Tuesday, 29 July 1975
Seanad Eireann Debate
Mr. Ferris: Before the tea break I was speaking about the importance of employment not only to the economy but also to the people. We hear now quite often that there is a general air among working people that they do not want to work or that they would prefer to be on the dole. I had mentioned that I had never been personally aware of any man who had lost his job through his own fault and would not prefer to be gainfully employed. This in fact has been found to be true. There are exceptional cases, of course, to all rules, but for any person who is unfortunate enough to lose his employment through no fault of his own, after giving a lifetime of service in a job, whether it be in a factory, on a farm or otherwise it is a traumatic experience, and the vast majority of people employed there would prefer if that situation had not arisen. Indeed, they would be much happier to go on to retirement age. We have often found, particularly in agriculture, that people are even slow to retire at the optimum age of 65 years, and I have known men to go on in insurable employment to the 70's and to continue even over the 70's in agriculture with nothing only the stamp which covered them for injuries at work.
The experience in the country is that people prefer to work, but it is only right that we should have in the social welfare code assistance for those who unfortunately lose their  employment in order to cushion them against the shock and ensure they get the maximum we can give them, to which they have contributed, for all the service they have given while they were in employment. I would like to see more effort, through the National Manpower Service, put into getting alternative employment for these people. Indeed this Bill will assist the manpower service, and I would like the Minister to confirm that employers whether industrial employers or agricultural, should apply direct to the manpower service to avail of this scheme and not just apply to the local unemployment exchange.
I would like if the manpower service would extend their efforts further and be active in every way to ensure that unemployed people get preference over those, for instance, who usually try to better themselves in employment. The manpower service offer facilities to people to change their employment if they so wish, but while this is a very desirable thing in normal circumstances, the manpower service should give preference to people who are unemployed at present. This Bill will make the job of the manpower service that much easier, and I hope that when they start to operate the Bill they can honour commitments that have been entered into by the Minister and ensure that the figures that he hoped would be taken off the live register will, in fact, be removed.
I congratulate the Minister on introducing the Bill and wish it all the success it deserves. I have no doubt, as I said initially, that it will be received with acclaim, and I expect the result will prove that this was a very worth-while measure and that it will have the desired effect.
Mr. Dolan: Like my colleagues, I welcome this Bill. Its main purpose is the stimulation of employment and if it succeeds in doing anything in that direction it will be worth while so far as we are concerned. The Minister says here in paragraph 2 that in our efforts to create employment Ireland has relied almost exclusively on grants for capital expenditure. Will these  grants be trimmed down now because of the introduction of this measure, and will it mean, in effect, that employers in future, or people initiating new industries, will find themselves not able to get the maximum grants because of this? If that is the case, and if it in any way would effect the establishment of an industry in an area, that would certainly not be welcome.
What the Government are aiming at is to try and reduce this 103,000 or whatever the number is of people who find themselves unemployed. Admittedly there has been a fair number of people unemployed in this country for many years and there are some people on that register who would not be in a position to take up employment the next day if it was offered to them because of its location, because of family commitments and so on. But it is no exaggeration to say that in the past two-and-a-half years these numbers have escalated out of all proportion. Such a situation has not obtained previously in the seventies or, indeed, in the sixties. The last time this ill wind blew across the face of this country was in 1957 when the last Coalition Government was in office and on the previous occasion, 1949 to 1951. It is rather strange. Maybe the fairies are responsible for it. Every time a Coalition Government takes office in this country this blight seems to hit the whole nation. Thousands and thousands of people who were in gainful employment before that always find themselves in the dole queues.
One of the reasons this is happening is that there is no confidence. I do not want to injure in any way the efforts the Government are trying to make but as an Opposition it is our duty to criticise them as a Government. I have no hesitation in placing the sole responsibility for the catastrophe that has hit this country at the feet of the Government. There is no confidence in their ability to remedy this situation. This measure in front of us is a stop-gap effort in which I have not got much faith.
The first essential for recovery is that the manufacturer, the investor and the would-be industrialist should  have confidence in the ability of the Government to lead this country. When they enter into commitments or dealings with the Government those dealings and commitments should be honoured. We have not got such a Government in office at present. They are welching and back-peddling on agreements already made with workers and industrialists. You cannot expect any confidence in that type of outfit.
There are people from abroad who would like, because of their initiative and desire, to gain more wealth by coming here. But they will not come when a situation such as this exists. If my information is correct, there are thousands of pounds leaving this country. People are taking money out and investing it in the Six Counties or in England. In a situation like that, it is difficult for any Government to get money. It is difficult to get an industrialist to come in here and establish a worthwhile industry in which he can expect to make some money for himself and his shareholders, in which the worker can have confidence and which will produce articles that will sell on the world market in competition with other countries. These stop-gap measures will be useless in creating such a situation.
If this Bill could reduce the 103,000 that are unemployed we would welcome it. It is a dangerous situation that exists in many areas where people are getting almost as much money when idle as when they are working. Eventually people will not have the incentive to work and will lose their own self-respect and dignity. Most people in this country would like to have a job and a fair amount of security. There are plenty of unions and federations which they can join to ensure continuity of employment.
If the climate is a climate of no confidence whatever, such as is in this country at present, it is very hard to make progress. The Government make lame excuses when their honeymoon of two-and-a-half years is nearly over and we are faced in the middle  of July, 1975, with the reality of a vast number of people unemployed. It is no great pleasure to us to churn out the figures again and again. These figures are annoying to everybody irrespective of their political persuasion. They are annoying to the workers and the industrialist and they are costing this country money. The Government are now trying to lock the door when the horse is gone. They are introducing this as a stop-gap measure to tide them over the summer period. They want to pretend that all is well. They are whistling past the graveyard.
There are many questions one could ask on this measure. If the Government could put 10,000 people into employment it would mean they would not have to give them pay-related benefits and they would be getting 10,000 stamps in over the weekend. Instead of £12, it might cost the Government £8, allowing for stamps and so on. Therefore, instead of giving a universal grant of £12, it would have been fairer to make it a percentage of the amount of money the person was receiving through unemployment assistance. It is very difficult to say whether the £12 will have the desired effect. I hope it has for the sake of the country.
Senator Ferris said it was a very imaginative Bill. I do not want to cast any reflection on Senator Ferris because he has made a good contribution, but we could apply many corrosive adjectives to it. It will not be of any benefit to the workers or those who are unemployed, but as an attempt to do something, I suppose we should welcome it.
It must have been an afterthought, in so far as the Dublin-based Government is concerned, that they eventually decided, through pressure from the farmers' organisations, to apply this to the agricultural community. How it will apply to them is a mystery to me, and I have some knowledge of agriculture and life in rural Ireland. Will it apply to people working in milk powder factories or creameries. Will it apply to people who are working with Bord na Móna? You could consider turf-cutting an agricultural occupation. If a person decided that he would go into turf production on his own rather  than be attached to Bord na Móna, would he be entitled to avail of the £12 grant? What would happen if a county council applied for the grant? There are hundreds of county council workers unemployed at present because of the shortfall in grants consequent on the serious inflation, 26 per cent, that has taken place over the last few years. How will the local authorities who have to lay off their workers be affected in this respect? What will happen, for instance in the coal mining area of Arigna? Will this measure affect people in inland fisheries? There are many questions on which the Minister will have to enlighten us on Committee Stage of this Bill.
The building industry, which is suffering very much at present, is not mentioned. This industry has a very good employment content if it can be got going again. It is important to know if this grant will apply to people working in hotels and connected with tourism.
These people have been taking a tremendous hammering over the last few years. They very often have been asked 12 months and two years ahead to publish their brochures and prices. When the time comes they find that inflation has pushed it up 26 per cent or even double that, 52 per cent. Such people will be very interested to know how this will work. Will people working in meat processing, who have been taking millions from the farmers, qualify for this grant? I will be looking forward to the Minister's answers to these questions either on this or on Report Stage.
We are faced in this country at present with the spectacle of this Government of all the talents now trying to cling like leeches to power, when there are 103,000 unemployed with no great confidence in the future; with the spectacle of the five Government Ministers attached to the Labour Party not sitting down with their colleagues at a party conference but going along to their respective trade unions and saying a very different thing to that which they are agreeing to at Government level. No Government could stand up to that type of double dealing.
 The Government are stumbling and fumbling from one month to another hoping that oil will ooze up around Bantry, that gas will be discovered off the coast of Waterford, and that some supernatural method will be found to solve our problems. They should have formulated their proposals long ago in the Cabinet, put them before the people, and stood by their decisions, thus instilling confidence into industrialists and those engaged in various types of industry. The Government should not have allowed prices to escalate and then blamed the Korean war, the Suez crisis or the little Arabs or somebody else and never at any time placed the blame where it rightly belongs, at their own doorstep.
Mr. Butler: Senator Dolan has a vivid imagination. He believes we are living in isolation here in this country and what affects the rest of the world does not affect us here. A man who says that investment in industry here is now being transferred to industry in Britain and the North of Ireland must have that type of imagination because we all know that over 1,000,000 people are unemployed in England and they are doing very little about it. The future for England is very poor and very bad because it is estimated that within the next few months there will be 1,500,000 unemployed and in the next two years there will be 2,000,000 unemployed in England. I cannot understand Senator Dolan even imagining that people here in Ireland will transfer their monetary allegiance to a country such as England.
I welcome this Bill because it gives an opportunity to industry to increase their employment. It subsidies them to the extent of £12 a head on taking on extra men or extra women, as the case may be, and this should be praised by all concerned. I understand it has been accepted by the Front Bench of the Fianna Fáil Party here in the Seanad. Even though some of the Members of the Fianna Fáil Party here in the Seanad believe the Bill could be improved, they have accepted the Bill as a good one.
I cannot understand Senator  Dolan's contribution here this evening. I would hope that certain areas would take a deep interest in this Bill and the subsidies that will be paid to increase employment. I would like the Shannon region to take due notice because it is one region where, looking at the reports of the exports of products there, I see the value of the total decreased in 1974 over 1973. Now there is an opportunity of taking on more people and the subsidy will be paid so that those people would be employed and we would have more to export.
I am also glad that agriculture is included. It is an opportunity for people in the agricultural industry also to look at the situation because, especially in the dairy industry we are at a peak, and from now on we will be on the decline, the milk will not be available, and as long as the people who are employed are kept on and other people are employed, they can build up that industry and be ready for the 1976 season. We all know the value of the dairy industry in this country. We all realise it will be of greater value in the future and if we can work up the kind of enthusiasm in that industry that should be worked up with the management of that industry and the farmers, then we will be doing a good thing. This is what is required now.
We should point out to the people involved in that industry that there is this great future and that the country will be depending on this industry as well as on the beef industry. We hear a lot of condemnation from the other side about the beef industry. Unless we encourage people to get more involved in those two industries and the total agricultural industry, then we will be in a bad position. I think we will be able to do this here. The Government are keenly interested in agriculture, as can be seen from a section of the Bill here, and I know that we here on this side of the House will do our utmost to recommend this section to the agricultural industry and I am sure that they will not be found wanting.
I would also like to see forestry included  in the Bill. I believe it is not included. Here is an industry that can definitely take on more people, that is waiting for improvement, and waiting for more investment and it would be helped by its inclusion in the Bill. There is much land that can be put into forestry that is good for very little else.
I would hope this Bill will help to reduce the unemployment position from 100,000 down to 90,000 people. I do not honestly believe this will happen, but it will help to keep down the number of unemployed.
As there will be a check kept of the number availing of the £12 premium we will know what benefit this Bill will be in the future. The Opposition will probably say that the Bill has had no effect because the number of unemployed may still be 100,000 or it may even increase, because we are facing the winter when there has always been a slackening off in employment. It is only natural that more people are unemployed in the winter than in the summer.
This Bill should give encouragement to all concerned. It will show that the Government are interested in the people and are anxious to have people employed. Almost everyone— there are those unfortunate people who cannot work—likes to do an honest week's work. We should help people to get work, if at all possible. This Bill helps people, in some small way, to get work. We are in a period of high inflation, not just in Ireland. We are part of the world and of Europe. The same economic situation exists throughout the world. That situation is one of high inflation and widespread unemployment. The great countries such as Germany, France and even America are also experiencing unemployment at a level never remembered in the history of those countries. If they cannot do anything about the situation our chances of doing something are very limited. However limited they may be we must try to do something. This Bill will help remedy the situation. I hope the Bill gets a Second Reading today and passes through all Stages as soon as possible.
Mr. O'Toole: I should like to welcome the Bill because it is indicative of the Government's determination to resolve the unemployment problem facing the country at present. Listening to Opposition speakers one would imagine that we never had unemployment in what is referred to as “the good old days”. In the so-called “good old days” there was upwards of 70,000 unemployed. The worst aspect of that situation was that we were conditioned to accept it as being inevitable. When one combines that with emigration, which existed at that time, one is speaking in the region of 100,000, if the people who emigrated had stayed at home.
This Bill is a genuine effort by the Government to stimulate employment and to give an incentive to employers to take on extra employees. This must surely be the proper treatment to give, at a time when those employers must face very stiff competition in international markets with rising inflation, for a disease which has now been diagnosed. One can only give a warm céad míle fáilte to such treatment and diagnosis.
I should like to point out to Senator Dolan that much of the depression about which he spoke is also present throughout the world. One would get the impression from listening to Senator Dolan that it stopped at Dún Laoghaire harbour. I should like to refer him to the Central Bank Bulletin, Summer 1975. I should like to ask Senator Dolan if he regards the Central Bank as a National Coalition agency, propagating propaganda. I should be very surprised if his answer was in the affirmative. On page 10 of the Bulletin they refer to the economic depression, and give four reasons for these developments. They are as follows:
 (ii) the fall in export, and consequently domestic, prices for cattle in 1974 which was largely responsible for the decline of 8 per cent in the value of agricultural incomes—further depressing demand on the home market.
Again, I would point out we are now members of the EEC and as such are not complete masters of our own destiny. If it were not for the efforts of our Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, the situation would have been much worse during the depressed period of cattle prices in 1974.
Mr. O'Toole: In relation to the cattle from the EEC I would point out that the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries was one of the few Ministers who fought against that. It took him six months to get the EEC Ministers to change their minds. It was not his fault. The document continues:
(iii) a fall in the volume of industrial exports since late 1974 due to the declining volume of world trade consequent on the sharp increase in oil prices and to relatively high cost trends in Ireland.
These are the reasons given in the Central Bank Bulletin, a document which is respected for its depth of research and authenticity throughout the country and abroad also. On page 64, “Conclusion of the Forty-Fifth Annual Report of the Bank for International Settlements, the first sentence is:
The Bill as introduced, which has now been amended by the introduction  of the agricultural sector into the scheme, is heartily welcomed. The scheme was assessed at a rate of £12 per person employed. This is a reasonable figure. In the short term it will have the desired results in that it should, without great effort—and inquiries both at Department headquarters and at the local level Department offices would seem to corraborate this—mean increased employment in many industrial sectors and now in the agricultural sphere before very long.
Much of the qualified welcome that has been forthcoming from the Opposition is due possibly to jealousy in that down the years they in their time failed to reach this level of imaginative legislation. I should like to point out that despite the prophesies of gloom which seem to emanate from different sources, this country is not at the bottom of the list in so far as economic depression is concerned. For example, at this moment the Netherlands have a rate of unemployment running at 12.2 per cent as against ours of 8.5 per cent. We must compare like with like. There is no point in comparing our economy with that of West Germany. There is no comparison at any level.
There is one other aspect of the Bill which should be mentioned, that is, the wisdom of introducing this category whereby additional employees recruited on a part-time or short-time basis will not be eligible for this scheme. It is very wise to include this because you could have great abuse if you allowed people to employ on a short-time basis and avail of the very substantial benefits of the scheme. At a time like this, this is a very welcome and worthwhile Bill. I hope that the House will pass it with the greatest majority.
Minister for Labour (Mr. M. O'Leary): Senator Lenihan was worried about “the dead hand”. He did not use that phrase but it was in my mind as it was used by a Member of the other House when his party were in power. He was worried about the presence of Finance. This is a usual provision in paying Bills of this kind. There is no  ceiling on expenditure in pursuit of the objectives of this legislation. Our target is 10,000 jobs. If we can, we will exceed that target. I hope to come back in the early autumn for more money for this fund. We, on our side, made the point repeatedly that this legislation is simply a means of inducing industry at this time to take on fresh workers. No more is claimed for it than that.
We do not see the Bill as a substitute for general recovery. It is only when demand picks up in this economy and in other economies to which we export that we will see a recovery in employment figures. Throughout the year this recovery has been expected. If one looks at the report of the ESRI in March, they expected certain growth which never took place. That was a report in March by a very reputable research agency in this State. Elsewhere, we see the same confusion among those who have been observing the economies of our main competitors. The sought for recovery has been slow in taking off. It has commenced in the largest area, the area which in Helmut Schmidt's words is “the psychological capital of world economic confidence”. In New York and the United States the economy is already on the way to recovery.
It will take some time before the recovery in these major economies and before the benefits of that recovery come back to Europe. Only last week we saw agreement reached between the French President, the German Chancellor and the Benelux countries on means for co-ordinating recovery in Europe. As the House will know, we have sought in social affairs in Europe for this conjunction of economic and social policy. All these recovery signs must become much stronger before we can see employment here coming back to the figures it was at. Let us remember that our unemployment rate has always been the scandal of Europe. It has always been at over 7 per cent. In our best days it was over 7 per cent. I do not say that the present situation is anything to be happy about. When we hear Members of  the Opposition worrying about unemployment, we should know that during most of their reign they lived with an unemployment rate with which no other democratic regime in Europe could live.
Specific points were raised. Senator Dolan wants the hotel industry and the building industry included. We excluded those industries that had a high seasonal content for the obvious reason that we did not wish to subsidise employment that would take place anyway. We wished to direct our funds to those employments which might wait a little longer before taking on extra workers. That is why we excluded industries that had this seasonal content. The county council work he mentioned does not qualify. It is not a manufacturing industry. There is a great deal of mobility in labour in the building industry. We tried to confine it to those areas where we felt it was needed most.
Senator Ferris mentioned that more effort would be needed by the NMS to place unemployed persons. Although our record of placement at this time is down on what it was in better periods of employment, it is still very high. It is still at around 60 per cent. At all times the record of our placement service will bear favourable contrast with the sister service in the North of Ireland. Naturally the record of placement at this stage is not as good as it was a year ago. I confirm —it is made clear in the Bill—that employers should contact the NMS and they will in turn be active agents throughout the country to get employers interested in the provisions of this legislation. It will not be the employment exchange who will be the agents for the propagation of the benefits of this Bill.
I have explained why we excluded agricultural-based processing industries because of their seasonal nature and because we felt that the increase in employment would have occurred in these sectors anyway. That was the basic reason for their exclusion. It would be particularly difficult for the same reason to include service industries, because again they have a very high seasonal content. Administratively,  it would be very difficult to decide on the nett additions at any time to the work force.
Senator Lenihan mentioned the unfairness of selecting an arbitrary date. Of course there is always something arbitrary and possibly unfair in selecting any date for the start of a scheme such as this. He mentioned the question of flexibility, yet one must start a scheme of temporary duration. This is a scheme of temporary duration designed to induce industry to take on workers, especially in areas where they might let workers go, to ensure that a pool of labour is kept in certain areas which without the benefits of this Bill might be allowed to go. We would have a situation developing in late spring of next year or early summer where employers around the country beginning to expand once more with the retreat of the recession, would find themselves short of workers.
It is, then, a scheme of temporary duration designed to bring us into the conditions of full recovery, a weapon in the manpower recovery programme of the Government. We permit ourselves some flexibility. I have discretion in legislation to fix on a notional base figure for a particular job on the date of commencement of the scheme. We had the case mentioned in the other House of a particular firm in receipt of Fóir Teoranta aid, and which organisation were represented on the board. This firm conformed with the dictates of Fóir Teoranta, but they were running down the work force. Such a firm in a particular county were caught by this date. In fact, by agreement they had run down their work force for the specific reason of rationalising it, making it more efficient and therefore making the jobs of the remaining workers more secure. They had done that and found themselves with this low work force when this date was announced by me, arbitrarily. In that specific instance I can, knowing the full background and with full discretion to examine the background with Fóir Teoranta, fix a figure higher than the actual figure on that date. I have that discretion, even though it would not be helpful to me to have a movable  figure and date for the commencement of the scheme, because all manner of abuses could creep in in that situation.
Senator Halligan said that it would be less costly because it took workers off the exchange. I hope it succeeds in that way. We have had the complaint that the State gave insufficient attention to the matter of financially aiding people. We gave unemployment benefit but we did not give a choice to the individual to return to gainful employment. That criticism has been made but this legislation is an attempt to right that balance.
The question was raised by the same Senator whether we should give consideration to firms about to have a redundancy problem. The State agency responsible for this is Fóir Teoranta. I have always believed that between Fóir Teoranta and the Industrial Credit Company we need a middle agency to rescue firms in economic difficulties. I know such a proposal is having the active consideration of the Minister for Industry and Commerce.
Senator West referred to the fact that similar measures were relatively successful on a regional basis in other countries. He seemed to be a bit sceptical of the figure of 10,000. As I remarked in my opening statement, we are in uncharted territory in that we have not had legislation of this type here before. The full dedication of the staff of the National Manpower Service will be available to achieve this figure of 10,000 and higher, if that is possible.
Senator Yeats complained that the Bill was too vague. It is true that it has that disadvantage of enabling legislation that it gives me rather wide powers, within the ordinary definition of the industry covered, of selection and discretion. That is an inescapable element in a Bill of this nature. He made the point that there was no mention of the amount of the premiums.  These were, of course, already mentioned in the budget statement. He made the criticism that I had too much power to exclude certain types of workers. Again, that is a necessary authority that comes to me in terms of the selection of the industry to be covered by the scheme.
Four weeks unemployment before workers can qualify is a necessary qualification to ensure that it is the genuine applicant who will qualify in this area. In the other House, the Opposition spokesman made the point that this was discrimination against one section of the unemployed. There is no discrimination here because one may qualify by graduating to the point of being four weeks unemployed. That regrettable privilege is there for any one of the unemployed at present. I think Senators will agree that we need a certain qualifying period. Senator Yeats asked what the position is regarding factories who close beforehand. I have that flexibility in terms of the notional base figure on the date of the coming into operation of this legislation.
The question was asked about employers who are in receipt of moneys from State agencies whether they would be totally excluded. We have some power under the enabling legislation to have some discretion in the evaluation of particular cases. Applications from employers who, for example, are currently in receipt of or have received grants or loans from the IDA. Fóir Teoranta, State agencies for promoting, encouraging and assisting employment, will be subject to special examination. An IDA grant may relate to the provision of employment for, say, 40 workers on 1st October, 1975. Under the scheme it is not proposed to give premiums to that employer in respect of those workers. But if the employer should, as a consequence of the scheme, show that on 1st October, 1975, he employed 50 workers, he will then be entitled to receive premiums in respect of the ten additional employees. I have already explained the case of employers receiving aid from Fóir Teoranta. The intention is that the scheme should not in general offer conflict with any of Fóir Teoranta's rescue operations  which might involve actual staff reductions for the greater security of the remaining staff.
Senator West referred to the desirability of the scheme being extended to community workshops. Perhaps in the autumn we can look at this suggestion It is not provided for at present, but when I am reviewing the operation of the scheme I will bear that very good suggestion of the Senator's in mind.
Mr. M. O'Leary: There is a great deal more that the State should be doing in the area of active involvement in the creation of employment by such means. Perhaps, even in a period of full recovery the State should at all times have legislation that would provide it with a means to intervene decisively in particular sectors of our industry to ensure that employers in those industries can get the workers they need.
Senator Ferris referred to the need for expansion in reviewing the whole area of manpower. He referred to the need for keeping our national training system in top gear even in times of recession. This could not be more in accord with my own thinking on the subject. We are this year in the process of spending almost £9 million. The greatest expansion even in our training programme has taken place this year for precisely that reason. We have this big unemployment problem. This is the time for preparation. This is the time when our work force should be given the skills which will be required when recovery takes place. This is the most profitable thing we could be doing in this period of lull in economic activity.
I have tried to cover as far as I could the points Senators raised. I am sorry for being absent for some part of the debate, but I had to meet the ESB Officers' Association on another matter. I commend the Bill to the House.
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