Worker Participation (State Enterprises) Bill, 1988: Second Stage (Resumed).

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

It is generally agreed that the concept of worker participation is desirable and indeed very important in the context of improved industrial relations. From the workers' point of view, the knowledge that they have their man or a voice on the board is in many ways a sense of joy and pride to them. It is now common knowledge that the election to various boards is a very serious matter for all employees and is so regarded.

It is important for many reasons. It is now possible for employees of certain State enterprises to become involved to some extent in the planning and policy decision-making process. Obviously, this is vitally important. It is bringing to a large extent a voice to the workplace for the forward development of the enterprise and this can only be good for good industrial relations. It can only be good indeed for improvement in morale among the general staff.

Of course the Bill is, if you like, loaded against the worker directors from the point of view of representation. The appropriate amendment makes provision for one-third of the board size in certain State enterprises subject to a minimum of two worker directors so, there is a loading against the worker directors in that regard. That would apply particularly in the area of major decisions, in the area of planning and future planning of the enterprise.

There are many areas where the worker directors can be of practical help and indeed have been of practical help to other employees of the enterprise. I am talking about personal cases perhaps a case of a transfer of an employee that might not be justified. Obviously a representation from a worker director to the personnel department might be very useful and helpful with on-the-ground information. It reminds me of the application to the health board for a medical card for a person who may well be a borderline case. The representation from the local representative on the ground with a little bit of extra information may well tilt the balance and help to get approval for the issue of the medical card or planning permission where such extra knowledge from the ground is vital and important. The same would apply in similar situations as I outlined in the case of worker directors.

A worker director might well be an extra cog in the whole trade union activity of the enterprise and with very good results. Such directors are very important and useful and they can have an input in actual trade union disputes. As board directors they are practical, on the ground, listening to the other employees, listening to what is happening on the ground and that can be vital on matters that might be leading to industrial unrest on the one hand or where industrial unrest is evident, the input of worker directors might well ease that unrest and that could be of tremendous use.

The Bill also gives to employees in each State enterprise the right to set up arrangements for sub-board participation. Since the Bill does not, as far as I could figure out, specifically spell out exactly what is involved here — obviously each enterprise would be different — flexibility appears to be the operative approach to this problem. This is important. Well-organised, sub-board participation can only be helpful in the whole industrial democracy set-up and certainly it can only be good for the future development of industrial democracy in the enterprise in question.

While the Bill also extends director arrangements for two other State enterprises, the Minister has in the Bill taken to himself the power whereby, after consultation with his other colleagues in Government and subject to approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas, he may designate further enterprises for worker director elections and may do so as a matter of form. Obviously this has advantages, certainly a procedure like this can also be welcomed. Rather than delay developments with future legislation, it is now organised on a permanent basis without recourse to appropriate primary legislation.

I have some experience of the actual election of worker directors. It actually reminds me a bit of the Seanad election because many of the people I know have travelled many miles to meet their fellow-voters throughout the country, to set up their team, to write their letters, arrange their phone calls and so on. All the angles used by the political parties in various different elections are brought into play. Certainly I know, as I said earlier, this type of election is regarded by all employees as a very serious election indeed. Therefore, it is proper and right that the Bill should contain amendments updating the whole election procedures.

One of the amendments in the Bill seeks that the term of office of the worker directors be increased from three to four years. Obviously, this has very real advantages and is important. It gives the worker directors more time to understand the problems of the enterprise and to come to grips with the whole area of the company. That is to be welcomed. If the Minister could do anything about arranging for the Seanad to be kept in being for four years perhaps he might do so. Another point is that the Minister is broadening the definition of the employee to include part-time staff. Obviously the thinking behind this, as far as I can see, is to cover perhaps seasonal situations like Bord na Móna or to recognise that part-time working is now part and parcel of our way of life and very much on the increase.

The Bill is welcome. I think that the entire Bill and the amendments of the Act of 1977 is a significant improvement and advancement on existing legislation and is a further practical acknowledgement of the success of the worker participation scheme. Worker participation in my opinion gives, as I said earlier, employees generally a feeling that their voice is heard and expressed at the very top level of that enterprise. The introduction of this Bill and the amendments of the 1977 Act that are contained in it will make a significant advance in the concept of worker participation. I support the Bill and I congratulate the Minister for Labour, Deputy Ahern, on bringing forward this important piece of legislation.

I also welcome the Bill. It supports industrial democracy to its fullest and it allows workers to have their views taken into consideration in the policy-making of businesses. From that point of view it must be welcomed. Anything that further involves workers in the place where they are working commands a welcome because it gives them an incentive to play their part in the policy-making of the business. The previous Government had introduced a similar Bill which was not passed through all Stages at the time of the last general election and, therefore, it fell with the dissolution of the Dáil. Now, a year later, we are back in the Seanad again at this Stage of the Bill and let us hope that on this occasion, despite recent speculation, this Bill will not fall for the same reason.

We have to be realistic in this game and one never knows what may happen. I see the Minister smiling and I do not know whether he is smiling in disagreement with what I am saying or in agreement with it. He might give us a hint on that later on. In any case, we will carry on today with the debate on the Bill as we are here duly elected to do.

This worker participation trial was at first confined to a number of State companies and later it was taken up by ACOT, An Post and Bord Telecom. Worker participation by the democratic process tends to eliminate the "them-and-us" attitude that often develops between workers and management at any level. It leads to more harmonious relations within the workplace. Workers who have the on-the-ground feeling of what is going on at that level of business can bring that knowledge to the board-room. It can only be beneficial in bringing that practical experience to the management board level. The experience up to now is that worker representations have met the challenge of this situation and have made a worthwhile contribution where this has been the practice. Studies of businesses have proved that worker participation at decision-making level has been to the benefit of the business where this takes place.

I would like to ask the Minister about a few points I am not too clear on as a result of having read the Bill. What is the position of various part-time workers and the situation of the minimum 18 hours? I am a worker. Previous to becoming a Member of this Seanad, I was working a full-time week but at the same time I was not working in any place for 18 hours. I worked in different places at the same job for periods of 14 or 15 hours with one employee, or maybe fewer with other employees. According to the 18 hour stipulation a person in that situation is not regarded as being a full-time worker.

How does this Bill cover the part-time workers? In present day circumstances — as the previous speaker said — the norm tends to be for businesses and places of employment to take on part-time workers, either in a part-time situation or in a flexi-work situation. I believe we will see more and more of that in the future, so I would like clarification from the point of view of the constitution of a part-time workervis-a-vis the implementation of this Bill.

Other employers are excluded also. The Minister might say why such financial institutions such as the Central Bank and Irish Life are excluded from the provisions of this Bill. I welcome the provisions of the Bill to extend the period of election from three years to four years. The previous Bill referred to this as well. It would give a continuity to the people serving at this level. That can only be for the good. Any move that involves everybody in a decision-making process of that business can only be for the betterment of the place concerned. With the acceptance of the few questions I have asked, I welcome the Bill.

I welcome the Minister's initiative in bringing this progressive Bill before the House. Semi-State bodies have played a central role in the social and economic life of our nation. These bodies have often been pioneers in many fields of enterprise in which they have been engaged. For example, in previous decades the semi-State bodies brought electricity to the homes of Ireland and developed the resources of our bogs. It is therefore fitting that in the eighties they should play their part in replacing the spirit of confrontation and suspicion where they exist with the spirit of participation and natural trust. This initiative must be effective and be seen to be so if it is to succeed.

The Bill provides that the secretary can appoint a deputy or representative to carry out day-to-day duties. I feel that the secretary of the organisation should retain full responsibility for the implementation of sub-board participation arrangements. I would also recommend that a full-time officer in the Minister's Department should be nominated to oversee the implementation of the plans. The secretary should report to the officer in question details of how he proposes to outline the objectives and guidelines which should be spelled out in the Bill. I shall refer to this later. This officer could act as an arbitrator should disputes or differences of opinion or interpretation arise between workers and management in the matter of sub-board participation arrangements.

Section 6 provides for the drawing up of an agreement between the State enterprise and their employees concerning the specific arrangements to be introduced. I would wish to see clearer guidelines given. This section calls for a regular exchange of views and information on matters which are specified in the agreement. This is rather vague. I would prefer a requirement that regular meetings take place on a minimum of a two monthly basis.

I would also make provisions for scheduled meetings to be brought forward at, say, three days notice from either management or workers. This privilege for either management or workers could be confined to two meetings in any 12 meetings. This section states that the management should give information in good time concerning matters which are liable to have a significant effect on employees' interests. The giving of information in good time should largely be covered by the bringing forward of scheduled meetings. Should further requests for bringing unscheduled meetings be turned down by either side, provision should be made for an appeal to the Minister's representative.

The secretary should be obliged to included in his submission to the Minister's representative any matter or matters on which management would feel unable to disclose information to workers. The reason for non-disclosure should be included. The Minister's representative could allow or disallow these as he sees fit. His decision on these matters would be final. Any such decision could be appealed on an annual basis. Any agreement would obviously specify the divisions of an organisation which would be represented by any one participating group or council. The Bill should provide that the most senior manager of such division should personally attend at least every second meeting. This should help to ensure that the provisions be given the substance required for their success.

Some provision should be made in the Bill for funds to be made available for research facilities for worker members of participating councils. A sum of, say, £1,000 per annum per person should be provided for this. Secretarial facilities should also be made available to such a group. A minimum of, say, a half day per week should be made available to each group. A member of such a group should also be entitled to be freed from everyday duties for perhaps, one day per month to carry out research and consultation with the workforce.

It is vital to the continued progress of our economy that a spirit of co-operation and trust exist between workers and management. It is important that the semi-State section set the headlines for progressive work practices. They should in turn set the example for progressive and worthwhile practices in the overall industrial, economic and commercial life of our country.

Like the other Senators, I welcome this Bill. The only surprise really is that it has taken so long in coming and that the principle has not been implemented long before now and much more widely. Long before the Minister's time and, indeed, even before my time, if such a prehistoric period could be envisaged, the idea of industrial democracy was widely propagated by Catholic sociologists. The Catholic Church, otherwise known as Senator Brendan Ryan's church, was very strong on the idea of workers' participation in management. It is to be found in the Papal encyclicals ofRerum Novarum and Quadragessimo Anno but it never really appealed, even in Catholic Ireland, to either workers or employers, partly because Catholicism was and remains to a large extent a kind of private religion that does not impinge on these areas.

TheStandard newspaper, I recall, the leading Catholic newspaper of the fourties, with regard to the response to the whole advocation of that principle, which was accepted elsewhere, in Canada for example, deplored the fact that the Irish response had been as they called it “coldly pagan”. The pendulum swings, the clock goes around and now, in a secular context, we have the welcome extension of this principle contained in this Bill. I warmly welcome it. I am glad to say it has been welcomed by the spokes-people for the trade unions and for the worker directors group.

There were two interesting articles, which I am sure the Minister has noted, inThe Irish Times on 12 January 1988 and 19 January 1988 under the by-line of Patrick Nolan, the industrial correspondent, drawing our attention to the Bill and to its implications. Those articles included comments from the prominent people in the worker directors groups and from the ICTU welcoming the extension of the Bill but, at the same time, complaining that there were certain defects in the proposed Bill.

One of these defects has already been raised, the non-inclusion of part-time workers who do not work more than 18 hours a week. They also regretted that the Bill did not include any specific provision for the operation of the worker director principle in RTE. The Bill provides for the sub-board consultative arrangement in RTE but it is curious, to say the least, that RTE is not specifically included in Schedule I among the specified bodies.

The Bill, as I understand it, gives enabling provisions to the Minister to include any body in a later Bill but the explicit exclusion of RTE is remarkable, unless it so happens that the structure of RTE does not come within the ambit of a semi-State body. I imagine that the principle is very desirable in RTE more than anywhere else really because, first, there is a fair amount of industrial unrest in RTE and, secondly, uniquely perhaps among semi-State bodies RTE contains a level of expertise among the production staff which is on a par with the level of expertise in the managerial staff. That distinguishes RTE from any other body.

Some of the managerial elements have complained that the presence of workers on the boards of management has not always brought happy results and there is a certain reluctance to contemplate the extension of the principle into the private sector. Certainly that argument would not apply to RTE, where the talents available on the workers' side are in no way inferior to those available on the management side.

Why then do we not have RTE explicitly included in this Bill? Is it that the people involved in production in RTE are considered too controversial to be put on the board of management? There are probably more stormy petrels in RTE in the nature of things than elsewhere. Is it that the Government, because of a certain historic tension between Governments and RTE, are not too happy to consider the prospect of RTE workers being put on the board of directors? It is a point on which I would be glad to get an answer from the Minister, otherwise I have a warm welcome for the Bill and for the principle which animates it.

I would like to join with previous speakers in welcoming this Bill, the main purpose of which is to facilitate the introduction of worker participation arrangements at sub-board level in a range of State enterprises. I am also pleased that the Bill provides for the election of worker directors to two further State enterprises, namely, Aer Rianta and the National Rehabilitation Board. In addition, the Bill contains a number of amendments to the Worker Participation (State Enterprises) Act, 1977. While I have slight reservations about one or two of these amendments, I am pleased that the Bill proposes to extend the term of office of worker directors from three years to four years and also that it provides that when a worker director ceases to be an employee of a particular State enterprise he or she shall, at the same time, be obliged to relinquish board membership.

Under the Worker Participation (State Enterprises) Act, 1977, worker directors were elected in seven major State enterprises. Since then the legislation which established An Post and Bord Telecom Éireann provides for worker directors on both boards. In addition, it is true to say that the Worker Participation (State Enterprises) Act, 1977, led to an increased awareness of the desirability to achieve further progress in the area of worker participation. The experience elsewhere indicates that worker participation can have very beneficial consequences, not least of which are better industrial relations, greater job satisfaction and improved productivity and efficiency.

For far too long workers tended to be totally ignored in the decision-making process even though they would, inevitably, be most affected by the decisions in question. However, in recent times, particularly since the enactment of the 1977 legislation, there has been a growing tendency on the part of many enterprises to encourage and facilitate some form of joint consultation, although in all cases this is not done on a formal basis.

I believe that any measure which will promote and assist such worker involvement at any level in any enterprise is to be welcomed and commended. While it is generally accepted that worker participation at board level has been a worthwhile development, it must also be admitted that it has been a development which has created its own difficulties. These difficulties were referred to by Senator Hillery in his excellent contribution to the debate on this Bill. I shall not go over them again nor shall I dwell on the nature or extent of the various problems which arose. However, I believe that if effective sub-board structures existed, that is, if there had been a greater degree of worker involvement at sub-board level many of the problems in question would not have arisen.

When this Bill becomes law a great opportunity will be presented to those enterprises, which at the moment have worker directors, to put in place sub-board structures which will be a model and a headline for the other enterprises which are covered by the Bill. In all, 39 enterprises are listed in the First Schedule of the Bill. The sub-board participative arrangements will apply to all of these.

I am very conscious of the fact that some of these enterprises have already taken the initiative in the area of worker participation or joint consultation. In some cases considerable progress has been made. For these enterprises the Bill provides a statutory framework within which further worthwhile progress in this area can be achieved. For those enterprises, which have not to date become involved in the participative process, I hope this Bill, when enacted, will have the effect of stimulating both management and exployees to enter into negotiations in the proper spirit of trust and co-operation to work out mutually acceptable arrangements. Such arrangements can have nothing but the most beneficial consequences for all concerned.

There is no doubt that this Bill is sufficiently flexible to accommodate a very great degree of initiative and innovation. The Minister, in his address when introducing Second Stage of the Bill, stated:

It is up to the employee representatives and the company management to work out arrangements best suited to their organisation in each case. The whole range of options — from direct to representational forms of participation and from the highly structured to the relatively informal — are accommodated within the legislative framework.

The Minister went on to say:

The Bill does not seek to impose a uniform framework. There is scope for a wide variety of different practices providing always that the arrangements made are acceptable both to the enterprise and to the workforce. This flexibility in the legislation ensures considerable freedom at enterprise level.

Section 2 provides for an appropriate officer in each State enterprise covered by the Bill. This appropriate officer will have responsibility for procedures relating to the establishment of sub-board participative arrangements. Methods of initiating such arrangements are prescribed in sections 3 and 4. Under section 4 if the appropriate officer receives an application in writing signed by not less than 15 per cent of the employees, he is required to take a poll to determine whether a majority of the employees are in favour of the establishment of the sub-board participative arrangements.

It would appear from section 4 (9) that if the proposal is rejected, even by as little as one vote, no further poll may be held under this section for four years. I would be interested to hear the Minister explain what is the rationale behind the four-year embargo on a new poll and also if he would clarify whether in such a case the establishment of sub-board structures could be initiated under section 3 of the Bill in the four-year period. It appears that the four-year embargo proposed in section 4 (9) is longer than would seem reasonable.

Section 6 is one of the most important sections of the Bill. It specifies the essential features which must be included in every participative agreement. First, the agreement must provide for a regular exchange of views and information between management and employees concerning matters which are specified in the agreement. Secondly, management will be obliged under the agreement to give, in good time, information to employees about decisions which are liable to have a significant effect on employees' interests. Thirdly, each participative agreement must provide for the dissemination to all employees of information and views arising from the participative arrangements. While every agreement must include these essential features, agreements may also contain such other features as management and employees may decide between themselves.

Section 6 also allows for a participative arrangement to be reviewed, amended, replaced or terminated. It would appear from section 6 (3) that the arrangement can only be terminated in circumstances specified in the agreement. There should be some provision in the Bill for the termination of the arrangement in certain circumstances irrespective of what is contained in the agreement. For instance, you could have a situation where a large majority, say, a two-thirds majority, of the employees might favour the termination of the arrangement. However, it would appear that the arrangement could not be terminated even in that situation if provision for its termination was not contained in the agreement. Such a situation does not appear to be provided for in the Bill and perhaps the Minister would clarify the position when he is replying or if he feels that such clarification would be more appropriate on Committee Stage, then I am prepared to wait for it until Committee Stage.

In relation to the amendments to the 1977 Act which are proposed in the Bill, I welcome, as other Senators have done, the broadening of the definition of employee to include certain part-time staff. This will entitle such staff to vote in elections held under worker participation legislation. Like other Senators, I have some reservations also about the 18-hour week qualification. I would be much happier if some other criteria were used rather than the number of hours worked. In view of the increasing emphasis on work-sharing combined with other factors, I feel the 18-hour a week provision may in the future militate against certain categories of workers, particularly married women.

Section 9 provides that the employees of company subsidiaries may be allowed to take part in elections to the board of the parent enterprise. I was pleased to hear the Minister state that in relation to the position of overseas subsidiaries he is aware of the concern which exists regarding this provision, that he appreciates the difficulties that might arise and that he intends to consider the matter further before Committee Stage.

I welcome the thrust of the Bill and express the hope that during the lifetime of this Government we will see a move towards the introduction of similar legislation involving the private sector.

I welcome the constructive observations made by most people who have confined themselves to very brief speeches. Unfortunately I will not be able to do that. There are two reasons for that. Maybe people can say in five minutes what it might take me an hour to say. The other reason is that there are great ramifications in this Bill and very complex issues. Therefore, it is essential that the debate be a little more extensive than it has been to date. For that reason I hope the House will bear with me if I tend to drag it on a bit.

I would like to welcome the Bill. I preempt my contribution by making it clear that I do not see a position in the future whereby we will be dealing with the question of full employment or that we will ever again see large-scale industry in the context of hundreds and thousands employed. There are very many people now dead who had to stand at street corners for years day after day. Many of them went to their graves without having enjoyed any work other than the odd day as a casual worker. This period we are going through at the moment is a continuation of the same, perhaps for different reasons but with similar results.

The productivity drive, with the emphasis on technology, smaller plants, a lesser workforce — even though they may be higher paid — will continue to grow until such time as the rest of us will be living off them. On the question of industrial democracy, the observations and comments I intend to make will be relevant to the present situation. The second point I would like to make is that a lot of unpleasant situations have arisen in the public sector over a long period that have had a harmful effect on industrial relations. Many of those can be put down to a failure by workers and management to understand that the issues dividing them were far less important than the issues that were common to the interests of all. I do not think that was ever grasped by people who should have known better. Therefore, it would be in order for me to suggest that for this reason there were many quarrels which would not have taken place had there been on the part of both sides an understanding of the need to identify issues that were most important to all interests. There was little or no understanding. As a result, for many years an industrial kind of cold war was carried on which had very harmful effects. Obviously, the public, the workers and everyone else have been frustrated by the scene; we in the labour movement were no less frustrated and, indeed, we welcomed the Worker Participation (State Enterprises) Act, 1977 for a couple of reasons.

Senator Murphy has pointed out the Catholic Church's attitude and I support what he said. In the industrial workers' college in Ranelagh a lot of dialogue on many areas took place. For example, around 1965 the Labour Party framed a document on industrial democracy. The dialogue which had been going on previously took about 12 years to come to some sort of realisation. In 1977 we saw the first movement in that direction. Twenty years later we now see some realisation of the contents of the policy advocated in those documents, that is to say, the sub-board level, which is about to be given effect.

Obviously, we welcome any Act that will extend worker representation. However, before leaving those few remarks behind, I wish to make clear that my criticisms will be levelled at all sides, unions, management and capital. In this case the Government would represent capital to all intents and purposes. However, the public do not have the same attitude to the management or capital side of the service or industry as they do to labour particularly when there is a conflict between the parties. Management for some reason better known to themselves or for some public concept seem to remain anonymous during conflicts and are not in the minds of the public. During a conflict the public look to the trade union leaders and they expect a lot from them. It is not only the public who expect a lot from the union leaders, but the membership expect a lot from them on a day-to-day basis and during conflicts, strange as it seems, management expect a lot from them, too. They expect them to play the role of mediator between the company and the men and it does not always work that way. During periods of conflict the trade union leaders, because of this public attitude, receive a lot of free and unsolicited advice from many quarters whereas, as I have said earlier, management do not get this kind of advice nor is as much expected of them.

The extension of the role of trade unions would have continued even if the Worker Participation (State Enterprises) Act, 1977, had not emerged because as industries and services were taking on more technicians and more skilled workers the manual unions took on the task of changing their form and status. For example, people who were thought to be averse to trade union organisational saw the necessity to get on board and, indeed, welcomed the organisational drives by many of the manual trade unions. Obviously, this extended the role of the trade unions because they were given more emphasis and urgency than heretofore.

As far as I am concerned, it is very satisfying for the trade union movement to see this extension of worker participation, particularly since it opens up opportunities for joint decision-making procedures to be pursued at plant and even departmental level. I use those words in a considered way. While I have said it opens up opportunities for decision-making procedures to be pursued at plant and even departmental level, I believe they do not exist because of the legislation. I see the legislation giving the opportunity to pursue fuller representation for the trade unions in the workplace.

The purpose of the pursuit and attainment of an industrial democracy must be seen in this light. It gives workers a purpose and this purpose will emerge through the development of industrial democracy. This has always been a desire of socialists and trade union activists and naturally we are perhaps a little more enthusiastic than many other people. Nevertheless we must try hard to get the legislation right and, for this reason, we will be putting down amendments on Committee Stage.

Technological change has been rapid and has, in fact, added to the complexity of modern industry and service-type plants and to the matter of job security. Obviously, this steps up the feeling among workers that the status of the individual is diminishing in the modern world. This has been happening and is continuing to happen, possibly because of the increasing affluence of society as a whole. There is the possibility it has been aggravated in that sense and the inevitable results of this aggravation which has taken place has given, if you like, a twist to the conflict, anxiety and unrest we experience in industrial relations. This feeling is intensified by the growth of mergers, rationalisation and the resulting redundancies caused in many ways, but noticeably so, by some obscure financial manipulation. Decisions can be taken hundreds of miles away that affect the lives of people who are, to a great extent, very remote from those who make the decisions. People are over-taxed now and greater worker involvement and concentration in decision-making, therefore, has to be welcomed. If matters are properly handled it will make these problems less acute. It will not make the problems go away, but it will certainly make them less acute and perhaps increase the desire for further extensions of worker representation.

Obviously there are things that cannot be written into the Bill and a lot of detailed information cannot go into it. For example, can we say that the extension of collective bargaining through trade union channels could include joint decisions on work routine, workload arrangements, new techniques and general production methods which are obviously desirable in that workers get a wider share in the decision-making process where it matters most, on the shop floor? Even though the Minister has the power to extend it into other plants will this development go below executive board level and arrive at the plant floor level? For example, if management is going to introduce new machinery, the operators might know how to place that machine in a much more effective way which would have a less harmful effect on their operations etc.: in other words, the principles underlying health, safety etc. at plant level. Will the Bill go far enough to let decision-making down so that we would have that sort of participation?

It is very important to stress the details, because I know from my own experience that participation in this way has been a struggle between union and management. Others would see it as a co-operative approach. Unless we know a little bit more of how far and how extensive participation can become, one has got to ask if there is a possibility that this will emerge and will be encouraged as a result of the sub-board participation. I see no point in an attitude that continues to see union-employer relations as being confrontational. Trade union leaders do not get involved in struggles for pay increases etc. The members decide on the issues and they take up the running from there. Unless we get participation right down to the plant floor level there will be certain difficulties.

Therefore, I see a need for an understanding of power-sharing and the areas of responsibility that fall within its scope. For example, for an experienced person it could well mean discussion at another level which merely concerns practical considerations of the various options that are possible, a kind of a self-propelling process. Substantial progress in industrial relations can only come if both sides in worker-employer relations recognise that their approach must be essentially co-operative in character. I ask these questions simply to get a response that will clear up in the minds of the public that sub-board participation does not mean joint decision-making at operational level. Joint decision-making at operation level would be an ideal situation. Will there be arrangements that participation will include joint administration in such fields as the use of manpower and equipment, disciplinary matters, welfare, safety, training facilities and other subjects? That would also be an ideal arrangement.

It is all the more important to know in detail the duties and responsibilities of sub-board participation and how far they extend? There already exists an attitude in some enterprises that would wish to exclude worker directors from participating in decisions at board level on matters relating to pay, productivity and so on. I feel this is in breach of the spirit of the 1977 Act and therefore, it is important that we not only clarify the latter but that we spell out details of what is involved in the level of participation. It makes it all the more important because some of the State agencies tend to try to exclude worker directors in that respect.

The debate on worker participation has been ongoing for a long time. It became a very substantial policy of the Labour Party almost 25 years ago. Despite this, we have not as yet seen enough pressure being put on to obtain a degree of effectiveness in the nation's industries and at the same time, to bring about more lasting industrial peace. That is as much a criticism of the trade union movement as it is of the employers. However, the employers were doing more of the bellyaching about industrial relations but certainly they did not take up the running on this particular question.

Some employers, managers and directors who are in business conducted for profit feel the need all of the time to secure the highest effectiveness of an automatic industrial relations representation so as to secure a common interest in the success of the manufacturing or service business but despite this there does not seem to be any great urgency overall to pursue industrial democracy. Perhaps the dialogue has not reached the state of recognition that this type of increased representation will assist substantially in making the methods of industrial relations more durable.

It has been recognised by the Federated Workers' Union of Ireland and by Guinness that a form of co-operative management and a disclosure of the accounts of the business to representatives of the work force has proved to be durable and effective. I am not so sure whether that type of democracy in Guinness should be described as a community of control or one of co-operative management. One way or the other it adds up to extended worker representation and satisfies the principle of round table conference. The conflict of opposing interests has given away to constructive goodwill. That is because processes are undertaken jointly. This is a typical example of how matters such as peace, work and health are diligently pursued and it is a very good example for other industrialists, irrespective of the size of their plant. The width and scope of the involvement in Guinness would not be available in every industry but a lot could be done.

It would be nice if workers could come along once a year — as is the case in Guinness and be made aware of the company's objectives and so on. It would give the worker who is listening to videos and looking at diagrams a true perspective not only of trading problems but the political problems and why do the company not develop in certain areas. I cannot understand why many businesses have not developed in certain other areas but I certainly know why Guinness have not done so because I was told the reason. I would like the practice in Guinness to operate in many other companies. It has certainly not hampered Guinesses. The principles work. They will continue to be pursued. I am not suggesting that everything at all times in Guinness is perfect but I am saying that worker representation there in a truer and fuller sense than in most other places.

The Worker Participation (State Enterprises) Bill, 1988, is quite clearly a recognition by the Government that wages alone are not an adequate return and that the labourer is an investor in a plant. For example, the worker who spends a lifetime in an industry is, in fact, making an investment in that industry. Therefore, in justice he is equally entitled to a voice in the control of the industry in which for the time being his life and skills are invested. It is time that private business interests came to terms with this fact. For the preferential treatment that capital has enjoyed in this respect there is no defence possible on grounds of democracy or fundamental justice. The fact is, capital can continue to wait, labour cannot. That is a serious point. It may not sound very serious but that is the situation. Obviously there are many work situations, for example a housewife working in the home where there is no scope for discussion except in the sense of participation between husband and wife and there are other examples of that type of work.

The Worker Participation (State Enterprises) Bill should be used by the State to put pressure on the private sector to come to terms with the inevitable. I say that because the State is making all the running on this. So far there has not been any significant move to avail of the opportunities presented by private enterprise.

There is no room for the silent partner in this Bill, and I make this criticism of it. Somebody may look at me as if I have two heads when I take this particular point on board. The silent partner I speak of is actually the community who are also investors. A State enterprise is a venture undertaken on behalf of the community, where money is invested. The Government expend a lot of money on property and services which alone makes possible the vast co-operation and co-ordination of effort which is the very lifeblood of the State service. The bigger the service or industry the more it depends in a multitude of ways on the investment of the community. The community have a capital investment in this particular service and, this sense, it corresponds to the money invested by the capitalist in a private venture. As a rule it receives no recognition in the form either of interest or participation in control.

Protection is afforded to industry or services by means of tariffs and other increased outlay on the part of the consumer, but no participation and control of the services or industry is conceded. When Government and social organisations make something possible the part played by the community will be given due regard to and an appreciation of the part played by the community will be made known. However, the community's investment in the services or commodities associated with industry where there is worker participation is not recognised and on the grounds of investment the community is not given representation in the control or in the shaping of industrial policy. Charges are arrived at as a result of wage negotiations, salary increases, staff levels, bonuses and so on but the community is the silent investor. They are the people upon whom the charges fall in the final analysis.

These transactions can be good or bad, but they are unjust. Irrespective of the State's right to exercise authority it is unlikely to prove sufficient to prevent oversight or deception. This is a very good reason why the community can best be served by something of the nature of direct representation, either by specially designated representatives or through compulsory publicity of the full facts, sufficient to permit an intelligent and effective public opinion.

Matters dealing with wages, bonus payments, Government outlay etc. all have an effect on the community. For example in the case of rail and bus services there is no input of public or community advice in policy-making in the true sense. Consequently, specific information that could flow through community representation does not exist. It is quite true to say that both the management and the workers are consumers but they are not the community. The community by and large are the people who pay taxes, whether they use buses or other services. The public are a very important element of this but yet they have no representation. When we are talking about the extension of representation in industry, we cannot overlook the fact that the community has to be much more effectively represented.

As I had said earlier, I can understand that certain safeguards have to be written into Bills etc. However, the rights given to Ministers in legislation will not be enough, and have not been enough in the past. As a result the community are badly neglected in this respect. As a consequence, the type of service we receive from these companies in many cases falls far short of the minimum the community is entitled to get. On the one hand you have the workers arguing about wages and pay and you have management defending the fact that the money is not there but, on the other hand, the people who can make a good contribution and who can bear witness to the fact that the business is being conducted fairly, equitably and justly are not being heeded. That issue must be tackled some day. I realised that you cannot put everyone on the board but a representative from the Ombudsman office should have an input and be able to participate on behalf of the community. Failure in the past to allow labour fuller representation in the government of industry or services has been unfortunate. The net result has been that labour and the community have become collectively organised not in a partnership but in effective opposition. That is very serious and has caused great damage down the years.

For example, in the case of opposition in State enterprises, to some extent when we do not collectively take on board the issues more important to us, because we are the owners of the service we are acting against ourselves. Opposition to management and to capital, because of this exclusion of labour and the community, took a form of militant trade unionism when it did not need to do so. This was because they were not given any incentives by the State. However, belatedly they are there and let us hope that a lot of this trouble can be overcome.

The exclusion of the community causes many to cry out for State socialism — a socialism different from mine — which aims at collectivist control of capital and management, capital being in this case the Government on behalf of the people. That had a harmful effect also on industrial relations in the State enterprises. Let us hope that the representation we are talking about can be viewed as a national service whereby the profits, not so much in the sense of money but benefits, are divided equally with labour and the community, each getting their just reward.

It might sound idealistic but I do not think it is so in this day and age. My trade union background in the past 35 years to 40 years convinces me that the association of labour and the community with management in State industries in determining policy in respect to matters in which we are all concerned is all important. Properly handled, the cry for privatisation of State enterprises will diminish if the attitude I have just referred to is taken on board.

I mentioned that we would have to look at the question of some amendments. I have no doubt that the Minister received the Congress submission at some stage. I do not know how far he went in that regard. However, in general, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions welcome the provisions of the Bill and see it as a good initiative to create sub-board participatory structures in the scheduled enterprises. They make some points about the report of the Advisory Committee on Worker Participation, 1987 which recommended that enabling legislation be introduced to provide for participation structures in private sector companies.

We have gone a long way since 1977, and the Minister has taken the initiative now and has created another development in this area which we hope will involve further representation. We have a right to be concerned when legislation may emerge that will provide participation structures in the private sector. If we are to compete properly in the EC, having regard to the fact that many of the laws that affect us, including company law and import controls which we cannot use any more, have an effect on practically everything we do now. Consequently it is most important that the private sector gets itself into line with the nature of participation in Germany and other continental countries and takes a leaf out of their book.

Because they give people a say in the decision-making process at varying levels of their industry does not mean they are going to go down the drain, or that somebody is going to go into the nearest pub in the Liberties and start selling that information. It does not mean they are going to go out of business; they are too shrewd operators for that to happen. By their very nature they are cautious.

People are entitled to know exactly what is happening to the enterprise they have given their life to. The community are entitled to know what moneys go to subsidise and provide capital for plant etc. for the private sector. They are entitled to know exactly what is being done with the taxpayer's money in companies making themselves more competitive. Consequently we look forward to the structures emerging. I would like the Minister in his Second Stage reply to give us some indication of when this legislation might emerge.

I mentioned earlier people being excluded from pay agreements etc. and I would like the Minister to refer to this. It is a question of clarification rather than an amendment because the legislation of 1977 does not debar worker directors from taking part in decision-making.

I am concerned about section 9 of the Bill. If enacted in its present form it will cause problems for Aer Lingus unions. To give the vote to employees of subsidiaries of State enterprises in the case of Aer Lingus would involve giving votes to very large numbers of non-unionised workers in their US subsidiary. As a result of that, Congress are anxious that section 9 (3) (a) be amended to read: "a joint request in writing has been made to the appropriate Minister by the designated body concerned and the representative of the majority of employees of such body and a copy..." and so on. I will not explain the amendment at this point; it would be better to wait until Committee Stage for that. I understand the Minister accepts that there is a special problem in Aer Lingus in regard to their US subsidiary and is prepared to consider it. I hope this consideration will render an amendment unnecessary.

Section 12 provides for disqualification from being a member or director of the board on ceasing to be an employee. It does not seem to provide safeguards in respect of a worker director who ceases to be an employee following a legal or industrial dispute. The Minister could comment usefully on this in his reply.

I do not know the Minister's intention regarding casual vacancies but it would be desirable if they could be filled within a specified, preferably short, period.

The question of the 18 hours has been raised by many Senators here and I row in with what was said. The definition should be broadened to include all workers. For example, cleaners, people who work less than 18 hours are no less involved in the conduct of the industry in question than anyone else. It is like the fellow who never went to war: if he was making munitions he was certainly part of the process. Therefore, somebody working 18 hours or less cleaning out the toilets or doing some other part-time job is part and parcel of that industry and should be taken into consideration for voting purposes and should be entitled to vote on the election of people to the board.

I do not know the practice nowadays in Dublin Corporation but at one time a worker could be casual for 30 years and be at work every day of the week. For example McLoughlin and O'Harvey, the builders, provided casual labour on a day-to-day basis to Guinness and some of those workers had anything up to 26 years service with Guinness. They worked for at least ten months of the year on a continuous basis, and were laid off only in a very slack period. We are talking about people who play the same role as those Guinness workers, taking all the same safety and health risks etc. If there are any such casual positions even only in theory in this day and age the Minister might give some thought to them. I do not know if the term "casual" is used to debar people from pensions or to keep the pensions low. That position did exist but I do not know if it is still the case. In that sense I have to admit to being out of touch somewhat.

The arrangements for consultation and exchange of views and information at sub-board level are set out in section 6. The provisions for agreement set out at section 6 (2) are seen by the Minister as a minimum baseline for such agreement. Congress consider the baseline to be excessively minimalist, in particular where information concerning difficulties affecting the enterprise is to be conveyed to employees through sub-board structures. They say provision in regard to this should be made at the earliest possible date and before the decisions are taken, and for this reason they are anxious that the Minister have another look at section 6 (2) to see if it could be strengthened for this purpose.

They suggest the term of office of worker directors be extended from three to four years in the case of enterprises covered by Parts I and II of the First Schedule to the Bill. Worker directors in some other State enterprises not included in Parts I and II of the First Schedule are appointed under their own separate legislation for three years, notably An Post and Telecom Éireann. It seems that the ICTU propose that section 10 be amended to include a provision to amend the Postal and Telecommunications Act, 1983, to specify a four-year term in office in these enterprises also. I mention that because I do not know whether the Minister made an observation in this direction to Congress or whether the correspondence went the other way.

The recognition of the development in industrial democracy in State enterprises and the scope for further extension within respective plants has been well covered. The overall value to be obtained as a result of those extensions in further participation is something to be looked forward to. I hope I have covered those matters in my contribution. The failure of private enterprise to grasp the opportunities or to reap the benefits of co-operative management despite the dialogue is to be deplored. The Minister has taken the initiative again. He has also given a great example in the area of industrial relations overall and I congratulate him on his approach. Dialogue has taken place and no more excuses should be accepted from the private sector. The legislation should proceed.

I have covered fairly extensively the unnecessary conflict that has arisen as a result of the Cold War tactics applied by both sides. We have dealt with the futility of denying the community representation through the archaic attitude of personal possession adopted by individuals particularly in reference to businesses of which they are the heads. I have dealt with the necessity for the trade unions to be vigilant so that worker participation does not drift into corporate control at the expense of the only fixed principle of the trade unions, that is, improvement of wages and conditions. Other speakers who said less than I have covered to a great extent much of the area I have covered but I felt it necessary to give emphasis to industrial democracy in view of the time that has elapsed.

Further representation such as we are discussing is necessary to eliminate the Cold War tactics where people become entrenched and are only short of opposing each other with guns across fields. We have come a long way from that type of mentality, but the opportunity is there to get away from it altogether and people should realise that.

The trade union movement recognise that they have a role to play. It may not be directly linked to the question of further representation but it is certainly linked to it indirectly, namely, in the overlapping of trade unions. At one time there were 95 trade unions but because the Minister and his predecessor facilitated the unions in the area of transfer of engagements etc. that figure has reduced to 75. However, we have a long way to go and further facilitation of the transfer of engagement would be welcomed.

It is not easy. Small unions particularly like to crow in their own bailiwick. It is very difficult because of their very nature and background, for the craft unions to subjugate their views to the needs of the general craft situation. That is understandable having regard to the background and environment their members were brought up in and had to cope with through their working lives. The opportunity is there, running alongside industrial democracy and the extension of representation, for the trade unions now to embark to a fuller extent and more urgently on the transfer of engagement, merger, federation, and so on.

Money is short but regard must be taken of the benefits that can come from the elimination of duplication, overlapping and unnecessary conflict between three or four unions around the one table and the waste when a Minister or negotiator has to deal with one union first and then another and so on. I know of a plant that had 36 unions at one stage. That was most undesirable. Unions are ready and willing to act in this matter but many have not the resources to do what is required.

The willingness of the members is a factor also and problems with the Friendly Societies Act and difficulties of changing rules come into consideration. For example some unions who had not the money to back up the pension funds for their officials had rules providing that an official could stay in occupation of the job up to 70 years of age and beyond. Consequently, when the unions attempt to come together some sort of a palace revolution may take place within one of the unions and this makes it difficult to effect the transfer engagement. I believe that the resources have been made available to them so that they do not have to dip into their own funds for this purpose, but the resources should be extended.

Here is a wonderful opportunity to deal with representation in the workplace at board level. This brings me to the private sector. As a recognition that the unions want to put their own house in order and are in difficulties, the employers could come to terms with the fact that the introduction of industrial democracy in the private sector can no longer be denied.

I apologise for speaking at such length but I thought it necessary to put as much as I could about the nature of industrial democracy on the record. I trust that when the Minister is replying to Second Stage debate he can come up with some answers that will make amendments unnecessary. The provisions of the Bill are so welcome it would be desirable to put the measure through.

We discussed this Bill in the Seanad before the last general election. The Bill contains new incentives but arguments were raised as to whether participation of workers at board level is really to the workers' benefit. I am a member of a trade union and I was very much involved in trade unionism before I became involved in public life. Seemingly in State bodies in order to soften the worker it is desirable to allow worker participation at board level. I am an ex-employee of CIE and I have asked at trade union and worker levels what it means to have members of the workforce on the board. I have to say the reply was not positive. At the end of the day there were two workers on the board of CIE and they did not create any great impression. If anything, they created petty jealousy, and we know about the jealousy that can arise in the workforce in such circumstances.

The Bill before us and the 1977 measure opened the minds of our workforce. Massive changes are occurring particularly with young people coming into the workforce who are better educated and a good deal more committed than were their elders. There was an expectation in the past that somebody owed us a living — and that was the case in the Cork region, unfortunately.

This Worker Participation Bill may mean a happier atmosphere between a management and workforce. However, the ideal is to get the best out of workforce and management. Two or three years ago in Irish Steel we reduced the workforce from 800 odd down to 500. They were costing us a great deal of money at that time. The Government gave them about £12 million and told them they were not going to get any more. There was a lot of money put into rationalisation and improving the plant at Irish Steel.

I proposed at that time that the Government should consider the idea that the ordinary worker should get a share of the profits of a company. The work of the ordinary worker should be recognised, especially if he is doing it well. The impression should not be given that all workers should participate at board level because that is not true. However workers should not get this share for nothing. Irish Steel made a profit of about £250,000 during the past 18 months and I am glad to be able to say they are doing quite well now. Eighteen months before that they were in big trouble but they got an increase of 0.2 per cent in their allocation from the EC and it changed their situation dramatically. Perhaps we could broaden this and say to the workforce of particular companies that for £5 a week — which would come out of their wages and which would go against the debts of the company — they could have this share participation in the company. I am sure this would result in a much better output from every worker.

Why are the Government not saying this to every worker in CIE, An Post and in particular, the ESB. We know that the ESB are overcharging for electricity and their prices are one-third higher than they are in any other country. We have lost a lot of plants and workers have lost their jobs because of the cost of energy in this country.

Can we not say to the ESB that there should be shared participation within their workforce? I believe that this would lead to massive savings, particularly in the ESB, An Post and Bord Telecom. If workers in a company thought that at the end of the year they would get £200, £300 or £500, provided they paid their share, there would be a much better atmosphere in the company and there definitely would not be any strikes. That is an area where I would like to see things happening. The Government and the people could only gain from it

I have seen a campaign for worker participation on the board of CIE. The campaign that was going on in this connection was certainly bigger than any general election campaign. I think it is most unfair to the other workers that the impression is given that a certain person must become a member of this board. Some trade unions make no apology for this. It should be made known to them that they should not push a member just because he is a member of their union: it does not necessarily mean he is the best person. I am not saying that the person involved in the campaign in CIE was not the best person but it does not necessarily mean that he was either. The campaign that went on there was bigger than any campaign the Ministers or I would ever carry out and that must be questioned.

I am all for the worker but I am all for saying that he should get more. However, I am saying he should do a decent day's work and that is what trade unionism is about. If I was to say to every worker in the ESB that for £5 a week he could have a share in the company and that if the ESB made a profit of £6 million, £7 million or £8 million, a certain amount of that would be distributed among the shareholders, and every worker should be a shareholder, you would not have problems and the Minister knows this. Is it possible that this could be done? Is there something in the Bill which says that we should not consider it? Is somebody saying that the legislation is not there or that we do not have the right to do it? Does the Minister not have the right to say to the board of the ESB that they should allow the workforce to become shareholders? Does the same go for Irish Steel and CIE? CIE have been broken up into three companies. We know they must make money but we also know that there are certain areas where CIE will never make money. We have to be realistic about that. They must do things some of us would not want to do. I understand the CIE point of view.

I have seen the concept of worker participation work at private level. It is not a novel idea. I know of a private company in the Cork region who give shares to their workers. That company are improving all the time. I have spoken to a lot of workers in that company and they do not have any complaint at all. They are doing exceptionally well as a workforce and we are grateful for that because many companies are not doing well and that goes for State bodies as well as semi-State bodies. Many companies are not doing well and they are just getting by. Some people are doing very well and at the end of the year they can talk about their share amount. They can say "I got £400 or £500 this year". That is very good and it means fewer problems with the workforce.

Irish Steel must bring about a situation where the workforce move in the right way. Every worker should know that every steel RSJ is worth a penny to him but if he does not do his job properly it will cost him a penny. I do not believe in pushing a workforce too much. I am not saying that they should work 12 hours a day and get nothing for it. However, I want the workforce to know that if they do not do their jobs properly it will cost them, and that if they do it right they will be paid. If that happened the workers would have an interest in the company. That is what I call incentive.

I do not think that putting two or three members of the workforce on a board is a good idea. I am not saying it is a bad idea now but it is not a good idea either. At the end of the day they will not have any say because the other two-thirds of the board will out-vote them. Whether we like it or not, there is a tendancy by boards to have a "them and us" attitude. We are trying to bring about a situation where there will not be a "them and us" attitude but realistically it does not work that way. It is not working in CIE and it is certainly not working on other boards.

If employees were told they had to buy shares in their company or otherwise they would not be employees, then there would certainly be much better participation and more interest by all the people. There are excellent staff working in CIE, Irish Steel and the ESB. They are totally committed to the companies. However, some people have no interest in the companies at all. All they are interested in is that it is worth to them. I think we should sort that out. We should ask them to take a chance.

Aer Rianta made something like £11.4 million last year and are doing exceptionally well. I read in a private report that was carried out for Aer Rianta some time ago that the reason they did so exceptionally well was, unfortunately, because of the numbers who are emigrating. I think something like 72 per cent of all their business was on account of emigration. That is sad. The board of Aer Rianta are selling our airports very well. They are a credit to us as a nation. They are doing excellent work in Dublin, Shannon and Cork. That is an area where the workers could buy shares. Why not say to the person in a uniform or the person in the canteen that they could get something out of this? That is one area where we might start. Can we start with one body first and, if so, is it possible to start with Aer Lingus? They could promote the work of that company. I know that the employees in Ryanair get a share out of their profits and look at the way they are moving. We are not going to stop them. It is very good to see an Irish company doing that because it proves what can be done. It should be done in companies in the Cork area for instance. Irish Steel and peat companies such as Bord na Móna, who lost money last year and who are in big trouble, should have more worker participation.

I like the idea of worker participation, but I think at the end of the day the workforce will say "I will do my bit but I would like to see what I am going to get for it at a certain time of the year". They do not have to get their share at Christmas; they can get it in the middle of July, during the holiday period, every 18 months or every two years. The worker does not necessarily have to get a full shareholding. If a company make £5 million they should give £2.5 million back in shares.

There is an advantage to be gained in this area. I know the Minister has shown a great interest in it and I congratulate him on the excellent job he has done on the new social plan that is before us. I make no apology for saying that he has done excellent work on it. He has saved the day in many areas in Dublin since he came into office and I congratulate him on that. Let us throw a sprat out and ask one workforce to consider the idea of shares. I think that can only do us good.

While I do not want to start a row with Senator Cregan I should like to say that I thought we had moved beyond the idea that the workforce in this country were somehow less than willing to participate in the job of running the country efficiently. Some of the most expert liquidators — and it is a tragedy that after the last seven years this country has some of the most expert liquidators and receivers in the world, particularly Mr. Laurence Crowley — say over and over again that the common deficiency which has resulted in companies closing down has been the appalling quality of management in this country.

I do not know why we are obsessed with the idea that workers should have shares in a company in the statutory definition of shares. Anybody who works and depends on a company for his or her livelihood has, by definition, a share in that company. Anybody whose wages depend on the success or failure of a company has, by definition, a share in that company. Anybody whose job security depends on the success of that company has a share in that company. Indeed, the workforce in Irish Steel have every reason to be aware that their jobs, their security and their future depend on the success of that company. They will not need some sort of token gesture of minor participation in the shareholding or the stock of the company to remind them further.

An interesting question is that if the workforce own shares, do they have the right to sell those shares, and, if they have a right to sell those shares, what value do those shares have? Are they going to be quotable on the Stock Exchange? Are they going to be on the subsidiary areas of the Stock Exchange and, if they can sell them, what happens when they leave? If they do not have all those privileges which shareholders generally have, then we are talking about bonuses which exist in many companies but which are not necessarily a good idea.

If one reads much of what has been written — and my source is a number of United States based journals in the area of engineering and management — one finds that once people are reasonably well paid the things which are needed to maximise performance have far more to do with the quality and style of management than they have with the continuing increasing economic incentives. It is perfectly understandable that in the interests of pretending there is a simple solution to a very complex national problem, we have got it into our heads that there is one single route to take to solve our country's problem, and that is to create a climate of economic incentives. The truth is there is a considerable amount of evidence that it is never as simple as that. There are countries with huge incentive structures which have not succeeded and there are countries which, by the definitions we usually have, have limited incentive structures and which have succeeded remarkably well.

I am always intrigued by the way the workers in the ESB seem to be a target and at the suggestion that our energy costs are one-third higher, or whatever the figure of the month is. Because of the way energy costs are constructed capital costs are the single greatest cost for the ESB and capital costs have to be paid for at the prevailing interest rates. If we tolerate a climate where interest rates are ahead of the rate of inflation then inevitably the cost of energy will go up. Because first, we are substantial importers of energy and, secondly, when we say, for reasons that are still obscure to me, that we will not allow the ESB to use as much natural gas as they would like to generate electricity, we automatically also force them to import fuel and we push up the price. I do not want to have a discussion about the ESB but there is no point in suggesting that the cost of electricity could be reduced simply by the increased efficiency of the workforce. If the ESB workforce are not operating to optimum efficiency that is a management problem and a problem which primarily rests with management.

I am well aware of the deficiencies in many areas of Irish industrial organisations and Irish industrial structures. There is not a scrap of evidence to suggest that there is any fundamental difference between the workforce in a large private corporation, properly run, and the workforce in a large State corporation, properly run. They are represented by the same unions, they operate in the same economic climate and they are subjected to the same pressures. It is a particular tragedy that the workforce of Irish Shipping — whom nobody ever criticised — have had to carry the can, not for their own failures but for a disastrous error of judgment by senior executives of that company. That is one of the few State companies which went into liquidation and in all the abuse, criticism and recriminations at that stage, nobody — whether they stood on the extreme Left or the extreme Right of politics; I leave it to Senator Cregan to decide where he stands — suggested that the workforce in Irish Shipping contributed in any way to the decisions that brought about the collapse of the company.

If they had shares in it——

If the shares were of any value to them all that would have happened is that they would have lost more than their jobs in the process of the collapse of Irish Shipping.

If they had——

Wait a minute, Senators, you cannot have this Cork debate between yourselves.

Let me assure the House that shareholders in this company have only rights to a very limited amount of information, as can be evidenced by reading the reports on the AGMs of any controversial company when people endeavour to find out even something as simple as the fees paid to the directors of a building society. Shareholders are entitled to know very little.

I do not think this issue about shares is a lively one. I will watch the future of Ryanair with great interest. I think their present advertising is dishonest because, contrary to what the advertisement says, the workforce do not own the airline. They have a share in the airline but they do not own it. I am sure the people who risked large amounts of money in setting up the company have no intention of allowing the workforce to own it. I notice the effective job of protecting Ryanair which was done by the Government when Aer Lingus wanted to compete with them on certain routes and the Government decided that Ryanair must be allowed to have a monopoly. It is funny the way the ideology of competition is a great idea when it is meant to deal with a State company but it is not so good when a State company decide to respond in kind and demonstrate that they can respond in kind.

It is interesting, too, that the much maligned cartel which existed on the Dublin-London route to hold up prices was not a cartel by two State companies. It was a cartel operated by Aer Lingus and British Airways, which is one of the flagships of Margaret Thatcher's privatisation. They showed not the slightest interest in dealing with the cartel in spite of their privatisation and in spite of the fact that they were a commercial organisation who had to produce a return for their shareholders. If there was a cartel — and I accept that there was — it had little or nothing to do with the nature of ownership of either of the companies and a lot to do with the fact that it suited both Governments for a long time. I am happy that Ryanair provided the necessary incentive to both companies. It is important to remember that it was not an Aer Lingus cartel; it was a joint cartel by two airlines from very different backgrounds and different structures of ownership.

Let us not kid ourselves that there is some sort of inherent fault in State companies that makes them inherently less efficient. Anybody — and I am sure Senator Cregan is aware of this — who has had to put up with the shenanigans that masqueraded as a communications company for Cork communications in their early years will know that private companies are not necessarily models of efficiency, organisation or truthfulness. I regret the fact that we had to put up with the experiments and mistakes of that company in Cork which RTE, if they had been given the mandate in the first place, would have avoided. We must remember that we have had the extraordinary demonstration of ineptitude on the part of two private companies presented with cheap natural gas in Dublin and Cork, both of whom managed to make a mess of it, lose a fortune and had to be rescued by the State.

Let us not pretend that there is some sort of inherent drive within private companies which automatically guarantees that they will be more efficient, more successful and more productive. It has a lot to do with the quality of management and, in particular, the quality of the mandate that is given to a company by those who are responsible for it. For instance, you cannot demand on the one hand that Aer Lingus be profitable and, on the other hand, insist that they maintain, as they did over a number of years, unprofitable routes on the North Atlantic for reasons of national interest. They lost £20 million a year for two or three years in bad times when they wanted to close those routes down.

You cannot give the ESB lectures about how they should organise themselves and about the inefficiencies of their workforce and then in the next breath insist that every inefficient, loss-making small power station in the West and the midlands be kept going for reasons of social concern. I support the decision to keep these stations open but they are the ones that would close first if the ESB were to operate on a coldly rational, cost benefit analysis procedure. Many of the Members of this House and the other House who are most quick and efficient at denigrating the ESB would be the first to scream if their own little pet power station were closed down. It is right that the ESB as a major organisation should contribute to employment and provide work in areas where nothing else would be contributed but I do not think in that case they should be assaulted when they do not perform as efficiently as they should. I want to again remind the House that capital costs and fuel costs are the single biggest costs.

I congratulate the Minister on the Bill. At the risk of sounding uncharacteristically mild, I compliment him on the general way he has carried out his job since he got into office. He has done a good job. He has also managed to do a good job at the same time in giving the impression that he is not really part of the Government who have carried out all these cutbacks. It is a considerable achievement and I do not think he has run into any real flak. It was suggested at one stage that the Employment Appeals Tribunal were in some jeopardy but I know the Minister well enough to know he is far too wise to do something as foolish as that. It may have been a flyer put up by somebody but I do not expect that it will make such progress. The Minister for Labour, as he has demonstrated here, ought not to be too intimidated by the apostles of deregulation which is often another word for the elimination of protections for the workforce and the elimination of workers' rights to proper levels of safety and care. I do not think he will be.

I welcome the Bill and its intent and, secondly, I welcome the fact that it was introduced in the Seanad. I would be interested in the Minister's impressions afterwards — though he is far too good a politician to tell me the truth anyway — on whether the Seanad debate is better or worse than the debate in the other House. I suspect he will think it is worse probably because he will be fed up of it by the time it gets into the Dáil and it will sound worse, even if it is not any worse. It is welcome that the Government have introduced a substantial amount of legislation in the House. It definitely makes the work of Senators far more worth while and relevant and I want to compliment the Minister for it.

In the light of the experience of worker participation in the State agencies that have been involved in that, in the light of the willingness of the trade union movement to deal with and accept this sort of innovation and in the light of the willingness of the Irish trade union movement generally to show a considerably greater degree of capacity to adapt new technology, industrial change and industrial restructuring than their counterparts in the United Kingdom, I think a lot of what is said about Irish trade unions is close to being slanderous. Irish trade unions by and large, with spectacular exceptions that are so visible because they are so exceptional, have managed to adjust to all sorts of areas of innovation and to an extraordinary rapid pace of industrial development. Trade unions as old as the State have had to adapt to management styles from a variety of countries.

The one thing I deeply resent is the increasing presence among the new industries of a tendency to exclude trade unions completely. It has been suggested to me that of the 80,000 jobs in this country that are directly attributable to multinational investment, close on 20,000 of them are not organised. That is both objectionable and regrettable and in the long term will not serve the interests either of the country or the employees in those companies. Fundamentally nothing has changed to suggest that a workforce who are not organised and who do not have leverage will be treated any better than those who are organised. When times get hard the absence of organisational skills and managerial skills bigger than a staff association will tell against the workforce of these companies.

I want to say, since it is not fashionable any more, that I do not accept that workers and management have parallel interests or have the same interests. I do not thnk their interests are mutually and entirely exclusive but it is a bit of present day mythology to describe workers and employers as social partners. If they are partners it is a necessary functional relationship and it has got nothing to do with the commonality of interests. The interests of employers, particularly private employers, must, by definition, lie in the maximisation of wealth creation and the way you maximise wealth creation is by maximising the productivity of both your capital and labour. You maximise the productivity of your capital by getting it as cheaply as possible, under the best possible financial terms, and utilising it to the maximum possible extent to produce the maximum number of whatever units of production you are producing. The corollary of that is that you must maximise the productivity of your workforce. That involves maximising the value of production per unit of labour, and that involves a number of things: it involves minimising the number you employ and it also involves paying them not one penny more than you have to. Otherwise, your fundamental objective, which is the maximisation of wealth creation, is jeopardised.

In a situation where the employer's primary objective is the maximisation of wealth creation and the worker's primary objective is the maximisation of his own share of the wealth being created in the enterprise, then clearly they do have a commonality of interests. Both have an interest in the survival of the industry and to that extent there is a partnership, but it is not a commonality of interests which covers the entirely of life. It is an overlap in some areas and there still is — and it may be unfashionable — a class conflict involved in industrial relations, based on what are, in very fundamental areas, conflicts of interest.

I know and I believe we will be, and we have been, in Europe moving beyond that into quite innovative structures of industrial ownership. However, if one watches the operation of, say, a multinational company that is based in western Europe, North America, South America and South-East Asia, you will find that none of the enlightment they practice in western Europe will be seen or in evidence in the way they carry out their industrial relations in, say, South-East Asia or in South America, where perhaps a compliant Government makes it rather difficult, to say the least, for people to get involved in trade union activity and makes it even more difficult, if they are involved in trade union activity, to do anything about their own rights.

If you see the almost frenetic devotion by certain of our industrial and business spokespeople to the successes of places like Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong, you would imagine that there was some fantastic model for our future there. It makes one suspicious about the real loyalty of these people because the one thing all have in common, of course, is that they are not democracies and even Margaret Thatcher's labour laws would be regarded as excessively liberal in all of those countries. The idea that there is a fundamental change in the view of large, multinational companies about the relationship with their workforce is nonsense. What they tolerate in western Europe is what they have to tolerate; they will tolerate less in North America and they will tolerate less again in the Third World or in developing countries or in countries where there is a compliant regime.

They do not have in inherent commitment to the sort of participative, social democratic values that we in this country subscribe to, that I know the Minister subscribes to although I am not so sure Fianna Fáil subscribe to them any more. Consequently we should not deceive ourselves, that because we are making some progress, because the European Economic Community with all its faults has a particular interest in the idea of extending worker participation, that this has changed the nature of multinational capitalism. It is still inherently exploitative to the extent that the powers of Government or the weakness of a workforce permit it.

Therefore, we should judge all of this in that context. The idea that there is no conflict of interest and that workers and management have only got to learn a lot more to understand that they have a commonality of interest is not true.

That is quite evident in the vigorous resistance of the Irish private sector to even the faintest suggestion of extending what is being done for State companies into the private sector, and if the Minister could tell us the whole story from his departmental files it would be ample evidence that the Irish private sector has no illusions about where the loyalties of present board members are expected to lie in the private sector. Consequentially, I do not think anybody should pretend that there is the remotest possibility of extending real worker participation to board level into any large section of the Irish private sector, unless we are forced to do so by an EC directive. I do not think the Irish private sector would tolerate the idea of board members being elected from the workforce or the other consultative processes the Minister is introducing in this Bill.

For instance, it is illustrative to think about what Senator Ferris referred to last week and which has been mentioned to me as well, that one of the conditions for the new arrangement between what used to be Nítrigin Éireann Teoranta and ICI in Irish Fertiliser Industries, is a requirement that there be no employee participation at board level in the new subsidiary, that NET is now a holding company in which there are worker representatives who have no say over the day-to-day decisions. Even in a company which is 51 per cent State-owned, the intent of the private sector to exclude worker participation at board level indicates quite clearly that whatever the rhetoric it is accepted at least on management side that there is no way you could pretend there is a partnership in industry. There are bosses and there are employees in the private sector in particular. That is not to say, of course, that what is in this Bill is anything other than welcome.

The Bill is welcome for a number of reasons, but in particular because it extends the perception of State enterprise as partnership. State enterprise is is owned by the people and this is why the whole idea of privatisation of State enterprise is such an extroardinary concept. The people already own State enterprises and, therefore, there is no need to sell them off to the people. What you actually do when you privatise them is take them from all the people and give them to those sections of the people who can afford to buy them and in the process the people who own them see very little of the return; it goes elsewhere. It is a very dubious and doubtful concept and because it is such a dubious and doubtful concept — and if I had time to demonstrate it, it is also an extremely expensive concept — that I am extremely sceptical about the whole idea. When we have time, and if the Cathaoirleach indulges me, I would love to talk about the inherent cost-benefit of public sector over private sector equity in large corporations.

I know the Minister has had a long two days of it and I am not going to recite the contents of the brief many of us got from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. I know the Minister probably has got it off by heart at this stage; he has heard it often enough. I read the speeches of some of my colleagues but there were a few points which were raised to me that I think deserve to be elaborated on.

One is the need to make some sort of statutory provision for the training of worker directors. It has been said to me that the capacity of worker directors to contribute to all areas of discussion would be advanced if there was some provision for their training. It is a deficit. It is also a reflection on an industrial relations practice that apparently many worker directors feel, even after 11 years of this activity, that they have not been sufficiently trained. It appears to me that perhaps the companies on whose boards they sit have not taken to the idea of worker directors to the extent that they should or else they would have provided the training themselves. The fact that people still have to talk about the need for this sort of training is extremely important.

The recommendations of the advisory committee on worker participation about some means of evaluating the quality of participation at sub-board level should be introduced and built in somewhere. They suggested that perhaps the Irish Productivity Centre should be a body which could undertake such an evaluation, at least in the short term. The committee talked about the need for a council on employee participation and it appears there is a good case for setting up some sort of national body which would enable worker directors in various companies to share experiences, to communicate, to evaluate proposals put to them and generally to develop the skills to participate fully in many of the technical decisions that are part of the work of a director of a large company.

It is very important that there should be training and an independent body to monitor the real level of participation because participation is more than just being provided with massive wads of information. The Minister, as a current member of a local authority, is well aware of the fact that one of the ways of minimising participation by elected representatives in the decisions of a local authority is to swamp them so much with paperwork that all the details have to be left to the officials and, in the process, you can get lost. If there is to be participation by the workforce in the decision-making structures of large State companies that participation ought to be real, not illusory. The only way to determine that is to have some form of independent evaluation separate from the companies of the workers' perception of it, and indeed of the agency's perception of the quality of participation.

The issue about the problems of subsidiaries, particularly in the case of Aer Lingus, have been well dealt with. I have to say that I find it regrettable that a large, successful and very progressive State company should have large numbers of non-union employees even in a subsidiary in another country. I hope this is not an established policy of theirs and is just something which emerged from the way they developed their subsidiary company in the United States. I understand the problems of the Aer Lingus group of unions and I am sure the Minister will be forthcoming.

Finally, because most of the issues have already been raised, there is one more to which I would like to make reference and that is the power the Minister will take in the Schedule to add to, or to delete from the list of companies to which this Bill and the earlier Act applies. It seems perfectly reasonable that the Minister should have the power to add to the list of companies. I read his speech with some interest and, while I am open to correction, I did not find any reference there to his power to delete companies from the list. It is mentioned in the Explanatory Memorandum but I did not find any elaboration of what circumstances the Minister would need to delete a company from the list. I know the Minister is committed to the idea of extending worker participation.

Sitting suspended at 5.15 p.m. and resumed at 5.30 p.m.

I was talking about the power the Minister is taking to himself in the Second Schedule, section 24 (2). The Minister may, by order, amend the First Schedule and later on the Second Schedule to the Principal Act by adding or deleting one or more bodies to or from that section. I have tried to envisage a situation in which a Minister would need to delete a body from this list, given that there is almost a unanimous view among all political groupings in the House that the extension of worker participation both at board level and at sub-board level is a good idea and given that the experiment up until now has been perceived to be a success — not a spectacular success and indeed many of the real successes in many areas of life are by definition not spectacular. The exceptional is usually what is spectacular; the commonplace and the continuing, which is what the success of worker participation has been, is rarely spectacular.

I cannot imagine that there would be a policy change that would result in — I emphasise the words "policy change"— a particular recognised body, group or whatever the Minister chooses to call it in the Bill, having the authority to have worker participation withdrawn from it by ministerial order. I cannot see the policy about worker participation changing to such an extent that the deletion would be necessary. However, I can envisage changes in ownership of some of these companies which might make it necessary.

I am extremely concerned that the motivation behind this power to delete is connected with possibilities of privatising some State agencies or State companies. After all, if any of them are to be closed down in the new era of economic rectitude, whether worker participation is provided for or not will not make much difference. What is important here is we are talking about existing agencies continuing on doing a job and being told that for the future the Minister has decided that there will be no worker participation in them. The only circumstances which I could envisage in which that would be necessary would be in a change of ownership situation where worker participation would no longer be appropriate and the only change of ownership situation which is possible for a State company is a transfer of ownership from the State sector to the private sector. The only motivation that I can understand for this — I would welcome an elaboration by the Minister — would be in the event of privatisation. What bothers me is that if privatisation was only being considered — as is the case at present the only one that people believe is immediately on the cards is one insurance company or perhaps one State bank — that could easily be dealt with presumably by the legislation which would be necessary to facilitate privatisation.

The idea that you will have a capacity to delete where necessary suggests the possibility of large-scale privatisation being considered or at least envisaged sometime in the immediate future. It is obviously a contingency that is being provided for and it is a most regrettable provision. It is one that needs considerable elaboration on and I invite the Minister to elaborate on the reasons why it is being put in. If the wording had said "to add to or amend the number of worker directors on a particular agency", one could understand it in the light of changes in board structures.

The deletion of a particular body completely is the abolition of worker participation in that body, which is a strange exigency to anticipate in legislation unless there is a policy shift being signalled by it. I would, therefore, like the Minister to elaborate on it at this stage preferably, but if not I can undertake to give him the opportunity to do so on Committee Stage. We will have to have a serious discussion about this provision when we reach Committee Stage.

Having expressed my support for the general views already made known to the Minister by a number of Members here, and I am sure directly by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, I look forward to the Bill, perhaps amended in the Schedule, being passed and to its implementation. I invite the Minister to grasp the nettle of beginning to look at the question of worker participation in the private sector. It would be a nice step forward if we anticipated directives from the EC rather than seemingly having to be dragged, screaming and kicking, to follow their directives. The fact that there is in many countries in Europe a considerable degree of worker participation in all large enterprises suggests that ultimately the European Community will move in that direction. If, as is sometimes suggested, many of the social democracies involve themselves with the European Community, that line of development is even more likely.

Has the Minister considered the possibility of looking at the structures of the Companies Acts in the light of the sub-board consultative processes he is building into this? If we cannot have worker participation in a formal level in private sector companies we could at least do something under company law to ensure that their rights to information and their rights to be looked after in any decisions being made by a company were at least on a parallel with those who have a financial stake in it. This is not the case at present under company law. If we cannot bring in radical worker participation legislation for that sector, at least we could amend the company legislation. Since there is company legislation before the House it might be well worth while if the Minister were to have discussions with his Cabinet colleague on this issue.

I would like to thank the many Senators for a very exhaustive examination of the legislation on Second Stage. We will have a further opportunity on Committee Stage to go through any more issues which we cannot resolve in my contribution on the conclusion of Second Stage.

I should like to answer the informative question Senator Ryan put to me regarding the value of bringing this to the Seanad first. I have long been a keen supporter of the idea that a Bill gets a very good hearing in the Seanad. You have a good opportunity to talk out the various issues and to sound them out so that you can examine them rather than having the hurried one hour debate. We would like when the Bill leaves this House, hopefully in the next week or two, that it would be possible to get it through before Easter. It is long overdue and we are very anxious to get ahead with the process.

I am extremely grateful for the very good discussion we had here last Wednesday and today. I want to go over some of the points that came up last week. We have examined them in great detail and at great length in the Department. A number of very valuable points were made and I would like to go through them. All of the contributions reflected a keen appreciation at the issues involved and of the education and the promotional significance of this measure for industrial practice. It is a very extensive piece of legislation in that it is affecting all the important State companies across all sectors of Irish society. There are 39 organisations listed in Part III of the Schedule and nine in Part II. It is something that over a time will affect all our State organisations.

The purpose of the Bill is to underpin the development of worker participation below the level of the board in the State sector and to amend and extend worker director arrangements that existed up until now. I accept that the Bill will not provide instant solutions to all of the issues raised. It does, however, fill a recognised gap as all of the Senators have pointed out, as far as the State sector is concerned. It will give the necessary impetus and support to those State enterprises wishing to make progress at all levels with employee involvement.

It should give employees a say in the running of the enterprise and help to build up a stronger sense of identity with the fortunes of their companies. The evolution of successful participative arrangements will help both management and workers to co-operate closely in achieving a more worthwhile working environment. We are laying the seeds for what will be a gradual process. Everybody recognises that it is a step-by-step process.

Senator Hillery was right last week to emphasise that the main ingredients for success will be patience, time and discussion. That is the road we have to go on this type of process. The evolution of worker participation requires the growth of mutual trust; nothing can be rushed. We need legislation because there have been too few initiatives overall in the last number of years. Trust and confidence will build up through genuine efforts on both sides from employees and employers to work and build that trust and to build the confidence to achieve what we set out to do in this legislation.

I would stress that the whole emphasis is on flexibility and a do-it-yourself approach for each company based on agreement between management and unions. They will decide their own agenda. To try to set out the agenda in legislation would be a disaster. It would be wrong, it would prove counterproductive and would not be comprehensive. The whole process of the legislation is encouragement, flexibility, to try to cajole, build confidence and trust and get people to set their own agendas. Where appropriate arrangements are already in place they should be strengthened by the new legislative support.

In recent months I got the strong impression that many managers, and trade union activists are now looking to the Oireachtas for a signal that worker participation remains firmly on the agenda of public policy. The interest at all levels, in Aer Rianta for instance, has been very strong. This says a lot for the open management style which characterises that organisation. There is already a very strong, very powerful and very useful industrial democracy council in existence there and they have been preparing the ground for the smooth implementation of this Bill.

It is interesting the number of Senators who made the point about Aer Rianta. It is probably because of that, more than anything else, that it is Aer Rianta, along with the National Rehabilitation Board, that we are today including in Part I of the Schedule because they are the organisations that have done the groundwork, smoothed out the difficulties and have people who understand what it is all about. They have proved to me, and I am sure to almost every Senator who spoke in this debate, that they are worthy of having worker directors because they have gone through that process of the sub-board for a number of years.

I have said a number of times in public debate that if anything was wrong with the 1977 legislation on worker directors — and Senator Brendan Ryan made the point — that people were not prepared, had not got the training, had not got the expertise. They went straight from a position of just straightforward trade union issues into work on a board and that was unfair on the individuals concerned. What we are now doing is probably what we should have been doing in the years prior to 1977, building up sub-board structures that allow people to gain the expertise that is necessary for them to play their full role as members of a board. Many of the boards that we are talking about are board who have had many problems since 1977. The point is well taken.

I would like to respond to some of the many interesting points raised in the course of the debate last week and today. A point raised by Senator Fennell and other Senators contributing to the debate was the amendments of the definition of employee from "whole time" in the 1977 Act to "employed for not less than 18 hours per week" in the Bill. I want to make it clear that the purpose of this provision is to broaden the scope of the original definition which only covered full-time employment.

We have taken steps in recent years to establish a threshold of 18 hours per week at which part-time workers are entitled to the same statutory employment rights as full-time workers. That was taken in the Employment Insolvency Bill, 1984. The recognised figure of 18 hours covers this type of legislation. There is a substantial amount of other legislation where there is not a threshold. It is an ongoing issue. I answered questions last week in the Dáil about exactly what happens the part-time worker issue and what the threshold should be. I do not think this is the legislation to amend that. The debate will go on for some time about exactly how we should handle part-time workers.

The Congress of Trade Unions and everybody else, myself included, are very concerned. We went from "whole-time" in 1977 to this Bill which provides for 18 hours. We could go further but it is not simple. If it were simple I would be glad to bring that forward as a separate Bill and to say that there were no hours, there was no threshold. It is extremely complex and it has major repercussions for employers and for industry. It is a very costly process.

I notice all the Senators made the point, and I agree with them, that things have changed and part-time worker now has a totally different definition to what we talked about before. You have the contract workers and all of the other issues. I ask people to accept that 18 hours for the purpose of this Bill is in line with the other legislation. That is something that will have to be changed in the overall concept. There is no point in codding ourselves, of changing it in one Bill and not being able to do anything anywhere else. It is an issue about which I have been involved in a lot of discussions and will continue to be. It would be neither practical nor desirable to depart from that uniform threshold in this Bill. That is not in any way to take away from the merits of the arguments that have been made by a number of Senators.

The point at issue here is quite different from rights which all workers enjoy under the Equal Pay and Employment Equality Acts, for instance, which are not conditional on working a certain number of hours a week. A qualified standard for the exercise of voting rights and ballots held in the workplace is involved here. There are also complementary provisions regarding the continuity of service for voters and for nominees. I want to make the point that when it was whole time it was 21 hours and now it is 18 hours and people argue that certain employers keep going under that threshold. If you follow that argument through, as I said in the Dáil on a number of occasions, you come down to nil hours. That has been proved in several cases. If you continue to bring down that threshold, the attraction is there for a certain type of employer who is influenced by this — I hope he is not in any of these State organisations — to play games with the thresholds to ensure that he has not on his staff people to whom he is obliged to give legal provisions under the various Acts. It is a broad argument for this Bill.

Senator Fallon spoke about the need to increase the number of women at director level. I would like to see a balanced representation between women and men among the persons nominated by trade unions and staff associations. Already in some State bodies the first women to take their seats at board level were those elected from the workforce. The establishment of sub-board structures will give more workers an opportunity to gain experience at representative levels.

Senators Fennell and O'Toole and some other Senators queried whether this Bill takes account of the position of An Post and Telecom Éireann which were established under the Posts and Telecommunications Services Act, 1983. Both bodies have been included in the Bill for the purpose of establishing some board arrangements. It was said that we might have forgotten about these two boards. Last week the point was made that they might have slipped through the net and that we had forgotten about them. It seemed to be an important point but that is not so.

The Bill takes account of the position of An Post and Bord Telecom which were established under the Posts and Telecommunications Services Act, 1983. Both bodies have been included in the Bill for the purpose of establishing sub-board arrangements, which is what we were endeavouring to do. The proposed arrangements about varying the proportion of employee directors in noncommercial State bodies will not affect either An Post or Telecom Éireann. I have, however, taken up the question of harmonising arrangements throughout the commercial State enterprises with the Minister for Communications and he expects to be able to confirm the position shortly.

It was only recently that both of the worker directors involved in these companies had communications with the Department of Labour to see exactly what way they should be covered and the advantages or the disadvantages in this legislation or in the 1983 Act. Those discussions are taking place and we hope to make some progress on it in the next week or so. If necessary I will introduce an amendment on that issue on Committee Stage. As I pointed out in my opening speech, I recognise that problems could arise in some State bodies, including the employees of subsidiaries, over the procedure in the ballot for worker director elections to the main board.

Senator Ryan along with other Senators mentioned the ICTU submission. On this issue the officials of my Department dealing with this and I have had numerous meetings with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and we have gone further than normal to try to satisfy their wishes. On this particular one, which is of great concern to Aer Lingus in particular, to members of their staff as well as to Congress, I have decided to bring forward an amendment which will limit the option to circumstances in which agreement has been reached on such an extension of the franchise between the designated State body and the representatives of the employees of that body. I am confident that this will resolve the issue satisfactorily.

A number of Senators felt the Minister, the employer, or the organisation could make a decision that would allow in the case of Aer Lingus, say — I think everybody has been canvassed on this — their international hotel group to come in, or, in the future, as organisations change over the coming years, that any semi-State body, whose main function could be a particular one, their business might be airlines but the majority of the members of the company in theory or in fact, could be hotel people, or agriculturalists or whatever, and they would have the right to elect people to the board who could change what the company was about in the first place. I accept the arguments, the genuine fears and the wish of the staff of Aer Lingus to be involved. Therefore, we will bring forward amendments on Committee Stage which will limit the option to the circumstances in which agreement has been reached on such an extension of the franchise between the designated State bodies and the representatives of the employees of that body. That concludes this two year debate that has gone on. We are quite happy and we have that amendment with the parliamentary draftsman as of now.

Senators O'Toole and Ferris and other Senators were concerned about section 6 (2) which provides for the giving of relevant information by management to employees in good time. The phrase "in good time" was settled upon after much discussion within the Department and the parliamentary draftsman. It gives staff representatives and the enterprise concerned the opportunity to make reasonable provisions in this area having regard to the particular requirements of the State enterprise. Depending on the issue involved, a day's notice might be sufficient in one case while in another case notice of weeks or months would be more appropriate, so "in good time" could mean different things in different circumstances. They seem to be the best legal words that we can use to get over the difficulties that could arise. Only the employees of the enterprise, in consultation with management, can determine the meaning of "in good time" in a particular issue. Again, there is that joint approach by both sides to handle the issue.

I agree wholeheartedly with Senator Hillery's comments about the importance of the timely disclosure of information to employees in the interests of the commercial health and even the survival of companies. This point was made again today by Senator Fallon, Senator Ryan and Senator Harte, who dealt with it at great length. Too often boards and senior management leave their workforce completely in the dark until they are in deep trouble. Irish Shipping is a typical example where it was all too late when anyone heard of the difficulties. It is not a formula for mutual trust or for a willingness to change economic circumstances.

With regard to disclosure of information that perhaps also includes the whole issue of what will happen in the future about worker participation and private enterprise. I have spent my life dealing with trade unions of every type with companies and with managements. I fail to understand why any good management, regardless of their economic circumstances, whether they are extremely good, reasonable or in major difficulty, do not use the benefits of the staff to explain the facts to them. While there is a low streak in every group of people, a hothead who will tend to misinterpret the information given, or who will try to use the argument in some way to blame management for something, overall it has always been the case that in any dispute, breakdown of consultations or talks, the people of sanity and right thinking who have an interest in the common good will come to the fore eventually. I take this opportunity once again to appeal to private enterprise and ask private companies to move in the direction that many of the major companies are going.

Senator Harte spoke for about half an hour about his experience and knowledge of the Guinness position and what they have gone through. I would like to put this point on record. Guinness employed — sadly in some ways but you can see how the management would be afraid — 8,000 people in this city some 20 or 30 years ago. From 1970 onwards, they employed 6,500 or 7,000. Using the worker participation concept they have been able to streamline operations, which they had to do because of international competition. Everyone knows there is massive competition in the drinks industry worldwide today, where Australians, buy Cork companies and Americans buy Dublin companies. It is a huge buy-out game, all the time people are buying out others. Guinness were faced with more difficulties than I can think any other Irish company experienced but they were still able to totally involve the staff and have had only one strike, a very short strike. I know that both sides regret that strike now. They told me so the night I met them after their dinner to mark ten years of worker participation, not too many months ago. They were able to get over all these difficulties so why have we not got companies in the private sector who are able to do likewise? They should be only too glad to come forward and explain their difficulties to workers.

Another great example is the Mars Corporation who are involved in this country in a small way. The Mars Corporation, a worldwide firm involved at one time in making Mars bars in a back garage somewhere in the United States and now probably the biggest sweets employers in the world. They also make computers and are into various types of foods and several other areas. They work totally with the concept of worker participation. What happens there is of great benefit to us. The reason I mention this firm is that when people have to be displaced from employment, worker participation comes into its own and the firm work on methods where they will not have to dismiss the workforce but they try to find ways between the staff and management to encourage some other diverse activity that would keep the employment levels the same. The workers are totally flexible people who today are making Malteezers and all these famous sweets that the Mars Corporation make, and could tomorrow be out in a company making computers or retraining on computers. That is done by worker participation. There is no difficulty. There are no blocks of inflexibilities and all the problems that management say cannot be overcome are overcome where you have worker participation.

I would agree wholeheartedly with the points made by both Senator Hillery and Senator Brendan Ryan this afternoon. I would also like to hear the arguments of the private sector on why they cannot adopt worker participation bearing in mind the great success of firms, that have worker participation. What have they got against worker participation? It would make an interesting debate. I would continue to encourage the private sector to explain exactly why they hold the views they have?

On the question of disclosure of interest, section 20 of the 1977 Act emphasises the equivalence of all directors. There is a confusion here which was reflected in Senator O'Toole's view that the provision was patronising. He felt it marked out worker directors as some sort of second-class citizen. That is the opposite of its intention. Under the Act, worker directors are entitled to the same benefits as other directors, and equal obligations are imposed on all directors. Any shift away from the notion of equivalence of directors under section 20 might affect the equality of status enjoyed by worker directors generally I would add that the conflict of interest in normally interpreted in the pecuniary sense only and any general trend towards other interpretations would be monitored closely within the Department of Labour.

Senator Ferris mentioned that he understood that there had been a change in the facilities available to the NET worker directors in pursuing board-related activities. I met with all of the board of directors group in December last to discuss a range of topics of interest to them. At that meeting I learned that some changes had been made in the facilities which the worker directors of NET had enjoyed while employees of that body. The question of the facilities to be afforded to worker directors on a day-to-day basis in pursuing issues related to board membership is and must remain however a matter for the company concerned. I have made it quite clear that I was disappointed to see that there are difficulties and would take the matter up. We are all aware of the difficulties and the changes that have taken place, but any agreements that were made prior to the changes at Irish Fertilisers Limited should be abided by and that is what we have to insist on. However it is a matter for the body itself.

There is no doubt that worker directors may have particular needs both in terms of back-up advice and assistance and liaison with trade unions and other representatives. I would endorse the commendation which Senator O'Toole gave to the education and training service of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions for the assistance it has given to worker directors. I take the point that Senator Ryan has made and perhaps there should be further developments in that area.

The development of sub-board structure should remove some of the isolation which worker directors have felt and help to establish links between consultative machinery at different levels. I would be disappointed to learn that worker directors in any State body were encountering difficulties either in briefing themselves as directors or reporting back as appropriate.

Senator O'Toole was also concerned about the possibility of victimisation by management or work directors of an employee who is also a worker director. He pointed out that the Bill as framed would mean that if a person ceased to be an employee he or she would also cease to be a worker director. The Senator seems to be seeking provision in the Bill to explicitly protect the dismissed worker. This and other options were considered at the drafting stage of the Bill but no legally sound solution to the problem was found. It would be true to say that the details of such an unusual case — I do not believe there has been any in the ten or more years — cannot be anticipated in advance. As a result I suggest that the flexibility necessary to deal with such a case, should it ever arise, can be best achieved administratively, and I do not believe it would be too difficult to do that if it did arise.

There could be an unusual position where an individual would perhaps leave a company and remain on the board for another two years — when we extend the period to four years. He could go to an opposition company — I do not have to explain how it could happen — and do a lot of damage. It is more important to get the person off the board than to be worried about keeping him on. The clear purpose is that he would not be put off the board for any reason other than leaving the company. It would be legally impossible to build in anything other than that, but administratively if there was some unfairness in it, the Bill could be interpreted administratively.

Senators have raised the question of statutory provision for work participation in the private sector. I think I have fairly well expressed my own view on that. The example of developments in the State enterprise will I hope influence private firms to introduce more employee involvement in their organisations. I hope the proponents of a non-statutory approach would be encouraged by the example, to show what can be done on a voluntary basis. I will keep on encouraging them.

Senators have asked me my intentions regarding proposals for an advisory committee on worker participation and several Senators have referred to the advisory committee report. In theProgramme for National Recovery we have undertaken to consider the report of the advisory committee with a view to identifying the options which might be achieved in the light of current budgetary constraints. Subject to those constraints, I will be examining the opportunities for action recommended by the advisory committee.

Senator Murphy raised the question I think, the question why RTE was not included in Schedule 1? I suppose for the same reason that none of the other 39 were either; there is no particular reason. I uphold the view that they all have the opportunity now to convince the Minister of the day. Both the management and the union sides have the opportunity to convince any Minister for Labour that it is an area that should have a worker-director. This Bill changes the position of the past 11 or 12 years and the Minister for Labour can now take the initiative by order and grant worker-directors to a particular semi-State company. This will not require special legislation as it did in the previous ten years. For example if I wish to nominate worker directors to Aer Rianta and the National Rehabilitation Board that it will be a different process now and it will not need individual legislation. That order will be laid before the House and we can have a normal debate where the people support or do not support it. It will be a far simpler process than going through the legislative process. I think that, in itself, should encourage various institutions to take the whole process more seriously.

Senator Cregan while welcoming the Bill spoke about workers' shareholding and financial participation in a company. They are not the subject of this legislation. I am aware of the many shareholding schemes in the private sector and of the Government's support for these arrangements in the Finance Acts of recent years. The idea in the State sector is not so simple and Senator Brendan Ryan may have answered some of the issues. I would rather not go back on them again. For example, there are no publicly quoted shares. I imagine that in the minority of State enterprises which are profit-making, employees could be anxious to be involved in financial participation. The question is, would they be anxious to be involved in any of the other State enterprises?

Senator Cregan was at great pains to say that in his view both CIE and Irish Steel were strong possibilities. I doubt it. I do not think he would win too many votes among the workers of either company if he was to say that it was compulsory in order to hold on to their jobs and the security that they presently have — in some form anyway — they were to spend maybe £5 or £10 a week in the purchase of shares. He stressed at great length that at the end of the year they would be very happy to pick up the £400 profits. I would like to be able to tell the Senator that all of the companies on the Schedule to the Bill will have £400 at the end of every year. I think they will probably be getting bills for £40,000 each rather than the position he has outlined. The important point — and I agree with Senator Ryan on this — is that anyone who works in a company has a share in it and that share carries responsibilities as well as everything else. I think Senator Cregan means that as shareholders they would be more concerned about the company, but shareholders do not always get the information. We all know the arguments that go on every year at some of the board meetings in this State. Under the Companies Act, shareholders seek to elicit information from management about their rights, the investments and profits, the capital projection, and the plans and aspirations of the management but they often fail totally to get that information. I do not think it is a fair argument to say that in the case of Irish Shipping, if the workers had been shareholders, they would have had the information. That is not true.

Section 6 of the Bill imposes no limitation on the range of topics admissible to the participation forum. This is a matter for consideration at the level of the individual enterprise between management and employee interests. We would expect, however, that an element in these considerations will be the delineation between participation issues and the existing issues which are subject to industrial relations negotiations.

Senator Harte read a long list of issues which he thought should be appropriate, what I am saying is — and it gets over the position of anyone being concerned about amendments on this particular issue — that all issues that would be considered relevant to the institution and the organisation of the company could be on the agenda. There is no difficulty about that, but we have to be mindful of the industrial relations issues which the trade union movement would perhaps normally deal with, and would not be items for the agenda. Again, I think that that is a matter for the individual concerns.

The Bill is not concerned with the nondecision-making as set out in section 2. It is about introducing information and consultation procedures. The onus will be on management to manage but the Bill will allow the views of employees to be taken into account when decisions are being made. That is the whole thrust of the Bill. When issues that are important and relevant to the organisation arise they should be discussed openly and clearly between management and employees.

Senator Mullooly mentioned the fouryear period between polls for worker participation under section 4. I would submit to Senator Mullooly that this is a reasonable period of time. What is proposed in this section is a poll of all employees to determine whether they could favour sub-board participation. If the poll was against participation in a particular year, it would seem prudent to wait a sufficient length of time to allow attitudes to change before taking a further poll. During this time there is nothing to prevent the employee interests, representing the majority of employees, from applying for sub-board participation under section 3 of the Bill. There are two processes. There is a process for the election of the employees or they can do it through their trade union.

The question was raised by Senator Brendan Ryan of deleting organisations. It is not our intention to delete organisations. What we are talking about is where some agency or organisation had ceased to function. I have just been advised that any order for deletion in any event would have to be brought before both Houses of the Oireachtas. It would not be a matter of the Minister just moving it. It is not envisaged that the power would normally be invoked except when the enterprise is renamed, wound up, or is actually privatised and gone. We would not be taking the initiative if the enterprise was gone. It is not any policy change by the Government. I think that that covers that particular point. Even if it was not covered by those three areas, it would have to be done by an order of the House. It would not be the Department of Labour, the parent Department for this legislation, who would be bringing forward an order prior to privatisation. It would not ever be the spirit of the people in the Department of Labour.

The only other point I would like to refer to was mentioned by a number of Senators, that of union amalgamation. While it is not part of this legislation I welcome the unanimous view of Senators on all sides that this is something to be strongly encouraged. Senator Harte's view was that we should continue to encourage it. I would not like to think I was confusing worker participation with amalgamation of unions or I would be accused of some ulterior motive. It is not the intention in bringing forward this legislation to force unions to amalgamate. I want to make that absolutely clear. It is an entirely separate issue.

Finally, I thank the Senators from all sides of the House for this very lengthy debate. I am very pleased the Bill has received such thorough examination by them. I will have important amendments to table on Committee Stage which should resolve any major outstanding issues, that is An Bord Telecom, An Post position and that concerning Aer Lingus. I hope to be in a position to bring forward those amendments during the course of the debate in the Seanad on Committee Stage. I thank all the Senators for their co-operation.

Question put and agreed to.
Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday, 24 February 1988.