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Special Committee Pigs and Bacon Bill, 1934 debate -
Thursday, 4 Apr 1935


I move amendment No. 23 :—

To insert at the end of the section the following new sub-section :—

(3) Where an order is made under this section prohibiting the employment in licensed premises of a person suffering from disease, the Minister shall at the same time make a further order specifying that all persons whose employment is prohibited under this section shall be paid by the Bacon Marketing Board during the period of the currency of the first-mentioned order a weekly sum equivalent to the wages and other emoluments such person would be entitled to receive if no such order were in force.

Sub-section (1) reads—

The Minister may, after consultation with the Minister for Local Government and Public Health, by order make regulations prohibiting the employment in licensed premises of persons suffering from diseases specified in such regulations and contact cases and known carriers of diseases specified in such regulations until such persons, contact cases and known carriers have been certified by a duly qualified medical practitioner as free from such diseases.

Take the case of a man employed on licensed premises where the production of food for human consumption is being carried out. He happens to contract eczema or some disease of that kind and there is a certificate to that effect from the medical officer of health. The man loses his employment, but no provision is made to pay him his wages during his period of enforced idleness. I fear that he would not be entitled to get National Health Insurance benefit because he is not physically ill in the ordinarily accepted sense of the word. The man is fit to work, but owing to the nature of the disease he is suffering from he cannot be employed on licensed premises where the production of food for human consumption is being carried on. Neither would he be entitled, I think, to unemployment assistance. I am suggesting in this amendment that provision should be made to pay him his wages during the period of his enforced suspension.

Surely he would be entitled to his National Health Insurance benefit ?

Strictly speaking, such a man is not physically ill. But, at the same time, he cannot be employed in a factory of that kind. I would be glad if I could have some statement from the Minister as to the interpretation that would be likely to be put on the section. I doubt very much myself if such a man could get either National Health Insurance benefit or unemployment assistance.

The Deputy wants to shift the responsibility on to the Bacon Marketing Board from the broader shoulders of the Government.

I want to protect the worker during his period of enforced idleness.

The Minister knows, perhaps from experience, that doctors are not very meticulous about giving certificates. If they say that such a man is not fit for work and recommend that he be given so many weeks off, that would be the end of it, and no one would question it.

I am not quarrelling with the way the medical profession treat people under the National Health Insurance Acts, but since unification was brought about the officials of the National Health Insurance Society have tightened up things a lot. In my opinion, the section is so worded that a man disemployed for the reasons I have given will run grave risk of failing to get either unemployment assistance or National Health Insurance benefit, and what I am anxious about is to see that his interests are protected. We have heard about the fund that is going to be provided. What is going to be done with the money that goes into it ? Surely this is a responsibility that should be placed on it. We had a lot of discussion about breaches of covenants, contracts and all the rest of it and about the compensation that should be paid to certain people, but in my opinion the human beings employed in any industry have first claim for consideration. The object of the amendment is to achieve that.

We want a price for pigs. It is the human element we are considering.

I want to see justice done. There are others to consider besides pig producers. We should have some consideration for employees. We decided before that men who lost their employment in industry should be compensated. I am asking that employees temporarily disemployed, because of the peculiarity of the section, will get the protection to which I believe they are entitled. It is not a liability of the curers.

Deputy O'Reilly

Would it not be a question for the public health authorities ?

Minister for Agriculture

I do not think I could agree to this. As the amendment is drafted it would be absolutely unworkable, because any diseased person offering himself for employment and knowing he was going to be rejected because he was diseased, would be entitled to claim. I do not want to make a point of that, because it will be fixed up. I do not think there would be any great danger about getting national health insurance, but, if there is a danger, as Deputy Keyes pointed out, we must examine it to make sure they come under some scheme. If they do not come in under any scheme they should get some compensation.

I am speaking of actual employees and not of fellows who might come along.

Minister for Agriculture

Men affected by Section 38 and the diseases specified in the Order.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 38 agreed to.