Houses of the Oireachtas

All parliamentary debates are now being published on our new website. The publication of debates on this website will cease in December 2018.

Go to oireachtas.ie

Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Bill, 1966: Second Stage (Resumed).

Tuesday, 28 June 1966

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 223 No. 9

First Page Previous Page Page of 55 Next Page Last Page

Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Debate resumed on the following amendments:

1. To delete all words after “That” and substitute “Dáil Éireann refuses to give a Second Reading to the Bill until the Government provide for the amalgamation of at least two existing Departments, so that by the appointment of a Minister for Labour an extra Minister will not be required.” (Deputy Cosgrave.)

2. To delete all words after “That” and substitute “Dáil Éireann while approving the establishment of a Department of Labour, declines to give a Second Reading to the Bill until the Department of Transport and Power has been intergrated with another Department.” (Deputy Corish.)

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish When I reported progress, I was referring to the speech the Taoiseach made in the National Stadium at the Social Study Congress on Sunday night. This is one of the many speeches on the same subject made by the Taoiseach and members of his Government in recent times. I am beginning to become distrustful of the content of this type of speech. First the Taoiseach talked about the pressure of public opinion for greater Government control and he went on to say the Government resisted that. There was no real statement to the effect that it would be resisted in the future. I wonder is the Taoiseach setting up cockshots so that he can knock them down himself? He talked about the pressure of public opinion for greater Governmental control in the sphere of [1418] industrial relations and of the danger to our democracy. What section of the public have asked for that? Everybody is concerned in one way or another when a strike occurs, no matter what sort of strike it is. I can see that strikes in important industries hit a great number of people. Every strike, no matter what it is, causes inconvenience. Even the bankers' strike is causing a certain amount of inconvenience to people, although many seem to get on all right, even though the strike has lasted such a long time. I wonder if this demand has come from any section of the workers? Wage and salary earners represent a big proportion of the population. I suppose the number of insured workers would be about 750,000. If one were to include their wives and children, the figure would represent much more than half the population.

I know there are certain sections who do not want to see strikes at all. It does not make any difference whether these strikes are lawful or justified, or whether the demands by those on strike are reasonable or not. There is a feeling in the country, that has been cultivated to a large extent, to the effect that the trade union movement and the workers wield much more power and influence than they should. I do not think this is correct. The Taoiseach gets quite an amount of support in his own constituency. His vote may not be as large as that of Deputy O.J. Flanagan, but he gets a substantial vote—about 2½ quotas. Does he see this attitude amongst the workers of Inchicore or any part of his constituency, the workers saying: “We want to exert this influence in order that we might get more”? People are beginning to forget they are talking about Irish workers, their own kith and kin. I do not think anybody has suggested there are any sinister influences in these sections of workers. Is it suggested, as some people say, that they are selfish or unreasonable? If they appear to be unreasonable or irresponsible, the reason for this unreasonableness should be examined.

The Taoiseach in that speech also said that if the trade union movement [1419] were not prepared to undertake this responsibility of showing restraint and having due regard for the economy, the Government would be required to act by force of public opinion. I do not think sufficient credit has been given to the trade union movement over that period to which the Taoiseach referred in his speech here on Thursday last—from 1946, when the Labour Court was established, right up to the present. During that period we have had national wage agreements. It ought to be said that the trade union movement did show restraint.

If we have industrial unrest at present, surely it cannot be laid at the door of the trade union movement, who, in my opinion, showed terrific restraint when the Irish Congress of Trade Unions were prepared to recommend to all their members in the 26 Counties that no more than £1 per week should be demanded in this tenth round of wage increases. This was a formidable task for Congress to undertake when one has regard to the fact that the last National Wage Agreement which commenced in January obtained in the vast majority of cases for a period of two years, despite the fact that the trade union movement could riddle it and with justification could have broken it by reason of the increase in the cost of living.

Another gentleman spoke at the Social Study Congress on Sunday night, the well-known Mr. Douglas Hyde. He was talking about young people and is reported as follows in the Irish Independent of 27th June:

“...They are rejecting our society because they do not respect it. We must be worthy of their respect and build a society that will use their idealism and give them a challenge to meet—in other words, a more Christian society than we have got.”

Mr. Hyde thought the same went for industrial workers. who were charged with irresponsibility during a period of strikes.

“If industrial workers are irresponsible, we have to ask ourselves why? It reflects a breakdown in [1420] human relations, because we fail to make the industrial worker feel that he is part of the enterprise in which he works.”

Therefore, it behoves us, apart from the establishment of the Ministry of Labour, to look into the causes of industrial unrest. This is referred to several times in the NIEC Report on incomes policy. Anybody who read that report knows that the NIEC showed the justification for unrest among many sections of the workers. It seems to me that every time there is industrial unrest, every time there is a strike, there is a certain section in this country which is prepared to condemn that strike without asking any questions as to the reasons why these people went on strike. For example, when a body of workers in this city, or in some town, who are existing on £8 or £8 10. a week, look for an extra £1 per week, as in the present circumstances, there is an outcry from a certain section which has not even inquired into what these workers are paid, or how many hours they work, but merely because there is a strike. In the present climate it is the popular thing to decry strikers and the trade union movement without looking into the causes. Surely if after a demand, long negotiations, and a lot of patience on the part of the workers, they decide to withdraw their labour there must be an appreciation of that final act.

There is so much blather and talk about a just society that one wonders will that be the new cliché. There is no point in talking in terms of a just society to an agricultural worker, a road worker, or a factory worker on £7 or £8 a week. The Taoiseach and the Minister know there are such people. As against them there are the people who usually complain about strikes and about the undue power and influence of the trade union movement. They are usually in relatively good surroundings and good circumstances.

The Taoiseach talked about the pressure for more stringent control by the Government in industrial relations. There are other people who talk [1421] about disciplining the trade union movement. There are people who blame the leaders of the trade union movement as if the leaders could say to any group of men who felt they had a justified grievance: “You must not go on strike.” This is not a dictatorial movement ; this is a democratic movement. Decisions are made within the trade union movement as decisions are made in general elections. If we get a Fianna Fáil Government which we consider not to be a good Government, that is the decision of the people and the people must live with it. If a group of men, no matter what type of employment they are engaged in, decide they will not sell their labour to someone who is not prepared to buy it at the proper price, they are entitled to do that.

Anyone who talks loosely and stupidly about disciplining the trade union movement does not believe in democracy. The only one criticism I would have in that respect would be that not a sufficient number of trade union members are turning up at meetings where vital decisions are made. In particular not enough trade union members are turning up at annual meetings where officers are elected and committees selected. The point I am making is that those people who talk about disciplining the trade union movement believe in the jackboot method. The trade union movement believes that decisions should be taken in a democratic way and, once taken, should be executed. It is the business of the leaders of the trade union movement to put the facts before the members, to abide by their decision, and to see that it is carried out to a “T”.

The Minister for Industry and Commerce—possibly the new Minister for Labour; we have not got that secret yet—and the Taoiseach recognise and, in turn, the trade union movement have recognised for a number of years, that changes in industrial legislation are necessary. I remember at meetings of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions over the past four or five years, resolutions which I am sure ended up in the office of the Minister for Industry and Commerce which were passed by representatives [1422] of the trade union movement asking for some changes to be made.

We can all agree with the Taoiseach when he said last Thursday that it is inconceivable that legislation passed in 1946 to lay down our code for industrial relations would be appropriate in 1966. Things have changed; standards have changed; workers have got a new dignity; and having got that new dignity they are demanding new and better standards. The are not prepared—particularly manual workers— to be regarded as coming within a category which is separate and distinct from other workers and salary earners.

In any case, the members of the trade union movement recognise that many desirable changes could be affected particularly in the field of industrial relations legislation. Let me say that so far as negotiations and settlements on wages and salary issues are concerned we proclaim that we still have a democratic system here in all our institutions and in any changes made there must be no infringement of the constitutional or democratic rights of the trade union movement or individual members.

In his speech at the Stadium the Taoiseach said that the aim of policy should be to make social justice the criterion of economic activities and institutions and not the interest or power of individuals or groups. What he intended to say may have been misrepresented—I do not know—but in view of the tenor of his speech many people will assume that that was directed only at the trade union movement. We must remember that there are other individuals and groups who could be regarded as power groups. I know we have the Restrictive Trade Practices Acts and other legislation introduced to deal with such people. Over and above that, it must be recognised that there are groups who can have a tremendous influence on the economy in the way they manipulate and rig prices, despite the best efforts of the Taoiseach or the Minister for Industry and Commerce. If any warning is to be directed to those who it is alleged would not have the interests of the economy at heart it should be directed to some [1423] of those power groups in industry, in banking and in finance.

The Taoiseach said:

...Remuneration ...should be determined in a fair and objective way, in the light of the national interest, by consideration of equity.

I think we would all agree with that sentiment but we should make greater efforts to put it into practice. There is nothing fair or just in the manner in which we treat certain sections of the community. There is nothing fair or just in the manner in which we treat the lowly paid workers. We had a discussion on social welfare here today and there is no point in talking about the just and fair manner in which we treat many of those who are dependent on the social welfare weekly grants.

On many occasions references are made to the NIEC Report on an incomes policy. I do not know whether or not the Government have done this deliberately, but it does appear that while the NIEC document has been accepted by the Government, the only effort that has been made in recent times is to apply an incomes policy to wage and salary earners. I know that the Minister for Industry and Commerce is attempting to stabilise or curtail prices by the Prices Act, and here again the NIEC recognise that there is a certain amount of dissatisfaction. Undoubtedly there is dissatisfaction among those who are lowly paid as against those who do not appear to contribute a tremendous lot to the community but who are in receipt of big incomes per year. I do not think we can be proud of this society or that we can afford to be complacent about it.

Certainly we cannot afford to threaten, for example, the 100,000 male workers in this country who have less than £10 per week. We should think about that now and again. We should think in terms, not alone of general statistics or of the figures that are rolled out here, say, during a Budget debate, but of the 100,000 males who have less than £10 a week, and of the family man who has a wife [1424] and three, four or five children, and ask ourselves how can these people exist, what standard of life must they have, in the year 1966, on £10 a week.

It is assumed, in any case, again according to what the Taoiseach said last Thursday, that the Industrial Relations Act, 1946, will be changed, to what degree we do not know. Whether it will be a drastic change or not, we do not know or whether the legislation will be drafted in accordance with the wishes of the two sides of industry, the employers and the trade union movement.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions in the last two or three years at the annual conference urged the extension of the Labour Court. I do not profess to be a practising trade union official and I am not as qualified to talk about the Labour Court as some of my colleagues undoubtedly will during this debate but I assume that the Labour Court will not be changed to the extent of compulsion in the manner in which the recent ESB Bill was framed and was before the House two or three weeks ago. The Minister for Industry and Commerce, who appears to be a reasonably sensible man, speaking in Killarney—or maybe it was Ennis—recently, appeared to be pretty annoyed about people who criticise the trade union movement and he asserted that good labour relations can in the main be cultivated rather than legislated for. If in framing his legislation he is to be guided by what he said in that speech he certainly will be on the right lines but if there is an element of compulsion, as there has been in two Bills introduced by the Government, I do not think he will have the goodwill of the trade union movement and, again, may I say that I believe such legislation cannot be implemented?

I do not want to go back on the ESB dispute. I think the Government have a fair appreciation of what the Labour Party said on that occasion and of the conviction they have in respect of that type of legislation. As my colleague, Deputy Kyne, said, no matter how many laws you pass, you cannot make men work. In that particular dispute there were 100 fitters [1425] involved. You could fine them for being on strike. You could fine their trade unions for their being on strike. If they resigned their jobs, there is not a thing you could do about it. You cannot make men work, no matter how many laws you pass here. I am certain that if Deputy Hillery is to be Minister for Labour he will be glad to get away from that hastily conceived legislation that he introduced in connection with the ESB dispute of some few weeks ago.

I presume that in the consideration of a new industrial relations Act there will be consultation and full consultation, with the trade union movement and the employers' side because it is only by mutual trust that you will get machinery that has a fair chance of success.

I am presumptuous also to believe that in the extension of the Labour Court the Minister will adhere to the practice that has obtained since 1946, that is, of consulting the employers and the unions on the appointments to the Labour Court and that he will accept the nominees of these bodies.

An effort was made some time ago by the Minister for Health to get away from this system of appointing the nominees of the trade union movement to certain State bodies. He was unsuccessful in that. This will be a big point of issue with the trade union movement and if the Minister takes power unto himself to appoint his own nominees without having regard to the various interests who should be represented on the Labour Court he will find himself in trouble.

I do not believe that the system that has obtained for 20 years, since 1946, has been really defective in any way. The Taoiseach was one time Minister for Industry and Commerce. Deputy Jack Lynch was Minister for Industry and Commerce for some time. Deputy Hillery is the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I do not think that either of the sides concerned has given any of these Ministers a bad representative. The trade union movement will be as much concerned as the Minister will be to get the best man there and I am assuming that the practice that has obtained for 20 years will continue.

One of the most crying needs of the [1426] trade union movement, and, I suppose, of the employers also, is the extension of the conciliation services. There are too, too few conciliation officers operating in the country. Small disputes happen that do not get the publicity on radio, television or press. They are small when related to the whole economy but are very big in relation to the economy of the village or provincial town or small town in which they happen and it is very upsetting, to say the least of it, for these small communities to have to wait for days and sometimes weeks until a conciliation officer has the time to get down in order to try to resolve the problems that have arisen.

The Taoiseach, last Thursday, talked about the function of the Labour Court, particularly of the conciliation officers, with regard to the promotion of good relations and the prevention of strikes. This can be a very important function for these conciliation officers because the State, through the Labour Court, interferes only when the trouble has happened to the extent of men going on strike. We all appreciate that when men make up their minds to go on strike, they may think the next morning that they may not have taken the right decision, but, because they are proud men and have taken a decision, they are determined to carry it out and do carry on a strike for perhaps four or five days or a week. If the conciliation officers can step in and attempt to prevent strikes we will have gone quite a long way not alone towards good industrial relations but towards ensuring that the economy of the country and of these particular places and industries will not be disrupted.

I do not know to what extent these services may be extended but the promotion of good relations is one of the most important duties that any Minister for Labour can undertake because, while it is not deliberate, there is a certain amount of distrust and there always will be until there is some improvement as between employers and employees. Unfortunately in the main, the only time that employers and employees get together is when there is a dispute. This is [1427] crazy. I suppose it is more or less similar to the situation in which we find ourselves now. We propose the appointment of a Minister for Labour; we propose an improvement in the Industrial Relations Act; we propose changes in trade union law, in the middle of this unrest. The Government must take a certain amount of responsibility for this in that they did not do anything at all during times of relative peace as long as things were going on all right. In 1964, and most of 1965, nobody was talking about good or bad industrial relations. During the various periods of the National Wage Agreement since 1946 or 1948, there was no attempt to improve industrial relations by way of legislation or to improve trade union law where a Government had the power and the function.

This may not be the best time to re-legislate for industrial relations and for trade union law. It occurs to me in fact, that it will not be done within this session and we trust things will have settled down on the industrial front, so to speak, in the autumn and may be in an atmosphere which we hope will be calm and peaceful, we will get an improved Industrial Relations Act to the extent of having a better Labour Court, to the extent of having better and more conciliation officers, all of whose jobs will be to prevent industrial unrest rather than to correct it.

My colleague, Deputy Tully, will be able to talk about the position of agricultural workers. The Taoiseach was somewhat vague in his speech last Thursday. He promised Deputy Tully he would deal with agricultural workers and the type of arbitration they would have access to, but I do not think he developed it very much. I think he must recognise, even as a townsman like myself, that the Agricultural Wages Board is out of date. In any case, it is weighted against the agricultural worker. There is equal representation for the agricultural workers, the trade unions and the farmers' organisation, but the man in the middle is the important one, and he has not been the best selection [1428] down through the years. I suppose he always feels he should support the Government by in turn supporting the farmers.

The two big parties in this House are certainly not unaware of the support of the farming community. They are a little restricted in their regard for the agricultural vote but that is not the point I want to make. I believe agricultural workers should have access to the Labour Court. As far as I can gather, the Labour Court will be extended to such an extent that there will be two, three or four sections of the Court. The agricultural community and the rural community in general and the forestry workers should have access to the Labour Court in order to try to ensure that they will not be deprived so far as their wages and working conditions are concerned.

As far as trade union law is concerned, I can only give my own comments and I do not pretend to speak on behalf of the trade union movement or on behalf of my own trade union. In this field, trade unions will certainly be willing to discuss with the Minister for Labour desirable improvements in trade union law. The trade union movement have made efforts to ensure, where possible, an amalgamation of the unions. I do not hear anybody giving credit to the trade unions for trying to do that. A sub-committee has been operating in the Irish Congress of Trade Unions over the past two or three years to see how they can amalgamate some unions. That is not an easy task because every small union, and there are many with a long tradition and with members who are proud of their association with these small unions, is very reluctant to submerge itself or lose its identity by amalgamating with others. I think we should give the trade unions credit for making this effort. I do not know how successful it has been but they are keenly concerned with ensuring that there will not be a multiplicity of unions in big jobs.

We have not before us any direct proposals, apart from some general [1429] statements the Taoiseach made. I know he would not be in a position to give absolute details. The trade union movement would be very critical of any new power the Minister for Labour would take to himself as to the formation of new unions or, for example, the cancelling of the negotiating licence of a union. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions in accordance with international Conventions, in accordance with the Convention of the International Labour Office, recognise the right of groups of workers to form themselves into a separate trade union or into a new trade union. On the other hand, whilst recognising that constitutional right, the Congress on every occasion possible have condemned splinter groups and generally do not condone the idea of a number of small unions, particularly, as I say, when these unions are representative of one particular concern. They believe that a small number of unions is a better negotiating body and that in itself is one of the biggest advantages.

I refer to the ESB legislation and I trust that, on consideration, the Minister will decide to scrap it. If this Industrial Relations Act will be so all-embracing as we are led to believe it will, surely he will devise some better method to ensure that there will not be industrial unrest in any of the vital industries and in any of those industries where a strike would have an effect not alone on the economy but on a big body of workers?

We certainly will not be in a position to judge the Minister for Labour or his activities until his Estimate comes up, I suppose in another 12 months' time. So far as the Taoiseach is concerned, he wants to keep the Minister for Labour a very busy man. If I understand correctly, he will be delegated the task of directing a manpower policy. That is a formidable undertaking. He will be concerned with industrial training and redundancy compensation. He will be concerned with the various reports of the Committee on Industrial Organisation. In my view, these reports were some of the most valuable documents ever presented to the Members of Dáil [1430] Éireann. Unfortunately, like so many of the other reports and documents, they are not followed up. There are excellent recommendations here, recommendations designed to ensure that under free trade, whether with Britain or with Europe, industry will not be disrupted. The Minister or his predecessor was forced to concede recently that Irish industry just was not facing up to the task that the CIO report said they would have to undertake in order to prepare themselves for free trade.

I believe these recommendations can be implemented only in consultation with the workers, and we have too little consultation with workers in Irish industry. We have had that situation one might say, all the time. If the work of the Minister for Labour is to educate the workers, in the sense that they know all they are doing and what they are working for, I think it will be worth while. The majority of people in factories are doing automatic jobs and getting wages every week but they have no idea what the effect of the greater production will be on the economy of the country. I do not say the employers mean that deliberately, nor do the workers want it either, but so far as industry is concerned, many of our workers operate like robots. I do not say it should be the first consideration. The amount of work they do and what they get for it are equally important for them and for the whole economy. They have not a clue about the Second Programme for Economic Expansion.

Deputy Childers has it off by heart: he knows it backwards. There is no point in the Minister for Industry and Commerce, the Taoiseach and all the economists in the Government knowing all about the Second Programme for Economic Expansion until the chaps down on the floor know what it is. If you say “Second Programme for Economic Expansion” to the majority of ordinary factory workers, they will have some vague notion that the economy is going to expand but they will not be able to give you any details. They have not even an appreciation of the production of their own factories because employers do not [1431] talk to them or consult them. There is this cleavage between the manual workers in these factories and what is described as management. If, in giving orders, managements gave the reason why a change was needed and if they took workers more into their confidence, not only would it provide for better labour relations and help to avoid unrest but it would be good for the economy also.

The Labour Party have done a good deal towards the education of workers and many of the unions have set aside money for such development, holding seminars and so on; but this has only scratched the surface of the problem. The bulk of the education can be given only by management in consultation with the workers. I believe that if the Minister for Labour tries to initiate and establish that sort of understanding between the two sides in industry, he will make a tremendous improvement and for that alone his portfolio will be worth while. I trust I shall not have to retract that in another three or four years.

There are other things in this measure that are important in themselves, for instance, the tasks which the Taoiseach said would be allotted to the Minister for Labour. Very important among these is the research section. I know we cannot be taught much and that we may not be capable of accepting a great deal in the matter of industrial relations from certain countries. The trade union movement in Europe has undergone radical change, particularly in Germany where during and after the war, it disappeared completely. I suppose it was relatively easier for them to establish a new foundation for a trade union movement than for, say, Britain or ourselves, where we have been tied to a certain type of trade unionism for 100 years or more.

Let me assure the Minister for Industry and Commerce, who may be Minister for Labour, that if he can get the goodwill of the trade union movement in any new legislation he proposes to bring to the House, its [1432] passage will be easier than if he did not have consultation or if he had haphazard consultation. I believe much of the consultation with the trade union movement over the past 12 months has been somewhat haphazard and perhaps confined. I shall not go any further than “confined.”

In the absence of real details about the Ministry of Labour, it is difficult to discuss the matter further. I want to conclude by saying that we genuinely believe that the Department of Transport and Power should not be scrapped but should be absorbed into some other Department. As I said before, the Minister may be courteous and kind and all these things, while other Ministers have different personal qualities. We are not concerned about these but about the Minister's effectiveness, and we are primarily concerned to ensure that Ministers of any Department of State should be prepared to come to the House and answer practically any question asked here. The Minister for Transport and Power is very knowledgeable but he is not able to do this: he is precluded from giving any information regarding semi-State companies. We represent the taxpayers and as their elected representatives we vote the moneys for these enterprises, and I do not think it is good enough that we should be in the dark about the activities of these State concerns. The Government can retain Deputy Childers in the Cabinet; all we ask is that since his Ministry has no real function, it should be amalgamated with or absorbed into some other Department.

Mr. Ryan: Information on Richie Ryan Zoom on Richie Ryan We in Fine Gael welcome the establishment of a Ministry of Labour. In fact we are surprised that this Ministry has not long since been established. It is strange that this State, now 44 years in existence, has not before now had a Department of State to deal with the greatest contributing factor to the wealth and production of the country. We have allowed the human element in the production of our wealth and welfare, and in the production of our peace, social and industrial, to remain in a state of [1433] complete anarchy or subject entirely to laws of chance and to reactions of persons to other persons.

That such a crazy situation should have existed so long is a reflection upon us all. We are therefore glad to see that even at a time of great industrial unrest, of great labour unrest, this step is being taken. Our only regret is that it was not taken at a time of calm, a time of peace when perhaps judgment could be made which would be wise and which would be sound and fair. The danger is that now we have created for ourselves a hell in human affairs and the wisest decisions are not taken in hell. It may be said that is a strong word to use, but where you have the interests of the workers and the interests of the owners of wealth, the interests of all citizens, in jeopardy, each conflicting with the other, each subject to daily whims and fancies and stresses, it makes a mockery of State affairs to suggest that you can plan an economy, plan social improvements, plan the future of society in such a situation.

We are not suggesting for a moment the regimentation of the human elements that contribute to what might be called the labour pool. I do not think that is necessary but what we consider desirable is that we should have a pool of wisdom, a pool of consideration and understanding by all people of the problems of others. We have rendered all that impossible by setting people on different sides of the fence, as it were, and instead of bringing down the fence over the years, we have added to it and as it became rotten at the bottom, we have thrown in soil and flotsam and jetsam of all kinds to pack it up and tried to cover up the holes. We would hope that the new Solomon, whoever he may be, who will become the new Minister for Labour will be able to restore some degree of peace and sanity to this terribly disordered world, so disordered that our whole society and everybody in it has suffered.

We in Fine Gael regret that the Government have so long been dragging their feet on a manpower policy. We have had nothing so far except the publication of a number of meaningless phrases in what has [1434] been termed a White Paper which in itself did not go as far as those who advised the Government recommended it should go. The White Paper is totally inadequate; it has not got comprehensive views on our problems, nor does it make any comprehensive suggestions as to how the problems, as they see them, can be solved, but we would hope, now that the Government have made the conscious step of realising the extent of the problems and establishing the Ministry, that there will be some really progressive work in relation to manpower policies. It is imperative that these should be because, great as our problems are today they are nothing compared with the multitudinous problems that will arise when the gate of the proposed Free Trade Area with Britain opens up. So far, we have been able only to hazard a guess as to the consequences this new arrangement will have on a number of Irish industries. We are rather timidly hoping that, in the long run, all will be well but, even in that long run, when many of us will be dead, there will be day to day, week to week and year to year problems, and individual problems of persons and families, that will not be solved unless we tackle this arrangement in detail and with an entirely new approach. We may have our statistics, our statistical abstracts and all kinds of reports of experts but, fundamentally, all matters relating to labour and the production of wealth here are matters of human welfare and that is where we have been terribly neglectful of the human element, the human welfare, the human contribution to our society.

In relation to the proposed Free Trade Area and the growing pains we are now about to suffer, we shall need to have a comprehensive scheme to provide for the support of people who may be required to make way for what we call efficiency programmes. We shall have to ensure that such people are provided with a standard of living comparable to what they previously enjoyed, that they are provided with a proper system of retraining and that, while they are retraining, [1435] they are adequately paid, in full. Otherwise, they would never approach the problems with which they would be faced with the confidence and with the security to which they are entitled.

We have spent a great deal of time and effort and we have spent a colossal amount of money, year in, year out, on improving the efficiency of our machinery in our industry and, indeed, on our farms. Government grants are freely available for adaptation but these are all primarily in relation to machinery, to physically impersonal things. We should have to spend a great deal more money and more effort than that in ensuring that the persons to operate these machines, and their families, receive all the encouragement and assistance they will need in this new challenging situation.

We, in Fine Gael, feel that the day has long since passed when we ought to have a greater degree of share of ownership in this country. If we had a large number of workers owning part of the industries in which they work we should not, perhaps, have had the tremendous cleavage which has unnecessarily existed between management and employees. Share ownership is not the entire answer to these problems but it would certainly contribute something towards the creation of industrial peace. This, perhaps, is primarily a matter for a Finance Bill but it is about time the State gave fiscal encouragement to firms who give shares in their industries to their workers. It would be a step along the right lines. Certainly, it would be no compensation for a proper income and we do not suggest it would ever replace incomes, proper wages or proper conditions of employment. These would be incentives over and above these things which could have a tremendous stabilising effect on our industrial relations.

We were glad to hear that the Taoiseach proposes to take out of the hands of the Department of Social Welfare the operation of our employment exchanges. If ever institutions were devised for the destruction of the self-respect of individuals, [1436] they are the labour exchanges. It could well be written above the doors of those places that those who enter into them should abandon all hope because the prospects of getting a decent job out of a labour exchange, with an adequate standard of living and the long-term prospect of employment, are very rare. They are supposed to be institutions to provide people with alternative employment when their previous employment comes to an end through no fault of their own but rather are they punishment stations in which people have to endure a standard of living and a degree of intolerance which should not be meted out to any human beings.

We think that there is no prospect of the so-called labour exchange improving under the Department of Social Welfare. It is supposed to be an institution of State for the relief of human distress but, over the years, the Department of Social Welfare has become little more than an accounting agency to the Minister for Finance, imposing all kinds of restrictions and powers against the provision of relief to people in distress. Perhaps we can now hope that, under the Department of Labour, labour exchanges will become conscious of the obligation on them not only to register people as unemployed but to seek out and, if necessary, to create new opportunities for employment.

We would hope that the day will soon disappear when we require unfortunate people in receipt of unemployment benefit and unemployment assistance to produce letters or documentary evidence of their efforts to get alternative employment. At present, unfortunately, our labour exchanges have such a deplorable reputation that very many employers will not avail of the service of the labour exchanges because they would expect to get nothing but the worst in the people the employment exchange would offer. We need to elevate the standard and the status of our labour exchanges so that the very best jobs and brains in the country will be pooled in the employment exchange and so that people will look to it as a positive instrument for the creation of a labour force which, in turn, will create new [1437] wealth, new production and new opportunities for our people. Why this must be operated on what is called an agency basis, I do not know. I should prefer to see all matters relating to employment and unemployment taken, once and for all, out of the niggardly hand of the Department of Social Welfare and the hands of the Department of Finance. I should rather see this created as a new positive source of wealth and production which it can never be so long as it is related to a non-productive service, a kind of mendicity institute, which the labour exchanges have become over the years.

The Taoiseach and other members of the Government have certainly been loud and frequent in their remarks about industrial relations in recent times. We, in Fine Gael, were presented with perhaps what was a politically embarrassing situation recently when, at a time of extreme crisis, the Government brought in a Bill dealing with only one section of employees in the country. I refer to the recent ESB Bill. There is no need for me to reiterate, except for the benefit of those who would try to confuse the people otherwise, that Fine Gael supported that Bill for one reason only and that was to preserve the life-giving power of electricity, to preserve human life, to preserve the life that went into industry and to maintain 200,000 people who, without electricity, would have been unemployed and, therefore, unable to bring home a wage packet at the end of the week. We did it, likewise, so that agriculture, which has become dependent to some extent on electricity, might be able to continue to operate, Those who are now making smart alec speeches and who are trying to put us into the company of our traditional enemies and, by so doing, trying to condemn us for the company we keep, might remember that if we had to endure even one week's discontinuance of electricity supplies then certainly there would be nobody in the public life of this country who would not take all necessary steps to ensure that the necessary electricity supplies were provided. It is necessary to assert that we of Fine Gael would not countenance for one moment the injection of the [1438] spirit of statutory restrictions of that kind into any sector of our life which is not as vital as electricity. There is a similar measure on the Statute Books for years, not only in this country but throughout the world, in relation to the provision and maintenance of water supplies—again, because water is a necessity to life.

Electricity today is no less essential than water and any person who argues otherwise does not know the facts of life. We wish to make it clear to the Government that any further repressive legislation they have in mind will not get our approval. We are particularly conscious of the fact, and we believe the nation should be aware of it, that the worst record for industrial relations exists in the State-sponsored concerns and Government Departments. The majority of industrial disputes in any recent year have been in State-sponsored concerns and there exists the worst cleavage between management and employees. If there were any less excuse for such a cleavage to exist, it is in State-sponsored concerns and Government Departments. One can understand a certain amount of opposition in private firms in which an employer personally loses if he has to give greater wages to his employees, if he loses because his sales go down as a result of increasing prices, and if his profit margin diminishes as a result of giving improved conditions to his workers. That may happen but in the long run, however, better wages are one of the great stimuli to increased efficiency and production. These perpetual attacks on the workers are grossly unfair. The countries which have the greatest efficiency and production are those in which labour is fairly and properly treated.

Here we have large concerns in which the management have nothing personally to lose, because their high salaries will still be paid and their golden handshakes are equally certain, but yet we have had the worst warfare in industrial matters. That must give us reason to pause before we increase the power of the State to intervene, to dictate or to set the pace in industrial relations. If our whole [1439] industrial machinery is to operate like the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, which has one dispute concluding when another is beginning, we will clearly have an even worse state of affairs in the future than in the past. Likewise, if the whole industrial relations situation is to be on a pattern similar to that of CIE or the ESB, then the anarchy which we have known up to now will pale into insignificance compared with the outright warfare which will operate and soon make us look as bad on the industrial scene as Venezuela is today where the prices of commodities have multiplied ten times within 12 months and wages have also multiplied ten times within 12 months, with the result that rather than being better off, everybody is worse off than before.

If we are to have further steps taken to deal with the industrial situation, it is imperative that, once and for all, we restrict the right of employers to lock out their workers. This must be restricted without any more ado in State-sponsored companies. There is no justification whatsoever for the kind of thing that happened in CIE last year where some of the workers decided that they would not work for one day out of seven and CIE retaliated by locking out everyone in the passenger transport end of their business. It caused untold hardship to the workers and immeasurable hardship to the community. That kind of conduct is inexcusable and people who do that sort of thing should get the order of the boot and not the golden handshake.

Similarly, in the situation affecting the whole financial structure of the country, in relation to the banks, over 50 per cent of the people who are not working in the banks have been locked out by the management who are under a statutory obligation to maintain the banks and to keep them open. Every person who has an honest penny in the bank would be well advised to write a letter to his bank manager tomorrow demanding payment of the money within seven days or, in default, to issue a petition to wind up the bank. We would bring the banks to their senses very quickly. That is the kind [1440] of thing which the community needs to do to stop these latter-day industrial tyrants from upsetting the community and creating the idea that labour is the cause of industrial unrest. Management in these State-sponsored concerns and Government Departments has been primarily responsible for the mess we are in at the moment and that is what causes some of us to have some misgivings about the proposals to deal with the situation.

We need a fair approach to the problem. We need an approach which will have proper concern for the community and for everybody in it and we have not had that kind of approach from the State-sponsored companies, or any Government Departments dealing with the matter, in recent times. How is it that we of all the countries in Europe have the worst record in industrial relations in most of the recent years, certainly in 1961, in 1963, in 1964 and in 1965? All indications are that we are well on the way to having a record again this year. Why is it? All countries have their employees and all countries have their employers. All countries have their Governments, but no country has a Fianna Fáil Government, except Ireland. That is a perfectly simple sum in arithmetic which I am sure even the Minister for Transport and Power, with his knowledge of statistics, will be able to work out. We alone have a Government who have allowed industrial relations to get into the absolutely chaotic conditions in which they are. We alone have the misfortune to have a Fianna Fáil Government who wanted people to believe that all was well and that everything in this world could be got with little or no effort, by a scratch in favour of a Fianna Fáil candidate, and that once that was done, all would be well; but we find that the Lemass who wanted to lead us on has been leading us nowhere and we have gone around in turmoil and anarchy, into the situation in which we find ourselves. It is a miserable boast and let us hope it will be more humble in the future.

We in Fine Gael have asked for a refusal to be given to this measure, [1441] notwithstanding our support for a Minister for Labour, until such time as there is an amalgamation of at least two existing Departments. Our leader, Deputy Cosgrave, in a thoughtful and thought-provoking speech today, pointed out that there are several Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries at present who have no worthwhile State function to perform and that their only justification is similar to the justification for some of the Taoiseach's appointees in the Seanad, that they are full-time organisers for the Fianna Fáil Party, paid out of the taxpayers' pocket.

What policy decisions requiring his attention for—we will give him a short week—a 40-hour week has the Minister for Defence to make, requiring him to apply all his energy and brains, sitting on an unmentionable part of his anatomy or otherwise? Nobody in his senses could visualise a Minister for Defence in this country having anything to occupy him for 40 hours a week.

How could anybody visualise the Minister for Transport and Power working the same number of arduous hours, having sufficient to occupy his fertile brain for the same length of time per week? I agree it could take him that long to refuse to answer questions addressed to him here. What is the sad experience of most Deputies who address questions to the Minister for Transport and Power on any matter affecting power supplies—coal, electricity, oil, transport, the movement of goods and persons inside or outside the country, on the sea, in the air, or on the land? The Minister has no function in the matter.

How can a man, who has no function in these matters, be occupied for 40 hours a week? How, in the name of all that is holy, can the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs occupy himself for 40 hours a week in matters relating to the movement of letters from one individual to another, or the passage of telegrams, or the answering of telephone calls? He has nothing to do with Radio Telefís Éireann or, if he has, he certainly will not answer here. That kind of public service certainly does not require two managing directors, [1442] one in the shape of the Minister and the other in the shape of the permanent secretary of the Department. Indeed, the Department of Defence, to which I referred earlier, has three bosses— the Minister for Defence, the Secretary of the Department of Defence and the Chief of Staff. It is fantastic to think that we have this huge aristocracy over what is a non-policy making Department. Any policy to be determined in relation to the Department of Defence and defence matters must be done by the Government.

The Department of Social Welfare is, as I said earlier, little more than an accounting agency for the Department of Finance. What can the Minister for Social Welfare do, but once a year, if there is a Budget only once a year, or twice a year, if there are two Budgets, or more often according as there are more Budgets, go to the Government meeting and plead that, because of a rise in the cost of living and because of various other factors, he ought to be given an increased allocation for his particular beneficiaries? Then, having got that, he can put them through the computer-mind of his bureaucrats and decide what is the best way in which to distribute the allocation. That is an exercise which does not call for any more than two weeks work in a year. Once the decisions are made the law must be applied. It does not require two managing directors in the shape of a Minister and a Secretary of a Department to say what section, subsection, paragraph or clause will decide whether Maggie Murphy gets a contributory or a non-contributory pension. These things— the amount, the number of dependants, and so on—are all set out in tables. They are not something which requires a ministerial brain and all the majesty of ministerial office to determine year in and year out.

This Department is there primarily to relieve the less fortunate in the community. There is no reason why it should not be associated with the Department of Health, which is the Department with a particular function in relation to human welfare and human happiness. In the one particular field in which the Department [1443] of Social Welfare could have taken worthwhile steps it failed hopelessly. I refer to employment services. It is now losing that particular wing and that makes it all the more justifiable to wind up the Office of the Minister for Social Welfare.

Why, incidentally, the Minister for Labour will act as an agent for the Minister for Social Welfare in future I do not know. I do not think the Taoiseach fully explained the matter. The argument may be that there are some people at the labour exchanges who are, in fact, incapable of being re-employed and that the Minister for Social Welfare must, therefore, give them employment assistance. I would much prefer to see this whole employment service taken out of the Department of Social Welfare and transferred to the Department of Labour. In the event of it being decided, after a proper investigation, that particular registrants at the labour exchanges are incapable of being usefully employed, a certificate could be issued by the Minister for Labour and the persons concerned could be transferred back again to the Department of Social Welfare to receive social welfare payments as distinct from payments administered by the Minister for Labour.

The trade union movement has been attacked, a member of the Labour Party said, most unfairly. It has great difficulties. Many of these have come to my knowledge in both my public and my professional capacity. I am not a little concerned that very many of the ordinary members of trade unions are very concerned about what they consider to be the weaknesses of the trade union structure, the failures of trade union leaders, or what they regard as the dictatorial attitudes of trade union leaders. All these are things primarily within the ability of trade union members to remedy themselves. Deputy Corish mentioned that it was unfortunate that all trade union members do not participate actively enough in trade union affairs and do not attend meetings as regularly as they should. He would like to see an improvement. We all share the same anxiety that trade union members [1444] would realise that their interests are being served by their own trade unions and they only let themselves down in their relatively minor duties so far as membership of their organisations is concerned when they fail to be sufficiently interested.

It is interesting to note that, while people abuse the trade union movement for what they call multiplicity of trade unions, there are, in fact, almost twice as many employer organisations as there are trade unions, and the employer organisations are catering for a much smaller body of people than the trade unions are. The latest year for which figures are available in the Statistical Abstract is the year 1962 and, in that year, there were 55 trade unions for 286,382 workers. For 13,567 employers there are 46 employer organisations. I am afraid I gave a wrong figure earlier. The figure I gave for the Dublin area was a misreading of the table. There are almost as many employer organisations for 13,000 employers as there are trade unions for 286,300 workers. If there is to be rationalisation on one side in relation to labour then there must also be rationalisation on the other side in relation to employers.

A good deal more could be said on the problem of labour relations but I do not wish to detain the House for a variety of reasons. The opportunity provided by the establishment of a new Department of Labour and a new Minister for Labour is one which will not occur again. We can only hope that the Government, who have drifted along for so long, are now at last appreciating their responsibilities. We can only hope and pray they did not let things go too far before they took this right decision and that now that the decision has been taken, the machinery, when set up, will be properly used. But, for goodness sake, let us ensure that, before we have another Minister of State in this country, followed by the operation of Parkinson's Law and the accompaniment of a Minister by a Secretary to the Department, a private secretary, personal staff for the Minister's office, assistant secretaries, principal officers, etc., etc., we terminate one of the existing Ministries.

[1445] The country is not in a mood to tolerate the overhead expenditure which any Minister necessitates, overhead expenditure between £15,000 and £20,000 a year, when we throw in with it what I have mentioned already, the fact that it costs £3,000 per car per Minister. These things are not small. I know the Minister for Transport and Power thinks that ten times that sum is nugatory, but it is not. It is important that in a time of crisis the right example be given by those in high state. That is why we in Fine Gael tabled the amendment that a Second Reading of this Bill should be refused “until the Government provide for the amalgamation of at least two existing Departments, so that by the appointment of a Minister for Labour an extra Minister will not be required.” That amendment was put down by Deputy Cosgrave, a man of obvious sincerity who is respected by everybody in the community, and I suggest that the Taoiseach and the Government would be well advised to accept the amendment.

Before I conclude, I should like to say a word in praise of the staff of our Labour Court who have been operating in extremely difficult circumstances for many years past. One does not wish to single out any one person more than another, but the people with the most unenviable task are the men who have been in the bearna baoil, the conciliation officers, who have operated not a 40-hour week or a 42-hour week but what sometimes has been an 80-hour week. They are magnificent men. If anybody deserves a golden handshake, it is these people.

Mr. O'Leary: Promotion.

Mr. Ryan: Information on Richie Ryan Zoom on Richie Ryan It may be the new Ministry will be able to give them suitable promotion, but if ever people deserve well of the community, it is the conciliation officers. It is not during big strikes, with the publicity surrounding them, that these men do their most useful work. They do great work on those occasions, but it is in the settlement of the small disputes, in helping the workers to understand the employers' problems and helping the [1446] employers to understand the workers' problems, that they have contributed greatly to a better understanding in industrial relations for some time past.

It is perhaps unfair to ask these officers to continue to operate in exactly the same way in future as they have in the past. I do not think it is going to operate to the benefit of either party in any of the disputes, but these people deserve well. Their work, because of its very nature, is confidential, and a great deal of it will go unrewarded. However, I do think it is proper that Dáil Éireann should place on record its appreciation of these people who, without status and without any sanction, have been able to achieve a great deal of peace and a great deal of compromise which has worked greatly to the benefit of those involved in the disputes and of the community in general.

Mr. N. Lemass: Information on Noel T. Lemass Zoom on Noel T. Lemass Having listened to Deputy Corish's speech I have been tempted to make a few observations. In January last, I spoke at some length regarding the difficulties of bringing about the amalgamation of trade unions. I pointed out the natural pride that each small trade union has in its own contribution to the trade union movement and the firm belief that no other organisation can look after the interests of its members as well as itself. I went on to suggest that, perhaps, in the first instance, we should strive for a federation between unions catering for similar trades.

Another snag has, however, been brought to my attention in the meantime. Not so long ago we had an amalgamation between two major engineering unions, and I have been told that the legal costs involved in this were very considerable; in fact, they were frightening. I believe that had these unions realised that this amalgamation was going to cost so much money, they would have had second thoughts about proceeding with it at all. In regard to whatever token sum we shall vote for this new Department of Labour, the Minister must accept, if he is anxious to facilitate the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and trade [1447] unions desirous of amalgamating, that the State will take upon itself the legal costs involved. This is going further than the redundancy payments for officers and officials.

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish The Deputy seems to know a great deal about the legislation.

Mr. N. Lemass: Information on Noel T. Lemass Zoom on Noel T. Lemass I am making a suggestion that the Minister will have to take this responsibility. Would the Deputy agree?

Mr. Corish: Information on Brendan Corish Zoom on Brendan Corish The Deputy is pretty well on the ball.

Mr. N. Lemass: Information on Noel T. Lemass Zoom on Noel T. Lemass I have discussed proposals, and my trade union made representations last week. I do not agree with all their observations, but they made them as an individual trade union. I have made some study of this problem and I thought it is as well to air these difficulties well in advance, because the legislation dealing with trade union law and industrial relations will not be before us until the autumn. I agree with Deputy Corish that what we require is the maximum of discussion and information. I agree with him that employers do not give enough information to the people working for them. I agree that professional managements are often very lacking in their understanding of industrial problems. I agree with all these things, and the more often they are mentioned, the better chance we have of bringing about an improved situation.

In the memorandum sent out to the various interested bodies, there was no provision for making the Labour Court facilities available to employees in State bodies. Some time ago my trade union was taking up a case on behalf of one of its members. This member worked in Gaeltarra Éireann. We found that under the provisions we could not use the facilities of the Labour Court. These people have no representative body. I do know that salesmen and travellers in the Pigs and Bacon Commission and in An Bord Iascaigh Mhara would be eligible for membership of our union. This, I am sure, applies to other trades and professions, [1448] that no provision is being made for these people, as is being made for the Civil Service, for access to the Labour Court.

Those are two matters arising out of this proposal I wanted to mention. There will be difficulty in bringing about a reduction in the number of trade unions. I have dealt with that at length on a previous occasion and I do not wish to deal with it again, but I should like the Minister seriously to consider the matter. I hope there will be a report from the new Minister for Labour, when he is appointed, in respect of the State paying any legal costs arising from voluntary amalgamation.

Mr. O'Leary: The Labour Party, on this Bill, are in favour of the idea of a Department of Labour, concentrated on industrial relations matters, giving its undivided attention to an important section in our national life. While we consider it extremely important to have good relations in this area for our wellbeing economically we consider, however, that an opportunity could be availed of to shed ourselves of one Ministry, the functions of which do not appear to us to be too well marked and, indeed, the continuance of which as a separate Ministry appears to us to be unwarranted. Indeed, one could say— though this is not possibly the best occasion to say it—there is a lot to be said for a complete re-examination of all ministerial duties. This, perhaps, should be left to a time when we have more leisure to go into it. But one could think offhand that a Ministry of Defence could easily be amalgamated with a Ministry of External Affairs.

I would hope that in this further talk of rationalisation of Ministries all Deputies could take part in it because, remember, we have to become very militant and very conscious of efficiency when it comes to industrial matters. It might not be a bad thing at all if we considered this. Progress is not necessarily guaranteed in this area of industrial relations by the creation of another Ministry. It [1449] does not automatically mean we have come to grips with the problem. It merely means that a Department is formed in which a man can give his attention to this area and that good may flow from this attention if the proper spirit and impartiality are given to the job; but there is nothing of itself in the creation or the establishment of a further Ministry which marks progress.

I got the impression from the Taoiseach's opening speech that, in fact, he regarded the fact that we had an extra Ministry as a milestone passed in this industrial area. We will have to wait and see that this milestone has been passed. The number of things that have come from this area of industrial relations in recent years make it a pretty complicated area. It is no longer simply a single individual confrontation between an employer and employees. Today the area of industrial relations brings in a host of other factors, has connections with other Departments of State and calls for quite a number of additional questions to be solved and considered, if we are to look at the whole picture of industrial relations in its totality. Such a Department, obviously, will have to consider the drawing in of the separate threads which at present are involved in this matter of job training, bring all the agencies involved in this area together and get something co-ordinated out of the lot.

Recent NIEC and other reports have hinted at, and at least have referred in passing, to job forecasting, to the actual need for increasing skills in the working population, and the areas where these skills should be increased. All these matters come within the ambit of this Ministry and all, of course, against the background of the dimensions opened up by the freer trade areas, the areas evidently that are opening up before us for the first time, creating for us a moment of truth competitively with other countries. It will mean that methods of forecasting of skills will become extremely important and this is something that has become apparent. Even in conditions of unemployment as we have, one may encounter bottlenecks [1450] in certain skills and the provision of skilled workers would also need to be looked into by this new Minister. Even in conditions such as we have at the moment, certain skilled categories can be in short supply in certain areas. The new Minister, presumably, will consider this.

The Minister, presumably, will also be concerned with growth centres in different parts of the country. One is a little unhappy at the moment at the lack of emphasis on the placing of growth centres. One is left with the unhappy feeling that, perhaps, the Government do not deliberately intend to concentrate on the further expansion of these growth centres. I would hope that the Minister would be concerned with advance in these particular areas.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy Zoom on Robert Molloy Is that the Labour view on this?

Mr. O'Leary: We believe in the establishment of growth centres. I do not see any particular moment of truth in saying that growth centres are formed in different parts of the country. There are reports which show that the trade union representatives agree with the idea of these growth centres.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy Zoom on Robert Molloy I was referring to what the Deputy said about the Government's intention to set up these estates.

Mr. O'Leary: The change-over to employment agencies, making them real agencies of employment, is extremely important because up to now these establishments were the last places, when one was without a job, in which one would want to look for a job. I hope the new Minister will concern himself with seeing that they become real places for job placement of people out of work. This would be a welcome improvement. I suggest that the first step towards making these employment exchanges places of hope rather than places of despair would be the demolition of most of them and, of those remaining, at least a coat of paint to make them somewhat more cheerful, but the present bastilles around the country which go under the name of [1451] employment exchanges, quite apart from the misery of being out of work, are like draughty poorhouses, the appearance of which is not conducive to giving an unfortunate individual any hope, quite apart from the amount of payment he receives there.

These are some of the things I suppose this Department will be concerned with. It is something we have thought in recent years was called for. We thought the area of industrial relations was becoming complicated and important enough to warrant the full-time attention of a competent individual who would look after developments in this sphere. Perhaps he cannot perform one of the functions of the late Countess Markievicz such as bringing coal up the stairs in certain parts of Dublin but he certainly would, in our day, perform a pretty valuable function.

The most important thing I see in this Department is that at least the Minister would maintain impartiality in the area of industrial relations. This is the area in respect of which I for one feel the most disquiet. It seems to me that this Minister will need to have a very wide smile indeed to get over some of the suspicions of the trade union movement. Those who spoke in this House earlier about outlawing strikes and tidying up industrial relations will discover that if they interfere with the system in operation at the moment, far from improving the situation, will tend to make it much worse.

I remember that the Taoiseach some years ago said that class war was dead. I hope we will not find that class war comes back as bad as it ever was. I am fearful it will come back if the law is brought into voluntary agreements entered into between employers and employees. If you bring judicial interpretation into those matters, you will find that there is no legal short cut to industrial peace. It seems to me that there can be no substitute for good, honest negotiations between employers and employees. If the State is seen by the worker to depart from this and to come down heavily in law on one side [1452] against the other, it seems to me that we will put the clock back in industrial relations rather than forward.

Although it may appear at the present time that we are top of the board in the international strike league, we must look carefully at what has happened during recent months. Before this, the majority of strikes took place because of contract of employment, holiday arrangements, interpretation of agreements and so on. The great difference between those strikes and the strikes in recent months is that the more recent strikes have been called because of the failure of employers to concede the £1 a week increase. We can get all sorts of hypothetical reasons to explain the present sickness in industrial relations but we do not have to go very far to seek the real reason for them. As I have said, they have been caused by the refusal of employers, throughout the country, to concede the £1 a week increase. We cannot leave out of this refusal the policy decision of the national employers' organisation, the Federated Union of Employers, to its constituent members not to concede this £1 a week to their employees. The sufferers from this obdurate policy have been the community and consumers at large. The strikes which have taken place can be attributed to this decision of the national employers' organisation. Therefore, bad industrial relations is a false basis on which to base your assessment of the strike position in this country. As I have already stated, the majority of strikes before this have not taken place for reasons of pay; they have taken place because of a contract of employment, holiday arrangements, the worker's interpretation of agreements and so on.

As regards industrial relations and the system of voluntary bargaining which has been in operation up to now, we have the example of those countries which have in fact brought the law into the conduct of industrial relations. Those countries have not a strike-free record. They have not secured happier industrial relations by doing so. Such countries as Australia and the USA who have brought the law into their [1453] conduct of industrial relations have not avoided industrial unrest as a result. In many cases they have landed themselves into more trouble. It is regrettable that despite the fact that some countries committed to this idea in the past now appear to be changing their attitude, we are now deciding to bring the law into these areas. President Johnson has given hope of the repeal of certain Acts brought into force in the USA. Some of those countries which brought the law into industrial relations are now thinking of handing the situation back to collective bargaining between employers and employees.

If the new Minister in his Department seems to favour strong interference by the State in industrial relations and the law which would seek to hedge around the fundamental rights of unions to strike and to limit the qualifications of unions, he will have a lot to explain to the workers when he seeks to improve relations between the employers and the unions. He will be seen, not as a man bearing goodwill and good relations in those areas, but as a kind of policeman with a big stick coming into a particular area to make sure that certain lines are followed.

Some Deputies, I am glad to say, have been as struck as I certainly have been by the number of Deputies who are ready to tell us how many unions there are in this country, that there are too many trade unions and to tell us of the shortcomings of the unions, but very few of those Deputies—they belong to the two main Parties, and most of them have extensive business interests—will bare their hearts about the shortcomings of management. Surely in the kind of society we live in, we must realise that much of the industrial unrest is caused by the decisions of individual managements. Individual managements have the initiative on economic decisions, not the unions. The unions are there to react to the decisions of the management but the decisions must lie with management. Strange as it may seem, no Deputy has come in here and told us of the shortcomings, the inefficiency of management. Despite this, they can talk at length about the inefficiency of trade unions. Despite the inefficiencies [1454] of management, I have not heard of any rumours of a law to penalise inefficient managers. Despite this, their inefficiency may, in the future of free trade, condemn employees to unemployment. Official reports, while referring in a vague way to the shortcomings of Irish management, have not seen fit to suggest strong penalties on managements who do not become efficient, who do not see their way to play their full part in their country's efforts to become economically viable.

Employers have been nurtured for years behind high tariff walls. This being so, it is ironical that no special Department is being set up to deal with their culpabilities, their shortcomings. These changes in the law, the changes suggested in industrial relations, may make the position far worse than it is. Instead of putting the clock forward, we may be putting it back. The system we have had up to now has worked reasonably well. If we are high in the strike table, we can see reasons for it in this policy decision of the employers federation not to grant the £1 a week. As I have said, the system has worked reasonably well in the past and there is no reason why it should not continue to do so in the future.

One thing is certain: The struggle between employers and workers will continue for as long as our society continues. The best job any Government can do in this area is to promote industrial growth. We can say one thing with certainty in an uncertain situation: the more jobs there are, the more prosperity there is, and the less trouble there will be in industrial disputes. It has been noticeable that as soon as the economic thermometer appears to be going down, the fewer the jobs become and the more intensified the struggle becomes. The fundamental task of the Government, therefore, must be to promote industrial growth, to ensure by their policies that such growth is maintained.

It seems to me that instead of seeking global solutions in this area of industrial relations, we should endeavour in individual instances to see that relations are improved. We could see to it that there is a grievance procedure [1455] in each firm in the Republic, that there is machinery whereby personal complaints between worker and foreman, for instance, are properly processed. Such complaints have in previous years accounted for the bulk of trade disputes. We must therefore see that such machinery, such procedure, is instituted in each firm so that each worker knows that his complaints will be pursued individually. In many firms it is still a mystery to the individual employee how his complaints can be dealt with by the management. In many firms, managements will not bother with complaints. Consequently such grievances are bottled up over the years and can later lead to major flare-ups on what might appear to be trivial pretexts. I have seen it happen. Then when a dispute bursts out, managements ask in an incredulous fashion why this happened. They say: “We have always had good relations”—on the basis that they have not heard a complaint. “Have we not provided work for these employees?”

No country in recent years has been more afflicted than ours with various week-end seminars on employeremployee relations. We have had Ministers speaking to businessmen and other influential decision-making groups, about the joint interests of management and employees; yet all this advice appears to have fallen on extremely barren ground if we are to judge by the number of industrial disputes. One of the problems is that the prophets of industrial relations do not go to the trouble of seeking out the facts. Just because the majority of humanity work for somebody, practically every one of those people considers himself an expert. This is not the case and I suggest that many Deputies would be better employed talking about the shortcomings of management, that they should concentrate on that aspect rather than the other.

The unions are in the process of examining their own structure and I think the agency which would have the most authority, certainly the most acquaintance with the subject, are the unions engaged in this kind of work. I [1456] do not think it helps in this process to push it in a legislative fashion by coercive action. We must not forget this about the trade union structure: It is a democratic set-up in which decisions are taken by the majority of workers in any firm. Many people form the impression that a strike is aimed at themselves alone. There are letters to the newspapers. People must realise that to take part in a strike workers must have the most serious reasons. The economic degradation consequent on a strike is shocking. One needs the most serious reasons to take part in a strike.

In many of the industrial disputes in which I have been unfortunate enough to have been involved, I have never seen a lack of people coming to meetings and playing a full part in the deliberations leading up to a dispute. One can exaggerate the scare stories of minorities being the bullies leading to strike action, forgetting that the majority take part fully in the discussions leading up to this serious position.

The Labour Court has been mentioned. I think the conciliation section of the court have definitely done great work during the years. They were stationed in that rather inhospitable place called Griffith Barracks and did a tremendous job in face of grave physical obstacles in bringing parties together and suggesting solutions. In this matter, no one speaks of the successes. We all appear to spend a great deal of time talking about the disasters and the successes never hit the headlines.

The Press has been singled out now and again for the unfortunate part, it has been alleged, it has played in certain disputes by playing up certain factors at issue in a slanted way, thereby adding fuel to the flame. I do not know if this criticism has been merited. It has been said on many occasions that unions do not sufficiently meet the Press and explain fully the issues involved. This is a complaint that can also be levelled at the employers. It is no substitute for negotiation to break out in long advertisements when the dispute has commenced. The efforts should begin much earlier than the outbreak of the dispute. Then we would have fewer ignorant outbursts by the [1457] public and fewer outraged reactions when disputes break out.

The new Minister and the new Department will have to deal with a problem largely insoluble, a problem in which any of us would be very wrong to think that peace in totality can be restored. A struggle goes on in a democratic society between employers and employees. As far as possible, the State should maintain a neutral pose in this struggle. It can contribute very positively to the avoidance of this struggle by having through its own laws, for instance, good factory conditions, by seeing to it that the economy continues to go forward, by seeing to it that job opportunities are increased, and so on. The day on which it departs from this neutral position and begins to interfere in the struggle, on one side or the other, on that day trouble is brought infinitely nearer. We certainly will not see industrial relations restored to the position we have had in previous years by this kind of attitude.

Whoever the victim for the sacrifice is to be in the present Government, I personally wish him well. He will need a good, long neck. I would say he would want to be choosy about the dinners he speaks at. I would suggest the first thing he should do to give himself a good send-off in this hazardous occupation is to get certain amendments into the new legislation we are told is on the books and make quite sure that free collective bargaining is not interfered with. If he does that, we may get him a union card later on.

Mr. Lindsay: Information on Patrick James Lindsay Zoom on Patrick James Lindsay The creation of a new Department of State should be a matter for excitement and speculation. That should be particularly true of a Department of this kind, dealing with the various aspects of labour policy and labour problems generally. I regard the introduction of this legislation to set up a Department of this kind as one of extreme importance indeed. Probably we are even at this stage regaining that grip of the problems that exist which the First Dáil and the Second Dáil had when they had a Ministry of Labour at that time.

[1458] I regret that in his opening statement on the Second Reading, the Taoiseach confined himself very largely to vague generalities, instancing here and there the odd specific proposal which did not create any kind of debating momentum. I was particularly disappointed when he did not mention the Labour Court, with a view to strengthening it or substituting some other kind of tribunal for it. While I see the difficulties of trying to bring the workings of labour within the law, I nevertheless fail to understand why they cannot be so brought within the law. If people were to be reasonable in these respects, probably a tribunal the decisions of which would have a binding effect would, in the long run, work out for the betterment of both management and labour.

In a debate such as this, in dealing with this very important problem, accentuated by the conditions in which we live, the great and varied unrest which we are experiencing, we should be particularly careful to be, as far as is humanly possible, impartial and to strive for what should be the fundamental thread going through all this Department—an impartial one, trying to keep a fair balance as between management and labour. I do not think there would be any trouble in achieving that, once management is fair; neither do I think there would be any trouble in achieving it, once labour in its conception of management is fair, too—provided that there is always room for the give and take so very necessary in all human relations.

I regard this legislation to set up this Department as a stepping stone which should be very carefully set so that it can lead to other stepping stones in the direction of peace within the ranks of both employers and employees. I would not for a moment suggest that this Department of Labour should consider itself as having for its primary objective the settlement of industrial disputes. If it is to interest itself in that aspect of our affairs, it should be to detect danger spots before the trouble arises. In this way, it would be able to enter upon the arena where the dispute is about to take place, or [1459] likely to take place, and use its good offices to see that the dispute did not take place, causing loss of money, man-hours and production, with all the terrible consequences that flow from a strike if it is prolonged for any length of time. The detection of danger spots is much more important than being expected to go in when the danger has lighted up.

I must confess that I share the view of the Taoiseach as expressed at the Social Study Congress the other night when I think he asked, in effect, where was the dividing line between what people expected the Government to do and what they should do themselves. That has been the curse of our State for a long time, that far too much is being expected of the Government and less emphasis is placed on individual and collective effort. That is only achieved through proper leadership. Once people are led into the belief that by supporting a particular Party they can get something that they could not get by supporting another Party, there is an end to the proper leadership that encourages individual and collective effort. Even the Fianna Fáil Party are beginning to see that now. Running through their speeches is this emphasis on individual and collective effort and community spirit. They are trying to get away from the other viewpoint that one had to belong to succeed.

That is all I propose to say on that aspect of the relations between people and Government. As I said, I believe this is a debate that should be conducted with as little acrimony as possible because we are all agreed about the setting up of this Department—the Government. we in Fine Gael and the Labour Party. There may come another kind of debate when the person who is being nominated to this Ministry, if he is not already a member of the Government, comes up for discussion.

I would not have offered, if I may say so in passing, the very stringent test imposed by Deputy O'Leary just now when he said the new Minister should be choosy about the dinners he attends and choosy about what he says. If he is a normal sensible person who is not [1460] afraid to go to any dinner he likes, and not afraid to give utterance to honest thought processes, I think he is probably the right man, because in the end people respect the truth and the expression of proper opinion relating to any set of circumstances at any given time.

Of course there are faults, and always have been faults ever since the beginning of the world, on the part of management and on the part of labour. These faults must be shared. I deplore the remarks of Deputy O'Leary towards the end of his speech when he referred to management. He talked about drones behind a high tariff wall. I think that was unwarranted. If they were drones, they did succeed even with the help of tariffs down along the line in developing some very good industries. All I can hope is that when the tariff walls disappear, these industries will get the encouragement and support of our people which they should get, having regard to the great efforts which they put into the industrial drive in their time. It is due to them that that should be said, and I am saying it without reservation.

In the setting up of this Department, having due regard to what the Taoiseach has said by way of general observation, I think the danger spot must be stressed again. For that reason, I think this Department should lay great stress on public relations, and that certain people in this Department should be continually in touch with the public relations officers of the larger unions or groups of unions so that they can keep their fingers on the pulse of things and be able to watch out for any trouble that might ensue.

I have no doubt that this Department will deal with, and find it easy to deal with, organised labour but my real interest in this Department centres on the rural areas. I should like to see the Department interesting itself in the various rural areas which are becoming depopulated but in which nevertheless there are a considerable number of unemployed people who are able and willing to work, if given the opportunity to do so. In this respect [1461] I can see the Department doing very valuable work for rural Ireland and for the countryside that is still populated but where employment problems are forever present.

I am glad to see that this Department is, even only on an agency basis, to operate the employment exchanges, because in that I can see the beginning of what I am urging, that is, an interest in these areas where large numbers of people are signing on at the employment exchanges and collecting their money. Specially trained people will see in the districts the possibility of organising them for labour to good result. That will probably be the most important part of the work of these people.

I see no reason why this question of manpower will not be inextricably mixed up with the Department of Labour, and I do not see any reason why there should be an increase in the number of Government Ministers resulting from the setting up of this Department. The Taoiseach has already got a sufficient number of Ministers, having regard to our population, to our output, and our wealth generally. I do not accept the argument he put forward relating the numbers of Ministers in this country to the numbers in other countries when there is such a wide difference between the population of this country and the populations of the countries with which the Taoiseach purports to draw an analogy.

I believe there are various ways in which there could be a cutting down on Ministries. For instance, there is the Department of Transport and Power. I am not going to respond to the Taoiseach's invitation to attack the present incumbent of that office. I have no intention of doing so. I think the Department could carry with it the Department of Posts and Telegraphs because the money orders and stamps side of the Post Office really runs itself. So far as Radio-Telefís Éireann is concerned, I do not see why another State body could not be added to the already imposing list which the Minister for Transport and Power supervises, or is supposed to supervise.

As I have said, I have no intention [1462] of criticising the Minister for Transport and Power personally. I think he does his best but his best is not very much because he is not allowed to do very much. He has to tell us from time to time that he has no function in dealing with the day-to-day administration of the various bodies over which he presides, or which he supervises, or for which he has ministerial responsibility, whichever phrase you care to use. We do not criticise him for that. Rather do we criticise the Government and the Taoiseach in particular for not giving to this man, in whose praise he spoke in such extreme terms the other day, a Ministry of greater responsibility. When we were being criticised for attacking the Minister for Transport and Power, I really think the truth of the matter was that the Taoiseach was defending himself because it must be evident to everyone that while they are anxious to keep Deputy Childers in the Government, they are not prepared to go so far as to trust him with full responsibility but are only giving him a sort of mock responsibility for boards which manage themselves.

The Department of Social Welfare and the Department of Health could go together. I know, of course, that someone will refer before this debate is over to the fact that at one time an extra Government Department was created and an extra Minister appointed by Deputy J.A. Costello in his time when he appointed me, in fact, as Minister for the Gaeltacht. That, of course, is so, but it was an important Department and one which we were not left very long to work and it certainly has not been worked very well since—but that is a matter for another day.

We on this side of the House welcome the creation of this Department and wish it well. We wish its incumbent well, whoever he be, and all we hope is that he will be suitable and give satisfaction to our people, both at Government level, Dáil level and to the people throughout the country. At the same time, we adhere rigidly to the view expressed in the amendment we have down, that the creation of this Department should not involve the appointment of an extra Minister [1463] of State, particularly at this time of economic stringency.

In any event, from what I have said, it can be gathered that my anxiety as far as the workings of this Department go will be for rural Ireland where the ability to mobilise our manpower, to apportion it, to see that the opportunity for employment is given there is of vital importance at this time when our people are leaving the land, particularly the small holdings and sweeping into towns and cities where they come into organised labour which is a simple and classified thing and with which it is easy to deal and to grapple.

I hope that when the Department is set up and the Minister is finally nominated and approved, he will make that a concern of equal importance to that of organised labour. If I were to have any of the choosing in this regard, with special reference to the state of our country and of the population, if I were the Taoiseach selecting, I would select a countryman who understands the country view rather than a townsman, a countryman who would be most helpful in bringing about the situation we all desire.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully Deputy Corish said earlier this evening that we in the Labour Party welcome this appointment because we believe, and have always believed, that one Minister who should be in a Government in this country is a Minister for Labour. We have an amendment down but not, as the Taoiseach said, because we want to get the opportunity of attacking the Minister for Transport and Power. As a matter of fact, while we disagree entirely with the operation of his Department, we consider that the Minister for Transport and Power is a very likeable sort of fellow. Therefore, if anybody has got the impression that we in the Labour Party want to pillory him and are taking an opportunity on this or any other Bill to do so, he is very much mistaken. In fact, what we are trying to do is to prove that the Department of Transport and Power is superfluous. The Department was set up some years [1464] ago with a great flourish of trumpets. It was supposed that by separating the responsibility for the Department of Industry and Commerce from Transport and Power it would leave two competent men with competent staff free to deal with the situation before them in a much better way. All we have to do is to look at what has happened since to realise that those who set up that Department made a bad mistake.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass We had the support of the Labour Party.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully You had the support of the Labour Party because we thought then you were going to do a good job, but, in fact, the Minister for Transport and Power, who happens to be Deputy Childers but who could be anybody else in the Fianna Fáil benches, and who is, apparently, carrying out Government policy—this is the point which many people seem to miss —did very little of note except to close branch railways all over the country. We were told the other day that a lot of money has been saved by the Department of Transport and Power, particularly in CIE, but any money saved there has been saved at the expense of workmen's wages. That is a fact which cannot be denied and the sooner we get down to that fact and show exactly what our objection to the Department is, the sooner we are likely to persuade the Government that they have, in fact, made a mistake.

Personally, I do not care, nor does any member of my Party, if Deputy Childers becomes Taoiseach tomorrow morning in the re-shuffle of the Cabinet which must follow. If the Taoiseach feels that he would make a better Taoiseach than he does—he obviously thought so the other day—there is an obvious way to deal with it. It is more than ridiculous to suggest that, because of the fact that the Taoiseach considers that Deputy Childers is doing a very good job and the Department are doing a good job, he should be continued when everybody else in the country considers that the Department of Transport and Power is a washout.

What happens when questions are directed to the Minister for Transport [1465] and Power in this House? I am sure he must be as ashamed as we are when he stands up and says that the Minister has no function in the matter.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass That means you are asking the wrong questions.

Mr. James Tully: Information on James Tully Zoom on James Tully We are asking the wrong Government. The Taoiseach, the other day, said that Deputy Childers dealt in a gentlemanly way with tendentious questions. If the Minister gives a straight answer to the questions asked, they do not tend to become tendentious. That happens when it appears that there might be a chink somewhere by which the questioner can get in and get the information sought in the original question.

Again, I am not blaming the Minister. I am simply saying that he is carrying out Government policy and Government policy apparently is that when a Minister is appointed, he is warned that he must not have any say in the running of the Department, that all he has to do is to go into the House and say he has no function in regard to the subject matter of any question which may be asked, that the Deputy should take it up with CIE, Bord na Móna or anybody else.

There is another aspect of this in relation to which I personally was inclined to blame the Minister, but, on reflection, feel that he would not take the responsibility on himself, that somebody else must be at the back of it. Of all the Ministries, there is only one which has so far arranged that pension schemes for lowly-paid workers take into account the social welfare old age pension when assessing the pension to which they are entitled at the end of their working day and that Department is the Department of Transport and Power. We had it in Bord na Móna and it was trotted out on a number of occasions in CIE and apparently it has become the norm of that Department. No other Department of State and no other employer that I know of has attempted to say that a person who has been paying for his pension through the years is not entitled to it in full but is entitled only to portion of it because of the fact that he will [1466] receive a contributory old age pension, despite the fact that he has been paying for that contributory pension and is entitled to it by law and, if not employed in the Department of Transport and Power, would normally get the full pension and those employed by the Department of Transport and Power and who do not stamp cards are entitled to the full pension. It is a type of thinking that is very difficult to understand. I was under the impression that it must have come from the mind of one individual. I would not blame the Minister because I am quite sure that he would be far too decent a man to stoop to doing a thing like that.

Here in this House, two years ago, he told me that a bog worker would be entitled after 40 years' service to a pension of over £6 a week and when I pursued the matter further, I found that the year in which the worker would qualify for that pension would be the year 2003. Surely it is not reasonable to suggest that a Department that thinks in that way has a right to survive in this century? Surely the idea that people should not get by way of pension what they paid for belongs to a century gone by. The Minister for Labour will, we are told, have certain responsibilities. One of the things the Taoiseach, when I asked him if it was proposed to preclude agricultural workers, said was that he would deal with that later, and later he said that agricultural workers were being excluded and that they might be taken in if it were thought necessary later on. Of course I can see a number of arguments in favour of leaving agricultural workers out if one thinks the same way as the Government.

For instance, agricultural workers have their minimum rate of wages which is accepted by most people as a standard wage. The rate they receive is the lowest in the country and they work the longest number of hours, longer than any other workers. It is nice and handy, when people like me try to get increased wages for various types of manual workers employed by the State—on forestry, in the Land Commission, in the Office of Public Works, right round the whole lot—to be told [1467] that they themselves have little more than agricultural workers. So long as the agricultural worker's rate can be kept down, there is no danger of the State employee being able to make much of a step forward. I was hoping— perhaps it was too much of a hope— that when this new Ministry was being created, an effort should be made to treat the farm workers of this country as first-class citizens, but apparently the Government are still determined to treat them as second-class citizens because all workers are treated in one way except agricultural workers who are treated in that different way. They get unfair treatment with regard to holidays, wages and in their conditions of employment.

Maybe the Taoiseach, the Government, or whoever framed the Bill, had at the back of his mind the idea that if you were expecting trouble through redundancy, re-training and re-settlement of workers, it could come from one section and that would be the agricultural community. While it is true that the number of people in employment is dropping year by year, last year there was a slight step forward in industry. All the time agricultural workers of all types are getting fewer and fewer, the result being that last year we found about 14,000 agricultural workers of various types leaving the land. In previous years we had 12,500 and 12,000 and this would be quite a headache for a Minister for Labour. If there was a question of re-training and re-settlement, those are the people who would cause quite a headache. The Taoiseach said the other day he was going to use his fairy wand on the ESB workers. He waved it around and said: “We will solve the problem and leave agricultural workers out of it completely.” By doing that, he will find that he is dealing with a relatively small problem, where industrial workers are concerned.

I would appeal to the Taoiseach even at this late stage to reverse the decision he took and to include agricultural workers. Whether we like it or not, agriculture is still the primary industry of this country and if we are [1468] going to treat the people who work in the primary industry as second-class people, we will have trouble.

Great play was made by Deputy Lindsay on some of the comments made by Deputy O'Leary. Deputy Lindsay seemed to see something sinister in the suggestions Deputy O'Leary made. May I repeat one? He referred to the fact that all the trouble with regard to strikes did not come from the workers. I want to say from my experience of 20 years as a trade union official, that about five per cent of the trouble comes from the workers and 95 per cent from employers who still cannot realise that without workers, they are not able to continue, that without workers who are treated properly, industry and agriculture must collapse.

It seems to be quite a popular thing today to say that workers are causing a lot of trouble. We have all sorts of meetings, an odd seminar and an odd big dinner speech. Like Deputy Lindsay, I have no objection if a Minister wants to make a speech and say something which he cannot say in the Dáil. In all these things if the audience is right, the theme seems to be the workers are wrong. I am not claiming they are 100 per cent right but from 20 years experience, I am satisfied that they are at least 95 per cent right.

The Taoiseach threatened—I think “threatened” is the only word to use —the other evening that if the trade unions did not do certain things and the trade union officials did not face up to certain responsibilities, the Government would have to take much more serious action. My experience in dealing with workers and with trade union officials is that it is quite usual that most of the time trade union officials are in fact attempting to find a solution to problems before they come before the general public. This is where I would find fault with our press. I am aware they have a difficult job. I am aware they are sore if somebody takes a clip at them. Like the old man in the story, they have the power and are able to get their own back.

It seems to me that certain journalists [1469] have got into the habit of highlighting a strike, giving front page inch-high headings for a strike involving a small number of men, while a hundred agreements made in very serious circumstances seem to be overlooked. That is the order of things. I honestly believe that, despite all the talking here about wildcat strikes and people doing irresponsible things, if the matter were dealt with fairly on both sides, most of these strikes might never occur, and if in fact the number of disputes which are settled, many of them through the Labour Court and many of them without going near the Labour Court, were counted, it would be found that the number of strikes which take place represent only a very small fraction of disputes which start and never reach that stage.

It is most unfair of people in authority who are able to get the ear of the press, radio and television, to be always trotting out the same old story: “The workers did this; there is a strike on and the economy will be ruined by selfish workers.” It seems to me that selfish employers are sitting snugly in their ivory towers knowing that they have more money and that with luck they will be able to hold out and force the strikers to accept terms they would not accept in the first days of the strike.

The new Minister for Labour no matter who he may be, will have to deal with this matter and will have to adopt a fresh approach. He will need to ensure, before he brings a proposal before this House dealing with workers, that he has got the two sides of it and that we will not have the situation we had a few weeks ago in which with a dispute in progress, one set of people involved had a big stick over their heads while the others sat back and waited to see how hard they would be hit by that stick.

I believe that people in this country because of the fact that they normally have poor wages and find it extremely difficult to carry on, are not in the position that they can hold out for a long time. Trade unions have luckily reached the stage of progress or growth when they are prepared to stand by one another and what was enunciated [1470] by Larkin in 1913, that an injury to one is the responsibility of all, is generally appreciated. If we attain that stage— and we are getting to it very fast—we shall have less of the situation in which unfortunate people are made to walk the streets until they have no more money and then must return to work.

It is very easy to come to this House and talk about strikes and the harm strikes do but I can never understand why, while one strike seems to be important enough for the Government to introduce legislation, another strike, which is causing quite a lot of trouble over a longer period, does not seem to be the concern of the Government. If the Minister for Labour is going to finish up as a responsible Minister and not find himself in the position of the Minister for Transport and Power, he must take an interest in what is happening and know the facts and be prepared, if necessary, to answer for his Department because, as I said already, one of the biggest troubles here is that the Minister for Transport and Power is not in a position to do that.

When a new Department is set up, we usually find a set of officials manning that Department and I should be interested to know where those officials will come from. Does it mean an entirely new set of departmental officials? Where and how will they be recruited? I think that should be explained in the House before finality is reached.

The Taoiseach explained that even with the addition of a new Minister, the Cabinet would not be any bigger than a number of Cabinets he named throughout Europe. The answer given by Deputy Cosgrave is, I think, valid, that the populations in those countries are so very much greater and the size of Parliament in those countries so much greater than here that the comparison is not at all fair. It is impossible to compare a Parliament with slightly over 140 members with a Parliament of several hundred members and say that they have the same number of Ministers as we have.

The Taoiseach suggested that the employment exchanges or, as they are better known, the labour exchanges, would in some way be run on an [1471] agency basis for the Department of Labour by the Department of Social Welfare. This is one matter in which the Minister must take an interest because at present, except in the case of public employment on very rare occasions, nobody, so far as I know, has ever obtained a job by going to a labour exchange. They sign on and it has become the recognised thing to go daily to those dark, gloomy buildings, stand around in a queue, sometimes for hours, sometimes if they are lucky, not so long. Perhaps if it is raining they may have to stand outside and wait to get whatever few shillings are due to them, but there is no question of offering them employment or telling them where it is likely to be found.

The Minister for Labour must first try to familiarise employers with the process of applying, as employers in Britain and other countries do, to the labour exchanges for workers so that when people sign as unemployed, they do not alone sign for credits and payments at the end of the week but in addition, apply for a job. This must have a fresh approach. At present I know nobody who has ever been offered a job at the exchange and I know many workers, employed and unemployed. They would be so surprised they would probably fall down if told there was a job available and they were given a card to go to it, unless it is public employment. Even there, the situation often arises in which six men are wanted and the labour exchange gives a list of 20. The man recruiting the labour takes the six he intended to take anyway, no matter where the priority is on the list, and that is the end of it.

If necessary, the Minister must set up a new department within the employment exchanges and make them real employment exchanges. I think he would require to make them completely separate from the present system under which people have accepted that they just go there to sign for the dole or unemployment benefit. In addition, while we have in the Department of Social Welfare at present very courteous people dealing [1472] with the public there are quite a number in the employment exchanges who, I fear, were not taught how to treat poor people properly. They, perhaps, consider it beneath them to talk civilly to an unfortunate man who has a tear in his coat or the seat of whose pants is hanging down because he has not had a job or any money for a long time. It would not do the Minister any harm if one of his first acts were to try to put in all labour exchanges a notice which appears in at least one of the dry cleaners in this country. It is taken from Emerson. I mean this seriously because I have had the experience of going in and out to these exchanges and finding people there who shout at applicants, ask them what they are doing and suggest they have not been trying to find employment, and a lot of other things. If the Ministry is to be a success, it must settle down to doing the job which it was originally intended that labour exchanges should do, find work for the people.

The amendment which we put down and on which we intend to vote tomorrow afternoon is for the purpose of trying to persuade the Taoiseach that without impairing the efficiency —if that is the word—of his Cabinet in any way, he could reduce the number of Ministers. We picked the Minister for Transport and Power because we believe that his one Ministry is certainly not doing its job. There are quite a number of other Ministries that could possibly be joined together. Somebody said that the Department of Defence is necessary. I suppose it is, but personally, while the Minister for Defence is a personal friend of mine, I believe the Department of Defence could very well be joined with the Department of Justice. Social Welfare and Health are two others that have been mentioned here but I am not so sure about them because I believe Health is a Department which is so big that it would almost require two Ministers and Social Welfare, unless relieved of a considerable amount of its duties by the new Minister, would also have its hands full.

The Department of Posts and Telegraphs, since being given responsibility [1473] for television and radio, is, in fact, I suppose, a more responsible job than most people give the Minister credit for. We are quite convinced that it should be possible to link the Ministry of Transport and Power with at least one of the other Ministries and that there is no reason at all why we should attempt to continue it, if we are in earnest about the credit squeeze we have heard so much about in the past few months.

Finally, if the Minister is really serious about doing a good job—we know that quite a number of people have been forecasting who that Minister is likely to be; we hope the forecasts are right—I should like to advise him that he must, before interfering in any way with the trade union movement in the job of running labour relations, ensure that he will not go in as a partisan fighter who is prepared to come down on the side of the employer.

It was suggested earlier that the trade union movement are anxious to have their labour relations amended and that industrial legislation must be changed in the near future. Personally, I am not too happy about that. I believe the trade union movement, given the proper opportunity, are well able to keep their house in order. If the Minister for Labour, who will be appointed following tomorrow's decision, does his job properly, he will get the full co-operation of the trade union movement. If he attempts to bully or to wave the big stick, then I am afraid the Minister for Labour will be a far more unpopular man than the poor Minister for Transport and Power seems to be at the present time.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman Zoom on Gerard Sweetman This debate may perhaps be divided into two parts: (1) the appointment of a Minister for Labour and the functions that Minister is likely to have, and (2) the amalgamation of certain Ministries on the ground that the country has more Ministers than it needs at present. In relation to the first, the Taoiseach gave a historical survey which, while he coloured it to some extent from his own point of view, was at any rate an [1474] approach to the appropriate discussion of the measure. He left a great deal to be desired, however, when he came on to discuss the functions of the new Ministry and, in relation to that, there are certain points on which we should like some clarification.

Apart from that, however, when he went on to discuss the amendments, he showed, to say the least of it, a lack of the temper appropriate to a Taoiseach and a lack of discretion in his manner of dealing with that subject. I can understand his being a rattled man. Certainly if he heard one-tenth of the things being said about him and his Cabinet around the country he would be very rattled indeed. It is not at our desire that there is any discussion of that Cabinet. It was the Taoiseach himself who put it in issue when he said, a fortnight ago, or so, that he had the best Cabinet in Ireland on those benches. You cannot possibly say you have the best of this or the best of that and expect, at the same time, that you will not be criticised and that a different point of view will not be put forward. It has been said here on many occasions by the Chair that the advocacy of one side of an argument, even though it might be out of order, inevitably brings the other.

Before I go on to the more general question of the powers and functions of the new Ministry, I want to reiterate and underline some of the quite extraordinary fallacies in the Taoiseach's speech and which were referred to earlier today by the leader of the Opposition, Deputy Cosgrave. The Taoiseach said categorically as reported at Column 1301 of the Official Report of 23rd June, 1966:

So far from there being too many Ministers, as Deputies opposite appear to imply, we have a small Government in this country by any standard of international comparison.

Of course, that is untrue. It is untrue whether you take the standard of gross national product, the standard of population or the standard of size.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass Take the standard of work that has to be done.

[1475]Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman Zoom on Gerard Sweetman If the members of the Government would spend as much time on Government business as some of them spend endeavouring to do their own business affairs—I am not referring to the Minister for Industry and Commerce: I do not put him in that category—then the Taoiseach would find that his Ministers would have more time for consideration of Government business. That is one of the things I had in mind when I said to the Taoiseach that if he heard one-tenth of the stories that are going the round——

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass Knowing that you invented most of them, I could guess them.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman Zoom on Gerard Sweetman Would the Taoiseach like to have specific examples because I will give him some?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Cormac Breslin Zoom on Cormac Breslin It does not arise.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman Zoom on Gerard Sweetman It does arise. Once the Taoiseach says he has the best Cabinet in Europe or in the world—I forget which—once he puts that in issue, it arises. If he had not put that in issue it would not have arisen, but he did. We can take it quite simply, point by point, Minister by Minister, if he wishes, starting at the end and going down the line, with an honourable exception sitting opposite me. The Minister for Industry and Commerce spent two whole weeks going around his constituency in Clare, going into every village in Clare, when he would have been better advised to try to deal with labour troubles up in the city of Dublin rather than Presidential electioneering to that extent.

Dr. Hillery: Information on Patrick John Hillery Zoom on Patrick John Hillery Does the Deputy think I should give up politics, too?

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman Zoom on Gerard Sweetman To that extent, it would be true to say it about him, but not in relation to his personal business. No, I do not expect the Minister for Industry and Commerce to give up politics. He is a politician and should be there as a politician for the purpose [1476] of adding commonsense to the advice of technical people, however well qualified they may be. However, certain people should put first things first. The troubles which the country was encountering two or three weeks ago did not justify the absence of the Minister for Industry and Commerce from his post of duty at that time. But, of course, the Taoiseach, when making that speech on Thursday last, was doing it in a fit of pique and temper and it is totally contrary to the facts.

There is a Cabinet of 12 in Austria and their population is more than double ours. There is a Cabinet of 20 in Belgium, compared with our 14, and their population is more than three times ours. In Denmark, there is a Cabinet of 18, compared with our 14, and their population is one and a half times the size of ours. Finland, with a population of 4½ million, can manage with a Cabinet of 11. The Netherlands have a Cabinet the same size as ours and yet it is able to manage a population of 12 million.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass What has population got to do with it?

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman Zoom on Gerard Sweetman Population happens to be one of the factors. We shall come to the others afterwards.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass Does the Deputy mean that there is less government in the small countries and more government in the others?

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman Zoom on Gerard Sweetman That is what the Taoiseach seems to think.

The Taoiseach: Information on Seán F. Lemass Zoom on Seán F. Lemass No.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman Zoom on Gerard Sweetman Smaller Cabinets can deal with larger populations.

Mr. Davern: Information on Donal Davern Zoom on Donal Davern The same diversity of interest must take place in each Cabinet.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman Zoom on Gerard Sweetman There is only one in this Cabinet, namely, the diversity between there and there. It is utterly—

[1477]Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy Zoom on Robert Molloy We can start rumours, too.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman Zoom on Gerard Sweetman We shall not. We shall talk about facts.

Mr. Allen: Information on Lorcan Allen Zoom on Lorcan Allen If you want facts, we shall give them to you.

Mr. Sweetman: Information on Gerard Sweetman Zoom on Gerard Sweetman We shall talk about the Holmes land and how town planning approval was obtained in respect of it by a member of the Government.

[1478]Mr. Davern: Information on Donal Davern Zoom on Donal Davern That is the Deputy's idea of facts.

Mr. Molloy: Information on Robert Molloy Zoom on Robert Molloy We know who starts the rumours.

Debate adjourned.

The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 29th June, 1966.


Last Updated: 11/05/2015 09:02:58 First Page Previous Page Page of 55 Next Page Last Page