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Committee on Finance. - Electricity (Special Provisions) Bill, 1966: Second Stage.

Tuesday, 7 June 1966

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 223 No. 1

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Minister for Industry and Commerce (Dr. Hillery): Information on Patrick John Hillery Zoom on Patrick John Hillery I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time.

[92] The Bill deals with the question of the interruption of supplies of electricity arising out of trade disputes and I should like to explain to the House that its provisions would become effective only on the making of an Order by the Government and the power in the Bill to make an Order bringing the Bill into effect would be exercisable by the Government only in circumstances where the supply of electricity is interrupted or in imminent danger of being interrupted. There would be discussion by the Dáil since such an order would be placed before both Houses of the Oireachtas and could be annulled by either House.

It is not the type of legislation which the Government thought it would ever be obliged to introduce but the community cannot carry on without electricity. There are two possible methods by which an interruption of the supplies of electricity could be provided against securely. One method would be the negotiation of a voluntary arrangement by the employees of the Electricity Supply Board to give up their right to such action as would bring about interruption or serious danger of interruption in the supply of electricity. We have not got this voluntary arrangement. In its absence, the Government, on behalf of the community, must have resort to the only alternative method, that is to seek legislative powers to deal with such a contingency. We do not regard this as the more desirable procedure. I should like to stress that the Government do not regard it as desirable at all. I regret to say that circumstances have arisen which place a clear obligation on the Government to take power to be able to act in the event of an electricity crisis.

The facts of the situation are sufficiently well known and do not call for a lengthy statement from me. It is no revelation to say that in our western civilisation conditions of life have by now become extraordinarily complex. The paradox is that our technical advances have placed us on a razor edge and day by day we are becoming more and more dependent on the smooth flow of supplies and services which themselves are caught [93] up in a web of interdependence. In this situation, electricity is no longer a matter of mere relative importance in our lives. Today, the importance of electricity is absolute. When speaking on the subject of industrial relations in Ennis in December last, I said that the extension of the principle that a man can withdraw his labour to include the right of a trade union to call a major strike in an essential industry is like putting a nuclear warhead on a conventional weapon.

The realities of the situation in which we now find ourselves transcend any such issues as traditional rights of sectional interests. When the lifeline of the nation is in danger, if the nation cannot look to the State for protection, then chaos is come. The ESB is an agency of the State and is the nerve centre of our everyday lives. No one in that organisation could be unaware of the havoc that a serious strike could cause. It would be naive to suggest that it is necessary to place pickets on ESB installations in order to let people know there is a trade dispute on. The various media now available for the dissemination of news see to it that we know what is happening. Therefore the effect of picketing is to disrupt the organisation so that it cannot supply the people with the electricity which is vitally necessary.

If that is not the purpose of pickets on ESB installations, then they have little meaning at all. The one simple, basic fact in this whole matter is that we cannot carry on now without electricity. The workers who supply us with electricity are in a unique position. They know the position, as indeed does every man and woman in Ireland know it now.

If an Order is made bringing the Act into operation, it will give legal effect to the rates of remuneration and conditions of service to people employed in the ESB. This will not prevent rates or conditions being varied as a result of determination by one or other of the statutory ESB tribunals, or a determination by an arbitrator, or a recommendation by the Labour Court. The legislation would make it [94] unlawful for the Board of the ESB to remunerate any of its employees or apply conditions of service otherwise than in accordance with what I have just said. Strikes and picketing aimed at forcing issues of remuneration and conditions other than those determined in accordance with the procedure laid down in the Bill would be illegal if they interrupt or threaten imminently to interrupt the electricity supply.

The House is aware that the normal traditional method for resolving differences is by free collective bargaining. The Government would prefer to see the parties in the ESB settling their differences in this way, through the agreed negotiating procedures. If the parties fail to settle in this way, and if there is serious disruption of electricity supply or imminent danger of disruption, then the provisions of this legislation must be applied. The Bill does not attempt to abolish the fundamental rights of workers to strike. Its intention is to curtail that right on a narrow front where the exercise of the right would lead to a shut-down of electricity supply and so bring the country to a halt. I am not speaking about anything outside the experience of Deputies. Twice within the last couple of weeks this danger has appeared and has been brought home to us.

I do not know why Deputies saw fit to make remarks about my colleague, the Minister for Transport and Power, because he is not handling this. He, like all Ministers, participates in a collective responsibility for the measure but matters relating to trade union law, or relating to industrial relations law, are the sole responsibility of the Minister for Industry and Commerce and this explains why the Minister for Transport and Power is not handling this Bill. I recommend the provisions of the Bill to the House. As I said, its purpose is to enable the Government to act in a contingency and even though, as some Deputy remarked, the crisis seems more remote now, what the Bill seeks is to give power to the Government to make an Order if a crisis is upon us.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish On a point of order, this Bill has been more or less, for the [95] want of another expression, rushed through and about threequarters of an hour ago I handed in an amendment to the office of the Ceann Comhairle. I understand it has not yet been received by you, Sir. I would like your permission to move this amendment.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan If the Deputy is in a contingency, I am equally in a contingency.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass We have no objection.

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on Liam Cosgrave Zoom on Liam Cosgrave Surely the House should get some notice of this? We have had no notice of it. There has been no indication that it was going to be moved and we have no idea what it contains. At least we saw the Bill. The House is entitled to know in advance.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon Zoom on James Matthew Dillon When Deputy Corish gets in after Deputy Cosgrave, he can move the amendment because we will have copies of it by then.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass I think there are two things involved here. Firstly, there is the question of the Ceann Comhairle's ruling as to the Deputy's amendment being in order and secondly, an arrangement for the circulation of the amendment. I presume that as soon as the ruling has been given, it can be circulated.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish This was handed in——

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon Zoom on James Matthew Dillon Now, you are trying to jump Deputy Cosgrave and you should drop it.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish Rubbish.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan I understand that the text——

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish I adopted a similar procedure in 1961 and it was accepted by the House. I am doing the very same now.

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on Liam Cosgrave Zoom on Liam Cosgrave I have no notice of this amendment and subject to your ruling, Sir, I propose to speak.

[96]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan I do not wish to put any Deputy in a difficulty by giving a rushed ruling but I am told the amendment is exactly the same as the amendment on 1st September, 1961. Is that right?

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on Liam Cosgrave Zoom on Liam Cosgrave Possibly while the Chair is considering it, I could speak.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan Both Deputies cannot speak together. I am going to read this for the House.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon Zoom on James Matthew Dillon Why? On a point of order, if we are going to establish a precedent, does the Chair want an opportunity to read——

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon Zoom on James Matthew Dillon We did not come down in yesterday's shower.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne “Shower” is right.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon Zoom on James Matthew Dillon We know what you are up to.

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on Liam Cosgrave Zoom on Liam Cosgrave I submit I am entitled to speak.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish The Deputy is getting very touchy.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan I have the text of the amendment now.

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on Liam Cosgrave Zoom on Liam Cosgrave This is a new procedure.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan Of course, the whole thing is probably new. I will allow Deputy Corish to move the amendment.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish I want to assure——

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon Zoom on James Matthew Dillon How many barrels has this gun—one or two?

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish I want to assure the House, if assurance is needed, that this was done immediately after the members of my Party saw the text of the Bill. Whether you want to describe that, as Deputy Dillon described it, as “jumping the gun” is your affair. In any case, it will be appreciated, I think, that our attitude on the 1961 legislation has been consistently maintained here this afternoon and that consistency is [97] shown in the amendment we have tabled. I do not know whether or not the attitude of Deputy Dillon's Party will be equally consistent. The terms of my amendment, for the benefit of those who have not had it circulated to them, are, and I formally move:

To delete all words after “That” and substitute the following: “the Dáil declines to give a Second Reading to the Bill on the grounds that it deliberately abolishes the fundamental rights of trade unions and trade unionists and that the proposals contained in the Bill will create an atmosphere which will hinder the amicable settlement of trade disputes.”

First of all, I want to refer to something the Taoiseach said, by way of interjection, with regard to the time limit on this motion. He said, and rightly so, that he had informed Deputy Cosgrave and me that this guillotine motion would be moved. I do not think that called for any comment from us. It was a statement of intention and I do not believe any reply was needed from me. The Taoiseach will recall that in September, 1961, we strongly opposed the idea of a guillotine. We are just as strongly opposed to it now. The Fianna Fáil Party have their majority. I think, however, that if the Fine Gael Party were to do today what they did in September, 1961, there would be an overwhelming majority against any curtailment of time.

Mr. Dillon: Information on James Matthew Dillon Zoom on James Matthew Dillon We made Parliament work.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish We decided that, rather than take a curtailment at half-past ten, we should go on and agree to the consideration of the Bill until four o'clock tomorrow afternoon. Having regard to our special relationship with the trade union movement, I do not think we could agree to a short debate on this motion because, despite what the Minister says, this represents a fundamental change in trade union law. I do not think we would be true or honest with the trade unions or the 400,000 trade unionists if we allowed [98] this piece of legislation to be rushed through here.

I cannot understand the attitude of the Government in this matter. The Taoiseach was accused today of making a very skimpy speech. The same accusation can be levelled against the Minister for Industry and Commerce. He introduced the Bill in about ten minutes. He said it was necessary in what he nearly described as a state of emergency. The usual practice in a Second Reading speech is to say exactly what each section means and what the implications may be. The Minister passed it off by saying that, whilst this is a Bill, there is power for the Government to make an Order to do certain things. This is not a temporary Bill. This is a piece of permanent legislation which gives the Government an instrument to prohibit trade unions and trade unionists from withdrawing their labour and also provides for substantial fines.

There is no point, I suppose, in protesting against the short notification we had, but I do not know how long this legislation has been in contemplation by the Fianna Fáil Government. I am sure it was not just last Sunday morning, or Sunday night, or yesterday morning; this must have been in their minds for quite a long time. It may be true that in 1961 we had a similar situation and the Bill then framed was constructed within a very short time. Of course that was obvious from the reception it got from this House. It was obvious it was a patchwork affair. One remembers the speed with which the Taoiseach, piloting the Bill through the House as Minister for Industry and Commerce, withdrew a section and thereby made the Bill much less effective than it was in its original form.

Our attitude towards this sort of legislation is the same as it was in 1961. I can talk, I think, in this for the Irish Congress of Trade Unions which were not, as a body, apprised of this legislation, though they may have been told something about it as individuals. The attitude we expressed in 1961 is the attitude we have today. I do not know if the Minister will be able to [99] tell us that he had discussions with Congress on this legislation, but I know —most of us know—that he has had conversations with Congress in recent times about industrial unrest generally. I do not believe, however, that he intimated to them in any respect that he and his Government had in their minds this sort of repressive legislation. In my opinion, this will do more to antagonise the workers than to curb the situation which the Minister described so very briefly today.

The Taoiseach said: “Your blood be on your own heads, if you vote against this and your blood be on your own heads, if you do not give us this Bill within a certain time.” We appreciate, perhaps much more than many members of the Government Party, what the repercussions of an ESB strike may be now or in the future. But this situation need not necessarily be peculiar to the ESB. We know how vital electricity is. Over and above that, we have to have regard, and always will have regard, to the fundamental right of the worker, not so much to withdraw his labour as to sell it in the best market he can find. All the criticism we have heard lately has all been directed to one side of industry. Too few people are trying to discover if there is any fault on the other side.

This legislation seeks to deprive the individual of his right to withdraw his labour. That right will be taken away under this Bill in certain circumstances. Mark you, people may be under the impression that this will affect only the type of person who is on strike at the present time and the unions of which they are members. But this Bill seeks to give to the Minister for Industry and Commerce the power to execute this Order in respect of any employee of the Electricity Supply Board. I do not know how many there are. This Order could be used against those employed in the offices of the ESB, should they decide to go on strike. I am not saying it will be, but it can be.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass There must be an interruption of the supply of electricity.

[100]Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish Who is to determine that?

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass It must happen.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish The Government will determine that. I believe we are giving them too much power in this Bill to invoke this Order any time they like. This Bill provides in respect of a person who goes on strike or who pickets a fine of £25 per day. If he continues to remain on strike or picket, he can be fined a sum of £5 per day or, on conviction or indictment, he and his trade union can be fined £5,000 and £100 per day thereafter, the trade union in both cases to pay the fine.

Some people would say this is a panic measure. It may have been a panic measure in 1961 but, in my opinion, this is not a panic measure. This is a measure that has been fairly well thought out by the Minister for Industry and Commerce and his Government. One of my colleagues described it today as the thin end of the wedge. We all acknowledge that this industry is vital and we all agree that a strike in it can have serious consequences, but are we to accept the principle that, in any situation in which the economy is disrupted to a certain degree, similar legislation can be invoked and operated? We believe that this is not the proper approach.

The Taoiseach said recently in a statement to the members of his Party that he believes that industrial relations—I do not pretend to quote him exactly—cannot be legislated for entirely. The Minister for Industry and Commerce said recently that industrial relations must be cultivated and I, and the members of my Party, applauded. This is the big stick. I do not believe it will achieve anything other than to antagonise not alone the workers involved in this dispute but workers generally throughout the country.

There are some questions we ought to ask in respect of this dispute in an effort to discover whether or not the action now contemplated is justified. We have not heard from the Minister for Industry and Commerce. Maybe we can hear from the Minister for [101] Transport and Power whether there was justification for the power cuts of yesterday morning and the Monday morning of three or four weeks ago. There is no evidence available to me or to the members of my Party to show whether they were justified. We wonder whether this was a device for the justification of a measure of this kind.

We agree that this is one of the most serious types of strike we could have, if not, in fact, the most serious, but we resent this Bill because we believe the Government are establishing it as a precedent. This legislation will be fairly popular with certain sections. We have often been accused in this House by members of the Fianna Fáil Party and others of taking the popular stand as far as votes are concerned. Today, the Taoiseach said that, no matter what we did, our blood would be upon our heads——

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass I did not use those words.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish The Taoiseach did not use those words but that is what he meant. I believe, also, that in recent times there has been pressure on the Government by the Federated Union of Employers to promote legislation of this kind. I often wonder whether this situation has been allowed to develop so that this type of legislation may be attractive to certain sections of the community. All these questions have not been answered although they have been asked in recent times not alone here but by the public and by the trade union movement. We have not had a word from any member of the Government, particularly from the Minister for Transport and Power.

I do not think the Government can disclaim entire responsibility for what has happened. There is no point in saying that the trade unions and the ESB failed to agree. The Minister for Industry and Commerce has been at pains in the past few minutes to defend the Minister for Transport and Power and to relieve him of any responsibility for this situation. Of course he is responsible for the situation and of course the Minister for Transport and Power is responsible for this situation. [102] Did they just sit back in their offices and let the situation develop? Why? What efforts has the Minister made to resolve this dispute? When the Taoiseach introduced a Bill in 1961, the Minister for Transport and Power took about four or five columns in the Official Report to tell us of the efforts Deputy J. Lynch, the then Minister for Industry and Commerce, had made in order to avoid a dispute. We applauded that. We saw he had an interest.

Compare our situation with the situation in Great Britain where, when a major dispute occurs, as in the case of the present seamen's strike, the Minister for Labour there has tried by every possible means to secure a solution. The Prime Minister there also tried. There is no evidence that any member of our Government made any effort in the past few months to ensure that this sort of situation would not arise: if he has, they have not told us about it.

It has been represented to the public that this has been a lightning strike. As in practically every dispute, particularly with those who are anti-trade union, those who just do not care appear always to believe that the fault is on the side of the workers or the trade union movement. This was not a wild cat or a lightning strike. The claim now in question was made in December, 1964. The ESB Manual Workers' Tribunal rejected the claim without explanation. This rejection was not accepted by the engineering group of unions and the ESB were so informed.

In February, 1965, nearly 16 months ago, an official ban on overtime was imposed by the engineering unions but this did not alter the attitude of the ESB to the members' claim. On no occasion did they seem to get any response from the ESB or from the tribunal. On 14th April, 1966, these unions notified the Irish Congress of Trade Unions of one week's strike notice on the ESB. They also notified the ESB of this action, thus giving two weeks' notice of strike. We did not read of any concern on the part of any members of the Government, particularly [103] the Minister for Transport and Power. Following this notice to the ESB and at the request of Mr. O'Donovan, Chairman of the ESB Manual Workers' Tribunal, it was agreed by the engineering unions not to place pickets on power stations during the first week of the strike in order to give him an opportunity to get the two parties together with a view to arriving at a satisfactory settlement. Conferences took place during this particular week between the union and ESB officials but no progress was made. On 9th May, 1966, pickets were placed on all power stations but, at the request of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, these pickets were withdrawn. On 12th May, the Tribunal made a certain recommendation. On 13th May this was rejected by a ten to one majority of the trade unions involved and they were requested to hold off pickets until the Labour Court was asked to make a public inquiry and give a decision. Up to recently, we were still awaiting that decision.

The Minister for Industry and Commerce, his predecessors in this Government, and the Taoiseach, have talked about a revision of the Labour Court and the Industrial Relations Act. This is all we have heard. It is not any great tribute to the Labour Court or to the machinery employed there to say that, after two weeks, the brilliant recommendation from the Labour Court was that the men should go back to work and re-enter into negotiations with the ESB. They could have given that sort of recommendation in five minutes flat. When the matter was referred to the Labour Court, it was hoped that there would be some sort of recommendation which would be acceptable to the men but this was a childish one. I do not know why they came up with it and why it took them ten or 11 days to do so.

Some State bodies, particularly the ESB, are notorious for their bad public relations. We have seen this not alone with the ESB but with CIE and other State companies. This is something for which the various Ministers are responsible: they may not be legally responsible for it. The Minister for [104] Transport and Power comes in here and pleads abjectly that he has no function in the matter but, as a Minister, at least he does not have, every time a situation like this occurs, to look up the Statute Book to see whether or not he has power to do this, that or the other. Other Ministers for Industry and Commerce and other Ministers for Transport and Power have tried to help and have intervened to bring the parties together. There has been no suggestion of that in this dispute. That is why I wonder whether it was allowed to develop in order to create a climate in which legislation like this would get the approval of certain sections of the community.

The semi-State bodies seem to be inconsistent in their attitude to workers and the problems which now beset the ESB and the engineering unions. Practically the same type of claim as that made by the engineering unions on the ESB was admitted by Aer Lingus. Therefore, we have the situation that the claim is refused by the ESB but accepted by another group under the aegis of the Minister for Transport and Power.

I do not know what happened to the 1961 Act. The Taoiseach and the Minister for Industry and Commerce at the time lauded this to the Dáil as something which would prevent the situation we had then and which we have to some extent now. Embodied in that legislation and embodied in the speeches made on that occasion and the discussion that ensured during 1st September was a provision for the establishment of a commission to look into the grievances of certain employees, particularly manual employees, of the ESB.

That tribunal made a recommendation. I do not know whether the Minister for Transport and Power is conversant with it or whether, because the dispute was settled in a matter of a few days, he believed the recommendation did not matter anyway. One of the big questions in this dispute between the trade unions and the ESB at present is parity with clerical workers. I happened to check with a person who was a member of the Commission in 1961 and one of the recommendations [105] was to the effect that there should be only one tribunal for both manual and clerical workers. If this is so, it is an admission by a Commission established by the Fianna Fáil Government that conditions of employment, salaries, wages, scales, increments, bonuses and all these things should be considered as if they were the one group. As far as I can see, that is one of the most important things in the present dispute. The members of this Commission were reputable people: Martin Gleeson, Chairman; Thomas Corry; P. T. Murphy of the ESB; Edmund Grace; F. Robbins, Dublin Port and Docks Board and Charles McCarthy and Leo Crawford of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. What was done about this recommendation of the Commission? It appears to me there is still that division between manual workers and clerical workers within the ESB.

Great emphasis has been placed on the importance of having these fitters at work. I think they are important but I think also the ESB should recognise they are important. We are prepared to pay big salaries to judges because they are judges. We gave big increases to professional people, particularly in the medical world, because they do important work. If these 100 people are so unimportant, why should they have to work a 42 hour week for something over £14? We are talking about these people on whom depend the running of industry and the economy generally. We have a situation where, because they want to retain a certain status, certain of the personnel of the ESB do not want to give them this status commensurate with the type of work they are doing.

We have got our values wrong, not alone in respect of the ESB but in respect of other sections of the economy. Would the Minister not agree that those on whom the running of the economy depends should receive a little more—I do not want to go into the merits of the case—than the £14 or £15 being paid for a 42-hour week? There is no use talking about overtime. A man earns his overtime, whether it is half-rate or three-quarter rate. The only standard on [106] which we can judge wages and salaries is the rate for the job for the accepted number of hours. I merely want to mention that in other employments, say, in Dunlops in Cork or in Telefís Éireann, for similar work these fitters get much more.

Can the Minister for Transport and Power explain to me the stupidity of the members of the ESB Board who would, for reasons best known to themselves, deprive what are regarded as very important operatives of a decent wage? This is typical of the type of attitude we have from the employers in recent times, particularly since the last round of wage increases was initiated. It is typical of the FUE attitude to negotiations for the modest increase of £1 suggested by Congress and agreed to by the majority of the workers at a special conference. They refused to negotiate for this modest increase and hung on to some Government statement they believed. was made to the effect that only a three per cent increase in incomes should be permitted this year.

When we think in terms of industrial relations and industrial unrest, we should more often—the Minister has done it at times but not often enough— balance the criticism of one side as against the other. The trade union movement would be the first to admit its shortcomings. It would be the first to admit that changes in trade union law and industrial relations law are necessary. Let us not go away with the idea, however, that every strike that happens, particularly a strike that affects large sections of the community and the economy, is not justified. I do not think this legislation is justified to the extent of blackmailing people to work for £14 or £15 a week for a 42 hour week.

Let us look at the consequences of this legislation. I do not think that legislation like this, which is repressive, is going to create goodwill between the trade unions and the employing section. Rather is it going to cause great antagonism and, maybe, further unrest. It does not appear to me that any member of the Government did anything appreciable to have this dispute resolved. It is simple for them—[107] and, as I said, popular with some people in the country today—to try to legislate, to throw a few words on paper and say: “If you go on strike or put on pickets, we will fine your union £5,000 and £100 per day for as long as the disputes last.” This will not solve the present crisis. If, for example, the 100 ESB fitters on strike decided in the morning to resign, what solution have the Government for a continuation of electricity supplies to industry and the other sectors of the economy? If, like some of the bank officials, they decided to go across to Great Britain and possibly earn more, despite this legislation before us today the Government would still have the problem of trying to get fitters to man the power stations. Believe me, having regard to the importance of their work to the ESB, they might have to pay much more than they are paying and give conditions of employment much more attractive than those at present.

This sort of problem is not, I am sure, peculiar to Ireland. I am sure this is not the first strike which hit electricity supplies in the western world or in the world as a whole. We have been talking about the European Economic Community in recent years. We were told there will be a code in respect of social welfare, industrial relations arrangements, industry and agriculture, which are more or less applied to all the members. Could the Taoiseach or the Minister for Industry and Commerce tell me if there is any such legislation in any of the EEC countries? Is there similar legislation in Great Britain?

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass As this?

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish Yes.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass There is.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish I should be glad to hear all about it. In Britain there is a seamen's dispute which is having a very adverse affect on the economy in Britain. It has hit their exports and the economy in general. They did not have recourse to this sort of legislation.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass They have, but they have not used it.

[108]Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish The seamen in Great Britain can remain on strike. Does the Taoiseach know whether there is, within the emergency resolution which was passed in the British House of Commons, power for the British Government to fine the trade unions, to ban strikes or to fine individual people, and who if they will not obey will be put into jail? That is what is contained in this Bill.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass They have these powers.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish I do not know. Maybe the Taoiseach is only chancing his arm. I do not say he is. I should like to see them.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass The Act under which they have the powers is enforceable.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish The ESB is a vital service, no matter what our walk of life may be, but all strikes are serious and can affect the economy. If it is the ESB today, it may be transport tomorrow. The Taoiseach with his majority, slim as it is, could decide tomorrow morning, if there happens to be a bus strike or a railway strike, to bring in similar legislation. He will get the support of his Party. Will he get the support of the Fine Gael Party? He certainly will not get the support of the Labour Party. It might be roadworkers tomorrow.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass But we have had these strikes. There has never been a stoppage of power.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish There have been other strikes, in building, and so on. These could all be described as essential services. What will be the situation if the Minister for Health does not get agreement with the medical profession and the doctors go on strike? What will the Government do then? Have they any solution for that?

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass They have not thought about that.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish What steps have the Government taken in order to ensure that there might be a solution to the [109] strike of the bank officials? Have they any comment on these things? Have they any comment on the fact that many of these young bank officials are now working in Great Britain? Have they any comment not alone on the fact that the banks are closed but on the fact that the bankers have dismissed their senior staff? This is a situation which also affects the economy and affects the day to day life of traders as well as individuals in the community as a whole. Have they any legislation for bank officials or have they decided to set up a bank agency of their own, or is this strike to be allowed to go on ad infinitum, as against the drop-hammer measures that are being taken in the ESB dispute.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass What does the Deputy suggest?

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish I believe that industrial relations should be cultivated rather than legislated for. We always think of industrial relations in this country when we have industrial disputes. In January, 1964—whether it was right or wrong, there is no point in going into that now—the trade unions and the employers sat around and agreed to a wage formula that would be effective for two or two and a half years. This was a time of relative peace. This was a time which, apart from some disputes, could be regarded as a truce period in industrial relations. Could the Taoiseach tell me what any of his Ministers for Industry and Commerce did during that period in regard to making necessary changes in industrial relations law in consultation with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in order that we would not be confronted with a situation like this? This was the time to do it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass There was a conference.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish It was going on for two and a half years. I do not think this is the right atmosphere in which to introduce legislation which will be opposed by every trade unionist in the country. What we are talking about here today is the fundamental right to sell your labour in the best market [110] and not to sell it if you do not get the best price. This is the fundamental issue. If fitters are supposed to be so important, if 100 fitters can save the economy as the doctors can save life, then they are entitled to much more than they have at the present time.

It is relatively easy to write this Bill but its operation will be another thing. I suggest, therefore, that what should have been done and what still can be done by the Government and the Minister for Transport and Power is to investigate the crisis to see in what way it can best be resolved, because these bludgeoning measures will not get the approbation of the Labour Party or the trade union movement.

Mr. Cosgrave: Information on Liam Cosgrave Zoom on Liam Cosgrave As in the case of a similar piece of legislation which came before us five years ago, we regret the circumstances in which legislation of this sort has to be introduced, but we recognise that the interests of the community in the grave situation which has developed here must be regarded as paramount. In those circumstances, it falls to the Dáil to consider this emergency legislation.

This Bill is a last desperate effort to deal with the situation which has been allowed to build up over a number of years, a situation in which Government leadership was clearly needed and in which the Government made no effort whatever to give a lead or direction. It has been common knowledge for many years that there has been serious discontent among workers at all levels in the ESB. This is certainly not a time to go into the details of why that discontent existed or, even more so, of the rights or wrongs of this dispute, except to say that on this occasion there is no excuse for the Government not knowing that the situation existed. Just five years ago the Dáil was summoned to deal with a similar crisis. Though the actual issues involved in it were somewhat different, it was then clearly recognised by everyone who discussed the matter, by Members of the House, in particular, and by the ESB as well as the trade unions concerned, that there was general dissatisfaction with the manner in which the tribunal [111] dealing with the matters concerned had functioned. In fact, the dispute at the time arose because the tribunal did not function at all, and the Minister for Transport and Power abdicated any responsibility.

What is important in this situation is that the causes underlying the present dispute have been known to the Government for many years and nothing has been done about them. When the legislation was introduced five years ago to deal with a largely similar situation, steps were taken to have the matter considered by an ad hoc tribunal: the Government have done nothing, or virtually nothing, since to ensure that the same situation would not recur. We do not believe that the sort of problem that lies behind the present dispute in the ESB can be solved by waiting until half the country is shut down before doing anything and then rushing into the Dáil with repressive legislation.

The history of industrial relations in connection with this matter or other matters proves that the workers cannot be coerced by the Government, by employers or anybody else. Ultimately, the only way of solving the problems which have brought the country to the brink of economic collapse is by securing agreement on long-term principles between the parties involved. By the time the disputes break out, it is already too late to do this. The time for Government leadership is when the climate is good.

I want to repeat now what I said in the debate in 1961 on 1st September at column 294 of Volume 191:

It is not when the dispute reaches the point to which this dispute has developed that legislation of that sort can be considered in the atmosphere in which it should be considered.

We had no consideration of industrial legislation since then. We now find ourselves considering a problem of industrial relations in an atmosphere other than that which is appropriate for a calm and dispassionate discussion of the matters involved. Only in a [112] calm atmosphere when the climate is good can constructive discussion take place, when the issues can be considered without the chaos and passion which develop when a situation is allowed to drift as far as the present situation has been allowed to drift.

I have no illusions about the difficulties of the problems involved in the issues which affect the present dispute. It is common knowledge that a cleavage exists and the cleavage issue is the relationship between the manual workers and the clerical workers. In recent years with the development of technology, the position and responsibility of the manual workers have been undergoing great changes in industry generally. The old distinctions between clerical and manual workers are becoming increasingly blurred. This has inevitably led to understandable demands from those classed as manual workers for a re-assessment of their status and remuneration in the light of their changing responsibilities and the increasing levels of skill demanded of them.

Recently the Quinn Report adverted to this fact and pointed out what has been generally known from the information available, that in recent years the relative position of manual workers not merely in the ESB but in other State employment has deteriorated vis-à-vis the clerical workers. In fact, in that Report advertence was made to the recruitment standard of education required for clerical workers compared with the standard of technical skill and education required of manual workers performing highly-skilled and very vital work in industry.

It is in a matter of this sort that the Government had a clear duty to lead, to stimulate thinking on the kind of issues involved, to promote discussion leading to an acceptance by those immediately involved and the community in general of basic principles which can act as guidelines in tackling specific cases. Even in the ESB, an organisation where the ESB is itself the employer, there was an obligation to give a lead and it is entirely wrong that the Taoiseach or Ministers should go about the country preaching and [113] suggesting at chambers of commerce and other gatherings that both sides in industry should come together and hammer out their differences, lecturing others about what they should do when the Government themselves set such a deplorable example in failing to take any steps to ensure that organisations under their control set examples in this matter.

It is not good enough for the Minister for Transport and Power or any other Minister to abdicate his responsibility in this regard. It is no use telling other sections of the community, however high-sounding the language or however much Ministers may pontificate, of this responsibility of industry or the trade unions if the Government are manifestly unwilling or unable to give the lead or even make the effort to create the impression that they are trying to give the lead. In fact, State and semi-State bodies are the bodies that should give the headlines in setting examples of proper industrial relations. Organisations controlled by the State should be pioneers in putting into practice correct principles and guidelines for conducting industrial relations instead of, as in some cases, merely setting the example and setting the tenor for other industries to try to follow in order to equate their status with them.

What the Government failed to grasp is that the time to secure agreement between employers and workers is when times are good. It is useless to wait until the situation has deteriorated before doing something about it. Never since the foundation of the State has there been such a period of industrial unrest, such discontent and strife between workers and employers in which the Government have shown themselves powerless to give any lead. Instead, they have lurched from one makeshift to another and this particular piece of legislation is probably the last desperate effort. In fact, it is worthy of comment that although this situation developed some weeks ago, no effort was made to deal with the problem and no effort made to introduce legislation until the election was out of the way. Then this legislation was introduced. I know it may be suggested that the Dáil had been [114] adjourned but it had been adjourned for only a week. On a previous occasion when the Dáil was adjourned for the summer recess, it was called back at short notice. There was no effort to deal with this serious situation or to grapple with these problems until the votes were cast and counted.

This Bill is merely an effort to deal with symptoms; it can do nothing to solve the underlying causes and may indeed have the opposite effect. Drastic panic legislation of this kind can only make matters worse in the long term; it can only make it more difficult to solve the real problems by the only way in which they can be solved, by getting the agreement of all parties concerned to some formula and some principles which strike a fair balance between conflicting interests. This Bill will make it harder to do that. No matter how powerful the interests concerned and how deeply they are involved in this matter, it is the responsibility of the Government and of the Government alone to give a lead.

The time the ninth round wage agreement came into effect, when the climate was good and when there was general satisfaction, however secured and whatever the motives involved in securing it, was the time when discussions should have been initiated between employers and workers in industry. The Government had an opportunity then to show initiative and imagination in bringing the different sections of the community together to work out the long-term principles which should in future govern increases in income, their relationship to productivity, the relationship of different groups of workers to each other; the sectional grievances over such things as status and generally the way in which relations between managers and workers should be conducted in the kind of Ireland we wish to build.

This was the situation and these were the problems which concerned us when Fine Gael advocated an incomes policy and when we urged on the Government the need for such a policy. Our proposals at that time were sneered at by the Government and heavily criticised by the Taoiseach in his Mullingar speech when it was suggested [115] that we wanted to control wages. The only Party who ever controlled wages in this country are the present Government. The Government did not put themselves to the trouble to find out even what an incomes policy was and we are now paying the price of that wilful ignorance or bland incompetence, the incompetence of a Government even to make an effort to discover what an incomes policy is.

The Government have concentrated their attention solely on short term solutions by the manipulation of incomes to buy votes at elections. This cynical manipulation for the meanest and narrowest of Party political purposes is a major factor in the really serious situation which faces the country today, not just in the ESB but in numerous other disputes and in the numerous dissensions and disruptions in other industrial concerns today. If the Government put the facts plainly before the country, said what were the issues, ceased to create the illusion that prosperity can be secured simply by voting for it, then there would be a greater realisation of the problems involved.

This particular measure can be justified only if it offers a breathing space to tackle the serious problems involved in the present dispute. The fact is that there are thousands of people in imminent danger of death, people in hospitals, patients in iron lungs, sick people in oxygen tents, thousands of people in danger of death because in this modern technological era the lives of so many people depend on a continuous supply of electricity. It is only because of that that a measure of this kind can be justified at all. It is also important to remember that at least 180,000 workers, and some people put the figure as high as a quarter of a million, and much consequential employment depend on the maintenance of electricity supplies. It is in the light of this grave situation that it is right to consider that legislation of this kind can be enacted. We believe that the industrial problems which affect the country at the moment are such that this measure can only be used as a breathing space [116] in which steps can be taken to initiate discussions between the parties involved in the dispute.

It is not merely this dispute alone. It is easy to consider many cases where the livelihood of so many people can be so vitally affected as it is in the case of the electricity supply. There are possibly other sections, possibly other State concerns, possibly other cases of relatively few workers, possibly other vital areas of employment in which the employment of large groups of other workers could be jeopardised. It is because of the present industrial situation in the whole of the country that we want to impress on the Government, and on the people, the Government's responsibility in this matter to give a lead and the inescapable obligation that is on them to initiate the discussions necessary in order to reach some basic principles on which agreement can be secured in industrial relations.

It has been said both by the Taoiseach and by different Ministers that if the trade unions and the employers could come together and reach agreement, the Government would implement such agreement. That is the handing over of responsibility by the Government to some outside bodies and, no matter how powerful and influential these bodies may be, the responsibility is still on the Government. The responsibility for initiating legislation and enacting it devolves on the Government and on the Government alone. It is the function of the Government to bring in the legislation and our function to discuss it here and to seek to ensure the greatest possible measure of agreement.

The present Government secured the confidence of the country last year on the illusion that prosperity could be voted, on the illusion that by voting Fianna Fáil, prosperity and buoyancy would continue. The events of the last year and of the last week have shown that that confidence was dishonestly secured; the people will not now listen to the Government or to any views put forward by the Government because they feel that the Government cannot be trusted. The people feel they have [117] been tricked and that the Government are responsible for the present situation. A Government who have lost the people's confidence as the recent election showed this Government so clearly to have done has only one course open to them, to go, to make place for others, to make place for a Government with the will and the capacity to deal with the problems confronting the nation. The only reason we are supporting this legislation at the present time is to save the country from the fumbling futility that is characteristic of Fianna Fáil in recent months.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass Deputy Corish commented on the fact that this Bill which we are now discussing has not been framed as a temporary measure. That is correct, although we hope that it will in the event prove to be a temporary measure. I should, perhaps, explain the considerations which led the Government to the framing of the Bill in this way. I think we all here recognise that public opinion in Ireland will not accept a situation in which there is a complete termination in the supply of electricity and if this should emerge, will expect the Government and the Dáil to do something about it. This was the conclusion that we reached in 1961 when there was a similar threat of an interruption of electricity supplies. Under pressure of public opinion we acted then by the introduction of legislation which, as Deputies have mentioned, ultimately was not required. This is the situation which we are faced with now. If there is a danger of interruption of electricity supplies involving the disemployment of all industrial workers and all the danger to life that Deputy Cosgrave mentioned, the public will expect the Dáil to act and the Dáil must act.

Once, therefore, we have taken the decision in relation to this Bill, as we took in 1961, that a complete cessation of electricity supplies by reason of a strike must not happen, then we have to face the possibility of permanent legislation to that end or, at least, legislation that can be utilised in such emergency in order to prevent that catastrophe falling on the country.

[118] There are two ways by which the danger of total interruption of electricity supplies by reason of a strike involving critical consequences for the country can be avoided. One is by negotiation of a voluntary agreement between the trade unions catering for all ESB workers and the Board under which, in consideration of a voluntary renunciation of their right to strike for a period, these workers would get compensating advantages relating to their remuneration and to the security of their employment. The other is by legislation.

So far as the Government are concerned, we would wish to see negotiations for such agreement undertaken. We are prepared to facilitate them if that should be desired or would be helpful and the settlement of the present dispute, the elimination of the prospect of the immediate cessation of supplies, would be helpful in this regard. Indeed, I think that the enactment of this Bill would also be helpful because it will ensure the acceptance by everybody that the situation against which the Bill is directed, namely, that complete disruption of electricity supply is something the people are not prepared to accept and, if it cannot be prevented one way, it must be prevented in the other. The way we prefer to see it prevented is by the negotiation of such voluntary agreement as I have mentioned.

I think it is unfair to describe this Bill as Deputy Corish did, as directed against the workers, the class of people in our community who are so described, who get their living by working in return for a weekly wage or a monthly salary. This Bill, so far as the Government are concerned, is designed primarily to protect the workers, to protect all those workers, coming close to 200,000 of them, who would be unable to earn their livelihood if a total interruption of electricity supply should come about.

We know, and we must accept the fact, that workers employed in a vital service like the Electricity Supply Board possess enormous economic power. They possess a power of life and death over the community and the very fact that they have that [119] power places on them a responsibility to use it sparingly and certainly never to use it in a way which would be damaging to all the other workers in the country, not to mention the community as a whole.

Let it be quite clear that, as far as the Government are concerned, we are expressing no judgment of any sort upon the merits of the claim put forward by the mechanical fitters now on strike from the ESB service. We note the fact that the tribunal set up under the Electricity Act for dealing with claims in relation to remuneration of ESB workers have rejected their claim. I do not know whether they were right in rejecting the claim but it is fair to say that, having regard to the composition of that tribunal, it could not be alleged that it was unsympathetic to the interests of workers generally or of these workers in particular.

We know that subsequent to that rejection of their claim by the ESB Tribunal, there were negotiations initiated by the Congress of Trade Unions and others which, however, failed to produce an arrangement that was acceptable to these workers.

The proposition that I think has to be put forward, whether it is implemented by way of legislation or by way of a voluntary agreement such as I envisage, is that in regard to matters of this kind, in preference to using the destructive power of the strike in order to bring about the arrangement desired, there should be acceptance of some objective judgment upon the merits of the claim and an acceptance irrespective of the extent to which that judgment concedes the full claim sought by the workers; certainly, that the acceptance of an objective judgment of that kind, even where it is not fully in conformity with the ideas of those putting forward the claim, is preferable to the utilisation of the alternative method of the strike if that involves complete closing down of all the industry in the country.

Deputy Cosgrave has said that we have not here as a Government dealt properly with the problem of industrial [120] relations in our society. If he means by that that we have not found a solution of the problems of industrial relations in our society, he is quite right. We have not found a solution and there was not in his speech the slightest hint of a suggestion as to how such a solution might be sought. We know that neither here nor, so far as I am aware, in any other free democracy has a really satisfactory method yet been evolved of dealing with labour matters and, specifically, matters bearing upon industrial relations.

I have been giving a great deal of thought to this. Since the beginning of the year, I have spoken at length in public expressing my ideas on this subject, trying to evoke further discussion on the subject from those more intimately in touch with the various aspects of the problem and, while there have been some very valuable contributions to the general pool of knowledge by spokesmen both from the trade union side and some representative employers, there has not emerged from all these discussions as yet anything that could be described as a consensus, any clear indication of a road that we could follow that would lead us to what we would all desire, a situation in which industrial disputes involving stoppages of work would be minimised if not entirely eliminated.

We have proceeded as a Government, certainly in recent years, subsequent to the passing of the Industrial Relations Act and the setting up of the Labour Court, on the basis that workers and their trade unions, employers and their organisations, could be relied upon to act in most cases in a responsible way and would try to avoid, by the process of compromise, if necessary, upon matters in dispute, the danger of stoppages of work, the disemployment of workers on the one hand, the loss of production on the other. On the assumption that we could rely on the reasonableness and responsibility of the people involved on each side and their representatives. We considered the function of the Government to be solely to maintain machinery which [121] would facilitate them in reaching agreements. We set up the Labour Court for this purpose. We set up the conciliation service which functions in conjunction with the Labour Court and in a number of cases we encouraged and facilitated the creation of Joint Industrial Councils, some at least of which have functioned fairly well, if not all of them.

Behind all this was the idea that the Government should not openly and formally intervene in order to resolve industrial disputes. I use these words, openly and formally, deliberately because I am sure Deputies have suspected that in most cases there is a great deal of informal discussion, comment and talk between the Minister concerned, the Minister for Industry and Commerce, and his officials and both sides in many disputes, trying to clear the air so that they could get together.

(Interruptions.)

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass Do not be childish about this.

Mr. Mullen: Information on Michael Mullen Zoom on Michael Mullen It is not so.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass I am trying to deal seriously with this matter and I wish Deputy Mullen would allow me.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin Zoom on Cormac Breslin Will Deputies allow the Taoiseach to proceed?

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass I have said that the policy which we have followed heretofore was a deliberate policy of non-intervetion in industrial disputes in order to compel the parties concerned in disputes either to settle their differences between themselves or to have recourse to the conciliation service or to the Labour Court.

(Interruptions.)

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass I know that the Transport Workers Union had a party——

(Interruptions.)

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass ——but surely the effect should have died out by this.

[122]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin Zoom on Cormac Breslin Will Deputy Mullen cease interrupting?

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully That comment is unworthy of the Taoiseach and he should not have made it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass As it was unworthy, I withdraw it. This policy of non-intervention, of setting up the machinery and providing the means by which the parties concerned would get together without any intervention by the Government, was reinforced in our view by the experience we had in earlier years that the availability of a Minister and a Department of Government, and the tendency of the Government to intervene to settle disputes when they threatened or happened, tended to multiply disputes and led to a situation in which strike notices were given fairly freely and strikes were begun, in the knowledge that the Government would immediately be rushing in to try to settle the disputes on the basis of some concession. That was the general criticism at that time. As I said, we recognise that we have not yet found a method by which the problem of industrial relations can be resolved. The method adopted in the Industrial Relations Act, 1946, is no longer fully applicable. The situation today is different from what it was then. Nowadays, the measures taken to resolve a dispute in any one instance are known very often to have widespread repercussions outside the immediate group of workers concerned and are likely to lead to similar demands affecting many other categories. This was not the position before the war or before the Industrial Relations Act, 1946.

On the other hand, this policy of non-intervention, this policy of setting up machinery for resolving disputes and trying to force the parties either to come together or, alternatively, have recourse to the conciliation service, or the Labour Court, has not worked very well either and we have to consider whether there is anything further we can do in order to improve the situation, if not to resolve it altogether. I would say that the outcome of my consideration of the matter is that the time is coming when we should set [123] up a new Department of State, a Department of Labour under a Minister for Labour which will be——

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange Is that a new gimmick?

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass ——which will be particularly concerned with all matters dealing with the development of policy in this regard. This would include matters such as an incomes policy-I hate using that phrase because nobody seems to know what it means but I will use it because nothing better suggests itself to me at the moment —a manpower policy, training and redundancy problems, as well as industrial relations. Certainly the Minister for Industry and Commerce who has been handling these matters has been commenting to me upon the difficulty he has experienced in handling all these problems as part of the work of his Department. We have to recognise that this problem of industrial relations, this problem of developing a comprehensive policy in relation to labour matters, has become one of the major problems of our times, one of the major social questions which modern democratic Governments have to deal with. This being so, it should not, in my view, be left to the part time attention of one Minister, no matter how hardworking he may be. It requires not merely an independent Minister but an independent organisation acting under him to handle this aspect of our affairs.

This view of mine regarding changing of the methods by which the Government have been trying to discharge their responsibility in this regard is based upon a further consideration of certain defects in our present system. We have a Labour Court but the Labour Court is rarely able to intervene in a dispute until the dispute has begun. It is there to try to help to bring about a solution of disputes generally when a strike has taken place.

Mr. Mullen: Information on Michael Mullen Zoom on Michael Mullen This is not so.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass It is largely so. I realise that a large number of cases [124] come to the Labour Court which are of comparatively lesser importance but, by and large, in relation to major disputes, the Labour Court's intervention comes after the situation has led to the outbreak of a strike. We see that the conciliation service is also in a sense a last resort. By and large, employers and their workers try to resolve their difficulties by direct negotiation between themselves. It is only when these negotiations have become deadlocked or fail to produce a settlement that recourse is had to the conciliation service. It seems to me that we need some organisation with power to intervene to prevent trouble before it happens. I do not know whether this will be possible but it also seems to me that it should be the function of the new Department of Government to have available to it skilled and experienced individuals who could be in touch with the industrial situation in every sphere all the time and, who noting where danger of conflict was emerging, could act in time to prevent that conflict coming to a head.

The new Government Department which I envisage would also be concerned with labour affairs relating to our State companies. This is an aspect of the matter on which as yet I have some hesitation in expressing a very definite view. We set up these State companies with the general idea that important commercial activities could be carried on here by them, giving them, on the one hand, access to the capital and credit resources of the State, and, on the other hand, the same freedom of operation as private industry enjoys. This, of course, implied in particular freedom in relation to the payment of remuneration to their staffs and employees and in the sphere of relations with those staffs.

This also is not, I think, working out as was intended. By and large, most people believe that the State Boards set headlines for private employers. That was not our intention. It was quite the reverse and, indeed, I am not at all sure that the present dispute in the Electricity Supply Board is not partly due to the application of a course of action which I, in the past, strongly recommended, namely, that [125] the Electricity Supply Board should, in relation to each category of its staff, agree to pay whatever rates of remuneration were fixed in relation to similar workers in private employment and that they should not be involved in direct negotiation on these rates but should automatically apply the rates which emerged from private negotiations.

The earlier Electricity Supply Board trouble affecting the electricians was largely attributable to the fact that the ESB departed from that policy by becoming a member of the Industrial Council for Electricians and sitting on that Council as an employer. Ultimately they terminated that association after their last experience. This has introduced a certain rigidity, I think, into the Electricity Supply Board's attitude and into their power to deal with the claims and difficulties brought to their tribunals by their staffs. It may be that some more flexible system will be required, recognising that flexibility carries a great deal of risk in itself, that a large part of our present industrial unrest is due to comparisons made between groups of workers employed by a State company or a private firm with the remuneration of similar workers in other employments.

A much more fundamental question, and one which Deputy Cosgrave briefly mentioned, is the comparisons made between the remuneration of skilled manual workers and that of clerical workers. It seems to me that the role of the State company in setting wage patterns is becoming so pronounced that, even though it is undesirable, we have to recognise that it is so and the sphere of responsibility of a new State Department of Labour would therefore have to extend in some degree into the area of these companies and, to that degree, involve some departure from the conception we had in mind when they were originally set up.

It is quite true—it was said here this afternoon and it has been stated by the Minister for Industry and Commerce on a number of occasions—that without a great deal of goodwill, no machinery, no matter how elaborate, will work. Whether we confine ourselves [126] to improving the powers of the Labour Court or to extending the conciliation services associated with that Court, or whether we create a new Department of State which will have responsibility in these matters, unless we can build up a climate of goodwill, we will continue to have industrial disputes affecting our economic development.

Our greatest need, therefore, is to change the climate of industrial relations, to change the negative attitude of many employers, which has made it difficult to secure general and comprehensive arrangements acceptable generally, and the tendency of some unions to resort too readily to seeking a solution of their problems by way of strikes rather than by an extension of negotiations.

Deputy Cosgrave said that the Government have been proceeding too slowly in the preparation of proposals for legislative changes, both in relation to the Industrial Relations Act and the Trade Union Acts, or in other directions. I agree we have been proceeding slowly. We have been trying to secure the greatest possible measure of agreement between the parties before submitting proposals to the Dáil. It would be optimistic to think we can get complete agreement, but I think we should seek to promote the widest agreement attainable. Deputy Cosgrave described this as abdicating our responsibilities. I presume what he has in mind is that we should abandon this effort to get agreement and produce our ideas as to what should be done in the form of legislation and impose this on the parties, irrespective of whether or not it was acceptable to them.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange Deputy Cosgrave did not say any such thing.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass In my view, the process of seeking agreement and prompting discussions aimed at getting agreement is in itself a very important part of the whole operation which will ultimately lead, I hope, to the generation of this better climate of opinion in which the solutions we are seeking will be more easily found.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange And you fiddled [127] for the last month while Rome was burning.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass I am trying to speak seriously; I hope the Deputy will allow me to do so. It seems to me that when Deputy Cosgrave spoke here this evening about the Government provoking discussion on these matters, he was in a sense contradicting himself when he talked about our abdicating responsibility in trying to do what we are aiming at by discussion and agreement. It is very easy to say, as Deputy Cosgrave said, that the ideal solution is that everybody agrees about everything. This would be perfect, but that type of perfect society has not yet appeared on earth. It has certainly not appeared here. Deputy Cosgrave said that, when times were good, we should have got employers and workers together to promote in that atmosphere the possibility of future agreement. When times are good, it is impossible to get employers and workers to meet at all. It is only under the provocation of some difficulty that people become alerted to the need for seeking solutions. Anyway, so far as we are concerned, we have very deliberately sought to proceed slowly in this matter —as I said recently, more slowly than would otherwise be possible—in order to achieve agreement rather than try to act more quickly by means of legislation and find ourselves imposing something on people without their concurrence.

I think there has been a considerable amount of unfair criticism of the Electricity Supply Board this afternoon and, indeed, also of the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully What has he got to do with it?

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass I meant the Minister for Transport and Power. We set up by legislation enacted when I was Minister for Industry and Commerce, and in charge of these matters, the ESB tribunals. At that time this device for dealing with the problems of remuneration and conditions of employment was generally welcomed. [128] The trade unions involved and the Board accepted the attractiveness of this arrangement whereby there would be these tribunals to which, in the last resort, questions in dispute could be brought and resolved, the decisions of the tribunals being accepted and applied. I think it is true to say that the Electricity Supply Board has never failed to accept and apply a decision given by these tribunals; but what has happened in recent years is that these tribunal decisions have not been accepted in all cases by some sections of the workers.

Mr. Mullen: Information on Michael Mullen Zoom on Michael Mullen Is the Taoiseach satisfied——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin Zoom on Cormac Breslin Order.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass This has created a new situation. If they are not the final court of appeal, then what is the final court? If there is to be no alternative but a strike, then some substitute or some workable formula must be provided. By an ad hoc arrangement—it had little legal justification—some disputes not resolved at tribunals were brought to the Labour Court. The Labour Court acted in these matters extra-statutorily. It seems to me that part of the change we have to envisage in the future is that all these matters will be concentrated, in so far as they are dealt with in that way at all, in the Labour Court. In this way, it helps not merely to ensure the building-up of an expert body of opinion to be brought to bear upon these problems but also some uniformity in the decisions taken, as between one case and another, which will prevent this sense of unfairness when divergent awards are made by different tribunals which is a large part of our present problems.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish Has the Taoiseach any comment to make on the recommendation of the Commission of 1961?

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass We have been discussing this suggestion, and others, with many people and we have found little prospect of getting any common view. Indeed, we have come largely [129] to the conclusion that all these independent tribunals should not be the final court of appeal in circumstances where the award given by them will have repercussions upon employment in other organisations. One can see that, in the ESB, there should be a domestic tribunal which will deal with most of the matters that arise in the employment of large staffs such as they have but, where the issue to be resolved is one that can affect other State organisations or other private employers, the final body to deal with it should, in our view, be the Labour Court. This is the way our thinking has been going as a result of all the discussions we have had so far.

Mr. Mullen: Information on Michael Mullen Zoom on Michael Mullen Is the Taoiseach satisfied that the approach of the ESB representatives on the tribunal is——

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass The procedure set up in the ESB meant in effect that the approach of the Board did not matter in the last resort. As we envisaged it, after the 1942 Act, in the last resort, when the matter in dispute could not be resolved by direct negotiation between the union and the Board, it went to the appropriate tribunal. As the Deputy knows, the composition of the tribunal was, if anything, such as to give assurance to the workers concerned that their position was not being——

Mr. Mullen: Information on Michael Mullen Zoom on Michael Mullen But is the Taoiseach satisfied with the approach of the representatives on the tribunal?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin Zoom on Cormac Breslin Deputy Mullen will resume his seat.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass The Deputy knows what I mean.

Mr. Mullen: Information on Michael Mullen Zoom on Michael Mullen Is the Taoiseach aware that the attitude of the ESB representatives on the tribunal has been that, before the workers' representatives could get there, they would say: “We want you to go——

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass In the last resort, where there was not initial agreement, the chairman of the tribunal, who was an independent person, would ultimately produce the majority decision which became effective. I agree that this system tended to break down. I think it can be restored in part, if not [130] completely. This is what I can see emerging from the work of a new Department of Labour such as I envisage. All these matters have now to be thought out again in a fundamental way so that we can develop a general policy not merely in respect of industrial relations but on all matters affecting the welfare of labour in the country which will, if not completely eliminate the prospects of disputes arising, greatly minimise them, we hope, and ensure that a more flexible approach can be developed to the resolution of disputes that occur.

I believe, in relation to the ESB, that the enactment of this Bill will be helpful. I believe, and I hope sincerely, the Government will never have occasion to make an order bringing this Bill into operation. However, recognition of the fact that such is the ultimate resort which will have to be availed of, if the alternative is a complete shut-down of electricity supply and the disemployment of other workers, should help to bring about the type of voluntary arrangement which will give us the benefit of an assurance against disruption of electricity supply while maintaining the principle of collective bargaining to which the Government are committed. The enactment of this Bill could be helpful in the present dispute. I suspect that one of the problems of the ESB, in dealing with this present dispute, is that it could be the first of many and that, if they resolved this dispute by making concessions, they would have similar claims by other groups of workers, leading eventually to the threat of strike action by them also. Therefore, the protection given by this Bill can help to bring about a better atmosphere and therefore a better solution of the dispute.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish Where did the Taoiseach get that idea?

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass Let me express my views. We are all pleased to learn that the situation appears to have eased somewhat. The negotiations today are being resumed tomorrow. While, earlier this morning, it looked as if the unions' direction to cease picketing the power stations was not [131] being generally obeyed, that instruction has since been obeyed and the pickets are being withdrawn from all but two of the stations. This suggests that the atmosphere is better and that the solution which we desire which will avoid the utilisation of the powers contained in this Bill may be in sight. I am certain it will help to bring this about if we can get everybody to recognise and accept that a complete stoppage of electricity power is something we cannot have.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully The thought going through my mind while the Taoiseach was speaking, and I am sure through the minds of many people here, was that as the Taoiseach knows so much about the wage-fixing machinery in the ESB, and the way it can be settled, and all these disputes can be settled, is it not a great wonder that the only way he can now find to settle those disputes is not what he has told the House but to arm himself with a big stick and parade it in the House in front of the Fianna Fáil Party so as to put through a Bill? I am sure he was heartened by the fact that Deputy Cosgrave and Fine Gael lined up with their big stick on the other side of the House and assured him of their support.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass We hope it will be a fairy wand and not a big stick.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully We know about it.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish It is a very expensive fairy wand.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully We know of the wand the Taoiseach used in the 1940s during the Emergency and in 1947 and which he also attempted to use in 1961. We have got used to the fairy wand now. That is why we are here, prepared to ensure, if we can, that this Bill will not go through the House. In his concluding sentences, the Taoiseach referred to the fact that there was an improvement today.

Mr. Mullen: Information on Michael Mullen Zoom on Michael Mullen No thanks to your man.

[132]Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully Can he not understand that the one thing, more than anything else, which is likely to prevent a favourable settlement is what is happening in this House now?

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass I do not agree.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully The one thing which, on the workers' side, is causing all the trouble is that they will not be threatened into accepting anything, whether or not the Taoiseach likes it. He says that this is the only way to settle the problem and that we must have it now, lest somebody else in the ESB looks for an increase. Less than half an hour ago, the Taoiseach said that this legislation would apply only to this type of worker and then only if there was a threatened stoppage of power. He now says that other types of workers in the ESB might look for an increase and therefore——

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass I did not say that. Has the Deputy read the Bill? This measure cannot be used unless there is a stoppage of power.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully I read the Bill and I listened to the Taoiseach. I should be glad if the Taoiseach would now listen to me. He may find it a bit boring.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass It cannot be used at all.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully The Taoiseach just said in answer to an interruption by Deputy Mullen that in fact this will be used by the ESB. He said they are afraid that if they grant this now, it might in effect be used by other workers in the ESB in an attempt to get wage increases.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass I was not sure what Deputy Mullen was saying.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully Whether you were sure or not, you gave the right answer from your side. You let the cat out of the bag. That is what the Government have in mind. In future, if you cannot get a wage dispute settled to your satisfaction, then the proper thing [133] to do is use the legislation of this House and force them. I would like at this stage to point out to the Taoiseach that although there is no reference in the Bill to imprisonment, there is reference to fines. They are pretty hefty fines. Does the Minister know what happens the fellow fined who does not pay? Of course, he would not know anything about that. We know what happened a few months ago when people would not pay fines. We will not have a Presidential election for a considerable time so we cannot hope that anybody will intercede for these fellows and bring them out of jail.

The Taoiseach can be sure that if he succeeds in getting this Bill through the Dáil and if those people are brought to court, because they are not going to crawl back to work to oblige him, his Government or anybody else, he is going to have the greatest trouble he ever had in his life. I am sorry to have to say it. While he is talking about the shocking thing it is that 180,000 or 200,000 people are out of work over the stoppage, he seems to forget that the Irish Congress of Trade Unions speaks for most of those people and we speak for the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. Our instructions are that they are opposed tooth and nail to this Bill. The Taoiseach can think over that one for a few minutes.

If the Taoiseach knows as much about the ESB negotiations as he claims, he must know that the Board of the ESB and nobody else are responsible for what has happened. We hear an awful lot of talk about the shocking thing it is that 100 men can hold up the whole country. I suggest that 100 men are not holding up the country but that seven men, plus one Minister, are holding up the country. I have nothing personal against the Minister. There is no getting away from the fact that if the Government were doing their duty, they would not be attacking the trade unions and the strikers but would be dealing with the Board of the ESB and with the Minister, who says here he has no responsibility for them inside the House but surely he must have responsibility for them outside the House.

[134]The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass I hope I attacked nobody.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully The Bill introduced here this afternoon was introduced as a deliberate blackmail attack on the workers of the ESB at present on strike in an attempt to force them back to work. There is no use in anybody trying to deny it. We may talk about fair play but we cannot get away from the fact that there are two parties to this dispute and the Government of the country, with the assistance of the main Opposition, attacked one of them and said they would settle the dispute while the ESB can sit back and say: “Good men; you will look after our interests and let the other fellows go to jail if they do not pay.”

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass That is quite unfair.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully The precedent is set in the Bill.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass Quite the reverse.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully If it is, then I am afraid the Taoiseach is the man who has not read the Bill. At the end of section 9 are set out the penalties. For disobeying an order not to strike, a person on summary conviction may be fined £25, plus £5 a day for continuing the offence and on indictment, a person may be fined £5,000, plus £100 a day. It is also provided that when a person is acting on behalf of a trade union, the trade union must pay the fine. Section 10 provides that a body corporate may be prosecuted on indictment for an offence. This means that the trade union will be threatened with a fine of £5,000, plus £100 a day. Will the Taoiseach explain if that is the way to encourage people back to work? Is this the way the industrial relations of the country are going to be dealt with in the future. Is this what the new Minister for Labour will have as his charter?

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass Would the Deputy prefer a complete stoppage of electricity?

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully The Taoiseach is one of these people who is a great believer in democracy when it sui [135] himself. It is his own type of democracy? He says all men are equal, only some are more equal than others. I have heard the Taoiseach and his Ministers say: “We believe the right of workers to go on strike except...” and then they go on excepting. As soon as somebody treads on their corns, they say that group are not entitled to go on strike. It is the ESB workers today; it will be CIE tomorrow and Aer Lingus the next day. How long will it take you to force the dockers back to work in Dublin?

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass It is quite clear the Bill does not stop anybody going on strike.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully We listened to you for half an hour. The Taoiseach and the Minister talked about going slowly. They talked about how slow the Government were in all this and how they desired not to rush into anything. The ESB were also very slow. This demand was served on 29th December, 1964. The tribunal heard it on 29th July, 1965. The strike operated from 2nd May, 1966. If that is not going slowly, I would like somebody to tell me what is. I do not know whether or not the ESB felt all along that, having the experience of 1961 behind them, all they had to do was sit back and eventually the Government would “have a go” at the strikers. Make things bad enough and they were sure to have the Government on their side.

The Taoiseach may not be in a position to contradict this, or he may be, but I would like somebody to state it authoritatively. A reply was given here to Deputy O'Connell the week before last. It was reported by the people representing the strikers that there was no reason whatever for the shut-down of electricity which occurred a few weeks ago. There was no reason whatever except one, and that one reason was that the Board of the ESB wanted to create such a situation that there would have to be action by the Government.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass Is that not childish? Was the whole purpose of putting on the pickets not to shut down the power stations?

[136]Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully The Minister for Transport and Power wants to say something.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers It is completely untrue.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully The Minister said that here. The people who are on strike now say there was no reason, good, bad or indifferent, for that closedown, and particularly for a closedown which prevented hospitals from getting supplies. The ESB must be damn bad organisers if they could not organise the current available in such a way as to give supply to essential services. I know of one hospital where the Board refused to allow the local authority running it to bring in a supplementary supply until it suited themselves. There were two fuses to be drawn. They could only be drawn by the ESB, who refused to allow them to be drawn.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass Is this not a childish argument? This union put on pickets and stopped the power stations and then complained that the ESB did not keep them going.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully I do not know whether the Taoiseach is aware of this or not. If the pickets were never put on, in another fortnight, the Board would have to close down completely. They know that. That is why they got the Government to bring in legislation this week. They could not bring it in last week because of the Presidential election. It might have affected the voting. They waited until this week. This week you got instructions that something must be done and you are doing it now at the behest, not alone of the ESB but also of the group behind them, the FUE.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass We are doing it because of what happened yesterday.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully Nothing happened yesterday.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass The Deputy should read the papers.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully The Taoiseach does not know what is happening. Yesterday afternoon most of industry was back with full power. Today they [137] are back with full power. The unions were doing everything possible to have the strike carried out in a reasonable way. The Board of the ESB persuaded the Government to blackmail, or attempt to blackmail, these people to go back to work. It does not matter a damn if the Taoiseach and his Minister get this Bill through the Dáil tonight or tomorrow afternoon, get it through the Seanad and have it signed by the President. That will not settle the dispute and nobody will be forced back to work simply because the Government say they must work for a certain wage.

Deputy Corish made a point which I think was completely missed by a number of people and for that reason it is worth repeating. The judges got a very high increase in pay a few years ago because it was felt the judiciary were doing a special job that nobody else could do. In recent weeks doctors have been receiving a very high increase to which they are entitled because they are doing a specialised job. There are 100 men involved in this dispute and nobody can do that work except them. Let the Minister for Transport and Power deny that if he likes. If the Minister or his Government thought that Army engineers would be able to do that work they would be manning these stations before now, but they cannot do it because they have not been trained to it. These 100 men know their job and they are doing it well. What are they being paid for a 42½ hour 5-day week? The basic is £13 10. and for a 45-hour week, it is £14 5. 11. I wonder does the Taoiseach or any of his Ministers know there are people in small factories around the country working from 8 o'clock to 5 o'clock on five days a week who are getting that wage.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass I made no comment on the claim at all.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully I know the Taoiseach did not. The only comment he made was that he was going to order these fellows back to work, whether they were prepared to accept——

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass That is not in this Bill. The Deputy should read it.

[138]Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully What is in this Bill is that if they do not go back to work, they will be fined £25, plus £5 a day, for continuing the offence.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass That is not in the Bill.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully Yes, it is.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne Of course it is.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully Does the Taoiseach want me to read it?

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass I want the Deputy to read it.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully The Minister for Industry and Commerce should have read it.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass The Deputy should have read it before he started to speak.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully Section 9 sets out the penalties for disobeying the order. Paragraph (4) reads:

(a) on summary conviction, to a fine not exceeding £25, together with, in the case of a continuing offence, a further fine not exceeding £5 for every day on which the offence is continued, or

(b) on conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding £5,000...

plus £100 a day. Is that not in the Bill?

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass The Government are concerned only with maintaining the supply of electricity.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully Do not be trying to cod us because we are long enough listening to these little stories. We at least read the Bill, and that is what it says. However, if the Bill is passed and becomes law, it still does not put these people back to work. The Taoiseach may say, as he did say: “All right; the people in semi-State bodies should not set the rate but they should pay the top.” It is easy enough to negotiate if these people are prepared to pay the top. I have a letter here from the Land Commission addressed to me as general secretary of a trade union in respect of a number of men who were working a 45-hour week, whereas the National Agreement set out a [139] 42½-hour week. I asked the Land Commission to pay them the 2½ hours overtime to which they were entitled. I have got a reply saying that they would not pay it. I asked that a conference be arranged and if this matter could be threshed out. This is the sort of reply which would be given by semi-State bodies if they thought they could get away with it:

With further reference to your letter of 16th ultimo regarding the hours of building workers... I am to state that your additional representations have been fully considered but it is not proposed to alter the decision already conveyed to you in the matter. In these circumstances it is not seen what purpose may be served by holding the discussions requested by you.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass Bring it to the Labour Court.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully The Taoiseach does not know what he is talking about. If we could get these people to the Labour Court, these things could be settled overnight, but there is no appeal against the conditions of employment laid down for State employees. That is the sort of treatment which would be given to the ESB workers if the ESB thought they could get away with it. This matter is far too serious to be treated in the way in which it is being treated in this House.

The Taoiseach rushed around yesterday evening with his Bill. People outside this House had copies of it. Deputies even of his own Party had no copy and did not know what was in the Bill until the Taoiseach told them today, or they were issued with copies in the afternoon. Matters should not have been allowed to rest there. The Taoiseach quoted Standing Orders and while it is true that Standing Orders preclude the publication of the Bill until after the First Reading, by agreement there is no reason why, if the Taoiseach wanted to do the thing in the proper way, every Deputy should not have had a copy of it in the post this morning. He did not get it and the reason we did not get it was that [140] the intention was to bulldoze it through the House and the less Deputies knew about it, the less chance there was of having opposition to it. It just did not work out. The usual explanatory memorandum was not included. Maybe it was rushed out, but we were able to make out our own explanatory memorandum.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass Not very successfully.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully We know what it means.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne It remains to be seen how successful it was.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully I do not propose to detain the House. The proposal to deal with this Bill in this way is no credit to the Government or to the Taoiseach. During the discussion on the motion when some intelligent comments were being made by members of the Labour Party, there were interruptions from backbenchers of Fianna Fáil who did not see the Bill and who did not know what was in it. They were only interrupting because they thought the Taoiseach might hear them and maybe consider them for a Parliamentary Secretaryship later on.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully The efforts being made to bludgeon workers into resuming work will not come off. In my opinion, this is a trial run for further repressive legislation which the Government propose to introduce later on, and that fact makes it imperative that it should not be allowed to pass through this House without comment. I sincerely hope the ESB will see a bit of sense and that the discussions which took place this afternoon, despite the efforts of the Government to sabotage them by bringing this Bill into the House, will be successful. I assure the Minister that as far as we are concerned in the Labour Party, every time this sort of measure is introduced here, we shall oppose it tooth and nail.

Mr. N. Lemass: Information on Noel T. Lemass Zoom on Noel T. Lemass Support 100, and put 250,000 out of work.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully If Deputy Lemass [141] thinks that now that “daddy” has gone, he can say something, he is wasting his time. He was afraid to say anything a few moments ago. I would say this, that those in the Fianna Fáil Party who have been carrying trade union cards and displaying them at election time had better think very carefully before they cast their votes on this Bill, because I know they will not be allowed to give their views but they are going to cast their votes on this and before doing so, they should remember that there is another election coming and they will not be able to claim the protection of that card when they are going around working class areas.

Mr. Donegan: Information on Patrick S. Donegan Zoom on Patrick S. Donegan We are discussing a Bill under which we are trying to make it unlawful to strike or to picket in the case of a very essential service. We are also discussing the very heavy penalties in this Bill. The Labour Party have made the point that these do not include imprisonment but, of course, if you do not pay the fine, you will probably be imprisoned anyway. The Taoiseach has told us that he proposes to produce the headlines tomorrow for the shape of a new Department for Labour which will cover industrial disputes in State-sponsored bodies, manpower and so on. He already has a Parliamentary Secretary doing that and I do not think the promotion of the Parliamentary Secretary to a junior Ministry will matter very much. It will possibly mean a slight increase in pay such as is being sought by the workers on strike.

The Minister for Industry and Commerce took the biscuit when he came along and said the Government never foresaw having to introduce such legislation. The truth, of course, is, as we all know, including the Minister if he remembers it, that such legislation was introduced in 1961. It was far more repressive at that time although it was temporary. We all know how the Dáil and Seanad were kept here until two o'clock in the morning to put that Bill through. We also remember that it was Saturday morning and that the provisions in the Bill were that there [142] should be a tribunal in 1961. In 1966, we are to have an arbitrator. There was provision, if agreement could not be got on the tribunal, that a majority decision would hold. In 1966, we are to have a commission and we are to have recourse to the Labour Court. In 1961, we were going to regulate the prices of commodities that might be affected by a cessation of electricity supplies. We were taking power to produce price control as well as wage control in 1961. We were going to impose fines of £100 and £20 per day for a continuing offence. Now we are going to fine them on conviction on indictment—the £100 being merely on summary conviction—£5,000. On summary conviction in 1961, we were prepared to send people to gaol for six months.

What happened between Saturday at 2 a.m. and Monday morning? The Taoiseach has settled the job for 35/-a week. Our minds were made up at 12 o'clock on Friday night and at 2 a.m. on Saturday. I remember this well because four or five members of our Party felt so deeply on the matter of personal freedom in regard to this piece of legislation in 1961 that they asked to be excused from voting. Deputies Dunne, Casey and O.J. Flanagan and other Deputies on the opposite side will also remember this. We voted with the Government on that occasion because we felt that the supply of an essential commodity should be preserved but the Taoiseach, between Friday night and Monday morning, did what he will always do —fiddled the job. He merely came in on Friday night for the purpose of waving the big stick as mentioned by the Labour Party and mentioned by him as a magic wand.

Mr. Crowley: Information on Florence Crowley Zoom on Florence Crowley Fairy wand.

Mr. Donegan: Information on Patrick S. Donegan Zoom on Patrick S. Donegan We do not see much magic or fairy wands operating on the Fianna Fáil side at present. They are dull, heavy-footed and leaden like the Deputy but I believe the same performance will take place between now and tomorrow night in 1966. Let us prophesy about this. This Government are down in the trough, not quite at [143] the bottom but sliding down, and once they are sliding, they cannot stop. They cannot afford to have a situation in which more people will be brought before the courts and fined £5. The question mark is: will the unions pay? Of course in this legislation they have —this is where the Labour Party slipped up slightly—authority to give the matter over to the Attorney General under the Minister for Justice who now sits looking at us who will have the means to collect the fines. If they are acting on behalf of the unions, the unions will be responsible and they will be made pay the very heavy fines of £5,000 which can be extracted.

I believe it will not happen. The Taoiseach is a political animal—I mean that in no personally offensive way. He thinks in a political way and I am as certain as can be that the matter will be concluded. Is it right that it should be concluded in the present frame of mind? Is it right that a solution be found which may not be the right one? The Taoiseach mentioned that this solution will affect all other labour problems in the ESB. If it does, it will have the same effect outside. Should we have reached this stage? That is the big question. Did the Taoiseach and the Government do as much as they should have done in the past few years? They are the people in power since 1957. In 1961, they had four years; in 1966, they have had 8½ years. This proves they have completely failed to create a climate of conciliation in industrial relations. We are told the Taoiseach is trying to do something about it by promoting his Parliamentary Secretary to a junior Ministry, calling him by a different name. Is this a solution. There is no solution except the proper regulation of Government and the proper regulation of the machination of the Cabinet. In the years that have passed that has not occurred.

I think it is in order to discuss briefly the position in relation to incomes and the problems of the working people in the past few years. The Government themselves adverted to it in 1962 when they issued the White Paper Closing the Gap—Incomes and Output[144] laid by the Government before each House of the Oireachtas in February, 1963. The tenor of this White Paper was that we were all spending too much, that our production was not equating the increases in incomes we were giving ourselves, that we must tighten our belts, produce more and spend less on consumer goods. On page 7, paragraph 10, it stated:

When income increases greatly exceed the growth in national production there are adverse effects also on the country's trading position. Home-produced goods are made less competitive in foreign markets by the rise in production costs. At the same time some of the new purchasing power is being used to buy a greater volume of imports. Less exports and more imports mean a bigger gap between what we earn abroad and what we spend abroad —an increased deficit in our balance of international payments.

Paragraph 11 on the same page says:

To correct a large deficit, measures having adverse repercussions on trade and employment may be unavoidable. The measures taken in such circumstances in 1956-57 included heavy duties on imports, restrictions on consumer spending and curtailment of capital expenditure. Trade and production were depressed, unemployment and emigration were increased, and an atmosphere unfavourable to economic expansion was created. This experience should be sufficient warning to avoid the need for such measures again. The final result, in effect, is that the initial increase in pay, so far as it exceeds the increase in output, is nullified by higher prices and fewer jobs. Those who lose their jobs and those on pensions or other fixed incomes are the hardest hit, although few remain unaffected.

Then there is the following sentence in paragraph 12:

The reason for concern at present is that, as indicated in earlier paragraphs, most of the features described above were present in 1962——

[145] This is at the end of 1962——

——income increases outrunning productivity, a rise in prices, a slackening of the rate of growth in industrial output, a widening of the trade gap, and a large increase in the balance of payments deficit.

That is what the Government thought in 1962 and it was the Government's responsibility to create a climate or a situation whereby the difficulty they saw in 1962 would have been dissipated and all the clouds dispersed at least by 1966.

What did they do since 1962? Why are these 100 men so adamantly on strike? Whatever are the rights or wrongs of the case, the unfortunate working man, whatever increase he got, is now hard hit to rear his family and is worse off than he was even before the ninth round, after that White Paper was published in 1962. The Government found themselves in difficulties with two by-elections, when they had to have recourse to the electors, just as, last week, when they again had recourse to the electors, they would not bring in this Bill because there was a Presidential election coming up, even though they said that that election was of no political significance.

The Government have progressively gone down the slide because they have not been prepared to live up to what they said they believed in when they published that White Paper Closing the Gap. They have gone down the slide because they wanted to buy votes. They can buy votes as long as they have the wherewithal to buy them but they have now reached the end of the road and they can no longer buy them.

The Taoiseach has said that he himself and his Ministers do not openly and publicly intervene in negotiations on wages but that there are always informal talks. After the publication of Closing the Gap and when there were two by-elections coming up, the Taoiseach boasted to the electors that he had secured for the workers a 12 per cent increase to cover a period of 2½ years.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers He did nothing of the kind.

[146]Mr. Donegan: Information on Patrick S. Donegan Zoom on Patrick S. Donegan He did, and I will not accept any declaration that he did not. I will go to the Library and produce the papers on this matter and quote them the next time I get the opportunity. The Taoiseach boasted of this in two by-elections. He produced this increase and he rode the horse home, regardless of whether there was steam to continue the journey. That is what he did and he holds a double responsibility for the present state of affairs because that wage agreement was made to cover a period of 2½ years. The Minister knows that prices will follow wages in from nine to 12 months and if you make an agreement for 2½ years, you have created the perfect climate for the cutting in value of the workers' wages and for creating difficulties for the workers' wives in making ends meet.

Let us remember that three weeks ago OECD described us as the worst country for industrial strikes in Europe in 1965. We are the people who are supposed to be encouraging industry here in order to absorb the people who are leaving the land and we are also the people who, in 1965, believed in the cod and in the targets set down in the Second Programme for Economic Expansion. We are the people who had 7,000 people fewer employed in 1965 than in 1964. We also had the futility this year of statements by Ministers who said that the proper wage increase should be three per cent. These statements were blown up by the Labour Court when a wage increase of £1 per week, approximately nine per cent, was produced by it.

Why do we blame 100 fitters who think they are entitled to more? The Government did not introduce this legislation a week or a fortnight ago because they were afraid they would lose votes in the pending Presidential election, an election which they said was of no political significance. We are here tonight because we find ourselves in this position, because of a weak Government who cannot stand up to any vested interest at any time, a Government so weak that their Ministers are prepared to hold on to their [147] offices by any means whatever, a Government who have left us in a position where we must legislate tonight or tomorrow because there are children in incubators in hospitals, because there is such a thing as blood plasma, because there are iron lungs, because there are such things as cows that have not been milked in any other way than by electrical milking machines, because there are hundreds of tons of butter in cold storage, because there is food that will be ruined and because there are chickens that must be kept warm by electricity. It would be a national catastrophe if we found ourselves without electricity and we could not face our people or raise our heads if we allowed this to happen.

We are legislating here tonight in a national crisis which is definitely and solely the responsibility of the Government in office for 8½ years. Remember how critical they were even in 1962, how severe they were, how the present Minister for Transport and Power, when the price of cattle was falling, came in here day after day and put down 20 to 30 questions regarding the price of cattle, not caring whether he brought the price down further but only because he wanted the job of Minister for Agriculture.

When dealing with these people, we are dealing with politicians first, last and all the time and, in passing, I may say that I am fed to the back teeth with political commentators who describe us as amateurs and the members of the Government as professionals. They are not professionals; they are political prostitutes who are prepared to sell everything they have to stay in power.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan That does not seem to be relevant to the debate.

Mr. Donegan: Information on Patrick S. Donegan Zoom on Patrick S. Donegan The Minister for Justice is amused.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan We are not here to amuse the Minister for Justice.

Mr. Donegan: Information on Patrick S. Donegan Zoom on Patrick S. Donegan It might amuse the Minister for Lands if he were here but I will try to keep in order from now on. We have been talking here about [148] 200,000 people who could be put out of employment but I want to say that the climate for that situation has been brought about by the Government. The whole situation is the fault of the Government.

This Bill proposes to deal with a strike that might arise in an essential service which is under Government finance and control but the two gentlemen responsible for these services are sitting opposite to me now, the Minister for Industry and Commerce and the Minister for Transport and Power. I have indicated that our present dilemma is a result of the ineptitude of the Government. No more inept persons could be produced here than the two Ministers now sitting opposite. I do not want to go into particulars but the Minister for Industry and Commerce knows that on two certain matters he has been proved to be wrong.

Let us realise, then, that a weak Government are an invitation to every vested interest and that leapfrogging is not confined to wages and salaries. It is not confined to Government sponsored companies or private companies or public companies. It exists right through society. The position is that whatever increase is given today by a Government that is incorrect—and I suggest that certain things they have done have been incorrect and by that I do not mean either too large or anything like that: I mean incorrect; an example would be the fact that the 12½ per cent was for two and a half years and the two and a half was incorrect—once it is incorrect, it creates a wrong flow of wages and salary increases, a wrong flow of prices. That is what has happened here. It is the Government's fault because in the by-elections, in the 1965 general election and in the Presidential election, they portrayed themselves as a weak Government.

I am sorry that we find ourselves in this situation. I want to be quite clear. I attended a meeting of the Front Bench of this Party before we came down here at six o'clock and discussed it with members of the Party also. Our position is that we have to be complete and absolute pragmatists, people [149] who just look at the facts of the case. The facts are as I have outlined, that you will have people dying in incubators, you will have colossal loss, you will have 200,000 workers out of jobs and we have got to legislate. I forecast, and I would bet if such were permissible in this Chamber, that that legislation will never be used and that there will be a settlement. That is the way it was done before and, if I know the mind of the Taoiseach, that is the way it will be done again.

Nevertheless, it is a poor situation to have reached after 8½ years of Government, in which the terms of trade were very favourable to us at times and never very unfavourable, in which there was every opportunity and, up to quite recently, a good flow of capital available. Fianna Fáil stand charged with complete failure in this instance and that is another reason why they should get out and let other people get in.

Mr. Kyne: Information on Thomas Anthony Kyne Zoom on Thomas Anthony Kyne How are Fine Gael going to vote? You did not tell us that.

Mr. Donegan: Information on Patrick S. Donegan Zoom on Patrick S. Donegan We are going to vote for the Government.

Mr. Kyne: Information on Thomas Anthony Kyne Zoom on Thomas Anthony Kyne Of course, you are.

Minister for Transport and Power (Mr. Childers): Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers I do not want to go over again what has already been said by the Taoiseach and the Minister for Industry and Commerce but I should explain that in connection with the operation of the ESB, I have worked very closely with the Minister for Industry and Commerce in all matters with regard to the ESB organisation where he has the ultimate responsibility of framing for the Government such matters as relate to industrial relations and I think it is about time that something was said about the ESB organisation. I say without any kind of hesitation that the Electricity Supply Board is a splendid organisation, well organised and well and competently run.

Mr. Coughlan: Information on Stephen Coughlan Zoom on Stephen Coughlan It depends on your standards of competency.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers I would say also that in past debates in the Dáil the [150] Electricity Supply Board has been very highly commended by people from all sides of the House and because we happen to have got into a very serious position in relation to a contemplated strike, it does not mean that this atmosphere should be created in the House that the ESB itself is not a fine organisation.

Although, as the Taoiseach said, the two statutory tribunals of the ESB have proved, because of various changes that have taken place in different sections of workers, not to be entirely satisfactory, it is also true to say that there have been a great many accepted settlements within the statutory tribunals, on small matters relating to the internal working of the ESB, to the gradings of workers, to all sorts of matters relating to their conditions of employment and also in relation to changes that have taken place in the wage structure. It should be made clear that while these two tribunals, as the Taoiseach said, no longer fit the case in present circumstances, and their work in so far as it relates to wages and salaries which will have an impact outside, should really be taken over by the Labour Court, nevertheless, as I have said, many satisfactory settlements have been made and accepted by the workers and by the ESB management that have been put forward by these two statutory tribunals. To get into a kind of hysterical state and suggest that the whole of the labour relations of the Board are disastrous is not being objective in a study of what is a very serious question that we now have to examine.

I am not going to deal with the rights of this particular group of workers because that is not part of the Bill we are discussing.

Mr. Coughlan: Information on Stephen Coughlan Zoom on Stephen Coughlan It is part of your responsibility.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers In the Bill, as Deputies know, there can be an appeal to the Labour Court and also to another arbitrator appointed by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, so it is not true that as and from this moment the final agreement in regard to the wages to be paid to these fitters [151] is necessarily what it is now but there must be acceptance of one or two forms of arbitration.

As I have said, the main consideration we have to think of in this connection has already been mentioned, that is, we simply cannot have an interruption of electricity supply and I want to make it clear that the ESB and I had an absolute understanding that they should do their utmost to preserve power and it is scandalous to suggest that the ESB tried to limit the amount of power available throughout the system in order to have a Bill of this kind enacted through the House. It is completely untrue.

When the men decided to picket certain stations, the men working inside the stations said they would have to close the station down, that they could not go on working there, and all the ESB can do in the event of stations being picketed by one group of people and others refusing to pass the picket is to re-deploy the staff willing still to work in the best way they can in the maximum number of stations they can keep open and even that can last for only a short time. If there happens to be any breakdown in a station even at this moment, a crisis could begin again and there are some 270 megawatts at this moment not available out of a total of 800 to 1,000 because they need maintenance at this moment which they cannot have because of the strike.

Again, not to go over ground gone over before, I do want to assure Deputies that I have constantly sought some way by which I could tell the Minister for Industry and Commerce that some kind of voluntary arbitration scheme would be possible, either by negotiations through the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the Electricity Supply Board or through internal negotiation between the ESB management and the staff. I have always thought that that was by far the best solution for a monopoly service of an absolutely essential character. I have studied the arrangements that were made in half a dozen countries in Northern Europe where [152] there are never any strikes whatever in electricity undertakings and in some cases railway services and docks are strike free.

I have studied the system which has been fully accepted by the trade unions of these countries, which has been in operation for many years, which consists either of some voluntary arbitration agreement renewable every year which by itself operates to prevent strikes, or else by an arbitration arrangement which has been agreed to by the unions and by the employers and which has been fortified by legislation confirming the whole arrangement and providing for penalties and making quite sure that the agreement for any particular level of wages and salaries is an enforceable legal contract. This is not in the least uncommon. It can be found also in countries such as New Zealand and Australia. You will find most of the public utilities' labour arrangements organised in such a way that there is this voluntary arbitration.

I want to repeat, as the Minister in charge of the general operations of the ESB, that I have constantly sought opportunity for finding out whether I could say to the Minister for Industry and Commerce that he might help in some particular way in getting some arrangement accepted. It has not been found possible—

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish Was it tried?

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers In the general climate of labour relations, I have been told it was no use trying—

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish It was not tried.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers I hope it will be possible now, but up to now without perhaps any wrongful feeling on the part of the workers, they have not been willing to come forward for this sort of arrangement.

(Interruptions).

Mr. Coughlan: Information on Stephen Coughlan Zoom on Stephen Coughlan The Minister is too far removed from the situation to know anything about it.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers I hope, as the Minister for Industry and Commerce hopes, [153] that no order will have to be made, that there will be a settlement either through the Labour Court which has agreed to reconsider the matter and suggested that an independent engineer should be appointed to examine again the relevant payments to these men and those in outside occupations, or through the arbitrator appointed by the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I hope there will be a settlement and I hope that because of the very grave crisis we face——

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange Into which the Government have got us.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers ——and because of the possibility of the complete elimination of electricity supplies, we can hope that there would perhaps be a better climate for discussing a more permanent system or arrangement which can be voluntarily entered into and agreed to by the workers and management of the ESB and which might possibly require another form of legislation in order to seal it and deliver it to the public so that they can understand its import. I do not think that is an unreasonable comment of mine. I am sure everybody in the House would prefer to have the kind of arrangement that is possible in a great many European and other countries.

Obviously it would take much too long to cover the present situation and I simply wanted to make it clear that I have examined at all times the working of the statutory tribunals, the suggestion that they should be abolished and their activities replaced by the Labour Court in relation to labour claims, and I have been in constant touch with the Minister for Industry and Commerce in relation to all matters concerning the working of the ESB. I have constantly studied the improvements made in the position of the staff. The general increase in remuneration in the ESB in the past five or six years has not been unsatisfactory to the point that one could say the whole wage system is unsatisfactory. That is why I think it is all the sadder that there should be, as there is, the danger of a complete breakdown. I hope this Bill will be accepted in the spirit in which it is meant, in the hope that it will [154] encourage in the future a longer lasting form of arbitration machinery.

Mr. Casey: Information on Seán Casey Zoom on Seán Casey The contribution which we have just heard from the Minister for Transport and Power is typical of the type of statement he made at chambers of commerce dinners where there was nobody to criticise him. He comes along now with a palsy-walsy speech in which he invited all of us to be very good boys and to induce our trade union members and the members of the Labour Party to toe the line and then we will all be pals and everything will pass over. I am afraid he cannot get away with that. Candidly, during my 12 years in this House, I have never seen a more disgraceful attempt at introducing this type of legislation. Earlier on the motion, I pointed out that I was expected to come along here, without any copy of the Bill, to discuss a motion limiting me to a certain time and in which to go through the whole gamut of what I and everybody in the Labour Party and indeed, every liberal-minded person would regard as a very important Bill and have the whole thing completed by 10.30 tonight. However, we got over that.

Speakers on the Government side and from the main Opposition Party have endeavoured to create the idea that we are assembled here specially to deal with what they regard as the alleged irresponsible actions of 100 men, which of course is not the case. There is much more involved in this, and everybody knows it, than the 100 fitters in the ESB. If this Bill passes into legislation, it will mean that everybody working in the ESB, not only the 100 men who have been unjustly pilloried by this House, by public bodies and by the press generally, will find that the terms of this Bill will apply to him. He may be an electrician, an office boy, a chief clerk, an accountant, or a lorry driver —it does not matter who he is as all are included.

The Government are seeking power under this Bill to take action as a result of a trade dispute or where there is a serious disruption of electricity or a danger of such a disruption. [155] In other words, the Government of the day can decide that perhaps in three or four weeks time, or three or four months time, there will be a reasonable danger of a disruption and they can immediately take action against the people concerned. I want to say this non-politically, that if this House endeavours to embark on that type of legislation, it is not known where it is going to end.

I know that very cogent and valid arguments can be put forward from that side of the House in relation to the present dispute, but I invite those who advance these arguments to tell me where all this will end: the ESB today; I suppose CIE tomorrow. We have heard rumours regarding CIE over the past few years in this House in regard to their labour relations. I suppose it might possibly spread to Bord na Móna, to Comhlucht Siúicre Éireann, perhaps to Aer Lingus. I suppose the Minister would not be averse to extending it to Irish Shipping and our newly-acquired B & I. In other words, we are setting up for the first time here a situation in which the majority of those employed in industrial employment will, as it were, hold that employment at the whim and fancy of the Government and the particular Minister in charge of Industry and Commerce.

I would appeal to everyone to examine his conscience and ask himself: is this democracy? Are we slipping a little from the great democratic principles about which many of us have been shouting over the past few months during the celebrations of the 50th Anniversary of the 1916 Rising? I wonder are we slipping? I feel quite sincerely, not strictly as a Labour Party man, but as a democrat and a constitutionalist, that we may begin to slip in that direction and, in time, may hand over to the civil servants powers that should be reserved to Parliament and to the free democratic institutions in the State, employers' associations, trade unions, concillation machinery and voluntary—I stress voluntary— arbitration.

[156] One part of our press has sought to give the impression that this Bill is introduced to deal with unofficial strikes. That is not so. Actually this Bill is dealing with an official strike called by a responsible and registered trade union. One cannot set up a trade union without going through a certain process. One must satisfy the Minister for Industry and Commerce as to one's bona fides. One must lodge a deposit; one must be registered. Only then can one set up a trade union. This Bill seeks to imply that these legal, bona fide organisations having gone through that process, may no longer act in the way trade unions have traditionally acted in relation to just claims against employers. It is sought to take away from trade unions rights they have always enjoyed.

We should not make a bad situation worse. Nobody can tell me that by passing this Bill we will solve the unhappy situation that exists. It is provided that, if there is danger of disruption of industry, the Government may bring in an Order and then, under section 6 of this Bill, prohibit picketing in furtherance of a dispute where an Order has been made. If the Government wanted to run into trouble, they could not have worded that section better. They are, in effect, telling a responsible trade union—I shall say nothing about the strength of the various trade unions connected with the ESB—that they are prohibiting their picketing in an official strike, a course of action taken after due deliberation by the trade union concerned.

In section 9 the penalties for misdemeanours under this piece of legislation are set out. On summary conviction, a person may be fined £25, plus £5 per day, that is, per skull on the picket. On indictment a person may be fined £5,000 plus £100 a day. It is also provided that where a person is acting on behalf of a trade union, the union must pay the fine. I wonder who had the brainstorm that thought up that particular provision? I should like to know the identity of the individual who thinks that, in this day and age, he can say to organised Irish [157] trade unionists, acting on the instructions of their trade union, a union that has deliberated and come to a certain conclusion, that, if they happen to be working for the ESB, they will be subject to very stringent penalties for acting in accordance with the instructions of their trade union.

Does anybody, outside Grangegorman, think that policy can be implemented? The trade unions can instruct their trade unionists to picket in their hundreds. What will be the position then? The first thing the country would have to do is to start building gaols fast. As a Minister remarked in Limerick recently, one of his main concerns is the housing problem in Limerick. The housing problem in Cork is just as acute. I think we should go ahead building houses and not start building gaols but, if this legislation is implemented, if this House is stupid enough to pass this Bill, we will not be able to build gaols fast enough.

Those of us who know something about the negotiating machinery of the Electricity Supply Board feel that, if there is to be any indictment in this House or elsewhere, it should be an indictment of the Board of the ESB. Deputy Tully mentioned a sorry list of negotiations: it was really a list of lack of negotiations. He pointed out quite clearly that this alleged machinery was obviously neglected by the Board of the ESB. Therefore, we make this case and we are not making it particularly on behalf of the 100 men who happen to be the kernel of the dispute. We are making it in relation to labour relations generally and particularly labour relations within the ambit of the present Minister for Transport and Power.

It is not without significance that, over the years, since the advent of the present holder of the portfolio of the Department of Transport and Power, all our major disputes have been with concerns that come under the aegis of the Department of Transport and Power. We had the case of the CIE busmen. We had the row with Aer Lingus. We had the row with the port authorities. We had the threatened very serious row with Irish Shipping. [158] I suppose the only reason the present Minister for Transport and Power has not had a row with the B & I is that he is not sufficiently long in charge of the Department. Without any personal animosity towards the man himself, I think we must all feel, as reasonable men, that there is a mishandling of these matters by the Minister for Transport and Power. It would be difficult to surpass such a sorry record of failures. Therefore, we in the Labour Party feel that instead of bringing in a trade union or a section of a trade union and devoting the time of the Dáil here today to indicting them, the people who should be indicted and who should be answerable are (1) the Minister for Transport and Power and (2) the Board of the ESB.

If we have the temerity to put down a question to the Minister for Transport and Power in regard to any of the State-sponsored bodies which come under his Department, the reply we get is that he does not interfere in the day to day administration of these bodies. He is down the country at present. He knows everything about the ESB, CIE and every other company. He can quote statistics ad nauseam but, if he is asked a question the following week, he knows nothing. That is not good enough. The discussion we have had here today and the necessity the Government felt to introduce this most restrictive and reactionary piece of legislation can be laid at the door of the Minister for Transport and Power who is either unwilling or unable to do his job.

The Taoiseach said that a handful of people should never be in a position to hold the country up to ransom. Any of us in the Labour Party or in the trade unions would not subscribe to the theory that a small group or, indeed, a group of people, should be able, undemocratically, to hold the country up to ransom. We would not, and do not, subscribe to that view but certainly we would say, with greater emphasis, that a Minister of State, and a Minister in this capacity, should not, because of his incompetence or reluctance, be allowed to put the country into the position into which [159] he has been putting it in relation to the ESB, CIE and every other State-sponsored body with which his Department is connected.

Special legislation was introduced here three weeks ago to give increases of £700 per annum to certain specialists attached to various local authorities. I am glad the Minister for Health is present. In conjunction with the Association of City and County Managers, and perhaps other interests of which I am quite unaware, the Minister was able to write to each authority, certainly to the authority with which I am connected, giving approval to an increase of £700 per annum in respect of three persons in my area, at any rate. This happened at a time when other employees of local authority hospitals—they happen to be domestics and other people—are awaiting the Minister's sanction for an increase of £1 per week but I suppose the Minister has not yet got around to that.

When at the stroke of a pen the Minister for Health can grant an increase of £700 a year to specialists, we begin to wonder where are we going. We are entitled to warn the Government and the main Opposition Party, about going along with this very restrictive legislation and, having listened to Deputy Donegan, I am not quite clear what their reason is. We must make this categorical statement. On principle and irrespective of what happens, we are against any legislation that deprives a man of the right to strike. The people we represent have nothing to sell but their labour.

Mr. O'Malley: You do not represent the trade unions exclusively. The Labour Party do not represent trade unionism.

Mr. Casey: Information on Seán Casey Zoom on Seán Casey I knew I would get under your skin about the £700.

Mr. O'Malley: You should give the background to it. It was because we wanted the best doctors in the world in Ireland.

[160]Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish But you do not want the best fitters?

Mr. O'Malley: The Labour Party are a collection of cowards trying to jump on the bandwagon.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish We are told we are taking very unpopular action.

Mr. O'Malley: You have as much guts as you had in the Presidential Election. You do not speak for the trade unions in this country.

Mr. Lindsay: Information on Patrick James Lindsay Zoom on Patrick James Lindsay Would it be possible to get a sedative for the Minister for Health?

Mr. O'Malley: More trade unionists vote for me than for any Deputy over there.

Mr. Spring: Information on Daniel Spring Zoom on Daniel Spring But they are getting sense.

Mr. Lindsay: Information on Patrick James Lindsay Zoom on Patrick James Lindsay Would somebody call a doctor?

Mr. O'Malley: The more you do for people over there, the less you get for it. Let Deputy Spring remember that.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully Are we to have personal abuse from the Minister for Health allowed by the Chair?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan I am not going to allow any abuse.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully The abuse is coming from the Minister for Health. Just because he is a Minister, he should not be allowed get away with it.

Mr. O'Malley: The Labour Party can dish it out but they cannot take it.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully We will not take impudence.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan Perhaps the Minister for Health would allow me to say something? Every Deputy is entitled to speak without interruption from any quarter, no matter where the Deputy who makes the interruption sits.

Mr. Casey: Information on Seán Casey Zoom on Seán Casey I can assure you, Sir, that when I am in order, I will speak, irrespective of where the interruption may come from.

[161]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan There is no need to say that.

Mr. Casey: Information on Seán Casey Zoom on Seán Casey Nobody will shout me down. I was endeavouring to explain to the Minister for Health when he got all worried about it that the people we represent—and I repeat “we represent”——

Mr. O'Malley: Who are they now?

Mr. Casey: Information on Seán Casey Zoom on Seán Casey The thousands who voted for us.

Mr. O'Malley: As long as you do not claim to represent the trade unionists of Ireland, it is all right, because you do not.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan Remarks should not be addressed to any particular member of the House but should be addressed to me.

Mr. Casey: Information on Seán Casey Zoom on Seán Casey I have addressed all my remarks through you, Sir.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan Deputy Tully will not tell me how to run the business of the House.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully On a point of order, is it to be the accepted thing that a Minister can abuse anybody and a Deputy can be called to order for what has happened?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan I am not calling him to order. He has addressed certain remarks to a Minister. That does not make it any better. Deputy Casey will please address the House and not address his remarks to any Minister.

Mr. Spring: Information on Daniel Spring Zoom on Daniel Spring He will not be let.

Mr. Casey: Information on Seán Casey Zoom on Seán Casey With all due respect, Sir, I think anybody listening to me will agree that everything I said was through you.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan The Deputy addressed some remarks across the House to a Minister.

Mr. Casey: Information on Seán Casey Zoom on Seán Casey The Minister was shouting across at me.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Patrick Hogan Zoom on Patrick Hogan The Deputy will please continue his speech.

[162]Mr. Casey: Information on Seán Casey Zoom on Seán Casey I was making the point that the people we in the Labour Party represent are people who in the main have nothing to sell but their labour. We would have hoped that the Government before bringing in this restrictive legislation, curbing these people's rights to use the only weapon they have, might have thought of the £700 per year increase given to the specialists.

Mr. O'Malley: In order to keep the best doctors in the world in Ireland and not to have them running out of the country because they were not paid enough.

Mr. Casey: Information on Seán Casey Zoom on Seán Casey Having annoyed the Minister for Health so intensely, I do not intend taking up the time of the House any further, except to say that whatever the outcome of this Bill, no matter how they vote, it will be unworkable. As I said earlier, you will not have enough gaols to keep all those who contravene the Bill.

Mr. O'Malley: It is to safeguard the employment of the workers of industrial Ireland.

Mr. Lindsay: Information on Patrick James Lindsay Zoom on Patrick James Lindsay We started this debate at 4 o'clock this afternoon in an atmosphere of extreme tension, an atmosphere where there was a certain amount of parliamentary chaos and a certain amount of talk in relation to Motion No. 6 on the Order Paper, which in fact should not have been discussed at that particular time at all. We in the Fine Gael Party are being accused of simply lining up with the Government Party in order to have a slap at the workers in the ESB or anywhere else. It would be extremely easy for me or any member of my Party or indeed for anybody as a simple political manoeuvre to vote against this measure. But we chose otherwise. In so choosing we are merely making another contribution to a long list of similar and related contributions in the field of patriotic endeavour in this country.

We will be told that it is an Opposition's business to oppose and that on that supposition one should always so oppose. We do not accept the view [163] that one should oppose merely for the sake of opposition. One must at times consider the nation, consider the common good. We considered these three things and all the things associated with them and came to the conclusion to support this particular piece of legislation. That does not mean we accept for one minute that this legislation is made necessary by reason solely of the fault of the workers in the ESB or solely of the fault of the Board of the ESB. We believe, and I believe personally, that the fault in this matter lies, in the first instance, at the door of the Minister for Transport and Power, who has failed miserably to take any reasonable steps during his period of stewardship to date in order to ease labour difficulties which were accruing in that board since legislation of this kind was necessary on a similar occasion in September, 1961. Even if it passed over then beyond the point of recollection, he had notice last year that this trouble was again brewing, and he had notice as far back as 2nd May of this year that pickets would be put on.

I remember reading the daily paper on the 10th May of this year. Was the Minister for Transport and Power responsible for the administration of the ESB and for the manner in which these workers were being paid and being treated, responsible for their conditions of employment? Was he concerned at that time when a strike of this kind was threatened and was imminent? The only piece of news I saw on the morning of the 10th May in the daily newspaper was that the Minister for Transport and Power had graciously consented to read poetry in Dundalk at a festival. Tonight as I looked across there, while he silently and timorously waited to make his miserable contribution to this debate in which he justified nothing and explained less, he reminded me of the lines of Burns, if we have to swop the pleasantries of poetry with him:

Wee, sleekit, cowering, timorous beastie,

Oh! what a panic's in thy breastie.

[164] Having made that little contribution he scurried out of the House, because he knew he was able to pass the buck to the Minister for Industry and Commerce who, he said, has responsibility for labour relations. That, of course, is true but how can you pass any kind of responsibility over without having cared to study it at all? The Minister for Transport and Power regaled us with information about labour relations machinery in various countries in Europe. He was even as far south as New Zealand in order to tell us what happens there. But in Ireland, here in the territory, he has no responsibility. He does not seem to have even a glimmer of what is the correct thing to do.

The Minister for Transport and Power has said so often that he has no function that he believes it, and the ESB as well as the boards of all the other companies for which he is responsibility policy-wise have taken this oft-repeated remark seriously, and he, like the Government, is not in control in any phase of the activity which he is supposed to supervise and direct. “ I have no function in the matter. ” I am extremely glad the Minister appears to have the function of returning to the House. It should have been obvious to the Minister for Transport and Power over the past few years that something was going very wrong in the labour relations of the Electricity Supply Board. He has invited us again this evening to read the plaudits which many of us have used on previous occasions in regard to the ESB. He says it is a splendid organisation. I agree it is a splendid organisation. It certainly was, but it is becoming daily less splendid under the supervision, direction and guidance of the Minister for Transport and Power.

When I make commendations in regard to the ESB or in regard to any other board or State body, I am paying the compliment to everybody from the chairman right down to the most recent acquisition of office boy, because, remember, they are all cogs in a machine. If each cog is not working perfectly then something will go wrong and the whole machinery will [165] collapse. The office boy, the fitter, the typist, the junior executive officer, the senior one, the accountant, the engineer, the members of the board, all occupy the same position of importance in relation to the smooth running of that organisation.

It must have been clear to the Minister over the past few years that the ESB, in its very natural anxiety to secure a degree of competence which would be very desirable as an achievement, employed an arrogance which it was beyond human capacity to tolerate. Therein lies the trouble, and the Minister knows it. In all labour relations there must be method and there must be result, and the best result is never achieved by arrogance, however competent the exploiter of that arrogance might be.

The Minister for Industry and Commerce this evening told us they thought they would never be obliged to introduce legislation of this kind and that the Government did not regard it as desirable but, he said, “ a situation has arisen ”. Then he went on with a beautiful piece of padding about the technical advancement in the western world that made us dependent upon electricity. One would imagine that these were all discoveries of this afternoon. There has been technical advancement. I do not know whether he was claiming the advancement in electricity for the Fianna Fail Party. He probably was. They would claim anything that is good and hasten to disown anything that turns out to be bad.

It is true that a situation has arisen, but this situation has been here for a long time. I regret I must repeat what other speakers have said, that the Government would not have dared to bring in this piece of legislation this day fortnight. They preferred to wait until full advantage could be taken of political expediency and, having done so, they come today with this Bill which we do not think is desirable either, but which we think is necessary at this stage.

Let me say this in passing. While everybody has been shying away from the merits of this, it is true that two [166] Labour Deputies have given the figures of the earnings per week. I do not think those earnings are adequate having regard to the cost of living and the times in which we live, that they are in any way reasonably commensurate with earnings being made by similarly qualified persons in other occupations outside the ESB. The sooner this arrogance is abandoned in the ESB and the sooner they come to talk with these people the better.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers The Labour Court recommended further discussions to see whether they are adequate.

Mr. Lindsay: Information on Patrick James Lindsay Zoom on Patrick James Lindsay It was not necessary to have gone to the Labour Court at all. The Minister for Transport and Power well knows that he has all kinds of machinery within the legislation applicable to this particular board, arbitration machinery and all the other types of machinery.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers The Deputy cannot ignore the statement of the Labour Court.

Mr. Lindsay: Information on Patrick James Lindsay Zoom on Patrick James Lindsay The Minister was for two and a half years in this particular stewpot until the Labour Court made that statement and is he now relying on that statement to get him out of the mess which he allowed to grow up. Neither my Party, nor I, nor anyone associated with us denies the fundamental right of the worker to a just reward for his labour, nor his fundamental right to sell his labour for the most he can get for it, nor his fundamental right to withdraw his labour if he cannot get what he thinks is adequate. But the more fundamental a right is the more fundamental again is the duty of the person who enjoys that right. In this age of technical advancement we cannot, no sensible person could allow, a situation to develop where we are so dependent on electricity for the hospital, the home, the farm and the factory, that power can be withdrawn from these.

That is why we are voting for this legislation. We are doing so because we conceive it to be our duty. We regret the necessity for doing it and we regret and condemn the Government for not doing it at a much earlier [167] stage. The Taoiseach's speech this afternoon was one of the finest examples of tangents to date. He was flying away from every conceivable real issue and giving vent to the usual phrases about labour relations and managements, with an occasional little hit at the employer. He was talking of negative attitudes. The Minister for Transport and Power said that the workers were never willing to come to the Government about these matters. They were never asked to do so. The Taoiseach told us that when times are good employers and labour never come together. They have never been asked to come together.

There was a reference to a Minister for Labour. We have a Parliamentary Secretary to somebody or other who is dealing with manpower and could he not devote himself to this matter? Perhaps the Taoiseach wants an opportunity to promote some Parliamentary Secretary. In my view he should dismiss at least five of his Ministers although one of them was extremely useful to us within recent times. The Taoiseach talked about the process of getting agreement and of having formal talks. I do not believe that should be the real approach of Parliament or Government. If a Government has a proposition to make here is the place to make it, here is the place to give the details of it and to have it discussed fully and freely. Parliament has been by-passed on far too many occasions here in recent times. It is the practice now to deal with matters like this in high-falutin' speeches made at dinners and similar occasions and even at poetry recitals.

If I am speaking now in a state of indignation it is because I am indignant about the present state of affairs. Even though I vote for this measure my sympathy is with the workers and the fitters. Their wages are inadequate.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Lindsay: Information on Patrick James Lindsay Zoom on Patrick James Lindsay Will somebody say something coherent enough for me to hear it? Will somebody give voice to the mutterings I cannot hear? Will [168] somebody deny anything that I am saying—government, let Lemass lead on?

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee Zoom on Seán MacEntee I have been listening to Deputy Lindsay trying to cloud the issue. It is not the conduct of the ESB that we are discussing here. It is not the services of the Minister for Transport and Power. It is the real issue which has arisen outside, an issue which has threatened to bring the economy of this country to a standstill. The issue has not arisen between the fitters, one section of the employees of the ESB, and their employers, but between two sections of employees. One section is striking in order that it may secure the same rate of remuneration as another. This is a civil war inside the ESB. This is a feud between the artisans and the clerical workers and that is the issue that has brought this country almost to the brink of economic stagnation.

The Deputy on the front bench opposite has avoided that issue. He has avoided saying whether we can allow a civil war between two sections of employees to do untold damage to the economy of this country. It is because such a feud threatened to do that that it has been necessary to bring in this Bill. That is the reason and no other. So far as relations between the Board and its employees are concerned the Deputy should not forget that this issue of the proper remuneration of the fitters was referred to the arbitration board set up to deal with such matters. This threatened strike has arisen by reason of the fact that one body of the employees who went before the arbitration board has refused to accept the award. This dispute has no bearing on the conduct of the Minister for Transport and Power or on the failure of the Government to do one thing or another but it is a deliberate act of defiance of one section of the ESB employees that has brought the nation to this grave state.

The question before the House is whether we can allow any section of the community, large or small, to do damage to the community as a whole. These people who are threatening to bring a close-down of the ESB are all [169] members of the community, are protected by the community, and reap the advantages conferred on them by this community. It is they who are trying or have threatened to try to make it impossible for other members of the community to live. That is the issue that has brought this House together. That is the issue the Government must face up to. It does not matter how much those who speak from the Labour Benches say they are speaking for the workers of this country. They are not. What the workers want, the vast majority of them at least, is that when they present themselves at their places of employment they will be allowed to enter in without being stopped by pickets, official or unofficial, and allowed to earn bread for themselves and their families. They wish to see that every other member of the community is in the same position; and they look to the Government to ensure that persons who are engaged in essential operations in the employment of this monopoly will not be allowed to bring the economic life of the nation to a standstill. That is the issue and I hope that whatever the cost to any member of this House may be, or whatever the cost to the community may be, the Government will fight this issue out to the end.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne I suppose I should not really be surprised at the applause but I am somewhat startled because, listening Deputy MacEntee was like listening to a voice from the past. That speech could have been made word for word by William Martin Murphy.

Mr. Booth: Information on Lionel Booth Zoom on Lionel Booth No resemblance, good, bad or indifferent, as the Deputy knows.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne The Deputy should know.

Mr. Booth: Information on Lionel Booth Zoom on Lionel Booth I do.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne If the right honourable and gallant member for the Bible Belt will contain himself, he will have the opportunity to make his contribution in his own time.

Mr. Lindsay: Information on Patrick James Lindsay Zoom on Patrick James Lindsay He has left his tin chapel.

[170]Mr. Coughlan: Information on Stephen Coughlan Zoom on Stephen Coughlan He had tea with Mr. Paisley yesterday.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne Deputy Corry has been waiting quite a long time and no doubt the Cabinet members should do something for him at this stage of his career.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin Zoom on Cormac Breslin We are not discussing Deputy Corry.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne Deputy Corry insists on being discussed. He is not a blushing violet; he thrusts himself on the House even when out of order. He is entitled to something more than membership of the House. No doubt we would all applaud the spectacle of Deputy Corry as Minister for Labour, even at this stage. Reverting to Deputy MacEntee's intervention, which I would consider from the point of view of the Government a somewhat unfortunate intervention, it might have an impact similar to the impact upon the recent electoral event which we had and the result it showed in Deputy MacEntee's constituency. It might have an impact comparable with that of the intervention from the Mayo Clinic.

To get down to the Bill; there has been a great deal of talk about the seriousness of the situation which the country is in. There has been no lack of people ready to attack this handful of men in the ESB, the fitters. The ESB fitters apart from this dispute have equal rights with every other citizen and these rights should be preserved. We have yet to see them parading outside the Dáil bringing Parliament into contempt. I hope we do not see them outside the Dáil but it would appear from the actions of this vacillating Government that that is the answer to many of the problems. It appears that is the way to get results and indeed to impose further hardships on the workingclass people in cities and towns for the benefit of those who are far better off.

However, let us look at the situation as it is at the moment so far as the ESB strike is concerned. How [171] many power stations are there? Does the Minister know?

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers Twenty-three.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne I am told there are 27.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers Including four small ones, yes.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne How many of these at this moment are being picketed?

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers Five.

Mr. Coughlan: Information on Stephen Coughlan Zoom on Stephen Coughlan Two wrong answers.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne That is wrong.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers Until recently, it was five.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne Up to about an hour ago, four stations were being picketed out of 27 and I understand the picket on Cork station is being withdrawn at midnight and it is recommended that another two will be withdrawn tomorrow.

Mr. Booth: Information on Lionel Booth Zoom on Lionel Booth Why did they go on?

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne Let the right honourable and gallant gentleman contain himself.

Mr. Booth: Information on Lionel Booth Zoom on Lionel Booth I am asking for information.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne I could very well ask why do strikes ever start in this country. Why should we have pickets at all?

Mr. Booth: Information on Lionel Booth Zoom on Lionel Booth What is the point of putting on pickets and taking them off again?

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne That is a matter which the Deputy should take up with the trade unions in his constituency. I am sure they would be delighted to give him the benefit of their knowledge on that subject.

Mr. Booth: Information on Lionel Booth Zoom on Lionel Booth The Deputy does not know either, does he?

Mr. Larkin: Information on Denis Larkin Zoom on Denis Larkin Is the Deputy suggesting they should be put back tomorrow?

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne The point I am trying [172] to get at is that we are told we are in the middle of a crisis, that the country is on the verge of collapse, that there is a danger of a cut-off right away. There are three pickets on three stations out of 27. That is the excuse given for bringing in this piece of what can only be described as jackboot legislation. I hate to use the term, more because it is a cliché——

Mr. Booth: Information on Lionel Booth Zoom on Lionel Booth The jackboot comes from putting pickets on stations and then taking them off so that nobody knows what the situation is.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne The jackboot comes of putting down strikes by every and any means. I am surprised that Deputy MacEntee who is, after all, a figure of great prominence in this country and a man who as we know from his own writings was associated with the Irish Socialist Party in its early days, should take this reactionary point of view, that in fact the Government must put their foot upon any group of workers who take strike action, because that is what it amounts to.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers There are no strikes in the electricity world under the socialist Government of Sweden. They are not allowed to take place.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne I accept that from a world traveller like the Minister.

Mr. Coughlan: Information on Stephen Coughlan Zoom on Stephen Coughlan They are well paid.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne All I know is a good bit about County Dublin and a little bit about the country.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers The Deputy might go to Sweden and have a look at them there.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne I cannot afford it.

Mr. Coughlan: Information on Stephen Coughlan Zoom on Stephen Coughlan The experience of the glasshouse in the Curragh.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers If I thought the Deputy would be impressed, I would give him the fare.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange Out of your own pocket or the State's?

Dr. Hillery: Information on Patrick John Hillery Zoom on Patrick John Hillery One way.

[173]Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne I belong to this country—seed, breed and generation—a long, long time.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers Socialism is international.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne I prefer to try to tackle our problems in an Irish way. I am sorry if it does not quite mesh with the Minister's ideas. That is unfortunate. The Government have seized the opportunity, in a situation where there are pickets on only three out of 27 power stations, to bring in this piece of coercive legislation. I remember very well when the word “ coercion ” was regarded by the Government Party as a mortal sin for which there was no forgiveness. They have taken the whitewash brush to that mortal sin since.

Dr. Hillery: Information on Patrick John Hillery Zoom on Patrick John Hillery This legislation cannot be used unless supply is interrupted or threatened with imminent interruption.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne I have read the Bill. I know what is in it.

Dr. Hillery: Information on Patrick John Hillery Zoom on Patrick John Hillery I thought the Deputy might not have read it.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne I do not blame the Minister, because he did not give me much time. Was it the intention that I should not, or was it the intention that a few of us would not get much chance of reading it? To follow what Deputy Lindsay was saying, it is a wonder we did not have this passed at a banquet or something like that. That has been the whole trend of things so far as the Government are concerned. It has been government by banquet.

Mr. Coughlan: Information on Stephen Coughlan Zoom on Stephen Coughlan Bankruptcy.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne In fact, the whole involved industrial position which we see now in front of us and with which nobody can be satisfied is due to the policy of this Government. It dates back to the initiation on their part of the increase in the cost of living by the turnover tax. That was the most inflationary and disastrous move any Government ever undertook in this country. It provoked wage demands [174] left, right and centre, and its logical follow-through has been inflationary and there has been a continuing inflation ever since that tax was brought in.

The merits of the claim of the workers have been very ably dealt with by other speakers and I will not concern myself overlong with the details of the merits of the claim but it is obvious that these workers, on the figures given, are underpaid when you look at their situation from the point of view of the cost of living and when you think of the fact that these are in the main men who have served seven years apprenticeship. They are skilled craftsmen. Others of them more recently recruited may have had to do only five years but the more settled of them have had to do seven years apprenticeship and their return at the end of all that is a wage rate at a level which nobody can honestly argue gives them a fair standard of living.

They put forward their claim two and a half years ago. Nobody could possibly suggest that they have been hasty in their action, that they have been irresponsible, that they rushed to the picket line at the first opportunity. To my mind, they have displayed a great deal of patience and a great deal of forbearance, particularly when dealing with the ESB, because one of the features of these semi-State bodies with which we have been forced to live, since their inception almost, has been what has been referred to as the arrogance of these puffed up gentlemen who are on semi-State bodies, arrogance supported by the Minister's attitude—the Minister for Power without responsibility. Some people, as I have observed, will remember how that was defined.

The situation, as I say, as of this moment, has been exaggerated in order to force through these powers, to frighten the population and to frighten the majority of the members of this House into voting for these compulsory powers which, in effect, amount to the deprivation of citizens of their right to withdraw their labour and, indeed, their right to seek to improve the return which they get for their labour.

[175] Inherent in the Bill is a provision whereby the Minister can freeze wages. It will be illegal for any employee of the ESB to seek a higher wage than he has at the moment when the Minister makes the Order.

Dr. Hillery: Information on Patrick John Hillery Zoom on Patrick John Hillery That is not so. He may get an increase from the Labour Court, the tribunal, the arbitrator.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne When the Minister makes the Order, wages are frozen. The Minister has not read it. If the intention is otherwise, it should be made clear in the Bill.

Dr. Hillery: Information on Patrick John Hillery Zoom on Patrick John Hillery It must be made clear that what the Deputy says is not so. It is a serious matter.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne The Minister makes no mention of gaol. I mentioned Mountjoy. I suppose there is no mention of gaol because the Government do not want to offend the susceptibilities of former students of these centres. Although it is not mentioned per se, as the lawyers say, it is there. There are provisions for very heavy fines for any worker who, mistakenly it would appear, may think he is entitled under the much shouted about Constitution to say to the ESB: “I want more for what I am doing. After all, the farmers have got more for what they are doing and I am paying them and I want more for what I am doing.” That is a reasonable proposition but he will be taken by the heels and will be brought before a court and can be fined £25. He can be fined £5 for every day he continues to picket if he is on picket or fined for every day that he continues to be on strike.

Mr. Booth: Information on Lionel Booth Zoom on Lionel Booth If he breaks the law.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne If he proceeds far enough with his effort to improve the way of life of himself and his family, he can be levied to the extent of £5,000. There is no mention of gaol, of course, but any of us who knows anything about life knows what happens when you do not pay debts. The law is there. The debtor can be put into prison and behind this Bill is the threat of [176] Mountjoy. It is government, in other words, by coercion in its most blatant form and the deprivation of the right of workers to bargain for better conditions and to employ the only methods open to them at the end of 2½ years whereby they can improve their conditions.

I am very well aware of the fact that the Labour Party's stand in this is not one that would win popularity polls and every one of us is also aware that every effort will be made by the supporters of this Bill to misrepresent the position of the Labour Party. All my constituents and my supporters suffered to the same degree as the supporters of every other Deputy by the stoppage of electricity supplies. In this matter, however, something arises for the Labour Party and for me personally which can only be described by one word, a word which has been debased and degraded by constant reiteration and misuse and that word is “principle”. It is a matter of principle for us no matter what the consequences may be and the principle is that we, as members of the Party founded by Larkin and Connolly, believe that the workers have a right to bargain with their employers for an improvement in their wages and conditions and to pursue their claim within the existing law by means of peaceful picketing or otherwise, and they have a right to enlist the support of their fellow-workers in their plight if their fellow-workers are willing to accompany them along that road.

This is the principle that was enshrined in the great struggle of 1913. The speeches made in favour of this Bill could have been and no doubt were made practically word for word by those who sat on the Committee of 400 masters who tried to starve out the people of this city in 1913. It was said that these people were combining to destroy the business fabric of the city and that if these people were not put down, if this perfidious combination of Larkinism was not put down, the result would be disaster and ruin— in the very same way as these words have been used here to-day. As I say, this is a matter of principle for us, [177] no matter what the outcome may be. The Minister sought to convey that there was no wage freezing inherent in this Bill but if he looks at section (3) he will see that it provides that when an Order of the Minister is made, the remuneration and conditions of employment of ESB employees are to be at a standstill at the level obtaining before the Order was made. Is that not wage freezing?

Dr. Hillery: Information on Patrick John Hillery Zoom on Patrick John Hillery That does not prevent them being changed by the tribunal, by the Labour Court or by the arbitrator who is appointed.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne How can the Minister say this Bill——

Dr. Hillery: Information on Patrick John Hillery Zoom on Patrick John Hillery The Bill seeks to prevent people from stopping the supply of electricity. It is to protect the people.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne This does not contravene what I am saying, that you can establish a wage-freeze.

Mr. Booth: Information on Lionel Booth Zoom on Lionel Booth Until the matter is settled.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne In this case the matter has been under discussion for two and a half years.

Mr. Booth: Information on Lionel Booth Zoom on Lionel Booth It was settled and was not agreed.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne It was settled by the Deputy's friends.

Mr. Booth: Information on Lionel Booth Zoom on Lionel Booth I do not know who they are.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne I am not talking about the Deputy's personal friends but the people who have the same outlook as he has.

Mr. Booth: Information on Lionel Booth Zoom on Lionel Booth There happens to be an arbitration board. I know that that is awkward but never mind.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne It is not a bit awkward. It seems to me that this legislation at this time is foolish, imprudent, and dangerous. I can understand and forgive certain members of the Fianna Fáil Government for not being particularly sensitive to or even aware of the normal reactions of Irish people to coercion, or to coercive measures or repressive legislation, but [178] I cannot understand the tolerance of the majority of the members of the Government Party, or indeed of the Fine Gael Party, who after all like myself are of this nation and who should be quite capable of reacting instinctively, as the people will, against coercive legislation, but who troop in to try to justify this action on the part of the Government. I can understand the Minister for Transport and Power because from the first moment that he assumed office he seems to have been at pains to demonstrate that not alone had he no sympathy with the aspirations of the workers under his control but no knowledge of how their minds worked or what their desires were. The whole sad story of his administration has been one of continual blunders. I dislike making personal attacks or what might be deemed to be personal attacks and I hope this will not be miscontrued as one but I do think that the Minister for Transport and Power seldom made a speech in which he did not put his foot in it.

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers I regard anything the Deputy says as the greatest compliment. The Deputy can continue his criticism.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne I assure the Minister that my innate——

Dr. Hillery: Information on Patrick John Hillery Zoom on Patrick John Hillery Gentlemanliness.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne I was going to say consideration for other people, and of course the laws which relate to the use of certain types of language, pervent me from saying what I would——

Mr. Childers: Information on Erskine Hamilton Childers Zoom on Erskine Hamilton Childers The further the Deputy goes, the more I know I am doing the right thing.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne It shows how far the Minister is getting from the people. This Bill does not just relate to the ESB fitters; it can be applied to all ESB workers whether they are skilled craftsmen, labourers, clerical workers, cleaners, messengers or what have you, all who are part of the complex organisation known as the ESB. I hope every one of them realises that this is not just aimed at the fitters, that he realises that this means that [179] if this Bill becomes an Act, Parliament will have accepted as a principle that the Government have a right to interfere to this extent with the liberty of the individual.

We in the Labour Party deplore the consequences of strikes of this nature because our own people are the first in the front line, as it were, to suffer. But there is here the question of the liberty of the individual. Now the individual may be thought to be of no account by those who possess undemocratic and authoritarian minds. They are not wanting in the Cabinet of the present Government. But the liberty of the individual is dear to those of us who believe in the democratic process. We in the Labour Party always uphold here the liberty of the individual on every occasion on which it is under attack. It is under attack now. An attempt is being made to sabotage it. Listening to and watching the proceedings here today, it seemed to me this whole business is being conducted in a very light-hearted manner. There has been a kind of forced gaiety, the kind of gaiety one might have found in the Fuehrer's Bunker before the collapse.

I am sure the Minister for Transport and Power without responsibility appreciates that those whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad. This action by the Government has in it certain irrationalities which will not stand up to close examination. I believe there will be acceptance generally that this Bill, far from resolving the crisis or solving the problem, may very well make it worse. It may very well be that this act on the part of the Government will precipitate a situation worse than any we have known heretofore. I hope that will not happen, but the Government's cavalier disregard of that possibility is very dangerous. There was every evidence, there was every hope today that this dispute would reach solution. Both sides have come together under the chairmanship of an official of the Labour Court. The ordinary processes of discussion have been under way. It could very well be that the issue might be resolved. Surely the Government remember [180] what happened on the last occasion on which they indulged in this kind of antic. When they introduced a Bill similar to this one five years ago, they succeeded in doing one thing: they united the workers, particularly those in the ESB, against the management of the ESB in a manner that had never been achieved before. Although the strike was unofficial, collections were made at the end of the week in which the legislation to which I have referred was being discussed, and the workers still in employment contributed thousands to maintain these men under threat from the Government. That is the reaction the Government will get now.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange Send Deputy Burke out with a tin can.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne I am sure my learned colleague is concerned as I am about all this. He is far away from here tonight; it saddens my heart that he is. Not that he would do much about it, but he might do a little.

I want to refer briefly now to one of the issues involved as between the ESB and the fitters. Deputy MacEntee referred to a civil war. That is how he describes the action of the fitters in seeking parity paywise with the clerical workers. Earlier this year we had the Report of the NIEC. That Report referred to an incomes policy and the Minister for Finance on a number of occasions referred to the need for an incomes policy. So, indeed, did the Taoiseach. It gave a certain spurious soundness almost to all the trash and baloney and codology talked about the so-called Second Programme. Up to the Presidential election we had people talking about this Second Programme as if it were something really serious instead of just a mere piece of imaginative writing by some civil servants, with all due respect to them. That is all it is. It has no basis in reality. That has been clearly shown by events.

However, the question of an incomes policy was underlined in parts of that Report. I should think that those who were responsible for injecting the idea into that Report of the NIEC were the trade union representatives on [181] that body. Everyone agrees we need a realistic incomes policy, a policy of wages and salaries related as nearly as possible to productivity and to the value of the citizen in the community, to his work as a productive unit or as one giving service. One could, perhaps, offer an opinion as to the relative value of a skilled craftsman, such as an ESB fitter, who has served seven years to learn his difficult and sometimes dangerous trade, and the value of a clerical worker who may not have had to serve any time to learn his particular task and who may, in fact, have enjoyed a high salary at a much earlier age than the craftsman does. That is something with which an incomes policy would have to deal. Yet, Deputy MacEntee describes this problem as something in the nature of a civil war.

I do not accept that description. I do not believe there is anything even slightly resembling a civil war between the white collar workers and the manual workers in the ESB. There is, perhaps, in the minds of the manual workers the reasonable thought that they should be adequately recompensed for their services, but I am certain none begrudges the other ESB workers what they are getting. They may put forward the argument that they feel entitled to as much as the clerical workers are getting. What is wrong in that? If they can argue that, and establish it, I do not see that there is very much wrong in it.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee Zoom on Seán MacEntee The point is they did argue it and have not established it. I am not against them at all, I may tell you.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne When Deputy MacEntee says they have not established it, he means, of course, that they have not established it to the satisfaction of those who run the ESB.

Mr. MacEntee: Information on Seán MacEntee Zoom on Seán MacEntee Oh, no—to the satisfaction of the arbitration tribunal.

Mr. S. Dunne: Information on Seán Dunne Zoom on Seán Dunne In 1961 a commission was set up to consider this question of the relative positions of groups of workers. This commission recommended there should be one tribunal to deal with wages and conditions of [182] both manual and clerical workers. That was four and a half years ago. This commission was set up by the Government. Nothing has been done. Had the respective Ministers for Industry and Commerce and Transport and Power been doing their respective jobs, something would have been done and it might very well be, had they done their jobs, that what we are discussing now would never have arisen.

Debate adjourned.


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