Before the Minister for Industry and Commerce moves the Second Reading of this Bill, I would like to know if I am in order in proposing that the consideration of the Second Reading of the Bill be postponed for six months. No matter of urgency arises under this Bill. There are several other Bills of an important nature before the Dáil for consideration.
RAILWAYS (EXISTING OFFICERS AND SERVANTS) BILL, 1926—SECOND STAGE.
The Deputy would not be in order in proposing at this stage the postponement of the Second Stage.
I thought that, according to Parliamentary procedure, a Deputy is in order in proposing the postponement of the Second Reading of any Bill. This is not an urgent measure.
The Minister must first be allowed to move the Second Reading of the Bill. The Deputy can propose the postponement of the Second Reading when that motion is before the House, but he cannot do so until the motion has been made.
The Bill, the Second Reading of which I am now moving, is a Bill to amend the third schedule of the Railways Act of 1924, and, in so amending it, to reiterate the principle that was at the back— that was the foundation—of the third schedule of the Act of 1924—namely, that one should not have public benefit by reason of the amalgamation of the railway system at the expense of private hardship. That principle, which was fundamental to the third schedule of the Railways Act of 1924, is continued in the amending Bill which is now before the Dáil. It puts limitations to certain excesses which became apparent as possible when cases had to be determined by the arbitrator under the wording of the third schedule of the 1924 Act. I put it to the Dáil that there is a case for the amending of the third schedule to the Railways Act of 1924, by reason of two things, the first of which is that, owing to a mistake made in the first place by myself, in the second place by the Dáil, and in the third place by the Seanad, a certain error was allowed to creep into a particular portion of that schedule with a result which must, when stated, appear absurd to every Deputy. It was sought in a certain portion of the Railways Act of 1924 —the third schedule—to base compensation, where compensation is payable, on the rates provided for civil servants, rates which have recently been subjected to much criticism as being too favourable to the civil servant. Instead of introducing that, an error crept in which can be stated simply this way: that instead of a maximum payment of one-sixtieth for every year of service, with certain additions, there was inserted a minimum of one-sixtieth for every year of service. One single case will show the absurdity that might arise under that as phrased: if you imagine a railway servant of 30 years' service in receipt of 60/- a week, and that under amalgamation he was brought to a position in which he would be in receipt of 59/- a week, suffering a loss of 1/- per week; having 30 years' service the arbitrator, under the old third schedule, would be coerced into deciding that the compensation payable to such a man would be at the rate of one-sixtieth of his emoluments, multiplied by his years of service, one-sixtieth of 60/- multiplied by his 30 years' service, so that there would be for him a minimum payment of 30/- per week for life for a loss of one shilling per week. With that as the case, and that has been proved to be the case, there is sufficient justification for an amendment to the third schedule of the Railway Act. Nobody can plead here that it was the intention of the Oireachtas that such should be the case, and I doubt if anybody could put up the case that there is a vested interest in such an absurd payment accruing to anyone on proof of the fact that a mistake occurred in the drafting of the third schedule to the 1924 Act.
Another important point occurs requiring amendment in this respect. It may be stated in this way: The comparison to which this Amending Bill has been subjected is mainly with the provisions of the corresponding British legislation and the corresponding British Schedule. The arbitrator, if such cases were referred to him, was given power "to refer to all the circumstances of the case." Under such a wide phrase as that, the arbitrator had power to take into consideration everything, the nature of the employment, the emoluments received, the amount of damage or depreciation suffered, where discharge was not absolutely essential, and so on. In this case, it seems to be that the arbitrator generally had only to concentrate on one or two points:— (a) Was dismissal, in fact, caused; and if so (b) was the dismissal due to physical incapacity or misconduct, and if none of these things could be proved, then compensation must inevitably follow. When I state the second fact that in the last year of railway working there has been a decrease of traffic amounting to seventeen million ton miles of which no account could be taken by the arbitrator in deciding whether a man's dismissal was due to amalgamation for which compensation ought legitimately be paid. or to something else not arising from amalgamation, it will be seen that the Third Schedule to the Railway Act of 1924 was deficient in a second respect. Those two points warrant the introduction of amending legislation, and the amending legislation is before you. How far that amending legislation goes I propose to indicate by dealing with the Bill section by section.
The first section is of no importance. It is simply a definition section. The second section is entirely to the benefit of the employee, and in bringing it in, in amending legislation, I feel that I am only doing what was indicated as the wish of the Oireachtas with regard to officers or servants of any railway company of less than five years' employment. Amendments were proposed and accepted in the Seanad dealing with the case of employees of short service, and it was thought that their cases had been entirely covered, but a certain deficiency was revealed when the cases came before the arbitrator.
Was it not the Government amendments that were ultimately accepted and not the amendments of any other party in the House?
Amendments were put up by other parties in the House, but the Government amendment was accepted by these other parties as meeting their point of view.
There was no question of duress raised. It was recognised that the amendment that was accepted was sufficient to meet all the circumstances of the situation, and if the Deputy thinks that that is not so he can bring forward the old amendment and press it in substitution for the second section in the amending legislation, and we can then consider whether it ought to be accepted or not. The merits of that amendment can then be contrasted with the merits of the amendment that is now put down in the second section of this amending Bill.
I merely make the point to show that the amendments put up in the Seanad were the amendments of the Government itself. They were inspired by it.
If I am to go into this argument I must respond that that was never my point of view with regard to a rather dubious amendment pressed by a certain member of the Seanad. If that certain member of the Seanad or any member of the Dáil feels that the old amendment is preferable to what is now down in the amending Bill, then that amendment may be pressed and we will see the one in comparison with the other. The difficulty in the old schedule as opposed to what is now proposed will be clear to anyone who reads the Third Schedule to the Railway Act of 1924 and Section 2 of the old schedule as amended by Section 2 of the present Bill. In the seventh line to the Third Schedule of the Act of 1924 you will find the phrase referring to the people definitely under consideration: "and who does not become an officer or servant of the amalgamated company shall be entitled to a gratuity" calculated in a certain way. The people who are left out and who were inadvertently omitted from the provision to the Third Schedule of the 1924 Act, were such people as those having short service and who did not become an officer or servant of the amalgamated company. This second section seeks to amend that defect, and in so far as it seeks to amend that defect the amendment is entirely in favour of the railway employees. It has been said by certain people that they are doubtful as to the benefit inasmuch as—they say— certain portions of the second section of this amending Bill are so hedged in with what are recognised as impossibilities from the point of view of the railway employees as to make the benefit more or less without value. The particular points that have been referred to are (1) the onus of proving all the things referred to in Part 1 of the Second Schedule are, it is alleged, thrown on the employee, and (2) we have the particular point as to whether or not the discharge or dismissal has been contributed to by a certain number of matter which have been referred to.
I have seen it stated in the public Press that this Bill had been introduced and that no consideration had been given to the claims of the employees, that it was introduced in the interests of the dividend-owning classes and so on. Certain people have wasted a certain amount of bodily heat in getting into an excited state over this Bill when, I suggest, they might have been more usefully employed in making representations to me, representations which I had invited as to the points in dispute. Representations have been made to me, and it has been made quite clear that insistence on this phrase "or contributed to" would operate unduly upon people who are in an inferior position with regard to what they could prove. It is accordingly proposed that the phrase "or contributed to," wherever it occurs in the second section or in the fourth section, should be dropped, and that in order to make assurance doubly sure there might be inserted in the second section and in the fourth section, at the appropriate places, these words: "whereof proof shall rest on the railway company." The second section, therefore, of this Bill, in so far as it will be amended by these proposals, will leave it that men of short service, that is of less than five years' service, who do become members of the amalgamated company and of whom it is proved by the railway company that their dismissal is caused by amalgamation or absorption, shall be entitled to a gratuity as set forth in the section. A further point has been raised on this. I do now know how much value is put on the cases that under the section may be entirely reserved from the arbitrator. If that is thought to be a hardship, as it has been put to me by certain people interested in the good of the railwaymen that it is a hardship, then I am prepared further to amend the section by stating that cases under the section shall go to the arbitrator in due course as people feel aggrieved.
The amendment of Section 2 is, therefore, entirely to the benefit of the railway employees. It carries out what I believe was the will of the Oireachtas on the occasion that the Railway Bill of 1924 was before the two Houses, and it amends any defects that have since been found to operate against the employees. It even goes further than that, because it proposes to amend what have been alleged to be defects, even in the amending Bill itself, operating against the employees. What I said with regard to the amendments asked for to the second section operates also with regard to the fourth section of the amending Bill. The words "or contributed to," where they occur in line 32, will be deleted, or at least it is proposed to the House that they be deleted, and in line 38 it is proposed to insert "whereof proof shall rest on the amalgamated company." That, I hope, will clear up whatever doubt there may have been in the minds of railway employees as to what is being called the 99 to 1 per cent. with regard to the cause of dismissal. It has been alleged that in the Bill as drafted, if a railway employee can prove that 99 per cent. of the cause of his dismissal was due to amalgamation, and that one per cent. was due to something else of the type referred to here—reduction of traffic, reduction of renewals or maintenance work, etc.—that in that case the arbitrator would be coerced into deciding that no compensation was payable. These amendments remove that doubt in so far as a doubt was raised, that the unfortunate employee, being in an inferior position would find it impossible to prove against the railway company, with its expert knowledge in a case, as to whether or not these items did contribute or did cause his dismissal. The proof will now be thrown—we believe in any case it would always have been thrown—on the amalgamated company. The employee will only be faced with the task —he is not entirely freed from the necessity of having to put forward certain evidence—of putting forward rebutting evidence to what the railway company brings in, evidence to show that the dismissal was not caused by the items mentioned, the decrease of traffic and the other items referred to.
On these two sections, therefore, the only point outstanding is this: Is it the contention of anyone in the House that the railway company, now the amalgamated company, should be precluded from any of the rights with regard to dismissal which any of the separate companies prior to the amalgamation had? That is to say, a man may be dismissed if, owing to a decrease of traffic, there was not sufficient railway work for him. If it is contended that the number of railway employees should be fixed for the future at the number who were in employment under the different railway companies prior to amalgamation and that nobody should be dismissed under that number without compensation, then this Bill is in direct defiance of the people who hold that point of view. In regard to those people who held that the principle of the Third Schedule of the Act of 1924 was that you should have economies that seemed to be possible under amalgamation and that were rendered necessary by the state of traffic, and also that compensation should be paid where any person was rendered redundant by amalgamation or absorption, that position is maintained under this Bill. You cannot have public benefit accruing from amalgamation or absorption at the expense of private hardship. If private hardship takes place at the expense of absorption, compensation must be paid. That principle was the definite foundation of the Third Schedule of the Act of 1924 and it is retained here. There are certain limitations. There is a minor amendment to be put into Section 4 of this Bill. In lines 24 and 25 the words "or his services dispensed with" should be removed from there to line 37 after the words "or other economic cause" and should be changed into "or whose services are dispensed with."
In view of the way in which the Minister is butchering this Bill, would it not be better for him to withdraw it altogether and have it reprinted?
I am not disposed to such wholesale butchery as the Deputy would suggest.
It is a most unusual procedure.
If it seems unusual, when representations are made to me by people who are interested in seeing that justice is done, that these suggestions should be accepted by me—if that is put forward as being something unusual, then let me accept it as being unusual. Is it so unusual as that the Bill should be scrapped and we should abandon the whole thing? I cannot agree to that. The changes are very simple and may be easily understood. They are the effect of representations which were made to me indicating hardships which no one intended.
It is most unusual on Second Reading to butcher a Bill so that we cannot follow it. I submit that the Minister should reconsider the whole matter and bring in the Bill which he wants the House seriously to consider.
The Deputy apparently desires that he should appear in the role of butcher, but the Deputy is not going to get the credit of butchering what he calls this absurd Bill.
Murder it at its birth.
Now, to come back to the limitations. I have already mentioned one, namely, that referred to at the top of page 4. I am very pleased to have in my mind the memory that Deputy Johnson is, in another context, in complete agreement with what is here provided. It is here suggested that what had been originally intended should be inserted, and, instead of insisting that the arbitrator must award a sum as a minimum of one-sixtieth of the remuneration and emoluments multiplied by years of service, there shall be a section, such as (ac), at the top of page four. The important part is towards the end where it is stated: "such annual allowance that shall not in any case exceed an annual sum calculated at the rate of one-sixtieth of his remuneration and emoluments for every completed year of his service with the amalgamated company or any amalgamating or absorbed company." It has often been asserted in discussions in connection with this Bill that if the schedule of the corresponding English Act could be brought in everything would be smooth and easy. This brings in the English Schedule to the corresponding legislation and it had Deputy Johnson's benediction in connection with another Bill when he proposed to insert the words "not in excess of one-sixtieth of his remuneration and emoluments." This is the civil service regulation in regard to pensions. It is what was always intended in regard to railwaymen, and the only point of contention here ought to be based on this argument, namely: "Is it right and proper that railwaymen should be given the same maximum rate of compensation as civil servants, or is the civil service rate considered so small that railway employees should be given something in addition, and should start with the minimum which the civil servant gets as a maximum when retiring?"
The second sub-section of Section 4, that lettered (c), deals with a point also dealt with in Section 2, sub-section 2, on page 2. It excludes trade apprentices from having their period of apprenticeship acknowledged as a period of ordinary work so as to entitle them to rank as servants of the company for that particular amount of service. I think the House will understand when I say that this is the absurd position which the arbitrator has been coerced into establishing under the old schedule as it stood— that there were a few cases of boys under twenty who have been granted pensions of £30 per annum for life because their period of apprenticeship has been acknowledged to entitle them to rank as employees of some amalgamating or absorbed company. The sub-section lettered (d) deals with the second big point which I stated requires amendment so far as the third schedule of the Railway Act is concerned. What is stated there can be easily understood. I want to elevate one point above the rest for the purpose of examination. I refer to this sub-section where it states in line 33: "and also where the compensation is an annual allowance and the officer or servant is entitled to benefits by way of superannuation payable out of any contributory superannuation or benefit fund to which an amalgamating or absorbed company or the amalgamated company contributed or contributes, such annual allowance shall be the difference between the amount of the annual allowance which would be payable if the officer or servant was not entitled to any such benefits than the annual amount or the annual value of such benefits." May I state that generally in ordinary language in this way? If it be found that a man on retiring, so far as the case before the arbitrator is concerned, is to be given a sum of £900 for spending the rest of his life in idleness, whereas in full work he was entitled to £700 per annum, then that mere statement is a sufficient reason for some change being made in the schedule which coerced the arbitrator into making that decision. The sum of £900 per annum to which that man will become entitled is made up of some sums by way of compensation and some sums out of superannuation funds.
There is a point here upon which I would ask the House to pass its own free and unfettered judgment. May I put the two arguments on this point in this way? Supposing one man has, by making contributions into a railway superannuation fund, made provision for the future, and another man has been quite improvident in regard to his future, are you going to leave them on the same footing when it comes to deciding their compensation? Are you going to determine that A, who has been providing for his old age, should be left exactly on the same footing as B, who has been quite negligent in regard to his old age, and who did not care what happened when the evening of his years came upon him? That is one argument that will be used against this clause as it stands. The other attitude will be this namely, that what the Oireachtas had to decide, when considering the question of amalgamation and possible, and even necessary, redundancy, was that some standard had to be set up as a standard which would preclude hardship from falling on any man, and that if men got that money from railway sources it did not matter how it was made up or how the separate parts were contributed so long as a certain standard was fixed. There is a further point. A compromise position is this. A has made provision for old age, but B has not, and it is decided that hardship will be prevented by the payment of a sum of, say, two-thirds on retirement. A's compensation may be made up, partly by his own contributions and partly by the funds, whereas B, who made no provision for his old age, will also be getting two-thirds, so that the barrier against hardship is entirely supplied by railway funds.
That, in the case of railway superannuation funds, is not the case. There are three railway superannuation funds. One of these may be stated to be actuarially sound, but the other two are unsound: What has happened is that a certain number of men paid in their contributions to either of these two insolvent funds which have been exhausted by the number of men retiring and drawing more than the amount which, on an actuarial basis, it would have been proper to pay them.
To what funds is the Minister referring?
To the Railway Clearing House and to the A Fund.
Did the Minister read the rules of the Great Southern Fund?
The rules may be detailed afterwards. I put it to anybody who is disposed to argue, is it or is it not the fact that the A Fund and the Railway Clearing House Fund have, in fact, been rendered insolvent—to put it more simply, that the pool from which benefits may be drawn has been exhausted by reason of people drawing more than, on an actuarial basis, they were entitled to draw—and that if there be this compromise suggestion, that the railway company shall pay compensation, plus the men's contributions to that fund, the railway company are, in fact, under that compromise suggestion, paying compensation, plus the men's contributions to the fund. The railway company are, in fact, refunding from their own resources—because the pool built up by the contributions has been exhausted—to the man, his moneys, which have gone to the benefit of his fellows who have earlier retired, plus the compensation money. I put it for the consideration of the House that there are just these three positions.
The Minister should be Minister for Finance.
It is quite a simple matter. There is the ordinary argument which will appeal to people who have simply a sort of soft-hearted sentiment with regard to certain people. They will say it is a case of A versus B.
The Minister has no soft-hearted sentiment at all events.
It is easy to be soft-hearted with other people's money. Let us assume that A has made some provision for himself and B has not. Are A and B to be put on the same level and to get two-thirds of their emoluments, irrespective of what they built up for themselves? There is the second position, which may be regarded as a somewhat austere one—that is, as regards the point of view of the Oireachtas in respect of the third schedule to the Act, as to what was the barrier against hardship. The point of view of the Oireachtas was two-thirds of the retiring allowance. It does not matter where that retiring allowance comes in. You are not considering A against B but you are considering A, B.C, D and others in respect of the barrier against hardship. The barrier against hardship was fixed at two-thirds. The compromise position was that we split the difference, gave the retiring man his contributions, plus his compensation, and let the man who made no provision for his old age suffer. He gets his compensation and nothing else. On the simple facts of the case—that the railway superannuation funds have been built up unsoundly, that the pool from which benefits may be drawn has been exhausted owing to people retiring and drawing their benefits—I put it that, in fact, what you are doing, if you accept that compromise suggestion, is insisting on the railway company paying compensation and refunding from its own resources an amount equivalent to what the men have put in. Let me put it the other way. Suppose it is said: "Let the railway company draw from the superannuation funds what it has paid in and then let it pay two-thirds compensation to those whom the arbitrator has decided compensation must be paid." When the railway company withdraws its fifty per cent contribution to the funds in every case—it was not less than fifty per cent. in any case—there will be very little for the man who has paid in to draw from, in addition to his two-thirds compensation. And why should you say that the railway company is not entitled to withdraw its contributions instead of the man?
What about the solvent fund? There is one fund solvent.
The solvent fund can be dealt with by itself. If the case be made there that the contributions be returned to the men, with interest, in addition to their compensation, as determined by the arbitrator, there is no objection whatever. I only put it that in the case of the other funds, you must take the facts into consideration, and it is for the Dáil to decide whether you are to lean definitely towards penalising the railway company or towards penalising the man, or whether any compromise is possible between the two positions.
Section 6 is the section about which I am sure there is going to be most argument here. It introduces the horrible principle of retrospective legislation. It provides that there may be a re-hearing of cases. Let me say to Deputies that it is quite sound that they should have a disposition against retrospective legislation, but there may be a greater evil than any evil there is in retrospective legislation. There may be this evil——
Apply the word "dictatorship" to what I am going to say. A man in receipt of £700 per annum, working whatever number of hours constitute the working day, retires on £900 per annum. It is dictatorship to say that he should not get £900 for idling, since he got only £700 for working!
What about the Dáil Supreme Court judges?
I am unfortunately not dealing with the Dáil judges. I am dealing with railwaymen.
The judges retired after one year's alleged service.
Is it right that a man should get £900 for idling, where he got £700 for working? If it is the opinion of the Dáil that such a man should—if I may use the expression—"get away" with the £900 per annum for the rest of his idle life where he had £700 per annum for working, if, weighing that in the balance against this principle of retrospective legislation, the Dáil decides that the introduction of retrospective legislation is a worse evil than that this gentleman should be paid £900 per annum for idling when he had only £700 for working, then it is not my responsibility. There should be a chance of re-hearing absurd cases—not absurd in the sense that the arbitrator has made any absurd decisions but absurd because, owing to defective instructions given to the draftsman, a situation was created which was never meant and which, I put it to the Dáil, was never in the intention of this House. With all deference to dictatorship, I do not think anybody ever thought that a man should get £900 for idling where he got £700 for working.
The Minister will have a lot of absurd legislation to deal with if he makes a start now.
Will the Minister amend the Treaty with regard to civil servants' superannuation?
If anything so absurd as a man getting £900 for idling who got £700 for a full year's work is shown, then there will be a very good case for amending the Treaty with regard to civil servants. But let nobody be drawn by casual innuendoes against civil servants into believing that that is the case, as it is clearly the case and definitely shown to be the case in regard to Schedule 3 of this Act.
Would the Minister clear up the point as to whether the instance he has given is representative of any considerable number of cases or whether it is a single instance on which he is building a case?
I have three instances of the sort. How far they may go, I do not know. Since I stated that this Act, now to be amended, was due to certain defective instructions issued by me to the draftsman, I may say this in my own defence—that there were certain things that nobody could have foreseen until the arbitrator had certain cases put before him and had decided upon them. I ask the Deputy, who has a recognised antipathy to retrospective legislation, whether it is better to avoid retrospective legislation and allow one, two or three persons to get away with certain sums of money on retirement in excess of what they got when working than to have retrospective legislation. If the Dáil shows that its objection to retrospective legislation is such that it will suffer that absurdity to continue during these people's lives, rather than take this, the first, opportunity of correcting what obviously was never intended, it is a matter for Deputies themselves.
There may be some discussion about discrimination as to the re-hearing of cases. On that I have had certain representations made to me. I am quite ready to hear those representations further, once the Second Reading has been assented to. It has been put to me that even though certain men have got certain emoluments in excess of anything they should get, and even though the Dáil recognises that as absurd, it may be well to leave them as they are—that the amount of money involved is more or less trifling in comparison with the resource of the railway company and the number of its employees. But there is the further point: how far are cases that have been already heard, which were put up as test cases—even though objected to by the arbitrator—and which may be held in the future to rule other cases—how far is it right to make any discrimination, say, between A and B, who have got certain sums which were regarded as excessive, and the remainder of the people whose cases are not yet heard and whose cases would have been ruled, but for this amending legislation, by what has been decided in the cases of A and B. If that case is put up, if any cause is shown me as to why discrimination should be made as regards re-hearing of the cases, and that it is impossible to insist on the strict terms of Section 6 of this legislation in regard to certain individuals, those representations I am always ready to hear.
I put it then to the Dáil that amending legislation as far as the Third Schedule to the Railway Act of 1924 is necessary, that its necessity is proved by two things, and that those two things are sufficient justification if I wanted to rely on them only—namely, that there is this minimum of one-sixtieth, where it was intended to be, and where all similar cases have, a maximum of one-sixtieth, and, secondly, that, owing to the arbitrator not being allowed—as he was under the English legislation—to take into consideration all the relevant facts, you have generally the position that railway servants are enumerated as at the date of amalgamation, and that no dismissals and no reduction of that number is possible without compensation, except on the basis of misconduct or physical incapacity. If the Dáil, looking back, believes that it was its intention to insist that railway employees should be given as a minimum what Civil Servants are given as a maximum with regard to retiring allowance, and if the Dáil believes further that it intended more or less —I do not insist on this accurately— to stereotype the number of railway servants as it was at the date of amalgamation, then it should reject this amending legislation. If the Dáil is not of that opinion then there is at least a case for amending.
In the amending legislation which is being brought forward, I decided to bring up the schedule to what I believe was the wish of the Oireachtas with regard to men of less than five years' service, who do become officers or servants of the amalgamated company. I have also, leaning upon the cases already dealt with, decided to put before the Dáil that it was never its intention, and never would be the intention of any man who looks honestly at the situation, to include the period of apprenticeship as a period counting towards, and to be counted in, the service as an employee of the company. I put it further to the Dáil that if they decide that amendment is necessary on these points and certain other points that should, incidentally, be introduced, there is necessity that there should be given to the arbitrator a power to re-hear cases where certain absurd results, never intended by the Oireachtas, have come about. On that point I am prepared to meet anything that may be urged with regard to cases already dealt with—awards and moneys paid over, and cases that may be ruled by individual cases that have already been dealt with. I put it to the Dáil that there is this reason why this proposed legislation, with the new amendments I have suggested, should be acceptable to the Dáil—that it, in fact, carries out what were the wishes of the Dáil when passing the Third Schedule to the Railways Act, the principle at the root of that Third Schedule being that you should have public benefit by reason of amalgamation, but that that benefit should not be at the expense or hardship of any individual.
We have heard that the Bill is probably not going to be so seriously contentious as was at first supposed. On the Committee Stage, therefore, there can be examination and criticism of every individual detail. I want to come to the assistance, if I might, of my good friend Deputy Lyons. He wants to curtail waste of time. I am sure when he hears my suggestion he will agree to it, and that is, that we pass the Second Reading at once and go into the question of the details of the amendments that will have to be introduced. Our friend the "Deputy butcher" suggested killing this unfortunate Bill. I am sure that he is only a "Deputy butcher," if he is a butcher at all, and I am certain that the easiest way to deal with the Bill is not to kill it altogether. We must leave a little blood in this Bill because it is necessary. Let us agree, if we can, to pass the Second Reading and then we can have a glorious fight afterwards over the numerous amendments that may or may not be produced. I have great pleasure in proposing that we pass the Second Reading subject to the amendments coming on afterwards.
I beg to propose the postponement of the Second Reading for six months. According to the Minister's own statement, the Bill is not properly drafted. He has already asked permission to delete one paragraph and substitute another. As the Bill is not properly drafted, he can hardly expect the Dáil to consider it seriously. We cannot expect every Deputy to have the legal mind of the Minister. As it has taken since 1924 to discover this error in Schedule 3 of the Railways Act, surely it is not necessary now to urge the Second Reading of the Bill in order to amend that error. Apparently the Bill is absolutely unnecessary. There is greater need for legislation for other purposes that would be useful to the State than there is for this Bill. The Minister says that Schedule 2 is introduced in the interests of the railway workers. If the workers on the railways thought that this section was introduced for their benefit, Deputies would not have received the hundreds of resolutions from meetings of railwaymen all over the Saorstát. These resolutions asked Deputies to vote against the Second Reading. If the railway workers thought that this Bill was introduced for their benefit so much as the Minister alleges, they would be in favour of it, whereas they are all against it. That is the reason why Deputies who are interested in the workers will realise that the Bill is introduced on behalf of the railway company. If the Bill goes through, thousands of railway workers will be thrown out on the streets to swell the ranks of the unemployed, and the compensation given will be like that given in the past, under which a man of 43 years' service was entitled to 7/- per week, while a director after one and a half years' service was given £800 as compensation. That is the justice that this Bill will give. I ask the Dáil to agree to postpone the Second Reading for six months, so that more urgent legislation can be passed in the interests of the people.
Who seconds the amendment?
Amendment not seconded.
The question therefore is—"That the Bill be now read a second time."
When the members of the Labour Party in the Dáil, with the consent of the railwaymen of this country, gave a conditional assent to the principle of the Railways Act of 1924, it was on the ground that the principle of the Act, although not acceptable to the Labour Party, was a stepping-stone to the nationalisation of the Irish railways, and also that those who would be displaced as a result of the Government policy, as embodied in the Act, should receive reasonable compensation for dismissal. We can fully realise that whether the policy of the Government was pursued, or the policy of nationalisation, which is the policy of the Labour Party, was put into operation, redundancy of a certain number of railway officials would arise, because of the amalgamation of the different headquarters into one central headquarters, and also because of various other rearrangements which would be involved. There is only one thing that I can congratulate the Minister on—it was a very unusual procedure and I do not think it has ever been adopted before by any Minister— that in moving the Second Reading of the Bill of which he is the father, he indicated the nature of the amendments that it is proposed to accept before he heard any criticism from any Deputy. That is certainly not leading towards a dictatorship, although from listening to many speeches from the Ministers during the last couple of years I felt that Ministers believe that the only alternative to their Government was a dictatorship. The pressure must have come from somewhere and the Minister is aware that it has not come from this side of the Dáil.
On 3rd February last I addressed the following question to the Minister:—
To ask the Minister for Industry and Commerce whether he intends, in response to representations from the Great Southern Railways Company, to introduce an Amending Railways Bill providing for a disimprovement in the compensation provisions of the Railways Act, 1924, as applying to redundant railway employees; if he will state whether such Amending Bill will operate retrospectively in respect of cases already decided by the Arbitrator, and whether, before drafting the Amending Bill, he consulted the representatives of the railway employees as well as the Railway Company.
In reply the Minister said:—
The interpretation of some of the provisions of the Third Schedule to the Railways Act, 1924, adopted by the arbitrator, indicates that such provisions have not the effect contemplated when the Act was passed. The question whether an Amending Bill should, therefore, be introduced, is under consideration, but I am not in a position to anticipate its terms. Should a Bill be introduced, it will embody the Government's view of the intentions of the Oireachtas and not necessarily such representations as may be made either by the Railway Company or its employees. Should however, either party wish to make representations to me, I will be glad to consider them. The Company has already done so.
The Minister invited representations from the representatives of the railwaymen on that particular day in regard to a Bill of which he said in his reply that he would not anticipate the terms. He invited us to go into his office in Merrion Street and discuss with him the terms of the Bill which he himself was aware of, but which he would not tell us anything about. If the Minister thought that the leaders of the railwaymen were to be drawn into a trap of that kind he has found between the 3rd of February and the present date that they are not as big fools as he thought they were.
Will the Deputy refer to the period between 26th March and the date of the introduction of the Bill and the representations made by railwaymen?
I was coming to that. The Minister admitted in the reply I have read that he had already discussed the matter with the representatives of the railway company. I was quite well aware of that when I asked the question. I thought that the Minister, having listened to the representations made to him by the railway company, would in common courtesy, send for the accredited representatives of the railwaymen and indicate what appears to be his view now, that there were certain mistakes made in the drafting of this particular measure, which he now admits are his own mistakes, mistakes of the draftsman, mistakes of members of the Dáil and of members of the Seanad. All these mistakes were made and the Minister accepts partial responsibility for them, in spite of the fact that amendments were put forward, in the Seanad particularly, by representatives of the Labour Party which would have saved the Minister from himself in regard to matters of this kind. He refused to accept these amendments.
I ask the Dáil to reject this confiscatory measure on the ground of its retrospective application, notwithstanding the indication of the Minister as to amendments. Retrospective legislation is very vicious in principle and is a very vicious procedure to adopt in a constitutional assembly such as this is supposed to be. The Minister for Justice, when introducing the recent Land Bill dealing with the case of Lynham v. Butler, said that retrospective legislation could not be justified under any circumstances except in the case of a great national emergency. I suggest to the Minister for Industry and Commerce that this is not a great national emergency. If he has one or two cases in his mind, such as the one he mentioned of a man who worked for £700 a year and who obtained, under the arbitrator's award, £900 a year—I am not aware of that case and I should like to hear the details of it—these would not justify him in insisting upon the retrospective clauses of this measure. I quoted the Minister for Justice as against the Minister for Industry and Commerce in regard to that particular section of the Bill, and I would be inclined to believe that the Minister for Justice, who is looked upon as the great constitutional lawyer and expert of the Ministry, rather than the Minister for Industry and Commerce, would be right on this particular matter. In any case, this is not a great national emergency. If anything, it is a mere parochial measure. I am surprised that the Minister for Industry and Commerce has fathered it, because, in spite of the fact that he has accepted partial responsibility for framing the Bill, and is insisting upon its passage through both Houses, I think that it should have been brought in as a Private Member's Bill. I cannot understand why the Minister has fathered the measure and is insisting upon it going through both Houses as a Government measure.
There are enough spokesmen for the railways company in this House without putting the onus for bringing forward a measure of this kind upon the Minister for Industry and Commerce, and the pressure having come only from the railways company could be given as a good reason by the Minister, if he wanted any reason, for telling the railways company that this Bill should be brought forward as a private measure by some of the company's spokesmen in this House. This is the second Bill which the Minister has brought forward to amend the Act of 1924, which came into operation only fifteen months ago. If one wanted a glaring example of the panicky methods of legislation adopted by the Government there is no more glaring instance than this Bill. I believe that this House gave pretty careful consideration to every clause of the original Act, because as far as I can judge, looking through the official reports, it took almost four months to get the original Act through the House before being sanctioned by the Governor-General. I am inclined to think that this Bill is the Railway Company's Bill, and if the Minister wants to contradict that statement I would ask him to circulate a copy of the Railway Company's Bill, which he admitted to Senator O'Farrell and myself he had received, so that Deputies may see the difference, if any, between the Bill handed to him by the railway company's representatives and the Bill now before the House. At any rate, it is quite clear from the way the Minister indicated amendments before there was any criticism of the measure in the House, that he was quite conscious of the actual effect of the measure upon the different staffs, and, generally speaking, the unfair terms of the Bill as a whole. So far as the clerical employees of the Great Southern Railways Co. are concerned, or, at any rate, that section of them who became redundant as a result of the passing of the 1924 Act, the cases of five-sixths of the clerical and administrative class who became redundant as a result of amalgamation, were sent before the arbitrator.
I am, and have been for twenty years, a member of the staff of an English railway company in which the clerical employees, stationmasters and supervisory officials number 48,000. If I happened to become redundant under the British Railway Act of 1921 I would be entitled to something like the same terms as are in the original Act passed by this House. I belong to an organisation of which there are, roughly speaking, 85,000 members, composed altogether of railway clerks, stationmasters and supervisors, and so far as that organisation is concerned, it has not had to take one single case before the arbitrator appointed under the British Act to get what the men were entitled to under the letter and the spirit of the British Railway Act. On the other hand, the cases of five-sixths of the men who became redundant since the passing of the Railways Act of 1924 are referred to the arbitrator appointed by the Chief Justice under the Act, notwithstanding the fact that the legal advisors of the company must have known quite well that these men had very strong cases, cases that could not be defeated under the terms of the Act. I am reliably informed, and I can give the information if the Minister presses me for it, that the legal advisors of the Great Southern Railways Company, which forced these cases before the arbitrator, were instructed or advised to fight losing cases on the grounds that by doing so they would make a good case for an Amending Bill, and ultimately they have succeeded.
You have got your organisation, but apart from that, is it a fact you state or is it a supposition, that the railways, knowing they were wrong, attempted to force the question to arbitration? I want to know is that a fact or is it only supposition?
If the Deputy, who did not give any reasons for suggesting that the Second Reading should be passed, will allow me to pursue any remarks I will cite detailed cases, although I regret the necessity for having to do so. I refer to this particular aspect of the case because the Minister made use of the remark that the onus would be on the company to prove that the individual was not actually redundant, and was not entitled to the compensation laid down in the Act, even as amended by this Bill, if it passes in its present form. The point, however, that I wish to make is that by forcing a considerable number of cases, which were quite clearly admitted, even by non-legal men as well as legal men, to be cases of redundancy, they forced the unions representing individuals in some cases, and individuals themselves in other cases, where they had no unions to represent them, to incur very heavy expense, whereas their own legal men could very well have advised them—and did advise them. I am certain, in some cases, that the company would be beaten before the arbitrator. There is one case—I am not sure whether it is the case the Minister has in his mind, because he referred to them as Mr. A. and Mr. B. He could have referred to them up to Z if he wanted to, I presume, from the information the company gave him—but I cannot place the individual case that he had in his mind, though I think I am fairly well acquainted with most of the cases that came before the arbitrator. It would be much more interesting, even although it might be unusual here, for him to have quoted the names of individuals, or the positions that they had, so that I might if possible be in a position to rebut his statement.
There are three cases to which I wish to refer in connection with this particular aspect of the matter. One is the case of an individual who had fifty-two years service in the Great Southern and Western Railway Company previous to amalgamation, who held a very responsible post and who had contributed 2½ per cent. of his salary during that fifty-two years to entitle him on his retirement, or to his dependents in the case of his death, to an allowance. He is a member of the B Fund of the Great Southern Railways Company. The organisation with which I am associated has had to take this case from pillar to post, has had to bring the case before the High Court in order to get judgment against the superannuation fund and the Company—they were joint defendants—for the £1,400 which this man was entitled to. The costs in that particular case, although the case was a very clear one, as far as I could ascertain from the Secretary of the Railway Clerks' Association, are in or about £350. I want to know this as a matter of information: If the Minister insists upon the Bill going through with amendments as indicated, what does he propose to do in the case of an individual of that kind, or of an organisation that has incurred large legal expenses in order to get what they were entitled to under the Minister's own Act?
I have another case where the individual concerned was not a member of a trade union. The deputy general manager of the Gt. Southern and Western Railway Co. advised him by letter that his position was redundant, and, naturally, when the position was redundant he was redundant as a matter of course, and entitled to the compensation laid down under the Act. He was called before the general manager and was given to understand that he would be given the maximum terms laid down under the Act. But, for some reason or other which he has not yet discovered, his case was brought before the arbitrator, and up to the present time I think he has not been paid the amount that was granted by the arbitrator. The case has cost him personally—because he has not a union to fight for him—£106. I have another case of a man of the same kind who was told, when amalgamation came about, that they could find no suitable or analogous position for him. The salary he had at the time of amalgamation was somewhere in the vicinity of £650. When he left the office as a redundant servant another man was appointed in his place who will go to £750 a year. That man, to justify his claim, which was clear on its merits, seeing that the company had informed him that he was redundant, had to go before the arbitrator and fight his case, which has cost him up to date £81. I suggest that Deputies who will vote for a measure to nullify the decisions of the arbitrator appointed by the Chief Justice, who gives the men what they are entitled to, according to a law passed by the majority of this House, will be doing what is not justice, and it is something that would not be expected from any Parliamentary institution or assembly such as this.
In the case of these three men, if the judgments of the arbitrator have to be executed, as I am sure they will be in time, the costs will go upon the B Fund of the Superannuation Fund Association of the Great Southern and Western Railway Company, whereas the individual who brought the cases forward, or the unions, where they represented them, will have to pay the costs of defending before the arbitrator. That is a thing that is unfair. It certainly did not happen in any one case of the clerical and supervisory staffs who became redundant as a result of the British Act.
Would the Deputy explain how the successful litigant has to pay costs?
The arbitrator has no power under this Act to give costs in favour of a person who wins his case, and I am pointing it out to the Minister because this is not being amended in this measure. In other words, this House might as well pass a measure, any measure concerning the citizens of the State, that would nullify the decisions of the judges of the High Court or of the other courts that have been given according to the existing law at the time the cases came before the courts. If Deputies can vote for the Second Reading of a measure which means that I think we had better demobilise this assembly and let somebody take charge of the Government of the country and, if you like, designate him a dictator. It would be better for us to have a dictatorship than law making of that kind.
Could not such a correction as the Deputy wants be arrived at in Committee?
You are very anxious about it.
The whole scheme is bad.
We do not agree with that. We quite understand the attack that will be made on it by Deputy Johnson. That is perfectly reasonable and we embrace it—the attack, I mean. It is only on Deputy Lyons' behalf that I am striving not to waste time, and I suggest that in Committee the Deputy could raise these questions. I am sure that we could agree to a great many things that will be asked for, and by doing so we would not be wasting time now.
If the Deputy would read the Standing Orders he would not be wasting time now.
Deputies who desire to speak against the Bill will have to be allowed to make their speeches.
I suggest that the Deputy who, I am sure, has read the Bill, is obviously unaware of the effects of the measure upon certain sections of railway servants, including some of his own constituents. Let us take the other case which the Minister took very good care not to refer to. He limits under this measure the amount of compensation or annuity to be paid to railway servants who will again have to go before the arbitrator and prove the case that they have already proved to his satisfaction.
He limits compensation to two-thirds of the salary and emoluments of the servant whose case is clearly proved to be that of a redundant servant. May I cite for him the cases of a couple of individuals who will not come within the terms of the amending legislation, but who have already received over two-thirds of the amount of the retiring salary and one of whom never paid, during his period of service, one penny into a superannuation fund. The Minister, I think, is aware of this case, and should have dealt with it when he was trying to impress the House with the lovely Bill he was presenting to them in the interests of railwaymen. It is the case of an official who, previous to the amalgamation, was in receipt of £2,500 per year, which, you will agree, was a princely salary. He is to receive for the remainder of his life a sum of £2,072, which is £72 in excess of fourfifths, without having paid a penny into the Superannuation Fund. Of course it comes out of the revenue of the company. The Minister is aware of that case and yet he never referred to it. I understand that this particular individual has commuted £400 of the £2,072 for so many thousands, compared with the hundreds he commuted. There is the case of another executive officer of the Dublin South Eastern Railway Company who, previous to amalgamation, was in receipt of a salary of £1,200 per year. He received a pension of £900 a year for the remainder of his life, although he is only 47 years of age, and a sum of £2,500 of the Company's money as a bonus for his past services. The Minister was aware of that case and he never said a word about it.
I want to know from the Minister are these the kind of cases he proposes to refer to the new arbitrator, because I believe the old arbitrator will have the professional honour not to take the rebuke the Minister intends to give by the passing of this Bill? Are these the cases that will come before the new arbitrator? If so, is he going to confine the retiring allowances of all individuals, irrespective of whether they paid to the Superannuation Fund or not, to the figure laid down in the amending Bill?
Further, he spoke of the reduction in the traffic of the Great Southern Railways Company—the thousands and millions of tons of decrease in the traffic. Generally speaking, his case for the passing of this Bill is that there should not be private benefit at the expense of public hardship. I am reluctantly forced to cite certain figures to prove that the Great Southern Railways Company is not in that terrible condition which the Minister has been persuaded it is in by representatives of the Company, when he saw them. The General Manager of the Great Southern Railways Company is in receipt of the magnificent sum of £3,500 per annum. He has 17,000 people under him. The President of the Free State with its population of 3½ millions, is only in receipt of £2,500. The Deputy General Manager—and there are deputies in all those cases—is in receipt of £1,700. Many of us who know what is going on in the railway world find it difficult to know what that gentleman has been doing since amalgamation took place. The Secretary is in receipt of £1,700. The Solicitor to the Company is in receipt of £2,250, only £250 less than the Attorney-General of the Free State receives. The Assistant Solicitor is in receipt of £1,365. All these salaries have been increased since amalgamation, despite the hardship to the Company and the privations of the shareholders. The Commercial Manager is in receipt of £1,600, his deputy £775, and other deputies from £700 down. The Operating Superintendent receives £1,400 per year and fourteen District Traffic Superintendents, who were never in existence before, have salaries of from £475 to £650. The Divisional Superintendent in Cork receives £800. The Assistant Operating Superintendent gets £675, and several others, too numerous to mention, down to £400. The Chief Engineer has a salary of £2,000, the Deputy Chief Engineer £1,600. It is difficult to know who is the deputy and who is the general, in some of those cases, if you were to go by the salaries. The Chief Mechanical Engineer—this is the most glaring case —has a salary of £1,860 with a house from the company, and his deputy has £1,700 a year. Deputy Gorey is amazed.
I am not.
I have no control over those things.
If the Minister desires to challenge these figures I must ask him to bring the pay sheets of the company here to the Dáil and they will prove them.
I have no concern with them.
He is making a case for a rise in the Minister's salary.
My principal reason for quoting these salaries is that the principal proprietor of the "Irish Independent," who is responsible for its economy campaign, is a director of this railway which pays these huge salaries. If it is not in the capacity of the country to pay the Ministers high salaries, it certainly must not be in the capacity of the railway company to pay the salaries of these high officials, who, after all, are paid by the tax-paying section of the trading and travelling public. I make this comparison for the benefit of the principal proprietor of the "Irish Independent," but I am sure it will not be published. The Accountant has £1,000 a year; I believe he got a big bonus since the last shareholders' meeting. The audit accountant has £1,050. The hotel manager has £1,600. The cashier is paid £900. The running superintendent is getting £900, and the works manager £800. One of the assistants to the chief engineer receives £775, and another £750. Right down the line salaries of that kind are paid by a company that is breaking, because of its decreasing traffic and other reasons referred to in the Minister's amending Bill.
In addition to the salaries, the individuals who are in receipt of them are in receipt of most liberal expenses, which in some cases come to about the same amount yearly as they receive in salaries. If the Minister makes the case that this particular company is in a pauperised condition and that it would not be fair that any individual should benefit under the Act he fathers in the Dáil, on the grounds of the company's present financial position, I think I have given him a sufficient answer in the figures I have read out. These salaries have been increased by over 100 per cent. in many cases since amalgamation took place, so that the company is not in that perilous financial condition that the Minister apparently believes. On the other hand, since amalgamation, approximately 2,000 men have been dismissed from the services of the company, and at the present time and for the past nine months close on 4,000 men are working short time.
I want to qualify my remarks about the figures I have quoted. I have never said in this House that there should be a reduction in salaries and wages, but I quoted those figures to rebut the argument or the inference that it is because of the incapacity of the company to pay that the Minister is bringing in this panicky legislation to amend a Bill that only came into operation fifteen months ago.
I did not say that.
I do not grudge the salaries I have quoted, and I am not making the case that they should be reduced. I want to make that clear.
In the annual balance sheet of the Southern Railways Company for the year up to the 30th December, 1925, the law charges are shown to be £13,696 6s. 5d. I suggest that a considerable amount of that money has had to be voted away by the Company because of their bringing cases which they have lost and which they knew they would lose when they were bringing them forward. I am also certain that in the next balance sheet the law charges will be considerably higher than those shown in the balance sheet for the period ending on December 31, 1925.
I would like to know from the Minister what exactly is the position of the arbitrator. I would like to know if the arbitrator has tendered his resignation as the result of the introduction of this Bill and the repudiation of his findings under the original Railways Act, and, if so, does he propose to appoint a new arbitrator, if by any chance this Bill passes into law.
There is no vacancy.
I know, so far as the railwaymen are concerned, they are quite convinced that it will be absolutely useless to bring the case of any man before the new arbitrator. If this Bill goes through it will be impossible to prove a case for redundancy.
When members of the old Dáil who are here, agreed to the Treaty being accepted, they agreed at the same time to protect the rights of pre-Treaty civil servants; they guaranteed compensation to those who decided to retire as a result of the Treaty, refusing to work under an Irish Government. The Minister is not prepared to repudiate that portion of the Treaty, although I believe Deputy Duffy, somewhere in Monaghan, said he was prepared to repudiate it and reduce the salaries and pensions of pre-Treaty civil servants. Members of this Dáil were here during the passing of the Local Government Act. They took responsibility for the passing of that Act, which guaranteed redundant poor law officials pensions, should they become redundant as a result of the amalgamation of unions and the abolition of district councils. There is no indication that the Minister for Local Government is going to come before this House to ask us to repeal that particular clause of the Local Government Act because of the terrible position of the ratepayers and taxpayers at the present time. On looking up the official reports, I found that the Minister for Industry and Commerce was one of 24 who voted for pensions of £500 to two barristers who were supposed to have served one year in the old Dáil Supreme Courts, though their salaries during that particular year were £750 each—two-thirds for one year's alleged service.
It is not like £900 for £700.
It is something for nothing, at any rate. Of course they belong to the legal profession; they were not railwaymen. The real argument of the company or the real argument that was put forward for the retrospective clauses of this Bill was that a couple of individuals—one in particular, who had 52 years' service, got two-thirds of his retiring salary, having become redundant, and also a lump sum which he was entitled to because of his membership of a certain fund. This particular individual subscribed two and a half per cent. of his salary for 52 years. Had he not become redundant, and remained on in the service till his death, his dependents would have received this lump sum, and he would have received his full salary up to the time of his death.
The Bill means that the contributions of that individual should be confiscated and should become part of the company's funds, the individual having received two-thirds of his salary on retirement as a redundant man. When the B fund was formed—there are only seventy members in it as they are all old officials—nobody ever dreamed of the nationalisation or amalgamation of railways, an event which I hope is not far off. If this individual had subscribed two and a half per cent. of his salary to the Provident Clerks' Insurance Society, he would be entitled to receive a substantial sum. The man I have in mind is a man named Kearney. He subscribed two and a half per cent. of his salary to the B Superannuation Fund Association. Can Deputies conceive anybody introducing legislation which would prevent a man getting £1,400 on his retirement simply because of unforeseen circumstances under which he receives two-thirds of his salary when his service is completed?
If the Provident Clerks' fund got insolvent what would happen?
The railway people take very good care it is not insolvent. The balance-sheets are available for all connected with the fund and can be procured at bookstalls.
It is not analogous to the A fund.
I refuse to admit that the B fund is insolvent. One of the rules of the B fund with which this individual is connected reads:—
Any contributing member who shall be compelled to leave the service of the company on account of ill-health duly certified by competent medical authorities, or in consequence of reductions or alterations in the establishment, shall be entitled to receive back the whole amount of his own contributions together with the whole amount of the contributions of the company with compound interest at the rate of 4 per cent.
That is one of the rules connected with the fund. If the Minister gets this Bill through it will mean that the 2½ per cent. of his salary which this old servant, now compulsorily retired, has paid during his fifty-two years of service, will be confiscated and he will not be entitled to a return of even his own contributions. The railway company will have control of the money contributed to the fund and they may make use of it in whatever way they desire.
What does the fund amount to now?
I have the balance sheet here if the Minister wishes to hear it read out.
I would like to hear it.
The Minister is asking me for information which I must assume he has got; otherwise he does not know his own case and he has no grounds for this Bill.
Are you refusing to give the information?
I do not want to delay the House, but if the Minister desires to have the particulars I will give them to him. The balance in the hands of the Great Southern Railways Company is £38,346 11s. 8d.
What fund is that?
That is the B fund.
Are you sure it is the A fund and not the Railways Clearing House fund?
Does the Minister require the full balance-sheet?
I would like to know if it is the B fund or the Railways Clearing House fund, from which something has been transferred to the A fund.
The balance-sheet I have read from was the last balance-sheet connected with the B superannuation fund. I will read out particulars from it if the Minister so desires.
To make the matter quite clear, will the Deputy tell me if the balance in hand amounts to £38,346 and if the number of members is seventy-five?
The amount is £38,346 11s. 8d.
That is the B fund, the only one that is solvent.
We do not want to be misled by the Deputy.
It is the fund which this individual I have referred to is associated with and his contributions will be confiscated if the retrospective portion of this Bill is passed and if the judgment that he has received in the courts is not allowed to be executed. Is that right?
Whatever the fund may be called by others, I call it the B fund. It is the fund I referred to when I said that one of them was actuarially sound. That is the fund, and I made a certain statement in regard to it.
The Minister referred to three funds, the A, B and C funds. He did not name any of the funds.
When I was speaking I referred to the B fund, the only one which is actuarially sound. It was the old superannuation and annuity fund.
I refer to that as the B fund. The other fund is guaranteed as a first charge on the company's revenue. That is sound if the company is sound.
It depends on the solvency of the railway company and not on contributions.
The solvency of the railway company is guaranteed by the Act.
It depends on the solvency of the railway company.
On the solvency of the State.
It does not depend on the solvency of the fund.
I never assumed that a company that could pay salaries and increase those salaries is insolvent.
That is a good argument.
I am satisfied that the company is solvent. If the company were not solvent, and if the individual retired on pension or was made redundant, as far as I can see the company would have no alternative to selling portion of its rolling stock in order to give the individual what he was entitled to receive.
The question is this: from what fund would the company pay? Will they pay from their own general resources or from a fund which is the result of contributions paid by workmen to the company? In the case of the A fund and the Clearing House fund they would pay from the general resources of the company. Consequently, when compensation plus superannuation is given they pay from their own resources.
There was another case which I ignored at the time. An individual who had fifty-nine years' service was informed by the railway company that he was redundant. He received a cheque for £300 from the company with a letter thanking him for his long and meritorious service. Nobody would assume in that case that there would be any justification on the part of the company in bringing the individual before the arbitrator. This individual was actually brought before the arbitrator, and the company demanded that the £300 he received, with the letter thanking him for his long and meritorious service, should be returned, or should be taken into consideration when considering what compensation he was entitled to. That individual was obliged to incur unnecessary legal expense in order to compel the company to allow him to retain what he had received, in addition to his two-thirds compensation. The arbitrator, being a lawyer and a just man——
A strange combination.
—told the company that they would have to go to another court to recover money of that description. I merely cite that case in order to show that even under agreements individuals cannot be sure of their ground. Section 4(ac) is much more serious than the Minister makes out. It makes one-sixtieth the maximum instead of the minimum for every completed year of service. The object of the company is to offer one-eightieth for each year of service, and the Bill was, doubtless, drafted with this object in view, as no employee can prove he is entitled to the maximum one-sixtieth even if he overcomes the various obstacles in the way. Deputies must have certain views in regard to the vicious principle of retrospective legislation and the vicious principle of bringing in an amending Bill fifteen months after the Act has been passed in order to nullify the decisions of an arbitrator appointed by the Chief Justice. The object really is to nullify the decisions of a court because, to all intents and purposes, it is a decision such as might be given by a judge in a court of justice.
If Deputies are prepared to vote for that kind of legislation it will be up to them to justify their action at a later date.
The Minister talks about a demand that there should be a fixed number of employees in the railway service. For close on twenty years, on and off, and for various periods continuously, I have represented the clerical grades in various negotiations between the organisation I belong to and the companies, and at no time was a demand of that kind ever put forward. If the Minister tries to get Deputies to believe that such a proposal was ever put forward I can tell him frankly he is quite wrong, and I ask him to produce proof for his statement.
I have heard Deputies refer to the terrible eight hours day arrangement supposed to be in operation in the country. I was a member of a conference on one occasion where it was agreed that split turns of duty up to a period of twelve hours should be worked at small stations. The effect was to cut out a large number of employees at small stations. As far as I know, there was never a ridiculous demand, such as has been referred to by the Minister, put up. What would be the result of the Minister's policy as outlined at Letterkenny last Sunday, a policy which, I believe, should have been outlined by the Minister for Finance when making his Budget statement this day week instead of by the Minister for Industry and Commerce at a party meeting at Letterkenny. The Minister, according to the newspaper report of his speech, said: "At the moment the whole question of transport was at the turning point."
I never said that.
You did not contradict it in the newspapers.
It was so absurdly distorted that if I were to correct it, it would mean that I would have to write out the whole speech. It was all entirely wrong.
The Minister is also reported to have said: "It was being considered whether it might not be advisable to encourage motor traffic instead of branch railways."
I never said that either. I said something like that in relation to Donegal. That is the beginning and the end of it.
Well, then, this is about the limit.
I agree it is absurd.
Why did not the Minister contradict these things?
I am too busy and could not. Does the Deputy suggest that I should contradict all that the "Independent" says inaccurately? Life is not long enough for that.
Then the only thing we can rely on as regards Ministers' speeches is what they state in this House—statements which go on the official records.
That is better.
Then, I suppose I may take it that we cannot rely on Minister's speeches delivered in Donegal or Dungarvan as reported in the "Irish Times" or "Independent."
I think it is better not.
That is information, although I think it is fairly well known that copies of speeches are sometimes sent into the offices of the "Irish Times" and the "Independent" before they are delivered. If the attempt to quote the Minister's speech has had no other effect than this repudiation from the Minister, well I think that is a very good effect indeed.
Argue the point.
Well, assuming that the Minister made that statement. I would like to know what would be the position of railwaymen who became redundant under the amending Bill if it passes into law and as a result of the closing down of branch lines? I hope the Minister will deal with that point when he comes to reply. There is no use in quoting this speech which appeared in the "Independent" if the Minister repudiates it.
He was not there at all.
At any rate, if we could see the Minister's new Bill as butchered by himself—it was difficult to follow him when he was reading out the changes that he proposed to make in it —we might be inclined to agree that it is not so bad as the Bill now before us. When we get a reprint of the Bill we will be able to consider it more carefully than we can do at present without copies of it as altered by the Minister himself. Notwithstanding the indication that the Minister has given of attempting to improve this particular measure, the principle of retrospective legislation which is contained in the measure is one that the majority of members should not agree with or vote for. I hope there will be a free vote on this measure, and that the majority of Deputies will reject the measure on its demerits and not on the alleged merits put forward by the Minister. I hope, too, that members will make it known for all time that they are not prepared to associate themselves with legislation of this kind which is reactionary in principle and which appears to be favourable only to the railway companies and to the financiers of the country.
The introduction of this railway amending Bill has undoubtedly given rise to a considerable amount of disappointment and, I might say, discontent amongst the workers that are affected by its coming into operation. The Act of 1924 was accepted in a good spirit by the railway workers, but during the period that has elapsed it has transpired that through a defect in the drafting of that measure the company were getting the worst of the financial results of the disemployment caused by those who became redundant. If that is the motive for the introduction of this amending Bill, there certainly might be something to be said in its favour. I think I am not going too far in saying that that particular grievance is generally admitted.
took the Chair.
The sweeping changes in the Third Schedule now proposed in the amending Bill go considerably further than to remedy this point as regards the short-service men. Sub-section (1) of Section 2 and paragraph (a) of Section 4 are construed so as to exclude everybody, and the draughtsman seems to have borne in mind the decision of the arbitrator. Sub-section (5) to the Third Schedule of the Act provides for "existing officers and servants who suffer any direct pecuniary loss by reason of amalgamation." The amending Bill seeks to alter that in many respects. The company has been claiming that it is suffering a great loss in trade, and the words in Section 2, "caused or contributed to," by a decrease of traffic are so used that, I submit, it would not be possible for any man in the service to contend that his dismissal was not caused by this reason. That, I think, would cover almost every case at present before the arbitrator. Further, the words "reduction of renewals or maintenance work" would cover almost every case of a man dispensed with. In fact, the grouping together of a lot of these new phrases now introduced would make it practically impossible for any man who might be dismissed to defend himself against the expert evidence that would be furnished by the company. The company, in their report for 1925, admit that there is an amount of rolling stock awaiting repairs. Now, that means that they are not giving the attention to maintenance that should be given on a large railway system by looking ahead for a few years, if necessary, in the matter of maintaining the necessary services and of supplying their needs. The dispensing with men under such conditions will mean their re-employment to overtake such work, and that re-employment or the importation of work to meet the necessary requirements of the service would involve the placing of nearly all the men on short service.
On the question of apprenticeship counting for service, that might be a point on which there might be something to be said on both sides. A young man who undertakes to serve his time to a trade has to spend five or six years as an apprentice. In addition he has to attend classes in the technical school so that he may become properly educated for the work that he proposes to undertake. Further, he may be a year in the service of the company before he starts on his apprenticeship. To sum up, if he were dismissed under the Bill, it would mean that the five years he had served as an apprentice would not count. Now, let us contrast the case of that young man with that of some other man who does not serve his time to a trade, but who works at some kind of unskilled employment in some of the other departments of the company. This man engaged at unskilled work, if his case should be sent up for consideration, will get full service for the time he was in the employment. The railway company contested these cases before the arbitrator, and his decision was that there was no ground shown that the apprentice was different from any other officer or servant, and, further, that such apprenticeship is recognised by all other Acts relating to employment, such as the Workmen's Compensation Act and the National Health.
The proposal to make the Bill retrospective provides for the re-opening of cases already decided. If there is a number of cases, as referred to by the Minister in his opening statement, that require to be dealt with, I think the amending Bill ought to be confined to remedying such cases, but a revision of the decisions given by the arbitrator would mean a refund of the money already paid. There are other grievances in this Bill that I desire to call attention to. There is the point regarding the costs that such a rehearing of cases will inflict, not alone on trade unions but on individuals' who may not have the opportunity provided by the trade unions to have their cases reheard. These individuals would be confronted with the additional burden of fighting their cases again at the rehearing. I think when we look at the amount of money already expended in defending those cases on behalf of the employees, that it is grossly unfair that they should be mulcted with the costs of another rehearing without having some provision made for the recovery of their costs.
Do you demand recovery of the costs already incurred?
Both. There has been a considerable amount of money already expended on these cases, and if a number of them have to be reheard consideration ought to be given to the question of the costs involved by such rehearing, and, in my opinion, the arbitrator ought to have some jurisdiction in the matter. If any further amendment of this Bill is suggested there ought to be some provision made for the men who had a temporary absence from their employment during the period covered by the civil strife. The cases I have in mind are those of men who, owing to the shortage of work on the railway during the troubled period —many departments had to dispense with a number of men at that time— joined the National Forces, the railway maintenance corps and other employment and returned to the railway service afterwards. There are cases in which, owing to the short period that they were out of the service of the company, some for only a few months, the men concerned have lost their previous service owing to that short breakage.
During trade disputes there were instances where men, having absented themselves for a period, resumed work when the period of dispute was over, and continued their service with the companies, but when the question of compensation arose they found that their abstention was used against them as regards continuation of service. As regards the question of short service under five years referred to in the Bill, the long service men are regarded as the existing officers and men, and the arbitrator can only deal with them so that the others cannot appeal to him. With reference to the manner in which this Bill has been submitted to the Dáil, I think it will be generally agreed that anyone who has made an effort to compare the Bill with the Act of 1924 will find that he has had a very difficult task to differentiate between the suggested amendments in the third schedule, and will also find that the Bill is, in a sense, unintelligible. I agree that it ought, at any rate, be reprinted on the lines suggested, so that we could plainly see, without having to refer to the old Act, except for the purpose of comparison, all the provisions dealing with compensation which would be presented in a sort of code. We would then be in a better position to deal with the Bill and get a better opportunity of seeing exactly where we stand. It may then be found that there may not be such cause for alarm as exists under the Bill as introduced. The Minister, in his opening statement, referred to several modifications which he is going to make, and I have no doubt that he is quite serious and genuine about them, but, taking the Bill as it is before us, I am bound to oppose it.
This is not a Bill which we should approach in any party spirit, and I am thankful to Deputy Doyle for giving me a lead in discussing it with moderation and restraint. In considering it I am torn in two directions. In the first place, Deputies have been subjected to a form of organised pressure, which was, I think, resented by Deputy Johnson when similar pressure was applied at the time of the Seanad elections.
I was not here.
At the time of the nominations for the Seanad, I think, Deputy Johnson resented the scores of telegrams which were sent on behalf of one particular candidate. I have received ten or twelve telegrams asking me to vote against the Second Reading of this Bill. That does not convince me of anything except of the fact that the senders have money to waste. I have received letters duplicated—if there was such a word as centiplicated, multiplied by 100, I would use it—drawn up in identical terms and signed by an individual under the comprehensive address of "Dublin." That does not carry any great weight with me, and I think it is almost certain that fifty per cent. of the individuals, to whom these letters have been dished out wholesale, have not read the Bill.
Every railway man has read the Bill. Did the Deputy receive representations from the railway company and did he resent them in the same way as he resented the letters?
Deputy Davin need not assume that I am against him. As I say, I am torn in two directions. Did every railway man who read the Bill understand it?
I think so.
Then he is much cleverer than I, because I did not understand a good many features of the Bill until I heard the Minister speak. I think these men are wasting their time on the railway and should give us the benefit of their intelligence in the Dáil. The Minister smiles. I am not paying compliments to the Minister. I think the Bill is thoroughly badly drawn, but I want to make it clear that I am not influenced by this kind of campaign to which we have been subjected. I am not taking up the position of Edmund Burke in reference to his constituents, as I recognise that I must have regard to their views. Such a campaign would not give you the views of one per cent. of your constituents, and, so far as I am concerned, that kind of campaign is wasted. I just state the fact so that people need not waste their money. I say that a Bill of this character, which affects a large number of people, should not be introduced without long and careful previous consultation with the representatives of the people affected. I feel that strongly. The Minister said that he invited representations, but he ought to have gone further and got both parties around a table. In my experience of the representatives of railway men, I found that they are not unreasonable and that they are men with whom it is possible to negotiate. Of course, they put up impossible claims sometimes, but so does nearly everybody. Even Deputy Davin is fairly reasonable when sitting down, but when he stands up and makes a speech I agree that you will be faced with propositions which you did not foresee, and, possibly, which the
Deputy himself did not foresee when he began to speak. As I say, there should have been prolonged consultation with a view to getting an agreed measure if possible. In that way we should have avoided the rather difficult situation of having a Bill introduced and the Minister adumbrating amendments to Sections 2 and 4.
I do not pretend that I can express an opinion on these sections until I see his amendments. I do not know whether I shall have the same objection to them as I have to those that have been put down, and I do not know whether these amendments will remove my objections. I think the provision dealing with apprenticeship is reasonable in principle. On the whole, I do not think that it is sound policy to give a pension up to £30 to a boy under 21 years of age. I do not think that it will be for the good of the boy himself. I would suggest to the Minister that the interruption of apprenticeship entails certain injury to a boy. He is entitled to some compensation, not perhaps to a life pension, but to something that will enable him to start in some other business, because his prospects, such as they were, have been materially affected by this amalgamation. On one point I am absolutely decided. There is no justification for the retrospective provisions. The Minister talked about allowing people to get away with what they are not entitled to. It has been found by the arbitrator that they are entitled, under a statute of the Oireachtas, to certain grants. The Minister may think that they ought not be so entitled, but that is the fault of the Act. He says that it should not be done, especially in cases where it is absurd, but who is to be the judge of absurdity? You will find Deputies here, even some of those sitting behind the Minister, who will say that the terms of compensation under the Treaty are absurd. If they were in power they might proceed to tear up the Treaty and change the terms of compensation. You might find Deputies who would say that the terms of compensation under the Land Act were absurd.
I think that the Minister's proposal in this Bill is opening a door which may admit dangers of no small substance and which may seriously menace the security of the State. If there was a mistake made, who made it? In the first place, we did and we must take the consequences of our action. We have no right to put the consequences on individuals. In the second place, the Minister might fairly say that if we made a mistake we should not ask the railway company to pay for it. If it could be shown that the railway company protested against this provision I think it ought to be shown, but, so far as I know, no protest as regards that point was made by the railway company. As we must take the consequences of our action, so the railway company must take the consequences of its inaction. Therefore, I shall strongly support by every means in my power any amendment that may be moved to eliminate the retrospective provisions. I do not think that they are essential. I did not think so at first, and I do not think so now, especially having heard Deputy Davin's speech in which he protested against the money paid to the higher officials in the railway world.
I did not protest against the salaries given to higher officials, but I quoted them to show that the company was not in the position which the Minister seemed to think.
At any rate it was a most enjoyable fantasy but, at the same time, Deputy Davin did not deal with the other provisions. I think some of them are justifiable—not in their present form, but when amended. Amendments will be moved by the Minister and by the Labour Party, and I cannot yet definitely say how I am going to vote. I have not heard Deputy Johnson nor have I heard the Minister, who usually has a shot in his locker when replying. My present inclination is to vote for the Second Reading of the Bill, subject to the reservation that the Bill ought to be strongly amended in Committee. I shall support amendments from the Labour Party in Committee and, if they are not accepted, I will vote against the subsequent stages of the Bill.
I regret that, owing to influenza, I have not been physically able for some days past to participate in any of the debates. Yet, I feel it a duty, at all costs, to express my considered view of this measure. If I cannot raise my voice against it physically, I can at least figuratively raise a voice of protest. I have not been influenced in any degree to this attitude by the pressure of telegrams and other communications which Deputy Cooper has jocosely referred to. Long before I read those—let me say parenthetically that I count them illuminating and instructive, and therefore welcome these communications and regard them as legitimate propaganda—I had considered whether I should not put on the Order Paper a motion to this effect:—"That it be a direction to the Committee engaged in the revision of the Constitution to declare all retrospective legislation illegal." To me, a Bill such as this, that proposes to go back so soon on what was done, as Deputy Davin pointed out in his able exposition, to tear up agreements and to revise decisions is absolutely indefensible on any ground whatsoever and utterly opposed to public policy. Most of us can remember the indignation with which the words attributed to Mr. Larkin, the labour leader, were received. He was represented as having said: "To hell with contracts." Now, that is the very doctrine of this Bill—"to hell with contracts." If it is disruptive of society to have men who pose as leaders of their fellows enunciating such a vicious doctrine, what are we to say of men in high places—responsible Ministers of Government— who do not hesitate to come here and, in the form of legislative measures, declare the very same doctrine? It is not the first instance, unfortunately— not by any means the first instance— that we have experienced this autocratic spirit and this utter disregard of the will of the people—the determination that "I will," and, therefore, it must be done. The spirit that has moved the Ministry of late has found fitting expression in this measure. Fortunately, Deputy Davin, who has even more than an expert knowledge of these matters, has given us the advantage of his analysis, and there is little more for a layman like me to do than utter his agreement with the position taken up by Deputy Davin.
I desire to say that I will oppose the Bill on the ground of the policy involved in bringing in a Bill to amend an Act passed only one-and-a-half or two years ago. The Government brought in a Bill about two years ago which, to a large extent, provided for the confiscation of the rights of shareholders. The shareholders gave consent in great measure to that. The Government confiscated, as I say, to a large extent, all their interests. They gave the vested interests to the workers themselves. They made them more or less Civil Servants. Now, they are bringing in a Bill which, to a large extent, is confiscating the rights of those workers, and I maintain that no Government should do that without first consulting those interested. We passed a Land Bill two or three years ago which, the landlords alleged, confiscated their rights. But they were not confiscated without a conference with the landlords and the tenants. To a large extent, the Bill was drafted between the two parties. It had only to get the consent of the Oireachtas. That is my reason for opposing this Bill. It would be open to any other Government in the future to bring in a Bill confiscating the rights of the tenants if they wished, without consulting them. The repeal of legislation is not, I think, to the credit of any Government. As a supporter of the Government, I am opposing this Bill because of its principle. The country must be considered. It is the first consideration, and the party which supports a Government which continues the policy I have referred to will not stand long. It is all very well to pass retrospective legislation, but the result, if continued, would be regular class warfare. All the elections would be contested on class issues, and it would not be to the interest of the country. Whatever advantages gained to the company by the passing of this Bill would be lost, and worse than lost, to the country if there were a general strike by railway workers. I think the railway workers are sensible enough not to go to that extreme, but a strike might be organised for the purpose of opposing this Bill.
It would be justified too.
Perhaps. I have been in touch with railway workers for the last twenty-five or thirty years up and down the country. A more reasonable body of men I never met. They are conscientious, honest and courteous. They are strict in the discharge of their duty and that is all to their credit. I think it is not fair at all to interfere with them without consultation. I will oppose this Bill unless the Minister consents to have a conference of railway workers and directors to see whether some scheme cannot be hammered out that would be acceptable to both sides. I know workers who have been victimised by railway directors and those responsible. I know railway workers who are brought 26 miles into Limerick to work. They are employed in the workshops there on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. They have no work on Friday or Saturday and on Monday morning they have to be in Limerick at eight o'clock, notwithstanding that a train arrives at nine, which would afford them cheap facilities for travelling. If they be not in attendance at eight o'clock they lose not alone the hour but the day. I think that is victimising them to a large extent. They have to come in the previous night or travel by motor in the morning for the sake of a single hour. The railway company can do without these workers two days in the week but they cannot do without them one hour on Monday morning. I would suggest to the Minister that some kind of liaison should be established with the workers. I will vote against this Bill except the Minister promises to have some conferences between the railway workers, the directors and representatives of his Department. I will vote against the Bill principally because of the policy of bringing in retrospective legislation.
I think that the right course for the Dáil to take is to ask the Minister to withdraw the Bill, pending the conference that Deputy Nolan suggests, or, if the Minister is not prepared to withdraw the Bill, that Deputies should vote against the Second Reading. I am going to ask the House to vote against the Second Reading, because of the principle running through the Bill. It is not a particular item here and there, but the main principle running through the Bill that I ask the House to condemn. The Minister quoted several clauses and alleged grievances from the railway company point of view, and in one case from the men's point of view, arising out of the Act of 1924. In support of his case with regard to these grievances, he not unnaturally took a couple of very extreme instances. As I said, I am going to ask the Dáil to refuse the Second Reading of the Bill on the general principle running through it. I take the Minister's own proposition, which he cited in defence of the Bill, and which he said was the principle underlying the Third Schedule of the 1924 Act:"One should not impose private hardship for the public benefit without compensating those who suffer the hardship." Then he went on to say that it was obvious that it was only intended that compensation should be paid where redundancy had been proved to arise directly out of the amalgamation. Those Deputies who were present during the debates on the Railways Bill will remember there were many other sections of the Bill which became an Act besides this section dealing with compensation. One may say that there was a balance as between the public interest, the trading community, the railway companies and the employees. This Bill appears to have been brought forward because the railway companies have found it necessary, or allege they have found it necessary, to declare many of their employees redundant and that that redundancy has arisen out of the decline of traffic. The Minister, by implication—I think I am not stating the position unfairly; the statement is made quite clearly in the draft of the Bill—argues that if the redundancy arises from economic reasons or from decline of traffic, then no compensation shall apply.
The 1924 Act provided for an amalgamation of railway companies for the public benefit. But it also provided that in the commercial interests there should be a rates tribunal set up. That tribunal was set up, and against the advice, the claims and the arguments of the railway company the rates tribunal, in the interests of the trading community, said there had to be a reduction of rates. I think it could be shown that the reduction of rates for the public benefit and in the interest, as was claimed, of the trading community was the direct consequence of the Act and the amalgamation and an indirect cause of the redundancy. People who are declared redundant through the amalgamation are redundant by virtue of the operations of the Act which obliged the companies to amalgamate. I say that the public benefit arising out of the Act has by that process caused private hardship, has meant the dismissal of many men, and the claim in the Bill, that only what might be called the direct hardship due to two companies coming together for administrative purposes, is not a sufficient reason, is not the only reason why compensation should be paid as a result of the operations of the Act.
There is another consideration in that same Railways Act: that the rates tribunal shall, in the course of their sittings, after experience, fix the rates in such a manner as will enable the companies to earn a certain standard year's revenue. There is implicit in this Bill the proposition that compensation shall be paid only if redundancy is directly due to the process of amalgamation. If two men can do three men's work owing to the amalgamation, by re-formation and re-adjustment of administrative methods, then the person who is declared redundant shall be compensated, but no compensation shall be paid if the redundancy is due to any economic cause. I say when the redundancy is due to the operations of the Railways Act, through the rates tribunal, there is a right to compensation given to the railway servants in that Act, and that that was the intention of the Oireachtas. We are now asked to deprive those railway servants of that right, which was deliberate and not objected to by any representative of the railway companies in this House. Some of the defects that are alleged to exist in the Act possibly were oversights, but the Bill was accepted finally and received its final reading in this House and in the Seanad on the terms set out. I do not know whether there were any Deputies who might be called the direct representatives of railway companies in the Dáil, but there were certainly six directors and general managers of railway companies in the Seanad who were quite familiar with the case that could be put up by the railway companies if there was any hardship in this matter. They did put their case, and it cannot be said that the intentions of the Oireachtas were different from the arbitrator's ruling.
Now I come to deal with one or two of the effects of the operations of the Act which are sought to be amended by the Bill. The Minister speaks of the errors that crept in, and he takes the rate of compensation and the question of the sixtieths and says that what was intended was to apply the civil service scale. Possibly that may have been his intention—I do not know— but I venture to say that in the minds of all the other Deputies, who had any mind on this question, the idea, which is very common in our legislation, of compensation for disturbance, and not merely the scale of retirement after a certain period of years, was to be taken into account. This is a case of compulsory retirement, not the ordinary retirement of the civil service, which fixes a definite rate and takes the sixtieths. There was the additional consideration, if the arbitrator so decided, that there was a compulsion applicable in most of these retirements. That is a factor that reduces the value very considerably—if it does not destroy it altogether—of the Minister's argument against the provisions in the schedule regarding the rate of compensation.
Then we have the instance given regarding the question of the superannuation fund. There is a tendency to treat the case that has been made known through the courts as a very great difficulty in the existing Act, and one that should be taken into account and justify all kinds of extraordinary measures to remedy the grievances of the company. I understand that such a case could not apply, and is very unlikely to apply, at the present stage, and within the next two or three years could not apply to more than two or three men in the whole service—that about seventy is the total possible, and that the probability of men obtaining so great a sum from their superannuation fund as would bring their compensation, plus superannuation, to a sum greater than their retiring salary is very small indeed. One case has been brought to our notice through the public Press. Supposing there were five hundred or five thousand such cases, I make the claim that we are not justified in depriving the individual of his superannuation rights, no matter what compensation may be paid to him. Everybody who follows railway negotiations, whether closely or at a distance, knows that it has been the universal practice on the part of the railway companies to intimate to their officers and staffs that they have the benefits of superannuation. When questions of wages, remuneration and conditions are being debated, the benefits of the superannuation fund are put forward by the companies as a reason why something less than the current outside rate should be accepted. Continuous employment, superannuation, cheap travelling, and things of that kind, have always been quoted as a reason why a railway servant should be content to accept something less than the normal in the way of remuneration, and in this case, as in the public service, the portion of the superannuation fund paid by the company has always been considered as deferred pay. The superannuation benefit that is waiting for the employee is the employee's property, the employee's money, the employee's savings, just as though it had been put in the Post Office Savings Bank.
To take that fund now and claim it as the property of the railway company is entirely unjust to the person who is a member of that fund. I say that it is worthy of the very hard words that have been used in respect to confiscation, no matter in what country those hard words have been used. I suppose if we wanted to acquire the habit of strong language we might have to go to the debates in the British House of Commons, but nothing, I suggest, has ever been proposed in the British House of Commons that would be comparable with the class of measure that is shamefacedly and barefacedly brought in in respect of this Railways Bill by the Minister. If a Bill of that kind were brought into the British House of Commons I do not know where it would be possible to find the kind of denunciatory epithets that would be applied to it. We have in the Bill certain propositions that the Minister has intimated he is willing to amend, and I accept that intimation as a sign of grace. The domnation, shall I say, is not absolute; there is at least the possibility of retrieving the position. I will not, therefore, spend any time arguing against those propositions which the Minister practically admits are not defensible.
Then there is the question of apprenticeship. Again, I cannot see any justification for depriving a servant who gave five years or more of his early service as an apprentice, of that period of his time when we come to deal with superannuation or compensation. I think it was Deputy Doyle who drew attention to the position of two railway servants, one who went through a period of apprenticeship and who continued on during the ten, fifteen or twenty years following on his apprenticeship. Another servant of the same company, living in the same street, joined the company about the same time. He went in as a learner but not as an apprentice. The five years that the second boy served the railway company at a higher wage than the apprentice received is to be taken into account when reckoning compensation, but the five years that the boy who went in as an apprentice spent in the service at low wages is not to be taken into account. One would imagine from the arguments in favour of the apprenticeship proposition in the Bill that the apprentice was not giving any service at all, was not giving any value during the time of his apprenticeship, but was merely receiving tuition from the company. I think that that is an entirely false view. The apprentice is giving genuine service which would have to be paid for to a journeyman if there were no apprentices.
The company is getting the benefit of that period of apprenticeship as well as the boy himself, preparing for his later experience in life. But the company is getting an actual benefit and is getting a dual benefit; it is getting the benefit, which is great, because of the fact that the apprentice is employed on very low wages, and, in respect of railway servants that are coming under the Third Schedule of the Railways Act, they were apprenticed at a time of very low wages indeed. If you are going to be misled by the instance of the apprentice who came out of his time one year and became redundant the next— I think that was the instance the Minister gave—you must ask yourselves why he should be declared redundant. Is there no room in the railway service for a youth who has served his time in it and then is to be declared redundant, without any alternative employment of the kind he had prepared for, because there is only one railway company, are you not to give him any compensation for that loss of time, that waste of his youth? There is very little likelihood of instances similar to that which the Minister put forward being brought into the question at all, I suggest.
What will happen under this is that railway servants will be declared redundant, and then the question will arise as to whether they are to be paid on the basis of ten, fifteen, twenty, twenty-five or thirty years' service. "Thirty years service, of which five were for apprenticeship, so we will cut it down to twenty-five"—that is the proposition the House is asked to assent to. It is an additional breach of a definite contract and a definite promise made only two years ago. The Minister made a point that the interpretation of the Act on which the arbitrator had been judging had led to the proposition that the new company was not allowed the rights of the old companies regarding dismissals owing to loss of traffic. I ask the House to remember that railway service, excluding questions of misconduct and incompetence, has almost invariably been considered permanent employment, and the evidence of the Minister's own Department is sufficient to confirm that statement.
Are there any dismissals in the Great Northern at the moment?
The system of unemployment insurance allows railway and other companies under certain conditions to opt out of the obligations to stamp cards because they give permanent employment to the satisfaction of the Department. The new company, owing to the processes of the Act, has led to redundancy and dismissals. The people who are now being deprived of any compensation owing to these dismissals will not have the right even to draw unemployment benefit. They are to be deprived of everything.
I think, as a matter of fact that—I know it is so in the case in the Tramways Company—there is a period when the Company gets relief from paying. The men pay in for a certain time and that money would be, I think, available.
Is it three years?
Yes, three years.
For three years the individual is insured, but having passed over the three years you may dismiss your man, and under this proposed Bill there would be no compensation and no unemployment insurance.
I want to be correct on that point, because I think the sum that is paid by the man is available for the man continuously. If that is wrong I am wrong.
The sum he paid in may be, but it is not unemployment insurance. A good deal more can be said than has been said in regard to this Bill, and if it be put to the House and receive a Second Reading a good deal will have to be said in regard to the various sections as they come along. But I want to emphasise the point that has been emphasised by other Deputies regarding the effects of these retrospective provisions. Bear in mind that it is part of the scheme of the Bill that not only shall cases be reviewed, but where anybody has got any money owing to the decisions of the arbitrator they shall be obliged to pay back the award and bear the costs of the original hearing before the arbitrator. You pass a Bill; you call it an Act; it comes into operation; certain rights are given to railwaymen under that Act; awards are made by the arbitrator; after hearings resulting from the opposition of the railways company, costs, very heavy in some cases, have been incurred by the applicants. Now it is proposed that the cases should be re-heard in the light of the provisions of the new Bill. The arbitrator will be obliged under the new Bill to deprive the employee of the compensation that he has been granted, and the employee will be left to bear the costs of his first and second appearance before the arbitrator. If injustice could be done more clearly in any legislation, I would like to have the experience of reading it.
That is one of the effects of the retrospective provision. But on the principle of this retrospective scheme let us remember the very great reluctance with which the House a few weeks ago passed that Land Bill dealing with what was in fact a constitutional question, a Bill to declare that a certain interpretation of our courts was the right interpretation of the law. The House very reluctantly gave assent to that proposition. It was retrospective, but it clearly stated the intentions of the House. Even from the point of view of the appellant in the case in question, that of Lynham v. Butler, it was recognised that advantage of the appeal to London was only taken because of a defect in the Act. Yet I say the Dáil, with very great reluctance, gave assent to that Bill. But here you have another proposition, to legislate retrospectively in respect of a considerable number of men not to declare something to be the law which was clearly the law, but to alter radically the law and to declare that the new provisions must apply to the date on which the original Railways Act was passed, depriving many hundreds, perhaps thousands of men of pecuniary rights, vested rights that were created by the Parliament and which some of them have already begun to enjoy. We are asked to legislate in such a manner as to take from these men what has already been given to them. The Minister may be able to make a case for amendments to the Railway Act to apply for the future, but let him make such a case for a new Bill. Do not let this Dáil commit itself to approving a Bill which contains these retrospective clauses, because it will be charged against us in the future that we were careless of the public interest, careless in our legislation, and giving example to future Parliaments which may not be quite as constitutionally-minded as this Parliament and may not be quite as regardful of the constitutional forms as we have been. We are setting an example to future Parliaments to improve upon this example. I ask the Dáil not to give this Bill a Second Reading.
Personally, I would prefer not to participate in the Debate on this matter, but I felt that there was a certain obligation both to myself and others to ask the Dáil to bear with me for a minute or two. I think it is particularly unfortunate that the Minister should have been in the position of considering it necessary to bring an Amending Bill to the Amalgamation Bill which was before the House so recently. First of all, the Amalgamation Bill was, as Deputy Davin pointed out, before this House for a very long period before it passed, and then it went through the Seanad. The Bill, as it was brought into this House, was drafted with every possible assistance that it could have had. It was more or less on the lines of legislation that had been adopted in connection with the amalgamations that took place in Great
Britain. It will be within the recollection of Deputies that right through the passage of the Bill through this House I was opposed to it. It was passed after due consideration, with the assistance of the Labour Party—I think with the assistance of most of the parties in this House.
Except the business party.
You are quite right. I wanted that to be inferred. I am glad you said it. As far as I am concerned, I am very glad to say that I had neither hand, act nor part in the passing of the Bill.
Did you oppose it?
Yes, from the beginning, even to the clause we introduced at the instigation of the Labour Party protecting Labour.
I am not surprised at that.
To-day, after experience of the Bill in operation, I repeat what I said when the Bill was going through this Dáil, that it is bristling with injustices. The Government now brings in this amending legislation, and they seek to establish the need for it on particular cases. Even on their own cases I do not think they justify the introduction of this Amending Bill. The "star turn" case is one where a man is getting more on his retirement than he got during the period when he was at work. I think it is only fair to that man to say that he is not getting, even under the arbitrator's award, more than two-thirds of his salary, but he is supplementing it. I agree with Deputy Johnson in this particular case, and I think it is unfortunate that it should be brought in that a man's contribution to a fund, which, had it been a form of insurance, would not have been taken into account, has been brought in. Even supposing under the fully considered Act that passed through this House, there are cases that appear to be unreasonable and unjust to the railway companies, I still think that that does not justify this amending Bill. I have to agree with Deputy Johnson and other Deputies on the question of retrospective legislation. I cannot think it is for the good of this House, or for the stability of our legislation, that at this early stage in our history we should so often have to go back on that legislation and condemn it, because that is what is meant by retrospective legislation of this sort.
What about the Shop Hours Act?
Deputy Wilson referred to the Shop Hours Act. In connection with that I hold I am perfectly consistent. I opposed that legislation altogether and I have no responsibility for it. I think the suggestion that has been made is rather a good one, that this matter should be the subject of a conference between the railways company and the employees with an effort, at all events, to meet the inequalities that have arisen. Incidentally I may repeat what I said in connection with the original Bill, that this dealing with the railways that the Government are taking such a particular interest in is being carried too far. It clearly shows that interference with commercial concerns by the Government is never happy or never in the interests of the concern interfered with, and this is only one other instance of where the Government have insisted on interfering with ordinary commercial concerns and where their interference has not been conspicuously successful in the administration of the concern. I do not want to say very much more, except to express the opinion which has already been expressed that except by agreement it is undesirable that retrospective legislation should be adopted, and I think that this Bill, as it stands at present, might very happily be withdrawn if the Minister could see his way to withdraw it. At all events it should be acknowledged that the Ministry who were responsible for the original Bill ought never to have left us in the position to find it necessary to introduce a measure such as this.
The case made by the Minister for this amending Bill is that it makes provision for errors in drafting and things that were not foreseen when the original Bill was passed into law. One might, therefore, expect that the Minister would make provision in the amending Bill for all the defects in the previous Act. Even the trade unions who accepted the Act, not as a generous bargain but as a bargain, were fully aware of the fact that there were weaknesses, from the point of view of the employees, in the Bill. They nevertheless accepted the Bill with its defects, believing that they were making a bargain which would hold for some considerable time. Now the Minister—I have no doubt it is on the representations of the railway company—has seen fit to introduce an amending Bill to provide, according to himself, for the errors in drafting and for unforeseen circumstances in the original Bill. But the Minister makes no provision for the payment of costs to railwaymen who endeavoured to establish their right to compensation under the Act. No provision is made in the original Act and no provision, apparently, is intended to be made in the amending Bill, and the railwayman who intends to establish his right to compensation will continue to pay any legal costs involved in endeavouring to do so. At the present time, there is no provision in the Act which makes it obligatory on the railway company to pay the awards of the arbitrator, as if that award were an award of the High Court or any other court. That is an obvious defect in the Act of 1924, yet the Minister makes no provision for remedying that defect in the amending Bill. The Minister reserves all the amendments to take away from the railway employees the rights which the 1924 Act gave them.
One of the most obnoxious provisions in the amending Bill is the condition that dismissal must be due directly and solely to amalgamation. I suggest if this Bill were passed as it is drafted it would mean that the railway company, with its considerable experience of staffing and traffic arrangements, might very easily be able to bring about a situation in which the ordinary railway employee would be unable to say whether his dismissal was due to amalgamation or to some economic cause. Take, for example, the case of a railway line running to a particular village, and the railway company deciding that that line is not economic and that more is spent on it than is received by way of revenue. Let us suppose that a new 'bus service comes into this village. The railway company decide not to use the line as they consider the bus service provides sufficiently for the public convenience. As a result of the railway company not working this line a number of railwaymen are dismissed. I think it would be very difficult for an humble railwayman to be able to say whether his dismissal, in the circumstances, was due to amalgamation or to an economic cause.
If the railway company is given power to say: "Your dismissal is not due directly and solely to amalgamation," it will mean that the railway company would be very chary of admitting that a man has any claim to compensation unless he can prove his dismissal is clearly brought about by amalgamation. If the railway company take up that attitude it would be a very difficult and costly thing for an ordinary railwayman to ensure that he receives the compensation provided under the Act.
The Minister made a good deal of play with one particular case, the case of a man who was paid a salary of £700 per annum whilst working, but who, whilst pensioned, received £900 per annum. That was not due to the fact that this particular officer got any extravagant compensation. It was due to the fact that the officer, in addition to getting compensation, got a refund of the contributions he paid to a superannuation fund.
Plus what the railway company had paid into the fund.
Plus what is generally admitted in the Civil Service to be deferred pay.
No; he gets compensation, plus his own contribution, plus the railway company's contribution.
He got the contributions which he paid into the fund himself and the contributions which the railway company paid. In the case of the railway company's contribution to the superannuation fund, it is generally recognised to be in the same position as in the Civil Service—a matter of deferred pay.
No, he got his own contributions.
He got his own contributions, but the fact that the railway company pay contributions to the superannuation fund is used as an argument why an official's pay should be low and why the railway service is attractive. The company cannot have it both ways.
Nor the men either.
The Minister said that the amount of money which an officer gets from a superannuation fund should be deducted from the amount of compensation which the arbitrator decides to allow, simply because the railway company have to pay portion of the amount standing to the credit of an officer in the superannuation fund. Let us take the case of a post office official who decided that he would take out an endowment policy in a post office for, say, £200. Suppose that he retired under Article X. of the Treaty or through ill-health or old age, would the Minister think it reasonable that because the same body which pays superannuation also pays his endowment policy, the endowment policy should be deducted from the amount of the pension or gratuity which he might receive from the post office? I think in the case I have instanced the man was only receiving what he paid in, plus what the railway company have paid in, and the railway company's contribution has generally been recognised to be a deferment of the man's pay. The Minister must admit that.
I never heard it admitted.
It is generally recognised, and the railway organisations know all about it. The Minister's case is that although a man makes provision for a pension in his old age, he should only get the same amount of compensation as would a man who makes no provision. Take the case of an employee who says: "I will not contribute to the superannuation fund." He is entitled to receive a certain amount by way of compensation from the arbitrator. Take the case of an employee who says: "I will be provident and I will contribute to the superannuation fund." The Minister's case is that the first man should get the compensation that the arbitrator awards, but the second man, because he was provident, should have deducted from what the arbitrator awards the amount which he gets from the railway company. I think that is simply penalising the man who is provident, and putting a premium on the carelessness of the other man who does not provide for future contingencies.
There is another phase. The Minister tried to make a comparison between railway officers and civil servants. In many respects this particular Act can be likened to Article X. of the Treaty, which provides certain compensation terms for existing civil servants. At the present time an officer transferred from the British to the Free State administration is guaranteed his transferred conditions, not for any period of years but so long as he is a transferred officer. That was, apparently, the intention in the Act as well. The 1920 Act, which is really the basis of Article X. of the Treaty, makes provision for guaranteeing a transferred civil servant the rights which he held at the time of the transfer of government. That same right was secured to railway officers under the 1924 Railways Act, but the amending Bill proposes that the compensation will only be payable if the officer is dismissed before 1931. That means that, at the end of 1931, the railway company can do what it likes with existing officers, and a railway servant of 20 years' service then may be told in 1932: "We have no further use for you." They will not have to tell the railway officer whether his dismissal is due to economic causes; his dismissal can be due to anything, and the officer will get no compensation. That is the prospect the Minister holds out for railway officials who survive until 1932.
I put it to the Dáil that it is neither compatible with its dignity nor fair to the railwaymen that this amending Bill should be introduced. The Railways Act was accepted fifteen or eighteen months ago as a bargain between the railway directors and the railway staffs, and I do not think at this early stage that that bargain should be upset.
You were not here then.
No, but I read the Minister's speeches. I am referring to the compensation provisions. I think that the Minister has made no case for the amending Bill. He has quoted a few extreme cases, but these are not typical of the general run of cases. The general purpose of the Bill seems to be to confiscate the rights which railwaymen got previously. It is very poor treatment for Irish railwaymen after the part they played in the national struggle. They helped to make legislation possible in this House and it is not right that they should be treated in this manner by the Government they helped to make possible. I think both on the grounds that the Minister has made no case for the amending Bill and out of sympathy with the railwaymen who played such a splendid part in the national struggle the Dáil should not give its sanction to this Bill. It is clearly a Bill designed to promote, not the interests of railwaymen, but the interests of railway directors.
in the Chair.