Agricultural Workers (Holidays) Bill, 1949—Committee and Final Stages (Resumed).


I move amendment No. 5:—

To delete sub-section (4) and substitute the following:—

Sundays and such half-holidays, Church holidays and public holidays as may be allowed to the worker by arrangement with his employer shall not be reckoned as holidays for the purposes of this Act.

This amendment is for the purpose of removing any ambiguity that might arise and to provide that if an agricultural worker has habitually received certain holidays, these holidays will not now be described as the six statutory holidays which he is to receive under this Bill.

It seems to me that both this amendment and the sub-section which it proposes to substitute are entirely unnecessary. Section 3 provides that the agricultural worker shall have an annual holiday consisting of six consecutive working days. There does not seem to be any reason why anybody should construe six Sundays or six half-holidays or six holydays to be six consecutive working days. Therefore, I think that that sub-section is unnecessary.

I introduced the amendment in the form in which it is introduced because somebody expressed solicitude lest the section required clarification. I bring in the amendment to make the clarification. I do not give a fiddle-de-dee whether the amendment is put in or not. I offer it to the House to meet the wishes of Deputies as expressed on the Second Stage. If the House does not want it they need not take it and if they do want it they are heartily welcome to it. What more can I do?

I submit that there is a need for it in this way. If an agricultural worker at the present time enjoys a holiday on a bank holiday or on a Church holiday and if the employer proposes to give him his week's holidays in the week in which that very holiday falls, he will not be getting anything beyond five extra days; he will not be getting the six required by this Bill. Therefore, it is necessary to make sure that he will get his six additional days.

Well, if it does no good, it can do no harm.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 6:—

To delete sub-section (7).

The sub-section which I propose to delete reads:—

"Where a worker, instead of taking holidays which he is to be allowed under this section, remains at work with his employer's consent, the employer shall be deemed to have allowed the holidays to the worker if he pays him holiday remuneration in respect of them, in addition to wages."

I think this sub-section is liable to vitiate the whole Bill. The purpose of the Bill is to provide farm labourers with much needed holidays, but in this sub-section there is the danger that a custom may arise whereby, instead of being allowed holidays, the agricultural worker may be paid what is termed holiday money instead. With the passage of time, there is the further danger that even the payment of holiday money may fall into disuse and stop. In fact, it is quite certain that advantage will be taken of the sub-section by employers who have not very much scruple in regard to the treatment of their workers; they will take advantage of it to evade their responsibilities. They will hold out promise of payment in lieu of holidays to the workers and will not pay at all.

We feel the Minister should accept this suggestion, that the sub-section weakens the Bill inasmuch as it allows an avenue of escape for unscrupulous employers and will enable them to deprive their workers of what they would be normally entitled to under the legislation, and that is six days' holidays. The principle of the sub-section is bad. In a holidays Bill there should be no ambiguity. It is intended in this Bill to provide the workers annually with holidays on six consecutive days. The sub-section provides that the employer may make payment in lieu. We consider that a very bad thing. We do not think there should be any alternative left to the employer. It may be that many employers will operate this sub-section in the spirit in which it is intended, but there is a danger, indeed a certainty, that a number of them will take advantage of the sub-section to avoid giving any holidays, and there is further a strong danger that the worker might not even be paid in lieu of his holidays.

I ask Deputy Dunne not to press the amendment for this reason: I do not think it is a good principle for Oireachtas Eireann to tell the people habitually what is good for them. The very essence of freedom is that each one of us may dree his weird according to his own preference, provided he does not trespass on his neighbour's rights. Sometimes it may be desirable to limit a man's or a woman's freedom to dispose of private property so as to ensure that a capricious use of that private property will not seriously injure a neighbour's rights. Subject to that, it seems to me outside the province of Oireachtas Éireann to tell a man that he must go away on his holidays even if he does not want to. I quite agree with Deputy Dunne that you must take effective precautions to ensure that when that choice falls to be made by the working man it will be truly a free choice and not only nominally a free choice.

The evil that Deputy Dunne envisages is that in practice the freedom of choice will be destroyed and the working man will be told tacitly that he had better not go away on his holidays and, that having been established, the next step will be that the working man will be told tacitly that he had better not look for holiday pay in addition to the week's wages he has already got.

Deputy Dunne and I and most other Christian men in this country were brought up to believe that one of the sins crying to heaven for vengeance was to deprive a labourer of his hire. I am not prepared to accept as a tenable hypothesis that ordinary men who are employing their neighbours are coldly and deliberately going to damn their souls for the purpose of defrauding a workman of one week's holiday pay, with the knowledge that unless and until they make restitution of that week's pay that they have stolen, there is no absolution available to them. If you steal your neighbour's property, not only must you repent your act, but you must restore what you have stolen. But if, in addition to stealing a workman's wages, you withhold from him what is his due, the sin is far greater.

Are we in this House to legislate on the assumption that the higher law has ceased to be effective amongst our people and that we are blandly to substitute for it the vigilance of the Agricultural Wages Board, in the belief that their activities are much more likely to secure compliance? I do not accept the suggestion that the express law of God has ceased to be effective.

I do say that it is quite possible that an ignorant man might fall into the design that has occurred to Deputy Dunne's mind as a possibility. I admit that there might be individual cases of that type, that an ignorant man might lose sight of the fact that he owed his workman a week's holiday pay and that in withholding it he was sinning against justice. If that should arise, the Agricultural Wages Board is there to remind him of his duty and if they should falter there is the trade union movement. I do not want to see the trade union movement supplanted by the Legislature. In every decent free democracy in the world, there is not only room for, but need for, an honestly operated autonomous trade union movement which will say to the Legislature: "There are certain spheres of economic activity into which we do not ask the Legislature to enter at all. Our raison d'être is to be there as a bargaining organisation for employed men.”

By and large, if a working man is unable to get fair treatment from his employer, it works best that, instead of rushing off to the Gardaí and bringing into operation the statute law, he should go to his trade union branch secretary and ask him to direct the attention of the employer to the terms of the contract of employment, and in a friendly, neighbourly way, the worker can bargain with him. I do not believe that we are dealing with a state of class war. I know there are short-tempered farmers, short-tempered agricultural workers and short-tempered trade union officials; but, if there are, there are commonsensical men in each of these categories too. If you bring an individual citizen into headlong collision with the panoply of the State, the proceedings may terminate in the police court. Common sense suggests that, instead of resorting to that extreme procedure, the trade union official can go and have a roaring row with a farmer, and if the farmer kicks him off the premises his colleague, another trade union official, can go to the farmer and say: "Do not mind that fellow; he is daft, and it was good time you kicked him off the premises," and he can settle it up in two ticks by acting reasonably. If it is the farmer who is the unreasonable party, the man can return and say: "Look, no one wants fight; but if you try to throw me off, you can do so, but you will not throw off the Agricultural Wages Board. I want to get this matter settled up without any threats or fighting, but the Act is there, and if you want to act unreasonably and refuse to discuss the matter with anybody, the resources of civilisation are not exhausted."

I would prefer that the powers of this Act never had to be used. I do not want to believe that there are a dozen farmers in Ireland who, if their attention is drawn to the fact that to withhold an agricultural worker's wages in this context infringes, the obligation to pay the labourer his hire, would hesitate for one moment to pay over what is due. I will not subscribe to the doctrine that that is true, and for that reason I will ask Deputy Dunne on this occasion not to take so disillusioned a view of his own neighbours but to assume with me, until the contrary is proved, that our people have still sufficient respect for a higher law as to make it certain that it is unecessary to butterss that higher law up with the Agriculture Wages Board or the pious resolutions of Oireachtas Éireann.

Restitution or damnation.

That is what I was taught from the penny Catechism.

The Minister has dealt exhaustively and devastatingly with a whole lot of arguments that Deputy Dunne did not make. I would appeal to the Minister to reconsider his decision about the amendment for this reason. This legislation creates a new situation, and it will require a new approach by farmers. There are many farmers who will bristle a little at the very idea enshrined in this Bill. I think Deputy Dunne is unduly pessimistic in thinking there will be any effort made by farmers to pocket the holiday money that should be paid in lieu of the holiday period not given; but I do think—and here I join issue with the Minister—that it is the function of this House to encourage people to act in their own interest. I believe it is not in the interest of farm labourers or any other class of workers willingly to deprive themselves of an annual rest, even so to deprive themselves with a view to augmenting their annual income to the extent of the week's pay. I do not think the Minister should encourage that attitude.

The Legislature could, quite properly, coerce people into acting in their own interest. I know the Minister disagress fundamentally with that philosophy, but, be that as it may, I would ask him to remember that this measure will create a new situation. Our farming community are not the least conservative element of our population. I believe that Deputy Dunne is right in apprechending that there would be among farmers a desire to say: "Well, I will pay you the extra week's wages, but do not go off on this new-fangled holiday idea." If that developed, it could be bad. I do not think it should be encouraged and if Deputy Dunne's amendment precludes that situation arising, it is a good one.

It goes much further.

I am not in favour of the amendment for a totally different reason from that given by the Minister, although I agree with a great deal of what he said. From my knowledge of the working of the holidays on the industrial side, it is very often a great benefit to the individual worker that he can elect to take his holidays in the form of money. I do not want to be taken as in favour of that happening, but I would like to put this to the House and to Deputy Dunne. There are certain cases—perhaps through illness, perhaps through dismissal, perhaps through the farmer himself going out of business, or seasonal changes taking place in working —where it may be to the farm worker's advantage to collect his money, say goodbye to the employer and, if he likes, go home and have his holidays. But if you preclude him being paid money in lieu of holidays, there may be occasions on which it will be very much to the detriment of the man himself. That is a side of the question I would like to put before the House. In certain circumstances it would be to a man's advantage to get the money and, in faact, the only way in which he could get that holiday would be if he worked for six months, at the end of which period he would be entitled to half his holiday period. He can go home and, before he gets another job, he is at least assured of being paid for three consecutive days' holidays. If we pass this clause he will not be entitled to get those holidays, and I do not think that is a situation this House would like to see. I mention that matter because it is a fairly common occurrence on the industrial side where men are in a type of employmnet which is not regular throughout the year. It is an advantage to them to enable them to collect their money and then take their holidays; and they do take their holidays, even for a shorter period than six days, and go on excurisons and so on.

It is a grand commentary on our state of civilisation to have such insecurity.

In my view the sub-section is weak. I think it is quite unnecessary for the Minister to legislate in the form he proposes under this Bill. Might I remind him of the fact that the sub-section as it stands is in conflict with existing legislation? Section 11 of the Holidays (Employees) Act, 1939, reads as follows:—

"It shall not be lawful for any industrial worker during any period of annual leave to do for reward any industrial work."

And sub-section (2) specifically lays it down that if an industrial worker in fact acts in contravention of that section he shall be liable to a penalty, in the first case, of a fine not exceeding £10, and on all subsequent occasions to a fine not exceeding £25. The Act of 1939 lays it down that the worker cannot do something we believe to be against his own interests; yet this Bill provides a way out in the contrary direction. I think the section would be excellent without that sub-section. If it becomes evident that there is a tendency as between the employer and the worker to do what it is alleged they will do—that is for the employee to stay on working and get paid for it —I think it would be better to wait until that abuse shows itself to introduce legislation to combat it.

There is one problem that arises under this section in connection with the worker who is living on the farmer's premises. If that man is compelled to take a holiday whether he likes it or not, there is the possibility that his accommodation will be required for a substitute worker and he will thereby be compelled to pay for accommodation out of his weeks's wages. I think his holiday might prove a very slim one as a result of that. I think complete freedom should be given to the worker to choose as between taking payment or taking his holidays.

There was another matter that arose in the discussion on this Bill last week. Some members of the Labour Party pointed out that workers might like to take their week's holidays for the purpose of working for themselves or procuring other employment. That would imply that an agricultural worker has the right to work during his holiday period either for himself or for someone else. That would put his employer in a very absurd position, because the worker would be compelled to leave his employer but would be free to work for someone else in the same locality. It might be possible to obviate the difficulty by making it possible to have an exchange of workers under which farmer A's workers could go to work for farmer B and farmer B's workers could go to work for farmer A. In that way, the Bill, as Deputy Dunne proposes to amend it, would apply and the position would arise that the agricultural worker would still be working the whole year round.

Or he could go to work on the roads.

As one who was a worker for 25 years, I know that the position will arise where, in some cases, the employer will not keep his employees two months because at the end of that period they would normally be entitled to take a day off. The employee would not be kept on that long by the the employer. He would be finished long before seven weeks would be up. He could not go to work for another employer. Deputy Cogan is wrong in that. If a man is on holiday and goes to work, he is liable to be fined and so is his employer. It is no use saying, therefore, that the agricultural worker could work for another farmer. If this is allowed to go through, abuses will creep in because you will have many men who will not take a holiday at all, and many who will not be paid by their employers if that concession is left. The employer will evade his duty and the worker will be unable to say anything about it because he will be afraid. I think it would be better to make the conditions the same as those that obtain where industrial workers are concerned; the holiday must be taken and the worker may not seek other employment during the holiday period. From the point of view of employment, that would be the more satisfacatory position, because then the farmer would be compelled to employ those registered at the labour exchange as substitutes for those workers who are on holidays.

I want to assure the Deputies—and I bespeak this degree of collaboration—that the purpose of the Government in bringing in this Bill is effectively to provide that agricultural workers will get six consecutive days' holidays in the 12 months. Therefore, so far as the Government is concerned, they will see they will get them. I would suggest to Deputies, who are solicitous that the powers taken are insufficient to achieve that purpose, not to assume that the Governemnt would allow the situation to continue if it appeared that abuses of the kind envisaged by the Deputies were beginning to develop and the powers taken under this Bill proved insufficient to abate them. Deputy O'Sullivan mentioned the paralledl of the industrial workers' holidays Act. I can remember the Deputy was a little to the right of where he is now sitting when that Act was passed, and I was still further to the right, and I remember his and my arguing it, indifferent to the views held where I am now standing, as to whether an industrial worker should be prohibited forom participating in any work of an insurable kind during his holiday. I think I carried conviction to Deputy O'Sullivan's mind by putting the case that, if he were spending his holidays ith relatives in the country, it would be a hard thing if a wages board inspector should arrive during the week when he was helping his relatives in the hayfield, and were to ask him if he were getting paid for the work, because if he were, he must drop the hayfork. He eventually agreed to limit the restriction that it was proposed to impose saying that he was not to engage in other work if he was on holidays from industrial work.

As Deputy Cogan has pointed out, when you are dealing with agricultural workers and agricultural conditions you just cannot even attempt meticulous precautions of that kind, because such activities as Deputy Cogan mentioned could be engaged in if there was a conspiracy to defeat the Act by one farmer swopping with his neighbour. Both agricultural workers could have a holiday within the meaning of this Bill, and yet, in fact, the situation sought to be remedied by the deletion of Section 7 could be effectively defeated. If an agricultural worker, Deputy C. Lehane notwithstanding, says, within his heart: "Oireachtas Éireann thinks it is good for me to have a holiday, but Oireachtas Éireann be damned, this is a free country; I am going to get my holiday pay from the farmer and I am going to earn a little on the roadside," I do not know that any legislation which this House can properly pass should deprive him of that freedom. I think if Deputies would look at the matter from my point of view, (1) that from a profound sense of respect for the right of the simplest agricultural worker to run his own life in his own way within the four corners of the law and, (2) from the point of view that the majority of our people, the vast majority of them, have more respect for the law of God than they have for the law of the Oireachtas, they would find there a powerful, irresistible dual argument founded on fundamental principles against this modest amendment.

I ask the Deputies of the Labour Party, at least, to give this a trial. Should any abuses be generated by anybody in this country, the resources of this Oireachtas are equal to dealing with them, but let us not assume that every abuse that it is possible to think of is bound to arise if we do not put handcuffs on every neighbour that we have in this community. I want to put handcuffs on nobody that I can help. If any man in this country can doublecross me once if I have not got the handcuffs ready, and if he tries it a second time, then shift me and find somebody else.

The Minister, I think, has confused some Deputies by his explanatory statement in connection with this amendment. He has painted the Irish farmers and agricultural workers as God-fearing men who would not attempt to do anything worng. He has pointed out that the farmer who would deprive the agricultural worker of his week's holidays would be actually robbing him of a week's pay, and that it would be such a terrible burden on his soul that he could not possibly leave this world in peace, when his turn came to depart to the other one. Unfortunately, for the agricultural workers, they believe that the farmers belong to the employing class, and so they feel that they have to look to the laws which are made for the protection of workers.

Is not the Deputy himself in the employing class?

I have been in both from time to time. At present we are dealing with agricultural employees, and I hope that what I have to put before the Minister will be of help to him. As regards the relations between employers and employees, I have had some considerable experience of them, and I would point out, for the benefit of the Minister—this may seem to be an argument against Deputy Dunne's amendment—that there is another angle to this question. I think there is this point to be considered, that if everyone were as God-fearing and as righteous as the Minister seems to think, it would hardly be necessary for us to be sitting here at all. We would not even want a Government. Everyone would do what was right, and it would not be necessary for us to be making laws, rules and regulations. But unfortunately that is not the position. Human nature being what it is, it is necessary that laws, rules and regulations should be made, and that there should be a Government to control industry, agriculture and every other activity. The Minister has explained that both himself and Deputy O'Sullivan were on the Right, but that he was a little further Right than Deputy O'Sullivan.

Geographically, but not philosophically.

I think the Minister went more on the right road when he introduced this Bill to give holidays to agricultural workers, but it seems to me a pity that he left an open door to enable anybody to slip through it. Those who have been interested in negotiations and agreements between workers and employers over the last quarter of a century know thoroughly well that, in the initial stages, when those aagreements were arrived at, there was the incentive, on the part of a number of employees who were on friendly terms with their employers, not to enforce the agreements in full as far as that was possible for them to do. The employers' representatives were always faced with the proposition that there were employers anxious and able to pay, saying: "I do not mind paying, provided everybody else engaged in the business has to do the same."

I would point out to the Minister, to Deputy Cogan and to other Deputies who feel that the sub-section should be included and that Deputy Dunne's amendment should not be accepted, that you will have this position created: that a farmer, who is anxious and willing to give holidays to his workers, will feel that both his workers and those responsible for introducing this measure will be impeding him in the progress of his work by compelling him, because he is honest and willing, to give the holidays while his neighbour is not doing so. He will say: "I am not giving John a holiday, but I am going to pay him instead." This is a new measure introduced by the Government. What I fear is that, human nature being what it is, agricultural workers who have never got a holiday will find it hard to believe that this Bill has been passed and will be very timid in making the demand for holidays on their employers. That is why I say it is an awful pity that the Minister should have left this open door in the Bill. Mr. Dillon, a farmer down the country, may be very anxious to give a holiday to his workers, but he will hesitate to do so unless he is sure that Mr. Smith, a farmer across the road, is also giving a holiday to his workers. The fact that, instead of a holiday, the worker is going to get paid, will, I think, act rather as a deterrent in the case of the man who is prepared to give the holidays. In my opinion, this open door that I have referred to is going to defeat the whole object of the Bill.

Words are lightly spoken and in this context it seems to me that the spinning of two many words about a simple matter can confuse the issue. I suppose I have had as much experience of the relationships existing between agricultural workers and employers in this country as any other Deputy in this House and while the Minister may put forward the proposition that these relationships are such that any interference with them would be an unhealthy thing, I would draw his attention and the attention of other Deputies to the fact that agricultural workers in this country have at the moment £3 per week, an insufficient wage, not a living wage, but a great deal more than what they had before the Oireachtas started to interfere in the relaionship existing between the farm labourer and his employer. Before the establishment of the Agricultural Wage Board things were very much worse relatively than they are now. Before agricultural workers were organised in trade unions, the conditions of these workers in the areas in which trade unions now operate were very much worse than they are now. I do not see for the life of me why agricultural employers in this country should welcome this Bill with open arms. I had experience within recent years of seeing long drawn out strikes and lock-outs on very simple matters such as on the question of a half holiday in the week for agricultural workers. I think that a kindly description to apply to the general attitude of Irish farmers to their employees would be to say, as has been said hee, that they are not the least conservative class in the country. That is the kindliest thing that could be said of them. I agree that it is quite natural that owners of land should be conservative because of their roots in the soil but when you are dealing with a conservative people you have go to take every precaution to see, when applying a progressive measure of this kind, that the people with whom they are dealing are protected to the last degree.

The Minister has spoken of the eternal law of the labourer being worthy of his hire. If we, as a nation, accepted that Christian concept and, more than that, put it into operation, there would be no need for trade unionism or no need for any interference between the employer and his worker. It is because of the ignoring of these fundamental principles that there is need for legislation such as this. There is need for trade unionism because the Christian law of the labour being worthy of his hire has been ingnored. In how many cases do we see the labourer robbed of his hire and not being sufficiently paid? It would be interesting to hear how may cases were reported to the Agricultural Wages Board in one year of employers who did not pay the minimum wage. The Minister would be astounded to learn of the numbers of areas in the country where agricultural labourers do not get the minimum wage and are afraid to admit that they do not get the minimum wage because of a fear of dismissal.

Therefore, in this matter I could argue, as against what the Minister has said, that we are merely trying to put into practice in ordinary life the fundamental Christian concept of the labourer being worthy of his hire by seeking to ensure that the agricultural worker shall be in a ssecure position from the point of view of getting his holidays. I have stated before, and I want to repeat it so that I shall not be misrepresentaed in the matter, that I know there are employers who will operate this Bill in the spriti in which it is intended. Equally, I know that there are employers who will do everything in their power to defeat its ends. I do not see the possibility of a conspiracy arising to defeat it, as Deputy Cogan has tried to suggest. If what the Minister has stated is true, that the employers who would seek to defeat the ends of this Bill would represent only micrkosacopic section of the community, we do not anticipate a situation in which we shall get two neighbouring farmers trying to defeat it, but I can quite see the possibility that the entire Act may be nullified by this provision.

I could not quite follow the view put forward by Deputy Dockrell that if the worker were entitled only to three days' holidays, and if he ceased his employment, he would not receive his holiday pay if this sub-section were dropped. I cannot quite see that. It is quite a common thing in industrial employment for a worker to leave his employmnet after six months and then receive his holiday pay along with his wages. He has got holidays then until he gets the next job, so that Deputy Dockrell's argument would have no application in this case.

The Minister has suggested that if the section were left as it is, it might be given a trial to see what would develop, and that he would take steps to correct any abuses which might occur. I would ask the Minister how long it would take to discover whether or not there were any abuses under the Act, and how would anybody go about discovering whether there were abusess or not? I think that the best cure is prevention and, with that in view, I believe the Minister should afford the House an opportunity of expressing its opinion upon this amendment, so that we shall know exactly what the Oireachtas has in mind in connection with it. I would say from my knowledge that by far the greater percentage of agricultral workers would infinitely prefer to have this protection written into the law than left out. Freedom is a very relative thing. The man who is employed by the farmer is free to work for him or not to work for him. He may be dissatisfied with the wages and conditions, and it is said that he is free to leave the job, but, if he leaves the job, he will possibly strave.

If he cannot get another job.

I hope that cannot possibly happen. If it could we must remedy it forthwith.

It has happened in the past.

I want to draw the Minister's attention to the fact that to talk in fine words of freedom is sometimes to talk unrealistically. A man who is working in a job at £3 a week and who is dissatisifiled may be said to be free to leave that job and get something else, but if he cannot get other employment, which is the case generally speaking, there is not freedom and he must continue in the job he is at. That is my view.

There is too much talk of interference on the part of the Oireachtas with relationships between employer and employed in this country. I do not agree that the Orieachtas should either be invited to, or itself assume, the right, to interfer or usurp the functions of trade unions, but in this particular context, as one who has had very considerable experience endeavouring to organise agricultural workers, I would say that it is going to be quite a while before every agricultural worker in Ireland will be fully protected by trade unionism in the same sense as the industrial worker is now protected. The present postion of industrial workers whereby they have attained a pretty satisfactory measure of protection has been achieved by the continual effort and sacrifice of trade unionists over the past 50 years. With agricultural workers the job of organising them has only more or less lately begun. Anybody who knows the problem will admit that it represents an entirely different proposition to the organissation of industrial workers, so the organisation of them is not going to be something that can be effected in a short time. I myself am not prepared to wait for 20, 30 or 50 years to secure these simple advantages for agricultural workers if it can be done speedily through the Oireachtas. I think that the Oireachtas should anticipate the advance of organisation among them at least to this limited extent. We are asking for a very simple thing and while I can appreciate some of the arguments put forward by the Minister against this amendment, I would repeat the importance of the right of the last farm labourer to whom he referred when he stated that in his view there would not be 12 agricultural employers or farmers in the country who would seek to evade the implications of the Bill. If there is only one farmer, if there is only one farm labourer, that farm labourer has equal rights with the 150,000 who will benefit by the Bill and this is the protection we should give him. I would ask the Minister again to consider this matter.

I think the great mistake Deputy Dunne is making is to attempt to equate agricultural workers with industrial workers. He must realise that agricultural workers have an entirely different problem from industrial workers. In the first place their standard of remuneration is lower. Deputy Dunne may say that that is something that can be remedied by legislation or by trade union action, but it is not going to be easily remedied because the income of the agricultural worker, £3 upwards, is somewhat more than the income of a very large number of farmers and any facile means of raising the whole standard of income of agricultural workers is not within easy reach. I think that will be admitted. When we realise that the income of agricultural workers is low we must realise the importance to him of the additional £3 a year for working during his annual holidays. We must recognise that there are many workers who will utilise their annual income and there is a good deal of work such as beet cleaning and weeding which the men will avail of their annual holiday to do. If Deputy Dunne and the Labour Party took their stand on the view that agricultural workers should not be permitted under any circumstances to work either for themselves or for anybody else during the annual holidays they would, be taking their stand on strong ground, but they have not taken that stand. Members of the Labour Party have stresssed that they could utilise the week to secure their winter firing and to do work of that kind. That is a form of work which would benefit agricultural workers to a great extent.

Once you concede the right of workers to work during their annual holidays I think you must accept sub-section (7) which simply acknowledges that right and makes provision for them being paid by thier employers if they choose to work for themselves, for somebody else or for their present employer. The suggestion that this particular provision would be difficult to impose is not, I think, sustainable. Agricultural workers generally have succeeded in extracting whatever money is due to them by statute under the Agricultural Wages Act. It is generally true to say that if they fail to do so they can go to their respective trade union or branch of the Labour organisation or local representative who will take up their case. When this Bill becomes law they will have statutory rights to payment in lieu of a week's holiday and I think that can be readily enforced.

Surely Deputy Dunne misconceives the whole point of the thing when he says that if there is one agricultural worker left in Ireland who stands in peril of having his rights withheld, it is the duty of Oireachtas Éireann so to legislate, however Draconian that legislation may be required to be, in order to ensure that that one exception shall not be for a single moment challenged in his right. Such a doctrine in legislation would make the work of Parliment quite impossible. Surely the sensible rational approach to this is that this House means that agricultural workers ought to have six days' annual holiday. If worker and employer, employer and worker, mutually agree——

——and only if there is general mutual agreement, that the worker should take holiday pay in lieu of the six free days, Oireachtas Éireann has no desire to go in and interfere between them — with this guarantee given by the Minister who introduced the Bill: if there should transpire in practice to be an abuse, whatever steps are necessary will be taken to put an end to that.

Is it reasonable to press Oireachtas Éireann to go on record by its legislation as saying that we take so poor a view of farmers and their morals? It is a question of morals and no one should sneer at the proposition that there is an obligation on employers to deal justly with those who work for them. Is it reasonable to ask Oireachtas Éireann to go on record by its legislation as saying: "That may be true in theory, but in Ireland it does not work?" I hope to go on record as saying that most of the Deputies and the bulk of our people were born on small fams and I will be no party to legislation which enshrines the propositon that every man who works for a farmer in this country is certain to be robbed if he cannot invoke the criminal law against him.

Nobody said that.

I do not think Deputy Dunne is fair when he says that £3 is the wage of agricultural workers in this country. £3 is the statutory minimum below which agricultural wages may not fall in any part of Ireland, however remote, however poor, and that is a very different proposition. I do not believe that 5 per cent. of the agricultural workers in this country are in receipt of only £3 per week. I do not attribute that to the virtue of farmers; I attribute ilt to the fact that you could not keep any agricultural workers to-day if you offered them only the minimum wage, because they will find plenty of peopel willing and eager to bid more for their services. I think it was a mistake to paint the picture that we have accepted in Dáil Éireann as a proper level of payment for all agricultural workers £3 a week, with appropriate adjustments in special areas. I have taken occasion to say so from a public platform in Mullingar and in this House. The statutory minimum of agricultural wages has nothing to do with a situation wherein the agricultural industry is relatively prosperous.

I will be no party to any recorded suggestion that the farmers of this country must be assumed to be ready to rob their working men and, by fraud, deprive them of what they have a right to. I do not think my friends of the Labour Party have any reason to press upon me such an avowal. In many regards, perhaps, my views are more radical than theirs. I heard with admiration Deputy Dunne speak of the traditional conservatism of the Irish farmer. Am I to dwell on the notorious conservatism of the trade union official? I have met in the Transport and General Workers' Union in Engaland shellback Tories beside whom the leaders of the Tory Party would tremble. I remember once meeting a candidate of the Labour Party in the course of a political compaign and, before the end of our acquaintance came around, he was imploring me not to be reckless or precipitate but to have a little patience in my desire for reform.

Conservatism is an admirable thing; so is radicalism. Deputy Dunne has spoken, rightly, with emphasis and with full appreciation of the gravity involved in any strike, because when men go on strike it means great suffering and it is not likely to be borne for long on account of the sufferings in which the participants themselves are involved. But, remember, strikes have taken place in the course of legitimate trade disputes between farmers and their men. I have known sstrikes to take place in the course of trade disputes between trade union members and their executive. It is not only conservative, crusty old farmers who are the occasion of trade disputes. So long as men are free in a free society there will be strikes and it will be the duty of sensible neighbours to come between the parties and try to restore understanding and goodwill and to prevent a strike begetting a feud.

That seems to be travelling far from the amendment.

You, Sir, are the judge of that.

I am giving a hint to the Minister.

Deputy Dunne spoke of strikes which took place between farmers and their employees as evidence that the farmers were extremely conservative. I want to remind him that, whatever the source of a strike, his job and mine is to go between the parties and try to prevent it developing into a feud. I am asking him now not to press upon me the duty of going on record as accepting the proposition about the people from whom he and I came. He would upbraid me sternly if I were to ask him to go on record as accepting the proposition that every trade unionist in this country was potentially a rogue. I do not ask him to subscribe to that proposition, and I must ask him not to ask me to subscribe to the proposition that every farmer in this country is potentially a rogue. If there are rouges on either side, the resources of civilisation are not exhausted when their activities come to light. Pending that, I for my part assume that they are not rogues and I am not going to ask Oireachtas Éireann to assume that. I am conscious of the weaknesses of human nature amongst farmers as amongst every other class, but I am not going to go on recond as declaring that the farmers of this country are all potentially rogues. I believe they are all ordinary human beings; the vast majority of them honest men and all of them potentially honest if their attention is directed to the nature of any injustice in which they have, through oversight or temporary temptation, engaged.

May I ask the Minister if he leaving this to a free vote of the House?

Yes. Is that what the Deputy wishes?

I do not want to participate in the nice piece of play-acting we have listened to.

Are you afraid to vote on this question?

Question put: "That the sub-section proposed to be deleted stand."
The Committee divided: Tá, 36; Níl, 31.

  • Beirne, Jonh.
  • Belton, John.
  • Blowick, Joseph.
  • Browne, Patrick.
  • Coburn, James.
  • Cogan, Patrick.
  • Cosgrave, Liam.
  • Costello, John A.
  • Crotty, Parrick J.
  • Dillon, James M.
  • Dockrell, Maurice E.
  • Donnellan, Michael.
  • Doyle, Peadar S.
  • Fagan, Charles.
  • Giles, Patrick.
  • Halliden, Patrick J.
  • Hughes, Joseph.
  • Lehane, Patrick D.
  • MacEoin, Seán.
  • McFadden Michael Og.
  • McGilligan, Patrick.
  • McMenamin, Daniel.
  • Madden, David J.
  • Morrissey, Daniel.
  • Mulcahy, Richard.
  • O'Donnell, Patrick.
  • O'Gorman, Patrick J.
  • O'Higgins, Michael J.
  • O'Higgins, Thomas F.(Jun.)
  • O'Reilly, Patrick.
  • Palmer, Patrick W.
  • Redomond, Bridget M.
  • Roddy, Joseph.
  • Rooney, Eamonn.
  • Sheehan, Michael.
  • Sweetman, Gerard.


  • Breannan, Joseph P.
  • Byrne, Alfred.
  • Byrne, Alfred Patrick.
  • Commons, Bernard.
  • Connolly, Roderick J.
  • Corish Brendan.
  • Cowan, Peadar.
  • Davin, William.
  • Desmond, Daniel.
  • Dunne, Seán.
  • Evertt, James.
  • Fitzpatrick, Michael.
  • Norton, William.
  • O'Higgins, Thomas F.
  • O'Leary, John.
  • O'Sullivan, Martin.
  • Flynn, John.
  • Hickey, James.
  • Keane, Seán.
  • Keyes, Michael.
  • Kinane, Patrick.
  • Kyne, Thomas A.
  • Larkin, James.
  • Lehane, Con.
  • McAuliffe, Partrick.
  • MacBride, Sén.
  • McQuillan, John.
  • Murphy, William J.
  • Pattison, James P.
  • Spring, Daniel.
  • Tully, John.
Tellers:—Tá: Deputies Sweetman and Doyle; Níl: Deputies Kyne and O'Leary.
Question declared carried.

I move amendment No. 7:—

To add to sub-section (7) the following:—

", before the end of the year in which the holidays are to be allowed or, if the employment terminates during the year, before it terminates"

This amendment is again for the purpose of clarification, to ensure that if a worker elects to remain at work and to take his holiday pay, there shall be no ambiguity about the period in which there is a statutory obligation on the employer to give him pay to which he is entitled. Otherwise, it would be very difficult to determine at what stage a default took place because, on being challenged with default, the employer might protest the pious intention. Under this amendment it is possible to say that the payment must be made before the end of the year or is deemed to be in default.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 3, as amended, agreed to.

I move amendment No. 8, which is in the names of Deputies Desmond, O'Sullivan, Kyne and my own:—

In sub-section (1), line 26, to insert before "not" the words "his ordinary weekly rate or."

I do not think there should be any difficulty about this. It is merely to provide that where an agricultural worker is in receipt of more than the minimum rate laid down by the Agricultural Wages Board, he shall be paid for his holiday period at that rate.

That is the purpose of this amendment. I do not think there can be any objection to it.

I am advised in connection with this amendment, the effect of which I have found some difficulty in discrening, that its introduction into the Bill in this form would creat an ambiguity. It is not clear what the amendment has in mind. If it is the intention to provide that a worker who is receiving more than the minimum rate of wages should also receive more than the minimum rate of holiday remuneration, the amendment is unnecessary because the circumstances which led to his getting higher wages should also apply in relation to his holiday remuneration.

The amendment, as worded, would be impossible of application as some workers are engaged on an hourly rate, others on a monthly rate and many are paid partly in cash and partly in benefits in lieu, such as board and lodging. So that, I am advised that the amendment simply does not fit and, for purely administrative reasons, I must ask the Deputy not to press the amendment as I believe its insertion would upset the machinery of the Bill.

I take it from what the Minister has said that if there is a case of an agricultural worker paid a rate of wages abouve the minimum laid down by the Agricultural Wages Board, that rate of wages will apply for his holiday period, whether he is paid on a weekly, monthly, or yearly basis or whatever the basis is. I take it that would be the position under the Bill.

The purpose of the Bill in regard to that matter, I think, is set out in Section 5, where the rate of holiday pay is a power conferred upon the wages board.

I do not propose to press the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Sections 4 to 7, inclusive, agreed to.

I move amendment No. 9:—

Before Section 8 to insert a new section as follows:—

The annual report which the board are required by Section 21 of the Agricultural Wages Act, 1936, to make to the Minister for Agriculture shall include a report of their proceedings under this Act.

I submit this amendment to the House simply for the purpose of making the Agricultural Wages Board procedure indentical in respect of this Bill and the main Agricultural Wages Act, so that their proceedings in respect of both statutes will form the subject matter of their annual report to the Oireachtas.

Amendment agreed to.
Sections 8, 9 and Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.

I would like, if it is convenient to the Dáil, to take the Report Stage and the Fifth Stage now.

Agreed to take the remaining stages now.

Question—"That the Bill, as amended, be received for final consideration"—put and agreed to.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

On that, I want to make an observation. I rarely find myself in agreement with Deputy Dr. Ryan when he speaks on matters relating to the agricultural industry.

On a point of order. May I ask if the Minister is concluding?

But the passage of this Bill by Dáil Éireann does impose a burden on the agricultural industry and Dáil Éireann does that with its eyes wide open, believing that it is a proper minimal share for the employed workers on the land of the increasing income to be derived from the land. But agriculture is entitled to say, and I think I have a duty to say it, that while it is ready and willing to bear all its due share and perhaps a little more of the burden of expense that falls upon the community, and that it accepts gladly the duty to provide at no little cost this added amenity for those who work upon the land, there must be a limit to burdens placed on agriculture for the benefit of other sections of the community without any reference to the limit of the burdens that agriculture is able to carry.

For example?

The tariff racketeers.

Of course, the Minister realises that what we can discuss now is what is in this measure, nothing more.

Yes, Sir.

I do not want the widening of the discussion so that we may have a general discussion on what agricultural may carry or may not, as opposed to industry. That would open up a very wide field of discussion which would not be finished here in the time at our disposal.

Is the Minister not entitled, following a statement such as that which he has made, to give an example in order to show the House and the country what he has in mind?

The Minister is entitled to deal now only with what is in the Bill.

I want to confine my observations strictly to the burden deliberately imposed on the farmers of this country by this Bill. In that connection I want to direct the attention of Dáil Éireann to a speech made by Deputy Dr. Ryan, lately Minister for Agriculture in this country Deputy Ryan, as reported in the Irish Press of 17th July, 1950, says:

"The farmers are entitled to protection just as the manufacturers are protected. The Government should deal with the surplus the farmers produce by exporting it, even at a loss."

Now I want to make this clear: I agree with Deputy Dr. Ryan——

Will the Minister relate that to the terms of this Bill?

If the Leas-Cheann Comhairle will permit me——

What did you do with flax?

The Chair will not permit a discussion now on flax, beet or barley.

I agree that the burden envisaged by this Bill——

The Chair is not convinced that the Minister is dealing with what is in this Bill as far as he has gone.

I submit that it is right for the House to advert to the fact that this is a charge on the gross profits of the agricultural industry.

That opens the discussion so widely that the whole agricultural industry could be discussed here—and the Chair is not prepared to permit of such a discussion now.

Why not discuss that with your colleagues in the Government and come here with some policy in regard to it?

You would leave the House.

No. I would attend the meeting of the Molly Maguires.

The charge envisaged by this Bill——

Clearly, we can discuss now agricultural workers' holidays but nothing more.

Nothing more. I want to make this clear: I want the agricultural industry to carry whatever cost this Bill involves. That cost must be met out of the gross profits of agriculture

That clearly opens too wide a discussion.

Then, just let me say that there is a limit to the charges which may properly be put on those profits for the benefits of others.

It is too bad. You are being cramped so.

I agree with the Minister that this Bill imposes an additional burden on the farming community. As far as the farmer Deputies are concerned, however, they are prepared to accept this Bill because they realise that the burden it envisages, spread over each week of the year, does not amount to a very formidable sum. It is necessary, however, to remember that there is a limit beyond which these burdens cannot be pressed. As I have already pointed out in this House, the average income of the farmers is between £3 and £4 a week. Before the passage of this Bill the minimum wage of an agricultural worker was £3 per week: a few pence are added to that sum, under this Bill —3d. or something like that, spread over the whole year. Therefore, that indicates the narrow margin which exists between the average income of the farmer and the average income of the agricultural worker, as amended by this Bill. I have indicated that the average income of the farmer is between £3 and £4 per week and we must realise, therefore, that while there are a very large number of farmers who have a much higher income than £3 or £4 week there are, too, a very substantial number of farmers who have a much lower income than the average and who, therefore, with the passing of this Bill, will have a lower standard of remuneration than that of their agricultural labourers. In dealing with agriculture it must be remembered that we are not dealing with——

We are not dealing with agricultural now. We are dealing with agricultural workers' holidays.

We must remember that, in connection with this Bill as it applies to agriculture, we are not dealing with the big employer who drives up to his office in his high-powered car. We are dealing, in the main, with small or medium-sized farmers—men who are really agricultural workers just the same as the men they employ and who, in many cases, have a lower income than the income of those people whom they employ. As has been said, it is a terrible thing that an agricultural workers has never known what it is to have an annual holiday. That position will be changed now with the passage of this Bill. However, even after the passage of this Bill there will still be tens of thousands of small and even medium-sized farmers who will not know what an annual holiday is. As a matter of fact, the probability of their having an annual holiday will be further restricted by the enactment of this piece of legislation.

All that should have been stated on the Second Stage of the Bill and not on this stage.

In view of what has been said by some people who have no connection whatever with agricultural to try and put the farmer in the dock as somebody who is trying to exploit these workers, I think it is necessary to point out that the farmer is a manual labourer just like his worker. He shares in the same toil and possibly his work is even greater and heavier than that of his employee. I hope that this Bill will result in an even better relationship between the farmer and the farm worker than has existed in the past and I hope that future conditions will enable the farmer—even in the worst conditions which may possibly come about in the country—to comply with the terms of this Bill when it becomes an Act.

The Minister said that the passing of this Bill represents the imposition of an extra burden upon agriculture. The Minister's statement indicated, however, very clearly, that it is a burden which agriculture can carry.

Agricultural workers look upon this measure as a step in the direction of a better life for themselves and for their families. The Bill is at least 25 years overdue. I think that agricultural employers will have to realise that the men they employ are equally important in agriculture with themselves and that the privilege of ownership of land is a privilege accorded to human beings——

The Deputy should have said all that on the Second Reading.

I will relate it to this stage by saying that agricultural employers, in their attitude to this measure, should appreciate that in carrying out the terms of the Bill and providing holidays for their workers they will be doing no more than what is expected of them by the nation. The Minister deserves credit for having introduced it. We disagree with him on some points, but we must admit that this is a progressive measure. It is the first, I hope, of many similar steps that will be taken to improve the lot of this most depressed section of the community, because agricultural workers are undoubtedly the most depressed section economically. Perhaps that has sprung from the fact that the industry generally has been depressed, but, now that the industry is on the road to recovery, the agricultural workers will expect from their employers treatment of a kind which will enable them to live a better and a fuller life.

I cannot allow the Deputy to proceed along those lines.

I desire to compliment the Minister on having introduced this Bill.

Question —"That the Bill do now pass"—put and agreed to.