I was saying that the planners at that time made the right decision in the conditions facing them because the conditions existing then, as the Minister pointed out, had changed over a period of time. The situation then called for substantial subvention by the Government. Prior to that there was, as we understand it, cross-fertilisation. There was nothing peculiar about this. It was not perceived as a national deviation from economic norms and practices; it was happening in other countries. The financial cross-fertilisation initially contained inside the transport system was replaced by external subvention or subsidy from the people at large, the taxpayers' money through the Government. The obligation to subsidise was never questioned; the principle was accepted. What was questioned and became an issue was and is the ever-increasing size of the subsidy. When that subsidy was observed to relate directly to a degree of inefficiency some mismanagement and the deteriorating industrial relations along with political complacency, apathy and interference by the Government in a way that did not assist the State enterprise, it is not surprising that the present Government decided to tackle the problems inherent in such a structure.
It is probably true to say that such an exercise as now proposed in the Bill might have been usefully mounted some 15 or 20 years ago. The main objectives of the Government have been clearly spelled out by the Minister to keep the deficit under control without major disruption of services to the public or employment, to improve morale and the working environment generally in CIE, to improve the reliability and attractiveness of services at the lowest possible fares and last, to obtain greater transferrency of the allocation of costs between the various CIE activities. I will come back to that fourth item at a later stage.
I want to say that no reasonable mind in the areas of politics, trade unions, management, workers and the members of the public could possibly look with disapproval on these objectives. I want you to understand that I am making a justifiable claim here in the area of efficiency. I am probably the only trade union official in these islands who gave strike notice to a semi-State company in the Republic — I operated in Northern Ireland and in the Republic — that if it did not introduce industrial engineering with the objective of efficiency, I gave them three months before they would have a strike. That is some claim. So you need have no fear of the motivation towards efficiency from me or my colleagues in the Labour Party or indeed the workers.
But what the people in all the areas I have referred to may question is the means, the methods to be adopted to get to these objectives which I have spelled out, that is the four objectives spelled out by the Minister. Nevertheless, I have to say that whatever changes in the Bill in its present form are established as necessary out of debate in this Chamber and elsewhere, these will not in my view be of a major character. They will not upset the direction or the tone of the Bill, but the qualification is that certain conditions must be met. At the same time whatever about the dimensions of the proposals to amend, the greatest extent of agreement should be sought between the parties concerned. That is fundamental in this experiment.
At this point it is only right and proper that I make reference to the Government package approved in 1983, as the Minister stated, and I quote:
...aimed at not only reducing CIE's cost to the Exchequer over a five year period but also paving the way for a new operating environment in CIE.
He also said:
The package also provided for the payment of the subvention above the line in recognition of CIE's social role in providing commercially unprofitable but socially desirable services.
That is a basic ingredient which must be maintained if we believe that State enterprise in the context of CIE is to continue and be maintained. The third important factor in this package is to be seen in the statement by the Minister:
An obligation was placed on CIE to reduce the level of the expenditure in real terms by 2½ per cent per annum up to 1988 so as to obtain a reducing subvention in line with reducing expenditure.
It is widely accepted that the Minister's claim that the targets for 1983, 1984 and 1985 have been met is factual. I am bound to say that those people who believe that must give credit where it is due, to the initiatives of the Government, the Minister and his Department and to the people who implemented the proposals. The Minister and the Government are in the happy position that the Bill is now part of an ongoing process, to go into detail, to actually proceed along the lines indicated by the package. I am not giving credit to the Minister just to please him so that I may get agreement from him in pleasing me on some changes that I want. I am doing so because it is right.
If I, or my colleagues, seek changes it is because we believe that they are right. We believe that because they are right the Minister must acquiesce and must agree to make the changes that inevitably will be sought. The Bill then must be viewed against that background and interpreted as a logical follow-up to the changes established in the three years 1983, 1984 and 1985. The Bill tables more precise steps to be taken as a means to the four objectives referred to earlier. These could be described as methods of implementation. I have said already that while objectives will be accepted methods may be questioned: means to get to the objectives may be questioned. There is nothing remarkable about this. There are so many parties involved, it is nearly inevitable. These changes, as we come across them, on Committee Stage will be crucial and present us with the forum for the crucial debate on how everybody will move forward in unity towards the objectives contained in the Bill. It is essential that agreement is sought and obtained. If these appear to be reasonable in the context of the Bill I would suggest that they should be accepted, especially if they do not represent a major departure from efficiency, good management, easier identification of commercial results, good service to the public and the normally acceptable protections for the workforce. In other words, I do not think that the Labour Party will be unreasonable in the conditions they seek to satisfy.
The parties concerned in the proposed operations, the Government, the workers, the management and the public representatives in both Houses, are involved. The role of management at this stage is simply to wait until they see what form the structures will take which they will manage. Their role will come later in co-operation with the workforce on the ground at the workplace. That is where the implementation will take place. We have to examine what kind of structures should be there to implement the proposals contained in the Bill.
The workers occupy a different position. They are actively involved now looking at the proposed structures, assessing their future role and no doubt stating their views. They have done this. Their immediate concern is to examine the overall new situation proposed arising from the proposals contained in the Bill relating first, to the terms and conditions of employment and second, to whether the new structures will in any way endanger their future prospects and livelihoods. I am saying that in the context — I am probably guilty of reiterating or repeating myself — of not having a proper employment environment but one where the fear has deepened about the possibility of closure and redundancy. It is imperative therefore that their views are given consideration as well as the views of the public representatives who may put forward suggestions or proposals on their behalf. In this connection agreement is vital rather than anything which would appear to be imposed. The latter situation, the imposing of these solutions, would surely not make a positive contribution to the more progressive activation or motivation desired and necessary to make the new operations work harmoniously.
On the assumption that agreement with the workers is established I should like to examine their role as active participants in co-operation with management in what I see as a progressive experiment always allowing for the qualifications that I have made. It could be claimed that the management-worker relationship is the most vital element in the working of any service in any unit of production, distribution or business or business complex. It has to be observed that far too seldom has the full potential of the workers' contribution to efficiency and productivity been recognised and usefully employed. Management need the co-operation of workers. More especially in State or semi-State structures it is important that the concept of partnership is fully recognised and given meaning.
The basic ingredient of ownership and an unbalanced sense of power in private industry giving rise to conflict does not exist in State enterprises simply because State enterprises are the property of the people, properly understood, and the workers are co-partners in that ownership held in trust by the Government on behalf of the people.
I am making the point that we must have a situation of accepting the concept of the people owning the State enterprise and the Government simply holding the State enterprises — all of the enterprises — for the people. Once the concept of ownership on a co-partnership basis is established by proper communication and intelligent participation by all concerned then you do not have the conflict of the power struggle with the property owners that exists in private industry leading from time to time to conflict and bad industrial relations. If workers can see and appreciate that through enlightened communication, management and workers in such enterprises will be activated by the idea of full co-operation on the basis of partnership, on a common ownership basis, then we should be going forward in a more harmonious manner than heretofore. Industrial relations should in these conditions improve and produce a high performance record.
I have said that these matters which will require amendment pertaining to and impinging on the livelihoods, the fear, the apprehension of the workers, the question of closure and redundancy and terms and conditions of employment are negotiable. They are not so difficult and unwieldy that people cannot come to conclusions about them. There should not be a problem provided each side approaches these problems and the amendments, on Committee Stage, with mature reasonable minds and a compromise, I am sure, will be reached.
The second part which I said I had divorced from the first part is the question of the company structures. I already said that people talk about two companies and three companies. One school of thought is for two companies; another school of thought is for three companies. I simplify this by saying let us talk about one or two companies outside Dublin. It seems to me, reading the arguments for two companies outside Dublin that this separateness and therefore competition might reduce proper co-ordination which might lead to the result that the workers are afraid of. That is the two-company concept. It seems to me that the Minister and all concerned in that school of thought about the two companies outside Dublin feel that they will be able to see the transferency of the commercial enterprise and its operation, the transferency of the costs. I submit seriously that the same transferency can be seen inside a one company context. You could have two divisions. It is an administrative exercise and if that is the only basis on which the Government and the Minister want two companies rather than one all outside Dublin, then it is fairly weak ground.
Again, it would seem — properly — that the Government and the Ministers feel that the two-company structure will in some way that is not clear to me provide the basic ingredients for better industrial relations in so far as management will be nearer, or the boards will be nearer the workers. I do not accept that. There is a gap always between a board and the hierarchy of management down the line. The management who make decisions quickly and specifically and operate always having at the back of their mind good industrial relations and less possibility of estranging workers on the job are not members of a board. It therefore depends on how effectively any board, whether in a private enterprise or a State enterprise delegate the authority to the management on the ground. That is in the industrial relations department. It is not a matter for the board. I cannot conceive members of a board of any company walking around the shop floor or the workplace every day to keep in touch with workers. I can conceive of the delegation of authority outside the managerial hierarchy at the ground floor getting the participation of the workers. That brings me to this point: it is not only a question of industrial relations, important as these are. It is a question of proper participation.
Worker directors are one matter. I was a worker director in the Sugar Company long before the worker director legislation came in. I made a point of moving among the workers. Every director does not do that. It is not a question of the managerial staff on the ground simply relaying instructions to workers as to what has to be done, how it is to be done and in what time it should be done: it is a question of evolving to a situation where the workers are taking part in decisions. In the State enterprises they are actually part-owners of the enterprise and it will be more present to their minds that they are active participants. Do not ask me about structures. The worker-directors concept to me is a move in the right direction. If this CIE experiment, either one company or two companies, is to prove a success, such factors as the structures at the ground floor, at the workplace and quick decisions, given the authority to make them are the essence of success in providing proper worker participation in a company in which they feel that they should be recognised as equal partners. That is participation. People call it industrial democracy — to a point. It is participation so long as the workers see that they are actively participating in decisions, in why things have to be done, in the knowledge which has to be given to them before they understand why decisions are made and what the objectives are. In other words, I am suggesting seriously that the structures at the ground floor, at the workplace, will have to be re-examined or examined because it is virgin soil, there are no structures at the ground floor.
The two bases therefore on which the two-company proposal is put forward are fairly weak because these could operate inside a one-company context, one company, one board and, I say, two divisions. That is one option, instead of two companies. Administratively, if you want to see which side of the division is losing money you cannot see it with two divisions under one board and one company. But — and this is the fear that the workers have — if you have a divorcement between rail and road outside Dublin workers have this fear that eventually the non-profitable section will not be subsidised. It will be closed in conditions and in circumstances they will not like and they have to be reassured that this will not happen. They will have to be told with clarity what exactly will happen to them if closures ever come. It seems to me, to be fair about it, that the Bill is not aimed and is not orientated towards closing: it seems to me that the basic motivation, reading the words, indicates the continuation of the CIE in new format. I believe that there is no great difference between the one company outside Dublin and the two companies outside Dublin. If the two company idea is continued with, the workers will feel that it is imposed on them and that they have rejected the basic concept that it actually makes the whole two structures more competitive and therefore more financially profitable. This could be done inside a one-company set-up. I will finish on that note and come again with my Labour Party colleagues at the Committee Stage to the amendments we feel pertain and impinge on what the workers require but the Minister will have to have another think about the one-or the two-company concept. People are talking about two or three companies. I suggest that they think in terms of one company or two outside Dublin.