Private Members' Business. - Employment Policy: Motion (Resumed).

Wednesday, 19 November 1980

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 324 No. 5

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The following motion was moved by Deputy B. Desmond on 18 November 1980:

That Dáil Éireann considers the latest unemployment total of 111,000 for 31 October 1980, announced on the 11 November, to be a massive indictment of the Government's employment strategy and calls on the Government immediately to introduce policies to reverse this disastrous trend.

[831] Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “Dáil Éireann” and substitute:

“approves the Government's policies to sustain employment in the face of the present serious international economic situation”.

Mr. Mitchell: Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim Mitchell  Last evening I spoke at some length on the need for prolonged industrial peace if we are to create the best atmosphere possible for the creation of meaningful and productive jobs on the scale that will be required to meet the great and exciting challenge that is posed by our young population. We have set out proposals for establishing this industrial peace and we invite the Government and the Labour Party to join with us in an all-party approach to this very serious national problem, a problem that has been with us for many years. We are convinced that industrial peace can be achieved if there is present the necessary industrial relations infrastructure.

This brings me to the question of the impact of the recent national understanding in so far as industrial peace is concerned and also in relation to the creation of jobs and to the maintenance of those jobs that exist. As the Minister for Finance pointed out yesterday, we continue to award ourselves pay increases that are more than double those which our main competitors on the Continent are awarding themselves. That sort of situation was all right in the past when we were linked with sterling and when sterling was devaluing against these other currencies. But since our entry to the EMS, since we are no longer protected by a devaluing sterling and since our púnt, whatever its relationship with sterling, is not devaluing against the European currencies, we are facing headlong into a huge crisis on the jobs front.

Despite these circumstances and disregarding apparently what we have learned in the past, we have agreed a new national understanding. Indeed, this understanding has been foisted on us by [832] the Government. It is a threat to thousands of jobs already in existence. I find it very sad that many of the workers who have been awarded this pay increase will find themselves out of jobs because of it before its expiry date. In addition, the national understanding has the added drawback of the level of pay increases, damaging as it is and too high as it is in terms of jobs, being far too low to meet the increase in the cost of living. I have estimated an 8 per cent gap in this regard. In other words, workers will have to endure an 8 per cent gap in their standard of living.

Again I predict, though I hope I shall be proved wrong, that before the expiry of this new agreement this cut in living standards will in itself provoke not the much-needed industrial peace but further industrial relations anarchy and chaos. That would be precisely the wrong atmosphere to give us any hope of confronting in a meaningful way the challenge that is before us on the jobs front. The possiblity is that as a result of the national understanding we will have the worst of all possible worlds. However, the Government, and the Taoiseach personally, involved themselves in such a way as to ensure that there was reached agreement in terms of pay increases at such high percentages.

The Government made certain commitments under the national understanding. The first section deals with employment. Paragraph 7 talks about new measures required. It commits the Government to an increase in jobs of 7,000 between the end of 1979 and the end of 1980, which means that 31,000 new jobs would be created in that period and 24,000 jobs lost. This means a net increase of 7,000 jobs. It then points out that our workforce is increasing at a rate of between 5,000 and 10,000 per annum. Let us take a figure of 7,500. If the commitment of the Government in the national understanding is to be met it should mean that there are 7,000 more jobs today than there were this time last year. But, allowing for the fact that the workforce has increased by 7,500, it should mean that the unemployment figures [833] for this week would be the same as the unemployment figure for the same week last year.

Is that the case? A release from the Central Statistics Office says that the total unemployed on 31 October, the last week for which figures have been published, was 110,921. For the same week in 1979 there were 82,892 people unemployed, a difference of over 28,000. The Government have reneged on their commitment of the national understanding on which the ink is hardly dry. The job commitment for 1979 is not only reneged on but it is out by 28,000

I believe the Government have conned the trade unions, the employers and the workforce at large. I believe they have damaged their credibility as far as the workforce are concerned in a way they will only realise when the next national understanding comes to be negotiated. The figure is 28,000 worse than the Government said it would be six weeks ago when they not only agreed to the national understanding but pushed the social partners into agreeing to it. Surely the Government could not have thought six weeks ago that the figure today would be 8,000 better than it is. They deliberately conned the social partners and the workforce. We must add to that the likely adverse effects on competitiveness of the increase. The unfortunate result of the national understanding is that by this time next year the Government will have brought themselves and us into new records as far as unemployment is concerned.

The Government have also reneged a second time on the national understanding when they said there would be a White Paper on Education by 14 November. That date has come and gone and there is no White Paper.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  We cannot talk about education on the motion.

Mr. Mitchell: Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim Mitchell  I mention that in passing.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  The Deputy is not entitled to mention it any way.

Mr. Mitchell: Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim Mitchell  We are now in a very [834] serious situation. We have 110,921 registered unemployed. The Government's Economic Review and Outlook, Summer 1980, tells us that the total workforce in Ireland is 1,152,000. We have, therefore, as registered unemployed 1 per cent of the workforce, but the registered figure does not tell the whole story. Our total labour force is 1,152,000 and the total unemployed is 110,921, which is almost exactly 10 per cent. The same Economic Review and Outlook tells us that the gross national income is of the order of £4,080,000,000 and 10 per cent of that is £408,000,000. If we had £408,000,000 we could solve the unemployment situation before long. Why do we not have that money? We do not have it because the Government squandered it on largesse to the rich by abolishing wealth tax and domestic rates, even on the biggest mansion and no matter how many houses a person owns, on car tax and all the nonsensical election promises. Those irresponsible election promises are now being paid for not in millions of Fianna Fáil Irish pounds but in thousands of Irish jobs.

Minister for Labour (Mr. G. Fitzgerald): Information on Eugene Fitzgerald  Zoom on Eugene Fitzgerald  Deputy Mitchell obviously has the same closing page to his script for every available opportunity in the House. I have heard all that before. It gives me pleasure to support the amendment moved last night by my colleague, the Minister for Finance, and to reiterate that the commitment of the Government to the eventual achievement of full employment is in no way diminished by the worrying increase in unemployment in the past year. Our policies and our whole economic and budgetary strategies have been prepared and put into force with this fundamental objective in mind.

Deputy Mitchell's statistics are confused and his comments on the national understanding did not reveal any serious consideration. If the Deputy reads the national understanding he will see that the commitment to employment is there in the short term. I have already referred to the commitment in the short term. That commitment in respect of jobs will be met and honoured. Under the national [835] understanding there is a clause which covers the necessity for monitoring. The Government, along with both sides of industry, accept that necessity for monitoring.

The funds made available to the IDA, which my colleagues mentioned last night, and the resultant substantial increase in job creation by that body in new grant-aided firms is a direct result of our policies to provide meaningful and productive jobs for our young workforce, Last year, the IDA achieved the record number of job approvals of almost 34,500 compared with just over 30,200 in 1978, which was the previous best. IDA grant-aided firms provided 19,400 additional jobs last year or 82 per cent of gross job gains. That is because of a Government commitment to investment in that whole area of job creation. In spite of the unfavourable climate prevailing worldwide at present, the IDA set themselves the target of achieving 30,000 job approvals this year. The results for the first half of the year indicate that this target will be reached. The new industries being attracted to this country by the IDA, such as electronics, are not as vulnerable to the recession in world economic activity as our traditional industries. The target will draw heavily on our highly qualified and skilled manpower resources. We must remember that the employment of a worker in a key position can create a significant number of other jobs. Consequently, I have adopted a number of measures to increase the vital supply of people in the areas where these demands will occur.

It is unfortunate that these achievements are being offset by the high level of job losses in our older and traditional manufacturing industries. Over the years, particular attention has been given by the Government to the problems of these firms. Our objective has been, and indeed will continue to be, to avert closure if this is at all possible and to reduce, if not stop altogether, the job losses threatened. The responsibility for the financial soundness and the general wellbeing of individual firms must, in the first instance, rest with proprietors and [836] managers. In recent years there has been a tendency on the part of some employers to be slow to recognise the economic warning signs and to bring to the attention of State agencies the problems they face. This is an area which could be improved and indeed is receiving attention. The trade unions have a role to play in averting job losses. If the firm is threatened, and if it is known at an early enough stage, I believe that management and unions can and must work together to avoid closures and to save jobs. I said that it was receiving attention, and a working group comprising representatives from IDA, Fóir Teoranta, the Industrial Credit Company, the Irish Productivity Centre, the Irish Management Institute, Córas Tráchtála and the Departments of Labour, Industry, Commerce and Tourism, and Agriculture has been set up to consider the question of job losses and to decide on any possible means of averting them. Some measures are being considered and, as I said, action is being taken.

For its part, the National Manpower Service are playing their role in monitoring the situation in relation to job loss by developing an early warning system. The earlier it is known that a firm is in apparent difficulty, the better is the chance and opportunity of saving some or all of those jobs. The National Manpower Service are, as I said, playing a monitoring role, too. They are basing their information on, firstly, redundancy notices, secondly, notices under the Protection of Employment Act, and thirdly — and probably the most effective of all — the placement staff's knowledge of developments in local industries in local areas. All the information received through these three sources is being transmitted to the IDA and to Fóir Teoranta.

The terms of the new national understanding referred to by Deputy Mitchell are very important in giving us the right climate in which to hold our own in the present recession and when the opportunity comes to take advantage of it. The benefits from this agreement or understanding, however, can only be forthcoming if all sides fulfil the various commitments that each has undertaken. If the [837] understanding is to be a success we must have the full co-operation of the community in such vital areas as an increase in our productivity, both as a nation and as individuals, in our commitment to buy Irish-made products as an alternative to imports and by a greater commitment to work by striving for an improvement in our industrial relations and a reduction in the increasingly high incidence of absenteeism. It is only by a combination of these and indeed other factors that we can remain competitive in the present very depressed international market, offset the rise in our labour costs, keep the level of job losses to a minimum, increase the employment prospectus for our young people and protect the less fortunate, the old and the disadvantaged in our society from the worst effects of this recession.

My colleague last night referred to this motion being taken as if we were living in an economic island removed from the other western countries. He also went into detail about the position being so much better here than it is even in the other member states, that the position is so much better now than when the parties now in Opposition during the previous recession were in power. He also mentioned something of immense importance, and that is the decision at the European Council in about a week's time to have unemployment as a priority item on the agenda.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  The record unemployment is blamed on the 50,000 school children who have not jobs.

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  The Deputy is in the House five minutes now and is continuing to interrupt. I have not that length of time to start answering frivolous interjections.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  This is a different type of speech from the ones the Minister was making in 1973.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  We cannot have two speakers at the one time. Nobody knows that better than Deputy L'Estrange.

[838]Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  There is a rise in unemployment at the present time which we should not have, either.

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  Obviously what I am saying is not suiting Deputy L'Estrange because——

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  It is not suiting the country.

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  ——he was silent for so long in this House over a period.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  If Deputy L'Estrange wants to continue, I say he should go outside.

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  He will have to resume his silence, which we understand was imposed on him in the past.

Mr. Mitchell: Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim Mitchell  It is a fact that unemployment is now higher than ever before.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  Now, now. Nobody interrupted Deputy Mitchell.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  He was telling the truth all the time.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  The Chair will not decide on that.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  The Chair cannot deny it, either.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  The Minister is in possession, please.

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  I was talking about productivity and generally it can be said that our productivity is low by comparison with that of other EEC countries. This, combined with the cost because of distance of transporting goods from the larger European markets and our almost total dependence on imported raw materials and energy for our industries, makes it more difficult for our exports to compete on equal terms with the EEC partners. Our standard of living can only increase, therefore, if our productivity [839] rises on a par with or faster than that of other countries. This has not been happening in recent years. For example, between 1973 and 1978 the average hourly earnings in Irish manufacturing industries rose by 140 per cent, much faster than the German rate of increase, which was 43 per cent. By contrast, in the same period our productivity grew by 25 per cent while German productivity grew by 23 per cent.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  The Minister does not tell us that the German inflation is 5 per cent and ours is 20 per cent.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  Is Deputy L'Estrange back again?

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  Deputy L'Estrange and his colleagues did a lot of preaching of gloom and doom in Donegal recently. Their efforts were wasted there and I would advise them to keep their gloom and doom forecasts for their own small party meetings.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  If the Government put into other countries the grants which were put into Donegal, it would be better. The other counties have not had grants for housing, headage and so on.

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  Would the Deputy resume his vow of silence that we saw for four years in this House?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  Deputy L'Estrange, please. There is only one speaker at a time.

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  Donegal gave the Deputy his answer.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  We can have only one speaker at a time.

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  It is worth nothing that our share of the imports into the UK has been declining in recent years. Earlier I referred to the working party that is looking at job losses and why they are happening, particularly in traditional industries but we must look at the UK [840] situation, a major contributor. The fact is that the British market is depressed at present. Is our competitiveness a contributory factor? Are we pushing with the greatest expertise our marketing in that market? Those points deserve consideration. I should like to make one telling point: if our industrial exports to the UK had expanded at the same rate last year as those of other EEC countries—ours expanded by a welcome 13 per cent but the other countries averaged about 26 per cent—it would have meant additional sales of £200 million or an estimated 5,000 more jobs in Irish industry. We should be thinking of such a thing.

Mr. J. Ryan: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  What about the performance of the punt?

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  The prospects for this year do not look any brighter. I am disappointed that Deputy Lipper has intervened because my time is so short.

Mr. Lipper: Information on Michael Lipper  Zoom on Michael Lipper  I did not open my mouth.

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  I beg the Deputy's pardon, it was his colleague. The prospects for this year do not look any brighter and this is in a declining UK market where the volume of imports is falling.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  The Minister told us one time that it was gone and gone forever and thanks be to God.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  If Deputy L'Estrange was gone for a little while we might get on a little better.

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  On the whole the performance of our exports has been encouraging and here we owe quite a bit to Córas Tráchtála. The Government are committed to continue to support CTT by additional funds and finance. During 1979 total exports rose to £3,498 million which represents a value increase of 18.2 per cent over 1978. I believe that to be a very important achievement in a year——

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Patrick O'Toole  Zoom on Patrick O'Toole  What was the volume increase?

[841]Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  ——which produced an even more difficult environment for exports.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Patrick O'Toole  Zoom on Patrick O'Toole  The value increase does not mean one thing. The Minister should give us the volume increase.

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  Another positive example of the Government's commitment——

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  To unemployment.

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  ——is that the amount fixed for grants paid to CTT has been substantially increased. Deputies are aware of that fact. Since 1959 that body played a key role in our export drive and in the growth of our overseas markets. Córas Tráchtála are confident that 1980 will be another good year for exports with the net result of about 20 per cent in value increases on the year's total exports. That will be achieved in spite of a world recession. I believe we can improve on those figures if we take the opportunities that are open to us.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Patrick O'Toole  Zoom on Patrick O'Toole  What about the 20 per cent exchange rate?

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  The Government are determined to explore every avenue so that we can improve productivity, increase employment and ensure the competitiveness of our enterprises. As part of our commitment under the national understanding we will be holding discussions with both sides of industry with a view to raising the level of productivity as a national objective and to finding practical measures to secure this objective. Another way in which we can protect ourselves in the present economic recession is by being more aware of the selling and buying of Irish products. Every Member when addressing a group of people should refer to the importance of buying Irish products. Certainly, the commitment from all sectors of the community to the Irish Goods Council's programme for the promotion of Irish goods is unprecedented. That is to be welcomed [842] but, nevertheless, there are still too many people who fail to translate this goodwill into practical action when they go shopping.

Supporting Guaranteed Irish is a practical commonsense approach to making a positive contribution to the national task of maintaining existing employment and creating new jobs. Alone, however, the Guaranteed Irish symbol will not sell goods. Manufacturers must aggressively market their products and retailers must be prepared to stock and promote Irish goods on at least the same level — I emphasise “at least”— as the competing import for the customer does deserve choice of variety. The customer must at least be given the opportunity to compare the Irish product with competing imports.

Deputies have referred to a lack of planning and I should like to put the record straight in this regard. My colleague last night referred to a decision of the previous Government to drop a census at such a vital time.

Mr. J. Ryan: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  Deputy Martin O'Donoghue was dropped.

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  The dropping of that census resulted in a marginal saving but the cost was enormous.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Patrick O'Toole  Zoom on Patrick O'Toole  The Department of Economic Planning and Development was dropped and the Minister sacked. He planned himself out of office.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  Is there not a match or some other attraction on television? The Minister should be allowed to continue without interruption.

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  The implications of industrial development, manpower development and education for each other have never been better planned or co-ordinated. In fact, it is the first time that this co-ordination has taken place.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  And unemployment is rising at a rate of 5,000 per month. The Government should stop their planning if that is the result.

[843]Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  The Manpower Consultative Committee, which I established two years ago, has ensured an improved interaction of policies between industrial strategy, manpower development, the education of highly qualified manpower and the training of skilled manpower. The manpower implications of our industrial development have never been better articulated and have never been better responded to by the educational system. I should like to take the opportunity to thank the educational institutions for the way they responded to our manpower plans that are all-important and will be increasingly so in an industrially developing country.

The manpower issues and problems of our regions vary. The different characteristics, opportunities and problems of the Irish planning regions prompted me earlier this year to establish regional manpower committees so as to better advise on the implementation of integrated labour market policies for the region. Both the national Manpower Committee, and the regional manpower committees, are representative of both sides of industry and Government agencies. They bring together, therefore, on the one hand, the bodies involved in job creation and maintenance, and, on the other hand, equip job seekers to take advantage of the job opportunities becoming available. I should like to emphasise that the job opportunities are becoming available.

Mr. Mitchell: Information on Jim Mitchell  Zoom on Jim Mitchell  In Copenhagen?

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Patrick O'Toole  Zoom on Patrick O'Toole  At the rate of 5,000 losses per month.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  Are our people running away from the jobs?

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  I must emphasise the point that the achievement of a situation of full productive employment requires dedication, commitment and expertise on the part of all labour market bodies of which the Government are only one. Employers have a major role to [844] play; workers have a major role to play; trade unions have a major role to play and the Government have a major role to play. I can assure the House that the Government have played their role and will continue to do so. I must emphasise again, however, that on their own they cannot achieve full employment and there must be a major contribution from both sides of industry.

On the problem of youth employment, the Government have given it a high priority in their job creation programme and have made available substantial resources to encourage and provide employment for the under 25s.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  God help the low priority.

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  Last year youth employment schemes provided places for well over 11,000 participants. These measures have been successful in keeping down the level of youth unemployment. This is so different from what happened in the 1974-75 recession when the then Government were in power and Deputy L'Estrange was a member of one of the Government parties.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Patrick O'Toole  Zoom on Patrick O'Toole  With what figures was the Minister supplied?

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  The Manpower Consultative Committee have been examining the youth employment situation. That committee have now completed their discussions and will be publishing a report next week. That report makes a number of recommendations which I am sure, when implemented, will contribute to easing youth employment difficulties. As a further example of our co-ordinated approach, the National Manpower Service is of particular help to new companies starting off and especially to foreign companies whose knowledge of Irish recruitment procedures may be limited. In this area the National Manpower Service act in close co-operation with the IDA. I have not got time to go in detail into the expansion of the National Manpower Service and the enormous role that increased expansion [845] has played. At the beginning of June 1978 there were 92 placement officer positions. This figure now stands at 150. Similarly I have also expanded the occupational guidance service which is extremely important for young people. By the end of the year I hope that all regions will have at least one guidance officer.

Mr. O'Toole: Information on Patrick O'Toole  Zoom on Patrick O'Toole  With no one to guide.

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  Deputies opposite preached doom and gloom unsuccessfully in Donegal.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  As Fianna Fáil did in 1976.

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  I would advise them not to raise their voices because no one is listening to them.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  Interruptions are disorderly and Deputy L'Estrange has been told that on a record number of times.

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  There are now almost 40 officers throughout the country helping in the industrial development and provision of employment in cities and towns, even in Deputy L'Estrange's constituency.

When we talk of unemployment we must look at both sides of the equation. We must take into consideration the fact that our population is growing at seven times the Community average and that our labour force is therefore also increasing rapidly. Over 60,000 young people come out of all levels of education and training each year and our immigration figures are also showing a continued increase — that is people coming back, unlike what happened when the Coalition were in office.

The fact that the rate of increase in unemployment is less than in other EEC countries shows that our level of job maintenance and provision of new jobs is at a very high level. This is due to the fundamental expenditure and the financial policies of this Government which are directed at maintaining economic activity and employment when so many [846] of our Community partners are pursuing deflationary policies.

Another aspect of our performance as a community to which we must pay more attention is the need for industrial peace. One cannot emphasise too often how important it is to have a climate of good industrial relations. If we are to overcome the problems of the present international recession, this is imperative. I look forward to a commitment by both sides of industry to industrial peace, and the national understanding being adhered to fully. This is extremely important.

I read with interest what Deputy Desmond said last night. I endorse the comments made by him on the necessity for using and agreeing on procedures. He said that, as a trade union member, he was talking mainly to the workers' side. He said correctly that there are two sides to every dispute and that there can be faults on both sides. Much more can be achieved by consultation and negotiation than by conflict which is often unnecessary. Nobody wins in a strike situation.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  The Minister negotiated with unofficial strikers.

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  Industrial disputes can result in incalculable damage to production at home and to exports abroad. I never met unofficial strikers.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  The Minister did.

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  I never did and I laid that down as a policy. I never met unoffical strikers and the Deputy should recall that allegation.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  I will not withdraw the truth.

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  It is untrue.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  The Minister met the tanker drivers and he should not deny that.

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  Industrial disputes can result in jobs being lost and can work against our export drive and the resulting [847] creation of new jobs. I appreciate that my time is up. Deputy L'Estrange caused me some trouble. I want to put the record straight. I never met unofficially recognised trade union leaders. That has been and will be my policy.

Each and every one of us has a role to play. I believe in the commitment to the work place. The best patriotism we can have as a nation is to give a commitment to work at the work place and to stay at work at the work place whether at management level or worker level. The second most important aspect of patriotism in our modern society is a commitment to buy Irish-made products. This cannot be emphasised often enough. We will encourage our people to do that. The Government are giving the necessary leadership and if the community respond we will come out of this recession far ahead of our EEC partners.

Mr. Lipper: Information on Michael Lipper  Zoom on Michael Lipper  I rise to support this motion. I am convinced, listening to the Minister, that this motion is justified. He made many statements about economic planning and Government planning. When he was interrupted he implied that the statements he was making did not suit us. He certainly confused me. He must have been talking about family planning or something like that. His statements were hard for me to swallow.

This motion was tabled after considerable thought. The workers are now involved in a tragic situation. My party have examined the crisis and are satisfied that the Government are not aware of or concerned about this appalling situation. They are completely bereft of a coherent policy to tackle the worst unemployment situation this country has experienced in its history. The trends indicate that unemployment is on an upward swing and the Government appear to be indifferent.

A recent survey showed a figure of 111,000 unemployed. This is an indictment of the Government and with their lack of initiative the Government have failed the people. If the Government have any integrity they should resign [848] and give the responsibility of managing this island to people who care and have policies to put the country back on its feet and, more important, get the people back to work, which is their basic right. The figure just circulated does not include all those who are genuinely unemployed. Certain categories never appear on the live register. The public would like to know the extent of our tragic situation. If we examine the problem in depth and find the real figure we will be able to take measures to combat it. There is no hope in the forseeable future for the unemployed as the Government have no policy. The courting of their friends to provide work has failed and only when they rid themselves of these parasites and formulate a policy to ensure a future for the labour force will we be sure of reducing unemployment. Surely the Government have learnt something from their mistakes. Their policies have brought one disaster after another. Are the Government aware that because of unemployment and rising prices people are hungry, or are they that far removed from reality considering that the 5 per cent of the wealthy they support are jet-setting around the world? Unemployment is the greatest social evil we can experience. Social welfare recipients cannot keep pace with rising prices. One in four of our people is hungry, a higher percentage never have meat and some never know the taste of butter. Surely the Government must carry the tag “The poor are always with us”. This is the only tag that is rightly theirs. They are expert at keeping the working classes poor. They are always very concerned about making the rich richer.

The situation in the building industry is a clear indication of trends. The Minister told us that there are no unemployment problems in the building industry, but building workers signing on at the unemployment exchanges know full well that there is unemployment. I have tradesmen and labour friends in that industry and they tell me of the unemployment there. Builders providers, the sand and gravel yards, the timber mills and any of the industries producing building [849] accessories know that the building industry is a generating force in employment because of all the subsidiaries involved. All these people are affected by the lay-offs in the construction industry. It is vitally important that the building industry be developed once again and brought to its former viable position so as to generate more jobs.

The unemployment figures are frightening and I wonder what we are to suffer next. It is a far cry from the days when we were told that we would have full employment in the near future. I welcomed that statement when it was made in the House although I realised that as long as the current Government are under a compliment to the whiz-kids and are committed to their welfare we will not get full employment and we will not cherish all of our children equally.

The workers enjoyed very high standards during the Coalition period. I am not a coalitionist but I am a democrat and will always accept a decision of a majority of the Government. One must agree that the previous Government made big improvements particularly in social welfare and in providing work during the worst world recession we have ever known.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  Hear, hear.

Mr. Lipper: Information on Michael Lipper  Zoom on Michael Lipper  At that time no citizen was hungry and the cost of living was stabilised, although there were some price increases. Now after all the promises we have daily increases in the cost of living and longer queues at the unemployment exchanges. I warn the Government that the workers and the unemployed will not tolerate this deplorable situation for much longer. The greatest breeding ground for revolution is high unemployment and a reduction in the standard of living. I would refer the Minister to a statement made about the French Revolution “Cake in the palace, crumbs in the street”. If this Government continue in government that is what we will have. People are without food, without heating, without proper clothing and, more importantly, with very little prospect of a guaranteed future in employment. [850] The Government are committed to looking after their buddies, the rich 5 per cent.

Labour Party spokesmen have always indicated where we disagree with the Government. We have exposed the weakness in the policies of Fianna Fáil in relation to job creation. The next Government will have to clean up a huge mess after this ultra-Tory Government. It is some consolation that it will not last very long. I only hope that the country is not bankrupt before the election. The sooner we have an election the better, even if Mr. Stevie Coughlan can get here instead of me. Apart from unemployment, there are very small pay packets, rising prices—

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  Deputy Mitchell was saying the opposite.

Mr. Lipper: Information on Michael Lipper  Zoom on Michael Lipper  I am not responsible for what anybody said here and if you wish to adopt those tactics. I could embarrass you by saying what you said during the election period.

An Leas-Cheann Chomhairle:  Through the Chair, please.

Mr. Lipper: Information on Michael Lipper  Zoom on Michael Lipper  A lot of promises were made in the manifesto. It promised not only to stabilise prices but to reduce them and that if Fianna Fáil were put back into office all the social ills would be cured. What have we got? We have massive unemployment, no politics to generate employment and no prospect of giving the people a guarantee of continuity at work. There is little concern from the Government about our Buy Irish campaign despite the fact that the leadership and example needed from the Government are conspicuously absent. Unless there is a genuine effort by the Government it cannot be the success it should be. Again we have complacency and all we see from the Government is window-dressing. It is a well known fact that Departments purchase material from outside of the country. Does that show [851] concern? We have semi-State bodies awarding contracts to foreign countries. We have Ministers and TDs wearing Italian shoes, foreign-made suits and driving mercedes cars. These are the important things that do not go unnoticed. I should like to know when the Government are going to become serious about the “Buy-Irish” campaign.

Mr. G. Fitzgerald: Information on Garrett Fitzgerald  Zoom on Garrett Fitzgerald  I will show the Deputy my shoes if he wishes.

Mr. Lipper: Information on Michael Lipper  Zoom on Michael Lipper  Get a Ford car.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  Through the Chair, please.

Mr. Lipper: Information on Michael Lipper  Zoom on Michael Lipper  The economy is slowly grinding to a halt. Workers are on a three-day week. The prospects for the footwear and leather industries are gloomy. There is no sign of any great concern on the part of the Government to bail out these traditional industries.

The Minister will probably tell us we are losing our nerve and overstating the position. I have heard it all before. He will probably say we are damaging the confidence so badly needed to induce foreign industralists to come here. Let him tell that to the people. It is our duty to give the people the facts and enlighten them on the gross mismanagement of the country by this Government. The furniture trade is in a similar position to the footwear and leather industries. The export trade is at rock bottom and the home market is no better. These workers are severely threatened and there is no offer of help from the Government. I will be told I am exaggerating the case and that I am irresponsible but the truth is not palatable and that is what I am stating. The unemployment situation at present is disgraceful and there is no prospect for the future under the Minister's Government.

The chipboard factory in Athy closed last year and a few hundred jobs were lost. There were more job losses in the Waterford and Scariff factories. The irony of it all is that we export our native timber to Sweden at £1 per ton and they [852] sell it back to us as chipboard or hardboard for £9 a sheet. Taxpayers' hard-earned money went into developing these forests over the years and that is the result: give-away prices for our timber and no policy from the Government.

The Labour Party believe that full employment should be the first priority of any Government. In Government we would use all the resources of the State to ensure that everybody had a secure job in their own country. This would not mean a total reliance on private enterprise such as this Government and successive Fianna Fáil Governments have had. The natural resources of the country are grossly underdeveloped. Hundreds of thousands of acres of land are lying idle and are not used productively to maximum output. Our fishing industry is grossly underdeveloped and under-capitalised to an extent far greater than any competitive country. The riches of the sea have not been tapped to create job opportunities for the people. We continue to export cattle on the hoof whereas a more enlightened policy would be to kill the animals here and create jobs in spin-off industries.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  Are we finishing the motion tonight?

Mr. Lipper: Information on Michael Lipper  Zoom on Michael Lipper  Yes.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  I must call the final speaker.

Mr. Lipper: Information on Michael Lipper  Zoom on Michael Lipper  I shall not be long more. We can do a lot to ensure native fuel resources are utilised to the full. Bord na Móna have done a reasonably good job and it is hoped a policy will be developed on the question of cutaway bogs which is now beginning to loom on the horizon. A decision must be taken to ensure that the land remains in public ownership so as to create further jobs.

Unemployment is the greatest single factor which leads to boredom and degredation. For over 100 years successive generations of our people emigrated in search of employment in other lands. Through the sixties and seventies this trend was reversed but unfortunately due [853] to Government lack of policy and mismanagement of the economy emigration has started again. This is a net result of the ill-conceived promises of the Fianna Fáil manifesto which bought votes during the 1977 election.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  Like Donegal.

Mr. Lipper: Information on Michael Lipper  Zoom on Michael Lipper  I call on the Government to show their concern for human beings by promoting policies which will create the necessary jobs for our people. It is scandalous that unemployment has been allowed to rise to an official figure of 111,000 as a result of the Government's lack of concern. We estimate that the true figure when school leavers and others are taken into account is in the region of 160,000. A former Taoiseach and leader of Fianna Fáil, Deputy Lynch, a man I like very much, said that the Irish people would be very justified in throwing out a Fianna Fáil Government if unemployment was over 100,000——

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  Hear, hear.

Mr. Lipper: Information on Michael Lipper  Zoom on Michael Lipper  ——during his term in office.

Mr. L'Estrange: Information on Gerald L'Estrange  Zoom on Gerald L'Estrange  That man always told the truth.

Mr. Lipper: Information on Michael Lipper  Zoom on Michael Lipper  That figure has now been exceeded and the people will reject the policies of the Government if they are given an opportunity of an early general election. Every Member of the House purporting to represent the working class should have no hesitation in accepting the motion deploring the failure of the Government to produce a coherent policy to combat the problems of rapidly rising unemployment. No policy has been produced and I hope the people who claim to be realists on both sides of the House will support this motion, otherwise they will be seen to endorse a Government which have been inactive since they came into power.

Mr. J. Ryan: Information on John J. Ryan  Zoom on John J. Ryan  As a member of the party asked to wind up the debate on this very important motion I listened to the Minister [854] at length but throughout his very comprehensive and Alice in Wonderland type speech I could find no reference whatever to the realities of Irish life. The unemployment situation is the worst in our history and we are back, as they used to say in the thirties, to love on the dole.

I must and will continue to refer to the major promise made in the 1977 manifesto that Fianna Fáil would reduce the unemployment figure each year by 25,000 to 30,000. Deputy O'Donoghue, the ex-Minister, two years ago promised that by 1982 the cost of living would be reduced to 5 per cent and there would be no unemployment. The manifesto promise on job creation and the elimination of unemployment was a very firm commitment and very high in the priority of Fianna Fáil in the 1977 election. Unfortunately, the electorate were convinced and voted them into power. What is the situation on 19 November 1980, approximately three-and-a-half years after they entered office? We have a figure of 115,000, but it is nearer to 150,000 if the proper figure were to be given. Even taking the 115,000 means an increase of 33? per cent on last year. We are not talking in an impersonal manner about computer indexation of insurance numbers. We are telling a human story about human tragedies in families, jobs lost, financial problems and a very bleak future.

Regarding the manifesto promise on unemployment, what has been the performance in the intervening three-and-a-half years? In 1978 there was a definite dip down to approximately 80,000 people and I remember hearing about champagne corks popping all over the country. There were great celebrations because they had achieved the miracle of getting it down to 80,000. However, instead of a happy ending, that was the unhappy start to the unemployment situation. In 1979 the numbers started to rise rapidly and by 1980 the unemployment figure when it should have been going down went up against the normal seasonal trend. Last week I read in the papers comments from several Ministers, including the Minister for Labour, Deputy Fitzgerald, and the Taoiseach. One was about the great concern [855] they felt when the figures were announced. The other comment was that it was bad but not as bad as in other countries. That is poor consolation to the many thousands who have lost their jobs in the last 12 months. If the Government are to be honest they must admit to a dismal failure to resolve this crisis and to meet their commitments in the manifesto. I emphasise that, despite the ministerial statements, it is all due to a lack of policy or to a hit and miss policy.

What are the Government going to do as we face the year 1981? My first commitment as an ordinary back-bencher would be to reintroduce immediately without delay the Department of Economic Planning and Development. It is necessary, it is urgent, and what was done last December has created a bad situation because of the sacking of Deputy O'Donoghue. He may consider that a compliment because I believe that since his departure unemployment has escalated beyond all bounds.

On this evening's paper I read a headline “Haughey Angry over Leakage on Job Situation”. Surely this arrogant statement cannot go without being challenged. Surely the people of the country are entitled to know the truth. What about the anger of the men and women who have lost their jobs during the year? Are they not to be heard? Predictions are being made about the future prospects. As I have said, I believe that the figure at the moment is 150,000. I am not a pessimist, I am a realist, and with the trends and what we are hearing from the experts I believe that by April 1981 it may be in the region of 175,000. This is a frightening prospect for this country of ours as we face the eighties.

This unemployment cancer, as I call it, is causing very serious personal problems, financial and otherwise. I am talking about young married couples who had obtained a good job and built their own house or perhaps were fortunate enough to get a council house and were paying a high rent. These people are under severe pressure and many problems are being created in the home because of this situation. I have the greatest [856] sympathy in the world for the men and women who, through mismanagement, have lost their jobs perhaps after services rendered over 30 to 40 years. What an awful situation these people find themselves in in their middle years with no possibility whatever of readjusting at that age to a new way of life. It is not figures that we are talking about, we are talking about people, problems, human beings and tragedies.

If we are sincere in wanting to bring down the unemployment figure, the first priority and the most immediate concern should be an immediate substantial financial injection into the housing sector, which at the moment is almost at a standstill. Any member of a local authority in this House will know what I am talking about. At the end of the year we have barely enough money and in some places not even enough to finish what we started this year. This means that the building sector are suffering serious unemployment. Young married couples with young families are destined to live in caravans or in horrible housing conditions for many years to come. Another job-intensive area would be the financing of health board major installations and buildings. In my area, the mid-western region, which comprises North Tipperary, Limerick and Clare, we need an immense amount of money to provide services for our people. Health must be a priority and the buildings are not there.

The Minister mentioned the education of youth and I support him in what he said and compliment the people concerned in the educational field in our country. We are doing wonderful work through all sectors of education, but that is poor consolation to the young man with his leaving certificate or his degree when he comes out of school or college to find that there is no job for him. I know of many boys and girls with the leaving certificate and many honours who are still registered with the National Manpower Service and still looking for jobs. Despite all their education, the outlet is not there for them and they must wait maybe three or four years to get a job.

Last week I spoke on the Estimate for the Department of Justice and I laid special [857] emphasis on the increase in street vandalism which of necessity has forced the Minister for Justice in the foreseeable future to recruit a further 2,000 gardaí. There is a definite connection between the increase in vandalism and the unemployment situation and unless this serious situation is checked soon the youth will turn away from our democratic ideas and projects.

Another commitment in the manifesto was to promote and develop the food processing industry in our country, yet a major industry giving substantial employment in the town of Carlow is on the point of closure. It is amazing to think of a Government who committed themselves three-and-a-half years ago to the advancement and development of our [858] national resources taking such an indifferent attitude to a closure in Carlow which will have a great effect on this town and also on Erin Foods.

Finally, if we are to save more jobs, there should be a selective import ban by temporary derogation from EEC regulations because the supermarkets of our country have been taken over by foreigners and nine-tenths of the goods being sold over the counter are from outside the country. We are too nice in our regulations and we are being good boys. Break the rules, ban the import of these goods and save the jobs of our country.

Amendment put.

Ahern, Bertie.
Ahern, Kit.
Andrews, David.
Andrews, Niall.
Aylward, Liam.
Barrett, Sylvester.
Brady, Vincent.
Browne, Seán.
Callanan, John.
Calleary, Seán.
Cogan, Barry.
Colley, George.
Collins, Gerard.
Conaghan, Hugh.
Connolly, Gerard.
Coughlan, Clement.
Cowen, Bernard.
Crinion, Brendan.
Daly, Brendan.
Doherty, Seán.
Fahey, Jackie.
Farrell, Joe.
Filgate, Eddie.
Fitzgerald, Gene.
Fitzpatrick, Tom (Dublin South-Central).
Fitzsimons, James N.
Flynn, Pádraig.
Fox, Christopher J.
French, Seán.
Gallagher, Dennis.
Gallagher, James.
Haughey, Charles J.
Herbert, Michael.
Hussey, Thomas.
Keegan, Seán.
Kenneally, William.
Killeen, Tim.
Lawlor, Liam.
Lemass, Eileen.
Lenihan, Brian.
Leonard, Jimmy.
Leonard, Tom.
Leyden, Terry.
Loughnane, William.
Lynch, Jack.
McEllistrim, Thomas.
Meaney, Tom.
Molloy, Robert.
Moore, Seán.
Morley, P.J.
Noonan, Michael.
O'Connor, Timothy C.
O'Donoghue, Martin.
O'Kennedy, Michael.
Reynolds, Albert.
Smith, Michael.

Tunney, Jim.
Walsh, Joe.
Walsh, Seán.
Wilson, John P.
Woods, Michael J.
Wyse, Pearse.

Barry, Myra.
Barry, Peter.
Barry, Richard.
Begley, Michael.
Belton, Luke.
Bermingham, Joseph.
Boland, John. [859]D'Arcy, Michael J.
Deasy, Martin A.
Desmond, Barry.
Donnellan, John F.
Enright, Thomas W.
Flanagan, Oliver J.
Gilhawley, Eugene.
Griffin, Brendan.
Harte, Patrick D.
Horgan, John.
Keating, Michael.
Kelly, John.
Kenny, Enda.
L'Estrange, Gerry.
Lipper, Mick.
Bruton, John.
Burke, Joan.
Burke, Liam.
Cluskey, Frank.
Cosgrave, Liam.
Creed, Donal.
Crotty, Kieran. [860]McMahon, Larry.
Mitchell, Jim.
Murphy, Michael P.
O'Brien, Fergus.
O'Brien, William.
O'Connell, John.
O'Leary, Michael.
O'Toole, Paddy.
Pattison, Seáamus.
Ryan, John J.
Spring, Dan.
Taylor, Frank.
Timmins, Godfrey.
Tully, James.
White, James.

Amendment declared carried.

Motion, as amended, agreed to.


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