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Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 2 Feb 1977

Vol. 86 No. 1

Holidays (Agricultural Workers) Regulations, 1977: Motion.

I move:

That Seanad Éireann approves the following Regulations in draft,

Holidays (Agricultural Workers) Regulations, 1977,

a copy of which Regulations in draft was laid before Seanad Éireann on 26 January, 1977.

Senators will recall that, under the Industrial Relations Act, 1976, a joint labour committee has been set up under the aegis of the Labour Court to regulate the rates of pay and conditions of employment of agricultural workers, of whom there are 20,000 in full-time employment and 14,000 in part-time employment. The general purpose of these arrangements is to ensure that future agreements arrived at under the procedures of that Act will lead to the progressive elimination of the conditions differential which has been allowed to develop over the years resulting in a growing gap between the working conditions of farm workers and those of other industrial employees.

As part of the arrangements established by the 1976 Act, the Agricultural Wages Board will be abolished in due course. The intention is that in that event the enforcement of holiday entitlements of agricultural workers would pass to my Department. For that purpose, I must have a set of regulations setting out the holiday entitlements of agricultural workers by reference to the Holidays (Employees) Act, 1973, under which I am responsible for holiday entitlements of workers generally. The draft regulations laid before the House for aproval meet the objective of setting out rules to govern the holiday entitlements of agricultural workers.

The draft regulations preserve the current holidays entitlements as contained in several Agricultural Workers (Holidays) Acts, which fall to be repealed, but effect certain modifications in the Holidays (Employees) Act, 1973, to take account of their special circumstances. I expect that, at a later date when both sides of the agricultural industry have reviewed holiday entitlements in discussions at the joint labour committee, proposals may be put forward in relation to the future pattern of holiday entitlements in that industry.

I recommend that the House should now approve these draft regulations.

There is no objection to this regulation. It is to be welcomed that the differentials which have been growing in regard to the conditions as between farm workers and other industrial employees should be gradually eliminated. That makes sense, and if that is the main purpose of the regulation, then we go along with it.

I welcome this regulation. I look on it as an enabling regulation so that the Minister will have the proper powers when the Agricultural Wages Board are disbanded, which is bound to happen as a result of the Joint Labour Committee being set up. We must welcome a move which brings agricultural workers into line with their fellow workers in industry. I congratulate the Minister on the progress he has made in this area. He will go down in history as the Minister for Labour who took the agricultural workers of Ireland off their knees.


On the other side of the coin, I would express concern that in the setting up of this joint labour committee the employer side did not give due recognition to one of the largest agricultural employers, the bloodstock industry, which employs a great number of agricultural workers. The joint labour committee does not include any representative of that industry. I bring this to the notice of the Minister who may at some future date when the committee is being looked at again put this anomaly right. I compliment the Minister on the moves he has made in this direction. I am pleased that agricultural workers will no longer be second-class citizens.

I should like to ask the Minister will this regulation do away with the differential between an agricultural worker who has to work 125 hours previous to a Church holiday before he is entitled to payment and an industrial worker who only has to work 120 hours before he is entitled to payment? Will it do away with that differential, or does the same differential still exist under this regulation?

This is just an enabling regulation to tidy up the legislative position consequent on our decision that a joint labour committee should look after the affairs of agricultural workers rather than the old agricultural Wages Board. I expressed the hope near the end of my statement that the joint labour committee would shortly address itself to problems of disparities and conditions in the holidays area between agricultural workers and other workers. So far they have been concentrating on the wages differential but this legislation is necessary if they are to tackle the question of holidays and such differentials as exist in that area. The answer to the Senator's question is technically, no, but potentially yes, because that will be an area of concern.

I should like to welcome this regulation. Without going into much detail, it is a well-known fact that the anomalies which existed in the agricultural area, for agricultural workers were so far out that something had to be done about them. This is a welcome development and we hope the committee will report very soon. In the meantime, the regulation to deal with holidays is a good step forward. We hope the committee will report very soon on the total situation of pay, conditions and so on, and we welcome the regulation.

Question put and agreed to.