Agricultural Workers (Holidays) Bill, 1949—Second Stage.

I move that the Bill be read a Second Time. In moving the Second Reading of this Bill I should like to recall to the memory of Dáil Éireann that on the occasion when I first moved the Agricultural Estimate in this House I invited the Dáil to judge of the failure or the success of the agricultural policy of this Government by the measure in which agricultural workers shared in any improvement the farmers derived from the new departure. It gives me some satisfaction then on the second anniversary of that invitation to call the attention of the Dáil to the fact that when this Government took office the minimum agricultural wage over the greater part of this country was £2 10s. 0d. per week with suitable adjustments for one or two special areas; the minimum wage to-day is £3 per week with corresponding adjustments in certain areas. The Bill which I submit now represents a further advantage to be conferred on agricultural workers by statute and, of course, a corresponding burden of expense on the farmers who employ them. The temptation to be charitable with your neighbour's goods is always strong. I submit to Dáil Éireann that there is a duty on any Legislature before they impose a burden by statute on any section of the community to have careful regard to the rights in justice and equity of all parties to the contemplated transaction. Therefore, when I asked myself the question of whether I might properly ask Dáil Éireann to enact this legislation, I had a duty to consider whether those on whom the expense would fall might reasonably be asked to bear the burden.

The minimum rate of agricultural wages has risen by 20 per cent. These agricultural workers, if Oireachtas Éireann passes this Bill, will now have the right to six days' annual leave with pay and the farmers who must meet those two additional charges will have this fund from which to meet it. Before these advantages accrued to the agricultural workers, in 1947, the exports of live cattle from this country were worth £15,629,000. In 1949 they were worth £20,446,000 involving an increase of £4,817,000. In 1947 the export of eggs was worth £1,547,000. In 1949 they were worth £5,230,000, an increase of £3,683,000. Exports of meat and poultry in 1947 were worth £3,128,000. In 1949, they were worth £5,650,000, an increase of £2,522,000. The exports of milk, condensed and dried, and cheese in 1947 were worth £579,000. In 1949 they were worth £1,610,000, an increase of £1,031,000. Exports of chocolate crumb in 1947 were worth £472,000. In 1949, they were worth £1,748,000. Exports of potatoes in 1947 were worth £374,000. In 1949 they were worth £791,000, an increase of £417,000. Exports of raw wool in 1947 were worth £894,000. In 1949, they were worth £1,469,000, an increase of £575,000. So the value of our exports of live cattle has gone up by 30 per cent., of eggs by 231 per cent., of meat and poultry by 80 per cent., of milk, condensed and dried and cheese by 179 per cent., of chocolate crumb by 270 per cent., of potatoes by 111 per cent. and raw wool by 63 per cent. The estimate of agricultural income is not a figure of which one can attempt to speak with precision and you will bear in mind that these figures I am about to give are approximations. We believe them to be reasonably accurate. Subject to that warning, the agricultural income in 1947 was believed to be £78,620,000 and in 1948 it was £87,450,000 and we are not without hope that for 1949 the sum of £100,000,000 will not represent any exaggeration.

It is in these circumstances that I ask the House to pass this Bill, the effect of which is to provide that every agricultural worker, working for wages in this country, will be entitled to have from his employer each year six days' annual leave with pay. Such a provision has already been made in Argentina, Austria, Belguim, Denmark, France, Great Britain and Northern Ireland, New Zealand, Norway and Sweden. In making this provision, we must have regard to the fact that a considerable percentage of agricultural workers are employed casually. It is, therefore, proposed in the Bill that, where an agricultural worker works for two months continuously for one employer, he will be entitled to a day's holiday with pay, subject to the limit, of course, of six days in the 12 months.

The conditions under which our farmers work, we must remember, are not identical with those in countries where the custom is to have very large holdings, and, consequently, relatively large bodies of agricultural workers. Here, we must bear in mind, there is a very large number of farms on which there is no more than one agricultural worker. It is to meet that contingency that, I think, prudence demands that, at this stage in any case, we should provide that it will be open to a farmer to give his employee the six days' holidays as individual day's holidays, not necessarily six days in a row, though I do not doubt that the majority of farmers who are so circumstanced as to make that possible will, if the worker wishes it, do their best to meet their worker's convenience.

In drafting a Bill of this character one has to provide for contingencies which one does not regard as probable but which might turn up and could cause confusion if provision were not made for them. It could happen that the minimum two months' continuous employment, giving rise to the right to one day's holiday with pay, could be interrupted by the illness of the agricultural worker, and it might be sought to establish that that interruption, arising from illness, destroyed his statutory right to a day's holiday. Provision is made to ensure that the interruption of continuous employment of that kind will not destroy the worker's claim unless the absence from work, owing to illness, extends over a period of eight days.

It is not intended that the holidays ordinarily enjoyed at the present time by agricultural workers shall be deemed to be the holidays provided for in this Bill. The intention of this Bill is to provide that, in addition to the holidays ordinarily enjoyed by agricultural workers at the present time, there shall be six days' additional holiday with pay. We have, I believe, successfully made it clear that Sundays, Church holidays or bank holidays, or any other holiday of that character which is at present enjoyed by the worker, will not be substituted for the six days which it is proposed he should have under this Bill.

There is provision that the holidays must be given in the course of the employment year, and there is the usual statutory penalty of £20 where it appears to the court that an agricultural employer, well knowing his duty under the Act, has refused to perform it. The general enforcement of the provision of this Bill, if it becomes an Act, is committed to the care of the Agricultural Wages Board, and provision is made that, in certain circumstances, if the agricultural worker is not in a position to take his holidays before his contract of employment comes to a conclusion, he shall be entitled to have pay in lieu thereof, or if the employer and worker mutually agree, and he does not want to take the holiday, it will be open to both parties to agree to give him a week's pay in lieu of his holidays. But that arrangement is subject to mutual agreement between the parties.

I do not anticipate that the administration of this measure will impose any additional charge on public funds because I expect that it will be possible for the Agricultural Wages Board, with its present personnel and equipment, to carry out whatever supervisory work may be required. But, I think I should tell the House that, on the Committee Stage of the Bill, if the Second Reading is given, I shall have to submit for the approval of the House three drafting amendments. The House will understand that it is very often extremely difficult to express in terms suitable for a statute of this House very simple concepts. One would imagine that it was very easy to say that agricultural workers should get a week's holiday with pay, but when one sits down to draft a Bill, difficulties multiply in giving effective expression to the purpose one has in mind. Therefore, in order to deal with the ambiguity that may arise with regard to Sundays, Church holidays and the like, I propose to submit to the House an amendment to Section 3 which is designed to clarify the fact that these six holidays are to be an addition to the holidays at present allowed.

Again, in Section 3 another amendment is necessary in order to clarify the fact that if an agricultural worker has, say, worked for six months, and entitled, therefore, to three days' holidays, and then ceases to be employed by the man for whom he has worked six months, he shall be entitled to three days' pay in lieu of the three days' holidays which he would have taken had he continued in that person's employment. The third amendment is simply to place on the Agricultural Wages Board an obligation to provide in its annual report on the workings of the Agricultural Wages Act a paragraph dealing with the working of the Agricultural Workers (Holidays) Act, if and when this Bill becomes an Act of this Oireachtas.

There is just one other figure which I should like to give the House with a view to reassuring Deputies as to the care I have tried to take in judging of the capacity of the farming community to meet this charge. From January 1st to February 18th, 1948, creameries received 3,006,000 gallons of milk; in the same period in 1949 they received 3,929,000 gallons: and in the same period in 1950, 4,653,000 gallons. I wish the farmers to whom the statistics which I have read out apply joy of their additional profits. I know that 99 per cent. of the farmers who have reason to thank Providence for those additional profits will gladly avail of an opportunity of sharing with those who helped to earn them. There will be a microscopic minority of poor, low type of farmers who will grudge their worker a fair share of the increasing prosperity of the industry which farmers and workers jointly serve. But the smallness of their numbers and the poverty of their character will merely serve as a useful comparison to reaffirm that the Irish farmers, taken as a whole, have always been anxious, ready and willing to treat their workers decently.

Could the Minister give any approximate figure as to the number of agricultural workers employed?


It is not an easy figure to ascertain, because if one looks at the statistics of employment, one gets one figure and if one looks at the statistics of the National Health Insurance Society, one gets a second figure. It is very hard to segregate the wage-earning employee from the member of a family who is working because, as the Deputy will remember, the statistics merely give those who work upon the land and family workers are included in them. They then give the figure of those who work for wages. How far that figure is reliable I do not know. The nearest figure we care to offer as an estimate, and we do it with reserve, is 85,000 permanent and 50,000 to 51,000 casual.

Apparently the Minister has satisfied himself as to the necessity for a measure of this nature. Looking over the Bill and listening to the Minister's speech, I find nothing to which I can take serious exception, nor can I find anything in its provisions about which one can enthuse. If there is any doubt in my mind as to the wisdom of this sort of interference as between employer and employee, it arises in this way: that I doubt if a measure of this kind will really make any substantial improvement so far as the conditions of those who work with farmers are concerned. There are some who will contend that the majority of farmers will treat their workers fairly, and that in introducing a measure of this kind you are really aiming at compelling those who might not live up to such a high standard to toe the line, as it were.

I think, however, that it will have to be conceded that the relationship which must exist between a farmer and his worker, no matter how much we talk about it, is not in any way comparable with the relations that exist in industrial employment. I have often heard people say, and, of course, they can say it with a great deal of truth, that men who work on the land are entitled to legal provisions of this kind, just as are those who work in industry. I think, however, you will find that farmers who employ labour will not adopt the same sort of rigid discipline as to the time at which a worker will appear on a particular morning and, if the worker happens to find himself not in the best condition, will not insist on his doing a heavy task of work; that a farmer will make in a general sort of way provisions to meet his employee, provided the sort of relationship that should exist does exist between them. If I have any doubts in my mind as to the wisdom of this measure, while not obecting to it in principle in any way, it is because I feel that when you attempt to regulate, by law, the relationship between employer and employee you often tempt the good employer, who may be affording concessions to his employee far in excess of those provided by a measure of this kind, to say: "This is all the law demands from me and that is all I will concede."

No one would want to impede a Minister or a Government in any way who sets out to improve the lot of those employed on the land. But one important point to which attention must be given is the extent to which the policy we are pursuing is likely to create opportunities of employment on the land. While some of the figures given by the Minister may be all very well, I have a feeling that there is a very noticeable tendency all over the country on the part of landowners in general to endeavour to do with less labour. They are entitled to make their own decision in that regard, but when we hold up this measure as indicative of the progress being made in regard to the conditions of rural workers, we ought also to have at the back of our minds what effect our policy in general is having in so far as the opportunities of work are concerned. For example, I had a parliamentary question on the Order Paper to-day asking for information as to the position in regard to the importation of oats, seed, milling and feeding oats. I discovered, to my surprise, that while it is understandable that we should endeavour to import seed oats, we found it necessary to import a fairly substantial quantity of feeding and milling oats from the Argentine and France.

Is it not appalling?

We have, on the one hand, a Bill before us regulating the conditions of employment as between the farmer and his worker; and, on the other, we are pursuing a policy that will result in our depending on the people of the Argentine and France to produce for us feeding and milling oats and on the Dutch to produce our tomatoes, and I doubt very much if that policy will ultimately prove to be a wise one.

It is a shocking situation, I quite agree.

This Bill is a quarter of a century overdue, but I suppose we have to be thankful for small mercies. I want to welcome the Bill because it represents a stepping forward from the position which agricultural workers in this State have hitherto been in. I do make complaint that I feel it could have been introduced at an earlier stage. It was first announced to the country two years ago by the Minister and I think that two years is a long time for agricultural workers to have to wait in order to get a guarantee of a minimum annual leave period. With the principle of the Bill, which is to provide six days' holidays each year, I am in complete agreement. I have taken the opportunity over the past 12 months of consulting agricultural labourers in very many different counties as to their views on the Bill and it will be acclaimed by them all without exception.

Deputy Smith suggested that there was inherent in this Bill a certain danger which might arise from interference, as he put it, with the relations which normally exist between agricultural workers and agricultural employers. I might remind him that one of the very few beneficial actions carried out by the Fianna Fáil Administration was one such piece of interference, when they carried through the House the Agricultural Wages Acts which set up the Agricultural Wages Board.

Agricultural workers have been, and still are, the most depressed class in this country and even in this House we have heard agricultural employers, with one or two exceptions, state on innumerable occasions that the only reasons why they did not afford better conditions to their workers were economic reasons, their economic inability to do so. The Minister, in moving the Second Reading, gave figures regarding the improvement in the position so far as agricultural employers are concerned which must demolish once and for all any argument to that effect which may be adduced here. I doubt if any Deputy will have the temerity to adduce any such argument against the Bill; but, if such an argument were forthcoming, the figures given by the Minister as to the comparative prosperity of agricultural employers or farmers as compared with two or three years ago would immediately rebut that argument. The comparative prosperity is phenomenal.

This Bill, in my view, must necessarily be only the first step along the road towards better working conditions for agricultural labour. I have some experience and knowledge of the relations which exist between farmers and their workers and I am not going to join in the chorus, the note for which has been struck by Deputy Smith, when he tries to imply that the bulk of agricultural employers, if left alone, will do all right by the farm labourer. Such is definitely not the case, has not been the case and will not be the case, until such time as the rights of the farm labourer are guaranteed by law. Proof of that is to be found in the fact that, prior to the setting up of the Agricultural Wages Board, farm wages were fixed at any and every level, but, generally speaking, far below subsistence level.

Perhaps the Deputy will pardon my interrupting to take the unorthodox course of asking Deputy Smith if it is the intention of the Opposition to divide on this Bill.

No. I thought I clearly announced that I found nothing in it to which exception could be taken.

The Deputy will excuse me if I trespass too much on his kindness. To be very frank, I wanted to find out so that Government Party members would be present if there was a division, and, if there was not a division, need not adhere so closely to their seats for an hour or so. Open confession is good for the soul.

They have the responsibility of at least keeping a house.

I suppose you will not blame them for getting a bit of dinner or having a cup of tea.

It struck me that the Minister in the course of his remarks was somewhat apologetic in the introduction of this measure, an attitude, indeed, which is very unusual in the Minister for Agriculture. I do not think it is necessary to develop any lengthy argument for the justification of this Bill. I feel it provides little enough for the agricultural worker without adducing reasons to convince the farmers of its righteousness. From my point of view there are many flaws in the Bill in its present form, and I propose to attempt to rectify some of those on the Committee Stage.

I do not consider the Agricultural Wages Board as at present constituted a competent body to administer this Bill. I believe that that board is predisposed against the agricultural worker. I say that, knowing its composition. Allegedly, it is a tribunal equally representative of farmers and workers. There are so-called neutral nominations to the board. But the board has always sided in every case with the employer, and the agricultural worker is, therefore, at a definite disadvantage in so far as that board is concerned. Under those circumstances I do not think the board is a fit body to administer this Bill.

I would like some information on other points. The Minister stated that he proposed to introduce a drafting amendment on the Committee Stage in order to clarify the position. He proposes to make it clear that these six days' annual holidays would be in excess of any existing holiday. What then will be the position of the farm workers in County Dublin, County Meath and portions of County Wicklow where the workers already have six days' annual holidays by virtue of trade union agreements as between their unions and the farmers' organisation?

They will remain just as they are.

I was under the impression that these holidays would be in excess of any existing holidays.

Not in excess of holidays begotten of an ordinary contract of service between two trade unions, one representative of the farmers and the other representative of the workers.

These holidays would be in excess of bank holidays.

That is so.

In so far as these particular areas are concerned then this Bill does not represent any improvement. The principle of it is to improve the position of agricultural workers generally. One of the main flaws in it is the question of the holiday period. I do not think it is fair that that should be left to the will of the employer. I am sure many Deputies can visualise the position where agricultural workers may be told in the depths of December or January, or after a snowfall in February, that they can take their holidays then.

Or the six days might be staggered.

I want to see steps taken to safeguard against that eventuality. I think the agricultural worker should have his holidays at the same time as other sections of the community. He has as much right to have his holidays in good weather and under pleasant conditions as has the industrial worker. If no definite period is laid down the bulk of the farm labourers will be told to take their holidays at periods of the year when, in fact, no holidays can be taken. I think it is a bad principle to introduce pay in lieu of holidays. Farmers will take that as an excuse not to give holidays; they will give a week's pay instead.

The Bill is quite clear. That can only be done if the worker and the farmer both agree. There is a danger, is there not, in telling people what is good for them?

Very often there is a danger in telling them what is bad for them.

I think there are limits to which legislation can go.

The idea of pay in lieu being conditional on the worker agreeing is based upon an unrealistic attitude. The results of the operation of the 50-hour week and the 54-hour week are proof of that. In theory, now, an agricultural worker can go to his employer and tell him that he wants to work a 50-hour week and be paid at an hourly rate. I wonder what happens to him if he does that. I wonder what would happen to the agricultural worker if he told his employer he wanted a half-holiday on Saturday. He would get the road, and get it very quickly. There have been many cases of that throughout the country. Agricultural workers are in a subject position. It is blinding one's eyes to facts to suggest that an agricultural worker can discuss either his wages or his conditions, or both, with his employer on equal terms. That can only be done in the very exceptional case where phenomenally good relationships exist as between employers and employees. The farm labourer, in the majority of the cases, is definitely at a disadvantage. Because he has to depend upon his employer for his livelihood he cannot bargain with him on an equal basis. We should write into this Bill and put on the Statute Book for all time certain minimum rights for agricultural workers.

A further fault which I find with the Bill is the idea of staggering the holidays. That also can lead to abuse. The farm worker is entitled to have six days' consecutive holidays just as well as any other worker. As I have said, I propose to try to achieve certain improvements for the agricultural workers on the Committee Stage of the Bill. We shall, I assume, have a more suitable opportunity of discussing the details of the Bill on that occasion.

The Minister, in the course of his opening remarks, also referred to the fact that agricultural workers' wages had increased by 20 per cent. within two years and that at the present time the minimum rate for agricultural workers is £3. That gives me an opportunity of saying that while getting the acceptance in the Parliament of the country of the principle of annual holidays for agricultural workers is good, at the same time annual holidays on the basis of a £3 per week wage are of very little use.

Hear, hear.

I am glad to hear Deputy Corry backing me up in that. I am sure that Deputy Corry himself takes the opportunity of paying more than the minimum wage. I do not hear any information on that.

The Deputy knows, of course, that it is outside the scope of this Bill.

I think it is very relevant, at the same time.

I do not think so. I do not think a discussion an agricultural wages could arise on this measure.

Well, I am merely referring to the subject of agricultural wages in the same way as the Minister has done. I want to make the point that it is of very little use to take these steps unless we can secure machinery whereby holidays will be worth while for agricultural workers.

Generally speaking, I look upon this Bill as the first step along the road towards a better life for the farm labourer. It has seemed to me, from the moment I entered this House, that it is largely representative of agricultural employers. That is not an unnatural state of affairs particularly as we are a nation composed chiefly of small farmers. One of the greatest Irish writers on questions relating to agricultural problems, James Connolly, said many years ago that while the condition of the Irish farmer was depressed and while the Irish farmer could be said to be, at that time at any rate, a slave, the agricultural labourer was the slave of the slave. I wonder how far we have progressed from that day to this—personally, I believe very little. Again, I want to reiterate that I welcome this Bill as an initial step along the road towards a better life for the farm labourers of Ireland.

I am glad that this Bill has been introduced. However, I would welcome far more a Bill in this House which would have to carry another Bill with it—a Bill that would bring agricultural labourers' wages somewhere in the vicinity of the wages paid to other unskilled labour in this country.

Hear, hear. What is lower?

Twenty-one shillings a week was the wage.

I am comparing the wages paid in agriculture with the wages paid in my district at present. I know one farmer who had three men and he went out last Sunday morning and found he had not one.

The Deputy may not initiate a debate on agricultural wages.

I do not wish to debate agricultural wages, as such. However, I say that the position of the labourer, as Deputy Dunne has said and there is a lot to be said for it, is still unsatisfactory. I take it that the ordinary labourer down the country now— that is, the indoor man—receives £3 per week. If he gets a week's holidays with pay where is he going to go with his £3? If he goes into the City of Cork he will come out of it in two days and he will spend the remaining days of his week's holidays in the county home. It is just as well to be straight and honest on that.

He would get a rest anyhow.

That is what this Bill proposes. I welcome some step in that direction. However, there is very little use in talking about the agricultural labourer and about better days for the agricultural labourer. In the past two years something like 21,000 of them have cleared out.

Why? Is it not because of the conditions?

Because of the conditions under which they live——

——and of the wage their employer is capable of paying them.

The Deputy has not yet come to this Bill. He had better do so.

We have had a very rousing picture from the Minister as to the improvement in agricultural conditions. I know Deputies over there who were very vocal here two and a half years ago—very vocal—on the price of milk, on the price of beet, on the price of oats and on the price of everything the farmer was producing. They were very vocal on the uneconomic prices the farmer was getting for his produce. If an uneconomic price was being paid to the farmer then, what is his position now? The Minister for Agriculture and I discussed the condition of the unfortunate man in West Cork. There has been an enormous improvement in his position since the day he had the happiness of having Mr. James Dillon as Minister for Agriculture—a very happy improvement in his condition. There was also, then, a very happy improvement in the case of the man with the bacon——

Hear, hear!

——and in the case of the poultry keeper——

Hear, hear!

——and even the old hen.

Thegallina reterascens.

You have an increase on the one hand in rates. You have an increase in wages. You have an increase in machinery costs. You have an increase in these three items since 1947—and a pretty hefty increase it is. What, on the other hand, have you got in the way of improvement, as a farmer? A better price for your milk? No. Milk is the same price as it was in 1947, despite the fact that it was robbing the farmers then. Beet? I admit that the Minister for Agriculture told us in this House on one occasion that beet had gone up the spout after peat and wheat.

On a point of order. Surely Deputy Corry's remarks have no relevance to the question under discussion? Deputy Corry is taking a holiday from the measure.

I am talking now——

Deputy Corry is, to a large extent, in order. The Minister gave the export value of agricultural produce. The Deputy is trying to prove that the farmer has not got that increase.

Hear, hear.

It strikes me that the Deputy is taking a contrary argument.

I wonder what kind of holiday the 1,800 to 2,000 agricultural labourers, who are now looking in over the fence at the grass growing where the 15,000 acres of beet were growing two years ago, expect to get? Mind you, the reduction of 15,000 acres in the area under beet means the unemployment of something like 1,500 to 2,000 labourers who had constant employment in agricultural work before. You can work out the number of hours for yourself. The Minister had the pleasure of having the hours and the costings made out for him. That is why I say there is unfortunately very little use in introducing an Agricultural Labourers' Holiday Bill for labourers who will not be there. You may get a drowning man to struggle against the stream for some time. He is able to resist at first but eventually he has to submit to superior force. That is what is happening agriculture to-day. The employment is not there. The farmer finds that he is getting the same price for some of his produce as he got two years ago. For more of it, he finds that he has no market. This time two years ago we were appealing to the Minister to find some market for the farmers' oats.

And to-day we have to buy our oats from France.

The Minister had to be sent on a holiday to America in order to enable a Deputy Minister for Agriculture to come in and get a market for the oats.

That is the kind of talk that has us buying oats from France to-day.

The Deputy is now endeavouring to debate the whole policy of the Department.

I am talking of the position in which the farmer found himself after being told by the Minister to grow an oats crop. The farmer grew the oats and the oats were left there that year to fatten the rats——

That is the kind of talk that has us buying our oats in the Argentine and France.

——with the result that the farmer found he burned his fingers that year. His annuities and his rates were unpaid because he had no market for his oats. He avoided the oats the following year with the result that the Minister now has to bring oats from the Argentine and France.

What has this to do with the Holidays Bill?

There is very little good talking about holidays when you have not anybody to give them to. I maintain that the attitude that has been adopted towards agriculture has created a position in which talk of holidays for agricultural labourers is going to be of very little use.

It is a bitter pill.

The Deputy made a statement a while ago in connection with the bulk of the farmers of this country with which I, for one, could not agree for one moment. I have found the farmers in my constituency, farmers who would not touch him with a forty-foot pole, to be decent men who treat their labourers decently. So do the bulk of the farmers in this country. The only place in which there is any trouble between farmers and farm labourers appears to be those places where Deputy Dunne gets around on Sunday after Mass.

That is a good many places.

I think the countryside would be much better off without the atmosphere which he leaves behind him. If Deputy Dunne would come down to my farm, he will find that the labourers there have been with me anything from seven years, which is the shortest period, to 18 years.

A Chinn Chomhairle, I think on a previous occasion you ruled that the domestic affairs of Deputies addressing the House and Deputies present in the House should not be made the subject of debate.

Deputy Dunne should not be made the subject of the debate in any case.

I am referring to a question asked by Deputy Dunne a short time ago. The Minister should be the last to adopt the line he has taken since a little conversation we had about lime at one time. That was introduced here by him.

It was not quick lime the Deputy was talking about?

I should not like to see the Minister getting into quick lime, but he got into burnt lime then and he was stuck in it. To get back to this question of holidays, I suggest that there should be no hard and fast rule. Deputy Dunne has alluded already to holidays enjoyed by the agricultural labourer under custom or in some other way. Some farmers have had a system of giving staggered holidays. I consider that the staggered holiday, which every decent farmer—and that is the bulk of them—already gives is the best plan. I know very well what happens in my own case. One of my men may come to me and say that he would like to go to Ballinray Races, that he would like to take the day off and he is given the day off.

In the following week another man comes to me and says that he would like to go to Pigeon Hill races and he gets the day off for that purpose. Another worker would rather some other form of amusement and he gets a day off when he asks for it for that purpose. I have never seen any objection to that practice between any decent farmer and a labourer. It has been customary to give such days off. It may be rather a surprise to Deputy Dunne, but it is quite a customary thing right throughout the country, so far as my knowledge goes, and I have travelled over several counties. That is why I think that there is some justification for the statement of Deputy Smith that the less interference there is between the farmer and his labourers the better for everybody concerned. I admit that there may be a small number of farmers of the type to which Deputy Dunne alluded, the fellow who goes out and says: "Look, I have a patch on the knee of my trousers, but thank God the man who works for me has a patch on each knee and a patch on his back too." However, they are a very small minority and labourers were always fairly well treated, so far as days off were concerned, with the exception of a period when there was a definite campaign waged in this country against the agricultural labourer, which could have been called a political campaign, and which induced the then Fianna Fáil Government to bring in the Agricultural Wages Bill. I am one of those who first advocated bringing in that Bill.

This holiday question must be put definitely on the basis of how many holidays a man is entitled to at present. Are those six days six in addition to that or not? Many Deputies here, though born and bred in the country, do not understand it. I heard Deputy Hickey alluding to bank holidays. I never heard farm labourers talk of getting bank holidays. They would not take them if they got a present of them.

Are they not as entitled to them as any other people in Ireland?

He would not take them, because there are more holidays of obligation than bank holidays and he takes the holidays of obligation in preference.

That is all right; no one objects to that.

Why not both?

I am giving Deputies the information that no agricultural labourer, to my knowledge, would take a present of the bank holidays, because the holidays of obligation are more numerous than the bank holidays and they take them.

They take both, in this county.

I would like to have Deputy Dunne elaborate that.

I can show the Deputy any time.

Some other time. There will be other opportunities to have this thrashed out. I am dealing only with the position in Cork County. That is the position there. Can we have something definite from the Minister? First of all he should set out that the labourer would, in the ordinary course, be entitled to the holidays of obligation and on top of that he would get six days' holidays with pay.

That is the clear purpose of the Bill.

I would like the Minister also to take steps to see that the man who is going to pay for this will get at least some increase in the price of his produce, to make up for his worsening condition financially to-day as compared with two years ago. That is not an unfair request. I quite admit that 1/- a week would not break him, neither would these six days. What is going to break him and mean increased unemployment on the land is the uncertainty of the farmer's position to-day. He can rely no longer on any statement made by the Minister as to what the price of his produce is going to be. He is completely at sea. He does no know where he is. The Minister will say he is a lazy fellow or he would have got so much a lb. for his old hens. The next day the Minister will turn on Deputy Lehane, Deputy Cogan and Deputy O'Reilly and shove it down their throats that the curer is paying 190/- for pigs, whereas the price is only 170/-.

The Deputy is travelling a good way from the Bill. This is a Bill to provide holidays for agricultural workers. We cannot ramble over the whole economy of the farm.

Might I point out that the Minister, in his opening statement, dealt with the increased prosperity of the farmer and his better ability to pay?

If the Minister was at fault, I am sure the Deputy does not want to follow the bad example.

Only in so far as it can be taken as friendly advice to the Minister as to the lines he should follow. However, we will have another opportunity and I do not wish to delay the House. I emphasise again that for anything produced by the farmer to-day the price has not improved one iota from the 1947 price; but the farmer's costs of production have been increased and the burden being placed on him has led to the disappearance off the land of something like 21,000, whether they be farmers' sons or unpaid labourers, in the past two years.

They got better jobs.

I would make Deputy Dunne a present of this, that any job is a better job than that of an agricultural labourer to-day—and there is only one man worse than that, the unfortunate fool of a farmer who is trying to pay him.

I make no apology for intervening briefly in this debate, although I represent a constituency which contains neither farmers nor farm labourers. I welcome this Bill, and Clann na Poblachta welcomes it, as a step in the right direction. When Deputy Corry started to enlighten the House, he told us that he welcomed the Bill, but then he spent approximately 40 minutes in trying to show us that the Bill was a bad one, impossible of implementation and creating a hardship on farmer and farm labourer alike. The burden of Deputy Corry's song was that the poor farmer was not in a position to let the farm labourer have these holidays. I do not think that is borne out by the facts. I do not think that it is a view which Deputy Corry could genuinely express, if he had sat down with the undoubted acumen that he brings to every question and given it that mature consideration which is undoubtedly his wont.

Deputy Corry knows as well as every other Deputy that if there was ever a time when farmers were in a position to make this provision for those they employ, it is the present time. I welcome this Bill, not that I think the Bill in itself represents any very wonderful achievement, but because it is a recognition of an important principle and that the rights of this body of workers are, at last, going to receive some consideration from this House.

Up to recent times the farm labourer was a member of the most depressed class of workers. It took the beginning of a revolution, in 1913, for Connolly and Larkin to win for the workers of the cities recognition of the fact that they were not mere slaves. There was a time lag in so far as agricultural workers were concerned and it is only in very recent times that the community is realising that they, too, have rights.

I was amazed to hear Deputy Corry —with whom I very frequently find myself in agreement because I consider his outlook on many questions a sound outlook—displaying the attitude of resentment that one would have expected from a Dublin employer in 1913 to the fact that farm workers were at last being organised. I was amazed at that attitude of mind on the part of Deputy Corry. The attitude of a Deputy or of a Party to this Bill is a test of faith and sincerity. A lot of lip service is given to what are described as democratic principles and even Christian principles. The attitude of a farmer who employs labour to a measure such as this is a test of the sincerity of his attachment to those principles.

Much of the time of this House is devoted, and rightly so, to the problems of the agricultural community. That is only right, inasmuch as agriculture is our primary industry. But, why is it necessary for the farmer who speaks as a political farmer, as a professional farmer or as the representative of organised farmers, continually to have a chip on his shoulder?

This Bill recognises an important principle. For that reason, we welcome it. It is important in this respect also, that it is a step towards recognition of the fact that the agricultural labourer is a highly skilled technician. It is because recognition of that fact has been withheld in the past that there was the flight from the land. I cannot understand the attitude of some representatives of the agricultural community. On one hand we hear complaints as to the difficulty in getting labour and that dairy herds have had to be reduced. We have heard these complaints. The Minister may not have heard them.

Did you hear the figures I read out?

I heard the Minister's figures but I have also heard the complaints and I think the Minister heard them also. There can be very little sincerity in these complaints when, from the very same people, comes criticism of any effort to entice these highly skilled technicians to remain on the land and to perform the highly skilled work they are employed to do. If there has been a flight from the land to the cities and to England, it has been due to one fact, that conditions and wages for the agricultural labourer were so unattractive as compared with what was available elsewhere that, naturally, exercising his right as a free born individual, he decided to sling his hook.

I will give one counsel to the Minister, in conclusion, that is, that he would lend an ear to the advice given to him by Deputy Dunne and, I think, by Deputy Larkin also, that he would accept an amendment which would make it mandatory on the farmer, without reference to this question of the worker's agreement, to accord to the labourer six days' consecutive holidays. I think the Minister interposed a remark at that stage that it was not always wise to tell people what was good for them. I do not know what substance there is in that but I do think that this is one case when it would be wise to legislate so that people could be prevented from doing what is not good for them.

For themselves?

Even for themselves.

I believe people have the right to do wrong, politically.

Nobody has a better right to believe it than the Minister.

I would urge on the Minister that he would reconsider his decision in that respect because, if he does not, I apprehend that the situation that has been outlined to him will be brought about. The labourer will be told: "Yes, you are entitled to this. It is your statutory right but, of course, if you insist on that, I will not take any action against you." Not this week but next week he will get the road. I would strongly urge the Minister to reconsider his attitude on that matter. I welcome the Bill. It is a step in the right direction.

I will be brief. I merely want to correct what I believe to be a misinterpretation of Deputy Corry's viewpoint. This Bill, as I see it, is merely putting into legislative form a system that in a great measure already obtains. It certainly obtains in Deputy Corry's constituency and also in mine. Maybe Deputy Lehane is right about giving labourers six consecutive days' holidays. I know I cannot utilise a holiday in so far as it means a mere cessation from work. If I get a holiday that I want to utilise properly, it must be directed to some particular activity. Deputy Corry's explanation of labourers in his constituency who get days off to attend particular functions or amusements is an indication of a far better system of relaxation for the labourer.

Several Deputies have stated that agricultural labourers are a depressed class. That is true. They are the most depressed class in the country, and when Deputy Dunne is urging, as he has been urging, special terms for forestry workers as against agricultural labourers, instead of raising one particular class he is, I think, trying to depress another, even where the farmers are not as enlightened as they are in my constituency and Deputy Corry's, and have been unused to giving holidays such as our farmers give. I am all the more moved to support the Bill in view of the fact that I heard Deputy Fagan say here the other night that all the County Limerick farmers are getting £51 per cow per year for milk and £9 for a dropped calf. That is a condition that I hope is true. If it is true, there is all the more reason for giving the labourer a holiday.

I am pleased that the Minister is giving the recognition that is long due to agricultural workers by bringing in this Bill. I am indeed surprised at the attitude taken up by some Deputies. A man would not be honest with himself if he did not admit that now and up to now the farmers and their labourers are the hardest worked people and the worst paid for the work they have been doing. The times have changed and because they have changed it is only fair that the Minister should bring in this Bill, thus showing recognition for a class that has been really depressed for many years.

I would like to emphasise one point in regard to holidays. By asking for a week's holidays for any worker it is intended to give him a rest from labour, to give him an opportunity of having a quiet week when he can take his wife and family anywhere he wants to take them, to refrain from work for that week. I would not like to see the principle of a week's holiday being abused in the manner suggested by Deputy Moylan or Deputy Corry— allowing a man to go, for instance, to a race meeting on a particular day or giving the day off for any other type of function. Deputy Corry may suggest that some people do not know what they are talking about, but there are different aspects to this question. Every worker in this country and in other countries has six bank holidays in the year. If the agricultural worker takes a Church holiday in lieu of these holidays I am not objecting. He is certainly entitled to his bank holidays just the same as any other worker.

I would not agree that the Minister should leave this an open matter, that it should be by mutual agreement, that the labourer and the farmer would agree to a week's wages in lieu of a week's holidays. The Holiday Act was passed in 1936 and it is set out in that Act that a man should get a week's holidays and must take the week's holidays and if he is found to be employed during that week he can be fined and so can his employer.

Is not that a great scandal?

It is good enough to pay a man for 52 weeks of the year without having to pay him for 53 weeks in the manner that you and other Deputies in the House are suggesting.

What about overtime?

That is not dealt with in the Bill and therefore I will not refer to it. It is quite possible that a certain farmer might say: "Maybe the week after Christmas would be more suitable for you to take holidays and you better take your holidays then." I am quite conscious that you could not get the farmer to allow the labourer to take his holidays in the busy period in the spring and during the harvest. There is an agreement with certain employers that the holidays should operate from April 1st to October 1st. That gives a pretty good margin in which to arrange for holidays. There is nothing wrong in farmers agreeing to let their workers have a week's holiday in May or June or towards the end of September. The worker will have some satisfaction then and he will enjoy his rest in reasonably good weather.

I want to put this holiday question on a different plane. I do not think it has been properly treated by some Deputies to-night. There are some farmers who treat their workers as they should treat them, but I would be dishonest with myself if I did not say that I have never yet seen a farmer giving his worker a week's holiday, although one would be inclined to think, from what some Deputies have said, that the workers get all the holidays they want. That is not so. Take the average farmer who employs two, three or four workmen. There should be no difficulty in arranging in May, June or September to give these men an opportunity of taking holidays.

Deputy Corry asked what does any labouring man want a holiday for because he has only £3 a week. Any person should be ashamed to make such a statement. Why should not an agricultural labourer get holidays the same as other people? I will refer Deputies to county council employees on the roads who have £3 a week and who get holidays. We do not hear anybody saying that these labourers should have broken periods or that their holidays should be staggered. I suggest that the Minister should establish the right for agricultural workers so that they can enjoy a week's rest and take their wives and families to their friends or to any other place that suits them. Those men are fully entitled to a week off. I do not see any great difficulty in giving holidays to them over a period of months, say from April to September.

Many aspects of this matter have been introduced and we have heard Deputies saying that the farmers give a day off to their men to attend certain functions. These men are fully entitled to that if we are genuinely interested in the people who really matter. These are the men who produce the food for the nation. They should have an occasional day off. Let them enjoy the bank holiday. If it is a Church holiday this type of worker is entitled to get it. He is entitled to these holidays plus his six consecutive days as embodied in this Bill and I hope the Minister will be adamant in seeing that carried into effect.

I will not keep the Minister more than a minute. I merely want to welcome this measure as other Deputies have done before. I cannot understand how Deputies Moylan and Corry have reached the conclusion that this measure is only putting on paper what already exists in their constituencies. It is an extraordinary thing that Utopia exists in Deputy Moylan's and Deputy Corry's constituencies.

It does not.

Twice within the past two years I have seen personally young men from Connemara coming into Galway City and lining up against the railings at Eyre Square on what are known as "hiring days". They were vetted and examined by farmers from other areas and picked in the same way as you would pick cattle or bullocks at a fair. They picked them to work for two, three or four weeks for whatever wage the farmers felt like giving them.

I was present myself and saw it happen.

It does not come into this Bill.

This Bill will help to remedy that position. It is too bad to see Deputies getting up here and saying that there is no need for legislation in connection with the attitude between farmers and farm labourers. It is absolutely necessary to protect the interests of farm labourers as otherwise there are farmers in this country who would not give them a "tosser".

Farm labourers have as much right to annual holidays as any other section of the community and despite what Deputy McQuillan says they get them except in very rare cases. My fear is that this Bill will worsen their position. It prescribes six days' holidays in the year. In very many instances in County Galway when labourers are employed for the whole year round—and that is what I term real employment—they take 12 days and are paid for them instead of six. In regard to the question of vetting the men who come to Athenry or Galway City from Connemara, they come in there and offer themselves for employment and the wage paid in the Athenry district of County Galway is the highest agricultural wage in Ireland or in the world.

It does not arise.

I am only answering a point that was made.

They can sleep in the stable too.

The Minister was in a hurry to get away as usual. He would not be in much hurry to go if he wanted to intervene in a debate without hearing it introduced as he did the other night and treated us to a lecture. Section 3, sub-section (5) reads:—

"Subject to the other provisions of this section, the worker and his employer may make such arrangements as they think fit for the allowance of holidays."

There is nothing at all wrong with that, but Section 6 (b) reads:—

"It shall be a good defence to a prosecution under this sub-section for the employer to prove that he was rendered unable to allow the holidays by reason of termination of the worker's employment in circumstances which he could not reasonably have anticipated."

In that case I wonder shall it be necessary for the employer and the employee to have a written agreement drawn up at the beginning of each working year? If an agreement is not drawn up I can see a danger, but I would say that the number of cases would be very small.

If the employer mentions to the employee: "What about the question of holidays? When does it suit you to take them? Would it suit you to take a day every two months or six days together?" The employee says: "I will take no holidays at all; I will stay on working." The employer says: "All right, I will pay you what is set out in the Act." However, strained relations might arise between them subsequent to that and if the employee reports the employer and states that he was not given holidays what proof will be necessary for the employer? Will it not be necessary for him to have a written agreement? Such agreements were not necessary except in very rare cases in the past, and I really fear that as a result of this legislation a number of agricultural labourers in many parts of the country will fare worse than at the present time. I agree, however, that the principle of the Bill is a good sound one because agricultural labourers are just as entitled to holidays as any other section of the community.

I wish to welcome this Bill. Coming from a rural area, one of the best agricultural counties in Ireland, I wish to say that this Bill is one of the best Bills ever introduced in this House and that it is long overdue. Undoubtedly, whatever you may say about the Minister for Agriculture, he had courage to come into this House to do something for the agricultural worker. The agricultural workers were praised by everybody during the emergency as the men who were keeping the nation going and producing the food, but now the Deputies in the Opposition are saying that they will be worse off. I cannot see that. I was employed in an industry for 25 years and I was always glad when summer came along to get a week's holiday. I had not the money to go to Butlin's Camp or these places, but I had a holiday to rest and lie down in the sun at the foot of Vinegar Hill.

Workers in my constituency will welcome this Bill with bonfires. I hear some people talking about farmers giving a man a day off to go to the races. I have a fair amount of relations who are farm workers, and I know what happened in one area during the local race meeting. I am quoting this to offset what has been said by Deputy Corry and the others. Five or six men were in a field working and they said they would like to go to the local race meeting at Killan. One took his courage in his hands and went to the boss and said: "Sir, we would all like to go to the races to-day." What did he say? "If you go to the races to-day I do not want you to-morrow." That happened. The young fellow took courage and went to the races, but the married men, who were afraid they would be sacked, remained at work. The boss is a very big supporter of Fianna Fáil in my constituency. He has a big salary from the Central Bank. What did he say to the young fellow when he came in the following morning? He asked him: "Where were you yesterday?" The young fellow replied that he was at the races, and he was then told: "You can go to them again to-day."

Deputy Corry wants to know where the men would go on holidays? The agricultural rate of wages in my constituency is £3 a week. That is also the wage of road workers and they get a week's holiday. The men working inside the ditch, on the land, have been denied a holiday by a native Government. That went on during the 16 years when the last Government was in office, although they boast here of what they did for the workers. I know that this Bill is the greatest blow that the Opposition ever got. We now have a Minister for Agriculture who has the courage to give the workers a holiday. When we had a Minister for Agriculture from the County Wexford he never offered a holiday to the agricultural labourers.

He introduced the Agricultural Wages Act.

Forget about that. There are people on that board who are not fit to be on it. If they were fit they would not fix £3 a week to the agricultural labourer or say that it was enough to give him.

This is a Bill for holidays.

Yes, and it is welcome. It is long overdue. From now on the agricultural labourer will be able to have his week's holiday with pay. We want that made compulsory in the Bill. An agreement between employers and workers about holidays could be evaded. I know from experience that, although the wage for agricultural labourers is fixed by law, there are some employers to-day who are not paying it. We all have seen cases in court of farmers being prosecuted for not paying the wages laid down by law. I am afraid that the same thing will happen if this question of holidays is left to an agreement between the employers and workers. The worker will not get the holidays that he is entitled to in some cases. I would like to see the Minister guarantee in the Bill that the agricultural worker will get his week's holidays.

In my constituency, in the diocese of Ferns, all Church holidays are observed by the people. We do not recognise the bank holidays, but we do observe Catholic holidays. I think it would be a great thing if the Church holidays were observed, as we observe them in Wexford, throughout the Twenty-Six Counties. If that were done we would be doing our duty to the nation and to the Church to which we belong.

Coming as I do from a constituency in which the majority of the agricultural workers are migratory labourers I welcome this Bill. I agree with Deputy Lehane when he says that the present Minister for Agriculture is doing for the agricultural worker what Connolly and Larkin endeavoured to do in 1913 for the city worker. I think there is a lot to be said for Deputy Hickey's suggestion that there should be a time limit within which the holidays should be granted to these workers. I think the time suggested by him, namely, the 1st April to the 1st October would be very fair to the agricultural worker. It would prevent abuses such as Deputy Hickey visualises when he says that during the slack period, in the months of, say, November or February, it might be suggested to these workers that this would be the appropriate time for them to take their holidays. If such an abuse should occur, it would mean a denial to those men of the right to be able to go to the seaside or to visit their friends in some part of the country during what is customarily the holiday season. They should not be left in the position of having to take their holidays during months when the weather would not be suitable. I welcome the Bill. I think that the Minister for Agriculture has now tried to do for the agricultural labourer what he has done for the farmer in the last two years.

My approach to this Bill is that it is a very poor industry that cannot afford a week's holidays to its workers. It is a disgrace that the agricultural worker is the only worker in any industry in this country who has not already got a right to a holiday. It is a concession that he should get. It is agreed by everybody that the agricultural worker is the most important unit in the community and, as I say, it is a poor industry that cannot afford a holiday to its workers.

The Minister, in his opening remarks, quoted figures to show that the agricultural industry is in a position to give a week's holiday to its employees. He based his assumption on the increased value of agricultural exports in the past year as compared with 1947. Few, I think, will deny that there was a vast increase in agricultural exports last year. Few also will deny that there has been a big increase in the imports of agricultural requirements.

Further, few I think will deny that owing to the climatic conditions which existed in the country in 1947 we had probably in that year the lowest output of agricultural produce in history. If we take the increased value of agricultural produce exported in 1949 as an indication of the ability of agricultural employers to give this small concession to their workers, and if, in the following year, or in some other year due to climatic or other conditions, there is a drop in agricultural exports, are we then to say that that is evidence of the inability of the industry to give this small concession, or to maintain the miserable wage of £3 a week which the agricultural labourer is getting? If, in the coming year, we find that there is a reduction in our exports of eggs and poultry, is that to be taken as a criterion of the ability of the farming community to pay for the week's holiday?

We had an indication last week that there was a drop in the number of day-old chicks in the months of December and January as compared to a year ago. I hope that reduction will be overtaken in the months ahead, but nevertheless it is a pointer that agricutural exports may dwindle. If we do not export as much potatoes in the present year as we did last year, is that to be taken as evidence of the inability of the agricultural industry to afford this small concession? I think we can fairly make up our minds that there will not be since the Minister for Agriculture has said that he may have to import potatoes from Amsterdam. I move the adjournment of the debate.

Debate adjourned.