Committee on Finance. - Vote 39: Labour (Resumed).

Thursday, 27 May 1971

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 254 No. 3

First Page Previous Page Page of 77 Next Page Last Page

Debate resumed on the following motion:

That a sum not exceeding £3,626,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1972 for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Labour including certain services administered by that Office, and for payment of certain Grants-in-Aid.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  I know that it was agreed to take Estimates on Thursdays but I should like to ask the Minister for Labour, through you, Sir, why the Redundancy Payments Bill is not being finished? Could the Minister not have used the opportunity of getting the Bill through the House today? It is an important Bill. Every day people are losing their jobs because there are those who want to avoid what the Bill will do and they are dodging this by letting people go. We have evidence of this. While I know it was agreed by the Whips to take Estimates on Thursdays we have on other occasions found the Order of Business being changed on Thursdays and other days for the purpose of getting important business through the House. I just want to register this personal protest because I feel the Redundancy Payments Bill is a most important Bill for the workers in view of the redundancies which are occurring. I feel that a mistake has been made that we are [393] not taking this this morning and I would appeal to the Minister to get it through as quickly as he can.

The Department of Labour were set up some years ago with a great fanfare of trumpets and were supposed to end all our troubles so far as labour matters were concerned. It is regrettable that this has not been achieved. This is not because the officials of the Department have not being doing everything they can, under the terms of reference which they have, to run things properly. The fact is that we are no nearer a solution to our problems than when the Department were set up. Yesterday evening, for what reason I do not know, possibly because the ICTU booklet had been issued and it has a handy reference, we had Deputies coming in here talking about the number of strikes that have taken place in recent times and they used the “in” words “we are top of the league” or “we are third from the top of the league” as far as strikes are concerned in Europe. We even had a rather naïve suggestion from a Fianna Fáil Deputy whose name, as he is a friend of mine, I will not mention, that the cause of the strikes was that there are too many unions and that in certain Iron Curtain countries there was only one union. I did not know whether he had in mind that some place like the saltmines should be opened in Longford-Westmeath, or over in the west, to which those who did not behave properly could be sent.

It always mystifies me why people, both inside and outside the House, who do not know the cause of strikes or who do not take the trouble to find out, consider that they have a right to speak out on matters on which they know so little. Yesterday when I was in the Chair for a short time I heard a comment from somebody who was objecting because auctioneers had a vested interest in the Forcible Entry Bill before the House. A suggestion was made that trade union officials and employer representatives had a vested interest in the question of labour relations. We have, and we do not deny it. It is our job to try to improve labour relations. When people talk about where we stand in the league we know [394] that we must compare like with like. It is ridiculous to talk about the percentage of people unemployed here because of strikes and to compare that figure with the percentage of unemployed in Britain. That is not a fair comparison.

The Department of Labour have not yet attempted to segregate the particular areas of unrest and to find out why strikes recur in certain types of employment. CIE have had more than their share of strikes. From my experience and dealings with CIE if the people in that firm who were negotiating with me and dealing with wages of employees are typical of those who negotiate on a national scale with other trade unions, I am not surprised that we have had numerous strikes in CIE. If I tell the Minister that a wage demand served in July, 1970, which has been before the Labour Court twice, has not yet been finalised he will understand the position. The people who represent CIE are most obstructive. When the Labour Court recommended after a full hearing and after seven weeks' consideration that CIE should discuss with the union the matter which was the cause of the dispute, CIE took about ten minutes in which they used whatever type of insulting behaviour they could to prove that they were not going to negotiate. They went back to conciliation and they attempted to prove there that what they had tried to do the first time was the correct way. They argued further at the Labour Court hearing as they had done at the first hearing. If that is typical of CIE it is no wonder that they have strikes so often.

Strike action should only be used as a last resort. It is a pity that the people most affected by strike action are fellow-workers of those on strike. We must all consider this matter. Having been in the trade union movement for so long and having participated in so many strikes myself, I appreciate that there is a point at which people who can find no other way to solve their problems are tempted to go on strike. I appeal to everyone concerned to consider the effects of strike action on innocent people who cannot hope to gain from it. This should be considered [395] before strike action is taken. We are supposed to be entering a civilised era. Those of us who are involved in the trade union movement should do everything we can in order to avoid hardship to the general public through strikes. We know that the only way in which some employers can be made act is by directing public opinion against them. A situation can be reached where it is necessary to do something in order to force an employer to be reasonable.

The Department of Labour might check on strikes which occurred over the last few years and compare the demands served by the trade unions with the original offer of the employers; these figures should be compared also with the final offer of the employer. If that comparison were made, I would challenge the Department of Labour to say that the workers were unreasonable. My experience has been that the final settlement is nearer the original demand of the workers than the original offer of the employer. There have been strikes and lock-outs which have damaged the economy. It often suits an employer to have a strike and saves him money. We have one small strike in progress at the moment which would fit into that category. It can be said that this is a free country and that we cannot force the employers or workers to do what is in the common good. There are State bodies, semi-State bodies and so-called private firms in this country who have been assisted many times by the taxpayers' money and they should not be allowed to draw their dividends when there is a slack period while saying to the workers “These men are being unreasonable and we will not meet them and will not agree”.

An employer can arrange his affairs in such a way that he can close down at a certain period without giving any intimation of such action to the employees affected until the last moment. This trend is increasing. The Department of Labour must do something about it. There is no point in saying that the private employer is entitled to lay-off people if he has no use for them. That is so, but the employee is [396] entitled to reasonable notification of such action. We have had experience recently of firms who have known apparently for months in advance— and where it has been alleged that the Government have known for months in advance—that they were closing down and the unfortunate employees did not know of this until they got a fortnight's notice under the Redundancy Payments Act. This matter must be dealt with at a high level.

The Department of Labour are aware from certain inquiries that have been made that there is concern about the question of the national agreement. There are people who, having participated in the drawing up of the national agreement and having examined it carefully, still do not seem to understand what it means. The national agreement covers those whose agreements had terminated. It covers a period of 18 months. It also covers people whose agreements have not yet terminated but will terminate over six, nine or 12 months. It is ridiculous to try to do as some people are doing and to say that the terms of the national agreement must bind people whose existing agreements have not yet terminated. If that is so it is extending the terms of the national pay agreement by three, six or 12 months. This was never intended and it will not be allowed.

I was amazed to find a few days ago that there were people who were engaged in negotiations who did not appreciate that this was the situation. Let me spell it out again. The national pay agreement covers a period of 18 months from the termination of an agreement on 1st January, 1971 and the agreement covers a number of matters as well as wages. Those who are already working on an existing agreement which has not yet terminated cannot be counted to be under the national agreement and, therefore, the terms of the national agreement do not apply to them. This matter must be clarified and understood by all. I do not mind those people who do not understand labour relations making a mistake in this regard but I fault those who should know about it.

There are many matters that must be [397] cleared up. I have been a severe critic of the Labour Court from time to time. The conciliation officers of the Labour Court are doing an excellent job but I consider they are lacking in one respect. There should be a general liaison officer between the Labour Court and the trade unions whose job it would be to see if a complaint is made by either a trade union or an employers' organisation asking for conciliation, that a conference is arranged when requested. It is not sufficient to write to both sides asking if conciliation can be agreed to and a conference arranged. What happens in many cases is that the employer will not reply, the trade union may be dealing with other matters and may be waiting to see what will happen. Months may go by and eventually the people who have been waiting for the conference will get fed up and a strike may occur.

The Labour Court are doing a good job. My main criticism is the delay which takes place in some cases between the hearing of the case and the issuing of a recommendation. I discussed this with the chairman of the court and I found, that he and the officials were most courteous. I have no complaint to make against employer or employee representatives or the chairman. My complaint is that if it is to be an effective means of remedying disputes when a matter is reported to the court there should not be a delay before the case is heard at conciliation level and, if necessary, before the court. No matter what happens there should be a recommendation within a reasonable time. I do not regard seven weeks as a reasonable time to wait for a Labour Court recommendation.

There are a number of matters that cannot come before the Labour Court but that must be dealt with eventually by someone and the Department of Labour must take the initiative. We have a large number of trade unions, with a consequent large number of trade unionists. However, there is a considerable number of persons who are not members of any trade union— they may be members of house associations and so on. There are in operation certain regulations which are not being administered in a proper [398] manner. Let us consider the case of a person who works a normal number of hours. If such a person works overtime and is not paid or compensated for it, if the person is a member of a trade union a claim will be made which will eventually find its way to the Labour Court or some kind of conciliation. If he is not a member of a trade union it is quite possible that he will have to work for very long hours without any compensation—he may have to work right through the night and all through the following day, as has happened in this House—and nobody seems to worry about it. We get promises that they will be paid; we are told “the State always deals fairly with these matters”. The only thing about it is that the State does not deal fairly and, despite fair promises, the State does not pay. If the State will not pay neither will anybody else because the attitude of people is “If the State can get away with this, why should I pay?”

There are also certain areas which could be dealt with, such as people who are “put on the staff”. It is a kind of magic used by certain employers who, when they get an industry going fairly well, select some people who may be a little better than the other employees and they are put on the staff. In many cases being “put on the staff” means that they are paid for longer holidays, they are paid more wages, they are entitled to sick pay and so on. However, there are certain employers who do not consider it is possible for those people who are put on the staff to be loyal to the firm if they remain members of their trade union. These employees are told “You are on the staff now. You should not be a member of a trade union. After all, you are in control of a certain number of people”. If those people fall ill they are not paid, or if they work long hours they will not get compensation. This nice little racket has been worked by people for many years and it is something the Minister might inquire into. It may not be as easy as it seems to solve but something should be done.

In regard to the Supplementary Estimates, it is rather extraordinary that immediately after the Budget—which [399] is supposed to be the housekeeping account for the next 12 months—we find it necessary to bring in Supplementary Estimates. I was pooh-poohed by the Minister for Finance who said that this was the normal thing to do and that it has been done before. However, the fact that it has been done before does not make it any better. The housekeeper who cannot manage on her housekeeping allowance and asks for additional money during the week will not be popular and will find that her methods of housekeeping will be questioned. However, the State apparently thinks that so far as its housekeeping is concerned there is nothing wrong in introducing a Budget for 12 months and immediately afterwards introducing Supplementary Estimates.

The money is required and it is for a good purpose but, with due respect to the Minister and his officials, there is no reason why a week earlier it could not have been made known that this extra money was required and, therefore, the money included in the Budget. I have been on a local authority for a long time and I know that every time we meet to strike the rates we get requests from every sector who are in any way affected asking us not to over-expend during the year. From time to time someone who has been well primed by a Minister will get up and make a proposition that in no circumstances will there be over-expenditure during the year—knowing quite well that there will be over-expenditure. The State also decides that it will require additional money.

Money provided for AnCO is money well spent. As I commented during the Budget debate, the provision of new training headquarters is an excellent idea. All I regret is that the Taoiseach does not come from Meath because we could do with something like that down there, particularly in the town of Navan which is the home of furniture making as well as producing other commodities. Attempts were made to have a furniture training school there but this did not do so well. Perhaps the reason for this was that the State was not in a position to provide the necessary [400] funds. This school was opened with much fanfare but it disappeared very quietly and nobody was supposed to remark that it had closed. When I asked a question here in connection with it the new “in” expression of “anti-national” was thrown at me. The Minister for Foreign Affairs seems to have claimed that expression for his own.

We must train more people but we must also do something else and this is where I take issue with the Minister for Labour. There appears to be the idea that it is all right to train people without going into very much detail as to what they should be trained for. I am surprised that so far nobody has produced a document indicating what are the skills likely to be required in this country whether we are in or out of the Common Market. Until a few months ago we were training people for the textile industry at a time when many textile factories were closing down. A great deal of money was spent on this training. If people are to be trained they should be trained in skills that will be useful to them and skills that will be required because it is worse than useless to train people in skills that are not required. In the same way it is useless to train people and give them the impression that when their training is completed there will be jobs for them when we know, as experience has shown, that those jobs do not exist. This seems to be the present situation.

Some of my friends from the west may slate me for saying that there has been too much emphasis on the west in relation to training because the industries are not there, that the industries are in the east and in the south. Therefore, provision should be made for the training of people in the eastern part of the country for jobs that will be there for them when their training is completed. To emphasise the point I am making, I shall take mining as an example. At present mining is a big business in this country but how much training in mining is being given by AnCO or by anybody else? What schemes are there to train young people who should be able to do well paid jobs in mining in the years ahead?

In certain parts of the country at present and, particularly, around this [401] city, there is a grave shortage of craftsmen for house building. Has any effort been made to reach agreement with the craftsmen's unions so as to ensure that there will be a supply of young craftsmen to take the place of those who retire? Have any efforts been made to ensure that the many people who have been working at crafts for a number of years but who have not served their time would be accepted by the craft unions? I am not speaking for them but I am only making the suggestion that they could be brought into the trade to do jobs that are there for them.

It is my opinion that the Department of Labour are not taking enough trouble in this respect. It was not enough to set up the Department and to decide to do what was being done by other Departments. I do not wish to embarrass the Secretary of the Department but I know that he is a man who is not afraid to try new ideas. The whole emphasis from the Government side should be on an attempt to make the Department of Labour a Department whose job it will be to look to the future and to ensure that every effort is made to keep things going.

It is unfortunate that unemployment figures have continued to increase. The decision to remove certain persons from the unemployment register for one reason or another is nonsensical. There is no point in trying to reduce the register by saying that people are not unemployed and by not giving them any money. There are many people unemployed. Also, there are many young people studying for academic careers which, again, do not appear to be there for them. Anybody who listened to the news bulletin this morning will know what is happening in respect of one of the teaching professions.

There are many young people now approaching the stage where they must decide whether they will have an academic career or otherwise. Nobody seems to realise that these young people who are striving to get four honours in the leaving certificate so as to qualify for admission to a university and train for God knows what, would be much better off in many cases if they were trained for a craft. This should be the task of the Department [402] of Labour. They must not try to shrug it off and pretend that the Department of Education or somebody else are responsible. They must start in the schools because it appears that the older section of our community cannot be trained for anything. When I asked the Minister for Labour some time ago why advertisements were being inserted in English newspapers asking people to come home to this country either to jobs that were there for them or to be trained for particular jobs at a time when we had more than 60,000 people unemployed, the Minister's reply was depressing especially to a person like myself who knows a lot about the way these people live. The Minister told me that it was not possible to train most of the people who are on the unemployment register. I would not agree with that but I would agree that because of our peculiar social welfare system whereby people have been retained on the unemployment register for many years, some of them not having worked for a long time, it would not be possible for them to be trained and they would not be able to take a job. However, it should be possible to train at least half of those who are on the unemployment register assuming, of course, that there would be jobs for them when they had completed their training.

Until we reach the stage where we have a Government who will say that, first of all, there must be employment for our people and, if the employment is not available, a Government who will go out and create industries that will provide jobs, we will continue to have a high unemployment figure. Let me emphasise, however, that there is no point in starting a factory in Connemara for people who are living in Dublin just as there would be no point in starting a factory in Athlone for people who are living in Donegal. Factories should be sited where the pool of employment is available. I believe it should be possible for the Department of Labour to make arrangements for those who are signing for unemployment benefit or assistance over a lengthy period to be provided with work by private enterprise, if that [403] is how the Government want it, or if that does not work out, the Government should have the responsibility of starting industries where these people can be employed and the training should fall on the Department of Labour.

Those are the points I want to make. I have no quarrel with the Department of Labour. As individuals, I think they are doing the best they can under the circumstances but I do not think the initiative I expect from the Department is there. The Government are not giving them a fair deal. There should be a new charter for the Department of Labour whereby it could step out on its own and say: “We must have full employment. We are the people to get the workers and train them for it.” I hope we shall soon see an effort made to do something like that.

Mr. Moore: Information on Seán Moore  Zoom on Seán Moore  It is unfortunate that when we think of the Department of Labour we immediately think of strikes. Deputy Tully said a few moments ago that trade unionists try to avoid hardships during strikes. I accept this. One may then wonder why, with goodwill on the trade union side and, as we must accept, goodwill on the employers' side, we have so many strikes that cause such hardship. A mark of any democracy is the liberty of people to strike; they cannot strike in a totalitarian country. Therefore, if we feel the strike weapon is being abused it is a blow at democracy as well as a blow at the wellbeing of the workers and families affected by a strike.

It may well be that in this century the strike weapon is outdated. It may be well to say that but yet we must recognise that the Department of Labour cannot legislate us into industrial happiness: it must come from the people involved in industry on both sides. If asked to make one suggestion to reduce the number of strikes my first would be to strengthen, not the Department of Labour—which I think is very efficient—but the Congress of Trade Unions. One cannot but admire [404] the efforts of this body in the past 18 months or two years to get some overall order in industrial relations. When they devised, drafted and had accepted their policy on picketing we hailed this as a great breakthrough by the council of trade unions, the men with the expertise. It was accepted by a special delegate conference of the unions. One is perhaps disillusioned then when one sees a strike like the one-day strikes of the CIE men. I shall not probe why these strikes take place or why pickets are put on various depots so that the people of this city were without buses on one day each week for the past few weeks. Everybody will have to face this in future. One might say the perfect Department of Labour would be a Department which could somehow stop this, but we must be realists and realise that despite the efficiency of the Department that is not possible. Strangely— or perhaps not so strangely—there is a high regard among trade unionists for the Department of Labour and yet we still have the strikes which are causing loss of a bus service one day each week or loss of electric power over a wide area.

The strike weapon which has been used and used violently at times is perhaps not the most effective remedy for the ills of those involved in industry. The attitude of the European trade unions seems to be “take it and come again”. If they have a grievance they negotiate with the employers. Some progress is made and an increase in pay or better conditions is gained, but they never, of course, achieve 100 per cent success. They immediately serve notice that they will expect negotiations on the balance of their claim. These negotiations will go on while the factories still work or the trains still run and electric power stations still operate with the result that there is no loss to the workers or to the national economy.

It is always said that in Ireland one takes one's political affiliations from one's father or grandfather. This seems to be true also in trade union circles in that sooner than pass a picket many workers would starve because they feel that to pass a picket is a betrayal of a [405] principle. There is no doubt that these men's loyalty and high principles have been abused at times by people not so interested in trade union achievements but simply because this loyalty can be used to cause trouble. Again, this is why I say every effort should be made to strengthen the Congress of Trade Unions.

I believe that in a democracy a government cannot legislate to provide perfect industrial relations. We must then see what can be done so that first of all we may reduce the number of man days lost in strikes and, what is more important, remove the hardships inflicted on some workers and their families during strikes. One can prove anything with statistics but the report of Congress on strikes just issued is a most educational and informative document. A lesson can be learned from this report which will go a long way to prevent us from being near the top of the table of OECD figures for strikes. We have had two or three very long strikes which gave us a false image in the industrial world. It is a fact that these strikes did take place. How can we—not prevent them—but remove the conditions which cause them? Irish workers have a grave sense of insecurity. They feel they must take what they can get at the moment, that they cannot look too far into the future either because they cannot trust the employer or because of historic reasons. They feel they cannot say that next year they will have salaries which would give them much higher standards of living than they now have.

Deputy Tully mentioned full employment. It is the duty of the Government to continue to provide more employment until we have full employment. I do not think either side of the industrial fence creates the confidence in the country which will attract outside investors. We need foreign capital in order to give workers the opportunity of working in Dublin, even though they may be working for a foreign firm; it is much better that Irish workers should work for a foreign firm in Ireland rather than for a foreign firm in Britain.

I cannot suggest what should be done to improve the bad industrial relations [406] which exist but I would say the Minister's Department is held in high esteem by the trade unions and I presume by the employers. There is a tremendous opportunity for the Department, the Congress of Trade Unions and the various employers' organisations to make 1971 the turning point. We should think not only of the man and woman in employment but of the many people who cannot find work and have to emigrate. We are inclined to forget our emigrants once they are gone but they do not forget us. Many thousands of emigrants look forward to the day when they can return to jobs here. The only way jobs can be created is if the Department, the Congress of Trade Unions and the employers' organisations recognise that we have the same duty to the man without a job as to a member of a trade union or of an employers' organisation. There is a duty on each one of us to strive by every means possible to bring about full employment. If we are able to do that many of our problems will be removed.

Deputy Tully dealt with the training of workers. He rightly said that there is a grave shortage of craftsmen in the building trades at a time when we need more houses than ever before. If the Government were given all the money necessary to eradicate every slum dwelling and provide every family with a proper dwelling they could not do it because there are not the workers available. Because of the recession in building in the midlands in Britain some workers have come back but still the papers are full of advertisements for carpenters, bricklayers and other craftsmen in all parts of the country.

The point is that people are being trained to fill white collar jobs instead of jobs at a bench or on a building site. It is very often the choice of the parents because of snobbishness, or perhaps I should be more charitable and say because of the deep interest of every parent in the future of his child and the position he will obtain, and not the choice of the boy himself. The boy who passes the intermediate and leaving certificate examination and goes to university and obtains a degree may have to join the brain drain and [407] emigrate to Britain, the States and no doubt the Continent in the future, because he cannot find a job at home.

I remember some years ago looking at the apprenticeship tests in Dublin. The Japanese, the German and the Spanish boys took the medals in the more sophisticated trades. Our boys did very well but not on such a wide scale. With all due respects to AnCO they should look into the changing pattern of trades. Building techniques change and this means some of the older trades will disappear and newer ones will take their places. We must ensure we have enough trained workers to fill the jobs available at home. The time will come when more and more of our children will go to university but we should keep in mind what jobs can be offered them at the end of their studies instead of simply having in mind the prestige value of sending a son or daughter to university.

If I am not treading on too dangerous ground I would suggest our vocational schools should be in much greater contact with the Department of Labour than with the Department of Education as is the case at present. I have always felt the name, “Department of Labour” was a misnomer. If the teachers worked in closer harmony with the Department there would be a much brighter future for the boys and girls who wished to acquire the expertise of the craftsmen because as I have already said we cannot guarantee employment at university level.

The Minister made a speech yesterday, with which we all agree, about the placement of blind workers in industry. I believe as the Minister believes that these men and women have something to offer society. We cannot afford to let their skills waste away because we have not created opportunities for them. I would suggest AnCO set up a rehabilitation institute where men and women who do not have the full faculties or are in some way physically handicapped could be trained to fill a vacuum in society and help to create wealth for the nation and for themselves.

In conclusion all I can say is I wish [408] the Minister well in the coming year. I wish him Utopia if ever the Department of Labour would be so good that no strikes would take place and indeed if the trade unions were so good that no strikes were threatened, but I suppose human nature being what it is that is far too much to expect.

Minister for Labour (Mr. J. Brennan): Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  I would like to thank the Deputy for wishing me well and not expecting Utopia. I think it was in search of Eldorado that it was said it was better to travel hopefully than to arrive. At least we are travelling hopefully and I suppose in the Department of Labour one never arrives.

I should like to thank those Deputies who spoke constructively and made useful contributions to the debate. I know the temptation is always there to exaggerate, but many who contributed to the debate had regard to the serious work involved in the Department. This is the one Department more than any other, I think, in relation to which we have got to take a most responsible approach because of the seriousness of the work involved and also because of the profoundly human element involved. In the Department of Labour one is dealing with all types of humanity and the all-important matter of their employment.

Deputy Belton expressed some concern about our objectives being properly defined. He said this was essential to ensure that targets had been met. He was mainly referring to training. In actual fact AnCO are ahead of the target. I shall return to this later. Both Deputy Belton and Deputy Desmond made play on comparisons between the number of training places in the Republic and those in Northern Ireland. This is not a fair comparison. We are new in this field and our progress has been very creditable compared with the rate of development in training in other countries. Indeed, progress has been exceptionally good. We must have regard to the resources available. We should certainly not be guided by the rate achieved elsewhere or the number of places available. Our training programme at the moment provides for 1,150 trainees. The fact that there are [409] 2,400 training places in Northern Ireland is immaterial. We have our own system. In Sweden they have 35,000 training places and if we were to provide training places in proportion to Sweden we would have 14,000 places. Our intention is to lay a proper foundation because training must be based on the best possible system designed to meet our own needs. These are the lines along which we are moving. Deputy Belton and Deputy Cluskey said that only eight people were retrained. That is absolutely incorrect.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  What is the figure?

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  A total of 900 have been trained by AnCO.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  Retrained.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  No. A substantial number of this 900 could have been retrained. I think the figure of eight was taken from a reply to a Parliamentary Question I gave here. That answer related to the retraining of eight female upholsterers. A total of 900 persons have been trained. I could not give the number retrained because some have been trained in skills they did not have before and others in skills they were improving. Fairly good progress has been made.

Deputy Belton also referred to 1 per cent of the wage bill for retraining. Training by AnCO is financed from the Department's Vote. The grant levy scheme is for self-training within industry. The 1 per cent levy on payroll relates to the levy grants scheme, of which about 90 per cent is recouped without delay to the firms of the particular industry if those firms retrain as prescribed by AnCO.

Deputy Belton also suggested that we should rent training centres rather than build them. Except in Dublin all the training centres are rented. We are building in Dublin. I do not believe these buildings will become obsolete because we will always have to keep abreast of technological developments and, rather than becoming obsolete, more and more training centres will be needed.

Deputy Cluskey suggested we did not put training and retraining very high [410] on our priority list. The amount of money provided has increased over the past three years, as a glance at the figures will show. In 1969-70 the total amount was £1,145,000 out of which £100,000 went to CERT, £90,000 to the Irish Management Institute and £975,000 to AnCO. In 1970-71 that total had risen to £1,405,000, of which £132,000 went to CERT, £120,000 to the Irish Management Institute, and £1,530,000 to AnCO. In the current year, 1971-72, the amount has risen to £2,390,000, of which £165,000 goes to CERT, £175,000 to the Irish Management Institute and £2,050,000 to AnCO, which includes a Supplementary Estimate of £200,000 which Deputy Tully complained we had brought in rather early this year. As Deputy Tully knows, this £200,000 is provided and mentioned in the Budget as additional for training and retraining, which indicates that it is a priority——

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  Why was it not included in the Budget figure?

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  Is it not just as good to do it this way? This is a recognition of the need there is in the general context of the Budget and the economy.

So far AnCO have been concentrating on training for manufacturing industry. This is the priority, but I would hope that as soon as possible we will turn our attention to training for the requirements of the service and distribution industries. Deputy Dr. O'Donovan said that the amount collected by levy of £3 million was very large in addition to the £3.6 million spent in my own Department. The Deputy wants to see sizeable results from it. He went on to say that the various training schemes would not seem to cover a very large number of people. I would point out in relation to the £3 million which it is estimated will be collected by way of levy in the first training year for the designated industries, that only about 10 per cent will be retained by AnCO to cover administration costs, et cetera, and the remainder will go back with very little delay to the firms concerned in the [411] form of grants. None of this £3 million will be spent on direct training at the training centres. The direct training by AnCO is subvented by the Department of Labour.

Deputy Cott complained about the lack of courses for instructors in provincial centres. I would like to remind him that such courses for instructors are right now being provided and that refresher courses can be put on if there is a sufficient demand. I attach the greatest importance to these instructor and refresher courses.

Deputy Desmond advocated better training facilities for apprentices, especially in the early years of apprenticeship. AnCO is at present operating schemes of off-the-job training for certain categories. These are run at the AnCO training centre with releases to technical schools for courses. If these are successful and subject to the advice of the review committee in relation to apprenticeship, it may be considered desirable to extend the schemes. This committee is keeping the whole question of apprenticeship training under review and any proposals that may emerge from its review will be brought into operation with the co-operation of the employers and the trade unions.

In regard to forthcoming legislation I would like to point out that the Hours of Work Bill and the Terms of Employment Bill have had a good deal of prior discussion and preparation and I would hope to have this legislation before the House next session. I had at one time hoped it would be available this session, but we have already a fairly heavy programme of legislation and, while these Bills may be introduced in this session they will have to be debated in the autumn session.

Deputies, particularly Deputy Cott, criticised the factory inspectorate, and I would suggest he is not sufficiently familiar with the calibre of the inspectorate. These are all graduates and persons of specialised qualifications for the highly technical jobs which factory inspections now present, particularly as a result of the technical advancement [412] in manufacturing industry. The factory inspectorate is not a snatch squad that waits until some damage is done and then presecutes. They are available also as an advisory service and I would like them to be used as such. They are prepared to go in even at the start of a new industry or at any time to give the necessary advice to management as to what is required in the matter of lay-out, safety precautions and better conditions for workers. All good firms use the service in that way. It is the few negligent people about whom we are concerned. Prosecutions only take place where persons are obstinate and refuse to comply with most essential regulations that have an important bearing on the welfare, safety, health and lives of the workers. As I said last year, I would like to see these inspectors contacted by firms who should be concerned about the safety precautions within their industry.

Deputy Cott bluntly suggested that placement officers were not appointed impartially, that there was some ministerial favouritism or patronage shown in their appointment. I want to refute this absolutely. They were selected in the usual way by the Civil Service Commission and the persons whose names were submitted to me were appointed. If I were asked to name them now I could not do so.

The field of training was the one which came in for most comment, and that is as I would like it. While references were naturally inclined to be critical—and we welcome criticism—I would say again to those people who accuse us of training people when we have not sufficient opportunities for them and, at the same time, criticise us for not creating the opportunities, that my approach always and particularly now to training and to improvement of skills in any direction is, irrespective of what opportunities there are, the training of our labour force at all levels in the community should go on apace.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  Training for what?

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  Training for anything. One cannot always forecast that [413] jobs will be available for every person trained. We are prepared to train for where we know the best outlets to be and this depends on forecasting to some extent. Forecasting is not always accurate. Let our people be given the chance to have skills. We aim to train those who are likely to be the most suitable and to provide the training that is best suited to their capabilities and their vocations. Let us send them out with skills, capable of doing something other than being hewers of wood and drawers of water and then no matter where they may find themselves they are equipped to do a better job and to find job satisfaction.

Mr. Cluskey: Information on Frank Cluskey  Zoom on Frank Cluskey  So you are training them for emigration?

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  I remember when we were opening one of the first technical schools in Donegal hearing a criticism from somebody who attended the official opening. He said: “What are we building schools for when people have to emigrate?” I thought this was a negative criticism and my reply was: “No matter where they may go let them go better equipped to make use of their capabilities. Let them go out trained.”

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  That is a different thing. The Minister is talking about children at school. We are talking about adults being trained and retrained.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  The same thing applies. The Deputy spoke for a long time and I did not interrupt him.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  Not long enough. If I had got a few more minutes to prepare I would have gone on for another hour.

Mr. Cluskey: Information on Frank Cluskey  Zoom on Frank Cluskey  The Minister got off very lightly. He should not complain.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  We have training centres at Galway, Waterford, Shannon and centres soon in Cork and Dublin. Deputy Tully made the cynical statement that it was a pity the Taoiseach did not come from Navan.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  I was jealous.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  Cork is the second [414] largest city in Ireland and it is only natural that there should be a training centre there. In fact, there should have been one there before now. In addition to these training centres we are making provision for a type of training where we can move trainers to a particular area at a particular time to do a specific job, an ad hoc operation. Deputy Tully mentioned mining. Mining is comparatively new in this country but I am sure that if the need for skilled persons in that particular industry arose in a particular area at any time we would be in a position, as a result of this type of mobility which we are bringing into our training system, to move in persons to carry out training on the spot. That is part of what the £200,000 is for.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  It would take a couple of years to train them and if you intend to train them you would need to start.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  We do not throw up our hands and say that it is impossible. One must be prepared to do it.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  You said it about the 60,000 unemployed, that it was impossible.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  Deputy Tully is talking with this tongue in his cheek about 60,000 unemployed becoming plumbers or fitters or builders. The greatest need at present is in the construction industry.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  Not the only need.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  I said the greatest need. I will not have a dialogue with Deputy Tully. I am making my winding-up speech.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Denis Francis Jones  Zoom on Denis Francis Jones  An tAire.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  If the Minister tries to twist my words I have the right to point out that he will not do it.

Mr. Cluskey: Information on Frank Cluskey  Zoom on Frank Cluskey  He is a very sensitive soul this morning.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  When one speaks of the 60,000 unemployed one cannot [415] say that all of these people are suitable for retraining in the skills that are available. The place where skills are most required at present is in the construction industry and the number of these you can take and train there to be absorbed in that industry is a very small percentage. It is not facing up to the simple facts of the situation to make that statement. We are most anxious to have people offering themselves for training. It is surprising how reluctant people are to submit themselves for retraining particularly when they get into the higher age groups.

Deputy Tully's speech related mainly to industrial relations. To be honest I was positively disappointed by his attitude. In the field of industrial relations there is always room for people to criticise and that is what one expects. The most encouraging signs at present are the provisions of the national wage agreement and I hope that nobody would equivocate by what or to whom it applies. The spirit of the agreement applies to everybody in this country and I would hope that is the way it would be approached. The Prices and Incomes Bill which was before this House at the time was completely withdrawn when the Taoiseach, the Minister for Finance and myself had a number of meetings with officials of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. They pointed out the importance of permitting the system of free collective bargaining to have another opportunity. The management-labour conference had been endeavouring to bring in a formula for some time and they failed. The position was reaching a crisis and the Government moved in at the critical time and produced the Prices and Incomes Bill. It was when the management-labour conference ultimately came up with a reasonably acceptable formula, which was very definitely a step in the right direction particularly in so far as it contained elements to curb inflation, that we decided to completely withdraw the Prices and Incomes Bill in order that the national agreement would get an opportunity to be put into effect.

One thing more than anything else which characterised the determination [416] of all three parties—the trade unions, the management side and the Government—was that every possible means had been used to ensure that it worked. I would hope that nobody interested in better industrial relations would do anything to attempt to upset the terms of that agreement.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  The Minister seems to have misunderstood me. I am as much in favour of the national wage agreement as he is. It is the interpretation of those to whom it applies which, I think, will have to be carefully dealt with. It can only apply to those who got £2 from a certain date and the Minister knows that.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  Deputy Tully knows that provision is made in the agreement for anomalies to be dealt with. I would not attempt to come to this House as he did and interpret the agreement. It is plainly stated at paragraph 2:

The terms of this agreement shall be effective as and when current agreements on pay and conditions of employment expire.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  That is what I said, but not before and that is where some mistakes have been made.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  I would hope that no effort would be made to apply the terms of the agreement where existing agreements had not already expired. I would like to read the script of the Deputy's speech on this again because I understood him to say the opposite.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  No. For instance, the local authorities agreement terminates on 31st December next and they come under the new agreement on 1st January, 1972. Therefore, they are not at present under the national wage agreement. That is all I am saying. Some people are mistaken in that.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  I am very glad that is the interpretation of the Deputy's speech. I understood him to say these people are not bound by the terms of the agreement, that they can have a free for all. I would be seriously worried if that were the interpretation the Deputy intended and, much as I [417] despise interruptions, I am delighted he interrupted on this occasion.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  Perhaps the Minister might have listened a bit more carefully.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  I listened most carefully. I also listened to the Deputy condemning out of hand the attitude of certain employers. He may have been right but I have no evidence to prove that he is.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  I quoted one.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  I would not be so extravagant about CIE which the Deputy condemned out of hand in regard to industrial relations. It must be remembered they are only one party to a dispute, that the workers are only another and that there is a third very important party, the general public who have to pay for what the other two parties do when they come together. CIE are a semi-State body getting a large subvention from the Exchequer, subsidised heavily, and each time an adjustment takes place it is immediately reflected in the cost of fares to the public, to the people going to work in the morning. I do not think this is an area where one can lightly dismiss the source of trouble by saying it is due to the attitude of CIE. Any company can avoid strikes if they accede to the demands made and the greatest demands come from where the greatest economic power lies. Sometimes we are too sensitive in not speaking out. Workers in such industries know they can leave the country crippled overnight because they are in a position to do so. That does not give them any moral right to do so.

It is not therefore sufficient to blame a management for not having a proper approach to industrial relations. We must always remember that there are the people who have to pay extra for their electricity, for their transport and the various other cost services. Whatever criticism we may make of CIE or other State bodies such as the ESB, I do not think anybody can claim they are the worst places to work.

[418]Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  CIE made no offer from July in one year to May the next year.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  I do not think the case could be made that they are the worst employers in Ireland. I am at the moment having an examination carried out into the present dispute in CIE. My reason for this is that this is a dispute which is doing phenomenal damage, yet the claim involved was processed by the Labour Court in conciliation. It is declared to be in breach of the national agreement which, as far as I am concerned, is sacrosanct. What is likely to happen as a result is anybody's business. There is something seriously wrong somewhere here. It is openly admitted by both sides that it is in breach of the national agreement, yet the people of Dublin are made to walk. At the same time, people ask if anybody is taking an interest in it. I have been asked for an examination so that the facts may be made known.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  I was talking about school bus drivers, not the current dispute. I was talking about bus drivers employed to drive school buses whose claim has gone from July of this year to May of next year and no offer has been made by the firm.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  The Deputy did not make it clear.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  We have not allowed them to take strike action because we do not want these things if they can be avoided.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  In reference of the settlement of disputes and problems on which the Department of Labour should check up on as being capable of being settled, many strikes could be avoided if the full demand were acceded to at the beginning. You have people who know that but who will persist in striking knowing that they will bring the economy to such a serious situation that their demands have to be met. The old question of strikes, of industrial disputes, will be difficult until workers and employers are prepared to act in a responsible way. It has been said a hundred times, [419] but perhaps it is no harm to repeat it now. No matter what legislation we may bring in here, no matter how we try to create new institutions and new procedures, unless we have the right attitude and patriotic approach on both sides we cannot expect to get the results so essential to the proper development of our economy and the ultimate achievement of full employment, which we desire so keenly.

I do not know how much the workers and management take into consideration the overall effect on the economy of a particular action. I have no evidence that either takes this into consideration. But until they do, until that responsibility becomes evident, until it is accepted, we cannot expect any real progress in this field. The national wage agreement is the first serious step in this direction, towards the bringing about of some sense of realism, of responsibility and sanity into the whole field of industrial relations in this country. The agreement is of paramount importance on that account.

Furthermore, I believe that when it expires—it comes up for review at the beginning of next year—when both sides see in retrospect the beneficial, the mutual advantage of having observed the agreement, succeeding agreements will be much easier. All concerned will be bound to appreciate with hind-sight the effect the agreement will have on inflationary trends, on the real value of wages and incomes and they will more readily appreciate its importance, significance and success. For that reason it is most important that we carry the agreement through in the spirit as well as in the letter. Then we will be in a position better to complete further agreements of better quality leading into the foreseeable future, thereby giving ourselves a reputation for sensible industrial relations that will have really worthwhile effects on the overall economy.

I used to be asked whether increasing wages and incomes had a serious impact on the development of the economy and on our movement towards full employment. I always said that, while one could not point to a [420] lot of industries that had closed as a result of increased wages or incomes, nobody could estimate the number of industries that would have been here if we had a better reputation in regard to industrial relations.

Mr. P. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  Surely the main cause of this is different taxation here from that in England? Is that not the main cause? You cannot be competitive. There is no point in saying wages are the sole reason. It is the difference in taxation, 58 per cent as against 48 per cent.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  That is nonsense.

Mr. P. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  It is not nonsense. That is why the firms are closing here.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  The Deputy cannot say that that is the main cause.

Mr. P. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  It most certainly is.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  It is not just that at all. That has very little effect on it.

Mr. P. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  The taxation is 48 per cent in England as against 58 per cent here. That makes a difference.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  It does not.

Mr. P. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  Of course it does.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  Statements of that kind are not very beneficial.

Mr. P. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  They are factual.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  We have more foreign investment and more outside capital coming in here than we ever had before. The number of people prepared to set up industries here is still most encouraging. It is surprising for a Deputy who pretends to have an interest in forming a Government one day to make a statement like that which is bound to be detrimental to the economy.

Mr. P. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  Bring taxation down and you will have more people employed.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  You have better conditions here for industry than you have in any other country in the world.

Mr. P. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  The companies coming in here are for the export [421] market. There is less taxation in England.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  The importance of having proper industrial relations and having the reputation of being seen to have better industrial relations is one of the most important factors we could have with regard to the inducement of outside industries to come in here and the investment of our own capital and our own people in industry and the expansion of existing industries.

I do not intend to go into the question raised by some speakers of the effect of the Free Trade Area Agreement. The Minister for Finance in his concluding speech on the Budget yesterday dealt adequately with that. I believe we have got to take serious notice of what the future holds. We are now embarking on a period where we could do a tremendous job if we have the proper sense of responsibility and the proper spirit of patriotism to condition ourselves for the advantages which the future must hold. I shall not talk about the overall position of the economy or make a state of the nation speech. However, I get annoyed, and I am sometimes amused, at people who talk about the present chill winds which are blowing in the economy throughout the world. Are their memories so short that they cannot remember that this thing has occurred periodically time and again in our memory? The most encouraging thing about it is that when we have these lows the peaks tend to be higher afterwards when the people clear the shelves in the recession. When the period of recession ultimately moves away the boom which follows is invariably better than the period which came before. I would not be the slightest discouraged by any recession that is taking place at the present time. I think it is already showing signs of moving off, because each time we have a recession we have that inevitably followed by a period of greater activity and greater economic development than the period which came before.

I believe the Government have taken the right steps to deal with the situation. I believe we can look forward to a period of rapid economic advancement [422] in which all the matters that have been just discussed during this Estimate debate will have a vital role to play, not the least of which is our training programme. I am glad all the speakers, whatever criticism they had to offer—this applied to Deputy Belton's opening speech which I dealt with in detail in his absence and Deputy Tully's—are agreed that training is essential and is a useful thing.

Mr. P. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  Spend more money on it.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  More money is all we need to advance further. More money for every single Department of State would always help.

Mr. P. Belton: Information on Patrick Belton  Zoom on Patrick Belton  There should be a first priority. The training programme should be it.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  This one has some priority indeed. I agree with the Deputy it is a top priority and that is the reason why we are considering a £200,000 Supplementary Estimate with the main Estimate. I am glad Deputies approach to it was sound. I can only say that any criticism of the Department is welcomed by me, so long as it is not completely below the belt. We can expect to get a little of that as well. I have tried to deal with the different points made by the Deputies with regard to the overall working of the Department. I have deliberately refrained from dealing with redundancy since the Redundancy Payments Bill is still before the House and I hope we will have the Report Stage shortly.

Many of the speeches dealt entirely with industrial relations but I rather think the most important work of the Department is in the field of manpower, retraining, career guidance, placement, the conditions of employment and bringing in legislation, which I have just referred to, for the improvement in the conditions of workers generally. These fundamental things must ultimately lead to better industrial relations. I am not for a moment denying that industrial relations is one of the most serious aspects of the work in which we are indirectly involved.

[423] I want to conclude by again reiterating what I have said so often, by referring again to what the Minister should do when industrial disputes occur. I am glad that members of the Labour Party, with one exception, agree with me that in the matter of industrial disputes we have the necessary institutions and the Minister should not get involved because he is not a part of the procedural arrangements and the institutions which we have set up to process industrial disputes. Immediately he makes a habit of getting into industrial disputes he will be regarded as just another step above the Labour Court to which the people can appeal in order to have their grievances settled.

To those people who have criticised me for being inactive and sitting back watching disputes having a serious effect on the economy I want to make that statement once again: the buck should stop at the Labour Court. The more we can ensure that the Labour Court is regarded as the last ditch in the matter of processing disputes, and that its recommendations are accepted, the more we are ensuring that the institutions we have provided will work successfully. It is simple to suggest that we should make some new arrangement, or have a new committee or a new institution. People think this will be great, but we already have adequate machinery to deal with any disputes if it is given the proper recognition and if people are prepared to accept it and abide by the recommendations of these institutions.

Deputy Moore referred to rehabilitation employment. I hope that whether we have many opportunities or few opportunities for employment, we will always try to find as many as possible at different levels for persons who are handicapped by blindness or some other affliction.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  God rest poor Seán Dunne. He put down a motion a few days before he died suggesting that they should get a certain percentage of the employment, but the Government defeated it.

Mr. Moore: Information on Seán Moore  Zoom on Seán Moore  It was not practical.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  Deputy Dunne [424] sought to make it compulsory. I do not think we could yet accept it as a compulsory arrangement.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  It could have been tried.

Mr. J. Brennan: Information on Joseph Brennan  Zoom on Joseph Brennan  I appeal to the good sense of all employers to think of these people at all times and to make a percentage of opportunities available to them.

Vote put and agreed to.

Last Updated: 15/09/2010 05:16:28 First Page Previous Page Page of 77 Next Page Last Page