Industrial Relations Bill, 1946—Committee (Resumed).

Debate resumed on amendment No. 118.

I do not see any objection to the purpose which the Minister is trying to achieve in regard to this amendment. But there are one or two points as to which I am not quite clear. First of all, to begin at the end, in paragraph (ii) of sub-section (d) reference is made to the effect of making an order under this amendment in so far as subsequent Parts of the Bill are concerned. It appears to me that what is intended is that an order will have the same effect as a recorded wages standard rate or bonus order. A recorded standard wages order is, in effect, a record of a fact, namely, of the rate paid on 8th April, 1941. But, in dealing with the application as set out under this amendment, that is not quite clear. Is it envisaged that the union making the application will apply to have the rates as paid on 8th April, 1941, or some other date, paid, or will they apply to have an increased rate paid or such rate as they may embody in their application? I raise that because in paragraph (c) of sub-section (2) it says that the court may, if it thinks fit, refuse the application. If the court refuses the application, how is the union left in reference to the later sections of the Bill where the proceedings are based on a recorded standard rate or bonus order? We are, in effect, dealing with another matter here and, while the implication is that, if there is an application for an increase in wages——

It is not intended that the court should endeavour to ascertain what rates were paid in April, 1941. I thought of that, but I considered it impracticable, because in the great majority of cases where this section will be utilised, I have already decided that a standard rate order would be impracticable. I thought it wise to leave the court a special discretion to prescribe the rates which the court thought should apply to the circumstances, having heard the parties. It seems to me that you must have some provision which would enable the court, having heard the parties, to refuse the application. If the application is refused, it merely means that the class of workers concerned cannot come under this Part of the Bill. The court would, in all circumstances, endeavour to avoid a situation in which they would refuse an application. But it could happen that a case might be made that the class of workers concerned did not constitute a group to whom a common order could be made applicable, or some other type of objection to the making of the order could be advanced which the court would regard as reasonable and which would justify them in refusing it. I do not see that there is any way out of that. The result would be that the individual workers concerned just could not come under this part of the Bill and they would have to use some other part of it. On the other point, it would not be reasonable or practicable to require the court to do what we found ourselves unable to do at a time much nearer to the date of the original Emergency Powers Order, and, therefore, the only practicable thing is to give the court complete discretion in the making of an order.

Except in certain cases where the standard rate order was not made. They may be very few, but, nevertheless, there are such cases where, apparently, it was more or less overlooked. It was not a question of its being difficult or complicated.

No application was made.

The application was not made. I take it, therefore, that the whole basis of this section is, where possible, to take the application, in effect, as recording, where possible, the rates as paid, so that there could be no dispute, and only where a difficulty exists in getting a satisfactory form of application the court would proceed to deal with the application as an application for entirely new rates. I can see the difficulty there. As the section stands at the moment, it is an invitation to look for an increase.

That could, in fact, be the case. It could be that the rate fixed would be the standard rate, plus bonus, plus the increase allowed by the court. I will consider whether we might not put on the court an obligation to relate the order here to the rates actually paid in April, 1941, in cases where no standard rate order was made because no application was made, and to leave this to apply only to cases where there was a former decision by myself as Minister when it was inappropriate to have a standard rate order. Such cases will be very few, I think, because I notice in the last few weeks that many classes of workers who had not applied for a standard rate order are now applying, in anticipation, no doubt, of availing of this Part of the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

Perhaps the House will allow me to say a few words about amendments Nos. 119, 120 and all the remaining amendments to Section 73. It will be agreed, I think, that the provisions of this section should correspond to the provisions of Section 30. The intention is to have them both the same and, to enable the matter to be dealt with now, I suggest that I will not move amendment No. 119, I will accept amendments No. 120, I will not move amendments Nos. 121, 122, 123 or 123a and Deputy Larkin will not move amendments Nos. 124 or 125. That will leave the provisions of the section in the same condition as Section 30, and whatever amendments we produce for the one will apply to the other.

Amendment No. 119 not moved.

I move amendment No. 120:—

In sub-section (1), page 24, to delete paragraph (d) and substitute therefor the following paragraph:—

(d) if an employer or a trade union of employers complains to the court that a trade union of workers has deliberately promoted or assisted out of its funds in the maintenance of a strike which to the knowledge of and with the connivance of the governing body of the said trade union of workers had for its object the enforcement of a demand on an employer to pay to a worker to whom the said orders relate, remuneration which is more favourable to the workers than that stated in the orders:—

(i) the court shall hear all parties concerned and consider the complaint;

(ii) if, after such consideration, the court is satisfied that the complaint is well-founded the court may, by order, direct the said trade union of workers to refrain from so assisting in the maintenance of the said strike.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 121, 122, 123, 123a, 124 and 125 not moved.
Section 73, as amended, put and agreed to.
NEW SECTION.

I move amendement No. 126:—

To insert before Section 74 the following section:—

Where a wages (standard rate) order and bonus order have been recorded, the following provisions shall have effect—

(a) application may be made from time to time by trade unions and other bodies for an increase in the rates of remuneration specified in the orders;

(b) If any such applicant appears to the court to be representative of workers to whom the orders relate, the court shall publish notice of the application in such manner as, in the opinion of the court, is best calculated to bring the application to the notice of all persons concerned;

(c) the court shall consider the application and shall hear all persons appearing to the court to be concerned and desiring to be heard;

(d) the court may, as it thinks fit, refuse the application or make an order providing for such increased rates of remuneration as it thinks fit;

(e) if the court makes such order. it shall specify in the order the trade unions or bodies (in this section referred to as interested parties) who shall be entitled to accept or reject the order in accordance with this section;

(f) if any interested party notifies the court, within sixteen days after the making of the order, that the order is not acceptable, the court shall thereupon cancel the recording of the wages (standard rate) order and the bonus order;

(g) if an interested party does not so notify the court, the wages (standard rate) order and the bonus order shall, as on and from the expiration of the said 16 days, have, for the purposes of Section 73 of this Act, effect as if they were amended in accordance with the terms of the order so made by the court;

(h) if the court refuses the application it shall specify the trade unions or bodies who shall be entitled to reject the refusal, and, if within 16 days after the refusal, any such trade union or body notifies the court that it rejects the refusal, the court shall thereupon cancel the recording of the wages (standard rate) order and the bonus order.

This amendment achieves two or three changes which were considered desirable. It meets the case Deputy Larkin referred to, where the court refuses to grant an increase. It provides in such circumstances that the same consequences follow as if the court granted an increase, if the applicant decides to accept that or not, and with the same effect. An objection to the original section was also advanced on this ground, that where two trade unions were catering for the class of workers concerned in a standard rate order, one trade union, by applying for an increase and accepting the increase, might tie up the other trade union and prevent it having the freedom of action desired if it was not prepared to accept the increase. In order to meet that situation the court will publish notice that it has got this application and will hear any other trade union or any other party appearing to be interested and will decide, when announcing its award, what unions must accept it; so, if there are two trade unions, it will require that both will accept before the award becomes binding.

These are the three main changes: it provides for the case where the court refuses the application; it provides for the court hearing another body than the applicant body on the matter of the application, and it provides that the court will decide what bodies must accept to make the award right.

Many of the points referred to are met by the amendment proposed by the Minister, but there are a number of amendments in my name that deal with some of the points that arise under Section 75. We could take them on this amendment also.

Amendment No. 127 is met by amendment No. 126.

Amendment No. 127 is only a preparatory amendment. I suggest we should take them all with amendment No. 126.

The principles may be discussed on that amendment.

Paragraph (a) sets out that an application may be made from time to time by trade unions and other bodies for an increase. That will apply only in the case where the application is granted. If the application is rejected, that carries with it the annulling of the recording of the orders. In amendments Nos. 128 and 129 we try to provide that a second application could be made after a period of three months and that, in effect, where an application is made to the court, the court could grant it and the applicant union would accept or reject, but in rejecting it they would still have an opportunity of coming forward after a lapse of three months and renewing the application, or they could regain complete freedom by rejecting the application and electing to proceed by ordinary direct negotiations.

I suggest it would be well to allow for the possibility of a second application being entertained by the court after a period. There may be very good reasons why the court would have to refuse an application and the union, while quite prepared to accept the decision at that moment, might not desire that the refusal would carry with it the annulling of the recording of the orders. The implication there is that if a union applies to the court for a variation of wages and does not get it, they will have recourse to direct action. That does not always follow. A union may be quite prepared to accept the court's decision, but they might feel that conditions might alter and they would be in a position to have their application entertained by the court rather than be forced, as they could under the amendment, to have recourse to direct action.

If they accepted the refusal of the court to consider it, they could apply again. There is no limitation on the number of times the union can apply, provided they accept the court's decision on each occasion. It is only where they refuse to accept that there is a limitation. Deputy Larkin may have in mind a disinclination to accept in a formal way and at the same time a desire not to have the standard rate order annulled and the union to retain its right to go back to the court. In the case mentioned by Deputy Larkin, a union need only accept the decision of the court in order to preserve its right to go back to the court at a later time.

From our experience of the Wages Tribunal that would not be a very acceptable procedure. We have had a certain difficulty with the tribunal. There is the possibility that if the union sought a bonus of ten shillings and the court awarded five shillings, the union might feel that in accepting the five shillings it would be prejudiced in its later application for ten shillings and would prefer to reject the award and preserve its case intact.

Will it meet Deputies if I make provision in this way, that instead of providing for the automatic annulment of the recording of the standard rate order, when an award of the court is rejected by the union, the union would have the right to apply for the annulment, with the provision that such application must be granted without question? If the Deputy will allow this amendment to stand, I will endeavour to bring forward another amendment on the Report Stage.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 74 deleted.
Amendments Nos. 127, 128 and 129 not moved.
Section 75 agreed to.
NEW SECTIONS.

I move amendment No. 130:

After Section 75 to add a new section as follows:—

The court, if satisfied on the complaint of any person, that the recording of a wages (standard rate) order and bonus order was obtained on the application of a trade union or body which did not represent the majority of the workers to whom the said orders relate, may cancel the recording.

This matter was referred to earlier. It provides for the possibility of the court agreeing to annual the standard rate order where it is satisfied the application for its recording was made by persons not really representing the workers concerned.

New section agreed to.

I move amendment No. 130a:

After Section 75, and immediately before the First Schedule, to add a new section as follows:—

Any question arising in any proceedings (including proceedings to a court of law under this Part as to the interpretation of a wages (standard rate) order and bonus order or their application to any particular person shall be referred to the court whose decision shall be final.

There is a typographical error in the second line. It should be "in a court of law".

"In a court of law" and there should be a bracket after "law". It is the same matter that we discussed on an earlier section.

New section agreed to.

First Schedule agreed to.

SECOND SCHEDULE.

I move amendment No. 131:—

In sub-paragraph (2) of paragraph 2, page 26, before the word "consult" in line 25, to insert the words "so far as is reasonably practicable".

Will the Minister accept that? It is only a question of tightening up the schedule because of the difficulties that might be encountered on one side or the other. Having regard to the number of bodies involved, of workers and employers, you may have a number of loose combinations. It is only a question of covering the section to see that those who would be responsible would at least take all reasonable precautions.

I am prepared to accept the amendment subject to the right to reconsider it because I think it might possibly lead to an interpretation of the provisions in such a way as to relieve the court of the necessity of consulting organisations of employers or workers if there was any difficulty in locating the organisations.

I can see that point.

I will have that possible interpretation examined and perhaps some alteration of the wording inserted on Report Stage. I will accept it.

Is it accepted as it stands or in principle?

I accept it as it stands.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 132:—

In sub-paragraph (1) of paragraph 7, page 27, to delete the word "the" in line 14 and substitute the word "this".

This is a drafting amendment.

I accept that.

Amendment agreed to.
Second Schedule as set out, and now amended, agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Report Stage ordered for Tuesday, 23rd July.

Can we have a clear understanding as to the Report Stage now, in view of the fact that on our side it is understood that a number of amendments will be put down? There is a feeling that the purpose would best be served if we had first an opportunity of seeing the amendments that the Minister intends to put down.

I promise to get all the amendments that I can by Friday, or Saturday at the latest.

As the Minister understands, normally the procedure for amendments is Friday—Tuesday, Saturday—Wednesday.

Work on the drafting of these amendments has been proceeding as the Bill has been going through Committee so that a number may be ready already. I will get them as they become ready—I will not wait until they are all complete—and I will circulate them as rapidly as I get them.

In the circumstances, the Chair is willing to accept amendments up to 11 o'clock on Monday. Will that suit?

We will see the completed Bill by the Minister by Saturday? Is that right?

Yes. I do not want to say that every one will be out by Saturday. I will endeavour to have them by Saturday but it is obvious that, as amendments which have been agreed here are being prepared, the necessity for other amendments may emerge as the Bill is being examined and reexamined by the officers dealing with it. The subsequent amendments will be more or less minor or consequential and may appear later, but the main amendments should reach the Deputies by Saturday.

I think what Deputy Dockrell asked is, would the Bill, as now amended, be printed by Saturday?

I think so—Friday morning.

Yes. The Deputy will have it.