SEANAD RESUMES. - INTERNATIONAL LABOUR CONVENTIONS.

Wednesday, 6 May 1925

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 5 No. 2

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Mr. DOUGLAS: Information on James Green Douglas  Zoom on James Green Douglas  I move:—

Go gceaduíonn Seanad Eireann go nglactar, ar son Shaorstáit Eireann, leis na molta i dtaobh “Na bPrinsio- bal nGenerálta chun modhna cigireachta [137]do chó-ghléasa chun a chur in áirithe go bhfeidhmeofar na dlite agus na rialacháin i gcóir cosaint an Lucht Oibre,” molta le n-ar ghlac Códháil Idirnáisiúnta an Oibreachais an 29adh Deire Fomhair, 1923, ag á gCúigiú Siosón a comóradh i nGeneva 22adh-29adh Deire Fomhair, 1923, agus a tíolaiceadh don Seanad an 30adh lá d'Abrán, 1925. That Seanad Eireann approves of the adoption in respect of Saorstát Eireann of the recommendations concerning “The General Principles for [138]the organisation of systems of inspection to secure the enforcement of the laws and regulations for the protection of the Workers” adopted on the 29th October, 1923, by the International Labour Conference at its Fifth Session held at Geneva 22nd-29th October, 1923, and laid before the Seanad on the 30th day of April, 1925.

As the Minister for Industry and Commerce is here I do not propose to explain to the Seanad the provisions of the recommendations. All I wish to say is that these are, I understand, recommendations made by the International Conference of Labour held at Geneva, and that they are not absolutely binding in detail, and do not take the effect of international legislation to which we adhere, and that our acceptance or approval of recommendations means that as far as possible we shall endeavour to promote them on the lines of these recommendations. The recommendations, together with those covered by the second resolution, have, I hope, been carefully read by members of the Seanad if only for the purpose of showing the value of the work done by the League of Nations, and particularly by the International Labour Conference. If the Minister were not here I would go into details, but I think it is much better that he should do so if members of the Seanad wish it. If Senators have read the two White Papers that were circulated, and read the Minister's address in introducing them, I think they would be satisfied to pass the resolutions. If that is the case it will not be necessary for the Minister to go into the same details as he did in the other House.

Mr. FARREN: Information on Thomas Farren  Zoom on Thomas Farren  I second the resolution. The International Labour Conference, that meets at Geneva, has been set up under the League of Nations, the object being to get all countries to introduce legislation of a uniform character governing the conditions of employment, health in factories, and the use of machinery that would tend to improve the lot of the worker. All the regulations are submitted to representatives of employers, workers, and the Governments of all countries that are parties to the League of Nations. The idea is to bring about uniformity in all countries affecting workers. I am sure that there will be no opposition in the Seanad to the passing of the resolutions. I may also say that one of the objects of the International Labour Conference in bringing about uniform conditions of employment was that there would be no such thing as one country competing with another on more favourable terms.

MINISTER for INDUSTRY and COMMERCE (Mr. McGilligan): Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  I have very little to add, unless the Seanad wishes me to go into the resolutions in greater detail, to what Senators have said. Recommendations, as opposed to conventions, are merely affirmations of general principles on which it is expected legislation will afterwards follow. The position we are in with regard to these particular recommendations is rather a good one. Our legislation carries out most of the principles affirmed by these recommendations. The administration of the resolutions is, I regret to say, not completely in accord with the spirit of the recommendations, but that has been due not to any neglect on our part but simply to the fact that the staff we have had has not been sufficient to allow us to act up to the provisions of the recommendations. There were difficulties, but these were surmounted, and when we get returns from a certain advertisement that was issued recently asking for the appointment of four new inspectors, then I think we will be able to make a much greater advance towards the spirit of the resolutions, which entails no new legislation, but does entail, if anything, a betterment [139] of the way in which the Act was administered.

Mr. BARRINGTON: Information on William Barrington  Zoom on William Barrington  Having regard to the remarks made by the Minister, and as I think a good many people are of the same opinion as myself, we do not like to absolutely commit ourselves to some principle of which we do not fully understand all the ramifications. I should like to ask the Minister whether, if the wording of the resolution was varied by saying “Seanad Eireann notes the recommendations that have been made by.” Really we are not in a position to know how far these regulations might eventually bind the country or how far they may affect it. We may find ourselves up against a situation which we do not now understand, and we might be opposed to putting them into effect. If without adopting the resolutions we say we received them, and did not dissent, I would be very much easier in my mind.

Mr. DOUGLAS: Information on James Green Douglas  Zoom on James Green Douglas  In reply to Senator Barrington, I should not be at all willing to accept an amendment on the lines he has suggested. In the case of the recommendations, the position is clear. They are recommendations, and our adoption of them does not mean that we are adopting a certain law to be carried out in exact detail. It means [140] that, as far as general principles are concerned, it is our intention to carry them out in the spirit.

Mr. BARRINGTON: Information on William Barrington  Zoom on William Barrington  As far as we understand them.

Mr. DOUGLAS: Information on James Green Douglas  Zoom on James Green Douglas  I do not know how we could carry them out otherwise.

Mr. BARRINGTON: Information on William Barrington  Zoom on William Barrington  If we did not understand them?

Mr. DOUGLAS: Information on James Green Douglas  Zoom on James Green Douglas  As far as we are concerned here, we are generally in advance in industrial matters of a good many of the countries of Europe. If we are to compete it is essential, as far as possible, that we should bring the standard of other workers in wages and conditions up to the standard we have here. That may necessitate in some cases going to a standard which may be higher elsewhere, but as long as we can work on a fairly uniform standard we are not in a competitive sense injured. If, on the other hand, other countries are to note the agreements which, after all, are carried out after long consultation and conference between representatives of employers and labour, the effect would be that the resolution would be null and void, and of no use. I would be very sorry to see Ireland taking up a position of that kind with regard to resolutions of this character.

Motion put, and agreed to.

Mr. DOUGLAS: Information on James Green Douglas  Zoom on James Green Douglas  I propose:—

Go gceaduíonn Seanad Eireann na Convensiúin seo a leanas do dhaingniú ar son Shaorstáit Eireann agus a tíolaiceadh don Seanad an 30adh lá d'Abrán, 1925:— That Seanad Eireann approves of the ratification in respect of Saorstát Eireann of the following Conventions which were presented to the Seanad on the 30th day of April, 1925:—
(a) Convensiún i dtaobh Díomhaointis; (a) Convention concerning Unemployment;
(b) Convensiún ag socrú an aois mhinimum chun leanbhaí do ghlaca i bhfostaíocht cheárdais; (b) Convention fixing the minimum age for admission of children to industrial employment;
(c) Convensiún i dtaobh Fostú Ban i rith na hoíche; (c) Convention concerning Employment of Women during the night;
(d) Convensiún i dtaobh obair oíche dhaoine óga i bhfostaíocht cheárdais; (d) Convention concerning the night work of young persons employed in industry;
[141]Convensiúin le n-ar ghlac Có-dháil Idirnáisiúnta an Oibreachais 28adh Mí na Samhna, 1919, i rith a gCéad Shíosóin a comóradh i Washington 29adh Deire Fomhair-29adh Mí na Samhna, 1919, agus [142]adopted on 28th November, 1919, by the International Labour Conference during its First Session held at Washington, 29th October-29th November, 1919, and
(e) Convensiún ag socrú an aois mhinimum chun leanbhaí do ghlaca i bhfostaíocht ar muir ní le n-ar ghlac Códháil Idirnáisiúnta an Oibreachais an 9adh Iúl, 1920, i rith a nDara Siosóin a comóradh i nGenoa 15adh Meitheamh—10adh Iúl, 1920, agus (e) Convention fixing the minimum age for admission of children to employment at sea adopted on the 9th July, 1920, by the International Labour Conference during its Second Session held at Genoa 15th June-10th July, 1920, and
(f) Convensiún i dtaobh an aois chun leanbhaí do ghlaca i bhfostaíocht thalmhaíochta, ní le n-ar ghlac Códháil Idirnáisiúnta an Oibreachais an 16adh Mí na Samhna, 1921, i rith a dTríú Siosóin a comóradh i nGeneva 25adh Deire Fomhair-19adh Mí na Samhna, 1921. (f) Convention concerning the age for admission of children to employment in agriculture adopted on the 16th November, 1921, by the International Labour Conference during its Third Session held at Geneva 25th October-19th November, 1921.

The difference between this resolution and the other is, that these are certain Conventions which were passed at the Conference at Geneva, and which have been presented to the Seanad. I believe I am correct in stating that there is nothing in them which we have not already in effect adopted so far as our own laws and regulations are concerned. Therefore, the carrying out of these decisions of the Conference is to a large extent a matter of formality.

Mr. FARREN: Information on Thomas Farren  Zoom on Thomas Farren  I formally second.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH:  They have all been presented to the Seanad.

Mr. DOUGLAS: Information on James Green Douglas  Zoom on James Green Douglas  They have been presented in the form of a White Paper.

Mr. McGILLIGAN: Information on Patrick McGilligan  Zoom on Patrick McGilligan  Senator Douglas is not quite accurate in what he has said with regard to these conventions. One of them does entail new legislation. That is the excuse for delaying until this late period of the Session the bringing of these conventions before either House of the Oireachtas. I had to be sure of what form that legislation was to take, and I had to wait and see it drafted before I could include the last of these conventions, concerning the age of children and their employment in agriculture. With regard to the others and International Labour Conventions in general, I can deal with them, I think, in a very brief way. Seventeen conventions have been passed, and for the purposes of the Saorstát I would like to divide these into five categories. Two we have already ratified by resolution passed in the Dáil and Seanad last year; six we are now moving to add.

That leaves nine outstanding. Of these nine, one is in a peculiar position, and stands by itself. It is the seventh of the seventeen, and is the one dealing with the prohibition of white phosphorous in matches. We have legislation prohibiting the use of white phosphorous in matches, but there is a small point of difficulty in procedure, and the formal adherence to that, or the ratification of it, has been left over for the moment. There are then eight outstanding. I want to take these in two groups of four each to make the matter clear. One group deals with seamen. The first of this group is concerned with an indemnity to seamen whose unemployment is caused by the loss or foundering of their vessel. The second deals with the organisation and maintenance of exchanges for securing employment for seamen.

The third prohibits the employment of young persons under the age of 18 as stokers or trimmers at sea. The fourth makes compulsory an annual [143] medical examination of young persons employed on ships. These four are being left over until the autumn, or the early portion of next year, when we hope to have merchant shipping legislation. They must necessarily remain over until we are dealing in bulk with the question of merchant shipping.

There is a second group of four about which we make no motion to-day, nor do we indicate any tendency about them. For one of these four I would hold that a prima facie case has been made, and that is the prohibition of white lead in paint. There are three others. One deals with the question of a 48-hour week. The second establishes a weekly period of rest of 24 hours in industry, and the third of the Conventions passed is what is known as the Maternity Convention. As I have said, with regard to these four I make no motion. The four affecting seamen I propose to postpone until merchant shipping legislation is introduced. One, number seven, is actually in force here, but we are not formally adhering to it. Two we have already adhered to, and six we are now moving to ratify. Five of these are already in existence in the Saorstát. The legislation that brought the first into force was the Labour Exchange and Unemployment Acts. The ones marked (b), (c), (d) and (e) in the White Paper are effected by the Employment of Women, Young Persons and Children Act. The one marked (f) is the only one about which there is any difficulty, that is the Convention concerning the age of admitting children to agricultural work.

I had to delay in bringing forward this resolution until I saw the compulsory School Attendance Bill, which has been drafted by the Minister for Education, and which will probably be introduced one of these days. As that seeks to establish a compulsory attendance at schools up to at least 14 years, that places us in line with this Convention, and I felt I could go ahead with this Convention. That age limit may not, of course, be accepted by the Oireachtas afterwards. But it is a matter of Government policy to put forward that Bill with the age limit of 14 years, consequently I am moving on the [144] lines of Government policy. Exception may be taken to what is called practical vocational training, and the Bill as drafted makes allowance in that regard. There is a question as to whether children may or may not be employed outside school hours. On that I have heard rumours of a conflict between the farmers' representatives and the Department of Education. The farmers' representatives intend to move that the school hours shall be so regulated as to permit the employment of children during school hours during the seed time and harvest time. I am in the happy position that no matter who wins in that conflict my Convention must necessarily be in line, for whatever school hours are accepted the Convention operates on the basis of these school hours. So long as the age is 14 it matters not what is the allocation of school hours.

Sir JOHN GRIFFITH: Information on John Purser Griffith  Zoom on John Purser Griffith  I wish to express my great sympathy with the programme laid down by the Minister, but I do think, in deference to the Seanad, that we should have had a longer notice on this matter than only having this Paper on the 30th April. This happens to be the first I have heard of the Paper, and I fancy few Senators have seen it. I do not think it is fair to the House to ask them to pass this resolution, and to ratify or approve of the Conventions in this way.

Mr. DOUGLAS: Information on James Green Douglas  Zoom on James Green Douglas  I think the Paper was circulated to members. It may not have reached Senator Sir John Griffith, but it was circulated the same day as it came to the Dáil.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH:  I think that is so. The Senator's must have gone astray.

Motion put and agreed to.

AN CATHAOIRLEACH:  There will be no business to require a meeting of the Seanad next week, so that when the House rises to-day it will be adjourned until some day not earlier than this day fortnight. Might I just mention that Senators might be turning over the difficulties of hearing in different parts of the Hall, and to consider whether some readjustment of that difficulty might not be made.

The Seanad adjourned at 6.50.


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