andMr. O'Donnell asked the Taoiseach if he or any of his Minister has received a request for a meeting with the management of Ferenka Limited, or its parent company, to discuss the present dispute and its implications; if so, when the request was received; if it was agreed to; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Ferenka Dispute.
A request for a meeting was received on Tuesday, 1st November, 1977, by the Minister for Industry, Commerce and Energy from a member of the board of Ferenka's parent company, the ENKA Group. The meeting took place on Friday, 4th November, between the Minister and representatives of the group.
The Minister for Labour had also, at his request, met representatives of Ferenka Limited, on Thursday, 27th October.
Each Minister stressed the concern of the Government that management and worker representatives should, in their own interest, bring about a settlement. They indicated the dangers to employment and the other possible consequences of the stoppage.
While the negotiation of a settlement in industrial disputes is primarily matter for the parties involved, officers of the Labour Court have been available in Limerick or Dublin since 12th October. The Minister for Labour, when the prospects of a settlement being reached by the parties themselves appeared poor, put forward proposals for a settlement on two occasions. These were not accepted by the parties concerned, who alone can settle the dispute and must look to the consequences of their actions.
Can the Taoiseach say whether he still considers the position to be that there is no appearance of any solution to the problem, that a solution is as unlikely now as it was a week ago and, if so, whether the Government have any plans for following up the Minister for Labour's intervention of about two weeks ago?
I can only say in reply to the Deputy that there is a possibility of further initiative under our industrial relations legislation.
I am not clear from that as to what is the position. I understood the suggestion of the Minister for Labour, a suggestion that I welcomed, to be sufficiently flexible to allow for modification to some extent in the event of one or other of the parties finding any part of the suggestion unsatisfactory. This was the case. Have the Government and the Taoiseach any further plans for pursuing an early settlement to this dispute? Also, can the Taoiseach say whether he considers the dispute to be of a very serious nature?
There is no doubt as to how serious I consider the dispute to be. The same applies to my colleagues in Government. However, it is a well-established practice that if there is a possibility of further industrial relations negotiations, matters of this nature are not discussed in the House. I suggest that this is such an occasion and that, perhaps, further question and answer of this nature might not be helpful.
While acknowledging the complexity of the situation and acknowledging also the intervention and the efforts of the Minister for Labour, would the Taoiseach not agree that in view of the extreme gravity of the situation and of the disastrous implications of the possible closure of the plant, it should be possible for the Government through the machinery available to the Department of Labour and to the Labour Court, to formulate some initiative that would be a follow-up to the intervention of the Minister for Labour?
Regarding what the Deputy is driving at, I have given an indication of such possibility but it is not helpful to be pursuing it here.
Next question, please.
As a Member——
We have pursued this matter far enough.
——from the region I should like to ask the Taoiseach——
We cannot have a debate on the matter.
I am anxious to clarify the situation. Is the Taoiseach aware of the Pontius Pilate statement made by the Minister for Industry, Commerce and Energy during the weekend when he wiped his hands of the whole affair and said that the Government would have no part of any responsibility in the matter.
The Deputy is introducing argument. We cannot have a debate on this matter under any circumstances.
When newspapers attribute statements to a Minister it does not mean that the Minister concerned has made the statement in question.
Is the Taoiseach denying that the Minister made the statement?
I shall not argue the pros and cons of that. The Deputy knows how delicate is the situation.
I appreciate that but surely the occasion was most inopportune for the Minister to have made such a statement.
The second question has been called.
We on this side of the House are anxious that a speedy solution be reached and that is the only reason——
We are on the next question.
What are the prospects of a mediator being appointed?