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.