I suppose the matter mentioned earlier by Deputy Hogan may now come on.
Private Deputies' Business. - Wages at Rhynana Airport.
And I think, with the consent of all sides you will be prepared to join in recommending that the matter referred to by Deputy Hogan could be raised during the remainder of Government time.
Certainly; that the time to be devoted to it be one and a half hours.
It is usual when the Government gives time in such circumstances as this, to give one and a half hours for the discussion. That means until 7 o'clock, which gives five minutes grace.
I did not understand that we were to be limited to time.
It was stated that one and a half hours would be provided.
It was stated that the matter would be reviewed now, and I take it that you were to consult the House as to the time, as ordinarily we would have Government business until 9 o'clock. I am quite convinced that the Rhynana question will be fully ventilated before 9 o'clock, but if Deputy Hogan feels that a full debate would be helpful, I submit to the Tánaiste that it would be prudent to give the remainder of Government time to Deputy Hogan, if he wishes to have it, until 9 o'clock. I doubt if that time will be used.
I agree with Deputy Dillon that Deputy Hogan will make a full statement and will do so in less than one hour. I know he is not as long-winded as some of us. He can do it in that time. Even half an hour would suit Deputy Flinn.
Then there is no objection to allowing the debate go on until 9 o'clock.
I am thinking of the precedent. The Government has, at different times, allowed matters to be taken out of their order, but they are usually confined to the time occupied by Private Deputies' business. It is a precedent, I understand, and I like to stick to precedent.
That the Dáil disapproves of the rate of wages paid by the Board of Public Works to labourers engaged on the airport construction works at Rhynana, Newmarket-on-Fergus, County Clare.
The only point I make is that this is a very grave and very urgent matter concerning, as Deputies will remember, the work at the international air base at Rhynana. Facilities were given by this House for the introduction of a measure affording facilities for an international air base and I found it necessary in December, 1936, to bring before the House, as forcibly as I could, the scandalous rate of wages paid workers engaged on that scheme. I endeavoured then to contrast the rate of wages paid to workers employed there by the Commissioners of Public Works, of which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance is the political head, with the rate of wages paid by farmers in that area, with wages paid by county councils within a reasonable distance, as well as with the wages paid by the Electricity Supply Board which, at that time, was operating not far from that area. The comparison was all against the wages paid by the Board of Public Works. The wages paid by the Board of Public Works were totally inadequate to maintain even a single man in any decent comfort and were totally incapable of giving even the meagre necessaries of life to a man with a family. I endeavoured to convince the House that the comparison was very unfavourable to the Board of Public Works. Since then there has been an improvement, because we focussed public opinion on the matter to such an extent that even the Parliamentary Secretary had to take action. Even though the result of that action was communicated to a Fianna Fáil club, we forced the Parliamentary Secretary to take action and to increase the rates of wages then being paid.
To-day I am in a position to make a further comparison regarding the rate of wages paid by the Board of Public Works at Rhynana and the rate of wages paid by a contractor on the very same spot. Deputies who are conversant with the activities of the various public Departments will appreciate that it is one of the functions of the Office of Public Works to insist on a trade union rate of wages being paid on work given by Government Departments; that is to say, if contracts are being given out by the Post Office, or by the Army, it is the duty of the Office of Public Works to see that fair wages conditions obtain in the factories into which those orders go. Yet we have the position at Rhynana that the very Department which is expected to insist on fair conditions of employment being given on Government contracts is paying those men 32/- a week, while the Pioneer Road Construction Company pays 37/- a week to their men, who are employed on practically the very same work. They are employed almost within call of each other at the Rhynana air base; it is practically the same work; there are the very same conditions of employment and the same necessity for a decent standard of living, yet the wage given by the Board of Public Works is 5/-below the standard set up by the Pioneer Road Construction Company. It is very well worth while recalling that when a proposal was made to construct a road through towards Ennis the Clare County Council, on which there is a majority of Fianna Fáil supporters, unanimously passed a resolution asking that in regard to any work given by contract on road construction or such things at Rhynana the trade union rate of wages operating in the nearest urban area to Rhynana should operate there. To put that simply, the resolution of the Clare County Council meant that the trade union rate of wages operating at Ennis at that time should be the rate of wages that would operate at Rhynana.
The Parliamentary Secretary is amused at some of those statements. He has no right to be amused. I say quite definitely that the Parliamentary Secretary has no right to show amusement in this House at the needs and sufferings of the people of that area. I speak with conviction. I speak with a knowledge of the conditions under which they work. I have seen them working there on an open plain consisting of thousands of acres, flanked on one side by the Shannon. They work there in the middle of winter for less than 32/- a week, when you take broken time into consideration. The rate of wages that was paid during the winter of this year was anywhere from £1 to 30/-, or probably even anywhere from £1 to 25/-, and that was under a Government which told us they were going to introduce a Christian, social State. Their conception of a Christian social State does not tally with that which has been adumbrated by people with probably a greater right to speak as to what a Christian social State should be.
Let us take concrete examples of what is happening. Men come from Ennis, Kilkishen, Sixmilebridge and Tulla to work on the construction works at this air base. I know the Parliamentary Secretary, with that cynicism which characterises his utterances and thoughts in respect of the workers generally, is probably thinking "there must be some attraction when they come such long distances." They come because for the workers in Eire at the present time the position is that it is either starvation or slavery, and in this instance it is a case of slavery under the control of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance. Even in ancient Rome they abolished the murder of slaves. I wonder how soon modern Ireland will follow in the track of the ancients. About 100 men come from Ennis. Ennis is about 14 miles from Rhynana. Those men travel 14 miles to the air base in the morning and 14 miles back again in the evening — 28 miles in all. That of itself would probably be enough work for a man for one day, especially if he has to get up at 5 o'clock in the morning. Those men come varied distances. As I said, they come from Tulla, Kilkishen and Sixmilebridge as well as from Ennis, but I take the case of Ennis because it is the clearest example of what I have to point out. They have to get up at 5 o'clock in the morning to reach the air base at 8 o'clock, and after their day's work they have to travel that 14 miles back. What they get for that is computed at 5/4 per day. Of course it is not 5/4 when broken time operates.
At Rhynana they have erected huts. A new system has been introduced which, it is alleged, is going to improve the position. Let us see exactly what is the position at Rhynana, on the evidence of the Parliamentary Secretary himself. They have erected huts in which the workers can stay, and in which they are supplied with food. If a working man makes a contract for a week's supply of food, he gets it for 17/6. Then there is 3/- for a cubicle and 1/- for washing. That is a total of 21/6. If you add to that ? or ? for national health and unemployment insurance. you have £1 3s. 0d. paid at Rhynana for the most meagre sustenance for one individual, without giving him anything for tobacco, and without giving him anything for recreation of any kind. If he works a full week and is lucky enough to get 32/-, he is left with 9/- to send home to support his wife and family. Mind you, that is assuming that he gets a full week's work, and that he is a teetotaller and a non-smoker.
But that is purely the high-light of the picture. Let us see what he gets for the 17/6, and, mind you, he must make a contract to remain on for the week in order to get those special conditions. The particulars which I am about to give have been taken from the canteen itself. When they make a contract for a week they get this food for 17/6, while they work to afford facilities for an international air service. In the canteen at this international air base they get this food for 17/6 per week. For breakfast they get one sausage, that is, one link or one finger of sausage; they get a slice of bread and butter, that is, a cut of pan loaf with a piece of butter on it; they get a pint of tea. Now just imagine going out and working on that international air base on such a breakfast —one link of sausage, one slice of a pan loaf, and one pint of tea. What does he get for his dinner? He gets a ½ lb. of beef—and that includes the bone and the fat — 7 ozs. of cabbage and 2 lbs. of potatoes. That is what he gets for his dinner, and he gets for his tea: a pint of tea, a slice of bread, and a sausage. That is what we are building the air base at Rhynana on — 17/6 — but suppose he wants to supplement that and says: "I cannot work on a slice of bread and a sausage and a cup of tea; I want to get more"— what does he pay for it? Tea is 2d. a pint; a link of sausage is 2d.; eggs 3d. each, and a rasher is 3d.—and that is 17/6, plus whatever he may think he is entitled to in order to maintain the necessary strength to enable him to do the work there. That is the sustenance that is being given.
I am thankful to the Parliamentary Secretary for erecting these huts and getting this canteen going. It shows what is the cost of bare existence, bare sustenance, in food. That slice of bread, that sausage, and that cup of tea, is probably the Parliamentary Secretary's idea of what a workingman should be able to build an international airport on. Anyhow, that is what they get—plus 3/—- for the cubicle —that is what they get if they contract to live in the huts; and their wives and children have to live on the 9/- or 10/- they may be able to send home. Naturally, the men have revolted against this. Between 600 and 700 of them have decided unanimously to withdraw their labour. Mind you, they did not decide to withdraw their labour because of any influence being brought to bear upon them in any way. The Parliamentary Secretary was good enough to suggest here, in December of 1936, that I was not speaking for the men. He said that I had no authority to speak for the men. Accordingly, I studiously remained away from Rhynana until the men had formulated their demands, until they had formed their organisation, and until they sent their demands to the Parliamentary Secretary. I do not say that I in any way disagree with the demands. I do not say that I would not uphold them fully and as far as it is possible for any human being to advance and support them, but I want to indicate to the Parliamentary Secretary that there was no influence brought to bear upon them from any source whatever other than the natural revulsion against being asked to erect this air base under the conditions and at the wages it is proposed to erect it.
I should like to refer to a few of the things that the Parliamentary Secretary said with reference to this case at Rhynana. In column 1136, of Volume 64, he said, with reference to this Party: "At the end of the whole of that period"—that is, the period in which this Dáil is in existence —"they have not been able to gather to themselves 5 per cent. of the whole voting strength of the community. They are, apparently, the only one angels." And the Minister for Finance said: "In 1932, that rate was being paid in County Clare; it was being paid generally, and we had an election in 1933, and we came back." Now, we had an election in 1933, and the Fianna Fáil Party did come back. Now, let us glance for a moment at the manner in which public opinion reacted, even in the County Clare, towards that policy and that Administration. The Parliamentary Secretary and his Minister toured Clare. They denounced Deputy Hogan in Kilrush, in Tulla, in Killaloe. They said that he was false to every principle of national sentiment. They spoke of his treachery to Irish nationality and to the cause of democracy in this republican kingdom — in this republican kingdom, I repeat. That was the burden of their song everywhere they went, and of course these two stream-lined orators thought they would dazzle the people of Clare into rejecting Deputy Hogan, who had raised this matter. However, the political jay-walking of the Parliamentary Secretary and his leader, the Minister for Finance, did not deceive the people of Clare. They succeeded in increasing the first preference votes of Deputy Hogan by close on 1,000. They succeeded in doing another thing. They succeeded in putting a note of interrogation, in the shape of Deputy Thomas Burke, instead of one of their own Deputies, into this Dáil.
They succeeded in reducing the No. 1 votes of the President of the Executive Council in the County Clare by something like 7,000 No. 1 votes— that is, considering the extended constituency of Clare. They succeeded in doing all that, and when the stream-lined orators, the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister for Finance, go to Kilrush, when they go to Kilkee, and when they go to Killaloe and the other places to which they go, perhaps they will explain why their Administration had that effect upon the votes of the county.
At the present time, public opinion is clearly in favour of the men. It is expressed in the statements of several priests who have expressed themselves in favour of the struggle that the men are making, and it is expressed very clearly in the collections that are being taken up throughout the county in order to help the men to carry this strike to a successful conclusion. It is one of the most disgraceful exhibition of parsimony on the part of the Government that has ever been given since this Government came into power. The Parliamentary Secretary has many discreditable things to account for. He has to account for the introduction of the provisions of the Cat and Mouse Act into the minor relief schemes —"now I am in and now I am out; now I am out and now I am in"—which he calls the rotation scheme; but the worst thing he will have to account for, either here or to the country, is the starvation wages upon which he is endeavouring to build an international air facility at Rhynana. I am asking this House to express clearly the opinion that this wage is entirely too small. I am asking this House to express clearly its opinion that the claim made by the workers themselves should be granted; I am asking this House to say clearly that this international facility should not be afforded and should not be constructed on the basis of the needs and wants of the people of Clare. I move the motion.
I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary just one question.
The motion has not been seconded
I second the motion.
Is there any chance of negotiations being started at Rhynana at the moment?
Not at the moment. I am waiting for a case to be made. I want to hear the case.
That is a cynical answer.
Oh, no; surely there is someone else who knows something li = "4" fli = "-4"about it.
We want to hear the Parliamentary Secretary's defence.
May I take it then that this whole case has been stated and that no one else has anything to add?
Has the Parliamentary Secretary anything to say?
There is no reason why I should reply before the whole case has been made.
Does the Parliamentary Secretary think that he is to conclude the debate?
No, but I am waiting to hear the case before replying. There is apparently nothing to add.
I have not very much to say about it but certainly I agree entirely with Deputy Hogan's motion, and it is a great pity that a motion of this nature was not brought into this House before now because, not alone in Clare, which Deputy Hogan represents, are there aeroplane bases, but there are other aeroplane bases the erection of which is being used to exploit the workers and the wage earners of this country. I think that is, perhaps, a favourite device of the Parliamentary Secretary. There are other air bases besides Rhynana. We have one a few miles from Dublin. They call it the Collinstown air base. There the Parliamentary Secretary, in keeping with his activities in Clare, has definitely started the same methods. Speaking generally of air bases——
It is not permissible to speak generally. The debate must be confined to Rhynana.
If it were possible to permit a general debate, I would be glad the Deputy would be given an opportunity of speaking generally.
I am keeping to Rhynana but I would like to have an open debate on the Collinstown question, if so desired. Certainly I will keep to Rhynana and in Rhynana the men have been badly treated. There are other points to which Deputy Hogan did not refer. That is the question of Church holidays and the men going to work on Church holidays. Now the majority of these men live a good many miles away from the aerodrome, 15 or 20 miles, and some of them 12 miles. They have to get up at an early hour, and if they happen to go to Mass on the way to work and are half an hour late, that portion is definitely deducted from their wages at the end of the week. Secondly, there is another device. In the event of a shower of rain or a big storm — and we have few big storms in this country, except political storms — one would have thought that the men would be allowed to return to work as soon as the storm or the rain is over. One would think that they would then start work again. They are not allowed to do so in a great many instances until a quarter day has elapsed. The result is that a man might spend the major portion of the day actually in the aerodrome and he would have sevenpence to bring home to his wife and children at the end of the week. I am not going to delay the Parliamentary Secretary any further. I know the Ceann Comhairle will not allow me to touch on Collinstown aerodrome and on the general question.
The Deputy would be just as well off not to touch on Collinstown.
Yes, and I think Fianna Fáil would be as well off not to touch on it, too; and if anybody was not to refer to the Collinstown aerodrome it should be Deputy Fogarty, who says he represents the workers of ;the County Dublin. That Deputy should keep clear of Collinstown aerodrome ——
The two Deputies should keep clear of it.
I think if any Deputy is to keep his mouth shut as regards labour it is Deputy McGowan, and I would like to refresh his memory——
Oh no, not now. Both Deputies will please sit down.
I will get a chance another time.
I want to say a word on this motion. I listened carefully to Deputy Hogan's speech. I think the outstanding fact in the case is this: that you have here a number of men who of their own volition and without any backing from any trade union — and financial backing is a great factor when men go on strike — have gone on strike. Men do not go on strike without considering the pros and cons of the situation. Here you have 600 or 700 men who, on their volition and knowing that they have no trade union financial backing behind them, have gone out on strike. That in itself is a fact that should make the Parliamentary Secretary, or any other fair-minded man in any part of the House, inquire very closely into the cause of this dispute. We have heard Deputy Hogan's speech and I take his version of the case as being correct. Here we have the fact that 32/- a week is put down as the basis of wages at Rhynana. We have had 24/- a week in other Government schemes. Now this scheme at Rhynana is a scheme which is supposed to be over and above and beyond the usual minor relief schemes of unemployment. This is a scheme not only of national but of international utility. But we have this meagre wage laid down as the basis of this scheme.
I am convinced that the Dáil as a body will not agree to the payment of this wage in Rhynana. They will not do so any more than any other public board would agree to it. I say that the Parliamentary Secretary is taking advantage of the position of these men. If these men had been enrolled in a trade union, and if they had the financial backing of a trade union, then the position would be that while on strike they would have a weekly allowance from that union. But the Parliamentary Secretary knows full well that that position does not obtain in Rhynana. He is probably taking advantage of their position, and he believes that the time will come when the men will have to go back to work when starvation in its worst form will begin to operate. I admire the stand these men are taking. I say that this House should come to the rescue of these men and their families.
Surely the Parliamentary Secretary will now say something.
Deputy McGowan has certainly added something to the discussion, but I want a case made first.
Surely the House is entitled to hear the other side of the case? Members of the House are entitled to hear both sides.
When the case is stated.
Surely, after Deputy Hogan has stated the case, the Parliamentary Secretary has a right to reply?
Am I to take it that the whole case has been stated?
No, you need not.
As far as I can make out from the statement made by Deputy Hogan, the one fact which he has put forward is in relation to the cost of rations at Rhynana. He stated the workers would be charged 1/- for laundry and 17/6 a week for meals. He said the total weekly charge would be 21/6, and he also stated that between 600 and 700 men had gone out of employment and that the vast majority of the men had to travel 14 or 15 miles. All these statements are just about equally liberal in the proportion of accuracy with which they meet the facts. I should have thought that Deputy Hogan would know exactly the number of men who had gone out. The number is 430, and not 600 or 700. As far as our figures go, hut residents would not be charged 1/-per week for their laundry. As far as the huts are concerned, the bedding, and all that kind of thing, the washing of that is included, and there is no other charge made. Residents will not be charged 17/6 a week for three meals a day. They will be charged 12/3 a week for three meals a day for seven days.
What have they been charged?
They have not been charged anything, because they are not there yet.
I am merely asking for information.
I know that, and, if I answered in haste under a wrong impression, I am sorry. But that is the actual fact. The hutments are not yet in occupation. The provision will be three meals a day for seven days and the actual charge will be 12/3, not 17/6.
I suppose they will still get the sausage?
Just wait a moment. If the Deputy wants information, I am giving it to him. For some extraordinary reason, Deputy Hogan told us exactly what the men got for dinner, but here again his information is inaccurate. He said dinner consisted of eight ounces of meat, including bone, and seven ounces of cabbage. It includes eight ounces of meat, excluding bone.
It is Lent.
That is so, the bone is lent, and let me add that there are six ounces of bread also included. It seems a pity that in giving details the Deputy did not give them accurately. One can argue one way or the other, but at any rate there should be some accuracy in the matter. Broadly speaking, the general suggestion that a man is going to pay 21/6 in order to live in that hutment is countered by the fact that the figure will be 15/3. Deputy McGowan spoke, and I said that if he had made a contribution to the discussion he had added something new — if he had been accurate. He said that if there was a storm the men who turned up were put off and kept off for hours during the day. What is his authority for that statement?
Not the rest of the day.
Or for any part of the day.
A quarter of the day.
Our information is that no man who turned up for work has at any time been prevented from working by the authorities. There might possibly be an odd case that we do not know of, but that is the general instruction, that any man who turns up will be allowed to work.
That was not the point. The point was that if they stopped work in the middle of the day, for a certain period, say, during a shower of rain, they are not allowed to start again when the shower is over; they are only allowed to start after a certain period of the day has elapsed, say a quarter.
I think the Deputy is mistaken. There is no one in the House more anxious than I am to know anything of that kind which is true, and anything of that kind which is true would be fully taken into account. I think the Deputy is mistaken. The information I have is that no man has been put off under those conditions. There might be an accidental case, but to suggest that there is any custom of that kind is absolutely wrong. Now, in relation to broken time, it is a very difficult question. It is a question to which I have given a great deal of thought, to which I know the trade union organisations have given thought, and to which I know other Departments are giving thought, but it is not by any means an easy problem to solve. I think it will be agreed there could be no possible payment for time off for men who did not appear on the job. I think that will be agreed by any fair-minded man. I am glad if that is accepted, because we can then have a basis. The instruction is that no man is to be stopped working if he does appear.
Is that being carried out?
It is being carried out. There might possibly be an exceptional case, but I do not know of it and my officers do not know of it. We recognise that in the case of men who have to travel a considerable distance, say, 400 or 500 men coming from a village, you could quite rightly take the line that on a particular day no work can be done, no value is to be got, and the thing will be stopped. But where you are dealing with a huge number of men from a very large area, one would say: "I will not put a man off unless I must." We have carried it to the further stage that actually we do not. There may have been odd cases of gangs working on the ground where three-quarters of the men would decide that the day was not good enough, and they have gone off and the other men have gone off, but they have not been put off by the officers of the Board of Works. Whether that should be done is another question.
It is the intention to give every possible consideration. There has been a practice of giving every possible consideration to men in relation to broken time. Now, as to the amount of broken time, it is certainly not greater than would be found upon any agricultural job, as far as I know. I regard this as a very important question. It is going to be a very considerable job and will take a considerable time. I propose to use the figures from Collinstown and Rhynana for the purpose of investigating the question of broken time fully, to see what it amounts to, and to see whether or not there is any line of country which can be taken in that matter. You could say to yourself that from this on there will be practically no broken time at Rhynana; that is, from this on to the autumn, but there may be broken time in the winter. We took out statistics for the worst part of the winter, including all the voluntary abstentions of men, and I think you will all agree that a certain proportion of the time is through voluntary abstention.
I am very anxious to get from the Labour Party or any member of the House a contribution towards this question which will represent a solution of the principle involved — the question of broken time — and how it can be dealt with. The total amount of lost time is less than 10 per cent., and if you take the top off all the people, the people who lost least, 96 per cent. of the total time that could be worked was worked. When you come to analyse the distances covered by the men who travelled, you do not find that the abstentions are all amongst the men who have travelled the longest distances. There are some men, who over the whole winter period, have not lost any time at all. That is proof that (1) a man was not stopped from working if he came there, and (2) that it was possible for a man to earn the whole of the working time.
On the whole question of whether in relation to Rhynana there are any circumstances which create a larger unavoidable involuntary proportion of broken time, I am inclined to think — I am simply for the moment trying to get some line of principle—if it can be established in relation to any industry that there is in that industry a larger proportion of involuntary broken time than in other industries, that should be considered in the basic wage. I believe it is considered in the basic wages of certain skilled labourers. I understand, for instance, that bricklayer's are paid a much higher rate, relative to what might be regarded as their skill and craftmanship, due to the fact that they are more liable than other workers to be put off and that they are put off, in fact, in building work from hour to hour. While the nominal rate of payment is very high, the average rate which they get over the year, due to inevitable broken time, is less for that reason. I would say that that is an argument that could be taken into account. If, however, some principle could be evolved in relation to these workers or generally, by which compensation for broken time would be allowed, personally I think there would be something in that principle, but it would have to be, clearly and definitely, continuously related to that particular element. To me the only two difficulties that seem to arise in relation to the Rhynana wages are allegations (1) that there is an excessive amount of broken time, and (2) that the men come from excessive distances. What I am concerned with is to see whether there is any principle involved or any method of approach to the question along these lines. As far as broken time is concerned, the instructions are that a man who turns up on the job and whose broken time would be involuntary, is not going to lose by it. In practice that has been carried out.
Let us turn now to the question of distance. We are told that the vast majority of the men — I have a quotation from a public meeting in Clare-have travelled 14 or 15 miles and that that represents a day's work in itself. The vast majority certainly do not do anything of the kind. The number of men who actually travel 14 miles is 50 and the number who travel between 12 and 14 is 30. Therefore, out of this legendary 600, which comes down to a practical 420, the total who travel a long distance is not the vast majority but 30 up to 14 miles and 50 over 14. I want Deputies to ask themselves on what basis you should decide the wage on a job for which the men are going to come from all sorts of distances. Are you to say that the wage on that job is to be set by the longest distance that any man will voluntarily travel to that job? That is quite a difficult question and that is what is being contended. In another airport — I am not going to be controversial in that matter — men travelled considerably more than 14 miles — 20 and 30 miles. They did it voluntarily. They were not men on an unemployment register. They were not men on an unemployment assistance register. They came from a radius of 20 miles, attracted by the actual conditions of the wages which were given.
Attracted by the wages, or driven by starvation?
Whichever way you like.
There is a big difference.
We are dealing with men who are not on an unemployment register, who are not on an unemployment assistance register, and who are not therefore in necessity in any way known to the State.
They were not driven to it?
We will take the Deputy's statement.
Is that not what the Parliamentary Secretary means?
They were not driven. If the Deputy will wait, I am going to be perfectly frank with the House. I am not using any statement in a tactical sense.
You never did.
There is nothing in this job that I am not prepared to explain. Take Rhynana. The largest number of people who were either on an unemployment register or an unemployment assistance register, plus the men who were employed on relief works—that is a fairly wide range—we know that was ever recorded, as in necessity, was 44. The actual wage condition within seven miles of Rhynana, and seven miles is more than the maximum distance which the Minister for Industry and Commerce would require a man to travel with or without a bicycle — that is not a rule, I may say; I am only dealing with what I can speak of the practice and decided cases——
I thought you would mend your hand on that.
Again, with that frankness which distinguishes me on occasions of this kind, I am going to tell you both sides. We can get no ruling on that subject. What we have simply done is, we have taken the decided cases which have been put to the umpires on appeal — and between six and seven miles is the limit. The actual condition of wages in Rhynana has attracted, from within and without seven miles, up to and including 50 men who travel more than 14 miles, ten times the number of men who are known by any method of enumeration of the State to be in necessity. What standard are we to take? Surely it is perfectly obvious, whatever else may be said for or against the Rhynana wages, that they are a long way above the competitive level — the competitive level not merely of men in necessity, not merely of men in want, but men who are not on the unemployment register or known to the unemployment statistics at all. In addition, there are about another 100 men employed by a contractor. In other words, there has been attracted into the area by the actual wage conditions existing in Rhynana ten or 15 times the number of men known to be available.
Do you believe that?
I am speaking a statistical fact.
You are deliberately using the word "attracted."
And on strike.
And on strike.
I only put the question because the Parliamentary Secretary said he wanted to be fair and honest. Is he fair and honest when he says they were attracted?
They are attracted to it.
In order to go on strike.
If I thought I could raise my wages by 7d. an hour I would go on strike myself. Would you not?
You would be in a better position to do it than these men.
If I thought I could get a substantial advantage by striking I would strike. The very fact that a man does strike does not prove anything else. It proves that he thinks he can get more by striking.
What wages does the contractor pay?
That is a legitimate question. It is unnecessary to ask that question, as the Deputy knows, because that statement has already been dealt with. What is happening? We are told that the contractor is paying 37/-per week. He has to attract men away from us for a temporary job, and he will have to pay 37/- or 57/-, as the case may be, to attract them away if he wants more men. We are asked why the trade union rate of wages is not being paid. What is the trade union rate of wages or the accepted local rate of wages for work on roads in that district in Clare? I may say that it is a very rich district. The House is familiar with these poverty maps which we have put before the House to show the different degrees of prosperity of different areas. This is one of the yellow areas, one of the areas in which the valuation per head is high and in which the number of unemployed people is relatively low. I understand that the rate of wages for road work in Clare is 35/-. But when the Clare County Council came to specify the rate of wages for a road work in that district for which they had not to pay, did they specify the local rate? They did not; they specified 48/-. Why should they specify, if that is the principle that is involved, 48/- or 1/- per hour, which I think was the proposition, for a road work for Rhynana? This was a public road; it was not a road on the aerodrome. This was for money being spent on improving one of their own roads which ordinarily they would have to maintain. Why should they specify 48/- for that road when they only pay 35/- for their own?
This has nothing to do with the motion. The Parliamentary Secretary knows that. He only wants to kill time.
I do not want to kill time. I will stop now.
Talk about the 32/-a week for which you are responsible.
I was asked by Deputy McGowan what is the rate of wages paid by the contractor.
It is the rate of wages at Rhynana that is specified in the motion.
The perfectly legitimate question asked by Deputy McGowan was, what did the contractor pay in Rhynana? He paid 37/-. Why should the Clare County Council specify 48/-on a public road outside Rhynana and why should the county council themselves pay 35/- on their own public roads?
Has the Government any right to lead them?
On a point of order. The Parliamentary Secretary has been wasting time, Sir, before you came into the Chair, discussing the rate of wages fixed by contractors and by the Clare County Council. I submit that that is completely out of order and has nothing to do with the motion, which deals only with the rate of wages fixed by the Board of Works.
I have not heard the Parliamentary Secretary yet.
Nobody else has heard him say one word about the rate of wages referred to in this motion.
Therefore, I cannot rule upon the Deputy's point of order. The Chair will give ample time to the mover of the motion to reply, but I think he should get a half-hour. The Parliamentary Secretary, I am sure, will bear that in mind.
The mover of the motion had, I think, half-an-hour to open and I think I have had somewhere about 20 minutes up to the present to reply. I may be wrong, but that is my recollection.
Nearly 35 minutes.
The point raised from the House was: the comparison between and the logical justification for the wages relative to the others. The Deputy who raised that knows——
Defend the 32/- a week.
The Deputy has had half-an-hour and he can have another hour. The two issues raised were broken time——
32/- per week.
If the Deputy does want to make another speech now, I will sit down. If he does not want to listen, I do not want to talk.
I want you to defend the 32/- a week.
Then do it.
The two real objections to the wage of 32/- were on the grounds that there was a lot of broken time and big distances. I have dealt with the two questions of broken time and big distances.
Therefore, those two particular issues apparently disappear and we come back now to the intrinsic rate of 32/-.
I am glad to hear that. No one up to the present has given us any line of justification in relation to the statements made either as regards broken time or distance. As to the 32/-, what is the nature of the work and what kind of men are working there. What have they been accustomed to work at, and how does the work they are now doing differ from that work. As far as I know, the actual position in Rhynana was that I got a large wet field of about a mile square which was slightly irregular in conformation. If it had been more irregular in conformation the job would have been easier. It had an old drainage system which had been neglected. The sluices had been allowed to become choked, and as a result of that neglect this land was wet and boggy. When we finish the work on which we are engaged that will be a level, dry field, with that drainage system in order, and with drains put into it for the purpose of draining the main body of the land. The irregularities of that land will be removed and levelled out. The sods will have been removed and replaced——
On a point of order, I again want to draw the attention of the Chair to the irrelevancy of the statements that are being made by the Parliamentary Secretary for the purpose, I submit, of wasting time. He has entered upon a long explanation of what he found in Rhynana and of what he hopes to leave there, but the motion before the House is a short one of two and a half lines. It deals specifically with the rate of wages paid, not with the class of work done or what those employed there did before they went to work at Rhynana as a justification, if it can be justified, of the 32/- a week maximum wage. That is what the Parliamentary Secretary should address himself to. He has been speaking now for 35 minutes.
I have been put a point of order. It seems to the Chair that the Parliamentary Secretary has been for the past few minutes explaining the kind of work and, consequently, the rate of wages to be paid for that type of work, and is, therefore, in order.
Instead of being accused of indulging in irrelevancies, I submit that I have been strictly and meticulously in order.
The Parliamentary Secretary always is.
If I am, why should I be interrupted with charges of the kind made? Why should I be prevented from dealing with this question in a meticulous and orderly manner?
It is typical of the interruptors.
I am used to it, but my almost angelic patience——
We are getting the mentality that is behind the whole scheme.
We are going to plough and to seed that land in places in which it cannot be treated, as it was mainly treated in Collinstown, by the transference of sods. We are engaged in a purely agricultural and drainage operation, and we are using for the purpose mainly people who themselves have been engaged in agricultural operations. A great many of the people who are working on this scheme are the sons of farmers in the district who now, during this portion of the strike, will very wisely and very rightly go back to the doing of those seasonal operations in relation to land which otherwise might have been neglected in that district in Clare.
The agricultural rate of wages in Clare was 24/- a week. The rate of wages for drainage was 27/- a week. Either of these rates could have been chosen. The 27/- rate was chosen at the beginning as being that most directly analogous. It was raised, not by the pressure of Deputy Hogan or of anybody else, not as the result of any agitation, to 32/- a week, and having been raised it was maintained there in spite of a strike. It was raised upon the merits of the case—upon the purely economic merits of the case. I want to be quite fair and to explain to the House that we had a difficult labour problem in relation to Rhynana. We were envisaging somewhere about 300 men. The visible supply of labour was not 50.
I told the House that we were not going to draw that labour right round the 360 degrees of a circle. Owing to the geographical conformation of the district we could only draw it out of a narrow are of about 30 degrees. I told the House then that the rate of wages in Rhynana had been decided by the practical conditions of the case —in relation to the work done, and the men who were required to be got. Now I am told that we are trying to exploit the men, trying to use the fact that they have not got the resources and all the rest of it. There is no one who believes that. For instance, I want to tell the House now that there is a sum of about £300 for holiday work, belonging to those men, which they have not drawn. I think the actual sum is £310. I am arranging that they can get that at the earliest possible moment. We have hurried up the payment of the money due to them so that they could have it. Of all the men who have gone out on strike only one man, so far as I know, has withdrawn his national health card.
Has the Parliamentary Secretary actually paid the men what they were entitled to?
Thanks for nothing.
We hurried up the payment of it, and we are now engaged in hurrying up the arrangements so that this £310 which they have got will be soon in their possession. The rate of wages has been settled in Rhynana on the basis I have stated. It has not been altered in relation to any strike or threat of strike, and it will not be altered as a result of a threat of strike. I do not intend to have the mentality of altering rates of wages upon Board of Works schemes by means of strikes. We do keep in careful and continuous review the wages which are paid on particular schemes, and any alteration which is made is made on the basis of facts. As far as we are concerned, we do not intend to have it governed by strikes or the threat of strikes. We are quite satisfied that, at the present moment, the basic rate of 32/-, relative to the agricultural and drainage rate, is a fair rate for local men. If you attract men from 30 miles away, what are you to do? Here we are up against that problem. We can get over that difficulty by saying that we will not take men outside a radius of seven, eight, nine or ten miles. We can alter the rate of progress. We can do that.
Yes, without any relation to anybody.
I would prefer to have it from a Minister.
The Deputy can have it from me.
The Parliamentary Secretary does not know the secrets of the Cabinet.
If the Deputy has the idea that the urgency of a problem is going to drive us, then I say to him that he is mistaken.
You do not know if there is urgency.
What can we do? If we cannot get enough men within the area, we can do either of two things. We can attract them by transport from areas outside or we can provide facilities for them to live in. We have provided a certain number of facilities at a total inclusive rate of 15/3 per week per man. If any better arrangement works out, we shall look into it. I am satisfied at present that labour is being treated very fairly. The intention is to treat them fairly and any representation, based upon facts, made to me will be considered.
The whole speech of the Parliamentary Secretary can be summed up in this way—that the Government have reduced conditions to such a point that, in his own words, men are attracted to travel 30 miles per day to earn a maximum of 32/- a week. Conditions of labour must be very bad, indeed, when men are attracted—that was the word he used —to travel 15 miles, night and morning, to earn a maximum of 32/- per week. The Parliamentary Secretary tells us that he is in no hurry, that he is not going to be rushed by this strike. What he is really saying is: "We will starve them into submission." I can understand that, coming from the Parliamentary Secretary. I have heard it come from every bad employer in the country at one time or another. The Parliamentary Secretary says: "If we cannot get them otherwise, we will attract them into the huts." Is the Parliamentary Secretary going to attract married men into the huts at a maximum wage of 32/- per week, out of which they will have to pay, according to himself, 15/3.
A concentration camp.
That is all I have to say.
The Parliamentary Secretary says "good." I am not surprised because, if I might say so, it puts the position clearly before members of his own Party who, I am sure, have certain feelings about this matter that the Parliamentary Secretary has not, never had and never will have. Thirty-two shillings a week! I remember the time when members of the Fianna Fáil Party stumped every cross-road in the country howling against a wage of 32/- a week, not as a maximum but as a minimum. Members of the Labour Party remember that also. When Fianna Fáil were in Opposition and when they were outside this House, it was the greatest crime ever perpetrated by an Irish Government against the workers of this country to offer that wage. But Fianna Fáil in the country and in Opposition are very different from Fianna Fáil in office.
I do not intend to say much because the Parliamentary Secretary has not made any contribution to the debate. If there is one thing which it is almost impossible to endure in this House, it is the tolerant benevolence and the sophisticated tomfoolery of the Parliamentary Secretary—the tolerant benevolence and the sophisticated tomfoolery of a man who has been appointed to look after unemployment and to see that wages of a decent, Christian standard are paid. Of course, the Christian standards we heard so much about when the Party opposite were seeking the suffrages of the workers have been forgotten. The Parliamentary Secretary now tells us that he will not be influenced by strikes or threats of strikes. Is that a clarion call to every bad employer to ignore the Minister for Industry and Commerce? Are they to take the lead from the Parliamentary Secretary and say: "We will not be influenced by strikes or threats of strikes; we will stand firm because we know we can have three meals a day when they cannot have one." He will not allow intervention by a Government Department. He will not report the matter to a Government Department. He will say, as another famous or infamous strike-breaker said on one occasion, "We can have three meals a day and they cannot have one." That is exactly what the Parliamentary Secretary has said this evening.
One thing that has emerged from the Parliamentary Secretary's remarks—I cannot describe them as a contribution to the debate—is that he knows nothing whatever about what is happening at Rhynana. He is in complete ignorance of it. Certain adjectives could be used in other places besides this House with reference to that ignorance. I cannot use them here but they are known to everybody and they would characterise the position properly. There are more than 40 men cycling 14 miles to and from Rhynana. There are 100 men cycling 14 miles from Ennis alone to Rhynana. When we endeavoured to make bus arrangements, there were facts and figures forthcoming to substantiate that statement—that at least 100 men were cycling from Ennis to Rhynana. The figures were supplied by the works and they were figures of the men who would use seats in the buses. The Parliamentary Secretary disputes my figures regarding the cost to men living at the huts at Rhynana. I got these figures from the canteen. I am not using these figures to bolster up my case. Take the Parliamentary Secretary's own figures. Imagine a man at Ennis getting up at 5 o'clock and, after a hurried breakfast, cycling 14 miles to Rhynana and cycling 14 miles back. Imagine that man forced to stay in the huts, leaving a wife and four or five children at home. He will pay 15/3, according to the Parliamentary Secretary. Does the Parliamentary Secretary consider 16/9 sufficient to keep his family at home? Even out of that 16/9, he has to pay 1/2 insurance. Does he consider that that sum provides a living of a Christian standard for that man's wife and children?
The Parliamentary Secretary did not say one word about the main theme of my argument this evening—that 32/- is nothing approaching a living wage. He has said nothing in defence of 32/-. He has talked round about the subject and ignored the main proposition— that a Government should give a lead in the matter of wages. If a Government pays a certain wage, they should be in a position to defend it. The Parliamentary Secretary says that the Clare County Council passed a resolution asking the Government to pay 48/-a week in respect of the road leading from the air base to Ennis. He asks: "Why do not Clare County Council themselves pay 48/-?" Surely it is an accepted maxim that a Government should give a lead in the matter of wages. Surely the Parliamentary Secretary does not want Clare County Council to give a lead to the national Government in the matter of wages. Surely he does not want them to give a lead to a Government which was to give us a Christian, social State. I have seen sorry exhibitions in this House. I have seen many sorry exhibitions by the Parliamentary Secretary, but I have never seen a more sorry exhibition than his exhibition this evening when he indulged in his sophisticated tomfoolery and unmitigated humbug in trying to deceive the workers of this country.
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