I move amendment 1:—
Title. To add at the end of the title the words and figures "and to amend Section 18 of the Coal Mines Act, 1911."
Vol. 18 No. 4
I move amendment 1:—
Title. To add at the end of the title the words and figures "and to amend Section 18 of the Coal Mines Act, 1911."
During the discussion upon the Committee Stage of the Bill an amendment was proposed by Senator Johnson which proposed to effect certain alterations including an amendment in the matter of coal mines, and I undertook at that stage to bring in an amendment dealing with that point. The substance of that is contained in amendment 19 on the Order Paper. It is necessary now to amend the Title so as to enable that amendment to be considered.
Amendment No. 2 is standing in my name.
Section 6. To add at the end of the section the words "or a person who stands in loco parentis to the workman or to whom the workman stands in loco parentis, whether related to him by consanguinity or not so related.”
This is one of a series of amendments that I put forward to keep them alive, so that it would be possible to discuss them on this stage in the absence of any satisfactory amendment from the Minister. In view of amendment 3, I do not propose to move this.
Amendment No. 3 is a Government amendment.
Section 7, sub-section (2). To add at the end of the sub-section the words "and includes a person, other than a dependant of such workman within the meaning of sub-section (1) of this section, who is not under the age of fifteen at the date of the death of such workman and who was resident with such workman and wholly dependent on his earnings at the said date."
I should like to say that I have some hesitation in putting forward this amendment, because it is somewhat wider in its scope than that suggested by Senator Johnson, and that which we contemplated. The aim was to provide that adopted children of workmen would be able to share in any compensation awarded in consequence of a workman's death or injury.
There is, as the Seanad is aware, no provision for the adoption of children in this country and, because of that situation, we could not legislate directly to achieve the end we contemplated. We proposed to do so by an amendment which was inserted on the Committee Stage providing for the inclusion amongst the dependents of workmen of children under 15 years of age who were resident with the workman at the date of his death and wholly dependent on him for a livelihood. There were obvious objections to the fixing arbitrarily of an age of 15 and I suggested that we might delete that age limit altogether. That is being effected by the amendment now before the House. I have gone very carefully through the wording of it and I have satisfied myself that it is as narrow as we can make it. It is directed solely to providing that, in the majority of cases at any rate, compensation will be available for those properly regardable as adopted children of the workman. The amendment is slightly larger than that because it purports to bring in any person resident with the workman and wholly dependent upon him, irrespective of the relationship or the age of the person. The phrase that has caused me concern is "at the date at which the workman was injured." I sought a phrase which would imply not merely that the person was resident with and dependent upon the workman at the date of the injury but that he was ordinarily resident with and dependent upon him both before and after the accident. I am satisfied that the phrase "wholly dependent" has, in fact, that meaning and that it implies continued dependency, so that the amendment as it stands can be inserted with safety.
The Minister used the phrase "adopted children". I think it is clearly the intention of the amendment and it is certainly the general desire to cover the case, say, of an adult cripple wholly dependent upon a man who might not be his father.
If this amendment is inserted and the person referred to is wholly dependent on the workman, then his case will be covered by this amendment.
This amendment covers another point raised by Senator Johnson on the Committee Stage when doubt was cast upon the applicability of the provision to persons employed by local authorities where such persons could not be dismissed by the local authorities without the sanction of the Minister for Local Government and Public Health. It was thought that, in such circumstances, the existence of a contract of service might be in doubt. This section is designed to remove that doubt, if it exists. I am making clear that any person employed by a local authority has an implied contract of service with that authority, even though the authority may not be able to dismiss the person concerned without the sanction of the Minister.
Did the Minister go into the question of persons employed by local authorities on relief work and the case I cited of the Wexford man? The Minister promised to see whether these cases would be covered by the Bill as it is at present or as it will be when amended in this way.
I am satisfied that such persons are covered. In the majority of cases, persons employed on relief works are employed by the Board of Works and there is no doubt that they are covered by the Bill. In other cases, they are employed by a local authority, in the exercise of its powers and functions, and, in accordance with the terms of the Bill, they are employed for the purpose of the business of the local authority and are, therefore, covered.
This amendment is formal. It is designed merely to change the position of the provision in the Bill.
A point arises in connection with this amendment. If you would agree to take this amendment and then take No. 9, my amendments could be discussed as amendments to the new section. Otherwise, by deleting this section and taking my amendments before you put another section in its place, I shall find myself crushed in between and unable to move my amendments.
To what amendments do you refer?
This section was amended at the instance of the Government on Committee Stage. I naturally assumed that the section would remain there. My guns are spiked by the Minister taking his own section out before putting another in. If you would agree that my amendments be treated as amendments to the section, when put in, I shall be satisfied.
I have no objection to that course.
The sole difference between the new section which it is proposed to insert and the sub-section which has been deleted from Section 15 is contained in sub-section (2) of the proposed new section. The aim is to provide that where, in any employment, personal injury by accident is caused to a workman outside the territory of Saorstát Eireann and such accident is, because of the provisions of sub-section (1) of this proposed new section, deemed to have occurred in Saorstát Eireann, certain provisions will have effect. Under paragraph (a) it is provided that, in case such workman has been awarded or has entered into an agreement for the payment of compensation or damages in respect of that injury, he shall not have the right to proceed against the same employer in this country under this Bill for compensation in respect of the same injury. The sole purpose of this sub-section is to prevent an employer having to pay compensation twice in respect of the same accident. Paragraph (b) provides that where a workman has been awarded or entered into an agreement under Part VI of this Bill for the payment of compensation in the Saorstát in respect of injury occasioned by an accident, and he subsequently is awarded in the country in which the accident took place compensation or damages in respect of the same injury, then the court shall, on the application of the employer, set aside the award or agreement for the payment of compensation made here and direct that any moneys lodged in court and standing to the credit of the workman be paid out to the employer. If moneys have been paid by the employer to the workman in respect of compensation, or any moneys have been paid to the workman out of moneys lodged in court, the court shall make an order for the payment by the workman to the employer of the moneys concerned.
The purpose of that, I think, is quite clear. The one danger and the difficulty we foresaw in amending the Bill so as to permit in certain circumstances compensation being paid here in respect of accidents that took place outside the territory of the Saorstát, was that employers in consequence of that provision might have to pay compensation twice to the same workman in respect of the same accident, in so far as we were giving the workman the right to secure compensation here whereas he would have had, at the same time, the right to claim compensation against the same employer in another country. The whole purpose of the additional sub-section is to ensure that if a workman has succeeded in obtaining compensation in respect of an accident outside the Saorstát, he is deprived of his right to obtain compensation in respect of the same accident here. Where he has been awarded compensation here, and subsequently secures compensation in the territory in which the accident took place, the employer is given the right to refuse to pay here or the right to recover from the workman any money previously paid here. We are anxious to avoid—I think everybody was anxious to avoid—this double payment of compensation, and this sub-section is the device which we have conceived in order to ensure that it will not happen.
I am not quite clear as to the exact meaning of "compensation or damages" in paragraph (a). From what the Minister has stated, the object of the new sub-section is one with which I entirely agree. It is probably quite necessary to provide that the employer will not be called upon to pay twice over compensation to the same workman, but when you bring in the word "damages" it raises another point, where the workman may be entitled to get damages, not from the employer, but from some other person in the area. My first reading of the amendment was that it would cover that, but the Minister has stated that this only refers to damages from the employer. It is a little difficult to make oneself quite clear, but for the sake of argument let us take the case of an employer whose residence and business is in the Saorstát and who sends a workman to fulfil a contract across the Border. That is the most likely place where this difficulty may arise. In the course of his work for that employer the workman is, let us say, knocked down by a motor car, and is entitled to claim damages from the driver or the owner of the motor car. It would be in our interest in the Free State that he should do so. What he would get would be called "damages," I think, as distinct from compensation, but the two words are included here.
I suppose I would be in order here in referring to the principle of my own amendment because the two amendments are closely allied. What I was endeavouring to ensure was that where a workman had what seemed to the employer a good claim, we will say against the driver of a car, the employer could use the workman's name in order to take proceedings, provided all the expenses were met by the employer. That would be no hardship to the workman. It might conceivably be to the benefit of the workman because the expenses would be met and the damages might be higher than the compensation to which he would be entitled under this Act. If the employer is given a legal right to use the name of the workman, the workman cannot lose because he is entitled to compensation from the employer, but if the employer can get it from someone who is liable for it in a civil action in Northern Ireland, it might conceivably be to his benefit, provided any excess is paid to the workman as I think it should be. There are some workmen who would be able to take an action and provide the expenses, but I am inclined to think the workman would be rather unwilling and possibly the trade union would be unwilling to risk their funds if they are backing him in taking an action in Northern Ireland, particularly when this section is inserted, because unless the workman can show that he is going to get a larger sum than the compensation provided under the Act, those behind him will be reluctant to spend money. If, however, the employer at his own expense is entitled to use the workman's name he will try to get the people outside the area to pay the damages to the workman. There may be some objection to that, but personally I cannot see any objection. I should like if the Minister would state how far the section affects damages which may be awarded to the workman from a third party, not the employer. Secondly, I should like to know how he views the general principle which was raised by me, perhaps not in the best form, in the amendment which I put down to the section.
There are two points arising out of the proposed amendment which are not met very satisfactorily. In sub-section (1), it is required, in the case of any person who is injured outside Saorstát Eireann, that such workman before he can be awarded damages under this Act, should be "at the said date normally employed in connection with the employer's trade or business in Saorstát Eireann." It seems to me from what the Minister said on the previous stages that he has in mind the kind of person who would be engaged in taking a horse across the Border, or driving a motor car for his employer, as rather an extension of his ordinary activities within the Saorstát. I think there should be provided a means whereby a workman who is in the habit of following his employer and who is therefore employed on work outside the Saorstát, but who is engaged from week to week, or day to day on the job, can recover compensation. I take the ordinary builder's labourer who has been engaged for ten years in the Saorstát. The employer takes a contract in County Armagh. The workman or the workman's foreman, the carpenter, labourer or mason, or any other skilled or unskilled man, goes with the employer to do the job. There is no formal contract but the week's employment and the week's pay, or even the day's employment or the day's pay. Nevertheless, the man has been normally employed by that employer in building operations, perhaps, for years. Yet under this section if he is injured it would be necessary for that man to take proceedings in the Northern Ireland courts, though he lives in the Saorstát and the employer's business is in the Saorstát. That case is not covered at all and there is no easing of the situation under this amendment.
My second point deals with sub-section (2), and it is very much the same as that raised by Senator Douglas, as to the effect of these words "or damages" in paragraph (a). The workman if he has been awarded damages or has entered into an agreement for the payment of damages is not entitled to seek compensation or if he has been granted compensation in the Saorstát courts he must pay that back. If it is compensation equivalent to compensation under the Workmen's Compensation Act, that is entirely satisfactory but the damages that might be paid by the persons responsible, not necessarily the employer, in respect of an accident would annul the workman's right to obtain workmen's compensation within the Saorstát. It seems to me the insertion of these two words "or damages," of which I do not know the purpose, weakens the position of the workman in respect to the compensation to which he would otherwise be entitled in the Saorstát. I hope it will be found possible to delete these words, because they would certainly limit the protection of the workman.
It would be very hard to alter the proposed Section 16 without destroying in some measure its effect. Senator Johnson has pointed to one matter which deserves consideration. In sub-section (2) (a) (quoted) we have the words "or damages."
They may be small.
They may be great. I am sure the Minister got advice on the construction to be put on these two words. Looking at them, without consideration, they appear to me to include damages obtained against a third person by reason of a wrong committed by that third person. The words "or damages" are there simpliciter, and I think they must mean damages as against the third person, because if a workman gets compensation from an employer he cannot also get damages from the employer. I would think, subject to the advice which the Minister may have received, that the damages referred to in clause (a) would inevitably be construed as damages recovered from a third person on the basis of wrong done by that third person. However, the Minister will probably consider the matter. In reference to the amendment of Senator Douglas, I wonder whether the Senator has considered this aspect of the question. By amendment 8 he purports to legislate for the courts of another country. I am sure that difficulty has not occurred to him. The words are:
(4) If a workman has recovered compensation under this Act and the injury to the workman was sustained in circumstances creating a legal liability on the part of some person not domiciled in Saorstát Eireann, then, in addition to the rights under sub-section (3) of this section, the employer shall be entitled at his own expense to use the name of the workman for all purposes in proceedings to recover damages or compensation ...
I presume that would be outside the Saorstát. The amendment says "in Saorstát Eireann." The workman has received compensation, and must allow his name to be used in Great Britain or in Northern Ireland by the employer for the purpose of recovering damages for a tort in Northern Ireland or in Great Britain. That is all very well so far as the Free State is concerned. But, suppose an action is proceeded with in Great Britain, or in Northern Ireland, and that the workman comes in at any stage of the proceedings —even in the middle of the trial-and says: "I withdraw my authority to this man to proceed in my name," what is the employer to do then? He produces a statute of the Free State Parliament. I can imagine what certain gentlemen in Northern Ireland, when that statute is produced, would be inclined to say on the question of conflict of jurisdiction. It seems to me that the amendment of Senator Douglas is unenforcible. It would not be enforced in other countries, and being uncertain it should not be passed here. It would lead to difficulties and to conflict of jurisdiction. I think the new section brought in by the Minister covers the case, as well as it could possibly be covered on all reasonable points. The section must have been thought out with extraordinary industry and care, and we might leave well enough alone. I would not be inclined to alter the new section at all. At the same time I feel that I should call the attention of the Minister to the two words "or damages.". Perhaps he has already fully considered them.
Senator Comyn would not be inclined to alter the section, yet he is very doubtful as to the meaning of the two words. The Senator is an able and experienced K.C. and there would be, perhaps, a certain amount of insolence on my part to suggest any other procedure in the courts of Northern Ireland other than he outlined. With due deference to him I suggest that if I were a lawyer, and were advising a person in Northern Ireland, assuming this was passed, I would not produce the Free State statute but I would go back to the Irish courts saying that the amount was unreasonable and ask that provisions in the sections should apply. Obviously we cannot legislate for the Six Counties. Whether we should or should not is another matter. At the present time we cannot and any provision made here would not be binding. But it would be binding as far as the relations between an employer and a workman are concerned. It seems to me that the section bears the criticism uttered by Senator Johnson. If the damages granted by the third party are less than what the workman would be entitled to, it seems to me that he would have to take them. My amendment provides that if the employer has got to give compensation in the Free State, then he can, in the name of the workman, take action against the third party, and take whatever amount he may get up to the amount of the compensation. If it is less the workman will get the full amount of the compensation. If it is more the workman gets the additional amount, other than what had to be paid to him previously by the employer. That seems to me to be eminently fair from the point of view of the employer and the workman. Whatever may be the merits of the case, I do not think we should be deterred by the fear that some barrister in Northern Ireland might produce the statute and say that we had no power to legislate there. I believe that if the words were inserted here they would regulate satisfactorily the relations between the workman and the employer, and I suggest that that would be perfectly fair to both parties.
The phrase "compensation or damages in respect of such injury" is wide and has been deliberately drawn wide to include any compensation or damages that may be recovered in respect of the injury, including damages from a third party. The effect of the section is to provide that if a workman is injured in another country while complying with the conditions (a), (b), (c) and (d) of sub-section (1), he can if he so chooses proceed in the courts of that other country against the employer for workmen's compensation, and, if he thinks he has a claim, against the third party who occasioned the accident, if there is such a third party, or he can come to the courts of the Saorstát and proceed against the employer there. In a sense the workman makes a choice whether he will proceed in the Saorstát courts or outside. Where the accident takes place in circumstances which give him a claim for damages as distinct from a claim for compensation, he has the same consideration to give to what is the best course to take. Ordinarily damages awarded in respect of an injury where negligence exists are likely to be substantially larger than compensation under the workmen's compensation code. If the workman thinks that he has a case for damages against an employer or a third party he is not likely to proceed under the Workmen's Compensation Act.
Senator Douglas's case is that where there is a third party the workman has a claim for damages against that third party. The difficulty is that if the workman elects to proceed against his employer instead of against a third party, then the employer has to pay compensation without having the right which we give him, if the accident occurs here, of proceeding in turn against the third party for the amount of compensation payable. In the new section the workman can proceed against a third party, and if he fails to get satisfaction he can proceed against the employer for compensation here. The workman has something more than a choice. He is, in a sense, given a trial run in the courts of the country where the accident occurred. If he succeeds in getting damages in those courts he is debarred from getting compensation here. I do not think there is any alternative to that. Once we proceed to cover by our legislation accidents that occur outside the jurisdiction of this State we are running into difficulties. The case was made that we could at least legislate to avoid obvious cases of possible hardship. We have tried to do that but we could not avoid the difficulties that were always there. We have in this sub-section gone as far as possible to avoid the difficulties.
The amendment submitted by Senator Douglas seeks to go further. It seeks to provide that where a workman has a case for the recovery of damages against a third party in the courts of some other country, but chooses instead to proceed against his Saorstát employer for compensation under our Acts, then that the employer should be entitled to proceed on behalf of the workman to recover damages from the third party outside the jurisdiction of the State. In a sense that is legislating for other countries and it is doubtful that a section of that sort would be effective. Unless the Acts of those other countries enable the employer to proceed on behalf of the workman, it cannot be done. But there are other and very practical difficulties which, perhaps, have not occurred to the Senator. Damages awarded will take the form of a lump sum payment in all cases. Compensation, on the other hand, may take the form of a weekly payment. The workman may have established a claim for compensation and the weekly payments may have begun. If the workman were subsequently to receive damages by way of a lump sum from a court outside the jurisdiction it would be very difficult to relate the lump sum to the weekly payments which have already taken place here in such a manner as to enable the employer to recover whatever compensation he has paid.
May I point out that I am meeting that by allowing no payments that have been made weekly to stand; they shall cease then?
The main difficulty is that the right of the employer to proceed on behalf of the workman must be confirmed by the legislation of the country in which the accident occurs. We can hardly give that right by our Act. We have gone as far as we can in that direction in so far as we deprive the worker of the right to get compensation here if he has got compensation or damages outside our jurisdiction. We give the employer the right to recover from the workman any compensation paid here if subsequently the workman succeeds in recovering compensation or damages outside the jurisdiction. We are not attempting to do anything that affects any other country but our own. We are confining the scope of the legislation to the territory of this State. It could not be argued that we are attempting to legislate elsewhere as it might be argued if Senator Douglas's amendment, were carried, because it does appear to confer a right on the employer to go on behalf of the workman to any other court, a right which cannot be conferred by our Act unless it is confirmed by the statutes of other countries.
Senators must not forget the point that I have been arguing, that all these difficulties that may arise in view of an accident occurring to one of our citizens outside the jurisdiction can be easily settled by an agreement entered into between the Saorstát and the Government of any other country, an agreement of the kind that is daily being entered into between various Governments since the International Labour Conference. Our aim is to solve these difficulties by the conclusion of these agreements. We need not try to make our legislation watertight. Senators and Deputies seem to think that we should go as far as we can to meet all possible cases. We have done so, but we can go the whole way in all cases by the conclusion of these agreements so as to give the employer the right to recover against a third party outside the jurisdiction and also to secure the workman no matter where the accident occurs. That would be the nature of the agreement, apart from containing provisions for the recovery of compensation awarded against an employer outside the jurisdiction, in the event of there being no assets within the jurisdiction.
The draft agreement suggested by the International Labour Conference is published in the Report of our Inter-Departmental Committee and Senators can study its nature. As soon as this Bill is through, which gives us power to conclude these agreements, we will endeavour to effect them so that all these gaps which must necessarily occur in a scheme based on our own law may be effectively stopped.
May I point out that no international agreement would remedy the danger that arises from the inclusion of those words "or damages." This is not at all an extravagant example of what might happen. Take the favourite example of a motorist coming from Northern Ireland into Donegal, and where the chauffeur is normally an employee in the Free State. An accident occurs, and a man goes to hospital for a week. The accident is clearly due to the action of a third party. The third party is there to commiserate, and comes along and says: "Here is £25," or perhaps £5. "Give me a receipt." By the acceptance of that sum this man under this section is debarred from proceeding in the Free State courts against his employer for compensation for what might be a permanent inqury.
Not quite so easily as that.
If he accepted the money.
As compensation for his injury?
He is entering into an agreement by receiving damages.
In respect of the injury.
He is entering into an agreement with this third party by an acceptance of the money, and it could be argued that the acceptance of the money, from the third party, debarred his right against his employer.
If the employee has accepted the payment as compensation.
Not as compensation but as damages.
As damages that effectively discharge his claim for damages against the other person. He enters upon that with his eyes open. We cannot legislate to prevent people making mistakes but the workman knows his right to compensation or damages and he will not enter into such an agreement.
If he is a lawyer and has his wits about him all the time.
Possibly Senator Johnson is anticipating a case that may never arise. If there was a case where a person fraudulently induced another person to take that view of the agreement it would be set aside.
It would not be fraudulent.
Well, let us say it would be unconscionable. It would be regarded as an unconscionable transaction. There are many cases of that kind of bargain. I remember on one occasion that there was a great accident upon the Great Southern Railway line. It was many years ago. They do not have accidents now. This accident occurred at Headford Junction. Some people belonging to the railway went down afterwards, with gold in their pockets, and gave a few pounds here and there to people who might have claims. But all these things are set aside. I think if you change the section you will only injure it.
The Minister referred to international agreements. Would an agreement entered into between the Saorstát Government and the British Government be binding on the Government of Northern Ireland, or, would a particular agreement be required between the Government of this State and Northern Ireland? If so, what are the present prospects of such an agreement being entered into?
I am not going to attempt to deal with the constitutional question, but Northern Ireland has its own Workmen's Compensation Act.
I was glad to hear the Minister say that efforts were being made to bring about an international agreement to enforce these workmen's compensation awards. There are numbers of cases coming under my notice from time to time of foreign ships which have no registered offices in this country and no recognised agents on behalf of their country. A workman is seriously injured; he is awarded very substantial damages, but they are irrecoverable because there is no agent representing the ship here. We could arrest the ship if it came here but the company ensures that no ship following on that comes to the country. Dockers suffer great hardship because of these things. I want to know what possibility there is of an agreement dealing with these matters. If such an agreement were arrived at it would be of great value to dockers in Northern Ireland as well as the Free State.
No matter what scheme is devised there will always be somebody who will not pay. You can come much nearer home than foreign shipping companies in order to hear of someone who will not pay. I, or anybody in this House, might employ a workman who is afterwards killed and if we are not covered by insurance we cannot pay, and that workman's people will not get any money.
There is no question about the people, or the company, that I mentioned being able to pay. They are an international steamship company. The point is that up to the present we have no way of recovering from them the damages awarded against them to people in this country. If there were an international agreement we could do so. It is not a question of a poor man who does not pay insurance. This is a big company which could pay but which will not pay. I would like to know what the Government are doing to get international agreement upon that point. The Minister mentioned a moment ago that efforts were being made in regard to the international position. I want to know what steps our Government are taking.
Obviously the first step is to get this Bill through which gives us that power.
Do you wish, Senator Douglas, to press your amendment?
If the Minister is definitely resisting it there is no use pressing it at this stage. In reference to his last reply, I do not think the Minister appreciates that there is more in this than can be met entirely by international agreement. I agree that he could make an agreement which will enable the employer or the State on behalf of the employer with or without the consent of the workman——
I did not say that could be done by international agreement, but what we could do is by agreement to give the employer the right to proceed against a third party to recover damages as it is here.
That is what was in my mind. If that were done it would be of some definite advantage but I think it is necessary to provide that where the workman could give assistance his expenses should be properly met and that he is at no loss and he should be forced to do so. The only force that I am proposing is that he would lose his compensation if the court decided that he unreasonably refused. That is not met in the other portion of the section and I think it would be well if the Minister considered the matter further. I think there is something in the point raised by Senator Johnson. I know in this matter I am looking at it largely from the employer's point of view. Any employers with whom I discussed it have no wish that any provisions should be made in regard to damages in Northern Ireland or elsewhere that should disqualify a man or that he should get less than he is entitled to in the Free State. I do not say that would happen but it might be that some clever solicitor there might take a statement from a man if he was in the Six Counties so that he might not be sure of his right at all.
The insurance companies cover both risks and they are warned already.
As to the question of the insurance companies mutual arrangements, knock-for-knock and other things, I am not concerned. I know they are interlocked and have a way of settling things amicably between each other. That is not my point. I am looking at it from the point of view of the employer. I have to assume that the employer will have to pay. I have to assume the position of the employer who may have to pay himself and that is the point of view from which I am arguing, not from the point of view of the insurance companies only. I should be glad for a direction as to whether my amendment to this section should be moved now or if the section is put in whether I can move it then to the section as inserted. It is altering words in a different part of the section. Amendment 7 will be an amendment to the new sub-section if inserted. I could debate it now.
This is an amendment to Section 15, sub-section (3). I think I must ask you to argue that before we put in the new section.
The amendment is as follows:—
7. Section 15, sub-section (3) (being the new sub-section inserted in Committee). To delete in paragraph (a) the words "outside Saorstát Eireann" and to substitute therefor the words "in Great Britain or Northern Ireland."
It is not one I would press if the Minister did not think there was any point in it. I am proposing to substitute the words "in Great Britain or Northern Ireland" for "outside Saorstát Eireann," because, first of all, I consider, as a matter of practical politics, that the section is only important in relation to Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I am informed on what I regard as reliable information that an employer will be able to get an insurance policy which will include Great Britain and Northern Ireland without paying any increased rate; that owing to the position of the insurance companies it will be easy to have him covered as far as employees are concerned who may be across the border. At any rate, he will be able to get the men covered quite easily by any of the insurance companies. If it is "outside Saorstát Eireann" he will have to get a special policy, which he could not get a quotation for except by applying to the head office, and which would raise considerable difficulties. As we know well, the insurance companies operating here, whether British or Irish are working very closely together and no real difficulties arise, so that as far as Great Britain or Northern Ireland is concerned the matter is apparently a simple one for the insurance companies. They can get a medical man at the other side to make the necessary examination. They have their representatives and they work together, and the thing is comparatively easy. When you make it "outside Saorstát Eireann," and include the whole of Europe, it creates difficulties. I do not know whether the Minister has adverted to that. Otherwise, I would have no objection to the words "outside Saorstát Eireann," but I thought it was an important point, and that is the reason I put down the amendment.
I do not think any purpose is served by limiting the scope of this section, and I would prefer that it should remain as it is. Apart from whatever constitutional objections there might be to the Senator's proposal, I see no reason why we should not have this section operate generally. It will be, I think, not very difficult for any employer, who contemplates sending an employee to do work for him, arising out of a contract of service made in Saorstát Eireann in connection with his business in Saorstát Eireann, to some country other than Great Britain and Northern Ireland to arrange for cover. It can be done at present, because the difficulty is for an employer to get workmen to do work outside unless they know that compensation will be payable in the event of injury or death. That does not often arise here, because there are not very many Saorstát employers who have occasion to send employees to countries other than Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It arises in Great Britain, where contractors send workmen to do work in foreign countries and where they make an arrangement with the insurance companies that compensation will be paid to such workmen at the British rate if an accident should occur. It is, in fact, the practice here at present in relation to Northern Ireland for insurance companies to enter into an arrangement with employers to pay Saorstát workers, injured in Northern Ireland, compensation at the standard rates, even though there is no legal obligation to do so. I do not anticipate any difficulty will arise.
I am not convinced of the real value of the section in relation to countries in Europe. However, it is not a serious matter at present, but if some of these trade treaties that we read so much about in the papers come off we may be sending workmen to some of these countries in a year or two.
I move amendment 10:—
New section. Before Section 24 to insert a new section as follows:—
24.—When compensation is payable under this Act in respect of any injury to a workman, whether such injury does or does not result in his death, and the court is satisfied that medical or surgical treatment has been received by the workman, whether in hospital or elsewhere, the court may, out of the compensation payable under this Act, direct the payment to the medical practitioner or practitioners from whom such treatment has been received of such sum as the court, having regard to the position in life of the workman and to all the other circumstances of the case, may consider reasonable for such treatment and may direct the manner in which such sum shall be paid.
This amendment differs in several respects from the amendment which I withdrew on the Committee Stage.
Would it be convenient to take amendment 11 as an amendment to No. 10? If amendment 10 were passed, then amendment 11 would have to be discussed as an amendment to it.
I think it might be well to argue them together, if the House agrees. We can put the first amendment, and if one is carried the other will probably go.
The alterations made in this amendment were to meet the views of some Senators who spoke on the former amendment. In the first place, this amendment, you will notice, leaves the question of payment to the medical attendant, and the amount of such payment entirely to the court to decide. The Bill without such an amendment, in my opinion, is incomplete. The medical attendance is an essential part of any compensation. The medical attendant not only renders service to the injured person at the time of the accident, but also at the subsequent attendances, and he also gives important information to the employer and to the injured person. He therefore stands in a particular sense as a very important person in connection with any compensation claim. There are three persons concerned: the employer, the injured person and the medical attendant. Any payment that has to be made must be made by the employer. Whether it is to the injured person or whether it is direct, the only person who pays is the employer. Therefore, it is a matter for the court, and I have left it for the court to decide how and in what respect. The court must necessarily take into consideration what the injured person has to pay for medical attendance. To leave such an amendment out of the Bill, to my mind, is tantamount to saying to the employer and the employee that it is not necessary to pay medical fees at all. This is so important that I think it ought to be introduced. This is a consolidating Bill, and without such an amendment, it does not meet the full case.
I beg to second the amendment, and in addition to what Senator Sir Edward Coey Bigger has said, I should like to say this is, in my opinion, a very desirable thing to do, but I am not in favour of the Senator's amendment in its entirety. I quite realise that when an accident happens, the medical man, by the attention which he gives to the case, mitigates the amount of injury and, consequently, the amount of loss, and that he is in a sense a salvage creditor on the fund which is represented by the compensation declared by the judge to be payable. But the Senator's amendment is absolute in its terms, that is, that out of the compensation payable to the workman, the judge shall be entitled to pay to the medical man his fees. The fees, if charged on the ordinary scale might eat up all, and if Senator Sir Edward Coey Bigger would agree to a reasonable compromise on his amendment, I think we might urge on the Minister to look on it with favour. Having considerable experience of these cases, I would say that any sum up to £5 ought to be awarded to the doctor as a claim preceding all other claims.
Even the lawyers' claims?
Those come in in his costs. The lawyer looks after himself, and indeed I may say—I suppose I am not giving away too many professional secrets—that we have up to the present contrived indirectly to give the medical man some portion of what is due to him in the costs, but the thing ought to be legalised and put in proper form. I would suggest that the judge should be authorised to award to the medical man, out of the compensation, a sum not exceeding £5, and then let the medical man stand in the same position as other creditors in relation to the remainder of his debt. I think that would be fair.
Senator Foran's amendment is:
11. New section. Before Section 24 to insert a new section as follows:—
24. Where under this Act compensation is payable in respect of injury by accident to a workman, whether such injury does or does not result in his death, the court may where it is satisfied that medical or surgical treatment has been rendered to such workman direct the payment to the medical practitioner or practitioners by whom such treatment was rendered of such sum as the court having regard to the circumstances of the case may consider reasonable and may direct the manner in which such sum shall be paid and any sum so ordered to be paid shall be in addition to the compensation payable to the workman under this Act.
Senator Duffy says "Hear, hear!" It is a very nice and popular thing to say "Hear, hear!" when it is a case of telling the workman: "We got you an addition to your compensation—the doctor's fees" and the employer is stuck for the whole lot. In the debate last week reference was made to the fact that the workman ought to be provided for. This is a very generous Bill, which makes very generous provision for the workman, and that has not been contested.
Where is the generous treatment?
Not at all.
Because it is not as good as Senator Johnson's blue book.
He knows more about it than you do.
I am sure he does. The whole Labour Party has spoken now. They are in competition with each other. Examine for a moment what the position would be. A workman is injured in the course of his employment and a doctor is called in. Doctors are generous men, and if it is a workman who is injured the fees are not so big, but if it is an employer who is to pay, you will have a rattling resounding bill——
From the lawyers.
——from the doctors, who are as good as the lawyers, but the employer will have to pay. If you are going to give compensation to a workman, increase the scale if the industry will bear it. I do not think the industry can bear a higher scale than there is in this Bill. I should be in favour of it if it could bear it. Insurances are very high and I have had practical experience of insurances. I had to insure men under the Workmen's Compensation Act for £170 in wages in respect of open-air work, and the quotation for that £170 in wages by the insurance company was £10. That is high.
Were explosives being used?
Yes, but only by two or three of the men. I think that the medical fees ought not to be an additional impost on the employer, otherwise the rates of insurance will go up beyond the ability of the employer to pay. I would much prefer to see the scale increased so as to give the workman the full benefit of the compensation paid or such compensation as the industry can afford.
Insurance premiums will be greater still, then.
No, I think not. Anybody who has experience of workmen and of employers will know that if there is a chance of salting the employers with medical fees, the employers will be salted. It is difficult to argue these two amendments at the same time, because I do not want to say one word either against the workman or against the medical man, because medical men, in my experience, give their services generously to workmen, and I have seen many cases of medical men going to attend patients and, instead of receiving fees, giving money to the patients to keep them alive.
You have never seen a lawyer do that.
It is not a habit, anyhow.
I am being interrupted by the chorus of able Labour representatives who are not in competition with me but with each other, each to show what a great fellow he is. I am in favour of Senator Sir Edward Coey Bigger's amendment. I am in favour of an amendment which would give the doctor a legal right to a certain sum of money out of the compensation, but I think it ought to be limited to about £5, leaving to the doctor, of course, his remedy for the remainder of his fees, as against the workman, on the same footing as an ordinary creditor. That is all I have to say about these two amendments.
Will you agree, Senator, to Senator Comyn's proposal?
Well, I should like to hear the views of other Senators on the matter, and the views of the Minister also. I have not seen the proposed amendment on paper.
It is very simple. It means that the medical man could not get more than £5 out of the compensation payable. In other words, that a sum not exceeding £5 be paid to the medical man, and that then the medical man should stand in the position of other creditors in relation to the remainder of his debt.
Would that mean that the medical man is not entitled to a fee for attending court?
No, it would mean £5 in addition to his fees for appearing in court, which would be payable out of the costs.
His fees in the court would come out of the costs.
Mr. O'Neill rose.
Before the Senator speaks I would ask the House to remember that we are on the Report Stage. I was very lenient on a previous occasion and allowed Senators to speak several times, but I would ask the Senator to remember that he is only entitled to speak once and to try to make his case in the one speech.
When reading this amendment and listening to the speeches already made in favour of it, it occurred to me, although quite agreeing with the amendment and with everything that has been said in reference to the doctors, who willingly give their services, that there are other pebbles on the beach. Although the doctors give their services willingly, it has occurred to me, as a plain man of the world, to ask what about the dairy man who supplies the milk, what about the provision man who supplies his provisions and all the different commodities which the unfortunate workman may require when he is divested of his capacity to work and of his few pounds? If they were to sit still and do nothing, it occurs to me that, even with the great care and attention of the doctors, the chances are that it would not be possible for the workman to live. With all respect, therefore, although agreeing with the amendment, I would suggest that the Minister should also embody the different people I have mentioned.
I am in favour of the principle which Senator Sir Edward Coey Bigger and Senator Foran seek to establish. With regard to Senator O'Neill's point, I would say that the doctor is in the unfortunate position that in 99 cases out of 100 he cannot recover, whereas the grocer and the other people mentioned by Senator O'Neill can recover. In addition to that, the doctor only comes in at the time of the accident, whereas the grocer, the milkman and the baker have been there already and, in all probability, will continue to have the workman's custom as soon as the man is convalescent. I know that the Minister has had representations made to him in connection with this matter since the Committee Stage, and I do not know if he has come to any favourable conclusion in connection with it, but I do suggest that we should hear the Minister and that, possibly, some agreement may be come to as between the two amendments.
The first amendment has been moved by a doctor and seconded by a lawyer. I must say, so far as the doctor is concerned, he has great experience in connection with workmen's compensation. Doctors have always been willing, and more than willing, to help to restore the injured workman to his physical well-being. If Senator Sir Edward Coey Bigger's amendment is passed, however, it would leave it open to take from the workman part of the compensation that had been allowed to him for his injury. What, then, is his position? Take the case of a man with a family, who has been seriously injured. He has to try to exist and maintain the family on 30/- a week. At the end of the period some arrangement might be made in the court and it would be possible to charge the man for the doctor's fees for the treatment he received over a lengthy period. That would make it possible that, when the doctor had been paid for his work in connection with the matter, very little would be left for the workman, who might have received a permanent injury. My object is to ensure that the doctor should be paid. I am in thorough agreement with putting the doctors on the same basis as the lawyers, as I believe they are more entitled to remuneration and compensation for their services, as their services are far more valuable.
The lawyer only salves a wounded conscience.
Well, if so, it must be their own consciences, because I have never known them to salve a workman's conscience. If a machine in a factory is damaged, a fitter is brought in to repair the machine, and the expense of repairs is borne by the factory. A workman, if he is injured, has to bear the cost of repairing himself. Senator Sir Edward Coey Bigger's amendment makes it possible to make a charge for hospital treatment, and I think it should be known in this House and outside this House that very large numbers of workmen in this city make levies on themselves to pay contributions to the hospitals of this city. Do the insurance companies do that, or do the employers, as an organisation, do it? I do not think they do. Certainly, they do not do it on the same liberal lines as the workmen do it, in proportion to their wealth. The object of my amendment is to remove the possibility of the workman being charged for the medical fees while I thoroughly agree that the doctor ought to be insured against loss. When a man is injured and the doctor comes along on very short notice and treats the workman and, by that treatment, shortens the period of the man's incapacity by a considerable period, somebody gets the benefit of that. The workman gets the benefit of it to some extent, but the employer and the insurance company get the benefit to a much greater extent, and the doctor does not benefit at all. I am in thorough agreement with this proposal, provided that the workman is assured of his full compensation and that no deductions are made from any amount awarded to him. I move my amendment.
I second the amendment. I wish that Senator Sir E. Coey Bigger and others would get out of their minds the thought that these amendments only apply to fatal cases or permanent injury cases. They would be applicable to temporary incapacity, and the effect of the first amendment might well be this. You have a very large number of cases—I have got the 1930 Report before me—and out of 7,000 cases where compensation was paid, 3,000 of them were in agriculture. The average compensation per case was £13 11s., but many of these cases will be much less than £13 11s. Let us take it that the average wage of many of these people is 20/-. Taking 20/-, the amount they would be entitled to as a maximum would be 16/- a week. You may add a little to that if you think of a 25/- a week wage. I ask the House to think of the man idle for five or ten weeks at 16/-, 17/-, or 18/- per week, and that you are asking the House to pass a motion which would say that the doctor's fees, whatever the court thinks desirable, would have to be taken from this 16/- per week. Surely no one is going to say that is just. I argue the case on this assumption: that the doctor's service is part of the treatment of the accident but due to the accident. As the whole code that is embodied in this Bill presupposes that the employer is responsible for a certain charge in respect to an accident and as medical treatment is an essential part of the treatment of the accident, I think it should be a responsibility lying upon the employer to cover himself for the medical charges or to pay them if he prefers not to be insured. Surely it is unjust to think of taking them out of the compensation. It is understood that the compensation to the workman is compensation for loss of ability to earn a wage, and the treatment by the medical attendant is surely intended to enable that workman to get well, if possible, so that the liability falling on the employer will not be as great if he can be brought into good health again: if the temporary incapacity is not to become a permanent incapacity thereby involving a higher liability on the employer. Surely the employer would be justly entitled and ought to be very glad to accept the liability for the medical services in that respect. It is going, in fact, to assist the employer to relieve himself of some financial liability. Consequently, I support the amendment which secures to the medical attendant payment for his services which are the inevitable accompaniment to the injury.
To any amount. Do you make any limitation?
That is a matter that I would be prepared to limit so far as the liability under this Act is concerned. But the compensation of the workman ought not to be eaten into by the medical officer's fees, and that is covered by motion that Senator Foran has put down. I would ask the House to agree to the principle that there should be no deduction from the workman's compensation, but that, in addition, there should be some security to the medical officer getting his fees in respect to attendance upon the person who has been injured under the circumstances assumed in the Bill.
When this matter was under discussion in Committee I argued against the insertion of any special provision to secure the payment of fees to doctors concerned in accident cases of this kind on the grounds that the doctor had precisely the same right in law to recover the debts due to him as any other creditor of the injured workman, and that there was no special reason why a debt due by the workman to the doctor should have priority over a debt due by the workman to the butcher, the baker, the grocer or to the landlord for rent. Since then, as has been mentioned here, I have met a deputation from the Medical Association. I was informed by the members of that Association that there are decided cases which make it clear that a doctor has, in fact, no right to recover fees claimed by him in respect of treatment given to a patient in the public ward of a hospital, and also that whatever the law may be, doctors are not paid in respect of treatment given to workmen injured in industrial accidents. One member of the deputation stated that that failure to secure payment applied in 100 per cent. of the cases in his experience. Another said it applies in 99.1 per cent. of the cases. Of course, those present were making the case for the particular amendment in the interests of their profession, and a little judicious exaggeration was to be expected under the circumstances. The facts are (1) it is clear that the doctors do fail to collect fees they claim in cases like this quite frequently, and (2) that whatever the legal position may be, it is not their practice to seek recovery of fees by legal proceedings. There are several courses we could take. One is to adopt the course suggested by Senator Johnson's amendment of enacting that the doctor must be paid whatever fees the court deems reasonable and paid such fees at the expense of the employer of the injured workman. Or we could adopt the course suggested by Senator Sir E. Coey Bigger and enact again that the doctor must be paid whatever fees are considered reasonable by the court to be paid at the expense of the worker and out of the compensation awarded to him. I think it would be agreed that if we adopt that course we are not likely to see a reduction in the doctor's fees for treatment of this kind.
If we put into this statute that the doctor must be paid his reasonable fees, then the fees are not likely to come down. There is a very considerable chance they will go up. The doctor in the ordinary course would possibly fix his bill having regard to the amount he would be likely to get from the workman. But if he knows that in any circumstances where the workman or the employee suffers he is going to get fees that are considered reasonable, he will be under no inducement to restrict the amount of the bill or to limit the treatment. As many Senators know, there are many forms of treatment for different diseases. A pain in the stomach may be cured by a dose of medicine or by a trip to the Riviera. One of these courses of treatment is more expensive than the other. A workman who gets an injury to his arm could be cured by a simple treatment or by a modern method which is more expensive. If we say to the doctor: "Give the workman whatever you think fit at a reasonable fee, and you are to be paid these fees," though the amount given in compensation to the workman is to be halved, then we are going to have expensive treatment. Individual doctors will play the game by their profession and by their client. But we find such individuals in all professions that we have to base our legislation upon the assumption that original sin still operates in humanity.
The experience of other countries shows that we could make a very considerable mistake in enacting a section of the kind suggested. I have examined the experience of one Australian State where they embodied in their legislation a provision precisely similar to that suggested by Senator Foran. The effect was to double or to increase by 50 per cent. the cost of the workman's compensation. Payment of the medical fees arising out of the enactment of that section meant an all-round increase of 50 per cent. I have not been able to get information in all cases where legislation of the type suggested by Senator Sir E. Coey Bigger is in operation, but having regard to the 50 per cent. compensation increase that took place in one country, we could reasonably contemplate an increase of 50 per cent. in the costs here, 50 per cent. addition in the amount paid in compensation in actual cash to the workman in every case.
That brings us up against the possibility of providing for a recovery of fees by doctors subject to certain limitations. There are difficulties in fixing the limit, because the nature of industrial accidents varies considerably. You have, in one case, damage to a finger as against, in another case, injuries which may leave a man a cripple for life. The latter involves treatment of a different kind. Consequently the treatment will vary in particular cases. On the other hand, any limit of fees that we fix is very likely to become the minimum fee. If we say the doctor is entitled to recover from the workman his fees, and we put the figure at £5, £10 or £20, that particular figure you may take it, will be the actual fee in each case subject, of course, to certain considerations. I am not intending to cast any reflection upon the medical profession when I speak of any inducement as to the treatment they give. The workman contemplates the fact that he is entitled to get treatment which is going to be paid for by the employer, and in the case of a minor accident he will get a general overhaul if he can at the expense of the employer whenever the opportunity is offered to him.
Following the interview which I had with the representatives of the Medical Association I gave this matter fairly large consideration. I met the Association on Tuesday last. It was then late in the evening, and it was not until yesterday that an opportunity of considering the matter arose and of putting the results of that consideration in the form of an amendment to this Bill. I do not know from what source Senator Comyn received his inspiration, but to a large extent the course he suggested here is the course that has recommended itself to me. I think if we are to make the payment of doctors a statutory obligation we must put the obligation upon the employer. We must, necessarily, therefore, have a very strict limit upon the amount that we are going to secure to the doctor in any individual case.
Having regard to the fact that the amount is likely to be the minimum and, on the other hand, having regard to the fact that it may be completely inadequate to meet the actual expenditure in the treatment of particular cases, the proposal, therefore, that I would make is to enact a section into the Bill which would provide for the payment by the employer to the doctor of the fees due by the workman to a maximum of £5, without depriving the doctor of his existing rights of recovering the balance of whatever he considers is due to him by the worker. I had a section of this kind drafted by the draftsman. I do not know whether it would be possible to put it in at this stage, but I am quite prepared to consider an adjournment of the Report Stage for a week if necessary, and have this amendment put in formally, that is, if it cannot be accepted informally, or in contravention of the rules of the House at this stage. The amendment proposes to insert before Section 73 a new section as follows:—
(a) compensation is payable under this Act in respect of an injury to a workman, and
(b) such workman has received, whether in hospital or elsewhere, medical or surgical treatment in respect of such injury, and
(c) any fees are due by such workman to a medical practitioner in respect of such treatment, and
(d) such compensation is fixed by an order of the court or under a weekly payment agreement, commutation agreement, or an agreement by way of compromise registered by order of the court under Part VI of this Act,
the court may, if it so thinks fit, upon the application of such medical practitioner made immediately upon the making of such order, direct the employer to pay, in addition to the compensation, to such medical practitioner in respect of such fees such sum, not exceeding five pounds, as the court may fix, and if such direction is given the payment by the employer to such medical practitioner of the sum so fixed shall be deemed to be a payment by such workman to such medical practitioner in respect of such fees.
The effect of that amendment is quite clear. It only proposes where compensation is awarded where the workman is receiving treatment and fees are due to the doctor arising out of that treatment that compensation should be fixed by an order of the court or by agreement registered by an order of the court. It is clear that we cannot legislate here in respect of agreements that do not come before the court, voluntary agreements. Then the court may fix the amount to be paid by the employer in addition to the compensation and subject to a maximum of £5 in respect of medical fees, the amount so payable by the employer being taken as part payment of the worker's debt to the doctor. That will provide for the complaint that in 100 per cent. of the cases doctors get nothing. In all these cases where the court is involved it will be open to the doctor to apply for payment under this section. It does not create the dangers to which I have referred of exorbitant claims or exorbitant fees because there is a very definite limitation of the amount involved. I do not think we should increase that amount because the experience of mankind in all countries has been that the maximum limitation becomes in practice the minimum. The worker is not deprived of any part of his compensation. The prospect of the butcher, the baker and the landlord being paid is not reduced. The prospect of the doctor receiving any more than the £5 provided for here is not any less than his prospect of receiving the same payment in the position as it stands at the moment. I think, therefore, that that section is as near as it is possible to go to meet the various arguments put forward and the representations made by the Medical Association.
I think that the new section proposed by the Minister ought to be accepted.
I should like to point out that the House cannot now consider the suggested amendment by the Minister. There is, however, an alternative course. The House could pass either, the amendment in the name of Senator Sir Edward Coey Bigger or the amendment in the name of Senator Foran and the Minister's amendment could then come back from the Dáil as a substituted amendment.
I think that it would be much better that we should postpone the Report Stage for a week if we cannot insert the amendment now. That would be preferable to having the amendment moved in the other House and sent back here.
It is unlikely that we shall have any other business if we meet next week.
I should prefer to have the amendment inserted here and sent to the Dáil.
I prefer my own amendment, but as the Minister has given this matter careful consideration and has gone a long way to meet the medical profession, being most courteous throughout the whole matter, I should like to meet him. If it be the wish of the House, I am prepared to withdraw the amendment and to accept the Minister's amendment either now or this day week.
We may have the Slaughter of Animals Bill next week.
I understand that there will be a motion of considerable importance down for next week, though it will not be put down by me.
Agreed—to postpone further consideration of the amendments until Wednesday.
In view of what Senator Sir John Keane said, I take it that, when we meet, the amendments will have priority over the suggested motion.
I am sure they will.
This amendment is designed to meet a point raised by Senator Johnson on Committee Stage. It provides that the workman will be entitled to get his compensation, even though resident outside Saorstát Eireann, where the medical practitioner of the employer certifies that it is desirable. It is necessary to give that right to the employer, because he is entitled at any time to have the workman medically examined, subject to the regulations that may be made under the Act to ensure that the compensation is still payable.
That meets my point.
This amendment is consequential.
I move amendment 18:—
Section 73 (being the new section inserted in Committee). To delete the section.
The section inserted in Committee gave trade unions power, where they advanced money to a workman during the period prior to his claim for compensation being paid, to go to court and have an order made for the repayment out of the compensation payable to the workman of the money advanced. I am moving the deletion of that section, because no trade union affiliated to the Irish Trades Union Congress and no reputable trade union that we are aware of is in favour of having this power given to trade unions. Trade unions which advance money in such cases to injured workmen are quite satisfied with the power that exists for recovery of such sums and are not in favour of unions being invested with this power or being put into the position of having to apply to the court for portion of the compensation awarded to workmen. I have been asked by the Trade Union Congress and the Labour Party to move the deletion of this section, and I hope the Minister will agree to its deletion.
I second the amendment.
For some reason best known to himself, Senator Duffy has chosen not to give the Seanad any reason why the section should be deleted. It is some information to know that the Irish Trades Union Congress and the Irish Labour Party wish to have it deleted, but, presumably, they must have some reason for their wish— some reason capable of being formulated and expressed here. That has not been done. The section was inserted on the representations of people associated with trade unions and persons who have had some considerable experience of workmen's compensation cases. I cannot see that the conferring of this power on any trade union inflicts any injury upon it. I am surprised to hear that any trade union objects to getting this power. It is a fact that unions have experienced the difficulty to which I made reference in my remarks when proposing the adoption of the section here. I regret as much as anyone else that there is not a single organ through which the opinion of the trade union movement can be expressed and that differences of opinion exist between unions affiliated to the Trades Union Congress and unions not so affiliated. I deeply regret that, but I do not see why, on that account, we should delete from this Bill a section which was inserted because I was satisfied that such a section was necessary. Against it, no substantial argument has yet been advanced.
I am sorry I did not satisfy the Minister. I thought he was not very keen on the matter, but one of the main reasons for the trades unions opposing this section is the fact that it enables small groups of people to come together, register themselves as trades unions and exploit workmen who have met with accidents, and who are in a position to bring the employers to court for compensation. These parties of unscrupulous persons, by advancing small sums of money and getting agreements signed for a certain amount of compensation, are enabled by a provision of this sort to exploit working men.
We have discussed the matter fully with representatives of trades unions—the T.U.C.—and they were all unanimously in favour of leaving the law as it is, and of not having this power put into the hands of unscrupulous bodies who might be got together for this purpose.
I should like the Senator or some other Senator to explain how workmen would be exploited. The repayment to the union of the sum advanced is at the absolute discretion of the court.
I take it that apart from the legislation in this Bill, the trades union would have the ordinary recourse to law if they advanced money. Since that is so, we do not want any extra powers in the matter. It is just possible that certain people will take advantage of this provision, and exploit the injured workman to his detriment.
I might express surprise that the Minister should question the right of the Irish Trades Union Congress to speak as the accredited representatives of the organised trade unions of this country. The number that is not affiliated is trifling. It is rather surprising and disappointing to hear from the Minister some question as to the representative character of the Trades Union Congress in matters dealing with trade unions. One would have thought that in so important a matter as this, inserting such a power in a Bill dealing with workmen's compensation and particularly concerning the trades unions and the trades unions' powers under the Act, he would have consulted the trades unions or the Trades Union Congress on this specific point. I might not have the same thought in regard to the seriousness of this section as others but I know well enough that a trades union is not defined under this Bill. I know that by registering under the Trades Unions Act and other Acts almost any group of people can become a trades union. Senator O'Hanlon will know that the Farmers' Union is a trades union or was. Some of us know of a certain one or two. We know of one particular organisation which need not be mentioned. I am not sure that it still exists but it probably does and it existed for years and years. It numbered but one person, and that one was the secretary. It was registered as a trade union and it was always advertised as registered No. so-and-so. We know that that particular trade union secretary utilised the advantages which that title gave him to exploit many citizens of the State in regard to old age pensions and obtained, as a recompense, a commission for his services or alleged services in obtaining old age pensions.
It is quite in the power of such a person or such a group of persons to arrange with an injured workman that they are going to fight his case in the courts and to get an agreement from that man that he has received value so-and-so and, by a subterfuge of that kind, recover from the workman when he gets compensation the amount which is supposed to have been advanced. There is no question at all that with the lack of definition of "trades union" and with only the kind of supervision of trades unions that is contained in the Friendly Societies and Trades Unions Acts, bogus unions and semi-bogus unions can utilise this particular section to damage the organisation. If the reputable, well-recognised trades unions have a particular view on this question, it is not desirable, I submit to the Minister and to the House, that this power should be given. There would at least be some inconsistency in our asking for this power of prior claim in respect of moneys advanced when we have opposed so rigorously the claim of the doctors for a prior claim. That by the way. The point is that the trades unions that are most concerned and the Trades Union Congress do not desire that this power should be given.
I am quite prepared to leave the matter to be decided by the House but I suggest that Deputy Johnson's arguments are not really arguments against the section but arguments for the revision of the legislation dealing with the control of trades unions.
This is the amendment to effect the change in the Coal Mines Act, 1911, which was suggested by Senator Johnson.
I move amendment 20:—
Sixth Schedule. After the word "Dermatitis", inserted in Committee in column 1 of the tabular statement, to insert the words "produced by dust or liquids" and to delete in column 2 the words "Produced by dust or liquids."
This amendment and the next one are intended merely to effect verbal alterations in an amendment inserted on a previous stage.
I move amendment 21:
Sixth Schedule. To delete in column 1 of the tabular statement the word "glassworks", inserted in Committee, and to substitute therefor the word "glassworkers."
The Report Stage stands adjourned until next Wednesday.
The Seanad adjourned at 5.22 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, February 7th.