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.