Tuesday, 5 March 1940
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. Norton: asked the Minister for Finance if he is aware of the hardship imposed on workers employed on relief schemes where wages are paid only fortnightly, involving in many cases a three weeks' delay in actual payment, and whether he is prepared to authorise the issue of an imprest to the county surveyors to enable them pay such wages weekly.
Mr. Flinn: The question of payment of wages to workmen engaged on  employment schemes administered by local authorities will be dealt with in the answer to the analogous question (No. 5 on the Order Paper) which the Deputy has addressed to the Minister for Local Government and Public Health.
So far as minor employment schemes administered by the Office of Public Works are concerned imprests for the payment of wages are issued to the county surveyors well in advance of requirements. The possibility of making weekly payments of wages has already been examined but no satisfactory solution has hitherto been found. The difficulty lies in the very large number of workmen employed and in the fact that the wages sheets are vouched by the county surveyors, who at the same time are responsible for the wages sheets for roads employment schemes administered by the county councils and also for those in respect of the county council workmen engaged on their normal road works.
Mr. Norton: Does the Minister not realise that it is a grave hardship on workers to be employed in relief schemes for three or four days only in the week and whilst they are so employed to receive no wages in respect of that particular week, no unemployment assistance and no home assistance because they are working. They have to wait for nearly three weeks in order to obtain payment of wages for three or four days' work. Will the Parliamentary Secretary look into the matter further with a view to devising arrangements whereby the workers will be paid in the week in which the employment is given, in view of the fact that many persons who are unemployed over a long period have no credit left and no resources to sustain them?
Mr. Flinn: I recognise that in a few cases there may be real hardship in this matter, but the number of cases in which there is hardship is probably  very small. I have investigated it very carefully, and various methods have been attempted by the county councils to get over the difficulty, having regard to the fact that they themselves are paying their own men in exactly the same way. In some cases where there was investigation by the county councils, they have decided that the money which would be absorbed for weekly special payments would have to be taken from the general fund which enables them to relieve unemployment and this might be a greater evil. It is a very difficult question, and all I can say is that I am prepared to advocate trying to find a solution.
Mr. Norton: Will you permit, me, Sir, by way of interrogatory, to bring this information to the notice of the Parliamentary Secretary? Is he aware —he probably is not—of a case which was brought to my notice recently, where a man was receiving 14/- a week unemployment assistance benefit at an employment exchange? He was offered four days' employment on a relief scheme. The man said: “I cannot afford to take employment on the relief scheme because I will not get paid for three weeks, and it is better to get 14/- at the exchange than even 20/-, which I will not be paid for three weeks.” Because the man refused to take employment for four days, in view of the fact that he would not be paid for three weeks, he was refused unemployment assistance benefit, and was also refused home assistance.
Mr. Davin: Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that there are many cases on record, so far as boards of health are concerned, where persons in this position have had to receive emergency relief? That has caused a good deal of confusion so far as the administration of boards of health is concerned, and there is no justification for it.
Mr. Flinn: I will take the two questions separately. If Deputy Norton will give me particulars of the case he has in mind I will look into it, because I know that an exactly opposite decision has been given in a similar  case. In relation to the question raised by Deputy Davin, that was one of the places where we looked for evidence that this was a widespread difficulty. The number of cases we have been able to find in which what Deputy Davin referred to has occurred—that the home assistance authorities have been called in—is absolutely microscopic. In one particular county where special provision of this kind was made, I think less than half of 1 per cent of those who were employed under the schemes applied to take advantage of it. If the Deputy will give me the particular case he has in mind, I will be glad to help him.
Mr. Norton: asked the Minister for Local Government and Public Health if he is aware that in several areas men employed temporarily on roads (rural) schemes are paid wages only fortnightly, involving in many cases a three weeks' delay in actual payment, and that, therefore, they suffer great hardship; and whether he is prepared to authorise the issue of an imprest to county surveyors to enable them pay such wages weekly.
Minister for Local Government and Public Health (Mr. Ruttledge): The arrangements made by county councils for the payment of men on employment schemes on roads have been investigated and everything possible is being done by these councils to make payments to workmen as quickly as can be arranged by the accounting staff. The suggestion of an imprest to the county surveyor would not obviate the necessity for the preparation of pay sheets and paying orders. If the Deputy has in mind a proposal to enable payments to be made in cash by the county surveyors, I could not agree to that course. Payments to road workers are as a rule made fortnightly.  If the Deputy would send me particulars of the cases he refers to I will have further inquiries made.
Mr. Norton: Is the Minister aware of the fact that it is a much greater hardship on a man employed for three or four days on a relief scheme to be paid fortnightly than it is on a man who is regularly employed, and whom the shopkeeper knows has regular employment and a regular income? Does he not think there is a case for discrimination in relation to those who are employed only for three or four days a week, and that the wages should be paid weekly in those cases?
Mr. Norton: Does not the Minister know that where a man works three or four days he has to wait at least a fortnight or usually three weeks before he gets paid? That is because of the arrangement made by the county councils for paying their ordinary road staff fortnightly, but does not the Minister think some alternative arrangement should be made in the case of those casually employed for short periods?
Mr. Davin: If the workers who are employed part-time in industry or agriculture have to be paid weekly by their employers, surely to goodness the Government and the local authorities should be able to do the same thing?
Mr. Norton: I can assure the Minister that there are widespread complaints about this matter, and will he look into it further with a view to seeing whether arrangements to pay weekly can be made in the case of casually employed persons?
Mr. Doyle: Arising out of the Minister's reply, is he aware that in connection with the Dublin Board of Assistance objection has been taken even by tradesmen to accepting temporary employment because of the delay that takes place owing to the fact that the wages have to be sanctioned before they are paid? In some cases that means a delay of three or four weeks. Cases of temporary nurses are affected in the same way. The whole matter ought to be reconsidered because, undoubtedly, there is hardship.
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