Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Seanad Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 28 Jun 1950

Vol. 38 No. 7

Trade Union Bill, 1950—Second and Subsequent Stages.

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Under the Trade Union Act, 1941, it is unlawful for any body of persons, with certain specific exceptions, to carry on negotiations for the fixing of wages or other conditions of employment unless it has been granted a negotiation licence. A condition precedent to the grant of such a licence was that the union should make and maintain with the High Court, a deposit of not less than £1,000 increasing to a maximum of £10,000 (according to membership).

Before the Act was passed it was foreseen that, on account of prevailing abnormal conditions, some of the Irish trade unions would be unable to make the full deposit. It was therefore decided to insert a relieving provision in the Act to meet such cases. Section 8 of the Act accordingly conferred on the Minister power to make an Order in favour of Irish unions reducing by a maximum of 75 per cent. the normal deposit, if it could be satisfactorily shown that, on account of abnormal conditions referable to the war, undue hardship would ensue by requiring the trade union to make the full deposit. This provision was due to expire on the revocation of the Emergency Powers Act, 1939.

Many reduction Orders were in force towards the end of the emergency and it was considered that the circumstances which necessitated the relieving provisions in the Act of 1941 had not materially changed. Consultations with representatives of the trade union organisations showed that the withdrawal of the concession at that time would impose hardship on many unions and, in some cases, might have the effect of disqualifying trade unions from continuing to hold negotiation licences.

The Trade Union Act, 1947, was therefore introduced. It repealed Section 8 of the Act of 1941 and reenacted the main provision of that section as from the 9th July, 1947. Again, in 1948, a new Trade Union Act was passed extending the concession for a further period of 12 months as from 9th July, 1948.

Circumstances in 1949 showed no substantial improvement and the Trade Union Act of that year was passed in order to continue these reliefs up to the 8th July, 1950. Upon reviewing the situation this year I am satisfied that there is a good case for the extension of the concession which is now operating to the benefit of 25 Irish trade unions.

The present Bill is intended to continue the relieving provisions for a further period of 12 months, that is, to the 8th July, 1951.

The question of a further extension after that date will receive consideration in the light of the circumstances and conditions then obtaining.

The purpose of insisting on this deposit originally was to ensure that the union was in fact a genuine union and not just a small group that pretended to be a union. I always thought that the minimum amount required as a deposit was too high. In practice it proved to be too high. Power is now given to the Minister to reduce the amount. I am wondering—and I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to consider this for the next occasion—whether it would not be advisable to make a permanent reduction in the amount that would be required as deposit. There are many small unions that are efficient and good, catering for men in special employments, that could not undertake to pay the amount of the deposit that is required under the Act.

Are there many unions involved?

There is a considerable number.

They would be the smaller craft unions?

Some are smaller craft unions. Others are unions catering for small numbers of workers. They are more or less all unions confined to particular trades. The point Senator O'Connell made was considered and in fact it was originally intended to continue the Act for a longer period than 12 months but, in view of the discussions which are proceeding at the moment, it was thought desirable to continue it for 12 months.

On the general question of a reduction in the amount of the deposit, I think there is a good deal to be said for that in respect of a number of these unions. On the other hand, if the two congresses reach agreement, it might be likely that some of the larger unions would be in a position to pay the full deposit. So that, for the present, I think the Seanad will agree, it is desirable to continue the Act for 12 months and consider the situation, possibly after these discussions have terminated.

I think that even in the case of some of the larger unions, the amount they have to tie up in the deposit causes them considerable inconvenience at times.

I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary if the deposit is so invested that it makes money for the unions.

Does the union get the interest?

Question put and agreed to.

When is it proposed to take the next stage?

Could we take it now?

I would like to say that I dislike rushing legislation. I assume that this Bill, which passed through the Dáil this morning, reaches us unamended?


I assume that there was agreement. I think the Parliamentary Secretary should explain that the Bill as we get it is unamended and that there was agreement.

Not only that, but it has become an annual Bill. It differs from a number of annual Bills in that there are no variations whatever. It just continues from year to year. I regret that the Seanad has had to be rushed but the Bill must be enacted by July, and as I understand this House is not meeting next week, it was deemed more convenient to take this Bill to-day.

This will be the seventh or eighth time it was introduced?

This is the fourth Bill. Under the Emergency Powers Act, power was taken to reduce the deposit. That Act expired and some of the provisions were continued in the Supplies and Services Act. This particular provision was not germane to that Act and it was implemented by a special Act in 1947, which lasted for a year. This is the fourth Bill.

Agreed to take remaining stages to-day.

Bill put through Committee and reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.