Trade Union Bill, 1942—Second Stage.

Thursday, 29 October 1942

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 88 No. 13

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[1677]Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. Lemass): Information on Seán F. Lemass  Zoom on Seán F. Lemass  I move that the Bill be now read a Second Time. Deputies who remember the violent controversies that followed the introduction of the Trade Union Bill of 1941 may have been apprehensive of a similar protracted discussion taking place in the Dáil when they saw that another Bill with the same Title was being introduced this year. The fact is, however, that this Bill is largely an agreed measure. It is being promoted mainly on the suggestion of bodies connected with the trade union movement. Its purpose is to effect certain amendments in the Trade Union Act, and its passage through the Dáil may, in fact, be fairly described as the formal termination of the controversy which took place last year.

Some time after the coming into force of the 1941 Act, representatives of various trade unions met me to discuss certain provisions of that Act in connection with which they desired to suggest amendments. The suggestions which they put forward were considered, and proposals for meeting them were prepared and submitted for their observations. Their observations were generally favourable to the enactment of these proposals, and this Bill has been introduced to give effect to them. The changes are, I think, of no very great importance. However, I will indicate their character. In Section 6 of the Act, it was provided that a register should be set up of bodies of employees employed by the same employer who desired to be in a position to carry on negotiations with their employers as excepted bodies. The present Bill proposes to make such a body of employees an excepted body without any condition of entry in a special register. It was always intended that an employer should be free to negotiate with his employees, and that employees should be free to negotiate with their employer without restriction. I agreed to the view which was expressed, that the maintenance of the special register was unnecessary and might, in fact, become a complication at some stage [1678] as indicating a special status held by these otherwise unorganised bodies of workers. The second amendment relates to the position of bodies negotiating on trade boards, apprenticeship committees, industrial councils, conciliation boards, arbitration boards, and similar bodies recognised by the Minister for Industry and Commerce. It is proposed that a body which acts on any of these boards and negotiates on any matter that relates to wages or conditions of employment need not, by so acting, be required to hold a negotiation licence. It is obvious that the functioning of those bodies is desirable from every point of view, and no impediment should be placed in the way of it. It was felt that it was unnecessary, where a joint industrial council or a conciliation board had been established, that the one, two or three employers in that trade, for example, should be required to constitute themselves a trade union and take out a negotiation licence. So long as they act on one of those recognised bodies, there is no need for any further formal arrangements.

One of the main objections taken to the provisions of the 1941 Act related to Part III of that Act, which is not yet in force. Deputies will remember that Part III of the 1941 Act provided that a union could apply, to a tribunal to be established, for the sole right of organising workers in a particular occupation. The Act provided that, where a union got that sole right of organisation, an individual worker who was aggrieved by reason of a refusal of membership in the union with the sole right could appeal from the decision of the union committee to the District Court. It was represented to me, and I felt there was force in the representations, that the District Court was an unsuitable tribunal for hearing such appeals, and consequently I agreed to amend that provision in the manner provided in this Bill. The amendment contemplates that, when the tribunal which hears the application from the union for the sole right of organisation decides in favour of granting that sole right, it will require the applicant union to indicate the machinery it [1679] proposes to establish for the purpose of giving the aggrieved applicant for membership an appeal from its decision. I think everybody will recognise the justice of providing that, where there is a sole right conferred upon a trade union, an individual who may be refused membership of that union will have some means of getting his case heard by an independent tribunal. I contemplate that the Irish Trade Union Congress, or some other authority within the trade union movement, will set up an appeal tribunal which will be impartial as between the union and the individual claiming membership of the union, and can be trusted to give a fair decision on the facts, and with more knowledge of the problems of trade union organisation and other relevant considerations than the District Court might have.

I do not think any other of the provisions of this Bill require special mention. There are some sections of the Act being repealed, consequential on the new provisions being inserted. One of the sections being repealed is sub-section (8) of Section 6. That sub-section was introduced to make it clear that nothing in the Act was intended to prevent a third party intervening in a trade dispute for the purpose of assisting in the negotiation of a settlement. I am advised by the law officers of the Government that the insertion of that sub-section was not necessary; that in fact there was nothing in the Act which prevented the intervention of a third party in trade disputes, whereas it was represented to me by the trade union interests concerned that the maintenance of the sub-section might remove the necessity for some trade unions obtaining negotiation licences, and that consequently an ambiguous situation might result which would be a source of difficulty to the unions which had applied for and obtained negotiation licences.

There is one other section which provides that, when an officer of the Department of Industry and Commerce inspects the register of any licensed trade union, he will not have to pay the same fee which a member of the [1680] public would have to pay. Those are the only changes which are being made by this Bill, and, as I have said, they have all been agreed to by the representatives of the trade union movement with whom they have been discussed.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee Stage ordered for Wednesday next, 4th November.


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