Wednesday, 1 July 1942
Seanad Éireann Debate
Mr. O'Connell: When the Principal Act was going through the Dáil in 1927, I was a member of that House and, on the Committee Stage, I moved an amendment that the Electricity Supply Board, about to be set up, should have power to adopt Part IV of the Local Government Act—that is to say, that it should have power to introduce a pension scheme. It was understood that the scheme they would introduce would be on the basis of the scheme included in the Local Government Act of 1925. The Minister for Industry and Commerce at the time pointed out that the whole scheme was in the nature of a great experiment and that he thought it desirable that a pension scheme should not be introduced until at least the first five-year period would have elapsed and we could see how the whole scheme had worked out. Neither he nor any other speaker in the debate suggested that, when a pension scheme was introduced, it should be less favourable than the scheme provided in the Local Government Act.
Fifteen years later, we have provision being made for pensions for the board and members of the staff. The only scheme detailed in the Bill—the pension scheme for the board—is much less favourable, in my opinion, to the recipients than that embodied in the Local Government Act. The custom in the public service is that pensions should be equal to two-thirds of the salary at the end of the full term of service. If the pension itself is not actually two-thirds of the salary, it is usual in the Civil Service to make it equal half the salary, with a lump sum, both being equivalent in value to two-thirds. In this case, the maximum pension provided for the members of the board is not two-thirds or even half the salary. The maximum is 20 forty-eighths of such salary. These two amendments, taken together, provide that the pension for the members of the board who qualify for the full amount should be equivalent to two-thirds  of their salary—that is to say, that their pension should be half their salary and a lump sum, based on their years of service, the same as civil servants get. I have read as carefully as I could the debates in the Dáil on this question. The case made by the Minister did not convince me that he was justified in fixing for the members of the board a pension rate which, in my opinion, is lower than that paid to officials in the public service or in the service of the local authorities. In the course of the debate in the other House, on Second Reading, the Minister referred to the qualifications which the men to be appointed to the board are to possess. He said:—
“It will, I think, be generally appreciated that the magnitude of the undertaking which the board is called upon to administer and its importance to the nation demand that its personnel should possess the highest administrative capacity. The necessary qualities and the necessary experience can only be found in men who have demonstrated their ability in other callings and, consequently, it is inevitable, in the order of things, that the Government choice, in making a new appointment to the board, must be limited to persons who are fairly advanced in years.”
He pointed out that one way of improving the position of men appointed to public offices at an advanced age is to add years. In this case, the difficulty was met by making the fraction forty-eighths instead of eightieths or sixtieths as the case may be. While that did meet the position to some extent, it did not meet it sufficiently, and I can see no good reason why the pension should not be, at least, equal to half the salary at the end of the man's term of office. In the course of his remarks in the Dáil, the Minister said he was equating this pension scheme to that of the Civil Service but, except in so far as this provision for men who joined at an advanced age is concerned, I cannot see where the equation lies. I think that there is a strong case for having the maximum pension equal to half the salary and  the second amendment should be accepted whereby the usual lump sum would be given at the end of the members' term of service. Circumstances might arise—something like that was foreshadowed in the Miniister's statement in the Dáil—which would necessitate a reorganisation of the board. In that case, it may be necessary to dispense with the services of some of those people who are at present on the board and I think they should be treated generously.
The difference between what is asked for in these amendments and what is in the Bill is insignificant in a concern which runs into £10,000,000 or £15,000,000 and has an income of £2,000,000 a year. After all, if we are to get satisfactory service from these people—we have placed a very heavy responsibility on their shoulders—it is essential that they should feel that they are being treated fairly in comparison with members of other public services. They should have no sense of grievance in the matter of pension provisions. I urge the Minister to accept the amendment, because I consider that it will be in the interests of the undertaking as a whole if it is done.
Mr. Lemass (Minister for Industry and Commerce): I agree with Senator O'Connell that members of the Electricity Supply Board should be treated fairly, and even generously. I submit, however, that we are treating them fairly and even generously in the proposals in this Bill. I do not know by what criterion Senator O'Connell thinks we should measure our generosity. I think it is not unreasonable to propose that we should measure it by the provision made for members of the public service, and particularly those members of the service who have got professional or technical qualifications somewhat similar to those possessed by members of the Electricity Supply Board and in consequence of which they are recruited under somewhat similar circumstances, by which I mean that they are recruited only after they have established their capacities in some occupation outside the service and come into the service comparatively  late in life. In so far as the proposals contained in this Bill for members of the Electricity Supply Board can be compared with established practice in the provision of superannuation allowances for members of the public service, the Electricity Supply Board members are being treated generously.
They are being treated, in fact, substantially better than the members of the public services. To the extent that it is possible to measure the improvement of their treatment, I would say that it is about 25 per cent. better than the treatment given to members of the Civil Service. A member of the Civil Service has to serve for 40 years before he becomes entitled to the maximum pension. He cannot retire at the end of 20 years' service on anything like the same proportion of his retiring salary as will be available to members of the Electricity Supply Board. Members of the Electricity Supply Board will be entitled to retire on pension after ten years' service. The ordinary civil servant cannot get in the circumstances contemplated here, the gratuity payable upon death in the service proposed for members of the Electricity Supply Board until he has served for at least 20 years. In almost every respect in which it is possible to institute comparisons between the proposals of this Bill and the established practice of the Civil Service, the members of the Electricity Supply Board will be treated better than members of the Civil Service. I think we must, in deciding what course of action to follow in a matter of this kind, bear in mind the possible reactions of undue generosity on our part. It is almost certain that, whatever standard is established for members of the Electricity Supply Board, it will be quoted when persons occupying analogous positions in other organisations make a case, as they will, no doubt, eventually make a case, for similar pension provisions on retirement, and even quoted by members of the Civil Service who are not infrequently in agitation for the improvement of their conditions of service.
Therefore, I agree that we should not be ungenerous in our dealings with the  members of the Electricity Supply Board, but we must limit our instincts towards generosity by having due regard to the possible consequences of it. I think we are not ungenerous. I could not propose to accept the amendments that would improve the position to the extent suggested by Senator O'Connell. I think the main provisions of the Bill, a pension of 20/48ths after 20 years' service, the possibility of retirement aften ten years' service if the member is over 60 or in ill health, and the provision for payment of a year's salary in respect of any member of the board who dies while in the service of the board are, taking all in all, sufficient provision to make for the members of the body.
Mr. M. Hayes: One point struck me about Senator O'Connell's first amendment—I am not referring to the second one. I think the Minister stresses too much the analogy between membership of the board and the position in the Civil Service. Those who go into the Civil Service usually join it at the beginning of their career, and it is well known that the superannuation provisions are defective with regard to professional people joining the service when they are over 30 or 40 years of age. On the Minister's own showing, he is absolutely right. It will not be possible to recruit members of the board themselves unless they are people who have already made their names. I wonder if he has thought of this particular contingency? He allows 20/48ths yearly salary and contemplates a maximum service of 20 years. Is it not true that very few members of the board will have more than 20 years' service, particularly in the future? Senator O'Connell's first amendment contemplates that a maximum of 24 years' service could be granted—1/48th of the salary for 24 years' service. Therefore, no person would get that amount except a person who became a member of the board at the age of 36. I think the Minister will agree that that would be rather an unusual case in the future. There has at least been one case in the past, but, in the future, the normal entrant will be over 36. If  you do appoint a member at the age of 36, and he remains in good health until he is 60, that would be rather an unusual case, and it would seem that the amount of money involved out of the resources of the board is very small indeed.
As I understand Senator O'Connell's first proposal, it merely means that in the case of a person who goes in at the age of 36 or at less than 36, he will get what the Minister provides for every year of his service up to 24. That would seem to me to be a very small amount. The Minister is quite right, I think, in saying that usually—I am not speaking of the present members of the board—a Minister for Industry and Commerce looking around for members will not appoint people under 35 years of age. The average would be over 40. If there is a particular person in the service of the board for 24 years because he had exceptional ability at the age of 36 when he was appointed. I do not think it would be too much to give him 24 years' service, and the truth is —I think the Minister recognises it— that the analogy with the Civil Service is not complete. Most of those going into the Civil Service or, at least, the great bulk of them, go in at the age of 18. The administrative class, the first division, go in at about the age of 23, and the Civil Service is defective to that extent and is prevented from getting good recruits by the fact that entering the Civil Service at a late age is not a very sound proposition for professional men. Therefore, what is involved in the first amendment would appear to me to be very, very small. and the additional zest that a person would get from knowing that he was going to get the full period of 24 years would fully repay the small cost involved.
Mr. Lemass: If I might reply to Senator Hayes, I feel that a discussion of this kind is not going to be very satisfactory because nobody can produce decisive arguments. It is a matter of opinion as to what constitutes generous treatment in all the circumstances relating to the appointment of members of the Electricity Supply Board, and what does not. The  absolutely certain thing we must keep in mind is that while it is undoubtedly correct that a great many of the staffs of Government Departments enter the service at an early age and intend to remain all their lives in Government Departments, retiring on pension at the end of their service, there are in the public service persons with qualifications analogous to those possessed by members of the Electricity Supply Board and appointed under similar circumstances.
I am sure that the House will agree that some of them have technical qualifications as high as any possessed by members of the Electricity Supply Board. They also enter the public service fairly late in life, after their reputations have been established by the work done by them in outside offices. They enter the Civil Service on scales of salary lower than those available to members of the Electricity Supply Board. It is true they may have greater security in office. I should like to stress that their scales of salary are calculated in relation to the fact that there is a pension provision for them. As everyone knows, the salaries of members of the Electricity Supply Board were fixed before there was any proposal to provide pensions for them on retirement, and it is not now intended that those salaries should be revised in the light of the fact that this Bill proposes to make pension provisions for them.
In addition, we are proposing that the dependents of a member of the Electricity Supply Board will be entitled to a lump sum payment on the death of the member in the service. That provision is not enjoyed by members of the Civil Service, who are on the 1 in 60 basis of pension. The 1 in 60 basis in the Civil Service corresponds to the 1 in 48 in the Electricity Supply Board except that the Electricity Supply Board basis is 25 per cent. better. In certain classes they are on the 1 in 80 basis and after 40 years' service they get half of the retiring salary in pension. They get a lump sum in addition on retirement. Those on the 1 in 60 basis get neither. It is with persons on that basis that comparison should be made in assessing the merits of the provisions of this  Bill. The provisions made in the Bill for members of the Electricity Supply Board are, in fact, 25 per cent. better than those made for public servants on the 1 in 60 basis. In addition, it is proposed that members of the Electricity Supply Board will enjoy the benefit of this insurance for their dependents, in that a lump sum equal to a year's salary will be paid to the dependents on the death, in service, of the member.
I do not know that I can say much more than that. I can hold out no hope that the Government is prepared to accept an amendment to this Bill. The provisions of the Bill relating to pensions for the board naturally had to be discussed with other Government Departments interested in the conditions of the public service and the possible reactions of any proposals in relation to the Electricity Supply Board on the conditions in the public service, and it would not be possible now to effect amendments.
Mr. O'Connell: The Minister speaks of generosity. I am not saying that there is anything in this amendment which could be described as generosity. I am still not convinced by the Minister's statement that this scheme is 25 per cent. better than that available to civil servants. His arguments were not very convincing. He stresses the fact that he must keep in mind analogous positions in other services. It is hard to conceive any other undertaking of the extent and nature of the Electricity Supply Board, with such a comparatively small number of people responsible for its maintenance and administration. It should not be difficult to give them pensions which would compare favourably with those given to other public servants. I still maintain that giving them a pension of less than half their salary, without any payment of a lump sum, does not compare in any favourable way with what is paid to other public servants.
I am sorry that the Minister cannot see his way to accept at least the first amendment, where he is asked for an increase from 20/48ths to 24/48ths. As has been pointed out by Senator Hayes, the difference in actual money  would not be large. I do not think it would mean 6d. per year to the biggest consumer of electricity. If the members of the board feel, as I believe they do, that they are not being treated on the same basis as the public services, it is a pity the Minister could not see his way to accept at least that first amendment.
Mr. M. Hayes: I do not agree with the Minister's arguments, but I have great sympathy with him, as he is in the grip of the Department of Finance, which has to deal with this kind of thing. What is really wrong about it all is that everything must be considered from the point of view of the Establishment Branch of the Department of Finance, which was framed originally to deal with clerks. I think that the Minister himself has plenty of experience of that. I do not expect him to agree with me, but, having been Minister for the past ten years, he must have been confronted with this difficulty. The Establishment Branch has not been either generous or just with anybody but the barristers, who have beaten them to a frazzle. The Department has to pay barristers. I am not saying that the Minister is ungenerous. I do not want to be ungenerous, but the truth is that the Electricity Supply Board, like many another undertaking, is quite outside the ordinary run of Civil Service work. It is one of the multitude of things introduced in the last 30 years, particularly since the last war and with increasing speed since the present war began.
There is no real analogy with the Civil Service in this case. The attempt to make an analogy falls down. If a man were appointed to the Electricity Supply Board at the age of 36, the difference to the board in giving him 24/48ths instead of 20/48ths would be negligible, and the number of cases where it would occur would be very small. If it is right, it ought to be done. The late professional entrants into the Civil Service are, in fact, very badly treated. That is the truth; I saw it myself for ten years, as Chairman of the Civil Service Commissioners.  There were advertisements saying that “the following scales of salary are sanctioned by the Minister for Finance”. You never could persuade the Minister for Finance to give anything to anybody who was not a clerk, except a very small sum. That is what is wrong with the Civil Service and with the whole outlook on payment by the Department of Finance. If there were any case they could make, I could understand it, but there are no analogous cases at all.
The first amendment by Senator O'Connell involves such a very small sum and deals with such a very special set of cases, both now and in the future, that it might very well be accepted. The whole analogy with the Civil Service, and with professional entrants into the Civil Service, is wrong and does not really lie at all. I know the kind of case that is made. The Civil Service is not able to adapt itself to this idea of taking in people with special qualifications at a late age —say 35 or 40. It has not done it in a manner satisfactory either to itself or to the entrants. The fact that the Civil Service has not done that satisfactorily should not be allowed to prevent the Minister for Industry and Commerce, now or in the future, from getting the best type of people for the Electricity Supply Board. The amount involved would be very small and the principle on which the Minister refuses is really not a principle or analogy at all.
The sub-section, as it reads, would appear to be one of general application, but in actual fact it affects one person and, as far as I can see, never can affect anybody else. If there is one person who should get special consideration in connection with the supply of electricity in this country, it is the person who is affected by this particular sub-section. If we have electricity supplied on a wide scale, a network of supply all over the country  to-day, it is almost entirely due to the vision, the foresight and the pertinacity of the particular individual who is affected by this sub-section. This man was appointed one of the first members of the board. He was the originator of the Shannon electricity scheme. He was appointed as a member of the board and, after serving in that capacity for almost four years, he was dropped by the former Government. Personally, I could never quite understand what the actual difference between the Government and himself was. It was a matter of policy, I believe. Whatever it was, it could not be due to any defects in the man himself for after some 13 or 14 months, when the present Government came into office, he was reappointed and is still a member of the board.
In 1931 when his services were being dispensed with, the Minister at the time, now Deputy McGilligan, explained to the Dáil why what the Minister now calls a gratuity, but which in my humble opinion is not correctly styled a gratuity, was paid. I have an extract from Deputy McGilligan's speech here in recommending that this sum should be paid to this person at the time. The reference is column 1647, Volume 39. Deputy McGilligan then stated:—
“By reason of the fact that he was the author of the scheme and by reason of the very great industry he showed in it, and the tremendous amount of energy and enthusiasm he put into its promotion, and the great amount of hard work he put into its development since its inception, I ask that we do now what an ordinary business firm would do. He has followed a policy which I put to the House was wrong but it was a policy which was honestly taken up. An ordinary commercial undertaking would allow a man in such a position who left their employment at least a year in which to look round for other work and would finance him accordingly, and we want in this case to pay a sum of money which would be equal to a year's pay if he had remained on in the services of the board.”
 That sum was paid. Now, the only explanation as far as I can gather, for the insertion of this particular sub-section is that this sum that was paid was in the nature of a gratuity as we understand gratuities under the Superannuation Acts, that it was in fact something in the way of a pension for the services he had rendered. I maintain that that is not so at all, that it was really compensation for loss of position. He had a warrant or guarantee of appointment for five years. For some reason which seemed good to the Government at the time, his services were dispensed with after about three and a half years or some such period. As the Minister at the time stated, the Government did what any practical business firm would do. They assumed that it would take something like a year or two for him to look around to get anything like a similar appointment and they gave him what amounted to a year's salary. Because of that, this sub-section appears here, a sub-section which in calculating his pension would deprive him of almost four years which he gave to the service of the board.
I put it to the Minister, taking all the circumstances into account, taking into account especially the person concerned, the only person concerned, that it would be what I might almost call shabby on the part of the Oireachtas to include this sub-section in the measure and deprive this man to whom we owe the Shannon scheme of whatever benefit it might be to him. It might not affect him at all. He may have ultimately the 20 years' service which the Bill specifies as the period for a full pension. He may have that without counting those four years, but we do not know what may happen in future. For some reason or other, something may crop up between the Government and this individual as it did before, which would necessitate the termination of his services. In that case he would not have the full 20 years to qualify for a full pension. On the other hand, he may fall into ill health and he would not be in a position, if he had to retire on that account, to reckon these three and a half or four years in order to get a  pension. That would mean that he would be forced to accept a considerably reduced pension. I certainly would press the Minister as strongly as I can, and I hope the Seanad will agree with me, that this sub-section should be dropped. I do not think it is necessary because, as I see it, no case could crop up again of a similar nature. If something like that happens again, there is provision made to meet it in the Bill. I ask the Minister very earnestly—I think it is only right and fair and there is no question of generosity involved in this case—that he should agree to accept this amendment and drop this sub-section.
Mr. Lemass: I do not agree with Senator O'Connell that this sub-section can relate to only one person. It provides that where a person becomes entitled to a pension under this Bill, he will not be entitled to reckon for the purposes of such pension any period of service as a member of the board in respect of which he has received a gratuity. The proposal, therefore, is that, neither now nor in the future, will the board be entitled to pay a pension for a period of service in respect of which a gratuity has already been paid. Senator O'Connell says that this sub-section relates and can only relate to one particular person. That individual, now a member of the board, was removed from office as a member of the board, after some years of service. On his removal he received by way of special provision a sum of £2,000. My opinion of the suitability of that person for membership of the board was expressed by the fact that on coming into office I recommended his re-appointment to the board. If I had not been prepared to do that this question would not have arisen now. Senator O'Connell says that the payment made to him in 1931 on his removal from office was not a gratuity. If so, the section does not apply to it. If that case can be sustained, then there is certainly no point in amending the Bill because all the Bill does is to advert to the payment of pensions in respect of any period of service for which a gratuity has been paid.
I feel certain that nobody in this  House will seriously contend that, where a member of the board has on retirement received a gratuity in repect of a period of service, he should be entitled at some later stage to come forward after reappointment and claim that that period of service should be taken into account in determining the total period in respect of which pension should be paid. Even if this were a solitary case, and the circumstances were as described by Senator O'Connell, I feel that no injustice is being done.
Mr. Lemass: There is no provision in the Bill for the payment of gratuities to anybody, but members, in order to qualify for a pension, must have ten years' aggregate service, including one period of five years' continuous service. I can visualise a number of circumstances in which members of the board might cease to be members of the board without qualifying for a pension at all.
Mr. O'Connell: I maintain that, despite what the Minister has said, there is only one person affected by this particular sub-section, or can be affected. If it is the Minister's case that the person concerned might go to the courts and ask for a declaration as to whether or not what he got, and which was not described at the time as a gratuity, is, or is not, a gratuity. I do not think that is putting the case very fairly, because that is what the Minister suggested. If it is not a gratuity, then it would not affect this particular person. The only people who could decide are the courts, and I hardly think that it is treating this particular individual in the way he is  entitled to be treated by this Oireachtas to suggest that that is the only way he has of claiming and getting the benefit of those three and a half years.
Mr. Lemass: If the circumstances are as described by the Senator, that in fact this sub-section does not apply to the individual he has in mind, because that individual did not in fact receive a gratuity, I do not see why he should be concerned about the sub-section. I have no objection to the amendment at all except that I want to make it clear that if at any time in the future the question should arise of the payment of a gratuity to a person on retirement at that time, provision will have to be made that a pension cannot be paid for the same service subsequently.
Mr. M. Hayes: Sometimes the Minister is very annoying. He caught Senator O'Connell on the wrong foot. Senator O'Connell said that he did not think it was a gratuity at all. The Minister is quite right in this. If a man is in office and is taken from that office, and he gets compensation for the loss of his office, then, of course, he should not count that period as a pensionable period. In the case of the individual Senator O'Connell mentions, I do not think the money he got under an Act of the Oireachtas in 1931 was stated to be compensation for the loss of office, or a gratuity. However, if it does not apply to him it is all right. The Minister is going to take out the sub-section now, but I think if he wanted to put in what is in his mind he would express it this way— that a person who got compensation for loss of office should not be entitled to count that period as a term of service.
Mr. Lemass: The circumstances were that the individual's term of  office was brought to a conclusion earlier than his warrant indicated, and he got a payment of £2,000 representing one year's income. I think it would be historically correct to say that the individual retired from office.
This amendment is one to which I made some reference on the Second Stage. It seems to me to be a completely simple matter. The Electricity Supply Board was set up under an Act, the plain intention of which was stated to be, and in effect was, to keep the board at arm's length from the Government and the two Houses of the Oireachtas. The board enjoys and exercises, and has satisfactorily exercised, it would appear, very wide powers, but when they come to frame a superannuation scheme for their employees they are brought entirely under the control of, in effect, the Minister for Finance, and the power given to the Minister for Industry and Commerce in consultation with the Minister for Finance in this section is very great. The thing about the Minister for Industry and Commerce in consultation with the Minister for Finance is, of course, for those with administrative experience, rather misleading verbiage. It means that the Minister for Finance has power to frame a superannuation scheme for the employees of the board without consulting the board and without putting into the scheme any one single thing suggested  by the board. I would like the House to listen to the words:
“When a scheme has been submitted to the Minister in pursuance of the foregoing sub-section of this section, the Minister shall either, as he shall think proper, refer such scheme back to the board for reconsideration and fresh submission under the sub-section or, by order made after consultation with the Minister for Finance, confirm such scheme either without modification or with such modifications”—note the words—“(whether by way of addition, omission or variation) as the Minister shall, after such consultation, think proper.”
The Minister for Industry may make mistakes and any member of the Seanad may make mistakes, but when the Minister for Finance comes into the picture he never makes any mistakes. The effect of that plainly is that the Minister for Industry and Commerce, after consulting the Minister for Finance, may promulgate and confirm a scheme which is entirely contrary and entirely different to the scheme the board wants, and to the scheme that the board's employees want, or to the scheme which the board and its employees have agreed upon. I think that is a complete departure from the spirit of the original Acts and from the whole notion that was behind the setting up of the board itself. In order to effect a very slight improvement in it—and it would only be a slight improvement—I move that we should add after the Minister for Industry the words “and the board”, so that the Minister, before he confirmed a scheme, with or without modification, should consult not only the Minister for Finance but also the board. I am sure the Minister for Finance did say on the Second Stage that the board would be consulted, and that his intention is that he will not be thwarted by the board's refusal to promulgate a scheme.
The Minister gave in this House and in the other House an example of a scheme for pensions for railway employees which never came off, but I think there is no comparison whatever  between the Electricity Supply Board—at the moment, or in the future as far as we can see—and the railways, which are at a very low ebb and at a very difficult moment of their existence. I think there is no likelihood that the Electricity Supply Board—this one or another one— would entirely refuse to bring in a superannuation scheme for its employees. Therefore, at least they ought to be consulted before the Minister proceeds to form a scheme which may be very different indeed from the one they submitted to him.
Mr. Fitzgerald: Senator Hayes referred to the fact that the original idea was to have this board at arm's length from the Government. That is quite so. It was felt that, as this board was running what might be called a commercial concern in the country, it would be impossible to have it subject to the control of the Comptroller and Auditor-General, who would make a report that would be examined by the Public Accounts Committee amid that publicity which is not desirable in the case of a commercial concern. On the other hand, there were certain decided difficulties about that. It was decidedly undesirable to have this undertaking running as a business in the country and differing from other businesses in that, instead of setting out to make a profit and pay dividends, any profit it made should be applied to reducing the cost of electricity to the consumers. It differed from other commercial concerns in that way. It was also undesirable that any Deputy in the Dáil could get up and ask the Minister detailed questions in regard to it. A Government is quite different from a commercial concern in that way, and that situation was sought to be met by this arm's length policy.
On the other hand, the Minister, in his administrative acts, in any act he performs under legislation of the Oireachtas, is acting subject to the control of the Legislature. Therefore, the Legislature has the right to demand from him an account of his actions. It does seem to me, therefore, that if the Minister takes the powers  given to him—I am not saying that it is undesirable that those powers should be given in a general way—with regard to pension proposals, then, by the ordinary idea of Parliamentary control, the action that he takes, whether it be to add to or to take from or to vary the pensions proposed, must be subject to the control of the Dáil. He must be in a position to be called upon to give an account of his actions there. If his actions are going to be accounted for, that may also raise the question of the Comptroller and Auditor-General.
I do not know whether the Minister has considered the possible repercussions of this particular clause, namely, that it does bring the matter under the general supervision of the Dáil, and does mean that any member of the Legislature has the right to query, to criticise or to condemn a particular action that he has taken. It does seem to me that, if that is so, then we are moving the Electricity Supply Board into the position of being a much more Parliamentarily controlled Government institution than was the original intention. I should like to know if the Minister does accept the suggestion that, under that clause, his actions are liable to query and discussion in the Dáil.
Mr. Lemass: I think the answer to what Senator Fitzgerald has said is this, that when the Act establishing the Electricity Supply Board was passed it did not provide power to the board to pay pensions to its employees. If it did, this Bill would not be necessary. At a much later stage, we are coming in to empower the board to pay pensions to its employees. We are proposing to give them that power subject to certain limitations which are set out in the Bill. We are not attempting to give statutory sanction to the actual pensions scheme. We are saying to the board: “You can prepare and bring into operation a superannuation scheme for your employees, subject to certain limitations which are set out in the Bill—equal contributions and so forth.” One of the limitations which we are proposing should be placed upon the power to be given to the board is this, that when they have prepared  their scheme they will submit it for consideration to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I stated already the reasons why it was considered desirable that there should be some power to examine, and if necessary to revise the scheme, by a representative of what I might call the public interest, because this is not merely a matter between the Electricity Supply Board and its staff. It is one that may have an effect upon the development of social policy generally in the country, and consequently we feel that the representative of the public should, at that stage, have an opportunity to examine what exactly the board is proposing to do. That is what this section provides for. It says that, when the board has prepared this scheme, it shall submit it to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. When he gets it, he can confirm the scheme, in which case I am sure Senator Hayes will agree that consultation with the board will not be required; or he can refer it back to the board for reconsideration in respect of particular parts, setting forth no doubt the particular points which he thinks the board should reconsider; or he can himself, after consultation with the Minister for Finance, confirm the scheme with qualifications.
Senator Hayes, I think, misunderstood the point I was trying to make arising out of my experience in connection with the pensions scheme for the employees of the Great Southern Railways Company. It was not that there was any similarity between the position of the Great Southern Railways Company and the Electricity Supply Board, but rather that there was a defect in the legislation which we enacted in 1933 relating to the railway company's employees, in so far as the legislation did not make provision for resolving a position of deadlock. As Senators will remember, the Act required the railway company to prepare a scheme and to submit that scheme to a tribunal, and gave to the tribunal the obligation of saying whether or not the scheme met the reasonable requirements of the employees. The company prepared a scheme, and submitted it to the tribunal. The tribunal declared that it did not meet the reasonable requirements  of the employees, but the Act did not say anything beyond that. Consequently nothing happened after that, and the movement to establish a pensions scheme for the railway company's employees was stopped. The possibility of restarting it was, of course, considerably reduced by the catastrophic fall in the finances of the company in the years that followed.
We should have in this case some provision to ensure that a deadlock cannot arise here. The aim of this Bill is to ensure that there shall be a pensions scheme for the employees of the Electricity Supply Board. It will not be open to the board to say: “We will or will not exercise the powers conferred upon us now at our discretion.” They must prepare a scheme. They must submit that scheme for the consideration of the Minister for Industry and Commerce, and the Minister for Industry and Commerce will have power ultimately if necessary to require the board to go ahead with a scheme based upon their original draft, but modified if he considers modifications are necessary. In practice, that situation is unlikely to arise here, because we know that the Electricity Supply Board are anxious to establish a superannuation scheme for their employees, and there is complete agreement between them and us as to the desirability of it.
Consequently, the only question upon which some differences of opinion may arise will be questions of detail. It is unlikely that those questions will be of such a character that they cannot be resolved by discussion and agreement. I do think, in so far as we are now merely providing legislative foundation for the whole thing, that we should have there as an ultimate safeguard some means of resolving a deadlock if it should arise.
The insertion of the words which Senator Hayes proposes is unnecessary, and in a sense undesirable. If in fact there is no disagreement they are unnecessary. Once the board has submitted its scheme, and has reconsidered any points that are submitted to it for reconsideration, it is probable  that the scheme will be confirmed without further ado, and consultation at that stage between the Minister and the board need not be made mandatory. If, at that stage, it becomes necessary to suggest further modifications of the scheme because of the reluctance of the board to alter it in the manner which may be suggested to it, then I do not think it is likely that it will be necessary to use this power to compel the board to accept amendments to which they themselves object. It is true that the wording of that sub-section, as it stands, would enable the Minister for Industry and Commerce to be queried in the Dáil as to why he did, or did not, exercise his power to require modification of the scheme. If the Minister does exercise that power to amend the scheme or if he proposes an amendment to the scheme submitted by the Electricity Supply Board, he should be answerable to somebody.
Mr. Lemass: I give the Seanad an assurance that there will be full consultation between the board and the Department of Industry and Commerce in respect of any matter that may appear to require it and that, in any event, there will be no attempt to impose upon the board a point of view different from that held by them except it appears to be a matter of primary importance. In matters of detail, we may have suggestions to make which, we think, would improve the scheme but, if they appear to be objectionable, unless they are of importance, the matter will end with acceptance of their proposals.
Mr. Lemass: No. So far as I understand, the effect of that amendment might be to bring the whole scheme prepared by the board into debate in either House of the Oireachtas. I do not think that that is desirable. The Legislature should limit itself to empowering the board to bring a scheme into operation subject to the limitations  which public policy appears to require. I do not think that we should take upon ourselves the obligation of passing judgment as a Legislature on the actual scheme.
Mr. M. Hayes: There is merely a difference in the understanding of this section between the Minister and ourselves. As I understand sub-section (2), the Minister has two alternatives. One is to refer the scheme back to the board for reconsideration. The words are: “or either” refer the scheme back. The other alternative which the Minister has is, by order made after consultation with the Minister for Finance, to confirm the scheme or modify it. I know that these provisions are treacherous and difficult to understand, but I have read a great many of them and it seems clear to me that the Minister for Industry and Commerce has power under this sub-section, after he receives a scheme from the board, to put any scheme he likes into operation, having either consulted the board or not consulted them. I am not playing politics and I do not say that the Minister for Industry and Commerce, here and now, is going to do that but we cannot be sure of an angelic succession of Ministers for Industry and Commerce.
Mr. Lemass: Is not the Senator stretching the meaning of the word “modification” beyond its usual connotation? As the basis of the whole thing, a scheme must be prepared by the board and only in certain circumstances can there be modification of that scheme.
Mr. Lemass: I do not think that the Minister could stretch that power to the extent of proposing a new scheme for the board. What is going to happen? The board will go to their actuaries and tell them to prepare a scheme of pensions for them on a certain basis. They will give them the  number of employees and their average ages and they will tell them to work out the whole business. Those will be the bones of the scheme. There will have to be certain provisions as to management of the fund and the election of a committee of management, but the bones of the scheme will be prepared by the actuaries of the board. The attitude of the Department of Industry and Commerce will likely be that of making the various assumptions of the actuaries more conservative than the board might be inclined to make them, if any question should arise between us. In assuming the income to be derived from any superannuation fund, various calculations are possible and, in assuming the outgoings, various calculations are possible. Figures were produced in the Dáil based upon the assumption which, I think, was unfounded, that half of the staff would elect to retire at 60 instead of 65 years of age. That is most unlikely. Senators who were members of the Government in the past are aware that persons due to retire at 65 immediately petitioned to be allowed to remain on.
Mr. Lemass: It is much more likely that people will go on to 65 and try to remain after 65 than elect to retire on a smaller pension at 60 years. In respect of that we may urge, and probably will urge, that a conservative assumption should be made during the initial period in which the fund will be operated as to the charges that will fall upon the fund and the income the fund will be capable of earning. In order to give bigger pensions to their employees, the board may be prepared to adopt less conservative assumptions. It is on matters of that kind that any dispute may arise and, in the last analysis, it is the calling in of a third actuary which will settle points in dispute.
Mr. M. Hayes: The Parliamentary draftsman drafted this provision on instructions. Sometimes he makes things clearer than he was expected to make them. The Minister knows as well as I do that there have been cases in which Ministers were astounded at  the interpretation placed by the courts on legislation which they thought was quite satisfactory when being put through the Oireachtas. The words used here are very strong. The Minister may confirm the scheme without modification or with modifications whether by way of “addition, omission or variation”. I do not know that you could get words stronger than these, though a skilled lawyer might find stronger words.
The Minister knows that no power is too great for the Department of Finance. There is nothing which the officials of the Department of Finance are not able to do and nothing that they do not know better than anybody else. They are prepared to do anything about anything. The Minister knows that. They must have pestered the life out of him, but I do not expect him to admit that what I say is true. They know all about the Electricity Supply Board. They know more about the actuarial work than the actuary. They know all about the plumbers, carpenters and clerks employed by the Electricity Supply Board. This sub-section, as worded, seems to give power to the Minister for Industry and Commerce, after consultation with the Minister for Finance, to make very important changes in the scheme. If you add to the scheme, omit something from it and vary something in it, it means that you can produce something much nearer your heart's desire than the desire of the persons who originally framed the scheme. That being so, the power should not exist unless, as the Minister says, the Minister concerned is responsible for exercising it, but it is only a short step from that to saying that if he is responsible for the exercise of the power, he should also be responsible for the method in which he exercises it.
I am not in favour of the Minister having this power at all, but it is inevitable that if Ministers have the power that they should not exercise it without consulting the board, and that if they have exercised the power they should be prepared to answer to the Oireachtas for the way they did it.  There is no possibility of avoiding that. I am only giving the Minister the logical Parliamentary development of the powers he seeks. What is the criterion in the Dáil when a man puts down a question? The theory is that a certain Minister must be responsible. You cannot put down a motion at large, you must say that the Minister for Justice, the Minister for Finance or the Minister for Industry and Commerce can do something in the matter. Surely, if the Minister for Industry and Commerce combined with the Minister for Finance to modify a scheme by way of variation or addition, there must and there will be a Parliamentary method, even if we do not put it into this amendment, of bringing that responsibility before the Dáil. If this power is going to be put in the section, I think there should be prior consultation with the board. It is of considerable importance that the scheme should not become law without that consultation. I am admitting that the Minister has a point of view in the matter and I am not questioning his motives.
Mr. Lemass: I think the fact is that the Senator is exaggerating the functions which the Department of Finance have to play under this section. It is not the Department of Finance which will come in and say that the scheme must be amended. It is the Minister for Industry and Commerce. He is obliged to consult the Minister for Finance before he requires modifications to be made, but he does not necessarily have to accept the declarations of the Minister for Finance in the matter. The procedure is laid down fairly clearly in the Bill— a scheme is prepared by the Electricity Supply Board and submitted to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. The Minister for Industry and Commerce can ask the Electricity Supply Board to reconsider the scheme in any respect he wishes. If, on reconsideration, the board send back the scheme to him in a manner in which, in his opinion, amendment is still desirable, no doubt he can ask them to reconsider it again. I do not think there is any limitation upon the number of  times he can ask the board to reconsider the scheme, but in the last resort he can modify the scheme himself. The Department of Finance come into it before he can modify the scheme, because he must consult the Minister for Finance, but it is possible that the Minister for Finance would adopt the view of the board rather than that of the Minister for Industry and Commerce.
Mr. Fitzgerald: It seems to me that whatever the board does with regard to pensions the Minister must be prepared to answer to the Dáil, and once you are dealing with pensions, you come up against vested interests outside ready to go after Deputies to ask questions and these interests would be vitally interested in enlarging the pensions.
Mr. M. Hayes: I do not want to wrangle about this thing, but will the Minister consider that, under this sub-section as it is framed, it is possible for a Minister for Industry and Commerce to get a scheme from the board and never to say one word more but to put up a scheme of his own? I put it to him that that is an interpretation. Perhaps his advisers will re-examine it?
Mr. Douglas: I really think the Minister should look into it. I have been considering it while Senator Hayes was speaking and I do not think it is very  clear. The sentence was most involved. The Electricity Supply Board is run largely as a business concern. I had some experience of superannuation schemes carried out through insurance companies, and it has always been necessary to discuss a considerable number of details with the staffs because you must have the staffs satisfied and willing to work in with the scheme. These discussions take time. It seems to me that when the board has prepared a scheme, Government Departments may proceed to interfere in that best old British Treasury tradition which I think we have here, and thereby complicate the whole working of the scheme which has been drawn up by the board. I do not think the Minister wants that and, as one member of the House, I do not want it. The present wording of the sub-section is too complicated and I think the Minister should look into it before the final stage.
Mr. Lemass: I think that a lawyer would interpret sub-section (2) as empowering a Minister to do what Senator Hayes suggested—receive a scheme from the board and without further consultation modify the scheme in some respects, but having regard to the presence in the section of words relating to the possibility of referring back to the board any point which the Minister thinks should be reconsidered, it is inconceivable that any Minister would proceed to act in that way. He would certainly exercise the first alternative, even if, at subsequent stages, he might not exercise the second.
Mr. Lemass: It will be a Heath Robinsonian affair I think, if we say that and no more. I do not mind looking into the draft of the section, but I would rather not have to change it if I could avoid it.
At the end of sub-section (3), page 5, line 13, to add the words “unless within twenty-one days upon which either House of the Oireachtas has sat a resolution annulling such scheme shall have been passed by either such House”.
Mr. Lemass: Nobody would take the risk of operating such a scheme which might be annulled by resolution of either House and, therefore, the whole position will have to stand until 21 days have passed.
The sub-section to which this amendment is being moved is the one which penalises employees of the Electricity Supply Board who belong to the pensions  scheme by depriving them of the benefits of that scheme if they go on strike. This section is probably the most objectionable one in the whole Bill, and, in my opinion, very definitely mars what is, as I said last week on the Second Reading, a very desirable piece of social legislation. It is altogether unnecessary and it has aroused more antagonism to the Bill than any other proposal, particularly among manual workers and workers organised in the trade union movement.
The amendment asks that the service of participants in pension schemes should not be broken for the purpose of the pension scheme simply because they have gone on strike. The object that the Minister has in view in this Bill could have been achieved better by setting up some form of conciliation machinery, making provision for the prevention of disputes, rather than by making provision for penalties as now set forth, if workers are constrained for some grave reason—a reason of conscience or some other valid reason—to withdraw their labour.
In that regard, I would like to dispel the idea, pretty prevalent in circles outside the trade union movement, that strikes are a form of national pastime engaged in by organised workers. Anyone who has had the misfortune to be a participant in a strike, particularly a long strike, knows the economic consequences which follow. Workers are very slow to go out on strike unless there is a very grave reason. In this connection, I submit that the Minister already has the power he needs in the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act, 1875, and in the originating Act of the Electricity Supply Board, where it was made a criminal offence to interfere with the generation, transmission, and distribution of gas—or, in this case, of electricity. I think he has all the safeguards required in both of those measures.
We regard that portion of the sub-section that we propose should be deleted as entirely unnecessary, and, having regard to the two Acts to which I have referred, as redundant. Many workers will find difficulty in  participating under this Act—particularly lower paid workers—because of the financial obligations it will impose on them, but they would be willing to get over those difficulties if this definitely objectionable clause could be disposed of. I have some knowledge of the feelings of workers—particularly manual workers—in regard to this section. They feel that, as long as this section stands, very many of them will not participate in any scheme. I know that the Minister has stated that there is no obligation on them to take part and that, if they want to leave themselves free to take part in any action such as strike action, they can do so by not coming into this scheme. That would be very undesirable.
There is another aspect that we, as representatives of the trade union movement, cannot overlook. Many good employers in industry pay pensions to their workers without any obligation. Because they are good employers they pay those pensions. In my own trade, rather substantial pensions are paid to certain classes of workers. If we were to let this section go, without making a protest, it might occur in future that employers would put an obligation on workers who participate in any pension scheme, to give an assurance that they would not engage in strike action at any time. We feel that it is necessary to make a protest here about that. The Minister himself has stated that he would like to see a development of pension schemes for other classes of workers. If he gets away with this Bill, he may be tempted, in any schemes in the future, to impose a similar clause— even though the service might not be an essential service or one where workers should not go on strike.
In regard to the statement about workers having the desire to strike, I would say there is no desire on their part to engage in that costly luxury without very grave reason. If this country were invaded by an alien power and the Electricity Supply Board workers decided, as has been done in the past, that they would close down for a week, would they be regarded as taking action coming within the scope  of this section? Would they be penalised for that?
I also wish to refer to the provision in paragraph (c) of sub-section 3, where it is laid down that “all contributions paid to the said fund by such person, or by the board on his behalf, in respect of the period of service so excluded shall remain in the said fund and shall not be repayable.” That is a very unfair clause. I will not go so far as to say it is ungenerous, but it seems to me to be rather unfair that workers participating in the scheme should be penalised, not only in respect of pensions in the future but also in respect of contributions paid before the commission of that “wilful act” which caused, or might have caused, an interruption in the generation, transmission or distribution of electricity. The worker should be entitled at least to the repayment of the contribution he had made prior to the commission of the overt act which will cause this service to be excluded in the computation of his pension rights.
I would urge the Minister to give at least some consideration to the points which I have made in respect of this sub-section. We believe it is altogether too harsh. There is no desire to go on strike. If the Minister introduced some sort of conciliation machinery, it might much better serve the object he had in view. Having regard to the good conditions and constant employment already referred to, we do not think there is any desire for precipitate or hasty action, but we think it is an affront to the manual workers in the service of the Electricity Supply Board that they should have this section imposed on them.
Mr. O'Connell: I object to the inclusion of this provision, from a somewhat different point of view from that-put forward by Senator Campbell. It appears to me that the Minister is using a Superannuation Bill to do something which should be done, if done at all, by a separate measure. He is introducing in a piecemeal, partial way something which, if done at all, should be the subject of discussion in a separate Bill. There may be very many arguments which could be put  forward in favour, not only of conciliation, but also of arbitration, and even of compulsory arbitration.
I do not think there is anyone amongst the workers or any other section of the community who is anxious to have strikes. I believe that everybody is anxious to do everything possible to avoid them. I do not share entirely the views expressed by labour representatives that a tribunal could not be found in this country which would arbitrate fairly, honestly and justly on matters of dispute. I would not accept it as a general principle that there should be no such thing as compulsory arbitration, which this really amounts to in essence. Although it is not stated, that is what this means in effect. It is a penalisation of the worker unless he is prepared to accept compulsory arbitration. If there is to be compulsory arbitration for the settlement of disputes, the Government should put that forward as a general principle for the acceptance of the Oireachtas, to apply not only in particular cases where pensions are provided, but in other cases also. This is a pettifogging way to introduce this very big principle into what, strictly speaking, should be a superannuation Bill—penalising people by depriving them of pensions to which they have contributed. If they exercise a right which they have at the present time— it has not been taken from them by legislation and it is not being taken from them—they are penalised by being deprived of pensions and the contributions which they have paid over a long period of years.
I think that is not the way to deal with this problem. I think that instead of introducing it in this measure, and possibly in other measures that may crop up at other times, in this piecemeal fashion the whole problem should be tackled, if it is a problem. It should not be dealt with in this manner. This attempt to bring about a certain result by inserting a penalty in a superannuation Bill is not the proper way to deal with the matter.
Mr. Douglas: I have a good deal of sympathy with the point of view expressed by Senator O'Connell. I made it pretty clear on previous occasions, in discussing the general question of industrial disputes, that I do not think the right to strike is something which should be extended to every service. My opinion is that the time has come when we should provide for compulsory arbitration in essential services. To my mind the Electricity Supply Board is not only an essential service now but, quite likely after the war, it may be extended to become, perhaps, the most essential service in this country. Our difficulties with regard to coal and various other supplies seem to me to make it almost certain that some Government will have to try to exploit further our natural resources. For that reason, I would be in favour either in this Bill or preferably in a separate Bill of a definite provision for compulsory arbitration, but I do not like the method which the Minister has chosen to bring that about. The workers retain the right to strike but they are told that should they exercise it, they will have to do without a pension. If they are to have a pension, they must have compulsory arbitration. I cannot see any relation between the two things at all. It also seems to me that instead of getting accepted what I believe is desirable, a properly thought out scheme of compulsory arbitration for all the workers, you will have compulsory arbitration for part only of the servants of the Electricity Supply Board. You may have people deciding not to avail of superannuation provisions which in ordinary circumstances they would be glad to avail of. I am afraid that the Minister, probably with the intention of giving effect to the idea at the first opportunity, may defeat his own purpose by these means and may find it far more difficult to adopt it in future. I am altogether out of sympathy with the method which he has chosen.
I think it is dangerous to compel workers in any organisation at the present time, particularly in a semi-State organisation, to decide this question: “Will you come into a superannuation  scheme, to provide pensions for yourself and make provision for your families, or do you say that it is more important to retain the right to strike, or the right to refuse compulsory arbitration, in certain circumstances?” The question of a desire to strike has nothing to do with it. I do not believe that any trade union deliberately desires a strike or any group of employers would desire a lockout any more than a few years ago there was any country which deliberately desired war, but we know that these things happen. Employers may get involved in lock-outs without having any intention of doing so, and we know that trade unions are very often involved in strikes which six months previously they had never contemplated.
Mr. Lemass: I cannot agree at all that the provision contained in this sub-section is inappropriate to the Bill. Clearly, the Bill must provide for the determination of the period of service in respect of which a pension will be paid. The pension receivable by a manual worker employed by the board at the end of his period of service will be reckoned in relation to the number of years continuous service he had in the employment of the board. Some method of determining the number of years and the continuity of that service must exist. Provision is made in the Bill for the possibility of a break in the service. A break in the service will not cause any loss of pension to the worker provided he is willing that his contributions should remain in the fund and provided also that the break in service was not due to any wilful action on his part which caused an interruption in the generation, transmission or distribution of electricity. It is true that one of the aims of the sub-section is to lessen the possibility of manual workers employed by the board taking strike action in a manner which will cause an interruption in the generation, transmission or distribution of electricity or which will impede the due performance of any of the functions of the board.
Senator Campbell referred to the Act of 1870. I confess that I thought that  the existence of that Act, which was made to apply to employment under the Electricity Supply Board by the Electricity Supply Act of 1927, was an argument in favour of my contention rather than in favour of his. Under that Act, a worker who wilfully withdraws his labour in a manner which causes an interruption in the supply of electricity in any town becomes guilty of a criminal offence for which he can be charged in the Criminal Courts. That is the law so far as electricity is concerned since 1927. It has been the law so far as gas and other public services are concerned since 1870. Circumstances may make it difficult to apply that law in individual cases, but so far as the electricity supply workers are concerned in this Bill, there is no question of depriving them of the right to strike if they want to. We think we ought to take every step, however, that will result in discouraging them going on strike. These steps must include certain penalties, if they choose to go on strike and certain safeguards if they choose not to go on strike.
The Electricity Supply Board service is, as Senator Douglas says, one of vital importance to the whole country. On the maintenance of the supply of electricity there depend the livelihoods of thousands of other workers. A sudden or protracted interruption in the supply of electricity would jeopardise the employment of the great majority of workers in the country. It eventually would bring practically all industrial employment to a standstill. I suggest that it is not unreasonable to say that the comparatively small number of workers employed by the Electricity Supply Board should not be permitted to bring about that situation. It could be argued that we are not preventing them bringing about that situation under this Bill. We are going no further than discouraging them from doing so but I do not think it will be seriously suggested that the whole of our legislation should not be directed towards discouraging an interruption in the supply of electricity, in view of the widespread and catastrophic consequences it would have for workers throughout the whole country. These  workers are employed by the board at standard rates of wages provided for in agreements made by the trade unions representative of them in respect of their classes of employment generally. The board pays these standard rates. In the negotiations and the agreements in which these standard rates were set up—agreements which were made, not with the board, but with other employers engaging the services of similar classes of workers, carpenters, electricians, lorry drivers, etc.—I am quite certain that consideration was given to the fact that these workers, when employed by ordinary commercial employers, have no guarantee of continuity of employment.
In determining the hourly or daily or weekly rate workers' representatives would keep in mind what, having regard to normal employment, the average worker's yearly earnings on the basis of these rates would be. The Electricity Supply Board worker obviously is in a very much better position. He has continuity of employment, and a reasonable assurance of continuity in the future. In addition, we are proposing to ensure for him what other workers have not got—a pension on retirement. Clearly, the position will be much better in every way than that of workers in the same grades or of the same skill employed by other employers. They will have, on the one hand, the same rate of wages, and, on the other hand, a reasonable assurance of continuity of employment and a pension on retirement. In these circumstances, it is not unreasonable to say to them: “We ask you to submit any matters that may arise in dispute between you and the employers to the arbitration of an independent tribunal. We are not denying you the right to strike, either before or after the submission of your case, but we do impose on you this penalty, that if you go on strike in the manner contemplated in paragraph (a) of sub-section (3) then you have broken continuity of service, and the reckoning of your pension on retirement will date from the day of resumption.” As  a safeguard to the workers we have established a tribunal.
I have said before that the right of a worker is not so much the right to strike as the right to justice. There is an obligation on us in framing legislation of this kind to ensure a means of obtaining justice to the workers and we have given them an alternative and, in my opinion, a better means of getting justice than the utilisation of the strike weapon. In the normal course, I presume, all matters in dispute will be the subject of negotiation, but in the event of negotiation not leading to a settlement in a manner acceptable to the workers there will be an independent tribunal with power to give a final decision upon the merits of the case. That safeguard will, in the long run, prove much more valuable to the workers than the right to withdraw their labour and take strike action. It is much more likely to result in an improvement in the conditions of the employment, and the speedy rectification of any grievances that they may feel they have.
The whole decision of the Government to apply the provisions of this scheme to manual workers employed by the board turns upon the retention of this provision. Originally when the Bill was being framed the Government considered carefully whether the scheme should be applied to the manual workers employed by the board or not. We could easily have contended that so long as the board gave to the manual workers the best conditions which workers of the same kind have from any other employers, then the board has discharged its obligations in full. We decided, however, to go further. We decided to apply the scheme to these manual workers, subject to the provision that workers who elected to come under it would be then in the position that matters that normally arose in dispute between themselves and the board would be settled by arbitration rather than by a withdrawal of labour. It is true, despite what some Senators said, that a worker need not come under the scheme if he likes. A manual worker can elect to remain as he is, and we have not worsened his position. He  will continue to get the standard rates of wages and a reasonable assurance of continuity. If he elects to come under the scheme, then he knows that he will be contributing towards a pension to him on his retirement, subject to the possibility of the loss of these contributions if, at any stage, he withdraws his labour wilfully in a manner that interrupts the generation or distribution of electricity.
Senator Campbell gave rather a fanciful illustration of a problem that might arise in the event of an alien Power invading this country and the workers deciding to close down for a week. I do not think that they should have their own initiative, even in these circumstances. I believe that in circumstances such as those mentioned there would still be some form of national leadership, to which proposals of that kind should be referred before being acted upon. Having regard to the very serious consideration given to the whole question by the Government, I am unable to accept the amendment. The only possibility of modifying the Bill in the manner indicated would be in association with the proposal to withdraw the manual labour from the scope of the Bill altogether.
Mr. Fitzgerald: I have been a bit in the dark, not knowing the 1870 Act. Various speakers and the Minister himself, seem to imply two things. The Minister said that there was no intention to deprive the workers of the right to strike, but on the other hand, Senator Campbell said that the powers wanted by the Government were already contained in the 1870 Act, incorporated in the Electricity Supply Act. Is it the position that any organised strike which would interfere with the distribution and generation of electricity is an illegal act?
Mr. Lemass: The Senator should not ask me to interpret the law. The effect of the application of the Act of 1870 to employment in the Electricity Supply Board has never been tested in the courts at all. What interpretation the courts might place on it I could not say.
Mr. Fitzgerald: I am at one with the Minister. I think it is an impossible position if the peculiarly favoured number of men who are acting for the Electricity Supply Board are going to be in a position to cripple the whole operation of life in this country by the arbitrary act of striking. That is a power that should not be in their hands. If it is not, well and good, but on the one hand we are told that if they are attempting that, they are committing an illegal act, while Senator Campbell suggests that a number of men will not avail of the superannuation in order to retain in their hands the power to commit an illegal act without the loss of contribution. I think it is an impossible position if the people of the country are going to be dependent for the continuity of ordinary needs of life upon any whim that may suddenly take possession of these men, especially when they feel that they are in possession of such power that unless their arbitrary demands are met, everybody has to face up to disaster or inconvenience or lack of necessities. That is a power that should not be in their hands. The Minister seemed to imply that it was a criminal act, but on the other hand seems to say that there was no decision to prevent the right to strike. I think there should be a decision in this matter.
Mr. Lemass: The scope of this section is clearly wider than the 1870 Act. In any event, it did not apply to lorry drivers and repair staff or any manual worker. The 1870 Act refers only to a withdrawal of labour in circumstances which would cause an immediate cessation of supply.
Mr. Fitzgerald: As long as the immediate cessation of supply would be local and would not do much harm it might be all right, but certainly I do feel that every care should be taken that the whole life of the community is not going to be put in the hands of a small body of favoured men and of a trade union that dominates their acts.
Mr. M. Hayes: I have some difficulty in keeping my patience with the kind of vocabulary Senator Fitzgerald uses  in this matter. He is very vexed at the existence of this monstrous situation where a number of men can exercise a whim, and in an arbitrary manner hold up the life of the community. One would imagine that workers go out on strike for a whim or in an arbitrary manner. I can assure Senator Fitzgerald that they do no such thing. Striking is far too serious a business to be indulged in for a whim or in an arbitrary manner. There are inadvisable strikes, of course, but the kind of vocabulary that people who hold a certain point of view use about it is simply making things worse instead of improving them. The same thing arises when Senator Fitzgerald talks about people who occupy a favoured position. People employed by the Electricity Supply Board are giving value for their money. They are earning their living, the same as the rest of us are, and it is simply not true to say that they occupy a favoured position any more than a teacher occupies a favoured position, or any carpenter working on a building far away from the Electricity Supply Board.
On the question of this particular section and Senator Campbell's amendment, I entirely agree with the Minister that we ought not to have stoppages and strikes in essential services. Putting it in that mild and entirely correct manner, I agree with Senator Fitzgerald. I agree with the Minister also in that I think he is probably offering them in this tribunal as set out in the Bill a better method than the strike method for settling their grievances and their difficulties. I also agree that the consequences of a strike in the Electricity Supply Board would be catastrophic. I do not think that the word “catastrophic” used by the Minister is an exaggeration. I think Senator Campbell or any other Labour representative in this House or outside it will agree with that, because the Electricity Supply Board affects not only Dublin but every town in the whole State. If the consequences of a strike in the Electricity Supply Board would be, as has been said, catastrophic, then we ought to face up to that situation.
 What I find wrong about this particular provision in the Bill—I do not know what the remedy is—is that it is an oblique, kind of sideways, method of reaching a very desirable result. What the Minister desires to achieve is a situation in which men in essential services would not go on strike but would submit their difficulties to a tribunal. With that I am in entire agreement. I would even be entirely in agreement, under certain conditions, with preventing people in essential services from going on strike. I think we have to face up to that. Some time ago here in this House Senator Douglas proposed and I seconded a proposal dealing with a tribunal. It did not go as far as compulsory arbitration, but it went a certain distance. The Minister was not prepared to accept it, and the Labour members who spoke on it were not very clear or helpful on the matter either. This particular Bill, as the Minister has phrased it, brings us to the point when we see that it must be done, but it cannot be done piecemeal. The Minister, while he would not accept the general proposal with regard to arbitration on labour disputes, whether strikes or lock-outs, is now inserting in this Bill a proposal which refers only to a certain number of employees, and which has been exciting feelings of irritation in the minds of those particular employees. The proposal is rather a peculiar one, it seems to me. I do not know what exactly is the definition of a manual worker, but I presume it has to be defined later on in consultation between the board and its employees. I should like the Minister to tell us whether it will be settled between the board and its employees.
Mr. M. Hayes: I wonder would a messenger in Stephen's Green, for example, be a manual worker. I do not know. I do not ask if the Minister knows; possibly he does not. In any event, the proposal is that there is a scheme for superannuation. The manual workers are either to enter it or not as they choose. It is rather a costly scheme. It is not such a wonderful thing at all for the manual  workers as one reading the Title of the Bill and hearing the Second Reading debate would imagine. It is a contributory scheme, and, in order to enjoy any benefits from it, a person who went into the employment of the board in 1927 or 1930, or in the last ten years even, would have to make rather heavy contributions to make up his back payments, so that without any regard to this particular section of the Bill, a number of manual workers may find the thing too costly and may not enter at all. Others of them, without being enthusiastic for strikes themselves, may feel that a certain limitation is placed upon them that was not placed upon them before, and that is not placed upon other workers in other places, and they may refuse to become members of the scheme, with the result that the manual workers are going to be divided between contributors to the superannuation scheme and non-contributors, and presumably if strike action is contemplated for any reason —I hope it will not be and I doubt that it will be—certain people could quite legally and without any penalty of any kind exercise their full right to strike. Other people would find themselves deprived of their continuity of service, and also deprived of their contributions, under the sub-section which Senator Campbell mentioned, paragraph (c). That seems to me to be a very strange situation, and very bad from this point of view, that the result of it might very well be what we had in the Dublin Corporation—a strike, loss of service for certain people, and then a Bill brought into the Dáil and passed through both Houses to restore to people something they had lost. As a general principle, that is very bad.
I think we should face up to this difficulty, pass legislation about it, and then stand fast by the legislation. One of the difficulties of this may very well be that some time or other you will have a partial stoppage, and, in order to remedy the difficulty created here, you will have further legislation, which I think as general principle and procedure is very bad. The Minister for Industry and Commerce, who will not back the general proposal for a  tribunal, and in that he is supported by the Labour Party, finds the employees of the Electricity Supply Board, so to speak, under his hand, and he says: “Well, now, we will not have a general tribunal, but we will make those fellows sit up,” and he uses this particular superannuation scheme to get a number of such workers in under a tribunal scheme, which is a good scheme in itself, but I think the piecemeal method is very bad. As Senator Douglas said, it gives a man a choice between superannuation and strike, and it may very well have the effect, combined with the cost of the scheme, of excluding manual workers altogether. As I said on the Second Reading, I think that would be a very great pity, because the idea of a pensions scheme for manual workers, even if the scheme has defects in the beginning, is a very good one; it is a very good seed to sow, and might have very good effects later on.
I think we really need conciliation and arbitration in general, so as to limit the number of disputes, and we might have special provisions for essential services. I do not mind saying that I am quite in favour of special provisions for essential services, because the life of the whole country cannot be held up by a trade dispute, but it would require considerable thought, and it would require action which some people would not be prepared to take. It might require for example, as well as compulsory arbitration, compulsory trade unionism. What I am wondering is to what particular type of person do the words “generation, transmission and distribution” apply.
I do not know what is the definition of “manual workers”. It might very well happen that some people would go on strike and not have this section applied to them, while others might go on strike and have it applied to them. What I think is really wrong with this section is not its principle so much as its partiality. It applies only to a certain number of workers, and applies in conditions which are not very clearly defined and may prove to be very unsatisfactory. It might very well result in injury to the principle of  tribunal and arbitration, which in itself is absolutely sound and should be accepted. The way it is put in here is very partial and is not satisfactory. A direct prohibition in respect of certain service in certain conditions and applied to all would be much more satisfactory.
Mr. Lynch: This debate has certainly drawn attention to a definite aspect of the trade union movement, the right to strike. “Essential services” is a phrase which has been very much used in the course of the debate. The right to strike was granted under the 1906 Act. This Bill imposes limitations and inhibitions in respect of that right. If those are to be applied to other services which may be regarded in the future as essential services, we shall come to the point where we clearly eliminate and, ultimately, destroy the whole right to strike. That may not be the intention of this Bill but, from remarks passed by Senators this evening and from the statement made by the Minister, it seems clear that the inevitable tendency of legislation of this character will be to deprive the manual worker of the right to strike. Electricity supply has been described as one of the most essential services in the country, if not the most essential. It is difficult to see what service, provided within the community by a section or element of the community, is not essential to the community. Railway and general transport will be considered as essential to the life, welfare and health of the community as the provision of electricity. To-morrow morning we may have transport services dealt with in the same way as electricity supply is being dealt with, and we may have legislation of the same character as we are debating here.
That industry will be regarded as highly essential and it is to be presumed that, following the precedent set in the legislation this evening, we shall have the same inhibitions in regard to manual workers in the railway service as we have in this Bill. We may go on from railways to the provision of general foods. We may come  down to the farms. Farmers have also the habit of withholding supplies when their general interest necessitates such action. When we have finished naming essential services, we will find that we have, probably, included every service essential to the life and welfare of the community. In all these services we have manual workers and I presume the same type of legislation will be applied to these services as is contained in this Bill. The result will be that we shall arrive at the point where the right to strike is completely destroyed.
The Act of 1875—the Criminal Conspiracy (Protection of Property) Act— to which reference is made in the Bill, gives the State the right to deal with the withholding of labour from such essential services as electricity, gas and water. That provision being in the hands of the authorities, there is no necessity, as has been said already, to come in in an oblique manner for the purpose of hurting the interests of the worker who may desire to participate in this superannuation scheme. The worker will have a vested interest in his pension and he will have to consider very seriously whether he will jeopardise that proprietary position if he desires to exercise his elementary right to strike. That does not seem to me to be the correct way to deal with a position of that character, especially when there is already in existence an enactment to deal with those who may withdraw their labour. Furthermore, it will have the effect of dividing the service against itself. Some will desire to participate in the scheme because of the advantages to be secured from it. Others will have regard to the attendant circumstances which may limit their right to strike and, consequently, you may have the house divided against itself. Like other houses in that situation, it cannot stand. This legislation seems to be redundant in view of the legislation available for this purpose since 1875.
Mr. Lemass: The last two speeches missed the point. Senator Hayes said that arbitration, or judicial investigation of the merits of the issues involved in a trade dispute, represents the rational way of resolving these disputes.  But he said that that principle should not be applied partially, that if it is to be applied it should be applied generally. I disagree entirely. I think that by far the most effective method of applying it is partially. If we can get it accepted partially in branches of industry, the advantage of it will become more generally evident and its acceptance will be rendered all the more ready in circles and places where it would not be accepted now, where, in fact, the application of the principle would be resisted now. I think that it is entirely unsound to say that because we cannot apply the principle to all branches of industry or to all essential services now, we should not apply it to any.
The method of approach contemplated by this Bill—the introduction of a new principle to one service, the essentiality of which will not be disputed, and its subsequent application to others—is the best method. The right to strike is not an issue here at all. I want to make that clear. What this Bill proposes to do is to reduce the advantages of strikes and to impose certain disadvantages upon those who elect to have their grievances rectified, as they think, by strike action rather than by the more rational method of submission to the tribunal. This Bill does not impose any restriction on the individual's right to strike. We say to the individual, however, that in consideration of the enactment by the Legislature of provisions which will ensure—upon a contributory basis it is true but, nevertheless, ensure—him a pension on retirement, we propose to make it of less advantage to him to go on strike and of greater advantage to submit his disputes with his employers to the arbitration of a judicial tribunal. In other words, we are merely ensuring that the general inclination of the worker will be towards acceptance of the decision of the tribunal rather than towards endeavouring to secure a settlement by trial of strength, which is, of course, what a strike represents. The outcome of the strike may be no indication of the merits of the dispute. It merely indicates that the stronger party succeeded in imposing on the  other their views on the merits of the dispute.
The Act to which reference has been made does not arise here at all. That was an Act passed to ensure that persons who interrupted public services, such as supplies of water or gas, by withdrawing their labour, became amenable to penalties. In the Electricity Supply Act of 1927 the principle of that Act was applied to the generation and transmission of electricity. How far it extends down the various grades of employees of the Electricity Supply Board, from the person who keeps his hand on the switch to the person drawing coal into the dump, I could not say, but at some point that may be legally determined. It seems clear to me, however, that the effect of that Act is only to apply the penalties contemplated by it to those whose actual labour directly influences the supply of electricity and is not merely incidental thereto. The manual workers employed by the board, who will be defined in the superannuation scheme applying to them, will include others not immediately or directly concerned with the generation of electricity at all. We want to get the position created that their advantage will be in the acceptance of arbitration rather than in an attempt to determine matters in dispute by strike action. There is, in fact no interference with the right to strike.
Mr. Lemass: I assume that Senator Campbell took the line that the other amendments were, in fact, consequential on this amendment. I take it that if the provisions of this section imposing these restrictions—if I may call  them so—are to remain in the Bill he would prefer that the tribunal should remain also?
In sub-section (4), page 7, line 33, before the word “and” to insert the words “as on and from the date of such election”; and to delete all from the word “enabling” in line 35 to the end of the sub-section and substitute the following:—
(a) every contributor shall (save as is otherwise provided in whichever of the two next preceding subsections of this section is applicable to him) be entitled to reckon for superannuation benefits under the scheme his service (hereinafter referred to as subsequent service) in the employment of the board on and subsequent to the date of his said election, and
(b) if a contributor pays to the fund set up for the purposes of the scheme appropriate contributions (with compound interest) in respect of his service (hereinafter referred to as prior service) in the employment of the board prior to and ending on the day before the date of his said election, the board shall also pay to the said fund appropriate contributions (with compound interest) in respect of such contributor's prior service and such contributor shall (save as is otherwise provided as aforesaid) be entitled to reckon for superannuation benefits under the scheme his prior service in full as well as so much (whether the whole or a part) of his subsequent service as is reckonable by virtue of the foregoing paragraph (a), and
 (c) if any contributor does not pay to the said fund appropriate contributions in respect of his prior service, the board shall pay to the said fund appropriate contributions (with compound interest) in respect of such contributor's prior service and such contributor shall (save as is otherwise provided as aforesaid) be entitled to reckon for superannuation benefits under the scheme one-half and no more of his prior service as well as so much (whether the whole or a part) of his subsequent service as is so reckonable by virtue of the foregoing paragraph (a).
Mr. Lemass: Although it looks very lengthy it makes no change. It is merely a drafting amendment making a distinction between service before and service subsequent to the date on which the employee seeks the right of joining the scheme.
In sub-section (1), page 10, after the word “dispute” in line 44 to insert the words “concerning any matter or thing relating to or arising out of a superannuation scheme”, and in lines 46 and 47 to delete the words and brackets “(including disputes declared by this Act to be referable to the tribunal)”.
The object of these amendments is to restrict the functions of the tribunal to disputes arising out of the Superannuation Act or schemes under the Bill. As it stands, all disputes, including wages and conditions, are to go to  the tribunal. We feel, on behalf of those people for whom we are speaking, that the tribunal ought to deal solely with questions arising out of the Superannuation Bill and not with wages or conditions. We consider it is inadvisable that the ordinary machinery should be foregone in regard to wages and conditions.
Mr. Lemass: If the Senator's earlier amendment relating to interruption of service and its consequences had been carried, I could understand his pressing this amendment, which would then limit the functions of the tribunal to matters arising out of superannuation, but, as the earlier section stands, I think we must have some machinery for giving the workers an opportunity of having their grievances redressed, and, therefore, the section should be left as it stands.
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