Wednesday, 9 December 1942
Seanad Éireann Debate
Mr. M. Hayes: There is a point I wish to raise, of which I have given notice to the Minister. This is a section which remedies a legal difficulty by which, consequent upon a High Court judgment, it has been decided that the consent of the Minister for Local Government is necessary for the dismissal of officers transferred from local bodies to the Electricity Supply Board. One person who took an action in the courts has got his salary, but this Bill proposes that in the case of others, the rights they had are being annulled.
I want to draw attention to one particular case which seems to be entirely singular and about which the Minister might be able to give me some information. It is a case of a person employed by the Rathmines Urban Council who, on his transfer to the Electricity Supply Board, did not avail himself of the terms available. Subsequent to his transfer, his position was found to be redundant and he got what he regarded as a small pension. His pension was determined by Sealed Order of the Minister for Local Government, but it now appears that this officer should have been dismissed—using that word in a purely technical sense—instead of retired. If he had taken an action in the High Courts he would have got considerable results on the basis of the case already decided. I wonder if it is possible in that particular case, where a man thinks he has been dealt with rather harshly and feels that his present position is inadequate, to do anything. He was compelled to sell his house in Dublin and to seek employment elsewhere. His service had nothing wrong with it. The board promised him two-thirds of his salary, but were not able to give it to him without the consent of the Minister for Local Government. I do not think that the Bill needs amendment, but I want to draw the Minister's attention to this case on the section.
Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. Lemass): I have looked into the case of which Senator Hayes was good  enough to give me notice. I should say that the fact that a member of the board's staff who was dismissed has succeeded in getting, as a result of a court decision, payment of a sum of money which he was not believed to be entitled to and which he would never have got if the law officers of the Government had placed the same interpretation on the statute as the court subsequently placed on it, cannot be used as an argument to justify now improved treatment to the other transferred officers of local authorities who were employed by the board but subsequently retired from its service.
The individual to whom Senator Hayes referred was employed by the Rathmines Urban Council as a collector of accounts at a salary of £200 a year, rising by annual increments to £375 plus bonus. At the time he was transferred from the service of the Rathmines Urban Council to the Electricity Supply Board his salary amounted to £479 a year. Subsequent to his transfer, he received an increase of 12½ per cent. mainly in consequence of an increase in his hours of duty. When the re-organisation of the board's accounting system was effected in 1933, his office was abolished and he was retired. He had altogether 15 years' service. Because his retirement was compulsory he had 50 per cent. of the pension calculated on his length of service added to the pension he would otherwise have secured, and through the operation of the cost-of-living bonus on that pension he is now in receipt of £320 15s. 10d. per year. He appealed to the Minister for Local Government to have his pension increased to the maximum of two-thirds of the remuneration allowed in the 1925 Act but the Minister confirmed the pension fixed by the board.
Having regard to all the circumstances of the case, the salary at the date of his transfer, the length of his service and the pension he is now enjoying, I could not hold that he was in any way treated harshly. On the contrary, we would regard his treatment as favourable. Of course, officers of local authorities and other  statutory bodies have greater security of employment and more adequate provision made for maintenance on retirement than persons in normal commercial employment, but if we are to have regard to the standards prevailing in ordinary commercial employment, I think a person who has got from a position with a salary running from £200 to £375 plus bonus, who has had 15 years' of service, a pension of £320 a year, must be regarded as having done fairly well indeed. There is no means test of any kind applicable to the pension. There is nothing to prevent the individual from getting other remunerative employment and still enjoying that pension and I do not think I would be justified therefore in making any special provision in this Bill.
Mr. M. Hayes: The information given by the Minister puts rather a different complexion on the facts. Owing to the operation of the cost-of-living bonus system, the figure is in fact more than two-thirds?
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