem is the nationalisation of the banks. Credit is in itself a social product and it is obnoxious that, at a time of general economic depression, the banking system should be booming to the extent of over £30 million profits. The whole business of banking should be brought within social control and then perhaps the banks staff association might look quite differently upon their own role within the banking industry and their obligations towards the rest of the working class.

This Bill is introduced in an economic situation of the utmost gravity. This fact should have forced the bank officials to reconsider their demands, irrespective of the merits which might buttress their case or the principle which they believe themselves to be defending. There is need for unparalleled co-operation and restraint by all sections if we are to preserve employment and if we are to prevent unemployment from rising to figures of the order of 120,000 or 130,000. Nobody in the community is exempt from the social obligation of co-operating in measures designed to protect employment. Therefore I support this Bill.

I am amazed and amused to see the Minister having to come into this House with this legislation. If we try to find out why such a thing should happen the answer can be found in the record of this Government. It is amusing to listen to Senator Halligan making distinctions between various types of workers. He should know that industrial workers are a very important part of the community and that their earnings are higher in many cases than those of some of these people mentioned in this Bill. This is not the time to draw demarcation lines between white-collar and other types of workers. At present all of the workers are clothed very well and fellows in all classes of employment can wear collars and ties if they so wish. The distinction that Senator Halligan makes is not relevant in 1975.

The Government are in a desperate position and have rushed in here with this legislation. I am afraid that it will not be too long before the order to abandon ship must be given. We see a Labour/Fine Gael Coalition Government. The Labour Party, in particular, are pledged to fight for better conditions and pay for the workers. Nevertheless, this Government, of which they are a part, are pushing through a Bill which will be a curb on what a worker can earn in whatever profession or salary he is. If they succeed in relation to the bank officials, they will be able to bring in similar legislation regarding the civil service, teachers, farmers, Federation of Rural Workers, or any other type of people who are in employment. It is the thin end of the wedge. It is an acknowledgment that the great agreement, which we were led to believe was brought to fruition in May of this year, is not working. I pity the Minister for Finance who is trying to deal effectively with the national economy and expecting support from other elements in the Coalition Cabinet, people who were sitting around a table at Liberty Hall and taking quite different decisions on wage agreements from those which they would make when around the Government table. This has done immense harm.

Senator Lenihan made a very interesting point about the employment of women and the expectations that some women had of equal pay and the effect that this legislation may have in this sphere.

With regard to protecting banks in general, I have always felt that banks down the years have not given the service they should give to the nation and indeed to the individual. They chose times to open and close and they determined the interest rate to be paid, and it was very difficult in days gone by to get any money from them.

If we are to progress the banks must be able to lend money and meet the requirements of the nation. I would not make a case to save money for the banks. People who worked in banks many years ago found that the remuneration in those days was very meagre. It was through the union established by the officials themselves that they were able to get from the banks a fairly decent salary. They have formed their own union or association and it amazes me to find out that it does not seem to be recognised as a union by the Labour element of the Government.

We, on this side of the House, will not be opposing this Bill. We cannot do anything about it. It is the Government's fault to have got themselves into this mess. They have now found that they have to come in here and try to pilot this legislation through the House. They know that it is not a very popular piece of legislation. At the same time they are wise enough to know that there are not that many bankers in Ireland and there is not that great sympathy throughout rural Ireland for bank officials. In many instances bank officials have put themselves on higher pedestals than most of the community. Perhaps they may pay for it in this respect now.

We must remember that they are people in employment anyway and perhaps rushing through this type of legislation may eventually lead us on to a situation whereby we may be faced with another bank strike. That might be something the Government themselves might desire because of the situation in which we find ourselves now with 103,000 or 105,000 people unemployed; it might suit the Government's action and policy if the banks were closed for six months at least.

We do not want to oppose this piece of legislation because we know the Government find themselves in a mess at present. We know that there is economic recession. We know that there are 105,000 people unemployed. We know that the school-leavers have been unable to find jobs. Prices have escalated beyond all expectations over the last 12 months. The Minister has admitted here that the country is in a sorry mess at present.

It has taken a long time to get this admission from Government spokesmen. Now that we have reached the stage where they openly admit that their policies have been a complete failure perhaps they might now pull up their socks. Perhaps they might say to themselves: "At least we have told the people exactly what the position is." I am a great believer in telling people exactly what the position is. There is no point in trying to draw a smokescreen over their eyes or trying to pretend that the cost of living was reduced by a pound, as was said by Senator Halligan. That type of nonsense is ridiculous, because it is a well known fact that the cost of living has not been reduced. Every housewife knows that every week there are increases in prices in almost every commodity bought. The Department of Posts and Telegraphs have just announced another price increase in postal services. There are other various increases in the pipeline.

Naturally we expect that when people are ill those who have jobs would stand behind them. That is a situation that we in Fianna Fáil would freely support. When people are unemployed the rest of the community have to make sacrifices. It is very hard on the rest of the community to have to continue subsidising those who are out of work. It is not our fault that the situation is like that.

In 1973, when we handed over to the Coalition Government, there was employment for all, emigration had stopped, the finances of the country were sound. That was the situation that obtained in 1973 and we can now see the situation in 1975. That is only two-and-a-half years ago.

The Minister has admitted that the situation could get even worse. He more or less says: "Mair a chapall agus gheobhair féar"—Live horse and you will get grass. Perhaps in 1977 there might be an improvement.

The Taoiseach is going on the air tonight to issue another warning. It will be his Christmas message to 105,000 unemployed—to live in hope because there is something good around the corner. Oil and gas will be discovered, this country will get rich and there will be employment for all. I do not think that situation is as near as the Government think. It is a sorry situation they have got themselves into when they have to oppose people seeking an increase in wages and make the excuse for doing that that the cost of living has been reduced.

In the circumstances, I welcome the legislation. My interpretation of why it is necessary might be very different from the interpretation put forward by people on the other side of the House. If we had a situation where wage increases were freely negotiated between employers and employees, were based on productivity, based on the profits made in a partticular industry as a result of the efforts of the people employed in that industry, where people worked harder, worked longer hours, made a greater effort to produce more efficiently—if these were the criteria applied when decisions on wage increases were being sought, then I would definitely oppose this type of legislation. I would say it was a threat to the rights of workers and of people employed in industry and public service.

As it is we have a situation where the law of the jungle has prevailed. In the past it was not the people who produced the most, who produced most efficiently, who gave the best return, who got the higher wages, who got the greatest increases or got any increase at all. Those who got the increases in the past were those who applied the most pressure. It was the people who could put their finger on the vital nerve at the right time who succeeded in getting wage increases. For this reason I welcome the attitude of the Minister for Labour in saying clearly, and backing it up with legislation, that a small group of people in the right position should not have the right to hold all of us up to ransom and demand what they want for themselves.

Here we have a comparatively small group of people, people who are in a service which has placed itself in a vital position in Irish life at the present time. I do not believe they perform a vital role or a vital function. They have maneouvred themselves into a very strategic position in our society, a position of great power beyond the service they perform to society. As a result of their position they are able to apply the right sort of pressure on the nerve centre at the right time. In addition, they are in an industry which, regardless of how other sections fare, regardless of how many people are unemployed, regardless of what our balance of payment position is, can ensure and have ensured for themselves higher profits than ever before. They have a comparatively small number of people employed and can afford to give wages which appear at present to be extraordinary in many respects.

If this is compared to the situation in industry and agriculture, and especially in agriculture—it is no harm to reflect that a smaller number of people engaged in that industry export more goods than ever before, produce more than ever before and take a much smaller return for the work done than that to which they are entitled to. Only 2 per cent of farmers in the west of Ireland can achieve the target of £36 per week of an income after three years' planning and with the most expert advice available. We then begin to realise there is something wrong with the manner in which wage increases have been negotiated over the years.

I do not accept Senator Halligan's point that it is a matter of snobbery and that this section are out of the mainstream of trade unionism. I have observed down through the years the people who are in the mainstream of trade unionism, and the bank employees would be included in this. If they found it necessary to get a better deal than they were getting they would be in the mainstream of trade unionism. The reason they are not is that they are well able to look after themselves without the assistance of the trade union movement. They know that the law of the jungle prevails. As long as they are capable of looking after themselves independently of the trade unions they will stay outside of it. It is only when they find it necessary to further their own objectives that they will join the trade unions. The idea of snobbery is far wide of the point. It is a matter of personal gain.

I have very positive views on how the banks should spend that money. I have observed in the past that, in the fields of agriculture and industry, the banks have a few highly skilled public relations people who flaunt their qualifications and degrees but they are not used to improve the industries in which they invest their money. I should like to see the banks employing some worth-while people who are qualified in industry and agriculture, who could go out and meet the agricultural community and the industrialists, judge the position, and offer advice. The banks are in a monopoly position with very little competition and they have failed to provide themselves with the expertise necessary to help agriculture and industry in which they invest money from time to time. They should use this money to train and employ specialists to help Irish industry and, indeed, our whole economy.

It is regrettable that the banks, who have so much power over our economy, are in such a poor position to evaluate for themselves the merits of their various investments. They have reduced their operations almost completely to the criteria of what it is safe for them to do. They do not try to evaluate the merit of the people to whom they lend money. They do not try to assess the future of industry, or what benefit it can bring to a particular area by way of employment. Their criteria are security and safety. The money saved could be spent on employing a number of experts, who would be employed as experts, and not as public relations people, to advise them on how best to invest their money for the improvement of the Irish economy.

I welcome this legislation. It is necessary. If people were paid according to their return and if wages increases were paid on grounds of productivity, I would not support this measure. In the circumstances the Government have no alternative and the Minister for Labour is very wise to introduce this Bill.

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——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I am sorry to interrupt the Senator but I fail to see the relevance of this to the Bill being discussed at the moment.

Thank you for your patience. The quotation ends:

——and production runs were in most cases short. Production was usually highly diversified and as a result of these factors costs of production were usually relatively high.

I simply referred to those few points —and there are many more of that kind in that very interesting report— to show that it is much more complicated than simply turning to the worker and saying: "You are getting paid too much." The same kind of thing appears in a recent CII report, which made much the same case in defence of the Coalition Government's policy—they are worried that the safety valve of emigration is gone and that now they have to try to provide enough jobs. Thirty-seven thousand new jobs are needed and they are providing jobs at the rate of 2,000 a year and—this is an astonishing statement—there has been a drop in the number of people who work in the economy over the 17-year period since 1958. This is an incredible admission of failure, when we think of the millions of pounds given by the IDA and Fóir Teo. I am trying to make the point about this business of saying that if we cut somebody's wages everything will be all right, ignoring the fact of the failure over the years by private enterprise to put money back into industry, to keep up with technical development, new skills, management techniques, export drive, to rationalise their production and so on. Probably the least factor of all was wage rates. Any kind of modicum of success in Irish industry depended on becoming a kind of competitor to South Korea, or Hong Kong or Japan——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I am sorry to interrupt the Senator once more but I think he has made the point in regard to the wage element. I will have to ask him to refer more specifically to the Bill before the House.

I have to try to establish that passing this Bill will do nothing except hurt a number of innocent people.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

It is in order to discuss a specific area with general reference to the economic climate, but I think the Senator is labouring it too much.

This is a very serious matter. It is about time somebody dealt with it in a little depth rather than the superficial——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

A different time and a different debate would be perfectly in order. This is not a debate on the general economic situation.

The Minister in his opening speech talked about the major economies of the world beginning to show signs of improvement and all that kind of thing.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I have allowed the Senator to speak for a considerable length of time. I am just asking him to relate his remarks a little more specifically to the Bill.

Am I not permitted to tell the Minister that it is rubbish?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

That is right; the Senator is being permitted.

This is unpleasant. I have no doubt it is unpleasant too for the Leas-Chathaoirleach, as a Member of the Labour Party.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

I would ask Senator Browne not to challenge the ruling of the Chair. I am being very lenient, as he well appreciates, judging by his remark five minutes ago.

The point which was raised by Senator Lenihan is a particularly important one—the reference in sections 3 and 4 to the conditions of employment—in the light of the fact that we are now coming to a point at which the anti-discrimination laws should begin to bite and we would get a legitimate demand by female workers for equality of pay. I hope the Minister deals with that point because there is a general feeling that, as part of the catastrophic collapse of the economic situation during the two-and-a-half years—the lifetime—of this Government, one of the proposals will be the setting aside of equal pay proposals which, as Senator Lenihan said, the Minister introduced with so muchéclat. This, then, brings one to another group of workers, in the civil service and in private industry, because private industry is now complaining that it has not enough money to pay this equal pay. The women must carry on. They are continuing to be discriminated against both in private and public service employment.

In his speech the Minister referred to the profits likely to be made by the banks:

I would hope that, on passage of this legislation, if any savings accrue to the banks as a result of the Labour Court adjudication the benefits will be passed on to the members of the general public.

The Minister is taking very wide and sweeping powers in this Bill in relation to telling the banks what they must do about the workers and about the conditions of employment of the workers, about the right of access to the books, accounts, information, records, documents and so on. Why is it that he simply issues a pious hope about this very important question of the amount of money that may be saved by the banks in this situation, should this legislation be passed? Is it not possible for the Minister to enforce his will in a much more practical way than the way suggested here, that is, the abolition of bank service charges to current account holders? An extraordinary proposal this, that you should exercise this kind of generosity at somebody else's expense, because of course, it is the bank officials' money you are handing over to abolish bank service charges. Is there no way in which this money could be kept in trust for bank officials? Is there no way in which the banks should not be permitted as they have in the past to make money out of this kind of situation, if it is allowed to develop again?

The Minister talks about devoting our resources not to consumption but to investment. Of course this probably is the most important failure on the part of the Government—this failure to devote our resources to investment. The extraordinary change which has taken place in our society in the last five years—as short as that —is remarkable. We have become a very wealthy country, probably for its size and population the wealthiest country in the world, certainly one of the four or five wealthiest, because of the zinc, lead, gas, oil resources. Zinc and lead we know certainly about, and we have reason to believe that there is enormous wealth in gas or oil around our shores. This is probably the most inequitable part of the Coalition's record in the last two-and-a-half years, this perpetuation of the piseog about Ireland which has turned out not to be a piseog. For many years we all believed we were a very poor country, a very poverty stricken country. In the last five or ten years, at most, this idea has been completely exploded. There is enormous wealth. We are a very wealthy country. If this wealth had been exploited in the interests of the people to whom it belongs instead of being handed over for a pittance to a handful of foreign oil moguls banded together with a few of our own mining and oil moguls, we would not be in this position of going to the workers and asking them to make sacrifices. There is no need for our people to have to make sacrifices of this kind, of which this, I am quite certain, is the forerunner of many other similar sacrifices to be asked of the workers. This is the most inequitable part of the Coalition's policy: that we, a very wealthy country, should be asking our people to suffer in this way, completely gratuitously suffer in this way, when we have become, as I said earlier on, a primary producing country—an extraordinary development.

While the moguls are now banding together to protect their interests and to see that the West pays the right price for whatever they can produce in the line of copper, bauxite or iron ore, mercury, phosphates, and all these things, we are handing this over to other people who will sell it and take the greater part of the profit.

There was a time when this call to the nation to tighten its belt and keep its back to the wall, and all that kind of stuff, the kind of rubbish we will hear from the Taoiseach tonight— a place could have been made for it in a time of war or something like that. This Bill is no longer justified. It is completely sinful that it should be produced here by a Labour Minister. Fine Gael are acting true to type, but it is completely shameful that a Bill of this kind should be produced in the real circumstances of the country. Not only that, but that we are going to get not just this Bill but many other proposals of this kind.

This is an unnecessary Bill. It will inflict considerable hardship on utterly innocent people. It seems to me that it will be used as a precedent. Those trade union officials who support this particular principle in respect of this group of workers are taking a very dangerous step, because it can be used against them. No attempt has been made by the Minister to say what has happened in relation to profits over the years, bank profits and all the other kinds of profits that have been made over the years. There has been no rational defence whatever of the monopoly capitalist system which has now pushed this Government into bringing in this very unfair piece of legislation. I wish to say that I oppose it.

I should like to begin by saying that I agree with Dr. Browne when he says that everything will not be all right if this Bill is passed. Equally I disagree with him in saying that it is a wage standstill. If it were a wage standstill we would be talking about the nation as a whole and not a particular minority group within the nation. Thirdly, it gives no great pleasure to any trade union official to support any measure that is suggestive, even though it is affecting a minority, in some way of a wages standstill, even on a temporary basis. This is what this is. It is a temporary provisions Bill. It is not a very palatable experience for a trade union official to stand up and face this. Of course the difference between Dr. Browne and me and other people is that I have been representing trade union people on the ground floor and house associations for over 31 years. I was not in disneyland or away above them, but on the floor with them on a day-to-day basis. Consequently I have had to come to terms with them on many occasions. I have had to take my own members on, and I have only done that in the belief that I was doing the right thing. I believe it to be on the basis of enlightened self-interest on behalf of the people I represented.

Had I not been involved in an exercise of that nature some years ago, I can say now that some of the people I represented, while we lost about 1,000 jobs, we were very close to losing about 4,000 jobs if we had not come to a realisation of the facts at that particular time. I am pleased to say that not only I came to realise the facts but the people that I fought and argued with and finally talked to came to that realisation. Of their own free will and vote they accepted that situation.

It is not a question of it being easy for a trade union official to stand up and talk about something. It is very easy to use the safety of generality, but when you get down to the specifics it is a much more difficult problem. In taking the trade union line, for example, I should like to quote here from a discussion document that was put to the Trade Union Congress in 1972. While I am not going to refer to everything that was in that discussion document, I think it is very right that I should, in fact, state what the thinking was in that particular document, even if it was not eventually agreed. There was a great measure of the thinking of the leadership of the trade union movement contained in that document and I quote:

In whatever policies it decides to pursue on wage and salary claims the trade union movement must have regard to—

(a) The potentially inflationary dangers of claims of a certain magnitude.

(b) The need for a solidarity policy that ensures preferential treatment for wage earners in the lower income groups.

(c) The need for policy and the harmonisation of non-wage fringe benefits and conditions of employment, such as pension schemes, sick payments, annual leave, hours of work for all workers, and the improvement of these benefits and conditions having regard to the increased labour costs involved, and

(d) The implementation of equal pay for work of equal value for men and women.

Whilst the trade unions cannot escape their responsibility to pursue those particular policies, and certainly did not in the national wage agreement—they went into them and they did, in fact, carry this kind of thinking in with them—they did not conceal the fact that they expected the Government and the employers to pursue policies that would minimise any adverse effects of increasing prices on the conditions of the national wage agreement. That is a common thing. It is not make-believe.

In the case of the bank officials, who are working in a high profit area, their adoption of the attitude "Let's get as much out of them as we can", is understandable. Unfortunately, I could not weave a cocoon around myself and believe that the rest of the world owed me a living, or owed the men I represent a living. Therefore, I have to come to terms with the national situation. The people I represented could have got more money. There is no question on that. That would stand up to any test of argument.

The bank officials, even though they are not in the trade union movement, should first of all defend their right of freedom of association. I do not think they should be coerced into becoming members of the Trade Union Congress or anything else. Equally, I would say that, having regard to the trade union attitude, the number of people they represent and the policies they introduced in the national wage agreement, it is quite right that the Minister should take a close look at these situations and take whatever measures are necessary.

Senator Lenihan was conscious of the fact that there was no other way to deal with the problem, despite thede jure and de facto situations. Therefore I must thank Senator Lenihan for his realistic approach to this problem. The measures embarked on are necessary in view of the circumstances we find ourselves in.

I find I have to take issue with the bank officials—and not just on the issue of the porter or cleaner as mentioned by Senator Halligan—on the fact that every working class person in the country has to expose himself to the instrument set up by Government, the Labour Court, to win the right to get certain increases. The bulk of the work carried on in the Labour Court at the moment is to try to get increases for people who have not even succeeded in getting the last phase of two or three wage agreements ago. This temporary provision requires that the bank officials submit their case to the Labour Court, and having regard to the terms of the national wage agreement, that they and their employers would adhere to the settlements made by the Labour Court. That is not a lot to ask when one considers that we are asking that the community should play its role, that the farmers should be taxed, that there should be a wealth tax, an acquisition tax and so on, when we are all working towards a community accountability to one another. It is not a lot to ask people who are in secure employment.

Bank employees—though they may object to interference with their negotiations—should take consolation from the fact that they are not on a day-to-day basis subjected to work study or to wage incentive systems. They are secure enough to know that they will not be faced with redundancies. The employee who is faced with redundancy or rationalisation finds himself in a position where he cannot get even the second or third phase of a couple of national wage agreements ago. It is not a big demand on them if they look at it in that way. I would be quite willing to talk to the officials in my local bank on those lines.

There is nothing extraordinary in saying to them: "Do the best you can. We do not want to coerce you into a situation of having to deny your rights of freedom of association, but when circumstances do not permit otherwise, we expect you to come into line with general thinking."

The question of rationalisation has been dealt with already by Senator Noel Browne. I do not know how feasible or practical that argument is. In principle I would not be opposed to the idea, but I do not think it will solve the problem. It is something that needs a great deal of examination and not irresponsible, broad statements, "Let us take over this and take over that". What is the point in taking over banks if the policies do not change?

The Bill asks for nothing that is not expected of other workers. If other sections of the community are not playing their role and if the bank officials have criticisms about that, we shall be glad to hear about them.

In the circumstances the Minister has no alternative but to do his best to see that all sections of the community do their utmost to get us back on the rails. That does not mean that everything will be all right. It does not even mean I would favour further legislation for general restrictions.

In the present circumstances there is not much hope of a redundant worker finding a job, particularly those in the older category. A person who has worked for his living all his life does not like living on the dole or receiving redundancy payments. He wants the dignity of work. In this sense the bank officials have an advantage there. Their jobs are not in jeopardy. They will probably receive a temporary setback in their aspirations, and for the moment I think they should accept that. I have never had to take a temporary setback without finding a way ultimately, in good circumstances, of recovering the ground lost.

What I have to say is entirely devoid of political content. I wish to speak objectively and without prejudice to any Government policies. I cannot support the Government on this legislation or any other Government that might be in power introducing this legislation. I cannot support it on three grounds; first as a matter of principle; secondly, because it is selective; and, thirdly, because I do not believe it is the right action to take.

I cannot support it as a matter of principle because it does violence to the liberty of any group of people to enter into a free bargaining situation. As a trade union official I would have to object to it because, with the passage of time, I might find myself in the position where such legislation would be used against the people I represent and against myself personally. I cannot allow myself to be placed in that situation now or in the future.

The Irish Bank Officials' Association were not present at or associated with the negotiations which went on, at which I was present and to which I gave my vote. Therefore, I cannot see that they are morally or legally bound to the decisions. If they had attended the negotiations and subsequently tried to breach the decisions that would be a different situation. The bank officials freely entered into negotiations with their employers and did a good job of work. Most fair-minded trade unionists would say: "Good luck to them if they got that little bit extra. We do not resent this." But putting the principle of free negotiation as against the differential between what was got under the national wage agreement and what the bank officials got, I would say that the majority of trade unionists would say that the principle of free bargaining is far more important than the difference between the amount awarded under the national wage agreement and that awarded to the bank officials. The right to bargain freely is fundamental. It transcends any other situation. That is the situation in which I find myself as a representative of people for whom I negotiate week after week, month after month and year after year. I would put myself in the position of restricting my freedom of movement, my liberty to act on behalf of people. I say this objectively and without prejudice towards any policies the Government may have. That is the reality so far as I am concerned and I cannot run away from it.

I maintain that this legislation is selective in so far as it is picking on one small group of people whereas there is a free bargaining situation for people in industry, people who are trading, in increases in fees, in increases in prices and so on. It is a supply and demand situation in which people make tremendous profits and there is no restriction on them. This Bill is selective in so far as it picks on one individual group.

I cannot support it for another reason, because it is the wrong action to take. I speak now from wide experience. I refer to the deplorable history of negotiations involving the IBOA. At the end of their second last strike I was asked by them to represent them on a tribunal to clear up the mess —a mess which should never have taken place. The mess took place because everybody was trying to grind this group of people into the ground, but they did not succeed. On another occasion I acted for them at a pensions tribunal. The result was reasonably successful. On a third occasion a tribunal was set up to interpret about five words in an agreement into which they had entered. The words were "extraordinary circumstances in the economy".

A chairman was appointed; a representative of the banks was appointed, and I represented the IBOA. The tribunal met the bankers and the bank officials at a joint meeting. The tribunal then withdrew and the deliberations began. The two other people on the tribunal said: "We cannot hold that there are extraordinary circumstances in the economy". I maintained that there were extraordinary circumstances in the economy which would warrant the bank officials lodging a claim. I should like to emphasise the words I used—"which would warrant the bank officials lodging a claim". We were not in a claim situation; we were asked to interpret about five words. The argument went on. Two people on the tribunal maintained that there were no extraordinary circumstances in the economy. I maintained there were because I had already lodged a claim for an increase in the salaries of the officials I represented. Dozens of other associations had lodged claims because there were extraordinary factors in the economy. I was asked to sign a statement to the effect that there were no extraordinary circumstances in the economy—having lodged a claim because there were. I refused to sign and the chairman produced his report. This led to the last disastrous strike. I told them before we left the meeting that they were like King Canute telling the waves to go back. They were trying to push aside obvious economic problems and extraordinary circumstances in the economy. I told them they were walking the bank staffs into a major strike which would affect everybody, both rich and poor, and that they had a grave responsibility.

My advice was not taken and look what happened. There was a strike. Bank officials went to London and elsewhere to get work. They had to work overtime when they came back and they earned far more money—including relief from income tax while they were working in Britain. The moral of that situation is that by introducing this sort of legislation they are putting the bank officials in a corner from which they will have to fight again. It may be said that we cannot have a bank strike because people cannot get work in London any more. But the same situation as that which followed their previous return must exist if there is industrial action by the bank officials. Again they will have to work to clear up the backlog and they can earn large sums on overtime plus an increase in their wages to offset loss of earnings during the strike.

It is with that experience I speak. I know these people. I have worked for them on a voluntary basis. They asked me to sit in on meetings and to help them in their deliberations, and I have done so. I have seen the hamfisted way in which they have been treated. I forecast that this legislation is going to write another disastrous chapter in negotiations with the IBOA. I know them and I know their determination and they know well the tremendous weapon they have. I am not making a case for or against them. I am pointing out the reality of the situation, and as far as I am concerned I must object to this legislation as a matter of principle. I must object to it because it is selective and I must object to it because I know from my experience that it is not the right thing to do.

Initially, I should like to thank Senators for their reception of this Bill and in so far as I have been able to study it today—I am standing in for the Minister for Labour—I shall endeavour to answer their questions and reply to points they have made. I would refer first to the contribution of Senator Lenihan, my political opponent. I notice he is very fond of language. Many times he referred to the situation that is developing in the economy. I propose now to use language to tell him that, in my opinion, I will be able to prove him slightly wet behind the ears. He said of course that he knew everything about the recession that was coming, how long it was going to last, that Fianna Fáil had warned and warned. I know it is a fairly good gambit for an Opposition to keep saying things are bad. We never descended to that while in Opposition. We were always very constructive. It does not help the economy when you have an Opposition that keeps saying that. The only way that Senator Lenihan and his fellow Senators could possibly have known what he suggested he did know was to have been in the conclaves of Sheik Yamani and other gentlemen out in Egypt.

However, I would first like to deal with his statement that there was legitimate case for argument. Yes, I agree that, between the bank officials and the Government in their approach to this particular position, there is a legitimate case for argument. However, I will be dealing later with the proposal by the Minister for Labour to send the 1974 and 1975 agreements between the Irish Bank Officials' Association and the Irish banks to the Labour Court. Many Senators raised that and there is no point in my repeating myself or perhaps replying to one Senator on a point he made and having to talk about it again because the point made by another was perhaps slightly different.

Let us face the fact that this has had to happen three times. A certain Minister for Labour introduced a similar Bill in 1973. Fianna Fáil drafted a Bill but had not brought it in previous to the change in Government. The only difference between that Bill and the present Bill and the one that was introduced in 1973 was that there were penalties in the Fianna Fáil Bill for the workers and for the trade unions. I leave that to the House. That is just a fact of life.

Senator Lenihan also made the point that bank officials were outside the national agreement and therefore they should be allowed to negotiate their own pay agreements. The economic situation at present is such that no group of workers totalling 10,000 in number can decide to break a line which is, we hope, going to be accepted by the great number of workers in the country. A unit of 10,000 workers could upset what may be necessary to bring our country through a most difficult period. From that point of view it would be quite improper of the Government to allow this to happen.

Senator Lenihan also raised the matter of the Anti-Discrimination (Employment) Bill as it applies to women bank officials. The position is that this Bill does not affect the Anti-Discrimination Bill and that the last payment that will bring these ladies to equal pay has yet to be made, and it is to be made at the end of this month. This Bill legally does not affect that, so that all they have to wait for is not a Christmas present but a New Year's box and they will be "even Stephen." That is why I think the ex-Minister and Leader of the Opposition here in the Seanad was slightly wet behind the ears. Any order made by the Minister under the Bill will relate only to the payment of certain stages of the bank pay agreement. This agreement contains no provision relating to equal pay.

Senator Lenihan seems to be obsessed by equal pay, but I can tell him that the legal position is that equal pay is not caught up with this Bill. Whatever happens equal pay under the Anti-Discrimination Act it is a separate matter. The Bill before the House was framed by Fianna Fáil, introduced by the Minister for Labour in 1973, by order withdrawn and is now being introduced again. I put on the record of the House the Government's assurance that it does not affect equal pay, and the ladies concerned can take that as an absolute statement of fact.

Senator Lenihan then made the point that terms and conditions could be excluded from——

That is what I was talking about, terms and conditions. I was not talking about equal pay.

The Senator was talking about it up to then, but in relation to terms and conditions he said they could be excluded. It is not possible to exclude terms and conditions because if the bank reduced working hours, paid additional gratuities, did all these different things, there would be opportunities for extra earnings and bank officials would have a far more favourable situation than other workers. That fact was accepted by the Senator's party when they drew up their Bill.

Senator Halligan mentioned various matters. I do not want to enter into that sphere very much except to say that, as I understand the position in banking here, the Central Bank hold control, and banking profits are subject to tax. But one of the things one needs here is profit in banking for the simple reason that the pool of money to keep our economy sound and healthy must move with inflation and must be greater each time there is any inflation. For that reason, banking profits which will have been maintained and retained within the banking system are good as long as they are used for productive purposes. The direction of the Central Bank is accepted by the ordinary banks in this regard. From that point of view the only complaint one might have is that there might not be enough productive purposes to apply the money to or not enough money to apply to productive purposes. That is a chicken and egg situation. It has nothing to do with this Bill but which is a fact of financial life that is with us and must be accepted.

The other matter in relation to the banks in this regard referred to by Senator Halligan could be referred to in this way. I made a note as I was listening to him. Money is one of those fluid things that you cannot keep within the bounds of a nation. You can make an order that says that nobody can export a donkey from Ireland or that nobody can export cement from Ireland. So you can contain all the donkeys and all the cement you like in Ireland, but one of the things you cannot do with money is retain it within a community. If money wishes to flow, it is entirely liquid and flow it will. The basis of a sound economy which can get the maximum employment for people is one whereby more money is available for more productive purposes creating more employment.

The point was raised several times during the debate as to whether or not the Irish Bank Officials' Association were entitled to stay out. I say, yes, of course, they were entitled to stay out. They lost, I understand, by staying out in 1974, 1975 is not finally decided yet. In my general approach I will deal with that matter also.

Senator Dolan blamed the Government for bringing in legislation against the workers. It is his legislation just as much as ours. However, apart from that matter I want to be quite clear on this: it is not legislation against any band of workers. Senator Brosnahan took that line, too, in the course of his contribution. This is legislation to equalise matters. This is legislation to set things at right, but again the wise thing is to wait until I am dealing at the end, with the action proposed to be taken by the Minister for Labour.

Senator Dolan then said that this was a case of the Government openly admitting that their policies and their Ministers were a failure. No such thing. Again Senator Dolan would want to have been either the fairy godmother with a magic wand or in the conclaves of Sheik Yamani with access to his purse to have done anything different. The estimate of the depth of this recession and the length of this recession certainly could be no more at various stages than a "guesstimate". The cost of the first increase in oil—and I do not refer to the cost to Senator Lenihan or Senator Russell or anybody else when they put petrol in their cars or fuel oil in their heating system, but the cost to the Government—was £100 million extra. There are three slices and I was trying to estimate the other day the total of the three slices. I do not profess to be an economist. I do not profess to be anything but a pragmatist. I have no ideology at all, but I can tell you that the best "guesstimate" that I could make of it was that this is going to cost the Government in the order of £250 million. That is what we have to face up to. Senator Dolan who knows more Irish than I do, translated an old Irish proverb and said: "Mair, a chapall, agus gheobhair féar." I have thought of another one: "Ní hé lá na gaoithe lá na scolb": the day of the wind is not the day for thatching. This happens to be the day of the wind. This is the day when you are gathering your store together. This is the day when you are getting ready to see to it that this economy when this recession lifts will be "even Stephen and off with the starting gun" with every other economy in Europe. That is the job that this Government is going to do, and part of that work will be done in the passing of this legislation.

Let me quote a politician from the other party—now departed, Lord rest his soul—for whom I had considerable regard. He said that we must not eat the seed potatoes. Senator Browne referred to the "ideology" which he thinks I serve. I serve no ideology of any kind. I am proud of the fact that I served for 20 years on a joint labour committee of the Labour Court as an employers' member of the provender milling industry, and during that time there never was a strike. On that committee at various times on the opposite side were the Minister for Local Government and the Minister for Labour. The Minister for Labour, the Minister for Local Government and myself still serve on it. Ideology was never of my back garden. I am a complete pragmatist, and all I want to do is to get the job done.

I now refer to what Senator Browne said about the paragraph on page 4 of the speech. He talked about forecasts. He said:

The present recession is longer and deeper than has generally been forecast.

Last June the Economic and Social Research Institute predicted a fall of 1½ per cent in GNP for this year. By October, they felt the situation had deteriorated still further than had been expected, and their revised forecast was for a drop of 3½ per cent. We had had increases small and large and this Government were setting their sights at larger increases in the GNP so that there would be larger slices of the cake for everybody. However, because of the oil situation and the downturn in world economy, this recession occurred. Senator Browne was referring to forecasts by the Government. The forecast referred to by the Minister for Labour was the forecast of the Economic and Social Research Institute, and Senators know exactly how that is composed. The studied opinion of the Economic and Social Research Institute was 1½ per cent, that is, they were 2 per cent wrong.

I am standing in for the Minister today because his work necessitates meeting the social partners. The major economies of the world, as Senator Browne quoted, have begun to show signs of improvement, and it is now expected that by early 1977 a general recovery will be under way. We will be in a weak position to participate in this recovery if we find ourselves with inflation and its counterpart, unemployment, at levels above those of our trading partners. No group of 10,000 people can be allowed to militate against the work that is being done by the Minister for Labour and his colleague, the Taoiseach, in negotiating with the social partners to ensure that the minimum interference and the minimal setback in their hopes and aspirations is suffered by all the people, from the bank directors right down to the lowest paid worker.

What are they negotiating and with whom?

They are negotiating the way in which——

What are they negotiating for?

If the Senator will allow me, I will tell it, the way in which it is possible, with the smallest effect on people's incomes and lives during the next year, to be absolutely ready for the rise from the recession that there is in the world today, not alone in Ireland but in the world.


The duty of the Government is to see to it that that rise from the recession shall be met by a response from this nation and the people of this nation, be they workers, employers or whatever, such that we will be right at the top of the league table as far as employment and prosperity are concerned at the earliest possible date.


The Minister should be allowed to speak.

We will fearessly take our stance today. We will fearlessly make our annunciation tonight and we will fearlessly go on our way seeing to it that in every possible facet of the economy, in every possible hole and corner, there is the opportunity and the effort, that we would ask of the people to see to it that we are ready for the start.

What holes and corners?

There was a time when Senator Lenihan used to say there were no problems.

I cannot say it now.

However, he found out that there were. Senator Noel Browne repeatedly referred to a "wage standstill Bill". The purpose of this Bill is not to stop the bank officials from getting any pay increase. It merely seeks to provide that they will take their place with every other worker in the country. Senator Harte adverted to this and said that what he wanted to see was every worker getting a fair crack of the whip and the maximum opportunity. If that opportunity is not today, what we would wish it to be, that is a fact of life.

However, this is not repressive legislation and it is not a question of trying to impose upon these workers a wage standstill. I will be dealing with the gravamen on this later. Senator Browne has said that we are saying to the worker: "You are being paid far too much." Nobody ever said that to a worker as long as this Government has been here. We are the Government who set up the national wage agreement and carried it through. We are the Government who have negotiated with people and made fair play bargains with them. In fact, I would wish that workers were being paid more, but paid in real money, and I wish to see inflation halted. Towards that effect these decisions must be taken.

Senator Browne referred to the fact that the Minister spoke of bank charges in the Bill. The Minister for Labour made a suggestion himself that money saved, if any, might be devoted towards bank charges mentioned in the Bill. Following the enactment of this legislation, the question of the 1974 and 1975 agreements of the IBOA going to the Labour Court, he and the Minister for Finance will confer with the banks in this regard. There is nothing terribly sinister about that. It is just the normal thing.

Senator Harte mentioned two things which I like. One was the safety of generality. There was too much in this debate today—if I may mention it; it is only my fourth or fifth time in the Seanad and perhaps I am a little impertinent in mentioning it—of the safety of generality and not enough, as Senator Harte said, realisation of the facts. He said it is great to be able to go into a bank, and I should like to give him some advice on talking to a bank manager. You throw your hat into the office and if he throws it out you do not go in, if it stays inside you go in.

Senator Brosnahan prefaced his remarks by saying that there was no iota of politics in the thing at all and that he was entirely, shall we say, ethereal and away from the matter, but then talks about principle and the right action and so on. Senator Brosnahan told us that on three different occasions he has acted voluntarily for the bank officials. I shall leave that matter as it stands. He disagrees with the principle in the Bill in as much as it interferes with free collective bargaining. This does not do so. This is a purely temporary measure which the Minister for Labour was forced to introduce after voluntary response was not forthcoming from the bank officials. The Minister for Labour saw the bank officials last week and offered to be bound by the ruling of the Labour Court and to send their 1974 and 1975 agreements to the Labour Court and admitted that they lost in the 1974 agreement. They would not at that point of time go to the Labour Court for him and that is the reason for this measure.

I now want to deal briefly with the matter in general. The gravamen of this is that the Labour Court adjudicated on the 1974 bank pay agreement. It found that that agreement was not in breach of the 1974 national pay agreement. The banks, however, lost out under the fixed escalation clause of the 1974 pay agreement. In negotiating the 1975 pay agreement bank officials sought to recoup the loss under their 1974 agreement. Thus, it would be fair to bank employees that both their 1974 and 1975 agreements be sent, and when this legislation has been passed, the Minister for Labour will send 1974 and 1975 Irish Bank Officials' Association agreements to the Labour Court for adjudication. He will be bound by the results of that Labour Court adjudication.

People suggested that this Government were doing nothing, but last June this Government were faced with a choice of repressive action or trying to get the economy on its feet. We chose the latter. I said that with the twin objectives of combatting inflation and maintaining employment we took certain budgetary action. These measures included—and one forgets, eaten bread is soon forgotten—the removal of VAT from clothing, footwear, electricity and all fuel (except road fuels), subsidies on CIE rates and fares, subsidies on bread and flour, subsidies on butter, liquid milk and town gas. That meant that in that quarter there was an increase of only 0.8 per cent in the consumer price index. Without further increasing costs and so further reducing our competitiveness for exports, it was possible for workers to forego part of the end of the national wage agreement and be in the "even-Stephen" situation. That was done to avoid repressive legislation. Now there should be a further adjustment. This legislation is not repressive legislation against the Irish Bank Officials' Association. It is right and proper that everyone must adjust and contribute a little for a relatively short space of time, for one purpose only, to see that the soundness of our economy, and therefore our jobs and our children's future, are preserved.

I am putting the question "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."


Will the Senators desiring a Division please rise?

Senator N. Browne and Senator Brosnahan rose.

The Senators will be recorded as dissenting.

Question put and declared carried.
Business suspended at 5.30 p.m. and resumed at 7 p.m.
Bill put through Committee, reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.